Book summary: Cheating spouse? Stolen jewelry? Missing person?
Call Frances--Frankie--Post. A private detective with a trick of two up her sleeve and a few skeletons of her own.
What starts out as a simple missing person's case dumps Frankie and her lover Jack right in the crosshairs of a dangerous human trafficking organization. With lives on the line, bad blood and old wounds finally see the light of day. And Frankie and Jack are forced to realize: The past always catches up with you.
Excerpt from Taken:
Remember what I said earlier in the tour about stakeouts and how boring they can be? Yeah, I wasn't lying to you. Most people don't get lucky enough to have great reading material with them (yes, I'm totally plugging my friends in the book--karma, pay it forward, etc). They also don't get lucky enough to have an interesting companion with them. Frankie got both.
“What hour are we on?”
I didn’t look up from my book. “Hour three. Stop whining.”
“I’m not whining. Men don’t whine.” Ian shifted restlessly, tapping his fingers on the armrest. “We complain.”
“Which sound the same when you’re on the receiving end of the noise.” My soda had gone flat somewhere around hour two, but it was still wet and held something of the original Coke taste. “I told you to bring a book. Or two.”
“Do you really expect me to concentrate when I’m so close to Audrey?” He shoved his fingers through his hair, tugging at the ends. His next move would either be cracking his knuckles or uncrossing and recrossing his ankles. “How do you manage to sit there and read?”
“Well, I like reading. And Belinda Boring writes really good stories.” I turned another page, waited a beat. “If you want, you can borrow the one I finished yesterday. Dragon Warrior.”
“Yes, because my first choice of reading material is women’s fiction.” He cracked his knuckles and I shook my head. The ankle crossing ritual came next. “And really, her last name is Boring?”
“No, Shéa MacLeod wrote Dragon Warrior. Belinda Boring wrote Broken Promises.” Glancing up from my book, I arched an eyebrow. “And the book is far from boring. But since I’m still reading it, your only choice is Dragon Warrior. Or you can go back to playing on your phone.”
“The battery on my phone is almost dead since I’ve spent so much time on it.” He scowled at the case on the dashboard, sending it an evil glare. “I forgot my charger.”
“Doesn’t matter. Without the car on, it wouldn’t do you any good. And I’m not wasting my gas and my battery so you can play Angry Birds on your phone.” Although it was really the NYPD’s, not mine.
“You could bill me for the damn gas.”
“Or you can sit there, take a few deep breaths, and get yourself under control.” Taking pity on him, I marked my page and shut my book. “Tell me a story. Something happy.”
“What?” Ian scrubbed his hands over his face then pressed the heels of his palms to his eyes. “Tell you a story?”
“Sure. You tell me one, I’ll tell you one.”
“A story of my choice?”
I took a moment, weighing the consequences of giving him free reign to ask questions. “A story of your choice. But for that little privilege, I get to pick a story for you to tell.”
“Fine. Ask away.”
“The picture you gave me of your cousin—the one of the two of you on a dock near a lake. Tell me about that day.”
He sighed, leaning his head back against the headrest. “It was just a day. Nothing special.”
“You live long enough, you learn every day is something special.”
“Fortune cookie advice, Ms. Post?” He laughed, a tired, worn sound. “Forgive me. It’s been a long week.”
“Who all was with you? Just you and Audrey? Your aunt, your uncle, your parents? Friends, girlfriends, boyfriends?” I reached over, giving him a friendly punch on the arm. “Tell me a story, Ian, or you don’t get to hear mine.”
“God, you’re persistent.” He laughed again, and I smiled. “Middle of July, four years ago. We were celebrating, all of us. I’d just gotten the job at the DA’s office. Audrey and her friends were getting ready to start their senior year of school at NYU. The lake house was in constant flux, people coming and going.”
“Summer of partying.” I could picture it, the young, beautiful, elite crowd, drinking and swimming and slumming their days and nights away. “So, the lake house. Not the Hamptons?”
“We have a house in the Hamptons. We spend a few weekends there during the season. But all in all, too stuffy. For fun, we go to the lake.” His smile was quick, a brief flash, but sincere. “When I graduated from Harvard, my friends and I spent a good month there, drunk off our ass, before hunkering down to take the Bar.”
“You mentioned friends, boyfriends, girlfriends. I’ll assume Shelly and Samantha were there?” Across the street, a light flashed on in one of the lower windows of the old meatpacking plant then winked back out. None of the other cars on surveillance seemed to care, so I turned my attention back to Ian. “Who brought their boyfriends?”
“They all did.” He settled back into the seat, closing his eyes as he drifted away on memories. “Well, they did. Audrey wasn’t seeing anyone.”
I refrained from pointing out you didn’t need to see someone to sleep with them. “That must have sucked, playing fifth wheel.”
“She’d just gotten out of a relationship. Serious one, I think. The guy actually met my aunt and uncle.” He drummed his fingers on his knee until I reached over and closed my hand over his. His hand stiffened for a moment before going lax. “Which was probably the kiss of doom. No guy has ever been good enough for Audrey.”
“The princess of the family?”
“Something like that. Something about this guy rubbed my aunt and uncle the wrong way. The three of them had some screaming matches the month before we all went down to the lake house.” Ian frowned and opened his eyes. “You’re digging for something.”
“I like knowing all the nuances of a story. You tell me how she isn’t really happy, how she’s getting over a break-up, fighting with her parents. And yet for one moment, you can see she actually is happy.” I squeezed his hand, holding tight for a moment. “You know what it tells me? She’s a fighter. She’ll fight for what she wants; she’ll fight to be happy.”
He stared at me, eyes narrowed. Seconds ticked by and I began to wonder if I’d laid things on too thick. Finally, he closed his eyes, sighed, and I drew a deep breath of my own. “She is. She’s always been a fighter. When she interviewed for the job at Messer and Briggs, she used my aunt’s maiden name. She didn’t want to go in to the interview with anyone having pre-conceived ideas about her work. She wanted her portfolio to speak for itself.”
“People like that, they always win in the end.” I just wanted to know what game Audrey Clark was playing.
“Your turn.” An hour later, Ian shifted, resting his back against the car door. “I think we’ve exhausted my day at the lake house.”
“Well, I’m sure we could squeeze out a few more details. But then you may start making stuff up.” And since he’d given me more names to run, I was willing to let the conversation change course. “Fair’s fair. Any story you want.”
“The necklace you’re wearing.” I glanced down and cursed inwardly when I caught the glint of gold against the dark green of my shirt. When I looked up, I met Ian’s gaze. “Tell me about the day he gave it to you.”
“What makes you so sure Jack gave it to me?”
“If he didn’t, tell me who did. And tell me why you’d still wear another man’s jewelry.”
I bit my lip, juggling scenarios in my mind. I could lie. I could tell the truth. Or I could do both.
“A boy, Matthew McKammey. We were both sixteen.” My throat threatened to close up and I took a sip from the water bottle Jack had brought over sometime in the last thirty minutes. “Nobody wanted us to be together. We didn’t care.”
“We grew up. We changed. Matthew McKammey wouldn’t recognize the woman I am.” I was stunned by the truth in the statement. The Matthew of Glen Hollow wouldn’t know what to make of Frankie Post. Kitty would be scared to death of Jack Waters. “Somewhere along the way we became different people.”
“No, Frankie. What happened the day he gave you the necklace?” Ian reached over to lift the chain gently. The four-leaf clover dangled in mid-air, catching what little light came from the broken and busted streetlamps. “Something happened, or you wouldn’t keep it.”
“He told me he loved me. I told him I felt the same way.” Hot summer air, even after the sun went down. The bubbling of the creek, the drone of the frogs and crickets, sweeter than any music I knew at sixteen. “And we laid down next to each other and spent the night in the reeds and woke up with the sunrise.”
“You’re holding back.” He tapped a finger on my nose, smiling playfully. The expression didn’t detract from the determined look in his eyes. “Something else happened.”
“You’re pressing your luck.” Memories, raw and rough around the edges over a dozen years later, pressed against the back of my eyes. “Take what you can get.”
“What else happened, Frankie?”
“Is this how you win in court? Asking the same question again and again until the witness breaks?”
“They tend to frown on that in court unless you do it correctly.” He tapped my nose again, firmer this time. “What else happened?”
“We made a baby. And by the end of the summer, I was gone, he was gone, and the baby was gone.” Exhaustion swamped me and I closed my eyes, leaning back on the door. “Happy?”
“No.” The necklace fell flat on my shirt and I breathed a sigh of relief. When he took my hand, squeezing once, I swallowed back the knot in my throat. “Why do you still wear his necklace?”
“To remember the boy who gave it to me.” I spared a thought for Matthew McKammey—shy and stuttering on the banks of the creek. “And to remember I make my own luck. Always have. Always will.”
“What does Detective Waters think?”
“Jack understands.” In the middle of one of my cleaning sprees I’d found a lace handkerchief Kitty—myself—had given him, twenty years and three lifetimes ago. “He has his own ghosts.”
“Is that why you work so well together?” I opened my eyes to find Ian staring at me intently, studying my face. “You both have ghosts?”
“It’s not the ghosts. It’s owning them.” Across the street, Jack got out of his car and glanced in our direction. Heaving a sigh of relief, I sat up straight, then rolled my shoulders. “And right now, it’s about using them.”
Find Taken at: Amazon/Kindle, Barnes & Noble/Nook and Smashwords
About the author: L.M. Pruitt has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember. A native of Florida with a love of New Orleans, she has the uncanny ability to find humor in most things and would probably kill a plastic plant. She is the author of the Jude Magdalyn Series as well as New Moon Rising, featuring Cari Gravier, and Taken, featuring Frankie Post. She is currently at work on the next book in the Moon Rising series, Harvest Moon Rising, due out April 2012. Ms. Pruitt makes her home in Florida with two cats--one smart, the other not so much.
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Giveaway: L.M. Pruitt is hosting a Final Stop Giveaway and we are also giving away one ecopy of TAKEN to one lucky winner. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment along with your email address.
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