I just put the finishing touches on another novella set in one of my favorite time periods—1920s, and I wanted to share a glimpse with you that's taken from a little further inside the book. Hope you enjoy!
The smoke hung low in the air, detracting from the already dim lighting. Grace made her way around behind the bar, pausing to talk to the regulars and even accepting a kiss on the cheek from Arnie, a half-cut old man with a stupid grin and a glass of gin in his hand.
“Ya done a good thing here, Grace Lawrence,” he slurred.
She picked up a damp rag and began wiping the counter while she flicked glances toward the secured door. Though she’d have plenty of warning should a raid befall her bar, the mere thought of the bulls overtaking the place was enough to shake her out of any complacency. She liked to be on top of things, and running into the police officer last night had left her more than a little uneasy.
It shouldn’t bother her. He couldn’t know her nor could he have any knowledge of what she’d really been doing the previous night. On top of that, she’d never been arrested before, had never even set foot inside the police station so he’d have no reason to know her.
God willing, she intended to keep it that way. As long as she kept her nose clean in public, she had no reason to get nervous now. But she couldn’t stop thinking about the officer. She’d even dreamed about him, though, it hadn’t had anything to do with him catching her running the joint. Her cheeks ran hot at the memory.
One of the patrons clanged the keys on the upright piano in the corner of the bar, and while the bourbon and whiskey flowed interminably, Grace’s customers began to sing a rousing tune. She leaned her elbows on the counter and smiled at them.
Knowing she was breaking the law didn’t change her determination to keep her bar afloat. And thanks to these good old guys, it looked like she’d be in business for a long, long time. They didn’t seem to mind that a dame ran the place, as long as they got their drinks on time and had a safe place to enjoy them.
“So, Grace.” Harriet McGrath sidled up to the bar next to Grace and nudged her with her elbow. “I noticed Bill Sanders has been watching you all evening. Why don’t you go lay one on his kisser?”
She pushed her friend aside then continued washing the counter. “I’m not interested in romance right now. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a little busy.”
Harriet snickered. “Who said anything about romance? A little necking, maybe some petting, well, the last I heard, it hadn’t hurt a single soul.”
Getting dizzy with a fella wasn’t in Grace’s plans. Keeping Bennett out of the hospital and the dough coming in was. “Aren’t you worried about what could happen if we get caught?” Although against her better judgment, Grace had allowed Harriet to talk her into a partnership once Grace had decided to open the bar. While Harriet was one of Grace’s closest friends, she didn’t have a mind to keep secrets. But after a few months without a raid, Grace had allowed herself to get comfortable. Maybe a little too comfortable.
This is a completed manuscript that I haven't sent out yet. Thought I'd share the first part of Chapter One with you
Chapter One (Part 1)
"A tornado warning is now in effect for Charleston County, Berkeley County, and parts of Dorchester County. At approximately 6:45 p.m...."
Nicole switched off the television and gathered her purse and coat from the top of her desk in the back room of her antique shop. She didn’t want to be alone here during a storm. It didn’t feel safe. Few places did. A twenty minute drive would take her home with its tall wrought-iron gates and solid brick structure.
Her cell phone rang. Probably Katya calling to check on her. Her best friend for the past eight years, the woman knew close to everything about her, including the phobias that rendered her semi-functional.
"Hi, Kat. I'm heading out now."
"It doesn't look too bad on this side of town. Want to come hang out there?" Happily married with two small children, Kat had opened her doors more than once to Nicole when one of her fears had kicked in.
"No, I think it'll pass." As she clicked the lock into place securing her antique shop, a chill ran down her spin. A sense of deja vu passed over her.
A severe storm had taken away her security nine years ago, giving her best friend's boyfriend the distraction he'd needed to get close to her. To trap her inside the small office building which held her law practice. And…
"Are you sure?" Worry coated Kat's voice. "Jim doesn't mind. He's draped over the sofa watching baseball. An occasional curse word gets thrown in when the satellite fades out from the wind."
"I thought you said it wasn't bad over there." Nicole made it to her car in record time, the swish of the palm trees rubbing her nerves. She climbed behind the wheel of her comfortable sedan with every bell and whistle she could get for security purposes and punched the ignition button. The doors locked automatically.
"I said it didn't look too bad, and I wasn't lying. A burst of wind every now and then isn't bad." Kat huffed out a breath. "Come on over. I've got stroganoff ready, and the little ones will be in bed within the hour. We could have a glass of wine, chat, and try to tune out Jim's salty language together."
Nicole smiled at the picture her friend painted. She did love spending time with Kat's family. They'd become her own, providing her that familial tie she didn't have through any blood relatives. Caving in, she turned her car in the opposite direction of home. "Okay, but once the storm dies down, I need to get home. I have to be at the shop early tomorrow to get ready for Saturday's sale."
"Sounds like a plan. I'll set out another plate."
Her hands white-knuckling the steering wheel, Nicole said goodbye to her friend and focused on the road. Overhead, the sky had darkened to an ominous gray with streaks of green. Palms slickened with sweat, she tried to remain focused on the road, to ignore the warning signs.
Heart thundering in her chest, she pressed the accelerator and, using her thumb, turned on the radio, expecting the soothing sounds of classical music. Instead, an ominous voice shared the unwelcome news that a funnel cloud had been spotted near Kat's neighborhood.
Panic threatening to choke her, Nicole punched another button to direct dial Kat from her car's Bluetooth. "Kat, a funnel cloud's just been spotted right around the corner from you."
"I know. The warning just interrupted the baseball game. We're taking precautions. Maybe it's best if you do go home and batten down the hatches. I'll call you as soon as this passes." Kat paused before adding in a firm tone. "And it will pass."
With her friend's reassurances ringing in her ears, Nicole took the first exit to backtrack toward home, her body shaking with each mile.
By the time she reached her house, tears coursed down her cheeks, and her hands shook so badly she could barely press the button on the garage opener.
"Get a hold of yourself, Nicole. Nothing is going to happen. You're safe."
The self-talk helped a little, but it was only when she was inside and had bolted all the locks in place that she managed to draw a deep breath. But she couldn't stop herself from turning on the TV to watch the path of the storm.
Storms paralyzed her. And years of therapy hadn't eased any of the crushing anxiety that overwhelmed her with each weather warning.
Hours later, after the storm had moved on, Nicole she pushed herself up off the couch and stumbled down the hallway to her bedroom, one hand covering the scar that bisected her abdominal cavity. Though the night had fallen quiet, she wouldn’t sleep. The bad weather could return, and she had to stay on guard even though her attacker had died nine years ago.
I'm working on another creepy romantic suspense/thriller. Below is the first scene where the killer interacts with the heroine, Nicole.
Her cell phone rang just as she reached the dual vanity. It had to be Jasmine. Her victim's advocate shortly after the attack, Jasmine Carmichael had kept in touch even though her job had ended a long time ago.
Nicole returned to the bedroom and answered the call without looking at the incoming number. "Hi, Jasmine."
She didn't recognize the throaty masculine voice, but it gave her chills, the unpleasant, sickening kind. "Who is this?"
"Last night’s storm was a doozie, wasn’t it? Wish I could have been there with you. It would have been more special. Anyway, I wanted to wish you a happy anniversary. Today is the day, isn't it?" Her caller chuckled and breathed out heavily. “This is one day I’ve been waiting for. I couldn’t have gotten the date wrong. Did I?”
Her knees almost buckling, Nicole collapsed onto the mattress. "Who are you?" She fumbled with the drawer on the nightstand. It took her two tries to pull it open, but once her fingers closed around the pistol, she breathed a small sigh of relief. She could still protect herself.
Realizing her question hadn’t been answered, Nicole prodded. “I asked who this is.” Her voice went up an octave. Who else would know about the attack? How had he gotten her number? And the worst question of all—what did he want?
As the questions cart-wheeled in her mind, a surge of adrenalin brought her to her feet. Keeping the pistol close to her side, she raced out of the bedroom and down the hall to double check the locks on the doors, the security system.
"Oh, we can worry about names later. In fact, I’m looking forward to a proper introduction. How about the next storm you and I meet face to face? I'll bring the wine. Oh, and don’t worry. I already know your address. From the weather reports, we could be in for wild ride this weekend. I’ll bet that makes you nervous, doesn’t it?"
My thoughts, experiences, challenges, and goals. Right here. At least once a week or so. Oh, and opinions, too. Those will definitely come in. Join me!