lawyer

Drawn into voodoo revenge–#MFRWHooks

When her big trial goes bad, corporate attorney Brianna Ward can’t wait to get out of VoodooDreams_w7507_medPittsburgh. The Big Easy seems like the perfect place to rest, relax, and forget about the legal business. Too bad an obnoxious–but handsome–lawyer from a rival firm is checking into the same bed and breakfast.

Attorney Evan Farrell has Mardi Gras vacation plans too. When he encounters fiery and attractive Brianna, however, he puts the Bourbon Street party on hold. He’d much rather devote himself to her–especially when a mysterious riddle appears in her bag, seeming to threaten danger.

Strangely compelled to follow the riddle’s clues, Brianna is pulled deeper into the twisted schemes of a voodoo priest bent on revenge. To escape his poisonous web, she must work with Evan to solve the curse. But is the growing love they feel for each other real? Or just a voodoo dream?

BUY LINK: https://www.amazon.com/Alana-Lorens/dp/1628300450/ref=sr_1_8?dchild=1&keywords=Alana+Lorens&qid=1591129683&s=books&sr=1-8

In the swamp, the fire illuminated the multi-tiered altar and some of those who gathered around it.  Painted with tribal markings in black and white, the three drummers’ faces
stood out like bare skulls against the reflected flames.
The people in the back row were silhouettes only, dark outlines swaying to the rhythm of the drums.
On the altar, Brianna identified a Damballah cross on the top level, surrounded by a number of unlit candles, and some small statues. On the next level sat a bottle of liquor. A large bowl and some cups on a tray were laid out before it, and what looked like a loaf of bread next to a large machete, blade gleaming in the firelight. Bright, tropical flowers decorated all the levels.
Finally, on the ground to the left of the table was a large box with a screen on the front, that appeared to be a carrying case for an animal, something alive.
A snake. 

It was one thing to see these items laid out in a cold array at a museum; quite another when an actual voodoo ritual was taking place before her eyes.
Avoiding the thrill of fright blazing through her, she focused on the table, searching for clues to why she and Evan had been summoned.
As the drums continued their spellbinding beat, a dark figure eased into the light before nola-pcola-012the altar, a tall, slender person dressed in black. Moving gracefully to the rhythm, the priest approached, bearing a tall black candle, which he used to light the other candles.
Eyes closed, chanting words Brianna could not understand, the priest turned slowly around to face the others. Those seated before him on rough wooden benches rocked from side to side.
She gasped when she recognized the man as Copper, dressed as she’d seen him in her mind’s eye when she’d touched that first note, a red turban on his head and, on his face, jagged red paint slashes like bloody lightning.
Instinctively, she pulled back, hoping they couldn’t be seen in the shadows.
He turned to the altar and lit two long sticks of incense, which soon filled the clearing with an exotic smoky scent. Walking in lock-step with the beat of the drum, he reached for a cup and one of the bottles. He poured red liquid into the cup, then held it up.
The drums stopped.
He spoke loudly in English, gesturing with the cup to the four corners of the clearing.
“By the power of St. Anthony of Padua, Legba Atibon, guardian of the crossroads, Legba, guardian of the bush, Legba, guardian of the house, Ago, ago si, Ago la!”
After the words passed, the drummers played again, even louder. Copper took a drink of the liquid, pouring some also into the fire where it hissed into smoke. He handed the closest drummer the bottle, and he drank from it, then passed it to the man on his left.
mfrw-book-hooks400He drank as well, and did the same. Whatever was in the bottle seemed to inspire them. Their drums reverberated with sound until Brianna could hardly breathe.
Copper leaned down before the altar, shaking something onto the ground. Brianna couldn’t see what he was doing, so she inched up until she stood behind the thick tree trunk next to her. He held some sort of painted tin, and from it, he dropped a white substance on the dirt in a distinct design.
“What’s that?” Evan whispered.
“That would be the veve,” Brianna whispered back. “It’s the sign for a particular deity or spirit. First, there should be the drummer’s veve, then there will be others, depending on which spirit they are calling forward.”
Her heart pounded so hard, she couldn’t believe Copper didn’t hear it.
Copper drew a second figure on the ground. The drums’ rhythm changed. Several people in flowing robes rose from the first row and began a seductive, erotic dance. The dancers thrust their hips forward and sideways in a frenzied manner, moving around the fire
kettles oblivious to each other until the drums stopped again. They froze.
“Gator Guede, le bon ton roulette, ye, ye, ye.”
He raised the cup to the sky, then took a long drink before dumping some in the fire, causing it to flare up.
He poured the remaining contents of the bottle into the large bowl, then added a red liquid Brianna hoped was wine, swirling the bowl in a large gesture before his chest.
The drums beat a new rhythm, so compelling Brianna could hardly keep still. The lead dancer took the bowl from Copper and passed it among the participants.
When all had drunk, the dancers returned to the area before the fire and danced again, the drummers changing rhythm to something more primal. The silhouettes moved between Brianna, Evan and the fire, rotating their shoulders and bouncing up and down.
They left a respectful space between themselves and Copper, who continued to create more designs on the ground, evenly spaced and spreading out toward the edges of the clearing.
He began to chant again, this time echoed by a chorus from those seated on the ground. Brianna felt herself drawn into the give-and-take, her head and thoughts growing fuzzy.
“Do you know what they’re saying?” Evan asked.
Brianna pulled herself back with difficulty. She shook her head, a little dazed.masked girl
Here, hold my hand,” she whispered. “I feel so strange. If I look like I’m getting—” She stopped, unsure how to explain what she was experiencing.
She didn’t believe in this stuff. Not at all.
Then why do I feel like there’s spiders crawling around inside me?

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Add these ingredients together for a dangerous ENCOUNTER #MFRWHooks

Encounter_ebook_Final2Teo Haroun and the other lawyers in his firm head for a team-building retreat at the Sherman Ranch in northern New Mexico. The boss has laid down some rules—no phones, computers, or communication with the outside world. But the  exercises are necessary for this firm to survive its inner sniping and turmoil—and to protect the secrets they hold.

Inez Suela and thirty other Mexicans have paid a coyote hundreds of pesos to take them across the border into the US, where they hope to make a better life. The crowded truck heads north into New Mexico to meet their local driver, the occupants unaware that a freak March snowstorm is waiting in its path.

Jake Patrin, the caretaker of the Ranch, fights demons of his own as he struggles daily with addiction. Working far from the city on the lonely Ranch, hosting those who rent the facility, is his protection and solace. But he’s about to lose the only peace he’s been able to grasp.

Davi Pilar needs to make some fast money to appease a couple of St. Louis loan sharks, so he agrees to pick up a truckload of illegals and take them to St. Louis. He drives to New Mexico, not knowing that Inez, the woman who rejected him years before, is one of those on that truck.

mfrw-book-hooks400The intersection of these people, the collision of their cultures, the revelation of their secrets—all these things lead to violence, death, and even redemption in their New Mexico ENCOUNTER.

BUY NOW!  Amazon         Barnes and Noble 

Excerpt:

The idea of the retreat intrigued Teo from the beginning. Because of the disparate nature of the firm, two partners each in Arlington, Denver and Chicago, tradition dictated a group meeting at least once a year. This year, one of the Denver partners had suggested something other than their usual lush digs at a luxury hotel in a major city.

She’d come across the Sherman Ranch, five hundred acres of wilderness and a few communal style buildings west of Taos. The “in” thing for corporate groups, she’d suggested, was a professional course in team-building, to help the group learn about and come to depend on each other and their shared goals. She had rented the ranch for a week and hired Harmonics Inc. to lead them. Two hours from now, the ‘adventure’ would begin.

Laughter came from the bar again, and Mitch’s shoulders squared up. “Cattrin here yet?”

“In there.” That was one of the reasons Teo’d left the room, holding no love for Mitch’s Arlington office mate.

            Mitch grumbled. “She texted me she spent last evening art-shopping Canyon Road.” He checked his phone, then glanced outside where the dark blue van awaited. “She’d better have shipped whatever she got back to Tyson’s Corners. There’s no room on the van for any fluffery.”

Teo mulled several responses before offering, “You’re the boss.”

“It’s good to be the king. Isn’t that what they say?” The twinkle in Mitch’s eye belied the tightening of his jaw. He glanced at the doorway to the bar. “She in there?”

“Annie?” Teo replied, with a slow nod.

A deep breath signaled Mitch’s reluctance for this particular face-to-face. “It should be a rule: Never stay in business with your ex-wife.”

Teo let irony sink into his tone. “Not likely.”

He had a solid work history, he was a rainmaker, and he was very circumspect, but after he’d been outted several years before – by one of the aforementioned catty females – it had become clear there would never be a wife. Or perhaps even companions.

Not any more.

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PTSD leads to assorted tragedies in SECOND CHANCES

PROVIDE COMFORTCheck out my feature of SECOND CHANCES at the blog home of Alicia Dean today, talking about heroine Inessa Regan’s passion for helping victims of domestic violence! https://aliciadean.com/2020/02/11/hobbycareerpassion-it-happens-to-nice-men-and-women-too-by-alana-lorens/

A hero fighting his past finds the woman of his future in A Pride of Brothers: RICK

Please welcome guest author PEGGY JAEGER!!  Please tell us about your new book, Peggy.

Several years ago I had a 3 book series titled WILL COOK FOR LOVE published by Kensington/Lyrical Press. Book 2, A SHOT AT LOVE, featured a secondary character named Rick Bannerman, a Private Investigator and bodyguard who helped the hero and heroine at a crucial plot point.
When the book was published, I had so many readers write and tell me how much they loved Rick’s character, and asked if he were going to have his own story told. To tell the truth, I’d never considered it.
Bu then one day last year an idea wormed its way into my head, as ideas will, and I was able to flush out a story for Rick.
An ex-military sniper who takes his job seriously, Rick will go to any lengths to protect those in his care, and do whatever needs to be done to ensure a client’s safety. Focused, determined, and stealthy, Rick never lets emotion cloud his mind or decisions. With a disciplined body sculpted for battle and a quick, tactical mind, Rick wears the mantle of protector like full body armor.
From a childhood forged in violence and abuse, Rick grew into a man who vowed to never let himself lose control. He watched his father beat his mother daily until a dreadful night when he shot her to death. Rick runs on the principle that DNA will always tell and he is terrified of turning into a copy of his father. To prevent this he doesn’t drink alcohol, avoids committed relationships, and has never allowed
himself to fall in love.
He’s been able to live a solitary life with no entanglements so far.
I knew to help Rick be the man he was intended to be I needed to give him a love interest who could challenge him at every turn – professionally and personally – and one who he’d been conflicted about becoming involved with.
Abby Laine was just that woman. As a Lawyer, Abby helps women leave abusive relationships – much like his mother was in – guides them through the legal system and offers them a sense of hope for the future. She is smart, quick, logical, and never backs down when fighting for a client’s rights. She doesn’t suffer fools and calls Rick out on his defensive behavior and cocky surface demeanor at every turn. The
chemistry between these two was off the charts and it took a great deal of effort on my part to keep them out of one another’s arms when I was writing scenes.
Abby brings out all of Rick’s alpha protective instincts, but for the first time in his life, he wonders if maybe, just maybe, he can allow himself to love a woman without worrying about hurting her. Abby can certainly hold her own against him, and that’s more than a plus.
Trying to get these two to their HEA was so much fun! ( I think the two of them liked it, too! Heehee)

 

A PRIDE OF BROTHERS: Rick
Release Date 1.13.20
Publisher: THE WILD ROSE PRESS
Genre: Romance/Romantic suspense

Blurb:
Elite bodyguard and P.I. Rick Bannerman’s job is to protect. He doesn’t get emotional with his clients, but when a woman from his past is threatened, his next job becomes personal.
Family lawyer Abigail Laine is the target of a client’s vengeful husband, but refuses Rick’s offer of protection. He walked away from her four years ago, and she swore to forget him.
Now her reluctance to accept his help could cost Abby her life.

 

Excerpt 1 
“Right there.” She aimed her fork at him as if it were a spear. “Perfect example. You know I hate being called Abigail. I’ve lost count of the hundreds of times I’ve told you and you still do it, knowing it pisses me off. And”—she cut him off before he could speak— “your usual response is to lift your hands and say ‘and still’ when you’re called on it. Who does that? What kind of person persistently and purposefully annoys people?”
“So you’re saying I’m intentionally annoying?”
“Persistently, so. Yes. Makes the lawyer in me wonder why.”
Just the lawyer? “Any answers come to mind?”
“Plenty.”

“Care to share?”
She placed her fork down next to her plate and regarded him across the table. “You really want to hear this? Because if you know anything about me, you know I’m truthful. I don’t hold back.”
Oh, he was sure she didn’t. And wouldn’t. Her tenacity was one of the things he’d first been drawn to.
That and her fabulous ass.
“I’m a big boy,” he said with a grin. “I can take it.
She took a sip of water first, her eyes trained on him the entire time. “Okay. If you really want to hear this.”
He waved his hand for her to continue.
“I think you use your cocky, aren’t-I-simply-too- witty attitude to keep people at a distance.”

Excerpt 2 
“You’re really going to spend the night? Here?” she finally asked.
“And every other night until Genocardi is caught.”
She went stone still. “He doesn’t know where I live.”
“You can’t be sure of that. Neither can I, so…” He lifted his hands, palms up.
It was a wonder blood wasn’t seeping through her lips from the intense way she was biting down on her cheek.
“Look.” He leaned a hip against the sink, folded his arms across his chest. “I know you think there’s no worry or danger to you from this guy. But in my professional opinion—and please remember what I do for a living—you can never underestimate someone who’s gone off the deep end like this guy has. He may not be targeting you, may have forgotten all about you, but I seriously doubt it.”
She sighed, snuggled the cat closer, and buried her face in its fur.

“Josh can assign someone who’ll keep you as safe as I can. But do you really want someone you don’t know following you around all day? Possibly for several days?”
“God, no. I’d hate that.”
“Then isn’t it better I’m the one? You know me. You can trust me. You do trust me, right?”
Without hesitating, she replied, “Of course I do.”
He nodded again, relieved by her answer. He pushed off the counter, took a few steps toward her, and then reached out a hand to rub the cat’s neck as she was doing.
“I know this is hard for you,” he said, hiking his voice to be heard over Moonlight’s thunderous vocal vibrations. “Being invaded, having your privacy and your quiet life infringed upon. I’d be mad, too.”
“I’m not mad,” she said. “Just…inconvenienced.”
“Yeah, I get that. It won’t be for long, though, I’m sure. Your cop buddy will find Genocardi. As soon as the threat is gone, I’ll be out of your hair.”
She stared at him for a moment over the cat’s head. “You might want to grab my law book again, Bannerman.”
“Why?”
“Your argument’s pretty solid on all levels. Almost lawyer-worthy.”
“Now, there’s no need to be insulting, Abigail.” He pulled himself up to his full height and glared down his nose at her.
He was pleased when she laughed, since it had been his intent. “Go on and do whatever you need to do. I’ve got stuff to do as well,” he told her.
With one final glance at him, she moved from the kitchen, the cat still in her arms.

Purchase Links:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B081G7WDP4

Barnes and Nobel:   https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-pride-of-brothers-peggy-jaeger/1135068636
apple books (i-books)  https://books.apple.com/us/book/a-pride-of-brothers-rick/id1488238197
books-a-million:  https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Pride-Brothers/Peggy-Jaeger/9781509229369?id=7423724839353

Biography/Social media links:

Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance writer who writes Romantic Comedies about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them. If she can make you cry on one page and bring you out of tears rolling with laughter the next, she’s done her job as a writer!

Family and food play huge roles in Peggy’s stories because she believes there is nothing that holds a family structure together like sharing a meal…or two…or ten. Dotted with humor and characters that are as real as they are loving, she brings all topics of daily life into her stories: life, death, sibling rivalry, illness and the desire for everyone to find their own happily ever after.

Growing up the only child of divorced parents she longed for sisters, brothers and a family that vowed to stick together no matter what came their way. Through her books, she’s created the families she wanted as that lonely child.
When she’s not writing Peggy is usually painting, crafting, scrapbooking or decoupaging old steamer trunks she finds at rummage stores and garage sales.
A lifelong and avid romance reader and writer, Peggy is a member of RWA and her local New Hampshire RWA Chapter. As a lifelong diarist, she caught the blogging bug early on, and you can visit her at peggyjaeger.com where she blogs daily about life, writing, and stuff that makes her go What??!

Social Media links:
Website/Blog: http://peggyjaeger.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/peggy_jaeger
Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00T8E5LN0

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Peggy-Jaeger-
Author/825914814095072?ref=bookmarks
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/peggyjaeger/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13478796.Peggy_Jaeger
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/peggyjaeger_author/

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/peggy-jaeger
You-Tube:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDR8RRIlssIyS0FYZWeGqsg/videos?view_as=sub
scriber

Domestic violence: not always what you think

As several of my Pittsburgh Lady Lawyers did, I worked for many years with survivors of domestic violence. It happens to women and men, to poor and rich, to unknowns and even the most famous. Mostly the question is, how much it costs to hide what’s happening and what’s at stake.

I feel like people have been trying to educate the general public for so long about DV and the reasons why it happens and the reasons why people stay in relationships that could threaten their lives. It baffles me that it’s not generally understood. Especially by the person affected.

From WebMD:

(The signs are) not always as obvious as you might think. That’s because domestic abuse is about controlling someone’s mind and emotions as much as hurting their body. Being abused can leave you scared and confused. It can be hard for you to see your partner’s actions for what they really are.

Usually, physical abuse isn’t what comes first. The abuse can creep up slowly. A putdown here or there. An odd excuse to keep you away from family or friends. The violence often ramps up once you’ve been cut off from other people. By then, you feel trapped.

Having been married more times than I’d like to confess, I admit there are lies one tells oneself to keep moving forward. It’s not so bad. At least he doesn’t (smoke, drink, stay out all night, hit me, stalk me). Sure, there are people who have it worse than you. But why shouldn’t you want better? Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. You don’t get a second take at this life if you wasted too much of it settling for second, third or fourth-best.

In the current political climate, when women’s rights are being threatened or at least disregarded, some abusers are trying to make the subjugation of women a new “normal.” DON’T LET THEM.

How do YOU feel about you, in your relationship?

Toby D. Goldsmith, MD, in an article for PsychCentral , describes a list of symptoms a victim may have:

Victims of an abusive relationship may experience some of the following emotions and behaviors:

  • Agitation, anxiety and chronic apprehension
  • Constant state of alertness that makes it difficult for them to relax or sleep
  • A sense of hopelessness, helplessness or despair because the victim believes they will never escape the control of their abuser
  • Fear that one cannot protect oneself or one’s children. This person will turn down the assistance offered by relatives, friends or professionals.
  • Feeling paralyzed by fear to make decisions or protect oneself
  • A belief that one deserves the abuse
  • A belief that one is responsible for the abuse
  • Flashbacks, recurrent thoughts and memories of the violence and nightmares of the violence
  • Emotional reactions to reminders of domestic violence

Physical Symptoms

Victims of domestic violence can also have physical symptoms that aren’t directly caused by physical abuse. These symptoms are instead caused by the constant stress and tension of living in an abusive relationship. These symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Asthma
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Chronic pain
  • Restless sleep or inability to sleep
  • Genital soreness
  • Pelvic pain
  • Back pain

Does any of this sound familiar? For you or someone you love? Help is available at every income level and social standing. Find a public computer, do some research and reach out for that help. Start at the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, at thehotline.org.   Start at your local shelter. START.

Photo by William Murphy

 

 

 

Getting back on the dating horse again after 40

In CONVICTION OF THE HEART, attorney Suzanne Taylor is a single mother of teen girls who hasn’t really considered dating much–until she meets police sergeant Nick Sansone. It has been years since she’s gone on a date other than something super casual, so she’s anxious as hell over every detail. What to wear. Where to go. How sexy to look. She doesn’t know what Nick’s expectations are, and she’s not going to take her daughters’ advice (which was something along the lines of “woo woo momma’s got a boyfriend. Is he gonna see your tattoo?”

Here she is getting ready to go:

Her hair wasn’t right.

She stood in front of the mirror in the frou-frou restroom that served the office and the rest of the tenants on the floor. She hadn’t decorated it. The ruffled pink curtains and wallpaper practically bleeding fuchsia butterflies were not to her taste at all.

She took her hair down again. Pinned it back up.

How is it her clients always managed to begin the dating life without difficulty or reservation whatsoever? For Suzanne, it was a major trauma.

She held her hair left, right, her eye critical. The Moody Blues were a sixties band. The Age of Aquarius. Hippies. Free love.

Photo by Linda Mea Meoni

Hair down.

She took her hair out of its band, brushed it, then fluffed it with her fingers.

She’d chosen a feminine silk blouse, black with turquoise medallions, and black dress slacks instead of jeans, since they were going to the Benedum. If the concert had been at Star Lake, they’d have lawn seats and a blanket, and more casual would have been appropriate.

Suzanne thought about Nick, and a blanket, listening to music under the stars…going from zero to sixty pretty fast along that imaginative track. A long time since she’d made love with a man.

She shook her head to clear her mind. Focus.

Shoes.

The overnight bag she’d brought to the office held a pair of black pumps with a mid-height, chunky heel. She slipped them on, then looked in the mirror again.

Satisfied with her clothing, she dabbed on a hint of makeup, nothing garish, and added small dangle earrings, blue gemstones wrapped in silver, and a spritz of Opium, her favorite perfume. A deep breath gave her a moment to examine her appearance. A little less than professional, a little more than Sunday church. It would do.

***

What do you thinking about dating after forty? Easier or harder than at twenty? What special considerations have you made or seen others make to present a good first impression on a date?

 

CONVICTION OF THE HEART, a novel of romantic suspense, and the first volume in the Pittsburgh Lady Lawyers series –available at the Wild Rose Press, Amazon, and other booksellers.

Meet Inessa and her complicated life!

I’m on the Romance Lives Forever blog today with an introduction to Inessa Regan from SECOND CHANCES!!  Thank so much, Kayelle Allen! Come by, check it out, and get a copy for your Mother’s Day reading!!

If you’d like to learn more about the story, check out the book trailer, or the Pittsburgh Lady Lawyers page!

Lawyers are human, too

Businesspeople Meeting in Sitting AreaI write about lawyers a lot. I mean, they say, write what you know, right? After 30 years practicing family law, I know a little bit about them.

I don’t always like them, mind you–so I understand why some people really dislike them.

The same thing can happen inside a law firm. Lawyers have different ways of doing things, and sometimes those ways can lead to outright discord.  Wise senior partners do what they can to minimize these fractures, because that protects the bottom line.

Encounter_ebook_FinalIn ENCOUNTER, one such law firm with offices in Chicago, Washington DC, and Denver, finds itself in distress. Annike Lorant and Mitchell Kadeen, the law firm’s senior partners, have divorced, now working in separate offices, but their bitter split is poisoning the daily work of the firm. Cattrin Odeon works with Mitch in the D.C. area, a sniping little birdlike woman determined to make others as miserable as she is. New partner in the Denver office John Kirk Nicholas is still living his college football hero days, at least in his mind. Judy Norell is the worker bee who’s trying to bandaid things together despite the odds. Chicago partner Teo Haroun has just been given a deadly diagnosis that he’s struggling to keep from his law partners. Mitch and Judy decide a retreat in New Mexico is just the thing to get his firm back on track.

They hire a team-building group to lead them through the retreat, and venture to the Sherman Ranch, outside Santa Fe. The Ranch is managed by Jake Patrin, a recovering addict (and probably the favorite character of all I’ve written), who has his own issues.

What they don’t know is that they are about to collide with a truckload of illegal immigrants coming from Mexico who get caught in a freak March snowstorm. With 3214318748_2ff744f887_mnowhere else to go, the survivors make their painful way to the Ranch, dropping in on the lawyers, who must find a way to co-exist until the snow melts. As you might expect, some of the lawyers do better than others at this.

Here’s an excerpt:

The screaming from inside yanked Jake Patrin’s attention from the successful start-up of the generator where he worked in the shed. His head swiveled back toward the house. What in sweet Jesus’ name…

It was the women, he could tell from the pitch. Hell, maybe someone’d found a dead mouse in the kitchen closet, in amongst the merlot he couldn’t get out of his mind. Muttering a curse under his breath, he pulled his pea coat closed to trudge to the house through the knee-deep snow.

He came through the mud room, doffed his coat and boots, slipped on softer- soled shoes as the rumpus continued. The door between the mud room and the kitchen area was closed, but he could hear a babel of voices, some of which he recognized, others…

He frowned.

Someone was yelling and cursing in Spanish, male voices he didn’t recognize at all. It didn’t sound like a performance, one of his guests playing a role for effect. Jake didn’t speak Spanish well – hell, it had been nearly twenty years since his time in Central America – but he knew enough to understand it was a threat.

Christ on a rutting Harley.

12309800814_5f08b02f23_z

A quick look around the mud room showed him more than he’d noticed at first. Twice as many clothes as there should have been. Much more snow melting in piles than two men would have brought back. Something was seriously not right.

 

He scanned the room, but found nothing he could use as a credible weapon. Jake picked up a rough-handled shovel; it was the best he had. He leaned close against the door, listening a moment more to see if he could get any clue what might be going on, but there was only more yelling. The young kid from the team urged people to be calm, something about the fire. No help. He took a deep breath and swung the door open.

He was unprepared for the scene that faced him. He came in behind several huge dirty men in the kitchen, along with the kid, Will. The big boss, Kadeen, was pinned in a chair with something shiny at his throat, a wild-eyed wetback holding his shoulder. Everyone else cowered on the far side of the pass-through, watching with horrified expressions, eyes he was sure were as wide as his.

There wasn’t much time to think. It seemed to him to unfold in a jerky slo-mo. As the door opened, the two men closest to him turned, saw the shovel. The younger guy holding Kadeen yelled and made a movement with the shiny object as women screamed. It clicked in his mind that the men weren’t fat, they were bundled in layers of wet clothing. The kitchen floor was slick with water and mud. He went to raise the shovel, but Will Starlin jumped across the space between him and the others.

“No, wait!” Will grabbed the handle of the shovel, his gaze intense. “They don’t mean to hurt anyone. They need help. They’re half frozen! Please.”

There was a scream in the other room, and Judy’s anxious face appeared in the pass-through. “Will—they’ve passed out, the two women. Something’s wrong with them.”

The older blonde made some comment to the other fancy woman, sotto voce, looking down on the fallen. Judy, standing behind her, shot her a look, then turned back to Will.

A spurt of angry Spanish burst from the man holding Kadeen. Jake looked at the two men closest to him, both of whom looked worse for wear. Will pushed Jake forward.

“This man…uh,  el hombre es….um… medico. Ayuda. Doctor. Um…”

“Son, I ain’t no doc—“

“Shut up!” Will hissed, leaning close in to the older man. “You’re the closest we got. These people need help and fast. They’ve been out in the snow for hours, I think. Please, Mr. Patrin. They’re not thinking right, and I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

Jake took a deep breath. “Fine.”

 

ENCOUNTER, from Three Fates Press. Now on sale at Amazon—$2.65 for paperback!