Run for Your Life!

I call in the fire and then I call Linc. The call goes to voicemail. There’s just no good way to tell a man that the home that has been in his family for generations is literally going up in smoke and it’s crap to do it on voicemail.

The fire is puzzling me though because it’s overkill, no pun intended. Two people against me? Surely they could have found a better way to get rid of me than a fire, which they didn’t even stick around for. I mean, if you were intending to literally smoke someone out, wouldn’t you stick around to make sure they were dead and didn’t run out of the house when you left? I would, you know, if I suddenly decided to go on a murder spree.

“Maybe they weren’t after me,” I say to Buffy. She tilts her head slightly. “They probably weren’t after you either. Maybe there was something in the house.”

She lowers herself to the stone porch and places her chin on her paws as if giving this consideration.

We don’t think too long about the situation because I hear the sound of a vehicle driving up the rocky drive behind the house. The nice thing about the country is that you have ample warning when a car approaches. I grab Buffy’s leash and dash toward the woods. Buffy, thinking this is a game, barks shrilly but then quiets down. I duck behind the cover of a mountain azalea and peer through its branches. Two people get out of a black SUV. I don’t recognize either of them. They are definitely not from around here. My heartbeat spikes when I see that they both have guns. I’m pretty sure that these are the guys who set Linc’s place on fire. They must have seen me up here, which is probably why they didn’t bother sticking around to see if I ran from the house. I’m cool, but I can’t be in two places at one time.

This is one of those instances that I decide not to wait to find out what happens next as what happens next could be me with a bullet between the eyes, a graphic I have no desire to explore. Considering that they look like pure city boys, I’m not too concerned about them tracking me down in the woods, not these woods that I know like the back of my hand. On the other hand, they did find me up here so they get points for that.

There are deer trails cut through the woods, which are nice paths to follow so I take one that links to the Old Smith farm. I figure it will take those two guys some time to scout around before looking towards the woods. A blast from behind and the splintering of bark from the scrub pine tell me quite impressively that I was wrong. Damn. Now I have to hope that I was right about them being city boys and not being able to find their way out of can of beans. Buffy and I start running for our lives.

end 4/21/2017

S. Darlington

 

 

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Wishin’ and Hopin’ and ‘Splainin’

 

Wishin’ and Hopin’ and ‘Splainin’

Sunshine glares through the sheer curtains bright and early, but it didn’t wake me.

Instead I woke before it rose, as the robins chirped and the mockingbird performed its one-bird acapella choir. I sat there for a long time thinking. I know how I probably seem, maybe a little insouciant (thank you last Thursday’s word-a-day calendar entry) regarding Ry’s death…murder. And maybe you wonder how I can lust after Linc the way I do.

Let me unravel this little puzzle for you.

First off, I never stopped lusting after Linc…and hating him equally. We were besties up until we were ten years old and then something changed. Looking back maybe it was puberty, which would be as ironic as you could get…or not. Damn Alanis! And, maybe if you prodded me with a pointed stick, I might even admit that it’s always been more than lust and always had been, but without that stick, I’m admitting nothing.

Then there’s Ry. Ryland Cooper the crazy strawberry blonde with dirt for brains who made me laugh when I needed a laugh and I mistook those laughs and some sweaty romps for love. We married five weeks after meeting each other. Up until three months ago we still laughed and still had sweaty romps, but I knew we were done without putting a fork in it. I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was either or I would have realized that when he’d gone from wanting sweaty romps twice a day to once a week and then once a month that maybe he had found something on the side. But tell me, who wants to admit that and understand that their hasty as hell marriage without the influence of a shotgun (or alcohol and/or Vegas) was a huge mistake and that maybe this was the kind of mistake from which you learn nothing?

There’s a soft rap at the door and then Linc enters with a mug of what smells like rich French roast.

“You sleep okay?” he asks.

“Better here than in the hayloft.”

He grins. “I should have left you out there.”

“You’re not that kind of guy.”

“If anyone were going to test that, it would be you.”

“Good to know.” The coffee breaks down all of the tiny cobwebs that formed in my brain overnight and makes me feel alert, even though I thought I already had been.

“So what’s on the agenda for today?”

He glances at me. He’s moved a safe distance to lean against the doorframe. I always thought that was a romance writer thing to have the hero lean against the door jamb, but there he is, arms folded across his chest, eyeing me either like I’m a stalking leopard or ice cream on a stick. I know which I’d rather be.

“There’s no agenda for you. You lay low. I want to see what happens.”

I blow on the coffee before taking another sip. “You know I can’t just hide.”

“I don’t know any such thing. What I do know is that your wandering around could make a lot of matters worse.”

I don’t tell him what I’m thinking. Even I can keep my mouth shut…sometimes.

“Annie, please just for one day. That’s all I’m asking.”

And maybe I don’t need to tell him what I’m thinking because he’s a mind reader. I shrug. “Fine.” Maybe.

He nods, satisfied, and turns. “I have some flapjacks cooked up if you want breakfast. You might also keep the curtains drawn downstairs.”

“Linc?”

He glances back at me.

“Thanks. It means more than . . .”

He holds up his hand. “I’ll think hell is going to freeze over if you start getting sloppy on me.”

“Can’t have that.”

He grins. “No. We can’t.”

When I hear his footsteps on the stairs, I sigh and press my face into the t-shirt he loaned me to sleep in, wishing that it smelled like him and not crisp linen scented dryer sheets. Maybe if I’m really good, my wishing and hoping might get me into his arms. Yes, that’s from a song…sue me.

 

end 4/11/2017

S. Darlington

I Won’t Back Down #amwriting

Ah, another luscious unique cup of latte thanks to Mrs. Eldridge and the trusty Keurig. We share pleasantries and then she leaves.

I sit there a moment, watching people pass by. I watch through the door that Mrs. Eldridge has left open. I glance around the interrogation room, wondering if someone is watching me. Is this a test? If it is, I’m about to fail because I don’t even think twice about my next move.

Standing, I straighten my shoulders and grab my Styrofoam cup of goodness and walk through the door as if l have every right to be leaving through the door. I walk down the hallway.

“Hey, Annie,” says my old schoolmate Hugh, who’s now a deputy. “Very sorry about Ry.”

I clutch the hand he extends. “Aw, thanks, Hugh. Give my love to Tiffany.”

Another hallway and then the front door where sun shines through the large glass panes. I keep walking, expecting to feel a large hand grip my shoulder. What’s it they always say about confidence? Act like you have it and no one will question you?

As I open the door, I half expect some alarm to go off, but nothing does. A cursory glance around shows no one paying attention to me as my pace picks up and I dart around the corner of the Sheriff’s office toward Lakeland Park and the woods.

I go to the swing and sit on it, sip my coffee and watch as about fifteen minutes later suddenly a few deputies spill out of the office and tear along the street. No one looks toward the swings, not even Linc, who stands tall and capable among them, recognizable even from this distance. For just a moment he does glance my way and my heart stutters because I’m sure there’s hell to pay for a jail break. Is that what this is? I didn’t break anything. Oh, I hope poor Mrs. Eldridge won’t get into trouble for this.

But really, I had no choice, did I? Who better to save me than me?

My daddy always called me the tenacious one. I don’t think it was a compliment because he said it when I wouldn’t leave a topic alone. So, call me tenacious but this really is one of those times, I won’t back down.

 

end 4/9/ 2017

S. Darlington

My Future on a Chain Gang?

 

 

I sit in a barren room for what feels like a very long time. Mrs. Eldridge brings me a cup of coffee, which isn’t bad at all. She tells me they have one of those Keurigs and you just pop in a little plastic cup and presto, unique coffee. I went to school with her daughter, Louise, who is now pregnant with child number four.

Mrs. Eldridge pats me on my hand and tells me, “I don’t think for one instant you’d murder anyone. You always talked big, but acted small.”

I feel my eyes widen. “Thanks.” I think.

There’s a window in the door so I can see people passing by. Several times Linc passes, but he doesn’t glance through.

My stepmother dead. My stepmother who gave me a gun to hold at the beginning of the week so that my fingerprints would be on it. Frankly it’s all confusing to me. Did she kill Ry? And then someone killed her? Did someone kill her and Ry?

Linc opens the door. He has a bunch of papers in his hand. He glances at me and then begins reading me my rights.

“Just a crazy assed second, Linc. What are you doing?” I ask.

“Rosie’s sugar was laced with digitalis,” he says.

“So? It’s a heart drug.”

“She wasn’t being treated. You grow foxglove.”

“Strangely I grow foxglove outside and anyone and everyone has access to it.”

“Your fingerprints were on the sugar canister.”

“My fingerprints are probably on a lot of things in that house. It’s my father’s house and I have been known to visit him. I even drink tea there and put sugar in it…from the canister.”

Linc leans his butt against the table, folds his arms across his chest and stares at me. I give him as good as I get.

“This is a set up. A frame, whatever y’all call it. Sooner or later you’re going to realize that.”

He shakes his head and leans down toward me. “Listen, Annie. I am in your corner, but everything points to you which makes being in your corner kind of like playing a losing hand.”

I am in a dire situation. I know that, but there’s something about looking in this man’s vibrant blue eyes that makes want to answer the call of the wild. Dammit. I need to focus instead of looking at those lips and remembering what they once made me feel during one of those intervals when we tried each other on. Maybe if we’d tried to stick I wouldn’t be sitting here like this today.

He finishes reading me my rights and the next thing I know I am being charged with three counts of murder. Linc’s eyes are veiled as they look at me. I get the feeling that maybe he didn’t think I’d killed Ry and that Shears woman, but now with Rosie dead, he isn’t so sure. I can’t blame him. If I didn’t know better, I’d wonder too.

 

end 4/2/2017

S. Darlington

Review of Lola

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Lola

by Melissa Scrivner Love

Crown

March 21, 2017


Blurb from Goodreads: The Crenshaw Six are a small but up-and-coming gang in South Central LA who have recently been drawn into an escalating war between rival drug cartels. To outsiders, the Crenshaw Six appear to be led by a man named Garcia . . . but what no one has figured out is that the gang’s real leader (and secret weapon) is Garcia’s girlfriend, a brilliant young woman named Lola.

Lola has mastered playing the role of submissive girlfriend, and in the man’s world she inhabits she is consistently underestimated. But in truth she is much, much smarter–and in many ways tougher and more ruthless–than any of the men around her, and as the gang is increasingly sucked into a world of high-stakes betrayal and brutal violence, her skills and leadership become their only hope of survival.

An astonishing debut crime thriller about an unforgettable woman who combines the genius and ferocity of Lisbeth Salander with the ruthless ambition of Walter White. Lola marks the debut of a hugely exciting new thriller writer, and of a singular, magnificent character unlike anyone else in fiction.


SASCHA DARLINGTON’S REVIEW

Lola is a gripping, character-driven mystery novel in which the title character, Lola, is caught in the middle when the Crenshaw Six are supposed to disrupt a drug buy that goes awry. Presumed to be the “girlfriend” of the leader of the Crenshaw Six, Lola’s life is put up as the motivation to rectify the busted deal.

I found Lola to be a compelling read, mainly because we’re in the head of a woman who is smart and observant and who is trying to compete in what has been predominantly a man’s world. She has to make tough decisions and be tough, knowing that to do otherwise would compromise her credibility.

But Lola isn’t the only tough, capable woman in Lola. There is also Andrea, a DA, and Mandy, the wife of an upscale drug dealer, Lorraine, the mother of a drug dealer, and Lucy, a child, who reminds Lola of herself and whom Lola tries to save from the life that made Lola who she is. In fact, it’s the women in Lola who are invariably multi-dimensional, whereas the men seem mostly unaware, guided by ego or sex or power.

While it was the comparison to Lisbeth Salander that brought me to this book, upon reading I didn’t observe much of Lisbeth Salander in Lola except for perhaps a detached grittiness. Lisbeth and Lola are on two different ends of a spectrum for this reader. In all of the ways that Lisbeth put herself on a particular fringe of a society via piercings, tattoos, and dress, Lola has put herself into its pockets as the unseen woman and it is here where she is successful.

If you’re looking for a page-turning, intriguing, well-paced novel, you might want to give Lola a go for something out of the ordinary.

I was won a copy from the Shelf Awareness giveaway, which in no way affected my review of this novel.

From AmazonLola


rating:  4-and-a-half (4 butterflies and a ladybug)


 

 

 

Reality TV Presents: “Just Good Ole Boys”

 

Reality TV Presents: “Just Good Ole Boys”

I knew when I married him that Ry was not the sharpest tool in the chest. What I didn’t know was the extent of the lack of sharpness or the fact that he was, indeed, a tool.

I took his desire to be on a reality tv series about a group of good ole boys in stride, figuring that, while he was cute as all get out, he really knew nothing about being a good ole boy except for his love of cars. Somehow that must have won the hearts, minds, and souls of those “in the know” because he was cast.

In the weeks that followed Ry was glued, almost literally (don’t ask; there was super glue involved), to youtube watching every single fishing, hunting, and gun video that existed.

“I’m gonna be famous, honey, just you wait,” he said. He smiled at me, his big blue eyes shining and that dimple creating a crater in the side of his cheek and I remembered why I married him: because he was cuter than sin. I dug deep and found acceptance of his new found desire for fame. My bad.

I would like to say, “somehow” Ry forgot about the constantly rolling cameras, but there was no “somehow” involved. Ry forgot about ten minutes into their filming and went about life the way he always had. He became an immediate sensation. People loved him. He was a cute, foolish man who frequently needed to be reminded to put on pants. Again, literally.

Which is how I found out about Lily Conrad Shears. Real name.

On that fateful afternoon with the cameras of “Just Good Ole Boys” running, Ry Hulver stepped into the afternoon sunshine draped across Lily Conrad Shears’ front porch in his blue plaid button down and his boxers. He stood there looking around and you half-expected him to break into a chorus of “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” but instead the door opened behind him and Lily Conrad Shears thrust my husband’s blue jeans into his arms and then twiddled her fingers at the camera. She was wearing only a black and red teddy.

I have been assured that there are worse things than finding out via nationally broadcast television that your cuter than sin husband has been boinking an invasive, predatory species. When asked what, the immediate response is death, of course. Which is why the sheriff of Carderiff County is on his way here. But between you and me, I didn’t do it. Oh, I’ll probably tell the sheriff that too, so never mind the between you and me thing. We’ll just catch up later.

end 3/22/20167

S. Darlington

Review of The Clairvoyants

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The Clairvoyants

Karen Brown

Henry Holt and Co.

February 7, 2017


Blurb from Goodreads: On the family homestead by the sea where she grew up, Martha Mary saw ghosts. As a young woman, she hopes to distance herself from those spirits by escaping to an inland college town. There, she is absorbed by a budding romance, relieved by separation from an unstable sister, and disinterested in the flyers seeking information about a young woman who’s disappeared—until one Indian summer afternoon when the missing woman appears beneath Martha’s apartment window, wearing a down coat, her hair coated with ice.


SASCHA DARLINGTON’S REVIEW

After reading the blurb and having a fascination with paranormal stories, I was definitely coming to The Clairvoyants expecting something different from what I received, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, does it?

There is something dreamlike about the way in which Karen Brown has conveyed this story, a feeling of timelessness. As I was reading, I felt an old-fashioned quality rise, from the use of “old” names like Martha and Delores to the gatherings at Anne’s, where artists and intellectuals met for drinks, and even the drinks were “old” drinks for young people in their late teens and early twenties, martinis, g&ts.

The writing is almost lulling, weaving in facts, alluding to events, hinting. The reader automatically trusts this first person narrator, Martha Mary. She seems misunderstood by her mother and older sisters and she finds it necessary to hide away her “gift” for fear that she will be sent to an asylum like her younger sister, Del.

Martha falls under the spell of a photography instructor who is as obsessed with his photography as Martha is with hers. But she was first led to him by the ghost of Mary Rae.

The magic for me in Brown’s storytelling is likening it to a chunk of alabaster that is being sculpted until the truth remains or at least some understanding of the truth. However, the reader also needs to question the information provided because everything becomes entwined.

While not every detail of the ending is provided on a silver platter for the reader, if they have been paying attention to the way in which Brown provides information, they have a pretty good idea as to what’s happened to whom. I liked the subtlety.

If you like your literary fiction with a taste of mystery and supernatural, I highly recommend The Clairvoyants.

I won an ARC through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review.

From AmazonThe Clairvoyants


rating: 4-and-a-half (4 butterflies and a ladybug)


 

Review of The Roanoke Girls

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The Roanoke Girls

Amy Engel

Crown

March 7, 2017


Goodreads BlurbRoanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.

After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.

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