Having your characters grow — and fall in love — is a delicate choreography for an novelist. I enjoyed putting Donna Stone, the heroine of The Housewife Assassin's Handbook, into the arms of Jack Craig, her black ops mission partner.
He truly is the spy who loves her.
A lot that happens in this scene hints as to what is to come in the other books in the series.
Right now, it's also #7 on Amazon Kindle's Romantic Suspense/Mystery list, as well as #15 under Mysteries & Thrillers/Women Sleuths. To see why, go ahead and download it. The book is free right now, in the online bookstores listed below.
No, not that table…
But yes, the hostess at the Sand Dollar seats
Jack and me at the last table on the deck: the one closest to the surf.
The one that was Carl’s favorite.
To cover up my jitters, I order a mojito along
with the seared ahi.
“Double that order,” Jack tells our waitress.
We are silent as we stare out at the ocean. Our
drinks don’t come until the sun is melting into the horizon. As the last rays
of the day splay across the waves, the rum warms me and loosens my tongue.
Still, I’m lucid enough to keep the topic on him. “You have no accent. Where
are you from?”
“I grew up in Washington state.” He crushes the
mint in the bottom of his drink with a swizzle stick. “The Orcas Islands.”
“I hear it’s beautiful there.”
“It is. But I don’t see myself going back.”
He stares out at the ocean. “There is no one to
go home to.”
For some reason I’m glad to hear it. That makes
me a bitch, I guess. And yet, I’ve got to ask, “You never married?”
“What is this, an interrogation? Am I about to
be snatched?” To mock me, he glances over his shoulder.
“We’re getting to know each other, remember?
Besides, if I wanted to make you talk, there are easier ways than extraordinary
rendition.” This mojito is strong. I can’t tell if I’m charming him with a Mona
Lisa smile or leering like some sort of mad clown.
He leans back. “Okay, yeah, sure. You get a
question, and then I get one.”
“So, you want to know about any attachments,
right?” He chews on his swizzle stick. “Only one that was ever serious. But
it’s over now.”
“So you’re divorced.”
His wince is quickly covered over by a shrug.
“Things… just didn’t work out. Our lives are too complicated.”
“You’re telling me.” Whatever is left in my
drink is gone in one quick swallow. “Like Carl, were you recruited out of the
He nods. “Marine Corps. I served in Somalia,
then Iraq.” His lips curdle into a grimace. “Now I’m an international man of
“So you enjoy this gig.”
“I wouldn’t say that.” As he reaches for his
napkin, his hand grazes mine. It sends a shiver up my spine. “But others tell
me I’m good at it.”
“Yeah, you’ve got great buzz, that’s for sure.”
I don’t have to tell him that the dish on his bedroom technique is just as
notable. The telltale sign is that all the female double agents beg to be
interrogated by him.
“Your rep is quite impressive, too.”
“I do what’s needed to get the bad guys.”
“That’s why you’re on this mission, Donna.” He
pauses, but his eyes don’t waver away from mine. “Okay, it’s my turn now. Do
you still love him?”
His question takes me by surprise. I’m choking
down my drink.
He gets up to slap me on the back. (Seriously,
does that really work?)
I shoo him away. I don’t want to be touched.
At least, not when I’m thinking about Carl. I
have too much respect for him.
But I can’t say that to him. So instead I
murmur, “Yes. I still love him.”
Jack says nothing, but his eyes deepen with
sadness. I can only presume that this is out of respect for Carl. I would never
assume that he is attracted to me.
Okay, I’ll admit it: he’s hot. Maybe that’s
because he’s the first man who has reminded me of Carl.
But no man will ever make me forget Carl.
That’s why I feel comfortable saying “Yeah,
sure…” when he asks me if I want to dance.
The live band is playing a very sultry version of
“At Last.” The lead singer, a woman named Andree Belle, has a husky murmur,
perfect for lyrics oozing with lust and innuendo.
Jack holds me lightly but firmly in his arms. We
move as if we’re floating. I could attribute this to a mojito high, but why not
give credit where it’s due? What I saw him doing with Penelope at the
father-daughter dance was just a warm-up. His hands and hips maneuver me slyly,
cajoling me into a wanton frenzy, willing me to mirror his moves.
Our bodies fit together snugly.
Maybe a bit too snugly, if in fact he isn’t
I’m used to seducing and then killing men when
they are at their most vulnerable. Tonight, though, it is me who is fighting
the urge to surrender.
I thank God he’s not a mark.
Even as I think that, even as he holds me near—
He ruins everything when he whispers in my ear,
“Didn’t you hate him for lying to you?”
The love tango reeling in my heart goes flat
before breaking off. I should be breathing, but I can’t.
Hate? Did I hate Carl?
Yes, of course I hated him.
For lying to me.
For leaving me.
For not loving me enough to quit Acme.
When, finally, I find my voice, what comes out
is barely a whisper. “Why would you ask such a thing?”
“Because I would, too, if I’d been betrayed like
I stumble to our chairs, grab my sweater, and
head for the car.
He stays long enough to pay the bill for the ahi
we never got to eat.
(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Housewife Assassin's Handbook
(Book 1) Signal Press
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