suspense novel

More from the scary world of Stephen B. King

One thing about Glimpse 4 I think readers will find interesting:

A character named Jolly appears in Glimpse, the Tender Killer as the evil alter-ego of the schizophrenic serial killer, Bobby Cornhill, whom the media nickname, The Biblical Killer, because of the religious quotes written in blood on the victim’s walls. I received a lot of emails from readers demanding not only to bring him back, but asking the question, was Jolly a real entity or just a figment of Cornhill’s very troubled mind. While I loved creating this character, I was stunned that readers wanted more, and in Glimpse, the Angel Shot, Jolly features a lot more. This time one of the main protagonists, Rick McCoy sees, and talks to Jolly. The question again is: Is Jolly real, or is Rick slowly going insane?

Who is Jolly?

I am genuinely staggered by the number of readers who wanted to know more about my character, Jolly. I wanted the reader to wonder, is Jolly real, or just a figment of a very troubled mind? And boy, did they.

I loved Jolly, and felt I was crossing the border into the supernatural, as if I was writing like my more famous namesake. I put a lot of effort into making Jolly feel real to not only the murderer, but make the reader ask that question, is he somehow real and chooses who he appears to?

I had so many requests, when I sat down to write Book 4, The Angel Shot, I knew I had to bring Jolly back, and, I did with a vengeance. The hairs on the back of my neck still tingle when I read about Jolly, and I know what happens next! I hope those readers who wanted to see him again are satisfied, and they can finally decide if he is just imaginary, or somehow, a sentient character who chooses who he will appear to, and influence. How could he appear to Bobby and make him murder liars in an internet chat room, yet confront Rick McCoy and offer a lifeline to save Juliet, his wife? And, then, when Jolly appears to Juliet and offers a way to find solace, and help to keep her sanity, is he helping, or hindering her recovery?

Suffice to say, my beta readers, my editor and narrator, enjoy the juxtaposition that Jolly creates. While Rick worries, he is losing his mind, supposedly, all Jolly wants to do is save his wife’s sanity, and life.

Could such a thing actually happen? As Pat says to Rick when he finally admits to her he is seeing Jolly: “We all need help at different times in our lives, sometimes more than others. Often, speaking about what is inside us helps our fears and anxieties dissipate by bringing them into the open and letting you examine them in the cold light of day. I can see Jolly seems real to you, which of course, he would, wouldn’t he? If it weren’t so real, you’d shrug it off and laugh. A psychosis, no matter how severe, is always real to the person experiencing it. It should never be shrugged off, laughed at, or ignored for that matter. You’ve been under more stress than anyone should have to bear, I’d be amazed if you didn’t come through it without some, shall we say, quirks. It doesn’t mean you’re mad or need locking up or can’t function as you are. But I think the first step for you is to understand why this is happening. Guilt is one of the most powerful motivators there is, and I think once you accept that, work with it instead of trying to fight it, you will see Jolly less and less.”

Will Jolly appear in a future story?

Hmm, I am honestly not sure. From my perspective, he is a wonderful, rich character to write for. Intelligent, deep, and he keeps quoting the bible to suit any given situation. So, maybe he will. I’m not saying Jolly is appearing to me, but I sometimes, in the still of the night, hear him whispering to: “Stephen, bring me back…”

One thing about me readers may find interesting:

I am fascinated by how the human mind can fracture and have a tremendous respect for psychologists, and psychiatrists who try to help patients put the pieces back together. A good friend, and his wife are both prominent psychologists, and my daughter has degrees in criminal psychology and justice. I often wish I had studied the subject myself, but at that age I was far more interested in rock music, free love, illegal substances, and telling stories. The Glimpse series is named that because in each book I try to offer the reader a look into the killer’s mind set, and offer an answer to the question most people want answering; why.

Glimpse, the Dinner Guest

Amazon buy link: https://amzn.to/3m1RaA8

I have been asked many times, will there be more Glimpse stories?

During writing Glimpse, The Angel Shot, I believed it was to be a standalone story, and a finale for my characters, Rick, Pat, and Juliet. But, I am frequently reminded of the James Bond quote, “Never say never!”

In fact, there is now a Glimpse 5, called Glimpse, The Dinner Guest, released 13th of November 2020. This is a special project I was invited to submit a story to, and I was humbled to be selected. Me? an ego? Nah, surely not.

The rules seemed simple and interesting enough. 13 authors each publishing a dark thriller, of only 13000 words. It must feature a broken mirror, and use the words, Friday the 13th. I jumped at the chance to make my favorite all time character, Patricia Holmes take a starring role in a scary, stand-alone story, without her protector Rick McCoy to ensure she doesn’t get hurt again.

Here is the blurb:

Detective Sargent and clinical psychologist, Patricia Holmes, has been invited to a murder mystery dinner party at a small luxury hotel located in Western Australia. The dinner is a reunion party for the psychologists and psychiatrists who work at Perth’s largest mental hospital, which treats the criminally insane.

But there is an uninvited guest–a former patient who is hungry for revenge. In fact, he is ravenous. He will stop at nothing until he murders the doctor who gave him painful, electroconvulsive therapy.

Detective Sargent Holmes must stop a frenzied killer on a vicious spree—but can she save the other guests, or will she be the last one left alive?

Here is a short excerpt:

Pat knocked on the door of number ten and hoped she had caught Ruth before she went downstairs to the bar. From inside, she heard a muffled woman’s voice. “Can you get that, Tony,” The next moment, the door was yanked open, and a tall distinguished looking man wearing a tuxedo performed a double take when he saw her.

“Jesus Christ, are you all right?” he said with concern in his voice, and Pat realized the effect her slashed and bloody top had on him.

Pat gave a small laugh, which, when she glanced again at his face, grew louder, and threatened to become hysterical. “I’m fine, thank you. Dress scary, the invite said, so I did. I’ve got to say; your tuxedo isn’t scary at all. I’m Patricia Holmes and would like to have a few words with Ruth, if I can, before festivities get underway.”

He grinned and stepped back, beckoning with his head for her to enter. “Yeah, we don’t do fancy dress-ups, sorry. We’re far too dull in our old age. Come in. Ruth is applying her make up with a trowel. I’m Tony. I don’t think we’ve met?”

“Thanks, Tony, please call me Pat, everyone does. I left Graylands quite a while ago now, and even when I was there, I was only part-time. I consulted to the criminally insane, the lifers, worst of the worst. By all means, call me morbid. These days, I’m with the police.”

He pointed to the chair by the desk for her to sit then turned his head to the bathroom. “Hon, it’s Patricia Holmes. She wants a word with you before we go downstairs. Do you want me to hang around, or can I go down and mingle?”

Ruth Hawthorne stuck her head around the doorway with a lipstick clutched in her right hand. “Hello, Pat, bloody long time no see, how are you doing?” She turned her glance to her husband, “You can leave us girls. We can go down together. Is that all right, Pat? My God, I love your outfit.”

“Thanks, Ruth. I thought I’d have a bit of fun. Going down together works for me. I need a private chat anyway…”

“Sounds ominous. You get off, Tony. Pat joined the dark side and is with the police now, but I don’t think she is here to arrest me.”

Pat shook her head and smiled as Ruth disappeared back into the bathroom. Pat sat down on the seat to wait, and Tony acted like most people do around detectives; nervous and in a hurry to get away.

“Righto, see you downstairs. Nice to meet you, Mrs. Holmes.” He scampered out the door quickly, eager to either get away from her, find a strong drink, or both.

My crazy world of irony:

I love some of the ironies and humor, I created in this short story. Pat, who used to consult with murderers attends a murder mystery dinner, dressed as a murder victim and is the only police officer in the remote location to try to stop a murderer kill all the attendees. I found it funny to write that she is the only guest to use fancy dress as the invite instructed her to do. This once happened to me, many moons ago when I dressed up as Count Dracula, but the other fifty or so guests at the party wore ‘normal’ clothes. I felt like an idiot all night, though I did meet a woman who became a playmate for a while…She thought I was interesting.

In Glimpse 4, Patricia was shocked to learn that most of the other detectives in the Major Crime squad don’t want to partner her because she had been badly injured in two previous cases. In Glimpse 5, she must face a man suffering extreme paranoid schizophrenia, intent on ridding the word of as many psychologists as he can, and Pat is a psychologist.

Why a short story in the Glimpse series?

I am reminded of the adage, less is more, and for writers, that means the less you say, the more impact it can have. So, the challenge for me was only writing 13000 words featuring a character I love writing for, when sometimes I could just write, and write and write… Then, before I know it, I’m approaching 100,000 novel limit. When I read through The Dinner Guest, as I have so many times now, I realize just how much I was able to say, with so few words, and I am thrilled with the result. I am tempted to perhaps write a few more short stories, or novellas for Pat, and Rick, in their own anthology. We shall see how Book 5 is received, and if there is a demand from my loyal reader.

Well, as I said earlier, never say never.

Taking on a serial killer

This week I’ll be featuring new stories from Australian author Stephen B. King. HEADS UP: They do tell stories with murder, rape and other subjects which would not always sit well with my usual heroines, but I know some people enjoy crime stories, and we want to appeal to everyone!

Glimpse, the Angel Shot

Book 4 in The Deadly Glimpses Series.

Amazon buy link: https://amzn.to/3n70Fif

Blurb:

Seven women have disappeared from bars only to be found murdered after asking for an Angel Shot. Detective Rick McCoy is handed the case after returning from leave following his wife’s horrific ordeal at the hands of the serial killer, PPP.

Criminal psychologist Patricia Holmes lost her husband to the same killer and when her current partner makes her life miserable she jumps at the chance to work with Rick again. When they determine a man currently jailed for the crimes could not have committed them the mystery deepens.

But that is the least of Rick’s worries. An imaginary alter ego appears warning him his wife is suicidal. Will they be able to solve the riddle of the Angel Shot before another victim loses her life and save his wife from taking hers? 

Two favorite passages:

“You have been busy, haven’t you? Thanks for interceding on my behalf. The thing is, I’ve been thinking of giving everything up and going back to lecturing. Besides, I won’t work with Pepperdick again, and apparently, all the other sergeants think I’m a liability and won’t partner with me.” She took another drink and looked back out of the window, blinking rapidly.

“Pat, you know as well as I do most cops are a superstitious lot. All you need is one more good investigation, one where you don’t get shot or stabbed, and there would be a long line of guys who would want you as their partner. Do you think if you had another chance, you could get through a whole case and not get wounded or slap your boss?”

She had been swallowing and choked as she laughed at his humor. “Depending who my boss would be, I could try,” she offered when she recovered, then turned her serious gaze on Rick’s.

****

“Yep. So, show me what you’ve got. Let’s say Brandon is not our killer. Have you got enough to profile who is?”

Pat made a pantomime of patting her pockets and looking around her, including under her chair. “What are you doing, Pat?” he asked, though he suspected what her answer would be.

“Oh, I was just looking for my magic wand; I thought I left it lying around here somewhere.”

They both laughed for a moment, and Rick’s heart swelled. They fitted together so perfectly. He shrugged, forcing the feelings down, which he had been doing with Pat for a long time.

“I don’t have much, Rick, but here are some thoughts.” She paused, composing her ideas. “People generally think rape is about having sex, yet we know often it’s not. That is the result, yes, but the cause is more about control, or even to some extent, sadism. Sometimes the rapist cannot achieve orgasm, which makes him more violent, so, we can postulate sex may not be a motivating factor; cruelty is. So, that’s the first point to consider. Second, not only was Ingrid Stapleton brutalized, but then strangled. Strangulation is a very hard, upfront, and personal way of murdering someone. Sometimes we see it in a case of domestic violence, where the killer is angry with someone else to the point of losing control. So, we can draw from that the man was angry with Ingrid, but why? On the face of it, Brandon O’Toole fits that description, he was rejected by her, and that could cause uncontrollable rage, rage enough to strangle, yes, but, in that case, not rape, do you see what I mean?”

Rick nodded slowly. “Yes, I think I do. If we are assuming O’Toole didn’t take Ingrid, then maybe the killer watched her in the bar, perhaps witnessed Ingrid’s altercation with O’Toole, and tried to rescue her. Possibly, he comforted Ingrid after O’Toole left and because he fancied her that could explain the Rohypnol and subsequent sexual assault. But why kill her by strangulation?”

Her brown-eyed gaze bored into his. “Rick, I think we are looking for someone in part with severe issues of anger and hatred toward women, yet in another way, he has a natural desire for them too. He couldn’t let her go because she would identify him. This man could have some sort of dissociative disorder, or dare I say even possible multiple disorder syndrome, and if that’s the case….”

“He’s killed before, or after. Jesus, Pat, you’re saying this could be a serial killer who got away with murder?”

****

Why did you write a Glimpse 4, wasn’t it meant to be a trilogy?

Well, yes, originally this was to be THREE deadly glimpses. I wanted to tell a story of inappropriate workplace desires and the effect on four people during three murder investigations of three different serial killers. I think in the same way good actors like a mini-series to be able to really portray a character, I wanted three books to tell the story with all the nuances two married people would feel who were attracted to each other. I believe I did tell that tale to the best of my ability, but after book 3, Glimpse, The Tender Killer was published, a groundswell of public and reader opinion made itself known by way of emails…..It seemed my readers, including my narrator, and editor wanted to know what happened to my characters next. Quite frankly, I was stunned by the response

I was genuinely flattered, but as a writer, I had ‘moved on’ and had other projects I was working on such as Winter at the Light, and a full re-write of Domin8, yet the calls for more continued. I truthfully never expected that, and was deeply moved that my characters struck such a chord with readers. But, still the ethos of the Glimpse series was to take the reader inside the minds of three separate serial killers and show why they were the they were, so to create a fourth instalment would require another killer, and that wasn’t so easy to do.

I am deeply fascinated by all things psychology, and in particular, what circumstances create the triggers which cause some people’s minds to fracture and create a serial killer. In Glimpse, The Angel Shot I use 3 quotes from one of America’s worst serial murderers, Ted Bundy, to give an indication how these types of people think:

“Murder is not about lust, and it’s not about violence. It’s about possession.”

“We serial killers are your sons; we are your husbands, we are everywhere. And there will be more of your children dead tomorrow.”

“What’s one less person on the face of the earth, anyway?”

For me, this is not only some of the most chilling words I have ever read, but deeply, and yes morbidly, interesting. So, for me to create another serial murderer for Patricia Holmes to profile, wasn’t easy, and it took some time to come up with the answer. My wife inadvertently came to my rescue when we were out one night at a social function and she said to me when she returned to the table, “You’ll never guess what is written on the back of the lady’s toilet door.” I looked up and joked, “Jeez, I hope it’s not my phone number advertising for a good time.”

Obviously, she is used to my warped sense of humor, and gave me a withering stare, until I asked her, “No, darling, what is on the back of the door?”

Her answer was like a bolt of lightning hitting me, and my two all-time favorite words came to mind: “What if…”

My loving wife gave me all I needed to create a man so troubled by his dysfunctional marriage he wants to rape and murder vulnerable women when they asked for help to be rescued from a troublesome date.

STAY TUNED—THE SECOND HALF OF THIS STORY WILL APPEAR HERE ON FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 13, for the release of Glimpse 5, called Glimpse, The Dinner Guest!!!!

Death by sandstorm? A terrifying prospect #MFRWHooks

Lily Pearl Evans
Gene Nicholas

After a run of bad relationships, Lily Pearl Evans has finally become an independent woman. In the New Mexico desert town of Chaparral, she works for herself, sets her own rules, and is determined no man will hold her back again.
Gene Nicholas worked for more than a decade to achieve his dream to be a doctor. Wanting to share his gifts with those less fortunate, he leaves south Florida to volunteer for Doctors Without Borders in Mexico.
When Gene provokes a showdown with the local Mexican drug cartel, he becomes a man with a price on his head. On the run, he ends up on Lily’s doorstep–a mystery man forced to conceal his past to protect them both. With the cartel’s dangerous web drawing tight around them, can Lily and Gene survive a drug lord’s revenge?

Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2U26_4t9yRA

EXCERPT:

A giant cloud spread across the horizon, reaching a quarter-mile into the sky. The ocher color of the desert sand, the cloud billowed forth in all directions, heading right for the pair of them. He’d never seen a sight so terrifying.

         “What is that?!”

         “What?” she asked, as she turned. Her face paled when she saw what he was looking at. She started off at a run for the truck.

         Unsure what to do, he hesitated. The oncoming cloud swelled and swirled, billowing outward toward them like parachute material filling with forced air, constantly moving, growing. Mesmerized at the monster’s progress, he stood, slack-jawed, until the first pecks of sand stung his bare cheeks, the pain bringing him back to very present danger.

         The air darkened around him as a hissing filled his ears. His hands came up automatically to cover his face, and he backed into his car door, inadvertently slamming it shut.

         “Come on!”

  Lily stood on the truck’s running board, yelling over the door. “Hurry!”
 The wind swallowed her voice, stole the words away, but her expression needed no explanation. He moved.

  He stumbled in the sand, three or four steps in before he got traction enough to run. The cloud came closer, enveloped him. Blinded, he held his arm across his face, fighting his way toward the place he believed the truck to be, where it used to be before the world shifted into chaos.

 He’d been working in Miami when Hurricane Andrew devastated the southern suburbs, and that was his only experience that even approached this in terms of terror. The wind roared around him, the sand continuing to assault his skin, even worse than the onslaught of wind and rain Andrew had been.

Just when he was sure he was lost, the lights of the truck flashed inches from his outstretched hand. He tucked his chin down into his jacket, grabbed the fender of the truck and pulled himself along till his fingers located the handle to the door. Counting to three, he blocked the door with his body the best he could, then jumped inside the cab of the truck and yanked the door closed in a cloud of dust.

         Coughing, he laid his head back against the rest.

         “Are you okay, honey?” she asked, brow furrowed with concern. She handed him a small bottle of water from a six-pack stashed under the seat.

         “I think so.” He coughed some more, trying to catch his breath. The swirl of nothingness outside the glass drew his frightened eyes. “Is that a sandstorm?” he gasped.

         “It is.”  She leaned forward to close the air vents as the tapping of sand against the window became a full-fledged, constant bombardment.

  The truck rocked in the vicious wind, but they were safe inside. Overhead, the sky became dark as night as the shifting sand obscured the faint rays of the winter sun.

         His heart raced. What if this had happened the night of his border crossing? He imagined being lost in such an event, the sand scraping away exposed skin, filling airways with dust, slowly choking a person to death…

Alana Lorens has been a published writer for more than forty years. Currently a  resident of Asheville, North Carolina, she loves her time in the smoky blue mountains. One of her novellas, THAT GIRL’S THE ONE I LOVE,  is set in the city of Asheville during the old Bele Chere festival. She lives with her daughter, who is the youngest of her seven children, two crotchety old cats, and five kittens of various ages.

Website           https://alana-lorens.com

Facebook    https://www.facebook.com/AlanaLorens/

Goodreads   https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4829967.Alana_Lorens

Amazon Author Page  https://www.amazon.com/Alana-Lorens/e/B005GE0WBC/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

https://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=299081

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Vampires

Sharing a book written by my alter ego for Halloween…..

I’ve never liked vampires. Not Count Dracula, not all the bloody B movies of my generation, not even Barnabas Collins (tho I confess I did love the drama of his show). When Stephanie Meyer brought the vampire back to life in her Twilight series, I never picked up one of her books. (Okay, okay, I saw the movies.) But in either medium, I’m not really in the “yes, sparkle” or “no, sparkle” camp.

But then about ten years ago, I went with some of my friends to a new class that studied energy from an Eastern perspective. We learned about auras and personal energy fields and chakras and self-healing. As a person who routinely thinks from inside my head instead of on a “touchy-feely” basis, this was a long, hard education for me, but I eventually understood it.

I also came to understand how others can drain your energy, in a very toxic way. You know, the person who calls at all hours of the day and night, just to whine about the terribles of their life, though they never take your advice and never change the way they do anything. They suck the life from you.

*idea*

And that’s how I came around to the concept that vampires come in alternate flavors besides blood-red cherry and rainbow sherbet. Once I reached that far, I moved on to the possibility of psychic vampires. These are vampires that steal energy, not blood, but a life force nonetheless.  Combining that with my background as a journalist and a few hunky doctors, LOVE ME, KISS ME, KILL ME was born. I may still shy away from vampires as a rule, but at least in this form, we can co-exist.

BLURB:

Running away isn’t necessarily the answer.

In her mad rush to escape a failed marriage, Sara Woods takes the first job available and lands in the middle of a mystery. Her first assignment as a news reporter for the Ralston Courier is the investigation of a string of deaths, all young women, all her age.

She becomes a patient at the Goldstone Clinic, a local mecca of healing, to deal with chronic pain from her past. But all is not as it seems at the Goldstone, its doctors and nurses are all the picture of perfect beauty and health. Patients at the clinic first seem to get better, then they deteriorate. Sara enlists the help of Dr. Rick Paulsen, who teaches her how to access her internal power, skills she never knew she had, revealing secrets from her past. Police officer Brendon Zale also takes an interest in Sara, stalking her, watching her every move, and he won’t leave her alone.

As she digs deeper into the story, and more young women die without explanation, she tries to choose allies wisely, but not until the last confrontation does she discover the identity of her true enemy.

By then, it’s too late.

EXCERPT:

When the doctor didn’t answer my last question, I asked again. “Why haven’t you gone to the police?”
“You don’t understand. The police won’t be any help in this matter.”

“They’re investigating her death—”

 “They’re not investigating her death! They’re just going through the motions until everyone forgets about her and they can toss her file in a cabinet, never to be seen again!” He slapped his fork onto the table, a flush of anger suffusing his face, all the way to the tips of his ears. “Just like the others.”

I glanced quickly around to see if his eruption had been noticed, but Athena was, thankfully, out of the room. “What others?” I demanded. “Those three other women? The same people have killed all of them? And no one’s noticed except you?”

“No one will. No one will even care.” He leaned closer, spoke more softly. “They’re careful who they choose. Victims with no close family. Women who won’t be missed.”

“That Gina had a baby. There must have been someone—”

“Her ex had filed papers to get custody. Once she was dead, he didn’t have a worry in the world. He didn’t care, as long as she was out of his way. It was the same with the others. Lily’s fiancé had broken it off with her, and she was just hiding here with her aunt, letting her ballet practice become her life. Marta was a loner, a waitress who lived by herself. Sandy was a new teacher, she’d just started at the district, and she was so proud of her class.” His voice broke with emotion, and he waved away the waiter, who was heading in our direction with a pitcher of ice water.

“You treated them all?” I asked.

“At one time or other. I could sense something not right about them, something in their chemistry, something in their…energy, it just wasn’t right.”

Energy? That was the second time in two days I’d heard someone talk about a person’s energy. Surely he didn’t mean… “So who’s ‘they’? These mysterious bad guys?”

It was almost a whisper. “The Goldstone Clinic.”

A book from Hydra Publications! Learn more at:  http://lyndialexander.wordpress.com/love-me-kiss-me-kill-me/

BUY LINKS:

Amazon.com   http://www.amazon.com/Love-Me-Kiss-Kill-ebook/dp/B008WCZIZK/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1344729827&sr=8-10&keywords=Lyndi+Alexander

Barnes and Noble.com  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-me-kiss-me-kill-me-lyndi-alexander/1112464898?ean=2940014864022

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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