Here’s an excerpt from my first book, Finding Sarah. It finished in second place in the Lories, Romantic Suspense division. (Brenda Novak came in ahead of me, so I’m not complaining about second!)
Oh, and by the way, there’s a June contest on my website. Drop by and enter.
Sarah Tucker’s hands shook with anger as she fumbled the keys into her gift boutique’s lock. Bad enough the bus driver stopped beside a puddle the size of Crater Lake, which she cleared despite the restrictions of her skirt and pumps, thank you very much. But when that head-banger in the heavy-metal-blasting SUV had sped past, any satisfaction at her nimble footwork disappeared in a dousing of muddy water.
The cheerful jingle of the door chimes did nothing for her mood. Sarah rushed to her small office behind the glass sales counter and shrugged out of her coat to assess the damage. She dampened some paper towels and daubed at her mud-spattered shoes and stockings. She couldn’t go home and change and the last thing she wanted was to appear at the bank this afternoon looking like she needed a loan. If you needed money, you couldn’t get it, but if you had it, they’d give you whatever you asked for.
Enough negative thoughts. Sarah hung up her keys and tossed her instant soup packet into the basket by her coffee pot. Another gourmet lunch. At a knock on the door, she checked her watch. It wasn’t quite ten, but she’d open for a possible sale. Patting her windblown hair into place, she hurried to the front door.
Christopher Westmoreland stood there, looking impeccable as always. No head-banger would dare splash water on his perfectly creased trousers. His hair wouldn’t dare blow in the wind.
“Chris. What brings you to town?” She stepped back into the store and toward the register. “I’m getting ready to open, but if you need anything, I’ll be glad to get it for you.” As if he’d actually buy something.
“Not today. I’ve got some appointments over in Salem. Thought I’d say hello before I head out.” He strolled to the counter and leaned over its glass top, close enough for Sarah to smell his sandalwood aftershave and the cinnamon gum he chewed. “You haven’t returned any of my calls. I know things have been tough since David.died. I only want to help. Why won’t you let me? For old times’ sake, if nothing else.”
Memories of David flooded back. It had been over a year, but the pain lay just beneath the surface, waiting to engulf her. She shoved her emotions back into that metal strongbox in her brain, slammed the lid and turned the key. She was no longer Sarah, David’s wife. Or Sarah the daughter, or Sarah the high school sweetheart. She was Just Plain Sarah.
Sarah met his pale green eyes, the ones she’d found so irresistible in high school. “We’ve been through all this before. I need to do it on my own. I can manage without your money.” Even though he’d promised ‘no strings,’ Sarah knew if she took a dime from him, she’d be attached with monofilament line. The kind that cut when you tried to break it.
“Are you sure? You look like you haven’t slept in a month. And your hair. Why did you cut it all off?”
“Well, thanks for making my morning.” Sarah fluffed her cropped do-it-yourself haircut. “It’s easier this way.”
“How about dinner tonight? Come on, Sarah. We’re friends, right?” His eyebrows lifted in expectation.
Dinner with Chris or five-for-a-dollar Ramen noodles at home? Accepting dinner wouldn’t be selling out, would it? “Maybe. Call me later, okay?”
The way Chris had referred to David’s death churned through her thoughts. That horrible pause. The same one everyone else used. But Sarah knew it had been an accident. David would never commit suicide. This afternoon, she’d get a loan from the bank and re-hire the private investigator or find a better one. The investigator would get the police to reopen the case and they’d find out it wasn’t suicide. Then she’d get the insurance money, which would pay off the loan and the shop would be safe from foreclosure. It all made perfect sense. And maybe it would take away some of the guilt.
Sarah dragged her thoughts to the present, straightened her shoulders and found her professional smile again. Her customer was studying some silver picture frames. Expensive ones. She thought about how hard it had been to get Anjolie to display her work in the shop, that her work was too good for a mere boutique. She telegraphed mental messages to her customer-Please, show Anjolie she was wrong. Buy one. Buy six.
The woman set the frame down and turned away.
Sarah wouldn’t let her disappointment show. “Can I show you something else?”
The woman strolled back and fingered the frames again. “You know, I like this one.” She picked up the most expensive one, the one with the lacy pattern of roses and leaves. “And I think I’ll take the matching vase over there.”
Not good to let a customer see you jumping up and down clapping your hands. Instead, Sarah called up her most professional tone. “Excellent choices, ma’am. Would you like them gift-wrapped?”
“No, thank you. But if you have boxes for them, I would appreciate it.”
Sarah ducked beneath the counter for the boxes, calculating what the sale would mean to her bottom line. When she rose, she stared into a gun barrel.