Two Adirondack chairs

On to my favorite part of writing…

The worst thing for me about writing is the draft. I can’t stand the draft. What I love in the writing process is layering and rewriting.

Yeah, I’m not normal. I’ve been told that before.

So I just finished the draft of Murder in Paradise Bay. Not sure about the cover. Feel free to comment on that.

I know I have three holes in my suspense plot. I also know how to fix them and where to fix them. I tend to write in dialogue and later I fill in the descriptions, emotions, etc. Sometimes when I’m writing, and I’ve written myself out of the story I go back and start reading from the beginning and start layering in things, but I have to be careful because if I do that too early, I end up writing myself into a corner. So I make notes using track changes like telling me I need to say this here, or describe the house here, or this is so bad please rewrite it!

Anyway, I’m at the point where I need to read it through and layer in this stuff and I’m so excited. This story makes me so happy. Stacey and Doug have been in my head since I started writing Stacey has been so much fun to write. She first showed up in Deadly Secrets and nearly stole the show. Now, its time to tell her story. And Doug? Oy. Do I have a thing for guys with long hair.

Here’s the tentative cover and also an excerpt. Enjoy!

Two Adirondack chairs

The end of summer had always been bitter sweet for New York State Trooper Stacey Sutten. Not because it meant winter was right around the corner with its biting cold and massive piles of snow only Update New York could provide. That never really bothered her like it did others in this part of the state. She actually welcomed it. Of course, snow skiing had always been a passion of hers. Along with snowmobiling. Anything remotely active outside in any season. She loved them all, but she always enjoyed a lazy evening on the sun deck.

She stretched her arms over her head, trying not to flinch. Training to be a rescue summer was not only physically grueling, but mentally draining as well. It was like nothing she’d ever experienced. Every muscle in her body ached. Every joint swollen from over use. Her co-workers at the station had warned how difficult it would be and she’d welcomed the challenge, but she hadn’t expected her body to be so sore, nor her mind to be so frazzled.

She adjusted her deck chair so she could get as much of the late evening sun as possible, which would only be another half hour at best. Sweat beaded across her forehead. The temperatures were in the mid-eighties, which was unseasonable warm by about ten degrees for the end of August, but it was also humid, making it feel hotter.

She poured herself a glass of white wine. Actually, her second, but who was counting. Training had been completed. She was a certified rescue swimmer. She had one day off before going back to Lake George (LG) Patrol.

“Want company?” the deep sultry voice of Doug Tanner yelled from the porch of the house.

“All I’ve got is wine, and a some cheese and crackers, so it’s bring your own, if you want to.” She really didn’t feel like company, but the man had his own set of problems, pretty similar to hers, only he was still married to his problem. Well, misery did love company, especially in the form of Douglas Tanner.

She felt the deck quake just a little as Doug ran up the stairs, a six-pack in one hand, a bag of chips in the other. His idea of an appetizer.

“You’re never going to believe who I saw today.”

“Who?” she asked.

“That Rictor woman who used to work for us.”

“Haven’t heard her name in years.” Stacey laughed. “She was bat shit crazy.” It had been a happy day in her life the day her father fired that woman. “Where did you see her and what did she have to say?”

“Grocery store and not much. Just said hello. Kind of weird.”

Doug was ten years older than her, and her father’s business partner, but that never stopped her from appreciating his masculinity. He was six-two, with shoulder length dark hair, with just enough thickness and wave to make any female jealous, but not too much he looked like a girl. He had a perpetual five o’clock shadow. He was broad at the shoulders, but his body was lean and tight. First time she’d ever seen six-pack abs was on him, and she still enjoyed those abs anytime he went shirtless. He had a natural dark completion, and in the summer months, wow, just wow. In high school, she’d had the biggest crush on him. She suspected he knew, but was kind of enough to never make her feel embarrassed. They had been very close over the years. That was until he met his soon to be ex-wife and she brought home her ex-boyfriend, Todd.

That was when the shit hit the fan. Doug had changed and if Stacey was being honest, she had too.

Not for the better, either.

“Have a good day at work?” Doug asked.

“Not sure I’d call it good,” she said. “I had to jump out of a helicopter fifteen times and save some guy three times my size who, I might add, doesn’t like women troopers and went a little too far in the drill.” It felt so good to just talk to Doug like she had back the good old days. Back when they were friends. Best friends actually. Their age difference never seemed to make a difference in their friendship, even when she was six. He never treated her like a stupid little kid. As she grew, they became confidants.

She was trilled to have him back.

“Isn’t that what they are supposed to do? Train you for the crazy drowning person.”

“Great, take their side.” She sipped her wine. It hurt to even raise her arm. “How was your day?”

“The Heritage Inn is coming along nicely. A bit behind schedule, but all the cabins are operational and we laid the foundation for two more units, both with three bedrooms. Pretty cool design, if I do say so myself. We’ll have the hotel ready by March. I’m a little worried about having all the extra’s done by beginning of next season, but Reese seems to be fine with the progress. Will all depend on the type of winter we have.”

“It really sucks not having Reese around the station. He was the only one there with a sense of humor.”

“He’s a good guy,” Doug said. “And a lot of fun to work for.” He cracked open a beer and held it up, “cheers.”

His bottle clinked with her plastic wine glass. They sat there in silence for about ten minutes. It was a weird how easily they fell back into their old comfortableness pre-significant others. In the last couple of years, their silences were because they of fighting with each other about their life partner choices. Doug had always been a bit of an asshole to Todd. Said from the very beginning he didn’t trust him and knew he’d break Stacey’s heart.

Well, it wasn’t broken, not completely. Deep down she knew before she opened that door that Todd had been cheating on her. But it had been four months since and she was well past it.

“How goes things with the divorce?”

Mary had never been too fond of Stacey and her father, Jim. Mary thought Jim was holding Doug back, which was funny since Doug had been a homeless fifteen-year-old boy when Jim had found Doug living in one of the houses her father had been restoring. Not only did her dad give Doug a job, he helped him through college and then made him a partner in what’s now known as Sutten & Tanner Construction.

“Something weird is going on with Mary.” He looked at his phone, then placed it face down on the ground next to him. “Her secretary texted me this morning asking if I’d heard from her, which is weird, but she said it wasn’t that important she reach her. Could wait until Monday.”

“Why is her secretary calling you?”

“She didn’t know when my meeting was with her, so thought maybe I could pass a message to her. I just hope she shows up tomorrow morning. She’s got the papers. Just want them signed and over with.”

Stacey glanced over at Doug, who was leaning back in the chair, face tilted toward the sun, eyes closed. He wore a white T-shirt partially tucked into his black shorts, his rippled abs peaking through. She poured herself another glass, while taking in the nice view that was Doug. “Wasn’t she coming up her with her boyfriend for the weekend.”

“You sound bitter,” he said.

“You should be angry.”

He shrugged, eyes still closed, chin angled toward the sun. “I don’t care anymore. The house is sold. It was the last thing that tied Mary and I together.”

“We really know how to pick em.”

“We sure do.” He slowly turned his head, then took a slow draw from his beer. “You’re staring at me,” he said.

“In your dreams.”

“That might have happened a time or two.”

“Don’t be an ass.”

“Mary always thought you had eyes for me.”

“Mary thought a lot of things. She got all upset about me being on your shoulders at one of my dads big summer parties during a game of king of the mountain.”

“She was more mad that I said you were lighter than she was,” Doug said. “She always thought I paid too much attention to you.” Doug shrugged, again. “She would say and do almost anything to push me to move. We’d be happy again, if we just move. We’d have a fresh start in Albany. It got to the point I didn’t even hear her anymore.”

“Why didn’t you move?” Stacey asked. “It wasn’t just about the commute, or being mad over her taking the job in Albany without telling you.”

“Same reason you didn’t go move downstate with Todd.” He downed his beer in one gulp, pulling out another.

“Too darn proud and stubborn to admit when you’ve made a mistake, so just wait until it falls a part.”

“Yep.” He pushed the lounge chair to full recline and rolled over to his side, propping his elbow on the chair, his hand holding his head. “Remember the summer between your junior and senior year of college.”

“That’s when I brought Todd here to meet Daddy, and you meet Mary.”

“You breezed up those stairs.” He pointed behind him. “You had on this little tiny red, white, and blue bikini. I always thought you were pretty, but damn, you looked hot.”

“I think you better slow down on them beers,” she said. “You’re talking crazy shit now.”

“Come on,” he said. “You know you’re gorgeous.” He took another long draw, then smiled. “Something was different about you that day, besides noticing your beauty. You had always just been this funny girl that hung around and always made me laugh. Being ten years younger, well, I guess I just didn’t notice how beautiful you were until that day.”

“Daddy did my laundry that week. I never did find out what happened to that suit.”

“I’m sure it got strategically placed in the garbage,” Doug said. “I got a smacked upside the back of my head. Jim said I was gaulking at you like some schoolboy. Then Mary read me the riot act the whole way back to her place. But the whole time I kept thinking about you. Not the bathing suit or how desirable you looked in it. But just you. Some where down the road you grew up and I missed it.”

“You got married that summer.” She remembered it all too well. He came over for dinner, without Mary, said she was pregnant and he was getting married. He didn’t look like a man head over heels in love. They’d only know each other for a couple of months and there was only one reason they’d decided to get married. Her father had bit his tongue. Stacey had not.

It nearly cost her their friendship over the last couple of years.

“I did,” he admitted. “Would be three years this month.” He blinked a few times, and a sadness washed over his face. “I knew it was a mistake when I did it. We were doomed from the get go.”

She pushed her chair to full recline, and matched his position. He had the deepest brown eyes she’d ever seen. They were so kind and caring. Filled with love and admiration. “Why doomed?”

“We didn’t know each other well enough. When Mary lost the baby, I thought we would try again as if that were the normal thing to do, but she took her dream job and said kids were off the table unless I agreed to move. I dug my heels, so did she. We fought all the time. Then when we stopped fighting, we stopped talking all together. Then the affair with her boss. Well, we both had finally had enough.”

“I tried to like her,” Stacey said. “But she was always so cold to me.”

“You were a threat.”

Stacey laughed nervously, ignoring the fact that Doug just placed his hand on her shoulder, then gently glided his index finger down her bare arm. “I find that hard to believe.”

He set his beer down on the table behind him, pulling her chair closer to his, the legs scrapping against the outdoor deck carpeting. Her wine swirled out of the glass, on to her hands. He gently took the glass and licked the wine off her fingers. “I probably shouldn’t have done that.”

“Probably,” she whispered. “What are you doing?”

“I have no idea, but it involves lips.” He laced his fingers through hers. “I wish I could say I was drunk, but that was only beer number two.”

“I wish I could say I minded.” She continued to stare into his eyes as he maneuvered closer. His breathe hot on her check. He pressed his lips gently on her sun-kissed skin. He’d kissed her cheeks a million times, but never did it ever feel like this. Like it meant something other than a greeting. Or parting of ways. There was intent behind the way he let his warm lips linger, electrifying her skin. His long hair brushed against her shoulder, making her shudder with anticipation.

“I’m going to really kiss you unless you stop me.”

His lips were so close that she could feel them against hers before they touched. She looked deep into his eyes while his lips danced tentatively, but with purpose, across hers. She cupped his face, drawing him closer, entangling their tongues together in something so tastefully exquisite it was impossible to stop.

That was until they felt the shaking of the deck.

Doug retreated much quicker then he’d gone in for the kill. He wiped his lips, handing her back her glass of wine while he cracked open his chips as he adjusted his chair to an upright position.

She was still too dumbfounded to realize her father had just joined them.

“I got steaks,” Jim said. “Shall we grill stakes?”

“I’m good with cheese and crackers,” Stacey barely managed as she blinked a few times, then focused on her father, wondering if he’d seen the kiss, praying he didn’t. She might not be a baby anymore, but she’d always be his baby girl. She snagged a pillow and tucked it under her head, opting to stay in the reclining position.

“I could eat a stake,” Doug said.

“Then how about you go grill them,” Jim said with a stern tone. “The grill is on and the steaks marinating. Veggies in foil. You know what to do.”

“Sure thing.” Doug took his beer and headed back down the stairs, not once looking over his shoulder. “More beer?” he yelled.

“Might as well,” Jim said. “Tomorrow is Sunday. We’re not working on Sunday.”

Stacey’s family home sat on the very end of Assembly Point, the house facing the east, so the sun was already behind them, though obviously not behind the mountains as the rays of the sun still stretched across the lake, dancing about the ripples from a slight breeze that did nothing to calm the temperature. Nor helped her father’s glare as they sat in silence for a few moments, she sipping her wine, he sipping his beer.

“Care to tell me what that was all about?” he asked.

“Not sure what you are referring too?”

He arched his brow.

“Its none of your business,” she said.

He arched both brows.

“I don’t know, Daddy. It just happened. Too much wine. Beer. We’re both in a bad situation. Misery loves company. It was just a kiss.”

“He’s ten years older than you. He’s still married. You’re still getting over Todd—”

“I’m shocked you didn’t call him the weasel.”

Another arched brow. Her father’s go too look. It worked for him. He was barely forty, as he became a father at eighteen. A single father no less. She didn’t know if it was being such a young father that aged him so, or that it was genetics as her grandfather had greyed prematurely as well. Stacey figured it was both because her dad looked older than her boss Jared, which Jared had a good five years or so on her dad. “Doug is also my business partner and might I add we all live under the same roof. Things are bad enough. We don’t need this.”

“I know,” she said. “Trust me, it was nothing but both of us feeling a tad bit sorry for ourselves.”

“I hope that’s all it was.” Her father had that same look he had the day she wore that damned bikini. If she was being honest, she was flaunting herself around Doug that day. She didn’t know if was a lame attempt to make Todd jealous. Or Mary. Or what. But she had been more than flirtatious with Doug.

Hell, she’d been flirting with him for years.

“We don’t need anymore drama around this house, so I hope I don’t have to have this conversation with Doug, or you, ever again.”

“Don’t worry, Daddy. It was the wine and the beer and the frustration of our situation.”

But her father had reason to worry, because as she looked beyond him, to the front yard, Doug stood in front of the grill, smiling up at her… yeah, something was brewing and it wasn’t going to make her father happy.


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