Tag Archive for: excerpt

The Perfect Holiday Gift of Unconventional Romantic Comedy

By Kimberly Jayne

Happy holidays to all! This month, with Take My Husband, Please! on sale for the holidays, I’d like to give you a taste of what reviewers and critics are saying:

From Publisher’s Weekly’s BookLife Prize in Fiction: “Slightly madcap, suddenly sweet, this novel combines the best of female friendship with soulful exploration of passion in its many forms. The dialog-heavy, elegant writing style pulls readers into a world that is difficult to leave.”

From the Midwest Book Review: “A delightfully quirky yet all-too-human cast of supporting characters rounds out this genre-busting tragi-sexy-drama-comedy. Highly recommended!”

From Readers’ Favorite: “Take My Husband, Please by Kimberly Jayne was a wonderful romance and a complete delight to read. I really enjoyed this book and I recommend it to anyone who likes a good combination of comedy and romance.

From Self-Publishing Review: “A laugh-out-loud romantic comedy. Will and Sophie are wonderfully flawed characters who find themselves in one absurd situation after another that’ll have you in stitches. In addition, the quirky supporting cast really brings this novel to life, and the author was able to throw in several hilarious and suspenseful twists and turns.

And if that doesn’t entice you to gift this delightful romantic comedy to someone you love—including yourself—here’s the opening excerpt:


Mitch Houdini clung to Sophie’s shoulders like the week’s dry cleaning as she led him inside. Loud enough to scare off intruders, her strappy stilettos click-clack-click-clacked across the hardwoods and echoed off the walls, giving her foyer a deserted feel. She reached for the lights but thought better of it because, in the dark, a few stubborn extra pounds and some baby-birthing stretch marks don’t exist. Right?

Mitch kicked the door shut and twirled Sophie around, painting a wet trail of kisses along her neck that fueled her long-suppressed yearning to be touched and adored—worshipped even—by a man. This man. From the moment he’d whisked her away in his Lamborghini convertible for a happy hour that had lingered to midnight, Mitch had been a heat-seeking missile she could not deflect. Not that she wanted to after all those Mexican martinis.

She reached behind, dropped her keys on a wood console table cluttered with framed photos and a warming pot of orange blossom-scented wax, and discreetly flipped a family portrait on its face. After the date she’d had, prying eyes need not sabotage her mission.


His voice vibrated the hair on her neck like plucked violin strings. He caressed her face in his hands and let his brazen tongue probe one ear, exploring every hill and cranny like he polished the chrome wheels of his cherished Lamborghini—cleaning and buffing and shining—and shooting chills right to her marrow. He followed with an invitation for dueling tongues, and by then she figured there wasn’t much that tongue of his couldn’t do. Still, she had imagined he would taste more like Don Juan instead of Cuban cigars and Stolichnaya.

Mitch took a breath and shrugged out of his sports coat, revealing a wedge-shaped torso that strained against the fabric of his tailored shirt. She stood in the shadow of his six-four frame, the ceiling vents blasting cold air on her skin, while his hands ventured where no man had gone for nearly two years. He thumbed her breasts through her little black dress and a pushup bra with its work cut out for it, igniting a white-hot desire between her legs. Every millimeter of her womanhood begged for the point of no return. Begged.

That’s when he crushed himself against her.

Whoa. So the rumors were true. His manhood was the stuff of local legend, regaled in water cooler jokes about some hocus pocus that had to be kept under wraps—an industrial-length Mr. Slinky. Uncompressed, it could be dangerous. His massive hardness rolled against her bellybutton and his soft moans set her on fire.

Teasing him with a gentle bite on his lower lip, she drew him into the shadowy living room, around the sofa. He pulled her closer, his hands disappearing under her dress and searing his fingerprints into her bare skin. She felt her lacy panties shift and roll down until they stretched around her thighs. As his fingers explored the terrain between her legs, her breath caught and she could no longer wait.

She pushed him onto the sofa and pounced on top of him. But in less time than it took to say, Wheeee! Sophie felt herself flying backward. She landed on the coffee table with her feet in the air and her bottom winking at the ceiling.

“What the hell?” Mitch said, scrambling to his feet.

“What the hell?” came another man’s voice.

“What the hell?” Sophie echoed, clapping her hands to turn on the lamp.

A man in a black T-shirt and sweats rolled off the sofa, fast-blinking and squinting as if he’d just woken up, his salt-and-pepper mullet spiked in all directions.

Sophie gasped and gaped. “Why the hell are you in my house?”

Mitch launched into a fighting stance with his fists up. “Who is this?”

“He’s my— he’s my—” She blew out an exasperated sigh. “Husband.”

“Your husband?” Mitch’s face turned the same shade as the Sultry Summer Spice lip color smudged around his bruised mouth.

“Ex-husband, actually.”

“Not ex yet,” the mullet-headed man said.

Sophie huffed and rolled her eyes, gesturing at each man by way of introduction. “Will Camden, Mitchell Houdini.”

They made no move to shake hands, and a hot rash of embarrassment spread across her skin. Will had never seen her with another man before. Had he heard her mouth kissing Mitch’s? Her sighs escaping? Her primal need for fulfillment screaming?

The hot rash began to itch then, and she wiped her swollen lips. Her hair clip fell out and bounced on the hardwoods, and that’s when she noticed her push-up pads had dislodged themselves and wiggled up to her neck. Great. Now she had no boobs, an up-don’t, and her dignity bunched around her ankles. It was official. She was a slut.

“I don’t feel well.” She held her stomach and wavered on her heels, reaching down to pull up her panties when the martinis went to her head, her eyes crossed, and the room swirled. Down she went like a felled redwood.

Will extricated the panties from her heels and dangled them from his fingertips. “You wear a G-string now?”

Mitch hauled her up by the armpits. “Something you want to tell me?”

Sophie snatched back her panties and squeezed her eyes shut to quell the dizziness. “There’s not much to tell. We’ve been separated for more than a year, and now we’re getting divorced. The papers have been filed. Speaking of divorce, Will, did you forget you don’t live here anymore?”

“I’m here because somebody had to pick up the kids from the slumber party. They’re upstairs, sick.”

“What? Both of them?”

“Too much sugar would be my guess. And omigod, the projectile barfing was epic. I’m talking some serious industrial-strength chum. First, one would blow and then the other. I think they were tag-teaming me. I divvied out the Pepto-Bismol, and at least that didn’t come back up.”

Mitch’s mouth contorted through various incarnations of horror.

“Exactly,” Will said. “Regurgitated strawberry shortcake is something you don’t want to miss in your lifetime.”

“Good god.” Sophie dug her fingers into her forehead. A lifelong bachelor like Mitch Houdini had to be eased into the dark side of childrearing. Will could play tough, but he had his less-than-shining moments too; he was the king of squeamish stomachs. “You gave up a sympathy barf, didn’t you?”

Will screwed up his face, not bothering to deny it. “Point is, I was here for the kids. I handled it. The kitchen, the staircase, even the big wet spot on your bed.” Before she could ask, he waved it off. “They’re fine now, I’m telling you. It’s just that Keely had to see for herself that you weren’t in there, and—”

Mitch backed into the foyer. “Look, I don’t know who’s interrupting here, me or your—er, husband. So I should go and let you two work this out.”

Dammit. This was her one night. She’d been crushing on this man for months; and after a handful of dates, they’d passed the hardest part, broken the slab of ice that had encased her libido for so long.

She thrust her palm flat toward him. “Please don’t go. Will is leaving, aren’t you? Because, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, you don’t live here anymore.”

“Ah, yes,” Will said, his mouth an intractable slash. “Didn’t mean to interrupt your…” finger quotes, “big date. Can’t put a kink in Sophie’s plans with the—” quotes again, “big date, now can we?”

“You know,” Mitch said from the foyer, forming finger quotes of his own, “the big date is still here.”

Will squinted at him. “Yeah, why is that, Mitchell?”

The way he said Mitchell was equivalent to verbal spitting. They both stood with eyes narrowed, chins high, and chests puffed out. A cockfight waiting to happen.

Mitch towered over Will by six inches with shoulders and arms to match. He extended a hand. “It’s Mitch. Mitch Houdini. We’re all adults here. Why don’t we start over?”

Will grudgingly shook Mitch’s hand, and each man’s arm tensed in the protracted squeezing of Olympic wrestlers, jaws clenching and nostrils flaring. Mitch’s biceps bulged through his dress shirt, and his face contorted with the effort. Will scrunched up his face like he might have been on the crapper.

Sophie planted herself between them and peeled their hands apart. “There we go,” she said, as if breaking up two first graders. “There we go. All civil again. Isn’t that better?”

Will pointed a wavering finger. “Houdini. Houdini Real Estate? Where We Make the Home of Your Dreams Appear Like Magic? Aren’t you Sophie’s boss?”

Sophie crossed her arms over her chest. “He’s not my boss.”

“I’m her sponsoring broker,” Mitch said. “Sophie is her own boss.”

The cuckoo lurched in and out of a tiny cubbyhole in the clock, crowing twelve times in a thick, gelatinous quiet, when Will turned a wary gaze on Sophie.

She opened the front door, tamping down the creeping swell of guilt. “We’re past the judging phase, Will.” The cool night air swirled around her bare legs, and she guided him with a scooping hand gesture toward the exit. “Thanks for getting the kids.”

He got nose to nose with her. “Just one more thing.”

She tapped her foot while he readied himself to say just one more thing. “Well?”

“Sophie,” he said, with some apparent mental wrangling and a sidelong glance at Mitch. And then he muttered, “I’m staying in the studio for a while.”

Sophie leaned closer. “What? The shed?”

“The studio, the shed, whatever. I’m staying in it for a while.”

“Ohhellno, you’re not.”

“Ohhellyes, I am.” He turned and headed straight for the back door.

She ran ahead and blocked the door with her body. “What’s going on? You’re not staying here unless I know why.”

His voice dropped to a whisper. “I got… laid off.”

“Laid off?” she shouted. “When?”

“Shhh.” He peered over his shoulder. “Could we not yell it to the world?”

“You’re a director of product development. You have products to develop.”

He shook his head. “Whole division is gone. Three months ago. It makes business sense. They’re reorganizing, and—”
“Are you kidding?” Sophie could feel her temper building to an ugly pitch. “You waited till now to tell me? What about your condo?”

“Sold it. Buyers wanted in early. They’re leasing it back from me till the closing, which is three or four weeks from this morning. So…”

“Will Camden! You seriously can’t—”

He placed one hand over her mouth. “Now, don’t say something you’ll regret. I know this seems like a good time to lay into me, but I just need the studio temporarily, till my money’s freed up.”

Her resolve to not speak wavered until he removed his hand. “There’s no place to sleep down there. Junk’s everywhere. You still haven’t cleaned out all your stuff. The electricity isn’t even connected. Not to mention the black widows and fat, flying, disgusting cockroaches.”

“Come on, your cockroaches are not fat.”

“It’s got a padlock on it, and the door is all wonky and—”

“I have been here before, and I do have a key.”

Sophie’s lips pressed into a scowl, which was hard to maintain given that he was still mourning his father. It had only been a few months since Gus Camden passed. How could she be heartless and not help his grieving son? Still, a night in the shed for anyone, much less Will, was nonsensical. His eyes looked tired and red, and those broad shoulders she’d once leaned on with such unwavering trust now sagged. Had he lost weight?

She tilted her chin. “I want you out of my life, Will.”

“Yeah? Well, I wouldn’t take you back if you begged me.”

“Good. Because I would never beg.”

It was an exchange they’d volleyed back and forth since he moved out and always resulted in a Camden Standoff, two ex-lovers, ex-confidants, ex-family, ex-everything glaring until somebody blinked.

Sophie raised a finger and opened the door. “One night. Do you understand? One night.”

Will gave a withering last glance before he flipped on the porch light, crossed the deck, and descended three steps to the flagstone pavers that led to the erstwhile-music-studio-turned-dilapidated-shed at the far corner of an oversized yard. Head hanging, he looked back, affecting a weird, tight-lipped smile that did nothing to reassure her that he was all right.

But the massive oak trees cast opaque shadows across the yard; he tripped over Keely’s pink Schwinn and landed on the chrome handlebars with dangling neon ribbons. His elbow thumped the rubber horn, and a clownish honk echoed through the air. He bounced up as if it had never happened and disappeared into the night with a slight limp.

Sophie shut the door, awash with questions. How bad were things that Will Camden would sleep in a bug-infested junk room?

Want to get your copy? Find it here on Amazon: Take My Husband, Please.

Kimberly Jayne is the author of the dark fantasy series Demonesse: Avarus and the hilarious romantic comedy Take My Husband, Please. She has been making up stories since she was five, when she scribbled on her grandfather’s notepads her first tall tale about pigs flying. Yes, she started that shtick. Since then, she’s written just about everything and for various websites and clients, including humor features for Playgirl Magazine. She also performed her work in the 2011 Listen to Your Mother Show in Austin, Texas. Visit her at ReadKimberly.com.  

Tomorrow – Lookin’ for fun and feelin’ queasy

Tomorrow is my third book release this year. You’d think by now I’d be
used to that queasy, what-if-everyone-hates-it feeling in my stomach. That
feeling alternates with spikes of what-if-everyone-loves it euphoria.

Every so often, a tiny rational part of my brain says,
“Deadlines.” Please note the “s” at the end of that word.

The emotional part of said brain ignores this dire

Truly, my ability to string words into coherent, interesting
sentences is seriously impaired. So rather than torturing you with inanities, I’m
sharing an excerpt from Guaranteed to Bleed.

If you like what you read but prefer to read books in order and haven’t read
The Deep End, this is your lucky day! Book one of the Country Club Murders is
on sale for $.99.

Without further ado from Guaranteed to Bleed…
Silhouetted by the lights in the street,
Anarchy Jones was still identifiable. He reminded me of a sheriff in a western
who’s just pushed through the swinging doors to the saloon. One who doesn’t
much care for what he sees.
My hands—even the bleeding one—shook. How
could I explain away a comatose date, a crossdressing brawl and a bloody wrist?
            Anarchy crossed the room in a few
strides. He stared at me for a moment, his eyes scrunched as if he was trying
to find answers without actually speaking to me. His gaze shifted to Upson. “Is
he dead?”
            “Are you sure? Usually when I see
you, someone’s been murdered.” The man had a point.

            “I’m sure.” I folded my hands in my
lap. “He’s not dead.”


Julie Mulhern is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean–and she’s got an active imagination. Truth is–she’s an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions. 

Her first romance was a finalist in the 2014 Golden Heart® contest. That book, A Haunting Desire, released July 28, 2015.

Julie also writes mysteries. The Deep End (available now) is her first mystery and is the winner of The Sheila Award. Look for book two, Guaranteed to Bleed, October 13, 2015.

Sneak Peek at Dead Lift

Hi, everyone. I hope you’re enjoying the Stiletto Excerpts! Today I’m sharing a sneak peek at the first few pages of Dead Lift, coming on December 1st.

Claire Gaston’s amber hair rode flat against her head, giving the impression she’d just climbed out of bed. Any make-up had worn away too, yet she still looked closer to forty than her real age—which I knew from her file was fifty-three. In any case, Claire was twenty years my senior, had spent a day and a night in the clink, and still looked better than I did after a comfortable night of sleep and a shower.

We picked up telephone handsets on either side of an opaque window in the jail’s visitation room, and I tried to ascertain whether she regarded me with hope or just curiosity.

“I’m Emily Locke,” I said, “part of your defense team.” I smiled, trying to give the impression I withheld judgment, even though I wasn’t sure that was true. “Sorry about the circumstances.”

She leaned forward and rested her elbows on a countertop that extended away from the dividing window. Richard Cole, the private investigator I worked for, often said that it was a good practice to mirror a subject’s body language during interviews, so I did. My forearms ended up in something sticky.

“Are you the investigator my lawyer hired?”

“I’m that investigator’s lackey.”

She tipped her chin up but didn’t speak.

“Hope you don’t mind.” I pulled a folded paper from my purse. “I brought a list of things to clarify. My boss is painfully deficient with specifics.”

“What every woman looks for in an investigator.”

“Actually, he’s very good. We just work differently.”

Claire surveyed the tiny countertop on her side of the glass and brushed invisible debris onto the floor. “Ask away.”

“Let’s start with your kids.”

She inhaled and seemed to hold the breath. “They’re all I think about.”

“Who’s keeping them?”

“My parents.” Her gaze fell. “Even though they’re too old to be caring for kids.” She traced imaginary shapes on the countertop with neatly manicured fingers that reminded me of my best friend Jeannie’s hands. “You probably know I’m in the middle of a divorce.”

She glanced up long enough to see me nod.

“Daniel’s not their father. My second husband, Ruben, moved back to Argentina last year. Our custody fight was . . . I’m ashamed of it. And now with me here—” she looked around our tiny, divided cubicle— “he’ll come back and take them away, I know it. I didn’t kill Wendell Platt. You have to help me prove it before Ruben swoops in and disappears with the boys.”

“It would help me to understand what’s going on with Daniel.”

Claire leaned back and crossed her arms. Richard would have said I’d put her on the defensive.
“What does he have to do with this?”

I cupped my chin in my hands and watched her for a moment, trying to figure out if she was angry. “Police are reconstructing your day on Thursday, trying to figure out where you went and what you did before Dr. Platt’s murder. I hear you and Daniel had quite a fight.”

She straightened and opened her mouth to argue, but I raised a hand and continued. “We’ve all said things we didn’t mean, don’t worry. The trouble’s that the police want to interview Daniel but can’t find him. You were the last person to see him and witnesses say you were enraged. It doesn’t help to have extra suspicion directed at you.”

“No one can find Daniel?”

I shook my head. “Know where he might be?”

She shook her head in return.

“Why the divorce?”

Her shoulders relaxed, like she was resigned to surrender her privacy as well as her marriage.

“Neither of us could be faithful.”

My stomach flip-flopped, but I stayed quiet. Richard said sometimes people will volunteer extra information if you give them a chance.

This didn’t turn out to be true for Claire. After a few moments, I asked her to continue.

“It’s complicated,” she said. “For years we’ve talked about parting ways. Last month I finally filed.”
“What was your relationship with Platt?”

Claire shook her head, more to herself than to me, and screwed her face into a queer sort of smile that could only be described as sarcastic. I was considering how to re-phrase when she surged toward the glass and banged it with her fist, sending me back in my chair so violently its legs scraped the linoleum.

“I’ve never met Wendell Platt!”

All I could do was try to control my breathing.

“Never met him,” she said. “No one believes me.”

She settled back into her chair and I tried to convince myself the person in front of me was the same woman from thirty seconds ago.

“He was murdered in his home,” I said. “Your fingerprints were at the scene.”

“Worse, honey. They were on the weapon.”

Rachel Brady is the author of Final Approach and the upcoming mystery, Dead Lift. Rachel lives near Houston, Texas, where she’s an engineer in a research lab at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

The Countdown is On!

We are mere days away from the release of the second Lola Cruz Mystery, Hasta la Vista, Lola! (4 1/2 stars from RT Book Reviews!), and the buzz is building. Yesterday, the Book List review came in.

“In Ramirez’s second novel featuring the feisty Latina detective, Dolores “Lola” Cruz is investigating her own death. That is, she is trying to find out why a woman who stole her identity ended up dead. With sexy reporter Jack Callaghan—her on-again, off-again love interest—by her side, Lola finds out that the other Dolores is actually Rosie Gonzalez, a single mother, whose young son has been missing since his mother’s death. Now Lola’s search turns to finding the young boy, which leads her closer to home than she expected. Fans who fell for Lola in Living the Vida Lola (2009) will welcome her smart and snappy return. The suspense here revolves as much around the will-they or won’t-they romance with Jack as it does with the missing boy and mysterious death, leading up to a shocking ending that ties everything together.”

Needless to say, I’m thrilled by the great response to this book. It takes a lot of patience and good luck to build a series, and I feel like Lola Cruz Mysteries finally has some momentum.

A lot of you probably haven’t met Lola. First, let me say that you do not have to read book one (Living the Vida Lola) before you read book 2. You can, of course, but it’s not going to mess you up if you do. Go HERE to see more about both books.

In order to introduce you to fledgling detective Lola Cruz, I’ve put an excerpt up. You can be introduced to all of the characters at On-Line Dating with Lola’s Crew.


Chapter 1, Hasta la Vista, Lola!

I can’t even begin to count the number of times my grandmother told me that she would die a happy woman if only I’d join the Order of the Benedictine Sisters of Guadalupe and live a chaste and holy life.

To which I always nodded, smiled, and said, “I want you to die happy, Abuela, pero I’m not going to become a nun.” There were several problems with me and a pious life. If you asked my mother, she’d say I’d sinned over and over and over again, beginning with premarital intercourse [which she suspected but had no actual proof of], and ending with my job. In my mother’s eyes, being a detective necessitates questionable actions and an ‘ends justifies the means’ philosophy.

Which is not actually my philosophy. I do things by the book, and let my conscience be my guide. I was God-fearing so I tried to toe the line, but I was also a driven, independent woman walking a tightrope between modern American culture and my parents’ old-fashioned male-oriented Spanish culture so my conscience didn’t always know which way to go when I hit a fork in the road.

Case in point. It was a brisk Friday night, downtown Sacramento was lit up with twinkling white lights, I was all dressed up, and even though I had no one to go salsa dancing with, joining those crazy Benedictine Sisters still never entered my mind. The nuns might enjoy their celibacy, but I was one hundred percent positive that I wouldn’t embrace a lifetime of abstinence. Hell, I’d just spent the better part of two hours photographing acrobatic sex in a back ally [which had left me un poquito hot and bothered]–all in the name of being the best private investigator I could possibly be–and I was okay with my decision.

I was almost to Camacho and Associates, the small PI firm where I worked. I dialed Reilly Fuller, the Jill-of-all-trades secretary of the office–and my homegirl. I wanted to go out dancing tonight and I knew I could count on her to have my back.

She picked up on the third ring, breathing heavy and almost out of breath. “Lola!”

“Hey, chica. How’d you know it was me?”

“Call waiting.”

I frowned. The phone company had effectively destroyed kids’ innocent prank call fun–not to mention obsessed stalker-girls calling and hanging up on a guy just to hear his voice [not that I’d had any experience with that type of juvenile behavior].

“Lola, I’m in the middle of something,” she said. She panted.

“I’ll call you back, okay?”

I’d never known Reilly to willingly break a sweat, so I was curious. I checked the time. 8:40. An odd time to be using the treadmill–if that’s what she was up to. “Are you exercising?”

But electric blue-haired Reilly couldn’t answer me because she’d already hung up.

Huh. My long night loomed ahead of me and dancing wasn’t going to be part of it. Looked like it was going to be me, a container of Mapo Tofu from Schezwan House (my favorite restaurant of all time, coincidentally right next door to Camacho and Associates), my camera hooked up to the office computer, and a whole lot of sex pictures uploading. One at a time.

I turned onto Alhambra and immediately spotted my boss’s truck in the parking lot. I slid my little red CRV into a space right beside it. Apparently Manny Camacho didn’t have plans for Friday night, either. Hard to believe. He was puro Latino machismo Greek God material–dark and brooding and scary in an I-could-do-things-to-you-and-make-you-scream-for-mercy kind of way.

I couldn’t help sneaking a quick peek in the rearview mirror. Low cut filmy dress, Victoria’s Secret Ipex cleavage, clear olive skin, salon-highlighted copper strands framing face, MAC O lips. I would not be put out to pasture because of a roguishly sexy reporter who disappeared for days on end and who I did not want to think about right now.

I grabbed my cell phone, the Nikon, my note pad with the Zimmerman case information, and my new favorite accessory– courtesy of Ebay–my Sexy Señorita drawstring bag. Shoving the notepad into the coral-colored purse, I headed toward the office.

In your face, Callaghan. I had options. Dark and brooding suddenly held a new appeal.

Just as I reached the office, Manny pushed open the door. “Dolores?”

My wedge heels teetered on a crack in the sidewalk. Maybe appeal was the wrong word. Dark fascination? Sadistic curiosity?

Fact is, Manny flustered me without even trying. Not many people could do that. I’d solved my first big case as primary investigator a few months ago. I chided myself. It was way past time to get over the nerves that shot through me when I was around him.

He looked at his watch, then back at me. “¿Que onda? Are you working?”

I nodded. “The Zimmerman case.”

He held the door, apparently waiting for me to continue.

I held up my camera. “Got some great pictures.” Especially if I had contacts at Playboy or Penthouse, which, unfortunately, I didn’t.

“Pictures of–?”

“Of Mrs. Zimmerman, um, making-out with her personal yoga instructor.” Making out might have been understating Mrs. Zimmerman’s activities, but it was the safest answer.

“How’d you get them?”

“I followed them after yoga class.”

Manny’s eyes narrowed as he looked me up and down. “Are you supposed to be undercover?”

My dress was a far cry from yoga-wear, but there was nothing wrong with in looking good on a surveillance job. “They changed after class then went to dinner. Lucky for me I’m a yoga junkie and very flexible–” Maybe not as flexible as Mrs. Zimmerman, but her sexual creativity was in a class by itself– “and have decent cargo room in my car.”

Manny seemed to ponder this, his expression unreadable. “And the photos?” he finally asked.

“After dinner they went around the corner from the restaurant.” Totally classless. Who screw–er, got down and dirty–out in public? “I was across the street. Excellent telephoto capabilities on this camera, by the way.”

He let the door to the office close while I accessed the pictures on the digital camera. I froze when his arm brushed against my back. The touch had been as light as a breath, but any physical contact from Manny Camacho could send a woman into premature orgasm. He moved behind me to look over my shoulder. A zing shot through my body and I gulped. Looking at X-rated pictures with my boss was muy uncomfortable.

I tried not to think about how flexible he might be and whether his slight limp or his cowboy boots would interfere with the Kama Sutra position in photographs three, twenty-seven or thirty-one.

When we’d gone through all the pictures, I stepped away, trying to ignore the charged silence. “Open and shut,” I said. “She’s clearly cheating on her husband.”

“Good work.” His voice sounded strained. I shoved aside the idea that it might be because of the photos, particularly what Mrs. Zimmerman had been doing in shots ten through eighteen.

My PI gene kicked in. Why didn’t he have plans on a Friday night? He had the hottest girlfriend this side of the Rio Grande. Maybe this side of anywhere. Her only competition was the phantom ex-wife who nobody had ever laid eyes on.

Neither were in sight. “You’re here late,” I said casually. “Where’s Isabel?” I pronounced the name in Spanish: Ee-sa-bel.

“Not here.” The corner of his mouth notched up. “Where’s Callaghan?”

There was a good chance that Manny Camacho, ex-cop-turned-super-detective-who-seemed-to-know-everything, knew exactly where Jack Callaghan. Then again, maybe not. He wasn’t psychic, after all, and I hadn’t let on that Jack had been MIA for almost a week now. “Not here,” I said, then quickly changed the subject. “I’m going to upload the photos and write my report for Mr. Zimmerman.” Which brought to mind something else. “I’m ready for a new case.”

Manny pressed a button on his key ring. Two beeps sounded from his truck, a white, lifted kick-ass 4×4. It wasn’t the most unobtrusive vehicle on the road in Sacramento, but it certainly had style. “The report can wait until Monday. We’ll talk about the caseload then.”

I started to stick my phone into my purse and to retrieve my set of office keys. The straps slipped off my shoulder and the bag fell. Manny was right. Uploading the pictures could wait till Monday, but since I had nothing better to do tonight, there was no reason to put it off. “I like to finish what I start,” I said as I bent down to grab the straps of my bag. “I’ll do the report tonight.”

As I straightened, he gave me another slow once over. “Callaghan’s a fool.”

A shiver swept up my spine and I shifted uncomfortably. Reality bit me. I didn’t think I could cross the line into fraternizing with my boss after all and I certainly wasn’t ready to write Jack off, even if he had a few secrets and the annoying habit of disappearing. He probably had a very good reason for dropping off the face of the earth. Again.

He’d better, damn it.



“I said you’re going to break your phone.”

I started. He had? I was? I loosened the death grip on the device, but dropped my purse in the process. “I, um, need to call my mother. See if she needs anything.”

¿Por qué, mi poderosa? ¿Qué pasa?

Ay, ay, ay. Manny had taken to calling me “strong woman”. Now he was calling me his strong woman? I gulped and stumbled back a step. I might be a good Catholic girl, but I wasn’t immune to temptation. “She’s home sick. I, um, think I should buy her some medicine and Ginger ale.”

“Can I help?”

Manny as nurturer? It didn’t compute. “No, no, no!” I just wanted to go upload the Zimmerman pics and go home to my empty flat. Above my parents’ house. That I shared with my brother. “I mean, I’m fine. I can handle it.”

He pressed the button on his key ring again, reactivating the truck alarm. “I have some more work I can do. I’ll stay with you.”

My hackles went up. I thought about jabbing him in the chest and reminding him that my Salma Hayek curves didn’t mean I wasn’t Xena, Warrior Princess, through and through. I didn’t need a protector–or a babysitter.

Thankfully–since it wouldn’t have been a good idea to chastise my boss–or touch his chest–I was stopped by the sound of a horn blaring behind us. A sporty silver Volvo pulled into the parking lot. Jack! My heart immediately slammed in my chest and I caught my breath. ¡Mi amor!

He stepped out of his car, all tousled brown hair and swarthy Irish complexion. His gaze swept over me and an angry dimple pulled his cheek in. My heart lurched again. I could imagine what he thought. I was dressed for a night on the town and Manny wore black and gray, his burnished skin and onyx eyes contemplating Jack with harsh scrutiny.

I took a small step to the side, putting space between Manny and me. No need to stoke the fire.

Not that it mattered, I reminded myself. Jack had up and left for a week–without a word. If he had issues with Manny, that was his problem. You snooze, you lose. I side-stepped back to where I’d been.

Hasta la vista, Dolores.” Manny’s voice had turned gruff.

“Right. See you later.”

His black alligator-skin cowboy boots clapped unevenly against the sidewalk as he walked to his truck.

Jack came toward me. He dipped his head in an almost imperceptible nod at Manny as they passed, and then his eyes flicked to the bodice of my dress.

They lingered and his face tightened, not in the I want to ravish you kind of way I would have liked, but more in a what the hell are you wearing around him kind of way.

Catching my reflection in the window pane, I immediately saw what had caught his attention. It was my 34Cs–in the midst of a wardrobe malfunction. My dress was askew and part of my right breast plumped out of my demi bra. ¡Ay caramba! No wonder Manny had given me a slow burning look after I’d picked up my purse.

I straightened it as Manny pulled out of the parking lot. Shit! Manny had gotten an eye-full of my assets, and he hadn’t uttered a word.

From the way Jack looked from me to Manny’s truck and back, I suspected that he was thinking the same thing. “Purple, huh?” he said when he steadied his gaze back on me. His voice had that low, sexy tone that created instant yearning in the pit of my soul.

“It’s called Lavender Ice,” I said cooly.

“For him?”

“Well, it’s not like you’ve been around, Callaghan.” I ran my hands down my front in full temptress mode. Jack’s gaze smoldered as it followed my actions. Slow torture. God, sometimes it was so good to be a woman.

His gaze finally found its way back to my face. “I go away for one week and you start dating your boss. Nice, Cruz.”

I kept my gaze steady. “You went away without a word. That was not nice, Callaghan.”

He stood like a statue, then like a blip during a film, he shrugged. “I had something I had to take care of, that’s all. It’s no big deal, Lola, really. Sorry,” he added with a contrite smile.

Not a big deal to him, but it had been a pretty big deal to me. I waited, thinking he’d offer more of an explanation but he gave me nothing. Finally I jammed my hands on my hips and stared him down. Fine. I was just going to have to drag it out of him. “What kind of thing?” I should have left it at that, but damn it if my mouth didn’t have a mind of its own. “You might as well spill it. You know you can’t keep secrets from me.” I pointed at myself. “Private investigator, remember?”

“How could I forget?” he muttered, and he took a small step toward me.

His musky scent. His six feet of hard body. His tousled hair. His crooked little smile. Ay carumba. Jack Callaghan sent me into a tailspin. Rooting out his secrets could become one of my favorite past times if he didn’t infuriate me so much.

I backed up. Distance. He would not sweet talk me into forgetting why I was mad. “Where’d you go?”

“I had an emergency I had to deal with, Lola.”

The way he rumbled my name made my knees go weak and diluted my anger. “What kind of emergency?”

He took a panther-like step toward me. “Unfortunately, it was the kind I couldn’t say no to.”

“Is that your explanation?”

“It’s the truth,” he said.

In a half-truth kind of way. “What kind of emergency couldn’t you say no to?”

He backed me up against the window of Camacho and Associates.

“You really want to talk about this now?”

I breathed in. God, he smelled fabulous. Forget about dancing. The musky pheromones were sending promises of acrobatics. “Y-yes.”

“I missed you.”

“It’s going to take some serious convincing to make me believe that.” My eyelids fluttered. “You didn’t call–”

His hand slipped behind my back, a feather-light touch that sent whispers of desire up my spine. “The battery on my phone died.”

“Come on, Callaghan,” I breathed, summoning my self-control. “You can do better than that. No charger in your car? No money to buy a new one? Ever hear of a pay phone?”

“Couldn’t find one, bellísima.”

Ooh. Low blow. And good memory. I’d taught him the word for beautiful and now he was using it on me. “Pulling out all the stops, eh?” I pressed my palm against his chest. “Spill it, guapo. You can’t just sweet talk your way into–”

The corner of his mouth crept up wickedly and his hand moved to my hip. “Sweet talk my way into what?”

My skirt. My heart. My…

Dios mío. His chest felt amazing under my hand–all hard and muscled and– What was I mad about again?

He bent his head and brushed his lips against my neck, trailing them to my collarbone.

“Mmm.” The moan slipped out. Reality or not, his charm was second to none.

“Mmm-hmm,” he echoed.

I jumped when my cell phone belted out the chorus of La Bamba. Reality came flooding back into my brain. He’d left without so much as an adiós, that’s what I was mad about.

Grabbing the phone from my bag, I flipped it open. Holding it to my ear, I tried to ignore how close Jack was to me, how the miniscule amount of air between our bodies sizzled with heat. “H-hello?” My voice croaked and my eyes fluttered closed. I dropped my purse on the ground.

The line was dead. Thank God; a misdial. My grip on the phone became limp. The camera I still held by the strap dangled loosely from my other hand. I was putty.

The heat from Jack’s mouth radiated through my body. I gasped as his hands slid up my sides and his fingers spread wide on my ribcage. His lips sought out my mouth. I wanted him. Right here. Right now. I just hoped no one was lurking around a corner taking digital photos of us.

I was going to have to go to confession for this. Maybe twice. Those Benedictine Sisters would never have me now.

“You taste like heaven,” he said.

“Mmm–” I broke off when my phone rang again. My eyelids flew open.

“Hold that thought,” I said, and I flipped open the phone. “Hello?”

No one spoke. Chaos echoed on the other end of the line. I tried to make out a sound. Something identifiable. Jack’s mouth settled in against my neck again, but a cry that sounded like an injured animal, followed by a primal scream, assaulted my eardrums. My nerves crackled. “Who is this?” I demanded.

The connection cut out. I pushed the END button with my thumb then pressed another button to check the phone number. I froze.

Jack’s blue bedroom eyes narrowed. “What’s wrong?”

Panic lodged in my throat. “My parents. Somebody was crying and screaming.”

I hit redial, but the line beeped incessantly with a busy signal.

I snatched my purse from the ground and fumbled inside. “I have to go.” My hands shook and I couldn’t grab hold of anything. “Where the hell are my keys?!”

Jack grabbed my wrist and pulled me toward his car. “I’ll drive.”

There was no point arguing; I didn’t think I could maneuver a vehicle in a straight line with the panic that was seizing my insides. With runway model balance on my wedge heels, I jumped into Jack’s super cool Volvo.

He gunned it out of the parking lot and raced down ‘H’ street toward my parents’ midtown house.

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