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Murderous Craft final

Dead End Job: When the only thing on tap is death.

A corpse in the bathroom of a popular bar. An old acquaintance still nursing a mad-on from fifteen years earlier. And a cast of characters possessing secrets they’ll do almost anything to keep. It’s enough to make reformed (sort of) party girl Blaise Runa want to quit her dead end job. But in the meantime she fully intends to grab her sexy private eye fiancé and dig into the mess. Because she might be trying to adult, but that doesn’t mean she’s gotten any less nosy!

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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 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.”

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About Sam Cheever

USA Today Bestselling Author Sam Cheever writes romantic paranormal/fantasy and mystery/suspense, creating stories that celebrate the joy of love in all its forms. Known for writing great characters, snappy dialogue, and unique and exhilarating stories, Sam is the award-winning author of 50+ books and has been writing for over a decade under several noms de plume.
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