You don’t have to be an established book reviewer; you just need to have an opinion! I would like YOU to help me create the perfect suspense romance novel.

The working title is Who Are You? The novel will be a stand alone sequel to Hearts On the Run and will focus around Max, an assistant district attorney who is seduced by his dream woman – who then disappears on him without a trace. When he finally discovers who she is, he’s in for another surprise. It seems someone else is after her as well, and will use any means necessary to get her. Even if that means killing Max to get him out of the way.

Intrigued? There's more: I’ll even publish your name at the end of the book under a section titled, “My Opinion Mattered.” (You may stay anonymous if you would like.) If this sounds like fun, then this is how you can critique the novel every step of the way:

Every couple of days, I will post a small section of the book. After reading it, comment on what you liked, what you didn't like, how the dialogue flowed, character traits, how well edited the section was, and whatever else you can think of while reading. I will then revise the section based on your suggestions. Names published under the "My Opinion Mattered" section will be listed in order of number of comments contributed, so comment often! For those just joining us, please check out the blog archives to start the book from the beginning.

There is also an area to vote on how well you think the novel is progressing. You will be able to change your vote as the novel progresses to best reflect how you feel at any given time along the journey to a completed novel.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Part 7 of Who Are You?

Chapter 7

If Max had been harboring any ideas that Lauren Stevens was his Bat Girl, he certainly wasn’t now.  He had no idea why that woman could get under his skin the way she did; and had since he first met her.  DA’s and defense attorneys always butted heads.  It was just part of the job.  But every word that came out of that woman’s mouth grated on him like finger nails on a chalk board.  And her clothes?  She’d been wearing a shapeless dark blue blazer and a skirt that went down to her knees.  Her hair was in such a tight knot at the back of her head that he was surprised she could still move her facial muscles.  Yeah, she was still a pretty woman, but there wasn’t a chance in hell she was a closet sex goddess.  And now he was stuck spending part of his Saturday with her.  Great.
            Max sat down behind his desk again and picked up the brochure.  Even though he hadn’t wanted to admit it to her, he actually agreed with her about Marshawn Devereaux.  He discovered the same things when he had been gathering evidence for his case.  Marshawn seemed to be a good kid who got caught up in something he couldn’t handle.  And he had saved the man he stabbed.  Even after the paramedics arrived, he was reluctant to stop applying pressure to the wound, afraid the man would die if he did.  This Second Chance Ranch might actually be a good solution to cases like Marshawn’s.  Certainly he had to pay for his crimes, but throwing him in prison with a bunch of hardened criminals who would eat him alive didn’t seem to be the right thing to do.
            Looking at his watch, it was already six o’clock.  Damn it, this was the second week in a row that The Shrew had kept him late.  Last week hadn’t really been her fault.  A case had come in right at five that kept both of them late.  But he could blame her for this week.  She had claimed that five thirty was the only free time she had in her schedule today.  Well, maybe she didn’t have a life but he did.  He was supposed to meet Jane and Riley for happy hour at six.  Turning off his computer, he shrugged into his jacket, turned out the light and headed out; determined to put any thoughts of The Shrew out of his mind until tomorrow.
            Later that night, Max was tossing and turning in bed.  It had been a week and he still couldn’t get thoughts of his Bat Girl out of his mind.  Why hadn’t she tried to contact him?  He didn’t believe for a minute that she hadn’t enjoyed the evening every damn bit as much as he had.  If she hadn’t, then she was one hell of an actress.
            After a long and restless night, Max finally rolled out of bed around eight Saturday morning.  Lauren Stevens had left a message for him to meet her at the Second Chance Ranch at one.  After puttering around the house for a while, he still had a few hours to go work out.  Showering and dressing in the locker room, he drove straight from the gym to the ranch.
            Pulling up to the main building of the ranch, he was already impressed with the scenery.  A woman with long curly strawberry blonde hair was bending over to pet a black and white spotted cat.  Her tight jeans and fitted lilac jogging jacket fit her ample curves perfectly, and her knee high brown boots were sexy as hell.  Seeing her made the half an hour drive out to the ranch worth it.
            Max parked in one of the visitor spots and got out of the car, locking it as he walked towards the main building.  Hearing him approach over the gravel drive, the woman stood up and turned towards him.  His jaw just about hit the ground when he realized it was Lauren Stevens’ curves he had been admiring.  She had been hiding that under those ugly suits and hairdos?
            Brows furrowed together, she asked, “Are you alright?”
            Realizing he was still gaping like a dumb ass, Max closed his mouth.  “I’m fine, I just wasn’t expecting to see you with your hair down.”  Oh god, could he sound any stupider? 
            Lauren smiled.  “I’m not always dressed for court.”
            “Of course.”  He felt more like an ass by the minute.  “Can we start the tour?”
            “We’re just waiting on David.  He had to take a phone call but he should just be a few minutes.  I told him to meet us in the barn.  It’s this way.”
            Max followed Lauren, trying hard not to stare at her ass as they walked.  It was difficult considering how her hips swayed with every step.  What the hell!  This was Lauren Stevens, Miss Prude herself.  He refused to have these thoughts about her.  Catching up to her, he walked next to her to avoid temptation.  Unfortunately, since she was a good five ten, her breasts were now in his peripheral vision, and those were even harder to ignore.
            The barn was about fifty yards behind the main building.  It was large enough to house ten horses and all the equipment necessary to take care of them.  “Lightening here is my favorite,” Lauren said as she scratched the nose of the gray horse in the first stall. 
            Max looked at the bow-backed nag who hopefully had seen better days.  “Lightening?”   
Lauren laughed and Max couldn’t deny he liked the sound of it.  “She was a racer when she was younger but now molasses is a little more her speed.  She’s sweet, though.”
            Max smiled.  He liked seeing this softer side of The Shrew.  “Do you ride?” he asked.
            “Not well, but I enjoy it.  As long as my horse is nice and slow like Lightening here.  How about you?”
            He shook his head.  “Never tried it.”
            “If you’re up for a ride today, David wouldn’t mind.”  As she turned around towards him, her foot caught the handle of a brush that had been left on the floor and she stumbled.  Max caught her before she could fall.
            As his arms wrapped around her to keep her steady, Max couldn’t help the instant arousal he felt from the feel of her breasts pressed against his chest.  Guess maybe he had been wrong about The Shrew after all in at least one regard.  She was one hell of sexy woman when she let her hair down.  Literally.  Lauren looked up at him with her bright baby blue eyes and the thought of kissing those pink full lips of hers crossed his mind.  He couldn’t help but notice that she wasn’t pushing him away either.
            “Am I interrupting something?” a curt voice asked from behind him.  Immediately, Max dropped his arms back to his side and Lauren took a guilty step backwards.  Turning around, Max took in the tall man standing in front of him with the murderous expression on his face. 
            “I tripped,” Lauren said in a tight voice.  “David Spencer, this is Max Canter with the DA’s office.”       
Max held out his hand.  “Nice to meet you.  Thank you for giving me a tour of your ranch.”
            David shook his hand with a forced smile.  “Nice to meet you as well.  It’s always a great opportunity to give DA’s a chance to see an alternative for teen rehabilitation.  Shall we begin?”
            “Of course,” Max said and he followed David as he walked farther into the barn.  Max gave a quick look to Lauren who was shooting daggers into David’s back with her eyes.  Hmm, lover’s quarrel maybe?
            “As you can see, we employ Equine Therapy into our program.  Equine Therapy has long been recognized as an effective treatment for children who have poor socialization skills or troubled childhoods.  Just being around horses will change our brain wave patterns creating a calming effect that helps us move past negative events and begin to focus on the healing processes.”
            Hmm, Max thought.  Maybe it was the horses’ faults then that made him suddenly find The Shrew attractive.  “Do you teach all the kids to ride?”
            “No, riding the horses isn’t necessarily needed for the therapy to be effective.  But all of the kids help take care of the horses, so they’re all interacting with them.  If anyone wants to learn to ride, we teach them.”
            Reaching the end of the barn, David stopped and opened the pasture door.  “The horses have about five acres of land to graze and exercise.  To the northeast,” he said pointing in that direction, “is where our fields for growing wheat and corn are.  To the northwest is the blueberry field.  The kids work the fields and bring in the harvest.  Any profit from the harvest is divided up between them and placed in a trust fund that may only be applied towards college. 
            “What happens if the kid decides not to go to college?” Max asked.
            “They each have two years to begin after receiving their GED.  If they don’t start classes within that amount of the time, the trust fund is closed and the funds are put back into the general fund to be put towards the running and upkeep of the ranch,” David explained.
            “Where does your funding come from?”
            “We have some state and federal grants but about half of our funding comes from private donations.  We hold a fundraiser twice a year and we are always looking for sponsors.”
            David showed him the dorms where the teens slept and the main house where they attended classes five days a week.  The kids were allowed to watch limited amounts of television after they participated in group activities and therapy.  Max was impressed with the tight security and the guidelines that the kids had to follow if they wanted to stay in the program.  The program had a zero tolerance policy for violence and the use of drugs or alcohol.  Kids who participated in those activities were sent back to their original county where they faced time in a juvenile facility or adult penitentiary system.
            Now seated in David’s office in the main building, Max asked, “Do you accept everyone the courts want to send you?”
            David shook his head.  “No, we have a rigorous screening process.  When we receive a recommendation from a judge, I perform a battery of psychiatric tests as well as an in depth interview with the teenager and his or her family or foster family.  This program is not meant for everyone.  Our residents are only successful if they truly want to make positive changes in their lives. Unfortunately, I’ve had to deny almost as many requests for residency here as I’ve accepted.”
            Max’s eyebrows rose.  “So, the other kids are deemed lost causes?”
            David’s lips pressed together for a moment before he answered.  “Not lost causes, they simply would not benefit from a program such as this.  The kids here work hard to change their ways.  Bringing in kids who would constantly be bucking the system would only make their work harder.”
            “So, you don’t take on the kids who are most in need of help such as the drug addicts or the repeat offenders?” Max asked.
            “No,” David said tightly.  “We are not a rehab center.  We recommend other programs for those kids.”
            Max sat back in his chair and assessed the man in front of him.  They hadn’t really warmed up to each other since they had met in the barn when Lauren had fallen into Max’s arms.  But, as much as he didn’t care for the pompous jerk, he did seem to be running a good program.  Even if Max couldn’t help the need to needle him about being so selective over whom he chose to accept.
            Rising to his feet, Max said, “I appreciate the tour.  You’ve certainly given me something to think about when making recommendations for some of the teenagers who come into the system.”
            David stood up and came around the desk.  “I’m glad to hear that.  We have a fund raising gala in three weeks and the DA’s office is on the guest list.  I hope you’re able to make it.”
            Max could smell bullshit a mile a way and this guy was full of it.  He wanted Max at his gala about as much as he wanted to watch Max kissing Lauren.  Damn, where had that thought come from?
            Shaking David’s hand, Max followed Lauren out of the office and outside to the parking lot.  She had been quiet during the tour which was unusual for her.  She always seemed to have an opinion on everything – and it was usually the opposite of his
            “Your boyfriend seems to run a good program here,” Max said as they reached his car.
            “He’s not my boyfriend,” Lauren said immediately.
            “Sorry, my mistake.  I just assumed from that little jealousy act he pulled in the barn that he was.”
            Lauren sighed.  “We dated years ago but we’re just friends now.  Sometimes David forgets that.”
            “What happened?  He seems perfect for you.”
            Frowning, she asked, “What do you mean by that?”
            Max shrugged.  “I don’t know.  You’re both do-gooders and you’re both self-righteous.”
            Lauren started to get mad until she saw the twinkle in his eye and his grin.  She could tell he was teasing her.  “Are you always such a jerk?” she asked.
            Max thought for a moment and then grinned wider and nodded.  “Yeah, at least that’s what my friends tell me.”
            “Well, they’re right,” Lauren laughed.  She had a beautiful throaty laugh.
            The sound of gravel crunching under fast approaching tires drew their attention.  A jacked up Monte Carlo squealed to a stop in front of the main building and a Hispanic man in his mid to late twenties got out of the car and fired a single shot into the air from the chrome .45 he had in his left hand.  Before the thought even had time to process in his mind, Max had pulled Lauren to the other side of his car where they both knelt down with him making sure his body was shielding hers.
            “Where is my brother!” the man was screaming.  Six armed guards came out of nowhere and had the man surrounded.  The stand off only lasted for a few minutes once the man realized he was outnumbered and outgunned.  The guards had him subdued and in hand cuffs with the police on their way within five minutes.  If Max had doubts about how tight the security here was, he didn’t any more.  He was impressed with the speed and professionalism in which the guards had handled the situation.
            “Um, you can probably let go of me now,” Lauren said against his chest where he had her crushed to him.
            Max let his arms fall from around her slowly, still hesitant to let go of her completely for some reason.  “Sorry, instinct.”
            “It’s okay,” she said meeting his eyes.  There was a fire there he hadn’t seen before and it ignited something inside of him.  Dipping his head to hers, he kissed her.  Not a gentle peck on the lips kind of kiss but a passionate kiss which she responded to in kind. 
            “And here I thought maybe you’d be frightened by the little scene here, guess you had other things on your mind,” a disgusted voice said from behind them almost immediately after the kiss began.
            Pulling apart abruptly, Max swore under his breath.  He didn’t know what he was angrier about – that he had kissed her or that they were interrupted.  Standing up, he held his hand out to her.  “Lauren, I’m sorry, that was really inappropriate of me.”
            Lauren accepted his offered hand as she stood up next to him but she dropped it immediately.  She seemed to have trouble meeting his eyes.  God, she must be really pissed at him.  “It’s okay,” she said softly.
            “Lauren, are you okay?  Did you get hurt?” David asked with genuine concern in his voice now.
            “I’m fine, David.  I’m a little light headed, though.  Maybe I should sit down.”  As the words left her mouth, she started to go down in a faint.  Both Max and David reached for her at the same time.
            “I’ve got her,” David growled.  Max backed off and let David swing Lauren up into his arms and carry her into the main building.
            It was another hour or so before Max could leave the ranch.  He gave his statement to the police and learned the details of the incident.  Apparently, the man’s younger brother had been sent to the ranch and his brother had been threatening to break him loose, probably to use the kid as a drug mule again.  There was a restraining order against the man who had a record a mile long, so he’d be going to prison for a long time.
            Max had hoped to speak to Lauren to apologize again before he left.  But after she recovered from her faint, she began working with the police as a translator since the man spoke limited English.  Max was amazed at her quick recovery and professionalism.  He couldn’t understand everything she was saying to the man, but he could tell she wasn’t taking any crap from him.  Maybe she wasn’t the sympathetic bleeding heart he had thought she was.  With nothing left for him to do, Max got in his car and drove home.  For the rest of the day he had a gnawing frustration clawing at his psyche but he couldn’t finger on why he was so antsy.

1 comment:

  1. Awww, I like how they're liking each other now! I don't have anything that's wrong! Can't wait to see how things between them turn out!