Welcome to the Never Trust a Pretty Wolf release party. Liesel and Andy my heroine and her handsome husband are so glad to see you. After Liesel’s home burned down (arson), Liesel moved in with Andy which is where they still live today. The home is a mid-century modern house, so Liesel decided to have her party there and do a retro theme. She had a lot of decorating to do when she first moved in. She isn’t finished yet, but what do you think of her living room?
Naturally, she needed a retro dress to wear to a retro party. Since she has red hair I think this blue dress suits her.
She’s put together a 1950’s collection of party food too. Try them. You might like them. I see spam and pineapple skewers, cheese spread in celery sticks, deviled eggs, pimento stuffed olives, chex mix, a jello mold, pigs in a blanket, and a cake with a picture of a blue Mustang on it.
The ABC Cake Shop hand painted the cake in butter cream frosting. Why does Liesel want a cake with a Mustang on it? Liesel has a thing for fast pony cars, but the blue Mustang is special to her because that’s what she and Andy were driving when they embarked on the biggest adventure of their lives.
Would you like to win a copy of the book? Leave a comment and your email address, and if I draw you name, you win the book. I’ll also draw one other name to win a book from my backlist.
I hope you’d like to read an excerpt because I have one for you. If you’re interested in the book, it’s available at http://www.astraeapress.com/#ecwid:category=662245&mode=product&product=11343720 and at
Andy jumped as if the sound had come from a living child.
“You hurt my baby,” his niece cried. She ran over to the fruit juice stained sofa and grabbed her toy. “You have to be careful, Uncle Andy.” She stalked from the room carrying her baby doll cradled in her arms.
“You’ve turned pale,” Tony observed.
“That’s silly.” Andy frowned at his brother. “Why would sitting on a doll bother me?”
Tony passed a steaming cup of coffee to Andy. “You know why, and it’s a perfectly normal reaction. You aren’t Superman even though you try to be.”
“I have no idea what you mean.”
Andy tried his best frown on Tony. “Look, I don’t want to talk about it.”
“If you won’t drop this topic of conversation I’m going home,” Andy warned.
Tony threw his hands up in surrender. “All right, you win. Here. Read the rules for Melton’s game. It’s for charity, you know.”
He thrust a glossy, colorful pamphlet at Andy, who scowled like a maniac. “I don’t want to participate in this thing, Tony, and you know it. If you think it’s so cool, do it yourself.”
“Can’t.” He smirked at Andy. “Melinda’s folks are visiting us that week. If I don’t stay at home to help entertain them, Melinda will kill me.”
Andy groaned and cursed under his breath.
Rebuked, Andy subsided and threw the pamphlet back at Tony who caught it right before it landed in his coffee. “Just tell me what it says.”
Tony rolled his eyes. “You’re the soul of graciousness, Andy. Okay, it’s simple. Geocaching is a game that’s played with a GPS unit.”
“A real GPS unit?”
Tony nodded. “Yeah. The basic idea is for groups or individuals to hide caches all over the world. Then they post the GPS coordinates of the cache on the Internet. After that, people who play the game go out and find the cache.”
Andy thought a minute. “But if someone gets there before you do, you wouldn’t find anything.”
“Yes, you would. If you take something, you’re supposed to leave something in return.”
In spite of himself Andy felt a stirring of interest. “Valuable things?”
“No, usually not,” Tony answered. “Some people just have a logbook in a watertight container. You write in the logbook and replace it.”
Andy blew on his steaming coffee and took a sip. “I guess you could leave coordinates to another site and have searchers go there to find the cache.”
“That’s right,” Tony agreed. “Or maybe you could leave a map directing them to the cache.”
“That does sound like fun,” Andy admitted as he sipped his coffee. “But with a GPS wouldn’t it be simple to find the cache?”
“It’s surprisingly hard to do.”
“Maybe so.” Andy blew on his coffee again and took another small sip. Now that it had cooled a bit he thought Tony hadn’t put in enough sugar. “I guess people get pretty creative when they hide their caches.”
Tony spooned a little more sugar into his own coffee. “I have a buddy who geocaches with his family. The last cache they found was hidden halfway up a sheer rock wall.”
“How’d they get to it?” Andy wondered.
“Ben’s a rock climber.”
Andy had met Ben and didn’t like him, so he passed over this reference. “How does geocaching tie in with Melton’s game?”
Every small town had its dignitaries, a title that Thomas Melton answered to in Shady Corners, the town where the Bryces lived. Melton had made his fortune back in the nineteen nineties when dot‑com stock sold for outrageous prices. Unlike many
investors, he had foreseen the collapse of the market and gotten out in time to avoid the ruination that plagued many.
Tony propped his foot on the scarred coffee table in front of him. “Melton loves geocaching, so he hid a big cache worth a million dollars. The first team who finds the cache gets to donate the money to the charity of their choice.”
Andy gave a short laugh. “That’s ridiculous. Anybody who knows about geocaching will be looking for that cache, and a good many of them probably have no intention of giving the money to charity.”
“Melton thought of that,” Tony pointed out. “Naturally the money isn’t in the cache. The only thing in the cache is proof that you found it. He’ll mail the check to the specified charity in the winners’ names.”
“How’d you get an invitation? You don’t hobnob with the Rockefellers or the Vanderbilts.”
Tony clicked his tongue and winked at Andy. “I’m the mayor of Shady Corners, goofball. Of course I got an invitation.”
“Won’t Melton mind if I take your place?” Andy almost crossed his fingers for luck. Geocaching sounded better than he had thought it would, but he had more important things to do with his time.
“No. I’ve discussed it with him, and he’s okay with it. I guess he figures a U.S. Marshal is an acceptable player.”
Andy sighed. His luck was running true to form. “How many people are on a team?”
“Oh, well, I can’t do it then. I don’t have a partner.”
“You’ll be playing with the person assigned to me.”
“Tony, I’m supposed to be having a little R and R, not playing a stupid game,” Andy protested.
“It won’t hurt you to get out a bit,” Tony insisted. “Melton’s giving a party on the fifth to introduce the teams.” He smiled at Andy. “You’ll be expected to go.”
Piercing shrieks emanated from the kitchen. While Tony hastily set his coffee cup down and ran to find out what his offspring had gotten themselves into, Andy picked up the
pamphlet to read about the game.
Liesel Wolf drew a brush through her long, chestnut curls and efficiently secured her hair on top of her head, leaving several pretty strands loose around her face. She had let it grow out for six months now and it had finally gotten to a length that she loved. now, and it had finally gotten to a length that she loved. It cascaded around her shoulders in soft, riotous ringlets that she could do so many different things with.
She left the bathroom to get dressed. If she didn’t hurry she’d be late. After slipping into the little black dress she’d bought last summer, she studied herself in the full‑length mirror standing in the corner of her bedroom. Nice. Very nice. Short, form‑fitting, and low cut. Just right for the five‑carat diamond pendant William had given her.
She smiled at her reflection in the mirror. Thank goodness she didn’t have the pendant anymore. She had sold it months ago. Her sweet necklace of black Austrian crystals would look stunning with her dress.
She fastened the necklace and slipped her feet into black stilettos. They hurt like the dickens, but boy did they do wonderful things for a girl’s legs. Laughing aloud, she grabbed her purse and ran down the stairs. She’d drive herself to the party in her new car, a midnight blue Mustang with an engine that growled like a tiger on the prowl.
She backed out of the driveway just a touch faster than she should, spraying gravel from beneath the Mustang’s wheels. Some days it just felt good to be alive.
On the far side of the pasture, Andy saw the house. It was a three‑story, brick Georgian that blazed with lights. He also saw several nicely dressed men and women at the front door. When he stopped his car, a valet immediately appeared to park it. Andy wondered how many people Melton expected. He wouldn’t have thought they needed valet parking, but if you had the money, why not?
He made his way to the door and saw a tall, thin, cheerful looking man shaking hands with all the newcomers. The man’s glasses sat slightly askew on his nose, but his blue eyes were large and shrewd. He saw Andy and exclaimed, “You must be Andy
Bryce. I’m Thomas Melton. Come in. Everyone’s here now, except for your partner.”
Andy held out his hand. “Thank you for…” He broke off as tires squealed on the highway. The Mustang’s driver overshot the driveway and had to back up to take
the turn. “My partner?” he asked.
“Yes, I imagine so. I don’t know what kind of car she drives, but she’s the only one who isn’t here.”
The minute the blue Mustang came to a halt, the valet hurried to open the car door for the newcomer. A pair of long, shapely legs unfolded from the car. Andy’s mouth went dry as his eyes traveled from her legs to her face. He had discovered a
goddess. An overworked cliché perhaps, but he knew of no other words to describe her.
The goddess had Titian hair which begged him to run his fingers through it, freeing those glorious curls. Even from where he stood, her eyes glowed with an emerald fire. Her skin looked as if it would put satin to shame. As he stared at her mouth, a bolt of fire
stabbed him right below his belt. He could only imagine how it might feel to kiss and taste those lush, red lips.
She sashayed up to the porch and held out her hand to Melton. “Good evening, Thomas.”
Melton was having a hard time getting his voice under control, but he finally stuttered, “Welcome, L… Li… Liesel. It’s great to finally meet you in person. This is your partner, Andy Bryce. Andy’s a United States Marshal.”
The light left her face. She shot Andy a look of what he swore was dislike, even though they’d never met. “Oh, but I thought you said the mayor was my partner.”
Melton nodded. “He was. But something came up, and his brother’s filling in for him.”
She didn’t want to be his partner. Andy knew it as surely as he knew his own name. He wondered if she had heard about… Yeah, she could have. The story made most of the big papers. The Marshals had trained him to read people, so he knew Ms. Wolf didn’t like him.
She briefly shook his hand but furtively wiped it on her dress the moment she let go. “How do you do, Mr. Bryce?”
Her hand had felt smooth and soft in his, yet she had a firm grip. “That’s a little formal. Why don’t you call me Andy?”
Hm. She didn’t tell him to call her Liesel.
“Let’s go inside,” Melton urged. “The caterer’s ready to serve dinner.”
They followed Melton inside where Andy took a moment to admire the house. It spoke of solid comfort and good design, but it wasn’t ostentatious. It looked like a real home, not a museum or a stiff picture from a design magazine. Andy could imagine himself
watching TV or doing paperwork here. He smiled when he thought of Tony’s kids sliding down the stairs.
They found their seats in the dining room, where a small army of waiters wearing black and white efficiently served the guests. Andy took a bite of his roast beef. It was so tender it almost melted in his mouth. Terrific. Melton’s caterer deserved a tip.
He turned his attention to Liesel, who was pushing her dinner around on a pale green china plate that probably cost more than he made in a week. She hadn’t said two words to him since they’d sat down. “So, Liesel? What do you know about geocaching?” She hadn’t given him permission to call her Liesel, but he intended to anyway.
“How did Melton find you?”
“My property adjoins his.”
She didn’t ask about him, but he told her anyway. “I’m taking my brother’s place because his wife’s relatives are coming for a visit, and he’ll be busy.”
“Which part? Me taking his place or the relatives coming?”
Her lips thinned. “Both.”
No doubt about it. She didn’t like him and didn’t want to be his partner. If she felt that way, she might back out of the game. She had expected to play with the mayor, not the mayor’s brother. Andy stifled a grim smile. He’d talk to her all night, giving her plenty of reason to drop out of the game. Melton ruined his plan when he tapped on a glass and stood up to speak.
“I’d like to thank each and every one of you for agreeing to participate in my geocaching game. I think you’ll have a good time, but more importantly you’ll be playing for the chance to help the charity of your choice.”
Applause broke out around the room. “Thank you,” Melton said with a smile as the clapping died away. “Let’s take a moment to introduce ourselves.”
Each person stood up and gave a brief introduction. Andy knew many of these people by reputation only. He had heard their names on TV many times. However, he suspected that the ones he didn’t know were the real players in the room. Most of them had an air of assurance that only came from having a huge bank account and possibly an old family name.
He counted twenty teams of two. As luck would have it, he and Liesel brought up the rear. He’d rather not have introduced himself, but it would look bad to refuse.
When his turn came he stood up and said, “My name is Andy Bryce. I’m standing in for my brother, Tony, who’s the mayor of Shady Corners. I also live in Shady Corners, and I work for the U.S. Marshals.”
The guests politely applauded, and then Ms. Wolf gracefully rose to her feet, turning every male head in the room. “Hi, I’m Liesel Wolf. I’m Mr. Bryce’s partner.” She smiled and took her seat, saying nothing more.
Andy’s eyebrows shot up. He had given a brief introduction, but Ms. Wolf really hadn’t introduced herself at all. Why not? Did she have something to hide?
No, of course she didn’t. Maybe she hoped he’d take the hint that she didn’t want to be his partner and withdraw from the game. Well, if that’s what she wanted she’d better think again. Andy Bryce wouldn’t quit because of a cold reception from a woman he
didn’t even know. She’d probably read in the papers about the… Yeah, she probably knew. That would explain her coolness. He took a deep breath and clasped his hands under the table to hide their shaking.
Melton took center stage once more. “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll pass out your GPS units at this time. Tomorrow morning at eight sharp your coordinates will be emailed to you. From that point you’re on your own. The team that finds the cache first, and brings the proof back to me, is the winner and can select the charity that will receive the money. Please remember that a boat, train, car or truck is the only acceptable mode of transportation. No planes.”
After everyone applauded again, the party started to break up. “I’ll walk out with you,” Andy said as Ms. Wolf picked up her small, black, sequined purse and prepared to leave.
She shot him a look that would curdle milk. “That’s quite all right, Mr. Bryce. Mr. Melton will email the coordinates to my laptop, so I suggest we meet at seven tomorrow morning for breakfast. How about the IHOP on the highway? As soon as we
receive the coordinates we’ll get going.”
“Who’s driving? Me or you?”
Ms. Wolf nodded and left the dining room with swift, confident strides and never once looked back or said goodbye. Pity her mother never taught her any manners.
Liesel roared down the driveway in the Mustang. The horses near the rock wall snorted in alarm and cantered away, their manes and tails flying in the wind. She knew she shouldn’t have agreed to play this stupid game. No matter how much she wanted to win that million dollars, she shouldn’t have let her guard down.
She jerked at the clip that held her hair in place and allowed her curls to tumble around her shoulders. Was it too late to cancel? Probably. If she cancelled, that odious Andy Bryce might nose around to find out why. Of all the men in the world, why did she
end up with him as a partner? Her foot pressed marginally harder against the Mustang’s accelerator.
Oh, he looked great. She gave him that. She had always admired men like Bryce, who must be six‑foot‑three, at least, and had shoulders to die for. He was handsome in a rugged way with a tan that suggested he spent a lot of time outdoors. She also loved
those blue eyes of his. They had sparkled with interest when he first saw her. But he was a marshal! In his presence, old, unhappy memories scratched their way to the front of her mind, a totally unacceptable situation.
Truthfully, though, it didn’t matter what he did for a living. After learning the hard way that trusting a man brought nothing but unhappiness, she had promised herself she’d never fall into that trap again. A promise she intended to keep.