Tuesday 24 June 2014

Character Corner

I'm fascinated by the process of creating characters and how, by the time I've finished writing a novel, it feels as though the characters have become friends! Sound crazy?

Well, continuing the character theme I've 'interviewed' Faith from my latest novel If You Only Knew and asked her all sorts of searching questions about life, men, romance and her most embarrassing moment.

Over to you Faith...

1) What three qualities do you find most attractive in a partner?

A great sense of humour is important to me; I like a guy who can make me laugh.  A fun personality is always great. Loyalty and honesty are essential too I think.

2) What’s your idea of romance?
I think romance can be lots of things – a guy doing something really kind and thoughtful; flowers and candlelight; sharing a picnic on a hill overlooking stunning countryside; cuddling on the sofa in front of a log fire; walking hand in hand in the snow.

3) Who's your favorite on-screen couple (Film or TV)?
Probably Emily Blunt and Matt Damon in the film The Adjustment Bureau, their characters have great chemistry, joke around together and there’s a strong and instant attraction too.

4) What's been your most embarrassing moment in regards to the opposite sex?
 Being thoroughly humiliated by my first love Aaron. We were at college together. Things ended badly. Let’s just say he was a complete pig.

5) What was your first impression of your partner or crush? How accurate was it?
I thought Zane reminded me too much of my first love Aaron, a guy I’d spent the last ten years trying to forget. I was partly right; I probably should have stayed away from Zane if I was being sensible about things...

6) How have you coped with break-ups in the past?
The first time I had my heart broken I never really recovered. It's difficult isn't it? I’d say I’ve always had my guard up since then. Until Zane arrived in town that is...

7) Which hot actor would you want to be stranded on a deserted island with and why?
Only one? There’s so many I could be tempted by…. Let me see, OK, I have a bit of a crush at the moment on Brett Dalton who plays Agent Grant Ward in Marvel Agents Of SHIELD. He looks like a very practical kind of guy as well which would be useful for building a shelter and making a camp fire! I like guys who are practical, good with their hands.

8) What is the craziest thing you've ever done for love?
I almost gave up on all my dreams to help Aaron, my first love, live his. I’ll never make that mistake again.

9) PDA: How much is acceptable? 
I’m happy with kissing, cuddles, holding hands, that sort of stuff but not excessively, not too much lovey dovey stuff around other people, I get a bit embarrassed if it becomes more than that!

10) What is the best relationship advice you've ever gotten?
Never trust a guy? Can I say that or does it sound too mean? Well, I guess I’d say it’s important to talk and be honest with each other when you’re in a relationship. Keeping secrets only leads to trouble, as I discovered to my cost in If You Only Knew.


Special Offer - Get If You Only Knew for just 77p

Is the past about to destroy the future for Faith when she discovers her new boyfriend and her first love are in business together?

Faith owns The Coffee Pot in the outdoor adventure sports mecca of Derbyshire’s Peak District. She hasn’t had a man in her life for a while, as she has been too busy serving cakes to weary rock climbers and mountain bikers to find time for the complications of a relationship with the male of the species.

Then Zane and Matt arrive on the scene as the new owners of the Carrdale Adventure Sports Centre.

Dating Zane, she soon discovers he’s not the Mr Perfect she thought he was; and why is he so reluctant to talk about his past?

As for Matt – well, to Faith he isn’t Matt at all because he was a completely different person when he broke her heart all those years ago.

With her new boyfriend and her first love running Carrdale as business partners – Matt out to cause trouble and Zane keeping secrets – Faith struggles to keep the peace between them whilst trying to figure out how she feels about the two men in her life…

Read an extract:
“I guess that’s the man you’ve been waiting for.”
Sophie nudged Faith, almost knocking the fresh-from-the-oven apple pie from her hands, and pointed towards the door.
Faith chose to ignore the double meaning behind her friend’s words. She wasn’t waiting for any man, not in the romantic sense anyway, and certainly not a guy who reminded her of Aaron. Her café, which she had created from scratch six years ago, was hosting the meeting of the local Tourism Association. And the guy currently making his way towards her was Zane Ferguson, one half of the new ownership team of the Carrdale Outdoor Activity & Extreme Sports Centre. She’d reluctantly phoned him a few days ago when he’d arrived in the UK and invited him to the meeting to give everyone an update on the Centre.
“Faith, right?” he said, extending his hand and hopping onto one of the stools in front of the café’s counter. The hand was firm, slightly rough to the touch and warm. It was strangely comforting. “I’m Zane. Good to get to put a face to your name at last.”

Faith nodded, even though she was anything but pleased to put a face to the name of Zane Ferguson. What kind of a name was Zane anyway? It sounded all-American, as though he should be something like a baseball player, a superhero, or a cowboy – certainly not an English extreme sports instructor. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Sophie giving Zane the once-over. Sophie knew all about Aaron, knew every detail of what had happened…

Monday 7 April 2014

Guest blog: JoAnne Myers - Writing True Crime

First you must pick an interesting crime. I specialize in homicides in my home state of Ohio. Routinely reading newspapers will help the writer find murder cases. Find a homicide that has numerous good elements that will hold one’s interest.

Next you must start the investigation of your chosen crime. To find my information, I read newspaper reports of the homicide. I searched court documents for witness reports, and courtroom testimony. I interviewed witnesses. Persons that either were present when the crime occurred, or had after the fact information. Try to locate the victim’s family members, and see if they want their side of the story told. If the case goes to trial, the Defense’s job is to discredit the victim. To portray the deceased as the “bad guy.” This type of mud slinging does not sit well with loved ones of the victim. Give them a chance to speak for the deceased. Anyone that was involved with the case, will have something of interest to report. Don’t forget to locate the reports of the arresting officers and the homicide detectives. Try to locate the coroners report, any eyewitness, or person’s who reported hearing an altercation or gunshots.

Keep abreast of updates, and read everything that was written about the case. Build a relationship with the law enforcement officials who are involved in the case. I personally live in a very small town, where most person’s know one another, and many have relatives or close friends that are involved with law enforcement. Attend the trial and speak to everyone you can about the criminal, the victim and prosecution and defense witness.

Last but not least, sit down and write. Now it is time to tell the story of the crime. Hopefully you will find most of the information you need in your copious notes--if not go back and get the answers you need. Never throw away any notes or information concerning the case. Not even after the trial is over with, and the story is written. Most convicted felons apply for numerous appeals, which take years to dissolve. Some cases never seem to end; The Crime of the Century was such a case. When the accused was found guilty and sent to prison, he and his attorneys, who always believed him innocent, continued fighting for his freedom. That blessed event came after the convicted spent five years on death row. He was cleared with DNA, but it still took nearly thirty years to find the true killers. If you want your true crime novel to be believable, you can't fudge the facts.
On The Crime of the Century:
The residents of Rolling Hills, a hamlet in southeastern Ohio, were horrified when the dismembered bodies of two missing teens were pulled from the local river. Multiply suspects surfaced, but only one was railroaded, Richard Allan Lloyd, a known nudist and hothead.

What began as an evening stroll turned into what found only in horror films, and dubbed ‘the crime of the century’. 18 year old Babette, a voluptuous beauty contestant and horsewoman, and her 19 year old boyfriend Shane Shoemaker, a jealous and possessive unemployed printer, were last seen crossing a trestle bridge. Within fourteen days, their mutilated torsos and severed heads and limbs were unearthed, suggesting satanic cult activity.

With an investigation smeared with contradicting statements, and a botched crime scene, investigators built a flimsy case against Richard Lloyd. The three-week trial was based on police corruption and ineptitude, fairytale theories, and forensic mishandling.

This heinous crime shattered the sense of security for Rolling Hills, destroyed two families, and forever scarred the town. This story is a detailed account of finding justice for Babette and Shane, and of one man’s perseverance to gain his freedom from death row.
Other books by JoAnne:
Murder Most Foul-a detective/mystery
Wicked Intentions-a paranormal anthology
Poems About Life, Love, and Everything in Between
Loves, Myths, and Monsters-a fantasy anthology
Upcoming Releases:  
Twisted Love- a biography true crime anthology available in May
Flagitious-a detective/mystery novella anthology
Author Bio:
JoAnne has been a long-time resident of southeastern Ohio, and has worked in the blue-collar industry most of her life. Besides having several novels under her belt, JoAnne canvas paints.

When not busy with hobbies or working outside her home, JoAnne spends time with her relatives, her dogs Jasmine and Scooter, and volunteers her time within the community. JoAnne is a member of the International Women’s Writing Guild, Savvy Authors, Coffee Time Romance, Paranormal Romance Guild, True Romance Studios, National Writers Association, the Hocking Hill's Arts and Craftsmen Association, The Hocking County Historical Society and Museum, and the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center. JoAnne believes in family values and following your dreams.

 JoAnne’s books along with her original canvas paintings, can be found at her website, Books and Paintings by JoAnne: http://www.booksandpaintingsbyjoanne.com

Sunday 23 March 2014

Romancing the Fantasy - Stuart Aken

With a week to the release of the first of his Fantasy trilogy: A Seared Sky: Joinings, Stuart Aken talks about Romance in Fantasy.

Romance in fantasy? But, isn’t fantasy all about dragons, swords and sorcery, maybe elves, goblins and other magical folk? That’s certainly the image projected by much that falls under the umbrella of ‘epic fantasy’.
Fantasy, of course, includes dozens of sub-genres, and strays into areas reserved for other forms. Perhaps, before continuing, we need to define what fantasy is in regard to story-telling? It’s a tale set in a world, time, or dimension, or a combination of these, different from what we believe is reality. It may also involve animals as protagonists as well as beings that don’t exist in the known world. 
Animal Farm, the Twilight series, the cult of Demonic Eroticism, Alice in Wonderland, paranormal stories, much of soft science fiction, animal-based novels like The Stonor Eagles and Watership Down, and many others fall within the wider definition of fantasy. And, clearly, romance does exist within this broader definition.
Noticeably, however, it’s far less common in epic fantasy. One reason may be that this specific sub-genre is often aimed at the YA/teen market and, more specifically, at boys. Boys are not, as a rule, attracted by romance. Sex, yes, but romance, no. There’s no more than a hint of romance in the most famous epic fantasy, the Lord of the Rings trilogy (Sam and Rosie, Arwen and Aragon), and this holds true for many within the genre. With the entry of more female authors into the field, it is becoming more common.
Perhaps we should also define ‘epic fantasy’? It usually involves a world that is ‘other’, a quest, magic in some form, battles, and themes that include ‘good versus evil’. But romance? Not commonly, especially from male authors.
No rules, and no valid reasons, exclude romance from epic fantasy. My own feeling is that the inclusion enhances such a tale and allows readers to enjoy the invented world much more. So, perhaps it depends on what readership the author envisages. In fact, I suspect that the exclusion of a romantic element has actively discouraged many readers who would otherwise appreciate this form of fiction.
My epic fantasy trilogy, A Seared Sky, is aimed at an adult readership, though it is also suitable for a YA audience over the age of 15. I’ve woven the story around three sets of couples in each of the three volumes. These threads are romantically based, though the underlying story they carry is far more complex than that simple scenario might imply. I have some magic, in the form of a limited type of telepathy. I have battles, physical and mental, involving war between good and evil. And I have a central quest, involving many characters in a search for what they believe is a crucial artefact.
Romance is as fundamental to the telling of my tale as any other element. But the story remains a fantasy and is an epic, covering adventure over many lands in an invented world. Will you see it in those terms? Discover for yourself. Joinings, the first volume, is published by Fantastic Books Publishing on 30th March in both paperback and ebook formats. There’s a launch party, to which you’re all invited. The publisher is putting on quite a show. It’s a virtual event, online, so you can attend from anywhere in the world. To find out more, click this link.
P.S. As an illustration of how little romance there is in epic fantasy, I searched for hours to find a suitable illustration for this post and the one up top was the best I could find!
[cross-posted from Linda Acaster's site 23.03.14]

Friday 21 February 2014

Release Day: Shadowed Lights

SLcover-72p-9x6When her sister loses her house to Hurricane Sandy, Delaney Griffin welcomes the family into her home. Months later, with five noisy kids and an overbearing brother-in-law threatening her sanity, Delaney spends much of her free time at the wildlife refuge, which also works as her refuge. Still, the lack of privacy, along with space to dance, her only passionate release, causes her debilitating social anxiety to escalate.

Eli Forrester has come from small town Indiana to Barnegat, New Jersey with his company to help restore the coast. A high rise worker who loves new people and new places, he fears nothing, except water. When he accidentally kicks one of the sea critters Delaney is trying to help rescue, he is drawn to the quiet New Jersey girl. Unwilling to take her cues to leave her alone, Eli is alternately put off and turned on by her odd behavior.

Under shadow of devastation, fear, and forced separation, Delaney and Eli search for their own rescue light.
~~ ~~ ~~   ~~ ~~ ~~


“Hey, Miss Starfish.”

Delaney turned at the familiar voice and saw the smiling stud with wavy brown hair, dirty jeans, plaid work shirt, and heavy boots striding toward her. Why was he there? And why was he talking to her again after she’d been such an idiot the night before? Trying to decide whether to hurry away or figure out how to talk to him without sounding like a complete idiot, she felt her heart start to race and her face get warm. Stop it. He doesn’t matter. Telling herself he didn’t matter and he would go back to wherever he came from soon, she forced a deep slow breath to try to calm her heart as her feet stuck to the sand.

He eyed her too close as he approached and she got warmer as she avoided his gaze. Her head started to spin as it had the night before while she was forcing herself to look calm and speak somewhat intelligently.

He was too close; he studied her too hard. “Are you often out here at night?”

She couldn’t breathe. Somehow, she had to figure out how to answer in between remembering how rude she’d been the night before. Unintentionally. But it made her feel like an idiot. Why was he there?

“Okay, bad question. Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.”

“No. You didn’t.” Her voice came out stronger than she intended since she was trying hard not to let it shake. Sweat formed under her arms. “I have to...” She looked over to where the others were gathering and walked away, hurried away.

Why hadn’t she told him what she was doing? Because he would have rolled his eyes like everyone did. She didn’t want him to look at her that way. Like it mattered what he thought. It didn’t. Why did she care? She didn’t. But her stomach twisted when he caught up.

“Have to?” He walked beside her but backward. “You’re doing all this saving fish stuff because you have to? Let me guess. Community service? What did you do?”

“What?” Delaney stopped.

“Did you cross their red tape?”

“You think I...” Too flustered to finish her thought, she rushed away. Maybe she should have told him he was right, that it was community service. It would sound far more interesting than the truth; she would sound far less stuffy, less ... but she couldn’t.
~~ ~~ ~~

Ella M. Kaye writes sensual contemporary romances revolving around dancers of various genres in lighthouse settings. Find her at EllaMKaye.com

Monday 3 February 2014

Guest blog: JoAnn Myers - 'The Crime of the Century'

I hail from the famous Hocking Hills region of southeastern Ohio. I have worked in the blue-collar industry most of my life. Besides having several novels under my belt, I also canvass paint.

When not busy with hobbies or working outside the home, I spend time with relatives, my dogs Jasmine and Scooter, and volunteer my time within the community. I am a member of the Hocking Hill's Arts and Craftsmen Association, The Hocking County Historical Society and Museum, and the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center. I believe in family values and following your dreams.


            The residents of Rolling Hills, an economically ruined bedroom community of the Appalachian region of southeastern Ohio, were horrified when the dismembered bodies of missing teenage sweethearts, Shane Shoemaker and Babette Lloyd, were pulled from the murky and meandering local river. Multiply suspects surfaced, including relatives, ex-lovers, Satanists, and the Devil's Disciple’s motorcycle gang, but only one was railroaded, Babette’s stepfather, Richard Allan Lloyd, a known nudist and hothead. The rumors of his and Babette’s incestuous relationship only electrified the townsfolk and local authorities’ hatred against him.
            What really happened on that cool autumn evening of 1982? What began as an evening stroll turned into what found only in horror films, and dubbed ‘the crime of the century’.  18 year old Babette, a voluptuous beauty contestant, horsewoman, and aspiring computer programmer, and her 19 year old boyfriend Shane Shoemaker, a jealous and possessive unemployed printer, were last seen walking toward the C&O Railroad tracks, crossing a trestle bridge that overlooked the river, near an infamous 52-acrea cornfield. Twelve days later, a search party found their mutilated torsos. After another two days their heads and limbs were unearthed, suggesting satanic cult activity.
            Richard Lloyd was the main suspect from the beginning. It took nearly a year, but in an investigation smeared with contradicting statements, and a botched crime scene, investigators built a flimsy case against him. A financially motivated local mistakenly fingered Richard, accusing him of forcing the teens into a car at gun point. The police alleged Richard then killed the victims at his mobile home seven miles from Rolling Hills, with his wife and other step-daughter as witnesses. They accused him of dismembering the victims before transporting them to the Rolling Hills cornfield for burial.  The state insisted a ancestral relationship between Richard and Babette existed, and the reason for the jealousy killings, and Richard’s immense hatred for Shane Shoemaker. Richard’s multiply lies, his lust and jealousy for Babette, weapons availability, the hypnotized “eyewitness” and a disputed footprint expert bolstered the states misguided case against the now dubbed “evil stepfather.” Most of what was presented at the three-week trial was based on police corruption and ineptitude, melodramatic fiction, and forensic mishandling.
            As a resident of Rolling Hills, Ohio, I, JoAnne Myers contrived “The Crime of the Century,” through case documents, newspaper clippings, signed affidavits, witness testimony, interviews, police reports, theories and rumors.
            This heinous crime not only shattered the sense of security for Rolling Hills, but destroyed two families, marriages, careers, friendships, and forever scarred the town. This story is a detailed account of finding justice for Babette and Shane, of human injustice at the highest level, of one man’s perseverance to prove his innocence, and gain his freedom from death row, and righting a wrong.
            Richard Lloyd was released on appeal after sitting on death row for five years.  Prosecutors opted not to re-try him, but Lloyd and his family remained under a cloud of presumed guilt for 28-years. In 2008, two career criminals were indicted and convicted for the homicides.

Order your copy of “The Crime of the Century” by JoAnne Myers here http://www.blackrosewriting.com/non-fiction/the-crime-of-the-century-a-shocking-true-story

My books along with my canvass artwork can be viewed and purchased on
Books and Paintings by JoAnne http://www.booksandpaintingsbyjoanne.com
Other books by JoAnne:

Murder Most Foul-a detective/mystery story
Loves, Myths, and Monsters,-a fantasy anthology
Wicked Intentions-a paranormal/mystery anthology

 Coming Soon:

Twisted Love-a biography true crime anthology

Flagitious-a crime/mystery novella anthology

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Killer Scents - Romantic Suspense by Adelle Lauden

The Florists' gruesome journey began in Killer Scents.... 

" In Scent of a Killer, the nightmare is far from over for the two Harley riding detectives. The Florist is on the run with one thing on his mind.... revenge. "


Not even being locked up in an insane asylum is going to stand in the way of Danny aka The Florist exacting his revenge. Detective Becca Talbot is at the top of his list, but he can’t resist the temptation to mess with her mind first.
Becca doesn't know how much more she can take of Danny’s sinister acts. It seems they are one step behind every move he makes. How can they turn the tables and catch him in his own tangled web? More importantly, can they do it before anyone else falls prey to his demented mind? 

From the corner of her eye, she spotted a girl dressed in a long peasant skirt, carrying a basket filled with red roses. Her heartbeat raced as the girl’s gaze settled on her and she began crossing the distance between them.
“Excuse me, gentlemen. I need to use the little girls’ room.”
Becca squelched the hysteria rising up as she reached the flower girl and lightly clasped her arm. “Please follow me,” she said as loud as she dared.
The young girl nodded discreetly as she continued on her solo way to the bathroom. Once inside, Becca put her hands on either side of a sink and dropped her head, breathing in and out slowly in a futile attempt to remain calm. Seconds passed before the door opened and the girl came in.
“Is everything okay?” Her hand moved as if in slow motion to take a rose and present it to her. “A gentleman in the foyer asked me to deliver this to you.”
Her hand trembled as she took the purple rose from the oblivious woman.
“What did this man look like?”
She shrugged. “I couldn’t tell. He wore a hat and long coat, and some kind of scarf hid his face except for his eyes.”
“Didn’t you find his appearance a little odd?”
“At first yes, until he told me about your dinner date and his allergic reaction to seafood and being covered in hives.”
Becca shook her head.
The girl lifted her basket slightly. “If it’s okay, I really need to get back to work.”
“Oh, of course ...?” She searched for a name tag on the girls’ shapeless dress.
“Thank you, Jennifer. Do me a huge favor and keep this incident between us?”
Jennifer mimed zipping her mouth shut before spinning around and leaving. Becca twirled the rose between her fingers and snuck out of the bathroom to the front doors. On the other side, the doorman stood at his post with his hands clasped behind his back.
She pushed the door open. “Excuse me, but do you make a habit of letting masked men in with no questions asked?”
The man stepped back from her outburst. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Of course you don’t. Danny isn’t stupid enough to walk through the front doors.
“I’m sorry.” She hurried out to the parking lot and came to a full stop amidst the rows of cars, holding up the rose. “You don’t scare me,” she shouted and dropped the flower, crushing it with her shoe and grinding it into the asphalt. “I hope you’re watching you sick son-of-a-bitch. Hear this! I’m going to find you, and when I do, you can kiss your sorry ass good-bye!”

Adelle Laudan
Something for the Rebel in All of Us

Guest blog: Tracey Lampley - 'Kept'

No nonsense Kate Mercer never thought she’d become a kept woman, but when she wants out of the arrangement with Carrington Grant, a powerful man, she finds herself and her unborn child in deadly danger. So Kate flees into arms of Lamar, her ex-lover and an ex NFL linebacker with his own secrets and misgivings. Will Kate lose her life because of her choice? 

Buy at Amazon

Chapter 1

At just after one Friday morning, Katrina “Kate” Mercer wove through the crowd jammed into Skipper’s, an intimate nightclub in the playground of Kingston Park, Ohio. Robin Thicke’s latest track throbbed and echoed all around her, and she swayed to the music. In her early thirties and beautiful, she slapped away a palm that pawed her pair of D-cups. “Watch it,” she warned to a leering, vertically challenged man. As her nostrils took in the air which stank of marijuana, tobacco and sweat, her roving mahogany eyes took in the paint-peeling walls, holding up the drug and drink hazed partiers who looked as if they would drug and drink throughout Saturday morning. She was now trailing a hulking man who had a tattoo of a pair of sensual red lips on the side of his neck.

“Is C.C. still here, Eight-Ball,” Kate inquired, just loud enough to be heard.

The man with the red-lip tattoo jerked his head to the left and said, “Yeah, she’s here. She’s with some loser, and she’s in rare form, but she asked for you. Otherwise, I would’ve called your other girl.” The other girl was their friend, Wendy.

Kate’s eyes swept the direction in which Eight Ball jerked his head, and they rested on her bovine friend. “Booze or weed,” she asked.

“Booze. It’s the reason I called you. I thought she was back on the wagon. She’s not making sense, and she’s making an ass out of herself.”

Kate examined her friend and shook her head because C.C. was a mess. She was tossing her tangle of long blond hair back and chuckling as she listened to something her companion whispered in her ear. Kate turned back to Eight-Ball. “Can you help me get her to my car?”

Eight-Ball’s cobalt eyes raked over Kate’s body then rested on her breasts. “Can I help you get her into the car? Yeah, I’ll help for a price. By the way, I’ve noticed . . . you’re filling out nicely.

As Eight-Ball undressed her with X-ray eyes, Kate blushed and buttoned her suit jacket. “Stop looking at me like that. I’m serious.”

He leered at her breasts again. “So am I. I like chocolate. You know?”

Go screw yourself, she thought before shaking her head and saying, “I’m spoken for.”

Eight-Ball smirked and said, “That’s not the way I hear it. Your friend C.C.’s dished about you and your girl, Wendy.”

She bit her lip. C.C. was in need of some Pepto Bismol, because she had a bad case of diarrhea of the mouth, now that she was drunk. Kate held up her iPhone and read her last text message. ‘Mom is missing.’ That was from Jennifer Johnson, the eldest of C.C.’s twins. Cecilia Schmidt Johnson, of German descent, was a forty-two-year-old mother of two who’d recently taken up with a loser named Ralph, an unemployed construction worker, and three days ago C.C. ran off with the loser.

In about two days, Cecilia Schmidt Johnson will return to
 being Cecilia Schmidt.
Which is the reason her twin daughters were worried and why Kate was risking her health in a smoke-filled night club trying to track her friend down and ease the twins’ angst.

Two years ago, C.C.’s soon-to-be ex-husband, Donald, had caught her having an affair, and he had walked out on her, taking custody of their then fourteen-year-old twins. Her husband, a wealthy physician, did not want his family humiliated by his wife’s affair, especially when C.C. had slept with a prominent member of their social circle. Now Kate had to calm the fears of her friend’s daughters by tracking down her friend.

“Please find her,” Jennifer Johnson had begged when she and Kate had met up two hours ago.

And Kate had done just that, tracking C.C. to Skipper’s via cruising every bar in downtown Cincinnati and neighboring Kingston Park. Luckily Eight-Ball had used C.C.’s Blackberry to contact Kate. He’d agreed to meet her at the Skipper’s entrance, and now Eight-Ball was openly requesting a quid pro quo.

“Whadoyasay?” He smiled, displaying jagged yellow teeth. “How ‘bout we hook up tomorrow?”

Not a chance, Kate wanted to say.  Instead, she stated, “I’ll collect her myself.” She moved past him toward the entrance to the dance floor and stepped onto the packed floor, joining the sweaty writhing bodies now gyrating to the tune of Snoop Dog’s latest track. As she whirled, she noticed C.C. gaping, and she beckoned her over.

C.C. whispered something in her companion’s ear, disentangled herself then swayed and waddled over to the dance floor. “What’re you doin’ here?” C.C. slurred.

“I need to talk to you,” Kate yelled over the music. “I’m havin’ a hard time coping with my man.”

“What’s Carrington into now? Red heads? Brunettes? Another African-American?” She ran her tongue over even top teeth. “Or perhaps he’s finally into his wife again?”

That stung, and Kate stopped dancing, for her beau, Carrington Grant, was still very married and still very involved with Kate. They had met at her office exactly a year ago, after he’d come in to purchase some insurance. A few well-placed compliments from him and two dinners later, they shared their first kiss, and after one long weekend getaway to Paris, they shared their first bed. Now, one condo later, and Kate was wondering how she would broach the subject of marriage, which she intended to do some seventeen hours from now during their ritual Saturday night dinner.

She sauntered off the dance floor with C.C. in tow, returning to the table where the companion was scowling. “Gotta help out, Sista Girl,” C.C. said to him.

Kate hated when C.C.  got drunk because her mouth spewed all kinds of unflattering words. She turned her attention to the companion. With gray stubble sprouting on his lips and chin, he leaned forward and slurred, “Whadda you want my woman into?” His left eye was twitching, as he shoved stringy, dishwater blond hair off his forehead.

Kate sighed and turned to her friend. “Ready to go?”

C.C. shrugged, leaned in and pecked the man on the cheek. “See ya’, Ralphie.”

Ralph stood and blocked Kate. “Why don’t you mind yo’ own damn business?” He was up in her face, breathing heavily and reeking of liquor.

“I’m taking my friend home. Her kids are worried.” Kate side-stepped him, but Ralph remained up in her face.

“Kate, you could get hurt one of these days interfering with me and C.C.”

Staring into his slitted eyes, Kate felt a chill travel down her spine. Even nearly drunk, this man was scary-looking, but Kate never let on her feelings. She smiled tightly and said, “Duly noted, Ralph.” She tugged C.C. toward the exit.


They ended up at a Waffle House in Glendale, not far from C.C.’s apartment complex. The waitress was filling C.C.’s coffee mug when she announced, “The food’s comin’ right up.”

Kate took in the smell of bacon and eggs, and her stomach started churning as she placed a hand over her abdomen, sighed and started right in on C.C. “Jennifer and Jamie are quite worried about you, so they called Wendy and me, and we’ve been looking for you ever since. You shouldn’t have put them through all that. It’s wrong and disrespectful.”

C.C. spread her arms. “Here I am. You found me. They’re a bunch of worry worts.” She took a sip of coffee and sat up straight when the door opened. She cackled as a willowy woman with porcelain skin and spiky auburn hair rolled her eyes and strutted over to the booth.

“Is she sober, Kate?” Wendy Mason asked. Once a professional model, she once fell in love with but never married the man of her dreams. The torrid affair resulted in an unplanned pregnancy, and it ended after Wendy’s lover took sole custody of their infant son. For the most part, she had adjusted well to the arrangement, except for the occasional forlorn glances at the photo she carried inside the silver locket around her neck.

“You guys, I sittin’ right here. Don’t talk like I’m not here, Wendy,” C.C. said scowling as she sipped her coffee then screwed up her nose. “I not drunk anymore.”

“Sure you’re not, sweetie,” Wendy said, turning to Kate and mouthing ‘what the fuck?’

“She was with Ralph,” Kate said, watching the waitress set a plate of scrambled eggs, bacon and wheat toast before them. Bleary-eyed C.C. just ogled the food, so Kate grabbed a fork and began shoveling eggs into C.C.’s mouth. The scent of the breakfast wafted to Kate’s nostrils, overwhelming her, causing the bile to rise in her throat, so she bolted from the table holding a hand over her mouth, burst inside the bathroom and vomited into the toilet.

As she stood over the sink, she gazed into the mirror at her puffy eyes and noticed her cheeks were filling out. Worst of all, her boobs were straining the fabric of her midnight-blue suit. Would Carrington still think her beautiful? She placed a hand over her fluttering belly. “Oh, baby. Why’re you doing this to me?” She splashed some water over her face and rinsed her mouth.

When a pale faced Kate returned to her friends, C.C.’s head was on the table and Wendy was gaping. “What?” Kate snapped, not really meaning to do so.

Wendy ran her fingers through her short, spiked auburn hair and said matter-of-factly, “You’re pregnant.”

C.C.’s head popped up. “Wh-what? You? Oh no,” she groaned. “W-Wendeee, tell Kate why dat’s not a g-good idea.”

Burning with indignation, Kate slid into the booth, sitting beside C.C. “What’re you talking about, C.C.?”

“Ahm talkin’ ‘bout Cary Grant. Not junior, but senior. The rich asshole you’re screwin’.”

Kate self-consciously scanned the restaurant and decided no one was paying attention. She leaned into C.C. and whispered, “Will you keep your voice down?”

C.C. giggled and asked, “Scared the missus is spyin’ on you?”

“If she is spyin’, one of my best friends is certainly supplying ammo. You’re sloppy drunk and need to sleep it off. Let’s get you home.”

C.C. shook her head and hiccupped. “N-not ‘til I tell you why havin’ Cary Grant’s baby is a bad idea. Ya’ see: he discards his women after he finishes with them. Doesn’t he, Wendy?” She peered at Wendy. “He’ll never leave Elizabeth.” C.C. tossed her head back and cackled. It was a stab right through the heart and not what Kate wanted to hear.

“Shut up, C.C.,” Wendy snapped.

“I don’t have to shut up. You know: I wrote about you both. My manuscript will sell millions. It’s about a rich asshole and his harem.”

Wendy rolled her eyes. “She needs more coffee.”

C.C. needed more than just coffee. She needed a butt kicking. Kate sighed. She’d had enough. Addressing Wendy, Kate asked, “Can you get her home? I’m beat.” After Wendy nodded, Kate exited Waffle House, started up her sleek silver BMW and screeched out of the parking lot. She was halfway down the block when she glimpsed a sedan pulling out of the Waffle House parking lot too.  Good, Wendy had coaxed C.C. out of there.

Kate entered I75 and drove south. Fifteen minutes later she pulled into the garage at Roosevelt Place, a building of luxury condos in downtown Cincinnati. She’d bought the unit five days ago. It was a splendid two-bedroom with a spectacular view of the river and Paul Brown stadium. Kate was both pleased and perturbed that the previous owner, a corporate attorney in his late thirties, had been forced to sell it at a bargain price after losing his job. Of course, she hadn’t told her lover, Carrington Grant, that she had been condo-shopping. He would wonder where she got the money. Could she possibly tell Carrington that she’d sold half of the jewelry he’d given her and come up with half the price of the condo? She dared not sell the BMW he’d gifted her on her thirty-first birthday, even though Kate thought it too ostentatious.

She got out of her car and headed for the garage elevator. As footsteps were echoing behind her, she glanced over her shoulder and saw a figure she couldn’t quite make out. She flashed back to the memory of a sedan following her from Waffle House’s parking lot, and a terrible foreboding overcame her. That wasn’t Wendy and C.C. following her out of Wafflehouse. Fingers of fear gripped her as the unreasonable suspicion that someone else had followed her threatened to overwhelm her. With her heart hammering in her chest, Kate bolted inside the open elevator car and stabbed the button for the eighth floor. She could hear the rush of footsteps bearing down on her causing her heart to almost erupt from her chest. Jabbing at the button, she screamed, “Come on!”