Friday, October 5, 2012

Romantic Suspense - Murder on the Beach! A guilty cop?

Happy Friday, friends! 

It always seems so unfair that it takes so long to get to Friday, my favorite day of the week! Friday means one last day of work, and then I will have lots of writing time. I seem to accomplish the most when I can write in one big spurt. Saturdays and Sundays give me a great opportunity to write away. Hopefully just a few more weekends and I will have the first draft of my new romantic suspense, Crime & Passion, completed. 

I promised to give you all a little information on Crime & Passion when things settled down for me after releasing Always & Forever. This book has turned out to be very different from A&F, but I have had such a fun time writing it. 

A decorated police officer, more intent on justice than following the letter of the law, lands in trouble when a gorgeous schoolteacher finds a dead body on the beach. 

Fun-loving Donovan Andrews knows how to have a good time--ask any woman in town. But when it comes to men abusing their wives or children, Donovan takes it upon himself to make them regret it. 

Madeline Scott visited her fiancé the night before their wedding and discovered a small problem--him sleeping with another woman. All Madeline wanted was a quiet place to heal, and to stay far away from cheating, womanizing men. Everything changes when she finds the murdered man and sees a person fleeing the scene.

Donovan becomes the prime suspect when the victim ends up being a man he punched the day before. He turns to Madeline, hoping she can help clear his name. It doesn't take the pair long to realize the passion between them is more dangerous than the elusive killer.

Because I can't wait to share this book, I'm giving you the first chapter here. I hope you enjoy. I'd love to hear your thoughts (please note this has not been edited professionally yet ;-) Happy reading and writing everyone. Oh, for the last stop on my Always & Forever blog tour, don't forget to visit http://kimberlysullivan.wordpress.com/ to read my interview with Kimberly! 

Have a fantastic weekend! 

eeeChantelfff

CRIME AND PASSION
© 2012 Chantel Rhondeau

Warning:  This chapter contains moderate cursing.

Chapter One
The glassy eyes of the corpse seemed to stare at Madeline. A brisk breeze carried the scent of salt and fish, and blew her long hair around her face. Crashing waves were the only sound on the deserted beach other than panting from Madeline’s four-legged companion. Water lapped at the dead man’s feet, devouring him bit by bit as the tide rose.

“Are you there, Ms. Scott?” the 911 dispatcher asked.

“Yes, I’m here,” Madeline whispered. “Please send someone quickly. The tide’s coming in.”

“We have a unit in the area. Don’t touch anything.”

As if I would. Madeline shivered at the horrified look on the man’s face. Pleasant View was a small coastal town. It was the type of place where everyone knew their neighbors, but Madeline had only moved here two months earlier.

Too bad she hadn’t met this particular resident under different circumstances. Yellow and blue nylon rope wrapped around the man’s neck cut off his air supply forever, ending whatever type of life the handsome blond might have had.

Madeline looked back up the beach, thinking about what she saw. When she had approached this area, she noticed a slightly built person jogging away. She shuddered again. If that person were responsible, they couldn’t have killed the blond long before she walked up.

Brutus strained at his leash, bringing her back to the present as he tried to get closer to the body. Madeline could only guess the smell of the recently deceased drove the Great Dane crazy.

She tugged on his leash. “Sit, Brutus.”

The big, black dog heaved a sigh and lowered his back haunches, looking up at Madeline reproachfully.

She heaved a sigh of her own. At 160 pounds, the muscular Great Dane allowed her the illusion of control while she held the leash, but really, Madeline maintained power only at the dog’s behest.

A police cruiser pulled into the parking area. Two officers hopped out and made their way down the beach. An ambulance stopped behind them and medics poured from the vehicle, assembling their equipment.

Not that it would do them much good. The man was beyond requiring medical attention. He needed a coroner.

“The police are here,” she said into the phone.

“That’s good, Miss Scott. We can hang up now. Have a nice day.”

Yeah, right. A nice day? Sure. Because she stumbled across bodies all the time and this was no big deal. Madeline shuddered. The man had been warm when she checked for a pulse, and the image of his sightless gaze was sure to haunt her dreams.

She put the cell phone into her pocket and watched as the rescue people ran down the beach. There was no reason for them to hurry, except for the rising tide.

The first officer approached, his attention focused solely on her. He didn’t even glance at the body. “Miss Scott, is it? Dispatch said you discovered the body?” He gave a friendly smile as he closed the remaining distance between them. “I’m sorry. That must’ve been a shock.”

Madeline nodded. “Yes, it was, Officer...”

“Andrews, Donovan Andrews.” He stuck out his hand and gave another reassuring smile.

Madeline smiled back, trying to offer some reassurance of her own as she shook his hand. No, Officer Andrews, I’m not going to faint. I promise I won’t complicate your crime scene by breaking into hysterics. Madeline almost laughed, though she wished she really could faint.

She shivered and hugged her arms tightly to her body. Having been idle for several minutes, the bite of the cold wind chilled her skin. While she and Brutus trotted along at a quick pace, she'd been warm enough. Now, Madeline wished she’d brought a jacket.

Officer Andrews must have noticed. He slipped his arms from his black windbreaker and slung it around Madeline’s shoulders, battling the wind to wrap it around her. He adjusted the collar against her neck and his fingers brushed her skin lightly, sending a tingle of awareness through her. The gesture, and her body’s reaction to it, caught her off guard. Madeline took a step back, avoiding his touch.

“Sorry,” he said. “You look like you’re freezing. I know it’s April, but you really shouldn’t go around without a jacket in the evening, Miss. It gets mighty cold.”

Madeline grabbed the edges of his jacket and pulled it tightly against her. His spicy scent tickled her senses as it wafted up from the fabric. “Thanks. I’ll remember that. Normally I run with Brutus and don’t stand around long enough to get cold. Next time I find a body, I’ll keep running.”

“Touché.” A grin flashed across his face briefly. “Seriously, though, are you okay?”

She nodded and looked up at him, pleasantly surprised she had to look up. At five foot ten, Madeline was a giant compared to most women. She’d long since given up the dream of being one of those petite, delicate things men loved to wrap their arms around.

Andrews was very tall with a slender body. His police uniform didn’t offer much in the way of discovering what his body looked like, but Madeline sensed a core of strength. At least if she dated him she could wear heels.

And where did that thought come from?

Activity whirled next to them as the EMS team attended to the body. Officer Andrews spared a glance for the corpse, and his blue eyes tightened around the corners. His face paled and when he met Madeline’s eyes again, he looked shaken.

“Did you know him?” she asked.

The officer nodded.

Great question, genius. In a town of less than 3000, of course he knew the victim.

Andrews put his arm around Madeline’s shoulders. “Why don’t I take you and your friend up to sit in the police cruiser? It’ll be warmer in there, and I need to ask you some questions.”

Madeline nodded. It seemed odd that this man would put his arm around her like this, having just met her, but she appreciated his calming presence as he led her to the car. Brutus followed along without complaint, and Madeline allowed herself to lean on Officer Andrews. She forgave herself for acting so girly in that moment.

After all, she did just discover a body.

***

Donovan looked at Miss Scott through the police cruiser window and ran a hand over his hair. Frank Johnson, murdered? He wasn’t surprised someone killed the bastard, but this could create problems for Donovan.

He took one last look at Madeline before turning toward the beach. Miss Scott was a rare find. She must be new in town. Donovan would remember those long legs and pouty red lips, had he seen them before. Her deep brown eyes had kept him steady when he realized just whose body the tide slowly covered.

“Donovan, did you see who that is?” Eric Sanders shifted back and forth in his excitement. “Just think. You kicked his ass yesterday and now that sucker’s dead.”

Donovan glanced at his new partner and grimaced. Frank certainly deserved the punch Donovan gave him. However, after only working with Eric for one month, Donovan didn’t trust him to have his back.

“Maybe we shouldn’t talk about that, huh?” Donovan looked into Eric’s hazel eyes.

“Worried about something, are you?” Eric brushed sand off his hands onto his blue uniform and shook his head. “You were out of my sight for over twenty minutes before the call came in. I’d worry too.”

“Out of your sight? I was in the bathroom. You know I’ve been sick since we ate at the taco wagon earlier.”

“You were in the bathroom just up the street. Plenty of time for you to whack him. That could be a problem.” Eric shook his head. “I bet his wife says something when they talk to her. She was pissed at you yesterday.”

An aggressive wave surged up the shoreline and angled for Donovan’s foot. He stepped back, but Eric, whose back was turned, ended up soaked.

Donovan grinned. Petty vengeance perhaps, but he felt a little better watching his partner jump around, cursing the cold water. It was definitely a good thing he came down to talk to Eric before questioning Madeline. He didn’t want Eric voicing this suspicion about what kind of time Donovan had unaccounted for. It wasn’t as though he did anything, but every rookie dreamed of nabbing a crooked cop.

“Look, Eric, I wasn’t at that house by myself yesterday. You could have done something just as easily while I was in the bathroom.” Donovan raised an eyebrow. “Can someone in the restaurant account for your whereabouts the entire time?”

Tugging on the collar of his shirt, Eric shook his head. “I don’t know.”

Well, thank God for small favors. “Then I think it’s best we stick together on this one, don’t you? Besides, Frank Johnson deserved to be punched for hitting his daughter.”

Eric nodded. “Sure thing, partner. I was happy when you decked him, but Stephanie Johnson heard you make that threat about him watching his back in dark alleys. You know she’s going to mention it, ‘cause she got so pissed.”

It was the same story every time. Dispatch sent Donovan to the Johnson’s house for a report of domestic violence, but when he got there, no one admitted anything. Stephanie always claimed she made a mistake and Frank hadn’t touched her. Unable to find evidence he abused the kids, Donovan had to leave when Stephanie told him to.

Frank’s luck ran out yesterday. The youngest child had a fresh bruise across her forehead, and Donovan called Child Services. They quickly arrived to take the children into custody, having been waiting for an excuse to seize them for the past year.

Once everyone left, Frank made threats against the police department and said the kids were his property. He said it was his right to treat them any way he wanted.

Donovan tore into him without thinking and threatened to kill him if he ever touched Stephanie or the children again. Though Frank made threats to turn Donovan in, he never called the station to report the incident. The few times he’d had altercations with Frank in the past, Donovan’s old partner always backed up his side of the story and he never received a formal reprimand. Now, however, Stephanie was sure to tell everyone what happened, and Donovan didn’t think he could trust Eric to help him.

He looked at his young partner. “You’ve only been here a month, Eric. Trust me, there’s not a soul in town who liked that asshole. Plenty of people would’ve liked to see him dead.” Donovan took a deep breath and tried to convince himself everything would be okay. “Henry and I went out to that house over twenty times in the last year. And that wasn’t the first time I hit Frank.”

“Yeah, but it’s the first time he’s ended up dead,” Eric muttered.

Donovan cranked his neck sideways, popping his jaw. Eric had a point. He looked back at the body, relieved to see the coroner crouched next to it. Now they could try to piece together what happened.

“I’m going to interview the witness. Why don’t you deal with the coroner?” Donovan suggested.

Eric snorted. “’Course you’d pick the pretty lady and leave me with a stinking body.”

Donovan laughed as he headed back to the car. “Privileges of rank, kid.”

***

“It’s okay, Brutus,” Madeline assured the dog, reaching into the back seat to pet his large head. Perhaps she should just finish Brutus’ walk and take him home to his mommy. There was no reason to sit around here. The cops could talk to her at her house. Still, she hesitated against leaving because she didn’t want to get into trouble with the police.

Finally, Donovan Andrews’ head popped up over the small hill leading from the beach. He unlocked the door and climbed into the driver’s seat.

He looked calmer than when he first saw the body. Sadness didn’t seem to be the emotion he dealt with. If Madeline had to guess, she would suppose it was either fear or guilt, judging by the look that crossed his face.

“Well, now,” he said, locking his blue eyes onto Madeline, “I just have a few questions about what you saw, Miss Scott.”

“Can that wait, Officer? I have–”

“Call me Donovan.”

“I–oh, okay.” Madeline took a deep breath, which flooded her senses with Donovan’s subtle cologne mixed with the scent of the ocean. “Donovan, I need to get Brutus home to his owner. You see, I’m a dog walker, and she’ll worry about him if we’re too late. I can’t afford to lose her as a client. She insists I walk Brutus without any other dogs, and she pays very well.”

“Ah...I’ve seen Brutus around. Thought he looked familiar. Mrs. Stanfield bought him after her husband died two years ago. Odd choice for an older woman, but he seems like a good dog. Still, must be hard for her to control him on walks.”

Maybe finding a dead body made her grouchy, but small talk didn’t interest her. The last thing she wanted was his commentary on whether her client picked the appropriate breed of dog. “I suppose that’s why she pays me the big bucks. I need to get back to work.”

He tipped his head sideways. “I can’t believe you’re a dog walker.”

Madeline immediately bristled, her hands forming fists against her thighs. “It pays the rent. I’m actually a grade-school teacher, but those jobs aren’t plentiful around here. Dog walking mixed with substitute teaching pays the bills.” She glared at him, daring him to make an inappropriate remark about her profession. “I also work at Woofy Cuts as a groomer. Do you have a problem with that?”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Take it easy, Madeline. I only asked for clarity.” He reached across the space between them and patted her balled fist. “I wasn’t trying to offend. It’s good work and gets you out exercising every day. Personally, I love running in the–”

“I need to finish his walk and get Brutus home, sir,” Madeline interrupted, slipping her hand out of his and folding her arms together. “Do you think we could talk about things later?”

Donovan shrugged. “How ‘bout I walk with you? Then we can accomplish everything at once.”

Madeline knew she wasn’t in a position to argue. Besides, she tried not to notice, but Donovan attracted her in a way she hadn’t felt in a while. She avoided interesting men at all costs since her failed wedding. As intriguing as he seemed, his touchy-feely nature and apparent confidence warned her to be careful. Donovan Andrews was very likely a player.

He looked to be nearing forty–a very sexy, distinguished forty to be sure–and didn’t wear a wedding ring. His actions so far hadn’t made a good impression on her. He was a man used to being successful with the ladies, no matter what he did.

Madeline reminded herself none of that mattered. She wasn’t interested, and Donovan had his hands busy with a murder investigation. This wasn’t a dating service. “Sure, you can walk with us.”

6 comments:

  1. Love this story! You have me hooked and I'm really anxious to see what happens...

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kimberly! I'm loving writing it. So much fun and so different from Always & Forever.

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  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Lisa! That makes my day :-) Happy reading!

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  3. Hi Chantel, nice blurb. You've set out the characters and their potential conflict very well.

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    1. Thanks, Rachelle! Glad it's coherent. I didn't run this one by anyone else yet--totally winging it ;-) I'm sure it'll go through a couple changes before I'm ready to publish.

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