Saving Scott

Read an excerpt from Saving Scott, book 3 in Terry Odell’s Pine Hills Police romantic suspense series. Readers of the book also can enjoy the collection of recipes featured in the book.

 Saving Scott

Scott slapped at the alarm, grimacing as his sore shoulder protested the sudden motion. He lay there, panting, filmed in sweat, waiting for his heart rate to drop. Slowly, he took in his surroundings. Pine Hills. His new apartment. His bedroom. Hints of sunlight filtered through the gap between the shades and the window’s edges. The encroaching daylight chased away the nightmare.

He lay there, breathing slowly. Staring at the ceiling. Working up the guts to move, knowing the pain was waiting when he did.

As always, the need to pee forced the issue. He gritted his teeth and pushed himself to a half-sitting position. Waiting for his muscles to accept his demands.

At least you can do this on your own. No calling for a nurse.

He limped to the john, took care of what had to be done, and leaned against the counter. More slow deep breaths. He splashed his face with cold water, brushed his teeth and found the swim trunks he’d laid out last night. He closed the lid on the toilet and sat there, working his good leg, then his stiff one into the trunks.

Be glad you can dress yourself. Suck it up.

The gentle gurgling sound and the aroma of fresh coffee brought a faint smile to his face. At least he’d had the brains to set the timer on the coffeemaker before going to bed.

He stood, yanking the nylon swimsuit over his hips. Limping around the boxes he’d brought over last night, he made his way to the kitchen and savored that first sip of that first cup of coffee. Nothing better. He sniffed again. Chocolate? He’d noticed it last night, too.

He opened the oven and gave another sniff. Not the source. No matter. As residual smells went, chocolate sure beat cigarette smoke or eau de litter box.

After setting the cup on the counter, he took a few tentative steps around the kitchen, loosening up muscles that had stiffened overnight. When he could step without gnashing his teeth against the pain, he grabbed a towel, slipped his feet into rubber sandals and headed for the fitness room.

Opening the door to the fitness center, he smelled the mixture of sweat, disinfectant and swimming pool chemicals. He shuffled to the hot tub and spent a minute figuring out the controls. Climbing in took some doing, but at last, he surrendered to the heat and pulsating water. Head back against the side of the tub, he closed his eyes.

Damn, he should have brought his watch or phone and set an alarm. Mornings sucked. He glancing around the room, noticed a clock on the far wall. That would help, as long as he stayed awake. His gaze took in someone stepping onto the treadmill in the far corner. She had the obligatory ear buds in, and seemed oblivious to anything else in the room.

Her brunette ponytail bounced as she ran. Her ass was hidden beneath baggy sweats. After about ten minutes, she shrugged out of her hoodie, revealing the sports bra she wore underneath. Not bad. She had some meat on her. Not one of those twig-thin numbers you were afraid you’d break if you got too close. Not that he had any intention of getting close to anyone in Pine Hills. But he could look.

Maybe living here wouldn’t be so bad. He dozed off and on, the buzz of the jets and bubbles blocking out any extraneous noise. When he’d gone well into prune territory, he hauled himself out of the tub, pleased with his increased mobility. Treadmill woman had already left. Her replacement had a bit too much meat on her for his taste. He avoided eye contact, although she, too, was engrossed in whatever came through her ear buds.

Drying off, then wrapping the towel around his hips, he left the fitness center, barely limping. As he approached the door to his apartment, the smell of chocolate intensified. Curiosity aroused, he followed the aroma past his apartment. It definitely emanated from the unit next to his. His stomach growled, reminding him he hadn’t eaten since his early pizza dinner yesterday, and he turned back to his own place.

He showered, shaved, and put on the plush robe his sister had sent when he’d been in the hospital. Pulling on his customary sweats still hurt too much to be worth it. Wearing a robe made him feel old as his grandfather, although his grandfather probably wouldn’t have gone for the handcuff print. But Scott didn’t want to risk spattering bacon grease on his work clothes. Or bare skin. Been there, done that.

Enough with this pity party. Cook, eat, and face your first real day on the job.

He was washing the dishes when someone gave a gentle knock on the door. Who knew he was here?

He dried his hands and checked the peephole. A distorted image of a brunette woman appeared. Belting his robe a little tighter, he opened the door. “Yes?”

“Hi. I’m Ashley. I live next door. I thought I’d … um … welcome you to the building.” She extended a platter covered in foil.

As he tried to process all the possibilities—she had a bomb under the foil; she was a reporter wanting yet another story; she was scoping out his apartment for a future burglary—he accepted the obvious. She was a neighbor being friendly. He found the wherewithal to attempt the same.

The platter was warm to the touch. “Thanks, I’m Scott.” He lifted the foil and discovered the source of the chocolate smells. “These must be what I’ve been smelling since yesterday.”

She nodded, keeping her eyes on his, backing away. “I should let you go. I have to get to work.”

“Wait. There’s no way I can eat all these.”

“Share them. I’m opening a new bake shop, and I’m testing recipes. I already eat too many of them. Thank goodness for the fitness center downstairs, or I’d be a total blimp. I have to go, really.”

His brain kicked into gear. She was the woman who’d crashed into him yesterday, and the first one he’d seen on the treadmill this morning. “Thanks. I can take them to the station.”

“Please do.” Stepping away, she spoke over her shoulder. “And if they like them, you can tell them my shop, Confections by Ashley, will have a lot more.” She paused, as if what he’d said had reached her brain. “The station? Where do you work, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“At the police station.”

Her gaze moved from his face downward, then back up. He realized she was looking at his robe. What had she thought? That he was into bondage games?

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Death, Island Style

Death, Island Style by Maggie Toussaint

If you love reading about the seashore, this is a fun cozy about a woman who rediscovers who she is. A stand-alone novel, Death, Island Style features a Christmas shop owner as a sleuth and her sidekick is the cool pharmacist next door.

Praise for Death, Island Style

“An exciting whodunit” – Publishers Weekly

“Toussaint creates a gutsy heroine whose struggles with murder and romance add up to a very enjoyable read” – Kirkus Reviews

“Eccentric and fun, this book is definitely worth a read” – Romantic Times

“A winner on all fronts. Nice regional flair.” – Library Journal

 

Excerpt from Death, Island Style

Chapter One     Death Island Style

I couldn’t explain my sudden unfathomable craving for the itty bitty shells, but I needed these tiny shells as much as I needed air. With increasing fervor, my fingers grabbed clumps of miniature colored shells from the sand and tossed them in my pail. It was as though I was in a timed contest, and I only got to keep as many shells as I could cram into my hot-pink pail in the next ten minutes.

Stupid, I know, but so was trying to start fresh when I’d lost myself along the way. I’d gone from functioning as a devoted wife and competent receptionist to a berserk seashell-grabber. What was I going to do?

I had no friends.

I had no family.

I had no roots.

All I had was a yellowed piece of paper that said I was adopted. How the hell was I supposed to deal with that? My whole life was a lie.

My throat tightened. I sat down and allowed the shells and dry sand to drizzle through my curled fingers. How could I figure out who I was? My past was a jumble of secrets, my lonely future too dismal to contemplate.

I touched my gold heart-shaped locket, a treasured gift from Bernie on our first anniversary. Engraved inside were the words, “All my love forever.” Hollow words for a hollow life. I’m supposed to grieve and go on with my life, but the little kid in me wanted to stand up and shout, What happened to my Happily Ever After?

That sappy fairy tale sentiment wasn’t real. It was fiction, and I’d best realize that MaryBeth Cashour was a ghost of a person.

The offshore wind whipped my hair under my glasses. I flicked the tangled locks away from my eyes and stared out at the sea buoys on the watery horizon. Sea gulls lazily rode on currents of air above the cresting surf. I huffed out my disgust at their freewheeling lifestyle. Oh, to be so unencumbered. To let go and glide on the wind. If only I could be so free, so uninhibited.

After all the changes of late, I couldn’t fathom living like that. I needed to know what was coming next. I needed structure and anchors to keep me grounded.

The tides were regular. I’d learned that in a few short weeks. Natives of McLinn County, Georgia, set their watches by tidal fluxes. High water meant big waves, depth in the winding creeks, and delightful onshore breezes. Low water meant lots of beach sand, fish and crabs that could be caught moving with the tide, and offshore breezes. And nasty, biting flies.

I smacked one that was stupid enough to land on my ankle. Take that you bloodsucking varmint. I buried the insect carcass in the dry sand. My gaze drifted back to the hopeful blue sky above the cresting waves and noticed those sea gulls were still wheeling over the same part of the sea as before, just off the beach. That was unusual.

I caught sight of a dark shadow in the water. Something was out there beyond the breakers. Something big. Like a dolphin or a shark. Only it wasn’t swimming. It was drifting with the current.

Curiosity had me rising to my feet. I brushed the sand and crushed shells from my Bermuda shorts and cupped my hands around my glasses. The dark shape appeared to be quite long, maybe six feet long was my guess. And it was definitely cylindrical, like a log.

The object approached the shore. It bobbed in the surf, slowly rolling over, a dark back, a light underbelly. That’s when it hit me. My upside-down life wasn’t completely ruined. Things could be a lot worse.

I could be the dead guy floating in the ocean.

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Shear Murder

Excerpt from SHEAR MURDER by Nancy J. Cohen

Oh, God. She must be seeing things. But when Marla lifted the drape again, Torrie’s body lay there, unmoving, in the same spot.

Was the woman dead? Making that determination would decide her next action.

Thinking fast, she clutched her ear and said aloud to any passersby, “Oh, my, I’ve lost an earring back.” That should justify her dropping out of sight for a few seconds.

She crouched quickly, drew in a deep breath, and felt Torrie’s clammy wrist for a pulse.

Nothing.

She couldn’t bear to touch the woman’s neck, not with her glazed eyes half-open. Torrie’s chest—dear Lord, Marla had to force her horrified glance away from the knife—wasn’t rising, but the bile in her own throat choked her.

Coughing, she covered her mouth and stood upright. Come on, don’t throw up. Think what you should do next.

Regret swelled within her. Jill expected Torrie to watch the cake-cutting ceremony. How awful. She may not have gotten along with her sister, but this presented a horrible end to their troubled relationship.

Uncertain how to proceed, Marla nudged Torrie’s arm under the table and released the cloth so nothing showed.

Catching Dalton’s eye, she signaled frantically. He’d know what to do. When he reached her side, she sagged against him.

“Don’t look now, but there’s a dead body under the table,” she murmured under her breath.

“What?”

“You heard me.” She smiled tremulously at a couple who strolled past. Could they tell she was sweating? That her face had lost its color? That she was about to lose her dinner?

Dalton half bent, his dark hair falling forward, but then he straightened with a grin. “Good one, Marla. You almost got me.”

She shuffled her feet. “I’m not kidding.” Any minute they’d call for the cake, or Jill would broaden the hunt for her sister. Chewing on her bottom lip, she lifted a portion of the drape so Vail could see for himself. Her stomach heaved as she almost stepped on a trickle of congealing blood. Forcing down the acid reflux, she grimaced.

“Holy Mother, you aren’t joking.” He gave her an incredulous glance that she read as, Not again.

 

SHEAR MURDER (Bad Hair Day Mystery #10) by Nancy J. Cohen
Hairstylist Marla Shore attends her friend’s wedding where she discovers the matron of honor dead under the cake table.

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Hot Water

Hot Water (Mossy Bog series #2) by Maggie Toussaint

Laurie Ann bypassed the elevator and hit the stairs. North’s room was on the second floor. He didn’t answer her first knock, so she knocked harder. With each second that ticked by, her nerves pinged. Was he even in his room? Had she lost track of him?

The chief would kill her.                                Hot Water

She called Wyatt. Inside his room, a phone began to ring. She didn’t know whether to be relieved or alarmed.

“Hullo.” Sleep roughened his deep voice.

“North, I’m at your door. Lunch, remember?”

“Lunch.” He paused to yawn. “What time is it?”

“High noon. I’m right on time.”

He swore. “Oh, excuse me. I didn’t mean to say that out loud. Give me a second.”

The phone clicked in her ear. She heard rustling inside the room. A few minutes later, he opened the door, and her heart did a funny leap. He’d donned a light pink shirt the same color as hers.

But more impressive than the shirt and the man was the way his eyes warmed at the sight of her. He looked at her like she was breakfast—and lunch.

“We match,” she ventured, hoping to slow the racing of her heart.

His face twitched. “Is that a problem? One of my sisters has this thing about matching clothes. If it bothers you, I can change.”

“You’re fine. I don’t have a problem with your shirt.”

“Where are my manners?” North asked, stepping away from the doorway. “Come in.”

She noticed his tanned feet were bare. They were nice feet with nails blunt cut and slender toes. “I’ll wait out here until you’re ready.”

“I promise to be on good behavior.” He reached for her hand and tugged her gently inside.

The curtains were drawn. The bedside lamp was on. The bed was messy, clothes everywhere, and papers strewn about the room. He moved a briefcase from the chair. “Sit. I’ll be a minute more. I had a late night.”

“Looks like it was quite the event,” she said dryly.

He grinned and reached for a shoe. “Can’t help it. I’m a slob, from start to finish. No matter how much positive reinforcement my parents provided, I developed the habit of spreading my stuff around.”

No one would question a man lived in this room. Maybe that was the point. “Sounds like a nesting instinct.”

“I’m not a girl.”

“I noticed.” Her cheeks heated, and she regretted being so forthright.

“My sisters have nesting instincts. Not me.”

Oh, dear. She’d insulted him. “I apologize. I was thinking that in a large family, spreading your stuff around was a way to stake out your territory.”

His eyes sparked as he stuffed his bare feet in shoes. “Instead of peeing on the furniture?”

She groaned. “I’m going to shut up now.”

“I’m liking this side of you, Dinterman. You crack me up.”

She rose to leave. As long as she cracked him up, that was okay.Maggie Mug

Her job was to make sure he didn’t crack up.

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