I've been slaving away at cover art and the first round of serious edits this weekend and I thought I've give you another little peak at the new novel. This has been a challenge for me because I'm using characters from both Lies in Chance AND Fresh Ice to create a new romance. It's been a challenge, but I'm also really, really excited about it!
To the left here is one of the rough ideas I'm working on for a cover. You can vote for which cover you want by reading my last post on this blog and voting here or by going over to my Face Book page and voting.
The rain north of Green Bay fell mercilessly. By the time Collier reached the city limits of Rock Harbor, he was exhausted and unable to find the county highway address Archibald gave him. Collier eased the Mercedes into a muddy parking lot outside a bar called "Dirty Dog Dave's." He parked as close to the door of the hulking building as he could, and ran inside.
The inside of Dirty Dog Dave's was cavernous. The place seemed deserted, though the lights were on. Collier took a seat at the bar and tapped his fingers. "Hello?"
The only answer to his single word was the click of a hand gun safety releasing. Collier stopped tapping his fingers, his blood frozen.
"Put yer hands on the bar where Ah ken see them."
Collier squinted to the darkened end of the room, searching for the face to match the low, guttural voice and the completely fake Southern accent. He splayed his hands out on the dented bar, trying hard not to recoil at the sticky feel of the scarred wooden surface. "I'm not here to cause trouble. I just need directions."
"Ah'll just bet y'all do."
In spite of the clear danger he was in, Collier struggled not to smile. The hidden man's accent was simply too funny. "No, really. I'm trying to find Shara Jacobs' place."
As if his words were some sort of incendiary device, the man with the gun leaped from around the corner, and grabbed Collier by the collar. The man was enormous, and holding an even more impressive handgun. "Just whut would y'all be wantin' with Miss Shara?"
"Oh for the love of all that's holy, Dave, put that man down!"
Collier held his breath as Dave's grip on his collar tightened. He heard woman's quick foots steps behind him and in a beat a tall, beautiful woman the color of a perfect cup of mocha stood next to him.
"Chanel, now this doesn't concern y'all."
"It does when you're pointing a gun at a customer. Put that thing away and give the man dinner or something."
Dave didn't loosen his grip on Collier. "Chanel, this man is driving Mr. James' Mercedes. But look at him, he's no driver for Mr. James. So either he stole the car...or he stole the car. Plus, he's lookin' fer Miss Shara."
Chanel turned her focus to Collier. "Did you steal Mr. James' car?"
"No." Collier tried to swallow, but Dave's enormous knuckle was in the way. "No, I'm his nephew."
"Ah don't buy it."
"You don't buy anything." Chanel frowned at Dave. "Look, Mister. Dave here just got his concealed carry permit and he's itching to use that beastly thing. If I were you, I'd say something a bit more convincing."
"My uncle, Archibald James, sent me here. I'm a..." Collier struggled for air.
"Oh for heaven's sakes, Dave, put him down and let him talk."
Reluctantly, Dave let go of Collier, sending him back to the bar stool with a thump. "Now talk...and Ah'd best lahke whut you say."
"I'm a musician. I'm a singer, and my uncle thought I should work with Shara Jacobs. Said she's a client of his. He's letting me use his car because mine is back home."
Collier cleared his throat and turned a baleful eye on Dave. "Nashville. Tennessee. Where people have real accents."
Chanel burst out laughing. "Dave, you have to give this man free burgers for life or he may just blow your cover!"
Collier allowed himself a weak smile. "I don't want to blow anyone's cover or anything. I just...I'm looking for this address." He held up the piece of paper. "I can't find it in the rain."
"Of course you can't, Sugar." Chanel strolled behind the bar and filled a glass with beer. "Here you go." She slid the glass to Collier.
"Now just a minute! Since when do we give free beer to strangers?"
“Oh, about the same time we started pulling guns on people who show up looking for directions.” Chanel grinned at Collier. "Dave, you say one more word to this boy and I'm going to let him tell everyone that you've never been further south than Kenosha." Chanel turned back to Collier, her voice easing back to a warm tone reminiscent of thick hot cocoa. "Now, go ahead and finish what you were saying."
Collier took a swallow of beer, the amber liquid warming him. "I'm a sort of traveling musician, but my band...broke up. So my uncle sent me here to do some recording work with Shara Jacobs. He said I could stay at their place."
"Probably means the loft."
Collier didn't miss the softening of Dave's features. "You know Miss Shara?"
Dave chuckled. "Know her? I discovered her."
Chanel clicked her tongue against her teeth. "You did not discover her, Dave. She had to beg you for months to let 'Teachers' Pets' play here, and you know it. Now, what's your name honey?"
"Collier. Collier James."
"Okay, Collier James, I'm about to open this place up for the evening, but I promise you, if you don't mind sitting here a bit and having the best burger you're ever going to eat, I'll see to it that someone gets you out to the Jacobs' place tonight." Chanel patted him on the shoulder.
“We’re giving him food, too? What, you’re trying to bankrupt me?”
“No, Dave,” Chanel rounded the bar and stood in the kitchen doorway, “I’m trying to keep him from suing us.”
Collier was amused by the couple. His initial fear of Dave melted. The smell of grilled meat emanating from the kitchen made Collier's stomach growl. "Ok, I guess I wouldn't mind a burger at all.”
Time in Dave’s, Collier realized, was a relative thing. It seemed like hours before the first customer crossed the dank threshold and yet when he looked at his watch at the height of late night revelry, Collier was astonished to see that several hours had passed. Dirty Dog Dave’s transformed from a dark cave to the epicenter of sound and music and joy. It reminded him of Second Chance’s in Nashville, and Collier felt a rare pang of homesickness.
“Collier James, I’d like you to meet a good friend of mine,” Chanel took a break from waiting tables to talk to him. Next to Chanel stood a beautiful, older woman, the kind of woman, Collier sense, got more attractive as she aged. Though she was, Collier assessed, probably in her fifties, she retained a youthful glow and smoothness of features most would envy. “This is Molly Hunter.”
“Miz Hunter, pleased to make your acquaintance,” Collier extended his hand.
“Shara told me to expect you.” Molly shook his hand with a firm grip, “Pleased to meet you. Chanel tells me your Mr. James’ nephew?”
Molly smiled. “I see you have his wonderful manners too.”
“Molly here is a good friend of Shara Brandt’s. I told her you needed some help finding the place.”
Collier nodded his thanks to Chanel, who faded back to the welling throng of people.
“So what does Mr. James want you to do with Shara and Bryan?”
Collier shrugged. “I’m a musician. I guess he thinks I should work with Shara.”
Molly nodded. “He’s a wise man. Come on, I’ll lead you up there.”
“You’re sure it’s okay?”
“Absolutely. If Mr. James sent you, you have every right to stay there.”
Collier pushed his glass away and turned to leave the bar when the singer on stage caught his eye. She was striking with long raven colored hair that flowed to the middle of her back. As she settled herself onto the stool and shifted her guitar to a comfortable place on her lap, Collier could not help feeling he’d seen her before.
“Who is that?”
Molly glanced over her shoulder. “You’ve got an eye for beauty. That’s Miranda Peirce. Sometimes she’s goes by the stage name, ‘Mira Star.’”
“Is it wrong that I think that sounds like a stripper name?” Collier laughed. “Guess I’ve been doing it wrong all these years, going under my given name.”
“Some say she’s explaining away that huge star tattoo on her upper arm.” Molly shrugged. “I think it’s more to put distance between herself and her sister.”
“Oh they haven’t liked each since Miranda was little. The older sister is married to a state senator, very prim and proper and serious. Miranda’s much younger, and she’s always been a bit of a free spirit.”
“She’s got a decent voice.” Collier studied her with a critical eye. “And she’s pretty.”
“She is. I liked her better before, though.”
Molly opened the door and stepped into the rain soaked night. “I think she looked better with her natural hair color. It was a really pretty sandy brown. She dyed it black recently. The dark hair makes her look older. Although, now that I think about it, it does bring out the green in her eyes.”
Collier glanced over his shoulder and trying to picture the woman on stage with blonde hair, and realized why she seemed familiar. She’s the woman from the Renaissance Faire. No hair color change could hide eyes that green.
Molly was already to her car, starting the engine. Not wanting to be lost again, Collier let the door close and headed for his uncle’s Mercedes.