Sunday, February 28, 2010

Interviews from My Deadly Valentine

Today we're welcoming Eli Brody, the hero of Dark Obsession (one of the novellas in the My Deadly Valentine anthology) by Lynette Eason, released February 2010.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be in the midst of such suspense. I came home to help take care of my dad who was hurt trying to break an ornery horse. He’d been trying to get me to come back to help him on the ranch, but I was living in New York and working as a detective with the police force. But once I came home, I was shocked to discover how much I actually missed it—and Holly Maddox.

2. So, during the book you met Holly Maddox. Tell us a bit about her. What was your first impression? My first impression of Holly was when we were in elementary school together and she punched the class bully for stealing my lunch money. I thought she was the greatest thing ever. When did you know it was love? Honestly? Not until my partner died from cancer. I watched his wife stay by his side, support him, love him right to the very end. It finally hit me that Holly was that kind of woman and I’d been a very stupid man for leaving her behind.

3. What scares you? Losing Holly forever. I used to be scared of commitment, but finally came to my senses. Only now, with Holly, it might be too late. I’m praying that I can hold on and be patient and show her I’m really a changed man.

4. Where are you in your faith at the start of your story and at the end of the story? ? I’ve just come to realize that God is who He says He is and that I need to trust him fully for all things in my life. On my knees thanking God for sparing Holly from a horrible death—and for instilling forgiveness in her heart.

5. You've got a scripture at the beginning of the story. Tell us why this scripture is significant. Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will keep your path straight.” I just think this says it all. Trust is very hard for some people and it sure was for Holly. I’d really messed things up with her and wasn’t sure if she’d ever forgive me, but she did. She followed God’s directive and forgave me. As a result, we found ourselves falling in love all over again and now are very happy together.

Today we're welcoming Rachel Hollister, the heroine of DANGEROUS ADMIRER, part of the novella, MY DEADLY VALENTINE, by Valerie Hansen, Feb. 2010.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be in the midst of such suspense.
Hey, it wasn’t my fault. I was just minding my own business and running my little shop when somebody started doing crazy things to me.

2. So, during the book you met Deputy Jace Morgan. Tell us a bit about him. What was your first impression? When did you know it was love?
I had problems accepting him because of his profession, at first. After all, my dad was a cop and he was the bossiest human being on the face of the earth. Still is.

3. What strengths/skills do you have? What is your greatest weakness?
I admit it. I’m a softie. I really love others. Which is why it bothered me to have to admit that someone had a grudge against me. I had no idea that my father’s interference could be making the problem worse.

4. What scares you?
There was a time when I would have said, NOTHING. That all changed when creepy things began to happen to me and I realized that it was the unknown element of the attacks that was the most frightening. If I hadn’t been a Christian and been able to rely on my faith, I don’t know what I’d have done!

5. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Right now, I’d probably wish that I didn’t have such a vivid imagination. Between the type of ongoing threats and the fact that Serenity is a small town, I figured I must know my stalker. That made me wish I were a better judge of character. If it hadn’t been for Jace…. I don’t even want to think about what might have happened to me.

Thank you Lynette and Val for sharing Eli and Rachel with us today. What an exciting collection!

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Today we're welcoming Scott Frasier, the hero of Survival Instinct by Rachelle McCalla, February.

Wow, you've just had quite an adventure.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be in the midst of such suspense.

It was supposed to be a relaxing weekend visit to scenic Devil’s Island, but I haven’t had a moments’ peace since we arrived. We were marooned on the island and a storm blew up—and now my mother’s gone missing! We’ve suffered too many close calls for this to be any coincidence—someone is trying to kill us, and I think I might know why…

2.So, during the book you met Abby Caldwell. Tell us a bit about her. What was your first impression? When did you know it was love?

Abby is such a sweetheart! I don’t know what I’d do without her—I’d never have survived on Devil’s Island without her help, that’s for sure! Even when I got frustrated with the search for my mother, Abby stood by me and was supportive. Still, I didn’t want Abby getting mixed up in our troubles—I wanted her to be safe! But it seems God put Abby in my life right now to help me—and I’m going to need all of her help—and God’s help—if we’re going to leave Devil’s Island alive.

3.What strengths/skills do you have? What is your greatest weakness?

Sure, I’m strong. I was the star quarterback on my college football team. The only problem is, I don’t like to lean on anyone else for support. I think I’m strong enough to handle everything myself. Thankfully, Abby knows I need her.

4.What scares you?

I’m scared of getting close to people, because when I depend on someone else, they die. At least, that’s what’s always happened before…

5.If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wish my hairline wasn’t receding. Ha-ha! No, seriously, I’ve never admitted this to anyone, not even to myself until now, but I’m tired of being alone. I’m tired of pushing people out of my life. I wish I could work up the courage to tell Abby how much she means to me.

6.Where are you in your faith at the start of your story?

I’m a Christian Counselor, so I pray all the time, and I’m used to helping people work through their problems. I just wish I knew how to fix the problems in my own life.

7.Where are you in your faith at the end of the story?

I’ve never really had to lean on God as much as I have through this experience, and it’s freeing, really, to know God is there for me no matter what. Other people in my life might have died before, but God will never leave me or forsake me. God’s love is real to me in a new way now.

8.You've got a scripture at the beginning of the story. Tell us why this scripture is significant.
I’ve read this passage from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 many times before, but my experiences on Devil’s Island brought to light a whole new meaning.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: if one falls down, his friend can help him up, but pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
With God’s help, Abby and I endured many hardships. I know I would have been overpowered if I’d tried to do everything myself, but together, Abby and I survived…and fell in love.

9. If you could be a dessert what would you be and why?

I would be a peppermint candy cane. I’m sturdy and reliable, not light and fluffy like some deserts. And I’m ready to go anywhere, too!

Thank you Rachelle for sharing Scott with us today. Very intriguing story!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Giving it Your All - from Carol Steward

I don't know about you, but I look forward to the Olympics and this year, I was even more excited to watch as much as possible. I love seeing the new generations of athletes putting themselves out there for fans worldwide to cheer and admire, and critique. More than ever before, I'm amazed to see what they go through to compete year after year. The injuries and surgeries they've been through make my back ache just to hear about them.

I still get teary-eyed when I hear about Dan Janzen's sister dying right before he raced. After Joannie Roachette's performance, just two days after her mother's death, I couldn't help but cry, especially when I saw her father sitting in the stands alone - cheering his daughter on - knowing her mother wouldn't want his daughter to back away. I admire the courage and strenth that these Olympians share with all of us as we watch in awe, and realize they aren't perfect. They don't live charmed lives. They give everything they have for the chance to prove they're the best. In a flash, it can go from perfection, to tragedy - but they don't ever give up.

We all, whether Olympians, or ordinary folks, can be inspired by the examples set for us this last two weeks. We all face obstacles and disappointments that test us every day. Every day, we need to follow their example, to give it our all and never give up.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Writing Transitions

This week I'm sitting in Texas at a writer's retreat. I'm in edit mode for my first book in a Guidepost mystery series, and I'm in dream mode for books after this one.

I'm sitting in a beautiful retreat center, surrounded by gorgeous antiques and amazing historical authors. They cover the gambit of CBA fiction and time periods. And here I sit. Trying to dream up what my next books could look like. Another World War Two romance? A new suspense? How about a legal suspense this time? Or some combination of those three?

It's like picking up a brand-new notebook and opening the cover. In front of me is an unmarred page, filled with perfect lines and unlimited potential. The only thing that limits me

My doubts. I could never write like X author.

My fears. What if I can't pull off the idea if I do sell it.

My insecurities. Nobody would want to read it...

Fortunately, my God is much bigger than any of this. So I raise my hands in surrender. And I whisper to Him, "Here I am again, Lord. Use me. Fill me with Your ideas and creativity. Show me where You want me to go. What You want me to write."

And I pick up the pen, poise it over the blank page. And smile.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why Write, Part II?

by Debby Giusti

Last week in Seekerville,, I wrote about why writers write. The piece was well received and many stopped by to comment. I thought we might discuss the reasons we write here with the Craftie Ladies of Suspense.

At the beginning of my writing journey, I focused on the phrase “to touch readers’ hearts” as the steam that propelled my writing engine. Over the last few years, I’ve come to realize the pain many people carry and believe that, in order for my stories to resonate with readers, I need to create characters who struggle as well. The misconceived perceptions my characters hold onto concerning their past pain--whether physical or emotional--must be significant and inhibit them from accepting love from others and from God. When, in the course of the story, my hero or heroine triumphs over adversity, my readers—hopefully--realize God is more powerful than any conditions with which they may struggle in their daily lives.

In addition to spiritual themes, I’m also including universal truths such as how power corrupts and man’s inhumanity to man. Because of my concern for our country in these difficult times, I often touch on world problems, couched in a fictional tale where good always triumphs over evil.

I’ll continue to evaluate my writing in the years ahead to ensure I’m on the path I’ve been called to walk. Do you know what motivates you to work long hours, face rejection and yet still write? If so, I hope you’ll share those reasons with us today.

Happy writing!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti

Visit my new blog and home of the Cross My Heart Prayer Team:

KILLER HEADLINE in stores now!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Letting Go

Random thing number one: This falls under the category of Mommy moment.

A week ago, my husband, my son, and I went to the park. Hubby and me on bikes; son on scooter (son is four). Hubby, of course, predicted that son would never make it to the park and back on the scooter. We're talking about three blocks. Me, I'm an optimist. "If son wants to try, son can try."

It's the quoted attitude that got me in trouble this fine day. See, my four-year-old is somewhat fearless. He has his own quad. He likes to jump from the top of the slide to the ground - without sliding. He's been swimming underwater since about nine months. But, for all this time, he's refused to leave the baby swing (the one that looks like a black, hard plastic diaper) and go to the regular swing. I've gently tried to persuade him to try. Saturday, he got on the regular swing, apparently he's been doing this at school, and he wanted me to push him.


Now, the only thing keeping my son in the swing were these tiny, little boy hands. WHAT IF HE LET GO? I couldn't make myself push him higher. I wanted him back in the baby swing where if he let go, nothing would happen. He’d be stuck there in the black, hard plastic diaper imitation. I stood there gently pushing him and realizing, he's going to be doing lots of things where he could get hurt.
It’s all part of growing up. Not his letting go, but mine...

BTW, this whole post reminds me of a historic Pamela Tracy Mommy moment. When my son was about 9 months and started standing, I frantically called my sister. See, I was afraid to put him to bed at night. What if he fell!!! Her response: What better place to fall than a mattress.

Do you have any Mommy moments that make you look back and laugh?

Psalm 55:22 “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Today we're welcoming Kris Donaldson, the heroine of FATAL BURN, a February, 2010 release by Roxanne Rustand. Wow, you've just had quite an adventure. Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be in the midst of such suspense.

Honestly, there are parts of my life that are a little hard to discuss--especially the violent death of my best friend when I was a child, and my years in the foster care system, for starters. I'm not proud of the roads I traveled as a teenager, believe me. So when I learned that I'd inherited some property in the Montana Rockies from a distant relative I'd never even heard of, it seemed like a wonderful chance for new beginnings. And what perfect timing, with my other new beginning! If God hadn't reached out to me when he did, I probably wouldn't be here today.

So, during the book you met Trace Randall Tell us a bit about him. What was your first impression?

The first impression on his part was that I was a thief breaking into the property next to his ranch. The first impression I had of him was he was one very tough, uncompromising man who wasn't going to allow anyone to burglarize his late friend's house! I was sure glad that I had documents to prove I had a right to be there. Those same attributes of his were what later drew me to him, because I certainly hadn't had very positive male figures in my life until Trace came along.

What strengths/skills do you have? What is your greatest weakness?

I guess my strengths are mainly the determination and drive I developed during my early years. Those strengths certainly helped when I earned a county contract to establish a privately-run animal shelter on my property, then discovered that someone not only wanted me out of the county, but wouldn't mind seeing me dead.

My greatest weakness is something I've worked on for a long time. I'd always longed for the loving support of a real family, and that empty place in my heart led me to some naive and even dangerous choices in making friends. Moving to the Rockies and meeting Trace, his sister, and the other good people in the area taught me a lot about true friendship, love, and the wonderful feeling of being part of a close-knit community.

You've got scripture at the beginning of the story. Tell us why this scripture is significant.

The verse is one of my favorites: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

It's a wonderful message for all of us, and it certainly fit the journey I was on during this part of my life!

If you could be a dessert what would you be and why?

A hot fudge sundae with vanilla ice cream, because the ice cream is soft, sweet and simple--what I want to be like now, innocent of the pretense, danger and complexity that marked my earlier life. And, it's wrapped in the rich, flowing warmth of hot fudge. That warmth makes me think of the wonderfully secure, loving feeling of being with Trace, of being a part of a community where people care deeply about each other, and especially, the sense of warmth, security and completion I feel as one of God's children.

Thank you, Roxanne for sharing Kris with us. This sounds so exciting! Can't wait.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Time for the Gold Medal winners!

It’s time to award those Olympic gold medals to folks who slog through what can be one of the most discouraging sports of all….WRITING! So here’s Dana Mentink’s take on the gold medal winners in the Mystery, Romance and Christian Fiction genres.
And the Gold Medal in Romance goes to…Barbara Cartland. Before her death she authored over 700 books! Seven hundred? I’m happy to be publishing number eight! After starting out as a gossip columnist, she went full tilt into the romance arena and in addition to her published words she left over 160 unpublished manuscripts. Can you imagine? Now THAT’S medal worthy!
And Gold Medal in Mystery goes to…Dick Francis. This was a tricky one but the best-selling British writer wrote 42 novels, incorporating his own life experiences as a jockey. A favorite with the Queen’s mother, he was made a Commander of the British Empire. He wrote all his stories out longhand and his faithful wife read, edited and transferred them to the computer. His son Felix once said his parents were like “Siamese twins conjoined at the pencil.”
And finally in the area of Christian Fiction, the gold medal goes to… Jerry Jenkins. Though I struggled with this category as there are so many inspirational authors I love (a nod to Jan Karon here) Jenkins really put Christian Fiction on the map when his Left Behind series sold more than 70,000,000 copies. His recent novel Riven, will be shot as a movie this year.
So those are the gold medal awards presented by this judge. Your turn! Who would YOU award gold medals to in the writing world?


Today we have Clay West from Killer Headlines by Debby Gusti, a Feburary 2010 release.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be in the midst of such suspense.

My name’s Clay West, and at the beginning of the story, I was a homicide detective with the Chicago Police Department. While working undercover, I came down too hard on a punk who needed to be taught a lesson and was placed on administrative leave so the situation could be reviewed, which gave me time to do a favor for an old friend of mine. FBI Special Agent in Charge Jackson McGraw asked me to check up on a cute reporter working for the Missoula Daily News. I had met Violet Kramer when she was an intern at the Chicago Gazette and decided to take a road trip to Montana to help Jackson out. Of course, agreeing to check up on Violet changed my life forever.

2. So, during the book you met Violet Cramer. Tell us a bit about her. What was your first impression? When did you know it was love?

I saw Violet for the first time when she strolled into a low-rent bar and grill on the Southside of Chicago that teemed with riffraff and Mafia-types. She told me later she had wanted to learn firsthand about the Martino crime family, but one look at her dimples and curls and curves and the angora sweater that left nothing to the imagination and I knew she was out of her element. As quickly as possible, I escorted her outside and sent her on her way. I should have known Violet wouldn’t be put off so easily. Two years later, when she called for information about the Martino mob, I realized she might be cute as a kitten, but she was also stubborn as a mule.

When did I know it was love? Hmmm? I’m not sure. We started off with a kind of love/hate relationship, if you know what I mean. And then…well, my feelings changed.

3. What strengths/skills do you have? What is your greatest weakness?

My strength lies in reading people. Maybe it’s the cop in me, but I can smell trouble. That’s why I was so worried about Violet. She walked headfirst into danger, without realizing she was putting herself and the women in witness protection in jeopardy.

My greatest weakness? Violet, of course. If anything happened to her, my life would have no meaning.

4. What scares you?
The Chicago Martino family scared me when they were tracking Violet and wanted to do her harm.

5. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wouldn’t have turned my back on God. Eventually, I learned about his forgiveness and mercy. As a teen growing up in foster care, I thought the Lord had forgotten about me so I cut Him out of my life. That’s a mistake I’ll always regret.

6. Where are you in your faith at the start of your story?
As I mentioned, I had cut God out of my life.

7. Where are you in your faith at the end of the story?
Luckily, I learned God had been watching over me the entire time. Once I put Him first, everything fell into place.

8. You’ve got a scripture at the beginning of the story. Tell us why this scripture is significant.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains: From where shall come my help? My help shall come from the Lord who made heaven and earth. Psalms 121:1-2

When I needed God the most, He was there to help me save Violet.

9. If you could be a dessert what would it be and why?

Lemon meringue pie because it reminds me of Violet--tart and sassy at times, but sweet and fluffy as well.

Thank you Debby for sharing Clay with us today. This sounds like a fun and exciting read.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Secrets by Leann Harris

One of the exciting things that can happen when writing a book is when a character tells you a secret about his past that you—the writer-- knew nothing about. In the book I’m working on now, I have a character, the foreman of the ranch, who surprised me. As he was talking to the hero, he said something that shocked me. He has cancer.

After I wrote that scene I went to the gym to exercise between sessions of writing, I got to thinking about what Ollie (the foreman) revealed. It made perfect sense. And his situation makes my heroine’s life even more desperate.

It is an exciting thing for a writer to be surprised by their characters or discover a secret that they are keeping and will only reveal it when they must.

I am not unique in this. It happens to most writers, but it is a fun experience when it happens. Now, I’ll admit I don’t directly talk to my characters, but in their own way, they speak to me.

I know that sounds strange, but I never claimed I wasn’t.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

what are your motives?

From Barbara Phinney, as she struggles with motivation.

Motivation is very important, especially in writing. How can I expect my readers to connect with my characters if they don't understand why they are doing what they are doing?

And in our own lives, we have reasons for doing what we do.

My church is finishing up a series on prayer. And we are asked, "Will God grant us our petitions if our motives are impure?"

As I ask for things in prayer, I find I'm asking myself why I need or want such things.

Take for instance, the proposals I have prepared. Of course I want them accepted, and of course, I have asked for it in prayer.

But why?

Quite frankly, it's because we need the money. My family is planning to go on a mission trip to Bolivia. And along with that cost, my son has banged up our car. And there are always other on-going expenses.

But are my motives pure? Should I not be asking for another contract with Love Inspired?

Am I being selfish?

My characters, namely the hero and heroine, must be likeable and worthy of readers to root for, so their motivation needs to be pure, also, and not selfish.
So I also want my own motives to reflect my characters. Heroes and Heroines inspire us, both authors and readers. They aren't perfect, but they are understood, likeable and looked up to.

So I examine my own motives, as we as readers examine our heroes and heroines.

All I can do is try to keep my motives pure, ask for help when they aren't, and keep my character motivations strong and equally pure.

Are you hero material? Are your motives commendable? What can do if they aren't?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Journaling - a place to privately write

Most writers - myself among them - did a lot of writing before we decided on romantic suspense. In high school I wrote poetry (Of course, everyone in high school writes poetry). Then I went on after high school and studied journalism. For a long time I wrote features and hard news as a reporter for a daily newspaper.

Then came the novels. And the short stories. I still write short stories and love both reading and writing them. (I hope you enjoyed the Valentine story that a few in our group here just completed!)

But, there is one kind of writing that I have always done, and that’s journaling. In my young girl days the word was ‘diary’. Then it shifted to the more grown up word - ‘journaling.’ And if I were even more grown up I might call it ‘memoir,’ or ‘personal writing.’

I have piles of completed journals in a back closet, but in the last year or so, I’ve been journaling online. I don’t mean blogging, I mean password protected private journaling. At first I just used a password protected Word document. Then I shifted to the ‘Notes’ feature in my Yahoo Mail, and most recently I’ve switched to an online site; That website also has a number of resources on how journaling is so cathartic, and gives tips to get started. It’s also completely private. And I’ve added a password that even my closest friend could decipher.

But it’s a place where I can cry out - like David - to God. It’s a place where I can rail against him - like David did - and say “have you completely forgotten about me?’ And then I can go into the specifics. But - and this is cool - usually by the end of my journal entry - like David did - I’m praising Him for his goodness and greatness and wanting to draw closer to him.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tell me your favorite scene

If you’re a writer, I’m sure you have a specific favorite scene that’s just good or powerful that you can’t believe you wrote it. (Ha.) Or one you simply just like. If you’re a reader, I’m sure there’s a scene from a book that’s stuck with you through the days, months, and maybe even years. I thought it would be cool to share one of those today and if you’re an author, please share from one of your novels.

The one that came to mind for me was from Protective Custody, the book that will be out in August with Steeple Hill. Let me know what you think and I look forward to reading your scenes, too! Readers, if you don’t have a scene you wrote, tell us about one that made an impression on you. And don’t forget to tell us the name of the book if you can remember. ☺

The opening scene from Protective Custody coming in August from Steeple Hill’s Love Inspired Suspense.

In the downtown courthouse, Deputy US Marshal Carly Masterson eyed the three bloody finger prints on the cracked door and pulled her weapon.
Blood on the judge’s chambers door.
Not a good sign.
Her partner, Mason Stone, followed her actions. In a low whisper, he asked, “Is he in there?”
Heart picking up speed, Carly toed the door open. Without a sound, it opened inward exposing Judge Nicholas Floyd’s chambers. “Nick?” She kept her voice low.
No answer.
They’d been on the way to the Spartanburg, SC courthouse when they’d gotten the call the judge had received the second threat of the day. This time the authorities were sending protection whether he wanted it or not. Three minutes later, Carly and Mason arrived to find themselves in this situation.
A sweep of the room showed nothing amiss.
Except for a few drops of blood trailing the floor.
So where was the judge?
Anxiety twisting her stomach into knots, Carly said, “I’ll take the bathroom,” She headed for the closed door. “The drops of blood are fresh.”
“Look at the shape of the drops. They’re leading from the bathroom,” he murmured in a matching whisper.
She could feel her heart thudding in her chest. Her fingers reached for the knob then pulled back. “Blood on the knob.”
“Noted. I’ve got your back.”
She knew he would. Having been partners for two years, she trusted Mason with her life.
“Here.” He thrust a tissue he’d retrieved from the desk into her hand. Standing to one side of the door with Mason on the opposite side facing her, she placed the tissue over the knob, nodded to him and twisted her wrist. The door flew open at her shove and they rounded the edges of the door frame as one, guns pointed inside.
The bathroom contents lay scattered. Water tinged with red filled the plugged sink.
Adrenaline rushing, Carly pulled back and let the thudding in her chest subside.
Mason looked at her. “Now what?”
“We follow the blood.”

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Killer Chocolate--The Final Installment--Lenora Worth

Ryan pulled Lovey close. "I love you. I always loved you."

Lovey cuddled Cupid, then handed Ryan the chocolate diamond. "Is that why you left me for this? It was right here all along, Ryan. Or should I call you Rouen?"
He took the big sparkling diamond. "I'm Ryan. But ... Lovey, a lot happened. We have get you back to the shop so we can get dried off and then we'll talk. I'll have to report this to the police and explain everything to them, too."

Lovey nodded, her teeth chattering. This day seemed like a lifetime. And Ryan has at least five years of that lifetime to make up to her. Once inside the shop, she changed into her Valentine red sweater and matching scarf, jeans and red boots. Then she brewed a fresh pot of hot chocolate and made them a sandwich, using her Valentine-shaped cookie cutter to clip the freshly baked bread. Yes, even though the man had left her and lied to her, she still loved him. But, she was stronger tonight than she'd been this morning. She wouldn't take him back so easily.

"Talk," she said as she shoved the sandwich across the wrought iron bistro table at him, her tone demanding. "And I mean everything."

"I had to leave," Ryan said, his cup in his hand. "That day when I took the boat out, Creamer was waiting for me. He and Athena had figured out I was undercover trying to retrieve the Chocolate Diamond. He pushed me overboard and took off, somehow making it look like I was alone and that I had drowned. But I survived. I washed up a few miles from here ... but Lovey, I hit my head on the side of the boat and at first, I couldn't remember anything. I got a hotel room and just sat there until bits and pieces started coming back. Then I realized Creamer and Athena wanted to steal the diamond. I watched them and I watched your shop. I was afraid they'd hurt you. I thought you might even be in on the whole thing--that you wanted a cut of the profits from that diamond. I wanted to return it to the museum where it belonged."

Lovey couldn't imagine any of this. She only wanted Ryan. "I would have helped you.."

"I had to pretend to be dead until I could find a way back to you," he explained. "I've been all over the world, trying to find the diamond—but it's been right here all alone. He reached across the table for her hand. "Lovey, I came back to save you. Athena knew I was back and she intended to kill both of us--after I gave her the code to the hidden diamond, of course."

"I don't care about all of that," Lovey said, her rising voice causing Cupid to hiss.
"I want to believe you, but it's so farfetched ...."

Ryan reached into the duffle bag he'd brought in earlier. "Maybe this will convince you." He pulled out a small black box. "I found this in an antique shop in Paris."

Lovey put her hands to her mouth then stared down at the perfect diamond solitaire. Could she trust him? Cupid eyed the sparkling diamond then hopped onto Ryan's lap.
"I love you," Ryan said. "And I'll spend the rest of my life making this up to you. Will you marry me, Lovey?"

Lovey heard Cupid's steady purr. It matched the steady purr in her heart. "Yes, yes," she said, holding her hand out so Ryan could put the ring on her finger. "I can't believe this. But ... I need some time, Ryan. If I still feel this way one year from today and … if you're still around, I'll marry you."

Ryan dropped Cupid and stood to pull Lovey into his arms. "I'm not going anywhere, I promise. I prayed for this moment. And ... I came back to you." Then he kissed her, the sweet smell of rich dark chocolate surrounding them. "You were so right. My treasure was right here all along."

One year later, at dusk on Valentine's Day, Lovey Hart married Ryan/Rouen in a beautiful sunset ceremony on the boardwalk, with the frosty waves crashing around them and a soft mist of snow falling. Cupid the cat, wearing a red bow around his neck, meowed at their feet. And they had chocolate cake and strawberries to celebrate.

Oh, and the Chocolate Diamond was safely returned to the Museum of All Things Chocolate, where it sits sparkling and rich behind laser-protected glass. We hope.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Killer Chocolate -- A Valentine Mystery (#13)

Part 13 by Cara C. Putman

Something in Rouen's voice stopped Lovey in her tracks. She followed him, almost blindly, as he helped her onto the ledge, but all she wanted to do was curl up in a corner with Cupid and pretend that everything had been nothing more than a terrible dream.

She shivered as her wet clothes soaked through to her skin. Cupid yowled in her arms, furious at being subjected to the water. Lovey clutched the cat more tightly, determined not to lose her feline friend as she'd lost her fiance and best friend. Though as she watched Rouen through her daze she wondered...what if she was wrong...what if he was Ryan returning to her like a phantom in the night. If he was, the man in front of her had five-years worth of explaining to do before she threw him off the ledge.

A hand grabbed her ankle, and Lovey screamed.

"Don't think you can get rid of me that easily." Athena pulled herself up next to them, shaking water logged hair from her eyes. Her hands were conspicuously empty, but her eyes held a venom that terrified Lovey. She wouldn't be surprised if her "friend" suddenly threw her from the ledge into the climbing water.

Rouen studied Athena, his body set on high alert.

"Give me that diamond." The words hissed from Athena's mouth.

Lovey stepped back until she felt sharp rock poke into her back. Maybe if she hid in the shadows that terrible woman would forget about her. She held her breath as she waited for Rouen's reply.

"You know I can't give it to you, Athena."

"Going to continue to play the game are you, Ryan? Well, I'm sick of it. This isn't the time to ride in like a white knight and save the day. If you haven't noticed we're all trapped."

Lovey stared at Rouen/Ryan. Yes, she'd begun to suspect but to learn the truth in such a manner. She didn't know whether to hug or beat the man. Ryan glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, an apology hidden there. It would take more than a look to right the last five years.

Athena lunged at Ryan, grappling for the diamond he still clutched in his hand. Ryan fell to the ground as she beat at him, and then rolled on top of Athena. Lovey watched, a firm grasp on Cupid, and wondered if she should try to help. All she could do was kick and she was as likely to land a kick on Ryan as on Athena -- though at the moment she'd like to do a lot more than that to the man.

"Lovey, here. Take this." Ryan handed her the diamond. Athena took advantage of his momentary distraction to wriggle away from him. He lunged for her, but she side-stepped only to step right off the edge into the rushing water. Lovey screamed -- the sound richocheting off the rock walls.

Ryan grabbed her, clutching her to him. Cupid meowed a protest then snuggled in. "I'm so sorry, Lovey. This isn't how I wanted to tell you."

She sobbed against his jacket, savoring the feel of his hands brushing her hair. Being in his arms felt like a homecoming. Even after all the time that had passed.

Water brushed her toes, and she startled. "Ryan, we have to find a way out. The water's risen to our feet."

Reluctantly he stepped away from her. "See that slit up there. It's wider than it looks. It's how I got in here once before. If we can reach it, we can squeeze through."

He boosted her onto a rock and then took Cupid from her. Patiently, he told her how to find hand and foot holds until she reached the carved out hole and could shimmy out. Then he handed Cupid up to her and pulled himself out.

A moment later they stood staring at each other...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Killer Chocolate: A Valentine Mystery PART 12 Lisa Mondello

PART 12 - Lisa Mondello

As the grid disappeared, Rouen turned back and looked deeply in Lovey's terrified eyes. She looked up at him with eyes so vulnerable, yet strong and determined. And with such trust. It was if..

Did she truly not know that he was really Ryan? There was a moment when she'd uttered the date they were to be married 5 years ago that he wondered. The look on her face had brought him back to when she was his and they'd made plans for a lifetime together.

How could she have kissed him—even the brief kiss they'd shared—and not remember him? Rouen had shed his former identity 5 years ago when the Luxor Project had taken a turn for the worst and he realized that Creamer had betrayed everyone. He'd fooled everyone. But surely his Lovey would know him.

"Interesting that you just happened to have the combination to unlock the grid," Athena said. He'd almost forgotten about the gun Athena still had trained on Lovey. "All these years and I had the answer I was looking for right under my nose. I should have brought you here years ago, Lovey."

"How can you do this, Athena? I thought we were friends?" Lovey said, tears filling her eyes.

"Friends? Well, we had some laughs, sure. But there are more important things than friendship. Now walk on through ahead of me. If the information I uncovered in Egypt is correct, Ryan would have put the Luxor Diamond in this chamber. If you're lucky, it's still here."

"And if we're not?" Rouen said. Of course, he knew the Luxor Diamond was here. It was only recently that he deciphered the cryptic notes his partner had left him just before his death. There were five different places the Luxor Diamond could be. He'd checked 4 of them already. The last place was here.

"Silly me. I guess I'll be the only one who is lucky. You two will just be dead. Too bad Ryan isn't here to see me steal back the diamond he stole from me."

"Diamond? This is all about a diamond?"

"Keep moving," Rouen said quietly watching the two glowing lights meander toward Athena's back. "And stay behind me."

Athena's face showed twisted satisfaction as they slowly moved in the darkness of the chamber toward the platform where his partner stowed the artifacts Creamer and his cronies were selling for profit instead of giving them to the government. The platform was high enough that the water wouldn't reach it. All the artifacts were here, waiting for the time when Rouen had solid proof of Creamer and Athena's criminal dealings.

But there was only 1 piece that Athena and Creamer had been interested in. The Luxor Diamond, a 32 carat uncut diamond that when cut would be worth nearly 8 million dollars.

As he flashed the light onto the wall, the boxes of artifacts came into few.

"Which one is it? I know you know, Rouen. Ryan must have told you."

He knew. But only because of the description of the box his partner had left for him. His eyes immediately found the one brown leather box in the center of the shelf. His hands touched the dusty leather before flipping the lid open.

Lovey gasped when she saw the diamond nestled on blue crushed velvet. Even uncut, Rouen had to admit the stone was magnificent.

What should have brought hope and prosperity for the developing country that mined the diamonds, only brought despair when the riches were used for evil. Two key people on the project, his partners, had been mysteriously killed as well as their families. Everyone he was close to was in danger, especially Lovey.

How could he have married her and put her at risk? And for what? The chocolate diamond that would one day be cut and shine a brilliant canary yellow and be worth a fortune. Soon after his disappearance, Creamer had planted himself across the street from Lovey's chocolate shop and Athena had gone to work for Lovey. They were too close. They were watching her every move in the hopes that Lovey would lead them to Ryan.

That's when Ryan had become a ghost of the past and his fictitious twin brother was born as way for him to safely uncover the Luxor Diamond. And everything he'd wanted for himself…and Lovey was suddenly out of reach. If he'd contacted her to tell her the truth, she would have been used as a pawn to get to him. Only when he was able to deliver the diamond to the proper authorities and expose Creamer's criminal dealings would he and Lovey have a life together.

That is, if she'd still have him. After seeing her today, feeling her next to him, he prayed that she would. If they could make it out of the cave with Luxor, they had a chance.

"Out of my way," Athena snarled, snatching the diamond from the velvet box.

Just then, the glowing lights that had stealthy moved into the cave came into view. Only this time from above on the shelf. Cupid screeched and jumped onto Athena, scratching her face, startling her enough that she dropped the gun.

With Athena screaming in pain, Rouen grabbed the diamond from Athena's hand. Cupid whined and weaved around his feet as the sound of rushing water echoed in the cave.

"High tide?" Lovey asked. A rush of cold breeze blew Lovey's hair across her delicate face as a rush of water filled the floor of the cave and submerged them to their knees.

"We can't go back the way we came in," Rouen said. With the diamond in his hand, Rouen scooped Cupid up out of the water and handed her to Lovey. "Hold on to her tight. This is going to get rough. But I think I know a way out."

Taking Lovey by the hand he turned as a wall of water hit them in the back. He was able to climb onto the ledge and lift Lovey and Cupid up as well. The slice of light above was their only way out. It was either fight for life or die trying. Rouen knew one thing. He wouldn't lose Lovey again. He prayed with every fabric of his being that God would lead them out of the darkness and into the light before the tide swallowed them.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Killer Chocolate -- A Valentine Mystery (#11)

by Cara Putman

Lovey stared at Athena unsure what to do next, or what those glowing lights might be. She'd never trained for something like this. She ran a chocolate shop after all. She didn't even like spy movies or read suspense novels. No, she wanted hers coated with romance like a thick layer of dark chocolate icing on one of her homemade brownies.

She'd lived an ordered life for so long. Then she met Ryan. The fairytale had died with his disappearance. It had taken effort, but she'd finally moved back into her comfortable pre-Ryan life. Most days, she could pretend she was content, even happy.

But that had been when she thought her life was settled, filled with a few good friends. Now as Athena held the gun steady and pointed straight at Rouen, the truth seemed to scream at her. Athena had used her, too. All for something called Luxor.

The red lights drew closer, but she felt a drip of water land on her head and looked up. The storm must have started since they climbed in the accursed cave. But if the drops landed on her maybe there was a way out through the roof of the cave.

Athena chewed her bottom lip and then waved the gun at them. "Step aside you two. Or better yet, step into that cross-hatch of lasers. I want inside that chamber, and you're as good a way as any to do it. Lovey, you stand there, and Rouen, you can walk on through. Hesitate and I'll shoot her."

Rouen stared at the mish-mash, as if studying it for a way to slip through the defenses.

Lovey racked her brain. Somewhere she had to know the combination for the security system. "Can you see a keypad, one we could use to disengage it?"

Rouen flicked his penlight along the walls. "No...wait over here."

Lovey closed her eyes, tried to imagine what number Ryan might have used. "Try our wedding day."


"Type in what was supposed to be our wedding day. 02142005." If she'd ever meant anything to Ryan, maybe he would have used that date.

Rouen looked at her. "Are you sure? Some of these are one and done systems."

"What choice do we have? It looks like bullet, bomb or brine at this point."

Rouen searched her gaze another moment, looked at Athena, then nodded. "All right." He slipped her behind his bulk, then tapped in the numbers.

The breath caught in Lovely's throat as she watched each deliberate press of the button. 0. 2. 1. 4. 2. 0. 0. 5.

Nothing, then a click. A moment later the grid disappeared.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Killer Chocolate--A Valentine Mystery (Part 10)

Chapter 10
Roxanne Rustand

Lovey edged toward the open doorway, her heart battering wildly against her ribs.  What on earth--

Rouen grabbed her arm, hauling her back against the hard wall of his muscular chest. "Stop," he hissed, his breath warm and minty against her cheek.  "Don't. Move."

She blinked, fighting the urge to melt into his arms, as overwhelmed by his proximity as she was by the terrifying sight before her.

One more step and she would have breached a network of laser-thin beams of faint, ruby light glittering across the open doorway. Backlit by a security light glowing at the far end of the vast cavern ahead, the ominous barrier was nearly invisible, but she had no illusions about what it meant.

Someone wanted to protect this place, and had spent a lot of money to do it. 
And triggering that security system might have been the last thing she ever did on this earth.

Thank you, Lord, she breathed.

Rouen gently set her aside and moved closer to the open doorway.  "Look," he said in a low tone.  "Over there."

Straight ahead, she could make out the silhouette of a towering maze of warehouse shelving.  The lower tiers were empty, though crates filled the shelves ten or fifteen feet above the damp, rocky surface of the cavern where ebony pools of water glistened.

She followed Rouen's gaze to the left wall of the cavern, and the stairs leading to a raised platform.  Above it,  multi-colored lights blinked on a control panel of some sort, casting a dim glow over a desk and chair.  A  chair which held--

She drew in a sharp breath as she made out the bulky outline of  something draped over the edge of the desk.  "W-what is that?"

"The question is who," Rouen said.  He glanced over his shoulder at her, his mouth a grim line.  "I think we can assume that he was part of this operation.  Either his partners didn't want to play nice and share, or they feared he was going to rat them out."

"That's horrible," she breathed.  "What is this place?"

"A place you never should have seen."

Lovey spun around in shock at the sound of her friend's voice.  An all-too familiar voice now laced with venom.   "Athena?  I thought--I thought you were--"

"Unconscious? Oh, please."  Athena took a step forward both arms extended in front of her, her hands expertly wrapped around a small, lethal weapon.  "I needed help getting through those locked doors, and figured it would be convenient if you bumbled through the security system on your own.  So I stayed well out of the way.  But now..." she sighed dramatically. "Now, I have to decide what to do with you.  Then again, I could simply let nature take it's course."

Lovey felt her knees turn to Jell-0. "N-nature?"

"High tide.  It's pretty obvious, if you take a look around you.  This passageway fills to the ceiling.  But try to go through that doorway and you'll  trigger an explosion of lethal gas that will kill anyone within five or ten feet."

Lovey thought a moment. "If that were true, then rising sea water would've set off the system long ago."

"Sorry, honey.  The doors you just opened were a perfect seal.  And it doesn't look like you had the last digits of the code, or the security system wouldn't be on.   So now..."  Athena shrugged.  "Your choice.  Either way, elimination of witnesses is always a good plan."

Rouen eased in front of Lovey, and she saw the gleam of the gun he held hidden in the shadows at his side.

"If that's the plan, at least tell me about my brother Ryan," he said.  "And tell me about what's going on, here."
"No time."  She backed away, her gun still aimed at Lovey's chest.  "I've got an appointment to keep, but don't try to follow.  I'll be locking the gate on my way out of here. "

"Please--Athena," Lovey managed, choking back her fear.  "Just let us go."

Athena gave a harsh laugh.  "By the way, Rouen.  I know you have a gun in your hand and might think you can take me down.  But try it, and I'll put a bullet through Lovey's chest before I die--and I never, ever miss what I aim for.  Count on it."

In the faint light, Lovey could see the hem of Athena's pants leg caught above a trim ankle holster.   It was still just so unbelievable.  Athena?   And how had Lovey's life come to this, in just the span of a few hours?

She blinked.  Stared down the passageway beyond the younger woman and swallowed hard.

Behind Athena,  two parallel,  glittering orbs were weaving through the darkness. Low to the ground, they were coming closer.   Closer....

And now Lovey began to pray.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Killer Chocolate--Part 9

By Leann Harris

Lovey felt the wet stickiness on Athena shoulder. “Athena, Athena, “ Lovey whispered to the woman.
There was no answer. “Oh, Lord, help”, Lovey whispered.
The sound of a body slamming against the cave wall filled the air. A grunt. Silence settled around her.
Lovey wanted to call out, but what if Creamer was the one standing?
A light flared and Rouen face looked back at Lovery.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
She nodded. “But Athena’s hurt. The shot hit her shoulder.”
Rouen aimed the pen light at Athena. “You work on Athena and I’ll tie up Creamer. I don’t want that man waving around another gun.”
They quickly tended to the two downed people. Lovey gently felt of Athena’s shoulder. There was blood, but she gently felt of the shoulder and discovered the shot had caught the fleshy part of Athena’s arm. Lovely pulled the red satin ash she had around her waist in celebration of Valentine’s Day and wrapped it around Athena’s upper arm. Lovey gently combed the hair back from Athena’s face and discovered a lump on the side of her head.
“How is she?” Rouen asked, crouching beside Lovey, flashing the pen light at the Athena and then Lovey.
Turning her head, her mouth nearly brushed Rouen’s. She swallowed hard. “It’s just a flesh wound. There’s a lump on the side of her head.” Glancing over her shoulder, she said, “She fell into the cave wall. I think that’s what knocked her out.” She turned back to Rouen and came in contact with that luscious mouth of his. “What’s going on here?”
Rouen shook his head. “I don’t know, but it appears that my brother’s been in contact with Athena and me and Creamer. I want to know why this mystery and what’s behind that door. And--” His lips brushed over hers.
Lovey heart nearly burst from her chest, and her lips tingled at the touch.
“If I was engaged to you, I wouldn’t have disappeared for years.”
This man’s words had more effect on his than anything Ryan. “Thank you.”
“Well, let’s see if we can open this door.” He aimed the pen light at the steel door. There was a keypad.
“You’ve got an idea on the combination?” Rouen asked.
Lovey thought. Her birthday? Her phone? “What about your and Ryan’s birthday?”
He tried the date. Nothing happened. “Tell me yours.”
She gave it to him. Nothing again.
As she watched him punch in the numbers, she saw his watch. “Your watch. And my watch. Ryan gave them to use. Maybe they have something to do with the combination.” She took off her watch and turned it over. 20-35-428. They compared the numbers with Rouen’s. The numbers matched.
Rouen punched the numbers into the key pad. The lights on the door turned green.
“Quick thinking. Looks like that’s it.” He reached for the door handle pulled it to the left, releasing the lock. He opened the door and found another door. With another pad.
“Now what?” Rouen asked.
“Now try your birthday,” \
He punched in the date and tried the door. The handle clicked open. Rouen slowly opened the door.
Lovey’s mouth opened in shock at the sight behind the door.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Killer Chocolate--A Valentine's Mystery part 8

by Terri Reed

The tunnel reeked of brine, decay and some unfamiliar foul odor that choked the breath from Lovey’s lungs. She wished she were back inside her shop where the decadent scents of rich chocolates were a constant. She couldn’t believe she’d led them all here. What had she been thinking?
She’d been thinking she didn’t want the cat, Athena, Rouen or herself to be shot by Mr. Creamer and his nasty looking gun. She’d done the only thing she could.
A decision she hoped wouldn’t prove to be fatal.

Up ahead in the inky blackness, twin red dots, like unblinking eyes, glowed bright.
Sharp talons of terror clawed through Lovey. She stumbled
to a halt, sent up a silent plea for protection and clung tighter to Rouen’s hand.
Athena let out a small gasp.
“What is that?” Lovey whispered, her voice shaking as thoughts of wild beasts rampaged through her mind.
“I don’t know,” came Rouen’s soft reply.
Creamer bumped into them. “What’s the big idea? Keep moving.”
Rouen tugged Lovey behind him so that her back was against the cold, damp side of the tunnel. His big, broad shoulders blocked out the glowing lights. “Do you have a flashlight, Creamer?”
“No. Don’t you?” he snapped.
Rouen snorted under his breath. He released Lovey’s hand. A second later light from a small pin size flashlight illuminated the tunnel. He shined the bean on toward the red dots revealing a keypad fastened to the wall. Lovey could barely make out the visible lines of a door. What was on the other side?
Waving his gun in Rouen’s face, Mr. Creamer, said, “Open it.”
“And how do you suppose I do that? Do you have the combination?” Rouen asked, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Figure it out,” Creamer demanded.
Lovey thought about the watch attached to her wrist and the matching one on Rouen. Was the combination somehow hidden on the watches?
Just then the light winked out.
“Hey!” Creamer shouted.
Lovey groped for Athena in the dark. She found her and held on tight as the sound of feet shuffling on the earthen floor filled the air. Grunts came from the direction of the two men. Lovey could only assume Rouen had made a grab for the gun. The sound of a fist slamming into bone made Lovey wince. Please, Lord, protect Rouen.
In such a short space of time she’d found herself drawn to the tall mysterious man who looked like her lost Ryan, yet there was something different, something dangerous and exciting all at once, about Rouen that fascinated Lovey. She thought of a truffle with a hard dark chocolate exterior protecting an inner core of creamy, delicious goodness. Would Rouen prove to be good inside? Or would her judgment prove to be off, as it apparently had been about Ryan, who’d kept so many secrets from her?
Suddenly, the simultaneous loud retort of the gun firing and the flash from the muzzle filled the dark tunnel. The brief second of light revealed the two men still locked in battle over the weapon.
Lovey’s ears rang. Beside her Athena went down, taking Lovey with her.
Then darkness once again descended.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Killer Chocolate -A Valentine Mystery

Part Seven
By Debby Giusti

Lovey had to do something. She couldn’t let Mr. Creamer harm Cupid. “Stop,” she shouted. “I know what you’re after, and I’ll take you there.”

Rouen raised his brow and stared down at her with questioning eyes. “Lovey, you said you didn’t have knowledge of the Luxor Project.”

“But I can read maps, and the one in the desk shows an area not far from here.”

“Take me there at once,” Mr. Creamer demanded, dropping Cupid who landed with a mew on the soft cushion of the Victorian sofa. Pointing his gun at Lovey, Creamer nodded toward the door. “Get going and don’t pull any funny business.”

Glancing first at Rouen and then at Athena, who had palmed the cell phone and was trying to inconspicuously slip it into her pocket, Lovey gathered her courage and, buoyed by Rouen’s closeness, walked with determined steps through the door and onto the street.

“Follow me, everyone,” she said with more gusto than she felt. Surely, someone would see them and come to their aid, but when she glanced around, she realized the other shops were closed and the street deserted.

Rouen grabbed her hand and squeezed, sending a signal of support and encouragement with his touch. For an instant, Lovey forgot about the gun Creamer had concealed in his coat pocket, which was still aimed at her, and thought only of the handsome man at her side. Silently, she prayed her plan would work.

“What are you doing?” Rouen whispered so only she could hear.

“Praying we get out of this alive.”

“Amen to that,” he answered.

His eyes were warm, and a hint of a smile played over his full lips. If they survived this ordeal, Lovey wanted to tempt him with her dark chocolate clustered almonds and a cup of love-at-first-sight hot chocolate topped with marshmallows and a sprinkle of mocha. She envisioned sharing Valentine’s Day with Rouen, and her pulse purred like her tabby cat.

The caw of a gull quickly brought her back to reality. As dismal as the day seemed, at least, Rouen was at her side.

Dark clouds signaled an approaching storm as they made their way along a desolate back alley to the rock seawall, a sturdy barrier that kept the ocean water at bay during high tide. Lovey glanced at the white caps on the incoming surf and then at the filigree watch Ryan had given her. They had to move quickly before the waves covered the tiny sandy beach that edged the wall.

Descending the stone steps from the street level to the beach below, she stepped onto the sand and headed toward the bend in the sea wall. Rounding the corner, she pointed to a narrow tunnel-like opening cut deep into the rock. “You’ll find what you’re looking for in there, Mr. Creamer.”

He stepped close and peered into the darkness, but before Lovey or Rouen could make a move to overpower him, Creamer straightened and, after freeing his gun from his pocket, aimed it, once again, at Lovey.

“Ladies first,” he said with a snarl that sent her heart crashing against her chest as forcefully as the waves that now swirled around her legs.

She hesitated, hoping to hear the sound of sirens and the approaching police who would come to their rescue after receiving Athena’s call for help. That is if Athena had been able to make the call.

Glancing back at her friend, Lovey’s heart sank as she watched the cell phone—as if in slow motion—slip through Athena’s nervous fingers and drop into the water.

“Oh, Lovey, I’m so sorry,” Athena said, her eyes filling with tears as the phone was carried out to sea.

“Get going,” Creamer demanded, pointing toward the tunnel. “All of you.”

Swallowing down the fear that lodged in her throat, Lovey pulled in a fortifying breath and looked into the eyes of the man at her side.

Rouen’s jaw tightened and his free hand fisted, but his other hand held hers with a firm, yet gentle touch that steeled her resolution. He gazed down at her, and she knew they would get out of this alive.

But she changed her mind when she stepped into the darkened tunnel. What she saw frightened her more than Mr. Creamer or his gun.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Killer Chocolate: A Valentine Mystery Part Six

“Mr. Creamer!” Lovey gasped. “What in the world…”
“So, you’re the one I’ve been after all this time.” Rouen narrowed those deep make you melt chocolate eyes on the man with the weapon.
“Where is it?”
 “Where’s what?” Rouen demanded. Lovey wondered how he could stay so calm while staring down the business end of the gun. She gulped and tried to still her trembling knees.
Mr. Creamer moved forward, the gun held in his firm grip. “The code. I know Ryan had it.”
Lovey pushed the silver watch, a gift from Ryan a week before he disappeared, around her wrist. A nervous habit she’d picked up whenever she thought about Ryan.
Then she noticed the more masculine version of her watch encircling Rouen’s tanned wrist.
Rouen lifted a brow. “A code? Ryan never said anything about a code.”
Panic flickered in the older man’s gaze as he turned his flat green eyes on Lovey. “Then he told you, didn’t he?”
She swallowed hard. “N-no.” She shot a quick glance at Rouen. “Apparently Ryan neglected to tell me quite a few things.”
A low, frustrated growl came from Mr. Creamer causing Lovey to jump and sidle closer to the man who’d placed himself in front of her. Her heart gave a little tremble at the memory and realized Rouen had just told her he was willing to take a bullet for her.
Even though fear nearly knocked her knees out from under her, she determined to hold her own in this crazy dangerous situation. From the corner of her eye, she saw Athena palming her cell phone. Could the woman get a message for help out to the authorities before Mr. Creamer did something dreadful?
The man stepped closer, his white hot glare making her cringe—then straighten her spine and glare right back. His gaze landed on the antique desk. Then his eyes widened as he hurried over to it. “The map,” he breathed.
Rouen started forward as though to make a grab for the gun, but the older man was too quick. He pointed the gun straight at Rouen’s heart and said through gritted teeth. “Stand back.”
 Rouen paused, then stepped back. “What are you going to do, Creamer? Kill us all?”
Amusement glittered at that. “You don’t think I’m doing this all alone, do you?”
Lovey watched Rouen clamp his jaw so tight she was surprised his teeth didn’t shatter. “Who are you working with?”
A snort. “Like I’d tell you. Now move back so I can keep an eye on you. I need to look at something.”
Rouen conceded and moved back next to Lovey. He placed a reassuring arm around her shoulders. Lovey felt Athena slip behind her and Rouen.
Creamer’s attention was on the map as he muttered to himself. “It’s here. It’s got to be.”
Lovey lifted Rouen’s wrist to get a closer look at the watch. “It’s just like mine,” she whispered.
“What?” he leaned his head close to hers and once again, she got a whiff of his cologne.
“Your watch. Ryan gave it to you, didn’t he?”
Startled, he met her gaze. “How did you know?”
“What does this mean!” Mr. Creamer suddenly yelled. “There should be a compass here. Not a picture of a stupid watch!”
Lovey gasped and glanced at her wrist then Rouen’s. Did the watches have something to do with the code Mr. Creamer seemed so desperate to find?
And if so, what?
And what did it have to do with an old map?
Cupid put in a sudden appearance to the left of Mr. Creamer. A determined expression crossed the man’s face as he grabbed the animal by the scruff of the neck. Placing the gun against the yowling animal’s head, he ordered, “Help me find the code or the cat,” he grinned a feral grin, “gets creamed.”

Friday, February 5, 2010

Killer Chocolate A Valentine Mystery part 5

Part 5 by Barbara Phinney

“Why do you keep mentioning Luxor?” Lovey looked up at Rouen. “You mean the city in Egypt?”

“Yes.” Rouen moved closer, too. Lovey automatically inhaled his musky cologne, trying and failing to remember Ryan’s favorite.

“But that’s only the half of it,” Athena breathed, “I asked Rouen here because he’s been in on it since the beginning. Oh, Lovey, it’s been awful to keep secrets from you, but since Ryan’s disappearance-”

“In on what?”

Athena threw Rouen a sharp glance, all the while swallowing. It was Rouen that answered. “Ryan never told you what he did for a living?”

“Well, it was some building project. He didn’t say much about it, and well, honestly, he didn’t even mention you, his twin brother, so why on earth would he mention his job!” She threw up her hands, startling Cupid who obviously disliked all this fuss. He jumped down and dashed into the back room.

“Building project. Hmm. That’s one way of describing the theft of priceless artifacts.” Athena looked sadly at her friend. “I’m sorry this has to happen this way, but I needed you and Rouen here together because-”

Immediately, she gasped and jumped. Lovey turned and jumped, too. Pressing his tanned and dour face into the window of the door, was Mr. Creamer.

He reached for the door knob and jiggled it, then threw his harsh glare back in through the window at them.

Immediately, Rouen pushed Lovey back behind him and reached for the doorknob.

“No, don’t let him in!” Athena cried.

“We have to.” Rouen shook his head. “Creamer was my contact in Luxor and if the Egyptian Antiquities Department has discovered what I suspect has happened, we’ll need his contacts in Cairo.”

Rouen turned to Lovey as he let the older man in. He studied her for a moment and for that moment as the sweet heady scent of dark chocolate drifted between them, Lovey wanted to melt in the man’s arms like Godiva truffles melted in her mouth. “You really know nothing about Luxor?” he asked quietly.

Lovey shook her head. Rouen’s gaze softened as he searched her face. “Then Ryan was using you,” he said gently. “Wait ‘til I get my hands on him.”

“We’ve got bigger problems than Ryan’s despicable behavior,” Athena interjected.

Lovey reluctantly pulled her gaze from the intense Rouen, to stare at what Athena was pointing to.

Mr. Creamer had pulled a gun from his jacket and was pointing it right at her.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Killer Chocolate: A Valentine Mystery Part Four

It was all too much for a Thursday morning. Lovey was supposed to be heading for the morning Ladies' Bible Class. She was NOT supposed to be standing in her shop with her missing fiancés secret twin brother. And she was MOST CERTAINLY NOT supposed to be gaping at her assistant who seemed to be in on the secret.

Lovey let go of the sofa's arm and stood. This was her shop, and Ryan was her fiance!

Was her fiance? Five years.... Five long years. And now? Could he possibly still be alive? “Athena, are you going to tell me what this is all about?”

“Oh, Lovey,” Athena’s eyes teared up. “I’ve hated keeping secrets from you, but it was for your own good.”

“But not Ryan’s own good!” Rouen practically snarled. “What about my brother? Where is he? Why have you called me here now? Why all the theatrics?”

Athena took a deep breath and walked to an antique desk. Quickly she removed the plate of chocolate and all the antiques that were spread across the smooth surface. Finally, she sat in the chair and pushed what must have been either a lever or a button. There was a loud clicking sound and then the top of the desk slowly slid back, displaying what looked like an aged map.

“Luxor,” Rouen said softly, moving closer to the desk and looking down.

“Only half,” murmured Athena.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Killer Chocolate: A Valentine Mystery PART 3

PART THREE - Lisa Mondello

"Not so fast. I want answers," Rouen said. "It's been five years of wondering what happened to my brother and if you have any information for me, then I want to hear it now."

Lovey closed her eyes for a brief moment. "But I don't have any information for you."

"I don't believe that. Why else would Ryan send me here?"

"I don't know. I'm wondering the same thing," Lovey said, trying to remember any conversation they'd had during their engagement that may have indicated Ryan had a twin brother. It was so long ago and yet seeing Rouen, and how much he looked like Ryan, made it seem like it was yesterday. "Just like I'm wondering why my fiancé didn't bother to tell me he had a twin."

Rouen swayed. "Fiance? You and Ryan…"

"Yes, we were going to be married." Lovey sat down on the red velvet sofa, feeling the weight of grief she'd kept hidden. "The week after he disappeared."

Looking at her suspiciously, he said, "Then you must know about the Luxor Project he was working on."

Lovey looked at him confused. "Luxor Project? What is that?"

A veil of anger washed over Rouen's expression. His jaw tightened and his eyes turned cold. Cupid seemed to sense the tension in the room and decided to intervene by purring and rubbing up against Rouen's designer pants in an effort to soothe the anxiety in the room. Rouen seemed unaffected by Cupid's attention.

"If this is some joke," Rouen said through clenched teeth.

Lovey grasped the arm of the Victorian sofa and tried to get her bearings. "If it is, then it's being played on both of us."

"I find it hard to believe that you would be a week away from marrying my brother without my even knowing of your existence and without you knowing about the most important project he'd been working on."

He had a point and it became abundantly clear to Lovey that she may not have known Ryan at all. They'd fallen in love in a rush of romance and immediately decided to marry. When you knew, you knew, Ryan had said. And he'd told her over and over again that she was a blessing that God had brought into his life. She felt the same and saw no reason to wait through a long engagement before making their love for each other official. But that never happened. He'd gone missing at sea soon after.

Abruptly, the door to Hearts and Flowers sprang open. Athena raced through the flower shop door along with a rush of cold breeze and then locked the door behind her. She was breathless as if she'd run a marathon to get to the shop.

Taking in Rouen's presence, Athena said, "Good, you're here. I was afraid you wouldn't come."

"You were afraid? Ryan was the one who told me to come here," Rouen said.

Athena shook her head. "No, he didn't."

Confused, Lovey said, "He didn't? If Ryan didn't send Rouen here, then who did?"

Athena looked out the window as if she was searching for something…or someone. Lovey had never seen Athena like this and it was beginning to scare her.

"I did," Athena admitted.

Lovey gasped. "What? Why would you do something like this?" Lovey had known Athena for a long time. Athena was well aware of how much pain Lovey was in when Ryan disappeared. How could she open up a wound that had taken Lovey so long to close?

Biting her bottom lip, tears welled in Athena's terrified eyes. "Because Ryan asked me to, Lovey. I'm sorry, but you're in danger. We all are."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Killer Chocolate--A Valentine Mystery: Part Two

Part Two—Margaret Daley

Lovey pressed her hand to her chest. The beat of her heart thudded so fast she felt lightheaded. Ryan? Here? Or am I dreaming?

The tingling of the golden bells announced a visitor. The tall, dark-haired man. When he entered, he panned the shop, his dark chocolate gaze finally resting on her. Her lungs seized her next breath and refused to let it go.

She clutched the counter near her to steady her wobbly legs. “Ryan?” she murmured on an expelled puff of air.

He looked like her fiancé, except there was a hardness to his tanned features, a sharp glint in his eyes that Ryan never had. And that intensity that rolled off this man crashed against her like a tidal wave.
“Ryan? No, I’m Rouen Stanfield, Ryan’s twin brother.”

Twin brother? Ryan had a twin? Why didn’t he ever tell her? What else did he keep a secret? Why was Rouen here after so many years? “Why are you here?” she finally managed to voice one of the many questions she had concerning the man standing only a few yards away from her.

“I got an urgent message to come here to Seacrest, to this shop.” He took three steps toward her.

She gripped the counter even tighter, wanting to back away. Not believing what she was seeing and hearing. “Who sent you a message? Why?”


The scent of dark chocolate permeated the store. She could use a cup right now. Actually the whole pot. “Ryan called you?” Why didn’t he call her?

“No, it was a letter. I received it yesterday and have been driving all night to get here. If my brother is alive, I want to know what he’s been doing for all these years.”

So do I. But none of this really made any sense. Could she believe this man who looked like Ryan and yet wasn’t? What was going on? Confusion reigned in her, making her head throb.

Rouen moved another foot closer. This time Lovey backed away and nearly stepped on Cupid who purred his protest, then ambled toward the red velvet Victorian antique sofa and plopped down on it as though he owned the shop.

A few more paces and Rouen stood right in front of her, his musky scent vying with the dark chocolate one. “Why would Ryan want me to come here? Who are you?”

His words, coated in a menacing edge, heightened her fear. She was alone in the shop with this man. Where was Athena? That was when she remembered her old friend’s strange phone call minutes ago.

Lovey inched forward to snatch her cell from the counter. Rouen clamped his hand over hers.