Oh my gosh, I swear I thought I posted this before I went out for my walk. So sorry. Here are the Terrific Ten!
Can you ladies get the next lines back to me by midnight Saturday night?
1. “Damn loser recruit,” Captain Connors muttered as he sweltered in the alleyway, forced to endure the scents of week-old Chow Mein coming from the Dumpster he leaned against.
A mingle of sweet citrus and coconut strong enough to turn his stomach overpowered even the stench of the restaurant refuse surrounding him as the hairs rose on his arms. It was one of them, had to be, only shape-shifters gave off that cloying scent a recruiter could catch a whiff of a hundred yards away. He inhaled the rancid fumes rising from the pavement to clear the shifter smell from his nostrils.
Connors stayed leaning, body tense, as a gorgeous blonde strolled into the cramped, trash-filled alley like it was a neighborhood park at lunchtime. Shifter females were breath-taking, making you want, until you remembered what they were and worried about going to bed with Sue Ann and waking up with Jim Bob.
He pushed out from the metal at his back, spit on the ground, and thought for the umpteenth time, God, he hated when they were female.
He inhaled deeply of her Shifter scent, verifying she was what she appeared to be and said, “Michael or Michelle?”
She reached up and grasped her breasts in two overflowing handfuls, looking him straight in the eye as she uttered in sultry tones, “It seems it is Michelle today.”
His breath caught in a gasp as she reached down and grabbed her crotch, his gaze forced to follow.
“Oops, no balls — not Michael today.”
2. Jordan Blake always figured he’d go to hell someday, but he never expected it to be this soon. His first clue was a no-brainer, the sign posted outside the town limits read: Hades, Colorado, population two hundred and six.
He almost hit the second clue as he wheeled his Lexus onto Main Street and immediately swerved to avoid the horse tied to the hitching rail. Swearing under his breath, he parked across the street, then jerked on the rearview mirror to make sure he hadn’t been seeing things. Yeah, there was a horse tied to a hitching rail, all right.
He stepped out of his car and looked up and down the street, squinting against the fine mist that dampened his face. Not much to look at—a barber shop, some tiny crafty-looking store, a gas station/mini-mart/Laundromat, an old stone church, three houses, and a flat-faced building with a faded *Oleson’s Mercantile and Coffee* sign above the door. Between the name and the horse, he felt like he’d been transported onto the set of *Little House on the Prairie.*
Only the jagged peaks of the Rockies veiled by gloomy clouds weren’t no prairie, and the girl walking out of the mercantile with saddlebags slung over her shoulder wasn’t Laura Ingalls; Half-pint didn’t limp.
A gust of wind blew the hood of her dark green rain duster back, revealing a pale face and long hair the color of a vintage Bordeaux. For the first time in months, he almost laughed.
3. Jack Sutton heard a whisper of movement a split second before an arm wrapped around his neck and something sharp plunged into his gut. The shocking reality that he’d just been stabbed registered as he was shoved to the cold, grease-stained concrete floor, his entire midsection on fire. Instinct forced him to his hands and knees before a hard shove sent him crashing back to the floor.
“You should’ve slit his throat,” a croaky, unfamiliar voice complained.
“He’ll be dead in an hour,” a second voice assured the first. “Come on, let’s get the cash register opened—if this don’t look like a robbery, we don’t get paid.”
Jack lay still as death, praying whoever these bastards were they’d hurry the hell up. If he could crawl to the phone and dial 9-1-1, he might have a chance.
Jesus, he was going to puke. *Concentrate, Sutton,* he thought, swallowing hard, choking down bile. He cracked an eye open and wished he hadn’t.
4. Death comes to all of us in many ways. It doesn’t consider how it leaves us to the mercy of others who must view our remains.
This time, death had come suddenly and without warning. The young man had been in his prime and died with a look of surprise on his face. There were still poker chips and cards set out for two other players on his table; beer bottles and ash trays covered the scarred laminate, and a bowl of potato chips were left uneaten.
He sat in his chair with a .22 slug in his forehead, with plenty of gunshot residue stippled around the wound to show that the killer had walked right up to him and shot him. Blood had trailed down his face from the gaping hole in his forehead. He’d dropped his beer bottle on the floor and its golden liquid had pooled by his feet.
The room temperature was about fifty-two degrees. The killer had turned the air conditioner up on purpose. The body was well-preserved and so was the crime scene.
5. Elizabeth squeezed her eyes tight and turned her face away from the wicked-looking blade. She’d seen what it could do. Knew first hand the destruction it could bring.
“Please,” she whispered, a tear slipping down her cheek. “I…I can’t do this.”
Cold steel grazed the skin exposed by her low bodice and she flinched. Her tormentor shifted closer in the confined carriage. “Oh, but you will. You know the consequences if you don’t, Lizzy.”
Elizabeth’s stomach pitched and rolled, but she managed to jerk her head in assent.
6. “Just keep on driving, Mister,” Moxie said as she struggled to keep the gun in her hand from shaking as she aimed it at the man’s head.
He turned to look down the barrel of the gun, his eyes then trailing up her arm to look into her face. She tried to put on a hard, outlawish-looking expression, but it wasn’t working—it’s hard to look evil when you’ve got curly red hair and freckles.
“You’re joking, right?” He gave her a hopeful little smile, while his eye cut over to the gun pointed at his chin.
“Nope, dead serious. Drive on out of here and nobody gets hurt.” She gestured with the gun toward the driveway leading out of the sun baked hotel parking lot.
“Great,” he mumbled, “I’m being abducted by a pixie.”
This fella wasn’t the first one to compare her to some kind of fairyland creature, Moxie realized with a sigh. Her huge green eyes set in a small, heart-shaped face, her slight build and height of five foot two, along with that dratted red hair, definitely gave the impression of some sort of sprite.
7. As much as he’d hoped Lacey McLaren had gained a hundred pounds and sprouted horns in the five years since he’d last seen her, she hadn’t. Noah cursed, unable to pull his gaze away; if anything, she was more beautiful now than when they’d first met. His heart tripped over itself, his gut twisting into knots as he watched her lead the chestnut mare into the middle of the indoor arena and mount up.
Thank God it was too damn hot for chaps today; the image of her ass framed in tight suede was one he really didn’t need to carry with him.
Just the thought sent blood rushing south, causing his jeans to grow tighter around the zipper.
“Does Lacey have a clue that it’s me, specifically, who’s come to look at buying her horses?” he asked, casting his half-brother a sidelong glance.
Colin’s sly grin was all the answer he needed.
“She’s expecting my brother,” he explained calmly, not taking his eyes off the horse and rider, “she just doesn’t know that you’re him.”
“Seeing her reaction might just be worth the jetlag,” Noah said, unable to keep the bitterness from his tone.
During the long flight from Phoenix to Toronto, all the feelings he’d worked so hard to keep buried after she walked out on him slowly began to resurface.
“How did you find her?” Noah asked, damning the part of him that had to know.
8. She’d become nothing more than a common thief.
No, not common – nothing about Egyptologist Katherine Meyer could ever be construed as common, especially when she was legally dead.
Kat checked her reflection in the bathroom mirror one last time, took a deep breath to settle the nerves in her stomach and told herself she looked pretty good for a seven-year-old corpse. The black slacks and matching jacket were perfect, nothing fancy, not one thing about them the slightest bit memorable. No one glancing her direction tonight would ever see anything other than the professional assistant she resembled, and that was precisely the way she wanted it. The less attention she drew, the safer she’d be, because being here wasn’t a choice, it was a matter of life and death.
Her stomach rolled as she turned down the long hallway, as her sensible flats clicked along the cement floor. Muffled music from the party out front drifted to her ears; ahead, a security guard looked up from his post at the end of the corridor and gave her the once-over.
She smiled what she hoped was a confident grin as she approached and flashed the ID badge she’d lifted from a Worthington’s employee only days before. The picture had been digitally altered to match her current disguise â€“ dark brown, bob-style wig, blue color contacts, tortoise shell glasses – and as long as the man in front of her didn’t look too closely, she was home free.
“Hold up there.”
9. “Son, you’ve got more metal in you than the Terminator.”
Immobile in a hospital bed with one leg in traction, one arm fractured, and bruises painted on his body like modern art on a canvas, Garrett McCloud found no humor in his doctor’s joke.
Refraining from comment, he watched Dr. Shaw flip open the chart and wrinkle his lips while he studied whatever mysterious gibberish doctors wrote on the things. With his frizzy white hair, the good doctor remarkably resembled Einstein, and Garrett considered him as much a genius as the great scientist, in spite of the quirky, misplaced wit.
Looking up, Dr. Shaw examined Garrett’s face and must have realized his joke flopped because he said, “Here’s the deal, Mr. McCloud, if you keep crashing, I don’t know if we can keep putting you togetherâ€“even now, I can’t guarantee you’re not going to have a limp.”
When he added, “Your knee resembled Humpty Dumpty after his great fall,” Garrett decided the doctor spent too much time with his grandkids.
“I’m positive I’m paying a fortune for you and all the king’s men to patch me together again,” he growled.
“You are,” the doctor agreed, scribbling notes on the chart before zeroing his gaze on Garrett and saying, “But my point is, racing motorcycles is a young man’s sportâ€“it’s time for you to think about another career. Take my advice,” Dr. Shaw continued, tucking the chart back into place at the foot of the bed, “Blink those baby blues of yours at some beautiful woman, get married, have a family. Put your reckless ways on a shelf with all your trophies.”
After the doctor left, Garrett stared at the door as denial that he needed to quit racing roared louder than motorcycles revved up on the grid anticipating the green light; and yet at the same time every ache and pain accelerated through his broken body quicker than opening the engine full throttle, predicting a grim reality he didn’t want to admit.
10. Who said dying was easy?
Ruby May stepped out the front door of the Delta Funeral Home in what had been her good luck dressâ€“until they buried her in it. She studied her reflection in passing, and realized dying in Delta had a downside; she was a Blue Light Special on heels.
The town slowly receded as Ruby walked the winding Tennessee roads, reliving life moments all strung together like glass beads. Life didn’t come with a damn rulebookâ€“a good thing since ignoring advice had been her personal mantra. She had led an amoral life, impossible to sugarcoat, and there was a high probability her view would be outside those pearly gates her mama talked about.
In the distance, the old homestead sprawled across Cooper Mountain and Ruby ran to it, like a child bolting into a mama’s arms. The heart of the place welcomed her; surprising since she had high-tailed it out of town at the first bump in the road. Leaving a daughter for Syble to raise had shocked the good people of Delta, like every other shenanigan she’d pulled all in the name of Ruby.
She settled on the old porch swing, ready to face the music and count the wounded she’d left behindâ€“Ruby expected a few frayed edgesâ€“but the panoramic glimpse about killed her…again.
Lordy, she’d landed in Oz, and where in the hell was that Yellow Brick Road?