Want to bake a great cake? 8 Things that can go wrong—and how to fix them.

I just found this GREAT article on the Beebs (BBC) that answers these eight common problems with baking a cake.

1: Thick as a brick, and tastes like one too.

2: Flatter than a pancake.

3: Sinks deeper than the Titanic.

4: Cracked open on top.

5: Dry and over-baked.

6: Raw and tastes doughy.

7: I can't seem to time it best for pulling it out of the oven.

8: It always breaks when I take it out of the tin.

If you have any of these problems, click here, or onto the photo above.

And while you're waiting for your cake to cool, you can read this excerpt below,  of Book 6 of The Housewife Assassin series, “Recipes for Disaster.”

Enjoy both!

—Josie

 

 

HAH Book 6 KBL

THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S RECIPES FOR DISASTER (Book 6)
Signal Press
eBook: 9780989558839 ($4.99 US) / Trade Paperback: 9781942052159
amazon-2-iconimgres copyunnamedkobo-blueIndieBoundBlue
Donna must stop the assassinations of both US political parties' presidential candidates. But when she discovers she has a long-term vendetta with one of the targets, can she put aside her animosity long enough to save the candidate's life?

 

 

 

EXCERPT

It is a truth universally acknowledged that politics is the second oldest profession—and that, sadly, it resembles the oldest profession in too many ways to count on a gentlewoman’s properly sheathed pinkies and toes.

Being the epitome of reticence and decorum, she must strive to stay out of politics at all costs—

Unless, heaven forbid, it is necessary to sully herself in the pursuit of liberty and justice for all.

But before trotting out onto the campaign trail, she must remind herself about the difference between a lady, a whore, and a politician: whereas both the whore and the politician will perform unseemly acts with the strangest of bedfellows for money (in the case of the politician, this is euphemistically called “campaign donations”), neither the lady nor the whore equates money with power because she holds all the power she needs in her dainty (if not always properly sheathed) pinky.

Speaking of strange bedfellows, the culinary combination of chocolate and peanut butter was popularized with the invention of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup back in 1928. This take on a pie version will have you crossing party lines to get a slice:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie (From Courtney Wade, Gillett Pennsylvania)

Ingredients

• 1 crust made from chocolate graham crackers

• 1 1/2 pints vanilla ice cream, softened

• 2 cups creamy peanut butter

• 1 jar of hot fudge

• 1 container of whipped cream

Directions

1. Mix ice cream and peanut butter with mixer on low speed.

2. Pour into pie crust.

3. Freeze 3 hours.

4. Add hot fudge topping. Return to freezer.

5. Serve each piece with whipped cream.

* * *

I lay on a large table, naked except for the sushi that has been placed strategically on and around my body.

It’s not a great look, but this doesn’t stop three Chinese diplomats (I use the term lightly; in truth, they are spies) from plucking raw fish wrapped in seaweed and rice, while staring at my naughty bits.

One of the city’s premiere sushi chefs slices and dices away at his workstation. Because his chef’s jacket and hat are insulated, he is oblivious to the cold air blowing in from a block of dry ice below the floorboards, which flows into a tube on the tabletop beneath me.

This is supposed to keep the sushi fresh. Unfortunately, it has also turned my lips blue and numbed my bum. Beneath parsley pasties, my nipples stand at attention, whetting the diners’ appetites for hanky-panky, if not nigiri-maki.

I’m in a private penthouse which crowns a sixty-story building on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, its stunningly romantic waterfront district. It is owned by one of the diners—Professor Hong Li, whose status as a world-renowned mathematician gives him the prestige he needs to hide in plain sight. My mission has me working undercover as a nyotaimori. In Japanese, the term means “female body platter,” but it is universally interpreted as “go ahead and cop a feel between bites of your dragon roll.”

The dining room’s other major attraction is its well-appointed vodka room—a large glass freezer in which hundreds of premium, obscure vodka bottles are stored at 28° Fahrenheit. Forget sake. If the way these guys have been blitzing themselves on the fermented potato juice enjoyed by their comrades to the near west is any indication, international relations with Russia are thawing at North Pole speed.

My geisha-like role demands that I lay here stock-still. I mustn’t shiver or move a muscle. This is particularly difficult whenever Li’s chopstick grazes a breast on its way to pick up yet another piece of gunkan-maki.

Either he needs lessons on how to hold his utensils, or he presumes I’m on the menu, too.

How do you say, “Be careful what you wish for” in Chinese? Will a jab in the jugular with a chopstick get my point across?

My mission’s team leader, Jack Craig, is located in the apartment directly below this suite, where he listens and watches the video bugs smuggled into the suite’s various air vents by tiny drones, just last night by our tech operative, Arnie Locklear. Jack must have guessed how annoyed I am with Li because he whispers through my concealed ear bud: “I guess it’s a bad pun to warn you to keep your cool.”

He’s right, of course. My reason for being here has nothing to do with the fantasies of these slobbering men, and everything to do with our country’s national security. Through its encryption circumvention project, Bullrun, the NSA learned that Chinese cyber-hackers have somehow pirated the Department of Defense’s secure satellite feed for its Middle Eastern battlefield data networks—the heart and soul of its network-centric warfare.

Experts predict the Chinese economy will reach one-hundred-twenty-three trillion dollars by the year 2040—or almost three times that of the entire world’s economy a mere decade ago. Now that China is building itself into a consumer nation, it is looking to curry favor with those who can help it with its skyrocketing oil demands—including the Iranians, with whom the old saying “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” is doubly true when it comes to the United States.

The mandate of my employer—a CIA-sanctioned black ops organization that goes by the name of Acme Industries—is to stop the hand-off of this very valuable intel before it leaves the country. But the Chinese are smart enough to go old school in the delivery process: hand-to-hand, as opposed to e-mail or texting.

For the past week, we’ve been trying to infiltrate Li’s sumptuous penthouse suite, to no avail. He has stayed holed up here the whole time. Body guards are posted outside the steel-enforced, double-door entry. Even the maid who cleans the suite has been vetted by the Chinese embassy employees, as are the well-paid escorts who sleep with Professor Li.

The word sleep doesn’t begin to describe what he does with these unlucky ladies. And the way he eyes me, I’ve no doubt he wants me to experience his bedside manner first-hand.

Should I be worried? Nah. I don’t have time. This dinner was our one and only chance to stop Li’s plot. And from the chatter we’re hearing in our targets’ native language, we realize time is running out. The handoff is supposed to take place at this meeting, but the guest of honor—the person who will be taking it out of the country—has yet to arrive.

I hope he shows up soon. Otherwise, I may be too frozen to stop him.

My only way to answer Jack’s warning is to sigh, ever so slightly. When I do, a slice of fatty tuna roll slides off my midriff and onto the table. Professor Li smirks and mutters, “Zuòwéi tā de dàtuǐ, tā de rǔfáng fēngmǎn. Hǎo yīgè biǎo, dàn wěidà de, dàng zuò'ài. Wǒ jiù zhīdào jīn wǎn shāo hòu, shì ma?”

The sushi chef in the corner must get the gist of Hong’s remark because his eyebrows roll to the ceiling. Abu Nagashahi, Acme’s translator on this mission, snickers.

“Don’t tell her,” Jack and our tech op, Arnie Locklear, warn him in unison.

After a long pause, Abu mumbles, “No kidding.”

Oh, really? And what nasty little aside could our supposedly diplomatic friend here have said to earn my desire to wring his neck with my frigid fingers?

Whatever it is, he is saved by the gong announcing the visitor we’ve all been waiting for.

The men leave the table for the private dining suite’s reception room. The rooms are separated by a solid glass wall. Despite closing the glass door behind them, the mirrored ceiling and walls allow me to watch along with my mission team as two workmen roll in a large, beautiful black lacquer box. It stands vertically, and has beautiful Chinese characters on the door.

Hong Li snaps his finger at the sushi chef—the universal language for “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll get the hell out of here.”

The man is no fool. He bows slightly and hurries out after the delivery men. The click of the door closing behind him sends a shiver up my spine.

“Stay perfectly still, Donna,” Jack murmurs. “It seems they’ve forgotten you’re there.

Easier said than done. The cold is tickling my nose. I hold my breath in the hope that I can keep from sneezing.

A man enters the room. He’s in his late thirties, with a full head of long, blond shoulder-length hair. He wears wire-framed glasses over his large brown eyes.

“Arnie, tilt the living room camera down and left, so that our facial recognition software gets a better look at him,” Jack whispers. “Donna, you’ve also got him in your line of sight. Can you turn your head, just a bit to the right?”

I do so, ever so slightly. Thank goodness all eyes are on the stranger, even those of the professor’s personal body guard, a hulk I’ve nicknamed King Kong. At six-foot-three-inches tall and over two-hundred pounds, should the occasion arise, it’ll be a challenge for me to take him. I mean, let’s face it—it’s not like I can hide my Glock under the pickled ginger garnish in my belly button.

If that time comes, failure is not an option—not if I want to walk my children into their new classrooms on the first day of school tomorrow.

Hong Li smiles at the man and gives him a slight bow. His two associates follow suit.

The Chinese spies smirk at the man’s hesitant, unsmiling nod in return.

I don’t like the feel of this.

“I presume you want to inspect my handiwork?” The man’s hushed question comes out in a stutter.

Li tempers his curiosity with a shrug. “Please, do us the honors.” His English mimics his guest’s Southern inflections.

The stranger purses his lips as he twists the latch on the door of the exquisitely painted box. Inside is a clay figure—an ancient Chinese warrior. With the push of a lever, the platform on which the statue sits rolls out.

His hosts are awed enough to murmur and clap.

“Wow! What exactly is that?” Arnie asks.

“It looks like one of China’s ancient terra-cotta warriors of X’ian,” Abu answers. “Back in the 1970s, while digging a well, a couple of farmers in the Shaanxi province unearthed a similar clay figurine. When all was said and done, eight-thousand of them were uncovered. They’d been buried in the necropolis of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. In fact, there’s an exhibit of them here, at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum.”

“So, how old do you think it is?” Jack wonders.

“Qin ruled around 209 BC, so it’s at least that old,” Abu responds. “But this one is a replica.”

“How do you know?” Jack asks.

“Because it’s the spitting image of Xi Jinping, China’s current president.”

Darned if he’s not right.

“Nailed him!” Arnie yells in my ear. “The dude who brought the box is the sculptor, Carolus Duran.”

I recognize that name, too. Known as “the Twenty-First Century’s Rodin,” Duran’s works can be seen in many great art institutions, including the National Gallery in Washington, London’s National Gallery, and the Met in New York.

“Your president should be quite pleased with the resemblance,” Duran declares.

“When will it be delivered?”

Duran glances down at his watch. “In half an hour, it is to be transported via train to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, along with the rest of the soldiers in the exhibit now at the Asian Art Museum, just in time for the presidential reception tomorrow evening.”

“President Xi will be honored to receive such a unique gift from your president.” Li’s smile is too wide to be genuine. “I presume you’ve done as I asked?”

Duran nods. “Yes, of course! I’ve hidden the secret compartment, here.” He points under the left arm of the soldier, which is raised slightly from the torso, as if it’s holding something. “There is an indentation, here. Press slightly, and it opens, like so.”

To prove his point, Duran presses a panel in the armor directly under the soldier’s armpit. Apparently he has pushed a spring lock because it appears to fall into the opening that has magically appeared. Duran’s hand disappears into the statue as far as his wrist. He shifts it slightly, and then pulls it out. The panel drops back into place, as if the clay has never moved.

“Excellent,” Li murmurs. “Now, we shall toast your masterpiece—and the release of your parents from our hospitality in Chengdu.”

Duran winces at Li’s joke at his expense.

“Arnie, what’s he referring to?” Jack asks.

Arnie’s research is fast and furious. “Apparently Duran’s folks disappeared about a month ago, while on a group tour of China. Chengdu is one of China’s largest cities inland—much too rainy and overcast to be a major tourist stop.”

“In other words, they were kidnapped as a way to coerce Duran to alter the statue for their needs,” Abu surmises.

“I have a bottle of Russo-Baltique, for just this occasion.” Li nods at one of his associates, whom I’ve nicknamed Snapped Fingers because that is exactly what will happen to him the next time his chubby paws grab at anything on me that isn’t wrapped in seaweed or rice. I call Li’s other toady Poked Eyes, because he seemed mesmerized by my Telly Savalas, and I’d like to alleviate him of that fixation.

“Donna, don’t move,” Jack warns me.

He’s preaching to the choir. I shut my eyes tightly before Snapped Fingers passes me on the way to the vodka room, knowing full well that Jack will warn me if I need to open them again.

“He’s found the bottle,” Jack whispers. “Okay, he’s walking out now … He’s gone. You can open your eyes.”

Arnie whistles. “That vodka is worth a million and a half dollars. The flask is solid gold, made from old coins from the turn of the last century!”

I watch as Duran adamantly shakes his head at his host’s offer. “No, really, I must be getting back. The museum’s curator and transportation director are expecting me to deliver the piece as soon as possible.”

Li’s smile hardens. “We will take care of its delivery.”

Duran’s eyes open wide. “But—but that would be considered most unconventional! The artist must always be present when our president commissions a welcoming gift, specifically for another head of state—”

Snapped Fingers pours the vodka into two glasses on the sideboard, and then places them on a tray. In no time, he is standing in front of the sculptor.

“They will understand that you’ve been called away early, to Los Angeles, to meet with your president,” Li’s tone is gentle, as if he’s talking to a child. “No one keeps great men waiting, am I right? Now, let us drink up.”

The fear doesn’t leave Duran’s face, even as he watches Li take one of the glasses. Finally, he takes the other glass from the tray; he raises it to his lips.

I would wager it’s a cocktail of succinylcholine—a paralytic agent—and potassium chloride, which stops the heart. As he falls backward, Snapped Fingers is ready to catch him, and ease him onto the floor.

Li takes something from his inside jacket pocket and places it into the statue’s hidden compartment.

“That’s it—the intel!” Jack declares. “The president won’t even know that he’s handing it over to President Xi, along with the statue.”

“And should word leak out, he’ll be disgraced,” Abu adds. “His detractors can use it to call for his impeachment, maybe even his resignation—or worse, call him a traitor, and ask that he be tried as such.”

Just as Poked Eyes wheels the box out the door, I let loose with a squeak of a sneeze.

“Oh … hell.” The dread in Jack’s voice tells me all I need to know: That slight movement caught the attention of Hong Li.

He waves at his bodyguard. “Take care of her.”

He’s out the door, too, with Snapped Fingers on his heels.

I am left with King Kong.

Jack shouts, “Hang on, Donna, I’m on my way.”

I’m hanging on, alright—to the far side of the table, which is now the only thing between King Kong and me. It’s too wide for him to reach over it, but the platters I throw at him bounce off, like beer caps in a pong game between two drunks.

He tilts the table on its side and rushes towards me, swatting off my kicks as if they’re raindrops until he’s got me backed up against the wall—really, against the chef’s workstation. He grabs one of my legs and jerks it up, so that I’m now flat on the countertop. He has one hand on my throat. He smiles when he sees my eyes grow big at the realization that he’s cutting off my oxygen with his broad thumb.

Gasping, I grasp at anything, and come up with a chopstick.

When I jab his eye, he howls and backs off. He hesitates only a second before yanking it out. A torrent of blood pours forth. I’m a mother of two tweens who play sports like kamikazes and their little sister does anything they say on a dare, so granted, I’m no stranger to blood, but this has my lunch climbing into my throat.

King Kong has me cornered in front of the door to the vodka freezer. He’s only six feet away and rushing right at me when I throw my last weapon—the chef’s Blue Steel Ao-ko Mioroshi Namiuchi knife.

The good news: as it hits his chest, it stops his forward momentum.

The bad news: when he falls over, it’s forward—and on top of me.

Even worse news: As I fall backward with him on top of me, the force of our weight pushes open the door to the freezer and propels me into it—

And clicks shut behind me.

I try shoving the door, but it won’t open. King Kong’s body is, quite literally, a dead weight blocking my only way out.

My situation is dire. I’m naked, I’m freezing, and for once I’m in no mood for a vodka martini.

Despite the fact that the glass wall between me and the dining suite is tempered and thick, I pray I can penetrate it somehow. Shivering, I stalk the room, looking for a way out of my predicament.

My eyes scan the backlit vodka case. Like the antique gold Russo-Baltique, all of the bottles in Hong Li’s personal stash are works of art. Belvedere’s bottle is encased in a glass bear. The Diva bottle is especially stunning: a clear cylinder with a tube of precious gems in the center.

But neither of those will give me what I need: freedom.

However, a bottle encrusted with diamonds may just do the trick.

There are several here. Oval Vodka’s bottle is covered in them, but unfortunately its shape plays off its name. The cask-like Alizé Vodka bottle is studded with pink crystals. I slam it against the edge of the table, and most of the crystals fall to the floor, so that’s of no help.

The next bottle I grab—a brand called Iordanov—is so embellished with diamonds that it glistens in the light. Holding it by its long neck, I once again whack the center table with all my might.

I’m left holding a piece of very expensive glass still encrusted with diamond crystals, where it counts most: around its jagged end.

By now the cold is getting to me. I can barely feel my fingers or toes, and my muscles ache. I drop to my knees against the wall with my homemade glasscutter, which I hold tightly as I etch a square in the glass. Here’s hoping it’s large enough for me to fit through, and that it’s not just the size I wish I were. (Note to self: pinch that inch, then get rid of it for good.)

I don’t have much strength, but still, I kick at the etched square. I hear it give way—

Then I pass out.

10 Things You Should Never Say to a Novelist

ApiringWriters_LoRez_colour

(c) 2005 Alex Steuart Williams  (FLIP) and Erica Rothschild

 

I'm being serious.

Okay, here goes:


1. "I'd write, too, but I can't stand the thought of all the trees I'd be killing." 

Yes, I've heard this one. My response back then was, "Don't worry. You won't sell enough books to raze a sapling, because your pub house won't push you that hard to begin with."

Today, I'd add, "And besides, most books are digital, so you can't use the tree-killer bullshit as an excuse not to write anymore."

 

2. "I'd write, too, but I just can't make the time."

Good. Stay busy. The world doesn't need anothor author. Here's a hint: It's not a hobby. It's a profession.

3. "Why don't you kill off your series' villian?" Because then I wouldn't have a series. And if I don't have a series, I don't have the rent money. I'll make you a promise: when and if he quits paying the rent, I'll quit writing about him.

 

4. "Honestly, what do you really do to pay the bills?"

 
I write novels and I'm proof that not all writers live a life of poverty.

Then again, I'm not JK Rowling, either.

If a writer is persistent and lucky, he or she will find that their income is somewhere in between minimum wage and unimagined wealth.

I'm not saying it's an easy way to make a living. It took years to crawl my way up beyond the government set poverty line. To make the rent, I wrote other things: game questions, greeting cards. magazine articles, even horoscopes. (No, I was not a licensed astrologist, just a mom with two growing kids who could go through money like the Pentagon).
 

 5. "The best authors–like JD Salinger, or, say Margaret Mitchell– only wrote one, or maybe a just few, books in their lifetime."

Oh, really? I guess that leaves out Dickens, Twain, Wharton, LeCarre, Dreisher, Trollope, James, Chandler, Christie, and Doyle, to name a few–all of whom are on my favorite authors list–along wtih Salinger and Mitchell.  

And by the way, some of the worst writers only wrote one book as well.

I'd say the odds are with those who get the most chances at the plate. Don't forget, Babe Ruth broke records for hitting home runs and for striking out. 

Not to mention, a writer's skill level rises each time up to bat. 
  

6. "When am I going to see you on the New York Times Bestsellers list?"

Maybe never–and that's okay with me. A Times review won't necessarily pay the bills. 

For that matter, a Times review won't necessarily be a good one. Just ask any author who has been scorched, panned, or ridiculed by one.
 

 7. "When will I see your book reviewed in the New York Times?"

Again, maybe never–and that too is okay with me. I write commercial literature–romantic suspense, funny mysteries, contemporary women's fiction–and those books usually don't get a NYT review unless they're deemed such a cultural phenomenon that even the Times can't ignore them. 

As for those authors who are waiting for some news outlet to review their books, all I can say is, good luck. Even the best New York publishing house publicist rarely scores a major newspaper review for a mid-list or debut author, let alone a segment on the Today Show.  Now, if you're willing to change your first name to Snooki, or your last name to Kardashian, you may actually get that review, or some air time.

It's just the way of the world: a ghosted celebrity can garner more air time for a mediocre book than a gifted author will receive for a notable work. 

So suck it up. 

Better yet, don't reach for the stars when that is not the lasting definition of success. You're better off working the crowd instead of waiting for the crowd to come to you. In fact, I know many authors whose books have gotten better–and substantially more reviews–than those I see in the Times–

From readers.

Rude awakening: many major newspapers have done away with book reviews–and book reviewers–altogether. That being said, the voices that are ever more important to authors are avid readers, especially those readers who are willing to write a review on the websites of the bookstores (both online, and brick-and-mortar) where they buy their books. Even better is when they chat up your books to friends.

In today's book market, a four-plus star reviews by hundreds of readers on an online bookseller's site can generate more sales than a few kind words in a Times review on any given Sunday.

Bottom line: word of mouth means everything.
 
 

8. "You can write more than one book a year? Hmmm. You're not an artist. You're not even a craftsman. You're…a hack!"

Here's the scoop. Even painters have to produce more than one painting in a lifetime–let alone a year–in order to eat, pay rent, and pay for their kids' braces.

The same goes for musicians. They have to play more than one gig. And songwriters have to write more than one song.

No one wants to be a one-hit wonder.

In fact, even one hit is akin to winning the lottery.

As for being a craftsperson: the proof is in the satisfaction of the buyer.

I'm very proud of my body of work. Every book has received an average of four or more stars. And every day, I get  letters from readers who were kind enough to take the time to tell me how much fun they had with my books, or how much they love my characters. I love to hear that it kept them up at night (it certainly did for me when I was writing any one of them!) or that they laughed so loud that it woke their spouses. 

That, my dear friends, is satisfaction.
 

9. "It must be nice to be able to set your own hours."

I write at least ten hours a day.

Believe it or not, some chapters are written in my sleep. 

When I'm not writing, I'm plotting. Or researching.

The creative process is the most important aspect of my profession. But the marketing of my books are just as important. That being said, when I'm not writing, plotting or researching, I'm concepting covers, going over edits from my proofers and editors–

And promoting, promoting, promoting.

In any regard, I'm thinking about my books twenty-four/seven.

None of it is easy. But it can certainly be rewarding. I guess that's what makes it a "job," and not a hobby.

10. "It must be great to have such a fun job."

I wouldn't be doing anything else. And I'll do it, as long as I please my readers–and myself.

But like any job, it's not always fun. Sometimes it's frustrating. Sometimes I disappoint myself with how slow I am at it. It takes time to craft a sentence, let alone a paragraph, a scene or a chapter.

Then you have to do it time and again, until you have a cohesive story. Creating a work that even you enjoy, despite having read it so many times, you want to scream.

I remember the reaction my sister had when I told her I'd sold my very first novel. "In fact, the contract is for two books," I proclaimed proudly.

This was met with a look of horror. "You mean, they can make you write another?" 

"God, I hope so," I declared.

 Eight years and seventeen novels later, I still feel that way. 

And, now a bonus comment…

11. "I've got a great idea for a book! Why don't I give it to you, and we can split what you make, 50/50?"

Ha ha! I get this one a lot! I've even gotten it from my sister.

Thank you, but I respectfully decline your offer. You see, I have so many ideas already, that I wonder if I'll have the lifespan in which to write them all.

And besides, at best, a concept is a one-liner (at the most ten words). Even if it's the best book concept in the world, but then you're leaving me with the heavy lifting–that is, coming up with the other eighty thousand words that makes it a book.

You see, a book may start out as a high concept, but it needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. That's a lot of sweat equity–especially if the concept doesn't resonate enough with you to (a) spend the time to research the era or topic, or (b) create characters who go through the motions to bring it to life–and make readers laugh, cry, or write you to tell you how much your words meant to them.

That being said, go ahead and write it, as only you could do.

And let me know when it's published. I look forward to reading it, and supporting you, just like you read and support me.

 

HA Prequel The-Housewife-Assassin's-Deadly-Dossier-FinalJosie Brown is the author of The Housewife Assassin's Handbook series, as well as the Totlandia series. Her next book, The Housewife Assassin's Deadly Dossier, will be released in June 2014.

“I don’t mind living in a man’s world…”

Marilyn-monroe-reading

 

"…as long as I can be a woman in it."

— Marilyn Monroe

 

____________________________

 

 

HA1 Handbook 768x1024

THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK
Murder. Suspense. Sex. 
And some handy household tips.

978-0-9740214-0-9

FREE! 
ORDER NOW,  from

Amazon.com (US)  / Amazon.UK 
Also in all Amazon countries!

BN.com (99 cents)

Apple iTunes Bookstore  / Apple iTunes Bookstore (UK) 
In all iTunes countries!

KoboBooks

Housewife Assassin Donna Stone is back–and here’s what she did for her summer vacation.

HA-Vacation-to-Die-For-Final

IN AMAZON NOW!

In Kobo, Nook, and Apple by August 20, 2013

Read an excerpt here..

A nude sunbathing serial killer, a Lord of the Flies 'tween takeover, poison-dart throwing pygmies……

Talk about a fantasy (nightmare?) island!

An NSA scientist has disappeared with a deadly plague virus. Donna and Jack must find him, before it is unleashed on Fantasy island, home of three very different resorts:

Like Kamp KidStuff, where families frolic among dolphins, cartoon characters, 
and warring gangs of tweens who believe in the law of the jungle–including human sacrifices; 

And Eden Key, a nude singles sanctuary where tiki-hut treehouses provide the perfect setting for rum-fueled romances and casual hook-ups—not to mention the occasional swinger slashing…

Finally, there's the Hunt Club, which allows its members to track a very unique, soon-to-be extinct prey. 

And you call this a vacation?

______________________________________________
To celebrate the launch of 
The Housewife Assassin's Vacation to Die For 
I'm giving away a $100 gift card
 
to ANY store of your choice!

    

 Target-logo

Gotta love this headline in The New Yorker: “The Pay Is Too Damn Low.” Duh, yeah.

I don't feel the need to elaborate on this New Yorker article.

America, isn't it time you vote you pocketbooks, instead of letting the lobbyists decide your fates?

–Josie

THE FINANCIAL PAGE / The New Yorker

THE PAY IS TOO DAMN LOW

BY AUGUST 12, 2013

A few weeks ago, Washington, D.C., passed a living-wage bill designed to make Walmart pay its workers a minimum of $12.50 an hour. Then President Obama called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage (which is currently $7.25 an hour). McDonald’s was widely derided for releasing a budget to help its employees plan financially, since that only underscored how brutally hard it is to live on a McDonald’s wage. And last week fast-food workers across the country staged walkouts, calling for an increase in their pay to fifteen dollars an hour. Low-wage earners have long been the hardest workers to organize and the easiest to ignore. Now they’re front-page news.

The workers’ grievances are simple: low wages, few (if any) benefits, and little full-time work. In inflation-adjusted terms, the minimum wage, though higher than it was a decade ago, is still well below its 1968 peak (when it was worth about $10.70 an hour in today’s dollars), and it’s still poverty-level pay. To make matters worse, most fast-food and retail work is part time, and the weak job market has eroded what little bargaining power low-wage workers had: their earnings actually fell between 2009 and last year, according to the National Employment Law Project.

Still, the reason this has become a big political issue is not that the jobs have changed; it’s that the people doing the jobs have. Historically, low-wage work tended to be done either by the young or by women looking for part-time jobs to supplement family income. As the historian Bethany Moreton has shown, Walmart in its early days sought explicitly to hire underemployed married women. Fast-food workforces, meanwhile, were dominated by teen-agers. Now, though, plenty of family breadwinners are stuck in these jobs. That’s because, over the past three decades, the U.S. economy has done a poor job of creating good middle-class jobs; five of the six fastest-growing job categories today pay less than the median wage. That’s why, as a recent study by the economists John Schmitt and Janelle Jones has shown, low-wage workers are older and better educated than ever. More important, more of them are relying on their paychecks not for pin money or to pay for Friday-night dates but, rather, to support families. Forty years ago, there was no expectation that fast-food or discount-retail jobs would provide a living wage, because these were not jobs that, in the main, adult heads of household did. Today, low-wage workers provide forty-six per cent of their family’s income. It is that change which is driving the demand for higher pay.

The situation is the result of a tectonic shift in the American economy. In 1960, the country’s biggest employer, General Motors, was also its most profitable company and one of its best-paying. It had high profit margins and real pricing power, even as it was paying its workers union wages. And it was not alone: firms like Ford, Standard Oil, and Bethlehem Steel employed huge numbers of well-paid workers while earning big profits. Today, the country’s biggest employers are retailers and fast-food chains, almost all of which have built their businesses on low pay—they’ve striven to keep wages down and unions out—and low prices.

This complicates things, in part because of the nature of these businesses. They make plenty of money, but most have slim profit margins: Walmart and Target earn between three and four cents on the dollar; a typical McDonald’s franchise restaurant earns around six cents on the dollar before taxes, according to an analysis from Janney Capital Markets. In fact, the combined profits of all the major retailers, restaurant chains, and supermarkets in the Fortune 500 are smaller than the profits of Apple alone. Yet Apple employs just seventy-six thousand people, while the retailers, supermarkets, and restaurant chains employ 5.6 million. The grim truth of those numbers is that low wages are a big part of why these companies are able to stay profitable while offering low prices. Congress is currently considering a bill increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 over the next three years. That’s an increase that the companies can easily tolerate, and it would make a significant difference in the lives of low-wage workers. But that’s still a long way from turning these jobs into the kind of employment that can support a middle-class family. If you want to accomplish that, you have to change the entire way these companies do business. Above all, you have to get consumers to accept significantly higher, and steadily rising, prices. After decades in which we’ve grown used to cheap stuff, that won’t be easy.

Realistically, then, a higher minimum wage can be only part of the solution. We also need to expand the earned-income tax credit, and strengthen the social-insurance system, including child care and health care (the advent of Obamacare will help in this regard). Fast-food jobs in Germany and the Netherlands aren’t much better-paid than in the U.S., but a stronger safety net makes workers much better off. We also need many more of the “middle-class jobs” we’re always hearing about. A recent McKinsey report suggested that the government should invest almost a trillion dollars over the next five years in repairing and upgrading the national infrastructure, which seems like a good place to start. And we really need the economy as a whole to grow faster, because that would both increase the supply of good jobs and improve the bargaining power of low-wage workers. As Jared Bernstein, an economist at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, told me, “The best friend that low-wage workers have is a strong economy and a tight job market.” It isn’t enough to make bad jobs better. We need to create better jobs. ♦

ILLUSTRATION: CHRISTOPH NIEMANN

(c) The New Yorker. All rights reserved.

 

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Bonus Book Excerpt! The Housewife Assassin’s Relationship Survival Guide

MG_4331
“Does
champagne make you tipsy?” Sugar CEO Number Two sounds hopeful as he holds a
bottle of Tattinger’s over my glass.

I
reward him with a shy smile. “It’s fun to lose control every now and then,
don’t you agree…Robert?”

As if. I’m beginning
to believe that “control” is this guy’s middle name. It’s anyone’s guess as to
his last name, or any other clue as to his identity.

On
the hour ride from San Francisco to Woodside I had very little success getting
him to talk about what he did for a living. And no matter how many ways I tried
to get him to reveal his last name or his job, he played it coy. “All that
corporate bullshit will bore you to tears, sweetheart. Let’s just keep things
friendly.”

 By “friendly,” he means allowing his hands to
cup my breasts while he probes my molars with his tongue.

I’ve
no doubt he presumes I’m the dessert after the gourmet meal of filet mignon,
broccoli stir-fry and mashed potatoes, which we ate in a private tent
overlooking Woodside California’s polo fields. But now our little picnic is
almost over. I’ve only got another half hour before Robert leaves me for a
white Arabian mare named Pure as Driven Snow.

 To keep him here, I’ll have to be anything
but.

Even
now Arnie whines, “He’s much too close for our facial recognition software to
get a good fix on his features. Can’t you get him to back off?”

“Sure
she can,” Jack, mutters, “By putting her heel in his groin.”

Wishful
thinking on both our parts. Alas, that would defeat the purpose.

Since I got into the car, Emma and
Arnie have been working furiously to place him. But who knew San Francisco had
so many steely-eyed mid-fortysomething corporate bigwigs named “Robert,” who are six feet tall, just-gray-enough-around-the-edges, and own a polo
team?

As
if reading my mind, Emma murmurs into my diamond-studded audio feed, “We’ve
narrowed down the list of potential suspects to five.”

Really?
That many?

Time’s
a’wasting. I toss back the flute of bubbly. Then slowly I run my tongue over my
lips and murmur, “Aren’t you going to join me?”

Robert
sighs. “Believe me, I wish I could. But if I’m going to ride without falling
off my horse, I should hold off until after the match.”

I
give him a playful pout. “It’s no fun getting tipsy all by myself.” I brush
against him when I reach into the picnic hamper. Pulling up another champagne
flute, I whisper, “One tiny little sip won’t knock you off your horse, will
it?”

He
eyes both the glass and me longingly. Finally he nods. “I guess you’re
right.” 

I
take the bottle from his hand. “Let me do the honors. As much as I love being
treated like a queen, today I’d prefer to play handmaiden. ”

That
raises a smile on his face, not to mention a tent in his polo breeches. 

I’m
sure it also helps that, when I pour the champagne into his glass, I arch my
back in such a way that my vee-neck blouse drops between my breasts.

While
his eyes are otherwise occupied, I watch his face for Arnie’s sake, praying now
that I’m just close enough for him to get a lead on the guy. At the same time,
I slide the jade stone on my ring and tilt it so that a dose of SP-117 pours
into his glass.

He
gulps down the champagne. Good, because the sooner his opens up, the better. I
keep up the small talk, complimenting him on topics he’s already deemed safe:
the filet mignon; his Bentley; his polo skills; the size of his biceps beneath
his polo shirt; the size of the tent in his breeches—

Until,
finally, his eyes glaze over. That’s when I know it’s safe to ask, “So, tell me
Robert, what’s your last name?”

“Higginbotham.”
The word comes out in a drowsy whisper.

“Nailed
him,” Arnie and Emma yell into my ear at the same time. She adds, “That name
was on one of my possible five—” at the same time in which Arnie declares, “The
face recognition analysis came through, finally—”

I
close my eyes and shake my head. “One at a time, children, please!”

“He’s
CEO of Catalyst Industries!” Emma’s answer comes out in a rush. “It’s a
conglomerate that owns—”

“—A
variety of biotech companies,” Arnie interjects, “including, Human-A-Sphere, a
chain of bio-genetic profiling labs; Inject-A-Life, a firm that invents
non-invasive surgical procedures; and PharmFarm, the largest agribusiness of
genetically enhanced crops.”

“Any
one of those could provide a terrorist organization with the means to cripple a
nation.” Jack’s voice is emotionless as he states this simple fact.

It’s
time for some answers from the man in question. “Robert Higginbotham, are you a
member of the Quorum?”

He
nods. Whereas that gives visual affirmation, I want to hear it from his lips.
“Answer the question out loud,” I prod him.

 “Yes, I am one of the Quorum Thirteen…well,
now we are eleven…Um, ten.” By his frown, I can tell he’s surprised to hear
himself say this out loud, and to a perfect stranger.

“And
what do your companies do for the Quorum?”

“Each
of them is developing a component for an ethnic bioweapon.”

“What
the hell is that?” Emma asks.

“The
theory is that ethno-bombs can be used to target specific genetic or cultural
anomalies recognized in certain ethnic groups,” Arnie explains. “An organic
example is how white settlers in the US almost wiped out a tribe of indigenous
natives with small pox.”

Emma
lets loose with a piercing whistle. “I can only imagine how the Quorum plans on
using this. Sell it to the highest bidder? Blackmail a government?”

“Try
all of the above,” Jack says.

“How
soon before this project reaches completion?” I ask.

Robert
smiles up at me. “We’re beta-testing now. I’ll be presenting my findings   to
my Quorum brethren at our next meeting. If it is chosen for implementation,
I’ll be poised to be the Quorum’s next leader.”

“Where and when is the
meeting?”

“We’ve yet to receive
that information.”

 “Who are your fellow Quorum members?”

He
shrugs. “We never meet without masks. Anonymity allows us to contribute freely,
without threat of exposure. ”

 “Robert, why are you doing this, even when you
know it’s illegal, unethical, and inhumane?” I have to ask, and not just
because I’m incredulous at his despicable behavior, but to get it on record.

He
stares at me, as if I’m crazy or something. “For the money, of course! Not just
for the fees to our companies, but because of the dividends to thirteen
stockholders of Quorum Ltd.” He chuckles. “Well, for the ten who are left.”

“Donna,
unfortunately you don’t have time to read him the riot act,” Jack says. “So
give Sleeping Beauty his wake-up potion and promise you’ll rendezvous with him
after his match.”

“Will
do.” I pocket Robert’s phone. Then I mix the SP-117 antidote into Robert’s
champagne flute with a pinky finger and hand it to him. “Here, drink this.”

He
gulps it down.

When
Robert comes to, he’s pleasantly surprised to find me straddling him. As I
rise, smoothing the skirt of my dress back into place. “Was it as good for you
as it was for me?”

To
bring him to the right conclusion that we’re both satisfied with our little
picnic hank-panky, I guide his hand to the clasps on the front of my bra.

He
gets the hint, and hooks them into place. “Um….yeah…great!” He smiles, but he
shakes his head, confused. 

After
a long kiss, I help him buckle his breeches. He groans ecstatically as I pat
Bobby Junior back into position and shove him toward the tent door. “Why don’t
we have another go-round, after the match? But only if you’re the victor! I’ll
be cheering from the sidelines, so make Mama proud!”

Robert
stumbles out of the tent like a man with the world at his feet. Still, I have
no doubt that, presented with his own confession, he’ll turn on his Quorum brethren.
If not, those feet will be in shackles for the rest of his life.

And
I know for a fact that they don’t have a polo team in Gitmo.

© 2013 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Author.

___________________________________

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London. Paris. Guantanamo Bay. 
Donna Stone is looking for love
— and terrorists — in all the wrong places.

In this fourth full-length novel of The Housewife Assassin series, Donna Stone finds out that breaking up is hard to do. 

Then again, so is dating a terrorist, let alone eleven of them! Does this make Donna a serial dater, or a serial killer?

Worse yet, an old flame gets in the way of Donna's chance for true love. 

But she doesn't cry…She gets even.
 

Enter My Contest to win a $100 Gift Card!

(A small portion of this book appeared as a novella in 
"Guns and Roses: A Murder She Writes Anthology".)

LOL! One of my fave scenes in THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING

Guide-to-Gracious-Killing-FinalEnjoy!

— Josie

 

EXCERPT

My cell in the Santa Monica hoosegow could do
with a little sprucing up, but my roomies, Big Bitch Bitsy and Shitfaced Leona,
would get in my face and threaten me with some smackdown should I even consider
rearranging their fine collection of Chippendales trading cards, which has been
stuck onto the concrete wall with Bubblicious.

I’ve been in this hellhole for the past seven
hours. I don’t plan on staying here another night. Still, Bitsy (whereas she
uses this as a surname, I don’t want to disrespect her by calling her by the
much less bestie-friendly Big or Bitch) is no fool. She sees me eyeing the
bottom bunk near the window, and wants to set me straight up front that it’s
hers. Bitsy’s fist goes for my nose. To her surprise, I’m able to stop it with
my stiffened palm, and twist her arm out behind her, which is all it takes to
warn her that not only sticks and stones, but pressure in the right spot, is
all it takes to break her bones. Being raised by gentlefolk, I release her with
a warning that doesn’t mar the reputation of the woman who bore her, or
reference some embarrassing part of her anatomy.

You’d think she’d take the hint that I’m not
someone she should be messing with, but no.

The long shadows cast by our cell’s fugly
fluorescent overhead light tip me off that she’s about to stab me with a shiv
made from a metal spring from Leona’s bunk. A roundhouse kick to Bitsy’s gut
sends her reeling backward into the wall. I cram her head against it with my
version of a Vulcan Mind Meld, where pressure points in three key spots on her
cranium has Bitsy repeating every word I say. “I will act like a lady at all
times. I will share with my bunkmates. I will talk in a lady-like voice. I
won’t use my nasty pottymouth.”

Works every time. Thank you, Mr. Spock.

“Tsk, tsk. Is that any way to make friends and
influence enemies?”

I turn around to find Jack smiling at me from
just beyond the bars. So, that was the reason for the salacious whistles and
catcalls coming from the other cells. Usually, it’s for a new prisoner, or as
they call them here, “fresh meat.” This time it’s for six-feet-two-inches of
prime beefcake in an Armani suit.

I wave gaily at him. Okay, it’s more like a
middle-finger salute. “’Bout damn time you got here. If it’s going to take you
seven hours to drive a whole two miles, why do you own a Lamborghini?”

“Because the girls love it.” Noting my raised
brow and Bitsy’s shiv in my hand has him rethinking his answer. “In all
seriousness, Ryan and I are having a hell of a time convincing the local
authorities that you didn’t kill Edwina. It doesn’t help that your prints are
the only ones on the murder weapon.”

“But I explained that to the SWAT guys! It was
in my hand when Breck and I wrestled for it, and he twisted my arm so that it
was pointing at her when he squeezed the trigger.”

“Likely story,” mutters Leona, through her
drunken stupor.

I peel her favorite Chippendale off the wall and
tear it in half. She whimpers, but takes the hint that she better keep mum in
front of my gentleman caller.

Jack shakes his head at my cruelty. “It doesn’t
help that the security video shows you as coming out of the House of Mirrors
right after Breck got shot in there.”

Suddenly, it looks like I’ll have the time to
complete a full makeover of my jail cell.

I smack the bars between us with my fist. “Oh my
God! If I end up in jail for Edwina’s murder, Carl will be given custody of the
kids! I’ve got to get out of this mess!”

“Don’t worry about Carl. The files Edwina left
behind have put him back on the Watch List, and Breck, too for that matter.
Unfortunately, Carl left with Asimov’s contingent before we could stop him.”

“Well, that’s some relief.” I feel tears forming
in my eyes. “What have you told the children about my absence?”

“Just that you were in the wrong place at the
wrong time. Unfortunately, your arrest made the news in a big way. The police
leaked Breck’s version of it. Needless to say, all of Hilldale is buzzing about
it. Penelope and her posse actually believe that you’re jealous of Babette.
Mrs. Breck’s silence on the topic isn’t helping matters.”

“Figures she’d be towing his party line.” I
shake my head in disgust. “Breck is a member of the Quorum. For that alone,
we’ve got to bring him back. Seriously, Jack, what are we going to do?”

“We just have to wait it out, for however long
it takes.” He looks down at his watch “Which should be about… now.”

For just a few seconds, all the lights in the
jail flash.

Jack looks down the hall. Seeing that the two
guards have been distracted by the shouts of the cellmates over this disruption
of their routine, he slips me a small bag through the bars.

“That was Arnie,” he mutters, just barely loud
enough for me to hear. “He’s just put their security feed on a loop. It’ll run
for a couple of hours. In the meantime, this spray turns these two into
sleeping beauties. If need be, you can use the spray on the guards, too, but I
think the diversion Arnie is causing in Cell Block C will keep them busy for
awhile. We guessed at the uniform size. The smart card gets you through every
door in this joint. Abu and I will be waiting down the block in his ice cream
truck.”

I give him a thumbs up. I wish I could kiss him,
but I don’t want to make my roomies jealous.

I’m just glad he’s kept his shirt on, and he’s
kept his a bowtie and French cuffs at home.

(c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (info@signaleditorial.com).

 


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GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING



TGIF Excerpt from The Housewife Assassin’s Handbook: “Artful Women”

Polka Dot AxMemorial Day weekend means you'll have plenty of time to catch up on your reading. So what are you waiting for? Download a FREE copy of THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK. 

In this scene, my heroine, Donna Stone, is on the hunt for a large shipment of stolen plutonium. A hot lead sends her to a posh Beverly Hills art gallery. Just because the owner is sleazy doesn't mean he has anything to hide–

Or does he?

Donna finds out–the hard way.

Speaking of works of art, here's another angry housewife painting from one of my favorite artists, Kelly Reemtsen. You can catch her work here on her website, and also at Skidmore Contemporary Art in Santa Monica, David Klein Gallery in Birmingham Michigan, or DeBuck Gallery, in New York.

The subject is wearing the perfect frock for a the start of summer, don't you think? And who'd a thunk an ax would make such an eye-catching accessory?

TGI Holiday Weekend,

— Josie

 

Excerpt

“It’s a Larkaro,” Armand Fronsdal hisses in my
ear. “Arresting, is it not?”

Yep, that’s exactly how I’d describe an art installation made up of a video projector playing a short film in which three big-breasted nymphs cavort in the woods. But hey, what do I know from art?

One thing I do know: this man’s breath leaves a lot to be desired.

But when I turn to face him, I’ve already set my lips into a come-hither pout. “I’m looking for something a bit more… je ne sais quoi? Ah! Romantique.”

Having one-upped his Lounge Lizardeese with my high school French has scored me major points with this jerk. He crooks a finger at me to follow him.

He is too tall and too slight: think Ichabod Crane in Goth. If his ponytail is supposed to cover up the fact that he’s got a bald spot, he’s failed miserably. He’s wearing more eyeliner than me, which is saying a lot, because I laid it on thick this morning.

Albeit no thicker than the crap he’s laying on me now. “Has ma’amselle been complimented for her resemblance to John Singer Sargent’s magnificent painting of Mrs. Waldorf Astor?”

I shrug. While it is flattering, we both know it’s a stretch. Edvard Munch’s The Scream,
maybe…

“Ah, well, perhaps we shall find some petit amusement, oui?” I murmur. Playing
the bored art patroness has meant dressing up in a shiny ass-grazing red
leather dress that zips up the front, black fishnet stockings that end in
four-inch Louboutin thigh-high boots, and a veiled chapeau perched atop my
French twist. What with the tightness of the dress and the tiny heels of the
shoes, keeping up with his long strides is a bitch.

The gallery is really a warehouse broken up into
several rooms. He doesn’t stop until he reaches the one farthest to the back of
the building. One wall is made up of medieval pitchforks in a lattice pattern.
Near another, a seven-foot hot pink and purple polka-dot penis rises, thick and
proud, among two humongous blue balls.

Ouch.

The center installation is made up of abstract
mirrored balls of varying sizes, hung from the ceiling. They are dripping some
substance the color of blood.

If this is his idea of romantic, I’m guessing he doesn’t go on many dates.

Voila,” he purrs in an accent as bad as mine.

C'est magnifique,” I whisper as I stare up at the mirrored balls.

“This is my private atelier,” he hisses proudly. “Everything in here is my own creation. If this piece speaks to you, I’m sure we can come up with some arrangement: say, forty thou? That’s a third off the catalog price.”

“Such a steal. Almost wholesale.” I tilt my head. Unconsciously I straighten the seams of my stockings. In truth, I am taking aim with the toe of my right bootie. It is loaded with truth serum. The sooner I take this guy down, the better. This place gives me a bad case of the creeps, and I want out of here fast—

Ah, darn! His cell phone just buzzed. I wave him off as he excuses himself to answer it.

In one of the mirrored balls hanging from the ceiling, I see that he is almost at the door when he freezes. His back straightens. Then slowly he turns around.

He has a wary look on his face. He doesn’t think I see him as he plucks one of the pitchforks from the wall. And steps up behind
me—

But I’m too quick for him, swinging the largest of the mirrored balls toward his skull.

It knocks him down but not out. The pitchfork skitters on the slippery floor. As I lunge for it, he grabs my ankle, and I fall hard—

Damn. These. Heels…

Copyright © 2011 by Josie Brown. Published in May 2011 by Signal Press. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Author.

————————————————-

 


HAH-Hanging-Man-Oct-5-2012

Murder. Suspense. Sex. And some handy household tips.

 
The Housewife Assassin's Handbook
(Book 1) 
Signal Press 

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Special Memorial Day Excerpt, from The Housewife Assassin’s Guide to Gracious Killing

Prince-harry-with-shirt

With Memorial Day weekend right around the corner,  I thought you'd enjoy this excerpt from the second book in my Housewife Assassin series, Guide to Gracious Killing. It's a perfectly tasty little morsel because it includes a bit of military derring-do, along with a visit (appropriately timed) by Great Britain's Prince Harry.

Enjoy,

— Josie

Chapter 1
Breaking Bad Hostessing Habits

 

Every woman wants to be
the perfect hostess and frets over her inadequacies when it comes to the
gracious art of entertaining. Pshaw! A little forethought and a few hours of
planning make it as easy as cherry pie!

There is, however, one
ironclad rule every hostess must follow:

Make all your guests
wish they never had to leave.

Especially in a coffin.
With a bullet lodged in their heads.

 

“You’re quite a saucy minx!” Prince Harry’s ale-slurred
come-on can barely be heard over the techno-vibe emanating from a
starship-worthy console of the Ivy Lounge rooftop’s head-bobbing deejay. “What
say you give me a peek as to where your tattoo ends?”

His head is cocked downward, as if it might give
him the ex-ray vision he’ll need in order to see the rattle on the faux-tatt’ed
snake drawn from my belly to nether regions that lay under my thong bikini.

“You’re a cheeky sod. I do have a face, you
know.” I snap my fingers in front of his nose, in order to draw his eyes
northward.

I’ve succeeded, sort of. But come on, already.
The diplomacy born and bred into the Prince of Wales can’t beat two millennia
of innate urges and four pints of Guinness.

His eyes linger below my neck, albeit above my
abdomen.

When, finally, our eyes meet, I lean in and
whisper, “You show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.”

I’m lying, even if he doesn’t know it—yet.

His outright laugh is accompanied with a shake
of his head, and a tug at the waistline of his briefs. “No tats under these
trollies, I’m afraid. Sorry to disappoint.”

I finger his briefs longingly and then sigh.
“I’m sure you’ll make it up to me somehow.”

His smile is his vow not to disappoint.

God save the queen…

It’s no secret the prince has been stateside
with his Royal Air Force unit, learning the latest tricks and treats of the
AH-64D Apache helicopter: his vehicle of choice for his upcoming tour of duty
in Afghanistan. The soldiers completed their training today. Tomorrow they head
home. To celebrate, the soldiers are here, in San Diego, which is just a couple
of hours west of their training base, the Naval Air Facility at El Centro.

Seems some chatter, intercepted by MI6, has led British
intelligence to deduce the prince is the latest target of “the Leprechaun,” a
notorious assassin affiliated with the Irish terrorist cell known as 32CSM. If
the Leprechaun succeeds in picking off the spare to the throne, then once again
the always-thin strand of peace between Ireland and Great Britain will be
ripped to shreds.

If it happens on our side of the pond, the U.S.
will have mud on its face, not to mention the bluest of blood on its hands.

So yep, I have to stop the Leprechaun before he
gets lucky.

My employer, the freelance black ops agency
known in the field as Acme Corporation, paid big bucks to the club owners so I
could be up close and personal with the prince. My goal is not to shag, let
alone snag, Harry the Hottie. It’s to save his adorable hide from a possible
assassination attempt.

The prince leans in, close enough to ask in a
seductive albeit ale-sodden growl, “Want me to sign your bikini?”

I look down between my breasts. “Oops, forgot my
pen. But you seem to be carrying one, in your pants pocket. Or maybe you’re
just happy to see me.”

He’s laughing so hard his last gulp of Guinness
goes down the wrong way.

“Prince Charming has a one-track mind.” Jack
Craig’s snarl comes in loud and clear through the tiny microphone in my ear. As
the team leader for this Acme mission, he’s close by, but far enough away no
potential assassin can spot him.

Trust me, there is a hitter lurking nearby.

Jack is also my main squeeze, which is why he’s
growling about my having to play the coquette while under deep cover (in this
bikini, I’m talking figuratively if not literally) as one of the nightclub’s
VIP bottle girls. More specifically, this is one mission he’d wished I hadn’t
accomplished—become Harry the Hottie’s pick-up du jour.

Needless to say, the club’s real bottle girls
are pea green with envy. They can’t figure out how this newbie became
Cinderella of this Century.

If I told them my aim and my first-degree black
belt status had something to do with it, would they believe me? Probably not.
All they see is that I’m just this side of Cougarville, which means Harry is
less discriminating than they had hoped.

For once, I’m glad Jack isn’t here, in the
cordoned-off VIP section. One involuntary muscle flex and prince’s all-too-obvious
brawny goon squad—three of his Royal Air Force mates—would be on top of Jack,
like suds on ale. 

At MI6’s behest, we’ve kept the fact he’s a
target from Harry, for now, anyway. This, I’m sure, is why he feels so
cocksure. This mission wouldn’t have been so hard if the prince weren’t so
insistent about partying “like an ordinary surfer bloke,” is how he so
preciously puts it.      

Until now, the natives have been awed as much by
his regular dude personality as his title. But just as the deejay ratchets up
the hip-hop club mix, six drunken sorority sisters stroll our way. One of the
girls, a Kate Middleton lookalike, pierces me with a jealous glare.

I stare back and smile, as if to say, Take the
hint. Get lost.

Her eyes shift from me to one of Harry’s RAF
buds. She waves coyly at him, and he’s smitten. Smirking back, he nods her
over. She squeals and grabs the hand of one of her girlfriends.

In no time at all, she and her besties have
jumped the red velvet rope. They toss themselves onto the prince’s entourage,
who don’t seem to be fighting them off too hard.

In fact, they’re snapping their fingers at me
with drink orders for their new arm charms.

“Not good.” Jack’s warning in my ear is just
loud enough for me to here.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” I mutter back.

“How about this?” Jack is now shouting into my
earpiece. “You’ve lost Prince Harry.”

He’s right.

The prince seems captivated by a petite, busty
blond beauty. Even in heels, she barely reaches his chest. She had pulled him
out onto the dance floor for a throbbing sex-drenched hip grinder, Andree
Belle’s “Go Go Gadget Heart.”

The strobe lights and smoke machine make it hard
to follow them in the crowd. Then I see them, against one wall. The buxom
little tart drapes her arms around his shoulders and hugs him close, as if
she’ll never let him go.

Apparently, too close. I shove my way through
the crowd until I’m close enough to hear Harry’s woozy cry. “Blimey, you’re no
bird! You’ve got a wanker!”

Before I can pull him away, the prince is pricked
on the neck with something his partner has pulled from her cleavage. Harry’s
groan is loud. I smell smoke, and then the lights go out. But not before the
last strobe catches the triumphant look on his partner’s face.

 “Oh my
God, Jack! The woman with Harry—she’s—not a she! She’s—”

“I know! I saw it, too! The Leprechaun!”

Proof it pays to hit the M.A.C. counter before a
night on the town.

 And to
hang out where the lights are always low.

Everyone is screaming and shoving their way to
the exits, leaving me room to follow the Leprechaun, who is dragging Harry in
the opposite direction up against a wall.

“It’s too dark to see where they went,” I shout
to Jack. “Does anything show up on the club’s security cams?”

“I’m looking now. In the meantime, check the wall
for a hidden pocket door. The schematic of this club shows a few of them on
every level. I’m sure the Leprechaun had his exit scoped out in advance.”

While Jack scans the feeds from the security
cameras, I skim the walls with my hands. Finally, I find it: a tiny catch,
waist high.

I pull it open it just in time to see the
Leprechaun heaving Harry down a long corridor.

He may not be used to running in heels, but I
am. If only I wasn’t running in a bikini, too.

“Too many wobbly bits,” I mutter under my
breath.

It’s inappropriate for Jack to be laughing now,
but he can’t help it. “Just two. And they’re a sight to behold. Prince Charming
will be upset he slept through it.”

The thought of Harry in the French-manicured
hands of an assassin who can start the United Kingdom and Ireland down another
bloody path of un-neighborly relations has me picking up my pace. Unlike the
Leprechaun, I’m smart enough to ditch my high heels. But I’m still not fast
enough to reach them before the Leprechaun rolls him into the backseat of a
dark BMW and screeches off.

I can hear Jack slapping the wall with his fist.
“Aw, damn! We lost them!”

“Nope, I slipped a GPS tracker in the prince’s
trollies.”

“You did what… in his—what?”

“Oh, don’t worry, I didn’t peek. I’ll meet you
around the corner.”

What’s a little white lie between fake husband
and wife?

Before he can say another word, I snap off my
earpiece and run down the block.

 * * *

The naval base’s commanding officer is cussing
up a storm, something about blue-blooded playboy flyboys and horny co-eds.

When, finally, all the steam is out of him, Jack
says in the calmest voice possible, “It looks as if they’re headed for Mexico,
and they’ve got the jump on us. They’re changing vehicles every ten or so
miles, which indicates they don’t know about the tracker. Not yet, anyway. We
can catch them in a 64D, sir.”

Before the CO can let loose with yet another
tsunami of swear words, I hand him my cell phone. His nods and mutters, indicating
he’s heard Acme’s client—also his boss—loud and clear:

Put whatever we need at our disposal.

We grab Charlie Harcourt-Smythe (he’s the
soberest of the RAF pilots) and head to the airstrip. Because of the
sensitivity of the mission, we’ll keep it to that: no FBI, no CIA, and
certainly no local law enforcement. The prince has had enough photo ops for one
visit.

I’ve traded in my bikini for a snug
wind-resistant flight suit. He never did sign my bikini. Maybe later. If it’s
not too late already. 

(c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (info@signaleditorial.com).

 


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TGIF Excerpt: Scotty is dying. Time for Martin to cross the bridge into the 21st Century.

KirkWithPhaser
My husband, Martin, isn't one of those men who must have the latest/greatest in technology. Nor must he demonstrate his manliness with boy toys that are always the biggest, and therefore presumed the best (phallically speaking).

Which brings me to the death of Scotty–an appropriate topic, now that the latest Star Trek Movie ("Into Darkness") is in movie theaters.

No, I don't mean Scotty, the good ship Enterprise's engineer (thank goodness, because I really really love love love Simon Pegg in the role). 

I mean Martin's cell phone, a relic he calls "Scotty," as a quaint reference to the phasers carried by the Star Trek crew. You see, his phone is that tiny.

And it ispossibly as old as the original TV show itself.

Okay, certainly it's not THAT old. Besides, back then there were no cell phones, not to mention the first ones were attached to suitcases, so that would defeat his purpose of carrying the tiniest phone he could find.

In fact, his current cell is so tiny that texting on it (yes, at least it allows him to text, but only predictively) is a tribulation, despite his opposable-thumb dexterity. (He's right up there with the apes and chimps, so my mother was wrong about him.)

And the darn thing certainly ain't "smart." He can't get The Internets, and the pictures it takes look like they were pulled out of an elephant's ass.

Bottom line: Scotty is dying.

It's showing its wonkiness by asking to "Please Insert Sim Card" when it already has one. Or sometimes the screen goes white (yes, at least, originally it was in color). Other times, the message shows appears upside down.

"Honey, Scotty is dying," I tell him in a soothing tone.

"But I hate the new phones! They're too big," he whines "Much too bulky for a man to carry in his pocket."

"Too bad," I respond. "It's dying. That's okay. It lived long and prospered. But if you're waiting for another cell the size of a Star Trek phaser gun, youve got another thing coming. If you need something to carry it in, I'll lend you one of my purses."

Needless to say, this is not the answer he's looking for. 

If he could, he'd wait it out, until cells got small again. Until then, he's still got to reach out and touch someone with something that receives messages that aren't smoke signals, so down to the Verizon store we go.

Speaking of dying, I've got a great excerpt for you today. It comes from Book 2 of The Housewife Assassin series, Guide to Gracious Killing. In it, my heroine, Donna Stone, is charged with protecting  the Russian president from assassins while he's the guest of an American billionaire. Of course, both an assassin and the billionaire make their appearance at exactly the wrong time: while Donna is trying to take a shower.

Awkward.

 
HAH-2-Book-Set (4)Enjoy it. And if you do, feel free to buy it. 

In fact, if you haven't yet read Book 1, The Housewife Assassin's Handbook you can get it free right now, either by itself, or along with Book 2, in The Housewife Assassin's Killer 2-Book Set.

 

EXCERPT

I’ve just clicked on the dryer again, when
there’s another knock on the door. I crack it open to find a maid standing
there, with an armful of towels. “Shall I take them into the bathroom, Madame?”
Her accent is slightly British, which is par for the course around here.

“No, that’s okay. I’ll take them.”

She smiles and hands them to me.

That’s when I see it—a small tattoo of a wolf on
her left arm.

Her eyes follow mine. She senses I know who she
is.

Her arm comes up toward my face. I block it with
my forearm, then kick her in the gut. She falls back, slamming into the
dresser. This stuns her, but just for a second. She reaches behind her and
yanks the dryer from the electrical socket. In no time at all, she’s got the
cord wrapped around both her wrists and arms.

“You won’t stop me from killing him.” Her vow is
soft, but deadly. “With what he’s done to others like me? That pig does not
deserve to live!”

“Trust me I get it. But it’s not happening here,
or now.”

We both know I can’t talk her out of her mission
anymore than she can talk me out of mine: to save Asimov’s sorry ass.

We circle each other warily, assessing each
other’s weaknesses: She’s got more bulk than me, but she’s also slower. I’m
taller, too. Best yet, I’m now up against the dresser. Obviously, she considers
this a weakness because she charges me.

Even with the cord wrapped around my neck, all
it takes is one squirt of my spray cologne in her eyes to blind her.

She stumbles into the bathroom, dragging me with
her into the shower, where she turns on the water, full force. She’s hoping to
wash the sting out of her eyes.

What she doesn’t count on is my ability to kick
her into the shower.

She bangs her head against the marble wall.
Before she comes to her senses, I untangle myself from the cord, plug the dryer
into an electrical socket, and throw it into the tub.

Wolverine’s death mask stare and the smell of
her frying skin sends me gagging from the room followed by a shower of sparks
as the electrical system shorts out.

I shut the bathroom door, then lay down on the
bed to catch my breath.

This time when there’s a tap on the door, I
throw it open, to let Jack in.

But no. It’s Jonah Breck.

I pull my robe tightly around me. “My husband is
out right now.”

He smirks. “I know, dear. That’s why I’m here.
Don’t worry, we’ve got all the time in the world. He’s with the Japanese
defense minister, who is somewhat long-winded.” From behind him, he pulls a
bottle of Tattinger’s and two champagne glasses. “I presume you’re finding your
accommodations to your liking.”

“In all honesty, there’s a short in the
bathroom’s electrical system—”

Before I can say another word, he has backed me
onto the bed. When my robe falls open, he whips the sash out from around me.
Before I know it, he’s flipped me onto my stomach.

“I could use that drink right now,” I gasp, as
he binds my wrists with the sash.

“We’ll celebrate afterward.” I hear him fumbling
with his zipper. “You will, anyway. Trust me, I’ll have you begging for more.”

Promises, promises.

I struggle and try to sweet talk him some sense
into him, but no use. He’s got me pinned. I’ve just about given up any hope of
the Calvary coming when there is a sharp knock on the door.

“Mrs. Stone?” Both Breck and I recognize
Edwina’s voice. “Mrs. Stone, your daughter requests you come immediately.”

“Answer her.” Breck’s hot breath sears my ear.

I shout, “I’ll—I’ll be right there.”

“I’ll have to escort you. The girls are eating
in the south wing media room tonight, and with security as tight as it is… Well,
you can just imagine.”

Breck mutters a curse as he rolls off me. Even
as he unties me with one hand, the other gently follows the curve of my ass—

When he smacks it hard, I swallow the urge to
cry out.

“A love tap. There’s more where that came from.
You’ll love the tour of my dungeon.”

He’s got a dungeon? His corporate bio doesn’t
mention a sadistic streak, but yeah, okay, makes sense. 

I leap up and grab my dress, which is hanging
over the chair.

Breck smiles as I struggle into it. “Allow me to
zip you up.”

I suppress a shudder at the thought of his hands
anywhere on me. Instead, I nod.

He presses the zipper into my skin as he inches
it up, ever so slowly. When he’s done, I feel his lips grazing my neck. They
linger there as he breathes in the scent of my skin, sweat, and disgust.

How I long to smash that champagne bottle over
my host’s head, but seriously, what kind of guest would that make me?

And besides, I can’t deal with the disposal of
two dead bodies tonight.

Before I leave, I flip off Elvis Costello.

I can just imagine Ryan and Arnie’s shock and
awe at seeing Breck slithering out of the room.

I don’t even want to think about Jack’s
reaction.

Let alone what he’ll say about the fried maid in
the shower. I guess I have a lot of explaining to do.

c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (info@signaleditorial.com).

 


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Guide to Gracious Killing 
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Thursday Couple’s Kiss: “Catch and Release”

EmbarrassMeKiss
If she had been expecting his kiss, it would have landed on her lips, as opposed to her eye. 

Or maybe not.

If she'd been expecting it, she might have pushed him away.

Or run in the opposite direction.

Or come up with a million excuses as to why she ducked and dodged him.

"I haven't brushed my teeth," she might have said. Or, "Stop! Someone might be watching!" Or "Not now… not here… not me."

But he took away her option to say no.

Instead, he gave her the option to fall in love.

Then he let her go.

He learned this while fishing. "Catch and release," it's called.

But women aren't fish. They love the chase. They imagine the possibilities. 

They anticipate his next kiss.

— Josie



HAH-Hanging-Man-Oct-5-2012Free!

The Housewife Assassin's Handbook!

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Read an excerpt…

 

– EVERY DESPERATE HOUSEWIFE WANTS AN ALIAS: Donna Stone has one…and it happens to be government-sanctioned.
– BUT DONNA EARNED IT THE HARD WAY: Her husband was killed the day she delivered their third child.
– TO AVENGE HER HUSBAND'S MURDER: Donna leads a secret life: as an assassin.
– BUT ESPIONAGE MAKES FOR STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: And brings new meaning to that old adage, "Honey, I'm home…"

TGIF Excerpt: The Housewife Assassin’s Handbook: “Her Kitten Heel on His Throat”

Man-wearing-towelI've been told that the verbal sparring between Donna Stone, the heroine in The Housewife Assassin's Handbook, and Jack Craig, the hero of the series, is hot enough to steam an ice cube. 

Works for me.

For my TGIF except, I've chosen their first meet-up, which has Jack on his back with Donna's heel at his throat.

But not for long.

Enjoy! And if you do so, download from Amazon, Kobo, or Apple, where it's free. It's 99 cents  in BN.com. I've put links below the exerpt.

Josie

EXCERPT

“You know, you’re kind of cute when you’re
angry.” When, finally, he can speak, his words come out in a husky mutter.

I’m guessing that’s because I’ve got my kitten
heel on his jugular.

He’s lucky I’m not wearing my six-inch fuck-me
stilettos.

“You think so? You should ask around about
that…Oh, sorry, you can’t—because anyone who’s seen me really angry has never
lived to tell about it.”

Despite my chokehold, he’s able to mumble out,
“I love it when you talk dirty to me.”

“Oh yeah? Tell, me, do you love it when I do
this?” I press his arm to the breaking point. “And how about this?” I lean down
on my heel again, but just enough.

I’m enjoying the sound of him rasping for air
when, from the other side of the door, I hear Mary ask, “Mom, is everything
okay in there?”

That breaks my concentration, enough for him to
grab my ankle. Next thing I know it’s me who’s facedown, on the bed. I can feel
his knee in the center of my back. The pressure he’s putting on me is
excruciating, but I’m not going to let him know that.

“If you don’t answer her, she’ll walk in here
and find us… like this.” This is murmured more as a promise than a threat. I
don’t know what makes me angrier: the thought that he thinks he’s scaring me,
or the realization that the warmth of his breath on my cheek is turning me on.

Either way, I won’t give him the satisfaction of
knowing it.

I resist the urge to spit in his face. Instead I
collect myself, and then in my best sing-song mommy voice, I answer, “Yes,
honey, everything is fine! We’re just moving a few boxes in the closet. Why
don’t you go downstairs and check on the chicken? If it’s browned, lower the
oven to 275. Oh! And do me a favor, and mash the potatoes.”

“Um… Okay. Just call down if you need anything.”
She sounds uncertain, but a moment later I hear all three of my children
clomping down the stairs.

He’s listening closely, too. I inch my one free
hand up slowly. I’m hoping to punch him in the groin—

As if reading my mind, he grabs my arm and curls
it behind my back. “Gee, Mrs. Stone, I didn’t take you for the kind who liked
the rough stuff, but whatever turns you on.”

To keep from groaning in pain, I let loose with
a litany of words that, had I’d heard them coming from my own kids’ mouths,
would have me reaching for a bar of soap.

“You’ve got quite a little potty mouth, now
don’t you?” To drive his point home, he gives me a smack on the ass. “You know,
I can play like this all night, but the boss man may not be too pleased that
we’re keeping him waiting.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” I hiss at
him. “Just who are you, anyway?”

I guess he realizes that this really isn’t my
idea of a meet-and-greet because suddenly he eases his knee off my back. “You
mean you really don’t know? And all this time I thought this was just your way
of welcoming me to the family. I hadn’t had you pegged for the type who gets
into rough foreplay—”

“Foreplay?” I’m so riled that I sit straight up.
So, he wants it rough? Wait until I pull out the Taser I’ve stashed under the
mattress…

Then it hits me: “Wait, start over. What do you
mean, ‘welcoming you to the family?’ Just who are you, anyway?”

“I’m Jack Craig—”

The name sounds familiar. Where have I heard
it…?

Now I remember! What is it that they call him on
the spook loops? Oh, yeah: Wild Card Jack. The agent known to shirk protocol
whenever it suits him; to bend the rules according to his whims. He’s not above
going rogue when the impulse hits—

Especially if there’s a woman around to impress.

“—but you can call me ‘Carl darling.’ That’s as
my new alias.”

I can’t believe my ears. “The mission calls for
you to pretend to be my husband? No! No way in Hell—”

“Look lady, don’t shoot the messenger. It was
Ryan’s idea. I told him it was crazy, too.” He shrugs. “No one in their right
mind would believe I’d be attracted to someone like you—”

“Oh yeah?…What’s wrong with me anyway?”

“Well to be honest, you’re not exactly my type.”

I’m trying hard not to snicker. “Considering
what I’ve heard about your ‘type,’ I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Your reputation precedes you, too—or haven’t
you noticed that Wikipedia uses your photo beside the definition of ‘man-ho.’”

“You see? This is exactly what I told Ryan.
You’re one of those women who have no self-control. You’ll just fly off the
handle, mission be damned. Being saddled with you would just tie me down.”

“You’ve got some nerve, saying that to me!” I
reach for the phone. “I’m calling Ryan right now.”

“Fine by me. If we’re going to take down the
Quorum, I’ll need a swallow who doesn’t carry around her emotional baggage like
a third boob—”

“Third boob? Why you…. Wait! The Quorum? What’s
that got to do with you?”

A brow raises just as the smirk hits his lips.
“What, you haven’t had time to read the directive? I saw you at the drop. I
know the cut-out in the ice cream truck handed you the order—”

“You were there, watching us in the park?”

“Sure. Hey, I’m no fool. I didn’t want to walk
in here and get blown away for breaking and entering.”

I can’t help but shrug proudly.

But then he ruins it by adding “Besides, it’s
ice cream. From the looks of things”—he scrutinizes my backside critically—“I’m
guessing you’re not opposed to a sugar fix every now and then. I would have
guessed you’d have torn into it before you even got into that mommy mobile
they’ve saddled you with.”

“How dare you!”

“Just teasing. Look, it’s not as if you’re a
total heifer but a little toning up wouldn’t hurt. Might get rid of those love
handles.” He has the audacity to put his hands on my hips.

When I try to slap them away, he smiles, but he
doesn’t let go. Instead he nudges me closer, as if we’re playing some sort of
game, until I’m right up against his rock hard abdomen—

And it’s not the only thing that’s hard—

“You know what they say: sex is the best
exercise,” he coaxes seductively. “Since we’ve got to play house anyway, might
as well enjoy the fringe benefits, right? Hey, I won’t even mind if you close
your eyes and call me Carl—”

My punch to his jaw has him reeling backward,
into the wall. “Dream on, you son of a bitch. Just to let you know: you’re not
half the man Carl was.”

He grimaces as he rubs his jaw. “Just trying to
do my conjugal duty.”

“Get dressed. And make it snappy. I want to get
this meeting with Ryan over pronto. I’ve got to be home before eight, to put
Trisha to bed.”

“Speaking of beds, do you like the right side,
or the left? For that matter, are you a top or a bottom? Not that I’m partial,
either way—”

To shut him up, I toss his clothes at him.

As he grabs for them, his towel drops to the
floor and I’m given a full-on view as to what all the spook loop fuss is about—

Wow.

Okay, I’m wrong. He’s got at least one thing in
common with Carl.

To hide my shock and awe, I turn and walk out of
the room, slamming the door behind me.

Even from the bottom of the stairway I can hear
him laughing.

 ***

I tell Mary that we’ll be back in time for
dinner, but just in case our “run to the store” takes longer than expected, she
is to put Trisha to bed no later than eight, and for Jeff and her to go down no
later than ten.

She gives Jack a shy peck on the cheek. On the
other hand, Trisha throws herself into Jack’s arms, body, and soul. It only
takes a second for his initial look of shock to melt into gentle appreciation.
Jeff’s wary handshake is taken just as seriously.

I wonder if this cover is going to be harder for
him than he initially imagined.

Already my heart is breaking. Shame on Ryan for
putting my family’s emotional wellbeing at risk! He better have a hell of a
good reason for doing this to us.

Jack and I take separate cars. He refuses to be
seen in my “mommy mobile.” That’s fine with me. The way he peels out in his
Lamborghini Aventador roadster, I’ve no doubt he’s just an accident waiting to
happen.

Three heads that turn as he races down Main
Street are those belonging to Penelope, Tiffy, and Hayley. They’re sitting at
one of the outdoor tables in front of our local Starbucks, dishing some
neighbor’s dirt, I suppose. As Jack idles at the corner, Penelope licks her
Collagened lips and lifts her sunglasses in order to get a better view of him.

This is not lost on Jack. Through his side-view
mirror, I can see him honoring her with a wink and that lazy smile of his.

It’s all I can do not to ram him from behind.

Instead I lay on the horn.

As he screeches out of the grand gates fronting
Hilldale, I wave at them sweetly. The way they show their obvious
disappointment is to ignore me.

I wonder how they’d treat me if they thought
Jack was my husband. They’d be jealous, for sure. But I know better than to
presume it would earn me their friendships, let alone their respect.

Not that it matters. As soon as I lay down the
law to Ryan, Jack Craig will just be a fond fantasy for Hilldale’s mères terrible.

An even bigger problem is explaining to my
children that he’s not who they think—and hope—he is:

Their father.

Copyright © 2011 by Josie Brown. Published in May 2011 by Signal Press. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Author.

————————————————-



HAH-Hanging-Man-Oct-5-2012

Murder. Suspense. Sex. And some handy household tips.

 
The Housewife Assassin's Handbook
(Book 1) 
Signal Press 

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ho they think—and hope—he is:

Their father.

 

Hump Day Haiku: “Verbal Smackdown”

Crying

 

His words hit, like stones.

I pummel him with my tears.

 Yes, it's true. Love hurts

– Josie

 

 


HA-RSG-Final-V2
To celebrate the launch of 
The Housewife Assassin's Relationship Survival Guide
I'm giving away a $100 gift card
 to the bookstore of your choice!

Click here for details…

 

 

 


Excerpt from Book 3 of the HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN Series: First Kiss

Pacific_coast_highway
As we head into summer, I'm both surprised and proud of the fact that the third book in the Housewife Assassin series, Killer Christmas Tips, is still selling strong.

Despite the title, this book less to do with the season it was set in, and more to do with the fact that readers who love the series don't want to miss any of the consecutive plot points that deal with the series' overriding story arc: 

– Will Acme operatives, Donna Stone and Jack Craig, finally take down the world's best financed international terrorist group known as the Quorum? 

– Will Donna ever be able to love and trust again, despite the betrayal she felt over Carl's lies and deception?

– And will she and Jadk  find the missing intel on its agents and assets before the Quorum gets it?

As these two scenes in particular demonstrate, setting Book 3 during the holiday season allowed me to test Donna's faith: in herself, in her core values, and in her fellow beings.

Enjoy,

— Josie

EXCERPT

“So, how old
were you when you had your first kiss?”

Jack’s
question almost has me swerving off the road.

The decision
to take his car was probably a smart one because we may need a quick getaway,
and my mommy-mobile doesn’t have the same zero-to-sixty pick-up as Jack’s
Lamborghini. The decision for me to drive also makes sense, since he may have
to be running like hell carrying a shoulder-launched missile, and won’t have
time to fumble for his keys.

His decision
to play Twenty-one Questions may be one he regrets, should we crash.

To ensure we
don’t, I hold tight to the steering wheel and keep my eyes straight ahead. Not
because he’s shocked me, but because I’d hate for him to see that my face has
turned candy apple red.

“Let’s just
say I was old enough.”

“Come on,
answer the question honestly.”

“Will you do
the same?”

“Absolutely.
Cross my heart.”

I sigh.
“Okay. I was fifteen. And yes, the boy broke my heart.”

He laughs.

“What’s so
funny?”

“I was
worried you hadn’t been kissed until college.”

“You take too
much stock in what Aunt Phyllis says. She’s under the impression I was as pure
as driven snow until Carl and I… well, until I was married.”

“So Carl
wasn’t your first either?” He’s trying so hard to act nonchalant.

“To be
perfectly honest, not only wasn’t he my first, he wasn’t my even ‘best’.”

Jack’s sly
smile presumes soooo much. But in a
flash, his smile is gone.

“At this
juncture in our relationship, I think I need to tell you… Oh never mind.”

I guess this
is where I hear some soul-searching blather about Valentina. I brace myself for
the worst. “Don’t be such a tease. Just come out and say it.”

“I don’t know
if you want to hear this.”

“Well, guess
what? You won’t know if you don’t tell me, so spit it out.”

“I love you.”

I take a deep
breath. “Ditto.”

He laughs.
“Well, that’s romantic.”

“Let’s save
the romance until after we save the world, shall we?”

“I’m glad one
of us has our priorities in order.” He stares out the window. It’s already
dark, so there is not much to look at. “Then I guess this is also a bad time to
ask you to marry me.”

I screech off
onto the shoulder of the road, and turn off the engine. As much as I like
having a thousand horsepower engine at my fingertips, I’d be disappointed if a
knee-jerk reaction came between me and my happily ever after.

“You now have
my complete attention,” I murmur sweetly.

“I’m asking
if you’ll marry me.” He picks up my hand. When his fingers wrap around mine, I
wonder why I’d ever let go.

Then the
answer hits me—to get to our final destination in one piece.

“Why now,
Jack? And why here?”

“Why not?” He
turns to face me, but his features are hidden in shadows, only revealing
themselves in the fleeting headlights of passing cars. “There will always be
some crisis to overcome. Some more… bullshit,
somewhere in the world.”

Some bad guys
to kill. Some long-buried secret to rear its ugly head.

Some
deserting spouse to confront.

Which reminds
me, “We’re both still married.”

He shrugs.
“So let’s go to Vegas and set things straight.”

He makes me
laugh. “I like the Bellagio.” I look down into my lap. “I guess you’re over
Valentina in a big way.”

He doesn’t
nod. He just looks straight ahead.

His silence
speaks volumes.

If only he’d
lied and said, “Yes, of course I am! What do you take me for, a fool?”

But no, I’m
the fool. For presuming he’s over her, just because she’s over him.

“When she saw
me, she told me Carl wasn’t in love with her. That he was still in love with
me.” I can’t help myself. I have to say it to him, to see if it makes a
difference to him.

His mouth
tightens. “Do you believe her?”

“What, about
Carl? Ha! You said it best. The only one Carl truly loves is himself, and the
power he’s able to grab from who knows where.”

“Then, why
won’t he leave you alone?”

“Because he
can’t have me. Because I love you instead.”

There. I’ve said it.

I restart the
engine and it roars back to life. “We’ve got a date with a stolen missile.
Let’s do this,” I say as Jack’s Lamborghini leaps back onto the road.

We drive the
remaining few miles in silence.

Is enough for
him to truly love me back? Or now, having been told Valentina never really had
Carl’s affections, will he try to win her back?

I know I’ll
have to wait for his answer—

“We’re here,”
he murmurs.

So we are, I think coming out of my fog.

Saved by the
bomb.

I pull into
the far side of the parking lot, out of view from the reception area, where the
security guard is parked in front of an old big screen TV that must have been
confiscated from an abandoned storage unit.

“Break a
leg,” I say as he climbs out of the car.

He shuts the
car door before he hears me whisper, “And yes, I’ll marry you.”

Maybe it’s
for the best. Let’s face it. My answer doesn’t count if he’s already changed
his mind.

 ****

In life, just
about everything is timing.

If I hadn’t
been at a certain shooting range on a certain Spring break during college, I
would have never met Carl.

If I hadn’t
been in the bedroom to answer his cell while he was in the shower one day, I
would not have set into motion the chain of events that would have made him realize
he needed to disappear from the life we’d created together.

If Acme
hadn’t been looking for a few honeypots right about the time they yanked Carl’s
pension from me, I would’ve taken a job as an assistant at a bank, or made time
to be a class mom, instead of collecting a rogue’s gallery of scalps on my
belt.

And if Jack
hadn’t brought Carl home with him after one mission went awry, Valentina would
never have fallen in love with Carl, and left Jack for him.

None of this
I regret. Because if none of it had happened, I would have never have met Jack.

What I do
regret, however, as Safe & Sound’s Storage Unit Number 121 blows off the
back wing of the building, is that Jack never heard me say “Yes” when he asked
me to marry him.

I run past
the security guard, who stumbles out of the building in a total state of shock
and denial. Deadly blasts are way above his pay scale of fourteen dollars an
hour.

“Where is the
man who just went in there?” I shout at him “Did he make it out?”

He shakes his
head and cups his ear, to indicate he hasn’t heard a word I’ve said.

I pull him
far away from the debris field, which is scattered far and wide. Coats and
dresses and pants float through the air like cloth clouds, while bed frames
pinwheel through the parking lot. Family photos float down from the night sky
in a storm of confetti.

People hold
onto too much crap.

If something
is important in your life, you’ll make room for it.

I hear
ambulances in the distance, heading this way. I don’t have much time if I’m
going to find Jack. What if he’s injured and can’t get out by himself?

I run into
the building and down the main hall, but I can’t see which way to turn because
the smoke pouring out is too thick, and worse, smells like melted plastic. I
can’t breathe. My lungs are on fire.

I’m crazy to
think Jack has survived the explosion.

As I pass
out, the only thing I can think of is how I wish I’d been with Jack at the very
end.

(c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (info@signaleditorial.com).

 


HAKCTv2The Housewife Assassin's
Killer Christmas Tips (Book 3)
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Mad Housewife Monday: Kelly Reemtsen’s Flower Power

Flower Power
One of my all-time favorite artists is Kelly Reemtsen. She so aptly captures the desperation of the ladies who lunch — especially when they get a bee under their bonnet about something.

Take this painting, called “Flower Power.”  The way this wifey in the retro shift holds her hedge clippers implies self-emmolation. And yet, her cocked knee implies a dark streak for dangerous flirtation. Perhaps she's saying, “Approach at your own risk.”

Truly a thorny situation.

Ms. Reemtsen's paintings can be found in the Skidmore ContemporaryArt (Los Angeles) and the David Klein Gallery (Birmingham, MI). If you're close by, they are worth the visit.

— Josie


To celebrate the launch of
The Housewife Assassin's
Relationship Survival Guide
 (Book 4),
I'm giving away a $100 gift card

to the bookstore of your choice!

Click here for details…

 

Hump Day Haiku: “Cross Purposes”

Conflcit

We say the same thing

But we don't hear each other

Let's not speak. Just…touch.

 

— Josie

 

Guess what's free right now?


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Free! 
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Read an excerpt…

Midnight Delight! A brand new excerpt of HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING

Man-hand-on-woman-shoulder3This was my birthday month. I'm one year younger, and one year wiser. (Think "Benjamin Button." Um… Yeah right, sure.)

As do most wise people, I don't celebrate myself, but those I appreciate. 

 That's where you come in.

This excerpt is for you, folks.

As the seconds count down on in thislast day of this beautiful Spring month, I've put up a new excerpt from Book 2 of the Housewife Assassin series, Guide to Gracious Killing

I put so much of myself into my books, which is why I want to share with you.

This ones got a real hot button: a host behaving badly, to the point where he almost rapes my heroine, Donna Stone. Don't fret. She can hold her own against anyone, including this well-connected manslut.

If you enjoy it, I'm glad I put a smile on your face. Hopefully, you'll go ahead and purchase it, which will add to my birthday joy. (And your joy, too, since it's cheaper than one of those fancy cups of java down at your local Starbucks). 

Enjoy!

— Josie

EXCERPT

The dining room isn’t one at all, but a library,
which is supposed to be “cozy,” despite its football-field-length,
wall-to-ceiling books, two-story-high ceilings, and a fireplace large enough to
hold three men and a little Bentley.

The table is round, which allows for optimum
placement of the eight guests between the host and hostess. I’m seated to the
right of Breck, and Franz is next to me. On his right is Felicity, with
Rutherford beside her. That puts Babette to his right and directly across the
table from Breck. Jack sits to Babette’s right, and Edwina on the other side of
him, with Garrett on her right. Hans is sandwiched between Garrett and Breck.

Franz and Hans, who sit opposite each other, speak
perfect English to everyone else, but hold side discussions in their native
language. My earrings are embedded with an audio feed that allows Ryan to
whisper sweet nothings into my ear. He promises to do so, should the bugs Arnie
has planted in the flowers that adorn the table and the rest of the room pick
up anything Jack and I should be warned about. It will be interesting to hear
the translation between Franz and Hans. Even if their phrases are seemingly
innocuous, I wonder if any codes will be detected.

For the most part, the conversation is polite,
the service by a phalanx of butlers is attentive to a fault, and the meal is
perfect. How can you go wrong with piquillo gazpacho as your first course,
followed by a chilled Dungeness crab salad, roasted Pacific Northwest salmon
with a vegetable ragout, and lime meringue pie topped with mango and raspberry
ice sorbet? And of course, each course served with white and red gold-medal
varietals.

In social settings, what is said isn’t as
important as what you see. Even before the appetizer was served, Edwina had
shifted her body away from Garrett, as if to avoid him and to focus on Jack. I
can’t blame her. The guy gives me the willies, too.

Jack is gracious enough to answer her questions
about the community and his role in his investment firm, but he’s smart enough
to share his remarks and attentions with Babette.

Garrett’s placement must be ideal for him,
because he’s practically fawning over Hans. Even when I compliment her on her
dress, Felicity ignores me and does the same to Franz. Once snubbed, twice
considering slipping a roofie into her wine glass. What am I, chopped liver?

No. Apparently, I’m presumed to be Breck’s
playmate du jour.

This is made obvious by the leer and wink he
gives me after I try to broach the topic of Great Britain’s LIBOR debacle and
its affect on American banks. I have to bite my tongue to keep from telling him
that it’s me, not my breasts, speaking to him.

Right as the main course is served, Jack looks
over at me. Feigning concern, he asks, “Donna dear, you promised Trisha you’d
bring her teddy bear. Have you given it to her yet?”

“Oh! No…I have it in my purse.” I glance over at
Babette. “If you don’t mind, Babette, I’ll just walk it down to the nursery.”

Babette nods. With a slight wave, she summons
over one of the butlers. “Jamison will show you the way.”

 ***

Trisha is happy to get a kiss, a hug and her
teddy bear, but she makes it clear that she’s not ready to go home by putting
her arm around her new pal and burrowing under the blanket they share. Nothing
like bonding over ice cream in bed while Brave
plays on a screen that takes up one whole wall of the nursery.

Ah, the good life.

Jamison has already scurried back to his post,
having been assured I can easily find my way back.

I can, but I don’t. Instead, I take a detour
into Breck’s office and go to work.

The room is simple and elegant. Over a credenza
is a John Singer Sargent portrait of a young wasp-waisted Victorian beauty. On
another wall, a crowd meanders through a Parisian market through the
surrealistic eyes of Georges Seurat.

Breck’s desk is large, glass, and empty. Where
the hell is his computer?

Then I see it: a laptop, on the credenza.

Quickly, I remove a thumb drive from my bracelet
and insert it into the computer. While it does its thing, I lean over the desk
for a better look at the Sargent…

“Beautiful, isn’t she?”

Breck’s voice sends a trickle of dread down my
spine.

I lift my lips into a smile before turning
around. “I saw it first a few years ago, when you loaned it to the Getty. It is
one of my favor—”

Before I can finish my sentence, his tongue is
down my throat, and his hand is on the lower part of my back. He has me leaning
so far back that I’m practically horizontal across the credenza.

Sure, I could bite his tongue until he squeals
in pain. And yeah, I can yank his arm out of the socket so that it hangs
helplessly at his side. But if I do that before another two minutes is up, I’ll
blow our mission to hell.

So instead, I try not to gag as he cups me on
the ass and grinds into me. I moan as if I like it. In truth, this horizontal
boogieman has me pressed up against something sharp. I reach behind to pull it
out—

Hmmm, a sterling silver letter opener, engraved
with his initials. As he conducts a more thorough incisor exam than I’ve gotten
from my dentist, I try to guess how far his blood would spurt if I follow
through on my urge to stab his jugular with it…

Out of the corner of my eye, I notice the thumb
drive is blinking. It’s my cue to kiss him hard, and grab it fast.

I reach over slowly. Unfortunately, this means I
have to inch closer to Breck. He takes it as a cue to fumble with his belt and
zipper.

Um…. No. No
way in hell

I whip out the thumb drive. Then, as I push him
away, I gasp, “I—I can’t do this! I love my husband too much!”

His smile fades. He stares down at me, as if
deciding if I’m serious, or just a tease.

In any event, he’s still intrigued. I know this
because he bruises my lips with a long kiss, then murmurs, “You can. And you
will.”

He takes my smile as tacit understanding that
he’s right.

Wrong. I have to force myself to drop the
envelope opener, before I do something I’ll regret.

He zips up, and then straightens his jacket and
tie. “In the meantime, feel free to hang out with Babette during the summit. I
want you two to get to know each other well. That way, when you give up your
pathetic attempt at propriety, she won’t suspect a thing.”

Without a backward glance, he walks out the
door.

Jeez. Seriously? Whatever happened to “ladies
first?”

The man needs a lesson in good manners.

Accompanied by a horsewhip.

(c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (info@signaleditorial.com).

 


Guide-to-Gracious-Killing-FinalThe Housewife Assassin's 
Guide to Gracious Killing 
(Book 2) Only $3.99! 

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Donna and Jack are in the kind of hot mess that can cause an international incident:

A nuclear arms summit, hosted by a politically-connected American billionaire industrialist, provides the perfect opportunity for a rogue operative to assassinate of the newly-elected Russian president on US soil. Acme operative Donna Stone's mission:

Seek and exterminate the shooter, before all hell–and World War III–break loose.

Also on Donna's to-do list: file for divorce.

Throw in a couple of play dates and a few naughty neighbors, you've got a whole lot of fun.

 

TGIF Excerpt: What do you do when your car goes into a lake?

Woman-floating
I've had three near-death experiences in water. The third one occurred when I was fifteen. I drove my boyfriend's car into a lake.

To top it off, I can't really swim.

Thank God for the dog paddle.

The lake was deep, but small enough that I could make it to the side–with the help of my boyfriend. Thank God he was smart enough to jump in the back seat and kick out a door before the water pressure made it impossible. I was an idiot. I thought the damn car would float, like the ones in the Volkswagen ads.

He had a Chevy Impala.

I guess I channeled that experience in this excerpt. It's one of my favorites from The Housewife Assassin's Killer Christmas Tips.  'Tis not the season. Then again, Death never takes a holiday.

— Josie

EXCERPT

Zoran is a chatterbox. He hasn’t quit talking
since we pulled out of the garage. Having dropped his fake British accent, his
sentences slip and slide over Slavic pronouns and badass claims.

I make it easy for him. I can’t talk, let alone
move. In other words, I’m a captive audience, both literally and figuratively.

Lucky me.

“I would have liked to have given you a truth
serum first, to find out who sent you. The Muslims? The Croats? Surely it
wasn’t my old friends, the Serbs? And it can’t be the Mexican government. They
have bigger worries than the disappearance of a few grape pickers. If only the
injection I gave you allowed you to nod at my questions, but it won’t wear off
for a couple of hours.”

Nod? I wish I could reach up and pull the tongue
out of his head. We’ve been in the car for at least an hour now, and he’s been
giving me a science lesson on what to expect while on his operating table.

He describes his favorite instrument: a Blue Max
eighteen-inch 45 cc Heavy Duty gas chainsaw. He uses it to chop up the bodies
after cutting open his victims and removing vital organs, while they’re still
alive of course. He explains that, like me, they were first given a
neuromuscular block to paralyze them. But he’s such a sicko that he skips the
anesthesia that would block their pain.

“We should be at my ranch in another hour.” As
if reading my mind, he adds, “The drug won’t wear off before we get there. And
by the way, any friends who may come looking for you will be disappointed. You
see, the cabin is not in my name. It belonged to a now-deceased fellow whom I
met while fishing on Big Bear Lake. The lonely old hermit died of a sudden
heart attack while feeding his hogs! They ate him too. Can you imagine that?
You see, to those animals, human flesh is a delicacy, compared to the garbage
they ate before I came along. As you can imagine, I keep them well fed. Tonight
they will be feasting, ecstatically I might add, on your leftovers.”

Not if I can help it.

Seems I’ll have some help with Los Angeles’
typical late Friday afternoon traffic. As the I-10 crawls east toward San
Bernardino Valley, every now and again Zoran looks back at me in the rear-view
mirror. I keep my face totally still. The whole drive I’ve been memorizing
turns, and looking out the window for glimpses of expressway signs.

I vow to get back to my children. My
twelve-year-old daughter, Mary, and my ten-year-old son, Jeff, need to be picked
up from basketball practice. And before after-school pickup, I was going to
stop at a toy store in East South Central, which, I’ve been told, still has a
few Furbys on the shelf. I have every intention on watching five-year-old
Trisha squeal with delight when she opens one on Christmas morning.

And of course, Jack knows Ratko was on my to-do
list today. If I don’t show up, he’ll be frantic. From the day of Trisha’s
birth and until before Jack came into their lives, I’d lied to my children and
told them their father had gone away, “on business.”

Did it stop them from feeling deserted? No.

If Ratko has his way and I disappear into the
gullets of some hogs in the middle of nowhere, once again they’ll be
devastated.

This resolve drives my desire to move any
appendage. By the time we turn onto State Road 330 going north, I’m able to
bend a random finger, to curl a single toe. Twenty minutes later, by the time
he has veered left onto State Road 18, I can finally flex my ankle, and then my
wrist. Now, if only I could move my arms…

I can, just barely.

“Almost there,” he chortles gaily. “By the way,
the hogs love the sound of the saw. To them, it’s the dinner bell. When I turn
it on, you’ll hear them squealing with delight. Then again, maybe not, since
you’ll be screaming even louder.” He pauses, as if a new thought has just
struck him. Too bad it isn’t a hammer instead. “Tell me, Mrs. Pitt or whatever
your name is, are you a drinker? No problem if you can’t nod. I guess I’ll know
soon enough. The telltale sign is any swelling of the liver. If so, I won’t be
able to sell it. That’s okay. I’ll enjoy it myself, with grilled onions, and a
hint of dill—”

The thought of being the main course in Ratko
Zoran’s dinner propels me upward.

Between the crux of my elbow and the driver-side
headrest, Ratko is in a headlock from which he cannot move. He chokes and
flails, but I refuse to let go. Although the car swerves all over the road at
sixty-miles an hour, I hold tight. Then, on the count of three I wrench his
head fast, to the right, until I hear the snap that tells me I’ve broken his
neck.

Only after he chortles his last gasp do I look
up. Before my death grip, Zoran had steered the car onto the Stanfield Cutoff,
a sliver of a road that unites both sides of Bear Lake at its narrowest
juncture. The car sidles off the unprotected shoulder and into the lake.

There is no time to jump out before it nose-dives
into the lake.

The BMW sinks below the lake’s cold, choppy
waves. The water pressure against the doors keep it sealed, like a tomb. With
the electrical system dead, I can’t open a window, either. Soon the oxygen will
be exhausted. I can hold my breath for three minutes, tops.

Still, I’ll be damned if I’m going to be found
in the bottom of this lake with this war criminal. Not with Christmas just
around the corner.

I’m pounding on the window when it hits me. My diamond.

Immediately, I etch around the back window with
my ring. Then I brace myself on the back of the front seat before kicking it
out with both feet.

The force of the kick pushes out the glass, and
me with it. As the water flows into the vacuum of dead air I leave behind, I
feel myself being sucked into the dark, frigid abyss. I force myself to open my
eyes, to look for light, anywhere.

Finally, over my head, I see something. My lungs
burn as I kick with all my strength, toward the brightness.

I burst up out of the water like a buoy submerged
too deep, for too long. I cough out water and fear while bobbing in the gentle
waves of the lake.

My teeth chatter as I swim to shore. I don’t
care that I look like a drowned rat. I’m still alive.

When I reach the road, I head west, the way we
came. I’ll keep running until I come across a store, or someone with a cell
phone, so that I can let Jack and the kids know I may be late, but that I’ll be
home, soon.

They must be worried sick about me.

*

“Mom! Where have you been? We’ve been waiting
here since basketball practice ended two hours ago!”

Jeff’s way of saying Thanks, Mom for picking me up, and boy do I miss you and love you and
can’t live without you
leaves a lot to be desired.

Yes, admittedly, I’m late for my turn at
carpooling Jeff and his two pals, Morton Smith and Cheever Bing, from
basketball practice.

Hey, that’s what happens when a hit doesn’t go
according to plan.

I would have been much later, too, if a trucker
hauling artichokes and Roma tomatoes from the Central Valley hadn’t been kind
enough to give me a lift off the side of a lonely two-lane blacktop.

But just my luck, I hitched a ride with the only
trucker in the world who sees no need to have a cell phone when he's got his
trusty old Cobra CB radio, so I had no way to call Jack and let him know the
mission was accomplished, sort of.

When I hopped in the trucker’s cab, he warned me
he could take me only as far as downtown Los Angeles. But he changed his mind
and dropped me across the street from Ratko’s office in Beverly Hills when he
realized I knew every song on his Best of
Bonnie Raitt
CD.

He sighed and wiped away a tear as I finished
the last mournful stanza of “Not the Only One.”

“It’s as if Bonnie is sitting right here beside
me.”

“Thanks for the compliment,” I said, nodding
shyly. I may not be a redhead (at least, not today) but the raspy voice was
natural enough after that frigid dip in Big Bear Lake.

Little did the trucker know how much that
particular song means to me. Only recently I found out about Jack’s unresolved
feelings for Valentina.

To put it bluntly, I’m not his “only one.”

No doubt he’d claim the same about me. Not only
did my ex, Carl, let me in on Jack’s little secret in the hope of breaking us
up, he’s also made it clear that he plans on staying in my life, despite my
telling him to get lost.

Even his position as number three on every
terrorist watch list hasn’t kept him from wooing me, threatening me, and
shooting me.

I know he’s a crack shot, so it must be true
that love is blind.

Considering how many of my bullets have just
grazed him, I guess I have a few unresolved issues as well.

Now that I’m on dry land and within arms reach,
does my son even notice that I’m sopping wet from head to toe?

Nah. That would mean he’d have to look up from
the video game he’s playing on his cell phone.

Okay, I can play a game as well. “So sorry! I
was out Christmas shopping.”

His anger dissipates when he hears this. I can
tell by the silent shrug that accompanies his quick glance into the back of my Honda
SUV.

To dodge the fact that there are no store bags
anywhere in sight, I ask, “Why didn’t you call you father?”

“I did! But when I told him you weren’t picking
up your phone, he sounded sort of worried and hung up fast."

"Call him back and tell him I'm here."
The last thing I need is for Jack to worry about me, now that I'm safe and sound.

As he hits Jack's digits, Cheever pipes up. “And
my mom should be here any minute." Then he adds with a smirk, “But she
sounded pissed. You know, she schedules her mani-pedi when it’s your turn to
drive, so she can gossip with Mrs. Swift and Mrs. Cockhead… um, I mean Mrs. Coxhead.”

Cheever’s deliberate faux pas gets the desired effect. Morton snorts the last of his Red
Bull through his nose and almost chokes on it.

I wince when I hear this. Not because Morton
might suffocate on my watch (frankly, a loss of oxygen to his brain may calm
down the kid’s libidinous fantasies), but because it means I’ll get yet another
tongue lashing from Penelope Bing for showing up late to carpool.

There’s still time to beat her fair and square.
If he’s already at our house, and I fill his belly with a nourishing bowl of
Campbell’s tomato soup and Kraft grilled cheese sandwiches, she’ll have nothing
to bitch about.

I drill the boys with my best do as I say look. “Jump in! Now! I’ve
got a pot of hot soup and sandwiches waiting—”

“What about Mary?”

“Oh!” How could I forget my eldest daughter?
Thank goodness Trisha, my youngest, had an after-school play date with her pal
Janie Breck, whose mother owns the largest McMansion in Hilldale. “Well, where
is Mary? I asked her to wait here, with you.”

Cheever chortles like a hyena. “Making out under
the bleachers with Trevor Smith—”

Both Jeff and Morton slap their hands over his
mouth. “Shut your piehole, Cheever! They paid us a buck each to keep quiet,
remember?”

His bites to their palms have them yelping.
“Yeah, well, I warned them. Anything under a fiver, I have a selective memory.”

Mary’s crush on Trevor Smith, Morton’s brother
and the lead forward on Hilldale Middle School’s Varsity Wildcats basketball
team, grows exponentially with every three-pointer he makes. The last thing I
need to hear is that Mary and Trevor’s ongoing attraction for each other has
gone from shyly flirtatious wordplay to outright foreplay.

I jump out of the car and run into the gym. It’s
empty, but I hear moaning, and pain has nothing to do with it. I move quickly
but silently under the bleachers until I spot them huddled together on the
floor, eyes closed and lips pressed together.

By her fierce concentration, my guess is that
it’s not the first time she’s been kissed.

This realization is both sweet and bitter for
me. While your first kiss is a rite of passage that every girl dreams of, every
parent contemplates it with both angst and pride. Yes, we are proud that
someone sees the beauty in our child. But we dread the thought of her
experiencing heartbreak, or that she may grow up much too fast, and much too
soon.

When Mary fell for this guy, where was I? Doing
laundry? Watching Trisha attempt pirouettes in ballet class? Saving the world
from terrorists?

Wherever I was, it certainly doesn’t matter now.
Neither do my feelings about it. She has a right to grow up, fall in love, and
make her own mistakes.

Within reason! My goodness, she’s still twelve
years old.

And in time, she’ll understand she has nothing
to hide from me, that she can always share her celebrations with the one who
loves her as no one else can. She will realize I welcome every rite of passage
on her life journey.

Had my mother felt the same way about me? I’ll
never know. She died of cancer when I was only eleven. I guess that’s why I see
no reason for chastising Mary for keeping this very special memory a secret.

But I’ll break every finger on Trevor’s hand if
it reaches its final destination, her breast.

“Ouch!” Trevor cries, as I yank his pinky finger
as far back as it will go. “Mrs. Stone?
What are you doing here?”

At the sound of my name, Mary’s eyes pop open.
When she sees me, she practically leaps straight up in the air.

“Mom! I didn’t expect you—”

“Obviously not.” I give Trevor’s hand one more
hard twist, behind his back, and point him toward the exit. “Get in the car,
now. Both of you. Trevor, I’m dropping you and Morton at your house.”

“No, Mom! Trevor was going to help me with my
math homework!”

“I think Trevor has taught you enough for one
day. Let’s get moving.”

Mary glowers, but she follows Trevor out the
door.

We’re too late. By the time we’re back outside,
Penelope Bing is already there. With her is her usual momtourage, Tiffy Swift
and the unfortunately named Hayley Coxhead.

“So you finally remembered you’d left the
children out here in the cold to fend for themselves.” Penelope’s glare could
melt ice.

Tiffy’s laser-sharp gaze sweeps over me. “My
God, Donna, you’re a mess! You look as if you took a swim in some lake!”

I’m envisioning what it would have been like,
had she been down in the icy depths of Big Bear, as opposed to me.

Or worse yet for her, with me.

The thought puts a smile on my face. “Sorry I’m
so late. I got caught in a flash flood, east of the city. Christmas shopping.
But now that I’m here, you ladies are welcomed to go back to your spa
treatments.”

“As if,” Hayley mutters. “Our pedicures are
ruined! See?” She arches a foot in my direction.

Her paint job looks fine to me. It’s even got
some jewel inlays. A whiff of Hayley’s breath confirms my suspicions. Not only
were they done with their mani-pedi’s, they had time to hit a happy hour as
well.

They’re lucky I’m in a holiday mood. “Yeah, your
foot is quite a mess. Let me make it up to you. Why don’t you ladies finish up
with your appointment? Penelope, I don’t mind Cheever hanging with us for
another hour or so. He can stay for dinner, too.”

Penelope purses her lips as she considers my
generous offer. The tilt of her head brings the others into a huddle with her.
If it were a full moon, I’d be convinced that I was watching the first scene in
Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Granted, I
don’t hear any chanting of Double,
double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Instead, they’re
debating the cons of leaving Penelope’s precious cargo in my obviously
not-so-capable hands with the pros of downing yet another pitcher of mojitos,
possibly delivered by a bow-tied but bare-chested waiter at their favorite
watering hole, the Hilldale Chippendales Club.

The waiter has nothing on Jack. This is
blatantly obvious when his Lamborghini comes roaring into the parking lot.

His deep green eyes scan every face, but his
boyish grin breaks out only when, finally, he catches sight of me behind the
children.

In a flash, he’s out of the car. His long,
muscular legs moves like pistons as he runs to me. Tall and broad-shouldered,
he arches down over me as he takes me into his large, strong arms. His deep, hot
kiss leaves me limp with the longing that comes with the realization that life
is too fleeting, and passion is its most precious reward.

Our love spell is broken by Morton’s hiccup.

When I open my eyes, I find Jeff and his friends
staring at me, as if I’m some sort of exotic creature. My son is still
fascinated that there is actually someone in this world who sees his mother as
an object of desire.

Mary’s look doesn’t waver either. It’s not the
wide-eyed grin of her brother’s, but a scowl. “Maybe you two should get a room,”
she mutters under her breath.

I know what she’s thinking. At least her display
of affection wasn’t quite so public.

She’s right. The sooner we get a hold of
ourselves, the better. Reluctantly, Jack and I resume the sort of practiced
nonchalance that comes as second nature to parents of tweens who are
embarrassed by every move we make.

It takes a moment for Penelope, Tiffy and Hayley
to pick their jaws up off the pavement. They still find it hard to believe the
neighborhood wet dream is married to me, the one woman who refuses to
acknowledge their superiority, let alone kowtow to the petty demands they make
through their fiefdom, the Hilldale Women’s Club. 

“Well… I guess it’s okay, now that Jack’s home,
too.” Penelope’s shrug is her way of showing me she’s doing me a favor. “Just
remember my rules, Donna. Only vegan! And it’s got to be all natural. No
preservatives and nothing genetically engineered or modified! And I presume
you’ve already forgotten that Cheever is allergic to thin-skinned fruit, dairy,
peanuts, and gluten. It’s okay, since I’ve got it all written down, somewhere.”
She rummages through her purse until she finds what she’s looking for. One of
the laminated cards she carries with her at all times and thrusts into the
hands of teachers and play date parents, per her attorney’s instructions.

With threats of a lawsuit hanging over one’s
head, is it any wonder the only thing Cheever’s hosts will offer him is a glass
of filtered water?

“That’s okay, Penelope. Cheever plays at our
home a lot. I’ve got several of those cards, remember?”

What I really mean is had. After the fifth one, I’ve gotten into the habit of tossing
them in the trash. Besides, if Penelope saw what Cheever gobbled down when he’s
out of her sight, she’d faint. But hey, she’s a mom, so short of tackling her
husky little guy, I’ll gladly follow her rules.

Besides, stating the menu up front covers my
ass. “I was planning on serving tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.”

“No to the sandwiches, since they contain dairy
and gluten. But he can have the soup. Feel free to double his portion.”

As portly as Cheever is, I’m guessing he’ll ask
for seconds, no problem.

Despite recent Collagen injections, Tiffy
attempts a frown. “Can he, really? Aren’t tomatoes a fruit? And if so, aren’t they
thin-skinned?”

“Oh my God! Great point, Tiff!” Penelope tears
up at the thought that she may have colluded in the demise of her own son, in
front of witnesses no less. “Do you have vegetable broth, with no noodles?”

I nod solemnly.

All three of the women give sighs of relief.
Tiffy’s empathy certainly wins her Brownie points with Queen Bee Bing, whereas
no one doubts Hayley’s loud heave has more to do with her desire to quench her
thirst and flirt with the waiter.

As they peel out of the parking lot, I glance
over at Jack. “I’m so glad you showed up! I’ve got one more stop to make before
the store closes. Would you mind taking the kids home?”

Even as he chastely kisses my forehead, his
smile twists into a grimace. “No can do, Now that you’re back on the radar
with, I presume, mission accomplished.”

I toss out a thumbs-up.

“There’s another major fire to put out, Donna.
Ryan wants everyone in Acme’s offices as soon as we can get there.”

“But what about the kids? And Trisha needs a
pick-up, too.”

“Tell you what, I’ll get Ryan and the others to
meet us at our place in, say, half an hour. In the meantime, go run your errand
with this bunch, and I’ll grab Trisha from Janie’s house.”

“That works for me. The store with the only
Furby left in all of Los Angeles closes in twenty minutes. If we leave now, we
still have time to make it.” I turn to the kids. “Okay, gang, climb onboard.
We’ve got to make one stop before we go home.”

As they scurry into the car, I grab Mary’s arm
before she has a chance to climb into the back row of the SUV, next to Trevor.
“You’re riding shotgun. The Smith brothers can sit all the way in the back.
Jeff and Cheever, take the middle row.”

“Not fair!” Jeffrey protests. “Cheever farts all
the time, and it smells like tofu!”

Mary also opens her mouth to argue, but closes
it just as quickly when she sees the look on my face and realizes I mean
business.

I wonder if the store sells gas masks and
chastity belts, too.

 (c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (info@signaleditorial.com).

 


HAKCTv2

The Housewife Assassin's
Killer Christmas Tips
(Book 3) 

(In online bookstores now!)

Tis the season for murder, mayhem and mistletoe! There will be no peace on Earth if Donna and Jack don’t find a shipping container filled with heat-seeking missiles.

Read an excerpt here, then by it on…

    Buy it on Amazon! Nook-button 

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The Housewife Assassin’s Relationship Survival Guide is now on sale!

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                                                       Buy it on Amazon!  Nook-button

(Soon on Kobo and Apple iTunes Bookstore, too)

 

Worth the wait? I think so! Hopefully, you will too. Here are the deets:

London. Paris. Guantanamo Bay. Donna Stone is looking for love — and terrorists — in all the wrong places.

In this fourth full-length novel of  The Housewife Assassin series, Donna Stone finds out that breaking up is hard to do.  Then again, so is dating a terrorist,  let alone eleven of them! 

Does this make Donna a serial dater,  or a serial killer?

Worse yet, an old flame gets in the way of Donna's chance for true love. But she doesn't cry…She gets even.

 Read an excerpt..
 

Then enter My Contest to win a $100 Gift Card!


(A small portion of this book appeared as a novella in "Guns and Roses: A Murder She Writes Anthology".)

 

Love this version of Andree Belle singing “Go Go Gadget Heart”…

 

Soft Glow of Electric Sex
Here's one of my fave songtresses and her band, Andree Belle,  doing their thing!  

The song is "Go Go Gadget Heart, which you'll find on her digital album, "The Soft Glow of Electric Sex." Obviously the little techie had his effect on her! Only $7? Such a steal!

In fact, I featured this song in my novel,The Housewife Assassin's Guide to Gracious Killing. 

You can read the excerpt, below.

Josie


 

 

Book 2: The Housewife Assassin's Guide To Gracious Killing – Excerpt


Guide-to-Gracious-Killing-Final
Only $3.99

 Signal Press / In bookstores now!

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 978-0-9740214-4-7  / Digital eBook 

Donna and Jack are in the kind of hot mess that can cause an  international incident:

A nuclear arms summit, hosted by a politically-connected American billionaire industrialist, provides the perfect opportunity for a rogue operative to assassinate of the newly-elected Russian president on US soil. Acme operative Donna Stone's mission:

Seek and exterminate the shooter, before all hell–and World War III–break loose.

Not to mention what happens when Donna files for divorce.

Throw in a couple killer play dates and a few naughty neighbors, you've got a whole lot of fun.

 

Chapter 1: Breaking Bad Hostessing Habits

Every woman wants to be the perfect hostess, and frets over her inadequacies when it comes to the gracious art of entertaining.  Pshaw! A little forethought and a few hours of  planning makes it easy as cherry pie!

There is, however, one ironclad rule that every hostess must follow: make all your guests wish they’d never have to leave.

Especially in a coffin. With a bullet lodged in their heads.

 

Harry Happy Hour“You’re quite a saucy minx!” Prince Harry’s  ale-slurred come-on can barely be heard over the techno-vibe emanating from a starship-worthy console of  the Ivy Lounge rooftop’s head-bobbing deejay.  “What say you give me a peek as to where that tattoo ends?”

His head is cocked downward, as if it might give him the ex-ray vision he’ll need in order to see the rattle on the faux-tatt’ed snake drawn from my belly, which ends somewhere  in the nether regions that lay under my thong bikini.

“You’re a cheeky sod. I do have a face, you know.” I snap my fingers in front of his nose in order to draw his eyes northward.

I’ve succeeded, sort of.  But come on, already: the diplomacy born and bred into the Prince of Wales can’t beat two millennia of innate urges and four pints of Guinness.

His eyes linger below my neck, albeit above my abdomen.

When, finally, our eyes meet, I lean in and whisper, “You show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.”

I’m lying, even if he doesn’t know it—yet.

His outright laugh is accompanied with a shake of his head, and a tug at the waistline of his briefs. “Nothing under these trollies, I’m afraid. Sorry to disappoint.”

I finger his briefs longingly, then sigh. “I’m sure you’ll make it up to me somehow.”

His smile is his vow not to disappoint.

God save the queen…

It’s no secret the prince has been stateside with his Royal Air Force unit, learning the latest tricks and treats of the AH-64D Apache helicopter: his vehicle of choice for his upcoming tour of duty in Afghanistan. Tomorrow the soldiers complete their training and head home. To celebrate, the soldiers are here, in San Diego, which is just a couple of hours west of their training base, the Naval Air Facility at El Centro.

Seems some chatter, intercepted by MI-6, has led the Cousins to deduce that the prince is the latest target of “the Leprechaun,” a notorious assassin affiliated with the Irish terrorist cell known as 32CSM. If the Leprechaun succeeds in picking off the spare to the throne, then once again the always thin strand of peace between Ireland and Great Britain will be ripped to shreds.

If it happens on our side of the pond, the U.S. will have mud on its face, not to mention the bluest of blood on its hands.

So yep, I have to stop the Leprechaun before he gets lucky.

My employer, the freelance black ops agency known in the field as Acme Corporation, paid big bucks to the club owners so that I could be up close and personal with the prince. My goal is not to shag, let alone snag, Harry the Hottie. It’s to save his adorable hide from a possible assassination attempt.

The prince leans in, close enough to ask in a seductive albeit ale-sodden growl, “Want me to sign your bikini?”

I look down between my breasts. “Oops, forgot my pen. But you seem to be carrying one, in your pants pocket. Or maybe you’re just happy to see me.”

He’s laughing so hard his last gulp of Guinness goes down the wrong way.

“Prince Charming has a one-track mind.” Jack Craig’s snarl comes in loud and clear through the tiny microphone in my ear. As the team leader for this Acme Industries mission, he is close by, but far enough away that no potential assassin can spot him.

Trust me, there is an assassin lurking nearby.

Jack is also my main squeeze, which is why he’s growling about my having to play the coquette while under deep cover (in this bikini, I’m talking figuratively if not literally) as one of the nightclub’s VIP bottle girls, and more specifically, the world’s most eligible prince ’s pick-up du jour.

Needless to say, the club’s real bottle girls are pea green with envy. They can’t figure out how this newbie became Cinderella of this Century.

If I told them that my aim and my 1st degree black belt status had something to do with it, would they believe me? Probably not. All they see is that I’m just this side of Cougarville, which means Harry is less discriminating than they had hoped.

For once I’m glad Jack is not here with us, in the cordoned-off VIP section. One involuntary muscle flex and prince’s all too obvious brawny goon squad—three of his Royal Air Force mates—would be on top of him, like suds on ale. 

At MI-6’s behest, we’ve kept that a secret from Harry, for now anyway. Which, I’m sure, is why he feels so cocksure. This mission wouldn’t have been so hard if the prince weren’t so insistent about partying “like an ordinary surfer bloke,” is how he so preciously puts it. 

Thus far the natives have been awed as much by his title as his regular dude  personality.

Just as the deejay ratchets up the hip hop club mix, six drunken sorority sisters stroll our way. One of the girls, a Kate Middleton lookalike, pierces me with a jealous glare.

I stare back and smile, as if to say Take the hint. Get lost.

Her eyes shift from me to one of Harry’s RAF buds. She waves coyly at him, and he’s smitten. Smirking back, he nods her over. She squeals and grabs the hand of one of her girlfriends.

Harry's haremIn no time at all, she and her besties have jumped the red velvet rope. They toss themselves onto the prince’s entourage, who don’t seem to be fighting them off too hard.

In fact, they’re snapping their fingers at me with drink orders for their new arm charms.

“Not good.” Jack’s warning in my ear is just loud enough for me to here.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” I mutter back.

“How about this?” Jack is now shouting into my earpiece. “You’ve lost Prince Harry.”

He’s right.

The prince seems captivated by a petite, busty blond beauty. Even in heels, she barely reaches his chest. She had pulled him out onto the dance floor for a throbbing sex-drenched hip grinder, Andree Belle’s Go Go Gadget Heart.

The strobe lights and smoke machine make it hard to follow them in the crowd. Then I see them, against one wall. The buxom little tart has draped her arms around his shoulders and hugs him close, as if she’ll never let him go.

Apparently too close. I shove my way through the crowd until I’m close enough to I hear Harry’s woozy cry: “Blimey, you’re no bird! You’ve got a wanker!”

Before I can pull him away, the prince is pricked on the neck with something  his partner has pulled from her cleavage. Harry’s groan is loud—

Then the smell of smoke, and the lights go out—

But not before the last strobe catches the triumphant look on his partner’s face.

 “Oh my God, Jack! The woman with Harry—she’s—not a she! She’s—”

“I know, I saw it, too! The Leprechaun!”

Proof it pays to hit the M.A.C. counter before a night on the town.

 And to hang out where the lights are always low.

Everyone is screaming and shoving their way to the exits, leaving me room to follow the Leprechaun, who was shoving Harry in the opposite direction, up against a wall.

“It’s too dark to see where they went. Does anything show up on the club’s security cams?”

“I’m looking now. In the meantime, check the wall for a hidden pocket door. The schematic of this club shows a few of them on every level. I’m sure the Leprechaun had his exit scoped out in advance.”

While he scans the feeds from the security cameras, I skim the walls with my hands. Finally I find it: a tiny catch, waist high.

I pull it open it just in time to see the Leprechaun heaving Harry down a long corridor.

He may not be used to running in heels, but I am. If only I wasn’t running in a bikini, too.

“Too many wobbly bits,” I mutter under my breath.

It is inappropriate for Jack to be laughing now, but he can’t help it. “Just two. And they’re a sight to behold. Prince Charming will be upset he slept through it.”

The thought of Harry in the French-manicured hands of an assassin who can start the United Kingdom and Ireland down another bloody path of un-neighborly relations has me picking up my pace. Unlike the Leprechaun, I’m smart enough to ditch my high heels—

But I’m still not fast enough to reach them before the Leprechaun rolls him into the backseat of a dark BMW and screeches off.

I can hear Jack slapping the wall with his fist. “Aw, damn! We lost them!”

“Nope, I slipped a GPS tracker in the prince’s trollies.”

“You did what?…In his—what?”

“Oh, don’t worry, I didn’t peek. I’ll meet you around the corner.”

What’s a little white lie between fake husband and wife?

Before he can say another word, I snap off my earpiece and run down the block.

(c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (info@signaleditorial.com).

_______________________

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