I love all the books I’ve written and adore all the characters, which is why I like to write series with a large and expanding community so that I can revisit the people I’ve created and catch up on what is happening in their lives. MURDER IN PARADISE BAY is the 4th book in the NY State Trooper Series and Stacey Sutten is one of the strongest female leads from the get go. She’s a very confidant young woman at twenty-five. Raised by a single dad, who had her at 17, she’s developed a very thick skin, a mouth like razor, and tenderness that is untouchable. I love her because her arch isn’t about gaining confidence, or strength, but giving it. Throughout the book, she has to give it to her father, the love of her life, even the people she works with. But her growth as a woman comes from learning how to lean on others and let them into her soul, especially Doug Tanner.
What I love about Doug is he’s humble man. Having been homeless until fifteen when Stacey’s father takes him in, has taught him the value of a kind heart and honest work. What is interesting about Doug is that he is 9 years younger than Stacey’s father, and 9 years older than Stacey. Even more interesting is that at 15 and throughout his young adult life, he’d been Jim’s (Stacey’s father) best friend and eventual business partner. Jim helped Doug go to college and become an architect. Jim felt strongly that he couldn’t bring a woman into their lives. He wanted to be a dedicated father and he focused all his attention on Stacey and his growing business…then Doug.
But as Stacey grew up, graduated from college, and became a State Trooper, a shift in relationships occur and while Doug will always be Jim’s business partner, its obvious to everyone that Doug and Stacey are destine to be together…even her father.
So, I came up with Doug, Stacey, and her father, Jim back in 2005. Really, not kidding. I wrote their story (though Stacey was a dance teacher, NOT), but the background was the same and Doug was accused of killing his late wife. But I knew the book/story wasn’t right, but these three characters wouldn’t leave me alone! So when I needed to introduce my next State Trooper in DEADLY SECRETS, all of a sudden, Stacey waltzed into the station house and blew my mind.
I love how writing works.
The story flew from my brain to my fingers, partly because I’ve lived with this people for like EVER!
Stacey will always hold a special place in my heart. She’s the only female trooper in the series and she’s one kick ass female! And Doug? Oy. All my hero’s have man crushes on him.
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Yesterday I read through the 50k words I have on my latest NY State Trooper book: DEADLY SEDUCTION (23 May 2017). I had set it aside for a few weeks while went through copy edits for TO PROTECT HIS OWN that comes out 20 March 2017 and then to deal with a Beat Read of THE BUTTERFLY MURDERS. Yes, I’ve got a lot going on, but I like to be busy. Keeps me out of trouble.
Anyway, I needed to dive back into the characters and the world. While I was sitting on the sofa in my office, my laptop on…well, my lap, my husband walks by and looks at me and says, “Why are smiling?”
I was reading a section that was meant to be a bit of a comedic break from the action and I basically cracked myself up.
He walks by later and says, “You look like you’ve been crying.”
I laugh, but I had been trying to fight back the tears. Of course, I’m way too close to the material to know if others will feel the same way, but a good book is based in the readers connection to the characters.
I just finished watching This Is Us. EVERY episode made me cry. I mean, water rolling down my cheeks, totally unstoppable. THAT is good writing!
So, here is a sneak preview of the opening scene of DEADLY SEDUCTION. This is a ROUGH DRAFT never seen before by anyone. AND, the pre-order price is only 0.99. That will change release day when it goes back up to 3.99.
Delaney Mervis couldn’t believe her bad luck when the man she’d been watching had decided to sit outside. Normally, sitting under the stars as they twinkled across the ripples of the picturesque lake, during a warm summer evening would be a treat, but not tonight.
Her phone vibrated, sending her stomach on a roll, twisting and churning. She didn’t check the text, she knew exactly who it was from and what he wanted her to do.
She ordered a glass of house white wine and a salad while pretending to be deep into a book on her kindle. Seemed like an easy cover and kept people away so she could focus on how the hell she was going to seduce a man.
The outdoor patio seemed crowded for a Tuesday evening, though she’d heard some of her co-workers talk of some wild times in the Village of Lake George, New York. Looking around, it didn’t look tame, but it certainly wasn’t wild. Then again, what did she know of wild. Taking a sip of her wine, she looked across the deck at the four men sitting at a table right against the railing, overlooking the water. She recognized one of them as the owner of the hotel she was staying at. There was a pitcher of beer on the table, along with a plate of chicken wings, what looked like mozzarella sticks, and maybe nachos.
Josh Burdett sat directly across from her, sipping his beer while the other men laughed about something. Josh was certainly better looking in person with his sandy brown hair, cut in a stylish fade that only accentuated his square dimpled jaw, sharp-high cheek bones, plump lips, and piercing green eyes that made it difficult for her to keep from constantly staring, which could be a good thing.
She knew she was a pretty woman. The rare occasion she went out to a bar, she would get hit on, but she had a rule about dating men she’d met in bars and that was, she didn’t date them. Lately, she hadn’t dated all, her last relationship hadn’t been a very good and it left her feeling as though there might be something wrong with her.
Setting her glass down, she poked at her salad with the fork, doing her best to keep her eyes on the kindle in her hand, while keeping the hot sexy trooper in her peripheral vision, hoping he had noticed the woman sitting alone. Her heart pounded, rattling her ribcage. If she did what grey eyes asked, he wouldn’t kill her brother. Simple enough, right?
“How is everything?” The waitress appeared at the side of the table.
“Great,” Delaney said. “Can you bring me the check?”
“More wine before I do that?”
“One more glass, with the check,” Delaney said. Might as well have something to slowly sip, figuring Josh and his friends might be awhile and she’d look silly at a table, reading a book, without at least a beverage. Plus, she could use it to spill on him. One way of getting a man’s attention. She shook her head. The art of seduction wasn’t her strong suit.
Right after the waitress left, she snuck a glance in Josh’s direction, connecting with his sea green eyes. She swallowed, holding his gaze, unable to shyly look away. Isn’t that what men liked?
He tipped his glass, nodding.
She smiled weakly as she raised her nearly empty glass, then took a sip, before lowering her head, eyes focusing on the kindle screen. The information she’d been given indicated Josh was nearing his thirtieth birthday. Same age as her. He’d been a Trooper since graduating from the Academy at the age of twenty-two and worked as a detective in special crimes unit most of his career. The portrait that the man with the grey eyes had built for Josh, made him out to be this bad ass cop who abused his power. But when she looked at him, all she saw was a young man with this boyish quality that made a woman want to go curl up in his strong powerful arms because you knew he was the kind of man who would forever and always be your protector…and love and worship you as if you were the most important person in the world.
But looks could be deceiving as she’d found out with Kirk.
She swallowed her pride and stiffened her spine, as she took a long slow sip of her wine noting that Josh continued to look her way, even while engaged in conversation.
When the waitress returned, Delaney had pushed aside her salad, only half eaten, then quickly paid the bill. This way she could just sit and drink her second glass, while she argued with herself that if the tables were turned, her brother would do the very same thing.
The next thirty minutes dragged on as she watched Josh and his friends enjoy a meal, but finally they had begun to stand, shaking hands. She took the last sip of her second glass of wine when the waitress showed up with another glass.
“I didn’t order that?” Delaney glanced toward the table where Josh had been, his buddies heading toward the parking lot, but Josh seemed to have disappeared. She couldn’t blow this chance. Not now.
“I did,” a husky deep voice said. “Thought we could have a drink together.” Josh stood in front of her, fresh beer in his hand.
The waitress set the glass on the table. “Let me know if I can get you anything else.”
“Thanks Viv,” Josh said.
Delaney let out a long slow breath. Both relieved and terrified at the same time.
“I’m not usually this forward,” he said. “But we noticed each other, so thought I’d say hello.”
“Hello,” she said smiling. “Please. Sit down.” Kirk had been right, she did sound like she was conducting an interview.
Josh pulled out the spare chair at her table and sat down across from her. “Name is Josh Burdett.” He held out his hand
She took it in a firm handshake. “Delaney. Nice to meet you.”
“Are you from around here?”
She tucked her kindle, along with her notebook into her purse. “No. I’m just here for a couple of weeks.”
“Working vacation,” she said. “I’m a writer and I’m here to finish my novel.”
“Are you published?” he asked, leaning forward, elbows resting on the table, his green eyes focused a little to intently on her face, but it least his gaze wasn’t on her non-existent boobs. Or maybe that was a bad thing.
“Not yet.” Keep as much of the truth about yourself as you can. “The novel writing is a hobby. I hope to turn it into a paying gig sometime soon.”
“So, what do you do…as a career?”
“I’m a copy editor for a publishing house.” So far, no lies. “What do you do?” she asked.
“I’m a State Trooper.”
“Impressive and dangerous. I bet exciting too.” She did her best to act surprised by his profession while gauging his responses and body language, which by the way he pulled back a tad, he wasn’t into girls who thought his job was sexy. But what did she know about reading people? She thought Kirk loved her fried chicken when he actually hated it.
Josh chuckled. “Honestly, more than half my job is sitting in a patrol car or in a patrol boat, waiting for something to happen, hoping nothing does, wishing for boring, which I think is the complete opposite of why I became a Trooper in the first place.”
“Did you join because you’re an adrenaline junkie?” What the hell kind of question was that? The gene that gave a woman the art of seduction had passed her by.
“I suppose a little.” He swigged his beer. “I wanted to make a difference. Help people. Protect them.” Laughing, he shook his head. “This is a deep conversation for two people who just met.”
“Hazzard of my hobby,” she said. “I’m always studying people and asking questions. Trying to figure them out. Sorry.”
“Is that what you were doing earlier. Studying me?”
“I was studying everyone.”
“So you weren’t just looking at me.”
She did her best to blush, letting her gaze drop to her lap. “No. Pretty much just you.”
“Good to know. Want to go for a walk down to the water?” He pointed toward the long dock that extended off the restaurant into the lake.
She tilted her head. “I’m not in the habit of going anywhere with strange men.”
“Your profiling skills need work because I’m not strange,” he said with a grin, then turned and pointed to the other side of the deck. “The band is about to start and it gets pretty loud, even sitting out here. We can bring our drinks. I can even have the waitress bring us down another round.”
She bit down on her thumb nail, looking between him and the docks. There was nothing to contemplate, but she didn’t want him to think she was so willing or easy, though she was willing to do whatever to took to save her brother, even if her brother didn’t deserve her loyalty.
“I understand,” he said. “We can sit here and yell over the band.”
“No, we can go walk down by the water.” She stood, tossing her purse over her shoulder, holding her drink in the other hand. “And since my hotel is just down the road and I walked, I just might have another.” She might need an entire bottle to make this happen.
“After you.” He waved his hand out in front, then motioned to the waitress for another round.
They walked quietly through the gate off the deck, down a windy pathway, before stepping onto the dock. A boat hummed in the distance as small waves gently crashed against the break wall. “It’s really beautiful here.” Once they reached the end of the pier, she kicked off her shoes and sat down, dangling her bare feet in the chilly water and took another gulp of wine. “It’s so different from any water I can see in New York City.”
“Is that where you live?” He’d shed his shoes, and had just finished rolling up his jeans as he sat down next to her.
She nodded. “I grew up in Brooklyn. Went to college at Columbia and still live right near campus.” Kicking her feet in the water, she glanced in his direction. The light from the moon hit his green eyes, making them look like gems. “Have you lived here you whole life?”
“I’m actually from the Bronx. Lived there until about a year ago.”
“Not in New York,” he said. “I didn’t realize how much I hated it there until I came here.”
“Why’d you hate it?” She sipped her wine, enjoying the crisp cool dry flavor as it rolled across her lips a little too much, just like she enjoyed the company, though liking him, being attracted to him, might make this go easier.
“Cliché, but I felt like a fish out of water in the city,” he said.
“And you don’t feel that way here?”
“You can breathe in this town and not have it taste like a combination of your neighbor’s three-day old Chinese take-out and the taxicabs exhaust.”
“I don’t know where you were living, but I love the smell of hot dogs and fresh pretzels on a cool fall day near Central Park.”
“Hey Josh,” a woman’s voice called as the dock vibrated. “I got your drinks.” The waitress approached, then squatted, setting the drinks on the dock.
“Thanks, Viv.” He reached in to his pocket, pulling out his wallet. “What’s the damage?”
He handed her a twenty. “Keep it. Thanks for bringing them down.”
“I owed you one after what you did for me the other day.”
He shook his head. “It was nothing.”
“Always humble and modest, this one,” Viv said. “Tries to be the deep and brooding type, but really he’s just the nice boy next door. You’re in good hands with him,” Viv said. “I’ll check on you two in a bit.”
“I think we’re good for the night,” Josh said.
“Enjoy yourselves.” Viv winked, then turned and disappeared.
“So, you’re a regular boy scout.” Delaney had picked up her fresh glass and sipped as eloquently and slowly as possible, the effects already making her a bit fuzzy, but helping her with her horrible flirting skills.
“Just your average Joe Trooper.” He raised his bottle, tipping his head.
From what she’d gathered about Josh Burdett, he was anything but average. “What did you do that earned such high praise and a wink from our waitress?”
He chuckled. “She had a flat tire on the Thruway. She doesn’t have road side assistance and couldn’t afford to pay someone to come out, so I did my job and changed her tire.”
“Didn’t know tire changing was in the Trooper job description.”
“Protect and serve. On my knees, getting my hands dirty, that was the serve part.”
She burst out laughing, nearly spitting out the wine she’d managed to sip just as he spoke.
“What’s so funny?”
“Trust me, you don’t want to know.”
“Did your mind just go to the gutter?” He leaned in, his green eyes flickered.
“I plead the fifth,” she said. “Tell me. Why did you leave the city to live here?”
“I wanted a change of pace,” he said.
“I bet you left behind a string of broken hearts.”
He shook his head. “There was no one in the city for me. What about you? Why stay? Have a boyfriend back home?”
“No,” she said. “But I don’t think I’ll ever leave. I’ve always been a city girl. I like the hustle and bustle of the streets. Here,” she paused, “I feel exposed.”
“Because you’re not just one of millions wondering the city streets. A nameless face in a sea of people going about a busy life, never really slowing down to get to know themselves, much less anyone else.”
She leaned back on her elbows, looking at the night sky. “I never thought of it that way, being nameless, but there are so many stories in those faces. Some you want to know. Some you don’t. I like to sit on a bench and just people watch. It inspires me somehow.”
“Then why come here to write when you have all the inspiration you need in the city?”
“Because I’ve never been out of the city.”
“Never?” He sipped his beer before laying back on the dock. “No family to visit in other places?”
“It’s just me and my brother now.” If she could manage to pull this off. If she didn’t, grey eyes said Liam would be dead in a few days.
“That means you’ve never been on an airplane?”
She laughed. “I can barely drive a car,” she said. “And almost turned around a dozen times on my here.”
“Normally, city girls are supposed to be so worldly.”
“I’ve thought about leaving the city, but it just never happened.”
“I don’t know anyone from New York that either didn’t grow up somewhere else, or at least traveled off the Island.”
“I took the ferry to New Jersey once. Nice view of the city. That’s when I decided if I wanted to be a writer. I need to see some of the world. See if it was how I imaged in my head.”
“Well, you picked a beautiful place to start.” He tugged at her sleeve. “Lots of stars out tonight.” He patted the wooden dock with his hand. “It’s a great view from down here.”
“Not sure I’ve ever had a man use that line on me before.” The instant heat she felt for him should be making this process easier, but all it did was confuse her and rattle her already frazzled nerves.
“I didn’t intend it to be a line.” He rested one hand behind his head. “You won’t ever see a night sky like this in the city. It’s the kind of vision one writes about in books.”
She laughed as she eased her way to her elbows, pressing her back against the hard wood, and drawing her feet up from the water. “Now that was a line.”
“Wow. I’ve never seen so many stars,” she said. “It’s like a jar filled with fireflies that never goes out.”
“What do you know about fireflies, city girl?” He’d rolled to his side, propping up on his elbow, sipping his beer. His eyes still illuminated from the glow of the moon. His plump full lips circling the neck of the glass bottle. She didn’t know what was more picturesque. Him or the night sky.
“I’ve read about them in books.”
They both laughed.
“How long have you been in town?”
“Got in yesterday.”
“I can show you around, if you’d like.”
Closing her eyes, she breathed slowly, taking in the fresh scent of warm spring water mixed with a faint musk smell of what she suspected was aftershave, but one she’d never smelled before. She wanted to turn her head, lace her fingers behind his neck, and kiss him, which was a crazy thought because she’d never acted impulsively in her life. Her older brother used to tell her all the time to lighten up and live a little.
But look where that got him.
“I’d like that.” She jerked her arm, feeling a slight tickle of something across her skin.
“Didn’t mean to startle you,” he said, his voice deep and throaty, sending messages to her body that she didn’t know what to do with. No man ever made her this nervous before. Perhaps it was because her only reason for being with him, was to destroy him. His finger tilted her chin and when she opened her eyes, her breath hitched. “You’re very beautiful.”
“I bet you say that to all the women you bring down here.”
“You’re the first.” His palm grazed her cheek. “I’ve got tomorrow off. Can I take you to lunch?”
She nodded, holding her breath. If he leaned just a little closer, she’d be grabbing him, and pulling his hard, lean body on top of hers and tangling their tongues in a hot dance. He stared at her for a long moment. His thumb fanned across her cheek.
He licked his lips. “I want to kiss you.”
“I’m thinking all the fresh air may have gone to my head because I’m thinking I want you to kiss me.” She held his gaze for what seemed like an eternity. Both her hands resting on her stomach that flipped and flopped as if she were about to be kissed for the first time.
When he leaned in, she closed her eyes, waiting for his moist lips to brush against hers…but they didn’t. Instead he kissed her cheek. “We’ve both had too much wine and beer,” he whispered. “Let me walk you home.”
“You are the boy next door.”
He smiled, helping her to her feet, intertwining their fingers.
“You don’t have to walk with me,” she whispered.
“I want to. Besides, when we get there I can kiss your other cheek.”
“I wouldn’t be opposed to you kissing my lips either.”
“Good to know.”
They walked in silence until they reached the parking lot of her hotel. “I’m in the main building.”
“You didn’t get a cabin?”
“Couldn’t afford it, even if there had been one available,” she admitted. “But the rooms here are fabulous. And the owners are incredibly friendly.”
“Reese and Patty.” He guided her up the stairs to the porch as she pulled out her keys to open the main door.
“I thought I recognized one of the owners at your table. Was that Reese?”
“That was him. He and his wife are good friends of mine.”
She held up the key she’d finally found in the bottom of her purse. “Thanks for walking me back.”
“Not a problem. I’ll pick you up here at eleven for lunch?”
“Pack a change of clothes and a bathing suit.”
He didn’t answer, instead he cupped her face, lowering his mouth to hers, but once again, his lips landed on her cheek. “See you tomorrow.”
Leaning against the door, she watched him as he took the steps down the porch and headed back the way they had come.
“You’re not driving, are you?” she yelled.
“Nope. I rent the apartment over the Boardwalk.”
“Walk home safe then.”
He turned. “You never told me your last name.”
“Mervis. Delaney Mervis.”
“That’s a nice Irish Jewish name.”
She laughed. “Good night.” Quickly, she unlocked the door and once inside, she tapped her phone, looking at the texts. All from the many with the grey eyes.
The clock is ticking. Report in.
I’m waiting. If I don’t hear from you tonight, your brother will pay.
Shaking her head to try to clear the cobwebs, her hands fumbled with the phone.
Found Burdett and made contact. Meeting again tomorrow.
She stared at the phone. The little caption bubble danced while grey eyes typed his response.
Why didn’t you seduce him? The sooner I get that tape, the sooner this is over for you.
She wanted to ask him how on earth a sex tape was going to ruin Josh. As a woman, it would affect her more, but she kept her mouth shut, not wanting to know any more about grey’s eyes plans. All she wanted was to make sure her brother wasn’t murdered.