SIGNED BOOK HOP!
Welcome to my blog and the Signed Book Hop. Come on in, sit right down and poke around.
I love print books, the look of them, the feel and even the smell. But I've grown fond of the convenience of my eReader. I have over a hundred books loaded, including all of my own. I carry the reader in my laptop bag, and whip it out at will. It holds my place for me without a bookmark, it has a builtin night light and I can make the print extra large. I gotta admit, I still enjoy a print book from time to time.
How do you like your books? Print or ebook? Leave me a comment with your email address and I'll enter you in a drawing for a signed, print copy of Lily in Wonderland (US mailing only).
Lily Tucker is down on her luck and considering a career strutting her stuff around a pole when she gets a call about an unexpected inheritance. It’s every girl’s dream—her estranged grandmother’s kicked the bucket, leaving Lily a house on a private island in Wonderland.
When she reaches Wonderland, though, she finds a house that’s more like a hovel, a job waiting tables at the local diner, and a crime wave that seems to begin and end with Lily herself. Sexy deputy Toby can’t decide if he should arrest her or drag her off to bed—until it becomes clear that Lily’s not the criminal. She’s the target.
Excerpt: Chapter One
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Excerpt: Chapter One
Lily launched a bag of barbecue potato chips across the room, hitting Jake squarely in the back of the head.
He rubbed his skull. “What was that for?”
“Jake Pratt, you are a dirty, lying, thieving, no-good, ugly, low-life, belly-crawling thug,” Lily said without pausing for a breath. “And didn’t you ask for a bag of chips?”
“A half-hour ago.” Jake ripped open the bag. “But I ain’t dirty!”
He also wasn’t ugly.
There was a rap at the door, interrupting the yelling, but neither occupant acknowledged the intrusion. Jake raised the TV remote and the volume followed suit. A second, louder knock rang out, this time impossible to ignore.
“Phone call for Lily,” a man said warily from the other side of the paper-thin door.
Lily sighed loudly before strolling across the worn linoleum floor. The heels of her boots clicked with each step, matching the sway of her hips. She kicked an empty beer can across the room. The aluminum can ricocheted off several surfaces, the sound echoing throughout the space before the container rested in the small, dated kitchenette. She flung the apartment door open, letting it crash into the wall, and then slammed it shut behind her.
Lily sniffed. She distinctly smelled urine. Did it come from the rat-faced man before her, or was there some other culprit?
“That’s quite a shiner,” the man pointed out.
“Nothin’ gets by you, Einstein,” Lily replied.
“My name isn’t Einstein. It’s…it’s Clyde.”
“Whatever,” Lily mumbled. She picked up the receiver of the pay phone down the hall, which smelled of stale nicotine. Lily wiped the mouthpiece off on her shirt before putting it to her face. “Hello.” She didn’t even bother masking her disinterest to the caller.
“Is this Lily Tucker?” a shaky voice asked from the other end of the line.
“I’m happy with my long distance carrier, Elwood,” she advised the caller while she lamented over her chipped fingernail polish.
There was a moment of silence. “You…you don’t have a phone,” the caller pointed out.
“What are we talking on, brain trust?” She blew a bubble with her gum.
“I…uh…well, a pay phone,” he ventured.
A loud pop from her end of the phone punctuated his words.
“You’re a hard woman to find,” he added.
“Listen, I’m late for a very important meeting and, as they say, time is money. So what do you want?” she asked, not really caring but in no hurry to go back to her dingy studio apartment to continue an argument she would never win. Fighting with Jake was like trying to reason with a drunk—a waste of time.
Lily had not applied for any jobs or been on any auditions recently. It was doubtful this call could be anything but bad news. It was the story of her life—bad news, followed by more bad news, followed by bad luck, bad timing and bad taste in men.
“I’m Arthur Sutherfield.”
“Can you get to the punch line, Artie? I have a bubble bath and a masseuse waiting,” she explained while reading a dirty poem written on the drab, graffiti-tagged wall. The sound of a crying baby mixed with rap music, grating on her nerves.
“I’m your grandmother’s attorney.”
She sighed. “I don’t know what the old broad told you, Art, but I don’t have money for my own bail, much less hers.”
He paused. “She’s dead, Miss Tucker.”
Lily was momentarily speechless, but recovered her composure quickly. “I don’t have money for a funeral either,” she replied. She stumbled against the wall, letting it hold her upright. Lily couldn’t explain the sting of remorse she felt for a woman she didn’t know.
“That’s not why I’m calling. Your grandmother left everything to you,” the lawyer said.
She swallowed a lump that caught in her throat, then scoffed. “And that would be what exactly? Family Bible, a case of Ensure and some granny panties?”
“A house on a…a private island and some money. Basically, everything.”
“Is this a joke?”
“No, it’s not, Miss Tucker. Of course there’s paperwork, and probate…”
Lily cut in. “Are we talking about Iris? Iris Flanders?”
“Yes. I’m sorry to be the one to inform you,” Arthur said. “She was a fine, Christian woman…”
“Can I call you back later?” she asked, breaking in again, interrupting his love fest for a woman he knew better than Lily did.
Lily wrote Arthur Sutherfield’s number on her hand before replacing the phone. She paced back and forth in front of the telephone, picking it up only to put it back in its cradle. Finally she mustered the courage to punch out zero and the number she knew by heart. It rang.
Why hadn’t he changed it?
“Collect from Lily Tucker,” she mumbled, and then waited. Her impulse was to hang up before someone could pick up, but she didn’t. “Lily Tucker for Keenan Kane.” Her eyes rolled around in annoyance at hearing a woman answer his phone. “Oh, I know he’s a big TV star. Trust me, he’ll want to talk to me.” She took a few deep breaths for courage as she waited to hear his voice. She’d longed for it nearly every day over the past year and half—and at the same time dreaded it.
“Don’t talk, just listen. If you talk, I hang up and walk,” she threatened him. “Write down this name—Jake Pratt. Lives in the valley. You got it? He has what you’re missing. We never had this conversation.” She slammed the phone down hard.
Lily tried to steady her hand with her other shaking hand.
After her call to Keenan and a few more deep, cleansing breaths, she returned to her dreary room, using her acting skills to suppress the joyous emotions that welled up in her.
“What was the call about?” Jake asked her.
“I inherited an island in Wonderland.”
Jake turned to her, rubbing his sore jaw. His eye was black and swollen shut. “Yeah, right.”
A smile tugged at the corners of Lily’s mouth. She knew he wouldn’t believe her. “Can I get you a beer, babe?”
“So suddenly I’m babe again?”
Lily popped the top off a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, handing it over with a smile. “What do you mean?”
“What do I mean?” Jake took a long drink of his beer. “Twenty minutes ago I was a dickhead and you stuck your fist in my eye.”
You’re still a dickhead.
A few short days later she left the highway in a beat-up ’69 Buick Electra with the top down and the radio on full blast. The wind whipped through her short hair. The fresh air filled her lungs, invigorating her. Lily needed the burst of energy, considering she’d napped in the car at a rest stop the previous night. Her grooming regime that morning had consisted of touching up her nail polish, splashing some water on her face, applying a fresh coat of deodorant, followed by makeup and brushing her teeth using only her finger. She remained focused on getting farther away from Jake and closer to Arkansas, where her newfound fortune awaited her.
The tall, majestic trees that lined the winding road, along with the stunning scenery seemed to have popped up shortly after crossing the Texas state line. The lush greenery and chiseled hills had little effect on Lily. Mother Nature was nice. Money, on the other hand, was a beautiful, beautiful thing. Whoever said money couldn’t buy happiness, well frankly, they were just wrong.
Her cell phone rang. Lily looked at the caller ID. Jake again. She flung the phone out the open window, deciding she had listened to enough threatening messages. After all, “I’m gonna kill you with my bare hands,” is just a figure of speech.
Cell phone flinging was liberating. It should be an Olympic event. Lily felt empowered. She was done with men. Men were evil. Who needs ’em?
The thought of her inheritance wafted around in her brain when she spotted the road sign that warmly welcomed her to Wonderland, population in the four digits. Also there to welcome her were flashing lights in her rearview mirror. Shit!
The patrol car let out a whoop-whoop when she failed to comply. Lily swore under her breath before pulling over to the side of the dusty, gravel shoulder. Once stopped, the smell of her own exhaust caught up with her. Tapping her long red nails on the steering wheel, she watched in her rearview mirror as the deputy approached in what looked like a well-starched uniform with perfectly pressed pleats. His badge, she noticed, was shiny, same with his shoes. The patrol car was at least ten years old, but it appeared to be freshly washed and waxed.
“Good afternoon, miss!” the man said, tipping his hat and shouting over her radio, which blared Born To Be Wild.
“Huh.” She chewed her gum in time with her tapping nails to mask her mounting panic.
“Could you cut the engine and turn the music down?” he barked, and this time she complied. “Do you know why I pulled you over today?”
“Bored, lonely, looking for a friend,” she guessed with a wily smile.
“Brake light is out.”
“Crime of the century,” she said, holding her wrists out, daring him to cuff her, “Officer.”
“Your tags are expired, tires are bald and, FYI, it’s deputy.”
“Deputy Dawg,” she drawled, looking at his nametag from behind the sunglasses that concealed her black eye.
“Deputy Tobias Dodd,” he corrected, pointing at the tag that displayed his name. “I’m gonna have to issue you a citation. Can I please see your license and registration?”
“Deputy Dodd, isn’t there some way we could work this out? I’m willing to consider any suggestions you may have.” Her lower lip jutted out to pout for her freedom.
Lily wouldn’t have made the offer, but the deputy was young, tall and handsome. And if that wasn’t enough, he had the broadest shoulders she’d ever seen. It wasn’t true that objects may appear larger in her rear or side view mirror. He looked delicious, and she had skipped breakfast and lunch.
His hair was dark brown with eyes to match. The southern accent he tried so hard to mask was like music to her soul. There was no wedding band, which was inconsequential to Lily. She was trying to beat a ticket, not search for an ex-boyfriend. Additionally, she’d always had a thing for men in uniform, preferably a cop uniform, and he wore his well. If she promised to meet him later to rock his world, he might let her slide without a ticket. The deputy was so cute she might even show up to let him rock hers.
“License and registration,” he repeated.
Lily hesitated, not sure what illegal substance Jake may have left in the glove box. She rummaged through it, tossing garbage on the floorboard to mix with the other trash already there. Her mind was at work formulating a story for any possible scenario.
“Ah-ha, here it is,” she said in triumph, handing the ripped and crinkled paper over to him with a well-practiced, demure smile.
He looked from the registration to her and then sighed with disappointment, which displayed itself on his face in the form of a frown. “Is your name Jacob Pratt?”
“I didn’t think so.”
“I can explain. You see, I bought the car from Jake.”
“Does he know that?” Dodd inquired doubtfully.
She paused, pondering the truth versus a lie. “He might have been passed out during the transaction,” she admitted with a sly grin, momentarily picturing Jake waking up with a killer hangover to find her, his money and his car gone. The image gave her a wave of pure pleasure.
“Do you have any paperwork to substantiate your claim?”
“Are you calling me a liar, detective?”
“Maybe when I get to know you better—and it’s de-pu-ty.” His index finger dotted the syllables on his nametag with force.
“I assure you, de-pu-ty, I paid dearly, certainly more than this heap is worth,” Lily protested.
“I’m gonna have to check and see if it’s been reported stolen,” he informed her in a tone that alluded to his annoyance. “Do you have any weapons in the vehicle? I mean other than your obvious charm.”
The deputy’s compliment, she noted, was anything but. It dripped with sarcasm and was accentuated with a slight eye roll. Lily shook her head, even though she had no idea what was stashed in the car. Admitting that would get her searched and impounded, possibly detained and arrested. That would make poor use of her valuable time.
“I’ll be right back,” he promised. “And I’m gonna need that driver’s license,” he reminded her, and then he walked back to his cruiser shaking his head.
She slid her sunglasses to the tip of her nose to watch his reflection stroll back to his patrol car from her driver’s side mirror. She let out a low whistle before pushing the shades back in place.
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