Jul 292020
 

Relative Silence

by Carrie Stuart Parks

on Tour July 13 – August 14, 2020

Synopsis:

Relative Silence by Carrie Stuart Parks

A powerful family with lots of secrets. A forensic artist with his own tragedies. And a hurricane drawing bearing down on their private island.

Fifteen years ago Piper Boone’s only child died in a boating accident, and Piper’s almost perfect life came to an end too. After living through a divorce and losing her job, she retreats to Curlew Island and her childhood home—a secluded mansion for the politically powerful Boone family, who are practically American royalty.

But Piper’s desire to become a recluse is shattered when a mass shooter opens fire and kills three women at a café where Piper is having lunch. The crisis puts her family in the spotlight by dredging up rumors of the so-called Curlew Island Curse, which whispers say has taken the lives of several members of the Boone family, including Piper’s father and sister.

Forensic artist Tucker Landry also survives the shooting and is tasked with the job of sketching a portrait of the shooter with Piper. They forge a bond over their shared love of movies and tragic pasts. But when police discover a connection between the shooting and two more murders on Curlew Island, they face a more terrible lineup of suspects than they could have imagined: Piper’s family.

Unraveling the family’s true history will be the key to Piper’s survival—or her certain death.

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: July 14th 2020
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 0785226184 (ISBN13: 9780785226185)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Prologue

Curlew Island, South Carolina

Fifteen years ago

The piercing scream ripped up my spine. I dropped the spatula and spun.

My almost-three-year-old daughter, Dove, stood at the door to the kitchen and held out her favorite toy, a tattered stuffed bunny she’d named Piggy. Piggy’s ear was hanging by a thread with stuffing protruding from the opening.

“Mommy,” she sobbed. “P-P-Piggy’s hurt.”

I turned off the blender. I’d told Mildred, the housekeeper, I was going to make dessert and was elbow-deep in half-whipped meringue for the banana pudding now cooling next to me.

“Come here, Dove, and let Mommy see.”

Still crying, Dove launched herself at me.

I lifted her and checked my watch. No one was at the family’s Curlew Island home at the moment except my husband, Ashlee. He’d said he would look after Dove while I did some cooking. Yet here she was with a damaged toy and in need of comfort, while he, as usual, was absent.

“Sweetheart, Mommy will have to fix Piggy in a little bit. Where’s Daddy?”

She shook her head. Her sobbing settled into hiccups and loud sniffles.

Shifting her to my hip, I caught sight of movement in the foyer. “Ashlee?”

The front door clicked shut.

Still holding Dove, I charged through the house and opened the front door. Ashlee was just climbing into a golf cart, the only transportation on the island. “Just where did you think you were going? You’re supposed to be watching Dove.”

“Don’t give me a hard time, Piper.” His face was pale with beads of sweat on his forehead. “I have an errand to run on the mainland. Mildred can watch Dove.”

“Mildred’s getting groceries and I’m cooking. Take Dove with you. You don’t spend nearly enough time with your only child.”

“Look, Piper, this is important and I don’t—”

“So’s your daughter. Or maybe we should all go to the mainland together if something is that important. Better yet, you finish dessert and I’ll get to play with Dove.” I was heartily tired of Ashlee’s constant racing off to “something important.” His work as head of marketing at the family business, Boone Industries, was stressful and kept him busy, but this was getting ridiculous.

He took out a handkerchief and swabbed his sweaty brow. “N-no. I’ll take her.”

Dove had relaxed against my shoulder. “She’s overdue for her nap, and the boat always puts her fast asleep. Just be sure to put her life jacket on. There are snacks on the boat if she gets hungry.”

Ashlee opened his mouth, then shut it. A vein pounded in his forehead.

“Dove, sweetie,” I said. “Go for a boat ride with your daddy. I’ll take care of Piggy, okay?”

She nodded under my chin and allowed me to hand her over to Ashlee.

“Will you be long?”

“As long as I need to be.” Without another word he got into the cart and drove toward the dock. The late October day was pleasantly warm, and although Dove wore a white T-shirt and short skirt, she could always crawl under a blanket in the saloon if the boat ride was too cool.

I took poor Piggy back into the kitchen and placed her on the end of the counter, hoping the meringue was salvageable. I topped the banana pudding, stuck the dessert into the oven, set the timer, and moved to Dove’s room to change the sheets. Finishing just as the pudding was ready, I placed it on the counter to cool.

After washing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen, I still had laundry to do. How could I be washing more clothes than we’d packed?

Once a year the entire family would gather on the private island for a stockholders’ meeting and retreat, joining the year-round staff. I’d like to say that seeing my family together in this beautiful paradise was a special treat. Unfortunately, I was closer to the housekeeper than to my own mother. At least the beach was sandy, the ocean refreshing, and the house spectacular and spacious. Dove, of course, was perfect. And Ashlee? Back to the laundry.

After shifting a load from the washer to the dryer, I made my way past the workout and sewing room toward the kitchen. Could a rabbit ear be repaired on a sewing machine? Ha! I didn’t even know how to thread a bobbin. I found Mildred in the kitchen, checking a store receipt. “I didn’t know you’d returned. Do you need help with the groceries?”

“Already done.”

“Then I timed my offer perfectly. Do you know how to thread a bobbin?”

“Have you been out in the sun too long?”

“It’s a rabbit-ear question.”

“Next time wear a hat.”

I grinned at the older woman. “To thread a bobbin?”

“You are the oddest child,” she muttered, then nodded at my banana pudding. “But you do make the most beautiful desserts.” We busied ourselves preparing dinner. The stockholders’ meeting was tomorrow, and the remaining members of the family would arrive tonight.

“Strange,” Mildred said after the pot roast had been placed in the oven.

“What?”

“I’d have thought everyone would be here by now.”

I glanced at my watch. Ashlee and Dove had been gone for five hours. Dove would be starving. “I’m sure—”

The phone rang.

“That’s probably them now.” I picked up the receiver. “Boone residence.”

“Piper!” It was my older brother, Tern. “Oh, Piper, I’m . . . I’m at the hospital. It’s Ashlee.”

I squeezed the receiver tighter. “What’s going on? Is Dove okay?”

Tern groaned.

I reached for Mildred. She took my hand, then put her arm around me to keep my knees from buckling. “Tern? Tern!”

Tern didn’t answer. A male voice took over. “Mrs. Piper Yates? This is Officer Stan Gragg of the Marion Inlet Police. There’s been an incident involving your husband. He was attacked on the dock and your family’s yacht was stolen. He’ll be fine, but we’re having the doctor check him out—”

“What about my daughter, Dove?” I tried to keep my voice under control, but the words came out shrill.

“We believe she was still on the boat. I’m afraid she’s missing.”

Chapter 1

Marion Inlet, South Carolina

Present Day

I couldn’t breathe. A man’s weight across my body crushed me to the sidewalk. The grit of the cement and shattered glass dug into my cheek. My ears rang with the craack, craack of gunfire and the screams of the wounded. A thousand bees stung my ankle. I kept my eyes tightly shut. If I opened them, I knew I’d see the sightless gaze of my friend Ami, stretched out beside me. Even with my eyes closed, I could still see Ami’s face. I should be the one lying dead.

I tried to cover my ears.

“Don’t move.” The man’s voice whispered in my ear, his breath stirring my hair.

I froze.

A final craack!

The man jerked. The shooting stopped. Like the eye of a hurricane, silence. Then the screaming resumed. In the distance, a siren, then a second.

The man didn’t move.

My shoulder felt warm. Something wet slithered around my neck.

In spite of the man’s warning, I inched my hand upward and touched my shoulder. I opened my eyes and looked at my fingers. Blood.

Adrenaline shot through my body. I was boxed in, closed off. My claustrophobia took over, shoving aside my fear of the gunman. I shoved upward, shifting the man sideways.

He groaned.

Sliding from underneath him, I had a chance to see who’d knocked me from my chair and covered me with his body when the gunman opened fire. He was about my age—midthirties—dressed in a light-tan cotton sports jacket and bloody jeans. His gray-white skin contrasted sharply with his shaggy black hair. He opened his eyes briefly, revealing ultramarine-blue irises, before closing them again. Blood streamed from a gash on his forehead. More blood pooled around his right leg.

I was breathing with fast, hiccupping breaths. I wanted to put my hands over my ears to block the screaming, but they were covered in blood. Maybe this is a movie. Patriot Games. Harrison Ford . . . No. Movies don’t smell.

What year was Patriot Games made? I couldn’t remember.

The distant sirens grew overwhelming, then stopped. Police officers, guns drawn, swarmed the overturned chairs and tables of the outdoor café. Swiftly they checked the motionless dead, the sobbing survivors, the wailing injured.

“Help! Here! Over here!” I waved my arm to get someone’s attention. Sliding closer, I lifted my protector’s head onto my lap, smearing his cheeks with blood. Wait. Was his head supposed to be below his heart? “Please help me!” A female officer raced over. “He’s shot.” I cradled his head in my lap. “Hurry. Please hurry and get help.”

The officer spoke into the mic on her shoulder. “Dispatch? Where are those ambulances?”

The reply was a jumble of words and static.

“Okay, ma’am,” the officer said to me. “Stay calm. The ambulances are on their way. I need you to put your hand on your husband’s leg and apply pressure to slow the bleeding—”

Her mic squawked again. “Ten-four,” she said. “I’ll be right back.”

“He’s not my—” The officer raced off before I could finish. “Husband,” I whispered. I pressed a trembling hand on the man’s injury. Please, God, don’t let him die like this.

He moaned but didn’t open his eyes.

Another officer, this time male, came over. “Are you injured? You’re covered in blood.”

“It’s his. At least I think it’s his.” Was I hurt? I didn’t like this movie. It was filmed all shiny. Everyone moved in slow motion.

“Did you see the gunman?”

“Briefly.”

He nodded, then waved his hand to get someone’s attention. An EMT appeared and crouched beside me. “Are you okay?” His voice was distant and slow. “Laady, aarre yoouu ooookaaaaaayy?”

“Y-yes, I think so. He’s . . .” My vision narrowed. Blackness lapped around my brain. “Lunch . . . we were having lun—”

The blackness took over.

***

I opened my eyes. Above me was a green canvas umbrella. Did I have an umbrella in my bedroom? I didn’t think so.

What a strange dream.

My bed was hard. And gritty. And smelled of fried fish mixed with . . . the pungent stench of body fluids.

Turning my head, I blinked to make sense of what I was seeing. Overturned tables, chairs, a purse. Golden brown with the letter C forming a pattern. Coach purse. My purse. Spattered by a shattered bowl of creamy shrimp and grits.

Not my bed. Not a dream. Not a movie.

Sound finally registered. Talking, more sirens. Yelled directions.

I slowly pushed up to a sitting position. Uniformed officers were corralling witnesses, and EMTs were treating the wounded. Next to me was a pool of blood. The man—Harrison Ford? No, he was an actor. The man who’d saved me was gone.

When I looked the other way, Ami came into focus. Her eyes were open, looking beyond me. Beyond this life. A pool of her blood had reached the puddle from the man’s injury.

All my senses had returned, but I still felt . . . detached. Should I make a list? Write down what happened and make everything neat and tidy? I’d been having lunch. At a café. A gunman opened fire. That’s right. And my friend . . .

I reached over and took Ami’s hand. The warmth had already left it. She wore coral nail polish and an engagement ring. Did we talk about her engagement?

A giant lump in my throat made it difficult to swallow. She’s so still. Just a few minutes ago she was animatedly talking to me, like Téa Leoni in Spanglish. 2004. See, I remembered the year that movie was made. Why couldn’t I remember Patriot Games?

Why was I obsessing over movies now? And lists?

Movies and lists are safe.

My eyes burned, but no tears appeared. I hadn’t cried in more than fifteen years. “I’m so very sorry, m’friend. I . . .” I shook my head and placed Ami’s hand gently on the sidewalk.

The shooting. The blood. My dead friend. It was all real.

Looking away from her, I spotted the man being placed into an ambulance. He saved my life and I didn’t even know his name.

I started to get to my feet. An EMT raced over and gently placed her hand on my shoulder, easing me back down. “Easy there. It won’t be much longer. We’re just getting the badly wounded off first—”

“I’m fine,” I lied. “Harrison Ford—”

“What?”

You’re not in a movie. I pointed. “Um, that man, the one being put into the ambulance—who is he?”

The woman looked in the direction I was pointing. “I don’t know.” She called to the EMTs loading the man. “Hey, guys, what hospital are you going to?”

“Mercy.”

The EMT glanced at me. “Got that?”

“Thanks. Look, I’m not shot. I need to thank that man and make sure he’s going to be okay, then tell my family I’m not hurt.” I tried to stand again. “I promised I’d—”

“Sorry, honey.” This time the EMT pushed me down. “But you’re not going anywhere right now. You passed out. We don’t know if you sustained a head injury. You have a lot of blood on you, and your ankle is cut. And that officer”—she jerked her head—“said you’re a potential eyewitness. He said you can’t leave.”

“Please. I’m not injured—”

“We’ll decide that.” The EMT signaled the officer. “She’s awake. We’ll be moving her soon.”

The officer came over and squatted beside me. He looked to be in his early forties, lean and athletic. His name tag identified him as S. Gragg. “Miss Piper Boone? I’m Lieutenant Stan Gragg. I understand you may have seen the shooter.” His voice was soft and soothing.

“You know my name.”

“Yes, ma’am. Marion Inlet is a small town. Hard not to. And”—he looked away—“I was on the department here . . . before.”

“Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t recognize you.”

“Long time ago.”

“Yes. Mr. . . . Lieutenant Gragg, I have to cover her face. It’s not right, her just lying there.” I started to take off my jacket.

The officer stopped me. “Now, Miss Boone, I know it doesn’t seem respectful to your friend, but this is a crime scene and we have to secure and preserve it until the crime-scene folks can process it.” He glanced over my shoulder. “Looks like your ride is here.”

“Really, you’re making a big fuss. All those other people—”

“Just being cautious.” He stood and stepped away.

An EMT took his place. I grabbed my heavy, oversized purse and clutched it while they arranged for my transport to the hospital.

The nearest medical center was normally a twenty-minute drive, but the ambulance cut the time in half. I was raced into a small room, placed on the examination table, questioned about my injuries, and prodded. They cleaned and bandaged my ankle. The last of the feeling of detachment left with the scrubbing of my ankle cut. That hurt.

During one of the lulls when the doctor or nurse wasn’t tending to me, I pulled a notebook and pen from my purse and started a list.

Look up the year Patriot Games was made.

I stared at that a moment. That didn’t matter. It was a movie, and it had a bombing, not a café shooting. I drew a line through it.

Call family and tell them I’m okay.

Contact Ami’s parents and offer condolences.

Take food to the house.

Order flowers.

Offer to help with funeral arrangements.

Retrieve car.

Lieutenant Gragg entered. “How are you doing?”

“A few bumps—nothing really.” I looked down at my list.

“Are you writing down what happened for me? Your statement?”

“Oh. No. Making notes on what I need to do. You know. With Ami and all.” Heat rushed to my face. “Writing things down keeps me . . . sane.”

“And Ami is . . . ?”

“Oh, sorry, Ami Churchill. The woman I was having lunch with.”

“I see. Maybe before you forget anything you could tell me what happened.”

I nodded. “Okay.” The blood had dried on my jeans, blouse, and jacket. I breathed through my mouth to not take in the metallic odor. I just want to get out of these clothes. I bit my lip at the uncharitable thought. The blood was from the man who saved my life.

Lieutenant Gragg took out a small notepad and pen, checked the time, jotted something down, then looked at me.

“So let’s start at the beginning. Your full name is Piper Boone?”

“Sandpiper Boone.”

He raised his eyebrows.

“Mother is an ornithologist, a bird-watcher. She named her children after birds.”

“So that’s why your brother, the senator, is Tern?”

“Yes. My sisters are Sparrow and Raven. I’m just happy Mother didn’t name me Albatross or Plover.” I smiled, then immediately looked down and tightened my lips. How could I make a joke when all those people were shot and Ami was still dead on the street? The police officer was taking the time to interview me when he had so much else to do, and all I could do was try to be funny. Unsuccessfully.

He quietly handed me a tissue. “Take your time.”

I took the tissue and crumpled it in my hand. “I’d agreed to meet Ami for lunch. I hadn’t seen her in years—since high school. Out of the blue, she called me up and asked to have lunch . . . I’m sorry, I’m not very organized in my thoughts right now.” The detached feeling was returning.

“And you were eating lunch?”

“Lunch. Yes. I mean no. We were finished. We were just talking and having a last glass of iced tea.”

“You were sitting facing the street?” he asked.

“No. I had my back to the street. Ami was facing me.”

Lieutenant Gragg paused and looked up from his writing. “You indicated you saw the shooter. If your back was to the street, how did you see him?”

“I . . . um . . . looked around when I smelled something . . . a homeless man. I caught a glimpse of the shooter then, but he wasn’t doing anything at that time. Later I could see his reflection in the window of the café. He’d moved behind me across the street and was watching the café. Something about him was . . . disturbing. I was about to mention him to Ami when he raised a rifle.” I started to tremble but dug my fingernails into my palms until it hurt. “Before I could say or do anything, the man at the next table grabbed me, threw me to the ground, and covered me with his body. Ami”—I took a deep breath—“Ami must have been one of the first people shot. She fell next to us as soon as the shooting started.”

“What happened next? What did the man do?”

“He saved my life.”

“Yes, but physically, what was going on around you?”

“I don’t know. I closed my eyes. I heard pop, pop, pop, screaming, the scraping of metal chairs and tables on the pavement, crashing dishes.” I took a shaky breath.

“Would you know the shooter again if you saw him?”

“I believe so, yes, if that would help you.”

A nurse entered. “Almost done? We need the room.”

“Almost.” The lieutenant gave her a quick smile.

She gave a curt nod and left.

“You said Ami was facing the street. Did she notice the man as well?”

“No. She was trying on my straw hat and was asking me if it looked good on her.”

“Piper! Thank the Lord you’re not hurt!” My brother, Tern, pushed into the room, followed by my mother, Caroline.

Mother stopped as soon as she spotted me. “Oh, Piper! You’re covered in blood! How badly are you hurt?”

“Okay, folks.” Lieutenant Gragg put his arm out to stop Tern. “We’re almost done here. She’s going to be fine. I need you to wait outside—”

“Do you know who you’re talking to?” Tern’s face was white. “That’s my little sister.”

“Yes, Senator Boone.” Lieutenant Gragg gently took Tern’s arm and turned him toward the door. “We’re taking good care of her.”

“Not as good as her family. We’re here to take her home and get the best possible care for her.”

“You will be able to, but we need to arrange for a forensic artist to meet with her as soon as possible—”

“Please, everyone, I’m fine. I have a slight graze on my ankle. That’s all.” I gripped the table. It’s Ami who needs family right now. And those other poor people. I looked down and allowed my hair to partially cover my face until I could get some modicum of control over my expression. “Could I call you about the artist?”

“Absolutely, Miss Boone.”

A strong arm wrapped around me and pulled me to my feet. I recognized the cherry-vanilla aroma of Tern’s pipe tobacco. “Come on, little sis,” he whispered. “Everything else can wait. You need to get home.”

“Tern!” my mother said. “She can’t go out in public looking like that.”

“She’ll have to.” Tern propelled me from the room, down the hall, through a set of doors, and into a chaotic nightmare.

Chapter 2

“Senator Boone!” Click, click, click.

“Senator, look this way!” Click, click.

The press was everywhere, yelling to get my brother’s attention, jamming microphones in my face, snapping digitals. “What do you have to say about today’s shooting?”

I kept my head down and wished I still had my hat to help conceal my face. Around me were milling legs and shoes—oxfords, pumps, cross-trainers, and one pair of Chloé Rylee cutout open-toed boots. Beyond cute. I glanced up at the boot wearer. A porcelain-complexioned redhead swiftly took my photo. Rats.

“Now that your own sister was shot, does this change your stance on gun control?”

“My sister wasn’t shot—”

“She’s covered in blood!”

“Now then, ladies and gentlemen.” Tern gave my arm a squeeze. “Please stand back and let my little sister and mother through, then I’ll give you a statement.”

The legs moved away. The press, particularly the female members, would be ecstatic for the chance to interview my strikingly handsome brother. And Tern knew how to use his good looks and charisma to charm even the most acerbic critic.

Tern ushered Mother and me into the back seat of the family’s silver Lexus LX, placed my purse on the floor, then bent down to talk to us. “I’m having Joel drive you home. I’ll put in an appearance at the children’s hospital fund raiser, then leave as soon as I can.” He shut the door.

Joel Christianson was the driver, handyman, and all-purpose help at the family estate on Curlew Island. He gave Tern a sketchy salute, put the car in gear, and slowly pulled out of the hospital parking lot. We drove up Highway 17 in silence. I rested my head against the car window. The blood, his blood, had stiffened on my jacket and blouse. Why did he risk his life saving me? I’m not worth the effort. I pulled out the list I’d started and added:

Find out man’s name.

Figure out how to thank him.

Joel took the exit to the picturesque hamlet of Marion Inlet. When my grandparents moved here, the town was little more than a fishing village. A row of white storefronts and historic homes faced the main street, and a fishing fleet anchored in the small harbor. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo made landfall just south of Marion Inlet, uprooting ancient trees and tossing the shrimping boats around the town as if they were children’s toys. The locals rebuilt and now the town was booming again.

Curlew Island, located less than a mile from the mainland, was almost entirely owned by the Boone family. It provided a seasonal home for vacations, retreats, and the annual family stockholders’ meeting in October. Normally the only permanent inhabitants were Joel and his wife, Mildred, the housekeeper. For the past year, I’d called the island home.

I’d often said I was dying to leave. Today I’d almost gotten my wish. I shook my head at the grim thought.

“What is it, Piper?” my mother asked.

“I suspect it’s what’s called gallows humor.”

“You always did have a strange sense of humor.” Mother patted me on the leg.

This from a woman who named me after a bird known for eating critters it plucked from the mud. “Mmmm.”

Mother brushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “Once we get to the house, you can take a shower and get cleaned up. I’m sure you’ll want to get out of those bloody clothes.” She gave a tiny shudder. “I’ll get Mildred to make you a pot of chamomile tea. She can add a spoonful of raw honey. Very calming. I’ll look up some organic pain medication so you can throw away those pills the doctor gave you.” She tapped her finger on her lips. “No. Don’t throw them away. That’s not safe. I’ll research how to dispose of them.” She gave me a slight smile.

I stared out the window, ignoring the twinges of pain from my scrapes and rapidly forming bruises, and tried not to think about Ami lying next to me at the outdoor café. Nineteen ninety-two. That was the year Patriot Games was released.

The SUV pulled in front of a small elevated house. The entire ground floor was open and served as a garage. The house was the original family home but had served as overflow guest quarters since my parents constructed the far larger house on Curlew Island. A day cruiser was tied up to the private dock waiting to transport the family to the island. Smaller boats, also owned by the family, were tied along one side.

I tapped the driver on the shoulder. “Joel, can you see that Mother gets to Curlew safely? I need to take the car.”

“Where are you going?” Mother asked.

“Ami”—I gulped some air—“was one of the victims murdered today. I need to talk to her parents—”

“The police will take care of that.”

“Shouldn’t they hear about it from me? I was the reason she was at the restaurant.” I held up the list. “If not for me, she’d be alive. Now I need to make things right.”

Mother patted my hand. “Really, Piper, you don’t know these people. You don’t know what they want or need right now. You need to let the family grieve in peace.”

“But I could tell them what happened—”

“What happened was that you were both in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now, I’m going out for my afternoon meditating session. I think you should join me. Let nature help you heal.”

Joel opened the door beside Mother and helped her out. I remained in the SUV.

“Come along, Piper.” Mother headed for the boat.

“I need to get my car. It’s still parked near the restaurant. I’ll have Joel drive me over.”

Mother stopped, turned, and looked at me. Her gaze flickered over to Joel. The message was clear. Don’t make a scene in front of the help.

I sighed and looked down. A weight settled across my shoulders.

“Give me your keys,” Joel whispered. “I’ll retrieve the car in a bit.”

Opening my purse, I handed him my key chain, then slipped from the SUV and slowly followed Mother. I wish it had been me killed today.

***

Tucker Landry opened his eyes. A nurse sitting behind a counter directly in front of him stood and walked over. “How are you doing?”

“Where am I?”

“Mercy Hospital. You got out of surgery and you’re in recovery. Do you have any pain?”

“No. What happened?”

“Do you remember getting shot?”

Tucker closed his eyes. Flashes of memory slid across his mind. Lunch at an outdoor café. A beautiful woman at the next table. The thunderous staccato of gunfire. “Yes.”

“The doctor will be by to talk to you soon.”

“When can I get out of here?”

She patted his hand. “Don’t be in such a rush. You lost a lot of blood.”

A woman in green scrubs with her hair tucked into a surgical cap appeared next to him. “Welcome to the land of the living, Mr. Landry. I’m Dr. Rice. You are one lucky man.”

“I don’t feel lucky.”

“You are. The bullet that just grazed your head and struck you in the leg was a .223. Nasty business. A different angle and you’d be dead.” She tilted his head slightly upward and checked his forehead. “This will heal fine with just these butterfly bandages. They come off on their own in about ten days. Your leg injury will take longer. No broken bones, but I want you to keep weight off it so it has time to heal. You’ll be on crutches, which you’ll need to use even if you feel better.” She folded her arms. “I’d usually comment about the scar you’ll end up with, but I noticed you have quite a few all over your body.”

He could hear the question in her comment. “I do, yes.”

She waited another moment as if hoping he’d elaborate, then continued. “Now you need to rest and heal. I’ll be back when you’re settled in your room.” She walked away before Tucker could ask her any questions.

Settled in my room? How long was he supposed to be in here? He had work to do.

***

I sat in the boat’s aft holding my long hair to keep it from whipping across my face and watched the small town of Marion Inlet recede.

I’d looked forward to having lunch with Ami. Now I was thinking about funeral plans and memorial wreaths. And blood. Think about something else. I could join Mother in meditation, but while she sat on a comfortable mat, I had to sit on the ground. All I ever got out of it was leg cramps, bug bites, and dirty pants. Maybe I could do a movie marathon. Lock myself in my room and not come out for a week. Would a week be enough to erase everything? What about the man who saved my life? Would he be around in a week?

After Silva, the boat captain, tied up on the island dock, I headed straight to the house and my room, not willing to wait for one of the golf carts used as transportation.

The two-story, elevated, low-country home had been designed to preserve the existing natural environment. A series of dunes separated the front of the house from the sandy beach. Except for a small partially enclosed foyer leading to the living quarters on the second floor, the space beneath the house was surrounded by lattice.

Unlike the rest of the house, my bedroom didn’t have an indifferent, model-home look. Stacks of books covered most of the surfaces, and the built-in shelves sagged under the weight of more books and journals. I’d taken down the bird prints found on all the other bedroom walls and replaced them with a framed photograph of my father from a magazine piece about his art. Two movie posters flanked it. Next to a flat-screen television was a media storage unit holding my collection of classic movies. A half-packed suitcase sat open on a cedar chest, where it had rested for the last six months.

I dropped my oversized purse onto a nautical-themed chair and dashed into the bathroom. I stared at my face in the mirror. Does it show? Everything else did. Every passing thought was clearly written on my features and reflected in my complexion. Does the presence of death etch into the face? A tightness around the mouth? Eyes narrowed, or worse, turning cold?

After peeling off my bloody clothes, I stuffed them into a plastic garbage bag, then jammed the bag into the trash container. I’d never wear that outfit again. I didn’t even want to see it in my closet. My thick watch band on my left arm was clean, but the wide leather bracelet I wore on my right arm was crusted in blood. Sliding it off, I tried not to stare at the parallel raised white scars across my wrist. In the shower, I scrubbed my skin until it turned red. I washed my hair twice. The pink-tinged water eventually drained clear. My conservation-conscious mother would say I was using too much water, but today I didn’t care.

Maybe today is my wake-up call. Once the stockholders’ meeting was over, in three days, I’d leave for good. Nothing held me to Curlew Island. Well, okay, free room and board. And a small rock cairn at the north end of the island.

I just needed to pack the last of my things in the suitcase and arrange for my books, journals, and movie collection to be shipped to . . . Where?

I stopped scouring my hands and leaned against the cool marble tiles.

Maybe back to Atlanta? I could see if any jobs had opened up.

Oh yeah. Who’d want to hire a washed-up, has-been editor from a now-defunct publishing house? Yet another failure in my mess of a life.

Maybe I should look at someplace new, where no one knew me. It’s this stupid indecision that keeps my suitcase half packed. Leaving here was not a destination, only a decision.

When I stepped from the shower wrapped in towels, Mildred was waiting for me. The older woman was slightly plump but solid, plain-faced but with a radiant smile that transformed it. She wore her long gray hair in a tight bun, and oversized tortoiseshell glasses mostly hid her hazel eyes. A floral print apron covered her blue-checked cotton housedress.

“Child, I just thank the stars you weren’t killed today.”

“Thank you, Mildred—” The words caught in my throat.

“Let me look at you.” She lifted my chin and inspected my face. “It was bad, wasn’t it?”

I didn’t have to answer. I could keep nothing from Mildred. My face would show it all, and she knew how to read it.

She patted my cheek and let go. “Be strong.”

“How did you hear about it?” I finally asked. “Is it on the news?”

“Probably, but I wasn’t watching the news. Tern called after putting you and your mother in the car. He said you’d had a close call. Your mother sent some tea.” She glanced toward the Wedgwood tea set resting on a tray on the dresser.

“That’s so thoughtful of both of you. Thank you.” I made a point of pouring a cup and taking a sip. I didn’t care much for tea but didn’t want to appear ungrateful. “I wouldn’t be here now if not for the man who saved my life.”

Mildred raised her eyebrows.

That’s one of the things I love about this woman—her quiet strength and serenity. And her intelligence. I gave Mildred a quick hug. “I think I’ll take a walk along the beach.”

Her gaze darted to my wrist.

“I’m okay. I . . . I need to be alone.”

“You sound like Marlene Dietrich.”

“Greta Garbo,” I said automatically. “Grand Hotel, 1932.”

“The same year Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the Berlin Olympics?”

“That was 1936 . . . Wait a minute! You knew that answer.”

“Just testing you.”

“Well then, ‘You want to know something, Leslie? If I live to be ninety, I will never figure you out.’ Giant, 1956. I just have to substitute ‘Mildred’ for ‘Leslie.’”

“Same year your mother was born. Good year all around.” Mildred patted my cheek. “You’ll be fine.” She hesitated a moment. “Ashlee’s here.”

Ashlee. My ex-husband of fourteen years. When we divorced, he’d stayed on at Boone Industries as head of sales. The only non–family member to have a financial interest in the company, he held on to the stocks he’d received when we married and once a year was present at the shareholders’ meeting. Although our divorce was amiable, or at least as civil as such things can be, I did my best to avoid him.

“Duly noted.”

“I’ve put him in his usual room at the far end of the house.”

“Perfect.” Ashlee’s usual room was my sister Raven’s old bedroom. As she hadn’t shown up for any meetings in years, Ashlee took over the space.

“He did mention he had something to tell you.” Mildred pursed her lips.

My stomach churned. Somehow I knew it wouldn’t be good. “I see.”

“And you got a call from Four Paws Rescue.”

“Let me guess. A blind hamster? An elderly goat?”

“A goose.” Her lips puckered in disapproval.

“A goose? Who keeps a goose for a pet? Don’t answer that. What’s wrong with the goose?”

“It needs medical attention. The owners kept it in a dog crate in the house. Walked it daily. Then they lost the lease on their home and had to surrender their pet.”

Four Paws Rescue was another reason the free rent came in handy. My income from the family business always seemed to be needed elsewhere. “How much?”

“They think two hundred would cover the vet and first month’s care.”

I nodded. “Make me—”

“A note to send a check. Already done. Now, what else can I do to help you?”

Find me a job that pays well enough to live on and support all my two- and four-legged projects? “Nothing. No . . . wait. Could you call Mercy Hospital and see if they’ll release the name of the man who saved my life? Black hair. Blue eyes. About my age or a bit older.”

“I can try. You know how such things can be.”

“Thank you, Mildred. If that doesn’t work, I’ll ask Lieutenant Gragg to find out.”

Mildred turned to leave, then turned back. “Gragg? Why does that name sound familiar?”

“He said he was on the department . . . before.”

“I see. Oh, before I forget. You also got a call from Joyce.” Joyce Mueller was our sole neighbor on the island. She kept a seasonal home on the northern end. “I posted it on the bulletin board in the kitchen, then figured you probably wouldn’t check for messages.”

“Did she call because she heard—”

“No. She called last night. She wanted to talk to you.”

“Did she say what about?”

“No. But there was something in her voice . . .”

I raised my eyebrows. “Like . . . ?”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say she sounded scared.”

***

The adventure continues in Relative Silence by Carrie Stuart Parks.

***

Excerpt from Relative Silence by Carrie Stuart Parks. Copyright 2020 by Carrie Stuart Parks. Reproduced with permission from Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Carrie Stuart Parks

Carrie Stuart Parks is Christy, Carol, and Inspy award-winning author, an award-winning fine artist, and internationally known forensic artist. Along with her husband, Rick, she travels across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement as well as civilian participants. She has won numerous awards for career excellence. Carrie is a popular platform speaker, presenting a variety of topics from crime to creativity.

Catch Up With Carrie Stuart Parks:
CarrieStuartParks.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, & Facebook!

 

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!



 

 

Enter To Win!!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Carrie Stuart Parks. There will be 1 winner of one (1) RELATIVE SILENCE by Carrie Stuart Parks (print). The giveaway begins on July 13, 2020 and runs through August 16, 2020. Open to U.S. addresses only. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Jul 222020
 

Anarchy Of The Mice by Jeff Bond Banner

 

 

Anarchy of the Mice

by Jeff Bond

on Tour July 1 – August 31, 2020

Synopsis:

Anarchy of the Mice by Jeff Bond

From Jeff Bond, author of Blackquest 40 and The Pinebox Vendetta, comes Anarchy of the Mice, book one in an epic new series starring Quaid Rafferty, Durwood Oak Jones, and Molly McGill: the trio of freelance operatives known collectively as Third Chance Enterprises.

How far could society fall without data? Account balances, property lines, government ID records — if it all vanished, if everyone’s scorecard reset to zero, how might the world look?

The Blind Mice are going to show us.

Molly McGill is fighting it. Her teenage son has come downstairs in a T-shirt from these “hacktivists” dominating the news. Her daughter’s bus is canceled — too many stoplights out — and school is in the opposite direction of the temp job she’s supposed to be starting this morning. She is twice-divorced; her P.I. business, McGill Investigators, is on the rocks; what kind of life is this for a woman a mere twelve credit-hours shy of her PhD?

Then the doorbell rings.

It’s Quaid Rafferty, the charming — but disgraced — former governor of Massachusetts, and his plainspoken partner, Durwood Oak Jones. The guys have an assignment for Molly. It sounds risky, but the pay sure beats switchboard work.

They need her to infiltrate the Blind Mice.

Danger, romance, intrigue, action for miles — whatever you read, Anarchy of the Mice is coming for you.

Book Details:

Genre: Action-Adventure
Published by: Jeff Bond books
Publication Date: June 15, 2020
Number of Pages: 445
ISBN: 173225527X (978-1732255272)
Series: Third Chance Enterprises, #1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Jeff Bond

Jeff Bond is an American author of popular fiction. His books have been featured in The New York Review of Books, and his 2020 release, The Pinebox Vendetta, received the gold medal (top prize) in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards. A Kansas native and Yale graduate, he now lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters.

Guest Post

Tidbits About the Third Chance Heroes

MOLLY

When Molly allows herself to slip from the daily grind and dream, she imagines having brunch at a funky diner with Karen—who’s settling into her first apartment, dishing breathlessly about some office romance—and later meeting Zach out somewhere. The details are fuzzier with Zach. Is he a graphic designer? An architect? An Uber driver? Do they meet at a seaside boardwalk? At Molly’s place? It’s different every time, but for some reason he’s always drinking a Red Bull smoothie.

Molly is twelve credit-hours shy of her PhD in Psychology. Her second husband convinced her, when she got pregnant with Karen, there was no point in finishing. His sales numbers were outta the park that quarter. She should just relax and kick up her feet. He had a plan.
Yeah, a plan…

She uses her kids’ birthdays joined together with the nonsense word “KfurrDL!” in between.

Molly speaks a half-dozen languages, making her invaluable to Third Chance Enterprises’ many international operations. She is also, in her own humble opinion, the world’s best splinter remover.

For Molly, the most important traits in a friend are kindness and selflessness. Jenny, her girlfriend down the street, is a perfect example. They watch each other’s kids in a pinch or drop chocolate biscotti by in hard times—Molly’s last divorce, Jenny’s middle schooler getting suspended. (Again.) True friends buck you up before you even know you need bucking.

QUAID

Quaid struggles with boredom and its insidious cousin, apathy. He does poorly with cases requiring monotonous daily chores like close surveillance. (A task at which Durwood Oak Jones excels.) Too often in these moment, Quaid falls back on women, gambling, alcohol—or all three.

Quaid has a soft spot in his heart for conversationalists. If you’re vain, if you’re mean, if you can’t reason your way out of a paper bag—all that’s fine with Quaid so long as you’ll open up your trap and engage. This is a common source of friction with Durwood, a conversationalist on par with cabinetry.

Quaid, when struck by the red devil of ambition, thinks of reentering politics. Could he assemble a new progressive majority, heal the dysfunctional left and bring home the flyover states with the same down-home charm he uses in his Jesse Holt—the Caterpillar rep from Peoria—disguise? Possibly. The womanizing could be a problem, though.

Before his second impeachment removed him from the governor’s mansion, Quaid successfully humanized Massachusetts’ criminal justice system and reformed its mental health bureaucracy—items on progressives’ bucket lists for a good long while.

The word “believe” is central to Quaid Rafferty’s ethos. He believes in the Blind Mice mission. He believes in Molly McGill and her ability to rise to the job. When a mission gets tough and the odds look long for Third Chance Enterprises, he believes their motley gang will pull together and prevail. More often than not, this belief carries the day.

Quaid travels with a signed copy of Ann Richards’s autobiography. The hand-scribbled note from the liberal former governor of Texas reads, “With that face, that tongue of yours, there’s nothing you won’t do.”

DURWOOD

Durwood is a widower. He lost his wife, Maybelle, to a terrorist attack in Tikrit. He later avenged her killing by wiping out the responsible cell in defiance of his commanding officer, who’d intended to wait on a full and proper investigation before retaliating. This incident resulted in Durwood’s discharge from the Marines.

Durwood suffers from chronic migraines. Sometimes fishing helps. Other times, he’ll lean into a headache—nurse it, use it to enhance that righteous rage that drives him.

Durwoood would give himself foot speed. A fan of West Virginia Mountaineers football, he admires the players’ speed and grace. He marvels at squirrels chasing each other in the sorghum fields, zooming through stalks like silent wind. He would love to be fast. It wouldn’t hurt for chasing down criminals, either.

Durwood’s blood pressure is lowest while with Crole, his neighbor, on the river dividing their two properties. The Appalachians loom at the horizon. Insects buzz and whine. Sue-Ann lies snoring on the muddy banks, all right with the world.

Crole cooks a variety of stews, eating them for upwards of a month. Durwood makes a point to join for the beet-turnip variety in the fall.

Durwood bears a secret grudge against the University of Texas. The first year his West Virginia Mountaineers joined the Big 10, Durwood saw them play UT in person. Watching the visitors prance onto Mountaineer Field in their pretty orange uniforms, jumping up and down, cocky. It bothered Durwood.

Catch Up With Jeff Bond On:
JeffBondBooks.com
BookBub
Goodreads
Instagram
Twitter
Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

The first I ever heard of the Blind Mice was from my fourteen-year-old son, Zach. I was scrambling to get him and his sister ready for school, stepping over dolls and skater magazines, thinking ahead to the temp job I was starting in about an hour, when Zach came slumping downstairs in a suspiciously plain T-shirt.

“Turn around,” I said. “Let’s see the back.”

He scowled but did comply. The clothing check was mandatory after that vomiting-skull sweatshirt he’d slipped out the door in last month.

Okay. No drugs, profanity, or bodily fluids being expelled.

But there was something. An abstract computer-ish symbol. A mouse? Possibly the nose, eyes, and whiskers of a mouse?

Printed underneath was, Nibble, nibble. Until the whole sick scam rots through.

I checked the clock: 7:38. Seven minutes before we absolutely had to be out the door, and I still hadn’t cleaned up the grape juice spill, dealt with my Frizz City hair, or checked the furnace. For twenty minutes, I’d been hearing ker-klacks, which my heart said was construction outside but my head worried could be the failing heater.

How bad did I want to let Zach’s shirt slide?

Bad.

“Is that supposed to be a mouse?” I said. “Like an angry mouse?”

“The Blind Mice,” my son replied. “Maybe you’ve heard, they’re overthrowing the corporatocracy?”

His eyes bulged teen sarcasm underneath those bangs he refuses to get cut.

“Wait,” I said, “that group that’s attacking big companies’ websites and factories?”

“Government too.” He drew his face back ominously. “Anyone who’s part of the scam.”

“And you’re wearing their shirt?”

He shrugged.

I would’ve dearly loved to engage Zach in a serious discussion of socioeconomic justice—I did my master’s thesis on the psychology of labor devaluation in communities—except we needed to go. In five minutes.

“What if Principal Broadhead sees that?” I said. “Go change.”

“No.”

“Zach McGill, that shirt promotes domestic terrorism. You’ll get kicked out of school.”

“Like half my friends wear it, Mom.” He thrust his hands into his pockets.

Ugh. I had stepped in parenting quicksand. I’d issued a rash order and Zach had refused, and now I could either make him change, starting a blow-out fight and virtually guaranteeing I’d be late my first day on the job at First Mutual, or back down and erode my authority.

“Wear a jacket,” I said—a poor attempt to limit the erosion, but the best I could do. “And don’t let your great-grandmother see that shirt.”

Speaking of, I could hear Granny’s slippers padding around upstairs. She was into her morning routine, and would shortly—at the denture-rinsing phase—be shouting down that her sink was draining slow again; why hadn’t the damn plumber come yet?

Because I hadn’t paid one. McGill Investigators, the PI business of which I was the founder and sole employee (yes, I realized the plural name was misleading), had just gone belly-up. Hence the temp job.

Karen, my six-year-old, was seated cheerily beside her doll in front of orange juice and an Eggo Waffle.

“Mommy!” she announced. “I get to ride to school with you today!”

The doll’s lips looked sticky—OJ?—and the cat was eyeing Karen’s waffle across the table.

“Honey, weren’t you going to ride the bus today?” I asked, shooing the cat, wiping the doll with a dishrag.

Karen shook her head. “Bus isn’t running. I get to ride in the Prius, in Mommy’s Prius!”

I felt simultaneous joy that Karen loved our new car—well, new to us: 120K miles as a rental, but it was a hybrid—and despair because I really couldn’t take her. School was in the complete opposite direction of New Jersey Transit. Even if I took the turnpike, which I loathed, I would miss my train.

Fighting to address Karen calmly in a time crunch, I said, “Are you sure the bus isn’t running?”

She nodded.

I asked how she knew.

“Bus driver said, ‘If the stoplights are blinking again in the morning, I ain’t taking you.’” She walked to the window and pointed. “See?”

I joined her at the window, ignoring the driver’s grammatical example for the moment. Up and down my street, traffic lights flashed yellow.

“Blind Mice, playa!” Zach puffed his chest. “Nibble, nibble.

The lights had gone out every morning this week at rush hour. On Monday, the news had reported a bald eagle flew into a substation. On Tuesday, they’d said the outages were lingering for unknown reasons. I hadn’t seen the news yesterday.

Did Zach know the Blind Mice were involved? Or was he just being obnoxious?

“Great,” I muttered. “Bus won’t run because stoplights are out, but I’m free to risk our lives driving to school.”

Karen gazed up at me, her eyes green like mine and trembling. A mirror of my stress.

Pull it together, Molly.

“Don’t worry,” I corrected myself. “I’ll take you. I will. Let me just figure a few things out.”

Trying not to visualize myself walking into First Mutual forty-five minutes late, I took a breath. I patted through my purse for keys, sifting through rumpled Kleenex and receipts and granola-bar halves. Granny had made her way downstairs and was reading aloud from a bill-collection notice. Zach was texting, undoubtedly to friends about his lame mom. I felt air on my toes and looked down: a hole in my hose.

Fantastic.

I’d picked out my cutest work sandals, but somehow I doubted the look would hold up with toes poking out like mini-wieners.

I wished I could shut my eyes, whisper some spell, and wake up in a different universe.

Then the doorbell rang.

CHAPTER TWO

Quaid Rafferty waited on the McGills’ front porch with a winning smile. It had been ten months since he’d seen Molly, and he was eager to reconnect.

Inside, there sounded a crash (pulled-over coatrack?), a smack (skateboard hitting wall?), and muffled cross-voices.

Quaid fixed the lay of his sport coat lapels and kept waiting. His partner, Durwood Oak Jones, stood two paces back with his dog. Durwood wasn’t saying anything, but Quaid could feel the West Virginian’s disapproval—it pulsed from his blue jeans and cowboy hat.

Quaid twisted from the door. “School morning, right? I’m sure she’ll be out shortly.”

Durwood remained silent. He was on record saying they’d be better off with a more accomplished operative like Kitty Ravensdale or Sigrada the Serpent, but Quaid believed in Molly. He’d argued that McGill, a relative amateur, was just what they needed: a fresh-faced idealist.

Now he focused on the door—and was pleased to hear the dead bolt turn within. He was less pleased when he saw the face that appeared in the door glass.

The grandmother.

“Why, color me damned!” began the septuagenarian, yanking open the screen door. “The louse returns. Whorehouses all kick you out?”

Quaid strained to keep smiling. “How are you this fine morning, Eunice?”

Her face stormed over. “What’re you here for?”

“We’re hoping for a word with Molly if she’s around.” He opened his shoulders to give her a full view of his party, which included Durwood and Sue-Ann, his aged bluetick coonhound.

They made for an admittedly odd sight. Quaid and Durwood shared the same vital stats, six one and 180-something pounds, but God himself couldn’t have created two more different molds. Quaid in a sport coat with suntanned wrists and mussed-just-so blond hair. Durwood removing his hat and casting steel-colored eyes humbly about, jeans pulled down over his boots’ piping. And Sue with her mottled coat, rasping like any breath could be her last.

Eunice stabbed a finger toward Durwood. “He can come in—him I respect. But you need to turn right around. My granddaughter wants nothing to do with cads like you.”

Behind her, a voice called, “Granny, I can handle this.

Eunice ignored this. “You’re a no-good man. I know it, my granddaughter knows it.” Veins showed through the chicken-y skin of her neck. “Go on, hop a flight back to Vegas and all your whores!”

Before Quaid could counter these aspersions, Molly appeared.

His heart chirped in his chest. Molly was a little discombobulated, bending to put on a sandal, a kid’s jacket tucked under one elbow—but those dimples, that curvy body…even in the worst domestic throes, she could’ve charmed slime off a senator.

He said, “Can’t you beat a seventy-four-year-old woman to the door?”

Molly slipped on the second sandal. “Can we please just not? It’s been a crazy morning.”

“I know the type.” Quaid smacked his hands together. “So hey, we have a job for you.”

“You’re a little late—McGill Investigators went out of business. I have a real job starting in less than an hour.”

“What kind?”

“Reception,” she said. “Three months with First Mutual.”

“Temp work?” Quaid asked.

“I was supposed to start with the board of psychological examiners, but the position fell through.”

“How come?”

“Funding ran out. The governor disbanded the board.”

“So First Mutual…?”

Molly’s eyes, big and leprechaun green, fell. “It’s temp work, yeah.”

“You’re criminally overqualified for that, McGill,” Quaid said. “Hear us out. Please.”

She snapped her arms over her chest but didn’t stop Quaid as he breezed into the living room followed by Durwood and Sue-Ann, who wore no leash but kept a perfect twenty-inch heel by her master.

Two kids poked their heads around the kitchen doorframe. Quaid waggled his fingers playfully at the girl.

Molly said, “Zach, Karen—please wait upstairs. I’m speaking with these men.”

The boy argued he should be able to stay; upstairs sucked; wasn’t she the one who said they had to leave, like, immedia—

“This is not a negotiation,” Molly said in a new tone.

They went upstairs.

She sighed. “Now they’ll be late for school. I’m officially the worst mother ever.”

Quaid glanced around the living room. The floor was clutter free, but toys jammed the shelves of the coffee table. Stray fibers stuck up from the carpet, which had faded beige from its original yellow or ivory.

“No, you’re an excellent mother,” Quaid said. “You do what you believe is best for your children, which is why you’re going to accept our proposition.”

The most effective means of winning a person over, Quaid had learned as governor of Massachusetts and in prior political capacities, was to identify their objective and articulate how your proposal brought it closer. Part two was always trickier.

He continued, “American Dynamics is the client, and they have deep pockets. If you help us pull this off, all your money troubles go poof.”

A glint pierced Molly’s skepticism. “Okay. I’m listening.”

“You’ve heard of the Blind Mice, these anarchist hackers?”

“I—well, yes, a little. Zach has their T-shirt.”

Quaid, having met the boy on a few occasions, wasn’t shocked by the information. “Here’s the deal. We need someone to infiltrate them.”

Molly blinked twice.

Durwood spoke up, “You’d be great, Moll. You’re young. Personable. People trust you.”

Molly’s eyes were grapefruits. “What did you call them, ‘anarchist hackers’? How would I infiltrate them? I just started paying bills online.”

“No tech knowledge required,” Quaid said. “We have a plan.”

He gave her the nickel summary. The Blind Mice had singled out twelve corporate targets, “the Despicable Dozen,” and American Dynamics topped the list. In recent months, AmDye had seen its websites crashed, its factories slowed by computer glitches, internal documents leaked, the CEO’s home

egged repeatedly. Government agencies from the FBI to NYPD were pursuing the Mice, but the company was troubled by the lack of progress and so had hired Third Chance Enterprises to take them down.

“Now if I accept,” Molly said, narrowing her eyes, “does that mean I’m officially part of Third Chance Enterprises?”

Quaid exhaled at length. Durwood shook his head with an irked air—he hated the name, and considered Quaid’s branding efforts foolish.

“Oh, Durwood and I have been at this freelance operative thing awhile.” Quaid smoothed his sport coat lapels. “Most cases we can handle between the two of us.”

“But not this one.”

“Right. Durwood’s a whiz with prosthetics, but even he can’t bring this”—Quaid indicated his own ruggedly handsome but undeniably middle-aged face—“back to twenty-five.”

Molly’s eyes turned inward. Quaid’s instincts told him she was thinking of her children.

She said, “Sounds dangerous.”

“Nah.” He spread his arms, wide and forthright. “You’re working with the best here: the top small-force, private-arms outfit in the Western world. Very minimal danger.”

Like the politician he’d once been, Quaid delivered this line of questionable veracity with full sincerity.

Then he turned to his partner. “Right, Wood? She won’t have a thing to worry about. We’d limit her involvement to safe situations.”

Durwood thinned his lips. “Do the best we could.”

This response, typical of the soldier he’d once been, was unhelpful.

Molly said, “Who takes care of my kids if something happens, if the Blind Mice sniff me out? Would I have to commit actual crimes?”

“Unlikely.”

Unlikely? I’ll tell you what’s unlikely, getting hired someplace, anyplace, with a felony conviction on your application…”

As she thundered away, Quaid wondered if Durwood might not have been right in preferring a pro. The few times they’d used Molly McGill before had been secondary: posing as a gate agent during the foiled Delta hijacking, later as an archivist for the American embassy in Rome. They’d only pulled her into Rome because of her language skills—she spoke six fluently.

“…also, I have to say,” she continued, and from the edge in her voice, Quaid knew just where they were headed, “I find it curious that I don’t hear from you for ten months, and then you need my help, and all of a sudden, I matter. All of a sudden, you’re on my doorstep.”

“I apologize,” Quaid said. “The Dubai job ran long, then that Guadeloupean resort got hit by a second hurricane. We got busy. I should’ve called.”

Molly’s face cooled a shade, and Quaid saw that he hadn’t lost her.

Yet.

Before either could say more, a heavy ker-klack sounded outside.

“What’s the racket?” Quaid asked. He peeked out the window at his and Durwood’s Vanagon, which looked no more beat-up than usual.

“It’s been going on all morning,” Molly said. “I figured it was construction.”

Quaid said, “Construction in this economy?”

He looked to Durwood.

“I’ll check ’er out.” The ex-soldier turned for the door. Sue-Ann, heaving herself laboriously off the carpet, scuffled after.

Alone now with Molly, Quaid walked several paces in. He doubled his sport coat over his forearm and passed a hand through his hair, using a foyer mirror to confirm the curlicues that graced his temples on his best days.

This was where it had to happen. Quaid’s behavior toward Molly had been less than gallant, and that was an issue. Still, there were sound arguments at his disposal. He could play the money angle. He could talk about making the world safer for Molly’s children. He could point out that she was meant for greater things, appealing to her sense of adventure, framing the job as an escape from the hamster wheel and entrée to a bright world of heroes and villains.

He believed in the job. Now he just needed her to believe too.

CHAPTER THREE

Durwood walked north. Sue-Ann gimped along after, favoring her bum hip. Paws echoed bootheels like sparrows answering blackbirds. They found their noise at the sixth house on the left.

A crew of three men was working outside a small home. Two-story like Molly’s. The owner had tacked an addition onto one side, prefab sunroom. The men were working where the sunroom met the main structure. Dislodging nails, jackhammering between fiberglass and brick.

Tossing panels onto a stack.

“Pardon,” Durwood called. “Who you boys working for?”

One man pointed to his earmuffs. The others paid Durwood no mind whatsoever. Heavyset men. Big stomachs and muscles.

Durwood walked closer. “Those corner boards’re getting beat up. Y’all got a permit I could see?”

The three continued to ignore him.

The addition was poorly done to begin with, the cornice already sagging. Shoddy craftsmanship. That didn’t mean the owners deserved to have it stolen for scrap.

The jackhammer was plugged into an outside GFI. Durwood caught its cord with his bootheel.

“The hell?” said the operator as his juice cut.

Durwood said, “You’re thieves. You’re stealing fiberglass.”

The men denied nothing.

One said, “Call the cops. See if they come.”

Sue-Ann bared her gums.

Durwood said, “I don’t believe we need to involve law enforcement,” and turned back south for the Vanagon.

Crime like this—callous, brash—was a sign of the times.  People were sore about this “new economy,” how well the rich were making out. Groups like the Blind Mice thought it gave them a right to practice lawlessness.

 

Lawlessness, Durwood knew, was like a plague. Left unchecked, it spread. Even now, besides this sunroom dismantling, Durwood saw a half dozen offenses in plain sight. Low-stakes gambling on a porch. Coaxials looped across half the neighborhood roofs: cable splicing. A Rottweiler roaming off leash.

Each stuck in Durwood’s craw.

He walked a half block to the Vanagon. He hunted around inside, boots clattering the bare metal floor. Pushed aside Stinger missiles in titanium casings. Squinted past crates of frag grenades in the bulkhead he’d jiggered himself from ponderosa pine.

Here she was—a pressurized tin of black ops epoxy. Set quick enough to repel a flash air strike, strong enough to hold a bridge. Durwood had purchased it for the Dubai job. According to his supplier, Yakov, the stuff smelled like cinnamon when it dried. Something to do with chemistry.

Durwood removed the tin from its box and brushed off the pink Styrofoam packing Yakov favored. Then allowed Sue a moment to ease herself down to the curb before they started back north.

Passing Molly’s house, Durwood glimpsed her through the living room window. She was listening to Quaid, fingers pressed to her forehead.

Quaid was lying. Which was nothing new, Quaid stretching the truth to a woman. But these lies involved Molly’s safety. Fact was, they knew very little of the Blind Mice. Their capabilities, their willingness to harm innocents. The leader, Josiah, was a reckless troublemaker. He spewed his nonsense on Twitter, announcing targets ahead of time, talking about his own penis.

The heavyset men were back at it. One on the roof. The other two around back of the sunroom, digging up the slab.

Durwood set down the epoxy. The men glanced over but kept jackhammering. They would not be the first, nor last, to underestimate this son of an Appalachian coal miner.

The air compressor was set up on the lawn. Durwood found the main pressure valve and cranked its throat full open.

The man on the roof had his ratchet come roaring out of his hands. He slid down the grade, nose rubbing vinyl shingles, and landed in petunias.

Back on his feet, the man swore.

“Mind your language,” Durwood said. “There’s families in the neighborhood.”

The other two hustled over, shovels at their shoulders. The widest of the three circled to Durwood’s backside.

Sue-Ann coiled her old bones to strike. Ugliness roiled Durwood’s gut.

Big Man punched first. Durwood caught his fist, torqued his arm behind his back. The next man swung his shovel. Durwood charged underneath and speared his chest. The man wheezed sharply, his lung likely punctured.

The third man got hold of Durwood’s bootheel, smashed his elbow into the hollow of Durwood’s knee. Durwood scissored the opposite leg across the man’s throat. He gritted his teeth and clenched. He felt the man’s Adam’s apple wriggling between his legs. A black core in Durwood yearned to squeeze.

He resisted.

The hostiles came again, and Durwood whipped them again. Automatically, in a series of beats as natural to him as chirping to a katydid. The men’s faces changed from angry to scared to incredulous. Finally, they stayed down.

“Now y’all are helping fix that sunroom.” Durwood nodded to the epoxy tin. “Mix six to one, then paste ’er on quick.”

Luckily, he’d caught the thieves early, and the repair was uncomplicated. Clamp, glue, drill. The epoxy should increase the R-value on the sunroom ten, fifteen, units. Good for a few bucks off the gas bill in winter, anyhow.

Durwood did much of the work himself. He enjoyed the panels’ weight, the strength of a well-formed joint. His muscles felt free and easy as if he were home ridding the sorghum fields of johnsongrass.

Done, he let the thieves go.

He turned back south toward Molly’s house. Sue-Ann scrabbled alongside.

“Well, ole girl?” he said. “Let’s see how Quaid made out.”

CHAPTER FOUR

I stood on my front porch watching the Vanagon rumble down Sycamore. My toes tingled, my heart was tossing itself against the walls of my chest, and I was pretty sure my nose had gone berserk. How else could I be smelling cinnamon?

Quaid Rafferty’s last words played over and over in my head: We need you.

For twenty minutes, after Durwood had taken his dog to investigate ker-klacks, Quaid had given me the hard sell. The money would be big-time. I had the perfect skills for the assignment: guts, grace under fire, that youthful je ne sais quoi. Wasn’t I always saying I ought to be putting my psychology skills to better use? Well, here it was: understanding these young people’s outrage would be a major component of the job.

Some people will anticipate your words and mumble along. Quaid did something similar but with feelings, cringing at my credit issues, brightening with whole-face joy at Karen’s reading progress—which I was afraid would suffer if I got busy and didn’t keep up her nightly practice.

He was pitching me, yes. But he genuinely cared what was happening in my life.

I didn’t know how to think about Quaid, how to even fix him in my brain. He and Durwood were so far outside any normal frame of reference. Were they even real? Did I imagine them?

Their biographies were epic. Quaid the twice-elected (once-impeached) governor of Massachusetts who now battled villains across the globe and lived at Caesars Palace. Durwood a legend of the Marine Corps, discharged after defying his commanding officer and wiping out an entire Qaeda cell to avenge the death of his wife.

I’d met them during my own unreal adventure—the end of my second marriage, which had unraveled in tragedy in the backwoods of West Virginia.

They’d recruited me for three missions since. Each was like a huge, brilliant dream—the kind that’s so vital and packed with life that you hang on after you wake up, clutching backward into sleep to stay inside.

Granny said, “That man’s trouble. If you have any sense in that stubborn head of yours, you’ll steer clear.”

I stepped back into the living room, the Vanagon long gone, and allowed my eyes to close. Granny didn’t know the half of it. She had huffed off to watch her judge shows on TV before the guys had even mentioned the Blind Mice.

No, she meant a more conventional trouble.

“I’ve learned,” I said. “If I take this job, it won’t be for romance. I’d be doing it for me. For the family.”

As if cued by the word “family,” a peal of laughter sounded upstairs.

Children!

My eyes zoomed to the clock. It was 8:20. Zach would be lucky to make first hour, let alone homeroom. In a single swipe, I scooped up the Prius keys and both jackets. My purse whorled off my shoulder like some supermom prop.

“Leaving now!” I called up the stairwell. “Here we go, kids—laces tied, backpacks zipped.”

Zach trudged down, leaning his weight into the rail. Karen followed with sunny-careful steps. I sped through the last items on my list—tossed a towel over the grape juice, sloshed water onto the roast, considered my appearance in the microwave door, and just frowned, beyond caring.

Halfway across the porch, Granny’s fingers closed around my wrist.

“Promise me,” she said, “that you will not associate with Quaid Rafferty. Promise me you won’t have one single thing to do with that lowlife.”

I looked past her to the kitchen, where the cat was kinking herself to retch Eggo Waffle onto the linoleum.

“I’m sorry, Granny.” I patted her hand, freeing myself. “It’s something I have to do.”

***

Excerpt from Anarchy of the Mice by Jeff Bond. Copyright 2020 by Jeff Bond. Reproduced with permission from Jeff Bond. All rights reserved.

 

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!



 

 

Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jeff Bond. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on July 1, 2020 and runs through September 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Jul 152020
 

Carnal Knowledge

by Rachael Tamayo

on Tour July 11 – August 14, 2020

Synopsis:

Carnal Knowledge by Rachael Tamayo

What do you do when you know you’re on a serial killer’s hit list?

Six women are dead, and Wren Addison is the next victim on the SMS Killer’s list—or so she’s been told after waking in a pool of blood with no memory of the events that have transpired.

Newly separated and struggling to start her life over after her husband’s infidelity, Wren tries to remember what happened to her, but nothing is adding up as more horrors unfold around her. With her life on a timer and the murderer taunting her, she realizes there is nothing typical about this serial killer.

Wren is pushed to the edge as she dances between knowing she’s likely to die and fighting to be the first to survive. As the truth starts to emerge, she rises to the challenge and decides not to go down without a fight.

Someone is going to die, and she’s determined it won’t be her.

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Thriller
Published by: Tangled Tree Publishing
Publication Date: July 11th 2020
Number of Pages: 301
ISBN: 9781922359124
Series: A Deadly Sins Novel, #2 || Stands Alone
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Rachael Tamayo

International Amazon bestselling author Rachael Tamayo is a former 911 emergency operator and police dispatcher. After twelve years in those dark depths, she’s gained a unique insight into mental illness, human behaviour, and the general darkness of humanity that she likes to weave into her books. A formerly exclusive romance author tried her hand at thrillers in her award-winning novel, “Crazy Love,” and loved it so much that she decided not to turn back. Born and raised in Texas, Rachael lives in the Houston area with her husband of almost fifteen years, and their two young children.

Q&A with Rachael Tamayo

Welcome and thank you for stopping by CMash Reads

What was the inspiration for this book?

The seven deadly sins. I am striving to make each sin its own twisted tale, and hopefully a bit different than the reader would expect. Carnal Knowledge is a tale of lust, but nothing that you would ever expect.

Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

Well, considering that it’s about a serial killer, I can say it’s not about personal experience, ha! Just my knowledge of mental illness, police procedure, and the like. I pulled it all together into this book.

Are any of your characters based on people that you know?

No, I have never been brave enough to do that. I create people in my head and put them into their own world in the books. They are entirely fictional.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I can write anywhere the mood hits me. I don’t outline or plan, I just go when it hits me. I’ve been known to write on my phone in a doctors’ waiting room before. I’m not picky. I have a distinct ability to focus and tune out things when I need to, and I will use it to write if I have to, no matter where I am.

Tell us why we should read your book?

It’s dark and mysterious. It’s twisted, shocking, and it’s different. You will be surprised in the end, and you won’t see any of it coming.

Are you working on your next novel? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

Yes, book three in the series is about the sin of greed. It’s titled: Mine. Expect it out sometime next year, and it’s full of plot twists that will leave you with whiplash.

What are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, by Grady Hendrix. I love it!

Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?

I never know how to answer this one. I would love to hear readers answer this one for me.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby>?

I have two small kids, so I don’t get much down time. When I do, I like to lay in the sun, swim, have a glass of wine, or watch a movie with my family.

Favorite meal?

Either tacos with everything topped with salsa and sour cream, or a burger and fries (hold the pickles please!)
Either one and Im a happy camper. Of course, I also love it when my husband makes stuffed bacon wrapped jalapenos, yum!

Catch Up With Rachael Tamayo:
RachaelTamayoWrites.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

You really don’t know how you feel about some things until they happen to you. You can guess. You can pretend you’d be strong, that you’d stand on the rooftops and shout your indignation as you shake your fist to the skies, but those are only guesses. Hopes. What we think we know about ourselves. They say no one ever really knows anyone. I think it’d be a safe bet to say that we don’t really know ourselves either. You think you do. The “Oh, I’d never do that! Look at how she’s acting. If I were in her shoes….” but you don’t. No one does.

I said the same things to myself when I walked out on my husband, Ricky, months ago. Those thoughts went through my head as I closed the door behind me for what I told myself was the last time. I wouldn’t let myself cry as I said goodbye to him, only feeling the first tears fall when I heard the click behind me, the locking of the door to what used to be our home together. When he didn’t chase me and beg me to stay.

I wept in that moment, wondering how much pain a person could take.

Over the days that followed, it faded into something more akin to numbness as I found an apartment and got a new checking account. As I arranged to find movers to get my things while he was at work, all while thanking God that we had no children.

Now I find myself in that place once more, though for an altogether different reason. Something has happened to me, something that leaves my body sore and my head feeling as if I have a hangover. These are the moments that tell you who you really are, leaving you exposed to your own darkness.

I found that out about myself. No one ever imagines themselves in this position. You’re not prepared. No amount of self-defense can prepare you for the shock that is the next morning, waking up in a bloody mess, knowing you’ve been sexually assaulted.

I can’t even say it out loud. I won’t. I refuse to do it. It makes it real, and I don’t want it to be real. I want it to be some horrible nightmare that I can wake up from.

But it’s not.

It’s the middle of the night. I’m sitting on the floor of my shower, the water finally not running pink anymore. My face feels puffy from crying as I carefully wash the wounds, the soap burning. I wince and then stand up before the water turns cold. Sitting here won’t accomplish anything.

I look down at the mark on my left breast, swollen and purple. The definite outline of teeth, broken skin, tender to touch. It’s not the only place I’m hurting, but it’s the only one I can easily see. The only one I can’t really hide from. It’s a slap in the face, a calling card from someone I can’t remember. A face that won’t ever haunt my dreams.

So, what do I do now? It’s about 4:00 a.m. Do I call someone? The police? My friend Lily? My husband? Maybe Alex? Surely she would believe me.

I blink away tears, dipping my head back into the hot spray to wash the blood out of my hair.

No, I won’t tell anyone. It’s too embarrassing. Too humiliating. This big foreboding thing happened to me. What they warned us all about. My drink was tampered with, and someone hurt me. I broke the rules, and I got this for it.

I should have listened, I suppose.

I feel sick knowing what someone did to me while I was asleep. Or was I? Maybe I did fight and just can’t remember. I’d fight, surely. I wouldn’t just lie there and take it, right? The thought gives me some minimal sliver of peace, like passing through the eye of the hurricane—you know it’s not real, not the end, but you relish it just the same.

By the time I get out of the shower, I realize I haven’t really slept. My alarm will go off at seven for work so I can catch the bus and be on time for the morning meeting. I could get three hours of sleep before that, maybe.

I shut off the water, suddenly a bit afraid. Knowing someone was here gives me the creeps. Makes me wish I’d gotten that gun Ricky tried so hard to get me to agree to, the one I refused. I wouldn’t give in, fearing some horrible accident. He kept his locked up, and I never bothered to learn to shoot. He begged to teach me, tried to get me to hold his Glock to “get the feel of it.” Nope. Now I regret it.

In the months I’ve lived here, I haven’t been afraid to be on my own until now. Someone got to me. I’m without defense in my own home.

***

Excerpt from Carnal Knowledge by Rachael Tamayo. Copyright 2020 by Rachael Tamayo. Reproduced with permission from Tangled Tree Publishing. All rights reserved.

 

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!



 

 

Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Rachael Tamayo. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on July 11, 2020 and runs through August 16, 2020. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Jul 092020
 

The Crushing Depths by Dani Pettrey Banner

 

 

The Crushing Depths

by Dani Pettrey

on Tour July 1-31, 2020

Synopsis:

The Crushing Depths by Dani Pettrey

When an accident claims the life of an oil-rig worker on the first drilling platform off the North Carolina coast, Coast Guard investigators Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers are sent to take the case. Tensions surrounding the oil rig are high and the death has everyone on edge. Environmental activists are threatening to do whatever it takes to stop the structure from being completed, while rumors are being whispered about ancient curses surrounding this part of the ocean.

Mounting evidence shows the death may not have been an accident at all. Was he killed by one of the activists or, perhaps more frighteningly, a member of his own crew? Rissi and Mason have to sort through not only a plethora of suspects, but also their own past and attraction to each other.

Just as the case seems like it’ll break open, worse news arrives. A tropical storm has turned their way and soon they’re cut off from any rescue–and right where the killer wants them. It’s a race to discover his identity before he eliminates the threat they pose.

Book Details:

Genre: Inspirational Romantic Suspense
Published by: Bethany House
Publication Date: June 30th 2020
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 0764230859 (ISBN13: 9780764230851)
Series: Coastal Guardians #2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ChristianBook | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Dani Pettrey

Praised by New York Times best-selling author Dee Henderson as “a name to look for in romantic suspense,” Dani Pettrey has sold more than half a million copies of her novels to readers eagerly awaiting the next release. Dani combines the page-turning adrenaline of a thriller with the chemistry and happy-ever-after of a romance.

Her novels stand out for their “wicked pace, snappy dialogue, and likable characters” (Publishers Weekly), “gripping storyline[s],” (RT Book Reviews), and “sizzling undercurrent of romance” (USA Today).

Her Alaskan Courage series and Chesapeake Valor series have received praise from readers and critics alike and have appeared on the CBA, ECPA, Publisher’s Weekly, and Amazon #1 bestseller lists. Dani has also been honored with multiple awards, including the Daphne du Maurier Award, two HOLT Medallions, a Christy Award finalist, two National Readers’ Choice Awards, the Gail Wilson Award of Excellence, and Christian Retailing’s Best Award.

Q&A with Dani Pettrey

Welcome and thank you for stopping by CMash Reads

Thanks so much for having me!

Reading and Writing:
What inspired you to write this book?

My husband and I love the ocean. He was in the Navy for years and I’ve always loved the beach as far back as I can remember. We watch lots of movies dealing with sea exploration or action-flicks that take place on the ocean’s floor (where it’s an accessible limit). One night we watched Deep Water Horizon and I thought it must take a really special person to be willing to work one of (if not the) most dangerous job in the world miles and miles out to sea. Rissi and Mason have been separated by life’s circumstances for years. What better way to reunite them than to put them on an oil rig thirty-eight miles out to sea with a killer on the loose and a tropical storm headed right for them?

What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

Research. There was so much to be done. Thankfully, my husband was able to put me in touch with a colleague who worked on rigs for twenty years. He was extremely helpful. I also utilized online blogs, and firsthand biographies of life about an oil rig. It really is an amazing and treacherous job.

How did you come up with the title?

It was a collaborative effort with my editor and marketing team at BHP. We wanted something that related to water but also something that exuded the pressure Rissi and Mason felt in tight confines. There’s a dive welder on board and he has to use a diving bell to reach the bottom of the rig risers for repair and at the depth, without the proper gear, the weight can be crushing.

Your routine in writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I write all my first drafts longhand. I let the story idea play through my head like a movie and once I have a feel for the characters (at least their physical attributes and career) and the setting, I sit down with a yellow legal pad, a stash of FriXion erasable pens (a game changer), a cup of coffee and dive in.

Tell us why we should read your book?

I think what others are saying about my books might help readers decide better than I can answer.
Dani combines the page-turning adrenaline of a thriller with the chemistry and happy-ever-after of a romance. Her novels stand out for their “wicked pace, snappy dialogue, and likable characters” (Publishers Weekly), “gripping storyline[s]” (RT Book Reviews), and “sizzling undercurrent of romance” (USA Today).

Are you working on your next novel? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

Yes. I’m working on the last Coast Guard Investigative Series novel. It’s hard to believe I’m already on the last one. It’s due July 15th and we finally have a title. I know longer have to call it Book 3. It’s now The Deadly Shallows. Each book in the series focuses on a different hero and heroine and their romance as well as the investigation are standalone stories.

Fun Questions:
Your novel will be a movie. You would you cast?

Alexandra Daddario as Rissi Dawson
Charlie Hunnam as Mason Rogers

Favorite leisure activities/hobbies?

Spending time at the beach—reading, walking, swimming.
Hiking
Traveling
And anything involving coffee ☺

Favorite foods?

Coffee
Chocolate
Berries

Catch Up With Dani Pettrey:
DaniPettrey.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

h3>Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Late September

Thirty-eight miles off North Carolina’s coast

Greg Barnes clinked along the grated metal steps, his boot heels rasping with each shuffle as he headed topside for a much-needed breath of smoke.

Thrusting the door open with a resounding creak, he stepped out into the night air.

A litany of protestors’ chants mimicked the shrill whining of cicadas.

He glanced at his watch. 1930. Didn’t those eco-nuts ever give it a rest?

As if the cursed rig wasn’t enough—they had the dang relentless protestors going practically day and night.

Exhaling, he rubbed his thumb along the smooth surface of the tarnished gold lighter in his pocket. His tight muscles seized, making his movements stiff. He shook his head. Those people needed to get a life.

Edging around the far corner of the main separator facility, he pressed his back against the structure’s cool outer wall. Generators whirred across from him, finally drowning out the clatter. He scanned his surroundings and exhaled in relief. Finally, alone.

His leg twitched. Just one drag . . . maybe two. It’d been an awful day, and that was the gentleman’s way of putting it.

With unsteady hands, he pulled the plastic-wrapped pack from his shirt pocket.

It crinkled beneath his hold and the sweet scent of tobacco wafted beneath his nose. He tamped the cigarette in his palm and slid it between his cracked lips. Just one drag.

Tugging the lighter from his pocket, he flipped it open, then rolled the pad of his thumb across the ignitor.

A spark flashed and fire roared, hissing over him in a sizzling cascade of torment.

Chapter Two

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

Rissi Dawson sat at the long table on Dockside’s waterfront deck, gaping at Mason Rogers. He turned to look at her, his green eyes illuminated in the bright pole lights lining the wooden structural beams. She averted her eyes as heat rushed up her throat, spreading across her cheeks. He’d caught her staring again. Embarrassment drenched her. It’d been three days since his arrival, and she still couldn’t wrap her mind around the fact he was actually sitting next to her.

The boy she’d had the biggest crush on as a teen was back in her life. And on her Coast Guard Investigative Service team.

He handed her the basket of hush puppies the restaurant served instead of bread to start everyone off. His hand brushed hers with the movement, and her heart fluttered. “Thanks,” she said, keeping her gaze fixed on the red basket as she pulled two balls of fried cornmeal from it. She plopped the still-warm puppies onto the round plate to the right of her Coke. Get it together, girl!

The whir of a boat’s motor dropping to an idle sounded over the deck’s edge. A teen jumped out of the white outboard and onto the pier, tying her up to the cleat. Rissi loved living in a place with a boat drive-thru.

Noah raised his glass of iced tea. “Everyone . . .” The team lifted their glasses in response to their boss’s prompting.

Noah dipped his chin. “Welcome, Mason. Happy to have you on board.”

The team clinked their glasses together, even Caleb who sat brooding to her left. Observant as he was, there was no chance he missed the way she looked at Mason. In recent months, he’d developed feelings for her, so it wasn’t surprising he’d bristled at Mason’s arrival—especially after learning she and Mason shared a past, though he didn’t know the half of it. Only that they spent time in a children’s home together for a handful of months as teens.

The opening riff of “Sweet Home Alabama” emanated from Noah’s jean pocket. He hitched up as he extracted his phone. “Rowley,” he answered. “Yes?” Standing, he headed down the ramp toward the restaurant’s pier.

“Rockfish tacos,” the waitress said, placing the plate in front of Rissi. The sweet, tropical scent of the mango slaw swirled in the air.

The waitress handed out plate after plate to each of them, setting Noah’s burger at his spot while he continued to pace the pier.

Caleb bit into his Carolina BBQ pork sandwich, the scent of vinegar wafting in the night’s gentle breeze.

Finn Walker did the same with his crab cake sandwich. He and Noah, who was from Maryland, had argued for months over which state had the best crab cake. Finn had been convinced it was North Carolina, right up until Noah had crab cakes flown in fresh from Jimmy’s Famous Seafood in Baltimore. It took two bites for Finn to concede the win.

“Sorry about that, folks,” Noah said, retaking his seat.

“Everything okay?” Emmy Thorton asked. Rissi looked forward to seeing the quirky angel every day at the station.

“Rissi, Mason.” Noah lifted his chin in their direction. “I’ve got an assignment for you.”

Her and Mason? They’d worked a case his first day on the team, but Finn had joined them for most of the investigation. This would be the two of them . . . alone. A mixture of elation and fear sifted through her.

“Great.” Mason set down his lemonade.

“We’ve got a death out on the Dauntless.”

“The offshore oil platform?” Mason asked, swiping a drop of lemonade from his bottom lip.

Stop staring, girl. So he’s jaw-dropping gorgeous. So you share a past. Still, staring is plain rude. Despite not having a mother to teach her, Rissi knew or, at least had come to learn, her manners.

Noah laid his napkin across his lap. “You two need to determine if the death was an accident or if foul play was involved. Helo is leaving from Textra Oil’s copter hub in forty-five. I need you both on it.”

Mason pushed back from the table. “No problem.”

“Great,” Noah said. “You’ll be joining the head of operations, a commercial diver, and the deceased’s replacement on the company copter.”

Rissi took one last bite of her taco before setting it down. She dabbed the corner of her lips with a napkin. “They aren’t wasting any time in replacing the deceased.”

“The deceased’s name is Greg Barnes. I talked to the head of operations, Bob Stanton, and he said they needed to replace him ASAP.”

“Must be an important position.” She reached for her glass and took a final sip.

“You’d think,” Noah said. “But Bob said the main reason they need to replace him fast is they’ve been working with a skeleton crew.”

Mason’s brows pinched as he stood. “Why?”

“Several guys didn’t show up for their three-week rotation transport out,” Noah said, popping a fry in his mouth.

“I know why they didn’t show up for that copter ride out there.” Tom Murphy leaned toward them from his table situated to their right.

“Why?” Mason asked, moving around to the back of Rissi’s chair. He held it out for her as she stood.

She glanced over her shoulder at him and smiled. “Thanks.”

He nodded.

Tom, one of Wrightsville’s most colorful fishermen, crooked his index finger, drawing them in. “That rig’s cursed.”

“Cursed?” Caleb chuckled. “You can’t be serious?”

Tom waggled his finger. “It’s no laughing matter, young man.”

“I’m sure it’s a good story, Tom,” Rissi said. No reason not to be polite. “But I’m afraid we’ve got to catch a copter ride.”

Tom shrugged and turned back to his food. “It’s your lives at stake.”

“What do you mean?” she asked before they passed his table, unable to stem her curiosity.

“You’ll see.” He smiled, his right incisor missing. “Henry’s curse is real.”

“Henry?” Why was she letting herself get sucked into this?

Tom let out a high-pitched chuckle. “Oh, you’ll learn all about Henry.”

“Shall we?” Mason said, gesturing to the wooden ramp leading down to the gravel parking lot.

Excusing themselves, they moved down the ramp. Mason leaned in. He smelled of the ocean and warm spice. He whispered, “Did that guy seriously just cackle?”

She nodded, strangely curious about the old man’s ghost story.

“I thought people only did that on Scooby-Doo.”

She let out a slip of laughter.

“I wouldn’t be laughing,” Tom called after them as they rounded the ramp on his side of the deck. “You two be careful out there, you hear? It’s a dangerous place to be. Just ask the men on board.”

***

Excerpt from The Crushing Depths by Dani Pettrey. Copyright 2020 by Dani Pettrey. Reproduced with permission from Dani Pettrey. All rights reserved.

 

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!



 

 

Enter To Win!!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Dani Pettrey. There will be 4 winners. Two (2) winners will each receive an Amazon.com Gift Card and Two (2) winners will each win THE CRUSHING DEPTHS by Dani Pettrey (Print ~ Open to U.S. addresses only). The giveaway begins on July 1, 2020 and runs through August 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Jul 052020
 

Closer Than She Knows

by Kelly Irvin

on Tour June 22 – July 24, 2020

Synopsis:

Closer Than She Knows by Kelly Irvin

A serial killer bent on revenge . . . and striking too close to home.

Teagan O’Rourke has always loved murder mysteries. In her job as a court reporter, she has written official records for dozens of real-life murders. She’s slapped evidence stickers on crime scene photos. She’s listened to hours of chilling testimony. But she’s never known the smell of death. And she never thought she might be a victim.

Until now.

A young police officer is murdered just inches away from her, and then a man calling himself a serial killer starts leaving Teagan notes, signing each with the name of a different murderer from her favorite mystery novels.

Panicked, Teagan turns to her friend Max Kennedy. Max longs for more than friendship with Teagan, but he fears she’ll never trust someone with a past like his. He wonders how much of God’s “tough love” he can take before he gives up on love completely. And he wonders if he’ll be able to keep Teagan alive long enough to find out.

As Teagan, Max, and Teagan’s police officer father race to track down the elusive killer, they each know they could be the next victim. Desperate to save those she loves, Teagan battles fears that once haunted her in childhood. Nothing seems to stop this obsessed murderer. No matter what she does, he seems to be getting closer.

Book Details:

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: June 9th 2020
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 0785231862 (ISBN13: 9780785231868)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

“We’re almost there, Ms. O’Rourke.” Officer Moreno came to a full stop at the corner of Park and Academic Court, where the glass-covered police department recruitment center and property room facilities glinted in the late-afternoon sun.

A smile brought out dimples on Moreno’s cherub-cheeked face. Her assignment to escort a court reporter and the evidence to the property room was almost to the halfway point. Teagan had told Moreno to call her by her first name, but the patrolwoman couldn’t seem to manage it. “I’ll get us through security, we’ll stow the evidence, and I’ll have you back to your car in a jiffy.”

Did people still say “in a jiffy”? Teagan’s grandma might, but this woman was no more than twenty-four. A couple of years younger than Teagan. She studied the officer’s face as she turned onto Academic Court and accelerated. The woman was for real. A straight shooter determined to be successful in a man’s world.

Teagan smiled, but Moreno had already returned her gaze to the road, hands at the proper ten and two positions on the wheel. “I know there’s plenty of other things you’d rather do than babysit evidence—”

The driver’s side window exploded.

The force knocked Teagan’s head against her window. Sudden pain pricked her face. Fragments of glass pierced her cheeks and forehead.

The car swerved, jumped the curb, and crashed into the wrought-iron fence that protected the academy.

Was this what Mom felt the day she died? The inevitability of it?

Air bags ballooned.

Teagan slammed back against her seat.

I’m sorry, Max.

I’m sorry I never said it.

A second later the bag deflated. The smell of nitrogen gases gagged her. Powder coated her face. The skin on the back of her hands burned.

Time sped up in an odd, off-kilter tick-tock.

Teagan struggled to open her eyes. Pain pulsed in her temple. Her stomach heaved. Waves of adrenaline shook her body as if she’d grasped a live electrical wire.

I’m alive. Today’s not my day to die.

The evidence. Protect the evidence.

***

Excerpt from Closer Than She Knows by Kelly Irvin. Copyright 2020 by Kelly Irvin. Reproduced with permission from Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Kelly Irvin

Kelly Irvin is a bestselling author and two-time Carol Award finalist. She is a former newspaper reporter and retired public relations professional. Kelly lives in Texas with her husband, photographer Tim Irvin. They have two children, three grandchildren, and two cats.

Visit her Online:
KellyIrvin.com
Goodreads
BookBub
Instagram
Twitter
Facebook

 

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!



 

 

Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Harper Collins and Kelly Irving. There will be 1 winner of CLOSER THAN SHE KNOWS by Kelly Irving (print). The giveaway begins on June 22, 2020 and runs through July 26, 2020. Open to U.S. addresses only. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours