Anniversary Post: Small town romance, big town suspense

This is the third anniversary of the printing of my Hometown Mystery.

What happens when an FBI agent tries to go 'undercover' in a small town? Yep. You guessed it. Everybody knows who he is ... including the woman he's tracking...

Setup: undercover FBI agent Nick Baxter has been sent to New Providence, Iowa to investigate recent widow Shannon Delgardie. Shannon's husband was suspected of treason. What Nick doesn't know is that Shannon (and just about everybody else in town) knows who he is because Shannon's father was in the CIA and she has 'contacts' who have helped her research Nick.

“How many people know about this?” Shannon went very still then wiggled, trying to get out of his arm. Nick held her firmly. “Shannon?”
“I told Judi and Evie some of it. Not the details but they were there when I got one of the death threats. They told Richard and Chris. And my Mom knows.” Shannon hurried on when she saw Nick’s outraged look. “I can never keep anything from her. So I suppose Aunt Joan knows. Uncle Matt might know and probably cousin Terry. Maybe. Terry doesn’t get along very well with Joan, so maybe she doesn’t know yet.”
Nick looked at her, open-mouthed. “In other words, most of the town knows you’re in trouble?”
“Oh, sort of,” Shannon mumbled. “When I bought the gun, I sort of mentioned I’d been mugged and I was worried. I mentioned it to Nancy Jensen’s husband, Bubby, he’s the one who sold me the gun.”
Nick leaned his head back on the swing. “Shannon, are you telling me all of these people know and no one suggested you contact the FBI or the police and turn it all over to them?”
“They all did,” she assured him. “But I wasn’t sure who to trust. I suppose it was inevitable somebody would let the cat out of the bag. I’m going to beat Richard up for this.” She struggled in his arms and once again, Nick pinned her to him. “You’re bullying me.”
He looked down at her and smiled. “I like having you here. You’re not going to beat up Richard. I’m going to thank him, personally.” He kissed her. “Shannon, you can trust me,” he whispered after he released her lips.
She leaned into him. “I want to. I’ve been scared for so long.”
Nick hugged her, hearing the exhaustion in her voice. “What did you plan to do?”
“Once the code is broken, I’d know who I could trust and who I couldn’t trust. Then I’d decide who to give the files to.”
“What do you think is in the files?”
Shannon sighed and that sound raced all the way down to his toes. His body stirred in response. “I think it’s gaming software.”
“Hunh?” He was distracted by her effect on him. The words didn’t soak in at first.
“Gaming software. You know, a revolutionary new program.” Shannon saw Nick shaking his head. “What then?”
“Oh, no. John didn’t have access to anything.” But her voice faded as she considered his words. “Chip design. John had access to chip designs because the programs he was working on would take advantage of the new chip designs. And of course there was the D.O.D. stuff.”
“John had Department of Defense clearance. The gaming software he was working on is often used with a few changes for war simulations. That’s got to be it.” She frowned in concentration. “It can’t just be that, though. Chip designs are always leaking around the Valley.” She saw Nick’s blank look. “Silicon Valley.”
“How far away are your friends from hacking the encryption?” He inched one hand under her blouse and smoothed the skin of her back. Nick began to nibble the side of her neck, putting small kisses along the edge of her jaw.
“Close,” she sighed, angling her head so he had better access. “Very close.”
“Hmm.” He shouldn’t be doing this. He should be focusing on the problem, focusing on the encrypted files. Right now Nick was more focused on getting her blouse unbuttoned.
“I was afraid whoever was sending me the messages might know you were FBI,” Shannon said breathlessly. “That’s why I pretended not to know. Because if it looked like I called in the FBI, then I’d be in danger and so would Mom.”
Nick paused in the act of unhooking her bra. “You’re right.” He pushed her bra out of the way and closed his fingers around her breast. He felt the firmness of her nipple. “If someone is keeping an eye on you, then they might be watching us right now.” She struggled briefly in his arms and he smiled at her. “So let’s give ‘em a show.”

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