Book five in the Nosy Neighbor series is getting great reviews. Here is an excerpt. Enjoy!
I’d managed to kill off another three people. On paper, of course.
I, Stormi Nelson, best-selling author of romantic mysteries, typed The End on my latest manuscript and sent it via email to my agent. That also felt so good. I was especially pleased with the fact that this time, I’d used my imagination to write the book, rather than copy the most recent murder I found myself mixed up in.
Sadie, my beloved Irish Wolfhound, lay her massive head in my lap and looked up at me with soulful eyes. She whined deep in her throat, letting me know we were late for our walk.
“How about a jog?” My mother had taken up the health craze. It wouldn’t hurt me to get rid of a little jiggle. Besides, it was my turn on the neighborhood watch, which it normally was, since people were reluctant to join anything I started.
I closed my laptop and slipped my feet into sneakers. “I’m taking Sadie for a walk, er, jog,” I called out to anyone listening.
Once upon a time, I’d enjoyed my life as a solitary, introverted writer. That was before my agent sent me out into the world to mingle, and my mother, sister, niece and nephew showed up on my doorstep. How had I managed all alone? Life was more interesting with others around and provided plenty of fodder for my stories. Not to mention my first night “out” introduced me to my love, Matthew Steele, handsomest detective in the Ozarks.
Sadie and I stepped into a warm late September evening and walk/jogged past Matt’s house. I knew he was on a case and not home, but I took the chance anyway. Mary Ann, Matt’s sister, and my bestfriend and literary assistant, sat on the front porch with her squeeze, rookie cop, Michael Barker. We exchanged waves and I continued, my breathing already sounding like I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for years. I’d never smoked a single one.
I stopped at the corner and bent over to catch my breath. Sadie sat next to me, pink tongue lolling.
“Miss Stormi okay?”
I glanced up at Rusty Henley, neighborhood peeping Tom, simpleton, and resident sweetheart. “I’m … fine.”
“Exercise must be started slowly.” He shook his head as if I were the slow one and moseyed away, disappearing in the shadow of a large magnolia tree.
He was right. I should walk. Jogging could come later, when I improved my lung function. I might be slim, but writing was a sedentary occupation.
I turned around in a cul de sac, surprised to see a young, very pretty girl sitting on the curb. I guessed her to be fifteen, maybe sixteen-years-old. She twirled a thin stick in a water puddle next to her foot.
“Hello.” I smiled.
She jerked, obviously so lost in her own world she hadn’t heard me approach. Eyes wide, she jumped to her feet and raced down the sidewalk in the opposite direction. A light-colored sedan stopped next to her and she climbed in.
Strange. Some people tended to leave a room when I walked in to avoid my endless questions, but few ran away without knowing me. I shrugged and continued.
“Hi, Stormi!” Lucy Snyder, a single mother of four rowdy boys, watered a small garden of flowers. I’d met her while previously researching a murder and found I liked her a lot. I’d put out a few feelers in town and got her a job at the supermarket as a cashier. Because of that, she was able to rent a cute little bungalow in the same community I resided in.
“Hey.” I stopped and let Sadie drink from the hose.
“Have you met our new neighbors yet?” She motioned her head to the large house next door. “They keep to themselves, but I’ve heard it’s a foster family. Lots of kids in varying teen ages come and go. Adults, too, come to think of it. I’ve yet to meet the parents.”
“No, the Salazars might have.” They were my next door neighbors, little people, and the only other community residents interested in patrolling the neighborhood. I made a mental note to ask them. “Your house is quiet.”
“The boys are with my mother.” She grinned. “I’m relishing the peace and quiet. They’ll be home tomorrow.” She shuddered. “I love them with all my heart, but gee whiz! They wear me out. Not to mention the evil looks Mrs. Olson is always giving me.”
“She’s just warning you away from her husband.” Mrs. Olson seemed to think every woman in Oak Meadows Estates had the hots for her portly, balding husband.
“I’ll catch you later, Lucy. I don’t want my body to forget why I’m torturing it.” I tugged Sadie’s leash and resumed what was not quite a jog, but rather a fast walk. As I passed the Olson house, I waved. “Good evening, Mr. Olson.”
Mrs. Olson glared and turned the hose in my direction, just barely missing my shoes. I laughed and continued. I shouldn’t tease her so, but really, the woman needed to lighten up.
Mrs. Rogers, a former nemesis who tried to have me tarred and feathered and run out of the housing development, gave me a nod. While we might not be bosom buddies, narrowly escaping death together, have formed a bond, of sorts, between us. As long as she was no longer passing around a petition to get rid of me, I’d take what little civility I could get.
“Rusty!” I put a hand on my chest. “What in the world?”
He laughed and ducked back into the bushes.
I glanced at my dog. “You’re supposed to warn me of things like that.”
She wagged her tail.
Heart still threatening to beat out of my chest, I continued my walk and fought the urge to leave the gated community and visit my friend Norma at her coffee bar. A former prostitute, Norma had risen above her past to become an influential business owner and a close friend. Willpower being as weak as it was, I headed out the gate and down Main Street.
I looped Sadie’s leash around a vintage-style lamp post and headed into Delicious Aroma. Sure enough, my friend sat at a corner table rather than in her office.
“Hey.” I sat down across from her and waved to her son, Tyler, to bring me my usual. The largest frozen, blended Mocha they had.
“What brings you out at eight o’clock?” Norma asked, closing her laptop.
Her laughter was totally uncalled for.
“O-o-o-kay.” She snorted and crossed her arms. “Now, tell me the truth.”
“That is the truth. I was out jogging,” I held up a finger to ward off another bout of loud laughter, “and realized how hard it was and continued walking. It’s my job as president of the neighborhood watch.”
“Of course it is. You wouldn’t be trying to dig up another mystery, would you?”
“It wouldn’t hurt if I came across one.” I did enjoy sticking my nose where it didn’t belong. “Now that I have my private investigator’s license…”
Book one: Anything For a Mystery