Jennifer Rae Plizga Gravely
Born in Ohio but raised in Pickens, SC, I graduated from Converse College with a triple major in history, politics, and English before earning my Masters in Education in the mid-1990s. A sports enthusiast, I returned to my high school alma mater to teach and coach volleyball, winning four state championships. I live with my husband, daughter, nine beagles, and two cats.
Want to hear about her book? Here's a blurb and excerpt from her book Knight of the Dead.
Persephone Richards is in a pinch. With a wrecked car and bills stacking up, the income from her job at the daycare isn’t enough. Mark Lawrence needs a sitter for his little girl and Persephone is perfect for the job. What begins as an employment opportunity leads to romance. However, a secret Persephone hides threatens the happy ever after and puts the three of them in danger.Excerpt:
Knight of the Dead
Persephone stared beyond his bald head as he peered at the insurance claim form. The office stretched deep behind him. Each of the three identical, black metal desks arranged in a vertical row held laptops humming in sleep mode.
Closed doors, presumably leading to executive offices with huge picture windows overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains, lined the west wall, whereas framed landscape pictures of local waterfalls decorated the opposite, windowless side. An ugly wooden counter separated the shabbily-furnished waiting area in the front from the modern underbelly of the insurance office.
“How do you say…” The saggy-jawed, low-level car insurance agent pointed his jagged fingernail to the first line on the paper before looking into her blue eyes.
“It’s Persephone.” She brushed her deep red mahogany hair from her shoulders. Then she repeated the words she’d uttered a million times. “You know, the Greek goddess of the Underworld.” Wearing black mules with one-inch heels, she straightened to a full six feet.
“Afraid I don’t. Weren’t interested in school much,” he drawled. His crooked smile widened as he focused on her face and then her body. She wore a black belted sweater coat, a gray ribbed sweater over a lacy black camisole, and skinny jeans that hugged her lean body. “But come to think of it, you look like a goddess.”
She had heard that a million times too. “Thanks.” Persephone tapped the form on the counter between them to refocus his attention like she did with the preschool children at the daycare where she worked. “About my claim.”
“I might be able to help a sweet young thang like you, Per-per-se…” The wrinkles spread across his baldness like ripples in a pond.
“Persephone,” she repeated. “Persephone Richards.” The nerve of the man to hit on her and not even be able to pronounce her name! “I need the money for the repairs on my car. The front bumper is held on by wire! Wire!” She threw her arms over her head in disgust. “I’ve called several times, and each time I’ve been brushed aside. I want the money owed to me.”
“Can’t help you, Miss Richards.”
Persephone squared her shoulders. “Then I need to talk with your manager.” This peon couldn’t solve the problem anyhow.
“Mr. Franklin’s not here,” claimed the middle-aged man in a blue button-down shirt, which barely covered his beer paunch. “Lunch time.”
“I want the money owed to me by your company.”
“Sorry. No can do.” He shrugged his shoulders and smirked. “Next.” He gestured to the old woman behind Persephone in the waiting room.
“I need it by tomorrow.” Her eyes grew wild, and she pounded her fist on the counter as she punctuated each word. “Your company owes me the money.” The coffee mug holding black pens overturned. “I want it now.”
As the mug crashed to the worn pine flooring, the short bald man took a cowardly step backwards. “I’ll get someone.” He scurried away past the desks and made a left out of sight.
Persephone twirled around to check the clock over the couch in the front room but couldn’t make out the digital reading because of the glare of the winter sun glinting through the huge picture windows. The barren branches of the azalea bushes lining this section of downtown Keowee reminded Persephone that winter’s trials would give way to spring’s glory. However, patience wasn’t a quality she possessed in abundance at this point in life.
Stepping forward with her hand shading her eyes from the noonday sunlight, Persephone slipped on a pen. As she leaned over to massage her ankle, her hobo bag fell from her shoulder, spilling its contents to the floor. Her cell phone and a tube of lipstick slid under the counter to the other side.
Persephone straightened before moving around the counter to retrieve the items. Despite being in an area reserved for the agents and officials of the insurance office, she felt no remorse in peeking at the “Reserved for Office Use” area on the form she filled out earlier. Under the comments section in black ink she read the words, “Low credit scores; bad risk. Deny claim.”
Persephone seethed with indignation. Since when did being a little behind paying bills make you undeserving of money owed to you legitimately. She wasn’t trying to get a policy from this huge chain company but rather collect the money owed to her because of the carelessness of one of their policy holders.
Without hesitation, Persephone grabbed one of the black pens and scratched through the negative comments on the form.
“What are you doing on this side?” shouted the bald man unnecessarily. He stood right beside her. “Give that to me.” He snatched the form.
“My credit, or lack thereof, shouldn’t influence whether or not I get the money.” Persephone stomped her foot in anger. “The accident wasn’t my fault.”
The man flinched. “Mr. Franklin’s coming back. I hear the door now.” He scurried away into the mouth of the cave like a cockroach.
To Persephone’s surprise he returned directly with a taller, thinner man dressed in a tan overcoat. With a long, narrow face and beady, dark brown eyes, the fifty something man had about him an air of arrogance. Persephone attacked. “I want the money owed to me by your company.” She put her hands on her hips.
“Our policy in certain cases is to require that you get your vehicle repaired first, and then we’ll talk about reimbursement.” He removed his tan leather gloves and held them in his left hand.
“That’s not right.” Her blood boiled, steam pouring from her ears like a cartoon character. “I’m driving around in a car that’s held together by superglue and wire.”
“Not my problem,” he said as he dismissed her. “Kindly step back to the other side.”
“If I don’t?” She leaned forward. She wanted to drop an anvil on his head.
“Bill.” He turned to the bald man standing near the first desk. “Call the police.”
Persephone waivered. Hitting the man would give her great pleasure but wouldn’t remedy the situation. “You’ve not heard the last of me.” She wagged her finger in his face. Spinning on her heels, she stormed toward the front doors, scanning the area for something to break. She had to settle for wiping her hands across a side table, scattering magazines to the floor.
“If you return,” the manager bellowed as she slammed through the front doors with both hands, “we’ll have you arrested.”
You can buy the book at http://www.astraeapress.com/#ecwid:category=662267&mode=product&product=13594241
See you next week for another edition of Beyond the Book.