Monday, January 2, 2012

The Bookish Snob Promotions Book Excerpt: Taken

Thanks so much for joining me for the kick-off of the Taken blog tour, and thanks to a CWR for having me. Not to sound all Julie Andrews, but, let's start at the very beginning--a very good place to start. The excerpt below opens the book, and sets the tone for the crazy roller coaster ride we're about to go on.




The door opened a crack and I stopped in mid-snap, jaw gaping. I used my tongue to shove the wad of chewing gum in one cheek, sucking in a deep breath through my nose. “Whoze there?” The nasal Brooklyn tone would have made even Fran Drescher wince.

The thin wooden door swung open, revealing a giant. He took up all the available space and then some. His head nearly touched the top of the door frame when he stepped inside. Some of his height might have been from the heavy combat style boots he wore. I wanted to believe his width was a result of the bulky jacket, but I was willing to bet most of it came from muscle.

Nothing about this guy looked soft.

“Go get Frankie for me.”

I blinked in shock, almost swallowing my gum. The voice coming from the great pile of hulk was deep, rich and smooth, like melted chocolate poured over creamy fudge. I cleared my throat, pushing more obnoxiousness into my whine. “S’cuze me?”

“I said, go get Frankie. This is Frankie Post’s office, isn’t it?” He swept a look around the small space, lips curling in a sneer. Not that I could blame him. The office left a lot to be desired. Like paint a color other than dog poo. And a window with a view of something besides more buildings. And furniture from sometime in the past ten years. “I require his services.”

“Can I get your name?” I swiveled around in the chair, remembering to drop my left hip at the last second. Nothing I needed less at the moment than to keep spinning and fall out of the chair. My nails, two inches long, the neon pink polish chipped, clacked against the computer keys.

“Ian Hamby.” Mr. Hamby glanced at the sofa that served as client seating, on the off chance someone actually came to the office. “My business is with Frankie.”

“Well, I take care of Frankie’s business, so I’d say your business is with me.” I blew out a breath, lifting a curl of platinum blonde hair from my forehead. When he clenched his jaw, I scowled. “Listen mister, nobody gets to Frankie without going through me. And nobody goes through me without answering some basic questions. Sos, if you want Frankie to even think about helping you out, I’d suggest you start being a little nicer, capiche?”

Ian shoved his hands in his jacket pockets, dull red color creeping up cheekbones. “It’s a personal matter.”

“Honey, everything here is a personal matter. Nothing goes outta this office you don’t want out.” I opened up the client database, clicking on the new client card. The only thing in the entire room worth anything was the computer. “Now tell me what the problem is, Mr. Hamby?”

“I need someone found.” He stepped forward, yanking something out of one of his pockets and tossing it on the doodle-covered blotter covering most of the battered desk. “My cousin has been missing for nearly two weeks.”

I flattened the balled up photo, chewing harder on my gum. Ian Hamby and some girl, the missing cousin, grinned out from the crinkled paper, arms around each other, sun high and bright behind them. I ignored him, even though he looked damned good with a smile instead of a scowl, wearing only low-slung swim trunks, with spiky wet, dark hair.

The girl was tiny, smaller even than me, and I was almost short enough to officially be a “little person”. She barely reached her cousin’s shoulder and I would bet the bikini she wore would have fit a store mannequin and looked as good. I had too much tits and not enough ass to pull off anything that tiny. Blonde hair framed a heart shaped face dominated by bright blue eyes. The eyes were the only similarity I could see between the cousins.

“What’s your cousin’s name?”

“Audrey Clark. Our mothers are sisters.” Ian dropped down onto the couch and I winced when the frame creaked ominously. He shifted and the creak became a squeal. “Is there something wrong with this furniture?”

“Oh, shit. Monster.” I popped up, scooted around the desk, pink stilettos scraping the battered wood floor. I pretended not to notice his eyes linger on my abbreviated hemline, even though I felt the gaze clean to my va-jay-jay.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Not you.” Although I had my doubts. “You’re probably sitting on Monster. Poor baby.” I leaned over the couch, pressing my face in the half-inch space between the back and the wall. “Monster? Come out, baby. Nothing’s gonna hurt you.”

I risked a glance over my shoulder, since I wasn’t entirely sure about my last statement. Ian Hamby’s eyes were glued firmly to my butt, or lack thereof. “Hey, watch it, mister.”

“Apologies.” And yet his eyes didn’t move at all. “Monster?”

“Shit.” Frustrated, annoyingly aroused—you’d think I never got laid, Jesus—I pushed against the wall, dropped to my knees to peer under the couch. Sure enough, Monster cowered directly under where Ian sat. “Come out, baby. Mama won’t let the big, bad man do anything to you.”

He can do what he wants to me, though. I bit my tongue, moving the gum around in my mouth to make clucking sounds. Monster whimpered and whined, inching forward on his belly. I wiggled closer, whispered soothing bits of nonsense. Another half inch of belly crawls and I reached under the sofa and grabbed him, cooed, and sat up on my knees to press him against my chest, letting him cover my face in frantic kisses.

“You called a ball of fluff Monster?”

“Shh, don’t tell him he’s just fluffy. It’ll hurt his poor, little feelings.” I lifted Monster up until we were nose to nose, his entire body shaking in delight. “Don’t listen to the mean man, snookum.” I cradled him against me, the tiny ball of fur trembling like a live wire. I looked up to find Ian staring at me, blue eyes dilated.

“I can safely say I have never been jealous of a three pound hairball until this moment.”

Lust shot through me, making me tremble as viciously as Monster. “Keep your mind out of the gutter, Mr. Hamby.”

“If you’d get off your knees, I might be able to.”

I dropped Monster out of shock. His indignant yelp was overshadowed by my own squeal when I was suddenly yanked off the floor and onto Ian’s lap. Hot blue eyes bored into me, reflecting my hazel ones. His mouth curved up, the smile pure wickedness. “Maybe I was wrong.”

I licked my lips, watching his eyes follow the movement of my tongue. “Wrong about what?”

“My mind’s still in the gutter.” One hand, large and warm, cradled my butt, pushing me closer. The other fisted in my hair, ruining the elaborate up-do I’d struggled with for a good thirty minutes. “Where’s yours?”

“Sharing the road.” I let him yank my mouth up to his, nipping at his full lower lip before darting my tongue inside his mouth. He kissed as good as I’d imagined, full of tongue and teeth and roving hands. I indulged for a few minutes, until I was hot enough to guarantee a few hours discomfort. Pulling back, I slid a hand between our faces, panting out a ragged breath. “All right. That’s enough.”

“Then get off my lap, before I start working on changing your mind.” Ian didn’t give me a chance to move, but shoved me to the side. His hands shook when he dropped his head into them. “Christ. What the hell?”

“Stress. At least for you.” I stood up, straightened out my skirt, pulling it down the two inches I could. I dropped back into the chair and wheeled behind the desk. Better to put some distance between us, although I didn’t think he’d jump me without my permission. “Now, when’d your cousin go missing?”

“Do you do that to every potential client?”

I rolled my eyes, tapping a pen on the desk. “No. Sometimes I give out handjobs.” He jerked his head up and I snorted. “Jeez. Grow up, it was just a kiss. When’d your cousin go missing, the exact date?”

“As best as we can discern, she left Low Places on July 10 around midnight. She went outside to hail a cab for herself and some friends.” Ian leaned back, his body suddenly sagging. “Nobody knows what happened after that.”

“You check her apartment, work, airport, rehab, all the usual places?” I watched him out of the corner of my eye, fingers flying over the keyboard. Audrey Clark was young, tiny, pretty. Any number of things could have happened to her, none of them good. “You contact the police?”

“Yes to everything. We’re not stupid.” His eyes flashed briefly before slipping back into exhaustion. “My aunt is a wreck. My uncle died three years ago and Audrey is her only child.”

I nodded, eyes on the screen. Some clients like sympathy, some don’t. My gut told me Ian wouldn’t appreciate the same cooing I’d given Monster. “Do you have the police report?”

Ian opened a worn messenger bag, something I’d missed until just then. If I was alone I would have slapped my forehead at the lack of observation. He tossed the file at the desk, the manila folder barely clearing the surface. “Will Frankie take the case?”

I looked at the picture of Audrey and Ian and knew this was trouble. The worst kind. “Yeah. I’ll take the case.”

“Pardon me?”

“Don’t worry, I get that a lot.” I waited a beat, watching his eyes widen in shock. “Frankie, short for Francis, Post. Come back tomorrow around nine; you can sign the contract and we’ll go over my fees.”

I flipped the police file open, raising my eyebrows when I saw who’d been assigned as lead detective. “How’d you rate Jack Waters for a missing person’s case?”

“We’re a well-connected family.” Ian stood, face still stunned. “You’re Frankie Post? You’re the private investigator everyone talks about? You’re a girl.”

“Since you just had your hands all over me, that’s an astute observation.” I picked up the phone on the desk, punching in Jack’s number by heart. “Now, I need to do some work. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Ian was still shaking his head as he left, pulling the door shut quietly. I stared at the shoddy wood, waiting for Jack to answer. Something strange there. Something very, very strange.

“Waters.”

“Jack.”

He sucked in a breath and I could imagine him, sitting at his desk, blond hair mussed from running his hands through it for a good eight hours, brown eyes rimmed with red from lack of sleep, five o’clock shadow starting to come on. The lust and hunger Ian had stirred up went nuclear.

“The Waldorf. Meet me there in an hour.”

“This work or play, Frankie?”

“Who says it can’t be both?”
 
 
Author Info: 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.

 The next blog stop: January 4 – Jagged Edge http://klearsreviews.blogspot.com/



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