Friday, December 15, 2017

"The Body in the Casket" by Katherine Hall Page

The Body in the Casket
(Faith Fairchild Mystery Book 24)
by Katherine Hall Page

The Body in the Casket (Faith Fairchild Mystery Book 24) by Katherine Hall Page

The Body in the Casket, the twenty-fourth book in the Faith Fairchild Mystery series by Katherine Hall Page, is currently on tour with Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on The Body in the Wardrobe.

The inimitable Faith Fairchild returns in a chilling New England whodunit, inspired by the best Agatha Christie mysteries and with hints of the timeless board game Clue.
For most of her adult life, resourceful caterer Faith Fairchild has called the sleepy Massachusetts village of Aleford home. While the native New Yorker has come to know the region well, she isn’t familiar with Havencrest, a privileged enclave, until the owner of Rowan House, a secluded sprawling Arts and Crafts mansion, calls her about catering a weekend house party.
Producer/director of a string of hit musicals, Max Dane - a Broadway legend - is throwing a lavish party to celebrate his seventieth birthday. At the house as they discuss the event, Faith’s client makes a startling confession. “I didn’t hire you for your cooking skills, fine as they may be, but for your sleuthing ability. You see, one of the guests wants to kill me.”
Faith’s only clue is an ominous birthday gift the man received the week before - an empty casket sent anonymously containing a twenty-year-old Playbill from Max’s last, and only failed, production - Heaven or Hell. Consequently, Max has drawn his guest list for the party from the cast and crew. As the guests begin to arrive one by one, and an ice storm brews overhead, Faith must keep one eye on the menu and the other on her host to prevent his birthday bash from becoming his final curtain call.
Full of delectable recipes, brooding atmosphere, and Faith’s signature biting wit, The Body in the Casket is a delightful thriller that echoes the beloved mysteries of Agatha Christie and classic films such as Murder by Death and Deathtrap.

Chapter One
“Have Faith in Your Kitchen,” Faith Fairchild said, answering the phone at her catering firm. She’d been busy piping choux pastry for éclairs onto a baking sheet.
“Mrs. Fairchild?”
“Yes? This is Faith Fairchild. How may I help you?”
“Please hold for Max Dane.” The voice had a plummy, slightly British tone, reminiscent of Jeeves, or Downton Abbey’s Carson. The only Max Dane Faith had heard of had been a famous Broadway musical producer, but she was pretty sure he’d died years ago. This must be another Max Dane.
She was put through quickly and a new voice said, “Hi. I know this is short notice, but I am very much hoping you are available to handle a house party I’m throwing for about a dozen guests at the end of the month. A Friday to Sunday. Not just dinner, but all the meals.”
Faith had never catered anything like this. A Friday to Sunday sounded like something out of a British pre-World War II country house novel—kippers for breakfast, Fortnum & Mason type hampers for the shoot, tea and scones, drinks and nibbles, then saddle of lamb or some other large haunch of meat for dinner with vintage clarets followed by port and Stilton—for the men only. She was intrigued.
“The first thing I need to know is where you live, Mr. Dane. Also, is this a firm date? We’ve had a mild winter so far, but January may still deliver a wallop like last year.”
A Manhattan native, Faith’s marriage more than 20 years ago to the Reverend Thomas Fairchild meant a radical change of address— from the Big Apple to the orchards of Aleford, a small suburb west of Boston. Faith had never become used to boiled dinners, First Parish’s rock hard pews and most of all, New England weather. By the end of the previous February there had been 75 inches of snow on the ground and you couldn’t see through the historic parsonage’s ground floor windows or open the front door. Teenage son Ben struggled valiantly to keep the back door clear, daily hewing a path to the garage. The resulting tunnel resembled a clip from Nanook of the North.
“I’m afraid the date is firm. The thirtieth is my birthday. A milestone one, my seventieth.” Unlike his butler or whoever had called Faith to the phone, Max Dane’s voice indicated he’d started life in one of the five boroughs. Faith was guessing the Bronx. He sounded a bit sheepish when he said “my birthday,” as if throwing a party for himself was out of character. “And I live in Havencrest. It’s not far from Aleford, but I’d want you to be available at the house the whole time. Live in.”
Leaving her family for three days was not something Faith did often, especially since Sunday was a workday for Tom and all too occasionally Saturday was as he “polished” his sermon. (His term, which she had noticed over the years, could mean writing the whole thing.)
Ben and Amy, two years younger, seemed old enough to be on their own, but Faith had found that contrary to expectations, kids needed parents around more in adolescence than when they were toddlers. Every day brought the equivalent of scraped knees and they weren’t the kind of hurts that could be soothed by Pat The Bunny and a chocolate chip cookie. She needed more time to think about taking the job. “I’m not sure I can leave my family…” was interrupted. “I quite understand that this would be difficult,” Dane said and then he named a figure so far above anything she had ever been offered that she actually covered her mouth to keep from gasping out loud.
“Look,” he continued. “Why don’t you come by and we’ll talk in person? You can see the place and decide then.  I don’t use it myself, but the kitchen is well equipped—the rest of the house too. I’ll email directions and you can shoot me some times that work. This week if possible. I want to send out the invites right away.”
Well, it wouldn’t hurt to talk, Faith thought. And she did like seeing other people’s houses. She agreed, but before she hung up curiosity won out and she asked, “Are you related to the Max Dane who produced all those wonderful Broadway musicals?”
“Very closely. As in one and the same. See you soon.”
Faith put the phone down and turned to Pix Miller, her closest friend and part-time Have Faith employee.
“That was someone wanting Have Faith to cater a weekend long birthday celebration—for an astonishing amount of money.” She named the figure in a breathless whisper. “His name is Max Dane. Have you ever heard of him?”
“Even I know who Max Dane is. Sam took me to New York the December after we were married and we saw one of his shows. It was magical—the whole weekend was. No kids yet. We were kids ourselves. We skated at Rockefeller Center by the tree and…”
Her friend didn’t go in for sentimental journeys and tempted as she was to note Pix and Sam skated on Aleford Pond then and now, Faith didn’t want to stop the flow of memories. “Where did you stay? A suite at the Plaza?” Sam was a very successful lawyer.
Pix came down to earth. “We barely had money for the show and pre-theater dinner at Twenty-One. That was the big splurge. I honestly can’t remember where we stayed and I should, because that’s where—” She stopped abruptly and blushed, also unusual Pix behavior.
“Say no more. Nine months later along came Mark?”
“Something like that,” Pix mumbled and then in her usual more assertive voice, added “You have to do this. Not because of the money, although the man must be loaded! Think of who might be there. And the house must be amazing. We don’t have anything booked for then and I can keep an eye on the kids.”
The Millers lived next door to the parsonage and their three now grown children had been the Fairchilds’ babysitters. Pix played a more essential role: Faith’s tutor in the unforeseen intricacies of childrearing as well as Aleford’s often arcane mores. Faith’s first social faux pas as a new bride—inviting guests for dinner at eight o’clock— had happily been avoided when her first invite, Pix, gently told Faith the town’s inhabitants would be thinking bed soon at that hour, not a main course.
Faith had started her catering business in the city that never slept before she was married and was busy all year long. Here January was always a slow month for business. The holidays were over and things didn’t start to pick up until Valentine’s Day—and even then scheduling events was risky. It all came down to weather.
Pix was at the computer. Years ago she’d agreed to work at Have Faith keeping the books, the calendar, inventory—anything that did not involve any actual food preparation.
“We have a couple of receptions at the Ganley Museum and the MLK breakfast the standing clergy host.”
The first time Faith heard the term, “standing clergy”, which was the town’s men and women of any cloth, she pictured an upright somberly garbed group in rows like ninepins. And she hadn’t been far off.
“That’s pretty much it,” Pix added, “except for a few luncheons and Amelia’s baby shower—I think she baby sat for you a couple of times when she was in high school.”
“I remember she was very reliable, “Faith said.
“Hard to believe she’s the same age as Samantha and having her second!” Pix sounded wistful. She was the type of woman born to wear a “I Spoil My Grandchildren” tee shirt. Faith wouldn’t be surprised if there were a drawer somewhere in the Miller’s house filled with tiny sweaters and booties knit by Pix, “just to be ready.” Mark Miller, the oldest, was married, but he and his wife did not seem to be in a rush to start a family.
Samantha, the middle Miller, had a long-term beau, Caleb. They were living together in trendy Park Slope, Brooklyn and Sam, an old-fashioned pater familias, had to be restrained from asking Caleb his intentions each time the young couple came to Aleford. Pix was leaning that way herself, she’d told Faith recently, noting that young couples these days were so intent on careers they didn’t hear the clock ticking.
Faith had forgotten that Amelia—who apparently had paid attention to time— was Samantha’s age and quickly changed the subject to what was uppermost in her mind—the Dane job. “Where is Havencrest?” she asked. “I thought I knew all the neighboring towns.”
“It’s not really a town so much as an enclave between Weston and Dover. I don’t think it even has a zip code. I’ve never been there, but Mother has. You can ask her about it. The houses all date to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I believe there’s a gatehouse at the entrance. It’s an early equivalent of the mid century modern planned communities like Moon Hill in Lexington. Havencrest wasn’t a bunch of architects like that one though. Just very rich Boston Brahmin families who wanted privacy and plenty of space. I wonder how Max Dane ended up there? From what Mother has said, the houses don’t change hands, just generations.”
“I think I’ll check my email and see if there’s anything from him yet,” Faith said. “And maybe drop by to see Ursula on my way home.” Stopping to visit with Ursula Lyman Rowe, Pix’s mother, was no chore. The octogenarian was one of Faith’s favorite people. She turned back to the éclairs, which were part of a special order, and added a few more to bring to her friend.
“I know you’ll take the job,” Pix said. “I’m predicting the weekend of a lifetime!”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“A cracking good traditional manor house mystery.” ~ Publishers Weekly
“Those who enjoy a traditional mystery with appealing characters and a New England feel will enjoy this.” ~ Mystery Scene
“The always-engaging Fairchild and the supporting cast of spirited recurring characters will appeal to fans of Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldy Schulz series and Carolyn Hart’s Annie Darling novels.” ~ Booklist

Guest Post by the Author
Whodunit Tied to Whoateit
I have always been interested in cooking, both trying to duplicate dishes and creating my own. My mother was a Norwegian-American and we usually had either fish and boiled potatoes or boiled potatoes and fish for dinner. We were happy, but at an early age my siblings and I started exploring other cuisines. When I began thinking about my amateur sleuth, Faith Sibley Fairchild, making her a caterer was one of the first characteristics I chose. This had to do with that early plot in The Body in the Belfry (1990), but also because I liked mysteries with food in them. Someone Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe by Nan and Ivan Lyons, Virginia Rich’s books, Rex Stout’s.
The Body in the Casket is the 24th in the series and Faith is catering a weekend long 70th birthday bash that legendary Broadway producer, Max Dane, is throwing for himself at his isolated mansion not far from Aleford. Max has not produced anything since his colossal flop, Heaven or Hell The Musical, twenty years ago. All ten of the guests played some part in the production and all ten have a very good reason to wish him dead. Faith and Max decide the birthday dinner should reference either the fiery pit or the opposite and I had a fine time researching possible dishes selecting Pasta Fra Diavolo for one and a truly lethal cocktail invented at London’s Savoy Hotel bar in the 1920s - the Fallen Angel!
I haven’t counted, but I’m almost certain I have even more cookbooks than mysteries on my bookshelves and I like to read them simply for pleasure, feeling no guilt at not cooking the recipes, just savoring them.
There are a number of mystery cookbooks that pleasantly combine the genres. Three of my favorites are: The Nero Wolfe Cookbook, Rex Stout and the Editors of Viking Press,1973; The Lord Peter Wimsey Cookbook, Elizabeth Bond Ryan and William J. Eakins, 1981; and Madame Maigret's Recipes, Robert J. Courtine (collected in honor of Georges Simenon's seventieth birthday),1975.
In his novel, A Duet, with an Occasional Chorus, Arthur Conan Doyle refers to Mrs. Beeton as "the finest housekeeper in the world." and notes that her book "has more wisdom to the square inch than any work of man." Household Management contained over 80,000 square inches of information, so this was high praise indeed. Mrs. Beeton is a fine place to start for recreational cookery reading. Besides recipes, Mrs. Beeton provides "instructions for servants who wait at table", lovely diagrams for napkin folding, specific instructions for laying a table - twenty-four inches for "each person's accommodation”.
In this country, we had Fannie Farmer. My oldest copy is from 1915, and like Mrs. Beeton, contains illustrations that are a window into a time when women, Martha Stewart not withstanding, had the time to garnish and frill. Besides such interesting items as "Broiled Oranges on Toast" and "Sweetbreads à la Root" (truffles, carrots, onions, celery, pureéd chestnuts, mushrooms and somewhere in all that, the sweetbreads), the author provides a surprisingly tasty sounding recipe for "Chicken à la King", that staple of my high school cafeteria. I think they must have left out the butter and cream, but I do remember those canned pimientos.
Library book sales, yard and rummage sales are treasure troves for old cookbooks and aside from their historical interest - the way we ate, especially across regions—they also offer more intimate connections with the past. Inscriptions to   brides, mothers, daughters, and new homeowners give us a sense of connection, especially if the recipients have annotated the book. I recently picked up a gem, Marian Tracy's New Casserole Cookery. The original Casserole Cookery went on sale the day after Pearl Harbor, I learned recently. It was still my mother's mainstay in the fifties and sixties for dinner parties. The previous owner of my New Casserole Cookery was a scribbler, and a pithy one. Next to "Roquefort Meat Loaf", she (her name is in the front) wrote, and underlined, "Lousy". "Turkey and Apple Casserole" was "nasty"; "Turkey and Cranberry Roll", "awful"—to describe a few. "Baked Peppers with Macaroni and Sausage" rated a "very good" with a note to be sure to "really parboil the peppers - it's all the cooking they get." For whom was she writing these notes - reminders to herself? For posterity? I wish I could meet her. Old cookbooks often have recipes clipped from magazines or recipes on index cards tucked in the pages like messages in a bottle.
Cookbooks that combine reminiscence or personal reflections with recipes are especially appealing - especially poignant when the author is gone - Craig Claiborne's A Feast Made for Laughter, Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking and More Home Cooking, everything M.F.K. Fisher wrote.
The favorites march on: all of Elizabeth David, Sara Kasdan's Mazel Tov Y'All, Calvin Trillin's Tummy Trilogy—American Fried, Alice, Let's Eat, and Third Helpings, Sylvia Woods' Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook, Mimi Sheraton's From My Mother's Kitchen, Peg Bracken's "I Hate to Cook" books, Jane Grigson's Food With the Famous,
Food is a powerful mnemonic in our lives and reading about it surrounds us with both comfort and desire. When you add mystery as an ingredient, the result takes the cake.
Himmel Und Erde (Heaven and Earth) from The Body in the Casket
2 1/2 pounds Russet potatoes peeled and cubed
3 apples, roughly 1 ½ pounds, peeled, cored and cubed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes more.
Add the apples and continue to simmer until the potatoes are done (check with a sharp fork) and the apples soft.
Drain, reserving a little of the water. Put back on the heat and stir briefly to dry.
Add the butter and mash. Faith relies on her old-fashioned potato masher. Add the honey, lemon, salt, and pepper and stir vigorously for a fluffy result. If the mixture is too dry, add a bit of the water.
You may also serve the dish with crumbled crisp bacon and fried or caramelized onions on top. Granny Smiths or other tart apples give Himmel und Erde a nice sharpness, but any apples are fine. Nutmeg and thyme also give it a different sort of flavor as a change from the basic recipe. Garlic too. It’s a traditional German farmhouse dish, good with pork, sausage or chicken.
Serves 4-6
And never forget that Whodunit really is tied to Whoateit!

About the Author
Katherine Hall Page
Katherine Hall Page is the author of twenty-three previous Faith Fairchild Mysteries, the first of which received the Agatha Award for best first mystery. The Body in the Snowdrift was honored with the Agatha Award for best novel of 2006. Page also won an Agatha for her short story "The Would-Be Widower". The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at Malice Domestic, she has been nominated for the Edgar Award, the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and the Macavity Award. She lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and Deer Isle, Maine, with her husband.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of three print copies of The Body in the Casket by Katherine Hall Page (US only).


12 Days of Clean Romance - Day 11 featuring Lucy McConnell

12 Days of Clean Romance - Day 11
featuring Lucy McConnell

12 Days of Clean Romance - Day 11 featuring Lucy McConnell

For Day 11 of our 12 Days of Clean Romance, we're featuring author Lucy McConnell.

This promotion is hosted by Kathy from I Am A Reader and features 12 of her favorite authors, whose books you can trust to be clean, fun, and 100% worth reading!

Marrying Miss Kringle:
by Annette K. Larsen

Christmas Magic is changing and the Kringle Family scrambles to keep up in this fun and entertaining, sweet Christmas romance from Author Lucy McConnell.
A normal electrical substation takes two years to build; but, Lux has 365 days to install one at the North Pole or Christmas Magic will overload the factory and send them back to the Dark Ages.
The one man on the planet with the know-how, the education, and the time to help Lux finish the substation before her Noel deadline, is also the one man who sends sparks through her heart and surges through the power system.
If Lux kisses Matthew Quik - again! - she could blow up Santa’s workshop before she has a chance to save it. If she doesn’t kiss him, she may lose him forever.

Lux’s cheeks dusted pink. With her red hair and fair skin, she should have flushed bright red, but only this sprinkling of pink appeared, like she’d been dusted with pink powdered sugar.
Why did this woman bring to mind sweet things like powdered sugar and chocolate and kisses at sunset? He gave his head a mighty shake. “You fell in the water.”
“I know.” At least, he thought he knew. Everything had happened so fast. He’d fallen asleep and woken up when the ice cracked. He plopped his feet to the floor only to have them land in several inches of water. His stove had tipped over and the hot metal had melted clear through the ice. There must have been a crack in the ice nearby.
“We pulled you out.”
“We?” Quik adjusted the blankets over his arms. He could only imagine Lux and Ginger and Frost tearing his clothes off. Lux made to adjust her glasses, but they weren’t there. She looked around like they’d fallen off and she didn’t know how. So he wasn’t the only one thrown off by all this. Quik’s eyes traveled lower to find her bare shoulders and her skintight tank top. He jerked his eyes back up to her face, hoping she hadn’t caught his wandering eye.
“Me and Dunder.” She chewed her lip. “My reindeer.”
“Of course.” The situation was going up in weirdness. Having used up all his ability to care about propriety, Quik leaned back against the seat. He was in the bottom of a fancy velvet-lined sled. Yep. Weird. His eyes dropped shut.
“You cut my pants?” he asked.
“I’ll get you new ones,” offered Lux.
“Did you cut my shirt too?”
“No!” She was offended. That was kind of cute.
“Too bad. I needed a new shirt.” He half smiled.

Praise for the Book
“For getting me in the mood for Christmas, and the romantic aspect of this holiday even before Thanksgiving, I’m happy to give Ms. McConnell the 5 STARS I’ve given her book.”
Marrying Miss Kringle: Lux is a funny, tender, magical adventure into the sparkles of Christmas Magic and the sparks of human love.”

About the Author
Lucy McConnell
Award-winning author, Lucy McConnell, loves Christmas, romance, chocolate and Elvis.
She started out as an editor at an advertising agency before moving on to teach in the marketing department of the local community college. She loved teaching and often misses the academic environment.
Lucy retired from teaching and began to write articles and sweet romance novels. She has been published in national magazines, newspapers, short story compilations, and she writes cookbooks under the name Christina Dymock.
If she’s not at the computer, you can find her trying to keep up with her husband and four kids on the ski slopes, in a boat, in the kitchen, or on a horse.

Also by this Author


Enter the blast-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

"I’ve Been Looking for You" by Jennifer Dean

I’ve Been Looking for You
by Jennifer Dean

I’ve Been Looking for You by Jennifer Dean

I’ve Been Looking for You by Jennifer Dean is currently on tour with Xpresso Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Max: The new girl, the sarcastic asshole, the one who avoids getting attached to anyone.
Emily: The golden girl, the rule-abiding rebel, the one who unknowingly craves something more.
When fate brings the two girls together, life seemed to fall into place. Until their future plans are shattered the moment someone leaves drugs inside Max’s school locker.
While Max inevitably loses hope of escaping her new grim reality, Emily struggles to move on without the one she loves most. Especially when she’s the only one determined to find answers. But the closer Emily gets to discovering the truth, the harder it will be to stop her pursuit, even when it leads to dangerous consequences.

Book Video

Portland was the latest victim caught within my father’s nomadic web. A place I already pitied. Why? Because just like the others, no amount of lure would ever be enough. The coastal town of Maine was set up for failure from the moment we crossed the town line.
The only difference this time was when the clock ran out, and it was time to move on to the next unlucky place, I would no longer be forced to begrudgingly follow. My cheeks rose triumphantly at the reminder as I made my way down the hall. I slung my jacket onto my arms, grateful that my ten years of patience had finally reached its reward. Yes, in six months, I would graduate and then finally be free. “Should I make myself scarce by the time you come home with your latest conquest,” my father teased as he appeared from around the corner of the kitchen, curiously following my movement toward the front door.
“What makes you think I’m bringing someone home, tonight,” I said while reaching behind my neck to flip my long, brown locks out from my jacket’s trap.
I held a squinted gaze toward the man, who it felt had become more of a traveling roommate than a father, over the years. He lifted his left hand to scratch the unshaven whiskers that had lazily grown out the past couple of days before his lips rose upward into a crooked know-it-all smirk.
“Well, don’t worry, I’m sure by the time I’m back you’ll be passed out on the couch,” I said looking down toward the beer he held protectively in his right hand before back up to meet his exhausted, hazel eyes with a teasing flick of my eyebrows. The smugness lingered in my risen cheeks as I stepped out of the apartment, pulling the door closed behind me before he could voice any brewing comeback.
I walked across the parking lot, grateful for the windless night as my mind began to drift into the eagerness of my future. I chewed my bottom lip absentmindedly as I danced the line between excitement and fear of the new control I would soon be given. I had pushed down the hope for so long that I wasn’t sure I knew how to welcome it back into my life.
It wasn’t until I heard the small splash of choppy water that I realized how far my feet had been blindly exploring the streets of Portland. I looked up with intrigue to see the part of town I had ventured into, nodding as if giving approval while continuing toward one of the empty wooden benches. Each one was held within a spotlight glow, thanks to the bulbous lampposts that were evenly spaced down the boardwalk.
I sighed, taking a seat, as I reached into my jacket pocket, pulling out my cheap green, plastic lighter and a newly bought pack of cigarettes. It wasn’t a habit I particularly felt addicted to but an activity that I always welcomingly embraced. A treat that offered occasional release.
I squinted, taking in the barely visible glow of the water in front of me as I swiftly placed a cigarette loosely between my lips, tilting my head habitually before igniting the end. I closed my eyes with my inhale, feeling the tension temporarily slide off my shoulders as the nicotine rushed its way into my blood vessels. At least, that was until the sudden sound of footsteps caused me to snap my eyelids back open and reluctantly abandon my new calm. My lips blew out an exhale of smoke, letting my gaze watch it slowly drift up into the air as if being beckoned by the night sky.
I sighed heavily in hopes the person deciding to disturb my serenity would rethink their approach once they heard the sound that displayed their unwanted presence. Unfortunately, I knew I got the opposite effect when the bench creaked in protest of another body’s weight.
I brought the cigarette back to my lips as I turned my neck to take in the unwanted guest with an impatient glare. It was a cute blonde dressed in brown designer boots, a charcoaled pea coat, and a white, knitted beanie that matched a pair of gloves. Despite my annoyance, it would’ve been a lie to say her long flowing locks, flawless ivory skin, and shapely pink lips weren’t worth the glance. My mouth opened slightly to release another puff of smoke as my lips twisted with amusement at the way the blonde held her nervous gaze toward the ground.
“You know there are about twenty other empty benches to choose from, right?”
My words caused her to lift her chin, along with her gaze to reveal a pair of piercing, ocean blue eyes that involuntarily caused my chest to tighten.
“Can I have one of those?” The blonde asked softly.
I felt a chill run down my spine that wasn’t caused by the cold air as I subtly shook my head to escape the shocked state she had unexpectedly created within me. I held my cigarette loosely between my fingers as my left eyebrow rose once my mind registered her request.
“You sure?”
“Yeah,” the blonde politely confirmed.
I tilted my head, watching as she fidgeted uncomfortably with my few seconds of silence.
“You don’t seem like the smoking type.”
“How would you know?” The girl asked with narrowed eyes. “Just a hunch,” I said with a crooked smirk.
“I could smoke all the time, for all you know.”
“Oh yeah,” I said unable to resist a chuckle from my challenging tone as I watched the blonde delicately remove the glove from her right hand.
“Can I have one or not?”
I pinched my lips together to hold back my amusement of her growing temper before pulling another cigarette out from my pack and placing into her waiting hand. Now that she had succeeded, her confidence began to waver, causing her to shift her gaze from her palm over to my lite cigarette with uncertainty.
“Something wrong?” “I don’t have—”
“You mean an experienced smoker like yourself doesn’t have her own lighter?”
I shook my head mockingly before reaching back into my pocket and pulling out my own once again. I flicked my thumb effortlessly, noticing the curiosity of the blonde as I ignited the flame. My attention was drawn into her beautifully tense jaw before up to watch her blue eyes newly focus on the end of the cigarette she had placed cautiously between her lips.
My resistance to hold off a chuckle failed as her attempt to inhale lasted but two seconds before her truth was revealed. Immediately, she began to cough and flail her hands in the air—as if it would help her control her breathing back to normal.
“You alright?”
She nodded between coughs until she caught her breath. “Smoke all the time, huh?” I said smiling with a raised eyebrow. “Okay, so you were right. I’ve never smoked a day in my life.” “Shocker,” I said.
“What does that mean?”
“To be honest, you weren’t too hard to peg, Princess,” I said
turning my head to avoid blowing my exhale of smoke into her face.
“Don’t call me that,” she said defensively.
“Uh-oh,” I said with a fake pout. “Did I strike a nerve, princess?” “You don’t know me,” the blonde said with a glare that was
accompanied by a soft, insecure voice.
I looked up to the sky with a resisted eye roll as I took one last inhale before tossing my cigarette to the ground. My foot moved to stomp over it with a quick routine twist of my shoe before turning my body around to face the blonde squarely.
“Let me guess, you live in a nice big house with Mommy and Daddy who buy you anything you want. Including a closet full of designer clothes,” I paused, slowing eyeing the blonde’s outfit, twitching my eyebrows up in challenge as I met her uneasy stare. “And a nice, shiny new car—you probably got the second you turned sixteen, right?” I winked arrogantly, unable to stop the rise of my unprovoked venom. “You date the most popular boy in school.” I shrugged my shoulders. “But you still find the need to rebel because life just isn’t fair when Daddy makes you have a curfew.”
“You’re an asshole,” the blonde said.
“Tell me it isn’t true,” I challenged, leaning my temple against my left fist.
The blonde rose to her feet, throwing the cigarette angrily to the ground before stomping off into the direction of the distant parking lot. “Say hi to Daddy for me,” I said before leaning over to pick up her
lit leftover and place it between my lips.
Once the silence settled into the air I felt a sting of regret surface from my harsh words. What had the blonde done to get such judgement besides invade my privacy at the wrong time? Perhaps if she would have found me a few hours from now I would have been more inclined to show her my seductive flirty side instead of the asshole version she had encountered.
I shrugged my shoulders with an inhale as I moved to stretch out against the bench, resting my head where the blonde had previously sat. I closed my eyes, ready to take advantage of my solitude only to be met with a familiar pair of ocean blue eyes. I could feel a playful grin rise beyond my lips at the hope of getting to see them again.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“It was a fastpaced, interesting read, I quite liked and I’m sure I’ll pick up more books of this author.” ~ Cassie May on Goodreads

About the Author
Jennifer Dean
Jennifer was studying History and English at the University of North Texas when she discovered a hidden passion for writing. She has since written two other Young Adult novels, Bound and Blinded. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to a signed, personalized copy of I’ve Been Looking for You by Jennifer Dean.