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.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Part 11 or Who Are You?

Chapter 12

Lauren heard her grandmother clanging things around in the kitchen as she stepped through the front door.  A sure sign she was upset.  Well, she was just going to have to be mad, Lauren thought, because she wasn’t going to apologize for being out all night.  She was twenty-six for goodness sake!  Straightening her shoulders, she walked into the kitchen.
            “Good morning, Grandma,” she said as she leaned against the door frame with her arms crossed over her chest.
            Her grandmother turned around and glowered at her.  “And where have you been all night?”
            “I spent the night with someone I’ve been seeing,” Lauren lied.  She and Max hadn’t really been dating, just making love a couple of times, but her grandmother didn’t need to know that.
            “And he sent you in here doing the walk of shame in that dress without the courage to come in and introduce himself?”
            Lauren sighed.  “Actually, he wanted to come in but I told him not to.”     
Her grandmother’s eyes widened in surprise.  “Why did you do that?”
            “Because I didn’t think you’d be able to be nice to him this morning.  We’ll plan another time when you’ll have your company manners on and I’ll properly introduce you to him then.”
            Her grandmother looked like she wanted to say something else about the subject but she bit her tongue.  Probably literally.  Instead, she picked up a small white box from the counter next to the sink.  It was sealed with a knotted pink ribbon.  “I found this on the steps this morning when I went out to get the paper.  I’m assuming it’s for you so I didn’t open it.”
            Lauren looked at the box nervously.  Who would have left something outside for her instead of waiting until they saw her in person?  Like she didn’t already know the answer to that.  With trembling fingers, she untied the ribbon and opened the box.  Inside was a perfect rose the exact tea rose color of the dress she had on.  There was also a note.  It read, ‘Your dress was as beautiful as this rose, my love for you grows.  But I was disappointed not to see you wear it home.’  Lauren dropped the note back into the box and stared at it in disbelief.  No one had seen her dress before she put it on last night.  She hadn’t shown it to anybody, not even Audrey.  Whoever was sending these things was either at the gala last night or had been spying on her.  Both ideas were frightening.
            With a shaky voice, she asked her grandmother, “You didn’t see who left this?”
            Her grandmother’s brows knitted together.  “No, it was just sitting there when I opened the door.  Lolo, what’s the matter?”
            “Nothing.”  Lauren forced her lips upwards in a poor attempt at a smile as gathered up the box and the ribbon.  “It’s nothing.  I’m going to go shower and change.”  She turned and left the kitchen before her grandmother had the chance to say anything else.
            Once in her room, she pulled her phone out of her purse.  David picked up on the second ring.  “Lauren, I’ve been worried about you!” he started but she cut him off.
            “David, did you leave a box for me this morning?”
            “A box?  No.  Why?”
            “Because someone left me a box with a flower in it that matches my dress and a disturbing note,” she told him.
            “And you thought it was me?!  Thanks a lot.  Lauren, this is getting ridiculous.  You have to go to the police with this.  Please!” he pleaded. 
The concern in his voice helped lay to rest somewhat the nagging idea of him being behind the letters and flowers, since he was, after all, the best candidate.  But, that nagging idea persisted in reminding her how jealous he could get.  Did he have it in him to spy on her when she was with another man?  Maybe.
            “I’ll think about it,” she told him and rang off, cutting off whatever he tried to say. 
Lauren sat down on her bed letting the box and ribbon fall to the floor.  What should she do?  She still didn’t think the police could help her.  There just wasn’t enough evidence to figure out who was doing this.  It was probably just someone’s idea of a joke but what if it wasn’t?  What if she really did have a stalker?  And if she did, just how crazy is he?  How far could she let this escalate before she tried to do something about it?
            With a heavy sigh, she stood up and slipped out of her dress and into her light blue satin robe.  She hung the dress up in the closet and then picked out a pair of jeans and a blue turtle neck sweater that she knew matched her eyes perfectly.  After finding a pair of red matching bra and panties, she went into the bathroom and started the water.  She felt numb as she took her contacts out and put them in their little cups on the shelf above the sink.  Her brain was being overloaded with everything going on – Max, the baby, a possible stalker, and she couldn’t focus on any one thing long enough to make any decisions.  Hanging her robe on the back of the door, she stepped into the hot spray, letting the water flow over her tense muscles for several long minutes trying to let it calm her mind as well as her body.  It didn’t work.
            She gave up after fifteen minutes.  She washed her hair and stepped out of the shower, trying her best to avoid her stressed out reflection in the mirror.  She didn’t want to see the worry lines on her forehead or the fear building in her eyes.
She gave her hair a quick blow dry, knowing that it was going to be curlier than usual because she didn’t dry it all the way.  After putting her contacts back in, she applied a small amount of make up trying to cover the black circles under her eyes. 
She stood in front of her closet for several minutes deciding if she should bring clothes for work tomorrow.  Finally, she chose a navy blue suit and put it in a garment bag along with her small make up case and a pair of shoes.  She still wasn’t sure if she was going to spend the night at Max’s, but she opted to bring it just in case.  She suspected her lack of self-control around him wouldn’t be any better today than it had been yesterday.  At the last minute, she tossed the box with the flower and the note into the bag as well.  Maybe Max would have some ideas about it.  She didn’t really want to drag him into her problems, but he claimed to want to be a part of her life now.  At least, he did this morning.  If he runs for the hills when she brings it up, she’ll know he isn’t serious.
            “I’m leaving, Grandma!” she called out from the living room as she slipped into her jacket.
            Her grandmother came in from the kitchen drying her hands on a towel. “But you just came home!  Where are you going?”
            “I have a date,” she said.
            “When will you be back?”
            “Probably not until tomorrow.”  She left her grandmother sputtering in the hall as she closed the front door behind her.

Chapter 13

Max opened the door for Lauren and was amazed again at how beautiful she could look in just a pair of jeans and a tight sweater.  “Welcome back,” he said with a smile as he kissed her lightly and then took the garment bag from her and laid it on the banister to bring upstairs later.
            “Actually, there’s something in there I’d like to show you,” Lauren said as she slipped off her jacket.
            “Something naughty, I hope,” Max said with a wicked grin hoping she meant the boots she wore on Halloween.
            Lauren’s lips formed a thin line before she said, “I wish it was.” 
That sounded ominous, Max thought, as she unzipped the bag and pulled a small white box from it.  “What’s that?”
            “I seem to have a secret admirer, or a stalker maybe,” she said uncomfortably as she carried the box into the living room and dropped it down on the coffee table as if she couldn’t stand to have it in her hands anymore.
            Max sat down on the couch next to her and opened the box.  Inside was a pink rose.  “Pretty,” he commented.
            “Does the color look familiar?” she asked nervously.
            Max looked more closely at the flower.  Damn, it was the same color as the dress she had on last night.  He remembered the color perfectly because the image of her in that dress was permanently etched in his mind.  “This come with it?” he asked as he unfolded the note and then his face contorted into a deep frown as he read it.  Looking up at her, he asked, “Is this the first thing like this you’ve received?”
            Lauren shook her head.  “No, I’ve been receiving flowers for a while with cards that all said, ‘It’s almost time for you to be mine.’ And I’ve received two letters at work that read, ‘It’s almost time for you to be mine, I count the days and the hours until we belong to each other.’”
            Dropping the note back in the box, Max asked, “What have the police said?”
            Lauren dropped her eyes from his.  “I haven’t called them.  I was hoping they’d stop coming,” she said quietly.
            “What?!” Max stood up so fast he banged into the coffee table almost knocking it over.  “What do you mean you haven’t called the police?  Are you nuts?  This is obviously some crazy person stalking you.  Did you really think you could just ignore it and it would stop?  That’s not how these things work.  Usually, someone ends up getting hurt or killed!”  It dawned on him that he might be overreacting, but dammit, she couldn’t let her naivety put her and the baby at risk.  There were too many crazies coming through the court system for him to believe this was anything other than a threat.
            She crossed her arms over her chest and went on the defensive.  “What could they do about it?  I’m sure the person isn’t stupid enough to leave fingerprints and no one at the florists ever saw who left the money and card, so just what do you think the police could do?  Or would do, considering how much they love us defense attorneys!”
            Max’s lips pressed together tightly in frustration.  She had a point.  But dammit, she was pregnant!  She shouldn’t have to deal with a stalker on top of that!  He pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed a number.
            “Who are you calling?” Lauren asked.
            Before he could answer, a deep baritone answered.  “Kerkowski.”
            “Hey, Tom, this is Max Canter.  Sorry to bother you but I have a personal issue I was hoping you might be able to help with.”
            “I’ll try,” the police captain said.  “Just tell me it’s not another bomb threat.”
            Max grimaced thinking back to six months ago when Jack had dealt with another type of stalker – a hit man who had an affinity for bombs.  “No, nothing like that, but my girlfriend has been receiving some concerning items and I was hoping you could have someone check on it.”  He noticed Lauren’s eyebrows rising when he said the word girlfriend.
            “You have a girlfriend?” Kerkowski asked in surprise.  “As in one woman who you’re seeing exclusively?”
            “Yes,” Max said between clenched teeth.  Damn, how bad was his reputation with women that it was hard to believe he had a girlfriend?  Granted, it had been a while since he had referred to anyone he was seeing as his girlfriend.
            “Well, I’ll be damned,” Kerkowski laughed.  “Miracles do exist.”
            “If you’re done, can I tell you why I called?” Max almost growled into the phone.
            “Alright, alright, what ya got for me?” Kerkowski asked still sounding amused.
            Max explained what Lauren did for a living and about the letters and flowers.  He finished up by telling him about the dress and the flower with this morning’s note.  When he was done, Kerkowski let out a low whistle.  “Sounds like whoever’s doing this is keeping close tabs on her.  I don’t like the sound of it.”  After a moment, he added, “First guess, I would say it’s probably one of the loony toons she defends.  But the more I think about it, the more personal it sounds.  Does she have an old boyfriend or anyone who might not be happy about you two being together?”
            Max’s mind jumped to David and he snorted.  “Yeah, you could say that.”
            “Alright, I’ll have someone come talk to her tomorrow.  Make sure she brings this guy up so he can be questioned,” Kerkowski said.  “Sometimes people are reluctant to think the worst of someone they used to care about and don’t give the names of all potential suspects.  There’s not a whole lot to go on here, but maybe we’ll get lucky and kick up some clues.”
            “Thanks, Tom, I appreciate it.”  After ringing off, he turned to Lauren.  “That was Captain Kerkowski with the police department.  He’s going to have someone talk to you tomorrow.”  Moving closer to her, he gently pushed a blonde curl from her cheek.  “I’m going to ask you something that I hope doesn’t make you mad.  Do you think David Spencer could be behind this?”
            Lauren closed her eyes for a moment and sighed.  Opening them again, she dropped her arms from their tight position against her chest and said, “I don’t think so.  I’ve asked him and he denies it.  He’s actually the one who has pushed the hardest for me to go to the police.”
            “At least he and I agree on something.”  Then a thought occurred to him.  “Does he know you’re pregnant?”
            Lauren shook her head.  “I haven’t told anyone except you.”
            Oops, Max thought.  The cat was out of the bag because of him, but he knew Jack and Abby would keep it quiet.  He put his arms around her and pulled her close to him.  “We should probably keep it that way; at least until after we figure out who’s doing this.  Sometimes things like that can push a stalker to escalate, and I for one, want you to be safe.”
            “I really wasn’t ready to tell anyone anyway,” she said quietly against his shoulder.  “It doesn’t even feel real yet.”
            “I know what you mean.”  It seemed like things were flying at him at a million miles an hour and his mind needed time to process everything.  So, in an attempt to change the subject, he leaned back so he could see her face.  “What do you usually do on Sunday afternoons?”  Please don’t say antiquing, he thought.
            Lauren smiled.  “I usually end up watching the Lions lose.”
            Max raised his eyebrows and grinned.  “You like football?”
            “Almost as much as I like hockey,” she replied, her beautiful blue eyes twinkling.  How had he not guessed just from her eyes that she was his Bat Girl?
            “Oh, we’re going to get along just great,” he said as he grabbed the remote from the coffee table and turned on the game.  “The only thing that would make this better is if you were naked,” he added with a mischievous wink.
            “That could be arranged,” she purred as she ran her hand over his chest and then lower.
            “Yup, just great,” Max said right before he kissed her.  They missed the first half of the game.

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