RIP Shirley Temple. Thanks to you, I’ll always put Animal Crackers in My Soup.

Shirley-temple
My mother introduced me to the films of the iconic child actress, Shirley Temple, when I was five. Mom, who was just a few years younger than Ms. Temple, was raised as a dancer because of her idol.

By the time of my own childhood, in the 1960s, many of Ms. Temple's films were already on television. I loved her pouty voice, and her snappy footwork with the likes of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (The Little Colonel) and Buddy Ebsen (Captain January), to name a few.

And yes, I put animal crackers in my soup, and wanted to sail away on the Good Ship Lollipop. I already had a Curly Top. All I needed were the Dimples.

It was easy to laugh with Ms. Temple during every movie, but sometimes her touching performances made me cry —  when, say, she encouraged Clara to walk, in Heidi, and when she was the  Poor Little Rich Girl who found the father she thought she lost in during the Boar War, just before she was to be sent away to an orphanage.

I can carry a tune, but could never really shuffle off to Buffalo. So, a belated thanks to you, Shirley, for sharing your incredible talents with the rest of us.

–Josie

 

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

Signal Press/ 978-0-9740214-0-9

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— Josie

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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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.

————————————————-



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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

 

 


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A great scene in THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S HANDBOOK: Donna and Jack’s first date.

RomanticDinner2

Having your characters grow — and fall in love — is a delicate choreography for an novelist. I enjoyed putting Donna Stone, the heroine of The Housewife Assassin's Handbook, into the arms of Jack Craig, her black ops mission partner.

He truly is the spy who loves her. 

A lot that happens in this scene hints as to what is to come in the other books in the series.

Right now, it's also #7 on Amazon Kindle's Romantic Suspense/Mystery list, as well as #15 under Mysteries & Thrillers/Women Sleuths. To see why, go ahead and download it. The book is free right now, in the online bookstores listed below.

— Josie

EXCERPT

No, not that table…

But yes, the hostess at the Sand Dollar seats
Jack and me at the last table on the deck: the one closest to the surf.

The one that was Carl’s favorite.

To cover up my jitters, I order a mojito along
with the seared ahi.

“Double that order,” Jack tells our waitress.

We are silent as we stare out at the ocean. Our
drinks don’t come until the sun is melting into the horizon. As the last rays
of the day splay across the waves, the rum warms me and loosens my tongue.
Still, I’m lucid enough to keep the topic on him. “You have no accent. Where
are you from?”

“I grew up in Washington state.” He crushes the
mint in the bottom of his drink with a swizzle stick. “The Orcas Islands.”

“I hear it’s beautiful there.”

“It is. But I don’t see myself going back.”

“Why not?”

He stares out at the ocean. “There is no one to
go home to.”

Ah.

For some reason I’m glad to hear it. That makes
me a bitch, I guess. And yet, I’ve got to ask, “You never married?”

“What is this, an interrogation? Am I about to
be snatched?” To mock me, he glances over his shoulder.

“We’re getting to know each other, remember?
Besides, if I wanted to make you talk, there are easier ways than extraordinary
rendition.” This mojito is strong. I can’t tell if I’m charming him with a Mona
Lisa smile or leering like some sort of mad clown.

He leans back. “Okay, yeah, sure. You get a
question, and then I get one.”

“Fair enough.”

“So, you want to know about any attachments,
right?” He chews on his swizzle stick. “Only one that was ever serious. But
it’s over now.”

“So you’re divorced.”

His wince is quickly covered over by a shrug.
“Things… just didn’t work out. Our lives are too complicated.”

“You’re telling me.” Whatever is left in my
drink is gone in one quick swallow. “Like Carl, were you recruited out of the
military?”

He nods. “Marine Corps. I served in Somalia,
then Iraq.” His lips curdle into a grimace. “Now I’m an international man of
mystery.”

“So you enjoy this gig.”

“I wouldn’t say that.” As he reaches for his
napkin, his hand grazes mine. It sends a shiver up my spine. “But others tell
me I’m good at it.”

“Yeah, you’ve got great buzz, that’s for sure.”
I don’t have to tell him that the dish on his bedroom technique is just as
notable. The telltale sign is that all the female double agents beg to be
interrogated by him.

“Your rep is quite impressive, too.”

“I do what’s needed to get the bad guys.”

“That’s why you’re on this mission, Donna.” He
pauses, but his eyes don’t waver away from mine. “Okay, it’s my turn now. Do
you still love him?”

His question takes me by surprise. I’m choking
down my drink.

He gets up to slap me on the back. (Seriously,
does that really work?)

I shoo him away. I don’t want to be touched.

At least, not when I’m thinking about Carl. I
have too much respect for him.

But I can’t say that to him. So instead I
murmur, “Yes. I still love him.”

Jack says nothing, but his eyes deepen with
sadness. I can only presume that this is out of respect for Carl. I would never
assume that he is attracted to me.

Okay, I’ll admit it: he’s hot. Maybe that’s
because he’s the first man who has reminded me of Carl.

But no man will ever make me forget Carl.

That’s why I feel comfortable saying “Yeah,
sure…” when he asks me if I want to dance.

The live band is playing a very sultry version of
“At Last.” The lead singer, a woman named Andree Belle, has a husky murmur,
perfect for lyrics oozing with lust and innuendo.

Jack holds me lightly but firmly in his arms. We
move as if we’re floating. I could attribute this to a mojito high, but why not
give credit where it’s due? What I saw him doing with Penelope at the
father-daughter dance was just a warm-up. His hands and hips maneuver me slyly,
cajoling me into a wanton frenzy, willing me to mirror his moves.

Our bodies fit together snugly.

Maybe a bit too snugly, if in fact he isn’t
packing heat.

I’m used to seducing and then killing men when
they are at their most vulnerable. Tonight, though, it is me who is fighting
the urge to surrender.

I thank God he’s not a mark.

Even as I think that, even as he holds me near—

He ruins everything when he whispers in my ear,
“Didn’t you hate him for lying to you?”

The love tango reeling in my heart goes flat
before breaking off. I should be breathing, but I can’t.

Hate? Did I hate Carl?

Yes, of course I hated him.

For lying to me.

For leaving me.

For not loving me enough to quit Acme.

When, finally, I find my voice, what comes out
is barely a whisper. “Why would you ask such a thing?”

“Because I would, too, if I’d been betrayed like
that.”

I stumble to our chairs, grab my sweater, and
head for the car.

He stays long enough to pay the bill for the ahi
we never got to eat.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (info@signaleditorial.com).

 


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One of my favorite scenes in THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE to GRACIOUS KILLING

Zip1Whenever I re-read a book I've written, invariably I'll run across a scene that made me laugh, cry, or shiver with delight as I wrote it.

 This  scene, in The Housewife Assassin's Guide to Gracious Killing (Book 2 of the series) is one of those. And it rated a "shiver with delight." Read it, and then you'll know what I mean.

— Josie

Excerpt

Chapter 4
How to Choose
a Party Dress

When you’re a guest at
someone else’s soirée, your first impression should be also be a lasting
one—and certainly not because you either overdressed, or underdressed, for the
occasion. When in doubt, keep it simple and elegant: black, with pearls.

If the dress code is not
in the invitation, take the time to query your host regarding the proper
attire.

Note of caution: should
your host’s recommendation include, say, crotchless panties, a naughty
schoolgirl plaid skirt, brocade ankle restraints and a head harness with a
muzzle gag, be sure to bring along something you’ll know he deserves, for
getting on your bad side.

A cement overcoat will
do nicely.

 ****

“Go with the backless one. You’ve got the
shoulders to carry it off.”

I turn around to see who’s offering an opinion
on my hunt for the right gown to the Breck shindig tonight. My advisor is a man
who sits on a settee in a darkened corner of the Bergdorf-Goodman couture
suite, just off to the side of the circular bank of mirrors.

While I’ve been scrutinizing my profile, he’s
been admiring my shoulders, supposedly. But only now does he lift his eyes—from
somewhere far below my shoulders—to meet mine.

From the look of his suit (made to measure for a
man whose fit physique would look great in a gunnysack, let alone a
fifteen-thousand-dollar charcoal gray Brioni) he has great taste.

He should. He is Jonah Stanford Breck IV, one of
the wealthiest men in the world.

Sweetly, I smile at him through the mirror. “You
like it better than the blue one?”

His eyes sweep over me, appraisingly. “Much more
so. Albeit the blue sets off your… eyes.”

I laugh at his ridiculous attempt to avoid the
obvious. My eyes are brown. What looks great in the blue dress is my ass.

We both know it.

“Great, then. The blue one’s the charm.”

“You’ll be the belle of the ball.”

“Not a ball, really. Just dinner. In fact, I’ll
be dining at your place, Mr. Breck.”

His eyes, gray like his trimmed sideburns, flash
suspiciously for a moment before dulling into wariness.

“Your wife, Babette, extended the invitation. My
daughter, Trisha, has been playing with Janie all afternoon. I presume Babette
felt the diversion would be welcomed.”

“Ah! How thoughtful of her. She’s right. These
business affairs can be deadly without a few petite amusements.”

  As if on
cue, a woman in a flesh-toned, sparkly low-cut gown walks out of one of the
dressing rooms and over to Breck. She turns her back toward him, just slightly.
“Zip me up, will you, darling?” Her murmur is deep and soft, like velvet.

Slowly, he runs the zipper along the swayed arch
of her back then pats her ass, not so much to let her know he is done with her,
but as a promise that he isn’t.

His eyes stay with her as she makes her way back
to the dressing room. Finally, as if remembering I was still in the room, he
adds, “She’s Babette’s personal shopper. Unlike me, after eight years of
marriage, my wife finds trekking through stores ‘a chore and a bore.’ Marilyn
is exactly her size and coloring, so these little shopping excursions are
win-win for everyone. Beautiful, don’t you agree?”

“The woman or the dress?”

He points to my profile in the mirror. “A
beautiful woman makes the dress.”

I smile my thanks. “Then I presume I’ve just had
a preview of what Babette will be wearing?”

His smile fades. “Don’t presume anything.
Babette doesn’t always agree with my taste.”

“A shame. So fetching.”

It is his turn to ask, “The woman, or the
dress?”

“Since you’re paying, you tell me.”

He laughs uproariously at that. “I always do.
And dearly.”

“Speaking of the dear, will she be joining us
for dinner?”

His smile hardens into a smirk. “Later. Dessert.
I have a voracious appetite, especially for sweet things.” His eyes catch mine
in the mirror. “Remember, dinner at eight. Sharp.”

By the time I leave the dressing room, Jonah
Breck and his personal shopper have already checked out.

When I take my dress to the sales clerk, she
informs me, “Mr. Breck put it on his tab. He asked me to relay his sincere
appreciation for your daughter’s hospitality, and he looks forward to returning
it, personally.”

I guess I can tell Ryan he need not worry
whether we’ll get close enough to the summit’s host. If Breck has his way,
we’ll be up close and personal.

Or at least, I will.

Oh yeah, Jack should love that.

(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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THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK

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

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CHAPTER 1: Please Read and Follow Directions Carefully….

Any woman can be both the perfect housewife and an accomplished assassin, because both functions require the same qualities: creativity; a never-say-die attitude; and an attention to details, no matter how small . . .

***

All I really needed to know about being a freelance assassin I learned before my youngest daughter, Trisha, started kindergarten.

I’ve come to that realization as I lay naked and handcuffed to the bed of my target du jour, a sleazebag by the name of Yuri Petrovich.

 Yuri has just downed a couple of Viagra with the last of his Starbucks venti-sized non-fat decaf caramel macchiato. This is to ensure us both that his attempt to mount me will have all the gusto of a broncobuster breaking in the wildest filly in the corral before heading on into the sunset. (In truth, we are in a hillside suite at the Chateau Marmont. But considering Yuri’s attitude toward women, the cowboyspeak sums things up quite nicely.)

Believe it or not, everything is going just as I planned, and right on schedule.

ChateauMarmont.JPGAt least, that is what I tell myself as I watch him unzip his rock star-tight leather pants and squeeze out of them as quickly as he can because his erection, which seems to be growing by the nanosecond, has him wincing in pain. (And in Yuri’s fantasy if anyone is going to get hurt, it’s going to be me. The handcuffs are proof of that.)

Like, say, eighty-eight percent of all my targets, this Russian mafia boss, who came here to unload a cache of AK-103s on some Idaho Neo-Nazis, has an obsessive-compulsive personality. In Yuri’s case that means staying in the same suite at the Marmont every time he hits Los Angeles (although his Slavic accent and pockmarked greaser looks has hardly earned him an iota of the ass-kissing accorded aging rock stars, budding celebutantes, or out-of-town British actors); doing the down-and-dirty with some rent-a-whore, both before and after the arms sale; and drinking macchiatos nonstop, even during his favorite sex act, that Kama Sutra position euphemistically called “the ostrich’s tail.” (Don’t ask, because you really don’t want to know.)

Acme Industries, one of the many new post-9/11 CIA-sanctioned subcontractors that handles any and all dirty tricks that won’t pass a Congressional panel sniff test, contracted me to be the honeypot who takes Yuri down. My assignment is as follows: First, I was to stall on the sex until the skinheads showed up. Next, I was to plant a GPS system on one of them, so that ATF can track and apprehend them during the pick-up. And finally, as a show of tit-for-tat diplomacy with Uncle Sam’s publicly acknowledged new best friend Russia, I was to see to it that Yuri never left his hotel room alive.

Oh yeah, and one more very important point: All of this is supposed to be accomplished before three o’clock, the time in which I have to pick up my ten-year-old, Jeff, and a carload of his teammates for an after-school baseball game. Otherwise I’d have to face the wrath of two other mothers for having blown the team’s shot at taking the state title without a play-off game—

This is why I pray that the 405 isn’t a nightmarish backup by the time I head home.

From the moment he landed stateside, Yuri’s cell phone calls were monitored. The one to his favorite LA escort service was rerouted to an Acme phone operative, who scheduled Yuri a date with “Precious” (a suitable alias, seeing how I’m trussed up in a push-up bra, a low-cut tank top, and the tight denim micro miniskirt I’d raided from my twelve-year-old daughter Mary’s closet. My gut told me that Yuri would not have appreciated my own Lily Pulitzer twill.)

The fact that I showed up an hour after the appointed time put me just a few minutes ahead of the Neo-Nazis: perfect timing in my book, since it foiled his plan for a little pre-sale foreplay.

Needless to say, Yuri was miffed at me for ruining his timetable. To make that point, he pushed me up against the wall, kicked my legs apart, and frisked me roughly. Really, it was more of a test-the-merchandise fondle. Anticipating that maneuver, I’d left my trusty 9mm at home. That’s okay. In my hooker get-up there was no place to hide it anyway, which is why these kinds of close range hits are always tricky. But then again, that’s why I get paid the big bucks. For this job, my weapon of choice was a tiny, serrated dagger that is appropriately called the “street assassin.” However, I was willing to bet that Yuri and I wouldn’t be anywhere near asphalt when I struck, but between some very expensive 700-count Egyptian cotton sheets.

What a waste. I wonder if the hotel knows that little trick about using meat tenderizer on bloodstains . . .

Not that I planned on sticking around to find out.

I shrugged off his grope with a giggle. “Yeah, the service warned me how much youlove a little foreplay, so I brought these along.” Still spread-eagled, I unhooked pair of handcuffs from the metal belt slung low over my skirt, and jangled them tantalizingly in front of him, in case he needed additional proof that I was his fantasy fuck. That shut him up. It also kept him from noticing my dagger, which hangs as innocuously as any of the buckles on my belt: a great way to fool metal detectors, which, believe it or not, are sometimes used by the bad guys, too.

Then to make sure I had his undivided attention, I rubbed the all too obvious bulge in his jeans with one hand and nodded approvingly, while relieving him of his Starbucks cup with the other. As I took a swig from it, one of his two goons snickered out loud. Yuri’s eyes blazed at my impudence. He lifted his hand to slap me, but was stopped by a sharp knock on the door.

InterestingThe skinheads. Perfect timing. “Jeez, nobody said it was going to be a party! But hey, I’m open to anything – as long as you cleared it with the service.” I handed the cup back to him, sauntered over to the couch and flopped down as if I owned the place. While Yuri’s goons frisked the two Neo-Nazis, I crossed my legs seductively and leaned over so that my cleavage runneth over in plain view for all to enjoy. No doubt about it, the skinheads were appreciative. The fatter, uglier one even had the balls to ask me if my boobs were real.

“Wanna come over here and find out?” I crooked a finger at Ugly. As he slid me onto his lap, I copped my own feel: under the collar of his military fatigue jacket, where I planted a tiny GPS bug.

Seeing me all over Ugly made Yuri even hotter to be done with the business portion of his trip. He yanked me off his guest and shoved me in the direction of the bedroom. “No party. You wait in there,” he growled.

I pulled him in close for a deep kiss. Then, as a reminder of all the fun and games I had in store for us, I handed him the key to the handcuffs. That was all the incentive he needed to get rid of the skinheads tout sweet. He closed the door fast, which was fine with me. The tranquilizer I’d slipped into his macchiato before giving it back to him – a time-release version of Rohypnol – was to kick in sometime within fifteen minutes. I was estimating that he’d need about ten to get rid of the boys, which would leave me five to stall before he fell on his face, making it easy to slit his throat before hightailing it out of there.

The minute he shut the door, I set up for the kill. First I snapped on a pair of gloves – black lace from fingertips to the elbows. Sexy, for sure (in fact, they match my G-string) but because they are lined in a micro-thin flesh-toned latex, I won’t be leaving any telltale prints. As I expected, the sliding door to the terrace outside the bungalow was locked and the curtains were pulled, which allowed for complete privacy from the outside. After disabling the alarm with the tiny decoder I keep on my key ring, I went ahead and unlocked the sliding door so that when the time was right I could make a quick getaway.

I wasn’t worried about the handcuffs, since they were the kind used by magicians and I’d only need a strategic jerk of the wrist to break free. Even if the Roofie didn’t kick in before Yuri snapped them onto my wrists, I’d be able to get out of them in only a few seconds.

And finally, I slipped the knife under the mattress, near the right side of the headboard. I’d retrieve it when the time was right.

As minute eight slipped by, I heard a door close on the other side and guessed rightly that Yuri had said bye-bye to his new skinhead pals. During Minute Nine, Yuri instructed his homeboys not to disturb us no matter how much moaning I was doing – and he planned for me to be doing a lot of it.

Then, as predicted, Yuri opened the door ten minutes after he’d left me. Locking it behind him, he smilingly approvingly at my state of total undress: my only attire was my G-string, stilettos, and the lace gloves. 

I was somewhat surprised that he wasn’t at least yawning by now. Apparently he has the constitution of a rhino. I was hoping that I wouldn’t find out if he had the staying power of one as well. It was then that I noticed that the Starbucks cup was still in his hand….

Damn! Hadn’t he finished that thing yet? Okay, no big deal. So I’d have to stall for another minute or two…

To put that thought out of my mind, I envisioned the kill instead: watching his eyes grow drowsy from the drug – or if necessary, closed in the ecstatic throes of passion; yanking my hands free, then reaching under the mattress for the knife….

Yuri wrongly assumed that my sigh was in anticipation of what he pulled from his leather jacket’s pocket: my handcuffs. “Okay, bitch. On the bed.”

HandcuffedObediently I dropped onto it and grasped the middle finials on the vine-patterned headboard. As he slapped on the cuffs, he stifled a yawn. (Yes! Yes! Finally!) To keep alert, he took a long sip of his macchiato. Then, as if remembering something, Yuri pulled something out of an inner pocket of his jacket…

Ah, yes: the perfect pre-sex appetizer: Viagra.

Humph. I wondered what effect that might have on the Roofie . . . 

And now that Yuri’s striptease is over, it seems I have my answer: not only does the Rohypnol appear to have been neutralized by his little blue devil, it seems to have accelerated his hard-on –

 And from the look of things, acted as a growth hormone to boot.

Not good. At least, not while I’m in my current position – by that I mean naked, chained to his bed, and about to be mounted like a prize rodeo steer.

Not that Yuri seems in any hurry. Nonchalantly he ambles over to the built-in armoire and takes a two-foot-long velvet box from the top drawer, which he lays down beside me with a smirk. Then, opening it slowly, he pulls out –

 – A riding crop.

Ouch. Seems that the cowboy metaphor is becoming more appropriate by the moment.

Damn it! Acme had implied that Yuri was into bondage, not sadism. There had better be a bonus in this for me . . .

He runs the whip up my left leg until it catches on the thin silky thread that is my G-string. With one quick twitch of his wrist, it snaps right off.

Dammit, that hurt!

Very slowly he slaps precise little welts onto my belly as he works the whip over to my other thigh, but pauses when it reaches what is left of the G-string, so that I might agonize over the pain yet to come. My wince brings a sick smile to his face. Now I’m feeling a bit queasy, even if he isn’t.

Stall! Say anything . . . Do anything . . .

“What, you want the dessert before the main course?’ I taunt him. “Naughty boy…”

That only provokes him into slapping me all the harder. What is left of the G-string shreds into thin air. With a guffaw, he takes its little lace patch and holds it up like a trophy before flinging it across the room. It lands near the door with a skip.

Suddenly I notice that his eyes are crossing. He sits down on the bed – falls down, really –

 – Onto me. All 174 pounds of him.

And I don’t think he’s breathing. So, the combination of Rohypnol and Viagra was a toxic Trail Mix after all.

More like fatal. Still, a hit is a hit is a hit…

I jerk at the trick cuffs, but they won’t open. With Yuri on top of me, I’m angled all wrong to break their hold. With my chest, I shove him as hard as I can, but for some strange reason, he’s not budging. Then I realize why:

The only thing left standing is his erection, and it has him staked between my legs.

Great. Just great.

As I struggle under his limp-but-where-it-counts-most carcass, I hear muffled noises from the other side of the door. It sounds like a skirmish.

The two faint thumps I hear next tell me that something is terribly wrong.

Someone is trying to break down the door. It gives way, and I see Ugly the Skinhead standing there. As Ugly whips out a 9mm, I realize that the thumps were Yuri’s posse being taken out . . .

And now it is our turn.


Even from the doorway, Ugly’s aim is dead on. As the bullet enters the back of Yuri’s skull, the Russian jerks forward and we butt heads. As much as that hurts, it has also saves my life: as my head snaps back, the bullet that just left his frontal lobe whizzes by mine by mere millimeters. Still, that doesn’t stop a geyser of Yuri’s blood and gray matter from spurting onto my face. I freeze in horror.

“Fuckin’ Commie. And fuckin’ Commie fucker.”

Between my temporary paralysis and my Yuri-spattered countenance, Ugly assumes that I’m dead, too, and turns to leave –


Black-g-string-thongBut pauses at the sight of my G-string.

He lumbers over to where it’s fallen and squats down to pick it up. After sniffing it, he stuffs it into his pocket. Obviously he feels that is a fitting trophy for his kill – or, in his mind, two kills.

He stalks out, slamming the door behind him.

Silence.

Shit, I have to get out of here. Now.

But that’s almost impossible to do, what with Yuri still on top.

Granted, the Marmont is used to strange noises from behind its many closed doors. Still, it’s been a while since a dead body was found in one of its suites, let alone three. Of course, I imagine the worst:

That someone heard something, or maybe even saw Ugly the Skinhead leaving Yuri’s bungalow, and has called the hotel’s staff, which will soon come to investigate;

That, after tapping on the door and getting no response, they will burst in, see Yuri’s dead bodyguards and find Yuri on top of me, then call the police;    

That, to my children’s horror, I get arrested for prostitution;

That, to Acme’s dismay, I will be called as a witness at Yuri’s murder trial, which will force them to contract with another assassin to finish the job Ugly started on me.

Worse yet, I imagine my son Jeff’s face when he realizes that he’ll miss his chance to pitch in today’s County title game, which will move his baseball team, the Hilldale Wildcats, one step closer to being the Major League state champs –

And that once again it’s all my fault.

It’s that last vision that does the trick for me.

It has been documented that mothers involuntarily demonstrate incredible feats of strength when their children’s safety is threatened. I am living proof that this phenomenon also occurs when their kids’ championship games are at stake. Defying Yuri’s gravitational pull, I heave myself to a forty-five-degree angle, which finally gives me the leverage I need in order to jerk my wrists free from the cuffs. With my hands now free, I can shove Yuri to one side. 

At least, what is left of him.

I stumble to the bathroom. Leaving on my gloves, I shove my face under the faucet and wash Yuri’s brains and skull off my face and out of my hair before staggering back out into the bedroom, where I retrieve my handcuffs and my dagger from under the mattress. Then I jump back into my hooker attire, which I had dropped onto the plush chair by the bed. As planned, I leave from the terrace door, grabbing Yuri’s cuppa joe with me as I go.

In my now ruined spiked heels, I totter up Monteel, the road that meanders high above the hotel, sprinkling what’s left in Yuri’s coffee onto a thirsty bougainvillea and burying the cup deep inside a garbage can of a neighbor who has left it curbside for pickup. Besides the fact that a mommy mobile like my Toyota Highlander Hybrid minivan would surely stand out in that sea of Jags, Rolls, and Lamborghinis in the Marmont’s lot, in my line of work I can’t allow the hotel’s valet the opportunity to ID me.

Just my luck: my van is sporting a ticket that is not even ten minutes old. I do that math: that means that the job took a half-hour longer than I anticipated. Ah, hell, I’m going to be late picking up the boys for the ball game. The Highlander would have to be the only car on the road (a fantasy in mid-day, mid-week Los Angeles), run every traffic light, and break every speed record known to man in order for me to get to the boys the game in time . . .

I do have another option: call my carpool partner, Penelope Bing, and ask her to cover for me –

Hell no. That would hurt even more than Yuri’s whip. She’s bailed me out twice in less than a month: the time I was late getting back after taking out some hothead set on assassinating the Pope while he was here in LA.; then there was that hit I had in Seattle, when I’d booked United on the return flight. (On that one, I should have known better and flown Southwest.)

If I have to hear Penelope’s smug barbs again, I’ll cry. “Really, Donna, what is it this time? Another tennis lesson? My God, you’d think, after all that time on the court, you’dfinally find your backhand. Maybe you’re using from the wrong pro. It’s Fernando, right? . . .”

The inference being that I’m lying. Again.

And for the wrong reason: that reason perhaps being that I’m two-timing my husband, Carl, with the local country club’s tennis pro. Fernando, with his bulging biceps and swarthy grin, leaves many of the club’s female members panting, both on the court and in the bedroom.

GossipConsidering the number of times I’ve disappeared in the middle of the day, the assumption has merit to Penelope and her gossip-mongering clique. As if I would! As if I even could be unfaithful to Carl . . . 

To hell with her. I hit the road, tossing on a sweatshirt as I drive. At the longest turn-light on Sunset – the one at Beverly – I wrangle on my jeans under Mary’s miniskirt before yanking it off. The trucker to my left hoots his horn loudly to show his sincere appreciation.

Miracle of miracles, I pull up only four minutes late! Relief floods Jeff’s face. The Terrible Two – his buddies Morton Smith and Cheever Bing, Penelope’s little angel – have already had been giving him a rough time. My tardiness is infamous. But now it’s my turn to be smug.

Mary is standing there with them. Usually you would not catch her anywhere near her little brother and his friends, but Morton’s older brother, Scotty, is also hitching a ride to the game, and he’s a hottie, what with all that blond curly hair and those soulful eyes. To keep them peeled on her, Mary tosses her long flowing main whenever he glances in her direction. Watching her, my heart leaps into my throat. At twelve, she’s already a first-class flirt.

 Just like her mother.

The kids clamor into the back of the van and we’re off. Mary, who, on any given day would have taken the passenger seat up front, chooses the two-seat row in the middle instead, with Scotty.

I maneuver around a Porsche going too slow for my taste, and in the process get honked by a bus. The driver is miffed because we’ve killed any chance he has of making the light. “Cool driving, Mrs. Stone,” Scotty’s approval wins me a temporary reprieve.

Then he smiles shyly at Mary. “So, you and your dad will be at the Parent-Student dance this Friday, right?” This eighth grade rite of passage is one of the highlights of the school year. Two years from now, it will be my turn to go with Jeff. Although it’s Mary’s turn, without Carl there to take her, she will miss out.

But Jeff and Mary’s father is never there for them, no matter what the occasion.

 “No way! I wouldn’t be caught dead there! It’s for dorks! ” And certainly not for a girl who hasn’t seen her father in years.

But Scotty doesn’t know this. Seeing his crestfallen face, Mary falls silent. She is angry at herself.

No really, at Carl.

Kid2I run the last light between the baseball field and us. Yes! Yes! We’re only nine minutes late! I’ve won Jeff’s approval. I know this because he stops to give me a quick kiss on the cheek. Then he asks: “So Mom, you brought my athletic cup, like I asked, right?”

What? But I – I don’t remember–” I rummage through the athletic bag that was packed this morning: uniform, hat, glove, cleats . . . but no athletic cup.

 “I – I called and asked you to get it from my underwear drawer! Like, four times!” The caller ID on my cell confirms this.

Aw, heck.

League rules: no one plays without a cup. Not even if you’re the team’s star pitcher.Because of me, Jeff will be benched for this very important game which will decide the champions of the Orange County Major League division title.

 And there is no way I can make it to the house and back in time. We both know that.

Cheever pumps his fist in the air. He is the team’s  back-up pitcher.

A tear rolls down Jeff cheek as he staggers to the back of the van.

“Jeff, I’m so sorry—” I yell after him. But I know he can’t stand to hear my lame excuse.

Why should he? He’s heard them all before.

“Hey, Mom, what’s my denim skirt doing back here?” Mary holds it up to me, accusingly, before shrieking “Ewwwyuck!” I glance over and notice that it is sprayed with some sort of white goo. One of the larger chunks is covered in hair follicles.

Yuri’s.

But that doesn’t seem to bother the Terrible Two. Otherwise they wouldn’t be mimicking Mary’s high-pitched squeal as they toss her skirt back and forth like a hot potato.

Once again, I’m back in the doghouse with my kids.

At least, until I outrun a Ferrari or something.

————————————————-

HAH-Hanging-Man-Oct-5-2012Copyright © 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.

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

Signal Press – Digital eBook 

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He presses the zipper into my skin as he inches it up, ever so slowly. When he is 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?

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