Grab this New Box Set and Support a GREAT Cause!

Those of you who know me know I'm a strong advocate for animals. That's why when Author Susan Grant contacted me asking if I'd help get the word out on her new release (today!) of a great box set that will support Hero dogs I had to say YES!

And as a bonus, when you buy this wonderful set, you also get a bunch of really GREAT books!

A Word from Susan

As a vet, the daughter of a vet, and the mom of an active duty service member, I enjoy writing stories about those who serve. When I had the chance to write such a story in support of an organization I feel very strongly about (Hero-Dogs), I jumped at the chance.

The Pets are Back! Twelve leading science fiction romance writers teamed up to contribute twelve all-new, original stories for the Embrace the Romance, Pets in Space 2 anthology. Embrace the Romance will be released on October 10th, 2017. I am proud to say that again this year 10% of all preorders and the first month’s profits go to www.Hero-Dogs.org. Hero Dogs raises and trains service dogs and places them free of charge with US Veterans to improve quality of life and restore independence. We’re hoping to double our donation from last year’s Pet’s in Space 1.

 

 

More About the Stories and Links

Please visit http://www.petsinspaceantho.com/pets-space-2-embrace-romance-2/ and while you’re there, sign up for our newsletter and receive a gorgeous gift! We have all sorts of fun in store including a great gift for everyone who signs up for the PISA2 newsletter. It’s gorgeous! So make sure you visit the Pets in Space website – http://www.petsinspaceantho.com/pets-space-2-embrace-romance-2/

Please join us authors at our Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/PetsInSpace/

Want to Know More? Want to Chat with Our Authors on Your Blog?

Please feel free to contact each author direct or contact Narelle Todd at GetMyBookOutThere.com for more information. We would love your help in raising as much money as possible for our charity, Hero-Dogs.org, by helping us spread the word of this anthology.

Buy the Book

 

 

 

Posted in Anthologies and Collections, Guest Author, New Release | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Sequel You’ve Been Waiting For! Naval Gazing is Here!

Come to Silver Hills. Where age is relative and relatives can be deadly.

A skeleton under the floorboards…a long-hidden crime…and a nonagenarian WWII veteran who claims to have no knowledge of how the body got buried under her living room floor…

When their new friend, Scarlett, moves to Silver Hills, Flo and Agnes soon realize the crotchety veteran isn’t exactly a people person. Unfortunately, her acerbic personality isn’t helping her convince Detective Peters that she had nothing to do with murdering the dead guy beneath her floorboards. So the two sleuths, with a colorful array of the usual sidekicks, dive into the decades old murder and quickly learn it has a grip in the present. Can Flo and Agnes keep themselves above the fray? Or will they soon find themselves over their heads and swimming against the tide? If you've been to Silver Hills before you already know the answer to that. There's really only one question left: backstroke or breaststroke?

Read a Never-Before-Seen Excerpt

The man standing next to the gravesite looked to be in his mid to late nineties. He stared at the coffin with a bit of a perplexed expression, as if he was surprised to find himself there and was wondering who was in the big, shiny box.

Flo didn’t think he even heard the words the minister was uttering. The single true mourner hadn’t looked up since he’d arrived and he stood, bent and frail, holding a daisy in one hand down by his side. He was dry eyed, seemingly beyond emotion, only the occasional pursing of his wrinkled lips betrayed the fact that he struggled at all.

Her heart broke as she looked around the site. If it weren’t for Maria Cooper and her merry band of mourners, no one else would have been there to say goodbye to the deceased, whose name was apparently Daisy, like the flower.

The minister’s words were vague, unexceptional, leading Flo to believe he either didn’t really know the deceased Daisy or he didn’t like her much. She wondered if it might be the latter, given the dearth of people around the poor woman’s gravesite.

In that moment, Flo adjusted her opinion of Ms. Cooper and her strange vocation. It would be horrible to be sent to Eternity without so much as a single wet-eyed goodbye from those still among the living.

Then again…

A long, wailing sob broke the stillness, its fulsome, alarming tenor enough to break through even the little old man’s stupor. He flinched once but, no doubt suffering under nine decades of emphasis on manners and how to behave in polite society, kept his gaze fixed on the casket in front of him.

However, the emitter of the wail was not to be ignored. Another hefty wail broke the silence and it seemed the sound broke something loose in the rest of the assembled mourners. Loud sobbing bubbled up to fill the previously mostly silent cemetery. The sound rose to match the wailing in loudness and, in one or two instances rose above it.

Not to be outdone, one mourner called out, “Help me Lord Ja-eee-sus!” Sounding like a good old fashioned television preacher working a crowd for money.

With that the stakes were raised. Never one to let someone beat her at her own game, Agnes let off wailing and, giving her competition a very un-Christian glare, threw back her head and screamed, flinging herself forward toward the unsuspecting deceased.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, Agnes caught her oversized sneaker on a blade of grass and toppled, arms akimbo, onto the surface of the casket.

Everything stopped. It was as if someone had been playing with a time machine and, seeing the pure entertainment value in that place and time, hit a giant ‘Pause’ button to savor the train wreck more completely.

Agnes lay on her belly, round boohind stuck up in the air, and arms splayed across the formerly pristine surface of the highly polished oak casket. The toes of her sneakers were dug in, as if by the very act of falling forward she’d hammered them into the dirt.

The minister cleared his throat.

The elderly mourner blinked a few times and began to tremble.

Agnes seemed to realize she sat…or lay as it were…on a perfect opportunity to bring her performance to standing ovation levels. To Flo’s unending horror, her friend began banging her head against the casket and sobbing hysterically. Her arms stayed out-flung on the shiny surface but her hands curved into fists no doubt meant to portray the heights of agony.

Wide-eyed and beginning to be frightened, the minister started to back away from the gravesite, his round face turning nearly the color of his starched clerical collar as he turned tail and started run-walking toward the Office building in the distance.

Flo realized he was probably going to fetch security to have Agnes hauled away. She quickly stepped forward and grabbed her friend’s arm, bending down to whisper into her ear. “Agnes Willard, you stop that right now. We need to go before security gets here.”

Agnes opened one eye and peered up at Flo. “Back off, Flo, you’re stepping on my lines.”

“I’m going to step on more than that if you don’t haul your wide backside off this casket right this minute and come with me. That minister just went to call security.

Agnes’s eyes popped wide and she jerked her glance toward the enrobed pastor, who’d given up acting like he was walking and had broken into a full out run, bible pumping like a marathon runner’s heart. She closed her eyes one last time and said, “Amen.” Then pushed off the casket and started toward the car, almost stepping on Flo’s heels.

In the distance, the minister had reached the building and was talking to a uniformed man who looked to be twice his size. His be-robed arms were cutting wide swaths of the air around him and every once in a while his head would drop back and a soft wailing sound wafted toward them.

“Good Lord, Agnes,” Flo complained as she hurried around to grab the driver’s side door. “You’re going to end up in jail for sure.”

“Missus?”

The voice was scratchy, so soft it barely pushed its way through the air to reach them, and Flo’s head snapped up as Agnes turned around. The little man was standing behind Agnes, a wide smile on his wrinkly face. He still clutched the Daisy but it was starting to look a bit wilted.

Very slowly, he lifted the hand with the flower and extended it toward Agnes. His eyes filled with tears even as his smile widened. “I want you to have this.”

Agnes took the flower but her expression was filled with confusion. “But why?”

The old man trembled so violently Flo started around the car to grab him in case he should fall. But she quickly realized he wasn’t having a seizure when he barked out a laugh, shaking his head. “I loved what you did back there. More importantly, my Daisy would have loved it too. She never was one for fine words and sentiment. But she’d have loved your bit on the coffin back there.” He dissolved into more laughter, holding his belly as he chortled.

Flo turned at the sound of a shout and saw the minister hurrying back, the security guard just ahead of him. “Agnes, we have to go.”

Her friend looked down at the daisy and then, with a big smile, walked over and gave the man a hug. “This flower is hers. But I won’t forget the sentiment.”

The man nodded. “Trust me, Missus. I won’t forget you either.”

“How could he?” Flo murmured as she yanked the car door open. “Agnes!”

“Go on now,” the old man told Agnes. “I’ll smooth things here.”

Agnes waved goodbye to the assembled mourners and received a cheer as a send off. She climbed into Flo’s sedan and, as Flo started the engine, Maria Cooper hobbled over, waving for Agnes to wait. “I want to get your name and number. I have two mourner deficient clients tomorrow. Can you come?”

Agnes opened her mouth to respond but Flo cut her off. “Agnes Willard, don’t you dare.”

“Why not?” Agnes asked, turning to Flo with a frown. “They loved me.”

Flo shook her head and put the car in gear. The back door of the car opened and Scarlett scooted inside, slamming the door. “Hit it, Flo. PoPo’s breathin’ down our necks.”

Flo didn’t waste any time. Because PoPo was indeed within neck breathing range. In fact, the guard slammed a palm on the roof of Flo’s car as she started to pull away, causing the inhabitants of the front seat to give off a startled yelp, before Flo hit the gas and put the enraged minister and guard in her rear view mirror.

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Posted in Cozy Mystery, Just for Fun, Mystery, New Release | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Read the First Three Chapters of Murderous Craft…

Honeybun Fans LOVE Murderous Craft!

A well written suspense filled with the lovable, but capable Honeybun family and their cohorts. The believable characters, along with the mostly realistic dialogue and the intriguing, twisting plot keep the reader involved throughout the story.”  

“There is nothing like a Sam Cheever, Honeybun, whodunit. Ms. Cheever’s style shines through in this book. The book is very well written. It’s funny, flirty, sexy and suspenseful and it has characters you can’t help but love and connect with.”

 

Chapter One

If looks could kill, the woman across the bar would have already butchered Blaise and hacked her into a million tiny pieces. Something about her seemed familiar, but Blaise couldn’t put a name to the face to save her life.

She narrowed her gaze at the woman and picked up another freshly washed wine glass, running a towel over the clear glass to dry it.

“Who you glarin’ at brown sugar?”

Blaise held the hostile gaze across the room. “That chick’s been glowering at me. I’m just trying to figure out who she is.”

Tyrese Miller leaned an arm on Blaise’s shoulder and followed her line of sight to the spot near the door. “I don’t see anybody glarin’ at you, Blaise.”

Blaise slid the wine glass into the rack above her head. “That’s because she just left.”

Her boss lifted a dense, black eyebrow. “Mm-hm.”

She turned a grin on him. “I’m not lyin’.”

He chuckled darkly. “It was probably just some woman whose husband lusts after you, brown sugar. I wouldn’t pay her no mind.”

Blaise shrugged. “She seemed familiar but I can’t come up with a name.”

“Bronislava?”

Blaise frowned. “Huh?”

“That’s a name. Here’s another one. Shampooya.” His trademark grin widened, showing a full mouth of straight white teeth except for a single gold one on the bottom. “Am I ringing a bell?”

She snorted. “I think your bell’s already been rung. Those aren’t names, Ty. Those are letters you shoved together to create nonsense.”

He held up a hand. “God’s truth. I saw ’em in a baby names book. They’re real names.”

“What in the world were you doing looking through a baby names book?” She lifted her brows. “Is there somethin’ you need to tell me?”

Grabbing a frosty glass mug, Ty pulled a draft beer and settled it on the counter for the waitress swaying in his direction. “My brother’s expecting. Well…his wife is…and they’re having trouble picking a name.”

“Hopefully they’re not desperate enough to ask for your help.”

“They have and I’m coming through for them. They now have a long, long list of intriguing names to select from. Personally, I’m leaning toward Exaltacion.”

“Good Lord.”

“Hey, it’s biblical.”

“So was The Plague of Locusts. Equally catastrophic.”

The waitress reached the bar and grinned when she saw the beer sitting there. “Thanks, Ty.” She was petite, curvy and sported a thick nest of dark brown hair which she was currently wearing loose and wavy around her shoulders. The waitress winked at the bar’s owner. “How’d you know I was coming for that?”

He ran a cloth over a wet spot on the bar. “I’ve told ya a million times, Suz, I know all and see all.”

Suzie Whotsnoggin turned a bright blue gaze on Blaise, widening it comically. “The man’s delusional.”

Laughing, Ty moved down the bar to help a customer.

Blaise grinned at her best friend. “How you doin’ Suz?”

The waitress shrugged. “Okay. Tips are good tonight. But I’m dead tired. We didn’t get out of here until three this morning. I swear, something’s changed. We’ve never been this busy.”

“I know, right? It must be this new line of local beers. I think people like the idea of supporting the small breweries.”

“Hey, gorgeous, where’s my beer?” a masculine voice called across the bar.

Suz rolled her eyes. “Doodie calls.” She picked up the frosted mug of beer. “You want to go shopping tomorrow? It’s my first day off in over a week and I want to do something fun.”

“I’ll see what Dolfe’s doing. If he’s working I’d love to go. Mama needs a new pair of shoes.”

“Doesn’t Mama always?” Suz asked before swinging away. She swayed across the bar with the beer, large gold hoops in her ears dancing with her movement. Blaise watched, amused, as she deftly sidestepped her rude customer’s groping hands.

Shaking her head, Blaise fought the coil of discomfort in her gut. She’d loved the atmosphere, lights, music and fun of working at Tyrese’s Bar. But after six months some of the bloom was starting to wear off. To her ever-growing surprise, Blaise was starting to think she’d like to do something else. Something that would leave her nights free to spend with her honey, Dolfe. At least when he wasn’t scoping out some cheating spouse or elusive thug.

Dolfe Honeybun was a private investigator who worked closely with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department on the occasional case. He was darn good at his job and Blaise loved that he was that kind of guy. A big, strong man who carried a gun and an attitude and didn’t take any crap from anybody. But between his hours and hers, they didn’t get to spend nearly enough time together.

And since they’d only been affianced a few months. That was a serious problem.

“You’re Blaise Runa aren’t you?”

Blaise’s head snapped up and her pulse spiked. She hadn’t even heard the woman approach. “Oh my gosh! You startled me.”

The woman didn’t seem to care. She slid a hostile gaze over Blaise and frowned. “You don’t remember me do you?”

“I’m really trying to.” It probably wasn’t a good sign that the most memorable thing about the woman was her frown. “Did I…annoy…you in some way?”

“You could say that. If sleeping with my boyfriend can be classified as an annoyance.”

Kerplunk! The memory fell into place. Blaise leaned closer, narrowing her eyes at her accuser. The years since High School hadn’t been kind…but Blaise could almost see the pretty face she once knew beneath the bags and wrinkles. “Dierdre?”

The woman put her hands on her well-padded hips and glowered up at Blaise. “You admit you slept with him?”

Blaise couldn’t believe it was the same woman she’d been so terrified of. Voted most likely to irritate a rich husband. Head cheerleader. Came from a wealthy family who gave her everything she wanted. She seemed much smaller than she had back then.

Well…shorter anyway.

“I never slept with Roger White.”

“Of course you did!”

Blaise shook her head, cocking a hip against the bar and crossing her arms over her middle. “Nope. We were just friends.”

Dierdre Masterson slapped her hands on the bar top and leaned closer, wafting rancid breath that smelled like garlic into Blaise’s face. “You must have slept with Roger!”

Conversations all around them stopped. All eyes turned to Dierdre and, by proximity, Blaise. Fortunately Blaise didn’t embarrass easily. She chuckled. “I’m sorry to disappoint, Dierdre. I didn’t.”

“Then why did he break up with me!” she wailed.

The curious gazes slid quickly away, clearly unwilling to witness the train wreck at the bar. Blaise figured they’d hoped for salacious details but weren’t comfortable watching Dierdre debase herself.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Blaise said softly. “You’ll have to ask him.”

“I was going to ask him,” the other woman said despondently. “But he stood me up.”

Blaise stared at the lumpy woman sitting across the bar. She frowned, and then felt anger finally rise. “You asked him here to confront me?”

Dierdre Masterson shrugged. “I figured I’d be able to tell from the expression in his face when he looked at you.”

“Good God, D, that was eleven years ago. You need to get over it.”

The other woman’s eyes filled with tears and Blaise instantly regretted yelling at her. “Would you like a drink? We have some really great local beers…”

Dierdre grimaced. “Not beer. I have enough of that at work.”

Blaise’s eyebrows shot upward. “You don’t say?”

Seeing her expression, Dierdre laughed. She swiped tears off her round cheeks, sniffling. “I work at Byerson’s Beers.”

Understanding flared. “Ah. Those beers are some of our best sellers. Great stuff.”

Dierdre didn’t look like she cared. “Whatever.” She sat in silence for a long moment and then glanced at Blaise. “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I keep a man?”

Blaise panicked. The last thing she wanted to do was give counseling to a woman she didn’t even really like. “Um…”

“Can I get you something to eat or drink?” Ty asked Dierdre. He winked at Blaise as he approached, nudging her to the side and putting himself between the pathetic woman on the other side of the bar and Blaise.

She could have kissed him.

“I don’t want anything,” Dierdre told him. Then she blinked and grabbed her purse. “Actually, you can do one thing for me. Have you seen this man today?”

She slid a photo across the bar to Ty. Blaise looked over his shoulder and was shocked to see a picture of Roger White in his quarterback’s uniform.

“He’s older now, of course. That was in High School.”

Ty’s lips twitched and Blaise surreptitiously pinched him below the bar. “Ow! Erm, no I don’t think…” He picked the photo up, studying it more carefully. “Actually, I think I might have.”

Blaise barely resisted blowing a disbelieving raspberry. He was clearly just humoring the woman.

Dierdre’s scowl turned upside down and she looked almost pretty as she smiled. “Really? He was here?”

“Still should be,” Ty said, jerking his head toward the restrooms. “I saw him head to the Men’s a while ago.”

“How long?” Blaise asked. “I’ve been here an hour and I haven’t seen him.”

Ty glanced at his watch and frowned. “You’re right. It’s been a while. I hope he’s okay in there.”

“Did he seem ill?”

Ty thought about it. “He seemed fine when I saw him. He was even chatting up a pretty young woman a while ago.”

Grimacing, Dierdre climbed down from her stool. “I’d better go check on him.”

“You can’t…um…ma’am…” When Dierdre ignored him, Ty widened his eyes at Blaise.

“I’ll stop her.” She rounded the bar just as the door across the room opened and a short, balding man with a veiny nose staggered out, looking like he’d seen a ghost. He lifted round, brown eyes to Ty and flapped a hand. “There’s…oh God…I think that guy in there is dead.”

 

Chapter 2

Blaise stood near the door and tried to peer under the stall partition. “Who is it?” she asked the tall, sharp-eyed detective examining the scene. Brita Muldane pulled a wallet out of the man’s pocket using a latex glove to keep from adding her own prints. Snapping it open, she perused the man’s license. “Name’s Roger M. White.” She glanced up. “Is that the guy?”

A teeth-rattling shriek went up behind Blaise and she jumped.

Brita lifted slender, light brown brows. “I’ll take that as a yes.” She shoved the wallet into an evidence bag and tugged something from his shirt pocket.

“What’s that?” Blaise asked.

“Electronic cigarette. Mr. White was apparently trying to quit.”

Blaise’s attention was locked on the dark-haired corpse sprawled at the base of the toilet. His sightless gaze was focused on the door, and one hand reached in her direction, fingers slightly curved, as if he’d died asking someone for help. She remembered he used to smoke cigarettes, and other stuff, in high school. “Can you tell what killed him?”

Brita crouched down and pulled his leather jacket away from his midsection. “No obvious wounds.” She pointed to a crusty substance on his face. “Looks like he threw up. That broken blood vessel in his eye tells me it was violent.” She straightened, flinging the glove into the trash as a commotion started behind Blaise. “That’s probably CSU.”

Blaise turned to find two men rolling a gurney through the bar. “EMTs.” A tall man with longish, curly blond hair, a square chin and piercing green eyes came through the front door and held it open for a guy wearing the familiar polo and khakis of the CSU guys. “And the crime scene techs.”

Brita nodded, moving toward the door. “Dolfe called me on the way over. He said he’d be here as soon as he could get away. He had a client in his office.”

“I’m here now,” the tall, handsome guy told Brita in his deep, sexy voice.

Blaise smiled up at him. “Hey handsome, want a date?”

Dolfe waggled blond brows. “Absolutely. But first I have to help my girl. She’s gotten herself embroiled in another suspicious death.”

Blaise pouted playfully. “I’m sure it’s not your girl’s fault. She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

He shook his head, glancing at Brita. “What do you think, Brita? Is it murder?”

The attractive detective pushed past Blaise, forcing her to step out of the doorway. “Too early to tell.” She nodded toward the EMTs. “You can go ahead and take the body. I’ve got what I need from him.”

Brita waited until they’d rolled the gurney into the bathroom before indicating with a jerk of her head for Dolfe and Blaise to follow her across the bar.

Ty looked up as they passed, his gaze widening in silent question. Blaise lifted a hand to let him know she’d talk to him in a minute. He reluctantly returned his attention to Dierdre, who was babbling tearfully about the great love she and Roger had shared.

Funny, that wasn’t how Blaise remembered it.

Brita stopped in a quiet spot at the back, behind the pool tables. She glanced toward the front, where all ten of the patrons who’d been in the bar when the body was discovered waited with worried expressions. Two uniforms stood near the door to keep them all there.

“Until I get the ME’s report I’m going with poisoning on this one.”

Blaise threw Ty a worried glance. “I don’t like hearing that.”

Brita shook her head. “I’ll know more once he’s been autopsied. But the signs are clear. The only question is when he was dosed and what he was dosed with.”

“And who dosed him,” Dolfe added helpfully.

Brita narrowed her pretty golden-brown gaze at him. “Yeah, that too.”

Dolfe frowned thoughtfully. “Any idea when he got here?” he asked Blaise.

“Not a clue. I didn’t see him.”

“You came in around five this afternoon?” he asked.

“Right. I walked through the door at four forty-five. About thirty minutes later I saw Dierdre…”

Brita held up a hand. “Dierdre? Who’s that?”

Blaise pointed to the woman sitting at the table with Ty. She had her head on the table and was full on sobbing. Ty looked like he wanted to gouge his own eyes out. “She was supposed to meet Roger here.”

“You know her?” Brita asked.

“Yeah. From high school. I knew both of them.” It suddenly hit her that Roger…her friend…was dead. Tears burned her eyes and she hurriedly scrubbed them away. Dolfe dropped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. “Roger and I were friends,” she told him. “He dated Dierdre for a while.”

“Could this be a lover’s spat?”

Blaise shook her head. “I doubt it. I don’t think they’ve seen each other for years.” She threw Dierdre a worried look and Dolfe noticed. “What’s wrong?”

Blaise briefly considered lying but quickly discarded the notion. She knew she hadn’t done anything wrong but not telling the full truth would make her look guilty anyway. “Somebody’s probably going to tell you that she and I argued.”

Dolfe’s jaw tightened. “Why would they tell me that?”

She bit her lip. “Because we kind of did.”

“Blaise…”

She frowned up at him. “I was just minding my own business and she got all up in my grill.”

“What did you argue about?” Brita asked, typing into her pda.

Blaise hated when Brita typed notes during their conversations. It felt way too much like an interrogation. “You don’t need to type that. It was just a slight misunderstanding.”

“About what?” Brita asked, giving Blaise cop eyes.

Blaise sighed. “About Roger. We fought about the dead guy.”

* * *

Dolfe sat back and watched the interaction in the room. At Brita’s request, he’d separated everyone as best he could in the limited space, but communication still ran rampant through the place. Telling looks passed between the patrons…a widening of a gaze here, a rolling of the eyes there. One guy had a smug grin on his face as if he had a secret nobody else did.

Dolfe intended to have a little chat with that man at the earliest opportunity. After all, his mama had taught him it wasn’t nice to keep secrets.

The only person in the room who didn’t seem connected was the lean young man standing near the wall at the end of the bar. He wore a faded blue-gray uniform and a ball cap with the words OnPoint Distributors on the front. The man leaned on his hand truck and stared at the floor, his posture filled with tension.

Dolfe threw another look toward Blaise and Brita. The two of them had their heads together at a table in the far corner, out of earshot of the rest of the bar, and Brita was busily typing up notes, nodding occasionally at something Blaise said.

He slid a worried gaze over his honey, noting the taut posture and shiny gaze that told him more than anything how upset she was by the murder. He hated to see her upset and hated even more that Brita had put him to work so he couldn’t be there for her.

Not that Blaise generally needed him to lean on. At five feet ten inches tall, with the softest brown skin, playful brown eyes made exotic with a sexy tilt, and a lush mouth that mostly sent trouble into the air when it was open, she was like an Amazonian goddess with mad social skills and an abundance of brains which she tended to use only sparingly.

She was an ex party girl who was working hard at being serious because they were about to get married and she wanted to be a good wife and partner.

Dolfe was aware of how hard it was to change her pretty stripes and tried to soften it by meeting her halfway whenever he could. But he worried that she’d resent him for the change and was concerned over how it might affect them every day.

“Excuse me, sir?”

Dolfe snapped out of his thoughts and turned to the delivery guy. “Hey. What’s up?”

Close up, the man was even younger than Dolfe had thought. He had wideset, clear blue eyes and a largish nose that currently sported a bright red zit on the very tip. A messy fringe of dirty blond hair stuck out from under the ball cap. He glanced toward Brita and frowned. “How much longer do you think this is gonna take? I’m gonna get in trouble with my boss if I don’t make my other deliveries tonight.”

“I’m sure your boss will understand. This is a murder investigation.”

The man shook his head. “He don’t understand nothin’ except that if I’m s’posed to get to a place at nine I get there at nine, or earlier if possible.”

Dolfe shook his head. “It’s like that, is it?”

The guy looked miserable.

“I’ll tell ya what. You give me your boss’s number and I’ll have a little talk with him.”

The delivery guy’s eyes went wide. “Oh no. He’ll kill me for sickin’ you on him.”

“You don’t really have a choice. Like I said, this is a murder investigation. If you don’t do as you’re asked you’ll end up downtown in an interrogation room. That would really wreak havoc on your schedule wouldn’t it.”

The kid’s shoulders slumped. He dug in his pocket and came up with a battered business card with a couple of splotches on it that looked suspiciously like catsup and mustard. Dolfe nodded. “Thanks. I’ll give him a call later. Until then, how about you fill me in on what you know about tonight?”

The kid paled until only the enormous pimple still had color in it. If anything it looked even more red, like all the blood from the kid’s cheeks had fled there. “I don’t know nothin’. I just delivered my beer and was on the way out when the cops showed up.” He frowned. “If I’d only moved a little faster I could of got out before they stopped me.”

Dolfe barely kept from grinning over the sentiment. He didn’t want to encourage the kid. “You didn’t see the guy before he went into the bathroom?”

The kid shrugged. “I might have. It’s not like I know any of these people.”

Dolfe settled back in his chair, stretching his long legs and crossing them at the ankles. His message was clear. He had all the time in the world.

The kid’s frown deepened. “Look, I was only here a few minutes. I dropped the cases of beer on the end of the bar like always…”

“How often do you deliver here…?” Dolfe shook his head. “Sorry. I didn’t catch your name.”

The kid clearly didn’t want to give Dolfe his name but he finally wrenched it out from between gritted teeth. “Nathan Lord.”

“Nathan. Do you drop your product here often?”

He shrugged. “A couple times a week. Lately more like three times.”

Dolfe whistled. “That’s a lot of beer deliveries.” He looked around. “This isn’t a very big bar.”

Some of the kid’s hostility fled and a proud smile softened it. “We distribute some of the biggest sellers in the city.”

“Really?” Dolfe’s eyes went wide. “Tell me about the beer. I’m always looking for a new favorite.”

“Well, Byerson Beers has a really nice craft beers that are pretty popular downtown. But we don’t sell a lot of the darker beers here at Tyrese’s.”

“What do you sell here?”

“For microbrews I deliver mostly Artisan Beers. They have a couple in particular that are popular with the Millennials. If you like dark and hoppy they have a craft beer called Hoppa Long that’s real popular. In fact it’s one of our best sellers. Then there’s Habitude. It’s lighter, with a fruity finish but it’s definitely habit forming like the name says.”

“You sound like you speak from experience.”

Nathan grinned. “I’ve been known to down a few mugs of the stuff.”

Dolfe nodded, fighting a grin. “I hate to admit it but I like a fruity finish.”

“Hey man, nothin’ to be ashamed about. I seen two grown men fighting over the last bottle once. The stuff’s seriously addictive.”

“I’ll check it out.”

The kid nodded, some of the wariness leaving him.

“Since you’re here so often, maybe you’ve seen our dead guy around?” Dolfe held up his phone with the picture he’d snapped of Mr. White on the bathroom floor. “Recognize him?”

The kid grimaced and pulled away before leaning closer. “He’s dead?”

“He certainly is.”

“I ain’t never seen a dead guy before.”

“Does he look familiar?”

“Well, I’m sure he looked different when he was alive and stuff.”

“And stuff, yeah.”

“But no. I’d have remembered him. He’s a big guy.”

Dolfe wasn’t sure what the guy’s size had to do with anything. “That’s too bad. We’re trying to establish what happened to him while he was here.”

“How’d he die?” Nathan asked.

“We’re not sure.”

Nathan nodded. “Well, good luck with that, man.”

Dolfe handed the kid one of his business cards. “If you think of anything that might help.”

Nathan took the card, jamming it into the pocket of his jeans. “Yeah, I’ll call. But don’t hold your breath. I don’t even know that dead dude.”

Dolfe watched the kid slink away and return to his hand truck, looking eminently uncomfortable in his own skin. He knew the type. They put their heads down and went through life hoping not to bump up against anybody else for fear the other person’s troubles would rub off on them. It was entirely possible that Nathan Lord had walked right past the dead guy and hadn’t even seen him.

But given the timing of the thing, Dolfe doubted it.

“You helpin’ that pretty cop?”

Dolfe looked over into the grizzled face of the patron seated a couple of tables away. The man had been cautioned a couple of times for yelling across the bar to his buddies. His gaze was assessing as it slid over Dolfe. “Detective Muldane doesn’t need my help. She’s perfectly capable of figuring this out herself.”

The man’s smile was mean. “You hittin’ that? Or are you partial to the tall brown one. She looks like she knows what to do with a man.”

Dolfe’s good humor slid away and he fought an urge to bunch his hands into fists. He stood up and moved toward the man, stopping just inside the other guy’s personal space and glaring down at him. It was gratifying to see some of the guy’s bravado bleed away when he realized how big Dolfe was up close and personal. “I don’t think you want to disrespect those women,” he growled softly. Dolfe leaned closer, putting one hand flat on the table top and one on the back of Grizzly Asshat’s chair. “Do you understand me?”

The man blinked and then lifted his hands. They were stained yellow on the ends as if he were a heavy smoker. He also wore the stench of old tobacco in his clothes and breath as he tried to laugh off his disgusting comments. “Hey man, chillax. I didn’t mean nothin’ by that.”

“Actually,” Dolfe told him, “words do mean things.” He straightened up and gave the man a cold smile. “But since I’m here, why don’t you and I have a little chat?”

“About what?” Strangely, the man did not look happy at the prospect.

Dolfe lowered himself into the chair next to Grizzly and fixed the other man with an unwavering stare. “Let’s start with whether you knew the deceased.” He showed the other man the photo on his phone.

Unlike the kid, the older man barely blinked at the picture. He coughed wetly behind a meaty fist and shook his head. “Never seen him before.”

Dolfe nodded, settling the phone on the table in front of him. “You sure about that?”

The guy didn’t glance down again as he nodded.

“This bar isn’t that big. I’d think all you regulars would get to know one another pretty quickly.”

The other man shrugged. “That guy’s not a regular.”

Lifting his brows, Dolfe leaned in. “How do you know?”

“Because I am and I’d have seen him around if he was.” He pointed a beefy finger at the picture. “I’ve never set eyes on that guy before. Or his girlfriend.”

“Girlfriend?”

Grizzly pointed at Blaise. “I overheard that other woman accuse the pretty brown lady of stealing her man.”

“You may call her Miss Runa.”

The man lowered bushy black and gray brows. “Huh?”

“That’s her name. It’s how you show respect to others. You use their names.”

The man shrugged.

“When you say, other woman, who do you mean?” Dolfe asked.

Grizzly pointed to Dierdre Masterson. “The one screachin’ like a cat with its tail on fire. Apparently she was supposed to meet the dead guy here.”

Narrowing his gaze on the man, Dolfe sat back in his chair. “You sure know a lot about other people’s business…” He cocked his head. “I didn’t catch your name.”

“Alvin Sparks.” He swung a beefy arm as if to encompass the entirety of the bar. “I been comin’ to this bar for almost ten years. I know most everybody in it. Well…” His lips twisted as if he’d just tasted a lemon. “Most everybody. Since Tyrese started carryin’ fancy beer there’s been lots of folks comin’ around I don’t know.”

Dolfe allowed himself to smile. “I take it you’re not a fan of Hoppa Long dark ale?”

The man blew a messy raspberry. “Girly beer. I drink good old American brew.” He lifted a mug containing not much more than a dried foam ring and glowered into it. “I sure could use a refill. Maybe the pretty bro…” He blinked as Dolfe’s big hand fisted on the table. “Um…Miss Runa could get it for me.”

“Miss Runa’s busy right now.”

A small hand dropped onto Dolfe’s shoulder. He looked up into Suzie Whotsnoggin’s pretty blue eyes. “I can get that for ya, Alvin.” She glanced at Dolfe. “If that’s okay?”

Dolfe gave her a smile. “Thanks, Suz.”

She nodded, turning away and heading for the bar.

Dolfe caught Alvin eyeing the waitress’s pert behind and lifted an eyebrow.

“Hey, man. You’re like a giant party pooper. If God didn’t want men to ogle cute little behinds he would have made ’em flat and wide.”

“I can’t believe you’re trying to make God your wing man.”

Sparks shrugged.

“If I was you I’d learn to mind my own business, Alvin,” Dolfe said as he stood up. He started to walk away and stopped, turning back as if he’d just thought of something. He pitched his voice low so the other patrons couldn’t hear. “You don’t know of anyone who might have wanted to kill Mr. White do you?”

Alvin blinked like a squirrel in headlights. “I already told ya I’ve never seen the man before. How would I know if somebody had it out for him?”

“I just thought maybe someone else was upset about all the new people coming around.”

Sparks’s dark brown eyes went wide as he realized what Dolfe was implying. He lifted his hands again. “Hey, man. I got nothing against all these new folks. They can drink girly beer wherever they want. I was just makin’ conversation. That’s all.”

Dolfe let his gaze stall on the man’s fleshy face for a moment longer and then turned away, lifting a hand over his head by way of goodbye. “Thanks for all your help, Alvin. It was very illuminating.”

Several of the other men in the bar fixed Alvin with hostile glares and Dolfe wanted to laugh. Clearly being helpful wasn’t an esteemed pursuit in Tyrese’s Bar.

 

Chapter 3

Blaise wandered over to the bar and sat down on a stool next to Dierdre. The other woman didn’t even look up from the spot where her finger swirled through a ring of condensation. “How you holdin’ up?” Blaise asked her.

Dierdre shrugged. “Okay. It’s not like I was still in love with the man.”

“No, but it’s a shock.”

Dierdre’s finger continued circling the wet ring. A barely touched glass of dark soda sat nearby.

“You want something to drink, girlfriend?”

Blaise gave Suz a smile. “A glass of water. If you don’t mind?”

Suz quickly filled a tall glass and handed it to Blaise, reaching to squeeze her hand in silent support before she glanced toward Dierdre. “How about you, honey? You want something else?”

Dierdre finally looked up and Blaise noted the red rimmed eyes that sparkled with unshed tears. She sniffled, shaking her head. “Just to go home. I don’t suppose you can help me with that?”

Blaise and Suz shared a glance. “Sorry, honey.” Suz patted her hand. “I’m sure it won’t be much longer. I think they’ve talked to almost everybody. You spoke to the detective already, right?”

Dierdre nodded, glancing back down to the water ring as her finger reclaimed it.

“I served him,” Suz said suddenly, her blue gaze tense. She shook her head. “I can’t believe this happened here.”

Blaise reached across the bar and hugged her friend. “It’s sad,” she said, glancing toward Dierdre. The woman didn’t seem to even notice their conversation. She was lost in her own thoughts. “What was he drinking?”

“Just beer,” Suz responded with a shrug.

“Did he seem okay?”

Suz grabbed a rag and started wiping down the already clean bar. She hated to sit still in the best of times and when she was stressed she could become almost hyper. “He was fidgety. His gaze kept sliding to the door as if he was expecting somebody.”

“Me,” Dierdre said, finally looking up at Suz. “I asked him to meet me here.”

Suz nodded. “I’m so sorry.”

“I wish I knew why he died. If it was something I caused…”

“Oh no,” Suz gave Blaise a wide-eyed look. “It’s not your fault, honey.”

Blaise wasn’t entirely sure about that. Nobody would be certain until Brita figured out what happened. But she couldn’t stand to see an old friend in such pain. “I’m sure this had nothing to do with you, D. He was probably sick. Maybe he had a heart attack or something.” Blaise knew as she said the words they weren’t true. She’d seen the dried foam around Roger’s mouth and the broken capillaries in the whites of his eyes. He’d been very sick before he died. Poisoning kind of sick. But ill-conceived as it was, her assurance seemed to make Dierdre feel better.

“He was a good man.” She laughed softly. “To tell you the truth I was a little surprised when he agreed to meet me. We hadn’t spoken in years.”

“What did you tell him?” Blaise asked. When Dierdre looked a question Blaise clarified. “About why you wanted to meet?”

“Oh, well, I lied to you earlier. He actually asked me to meet him here. When I saw you I thought…” She sighed. “Let’s just say my self-esteem has taken a hit over the years.”

“You thought he was going to try to hurt you again? With me?” Blaise shook her head. “That’s pretty twisted, D.”

Dierdre shrugged. “Our distributor sells Tyrese’s a lot of beer. I try to support our customers whenever I can so I suggested we meet here. I had no idea you even worked here.”

“I can’t believe you work for one of the local breweries.” Blaise was genuinely surprised. She would never have pictured Dierdre as a beer aficionado.

“It’s true. In fact, I was just promoted to New Accounts. It’s an executive position.” Dierdre smiled, clearly proud of the promotion.

“That’s awesome,” Blaise told her, and to her vast surprise she discovered she meant it. “I’m surprised we haven’t run into each other here before.”

“Me too. Did you just start?”

“Blaise has been working here a few months,” Suz said, grinning at her friend. “I got her the job.”

Shaking her head, Dierdre murmured. “Small world.”

“What did Roger want to talk to you about?” Blaise realized she was being a bit of a pit bull on the subject, but she found it pretty interesting her two old friends would just show up where she worked, one of them dropping dead.

“To tell you the truth I have no idea. He was kind of secretive and I didn’t ask a lot of questions. The timing was good for me. My divorce was recently finalized and I have no idea how to meet people. I’ve been a boring old housewife for six years and I’m really out of the loop on the whole dating thing.”

“Roger is…was…a good looking man.” Suz said gently. “I’m a bit surprised he was still single.”

Dierdre’s head shot up and she narrowed her gaze on Suz. “He told you that?”

Suz looked taken aback at Dierdre’s tone. “No. I’ve been in this business a long time. I’m pretty good at reading people.”

“What did you read from Roger,” Blaise asked, curious. Her friend hadn’t been lying. She was an excellent judge of people. In fact she was almost psychic.

“I’d say he’d been worried about something. Like I said before, he was jumpy. But it was more than that. He had circles under his eyes and his color wasn’t good. His clothes hung on him like he’d recently lost a lot of weight. And he had no tan line on his ring finger so if he was married he didn’t wear the ring.”

“Sounds like whatever he was worried about might have caught up with him,” Blaise said aloud before she realized her mistake. She wanted to kick herself when Dierdre’s shocked gaze slid to hers.

“You think he was murdered?” She fairly shouted the question, causing all eyes in the bar to swing her way.

Blaise threw an apologetic glance in Brita’s direction.

The cop was questioning the beer delivery kid across the bar.

“I just meant that maybe it caused him to have a heart attack or something.”

“He was a little young for a heart attack, don’t you think?” Dierdre asked coolly.

Blaise didn’t respond. She figured she’d said quite enough for the moment.

Fortunately, Suz had no such compunction. “I’m sure Roger was looking forward to seeing you again.”

Dierdre didn’t look all that sure. “Actually, when he first called he seemed eager to get off the phone. But then we got talking about our lives. Family and friends we hadn’t seen in a while, jobs and stuff, and he seemed to get more comfortable.”

“What kind of job did Roger have?” Blaise asked.

“He works…worked…for an independent testing lab.”

Blaise grinned. “Really? I always thought he’d be a big Wall Street tycoon or something.”

“I know, right?” Dierdre shared the smile.

“Ladies and gentlemen!”

They turned at the sound of Brita’s voice. “You can all leave now. I have your contact information and I’ll have to ask that you don’t travel out of Indianapolis for the time being. In case I have more questions for you.”

Dierdre sighed. Grabbing her purse off the back of her stool she turned to Blaise. “It was nice seeing you again, B. I’m sorry it was under such horrible circumstances.”

Blaise gave in to an impulse and pulled the other woman into a hug. “I hope we’ll see you again. Drinks are on me next time.”

Dierdre’s eyes momentarily lost their haunted look. “I’d like that a lot.” She waved toward Suz and started out of the bar.

Watching her shuffle sadly toward the door, Blaise couldn’t help wondering what had really inspired her old friend to meet with Roger White again after so long. Because she didn’t believe for a second it was a clumsy ploy for romance.

“B?” Suz grinned up at Blaise. “Like Aunt Bee?”

“It’s just a thing from High School.” She shrugged. “But I can see why you’d mistake me for Aunt Bee. We’re a lot alike.”

Suz blew a queen sized raspberry. “As if.”

“You ready to go home, Beautiful?”

Blaise swung around to find Dolfe striding in her direction. Brita was with him. “Home? Is the bar closing?”

“It’s a crime scene now,” Brita said.

Blaise and Suz shared a look. Then Suz glanced across the bar to the spot where Tyrese sat, looking worried. “Ty’s gonna have kittens.”

Brita shrugged. “It can’t be helped. There’s a really good chance that Roger White was poisoned in this bar. My people need to go over everything and see if we can find what he was poisoned with and how.”

“Oh my god!” Suz went pale. “What if somebody else gets sick?”

Blaise realized her friend had misunderstood Brita’s statement but she didn’t clarify it for her. Thinking somebody had gotten a bad case of food poisoning was bad enough, if Suz realized Brita was saying he was murdered she’d be the one having kittens, or full grown cats. “I’m sure it’ll be fine. Tyrese works too hard anyway. He can use a night off.”

Suz frowned but nodded. “I’ll just finish cleaning up.”

Brita reached out and touched Suz on the arm. “Just leave it, please. We need to see everything as it is now.”

Suz’s frown deepened but she nodded. “I’ll see you later, B.” She grinned and gave Blaise a hug. “Talk to you in the morning?”

“Absolutely. Enjoy your night off.” Blaise watched Suz go over to Tyrese and drop an arm around his shoulders. She leaned down and spoke into his ear, earning a half smile from the despondent owner. Not for the first time, Blaise wondered what relationship the two of them shared. They seemed very close. Closer than just friends, which was what they both kept insisting they were to each other.

Dolfe wrapped a strong arm around her waist. “Let’s go home, future wife. I have some ideas for how to fill up your night.”

Brita covered her ears. “Stop right there. I don’t want to hear details.”

Blaise laughed. “Now why do you think we’re going to give you details?”

“Because ever since I made the mistake of letting you two know it bothers me, you never miss a chance.”

Dolfe winked at Blaise. Leaning closer, he spoke softly enough for only Brita to hear. “The first thing I intend to do is run a hot bubble bath…”

Brita elbowed him in the hard expanse of his gut and he danced away, laughing.

“Then I’ll probably light some candles…” Blaise added.

“La, la, la, la, la…”

“And I’ll pour us both a glass of wine,” Dolfe said, snagging Brita around the shoulders and pulling her close so he could speak in her ear.

She tried to wrench away but he just laughed. “And then I’m going to break out the nail polish…”

Brita’s eyes went wide. “You wouldn’t!”

“Oh, he would,” Blaise giggled. “Fire engine red.”

“Ah…lalalalalalalalalala!” Brita sang in desperation.

Dolfe kissed Brita on the forehead. “Okay, you big weenie. You win. Tell Percy I said hey.”

Blaise grinned at her friend. “I can’t believe you’re a big, strong cop and you’re afraid of a few painted toes.”

Brita grimaced. “Not just the toes. The entire human foot appalls me.”

Blaise patted her on the shoulder. “There’s probably therapy for that.”

“Yeah,” Brita groused. “The therapy is to get new friends who don’t discuss their feet every five minutes.”

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