Good morning. Welcome to this week’ Midweek tease, a blog where a number of authors share excerpts from their novels. Some are tame, like mine, others are super-spicy, but there is something to tickle just about anyone’s fancy. This weekly treat is made possible by the lovely and talented Angelica Dawson. So, take a few minutes to read the offerings. Interested in reading more? Click on the links.
This week, I’m teasing from Desert Deception, a modern western romance suspense novel. Enjoy!
Cole straightened the magazines and newspapers, trying to look busy while Casey browsed the bookshelves, unable to do anything but think about the woman a mere twenty feet away. Only two years older than she was, he remembered her—at least he recalled the girl she’d been—and the woman standing ten feet away from him had certainly changed.
She still had the peaches and cream complexion associated with her Irish ancestors, skin that could burn in the shade as he recalled, but her freckles weren’t as pronounced as they’d been. She’d dropped at least fifty pounds, and that carrot top she’d worn in tight braids against her head was now a fiery crown of flames. Her soda bottle bottom glasses were gone, no doubt replaced by laser eye surgery or contacts, but her expressive eyes, sometimes blue, sometimes green, but always with a touch of gold in them, were as familiar as ever. That was how he’d recognized her. Once he’d seen those eyes, he’d never been able to forget them.
How long had it been? She’d been sixteen, a senior at Fortune High, when he’d gone off to the University of Texas at El Paso, and while he’d come back that first summer, he’d been too busy helping Dad around the store to do much more than nod and say hello once in a while. He hadn’t grown into his body yet, and while the acne had improved, he’d still been too shy to ask any girl out. He’d fantasized doing so, and in his dreams she’d always said yes, but the reality was, he might as well have had elective mutism when it came to talking to her.
Those afternoons when he worked in the back unpacking boxes of reproductions and other souvenirs, he hid behind the bookshelves, closed his eyes, let her voice wrap around him, and listened to her sharing her dreams.
Casey, the shorter name suited her, exuded confidence and poise, and wasn’t afraid to take risks, as her motorcycle proved. It took a lot of self-assurance to stand in a courtroom and question witnesses let alone address the jury. Looking at her now, he tried to picture her in a staid business suit and failed. No, this new Casey would wear “look at me clothes” and do it with pizazz. She wouldn’t hide from the world ever again.
Despite his best effort, he was having a hard time controlling his body’s response to her, something that rarely happened to him. Taking a deep breath, he tore his eyes away from her leather-clad bottom, and returned to sorting the new shipment of books, trying to immerse himself in the jacket blurbs, but failing. He jumped when he heard her shout.
Dropping the book he was holding, he pushed his way through the boxes of candles, books, and other items crowding the aisle to see what had upset her.
“What’s wrong?” He hurried to her side, worried that she’d somehow hurt herself. While it was true, the worse injury you could get from a book was a papercut, this close to the desert, unwanted insects and reptiles sometimes managed to sneak in. Last week, he’d returned a tarantula to the great outdoors. The big, hairy spiders might be harmless, but they scared the daylights out of the tourists.
“Nothing’s wrong, but you have all of CJ Coleson’s books shoved back here where no one can see them. They should be out front.”
The look of disgust on her face made him laugh.
“I take it you’re a fan.”
“Well, duh! Of course I’m a fan, isn’t everyone? He’s a great author even though he’s the Howard Hughes of writers—a total recluse. How come you have his latest book? It isn’t due out in paperback for another two weeks.”
Cole ran his fingers through his hair, a nervous gesture he made when he was caught off guard. “I know the author.” The white lie slid off his tongue before he could stop it.
“Get out of here! You know CJ Coleson?” she asked, excitement lighting up her face. “How?”
“We went to school together.” Another half-truth.
He nodded, hoping she would change the topic soon.
“Well, he’s Arizona born and bred, I’m sure of it. He’s either from around here, or he’s spent time here. Reading those books is like coming home—better even. Is that his real name?”
Turning away from her, he tried to think of an answer that would help him out of the quicksand in which he’d inadvertently stepped. The truth always came out, and usually at the worst possible moment. Sharing his secret with a virtual stranger wasn’t an option, but he was pretty sure she wasn’t going to let it go.
“He’s from Arizona and has spent considerable time in the area, but he uses a pen name. CJ and I are very close. I get advance copies of his books when his publisher releases them. Technically I’m not supposed to display them yet, so don’t go broadcasting it,” he answered, more sharply than he’d intended, hoping that would end her snooping.
“Who would I tell?” The look on her face told him she thought he was being ridiculous.
“I don’t know. Maybe some of your friends in New Mexico.” He’d put a little more heat into his voice than he’d needed, but he was dying here, sinking deeper and deeper by the minute.
She rolled her eyes and snorted. “Let me get right on that. I’ll tell them to drop everything, and drive almost seven hours to Fortune, Arizona, to buy a book they’ll be able to pick up at home in a matter of days.”
Sarcasm dripped from her voice again. He would hate to be on the stand if she was questioning him. She would rip a liar to shreds in seconds.
“I get it. My comment was a little over the top, but if you’re a fan, you know he doesn’t like the spotlight. I’m a little protective of our friendship.”
“A little protective? There are she-bears who could take lessons from you,” she scolded. “I know how close some of you frat buddies can be. Knowing you know my favorite author, and won’t tell me who he is, will probably drive me crazy, but I’ll let you off the hook—this time.”
He exhaled and relaxed, grateful for the temporary reprieve, knowing damn well she wouldn’t let the matter drop and would try to ferret out the secret sooner rather than later. His gaze still fixed on her, he watched as she picked up two books, including the CJ Coleson one not yet released.
Grinning at him, she walked back to the cash register. “Getting to read Black Widow early will do for now, but I’ll be back. When I am, I’ll get you to tell me all about the talented man behind Sheriff Tate Silvers.”
Knowing he would see her again, even if it were only to pry information out of him, pleased him more than he expected it to.
“Maybe I can convince you to get a book autographed for me.” She smiled sweetly. “After all, you and I are old friends, too … sort of.” She batted her eyelids rapidly.
Chuckling, he stepped behind the counter to conceal the evidence of his lust.
“I’ll see what I can do.” He hoped he’d managed to hide the way she’d affected him. “Are you ready to check out?”
Instead of answering, she stared at him as if she could somehow see into his soul. He could see how that might intimidate a reluctant witness. At last, she handed him the books and her credit card.
This is a Blog Hop!
This list will close in 18 hrs, 59 min (1/18/2017 11:59 PM North America – Mountain Standard Time)