Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sneak Peek at "Reluctant Witness"

Poor Marigold Flowers...she entered the witness protection program at age sixteen, and nearly two decades later, her life is falling apart. Someone murdered her fiancé in Newport, Rhode Island. She came home one day and found him dead on the floor of her condo. Who killed him and why?

The cover of the upcoming book (designed by the author)!
Moved to Lake Placid, New York, she restarted her life with a new identity and built a business as an event planner. It all fell apart when a hired contract killer tried to grab her and her WitSec handler unexpectedly showed up on the scene. A terrible shootout ensued and Marigold took advantage of the chaos to flee...right into the hands of a second contract killer!

Why is she being pursued now, after all these years? Is it because of what happened to her family when she was a teenager or because of something else entirely...something sinister...something dangerous?

Enter the Cornwall brothers. Jackson is a New York state trooper. Lincoln is an FBI agent. Jefferson is the successful author of several thrillers and a TV producer. If there's one thing the Cornwall brothers can't leave alone, it's a mystery! That's because their mother is none other than Lisbeth Causley, author of the popular "Inspector Samuelson Investigates" series. But she also writes romantic suspense under the pen name, Serena Duvall, and her "Caribbean Dreaming" series is a very popular one.

As Marigold hopscotches across the country, protected by an unofficial team of security specialists determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, she spends the endless hours reading. And in Serena Duvall's book, Vanilla Orchid Magic, she finds a character she can relate to, a woman much like herself, on her own and over her head in deceitful deception. Here then is Marigold Flowers:

EXCERPT from Reluctant Witness:

Gently scooping up the sleepy dog in my arms, I padded down the hall to the main foyer, I peeked around the corner. The door to the den was still closed, so I went back to my bedroom and decided to start on Vanilla Orchid Magic. Kary contentedly dozed off again.

The story was published in 1999, apparently just a few years after Jeff’s accident. It was the first book in the Serena Duvall Caribbean Dreaming romantic suspense series, all set in the islands. It didn’t take long for me to lose myself in the tale. The opening line of the first chapter skillfully managed to capture my attention.

“Silence!” he hissed at me. “They will hear you and kill us both!”

I felt the insistent hand cover my mouth and tasted the skin of those rough, masculine fingers on my lips. In the faint glow of moonlight, I couldn’t see his face, but as I fought his effort to subdue me, my hands brushed the stubble on his cheeks and tangled in the locks of his shoulder-length hair. How I longed to claw myself free!

He held me fast, tucked into the shadows, his hot breath on my neck as he kept one arm around my waist. I struggled to free myself, only to find my arms yanked behind my back.

“Stop it,” he whispered, his lips pressed against my ear. “Don’t you know they will slice your throat and dump you at sea as fish bait? Is that really how you wish to die?”

Recoiling, I turned my head, desperate to see my captor. He loosened his grip on me, twirling me around until I could gaze up at the shadowy figure in front of me. As his hand came away from my mouth, I uttered the one question that mattered most to me.

“Who are you?”

“I am Inspecteur Principal Jean-Claude Noiret, Interpol, at your service!”

“Interpol? But...I am not a criminal!” I sputtered, my voice hushed. “What are you doing here?”

“I am on the trail of a very dangerous fugitive from justice.”

“Here? On a spice farm?” I was dumbfounded. “But...who?”

“Le Scorpion, a ruthless drug trafficker, a man who has destroyed many lives with his evil. He was born Guillaume Chartier, but you, mademoiselle, know him better by his alias, Alain Beaumont.”

A cold, dark force pierced my heart, taking my breath as it punched through my lungs. I felt the whoosh of air escape from my lips, even as this stranger moved to catch me. His strong, masculine arms held me fast as the night went black and I lost consciousness.

When I came to, I was no longer in the shadows of the drying shed, but some distance away, in a grove of cacao trees. Inspecteur Noiret cradled me in his capable arms.

“What happened?” I whispered, still feeling fragile.

“You passed out. There is no need to panic, mademoiselle. We will capture Chartier. Have no fear.”

“No,” I protested. “It’s not that. It’s that...it’s that...I just made him my partner in the business.”

“You own this place?” Inspecteur Noiret sounded dismayed.

I felt my throat go dry as I tried to speak. Suddenly, the emotional roller coaster ride of the last few weeks made sense. The man I had only known for little more than three months, the man who had swept me off my feet so unexpectedly, professing his undying love, was a fraud. Even as I had demurred, he pressed himself on me, insisting that it was to our mutual benefit. Even as I had gently refused, he grew more insistent by the day, plying me with gifts meant to seduce. He promised that I would grow to love him, for he would make himself worthy of me. It was all a con. “It was what he wanted for a wedding present from me.”

“Mon dieu!” he muttered. “The man is a fiend! Does this mean you two are married?”

As I read, my thoughts returned briefly, painfully, to Jared. Was it the Caribbean setting of the story? I thought about the trip we took because he was worried about his Dutch Island Investments. Why did that bother me? Surely it was a coincidence that he chose Dutch Island as the name of his firm. It was just a local Jamestown landmark, a piece of Rhode Island history, wasn’t it? I thought about the times we had kayaked there, packing a picnic lunch to share on the rocks as the ocean rolled in.

But then I got a nagging feeling, deep in my gut. Why did I think Jared Spears and Alain Beaumont had more in common than just the Caribbean?
Just before he was murdered, Jared had taken me to Curacao. We spent several days there, relaxing on Blue Bay Beach. He had asked me to sign papers when we went to the bank in Willemstad, said they were just a formality. We weren’t going to have a prenuptial agreement, at least not the usual kind, because Jared knew I was going to remain faithful to him during our marriage. He trusted me with his money. Should I have wondered whether he was trustworthy, too?
Copyright 2014 by Sara M. Barton