The 1st book in my new Double Barrel Mysteries series, is set to release April 14th! ROADKILL will be available just in time for a little tax relief. No, it won’t help you pay the taxes, but it will give you a great, fun story to distract you from the agony of paying taxes. Books do that and more.
To get you in the mood for the kind of romance/mystery I write and to introduce you to my husband and wife sleuth team, Blake and Shelby Gunner, here is an excerpt from ROADKILL. Enjoy!
When I was five, my mother died of pancreatic cancer. My father, vying for a Purple Heart in suffering, moved us from everything we knew and loved to a bleak, small town in the Iron Range of Minnesota. With nothing much to do there but read, my love of the written word went into overdrive. Being the daughter of a literature professor, the books lying around were not written by Dr. Seuss.
My name is Shelby Gunner and I’m the daughter of an alcoholic. I say that up front because it colors everything about me. For good or bad, my past experiences have much to do with who I’ve become. I love eggrolls, big band music, and Shakespeare. I detest the smell of Listerine in the morning, the song from the Scooby Doo cartoon, and blue-eyed pity. Some day I may tell you why.
I married the man of my dreams three years ago. Blake is a detective with the Minneapolis Police Department. He loves me, his job, and singing in the shower. Loud and proud. He has the mistaken notion that if some big record company exec happens by our home on a summer day when the windows are thrown open wide, he’ll pound on the front door and beg my husband to sign a record contract. The first po-po rappin’ about slappin’ on cuffs and making arrests. I’m sure the boys in the ’hood will be all over that. Did I mention that Blake is slightly deranged?
Blake and I were married on one of the coldest days of the year, and the same day three years later was no exception. April in Minnesota is often schizophrenic. One day it can be sixty degrees, the next it’s dropped to single digits and blowing snow. But despite blustery wind gusts rattling sleet against the windows, inside our cozy townhome, an electric log glowing in the corner fireplace, and Blake and I cuddled into a pile of down pillows on the bed, it was as warm as a summer day.
Curled together, my head snug against his bare chest and his arms around me, we lazily watched the sports channel on our flat screen television with the sound turned off. Blake loved hockey almost as much as he loved being a detective, so getting him to turn the sound off and gift me even half his attention on our special day was a huge win for me.
While The Wild moved a puck around the ice with lightening speed and got into minor scuffles with the opposing team, our sporadic conversation involved where we’d go on vacation once the case Blake was working on was resolved and whether or not we should get a dog in the near future.
“So I thought…” I paused and ran one nail lightly down his cheek to get his attention, “maybe we should stop by the animal shelter tomorrow and see if our puppy soul-mate is there just waiting for his new family…”
Blake Gunner, my husband and best friend–since I didn’t yet have a dog–pumped his fist in the air. “Yes!”
“Yes?” I frowned and pushed up on one elbow. I couldn’t believe it. He’d agreed so quickly and easily. I thought it would be much harder to get him to see our need of a dog. I hadn’t even tried my misty-eyed look on him yet.
“Hmm?” He peeled his gaze away from the screen for a second and looked up at me as though just noticing I was still there. “Did you say something?”
I rolled my eyes. “I said, this game is so exciting I can hardly stand to watch.”
“Babe, you know I’d do anything for you,” he said, managing to plant a quick kiss on my cheek before his eyes slanted back to the screen, “but can we do it after the game is over? I promise I’ll…” his words trailed off and he was gone.
Now you might think this story isn’t going anywhere, but that’s when the phone rang. If I knew then what I know now, I never would have answered it. God knows we humans would never choose the storm, but without rain there is no growth. Living things flourish in adversity. The strongest trees are regularly buffeted by the wind. Humans are no exception.
By mutual consent, we had both turned off our cell phones before climbing into bed two hours earlier, so hearing the home phone ring in the hallway outside the room was a little surprising. We’d talked about canceling the landline. The only people who called that number were either affiliated with a political campaign or trying to sell something… which is actually the same thing. Oh – and of course, someone with an imagined emergency who couldn’t get through on our cells.
Blake looked toward the open doorway. “Guess one of us should get that, huh?” He didn’t budge an inch.
I released a dramatic sigh and rolled to the side of the bed, planting my feet on the floor. With my new gauzy pink robe wrapped around my naked form, I moved past the end of the bed, blocking his view of the game for a split second, just long enough for the Blackhawks to plow past the Wild’s defenses and score. He yelped and threw up his arms in frustration.
“Oh my goodness!” I said, pausing in the doorway, hands on my hips. “You’d think there was no such thing as instant replay.”
He tossed a pillow playfully at my head and snatched up the remote, clicking the sound back on. With the announcers shouting over one another in the background and a grin on my face, I stepped into the hallway and picked up the ringing telephone. Boy, someone was persistent. “Hello?”
“Shelby, baby! How ya doing? Called to wish you and Gun a happy anniversary! Can I speak with him a minute?” The overly friendly tone of Blake’s partner made me scrunch up my nose like I’d smelled a dead rat. He might be a good detective, but he was a terrible liar.
“What do you want, Donny? You agreed to leave Blake alone today. You have him at your beck and call 364 days a year. I only have him for one.”
“I know, I know. And I’m real sorry. I wouldn’t interrupt your special day for anything other than a true blue emergency. I swear.”
“Yeah, sure.” I covered the mouthpiece with three fingers. “Blake! It’s for you!” I called out, wondering if my husband would be upset about having to cut our anniversary short or only because he’d miss the end of the hockey game.
Don was still saying something to me and I put the phone back to my ear. “…make it up to you, ’cause someday I’ll meet the right woman and you can interrupt our anniversary. I promise.”
I laughed. “Donny, you will never meet the right woman. There is no such person.”
The commercials had come on in the nick of time. My husband reluctantly slid off the bed and followed me into the hall. I handed him the phone as Don started to explain to me, for probably the billionth time, why chicks just didn’t get him. I know I didn’t. He was a nice enough guy if you liked overbearing, mannerless, thugs, who’d obviously been raised by a colony of Neanderthals, but most contemporary women didn’t. As my husband’s partner, I knew Donny would always have his back and even take a bullet for him if the opportunity arose. Unfortunately, women found him about as attractive as a plate of greens when they’re craving chocolate. It tastes bad and gives you gas.
“Hey,” My loquacious husband said, phone to his ear. He moved back toward the television and sat on the end of the bed. He nodded a couple of times and then glanced at me with that quirk of his eyebrow that used to make my heart race, but now made it sink like a stone. He was measuring me up for disappointment.
I sighed and sat beside him, resting my head on his shoulder while he finished his conversation. It wasn’t every day we got to enjoy spending the afternoon in bed together, even if it was mostly spent watching a hockey game. As anniversaries go, this one hadn’t been so bad.
Blake worked crazy hours as a homicide detective. If there was a fresh case to solve, he worked day and night, obsessed with catching the bad guy or gal so the victim could rest in peace. He said a murder had to be solved within a few days or the leads turned cold, and he couldn’t stand the thought that one of his cases would be filed away in a box and stored in a dark room, until the murderer was eaten up with guilt and walked in to confess. Which is what his partner would refer to as a nut-job miracle. Like the sighting of a unicorn or three-headed toad – it rarely happened.
“I’ll meet you there,” he finally said and clicked off. His smile was lopsided and meant to convey regret, but I knew he was also eager to be off to catch a killer. “Sorry, hon,” he said, standing up and pulling me into his arms. “I’ll make it up to you. Maybe we can have a late dinner. I’ll pick up carryout from China Jade on my way home… with a double order of eggrolls.” His kiss was quick before he moved to the closet and pulled on a pair of faded jeans. He took a blue knit shirt from a hanger and tugged it over his head.
I watched him dress in silence. This scenario was becoming a regular thing. Murders were up in the city, which meant homicide detectives were overworked and in short supply, and homicide detective’s wives were left alone to their own devices.
Mine was theatre.
Blake adjusted his shoulder holster before shrugging into his favorite brown leather jacket, then went and looked in the mirror over the bathroom sink to run a comb through his sandy-colored hair. His hair had a slight curl to the ends and always managed to look a bit messy and out of place, shaggy over the collar and forehead like a thirty-year-old Dennis the Menace. I loved it. He retrieved his badge and wallet from the dresser drawer and slipped them into the breast pocket of his jacket.
“I hope Donny’s snitch is right and the perp is still holed up in that motel where he was spotted. Maybe we can throw his butt in jail tonight and you and I can get a good night’s sleep for once.” He pulled me close again.
“If anyone can wrap this up in record time, it’s you Gun,” I said, using the nickname they called him on the job. “Come home safe. I’ll be waiting. Like always.”
“You’re never waiting. I bet before I pull out of the garage you’re dressed and ready to run off to that theatre you love so much.” He grinned and planted a kiss on the end of my nose.
I followed him down the hall to the kitchen and watched him grab a banana to eat on the way. I flashed him a smile. “Sid did say we could use another practice.”
“That’s my girl.” He opened the garage access door. “Better to stay busy than sit around and worry, like some cops’ wives.”
“Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow,” I quoted softly, and felt a sudden tingle of fear at Juliet’s famous line.
Blake didn’t seem to notice. He blew me a kiss and went out to his truck.
I stood rooted to the spot, a definite chill moving up my spine as gooseflesh broke out along my arms and legs. I didn’t believe in omens but… I glanced at the kitchen clock. Three minutes before three in the afternoon, on our third anniversary, three days before the opening of Romeo and Juliet at the Rapturous Dinner Theatre, I had a premonition that my husband was in danger. Three had always been bad luck for me. Well, sort of. When I was thirteen – which has a three in it – I fell from the schoolyard monkey bars and broke my ankle, thus ending my ballet career forever.
Rubbing away the gooseflesh on my arms, I shook my head, instantly dispelling such thoughts. It wasn’t a premonition; it was an actual gust of cold air from the open garage door when Blake went out, and me in a sheer robe. As Blake liked to say, my inner drama queen was showing again. I hurried to the bedroom to dress into something warm, comfortable, and appropriate for spending the evening rehearsing lines with Sid and the rest of the cast. That old theatre could be pretty drafty as well.
Save the date, because April 14th is coming fast and you don’t want to be the last one to the party! Stay tuned for PreOrder information coming soon!
Did you enjoy the excerpt of ROADKILL?
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