Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Desert Inferno excerpt

Writers choose heroes who interest them for assorted reasons. I liked Desert Inferno's because he wasn't traditional for romance heroes. I set him into a contemporary action romance and his heroine descended from a pioneer family in the region-- where I'd also written some of their stories starting from 1883. Fun to write series stories. I don't know if I'll ever connect the families with the generations between, but it's always possible. America has certainly gone through enough turbulent times to make that possible.


Desert Inferno, which I wrote in the 1990s, is as pertinent today for the border issues as it was when I wrote it. Some things don't seem to change much. When I decided to bring it out in 2011, I did have to change a few things, if I wanted it to be today. It also has a little harder language than some of my books although soft for today's contemporary romances.

~~~


As Jake entered the swamp-cooled bar, the air was almost as hot inside as out. The humid air hung as heavily as the cigarette smoke. Mac, elbows leaning on the bar, looked up and recognized Jake. "Howyadoin'?" he asked, grinning as he whipped a glass from the shelf and filled it with cold beer from the tap.

"Don't ask," Jake responded.  Loosening the buttons of his shirt, he leaned back against the bar, turning to let the air from the fan blow across his chest, drying the sweat on his body and offering the only cooling, short of a cold shower, he could expect from the night.  At home he had only a small fan to circulate the air.

“Mac, this place is like an inferno. When you going to turn on the air conditioning?”
Mac’s face took on an aggrieved look. “Hey that stuff costs money. It’s not that bad-- yet.”
Krista Bernard walked boldly up to the bar. She smiled up as she sidled her rounded, jeans-clad hips nearly to touch his thigh. "Buy a lady a beer?"
Jake looked around the room. "There one here?" he asked with a faint smile, not surprised when Krista slapped his arm.
Mac brought Krista a beer as Jake reached into his pocket and brought out the fresh pack of cigarettes he'd purchased on his way back to the office.
"Thought you quit," Mac chided with a shake of his head.
Jake lit the cigarette and inhaled deeply. "I did."
"How many times that make?"
"I don’t count."
“One of these days they’ll make me turn this place smoke free. That talk is spreading.”
“When it does, you’ll lose business.”
"Have a hard day, big guy?" Krista asked, fluffing her straw blond hair.
Ignoring the question, Jake exhaled the smoke.
"I heard a kind of unusual body was found down south. You in on that?" Mac gave the bar a cursory wipe with his cloth.
"What’s your source?" Jake asked. He should have been surprised at how fast Mac knew what was going on, but it had long since ceased to amaze him.
"Tony."
Jake took another long drag on his cigarette and felt himself begin to unwind for the first time in what seemed days. “The county’s out checking the site.”
"Tony said it was a broad found the body."
Jake snorted. "That’s the part got your interest?”
“I like the ladies. So’s that a crime?"
“Well Tony was wrong for once. She was no broad.”
"What other kind is there?" asked Mac grinning. To him, all women were broads.
"No category for this one. Where do you file spoiled, beautiful, rich girls?" Jake asked taking a swig of his beer.
"How do you know all that? Look her up, Jake?" asked Krista.
"Didn’t need to. It was written on her tight, little ass."
"You did some looking then?" Mac asked with a chuckle.
"I’m human." Shaking his head, he thought how hard he had tried to avoid looking as he finished the beer in a gulp and ordered another.
"So, the babe was a looker?" Mac probed for more details, hopefully salacious ones. The picture over the bar was one of the sexier ones of Angelina Jolie. It wasn’t there for the customers.
Jake surveyed the room casually, noting two men and a woman at one table and a couple at the back booth. He shrugged off Krista's hand, as she tried to pull him to a table.  "Not hanging around tonight, kid," he said, shaking his head. "Got a killer headache. It’s been a long day. I'm going home to bed."
"That's what you always say," she complained. "When are you and me going to have some fun?"  Her large lavender eyes were luminous and demanding as she pulled on his arm.
"Maybe when I’m in the mood for fun," Jake said tersely, stubbing out his cigarette.
"Except you never are," she complained.
Jake looked down at her thoughtfully. The lines and hardness in Krista's eyes told him her life had been anything but easy. She was older than him-- by how many years he could only guess. He knew of at least one husband, but the rest of her life was as closed a book to him as his to her. He shook his head. "I told you before, Krista. Find yourself a boyfriend. That's what you need--a guy who'll be there for you."
"Not you?" she asked with a tight smile.
Jake shook his head. "The last thing I want in my life is a woman--any woman."
"Not even the one from today," she snapped, angrily, the lines deepening around her mouth.
"Like that’s an option."
"You’re right. No guy who looks like you'd have a chance with a rich bitch." Her laughter at her own joke was loud and piercing.
Jake didn’t look at her, not surprised at how quickly she had gone from teasing and flirting to taunting. It wasn’t the insult that got to him. It was the vagaries of the female mind. One minute they're coming on to you like you're catnip--the next, spitting venom like a rattlesnake.
Krista smile turned to a frown. "Lordy, Jake, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say that."
"A woman never does," Jake said.
It was not like he cared. He didn't need complications in his life; and from what he'd seen of relationships between the sexes, they were always complicated.  His rule had been to keep the connection under the sheets and never see any of them in the cold light of day. A woman he ran into regularly, like Krista, didn’t qualify—even if he had found her sexually appealing, which he didn’t.
Jake reached into his wallet to pay for his and Krista's drinks.
"You think that guy was murdered?" asked Mac as he took the bills.
"Didn’t Tony already tell you?"
"Just that there was something odd about it."
Jake shrugged.  "It’s a county problem so far as I can see."
"They doing an autopsy?"
Jake nodded, not volunteering anything. Toxicology would tell them if the man had been under the influence of a drug. It might explain the odd behavior. It wouldn’t explain the marks of torture on his body. 

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