Struggling LA photographer Jeri Abbott is stunned to find that her unknown biological father has left her a ranch in the famed Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle. With the intention of cleaning the old house of any family things and then selling the place she makes what she thought would be a quick trip, only to become entranced with the ranch, the land – and the handsome cowboy next door.
As Jeri explores her family history she finds herself reluctant to sell the ranch to a development company who wants to put in a glitzy spa retreat. The high, open country speaks to her and after deciding she does not want to sell Jeri realizes she may not have a choice.
Doug pulled Champ to a stop and dismounted with an easy grace, pulling the reins over the horse’s head and dropping them to the ground.
“Aren’t you going to tie him to something?”
“Nah. He’s trained to stand.” Doug walked to Jeri’s side and held up his arms. “Now can you dismount from there or do you need my help?”
Jeri all but bristled. “Of course I can dismount,” she said haughtily. “Gravity, you know.”
She might not be much of a rider, but surely she could get down from the top of a horse!
Except she couldn’t. Ignoring the screaming in her thighs, she stood in the stirrups and tried to swing her leg over the horse’s rump in a classic dismount, but halfway through her muscles froze. Her body didn’t. She kept going backwards, right into Doug’s arms.
Jeri didn’t know whether to be mortified or grateful. He was holding her without effort, his slim arms as strong as any muscle-bound boy starlet’s. She lay cradled against him, feeling the heat of him on her skin as if their shirts hadn’t been there, smelling the combination of horse and man that would beat out any cologne on the market. She hoped he couldn’t feel how thunderously her heart was beating.
He was laughing gently. “Guess you’re pretty out of shape, aren’t you?”
Back in LA Jeri would have said she was in excellent shape. For LA, maybe. For this part of Texas, no way. “For riding, at least.”
“Sorry,” he said with real contrition. At least it sounded real, even through a veil of laugher. “I should have realized. Do you think you can stand?”
For one moment Jeri really considered saying no and cherished a sudden fantasy of him mounting his horse with her still in his arms and riding off like a knight on a white charger. It was a humiliating embarrassment to have such a romantic girlish daydream, even if she was the only one who knew about it.
“Of course I can.”
But it wasn’t easy. He put her gently on her feet and kept an arm around her shoulders until she was steady. She could stand, but her legs protested. Her back protested. She was hurting so much it seemed as if even her hair were protesting. While it hurt Jeri’s pride to acknowledge it, she knew she’d never be able to get back on that dratted horse, let alone ride back to the house. What would he do with her? Throw her over the horse’s back like a dead body in the old Western movies?
Or perhaps, carry her in front of him like a prince on a white charger would a princess? Except Champ was an uncompromising brown. Not, she thought quickly, that it would make any difference…
A long-closed charm school.
A contentious divorce.
A smothering mother.
The murder of a mysterious woman.
The Kennedy assassination.
Fledgling researcher and newly single Mindy McMann just can’t catch a break. She might not even live.
Mindy McMann’s life has gone upside down. While divorcing her cheating husband, she has to maintain good relations with her teenaged son, convince her overprotective mother that she is not going to move back in with her, and find a way to support herself. Non-fiction author and decided eccentric Darryl Knedsyn offers Mindy a job as a researcher for a book about the long-defunct Miss McCallum’s College of Charm, which seems absolutely perfect… until the underground vault at prestigious Carlisle College where she is working in the charm school’s archives is broken in to. Perfect until a mysterious unknown woman who bears a strong resemblance to Mindy is brutally attacked in the archive storage area. Perfect until Mindy is accused of her murder.
Without knowing how it happened, Mindy finds herself the target of mysterious people who for reasons she doesn’t understand mean her harm. Then she discovers the Kennedy connection, and things get really dangerous.
There was a strange young woman working the desk and Sophronsiba nowhere in sight. She looked suspiciously at me when I asked for my keys and demanded to see identification before she would hand them over.
“Where’s Ms. Higgins this morning?” I asked while affixing my signature to the sign-in sheet. Pretty soon this one would be full. My name, repeated over and over again in a single column.
Her eagle eyes didn’t miss a single pen stroke. “Ms. Higgins is having a meeting upstairs,” she murmured, staring so hard at my signature that I feared she might want my ID back for comparison. When I wrote down the time, she glanced at her watch. I hoped our watches were synchronized.
“Well, I’ll see her later.” I didn’t even try to smile at her as I left. After forty every movement of your facial muscles puts you that much closer to wrinkles, and I didn’t want to waste that tiny bit of elasticity on her.
Taking the keys I unlocked the elevator and rode down. It was cold in the vault; how crazy – close to 100F outside and in here I was glad I kept a sweater draped over the back of my chair!
I unlocked the vault gate and turned on the lights – all of them.
The McCallum vault was at the far end of the main aisle, straight in front of me. Even from here I could see that the wire gate was open. My heart began to pound.
I was halfway down the aisle before realizing that what I had thought was a shadow was in actuality a human leg, flat on the floor and twisted at an odd angle.
Attached to that stocking-clad leg was a woman jammed ungracefully into the tiny space between my worktable and the closest rack of shelving. A rack of shelving that was glaringly empty. On the other racks all the storage boxes had their lids either ajar or tossed off altogether and there were little islands of ledger books and files in neat stacks on the floor as well as papers casually tossed around like scanty snow.
I didn’t see any of that, not after the first glance. All I could see was the back of the woman’s head, her hair slick and shiny as if it had been coated with plastic. What set me to screaming, though, was the small spreading lip of liquid red radiating out from beneath her head.
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Lily Wright doesn’t care a thing about Ancient Egypt, but she does care about Peter Monroe. Lily thinks the trip to a scholarly conference sounds delightfully romantic – until they run into a predatory ex-girlfriend, an obnoxiously exuberant archaeologist and his mousey wife, a scholar who is convinced he is an Ancient Egyptian priest and a souvenir seller who may or may not be dealing in smuggled artifacts. When three murders are committed and Peter is arrested for them, Lily knows she must find the real killer – if she can stay alive long enough.
Available on Amazon
Excerpt of Murder and Miss Wright
“There are always bad people, Lily. It’s just hard to accept that they are someone we know.”
Shivering, Lily pulled away and stood before the dresser. She picked up her brush and began to pull it through her hair mindlessly, without even bothering to count the strokes. “At least they can’t blame Megan’s death on Gerda Bone. She’s in the hospital, and they won’t tell anyone anything about her condition,” she added with angry indignation.
“Gerda couldn’t have done it anyway. She’s too frail. She could have had an accomplice, though, and then it wouldn’t matter if she were in the hospital or not.”
Although Lily didn’t like it a bit, her mind immediately flashed to Toby Don Holder. He wasn’t particularly muscular, but he would probably more than capable of beating up a thin young woman like Megan Waterman. He would also do anything at all Gerda Bone asked of him.
“I don’t think she did. I don’t think she was involved in either case.”
“I know.” Peter smiled wryly. “You’ve spent most of the day telling anybody who’d listen.”
Lily stuck her tongue out at him. “I don’t know how Gerda felt about Megan Waterman or if she even knew her, but for someone as much in love with her husband as she is–was–is, how could she have?”
“Love can breed hate. How often does one spouse kill another?”
“Not Gerda. She just lay back and let him walk all over her!”
“Maybe she had enough of it. Even worms turn, you know.”
“I’d rather think it could have been one of his other wives…” Her hairstyle completely destroyed, Lily laid down the brush and began creaming her hands.
“Wives? What wives?” Peter asked, then said, “You know you look like Lady Macbeth when you do that.”
“I’m told she had lovely hands,” Lily replied frivolously, but quit wringing her hands with such vigor. “Tyrus Bone’s wives. Ex-wives.”
“I knew about Dr. Ramsgate. Did Tyrus have another ex?”
“Yes, I saw her today. Dr. Carolyn Griffiths.”
Peter looked startled. “Dr. Griffiths? She’s just about the foremost iconographer and art historian working today. Who told you she had been married to Tyrus?”
“Zale Redding. He had just rescued me from Arthur Stern.”
In spite of himself Peter chuckled. “Poor baby. Was he wearing his Tut mask?”
“No, his bookseller hat. He wanted to take me upstairs and sell me his two books–at ninety dollars apiece, no less.”
“If I were going to take you upstairs I wouldn’t bother about books,” Peter said and with a grin pulled Lily back against him.
“In case you hadn’t noticed, we are upstairs.” Lily slipped into his embrace.
“So what are you going to do about it?”
“What do I always do about it?” With delicate precision Peter began to nibble on Lily’s ear.
“What about dinner?” Lily’s imp of perversity asked.
“That depends on what we want to eat…” Peter’s lips slid from her ear–moving carefully around her somewhat spiky earrings–and down the column of her neck. “We can always have room service later.”
“Now I remember why I love you…” Lily started and stiffened in Peter’s arms. “What’s that?”
“I heard something… it sounded like it came from over there.” She pointed in the direction of the vandalized room.
For a moment they even stopped breathing, then Peter said with the utter reasonableness of a man who never heard unexplained noises, “From there? That’s locked up.”
“I was sure I heard something…”
“This is a hotel, honey. There are always unexplained noises. Now,” he said in a completely different tone, “you were going to tell me why you love me…”
“Because you’re so predictable,” Lily said, but with a completely different connotation from her first thought.
“Funny…” Peter’s lips resumed their nibbling down the length of her neck. “No one ever told me predictability was sexy…”
Lily drew and exhaled a deep, ecstatic breath. “There’s a lot we women don’t tell.” Using her last bit of willpower she pushed him back. “Give me a minute to freshen up, will you?”
“I’ll start timing now.”
Kissing him impudently on the nose, Lily turned toward the bathroom. She had barely closed the door and turned on the water when a blast of noise erupted. First a muffled shouting, then a crash, then a solid thunk, then an odd, heavy slither.
Surely, Lily thought as she dashed back into the bedroom, Peter had to have heard that!
Peter had heard, and more. He looked up uncomprehendingly at Lily, but Lily didn’t comprehend either. The connecting door to the other room, the door that Peter checked every night to be sure was locked, was open. There were splashes of glowing wet red on the floor, splashes that looked horribly familiar to Lily. Peter sat sprawled in the center of the room, his arms clasped around Salim Mafouz’ chest. Mafouz’ face was oddly flattened and misshapen beneath a rising spring of blood. He was also very obviously dead.
It was a killer Christmas…
By all accounts it should have been a perfect holiday. A beautiful, elegant house. Rebecca’s future relatives all together, talking happily about her upcoming Christmas afternoon wedding to Peter. A gorgeous tree surrounded by presents. A Christmas-card perfect snowfall.
But the snowfall turned into a freak blizzard, trapping Rebecca and Peter in with his family. Then, once the house was completely isolated and no one could enter or leave, the most obnoxious member of the family is found stabbed. And garroted. And perhaps poisoned. Who really killed Harvey… and how?
Can Rebecca solve this murder? More importantly, does she really want to?
Amazon – http://a.co/d/duJYjpX
Most importantly, I sent four manuscripts to my editor – OH, DEADLY NIGHT, a novella for a Christmas-themed mystery anthology; WELCOME HOME, a sort of women’s fiction/gothic/thriller; an as-yet unnamed romance set in my beloved Palo Duro canyon; and THE MASTER OF MORECOMBE HALL, a traditional gothic set in contemporary…