The Pit and the Passion

She held her gaze steady, mainly so she could delve deep, deep into those chocolate eyes. Together with his sharp, angular nose and intense, almost predatory, expression, he reminded her of a peregrine falcon on the hunt.

The Pit & the Passion

Friday, May 2, 2014

Welcome to the Secret Cravings Contemporary Romance Blog Hop May 2-4

Today I'm going to talk about two of my romantic suspense/murder mystery novels, Mai Tais and Mayhem: Murder at Mote Marine, and Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders. While both are contemporary romances, they have completely different settings, plots and characters. To win a copy of one of these fabulous mystery romances, leave a comment and your email address below, telling us why you're interested in the particular book. Or, just enjoy the excerpts!

So many romances, so many crooks: can Tessa Diamond, turtle protector and amateur sleuth, keep them straight and still find true love? Find out in my romantic suspense/mystery Mai Tais and Mayhem: Murder at Mote Marine (a Sarasota Romance).

When Tessa Diamond rescues a baby pufferfish from a hungry gull, her good deed leads her into a shady world of smuggling, Russian gangsters, and coded messages. She confronts murder, attempted ravishment, parrots, sea turtles and big fish, only to encounter blossoming romances at every turn, including one of her own.

She is torn between Cameron Mason, tiger-eyed and handsome, and Dugan Trevally, sexy and dangerous, but before she can drop her longstanding opposition to marriage and accept her true love, she must face the possibility that one of them could be a thief, and even a murderer.

EXCERPT ~ An Unexpected Surprise (PG)

The alarm woke her at seven. Tessa threw on the Mote polo shirt and black golf skort she’d laid out the night before, grabbed the bagel and can of V8 she’d left on the counter, and shot down Gulf of Mexico Drive as the sun came up. The road for once was deserted and she could revel in the breeze blowing her long black hair and the scent of frangipani in the air. The soft gray sky held only a hint of the deep blue to come later, and the gulf lay becalmed by the evaporating night. She sang a country song as she drove. In her bones she knew this would be a glorious day, the first in a long time where she felt free of any guilt or sadness. If only she could whistle. If only I could carry a tune.
She parked in the aquarium lot and walked across to the Goldstein Center. Pulling out the key Pilchard had given her, she let herself in by the ticket booth. Pale, blurry light seeped in through the plastic sheeted tanks to her right. She went up the stairs and around the gift shop to the dolphin pool, rattling doors as she went. All was quiet and locked. A snort came from the pool. One of the dolphins raised his head and peered at her before diving back down.
Looks okay here. She checked her watch. Eight-twenty. The support staff should be arriving soon to open the gift shop and ticket counter. She walked back down the stairs. The turtle tanks lay to her right—two large shallow pools that at present held four sea turtles, one leatherback—Fred—two green turtles, and a loggerhead. She leaned over Fred’s tank. “Fred,” she called, “how are you? Feeling better?”
A black mass floated at the other end of the pool. Oh dear, I hope he’s not still sick. Worried, she skirted the other tank and ducked under the gate. The mass didn’t move. “Fred?” She reached out a hand to touch his shell and instead encountered something soft and mushy. “Fred?”
At that moment the overhead light flashed on. She swung around. From the hall came the voice of Henry Stillwater, the coordinator of the dolphin training program. “Who’s there?”
“It’s Tessa. Tessa Diamond. I’m the volunteer. I was checking on Fred, but something’s wrong.”
Tessa turned around to look into the pool again and screamed.

Mai Tais and Mayhem is a full-length novel, 3 flames, M/F, available in ebook and print at most fine webstores.

Artful Dodging: The Torpedo Factory Murders takes place in Old Town Alexandria, an historic cobblestoned city on the Potomac River. It follows the adventures of several artists at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a hulking warehouse of a place on the waterfront. An old munitions factory, it lay abandoned after World War II until the 1970s, when an intrepid band of ladies got the City of Alexandria to lease it to them for an art center. Today it houses 82 studios, the Art League, the Friends of the Torpedo Factory, and an Archaeology center.

Waiting out the rain, Milo Everhart takes stock of her widowhood and the handsome man standing in the door to the bar.  Little does she know she will meet that man again and again under both passionate and terrifying circumstances.

Tristram Brody waits for his date, too conscious of the beautiful woman sitting by the door. Little does he know that she will hate him for trying to destroy her beloved art center, and even suspect him of murder. Nor that she will be drawn inevitably into his arms.

Little does either of them suspect they will be embroiled in not one, but two murders, in which the fate of the Torpedo Factory, an art center housed in an old munitions factory on the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria, will be decided.

EXCERPT (PG): The Disappearing Body

“Hello! Hello? 911?”
“Please state the nature of your emergency.”
“A body. There’s a b…b…body.” The word came out as a gurgle.
“Yes, ma’am. Now tell me where you are.”
Milo looked wildly around the darkened corridor. “Second floor. No lights.”
“Ma’am? Second floor of what?”
“Oh, er, the Torpedo Factory. I ran downstairs. I…”
“The Torpedo Factory? You mean the building at 105 North Union Street?”
Milo almost snapped, “How many torpedo factories do you know?” but thought better of it. “Yes.”
“All right, ma’am. Now, you say you’ve found a body? Is it dead?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course it’s dead. Dead. A dead body. In the office.”
“The office?”
“The tower. Look, can you send the police? I’m all alone in the building. Except for the body of course. I mean, it’s pitch black in here. Please?” She knew she sounded less than rational, but weren’t 911 operators trained to weed out the gibberish and cut to the chase?
“I’ve already sent out a call. The police should be arriving any minute. Now, will they be able to enter the building?”
“Oh! Er. I don’t know. Archie’s already locked up.”
“The building manager. He’s long gone, though.”
“Can you get to a door to let them in?”
Milo’s shoes must have found bubble gum on the floor all by themselves, since they appeared to be stuck. “I…uh…I can’t get to the doors.” Nothing but silence on the other end. She must think I’m lazy. Or a coward. I’ll bet she’s trained to wait people out, to force them to do her bidding. “I’m not lazy, Miss. I’m just…I’m wondering. What if the murderer is hiding somewhere, still in the building?”
“Murderer? You think the victim was murdered?”
Every CSI show she’d ever watched, plus a couple of X Files, fast-forwarded through her brain. Somewhere in the reruns she found the answer. “I don’t know. That’s for the experts to decide.” Thank you, Gil Grissom.
“Okay, ma’am. Listen to me carefully. If the building is locked, the police will have to break the door down, but first they’ll have to go to a judge and get a search warrant. So you see, the quickest way they can help you is if you let them in. Now, do you think you can go down the stairs to the door?”
Milo drew in a long, ragged breath, holding it until her head began to spin. As she let it out, she managed, “Yes. I’m on the landing. Can you stay on the line with me in case I’m attacked?”
“I sure will.”
Milo felt her way with one hand toward the middle stairwell. “I’m on the stairs now. Now I’m walking down the stairs.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
The central staircase of the factory only had a single metal railing and thus was exposed to the entire main hall. If anyone still lurked in the building he could easily see (and hear) her. She stopped halfway down and looked across the main lobby to the front entrance, a set of doublewide, glass-paned sliding doors. “There are flashing lights and sirens out on Union Street.”
“Yes, ma’am. That would be the police.”
Well, duh. Milo had the uncomfortable feeling that the operator was lobbing inaudible unflattering adjectives at her over the bandwidth.
A policeman stood facing her outside the portal. She reached the ground floor and waved at him. He waved back. She realized he expected her to open it, but she had no idea how. She knew Archie flipped some kind of switch somewhere to activate it, but she’d never actually seen him do it. She searched frantically around her in the gloom. The revolving light from the police cars only made it harder to see. Milo gave up and, pointing to her left, ran down the main hall to a small vestibule. For the benefit of artists who worked late, Archie usually left the alarm off at one unmarked exit that emptied onto Union Street. She pushed open the heavy steel door.
Two burly Alexandria cops shouldered their way in. Behind them, a short, chubby fellow in a raincoat tipped a cowboy hat.
“Ma’am? We have a report of a corpse?”

“Yes, yes, in the office…I mean the tower. Fourth floor.”
Cowboy hat nodded at the policemen, who headed toward the main stairs. The detective pulled out a notebook. “My name is Webley, Lieutenant Webley, Alexandria Police Criminal Investigations. Now, could I get your name please? Your occupation? And your reason for being in the Factory after hours? On whose authority are you here?”
Milo ignored the detective’s staccato questions and sprinted after the policemen, who had dashed up the main stairs. She caught up with them on the third floor landing, where they milled around with puzzled looks.
The detective brought up the rear, puffing even harder than Milo. She started to take the lead, but he put a warning hand on her arm. “Miss? Could you answer my questions first?”
“Milo Everhart. I have a studio here. I was working late.”
“In the tower?”
“The tower? Why would I—? No, in my studio.”
“May I ask why you went up to the tower?”
 “The Artists Cooperative keeps records there. I went to fetch a couple of files on the city council hearings before I went home. Could we maybe get a move on?”
“Sure.” His tone made it clear that he did not consider accommodating her a top priority at the moment.
Since Milo still grappled with the issue of a dead body in her building, she couldn’t spare the time to worry about some cop’s disapproval. “This way, gentlemen.”
She led them around the curving corridor to a small door marked “Friends of the Torpedo Factory.” She pulled it open and stepped back to let them climb the stairs before her. The fire door stood ajar. The detective looked at her.
“I must have left it open when I ran down the stairs.”
One of the policemen pulled a convenient cinder block out and wedged it open. Fluorescent light shone out onto the landing. By the time Milo reached the little room, the first policeman was calling for an ambulance while the other one ran yellow tape around the room.
The detective stood at the door, blocking her view. He flipped open his phone. “We have a one-eighty-seven. Male. Caucasian. Fully clothed.”
Milo stepped back, hand to heart. He didn’t really think…
“Looks like his head’s been smashed in…With a what? A blunt instrument?...Ha ha, Joey, real funny…No, I can’t tell yet—he’s lying on his back. Get the CSI team over stat.”
He hung up and stepped aside, giving Milo a view of the room. She stared down at the thing that lay between the table and the far door as if for the first time.
“Ms. Everhart, looks like we’ll be spending some quality time with each other. Now, do you want to tell me everything you heard and saw?”
Milo continued to stare at the body. She gulped for air and managed a faint mumble. “I don’t think I can tell you much.”
“That’s all right, ma’am, just the facts.” He grinned. “Tell us how you found it.”
“That’s the problem, Mr. Webley. I can’t. This isn’t my body.”

Don't forget, to win a copy of one of these fabulous mystery romances, leave a comment about which book you'd like to read first and your email address below. Then go on to the other fabulous participating authors here:


Devika Fernando said...

They both sound awesome! I have read "The Mason's Mark" by M.S. Spencer and loved it, and these two sure pose a huge temptation.

Tamara Hoffa said...

I have to choose? I guess the Artful dodger, they both sound great! Best of luck! tamara.hoffa1964(at)gmail(dot)com

Manda Ward said...

Mai tais sounds my mug of tea.
Have a great time on the hop.

M. S. Spencer said...

Ha ha Manda!

Beverly Ovalle said...

I have to admit I'd love to read Mai Tais and Mayhem first! The title just really appeals to me! And turtles? What's not to love?

Heare2Watts said...

Joining you on the blog hop! Either book would be wonderful and thank you for the chance!
Redrabbitt at aol dot com

Jeanine said...

I think I'd like to read Mai Tais and Mayhem!

Sandra Nachlinger said...

These sound like the kind of books that keep me up at night reading when I should be sleeping! Good stuff.

M. S. Spencer said...

That's a good thing, right, Sandra?

Michelle Willms said...

I'd love to win Mai Tais and Mayhem first. I love mysteries, so they both sound good. michelle_willms at yahoo dot com.

bn100 said...

Mai Tais and Mayhem

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

slimssis said...

Artful dodger sounds amazing to me!
Shy3171411 (at) yahoo ( dot ) com

JoAnna said...

The suspense in Mai Tais and Mayhem sounds great. Thanks for the chance!

beckerjo at verizon dot net