A sneak peek at Chapter 1 of The Body Next Door:
On the moonless highway, a thundering convoy of eighteen-wheelers barreled up out of nowhere and surrounded my compact rental, threatening to crush it between their hurtling wheels. My teeth vibrated to the roar of diesel engines. Trapped at eighty miles an hour, I gripped the steering wheel and held on tight.
It was probably crazy to try to make it all the way from Nebraska in one go, but after two days of rehashing the second-worst chapter in my life, I had to get home—or what passed for home these days: Carter Chapman’s condominium apartment in Houston, on loan until I got back on my feet.
In a colossal moment of bad timing, my phone lit. Risking death by trailer-truck, I slid my focus to the caller ID.
Only two people could be calling from there: a) Carter, my mystery-man of a boyfriend, or b) Gertrude Gold, my former secretary. She’d been staying with me while they tented her house for termites.
The semis heaved around me like freight trains. I held my breath and squeezed the little car—a Ford Frito, or Ferret, or something like that—through a narrow gap and into the right-hand lane. A rolling stockyard rocketed past my headlights. As it sped by, its cargo of hapless cattle raked their startled eyes through slits in the trailer’s corrugated wall.
The dashboard clock read 4:59 a.m., a weird hour for Gertie to be calling. Most likely it was Carter, returned from wherever he’d disappeared to and on his way back to the city, or at least, to his ranch outside of town. Even so, five a.m. . . .
The convoy moved on. Safe on the shoulder, I pressed the connect button. “Hello?”
“Hold on, Samantha, I—”
Not Carter, though I could barely hear Gertie’s voice above a piercing yowl that cut through the earpiece. “Gertie? What’s happening?”
“Sorry for the hour, dear, but I’m at my wit’s end. There’s a situation here with your neighbor and, well, she won’t let me call 9-1-1.”
“My neighbor? Which one?”
Another wail drowned Gertie’s answer. I took a guess. “Is she thirty-something, brunette and big-bosomed?”
“Last thing she needs is another drink.”
“It’s her name. Brandy.”
“Oh. Well, she’s a mess. I let her come in for a minute, and now she won’t go home.”
I should have warned Gertie about potential trouble down the hall. Brandy Bayne and her husband Irwin had marital issues, or alcohol issues, or both, as far as I could tell from their middle-of-the-night yelling. Sometimes she ended up on the wrong side of their front door, pounding and begging Irwin to let her in.
Whatever the problem was, quiet soon prevailed, so I’d always stayed out of it. But tenderhearted Gertie had likely opened our door to see if she could help, only to be sucked into the drama.
“Make her drink lots of water.”
“I did. But I think—” The roar and hiss from another hauler blocked the rest.
Her words came in a whisper. “I think she has a bigger a problem. There’s blood.”
Get The Body Next Door at your local bookseller or here.
A peek at Chapter 1 of The Body Business:
The cursor was poised over Send. The slightest pressure from her index finger, and her message would race into the hands of the FBI. So simple, and yet...
With a deep sigh, she parted the curtain of chestnut hair that fell across her tired face and reread what she had written.
Peculiar things are happening at De Theret International. High-level people disappear without explanation, and nobody seems to care. I am afraid who might be next.
It sounded like the hallucinations of a conspiracy-theory nut job. Is that what she was, or was the danger real?
She screwed up her face, imagining how the person who read her message would react. How ironic was it that she, the stellar V.P. of Media Relations for the global staffing firm, couldn’t write a simple e-mail?
Her eyes begged for sleep. After a rough flight home, and sleepless hours at the kitchen table hunched over the keyboard of her laptop, she couldn’t push herself much further. The cold, flat coffee in her mug wasn't helping, and what was still in the pot was sure to be sour and syrupy.
If she weren't so jet-lagged, she could think more clearly. Maybe Lista Pearson was in South America, beyond the reach of a good phone signal, like their boss insisted.
For what seemed like the millionth time, she speed-dialed Lista's number. And for the millionth time, she heard the same cheery greeting: “Hi! This is Lista. Sorry, you’ll have to leave a message.”
She pushed away from the kitchen table. No way her best friend would pack up, move away and not say goodbye. Not Lista, anyway, unless something was terribly wrong. She’d been missing for weeks. With no evidence of foul play, the police backed off. But Samantha knew better. Something had to be done to find Lista, before... before... what?
Murky daylight began to creep through the window. This is ridiculous, she thought. Stop being afraid. Put up or shut up. Get it over with. She scanned the rest of what she had written.
You must find out what happened to Lista Pearson, the last paragraph began. Please, please help.
It still didn’t say all that it should, all that she knew. But she hoped it would be enough to get somebody’s attention. If the FBI knew how much she really, really hated asking anyone for help - least of all them - they would take her seriously.
The clock on the oven blinked six-fifty. Derek would arrive soon to pick her up. It was now or never. Holding her breath, she gripped the mouse again and re-centered the arrow over Send.
This time, she clicked.
Get The Body Business, Book 1 of The Samantha Newman Series here.