Good morning! Welcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales. If you’re hoping for another snippet from Wedding Bell Blues you’ll have to wait until next week. This morning, I bring you the opening pages from my newest novel, Desert Deception. This romance suspense novel is almost 150,000 words long, my most ambitious work yet. This morning, I take you to sunny Arizona in a modern day western that has cowboys, horses, gold mines, and Harleys. What more could you possibly want? This week’s word is TOWN. Enjoy.
Desert Deception will be available for purchase later this week.
Casey Stevens turned off the Apache Trail, also known as Highway 88, onto the Skansen Mine Road and headed into Fortune, slowing her hot pink and black Harley-Davidson motorcycle, careful to stay under the speed limit. Back in the day, there’d always been a deputy, hiding just up ahead behind the billboard or one of the abandoned buildings, waiting to nail some unsuspecting tourist who’d failed to slow down to the town’s ridiculously low speed limit. This might be her new toy’s first major road trip, but that didn’t mean she wanted a ticket as a souvenir.
The joys of the open road had stopped her from dwelling on her cases, but nothing could ease the disquiet she felt about returning to the town and the memories she’d avoided for fifteen years, and the closer she got to home, the more unsettled she became. Coming back to the scene of the crime, as it were, was a mistake, and she knew it. Nothing good would come of this, but Mom had insisted, and here she was.
The Bluetooth attached to her helmet buzzed startling her out of her reverie, providing further proof that leaving Santa Fe now had been a colossal error. Ken, the second chair on her current case, had called four times since she’d left her apartment this morning. Considering it was only a seven-hour-drive, that was three times too many.
Knowing she needed to answer the call, not wanting to ride while she was distracted, especially if they argued as they had two hours ago, Casey cautiously steered the bike onto the unpaved shoulder and stopped less than ten feet from the sign in front of her. Welcome to Fortune. Population: 26,847
“What are they counting, jackalopes?” she mumbled aloud. When she’d left, there hadn’t been fifteen thousand people in town. That had to be one hell of a population explosion.
The Bluetooth sounded again. Dismounting, she pulled off her helmet, shaking her head, sending her ponytail swaying back and forth. Pulling the smartphone out of the zippered pocket of her leather jacket, she answered the call. “Don’t worry about anything. I’m heading back. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Hello to you, too, Red,” a man said and chuckled. “Someone rattling your chain?”
Closing her eyes, she smothered a groan. “Hi, Ryan,” she said, recognizing the voice. “Sorry about that. I thought you were his highness calling again.”
Ryan chuckled. “Baby Boss giving you a hard time?”
“You could say that. He can’t seem to find anything. I swear he would lose his head if it wasn’t attached.” Pulling a bottle out of the insulated pouch in her tank bag, she squirted cold water into her mouth.
“Probably, but someone’s always picking up after him, so he’s never had to stand on his own two feet before. Now, where is it you’re headed back to on this lovely Friday afternoon?”
“Santa Fe,” she said huffing out the word. “This was a mistake. I don’t know what made me think that incompetent ass could manage anything as complicated as filing papers on his own.”
Ryan’s laughter filled her ears. “I can believe that, but you aren’t coming back here until your vacation is over.”
“I have to. I’ve worked too hard to see it all go down the toilet.” She wanted to stomp her foot, but what good would it do? Pacing up and down the soft shoulder, she fought to contain her annoyance.
“Listen, Cassandra,” Ryan said, using her full name, knowing it would irritate her.
“Love to, babe, but it didn’t work when we tried it before, and Sally would have my nuts for breakfast. Call Wanda. Wonder Woman can babysit Baby Boss for a few days. If you don’t want to stay the two weeks you’d planned, fine, but the woman I know is no coward.”
“No buts,” he interrupted. “If I find you back in Santa Fe before Labor Day, I’ll personally drag you and your cute, little ass back to your mother’s house. And you know you can’t hide from me. I’m the best gumshoe in the business.”
“Damn you. Fine, but if I lose my job because of this, you’ll be supporting me.”
He chuckled. “I could start my own harem. Listen, before we get completely off-track, I called to tell you I found the guy who filled the order for the building supplies.”
“Get out of here! So is he going to help us or not?”
“Help, big time.”
“Where was he?
“Someone paid him to take an overseas vacation, but his mother and the fear of God convinced him to tell the truth.”
“And you didn’t help persuade him?” she asked, knowing he had probably scared the dickens out of the young man in question.
“Let’s just say I showed him the error of his ways, and before you ask, I didn’t lay a finger on him.” He laughed. “I didn’t have to. My bark is worse than my bite.”
“When you put it that way, this should be all we need to get the case thrown out. How can I ever thank you?”
“By enjoying your time with your family. Hell, go hiking in those spooky mountains of yours … who knows you might stumble on that missing gold mine.”
Casey laughed. “Like that’s ever going to happen. If no one’s found the Lost Dutchman by now, it doesn’t exist.”
“Well, the legend says the man had gold under his bed when he died.”
“Right, and the Apache claim the doorway to hell is there, too, but so far, no one’s found that either.”
“You know what they say: where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Call me if things live down to your lowest expectations, and you need a laugh. Otherwise, I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.”
“I will, and thanks, Ryan. You always come through, don’t you?”
“What can I say? I’m gifted.”
That’s it for this week. Please take the time to check out the other selections on Tuesday Tales.