When Greg Tenorly gets an invitation to his dad’s 75th birthday party, Cynthia convinces him to go, and to use the occasion to finally make things right with his estranged father.
But the war of words Greg is dreading becomes the least of his worries after he and his family cross paths with a cold-blooded killer.
Read the four-chapter excerpt…
Jason had been sitting alone at his table, staring at the tall, platinum blonde for an hour. His imagination ran wild with thoughts of kissing her full lips while his hands explored her lean, muscled body. Tonight he didn’t need the whiskey to warm him up. But he kept drinking it anyway.
She stepped away from the mike, set her acoustic guitar on its stand, and walked down from the small stage.
Jason beat all the other losers to the bar and sat down beside her.
“You must be pretty thirsty after all that beautiful singing.”
How many times had she heard that line? But at age 33, she’d probably heard every pickup line known to man. “Yeah,” she said, giving him a quick glance. He wasn’t a bad looking guy. Probably a couple of inches shorter than her. At six-foot-two, she was accustomed to that. But a lot of men couldn’t deal with her height. They liked to be the tall one in the relationship. Not that she’d had many relationships. Mostly one-nighters.
Without her saying a word, the bartender sat a glass of ice down in front of her, and poured her a can of Diet Coke.
“Thanks, Joe.” She took a sip as he walked away.
“Sondra,” she said, looking straight ahead as she took another sip.
“I really enjoyed your music—especially that last song. Did you write it yourself?”
“Wow. It was sad, but moving. You’ve got talent.”
Here we go, she thought. And I suppose you’re a talent agent or a record producer, or you’ve got a friend in the business. And you’d be more than happy to get me a record deal—assuming I’d be willing to go with you right now to some sleazy motel.
“I’m sick of this business. In fact, you just heard my last performance. First thing Monday morning I’m going out to find me a real job. One that will pay the bills.”
“Really? Hey, I might have a job for you.”
She did a quick scan. The expensive suit screamed corporate. So, if this guy worked for some big company, maybe he really could get her a job. There were lots of big companies in Houston. And she was good with a computer—sort of. Didn’t know much about Microsoft Office, but she was a wiz on the web. “What kind of job?”
“As my secretary.”
“Is this where you normally find your secretaries—in a bar?”
“Well, no. But there’s something about you. I think you’d be perfect.”
She knew she was probably getting her hopes up for nothing. But when you’re lost in the darkness of depression you tend to walk toward the light.
Judging by the neighborhood and the size of his house, Sondra figured Jason to be near the bottom of his company’s organizational chart. But as long as he could hook her up with a decent job, she’d be happy.
“Make yourself comfortable,” he said, offering his black leather couch. “What can I get you—a Budweiser? Wine cooler?” He opened the refrigerator door, waiting to fill her order.
“Is that all you drink? No booze?”
“I like to stay clear-headed.”
“I don’t. The only diet drink I have is water.”
“That’ll be fine.”
He grabbed a bottled water and a beer. “So, how do you like my place?”
“It’s nice. Now, tell me more about this job.”
Jason walked around the large glass-topped coffee table to the other end of the couch, and reached out and handed her the water. Then he tipped his beer bottle back and gulped down a third of it. “Well, of course, you’d have to apply for the job.”
“And then you’d hire me?”
He sat the beer bottle down on the coffee table. “Look, you’re not really serious about changing careers, are you? I mean, you’re just too good at your music.”
“You got a job for me or not?”
“Well, sure, if that’s what you really want.”
He was half-drunk, and couldn’t keep himself from smiling. “Okay—you got me.”
“I should have known better.” She slammed the water bottle down on the coffee table.
“Aw, come on, Baby. I just couldn’t resist. You can’t blame a guy for going after your hot bod.”
She felt so foolish. Here she was—way out in the suburbs with this creep. And her car was downtown at the bar.
He slid over closer to her. “I’m sure guys are always wanting to get into your pants. Hey, I don’t mind paying.”
Before she could back away, he clamped his arms around her and tried to kiss her.
She turned her head, and tried to wrestle free.
But he was a strong drunk.
Then she felt her bra unhook. One of his hands was playfully working its way around to the chest.
She slammed her forehead downward into his nose.
He screamed, and released her.
She jumped up and ran for the front door. Then she remembered her purse. It was on the couch beside him. She would need money for a bus or a taxi. Besides, the purse had information she didn’t want him to get his hands on.
She ran back to the couch. He was still moaning and holding his bloody nose with both hands. She snatched up the purse and turned to go. But suddenly his hands were grabbing her from behind.
“You’re not going anywhere. You broke my nose! You owe me,” he seethed.
“Let go of me. I don’t owe you anything. You owe me an apology. Get your nasty hands off me!”
Sondra tried with all her strength to pull away, but only managed to pull him along with her.
He spun her around. “You can’t get away from me.” He laughed at her.
She spit in his face.
He became enraged and slapped her hard. “So, you like it rough, huh?”
She fired her knee up in between his legs, fully intending to launch his groin to the moon.
He cringed, and loosened his grip, but not fully, as she had expected. Must be numb from all that alcohol, she thought.
“This will be a lot better for both of us if you’ll just settle down and cooperate,” he said. “You’re not gonna get away without giving me what I want. So, you might as well give in now. Just relax and enjoy.”
“Well…okay. Whatever. I’ve done worse guys than you, I guess,” she said calmly.
“I’m sure you have.”
“Let’s just get it over with.” She reached down and began to unbuckle his belt.
“There you go,” he said, easing his grip on her.
“I want to go down where the action is,” she said, slowly dropping to her knees as she unzipped his pants.
“Oh, Baby.” He let his arms fall to his sides.
She pulled his pants and his boxers down to his ankles.
“I knew you were gonna be good,” he said under his breath. He closed his eyes in anticipation.
She jumped to her feet.
He opened his eyes just as she shoved him in the chest with both hands. He tried to catch himself by stepping backwards, but his feet were tangled in his pants. He now realized that she had tied his belt snugly around his ankles. In the split-second that passed as he fell, he remembered the glass-topped coffee table behind him. He wasn’t sure how close he was. But if he landed on top of it and the glass broke, his body could be cut in half. He reached back with both hands to try to break his fall.
Then he realized that his butt was getting close to the floor and had not touched the table. His back had missed the table too. Maybe he would be okay. Then he would untie his feet, catch her and beat her face to a bloody pulp.
But then his head hit the table—like a watermelon that fell out of a shopping cart onto the concrete grocery store floor. Cleanup needed on Aisle Thirteen.
His body lay flat on the plush carpet, except for his head, which was tilted up at a ninety-degree angle, oozing blood down the side of the coffee table.
“Please. Help me,” he gasped. He couldn’t feel his arms or legs.
She said nothing.
“Call 911. Hurry,” he begged, choking.
Sondra’s eyes were cold as steel. “I’m not calling anybody. I’m not your secretary.”
She picked her purse up from the floor and casually walked out. She knew he would be dead before anybody found him. Oh, well, she thought. People get drunk and then they get clumsy. And sometimes they fall down and kill themselves.
“Is this Greg Tenorly?”
“Greg, this is Norma. Sorry for calling so late.”
“Oh, that’s okay.” But it really wasn’t okay. He was just being polite. The sexy redhead lying next to him in bed was his new wife, Cynthia. And she looked more tempting than a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone—his favorite dessert. And who was this Norma anyway? Then he remembered. His parents’ long-time best friends were Vic and Norma Valleydale.
“It’s about your father.”
Greg felt pangs of guilt. He and his father had been estranged for years. Now the old man must have died. Greg should have tried harder to somehow make amends. “What about him?”
“I’m throwing him a big birthday party. Your dad’s about to turn 75, you know. I already sent you an invitation with the details, but I thought I’d better give you a call too.”
“Greg, I know you don’t want to come, but I wish you’d at least think about it.”
“Uh, sure. I’ll think about it. Well, thanks for letting me know, Norma.”
“And one other thing.”
“Your dad and I got married.”
“What? To each other?”
“Yes. Last month.”
“But…what about Vic?”
“Greg…Vic died two years ago.”
“Oh. I didn’t know. I’m sorry, Norma.”
“So, now I’m your stepmother.”
“Well…congratulations.” Greg wasn’t sure how he felt about it. But, what did it matter? He never saw his father. He’d never see his new stepmother either. No big deal.
“Greg, you really need to come home every once in a while.”
Great, he thought. Now that she’s my stepmother she thinks she has the right to boss me around. “Yeah. I haven’t been back in years.” But Orange was no longer home to him.
“Anyway…I hope you’ll come.”
When he hung up, he was ready to put the call out of his mind, and make love to his wife. But Cynthia wanted to know all about Norma and Vic and Orange and Greg’s dad.
Greg just hated bedtime phone calls.