Books · Excerpt · mystery

Excerpt: Dying for Redemption

In celebration of Halloween, I’ve made my paranormal mystery Dying for Redemption free until November 1. This is a book that had come out with a small press in 2002. I received the right backs, reworked a few elements of the original story, than self-published it a few years ago. Dying for Redemption features Callous Demar, a murdered PI, who helps the other recently murdered solve their cases so they can rest. This is the first book in what I’ve always planned on turning into a series. The second book had been put on hold while I worked on other series. Next year, I hope to find some time to reenter the Working Shadow, Inc world and finish Dying for Perception.

dyingforredemption_smallExcerpt:

I preferred Limbo to what lay beyond, but that probably rested in the fact that my final greeter would more likely be Satan than Saint Peter. I also ran the risk of destroying my baby sister Jenny if I launched a search into the question that kept my soul rattling in the between. With over a half-century of attendance, Limbo edged out my time spent among the living.

I liked my job, sticking my nose into other people’s problems and business. I liked brushing away the dirt to set the truth free… or at least shaking up the lies to see if a semblance of fact shifted out of the muck. Invited, of course. Messing around in people’s lives—or deaths—without permission bordered on gossip. And dead men didn’t tell tales outside the pages of novels or politics.

Slow. The definition of today. Good for the living, bad for a restless spirit. No-eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth, haunting-for-a-murder philosophy to put into motion.

“Here are some potential clients.” My secretary, Ann, dropped a few sheets of paper onto my desk.

“You know my rules.” I pushed them away as I had every day since she floated into my office twenty-five years ago after answering the job placement ad I had posted with the Successful Dead Employment Agency for an assistant. I had explained that I needed a beautiful, leggy blonde to do filing, answer calls, and look beautiful. I later modified it to female, beautiful, leggy, and blonde, as Hallie, the owner of the agency, had a wicked sense of humor.

Ann filled all of my requirements. A reminder she repeated whenever I complained about her lack of listening and obeying skills. She said those were not listed in her job description.

She had found herself residing in Limbo after her boyfriend accidentally killed her on their first rock-climbing excursion together—something about a cable between him and her coming loose, but the one attaching him to the rock had been snugger than a bug in a rug, an excuse the court, but not Ann, bought. Revenge boiled in Ann’s soul, keeping her tied to the living world.

Fortunately, Ann cared about herself enough not to seek revenge. Dying is sometimes chosen on our behalf, but Hell is entirely up to us.

“We could expand our services into helping the newly dead have a smoother transition into the afterlife.” Ann batted her baby-blues. “You know, advertise our services.”

“We? Our?” I leaned back in the chair and ran my fingers through my still-thick dark hair as I rested my wingtips on the desk. Lack of aging was the greatest benefit of our predicament. I had stopped at thirty-five, and Ann at twenty. “Until they walk in, we don’t know if they have accepted their new phase of existence.”

“We can expand our services into helping them understand.”

I waved off her words. “Then I’d have to hire one of those shrinks.”

“You need to evolve, Calamar.” Ann rested one rounded hip on my desk.

The disadvantage in arguing with the dead was that threats didn’t work. Ann knew that I hated my given name. I swore I’d be dead before any woman ever uttered it. Calamar Louise Demar. My mother and father had fancied themselves poets. For some reason, they were never published.

“Callous, Anastasia.”

She eyed me like a hungry dog would a steak on a counter—one jump and a quick snap of the teeth, prey caught, then devoured whole.

“Ann.” The shortened name oozed from her throat. Hips swaying back and forth, she strutted out the door. The show finished with a toss of her pale locks over her shoulder and the flash of a victorious smile.

I waited a few minutes to make sure she wasn’t going to throw open the door and Ah-ha me. I pulled the sheets of paper toward me to acquaint myself with the new residents. Okay, Ann knew my plan. I refused to chase down clients, but I liked knowing who entered our world. There were a few people who deserved to spend eternity pondering their undeserved afterlife in Limbo.

The third entry caught my eye—Willow Flannery, thirty-two, an independently wealthy businesswoman, married four months, died in a car accident. The dame had left a nice sum of dough in her bank account for the grieving widower. Woman. I really needed to watch my nouns. She had driven her red BMW into a tree, causing her to fly through the windshield. Ouch. Neither status nor wealth saved a person, but a seatbelt could do the job. Common sense seemed to have passed her right by… or else a certain husband knew about cars and dabbled in a little tampering.

“I found her,” Ann crowed, throwing open my day.

Ann made up her own rules to suit the season, the day, the hour, or just her mood. Since the day she arrived, I had been trying to explain the difference between boss and secretary. She looked at me as one does a child; I was here for her to see and not hear. I let it slide. The other choice didn’t suit my fancy—alone for eternity. Most ghosts didn’t want to work. They wanted leisure.

And, Ann was easy on the eyes.

“Found who?” I know darn well who.

“Willow Flannery, the millionaire businesswoman whose husband happened to inherit her business when she died. Not to mention the sizable insurance.”

“How sizable?”

“One hundred million.”

I whistled. That kind of money could make a nun kill. “Besides the moola, any reason to believe it wasn’t her forgetting to look in front of her? Maybe she was…” I wiggled my fingers in the air.

“Texting.”

“That. Texting. Seems to be a bad habit with the living.”

“Brakes were cut.”

That raised suspicion. “Police have a hunch?”

“They believe the butler did it.”

I laughed. Ann eyeballed me again. I continued to voice my mirth. Fifty years later and police still fell for blaming the butler. I wondered how much cash exchanged bank accounts for the butler to accept the rap.

Sobering, I rested my crossed arms on my chest. “What does she know about being here?”

“She knows she died, but doesn’t understand why she’s in Limbo.”

“Heard that story before.” I let out a sigh and sat up, removing my cracked, brown leather shoes from the desk. A good detective never looked nonchalant when interviewing the recently killed. “Send her in… since she’s already in the reception area.”

Ann’s pearly whites flashed as she swung her hips, and then exited my private office. Didn’t matter the decade, women always wanted men to look, they just didn’t want men acting like they liked what they saw… unless the woman wanted that acknowledgement.

Willow Flannery glided into the room.

Take a note: Names can be deceiving.

Willow definition: graceful, tall, slender. Glide definition: move smoothly, effortlessly—think swan swimming across a pond. Of course, that was after the ugly duckling phase. Part two had to have part one in order for completion. This new entry into the afterlife proved everything had an exception.

Willow was raven-haired and well-rounded. If she was about four inches taller, she’d fill out nicely. Her hair hung straight down to her chin, the locks circling around her head like a cover for a beekeeper’s bonnet. A portion was cut out to leave her features exposed, an opening in a picture frame. Large gray eyes looked at me with no hint of wonderment, confusion, or even interest. She knew where she was and why. Confidence vibrated with every step. She was at home in her body, mind, and spirit.
And some SOB had sent her away from the living. I had to find out whom. She held her hand out to me. I stood and accepted the offering, allowing her fingers and palm to rest on top of mine.

I drew her hand toward my lips and kissed it. “Willow Flannery, I presume.”

She yanked her hand back quicker than it took a mosquito bite to itch. “You presume too much.”

Her voice was deep and raspy. Enticing, if not for the eyes that said I had treaded where I didn’t belong.

“I didn’t come to be assaulted.” Her eyes held a challenge.

“Assaulted?”

“You grabbed my hand.”

“I was saying hello.”

“By placing your lips uninvited on my hand?” Her eyes turned into tiny slits on her round face. “That is sexual harassment.”

Sexual? Harassment? What was the dame talking about? That was a quick, harmless kiss of greeting. I looked toward the door and saw Ann grinning in amusement.

“Listen, Ms. Flannery, there’s some mistake here. A peck on the hand doesn’t fall under assault.”

She looked around the room. I tried to see it through her eyes. The desk was a massive piece of faux oak, like the fabric chair and marred bookcases pressed against the wall behind it. Mismatched lamps stood in strategic corners. The only type of furniture I could afford when I lived remained my style of decorating… hand-me-down chic. My only upgrade was a nice cherry wood hat rack, polished to a high shine, where my collection of beloved fedoras hung with pride.

She nodded once, sat down in a threadbare chair, and crossed her legs, one rounded knee on top of the other. “I’m either in hell or purgatory.”

“Limbo,” Ann chimed from outside my office.

I walked over to the door. Casually, I stuck out my left foot and pressed it against the wooden door. A good shove and bang—right into the frame. And if luck existed, against the tip of the nose of Ann.

I pulled two notebooks from my jacket pocket, one black and one blue. The black one was for notes on cases; the blue was to write down the special phrases and ways of the new decade coming in. Kissing without asking is considered sexual harassment.

“So, this is the afterlife. For some reason, I expected something…” She paused and scanned the office. “More.”

“It’s a mimic of the world a person lived in, without the worry of dying. Everything is pretty generic here. The buildings, the scenery. The ghosts that stick around start to see their environment take on a sense of who they are.”

Her eyebrows rose and a smirk broke out on her face. “That explains your office.”

I liked the dame. Spunk. Fighting spirit.

“Can they see us?” She leaned forward, eyes displaying fascination with her new existence. “The living?”

“Some can. Some can’t because they don’t have the ability. Some refuse to acknowledge our existence, and there’s nothing we can do to force them to see.”

“Does that work in your favor or against it, Callous?”

I fought back a grin. “You’ve heard of me already.”

She rolled her eyes. “It’s on your door.”

Books · Excerpt

Excerpt from Death Vetoes a Chairman by Teresa Watson

Today, I’m posting an excerpt from Death Vetoes a Chairman. In this book, Lizzie Crenshaw is used to being in the middle of murder in Brookdale. After attending a fundraiser with her friend, Jake Mathias, she embarks on the biggest emotional and physical journey of her life, leaving some of the residents of Brookdale reeling from the effects. And before it is all over, it could cost them someone they love…

death vetoes the chairmanExcerpt:

The front door opened, and a bouquet of flowers preceded Nicole into the newsroom. She stopped in front of me. “You’re getting to be a regular customer, Lizzie,” she said, handing me the clipboard. I handed it over to Jake, who signed it and gave it back to Nicole. “You must have a very wealthy secret admirer. How does T.J. feel about that?”

“He doesn’t have a jealous bone in his body,” I assured her.

“You’re a lucky woman.”

As she left, I pulled the card out and read it. “Better luck next time. Ethan.” I gave the card to Jake. “What does that mean?”

T.J. and Steve came through the front door as I asked that. The looks on their faces told me they did not have good news. “We need to talk in your office.”

Frankly, I didn’t want to go back in there, not after listening to Jake recount the details to Dale. “Let’s go outside,” I replied.

The five of us – myself, T.J., Steve, Dale and Jake – trooped outside and stood on the right side of the building near the parking lot. “I honestly don’t know how to tell you this, Lizzie,” Steve said.

“Tell me what?”

“Winthrop’s lawyer has friends in high and low places. He drove down here, talked to a couple of people, made a few calls, and got the TRO cancelled.”

“What do you mean, he got it cancelled?”

“The clerk called to tell me. It was thrown out because of lack of evidence.”

“Lack of evidence?” I snapped. “How much more evidence do they need? My dead body?”

“Lizzie,” T.J. said, trying to wrap his arm around my waist. I stepped away from him, and he let his arm drop.

“His lawyer called another judge, who listened to the recording. She said that Winthrop clearly requested that you stop recording, and therefore you violated his right to privacy by refusing to stop it.”

“How could I? He had me pinned to the wall,” I retorted as I felt a tear roll down my cheek. I angrily wiped it away. “So what you’re saying is I’m basically screwed.”

“I didn’t say that,” Steve hastily replied. “But we’re going to have to come up with more proof.”

“Forget it,” I said. “Just let it go.”

“You can’t do that, Lizzie,” Jake said.

“Yes, I can, and I am. It’s easy for you to say ‘don’t quit’. You’re not the one who has to deal with telling the story over and over. No wonder so many women don’t report the harassment and the assaults. Who wants to keep living it over and over? I certainly don’t.”

“If you give up, then he wins,” T.J. said. “What about the next woman he goes after?”

“Don’t lay that on me, Thomas Jefferson Roosevelt. Don’t you dare lay that guilt trip on me. I’m responsible for one person, and that’s myself. And even that is too much to handle right now. If he wants to win so bad, let him. If you want to fight him, go right ahead. Leave me out of it. I’m done.” I turned and walked back into the building. The flowers were on the desk when I went into the office. I stared at them for a minute, awkwardly picked them up and threw them at the wall. The sound of shattering glass echoed off the walls. I shoved a bunch of papers into my bag and left.

Books · Contests · Excerpt · Scrapbooking · West Virginia · Writing

Embellished to Death Excerpt

In five weeks, Embellished to Death, the third book in the Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery series will be released September 23. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. In this book, I take Faith out of Eden to Morgantown, WV for a weekend crop retreat, and also introduce some new people into her life. I’ll admit it was a struggle working with a new setting, and not allowing some of the wonderful secondary characters to take over. I feel in love with one of them and had to keep telling the character it wasn’t their story. Here’s a snippet of Embellished to Death.

EMBELLISHED front under 2mbExcerpt:

 “We’re here for the scrapbooking convention,” I said. “I’m Faith, one of the vendors for the weekend. Scrap This.”

 “I’m Ellie. And this is Pauline.” She motioned toward the other woman. “We’re the embossers. We’re waiting for the doors to open.”

 “I’m going to find the manager to let us in. One of the organizers broke down this morning so they’re running late.”

 “Ladies, I was wondering if you’d mind giving up your spot for a moment.” Steve lounged very attractively against the side of the truck. The women looked over my shoulder, plastered smiles on their faces, and thrust out their chests. “I have to unload this beast.”

 His body was braced against the passenger door. Ever so casual and sexy. The sun gleamed off his shaved head and the sunglasses covering his eyes. His muscular arms were crossed across his equally muscular chest. The stance tightened the bright red t-shirt with white swirly letters encouraging croppers to Scrap This, and showed off the fact there was no body fat anywhere on the man’s stomach.

 Not too many men, hot or otherwise, showed up at cropping events. Usually the only men “attending” were ones keeping nursing babies in rooms, or trying to entertain toddlers in meltdown mode while mom scrapped. When they made an appearance in the crop room, their frantic gazes scattered around the room in a desperate search for the mother of their children.

 Ellie batted her eyes at him. “We’d love to, but there’s no way we can lug our machines across the parking lot.”

 “How about I unload it and place it by the door?” Steve smiled at her.

 Pauline and Ellie looked down at the sidewalk and then at each other. Ellie bit her lip and raised her eyebrows. Pauline shook her head no.

 “After we unload, I’ll have Steve help you get your items from your van.” I hoped I made an offer they couldn’t refuse. “He can use our handcart to transport your embossing machine.”

Pauline grinned and pointed over my shoulder. She fluffed her hair around her shoulders and sent a welcoming beam of a smile toward Bob. “If you can get him to help too, you have a deal. We have our cropping totes that also need brought in.”

Bob had parked in front of the hotel portion of the resort and motioned for me to come over. Sadly for Pauline, her plan to catch Bob’s eye wouldn’t work as Steve was more his type.

“Sure. He’ll help,” I said.

Pauline high-fived her friend. “I’ll move ours. You can move the tote gal’s van.”

Ellie dangled a set of keys. “She left her keys in case her vehicle needed to be moved. Considerate girl.”

I made a mental note to show my appreciation by buying something from the tote gal. I jogged toward Bob, cutting through the parking lot as I didn’t want to misjudge a jump over one of the dividers separating one parking lot from the other. Hopefully, whatever favor he wanted was a large enough request, he wouldn’t be annoyed at me for filling up his dance card.

A woman screamed.

An engine hummed. I paused and turned. A beige car bore down on me. My breath locked in my throat. I felt like a deer during hunting season, did I feint left or right to get out of the way? Strong arms wrapped around my waist and made the decision for me. My rescuer met the hard asphalt and I came in contact with his muscled body. The car whizzed right past us, the breeze it created pushing my hair off my face.

The man’s grip relaxed from around me.

Feet pounded toward us.

“Are you two okay?” Bob’s voice came from the vicinity of the hotel.

I eased off my rescuer to get a look at who risked life and limb to get me out of the way. Steve. Not a surprise. Placing a hand on his chest, I leaned down to kiss my knight. I froze.

His eyes were closed. He wasn’t moving.

Embellished giveawayGiveaway: To celebrate the release of Embellished to Death, I’m having a giveaway for a signed copy of the ARC and also a Scrapbooks Made Me Do It t-shirt. To enter, sign up to receive my quarterly newsletter. The link to join is at the top of my website and also on my author Facebook page.

Books · Craft · Excerpt · Scrapbooking · West Virginia

Crafting Moment from Designed to Death

With March being National Craft Month, I’m featuring some crafting…and love of handmade item…moments from my novels. In this scene, Faith inadvertently asks Darlene to help her make class samples.

DESIGNED TO DEATH front under 2mbExcerpt: Darlene plopped herself down in the chair and pulled a blank card from the stack in front of me. “I’ll just use your black ink pad rather than getting another. No sense in wasting money.”

Of course not.

Darlene placed the stamp image onto an acrylic block then pressed the stamp image carefully into the ink. With care, she lined up the stamp and pushed down. Slowly, she lifted the stamp and revealed a clean, precise image on her first attempt.

I was impressed, not sarcastically either. Though, she should’ve bought the stamp first. Fortunately from her broad smile, I could tell she liked the image and the way she twisted and turned the card let me know it got her creative juices going.

She uncapped a navy blue marker.

“For an unofficial cropping, stamping session, you need to purchase the products first.”

Darlene frowned. “These are samples for the store which you requested. Teachers don’t pay for their supplies…”

“Depending on the class, teachers either get a discount or the product for free.” The free products were given when a company sent us free items to use to get an interest in their line. We didn’t allow teachers free reign over items in the store, especially a stamp that retailed at a little over ten dollars.

“Well then I should get the teacher discount. You did ask me to create a card.”

I did tell her to make her own, but it wasn’t because I wanted another sample. I wanted her to leave me alone. Instead of getting my wish, I had her help which might cost me a favor unless I gave her the stamp. Since I got personal items at cost, it would be cheaper for me to pay for the stamp and gift it to Darlene.

Though the thought of giving Darlene a gift made me want to shudder. She was the type of woman who made a worse friend than she did an enemy. I sighed dramatically so she’d get that I was annoyed. “Since this misunderstanding is my fault…”

Darlene made a noise of agreement.

“I’ll let you have the stamp…”

“And the markers.”

I frowned. These were the Copic markers. Expensive. “Don’t you have the full set?”

“But these would be for teaching only, not personal use.”

I tallied up the amount in my head. Still less expensive than owing Darlene a favor, and I had her occupied with something else than me helping her solve a crime. “And those three markers.”

“Good. While we’re working, I can tell you my plan on getting some evidence from Belinda’s house.”

I shook my head. “Don’t tell me. I’m not good at keeping secrets.”

Darlene rolled her eyes. “Of course you are. No one knows anything about your time out of Eden. Not one teeny, tiny hint of the scandal that forced you back home.”

“What makes you think I have a scandal?” I dropped the blue marker then wiped my hands on my jeans, hoping Darlene didn’t see the nervous gesture.

“You’re a woman. You don’t like to talk about yourself.” Darlene capped the marker and placed it on the table.

I appreciated the care Darlene treated the supplies with. Some croppers didn’t treat the store’s shared supplies as well as their own, or maybe it was the way they treated the stuff they owned and why they decided not to buy the more expensive brands or items and just used ours.

“Regardless of how much you admire my ability to keep quiet,” I said. “I’d rather not know your plans.”

Ted had a way of sneaking up on me and figuring out when I got the urge to investigate. I didn’t want to tell him what Darlene planned. While I wasn’t fond of the woman, tattling on her didn’t seem right. If she wanted to clear her name, which I couldn’t blame her for trying, who was I to stop her.

Blurb: Faith Hunter planned the perfect event at her grandmother’s shop, Scrap This, featuring local scrapbooker and Life Artist Diva, Belinda Watson. But the extravaganza goes up in a cloud of glitter when Belinda and her cousin, Darlene, brawl over scraplifted designs. Faith attempts to break it up, but only makes things worse. Then when Belinda turns up dead behind the Scrap This store, Faith’s involvement goes viral.

As accusations against her turn vicious, Faith sets out to prove her nemesis, Darlene, committed the crime, only to realize they are both innocent. Now they must team up or the murderer’s plan will come together seamlessly with the frenemies sharing a jail cell–or worse, a funeral.

Designed to Death is available in print, ebook, and audio. The book can be purchased at:

Mystery Loves Company (print)

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Itunes

Audible

Books · Excerpt · Scrapbooking · West Virginia

Celebrating Valentine’s Day: A Little Romance from Designed to Death

Thank you so much for spending time with me this weekend to help celebrate Valentine’s Day. This is my last celebration post and is from Designed to Death, the second book in the Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery series.

Designed to Death:

Blurb: Faith Hunter planned the perfect event at her grandmother’s shop, Scrap This, featuring local scrapbooker and Life Artist Diva, Belinda Watson. But the extravaganza goes up in a cloud of glitter when Belinda and her cousin, Darlene, brawl over scraplifted designs. Faith attempts to break it up, but only makes things worse. Then when Belinda turns up dead behind the Scrap This store, Faith’s involvement goes viral.

As accusations against her turn vicious, Faith sets out to prove her nemesis, Darlene, committed the crime, only to realize they are both innocent. Now they must team up or the murderer’s plan will come together seamlessly with the frenemies sharing a jail cell–or worse, a funeral.

DESIGNED TO DEATH front under 2mbExcerpt:

Steve’s lips turned up slightly. “I know this isn’t my business, but my advice is don’t trust Darlene again.”

I let out an unladylike snort. “There’s a warning I don’t need.”

“I’m thinking I should check your place tonight. I don’t like knowing Karen had the photographer following you around.”

This was one of my concerns of ‘officially’ dating Steve. He’d think it was his duty to protect me and look after me. I didn’t need looking after, or being told what was in my best interest. “She had him watching the store. Not me. I’ll be fine.”

Steve fought a frown.

I knew he meant well. And, I did like the fact he was annoyed with Karen. “It’s nice knowing I have someone I can count on. I kind of feel like I’m using you and I hate it.”

Steve faced me. “You can count on me. I’m here for you.”

“I know.”

Steve cupped my cheek. “That means a lot to me. I wish though you could trust me. I want the wall down between us.”

“There’s no wall.” I inched back, hating breaking the contact but also terrified of it. Butterflies had taken flight in my stomach and a heated feeling raced through me. Relying was enough at this point. I fooled myself for over a year, believing my only interest in Steve was in admiring him. One unexpected and soul-shattering kiss from Steve during my last “investigation” had me reconsidering my stance on no romantic entanglements ever. I still found myself wavering between forever single or trying again. Every guy wasn’t Adam.

“Don’t lie to me. Or yourself. You don’t mind talking as long as the conversation doesn’t steer toward defining what we are to each other.”

“You’re important to me. We’re friends.”

“I want more than just being your friend.”

I knew that. So did practically everyone else. I wanted more but then I didn’t. “You don’t want to be friends?” I gave him an innocent smile.

“I’d like more than friends.” Steve settled back into the driver’s seat. “If friends are all we’re meant to be, let me know. I’ll respect your decision.”

Why did I have to make a decision right now? I liked being friends and the flirting. Liked the will-we-or-won’t-we become an actual item aspect of our relationship. How long would Steve keep waiting for me to make some kind of declaration? Did he want the type of relationship I was satisfied with? What about Steve? Ted? Were all my confusing signals fair to him? Them?

Karen was making her intentions quite clear. So was Steve. He wanted a real relationship. Get married someday. Have children. Steve was a great guy. Successful. Nice. Considerate. Honorable. Hot. I couldn’t blame Karen. I’m surprised there weren’t a few more women trying to win his heart.

He deserved more than my insecurities. Heck, I deserved more than my insecurities and allowing Adam control of my life. People made decisions all the time and changed their minds. I married Adam, realized the huge error of that choice, and got it annulled. If I could alter that, I could decide to edit my rule about no more romantic relationships ever. Life should be more than living from guilt. Everyone made mistakes and deserved forgiveness. Including from myself to myself.

I undid the seatbelt and gave into the impulsive thought zipping through my head. Kneeling on the passenger seat, I leaned over the console separating me from Steve. I placed my hands on his shoulder for balance and kissed him. Good. I wanted him to know I was interested. Very interested in him.

Steve’s hand tangled in my hair, encouraging me. My blood was getting way too heated considering our location, a parked car near Scrap This. I did not want to be caught by Ted, or anyone else, making out in a car behind Home Brewed.

“Thank you.” I whispered the words onto his lips before pulling back. “I should go.”

I needed to tread carefully. Not for my sake, not because I viewed all men as untrustworthy, but I didn’t want to break Steve’s heart. He didn’t deserve it. When I made a commitment to him, I wanted to jump into it with my whole mind, heart, and soul. Not holding anything back.

*****

If you’re interested in reading Faith’s adventure, Cropped to Death is available at:

Mystery Loves Company (print copies)

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Apple

Audible

Books · Excerpt

Celebrating Valentine’s Day: Romance Scene from Safe and Sound

In continuing the celebration of Valentine’s Day, I’ll be posting a romance scene books three and four of the New Beginning series today. This excerpt is from the third book in the series, Safe and Sound.

Safe and Sound:

Blurb: The hope for a future for the broken begins in Mourning.

Four years ago while deployed, Connor’s new bride lost her way in a blizzard and the mountain claimed her. Grief-stricken and injured, Connor returned home to wrestle with guilt and begin life as a widower. When a woman’s body is uncovered, Connor learns his beloved was murdered…and the murderer has his sights on another woman. Connor’s past and present are pulled apart when the woman claims she’s Hannah.

The murderer who sent Hannah Stratford on the run has tracked her down. Now, the only way to stay alive is for Hannah to prove she didn’t die in a blizzard. Connor offers her safety and protection in his home, but keeps his heart guarded from her. Hannah wants more than to save her life. She wants Connor.

SafeandSoundCoverArt72dpiExcerpt:

Hannah opened the car door, braced her hand on the door handle, and turned her waist. Her legs remained frozen. Sweat coated her hand and her lungs burned. The air remained locked tight.

What was happening? She tried exhaling but the air refused to leave. She heard her small, painful gasps.

“Hannah?” Connor was at her side. “What’s wrong?”

She couldn’t talk. All she managed was looking into his eyes. Tears trickled down her face.

“I should’ve known it was too soon.” Connor cupped her cheeks with his hands and wiped away the tears. “Let’s go back home.”

No. She wanted people seeing her. Knowing her. Remembering her. The more people who knew about her, the safer she’d be. David might kill her but at least her death wouldn’t go undiscovered… like Kitty. Not once had Kitty’s family looked for her. They didn’t miss their daughter.

Then again, neither did her parents. The tears raced down her face.

Without a word, Connor gathered her into his arms and caressed her back and hair. “This is too much. Too soon. They’ll be plenty of days to try again.”

Once again it felt like Hannah couldn’t breathe. This time it was desire causing the turmoil in her lungs. She melted into his embrace, seeking not just comfort but warmth. The heat from his body started her pulse racing. She felt his heart beat against her chest. Hannah wound her arms around his neck and pulled herself closer. Heat raced through her and a deep craving for her husband.

One of Connor’s hands roamed down her back, settling on her hip and the other stroked her cheek.

She lifted her chin and stared into his eyes. His hazel eyes smoldered. He read her desire. Her wish. Even better, the same wish shone in his eyes. Hannah stretched her neck, seeking out his lips.

He lowered his head the last few inches and made her simple dream come true. He kissed her, a tender feathering of his lips on hers. Sensations long buried awoke in her body. She trembled and a yearning filled her.

Hannah gripped the front of Connor’s jacket and kissed him back. Harder. Demanding. She wanted her husband’s touch to overpower the bad memories. Sweet and heated moments from their honeymoon filled her mind. Her body reacted. Moaning, she deepened the kiss.

Connor braced his arms on her shoulders and pushed away, breaking their contact.

A whimper escaped from Hannah. She grabbed Connor and tugged him back, not ready for the end of the kiss. She needed more from her husband.

“Don’t,” Connor said.

The simple word felt like a slap. She recoiled. Hannah dipped her head. Shame rushed through her. What had she been thinking? Throwing herself at a man who wasn’t sure she was his wife?

Connor caught her hand, his thumb on her pulse and used his other hand to tip her chin up. Desire shone in his eyes.

“Some acts shouldn’t have an audience.” Connor sounded out of breath.

Happiness danced through Hannah. He wanted her. She hoped with all her heart those words meant he believed her, not just a physical reaction to a woman’s passionate kiss.

*****

If you’d like to read Hannah and Connor’s story, Safe and Sound is available at:

Amazon

Christianbook

Barnes and Noble

Available in print this spring.

Books · Excerpt

Celebrating Valentine’s Day: Romance Scene from Led Astray

In continuation of my Valentine’s Day celebration, here’s a scene from the second book published in the New Beginnings Series.

Led Astray:

The hope of a future for the broken begins in Mourning.

When a mining company promises jobs in exchange for the mountaintop where the church resides, a battle erupts between the sister-towns of Mourning and Haven, West Virginia.

Skip-tracer Danita Ballinger races to Mourning before the lives of New Beginnings clients “vanished” to the off-the-grid town are jeopardized.

Pastor Riley Coole refuses the mining company offers, and the help of the brazen woman forcing her way into his business and his towns.

The murder of a key player in the tug-of-war over the mountain puts plans of retaliation into motion. Danita and Riley must put aside their private battle to protect the people relying on them for safety. Will seeing each other in a new light put them on a path of acceptance and true love, or create a further divide ripping apart the town and their own hearts?

LedAstrayCoverArt72dpiExcerpt:

Iciness gripped Riley’s insides and twisted them. The pain came so hard and quick, he struggled for breath. Wade Peake hired that person. They knew Riley didn’t have the strength to stop him, but Danita did.

Oh, Lord, what have I done? Riley fell to his knees and clasped his hands together. He’d brought Danita here. He’d put her danger. He placed the well-being of the mountain over the well-being of a woman.

He’d change his mind. Tell them they could take whatever they wanted from the mountain as long as they left the people alone. But of course once he told them, they’d have power over him and the town. What demands would come next?

Once he gave in to this request, Peake wouldn’t stop. Men like him never did. How would he explain to the community, to the residents of Mourning, why he chose the safety of one woman over them? Danita wouldn’t stand back and accept the change of plans. She’d continue to fight and become the advocate for the town of Mourning instead of him.

Lord, how do I keep her safe? No answer came. Riley wasn’t surprised. He wasn’t the type of man people ran to for safety — but Clayton was. Would his brother help him keep Danita safe?

Of course he would. Clayton had already stepped in twice to make sure someone didn’t hurt Danita. Clayton had empathy for the beautiful and tough woman. He knew she needed someone to stand up for her, even though she pushed away everyone who tried.

Riley stood and drew in a cleansing breath. There was no shame in asking his brother for help. Since arriving in town, Clayton had kept a close eye on Danita. He wanted to help. Yes, he and Clayton had differences in the past and it was obvious his brother didn’t trust or think very well of him… but how much of the attitude had Riley brought down upon his own shoulders?

Look at how he talked to Danita. His judgment of her was as clear as a sunny, cloudless day.

Riley opened the classroom door and headed for the sanctuary. The silence, deep and thick, made his heart jump against his chest. Sweat broke out across his forehead, and he tried to keep the alarm at bay. This was a church, a place of worship. Silence should be golden as it showcased hearts filled with prayers and praises to the Lord.

Or could it mean Riley was alone? Did someone come into the building and snatch Danita from the safety of the church’s arms? No.

Riley repeated the word over and over again as he walked to the front of the sanctuary, eyes scanning the area for a sign of anyone else being, or having been, inside. Coldness raced through his body. There was no one. She was nowhere to be seen.

Please, Lord, please let her be okay. His sneakers shuffled across the carpet, making a whisking sound with every step.

“Danita.” His voice echoed off the walls and returned to him. No answer. No movement.

He picked up his pace, continuing to pray, and snatched his cell phone clipped to his jeans. He’d call the sheriff. Connor. They’d find Danita. He’d even call Edgar and Clayton and have them comb the area. Whoever took her couldn’t have gotten far.

Riley stopped in tracks, and his breath hitched in his throat. He drank in the beautiful sight.

Danita laid on the pew, knees curled, one hand pillowing her head. Her shoulders rose and fell with her soft breaths. The mass of curls trickled past her shoulder and down her neck, puddling into the nook created by her other arm.

“Thank you, Lord,” Riley whispered.

She looked so vulnerable and breakable. He brushed a lock of hair from her forehead. A light purple bruise marred her skin. Rage swept through him. He clenched his fists. He wanted — needed — to find the man responsible for causing her pain.

Danita sighed and stretched out.

He focused on her slightly parted lips. Her mouth drew him. A beacon begging Riley to drop to his knee and placed a tender kiss on them. Riley drew back, and averted his gaze. Even asleep, the woman was a temptress.

The front door to the church opened. Every muscle in Riley’s body tensed. He moved to Danita, squatting down, readying to snatch her against him if the person intended to harm her.

“Pastor Coole, is everything all right?” Naomi struggled with a large picnic basket and watched him.

*****

If you’d like to read Danita and Riley’s story, Led Astray is available at:

Amazon

Christianbook

Barnes and Noble

Available in print this spring.

Books · Excerpt · West Virginia

From Designed to Death: Preparing for a Costume Party the Darlene Johnson Way

DESIGNED TO DEATH front under 2mbThe door banged open.

“What are you two doing here?” With gun drawn, Detective Ted Roget stepped into the house.

I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me whole. Of all the police officers to explain this to, it would be Ted.

“Picking up something I need for a party,” Darlene said.

“Really, a party?” Ted’s eyes narrowed and he looked Darlene and I up and down, very slowly and suspiciously. He holstered the gun. “Interesting choice of outfits. All black.”

Darlene straightened her posture and stared back at Ted. I wanted to squeeze my eyes closed, and cover my mouth and ears. I couldn’t quite pull off the see-hear-speak-no-evil stance by myself.

“It’s a costume party.” Darlene emphasized the word costume and threw a look at Ted that spoke of his lack of intelligence.

I blocked a moan from escaping. Of all people, why was Darlene challenging Ted? Okay, I did have my share of words with the man but we kind-of-sort-of got along, and I had been in the right in those situations. There was no way Darlene and I could pass this off as a good choice.

Costume party or not.

“You except me to believe you’re having a costume party with only two guests?” Ted eyed us suspiciously. “In Ms. Watson’s home?”

Darlene licked her lips, squared her shoulders, and thrust out a hip. I knew this position. She was readying to start one of her verbal beat-downs.

I wanted to launch a sidekick at Darlene, but that would really give us away. The neck of the black long sleeved shirt I wore seemed to tighten the longer Ted stared, and Darlene prepared. I eyed the door. Could I make a break for it?

Ted focused those angry eyes on me and shook his head once. I needed to work on my poker face.

“Of course not.” Darlene huffed at him. “There are four people attending. My mother, my aunt Hazel, Faith and I.”

“How unknowing of me.” Ted rested his hands near his gun and handcuffs. He really had a thing for placing his hands at those locations of his belt. “That’s quite an unusual guest list.”

“We like to keep it to a foursome and with Belinda gone…” Darlene trailed off and drew in a deep breath.

“You decided to include Faith.”

“Of course I did. My mother said it was the polite thing to do considering the little scandal I created at the store.” Darlene rolled her eyes as she emphasized the word scandal.

“I’m sure Faith appreciated the invite.” Ted’s eyebrows shot up and he stared at me, almost willing me to say something.

I pressed my lips together and nodded.

“Neither of you thought it was a horrible idea to come into the house of a murder victim.”

“That would be a bad idea,” Darlene said. “But I was coming into the house of my cousin.”

Ted rolled his eyes. “Well, forgive me. I didn’t know there was a difference.”

“I forgive you.” Darlene bestowed a smile on him and hefted her purse strap back onto her shoulder.  “Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll just get my fondue set and we’ll be on the way.”

“I don’t think so.” Ted maneuvered around us and stood in front of the kitchen entryway.

“Come on, Darlene.” I grabbed hold of her arm and tugged. “We’re going to be late. We’ll just grab some frozen appetizers.”

“Frozen!” Darlene squealed and placed a hand against her heart. “I do not serve frozen food. How dare you accuse me of such a thing!”

I drew back and held up my hands. “Didn’t know it’d be an insult.”

Ted stepped between us. “Ladies, ladies. Let’s remain civil.”

“Of course you’d take Faith’s side.” Darlene pivoted sharply, directing herself toward the kitchen. She charged forward.

Ted grabbed hold of her arm.

“Darlene, don’t…” I started to warn her to listen to Ted, and then tried changing it when the large bag slipped down her shoulder. Too late.

Darlene yanked away from Ted. The bag slipped, tipped over and items rained from her purse onto the floor. Lipsticks, pens, a glue gun, glue sticks, Chap Stick in different flavors, beads, scrapbook gems, paperclips, eyeliners. I watched in amazement at the variety of make-up and scrapbook supplies housed in her bag scattered across the floor.

Books · Excerpt · Scrapbooking · West Virginia · Writing

Designed to Death Excerpt

DESIGNED TO DEATH front under 2mbIn one week, September 10, Designed Death will be out. I’m nervous, excited…and a little scared. I always feel this way when a new book comes out. This will be Faith’s second case and I hope readers love it as much, if not more, than the first book in the Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery Series.

Today, I’m going to share a little excerpt from Designed to Death:

The buzzer by the employee door sounded then stopped. After a gun-carrying criminal surprised me a few months ago, my grandmothers had Steve Davis add a security system by the back door. If the code wasn’t punched in quick enough, a warning alarm went off at the police station and in the prosecutor’s office where Steve―my grandmothers’ appointed knight-in-shining armor for me―worked.

“Belinda must have arrived,” I said.

Oliver drew in a breath and quickly rushed toward the front of the line.

“The end,” I called out to him.

I watched one of our customers snag Oliver’s arm and draw him to her side. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder and flipped through the magazine. No one else in line seemed to care so I’d let it slide, and Belinda had promised not to leave until every magazine was signed.

Cold wind snaked through the building and I fought back a shiver. October could either be an extension of a warm fall or the beginning of a cold winter. Two years in a row, trick-or-treating had to be postponed because of snow. The October breeze swirled around the room and I scrambled to grab the class schedules and other advertisements that tumbled from the heavy plastic tables.

Belinda waltzed into the store, waving like a teenage girl crowned Homecoming Queen. My grandma Cheryl followed after her, doing her best not to roll her eyes. A few customers began whispering, straining their necks to get a good look at the newest Life Artist Diva.

“Please don’t let this title go to her head.” I muttered.

“Belinda, look over here! Over here!” A customer jumped up and down, holding her cell phone out as she tried to snap a picture.

“Belinda, the library thanks you for the generous gift.” Oliver waved his copy in the air.

“I must speak with Faith first.” Belinda gave another queenly wave, blew a kiss at Oliver, then headed for me.

When she spotted Karen and the photographer, she froze for an instant. In that moment, I saw uncertainty cross her face. The shy woman, who needed her mom to book her signings and appearances, shone through the new confident, celebrity “Belinda.”

“Belinda,” I almost screamed her name to draw her attention, “can you give me some pointers on the class?”

Belinda shook her head. “I can’t give out any secrets. Only those who paid for the class will get to learn this technique. I hope you have some way of making sure those who haven’t purchased a spot don’t get a free lesson.”

Did Belinda expect us to empty out the store when the class started? Or put up a huge partition? I cast a glance over at my grandmothers. Hope looked confused by the request and Cheryl beyond annoyed.

I was both, considering I had to now figure out how to incorporate this new demand from Belinda. “I’m not expecting any secrets. I just want to know which layout is the inspiration for your class.”

Belinda wagged her finger at me. “No sneak peeks. Not even for you.”

I heard Karen’s unladylike snort from across the room. I refrained from giving her the evil eye, and also swatting Belinda with the magazine. Yesterday alone, I had spent three hours on the phone making sure everything was just the way Hazel’s “baby” needed it. Talk about helicopter mom. I had been instructed on the noise level permitted in the classroom area, the temperature best suited for Belinda’s creativity, and how instructions couldn’t be included in the class kit because Belinda feared her idea would be distributed without her permission.

Neither my grandmothers nor I liked the last rule but we went along with it. When Belinda was named a L.A.D., scrappers within a four hour drive-time radius began calling, asking if we had any classes taught by Belinda on our schedule. Everyone considered Scrap This her home store, so they contacted us first and we didn’t want to disappoint them.

“Hard to set up the class properly without the instructions.” I picked up a copy of the magazine featuring Belinda and flipped through it. There couldn’t be too many designs that needed glue, boas, glitter and a hammer.

 

 

Books · Craft · Excerpt · Scrapbooking

Love might be in the air — Faith and Ted (from Cropped to Death)

As a little Valentine treat, I’m posting an excerpt from Cropped to Death that features Detective Ted Roget, one of the men vying for Faith’s attention. (stay tuned for a scene featuring Steve Davis).

CROPPED front smFrom Cropped to Death, A Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery:

Arriving home, I hit the button and popped the trunk, then scrambled from the driver’s seat. I gathered up the bags of groceries and balanced dinner, my purse, and the keys while I opened up the door. Where was Steve or Hank now? No one ever lurked when a person needed help with the groceries.

I plopped the bags on the empty countertop, then hurried upstairs to change from the nice blouse I wore to work into a Mountaineers t-shirt. I was a messy cook. The biggest clue to what I made for dinner was my shirt. As I was twisting my hair into a messy bun, the phone rang. I let the answering machine take the call.

Returning to the kitchen, I removed the chicken from the grocery store’s self-service bag and arranged the pieces on a serving platter. At least the main entrée could look pretty. I filled a pot with water and set it on the stove.

The doorbell sung. Turning the knob on the stove, I set it on high then raced for the front door. My grandmothers arrived early to ensure dinner got made.

I tugged open the door and shouted an enthusiastic hello. “Hey Gram—”

The grin froze on my face.

Detective Roget leaned against the door frame, looking me up and down. “I hear you have questions for me.”

Everyone in this town, except for the murderer, had a hard time keeping secrets. I stood in the middle of the threshold. “I don’t have anything to say to you. I went to the police station to verify something Karen England said.”

“Is that so?” He pulled out a small notebook from the pocket of his jacket. “I bet I’m right to assume this has something to do with a certain case I’ve asked…” He held up his index finger. “Let me correct that, told you, to stay out of.”

“I am staying out of it. The reporter came to me and made some allegations about Marilyn. I decided I should check into what she said.”

“And what would those allegations be?”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m sure you know because you helped plant them into her story.”

“You think well of me don’t you?” His sarcasm came through loud and clear.

Sizzles popped in the background. I groaned and ran into the kitchen. The water started boiling. Hard. Grabbing a potholder, I removed the lid to calm the hot bubbling liquid. I blew on the roiling water. For some reason I always thought it sped up the cooling process.

Praying I didn’t burn myself, I dumped in the box of macaroni then took the cheese from the refrigerator.

“I guess I don’t need to call the fire department.”

I spun around. Detective Roget, cell phone in hand, stood in the kitchen and glanced around the area. The open floor plan allowed him a look at my living and dining room. The dining room I had converted into a craft area was messy and disorganized.

“The water just boiled over,” I said.

“You shouldn’t leave unattended items cooking.”

Viciously, I grated the mild cheddar cheese into a bowl. “I thought my grandmothers were at the door. Not you. You were the one who asked questions and distracted me.”

“You were the one who came by the police station and played amateur sleuth.”

I almost dropped the cheddar. I placed the remainder of the block down then went to refrigerator. I yanked open the door and gazed inside, stalling until I had a good response. Or at least until Roget forgot what he said.

He let out a long-suffering sigh. “Does it occur to you, Miss Hunter, that I’m quite capable at doing my job? People read way too many books where the damsel in distress solves the case and the day.”

I slammed the door and turned around. “I’m not in distress. And how would I know how capable you are when you arrested the wrong person? You jumped to the first conclusion you could. If what I said can be used against my friend, then why can’t what I’ve learned help her get out of jail?”

“Because this isn’t Monopoly. There isn’t some kind of get out of jail card up for bartering.”

“I’m not bartering. I want you to see the truth. Sometimes the truth isn’t just what you hear. It’s about what you don’t.” I stirred the pasta.

“Now I get you.” The low tone rumbled from Detective Roget. He rested a hand on my shoulder, kneading the muscle with gentle fingers. “Listen, Faith, you’re not to blame for your friend getting arrested. My case is based on a lot more evidence. Evidence you don’t know about.”

The relaxing touch lulled the anger I had at him. But I couldn’t allow it to continue. Stepping away, I tilted my head and looked at his face. His rugged features softened and compassion lurked in his green eyes.

“I can’t mention specifics. But I will let you know Marilyn was seen talking to Michael before—”

“He was murdered. I read that. How do you know that person isn’t lying? Maybe Annette Holland made it up so you wouldn’t suspect her. Why wouldn’t a murderer lie?”

“The person I talked with is very reliable. Even you’d agree. You have to realize I’m not the bad guy here.” He walked to the front door and paused with his hand on the knob. “And for the record, I’m available.”