A HERO'S SPARK: the final book in the Wicked Women series!

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Good afternoon!

From the looks of things, many of you are finding my most recent novel, Fresh Ice.  It's heartening to see more reviews of the book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Remember, if you read it and you liked it, no matter who the author is, let other readers know!

Meanwhile, here's a chapter for you.  I feel in love with the city of Nashville, Tennessee, a few years ago and wanted to write something set there.  Somehow, in building the character that eventually became Quinn Murray, it seemed so right that he lived in Music City.


Izzy stood leaned over the railing and soaked in the sounds of the city. There was something peaceful about the sleepy silence that settled like a blanket over a district that had, as recently as four hours earlier, throbbed with music and barbeque and neon. She sipped the coffee she’d made herself in the tiny hotel coffee pot and wondered if she could truly pull herself away and go back to Wisconsin.

“Mornin’ Iz.” Adele stepped out of her room, still clad in her t shirt and lounge pants. “It’s really quiet this morning, isn’t it?”

“I know Like the whole city is sleeping.”

“Are you feeling any better?”

Izzy rubbed her eyes, trying to wipe away the faint ache that lingered within her. Surprised by Adele’s rare show of concern, Izzy was honest. “A bit. I took some Tylenol PM and pretty much just zonked out. How late was it before you guys got in?”

Adele stretched her arms over her head. “Late enough. But we should get the girls up. We’ve got a lot of moving in to do today.”

Izzy glanced to the parking lot where the U-haul trailer attached to Sean’s van waited for them. She suddenly felt exhausted, drained of any energy. “Adele, I don’t think I can help today.”

“What are you saying? Of course you can.” The civil tone, and the concern that went with it, were gone.

“I don’t think I can. I’m sorry. I’m exhausted and I need some rest.”

“Fine, fine. Don’t help move your own daughter in to the dormitory. Sean and I will just do that, just like we’ll have to move you into the house when we get home.”

Izzy bit the inside of her cheek, keeping her temper in check. “I’m sorry, Adele. I’m just not feeling well.”

Adele gave her a doubtful look, but said nothing more. Instead, she pounded on the girls’ door and shouted, “Girls! It’s moving in day! Get up!” before slamming her door.

“Holy carp, Mom, what’s up her butt?” Jenna emerged from her room.

“Don’t say butt, Jenna. She’s actually a little put out with me. I can’t help you guys move in today.”

“Still not feeling well?”

“Just not feeling up to moving.”

Jenna put an arm around her mother. “It’s cool, Mom. You know I don’t have much of anything to move it. It’s Mikayla that’s got all that furniture. Probably why Aunt Adele’s so bent, she knows it’s going to be a complete bitch to move up the stairs.”


“Sorry, I know that’s vulgar.” Jenna grinned, reminding Izzy a little of Jason in the days when they shared little jokes. “You feel better, Mom. I’ll check in with you tonight when we get home.”

“Thanks honey. You’re a good kid.”

“I have a good mom.” Jenna hugged Izzy, and returned to her room to get dressed.

Izzy returned to her room as well, turned the AC on high, curled up under some blankets and fell asleep.


Quinn checked the clock. Two more hours.

As he expected, Serena was not easily coaxed from her foul mood. Thanks to his short conversation with the two young women the night before, he’d had to do penance. Serena informed him moments after a fairly tawdry session in her bedroom, he was to fill in the Sunday afternoon spot.

She’s still blaming me for those girls calling her my mother.

The good news is, no one cares what I do, on a Sunday afternoon because everyone is at the Volunteers opening game of the season, and we aren’t airing it. So I can rerun a Titans game from five years ago and no one is going to care.

Checking the dials to make sure the rerun game was still playing properly, Quinn leaned back in his chair and allowed himself a rare moment of reflection on his history with the woman who held his darkest secret in her dangerous hands.

Serena Shipley Chapman, former world class figure skater, was also a world-class hellfire. Too well, he knew the story of Serena’s humiliation at the hands of Jason Masters, her long time skating partner. The fact that Serena experienced her biggest humiliation months after Jason left skating forever didn’t seem to figure into her equation of hate. She blamed him for forcing her to skate as a single.

More precisely, she blames Isabella Landry for stealing Jason and forcing her to skate as a single.

Getting on the Olympic team as a single’s skater was nothing more than a foot in the door for Serena; just enough of a push to get her on the plane. When the US champion shattered her ankle in practice, Serena got her golden moment.

Her story of how she was even at the event spread like wildfire. The relentless media dug up as much as they could on the strange chain of events that put Serena Shipley on Olympic Ice, alone.

The short program lasted two minutes.

In all the years Quinn had known her, Serena Shipley Chapman talked endlessly about everything else surrounding her skating career. But those two minutes of her life were a silent void. It didn’t take long before curiosity got the best of Quinn and he found the clip on the internet.

Even now, Quinn couldn’t stop a perverse little smile from crossing his face. To say the short program was a disaster was a complete understatement. Unaccustomed to skating alone, and skating a program she’d put together on the plane ride to the Olympics, Serena’s luck ran out. In two minutes, Quinn counted three outright crashes, two skipped tricks, and a triple axel that turned into an awkward single. Applause for her was lukewarm, unlike her scores, which were ice cold.

In the following days the press was merciless. Writers pointed to her age and her ego as the reasons for her failure. Stories about her backstage tantrums surfaced. Two days later, mere hours before she was to skate her long program, Serena contracted a sudden case of the flu. More rumors and commentaries flurried around her. By the time Serena flew home, every sports program and tabloid magazine mocked and reviled her.

But in true Serena fashion, she landed on her feet. Or, at least she landed on her back in the bed of someone who had enough money to put her on her feet.

For reasons no one understood completely, Serena moved to Nashville, hometown to the woman she blamed for everything; Isabella Landry. Isabella, of course, was already gone, vanished with Jason under a cloud of scandal after pregnancy rumors arose.

If Serena wanted immediate revenge, she was sorely disappointed.

Serena got a job as station manager at WNSH. That, of course, was a cover for her real intentions. She caught the eye of the aging station owner, Burkes Chapman. As the rest of the world prepared for another Winter Olympics, Serena Shipley married a very silent part owner of the Nashville Predators, and the richest man in Nashville.

She hated sitting with Burkes at the games. Quinn smiled at the thought of the lovely Serena standing in Burkes’ cloud of cigar smoke and bourbon. Old Man Chapman adored her…almost as much as his cigars and those Civil War pistols he has displayed in his owners’ box at Bridgestone Center. He gave her everything she wanted.

Except that gold medal.

The first time Quinn saw her, he was finishing his final game with the Predators. It wasn’t common knowledge to the fans, but the writing was on the wall. The Preds tired quickly of his bad boy image, and wanted to trade him. Quinn didn’t want a trade. He was done getting passed around the league like a bad joke. By then he’d fallen in love with Nashville.

It’s not that hard, even after everything, to remember how regal she was, looking down from the owners’ box. She was the queen. We were just part of her kingdom.

He must have made an impression on Serena as well, because a week after he retired, Quinn received and invitation to an owners’ event. Burkes was there, jovial country boy that he was, and Serena was on his arm. A brief conversation with the two of them, and the next thing Quinn knew he was the WNSH color commentator for Predators games.

Then Burkes died, and Serena took over.

And then Sally.

“Quinn Murray, what…the…hell are you doing here on a Sunday?”

Quinn shook himself to attention. Benny glared at him from the studio door. “I guess this should put to rest any ideas you have that I get special treatment from the boss, right?”

“Not really. I bet she’s tweaked because of your moment in the spotlight last night.”

Quinn smiled. “You are living proof that even a blind horse finds the gate once in a while.”

“You’re the horse that should have put on blinders last night, dude. I saw Serena. When are you going to get that she is never amused when other women drool on you?”

“She gave me an earful after I took her home.”

“I’ll bet. But dude, seriously, you could have mentioned the station once when you were on stage. She probably wouldn’t have minded quite so much.”

“I wasn’t there to promote the station. I was doing a friend a favor.”

“Your good deeds will kill you one day, my friend.” Benny adjusted his chair. “Yeah, well, you are owned by WNSH and you aren’t supposed to be going out into the public without express written permission from the headmistress. You know that.”

Quinn stood and stretched his arms over his head. “I just forgot.”

“At least tell me you noticed some of the prime women that were there. At least tell me you’re not completely dead inside.”

The image of Isabella Landry, standing in the balcony, came to his mind. The idea of someone like Benny staring at her like a piece of meat made Quinn’s stomach roll. “And you wonder why you can’t get a date, when you talk about women like that.”

“That’s a yes!” Benny raised his hand for a high five. Quinn responded with little enthusiasm. “You spotted someone and you’re trying to be cool because she’s classy, right? Although what a classy chick would be doing in a place like Chance’s is beyond me.”

“You’re a pig, Benny. And it’s time for you to go to work. The game I was airing is almost over.” Quinn pointed to the control board as he walked out of the studio.

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