Watch Your Back (Ariana Jones #1) Read Online Stacy Claflin

Categories Genre: Romance, Suspense, Thriller Tags Authors: Series: Ariana Jones Series by Stacy Claflin

Total pages in book: 46
Estimated words: 46922 (not accurate)
Estimated Reading Time in minutes: 235(@200wpm)___ 188(@250wpm)___ 156(@300wpm)

Even perfect neighborhoods have deadly secrets.

Ariana and Damon moved to the gated neighborhood of Rosy Hills to leave behind their traumatic pasts. Now they have their dream jobs and are part of a tight group of friends. All of that crumbles when their neighbor Rita disappears without a trace.
Now it looks like one of their own could be a killer. Ariana and Damon must figure out who it is, or they risk never finding Rita alive. If they don’t reach her in time, they could all end up dead…


Chapter One

Margarita locked the front doors before heading to the back of the restaurant to set the alarm. Once the light blinked, she stepped outside and locked that door too.

The cool night air clung to her skin, a welcome contrast to the warm stickiness inside. She breathed in the fresh oxygen, willing it to clear the smells of sweat, alcohol, and Mexican food stuck in her nose.

With any luck, the house would be empty when she got there. A hot bath before falling asleep to some show sounded heavenly. That would get her mind off everything she didn’t want to think about, so she could start over the next day.

At least she had her business. The bar and grill was her life, bringing more joy than anything else. She loved the social scene. Whenever somebody in town wanted to party, they knew where to go because Rita made sure each time was the best, topping the one before it.

She drew in another deep breath before turning around to the dim parking lot behind the building.

The overhead light was out. Hadn’t they just changed that?

Rita made a mental note to have Javier check that in the morning, then she remote-unlocked her car. It beeped, the headlights illuminating the dark night.

Revealing a man in front of the Mercedes.

Her heart leaped into her throat. She stepped back, gasping for air.

“Hello, Rita,” he said, his familiar voice smooth and slow.

“What are you doing here?” she demanded. “You scared me half to death. I thought you were a killer.”

He laughed, a subtle cruelty underlying his tone. “This is the safest town in the state of Washington.”

“Doesn’t mean there’s no crime. Why are you here?”

He stepped toward her, gravel crunching under his weight. “We need to talk.”

“Later. I’m exhausted.” She started toward her car.

“This can’t wait.” His voice had an edge to it. He took a step closer.

“Stay where you are.”

He continued walking.

“I’m not joking,” she said, her voice shaking.

“Neither am I.”

The hairs on her neck stood on end. “You’re scaring me.”


Her knees turned to rubber. “Excuse me?”

“I’m not kidding around.” Now he was within an arm’s reach away.

She pulled out her phone from her purse. “I’m going to call the police if you don’t leave now.”

He laughed again, and this time the sound was terrifying.

Rita struggled to breathe normally. “This isn’t funny.”

“Never said it was.” He knocked the phone from her hand.

It flew into the long grass.

“You have to go.”

He chortled. “I don’t have to do anything.”

“Yes, you do.” She glanced to the side. “What’s that?”

“What?” He turned slightly.

She ran in the other direction.

Gravel crunched behind her.

“You shouldn’t have done that!” he shouted.

Rita pushed herself to go faster. The strappy heels dug into her flesh.

Her right ankle twisted. She stumbled, reaching out to balance herself. Sharp pain shot from her ankle.

Needed to keep going.

Rita’s foot hit a curb. The concrete jammed her toe, ripped the nail. She flew down, scraping her bare knees and palms on the sidewalk.

She struggled up. Her toe, legs, and arms throbbed.

Fingers squeezed her arm.

Rita screamed.

He covered her mouth. “Shut up!”

She kicked, trying to dig her heels into his legs. Flailed her arms, elbowing his ribs.

He released his hold.

Rita bolted. Ankle wobbled. Her breath stuck in her throat from the pain.

Couldn’t give up.

She darted between trees and made her way to a nearby park. The moon barely gave her enough light. She struggled past the play area. Stopped behind a rock-climbing wall. Leaned against it. Gasped for air.


Looked around. No homes in sight. An empty school across the street. Businesses closed for the night. Empty lots waiting for new buildings.

“Rita, where are you?” he called.

She readied herself to run again.

His footsteps sounded close. “Ready or not, here I come.”

She held her breath. Waited.

Had to get the shoes off.


A shiver shot down her spine.

“You can’t hide forever,” he said, now sounding farther away.

Stomach lurching, she peeked around the corner.

He neared the swings, his back to her.

She loosened the buckle on her right pump. It stuck. Resisted.

Footsteps grew closer.

Now he was heading her way.

She froze. Tried to fix her buckle. Fumbled.

“There you are!”

Heart nearly giving out, she turned.

He stood halfway between the playground and her.

Rita leaped to her feet and ran. Her right shoe clung to her foot loosely the buckle not fully undone. Made it hard to remain steady. She kicked, trying to free herself from it.