What’s New & Free Wednesday–Mystery Giveaway Edition

WN&FWToday I want to bring up a Rafflecopter giveway I’m doing with more than a dozen other mystery author friends. Along with others, I’m giving away a signed print copy of Counterfeit Conspiracies, the first book in my Bodies of Art Book. Already read it? Well how about all of these wonderful books pictured below? All 17 books will be given away, plus some extra e-books from several of the authors (those ebooks are not pictured in the graphic). All you have to do to enter is go to this link and signup before Dec. 14th  https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/7e79a0b61/   Good luck!

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Staying Ahead Sunday–Winter Hacks Edition

The weather has changed around my house the last week or so, and we’re now donning SAS memesweatshirts and sweaters. Which means I’ve started incorporating some of my favorite cold weather hacks into daily life. Despite the meme I used at the left, these aren’t Organizing tips per se, but rather ways to minimize your frustration with cold weather. Still, done regularly, they can save you time and money.

 

First up, is one I have to credit to my lovely daughter since she’s the one who first started using this hack in our house. On cold nights we all love the feeling of crawling into a warm bed with sheets right out of the dryer, right? One night, right after my daughter said she was taking a quick shower before bed, I walked by her room and heard the sound of a humming motor. When I stepped in to take a look, I found the hairdryer running on High in the middle of her bed, next to her folded up pajamas, and with all her covers pulled over the top. Needless to say, I pulled the hairdryer out of this cocoon before the device could overheat, but the idea was brilliant to me.misc

So the hairdryer wouldn’t die of heat stroke, I set the nozzle just under the top of the sheets and blankets, and moved her pjs and a stuffed bear under the covers to kind of tent things a few inches past the fiercely blowing nozzle of the dryer. When she came out, her bed and pajamas were all warm and welcoming, just like she’d envisioned, if placed a little differently than she’d originally planned. Now, on cold nights we run the hair dryer over the sheets and blankets right before we jump under the covers–tenting now required. Makes the bed feel perfect.

foam-pipe-insulationIf you have drafts under any doors, a quick and easy way to beat them is a trip to Home Depot or Walmart to pick up a piece of foam pipe insulation. Use the precut foam (a little of the cut shows up at the edge of the image to the left) to run along the bottom of your drafty door(s), so the foam wraps around and hugs both sides, then cut it off just before the edge so it won’t make closing the door difficult. These foam jobbies are only a couple of dollars apiece and about six feet long, so one can usually cover two doors.

Next up is a tip my father’s heart doctor gave us years ago. elf_sweeping_2If the snow isn’t more than an inch or so, don’t shovel it, sweep it. Not only is sweeping faster in this instance, but it’s easier on your back and heart than lifting a shovel each time with even a small amount of snow.

And for my last easy winter hack, when you must shovel try this tip my husband I always use. Spray both sides of the shovel with a cooking spray like Pam. Then reapply as needed during the job. Doing that makes the snow slide right off the shovel, instead of hanging on with an icy grip so that you have to keep banging the shovel to clear off the blade again. Makes for much easier snow shoveling which, less face it, is not something anyone wants to make any more difficult.

My only other tip is one I gave to a writer friend this week when she posted about how cold her daily walks had become. Two words–Carhardt Coveralls. They may not be stylish, but they’re danged warm and easy to walk and work in. Keep warm, everyone.

If you have any stay warm tips or hacks, feel free to comment below🙂

 

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Thrifty Thursday!

Happy December, everyone! And with the new month comes a new blogging idea. With all the rushing we do this time of year to find time and gifts for all of our friends and family events, I thought posting about some Christmas hacks I use to save my sanity might help others out there. Let’s call this the Food Edition, since that seems to be the theme today. I’ll have more seasonal (non-food) hacks coming on future Thursdays, so check back.

  • This first thing is super easy, but it’s something christmas-snacking-treeI do all the time because practically every get-together over the holidays requires those grab and go type of snacking items we always put onto relish trays. I do something like this. I’ve also used small snack crackers at the bottom stacked to look like gifts, too. The best thing about this kind of design is that it’s always easy to just refill a line as one or two starts looking thin, so you can keep the healthy snacks in easy reach at all times, but there’s no need to continually take the platter back to the kitchen to refill.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   .
  • I love making decorated sugar cookies. One quick icing-in-condiment-bottlesdecorating hack I use is to mix up icing ahead of time (there’s always a butter cream recipe on packages of powdered/confectioner’s sugar) then once I add the coloring I put them into different colored condiment bottles I’ve picked up as a group at the dollar store. They make dispensing the icing really easy–whether I spread the icing with a knife after I squeeze it onto the cooled cookie or use the bottle’s tip to paint a sweet picture.
  • chocolate-spoonsFor quick and inexpensive make-it-ahead gifts you can’t beat hot chocolate mix and chocolate spoons. Now, I’ll admit that I’ve tossed M&M’s into hot chocolate for decades (my child was aghast when she was at a elementary school friend’s house and learned not everyone did added candy to their hot cocoa!), but hot chocolate spoons like those pictured here are a great gift–whether you also give hot chocolate mix or not. (confession: I often eat these like chocolate lollypops and they never make it to a cup). The recipe for the spoons is pretty simple. I use a double boiler to melt my chocolate, but small pieces can also be melted in a microwave. Either way, check on the mixture every thirty seconds or so, giving it all another stir each time, then put it back to heat until all the chocolate is melted and smooth. Then dip the spoons (I find plastic works a little better than wooden ones, but that might just be me). You’ll need to stir the spoon around in the melted chocolate and turn it over several times to make sure the sides are all evenly covered–then set each chocolate covered spoon on wax paper to cool. And they’re ready to decorate. Try using mini-marshmallows to decorate your spoon as a snowman, or drizzle lines of caramel or white chocolate to give an added taste.
  • For Hot Chocolate Mix to give by the jar, here’s a recipe I’ve been using for as long as I can remember–I get my biggest bowl and sift in 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar, followed by 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder (the sifting helps eliminate lumps). Next, I add in 2 cups of powdered milk and use a whisk to get it all stirred and combined evenly. And voila, put it into a jar with a pretty lid and give as a gift (or keep for yourself). You can also add mini-marshmallows to the container of powder if you like. To make it, just add equal parts of hot cocoa mix and water into a cup and stir. This mixture is good in a cabinet or pantry for 6 months.
  • For another quick-and-inexpensive gift, I use cookie cutterscookie-cutter-fudge to make and decorate individual fudge presents/treats. The cookie cutters are part of the gift and the combination adds an even more festive air to the presentation. For my fudge recipe, I always use the one from Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk. It is fool-proof in my opinion, and is not only rich and delicious, but doesn’t require me to go nuts with a candy thermometer making sure the temperature is absolutely perfect. You can find that recipe by clicking Here. And trust me, no one will know you only spent a total 15 minutes making this fudge–prep to cook. They’ll just say “yum.”

That’s it for this edition of Thrifty Thursday. Have any tips you want to share? Feel free to leave a comment🙂

 

 

 

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Time for the Holiday Giveaway Train Again–YAY!

Remember the fun giveaway time we all had this time last year when Henery Press put on the Christmas Giveaway Train? Where a bunch of us authors and book bloggers posted prizes on our FaceBook Author pages and readers could hop from FB page to FB page to try to win the prizes given by each author or blogger?

Well, we’re all at it again. giveaway-train-2016

Yes, I’ll be giving away prizes at  My Facebook Author Page.  Read the instructions, sign up to enter the contest (very easy, I promise), then click the link given to go to the next author on the giveaway journey. And do the same for each succeeding stop along the way. So be sure and follow the links and loop around to all your favorite authors and their giveaways. And I promise, it’s easy to enter. Wishing y’all luck for this very special Holiday giveaway. Lots of authors–and lots and lots of prizes!

But the giveaways end at midnight so hurry and enter soon!

 

 

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Armchair Traveling on a Chilly November Afternoon

Had the need today to page through some pictures that tie back with books in my Bodies of Art series, and thought I’d share them with anyone needing a little Armchair Traveling for the day. I’ve thrown in pictures I used for all four books written–but only 3 are available for sale right now. The fourth, Fatal Forgeries, will be released in 2017. Sit back. Enjoy.

For a bit of a picture legend to these shots–

The first two pictures are London, where all the Bodies of Art Books are at some point each time. Third is the hilly street of Le-Puy-en-Velay from Counterfeit Conspiracies, fourth-through sixth is Florence for Marked Masters, seventh is a picture of Cassie’s flat entrance mentioned in book #1 & visited by Laurel & Jack in book #4, with the eighth the artists restoration pit where Cassie worked at the Victoria & Albert Museum that Laurel used to get away from Jack in book #1.

The next beach shot is Barcelona from Fatal Forgeries, followed by the Raphael Sibyls featured in Abstract Aliases. The small church coming up next is the Rome’s Santa Maria della Pace where The Sibyls reside, then Baden-Baden one of the stops after Rome in Abstract Aliases. 

The bar scene beside the Baden-Baden shot is in the Bar at La Boqueria in Barcelona as in Fatal Forgeries. The two fountains are the Trevi Fountain in Rome (left with classical statues) and Font Magica in Barcelona (right-colorful). And the next two shots are additional colorful sights of Barcelona, Spain from my Fatal Forgeries notes–the first a market shot of Le Boqueria on La Ramblas and the second a view of the mosaics used in architecture by Gaudi. The final two are shots Cologne, Germany–both of which feature the amazing cathedral where the mystery continued for Laurel & Jack in Abstract Aliases.

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What’s New and Free Wednesday–Holiday Edition

Yes, here in the States we’re looking forward to Thanksgiving and a lot of turkey and pie. But I wanted to take a quick minute first and post some bargains and freebie books available right now in case you still need to load your ereaders for holiday reading. I’ll start with the bargains then move on to the freebies I’ve learned about. Be sure and click the links to get to the Amazon buy page–the book cover pics are just to make the page look pretty🙂

One warningthese books were all free or specially priced at the time of this posting, but please double check the price before downloading as I don’t know how long the bargains will last or how soon you’ll be reading this post.

Christmas comes early and Christmas Crazy,three book #3 in the Zoe Donovan series by Kathi Daley, is on sale at 99¢.  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GKPXU3S                              This book is regularly $2.99.

oneOn sale for 99¢, the first in series for Julie Seedorf, the Pendergast Puzzle Protectors  https://www.amazon.com/Penderghast-Puzzle-Protectors-Brilliant-Minnesota-ebook/dp/B01BDZWAE4        This book is regularly $2.99.

 

If you like my Bodies of Art Mysteries, the Lexi Carmichael series by twoJulie Moffett is another series you might want to try. The first in that series, No One Lives Twice is on sale until the end of the month for $1.99, then it shoots back up to it’s regular $4.99 price.  http://www.amazon.com/No-One-Lives-Twice-Carmichael-ebook/dp/B003U89RS0

fourOn the Freebie side of things, Summer Prescott’s Toffee Apple Killerbook #11 in the INNcredibly Sweet Series, is free at the moment. And it takes place at Thanksgiving, so what could be more timely? Regularly priced at $3.99.  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N66STGC

 

This book intrigued me from the cover to the write up, sixso I can’t wait to dive into the pages. A Cunning Plan is the first book in the Sloane Harper series by Astrid Arditi, a new-to-me author. the book is free right now in time for holiday binge reading, but regularly priced at $3.99  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N8QUAEC

Book #4 in the Polly Parret Pet Sitting Cozy Mysteries, fiveSeeing Red, by Liz Dodwell is currently priced free too. Get it at  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N095AEW I’ve not read this author before, but the dog on the cover made me want to try the book.

A last reminder about Midnight Mysteries. amazon-imageWe’ll soon be taking our fall-themed anthology off Kindle Unlimited, and off sale completely as a bargain story group. So, if you want to read for free,  grab a copy before It’s Gone! Nine brand new fall-themed mysteries by nine bestselling mystery authors. Find more about the stories, the authors, and the 8 series tied to the collection in my preview post at https://ritterames.com/2016/09/02/friday-preview-midnight-mysteries/   #Free on #KU or buy for $2.99                           http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LZ41T7V/  

 

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Probably Woefully Tardy Excerpt from Abstract Aliases

I had two people ask me the very same thing yesterday. The encounters were in two very different places–one person was an author and the other a confirmed mystery reader. Talk shifted to excerpts of books on blog posts, and when asked each time I said I have a page where readers can shoot out and read the first couple of chapters of each of my books on Amazon–Click Here. I title the page Chapter One Excepts but that’s really a misnomer since most go well past the first chapter. The length of the excerpt on Amazon depends on the percentage of the except compared to the whole book, so since I often write long chapters the excerpt ends sometime in Chapter Two. However, both people in my discussion said I needed to make it easier to read an excerpt and simply post the first chapter like other authors do. Given that I was hit with the same advice twice, in two wildly different places, I’m posting the first chapter of Abstract Aliases here for a short time. If you’d like to read more, the Amazon excerpt goes all the way through Chapter Two, or you can of course purchase a copy at any bookseller (to find those links just click here https://ritterames.com/heres-where-to-buy-my-books/  or the Where to Buy My Books link at the end of the black banner above).

And let me know what you think, if you don’t mind. Do you like posted excepts like the one below, or ones set up on pages you can read whenever you like?

Chapter One

We stood across the wide moonlit river from Big Ben, in the prime spot for viewing AbstractAliases front smLondon’s New Year’s fireworks extravaganza. The jubilant crowd jostled and shouldered its way to fill every inch along the Thames, more than a half-million people crowding into every open space around us this clear cold night. All waiting for the countdown to start. Even with the event tickets Jack had snagged, we shared our roped-off space with about a hundred thousand fellow revelers. Central London bridges began shutting down just after noon, readying for the standing-room-only masses, and many of the streets were closed all day in preparation for the night’s event and the hordes of people looking for a place to catch the stunning pyrotechnic performance. Rock music pulsed through the PA system, but the constant babble of the voices around us, most raised so their words could be heard by the people standing next to them, made all sound flow into a nearly incomprehensible rumble.

“Have you been here for the Lord Mayor’s event before?” Jack Hawkes leaned down and shouted into my ear.

“Not for a while,” I returned, equally loud. I’d been in Sydney the last couple of years, enjoying the milder weather during their January summers. Though the temps in Oz were nice and the people definitely fun, it didn’t have the same electric feel for me as a frosty New Year’s Eve in New York or the U.K. The brisk wind off the water zigzagged through the crowd, blowing my long hair across my face. I used a hand to brush away the blond curls, then hunkered down in my champagne-colored leather coat as I added, “This is all much as I remember, though it is kind of weird getting a priority spot.”

“But worth it,” Jack said. “The special ticketing for the event only happened a couple of years ago. From the crowd control standpoint alone it offers a lot of advantages.”

Safety, naturally, had created an even greater need for knowing who might be in a crowded world capital during something as well-attended as this public party. The thought made me take another glance around the crushing public. Not that I thought I would spot criminal activity—or even could in this throng—but it seemed the thing to do. When my sweeping gaze returned to Jack, I saw he was doing exactly the same thing. As an art recovery expert, observation skills are my chief tools of the trade. Jack’s talents were even better developed than mine, though I hadn’t yet learned why he was such a pro at doing a job he never talked about.

I moved closer and tugged his collar. When I wore heels he stood nearly a head taller than me, but the walking boots I’d donned for the occasion kept me much closer to the ground. I wasn’t worried about being overheard in this cacophony, but I wanted him to actually hear my words when I asked, “Nico told me he sent you a tracking app. Did you get it?”

My wonder geek, Nico, usually kept tabs on me via the GPS in my phone, but Jack had rather unconventional ways of doing so. Ways we’d argued about. Often.

Jack cocked a dark eyebrow. “Yes, he said it was to track you more easily. I was surprised you didn’t argue.”

“So you didn’t say anything because…?”

He shrugged and had the grace to look a little sheepish.

“Nico got inventive after Tony B kidnapped me in Miami. When his thugs broke my phone and I disappeared from everyone’s radar, he decided we needed a backup method for GPS.” I held up my left hand to show off my newest piece of jewelry. A lovely charm bracelet. “The camera charm disguises a tiny transmitter.” The app Nico sent to Jack keyed into the charm’s frequency.

“You’re okay with that?” he asked.

“Nico asked permission.”

“Like he wouldn’t have done it regardless.”

“Still, he asked.”

“I feel privileged to be in the inner circle. To know where you are at all times.”

I caught the sarcasm in his tone and matched it. “I didn’t want you to keep working so hard behind the scenes. You might use up too many favors with MI-5 and the Met police.”

Jack gave me a crooked grin, then fingered the tiny silver camera. “At least I’ll know where your bracelet is at all times.”

I got the dig. He knew I’d slip my leash whenever I wanted, but his steady gaze told me he understood I took the continued threat seriously. We didn’t know why I had become particularly interesting to criminals during the previous months, but until we identified the reason or captured all the players, I was ready to accept a little electronic help from one of Nico’s gizmos.

We’d had our rocky starts, Jack and I, not the least of which due to both of us wanting to always be in charge and neither really trusting the other. With reason. He knew everything about me—well, all about the “public Laurel Beacham” at least—and told me little about himself. Jack’s reason for not always trusting me was…well, I play by my own rules. Some of those rules have gotten me into trouble lately. When finding lost art is the objective, trouble can happen more often than one would think. Being able to always track me had become a priority, whether I liked it or not.

He looked at his Silberstein. “Minutes away from the countdown. Are you getting cold?”

Only my face felt the freezing temps off the river. I knew he was changing the subject. The bundled crowd around us was more than enough body heat to keep us warm. “I’m toasty. Does the Eye signal the start again?”

He nodded. “The lights begin flashing about ten seconds before.”

Next, the glorious twelve-count strikes of Big Ben would sound and fireworks soar thundering to the heavens and usher in new beginnings, new promise, and a new year. It didn’t matter how many times I witnessed an event like this, the kid in me always got antsy. I wanted it all—pronto.

“There’s the kissing at midnight, remember,” Jack said, his gaze never leaving mine.

“I think in a crowd this size we should have no trouble finding a friend to pair up with.” I smiled.

“Did you think I was sugges—”

His teasing response was interrupted by a slurred shout. “Oy! Jack Hawkes. How the devil are you?”

A thirties-something man stumbled into us. He was rail thin, even in his long gray greatcoat, but his momentum almost made us lose our footing. The man was also familiar.

“Hamish.” Jack bolstered the tipsy friend. “Never expected to see you here tonight, mate.”

The interloper turned to me, weaving a bit and slurring, “Can’t forget this pretty lady…Laurel Beacham, correct?”

I smiled and nodded, realizing the obnoxious drunk was an old school chum Jack introduced me to when we were in Florence last fall chasing criminals. Hamish taught art history at the university level there, and I’d had Nico check him out. Nothing overly suspicious came up on his background, nor anything to imply involvement in the prospective heist we currently worried over. We struck him from our list of suspects when no big payoffs appeared in his bank accounts. Though he was likely in town for Christmas visiting, I did find it interesting he was in London and materialized beside us at this event.

“Here on winter break,” he said, confirming my suspicion as he gave Jack a friendly slap on the back. Knowing the man had no biceps, I doubted Jack felt a thing. Hamish continued, “Have to leave tomorrow to return to teaching the dil-et-tante rabble.”

Despite his stutter over dilettante, I began to think he wasn’t as buzzed as he appeared. He couldn’t be truly drunk, or one of the roving bobbies would have moved him through the crowd and out the gates. Was it an act for us? Or had he simply been super-careful until he spotted his old friend, Jack? Just the same, I wondered how much alcohol was actually in that skinny body.

“Is Milli here?” I asked, stretching tall to pretend to look for his pretty wife.

Hamish waved a crazy hand as if brushing something aside. “No crowds for our tight-assed Mills. She’s afraid someone will trod on her fancy shoes.”

She was from money and held the purse strings. Was this a drunk’s loose-tongued revelation, or an admission of trouble in paradise? For Hamish’s sake, I hoped not the latter. His personal paycheck could not provide the lifestyle he’d grown accustomed to with his marriage to Millicent and her daddy’s money.

Suddenly, a raised voice on the loud speakers cried, “One minute, everyone!” The air charged. The crowd shifted. Everyone turned toward the London Eye.

“Forty-nine, forty-eight—”

A half-million voices counted down in unison with the speaker on the PA. I looked at Jack and he grinned at me. I felt eight again—and twenty-eight at the same time. I raised my voice with the others.

Hamish stayed silent beside me. Maybe he was too drunk to be able to count backward. As we hit twelve, I turned and saw he was staring off in the distance. Away from the flashing wheel keeping us on track with the countdown.

“Ten, nine—”

I kept in time with everyone else, smiling up at Jack before watching the lights again.

“Three, two, one—”

The bell in Big Ben gave a decisive first gong as the lights strobed around the Eye. I turned to Jack as he moved toward me.

Then I was whirled around and smashed into the worst slobbery, beery kiss of all time.

Jack roared, “What the bloody hell?”

I tried desperately to escape Hamish’s determined embrace. I finally broke free and pushed away from the intoxicated boor.

Jack’s fist was already in play.

He had obviously been aiming for the side of Hamish’s ear. When I pushed the fool, my chin ended up in the trajectory instead. Quick reflexes and a bit of luck allowed Jack to pull back a little, making it a glancing blow. Nonetheless, the brief contact with the side of his fist knocked me off my feet.

“Oh my god, Laurel. I’m sorry. I saw at the last second, but I could only—”

I waved a hand at the distraught almost-white knight kneeling beside me. “I’m alright.” I wiggled my jaw a couple of times to be sure. Yep, I’d be sore, but it wasn’t anything I hadn’t experienced before. “At least you didn’t strangle me this time.” I smiled as best I could to show I was teasing, but Jack’s face immediately grew more thunderous at something behind me.

Turning, I realized we had more trouble.

“Laurel, mon dieu, I will call an ambulance.” It was Rollie, the grandson of Devin Moran, the master criminal we presumed was in charge of the premier heist Jack and my team were trying to stop. All of Moran’s confederates were on our most wanted list, and Rollie in particular because he may have been connected with Tony B due to video evidence of a couple of recent events. While we’d been working feverishly since October to find the hole he and everyone else was hiding in, I definitely didn’t need him there. At that moment.

The last time we’d seen Rollie he was walking down an Italian sidewalk with an international felon. Now he was in London, apparently attempting to get Jack to throw another punch as they set me back on my feet. They were more successful at playing tug of war with me as the presumed prize.

“Stop!” I jerked my arms free and pulled my cuffs back down to my wrists. “I’m fine. Thanks, both of you.”

“I saw him hit you.” Rollie got ahead of me and bent down, trying to look closer at my chin. “We will call the gendarme. I will swear—”

“I didn’t mean to hit her,” Jack growled and tried to pull me away. Rollie made another grab for my arm.

A far too interested crowd had formed around us, and the fireworks were proceeding without anyone in our vicinity paying the slightest attention. Why should they when the ground entertainment rivaled any top ten reality show?

Hamish did the smart thing and disappeared. I needed to get Rollie to do the same. Especially once I saw we’d caught the attention of a uniformed bobby. The officer was making his way down from the edge of the crowd. Time to work fast.

“Guys, please.” I smiled at Jack, then turned to Rollie. “I appreciate your help, but Jack’s chivalry simply backfired. It was an accident. Please, go back and join your friends, Rollie, and don’t worry about me.”

Non, I will stay here, I will—”

“No.” I shook my head and reached up to pat his chest with my hands, effectively pushing Rollie away as my fingers touched the fine leather I recognized from this year’s Versace line. “I’m going to call it a night, and Jack will take me home.”

“This barbarian—”

Jack pushed in closer. “I didn’t—” he started.

I interrupted my Hulks before they rumbled. “It’s all right. Thanks so much for your help, Rollie.” The bobby was close enough to see my smile. I gave him a “don’t worry about it” wave and pulled on Jack’s arm. “Let’s go.”

I didn’t see which direction Rollie headed. I hoped seeing me turn my back on him and going away with Jack would end further discussion.

Roman candles burn at temperatures exceeding twenty-five-hundred degrees centigrade. I’m not sure Jack’s temper wasn’t beyond this range as we worked our way through the crowd. He likely could have talked his way out of any trouble with the constable, but we didn’t need the attention.

“Damn that bastard Hamish,” Jack cursed. “All the times I saved his bloody arse in school.”

“He was drunk tonight and mad at his wife,” I said. After the awful kiss I knew he’d had his share of alcohol, but I did wonder what he was looking at moments before.

Jack growled something under his breath, saying louder, “Then that arse Rollie shows up and acts like I did it on purpose.”

“Well, you did mean to throw the punch.”

“I didn’t mean to hit you!” He pulled me nearer a street light and looked closely at my jawline. “Laurel, I’ll make this up to you, I promise.”

“You certainly will,” I said, trying to keep from wincing when he touched a tender spot. “You’re taking me dancing, buster. Dinner too. That’s how you’ll make it up to me.”

He finally grinned. “Dancing with you doesn’t exactly sound like punishment.”

“You’ve only worked with me a few months. You have no idea how long I can dance.”

He laughed. I’d completed my objective. “Really, I’m okay.” I gave him a hug.

I kept my arms around him but leaned back to see his face, right as another symphony of light splashed across the sky in every imaginable color. The noise was ear-shattering, and I could already smell the gunpowder riding the air currents, but the effect was magnificent. “Oh, my.”

“Let’s stand over there and watch.”

I nodded, and we moved along the fringe. He kept his arm around my shoulders, and I let him. As the music swelled and the heavenly display reached its climax, his body relaxed a little, and I thought everything was back in balance again.

Until he said, “Really, you didn’t have to flirt with the jerk to keep him from reporting me to the police. I do have resources, you know.”

“I do know.” I looked up at him. “So do I. What you thought was me flirting to get him to go quietly away actually served a higher purpose. It allowed me to leave a small remembrance of this evening in the breast pocket of his jacket. The kind of pocket in leather coats men likely never use. Or look into.”

At Jack’s puzzled expression I held up my left arm, making sure my charm bracelet glowed in the light. The bracelet no longer displaying a tiny silver camera.

“When you straightened your cuffs,” Jack said, wonder filling his voice.

“When I straightened my cuffs.”

“We can track him.”

“You can. I don’t have the app.”

“I could kiss you.”

“First, pull out your phone and start tracking Rollie.”

###

 

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