Midweek Tease: From a Work in Progress

mwtease15Good morning and welcome to spring. Thanks to Angelica Dawson who makes this weekly blog hop possible. It may still be on the cold side here in Eastern Ontario, but the sun is shining and that’s a wonderful thing. These past weeks, I’ve been up to my eyeballs editing manuscripts and this morning I thought I would share something with you from my current work in progress. As most of you know by now, I tend to specialize in romance suspense and my new manuscript is no exception.

Here is the tentative blurb:

Hidden Assets

“Sometimes, love just isn’t enough,” Nancy said, reaching for her divorce papers.

Four years ago, a car accident robbed Nancy Frost of her child and her mother, taking what was left of her marriage with it in the process. If she could have any wish in life, it would be to erase the last six pain-filled years, but wishes are for fairytales. Suddenly unemployed, the forensic accountant agrees to help a friend look for hidden assets in a divorce case, not expecting to be caught in a terrorist attack.

US Marshal Neil Copeland lives only for the job now that his marriage is over. On a new case involving a dirty investment banker rolling over on a drug cartel kingpin, the last thing Neil expects is to hear Nancy is one of the victims of a mass shooting in downtown Baltimore. As the police investigate the massacre, evidence suggest the attack was a ploy to hide a hit, and the man he’s protecting might’ve been the intended target. When a professional assassin tries to kill Nancy a second time, it’s clear the two cases are connected.

To complicate matters, when Nancy awakes from her coma, she has retrograde amnesia and is six years out of sync. Not only doesn’t she remember what happened to her, she doesn’t recall her marriage to Neil. Hoping the amnesia is temporary, Neil faces two tasks: protect his wife from the unknown person who wants her and his “package” dead, and bringing her up to date, dredging up all the sorrow that tore them apart in the first place, hoping something jars her memory.

As he races against time to find a safe place for her, can he save her from an unknown assassin and rekindle the love they shared?

And here is this morning’s tease from the opening chapter.

She’d just slipped on her suit jacket when one of the firm’s security men shoved his way into her glorified broom closet, pulled the plug on her computer, undid the wires attached to it, and tucked it under his arm.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she cried, reaching for her laptop.

“Come with me.”

The stone-faced man, probably a gestapo extra in some WWII movie, grabbed her by the arm and marched her down the hallway, her feet barely dusting the floor given the difference in height. Heads turned as other staff members watched the gorilla manhandle her to the CEO’s office, no doubt wondering what dastardly crime she’d committed.

She’d only been in Harold Olsen’s office the day she’d been hired. If intimidation was part of his job description, then Olsen had it down pat. He sat behind a large antique desk, his fingers steepled under his chin, his ebony head reminding her of a shiny new bowling ball. His thousand dollar suit fit like a glove, the pristine white shirt emphasizing his dark complexion. A pasty-faced Clive Connors, dressed in a sharkskin suit that befitted the eel and her immediate supervisor, sat in a chair in front of the desk. He didn’t bother standing, nor did he look at her. The security guard handed him her hard drive. She felt like a child dragged before the principal for throwing spit balls.

“Have it searched and then wiped clean,” Mr. Olsen said.

“Seriously? What do you expect to find on my computer? State secrets?” she asked, unable to hide her surprise.

“Yes, sir,” Clive answered, continuing to ignore her presence.

Clive had hit on her when she’d first started working here, but still in mourning, she’d fended off his requests. Last year, she’d finally agreed to go out to dinner with him, and the evening had been an unmitigated disaster. The man might be on his way to partnership, but he was a jerk on too many levels to count. He’d made working here difficult even since, but OJM paid well and she’d kept out of his way. Seeing him here didn’t bode well.

“Ms. Frost, can you explain why you opened a restricted file?” He spoke evenly, but his flashing eyes and pursed lips suggested barely controlled anger.

She exhaled audibly. “This is about that? I was on the phone and made a typo. I got out of the account as soon as I realized it. It was just an accident.”

She knew the people here were territorial, but this was ridiculous. They were acting like she’d committed a crime. That file was open ten minutes at most. Fine, tear a strip off her, but relax. No harm, no foul.

“There’s no such thing as accidents.” Mr. Olsen said. “Your services are no longer required.”

Stunned, she looked from one man to the other. “What? You’re firing me? For this?”

Clive wouldn’t meet her gaze.

“You misunderstand. We aren’t firing you,” Mr. Olsen answered, the jumping muscle in his jaw testifying to his annoyance. “We’ve decided to downsize. We have to reduce our workforce and the easiest way to do that is to reorganize our assets to be as efficient as possible. In view of that, your current position is redundant.”

“But, Mr. Olsen, that makes absolutely no sense,” she said, frustration and confusion giving her voice an edge. “I’m a tax accountant. Even if every client this firm has goes belly-up, there are still tax forms to complete. I’m exactly the kind of employee you need. My record is exemplary.”

“The decision’s been made,” he answered tersely, not even trying to hide his irritation. “Believe it or not, this firm functioned quite nicely before you arrived and will do so again after you’ve gone.”

“Clive, for Pete’s sake, say something. I’m good at my job, and you know it,” she begged, the desperation in her voice shaming her.

He shrugged and stared at her for the first time. “Sorry, Nancy, but it’s out of my hands.”

But he didn’t look sorry. The son of a bitch looked smug.

“In view of this decision and keeping in mind your work for the firm, a generous severance package is waiting for you in HR. Tomkins here will accompany you back to your office so that you can collect your personal items, and then he’ll escort you off the premises,” Olsen said, his face an impassive mask.

“You’re firing me right now? Without any notice? You can’t do that,” she whispered, so shocked she could barely speak.

This couldn’t be happening. Her heart thundered in her ears as the reality of the situation sunk in. How would she pay her bills? She’d refused alimony from Neil. Sure she had a few personal tax clients and could always do more forensic accounting work for Meredith and some of the other lawyers, but those jobs were hit or miss. Three years of her life down the drain just like that. She wasn’t the low man on the totem pole, so why cut her, why let her go?

“I can assure you we can, and we have. Don’t make this any harder than it needs to be. I’m sure with your abilities you’ll find work elsewhere.”

“Will I at least be getting a letter of recommendation?” She’d need one to find another job.

“By all means. Mrs. Willis has it ready for you. You can pick it up with your check. Good day, Ms. Frost.”

“I’m sorry, Nancy,” Clive said, opening the door for her, his thin lips drawn up in a smug smile.

“You bastard!” She spat the words at him. “Just because I wouldn’t sleep with you is no reason to feed me to the dogs. I could sue you for sexual harassment.”

“Don’t flatter yourself.” He looked down his nose at her as if she were some kind of bug. “And as far as suing me,” he said, chuckling, his sapphire gaze boring into her. “It’s your word against mine.”

Shaken by the icy animosity in his gaze, she swallowed her retort. “Who will take care of my clients?” she asked, grasping at straws. This couldn’t be happening. “I should talk to them bring them up to date.”

“I’ll look after them, and believe it or not, I can do the job as well as you can.” He dismissed her, entering his office without a backward glance.

“This way,” the goon reached for her arm again, and she yanked it away.

“Touch me again, and you’ll regret it,” she hissed. “I know where my office is.”

Mustering all the dignity she could, Nancy led the way back to the small space she’d called her own. In her absence someone had emptied her desk and packed up her photographs and other memorabilia. The partially filled box sat in the center of her blotter.

“If you’ll put your arms out at your side, I’ll search you.”

Gritting her teeth, her cheeks burned.

“Oh no, you won’t. I warned you what will happen if you put your paws on me again. There are no pockets in this skirt or jacket, and I’m not about to let you cop a feel,” she ground out, her chest heaving in her fury.

If you would like to read some of my books already published, check out my website.

http://www.mhsusannematthews.ca/

Now, please take the time to check out the other teasres this week.

#MidWeekTease March 22, 2017


Tuesday Tales: From a Picture

badge-for-tt-very-small-1Welcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales. Each week, a group of talented writers share their current work with you. This is raw, unedited writing becomes a novel, with each snippet you read based on a word or a picture. This week is picture time, and we are limited to 300 words. The picture theme is windows.

I’m continuing with Wedding Bell Blues. Here’s the window I selected.

window

Enjoy.

MJ stood watching the clouds mass on the horizon. There would be a storm tonight. Gazing at the lagoon outside, she frowned. Sometimes, the water was so still it resembled glass; at others, gentle waves lapped at the dock where Paul had tied the Jet Ski he’d rented earlier. Tonight, the brisk wind  rolled the water, now a much darker green, into waves reminding her of the hills she’d seen when the family had taken her grandmother’s ashes back to Ireland when she’d been ten.

They’d stayed with a relative, a great-uncle who lived in an old house that reminded her of a castle. She’d been given a room in a tower, complete with a canopy bed, fodder for her wild imagination at the time. How many hours had she spent sitting on the window ledge, looking out at the fields and hills in the distance, pretending to be an imprisoned princess waiting to be rescued by Prince Charming?

He hadn’t ridden to her rescue back then, but he certainly had today. Memories of her brief and yet far too long encounter with Mark made her shudder. They’d managed to avoid him the rest of the day, but he would be there at dinner. Maybe she could talk Paul into coming back to the bungalow right after dinner and skip the dancing tonight.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s post. Don’t forget to check out all the other on  Tuesday Tales.

Tuesday Tales: From the Word LEMON

badge-for-tt-very-small-1Hello, for many of us in the east, the weather is anything but spring like this week as we sit under a snowfall warning, but on Paradise Island, things are heating up nicely.

This weekly blog post is made possible by the lovely and talented Jean Joachim and a handful of wonderful authors who share their works in progress with you. Each week, we us a word prompt to generate our posts. Once a month, it’s a picture and the word limit drops to 300. This morning, I continue with Wedding Bell Blues. Our word of the day is LEMON.

Enjoy!

Paul led MJ back into the main building, fighting to keep his jumbled emotions hidden. When Cindy had returned alone, he’d known exactly who MJ had met, and then when he’d seen the bastard manhandling her … well, it had been a red flag to the bull in him. Had he been anywhere but here, he would’ve made good on his offer to beat the shit out of the son of a bitch.

But as troubling as Mark’s presence was, it was the kiss and the need for more of them that had him completely off kilter. He’d spent hours last night just watching her sleep, staying as far from her as he could, terrified by the strength of his need for her. Somehow what had started as a desire to help a friend, had exploded into a physical and emotional need for the woman at his side.

From the moment his lips had touched hers after the wedding, his emotions had been a jumbled mess. He’d kissed plenty of women in his day, but never once had a kiss affected him the way touching MJ’s lips did. At first, he’d thought it some sort of aberration brought on by the emotional shock of realizing that not only was the wedding happening, but it was the real deal—complete with Mama there to bless it. But then, he’d kissed her again, and the need to continue doing so had grown. MJ was his wife, and suddenly, knowing full well he didn’t deserve any of it, he wanted the whole enchilada.

What on earth had possessed him to show Mark all of his cards like that? If the plan was to trap him into admitting what he’d done, then Paul had blown that right out of the water. He’d not only accused Mark of identity theft, he’d implied they would be ready to accept restitution if he repaid her. What had happened to his yearning to humiliate the bastard? It had vanished in his desire to protect his wife. His wife. Never had two words held so much meaning and yet been so confusing.

MJ stopped before they entered the dining room. Biting her lower lip in a gesture that made her seem needier than ever, she put her hand on his upper arm.

“Why did you tell Mark you knew he’d stolen this vacation from me? I thought we’d planned to keep that to ourselves and trap him into admitting it.”

Paul looked into her beautiful eyes, and realized the truth. He didn’t care how MJ had come into his life again. He wanted to keep her there, and not because he was helping her get even with his old nemesis, but because of all the emotions he’d hidden years ago, the ones that had told him they were meant to be together. He’d loved her from the minute he’d seen her, but that didn’t mean she felt the same way. After all, he’d gone out of his way to tell her he was unlovable, incapable of loving anyone ever, unwilling to be a father in case he was too like his own. Why would she even want to take a chance on a broken man like him?

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

She nodded. “Well, you certainly surprised him. Who knows? Maybe it’ll work and keep him away from me, and if it stops him from badmouthing me, I’ll be satisfied.”

Paul shrugged. “Maybe. It certainly won’t have made matters worse, and if he intends to evade the issue, he’ll keep his distance.”

Pulling open the door to the main room, Paul escorted MJ to their table, keeping his eyes peeled for Mark. He spotted him half a dozen tables away from theirs. The man’s face was still red and he was arguing with the brunette at his side. No one at his table looked impressed. Once a jerk, always a jerk.

They’d just sat down when Antoine Leroux stepped up to the microphone.

Bonjours, mesdames et messieurs. It’s my pleasure to welcome you all to join me on this hunt for Jean Lacorneille’s treasure. On your tables, the lemon-colored sheet of paper is the legal document you must sign to participate. While you may find the treasure, you cannot keep any of it.”

A chorus of grumbles greeted that announcement, and Bill Smith’s “What the hell do you mean by that?” was among the loudest.

“Hear me out,” Leroux interrupted. “There is a finder’s fee available, 10 percent of the value of whatever you find, but the treasure itself, if we find it, belongs to the residents of Paradise Island, the descendants of Lacorneille and his crew.”

Paul looked over at Mark whose face was as thunderous as Bill’s.

“Take a few minutes to read the document before you sign it,” Leroux continued. “Once you do, select one person at your table to be your leader. He will choose a portion of the treasure map for you and tomorrow morning, you will begin your search. May the best team win.”

“So this is all a big waste of time,” Bill grumbled.

Paul smiled at him. “Do you think so? You’re on a honeymoon island. This is just another planned activity for our entertainment. Your wife and her pleasure should be all that matters.”

He glanced at MJ, hoping she couldn’t see how much those words meant to him.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s post. Don’t forget to check out all the other on  Tuesday Tales.

 

Midweek Tease: Desert Deception

mwtease15Welcome to today’s Midweek Tease, the weekly blog hop made possible by Angelica Dawson. Each week this varied group of talented authors bring you a snippet from one of their published or soon to be published novel. The heat level varies from none to too hot to handle, so be warned. There’s something here for everyone.

This morning I’m taking you back to the Arizona desert and the Superstition Mountains with a tease from Desert Deception.

The blurb:

Seeing is believing, or is it?

When high-powered Santa Fe attorney Casey Stevens reluctantly returns to Fortune for Gold Rush Days, she is drawn to Cole Walker Junior, but he is no longer the shy, quiet boy she recalls. Then again, Cole isn’t the only one who has changed. The town may be celebrating its past, but someone is trying to destroy its future. A hit and run accident leaves Fortune’s only lawyer in a coma, forcing Casey to choose between helping innocent people and running away once more. Can she face the demons of her past or will they destroy her this time?

Cole Warner has a secret identity, one he’s determined to protect at all costs. The police officer, volunteer firefighter, and part-time store owner, is also popular western novelist, CJ Coleson, who uses Fortune and its people as the inspiration for his books. Having Casey walk into his life turns it upside down. When someone starts using the murders in Cole’s books to stage a killing spree of their own, keeping his secret may be too costly, but admitting the truth could ruin any chance they have for a happily ever after.

As the bodies pile up and the buildings burn down, Casey and Cole have to work together to stop a madman with gold fever before more people die. The answer lies on Superstition Mountain or is it all a desert deception?

Enjoy. 

She looked up at him. “How many other women have you brought out here for coffee?”

“Actually, you’re the first,” he admitted, glad she’d changed the topic.

“You’re kidding. With that moon and all these stars, this is probably one of the most romantic places I’ve ever seen. What makes me so special?”

“I’ve never met anyone I wanted to share this place with before,” he confessed. “I thought you’d appreciate it—kindred spirits, I guess.”

Suddenly, the sky was ablaze with streaks of white light as several meteoroids tore across it in the natural fireworks display Pete had mentioned.

“Did you know that was going to happen?” she asked.

The sense of awe in her voice pleased him.

“I’m impressed. Moonlight and fireworks—what a way to set the mood. And you’ve never shared this with another girl?”

“Nope. Did I know there’d be a meteoroid shower tonight? Not when I decided to bring you here, but Pete Putnam mentioned it when I was waiting for you.”

Putting down his empty mug, he stretched his body along the blanket, lifting his arms, and lacing his fingers behind his head. He watched the joy blossom on her face as she observed the heavenly shower.

“Well, it’s incredible. I can’t imagine any girl not being impressed in such a setting.”

Reaching up, he pulled her down so that she rested against him. He breathed in the floral scent of her shampoo.

“Good thing I’d finished my coffee,” she scolded, her voice catching as she spoke, but she didn’t pull away.

He nestled her head more deeply into his chest.

“How come we weren’t friends when I lived here?” she asked a few minutes later.

“I didn’t have the nerve to talk to girls back then. I was rather shy. Can you imagine what cradle-robbing would have done to what little reputation I had?”

“Seriously. I don’t think anyone would’ve accused you of cradle-robbing. Two years isn’t that big a gap.”

He twirled a strand of her silky hair around his finger. “We did talk once.” He closed his eyes, savoring the memory. “It was during my senior year. There was a carnival in town, and I’d watched you for over an hour trying to win a pink teddy bear. You came close, but then I heard you tell your friend that you’d run out of money. When you walked away, I decided I was going to win that bear for you.”

“I still have it. It’s on my bed at home,” she admitted shyly.

He chuckled. “A man likes to know his gifts are appreciated. Once I’d won it, I looked everywhere for you afraid you’d left. When I finally found you I said, very macho-man-like, ‛Here you go,’ and tossed it at you. You looked stunned. I walked away before you could say anything.”

“That was one of the happiest moments of my life. Thank you, Cole,” she whispered.

The soft brush of her lips surprised him, but like food offered to a starving man, he wasn’t going to refuse it. He groaned deep in his throat, entwined his fingers in her silky hair, and dragged her closer, pulling her body into his.

When she didn’t pull away, he deepened the kiss, giving free rein to the urgency within him. She moaned into his mouth fueling the fire burning through him. He shut his eyes blocking out everything but the sensation of her lips on his.

Casey was intoxicating and definitely the most wonderful thing he’d ever savored. He feasted on the flavor of his favorite coffee mixed with the tang that was hers alone, supped from the sweetness of her mouth, absorbing her very essence, and knew no other kiss had ever matched this one, and none ever would.

Please take time to visit the rest of this week’s teasers.

Tuesday Tales: From the Word TREE

badge-for-tt-very-small-1Good morning and welcome back to Tuesday Tales. We’re only 13 days away from the first day of spring, but winter has a firm grasp on my little corner of the world as we put up with another freezing rain warning.

Each week, a group of talented writers share a snippet from their works in progress with you, snippets defined by a word or a picture prompt. This morning, the word is TREE. I’m continuing with Wedding Bell Blues.

I’ve skipped ahead a page or two. MJ and Paul are now in the room awaiting details about the treasure hunt. Enjoy.

 

 

“Bonjours Messieurs et Mesdames. It’s a pleasure to welcome all of you participating in the Lacorneille Treasure Hunt. We have ten teams of eight vying for the treasure. If anyone else wants to join, you have until six o’clock this evening to sign up. Monsieur Leroux will be here shortly to go over the rules. Merci.

“I think that’s my cue to go to the ladies’ room,” MJ said.

“I’d better go with you,” Cindy said. “Lord knows I’ll have to go the minute he starts talking.”

“I’ve got to go back to the bungalow for another lens. I’ll see you shortly,” Lindsay said, standing as well.

“I have never had a breakfast like the one they brought us this morning,” Cindy commented as they moved across the room. “My friends back home won’t believe it, so I took pictures.  You know, I always laugh when people do that, but it was amazing. My apple was cut to look like a swan and the other fruit looked like flowers. It was almost too pretty to eat.”

MJ laughed as they entered the powder room. “You’ll be taking lots of pictures before you’re done. Lindsay is a professional photographer.”

As soon as they were finished, MJ followed Cindy out of the lavatory only to stop dead at the sight of the last man she wanted to see.

“MJ?”he said, almost as if he wasn’t sure it was her. “I heard you were here.”

“I’m sure you did.” Mama would’ve wasted no time reporting to her cronies last night, and one of them would have forwarded the information to Mark’s family and friends. “Go ahead, Cindy. Tell Paul I’ll be right there.”

She swallowed her nerves. They were in the middle of the reception area with people all around. She would be safe enough.

As soon as Cindy entered the dining room when everyone waited, Mark grabbed her arm and pulled her behind a wall of of miniature potted trees.

“What the hell are you playing at?” he demanded through gritted teeth.

“You’re hurting me,” she said and felt her pulse hammering and her lungs starting to constrict. “Let go of my arm.” If anything Mark squeezed harder.

“Bitch, I asked you what the hell you were doing here.”

“I’m on my honeymoon,” she answered defensively, cowed by his fury. “I was married last night, now let go of me.”

“I heard all about that dog and pony show. It’s not legal I know the rules. This whole setup is a scam and I’ll prove it.”

“Darling, is something wrong?” Paul materialized at her side, and Mark released her arm. Her fingers moved to rub the tender spot, and Paul frowned.

“Buzz off, buddy. The lady and I are having a conversation.”

“The lady is my wife,” Paul said, his voice deadly calm.”Anything you have to say to her, you can say to me.”

“So you’re the gigolo she picked up for this charade. That little circus last night? When people find out they’ve been conned, you’ll go to jail. You’ve been had. She may seem sweet and loving, but the bitch has ice water in her veins and between the two of us, whatever she’s promised you for this little gig is a lie. Now, why don’t you cut your losses and crawl back under whichever rock she found you? ”

Paul stared at Mark, reached to pull MJ away from him, and tucked her into his side. He looked down at her, smiled to show her he was in control of himself. Kissing her quickly, he turned to address Mark, the steel in his voice unmistakable.

“Get your facts straight. Our marriage is legal, done under special dispensation from the French ministry. I suggest you apologize to my wife right now before I make you eat your words,” he whispered barely loud enough for MJ to hear. “Otherwise, I have no compunction about taking you outside and beating the living shit out of you. I’ve done it before, and I can do it again.”

Mark’s face reddened. “Sorry,” he mumbled, no doubt not meaning it, before straightening his spine and drawing on some store of bravado. “Who the hell do you think you are? You can’t threaten people like that. It’s illegal.”

“So is identity theft and assault, but that didn’t stop you,” Paul answered. “As to who I am, the fact you don’t recognize me doesn’t ruin my day in the least. I’ll only say this once. Never come near my wife again. I remember you only too well and know exactly what you’ve done. Just to refresh your memory Markos Theopolis, I’m Paul Davis.”

“I remember you too. We need to talk, MJ,” Mark said, his anger barely held in check.

Paul smiled. “I can’t imagine what you and Marilyn have to discuss,” Paul said smoothly, “unless it’s how you plan to repay her the money you stole from her, in which case, you’ll be dealing with both of us.”

He dismissed the man and escorted MJ out onto the veranda through the open French doors, leaving the bully sputtering like a faulty engine.

“I think that should give him something to think about.” Paul handed her another mojito from the tray the waiter carried.

“I’m so glad you showed up when you did.” She rubbed her arm where Mark had grabbed her.

“Did he hurt you? I’ll kill the bastard if he did.”

She reached up her hand and touched his cheek. “It’s nothing. See, the marks are all but gone.” He bent his head and kissed her arm making it tingle.

“When Cindy came back to the table alone and said you’d run into some guy you knew, I saw red. He’s lucky I didn’t rip his arm out of its socket.”

“Well, you saved me again,” she said, standing on tiptoe and kissing his cheek. “Seeing his cower before you reminded me that bullies usually only pick on the defenseless people and I’m not defenseless  anymore.”

Paul took her glass and placed it next to his on the cocktail table closest to them. He bent his head and captured her mouth filling her with desire. His lips were soft and tender, and when his tongue teased at them, she opened and let him carry her away on a sea of sensation only he could create. This wasn’t simply a kiss. He was making love to her mouth, and she was enjoying every second of it. The kiss was full of passion and desire, and she reveled in the unexpectedness of it.

“No, you’re not. You’re my wife, MJ, and I’m very protective of what’s mine. If he knows what’s good for him, he’ll keep his distance. Now, ready to join the others?”

MJ nodded, too confused by Paul’s words and actions to say or do anything else.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s post. Don’t forget to check out all the other on  Tuesday Tales.

Midweek Tease: Secrets and Lies

mwtease15Good morning and welcome to March. Only three weeks until the official first day of spring. I’ve had enough of winter with its cold and flu season, so I’m looking forward to flowers, leaves, pollen and allergies. Hey! It’s a change.

Thank you to Angelica Dawson for making this weekly blog hop possible. Today, I’m sharing a scene from Secrets and Lies. This is one of the Hearts of Braden books, but like the other eight in the series, it is a stand alone book that just happens to be set in the same small town as the others.

The Blurb:

DEA agent, Emily Shepherd, is after the Chef, a crystal meth cook, who sets up labs for the Mexican cartel and walks away—the same man responsible for the deaths of her husband and unborn child. Her search leads her to Braden, Iowa, a small town just right for the Chef’s specialty. But identifying her quarry won’t be easy when she’s up against a woman who sees her as a threat, a male chauvinistic deputy sheriff, and an attractive school principal who might just be at the center of it all.
Jackson Harris has sworn off women. Life is satisfactory, if lonely, until he meets a hazel-eyed damsel in distress who gets under his skin, and triggers that protective instinct of his. There’s a killer in town, one who may or may not be a notorious drug lord. Finding him, and keeping his town, his students, and Emily safe, may be harder than he thinks.
Love is breaking out in Braden, Iowa. Follow all the romance with this collection of stories. Secrets and Lies is part of the Hearts of Braden Series, a multi-author series Secrets and Lies stands alone for your reading enjoyment, but the story doesn’t need to end there.

The Tease:

Listening to the rolling thunder, Emily sighed, hoping the storm wouldn’t bring on another nightmare, and wondered again if she could skip this meal, but when her stomach grumbled almost as loudly as the thunder, she giggled.

“Got it. No more missing meals,” she said leaning back in the chair, enjoying the quiet of the evening. The home she’d shared with Alex had been in a neighborhood filled with the almost incessant sounds of children at play, barking dogs, and traffic in the distance.

The bright, red and yellow floral cushions made the chair comfortable, and the overhanging balcony above would provide a roof to keep the pads dry in the rain, so she wouldn’t have to drag them in and out each day. Exhausted, she yawned and closed her eyes, breathing in the scent of the late summer roses that edged her small patio. Someone had a green thumb, and she hoped they would keep looking after the delicate blossoms. She would probably kill them if she tried.

While there would be a storm later tonight, there was another advantage to a ground floor apartment. It might be warm and humid out here, but it was cool and comfortable inside. Ceiling fans circulated the air, and even if she left the windows open, the fancy iron grillwork over them would ensure no one could get into the apartment at night. Some people might have found it confining, but to her, knowing she was in town specifically to stop the Chef, a homicidal sociopath, they were a comforting touch.

She sat up once more and checked her watch. Pulling the cellphone out of her pocket, she opened up the messaging window to check in as she’d promised to do. The first message went to Kyle. “Have arrived in Braden. Everything is fine.” The second one she sent to her new supervisor in Chicago. “All settled in. The place is great. Thank whoever’s responsible.”

Finishing her tea, she rose to put away the cup and get ready to go out. Her limp was a little worse than usual, but she didn’t think it necessitated the use of a cane or crutch. Going back inside, she closed and locked the sliding door.

Half an hour later, hair brushed and pulled into a ponytail, fresh lip gloss in place, she drove into one of the restricted parking spaces in front of Buddy’s, a square box of a building with neon signs in the windows advertising some of the beer brands sold inside. She hadn’t bothered to change, and while her T-shirt and jeans might not be immaculate, they were still clean. She hadn’t unpacked her suitcases yet, and probably wouldn’t until tomorrow.

Making sure her special parking permit was clearly visible through the windshield, she got out of the car. Thunder rumbled again in the distance, and she cursed the fact she’d forgotten to grab her raincoat on the way out. Maybe she should get her food to go and get back to the apartment before the skies opened up.

Locking the vehicle, she limped over to the front door, opened it, and stepped inside the air conditioned bar. Glancing around, she saw it was the kind of place Alex would’ve loved. The atmosphere was a homey one, typical of bars in small towns as opposed to the glitz and glamor of the big chain taverns found in El Paso. The gray, concrete floors would be much easier to clean than carpets, although she would bet a lot of bottles and glasses got broken on busy nights. The hunter green walls and dark ceilings made the place seem cozy, almost intimate, until you looked at the gleaming oak bar that ran the width of the place, behind which was a fortune in eclectic sports memorabilia—everything from old ball gloves and pennants to an MMA Championship belt. In amongst the sports paraphernalia, was the picture of a baby girl, something a proud mama or papa would display for all to see. Emily swallowed her pain and opted to avoid the counter. Maybe she would get her food to go after all.

There were half a dozen men standing or sitting at the bar, most of them still dressed in what they’d probably worn on their job sites. One man with red hair and a face full of freckles seemed vaguely familiar, but it was the dark haired man in a short-sleeved, powder blue shirt and dress pants who caught her attention. As her father would’ve said, he’d just had his ears lowered as the tan lines at the side of his face and neck testified, but it was his resemblance to Alex that stopped her in her tracks.

He looked her up and down appraisingly the way men sometimes did, and she fought the urge to squirm, well aware that she’d been the first one to stare. Having a man look at her that way shouldn’t have bothered her since it had happened to her time and again before the accident, but back then she’d been someone worthy of a second glance. Now, she resembled an anorexic teenager, not a woman deserving of admiring looks.

All eyes had turned to her when she entered the bar, and she could see the curiosity and interest in them, but one man’s chocolate brown eyes, unlike Alex’s blue ones, disturbed her, seeming to look beyond her outward appearance and into her soul. Alex had been the only man to ever affect her this way. Was it because this guy resembled her late husband that she felt his magnetic pull? He looked more like a businessman than an itinerant worker, although he could be an insurance adjuster or with FEMA.

Great, a town full of single men, anyone of which could be the Chef, and they’re looking at me as if I’m today’s special.

Want to read more?

 

Please take time to visit the rest of this week’s teasers.


Tuesday Tales: From the Word AIR

badge-for-tt-very-small-1Welcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales. Each week, a group of talented authors share their work in progress with you. Last week, we had a picture prompt and a 300 word limit–very hard for me to do, but this week we’re back to word prompts. Today’s word is AIR. I’m wrapping up Wedding Bell Blues, and push is going to come to shove today as Melena, Mark, MJ, and Paul meet on Paradise Island.

Paul looked up and smiled.

“I figured you needed the rest after last night. How do you feel?”

Married.

“Surprisingly well,” MJ lied, shoving all her fear and anxiety deep inside herself.  She’d used her inhaler earlier and prayed she would be able to get through the rest of the day without having to do so again. “Maybe my body is getting used to the champagne.”

He laughed, and the sound of his genuine pleasure made her feel warm and toasty inside.

“I have a feeling it probably has something to do with all the water we drank last night, too. Nice to meet a doctor with such a simple hangover cure,” he joked. “Of course, I don’t think we met the one glass of wine, one glass of water rule completely, but I’d say we got it half right. Are you hungry?”

“Starving, actually, and you must be right about the water because I did feel a lot worse yesterday. How did you sleep?”

“Like a baby, and believe me, that’s a wonderful feeling.” He sobered. “I’ve had nightmares off and on since I’ve gotten back. Having you around is good for my soul.”

MJ beamed. It wasn’t a declaration of undying love, but it was a place to start. If she could calm his soul, then surely she could win his heart, and maybe this marriage of convenience could become the real thing—babies and all.

Before she could answer, the doorbell rang indicating brunch.

“I’ll get it.” Paul jumped up and headed indoors.

Within minutes, he was back with a waiter pushing a heavily laden cart.

Félicitations, Monsieur et Madame Davis,” the waiter said, expertly popping the cork on another bottle of champagne.

Whoever had the wine and alcohol contract on the island must be making a fortune.

“Would you like the wine plain or as a mimosa?”

“Mimosa sounds good to me,” she answered, “but heavy on the orange juice, please.”

“Make it two,” Paul added his approval to hers.

The waiter made the drinks and bowed. “Enjoy your meal. Monsieur St Louis asked me to remind you that you’ll meet in the main dining room at two.”

“Thanks.”

Paul escorted the waiter to the door.

MJ stared out at the water. Clouds were massing on the horizon—not an auspicious start to the day. Most likely Melena and Mark were arriving at this very moment. Was it wrong to hope they’d had a rough crossing?

She didn’t hear Paul until he was right behind her.

“Here,” he said, handing her the mimosa. He raised the glass. “This is the first day of the rest of our lives, MJ. To us and the future.”

MJ clinked her glass on his. “To us,” she repeated, smiling at him with renewed optimism. They would make this work.

A long blast, similar to that of the train whistle as the locomotive pulled into the station, startled MJ, and she almost dropped the crystal glass she held.

“What the hell was that?”

“The whistle to tell the guests that the ferry to return them to the mainland has arrived. They have an hour to make it to the dock.” Paul sat. “Let’s eat.”

MJ stood there, suddenly unable to pull the air into her lungs she needed to breathe as panic filled her. They were here now. They were really here.

Paul looked up and jumped to his feet.

“MJ, what is it? What’s wrong?”

She couldn’t stop shaking as she gasped for air.

Paul pulled her into his arms, the fear on his face stunning in its intensity. “It’s okay. I’m here, but I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s wrong, honey. Are you choking? Do you need your inhaler? Speak to me. MJ, for the love of God, speak to me.”

Gasping out each word, tears welling in her eyes, MJ looked up at Paul. “Oh God, Paul. They’re here—they have to be. He’ll kill me when he discovers what we’ve done.”

Paul exhaled as his color returned to normal, and he pulled her into his chest.

“Is that what this is about? Relax, and take a deep breath.  I’m here. If he so much as looks at you sideways, he’ll answer to me. You’re my wife, MJ and I will stand by you in all things and defend you from all dangers. Now, do you need your inhaler?”

She shook her head and forced herself to calm down. Paul would never let Mark hurt her. As long as she stayed with him, she would be fine. Gradually the tightness in her chest eased, and she sipped the water he offered her.

“I’m sorry,” she said, looking up at him. “I thought I had it under control, but…”

“But nothing,” Paul said, gazing into her eyes. “You aren’t alone, MJ. I’m with you, and we will get through this together.”

MJ nodded.

Paul set the glass she was holding on the table and pulled her into his arms.  He bent his head and touched his lips to hers, spiraling her back into the awe and wonder she’d experienced during their wedding when he’d kissed her. Clinging to this lifeline, she returned his kiss with all the ardor and passion in her soul.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s post. Don’t forget to check out all the other on  Tuesday Tales.