Monday, March 07, 2011

Unforgettable; Watch Your Back


Trish Perry

Summerside Press, March 2011

Rachel Stanhope tries to see the good in everyone. But even her good graces are challenged when she meets cocky reporter Josh Reegan outside her Arlington, Virginia dance studio on a brisk fall morning in 1951. Their paths cross often--between Arlington and New York; between the melodrama of ballroom antics and the real drama of political corruption; and between family involvement and romantic entanglement. The last thing either of them expects is mutual need and support. But once they stop dancing around the truth, the results are unforgettable.

Excerpt from Chapter One:

Rachel turned to see two kids approaching. A boy and a girl, most definitely coming for her dance class. She could tell, because the girl looked thrilled and the boy looked ready to bolt.

Jerry ran up to them. He immediately chatted with the boy and girl as if they were his best friends.

And the man escorting them? Well, he was, in a word, breathtaking. Dressed in a sharp suit and crisp white shirt, dark blond hair cut similar to Cary Grant's, and the kind of keen eyes so blue you could spot their color from far away. Rachel looked away from him. He was probably their father. She took care with the fathers. Sometimes they had the wrong impression about dancers.

By the time the small group reached Rachel, the kids had bonded. They ran to the other end of the storefront, where they stood on benches and stared through the studio windows, chatting like beauty parlor gossips.

The attractive man was still attractive, despite the scowl he wore. "Locked out, huh?"

"Yes, I'm afraid so. You see—"

"Exactly what I expected with this type of operation." He nodded at the empty seat beside her. "Do you mind if I sit?"

Rachel swallowed down the gasp brought on by his insult. "Be my guest. Uh, `this type of operation'?"

He cocked his head toward the building. "The whole artsy thing. Dancing, painting, singing. Usually draws your irresponsible types."

Well he wasn't good looking at all! As a matter of fact, he needed a shave.

"I can't say I agree with you there. Do you honestly mean you don't enjoy any of the arts? Is that what you're saying, Mr. . . ?"

"Reegan. Josh Reegan." He put out his hand and gave her a dazzling, genuine smile, and his dark-lashed eyes bordered on pretty.

How could such a stunning man be so stunningly boorish? She shook his hand. "Rachel Stanhope. But—"

"I don't mean to degrade all of that art stuff. But to devote one's whole life to it? That requires a personality I can't say I appreciate. Kind of frivolous work, don't you think?"

He had absolutely no idea who she was. And no idea what he was talking about.

"Not at all. I believe life would be dull if it weren't for people like . . . like dancers and other artists, both professional and amateur. Imagine what the world would look like without the arts."

He granted her a nod. "I understand what you're saying. I've seen parts of the world devoid of beauty. Berlin and London just a few years ago. Still, there are—"

"You served in the war?"

"Yep. Army Air Corps."

Yes. She could see that. She could imagine him in uniform. The crisp pinks and greens. The broad shoulders. The jaw as strong as his opinions.

"And you're still in the service?"

"No. Newspaper journalist." He patted the chest pocket of his starched white shirt, from the top of which a notepad peeked. "But I'm still after the bad guys."

Rachel sat back and crossed her arms. "So are you a cynic because of your war experience or because of your newspaper experience?"

His smile dropped. "Cynic? I'm not a cynic. I'm a realist."

She raised an eyebrow at him. "That's what the cynics always say."

"I just think—no, I know—there are too many dark places and events in the world, too many greedy, heartless people, to warrant some of the more flippant ways people use time they could devote to hunting down evil."

"Wow, I'll bet you get invited to a lot of parties, huh?"

She wasn't sure how to read the look he gave her then. Part amused, part hurt, part annoyed. But she couldn't study his face while she waited for him to respond, so she spoke again.

"I'm glad you're not allowing your disdain for dance to keep you from giving your kids a chance to experience it. They're just kids after all. They probably haven't figured out yet how horrible the world really is."

"Those aren't my kids. They're my sister's. I'm not married." He gestured toward the kids with his chin. "They seem to get along well with your boy, anyway."

Rachel frowned and glanced at the trio, who now squatted around a caterpillar as it ambled across the sidewalk.

"He's not mine. His mother dropped him off."

Josh raised his eyebrows and nodded. "Ah. So why are you here? Not that I haven't enjoyed being insulted by you."

She gave him a prim smile. "Mr. Reegan—"


"Yes, well, excuse me, but you don't know the first thing about being insulted. Apparently you don't even realize when you're insulting others."

A squeal of panic, and they turned their attention across the street. Rachel's errant employee Betty stood there, waiting to cross and shaking the studio keys.

"Sorry I'm late, Rachel! Traffic! Don't fire me!"

Two more parents and their children approached from opposite ends of the sidewalk. Rachel stood from the bench and called to the kids gathered around the caterpillar.

"Okay, kids, come on in." She smiled at the parents who had just arrived. "We had a bit of a delay getting open. Betty will check your registrations while I get started with the kids."

Finally she glanced back at Josh. He too had stood, all six foot something of him. He stared at the ground and rubbed at that stubble on his cheek as if he could wipe it away. When he shot a look up at her, she refused to hold a gaze with those contrite eyes of blue.

True, he was a single man. Possibly he was a war hero. Certainly he was easy on the eyes. But Rachel looked away for all of those reasons. In thirty-two years she had learned to trust her instincts. And instinct told her that Josh Reegan would cause her nothing but trouble.

Unforgettable is available at fine bookstores everywhere and online via:


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© 2011 Trish Perry

* * *


By James Scott Bell

Like your suspense lean and mean?

From the master of the "heart-whamming" read (Publishers Weekly) comes a novella of suspense and three new stories. Full of the twists and shocks James Scott Bell is known for, these taut tales are guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your e-reader long into the night.

"Compulsively readable, Bell takes his place at the top of the crowded suspense genre." – Sheldon Siegel, New York Times bestselling author

"One of the best writers out there, bar none." – In the Library Review

Excerpt from RAGE ROAD:

"Please don't curse at me."

There was a catch in her voice. John didn't like that part of Tricia. The way she got upset so easily. Because if they were going to get married she would have to be able to handle stress better than she did. Even though she was the hottest of the hot and he was glad to have landed her, she still had to develop some stronger backbone. Especially after the therapy she'd been in and out of. That was supposed to have helped her, wasn't it?

He guessed he'd have to help her now, and this was a perfect time to start.

John heard the glove compartment snap open. He was looking in the rear view mirror. The guy was still there, right behind, still flipping him off. Coming up close to the bumper, dropping back, coming up again. Playing him.

"All right, here," Tricia said. John looked over and saw she was holding the gun like it was bomb that might go off with the slightest movement. He took it from her, then got his eyes back on the road. They were on the two-lane heading toward Santa Paula. Not a lot of traffic here. Most of that was on the 126. John had taken Tricia on the back road to show her the wildflowers.

Mr. Romantic. Only now he had a jerk on his tail, a guy in a pickup who had cut them off four miles ago. John had given him a hefty blast on the horn and, yes, gave him the finger. I mean, that's supposed to be it. Exchange fingers and maybe lip a curse or two, then drive on.

This guy was not driving on. This guy was out to make something of it. He'd dropped behind John so he could play.

"What are you going to do with that?" Tricia said.

"I don't want you to get upset, okay? I'm just going to show the guy behind us he needs to back off."

"Oh, John, no!"

"Easy. I'm just going to show him. That's all."

"He'll go away. He has to."

"He doesn't have to. This is one long highway, honey. He can stay with us as long as he wants."

"Then let him. He's just making a show."

"He wants a show I'll give him one."

"What if he has a gun? Did you ever think of that?"

"Odds are he doesn't," John said.

"But what if he does?"

"He doesn't."

"Please don't."

"Tricia, we can't let—" John saw in the mirror that the guy was speeding up, starting to pass him on the left. The left was the opposite lane. For a moment there was no oncoming traffic.

"No way, pal," John said and pushed hard on the gas. He put the 9 mm Beretta between his legs and grabbed the wheel with both hands. For a few brief seconds he and the truck were going the same speed. John's Altima was doing fine with its 3.5 V-6, keeping the pickup half a car length behind and to the side.

Then John saw, up ahead on the long strip of straight road, a big truck heading their way.

The pickup guy would have to get his butt back in line or die.

But the guy sped up. He was going to try to pass anyway.

John pushed the Altima.

"Let him pass!" Tricia said.

John said nothing, swiveling his head, watching the guy's truck and the big monster up ahead.

The pickup was almost even with John now.

John gave more foot to the gas.

"Let him in!"

The monster trunk was howling now, the sound of the horn spitting vicious warning.

John shot another glance to the side. The guy in the truck locked eyes with him. They were dark, squinty eyes, deeply set in a twenty-something face under a shaved head. He looked like he wanted to crash into John's car just for spite. For a second, that's what John thought he'd do.

But at the last possible moment, Squinty Eyes dropped back and got behind John.

The truck honked past.

John felt sweat and heat, like a fever, breaking out on his face. He heard Tricia crying softly.

"Don't," he said.


"Come on."

"Don't talk."

He put his hand on her left leg. "Baby, please, I need you to be with me on this."

In the mirror John saw Squinty Eyes staying close, about a car length behind.

Tricia issued a pitiful sob. Then put her hand on top of his. "I trust you, John. I promise I do. I just don't want anything to happen."

For the first time in miles John allowed himself to look at the rolling green hills. They always looked nice after a hard rain. "Nothing will, babe. Not as long as you're with me."

But what about Squinty? Would he have something to say about that?

Maybe, because here he came again, fast on the side.

John took his hand off Tricia's leg and grabbed the gun. Time to make things plain. Just show the guy what would happen if he messed with them anymore.

Of course, John would never use it, not for real. Now it was just for show. But a good show. A hard show.

Left hand on the wheel, John reached over with his gun hand and used his index finger to lower the window.

Wind whipped in.

"What are you going to do?" Tricia said.

"Scare him."


WATCH YOUR BACK is James Scott Bell original e-book, available for $2.99.



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