Angel Sefer's Free Readers Group

Angel Sefer's Free Readers Group

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Excerpt from the intriguing cozy-mystery A Dead Husband by Anna Celeste Burke


Jessica bolted upright in bed. Not a good thing to do. The light of day pierced like a knife. Her world spun. Her head throbbed, and a wave of nausea flowed through her. The force of her body’s revolt knocked her back onto the pillow. She closed her eyes to shut out the light and waited for the spinning sensation to subside. From somewhere in the depths of stupor she heard the sound that had startled her awake: a loud snort. She struggled to make sense of the fear and confusion while remaining motionless to avoid another assault to her senses. Where the hell was she? Risking a peek, she glimpsed up and recognized the vaulted ceiling and dramatic angles of the room in which she had grown up.
For a moment she felt comforted because she was, at least, in her own bed. The plush bed cradled her body, lulling her back toward oblivion. Then it all came rushing in on her, crushing her chest with an anvil of rage and regret.
My own bed all right, she thought. In her mother’s house that is, not her adult, married-woman bed now occupied by her feckless, soon-to-be ex-husband, and the blond. Jessica’s breathing quickened; her heart fluttered, and then palpitated wildly. Her heart now beat out a vicious dirge to match the pounding in her head.
“Oh no,” she muttered, as she spiraled toward a full blown panic attack. She rolled over and scooted toward the edge of the bed, hoping to dig out the paper bag she kept in the bedside table. She needed to breathe. To regain control of her mind and body that had betrayed her so often.
As Jessica reached into the drawer, she heard it again. A snorting sound, but this time much louder. Without thinking she jumped out of bed and stumbled, almost head first, into a luxurious upholstered club chair in the tasteful neutral tones of the Kreiss furnishings her mother adored. The room spun again as Jessica’s knees hit the floor. Her upper body landed on something hard in the chair. She pulled out an empty bottle, Cristal champagne, vintage 2004.
A decent year, at least, she thought.
A party, there had been a party. She set the bottle on the floor and pulled herself up into the comfort of the bedside chair. Holding her head in both hands she scanned the floor around her feet and spotted two more empty Cristal bottles. That helped explain her current state. Discarded take-out food containers and candy bar wrappers were strewn about as were articles of clothing.
The slinky little Dolce & Gabbana dress she had worn last night lay in a twisted heap on the floor not wearable ever again. A couple grand down the drain. It must have come off in a hurry. One red Alexa pump peeped out from beneath the bed, silk stockings nearby, and a pair of men’s jeans. Jessica’s scanning came to a dead stop. She raised her eyes to gaze on higher ground.
A scantily-clad man lay sprawled on the far side of her super-sized bed, face down. Something about him was familiar, but in her addled condition she could not make out who he was. Nor could she remember how he, or she, got there. Looking down as quickly as she dared, she noted she was still wearing her Spanx. Jessica let out a little sigh of relief. Things couldn’t have gone too far with the guy in her bed since she was still wearing her Spanx. She struggled to get into the body shaper stone cold sober. If she had done her share polishing off the contents of the bottles in her room she would have needed help.
The guy on the bed looked like he could have given her that help. Unless he drank as much Cristal as she had. Jessica squelched a bout of shame as she lingered on his well-muscled body, clad in nothing but a pair of boxers. It felt voyeuristic. Not to mention, that even if her life depended on it, she couldn’t say who he was. Besides, she was still a married woman. She hadn’t signed the divorce papers yet.
Why isn’t he moving? Jessica wondered. From where she sat, it didn’t even look like he was breathing. It must have been his snorting that brought her back so abruptly from the edge of insensibility. But he was dead to the world now, not a sound or a twitch in any of the bronzed body parts she could see.
Lifting herself from the chair, Jessica leaned over to get a better look at his face. A shock of peroxided blond hair covered much of it. Jessica hiked one knee up onto the bed. Edging closer she reached out to move the hair so she could see his face. She had hardly touched him when he grabbed her hand and smiled at her. Jessica let out a loud whoop and struggled to break free.
“Whoa,” he said, still dull with sleep.
“Let go!” Jessica barked, pulling away from him. Startled, he let go of her hand and the momentum propelled her back off the bed. As her feet hit the floor she continued moving backwards. She tripped over the discarded Cristal bottle, and landed flat on her butt on the floor, with a loud “ouch!”
Her shrieks evoked an even louder male response. Not from the buff, blond man-boy in her bed who couldn’t have been more than 23 or 24—25 tops. The sound came from the floor on the other side of the bed. Another male head popped up and Jessica could not stop another yelp. Her heart started to rev up again.
“What the hell, Jessica?” her friend Tommy said. “I’m going to take a Technicolor yawn all over this fine Italian duvet you scored at Between the Sheets last week if you don’t stop screaming. I don’t want to ruin it,” he said caressing the silky cinnamon-colored duvet as though it were alive and needed soothing. He rested his head on the edge of the bed then looked up.
“You will have wasted all that revenge shopping, the time, the energy, the focus. You only have so many divorce tantrums in you, you know?”

The Blurb:

“My first day as a sleuth was more Stephanie Plum than Miss Marple.” Jessica Huntington, amateur sleuth with a shopping jones and a black AMEX card, finds out money can’t buy happiness, or save your neck. Her well-planned life in shambles, she’s hiding out near Palm Springs. When her best friend’s husband is murdered, Jessica and her friends are soon stalked by scoundrels in pantyhose, stilettos, Bruno Maglis, and Armani suits. Roger Stone had something that got him killed. What was it and what will they do to get it back?

Even in a desert paradise life is full of surprises, like A DEAD HUSBAND.

About the Author:

Life is an extravaganza! Figuring out how to hang tough and make the most of the wild ride is the challenge. On my way to Oahu, to join the rock musician and high school drop-out I had married in Tijuana, I was nabbed as a runaway. Eventually the police let me go, but the rock band broke up. Our next stop: Disney World, where we trained to be chefs. More education landed us in academia at The Ohio State University. For decades I researched, wrote, and spoke about a number of gloriously nerdy topics. Retired now, I’m still married to the same, sweet, guy and live with him near Palm Springs, California. I write mysteries set in sunny California! The Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery series set here in the Coachella Valley and the Corsario Cove Cozy Mystery Series set in California’s Central Coast. Coming Soon: The Misadventures of Betsy Stark, also set in and around Palm Springs.

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