Monday, October 12, 2015


“In fourteen hundred and ninety two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue
He had three ships and left from Spain:
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain...”

      Born between 1450 and 51 in the Republic of Genoa, a young boy named Christopher Columbus longed to sail the sea. In one of his writings he claimed he achieved that desire at the age of ten. In 1470, he served on a ship in the service of Rene of Anjou to support Rene’s attempt to conquer the Kingdom of Naples.
     Columbus, a determined and ruthless man, learned Latin, Portuguese and Castilian, read the writings of Ptolemy, Pliny, and made marginal notes in books on geography, history, astronomy and The Travels of Marco Polo and had an intense interest in the Bible and in the predictions he gleaned from its pages. 
     The explorer, navigator and colonizer also wrote. He penned letters, journals and books about his travels. A Book of Privileges in 1502 which specified and documented the rewards from the Spanish Crown to which he declared he was entitled and a Book of Prophesies in 1505 where he wrote his feats as an explorer were a realization of Biblical prophesy.
     Columbus tried to discover a westward route to India and until he departed this life believed he had succeeded in his mission and never accepted as fact he had reached a different continent. Columbus sailed across the uncharted sea and navigating by the stars and blown by the winds from the east he reached the New World landing on an island in the Bahamas he named “San Salvador.” After this first voyage, Columbus was named Viceroy and Governor of the Indies that made him largely responsible for the supervision of the colonies.
     He made three additional voyages to the Greater and Lesser Antilles, the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and Central America and claimed them for the Crown of Castile. A controversial man he is believed by many historians to be responsible for organizing the transatlantic buying and selling of slaves and the torture and genocide of Hispaniola natives.
     The end of his third voyage found him fatigued in body and mind. Allegations of cruelty and ineptitude had reached the ear of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand and he was replaced Francisco de Bobadilla. Columbus gave the conversion of unbelievers as one of the reasons for his explorations and as he aged and became ill, he became progressively more devout. 

     Amerigo Vespucci born in 1454 in Florence, Italy was another young man who read widely, and collected books and maps. He began his working career with bankers and was sent to Spain where soon he found employment on ships. Vespucci went on his first voyage as a navigator in 1499. The ship reached the mouth of the Amazon and explored the coast of South America. He calculated the specific distance west he had traveled by studying the concurrence of Mars and the Moon. In 1501, Vespucci sailed under the Portuguese flag following the South American coast to within 400 miles of the southern tip. His two letters to a friend narrated his travels and became the first to recognize the new world of North and South America. His observations of the Indigenous People in the letters told of their diet, religion, marriage and sexual habits. The last made the letters a best seller published in many languages across Europe.
     A German clergyman-scholar read of Vespucci’s voyages and knew that the new world consisted of two continents. He was working on a map based on the geography of Ptolemy and printed a wood block map with the name “America,” across the southern continent of the New World. He printed and sold a thousand copies of the book. The name stuck and today we celebrate Columbus Day but the name of Americus Vespucci lives on.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

WINNER of the NYUS Celebration Prize Draw

Thanks again to everyone who visited / supported / cheered / entered our week-long 250k-HITS celebration and Prize Draw!

The winner of our fabulous bundle of books is... JAN FEE.

Jan, I'll email you shortly to discuss sending you all your prize books over the next few days.


And we look forward to keeping in touch with you all :).

Friday, October 9, 2015

Who was Jack the Ripper, and does it matter?

I was a bit stuck for a blog post, and then I thought - what about the greatest historical mystery of them all? Have they really discovered the true identity of Jack the Ripper?
I think they have, and to be honest, it wasn’t my favourite candidate. But it works, and it’s convincing enough for me. But I think a lot of folks have got it wrong. It wasn’t the identity of the killer, it wasn’t even the horrible nature of them. The reason the case became so notorious was because of something else.
People have gone nuts looking for the identity of the first documented serial killer, the first one to be classified as such, but if you start looking around the case, at the history behind it, the picture gets a lot clearer.
The Ripper murders took place in the 1880’s, a decade of change for the police force. The new-fangled idea of a civilian police force had come into society after Peel’s Act of Parliament in 1832, but the demands for one had started long before that. However, by the 1880’s, two pressures were starting to demand changes. The legal system had gone through huge changes. People were now locked away in large prisons as punishment, a new way of looking at correction procedures. The decade of reform in the 1870’s had changed the way society looked, and the way people viewed things. It was becoming obvious that the large, industrial conurbations required more vigorous policing than they had before.
Before the Ripper stalked the East End, other murder cases had seized the public imagination, but these were generally not of the gruesome kind. The Bartlett case, the Maybrick case (James Maybrick was another candidate for Jack the Ripper until his “diaries” confessing the crime were shown to be fakes) and the mystery of the Red House were domestic cases involving characters and social concerns. They had a story.
The Ripper case had nothing. Even the perpetrator was a mystery, and in all likelihood, if he was exposed, his name would have been unknown to most. The women who were savagely murdered were the lowest in society, the ones who barely survived by selling their bodies, and having sordid encounters in the streets.
But the extensive reporting, especially in the Police Gazette drew public attention to a series of murders that might have been swept under the carpet before. That’s the real mystery, and one I don’t have an answer to. Why those? Why not the other women who were found murdered in London, especially prostitutes?
I think it was probably an accumulation of events. The prominence the papers gave to the case was certainly one. Then there was the other novel element. Photography. The Ripper case was the first in which photography was an official part of the case, used to record the appearance of the women in the morgue. There was no thought to recording the scene that way, or the body as it was found--all that came later--but this was a real start to what would become a police science.
Although the photographs weren’t officially released at the time, they were known about, and it became obvious to the officials in the case that the camera was a vital tool in investigations.
Shortly after the Ripper case, fingerprints were collated and began to be used officially. It was a science in its infancy, but by the end of the nineteenth century, was becoming well incorporated into the investigative procedure.
One aspect of the Ripper case also pointed up a weakness in the policing of London. For one of the murders, another force was involved. The police connected with the case came from two areas, and they didn’t work together too well. After the case, a huge reform of the Metropolitan Police took place, paving the way for the modern policing era.
The Ripper case was probably the last one in which the only way to prove the perpetrator did the deed was to catch him red-handed. After that, the collection of evidence was improved until it became possible to prove beyond reasonable doubt who did the deed.
That’s why the case is important. It’s what it set in train, not the events themselves.
Oh, the identity? For me, the DNA evidence on the shawl owned by one of the victims tends to put the final touch on the murderer’s identity. Kosminski, a Polish immigrant, was in the right place at the right time, had the right kind of background, ie he fitted many of the profiling points associated with serial killers, and he had a certain skill at butchery, which would have enabled him to remove the kidney from one victim and the uterus from another in clean, straight sweeps of the knife.
But in truth, it doesn’t matter. Because the man who did it (most agree that it was a man) is long dead. It’s almost certain that he wasn’t anyone important, nobody famous or wealthy, and someone whose name means nothing to us, except when he was associated with the murders.
What happened afterwards is more interesting.

Lynne Connolly

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

It's a Wrap!

This week marks the release of the final installment of the Adrenaline Highs! I'm so excited to get Always Dangerous out into the world.

 But ending this book brought up a few questions.

Are you one of those people who like seeing everyone (from all or most of the previous books) show up at the end of the final book? Or have you read a book that did that and because you hadn't read every book in the series, you didn't know who some of the characters were so you ended up feeling a little out of the loop?

One of the things I liked about the Adrenaline Highs is that each book ended with two happy main characters (sometimes more). At the end of every book, I wondered if I should toss in a person or two from a past story or stories, but ultimately I wanted all of the books to stand alone, so I refrained from going overboard.

Honestly, I actually considered having some kind of party at the end of Always Dangerous... Something that would bring in all the characters from the previous books, but then I read a book deep into a series by a favorite author and she'd done something similar. In the end, I thought it didn't feel right. Not because she'd already done it, but I didn't want to leave any reader (who hadn't read all of the books) feeling left out.

Who knows...maybe I'll save the "party" for a free read down the line.

An excerpt was already posted a few dys ago, but I thought it might be fun to post a different (quick!) one today since it is release week.

Damn, he’d forgotten how much he liked her. Their two-month separation had been good, because he’d been able to focus on other things besides how much he wanted to be with her. Touching her set his blood on fire. She blinked a few times, fast, as if their contact was another shock to her system. And standing there, with his legs between hers, with their mouths so close together, the only thought in his brain was kiss her. Now.
“Leo,” she whispered. Her lips seemed to move in slow motion as he slowly bridged the gap between them.
“What?” he growled.
“I don’t think this is a—”
He kissed her before she finished the sentence, because she was right. It wasn’t a good idea. But damn if he could stop himself. She was his Achilles heel. His weak spot. The more distance she put between them, the more he wanted her. He started slow, worked his way into the kiss, waiting for her to push him away or move back. She did neither, so he took it farther and tasted her lower lip with a gentle brush of his tongue. A little moan vibrated from her throat as their lips stayed connected. She tasted different…she tasted like a luscious cinnamon stick, all hot and spicy. “You found my cinnamon gum in the shorts pocket, didn’t you?” he breathed against her mouth. The gum was her fault. Whatever perfume she wore smelled like cinnamon and he’d started to chew the gum. Whether to remind himself of her or not was something he purposely hadn’t analyzed.
She barely nodded, her wet lips brushing against his in an erotic glide. “I had nap breath,” she murmured.
He smiled against her lips before going in for more. Still slow, still sexy as hell, still doing his best to inhale her without scaring her off. They had history, yes, but her unpredictability always threw him off. He missed the softness of her hair under his fingertips. The way her pulse beat rapidly right before contact.
“Leo,” she murmured, her mouth still moving against his as his hands moved down her thighs.
“Mmm,” he managed.
“We should stop. This isn’t going to get either one of us anywhere.”
Just like last time, she was relying on his will power to stay away. Hadn’t he failed that test already? In a colossal way?

So, tell me… How do you like saying goodbye to a series? With a full cast of characters or mainly the ones in the book you read? 

Always Dangerous is at Amazon | Nook | iTunes | Kobo | ARe
You can find Dee J. at her website

Monday, October 5, 2015

Location, Location: The Iconic Hudson River Valley

Did you all enjoy last week’s celebration of NYUS’s blog?  Weren’t the excerpts fantastic? I hope you found new authors to buy their books as well as savored the works of those authors whom you already follow. Congratulations to all the raffle winners!

I love travel and the opportunity to see new places. The experiences always fuel the creativity well, especially in terms of settings. This past summer I explored the Hudson River Valley, rich with history and dramatic river and mountain scenery.
With hotels nestled against the river, you can have a romantic setting for a wedding...
Or a clandestine meeting at an isolated castle on an island.

For settings or character background, consider Hyde Park world leaders where were either raised or came together to discuss critical issues…

Or the rich played…
West Point is steeped in military pride and tradition, not to mention the amazing vistas, all that can fuel a character’s development or furnish settings.





 The only off note on the trip was our attempt to explore Sleepy Hollow. The road construction and ensuing traffic jams were such that not even the Headless Horseman could have gotten through. I only had enough time to snap a quick shot of Irving’s grave.  However, that leaves my friends and I a good reason to go back. 
So if you're looking for a majestic backdrop for a setting or to flesh out a character, consider the Hudson River Valley. It certainly served well writers such as James Fenimore Cooper and Washington Iriving.
What are some of your favorite places along the Hudson River?
J Carol Stephenson

The celebration and Prize Draw is near its close...

Many thanks to everyone who joined in the fun of our Celebrations last week! We hope you enjoyed the rollercoaster ride of our Romantic Suspense excerpts, and the details of our books.

There's still two more days to enter the RAFFLECOPTER draw. See any of the week's posts for details. The winner of an e-book from ALL the participating authors will be announced later this week.

And please continue enjoying the blog as we go back to business as usual. Here's to the next 250,000 visitors!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Prize Draw and Celebration at NYUS - Dee J Adams

The authors of Not Your Usual Suspects thank you for following the blog, and celebrate 250,000 hits!

This week we'll be featuring a selection of delicious and delightful excerpts from our books. A lucky commenter at the end of the week will win a set of books from ALL the authors in e-format.

Just leave your email in the RAFFLECOPTER draw below - and you can earn extra entries by leaving a comment on the blogpost, too.

Today's featured author is DEE J ADAMS and her book ALWAYS DANGEROUS.. Please enjoy the excerpt, pop the book on your wishlist if you're tempted, and don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter draw below.


Leo Frost has lost his house, his car and possibly his acting career. Releasing an independent film is his only hope of paying for his sister’s twenty-four/seven care, but he’s got to finish it first. The last thing he needs is a curveball from the one woman who could break his focus with a look, a smile and the most unexpected news of his life. 

Kim Jacobs wants it all—a career in a big city, a husband and a family, but a tryst two months ago with one of Hollywood’s biggest stars leaves her pregnant. Knowing Leo doesn’t want kids or a wife, Kim decides to make her own happily-ever-after with the help of a recent inheritance. All that’s left is to tell the man and move on.  

Kim’s short visit to L.A. turns deadly with a series of mysterious attempts on her life. Suddenly Leo not only has to save his career, he has to find out who’s trying to murder the lady who is stealing his heart. As an actor, danger was staged and nothing was at stake, but now the threats are all too real. If Leo wants a future and a family with Kim, he has to prove he can do more than play a hero onscreen, he has to be one in real life.


“I have my reasons,” she mocked as she took another curve, tears leaking down her cheeks. “Well, I have reasons too, dickhead. You’re off the hook so why should you even care.” She swiped at her cheeks and immediately grabbed the wheel when she couldn’t control it one handed. She took two more curves, gripping the sluggish wheel tightly in her hands. “What the hell?” A sharp turn came up and the wheel barely responded. “Oh shit,” Kim breathed as she slammed on the brakes. The car skidded on gravel, maybe left over remnants from a hill slide because of the earthquake a month ago. It didn’t matter because the car just kept going and she had no way to turn. No way to avoid the guardrail that loomed straight in front of her or the massive drop that lurked behind it.


Self-preservation kicked in. Kim unbuckled her seatbelt, opened the car door and jumped before impact. The crash exploded next to her as she hit the gravel road. The car went airborne and over the cliff while a deafening roar of adrenaline filled her head. Gravity yanked her in the same direction as her car and Kim skidded, out of control, scrabbling for hold as she slid. A second later, her legs went over the edge and she was falling, still trying to grab something, anything to hang onto. She caught a ledge for a couple of seconds, but lost it and dropped onto another ledge and bounced. Still grappling for something, she caught a thick bush and held on to the body of it, her heart slamming against her ribs, her breathing harsh.

Brittle branches poked against her torso and shredded her shirt, but she was still breathing, still alive, so she counted it as a win. “Don’t look down. Don’t look down,” she muttered softly. She looked up. At the distance she had to somehow climb to save her stupid ass.

She shifted to find purchase with her legs and the bush threatened to give way. “No, no, no.” Hot tears clouded her vision. She couldn’t die. The baby inside her depended on her. Maybe if she went sideways and got a foot on the flat rock protruding from the mountain, she could leverage herself up. But any type of movement might yank this bush out even faster. Indecision and fear kept her completely still despite all those branches poking mercilessly into her torso.

“Kim!” Leo! The panic in his voice matched her shit-in-the-pants fear.

“Leo! I’m here!” The roots of the bush slowly came loose from their hold. “I don’t have much time. This bush is about to drop me.” Don’t look down. She didn’t want to know how far she had to fall. The longer she waited, the less chance she had of this damn shrubbery holding her.

“Hang on! I’m coming!”

Rocks whizzed past her and she didn’t look up. The bush dropped her another six inches as more roots popped out of the mountain. He wasn’t going to make it in time.

Kim kicked her right leg sideways to get a swing going. It was the only way she’d reach that ledge. The bush didn’t like the new distribution of weight and told her so with another lurch. Her high pitch scream cut the silence. With a fresh burst of adrenaline, Kim tried one more shot at the ledge. She swung her leg up and caught the edge, hanging horizontal and parallel to the canyon bottom. More roots yanked from their spot in the mountain wall as the bush slowly pulled out completely. A scream tore from Kim as she started to follow it down.

Strong hands snagged her left arm and she reached up blindly with her right and grabbed onto Leo’s bicep with everything she had.

“Gotcha,” he huffed, dragging her up his body until she was tightly against him.

She had no idea how he managed it and didn’t care. She held on, breathing hard, every inch of skin burning with cuts and scrapes.

“Easy, easy,” he soothed. “Let’s try and move over to that ledge you were aiming for,” he said, his voice calm, cool and in control. He sounded just like the action hero he played in the movies. With her nose buried in his neck, she caught the mouth-watering, spicy scent of him.

Shaking uncontrollably, Kim opened her eyes. Leo had a rope wrapped around his chest. He moved sideways the couple feet necessary to reach their little ledge and together they got their balance, hugging the mountain like sap on a tree.

Leo manipulated them so he was behind her, keeping her safe between him and solid rock. “I’ve got you. You’re not going anywhere.”

Dee J Adams amazon author page

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway HERE

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Prize Draw and Celebration at NYUS - Maureen Miller

The authors of Not Your Usual Suspects thank you for following the blog, and celebrate 250,000 hits!

This week we'll be featuring a selection of delicious and delightful excerpts from our books. A lucky commenter at the end of the week will win a set of books from ALL the authors in e-format.

Just leave your email in the RAFFLECOPTER draw below - and you can earn extra entries by leaving a comment on the blogpost, too.

Today's featured author is MAUREEN A. MILLER and her book SHADOW. Please enjoy the excerpt, pop the book on your wishlist if you're tempted, and don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter draw below.


The Shadow was watching her again.

Sometimes he would approach. On those occasions Sophie Diem tried to run. Running was pointless, though. He would always return. And he would always ask the same question…

Where is Nathan Bethard? 

Sophie's boss has skipped town, abandoning their counseling firm. Now a stranger is stalking her. In an attempt to flee him she seeks a new London. Surely crossing the Atlantic would be enough to deter her Shadow.

But what Sophie learns is that the Shadow does not have evil intentions. In fact, he may be her only ally--her only protection.

"The sexual tension with Sophie and The Shadow was off the charts. Overall, the book had it all: romance, suspense and humor." 


Sophie Diem closed the trunk of her Corolla with her elbow. It popped back open, of course. There had to be a sensor that detected just how many shopping bags she could juggle at once. Throw in a cold October rain and she realized that the free pinky on her left hand did not possess enough power for the deed. With a sigh she dropped three bags down on the wet sidewalk and slammed the trunk shut. Stringing her fingers through the plastic bag handles, she cursed when the paper towels toppled out.

Something made her pause. That keen sense of being watched. It crawled up the back of her neck as surely as if the perpetrator stood behind her with his fingers around her throat.

It was him.

He was watching her again.

Her shadow.

She could not see him. She could not prove he was there. She could never prove that he was there. But his eyes bore into her back.

Would he approach her today? He had done so in the past−the tall man with eyes the color of the darkest storm. The man who moved with catlike agility, but looked as if he rarely slept. The man who evoked chills even when she could not see him.

She had told others about him. Under their encouragement she had even approached the police. There was nothing they could or would do, though. She had no name for this man. No identity. Anytime she tried to trap him, he disappeared.

Oh, she had tried. She had even attempted to record him once with the microphone on her cell phone. But what good did a voice do? In the eyes of the police there was no physical threat. There was no name or body for them to go after. And again, the man would slip back into the night.

“Hello Sophie.”

The deep voice rumbled in the rain. The drops concealed his tread as he crossed the street to stand at her side. Dark rain coat. Dark pants. Gleaming dark hair. A face cast in shadow. He was a manifestation of the street itself−as if the pavement had morphed into this daunting figure.

She did not bolt, though. If she ran as she had done in the past, he would just let her go.

But he would always return.

He would always find her.

And he would always ask the same question−over and over and over…

Where is Nathan Bethard?

Prize Draw and Celebration at NYUS - Julie Moffett

The authors of Not Your Usual Suspects thank you for following the blog, and celebrate 250,000 hits!

This week we'll be featuring a selection of delicious and delightful excerpts from our books. A lucky commenter at the end of the week will win a set of books from ALL the authors in e-format.

Just leave your email in the RAFFLECOPTER draw below - and you can earn extra entries by leaving a comment on the blogpost, too.

Today's featured author is JULIE MOFFETT and her book NO WOMAN LEFT BEHIND. Please enjoy the excerpt, pop the book on your wishlist if you're tempted, and don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter draw below.


My mother's life goal has been to see me, geek extraordinaire Lexi Carmichael, happily married. So bringing my first boyfriend, Slash, home for dinner has me hyperventilating. Things get a lot worse when bullets start flying over our corn chowder.

Now the entire alphabet soup of government agencies want my help finding the man behind the attack--Johannes Broodryk, a cyber mercenary I foiled on my last case. He wants revenge and he's taken something of mine to ensure I'll play, so it's game on. But the government has its own agenda, and Slash is not on board with the plan. Things are a bit bumpy in paradise.

Although I'm more comfortable with computer code than commandos, I've been assigned a team of Navy SEALs to help bring Broodryk down. The question is, will they survive me long enough to solve his cryptic puzzles and save the day?


Chapter One
For a geek girl like me, having a boyfriend is a lot like texting. They both require precise input and appropriate response. Unfortunately, I’m not good at properly expressing my feelings in person, let alone in a text message. Emoticons scare me. I mean, what exactly is a pig in high heels or a smiling cactus supposed to signify? It’s totally outside the scope of a geek girl’s knowledge. Plus, no matter how hard I try it all seems to go south anyway because I usually end up in autocorrect hell.

Not that I’ve ever had to worry about texting, or a boyfriend, or texting a boyfriend, until now. My name is Lexi Carmichael and my teen crush was a comic book figure. Computer genius and circuit engineer Ace Argento (aka Code Man) was the absolute best. He didn’t count on guns or bombs to save the day, but relied on his superior intellect to outwit Byte Bandit and stop his fictional computer virus from infecting the Internet. Given that Ace was perpetually unavailable, not to mention fictional, I figured I’d never have to worry about navigating relationship dynamics. So, instead of hanging out at the mall with girlfriends and talking about guys, I hung out in chat rooms and discussed the latest SDN controllers and bypass protocols. My social life was completely virtual, and I preferred it that way.

Then, somehow, at the age of twenty-five, I stumbled into my first real relationship. In a series of events that surprised everyone—but especially me—I finally graduated from a comic book crush to a flesh-and-blood boyfriend. It turns out there are significant perks to having a real boyfriend, including delicious home-cooked Italian food, a guy who doesn’t fall asleep when I start talking about enterprise-level security metrics and some totally excellent I-didn’t-know-you-could-do-that-on-the-dining-room-table sex. Yep, being a girlfriend does have its rewards. Except now that my parents have caught wind of the fact I’m no longer single, they’re pressuring me to bring said boyfriend over for an evening of dinner and conversation.

That’s worrisome because my father is an attorney for an exclusive, high-priced firm in Georgetown. His masterful interrogation skills could make the leader of North Korea confess to wearing woman’s underwear…even if he didn’t. My mother is a former Virginia beauty queen who sits on the boards of several national charities. She has long despaired at my lack of social skills and, to my dismay, has appointed herself the task of finding me a husband. They’re pretty good parents, and they’re both proud of my position as the Director of Information Security at a cyberintelligence firm, but they haven’t ever been quite sure how to handle me!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Prize Draw and Celebration at NYUS - Jean Harrington

The authors of Not Your Usual Suspects thank you for following the blog, and celebrate 250,000 hits!

This week we'll be featuring a selection of delicious and delightful excerpts from our books. A lucky commenter at the end of the week will win a set of books from ALL the authors in e-format.

Just leave your email in the RAFFLECOPTER draw below - and you can earn extra entries by leaving a comment on the blogpost, too.

Today's featured author is JEAN HARRINGTON and her book THE DESIGN IS MURDER. Please enjoy the excerpt, pop the book on your wishlist if you're tempted, and don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter draw below.


The Design Is Death finaled in the 2014 Florida Book Awards.

Interior designer Deva Dunne should be focusing her attention on buying a new home with Lt. Victor Rossi. But in typical Deva-style, she’s got her mind on everyone else’s abodes. Keeping her busy are her two newest clients, who have a lot in common. They both live on Whiskey Lane, and both were involved with the same woman. Coincidence or competition?

James Stahlman believes Stew Hawkins moved into the house across the street to terrorize him after he became engaged to Kay, Stew’s ex-wife. But Stew is over it. He’s remarried–and to someone much younger. When both women are found “accidentally” dead weeks apart Deva thinks there’s something afoot on Whiskey Lane. Coincidence or murder?

Deva can’t stay away…as much as her protective fiancé would like her to. And it’s becoming clear that someone thinks Deva’s seen too much. With the list of suspects growing, and Deva and Rossi that much closer to becoming homeless–really, where are they going to live?–she’ll have to sift through the clues herself, or there’ll be no happily-ever-after.


For the second time that morning, the sleigh bells jangled, and I glanced past Mr. Stahlman toward the front door. An unshaven teenager lurched in, his knees popping out of his jeans, his eyes popping out of his head.

I froze. A Beretta aimed at your face would do that to a person.

Finger shaking, I pointed toward the doorway. “Look!”

Mr. Stahlman swiveled around, spotted Bug Eyes and in his shock dropped Charlotte—boom!—to the floor, probably for the first time in her fluffy little life.

“Don’t move,” our intruder said. As if we could.

“What do you want?” I asked, my voice as shaky as my knees. “I just opened up. There’s no money in here.”

“Quiet.” He waved the gun at Mr. Stahlman. “Drop your wallet on the floor. Then slide it over to me. No fast moves.”

James Stahlman reached inside his breast pocket and slowly withdrew a leather billfold. Bending down, he placed it on the floor, and with the toe of his polished loafer sent it sliding across the room.

To Charlotte, that meant party time. As the wallet skittered across the floorboards, she pounced, grabbed the leather in her teeth and, happy with her new toy, scampered around the shop, dodging between chair legs and swooping under the round table skirts.

The mugger followed the dog with his doped-up eyes and the muzzle of his gun. “Get the damned wallet, fast, or I’ll kill that mutt.”

“Mutt!” The word tore from James Stahlman’s lips. Finding the insult too grievous to ignore, he drew himself erect. “She came in second in the Westminster Dog Show.”

“Who gives a shit?”

As the Beretta ominously followed Charlotte’s every move, the morning sun glanced off the dull barrel. Dull? Ah! The gun was a plastic fake. Mr. Tough Guy Mugger was playing Cops and Robbers. He wasn’t even armed. I was sure of it—well, pretty darned sure. My father had been one of Boston’s finest and taught me everything he knew about weaponry. But the price of a mistake could be fatal. While I tried to decide what to do, Charlotte did the deciding for me.

The mugger approached her, gun cocked and aimed. She took one look at him and dropped the wallet. A five-pound ball of fluff with the body of a crumpet and the heart of a lion, she leaped for his hand and sank her perfect little teeth into it.

He howled, and with Charlotte clinging to his flesh, he raised his arm. Swinging her around like a furry slingshot, he flung her through the air. She sailed across the shop, landing with a squeal on the zebra settee, a dazed expression on her face, her bow at a nutty angle.

Forgetting all danger to himself or to me either, Stahlman rushed to his darling and picked her up, murmuring sweet nothings into her ears.

Our mugger grabbed the wallet where the dog had dropped it, flipped it open and removed what looked like a hefty wad of cash. He threw the raided billfold on the floor, and with a final menacing wave of his pistol, yanked open the front door and disappeared down the alley to a rousing chorus of sleigh bells.

“My brave girl,” Stahlman said. “My dear, brave girl.”

He sure wasn’t speaking to me, but that was all right. Charlotte had been terrific and deserved the praise.

All I’d done was stand frozen in uncertainty. Now that the danger was over, I thawed and sprang into action. “I’m calling the police.”

“No! No police.”

Cell phone in hand, I stared at him, dismayed. “You’re kidding me.”

“Not at all, Ms. Dunne.”

“Actually it’s Mrs., but after what we’ve just been through together, do call me Deva.”

“Of course.” He stroked Charlotte’s fur and kissed her yet again. “And I’m James. But no police, Deva.”

The phone clutched in my sweaty palm, I said, “Why not, for heaven sake? You’ve been robbed.”

Cradling Charlotte in one hand, he bent over to pick up his wallet.

“Don’t touch that,” I yelled. “Fingerprints!”

Despite my warning, he pocketed the billfold.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” I said. "You’ve just destroyed evidence.”

“The money is negligible. My important papers are intact. That’s what matters.”


He held up a single finger for silence, so I put the phone down on the sales desk, and without saying any more, waited for his reasoning.

He cleared his throat. “I’m assuming you read the local newspaper.”

“Every day.”

“Then you probably know of my wife’s unfortunate accident. It happened nearly a year ago...the publicity was relentless.”

“Yes, I remember.”

“The problem, Mrs....ah, that everyone remembers. The last thing I want is more adverse publicity.”

“But you were the victim here.”

“No matter. The story will read badly in the media. I don’t want that spotlight trained on me ever again.” He shuddered and straightened Charlotte’s bow. Gave her back her dignity. Then with a frown, he glanced up at me. “Do you understand how I feel?”

“I do,” I said, trying not to sigh. There goes a plum client. “Your wishes are important to me, James, but in this I’m afraid I can’t please you.” I waved an arm at the door. “That’s open to the general public every day. Suppose the thief returns?”

“Hmm.” James sniffed. “I see your point. Very well, do what you must, but I won’t stay to be interrogated. If need be, the police will know where to find me.” He reached into his breast pocket,  removed a business card and held it out to me. “Until tomorrow then. As I said earlier, before our, ah...adventure...I’m getting married soon. My first wife would have wanted a new life for me. Marilyn would have as well. I’m certain of it.”

I must have forgotten some of the details in the newspaper reports, but with his reminder, they flowed back like a tsunami. Marilyn Stahlman, who disappeared at sea a year ago, wasn’t James’s first wife. But like the first one, she too had died an untimely death under mysterious circumstances.

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