Release Day Minus Seven
In just a week, Liar, Liar, Tabloid Writer, the first book of the Liar, Liar duology, will be released. To celebrate, I thought I'd share the opening scene from the book. Hope you enjoy it.
“So that’s her. The great Cleo Morgan.” Alec had to admit she was a looker. Light brown hair tumbled down her back in soft waves, and the skirt of her red power suit ended at mid-thigh, accentuating tanned legs a mile long.
As if that wasn’t enough, her full, lower lip made him—and every other guy there, he was sure—want to suck it into his mouth as he rolled her back on her heels.
Half a dozen of the staff—mostly men—were hanging out in the open area at one end of the bullpen that served as a break area-slash-kitchenette, getting coffee or shooting the shit, as Nigel Delaney, the tabloid’s managing editor, led Cleo Morgan on an introductory lap around the office.
“The Old Man’s lost his mind for sure,” Alec’s buddy Jackson said. Not loud enough to draw anyone else’s attention, of course, since, presumably, he liked his job. “So she can write good copy”—Jackson made a face that said big deal—“and she can get down and dirty doing investigative journalism. Doesn’t mean she can write an Elvis story worth crap. But I heard the boss is paying her a small fortune. She even got a signing bonus like she’s some sort of first-round draft pick.”
“Oh? And where did you hear that?”
“Lisa told me on the down-low.”
Even as he shifted his attention to Jackson, Alec kept Cleo in his peripheral vision. “Lisa in accounting with all the baby pictures or Lisa in legal with her nose in the air?”
“Lisa in legal.” Jackson’s smile spoke volumes about where else Lisa’s nose might have been lately.
Damn. “You took her to bed.” Alec didn’t know why he was surprised. Women tended to fall all over Jackson when he decided to break out the charm. He’d thought Lisa was different and had been enjoying himself immensely as he watched Jackson work hard—and fruitlessly—to overcome her uncanny resistance.
“Well, no. I didn’t take her to bed.” Jackson looked crestfallen at the admission, but it only lasted a moment. A gleam appeared in his eye. “I took her to the back file room. Have you ever done it where your boss could walk in on you any minute? Let me tell you, mi amigo, that is some of the hottest sex you’ll ever have.”
“I don’t believe it. You didn’t―”
Jackson made a discreet slicing motion, and Alec cut off his comment. Introducing Cleo to the other staff, Nigel had worked his way almost to them. Shelving Jackson’s sex life wasn’t too difficult when Alec had Cleo to look at. Which brought him back to the question of why she was there.
It was most likely the money. Tabloids paid exceptionally well, since any reporter who worked for them was committing professional suicide as far as “respectable” media was concerned. So it made sense they were paying more than the proverbial penny, bright and shiny as it might be, to get a reporter with Cleo Morgan’s credentials. It had been her story in The Tucson Sun that had blown open the corruption on the country’s southern border two years ago. Her investigation had exposed a string of misconduct that netted not only dozens of Border Patrol agents and the head of Homeland Security, but had brought down a sitting Arizona senator.
And earned The Sun consideration for a Pulitzer.
Nigel and Cleo moved to the guy next to Jackson. Alec took the opportunity to check her out at closer range. She had a nice rack. Full and firm, just the way he liked them. He wanted to nudge Jackson and ask if he thought they were real, but she and Nigel were too close.
“And this is Jackson Palmaroy.” Nigel’s high-tone accent made Jackson sound like he was someone who should have gone to Oxford instead of the University of Florida. “His speciality”—pronounced with five crisp British syllables—“is alien abduction stories.”
“Yeah, this week the president is being controlled by a receiver put in his brain by little green men,” Jackson said without a trace of irony as he shook her manicured hand.
“We’ve already run that story, Jackson,” Nigel said.
“Last administration. You should know that. You wrote it.”
“Well, hell. Guess I’ll have to get more creative. Wanna help me out, Cleo? Care to have an alien baby?” Jackson tugged on his belt with both hands, a gesture that tightened his pants over his bulging crotch.
Yeah, charming. But only when he wanted to be. Exactly how much were they paying her? Whatever it was, it hadn’t endeared her to Jackson.
Cleo didn’t even look down. “Can I get back to you on that? I’d like to settle in a bit before I make a commitment that serious.”
Jackson was unfazed, but Alec had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling. Damn. He didn’t want to like her, but he couldn’t help appreciating her coolness under fire.
“And this is Alec Ramirez,” Nigel said, moving things right along. Cleo stepped left as though she was moving through a receiving line, her gaze shifting to acknowledge the introduction. Her lips stretched into a stiff, obligatory smile, but from the look of her flat, cold baby blues, Cleo Morgan would happily be hung, drawn, and quartered if it could only happen somewhere—anywhere—other than The Inside Word’s office.
Bitch. The thought was there in an instant. She thinks she’s better than we are.
“Alec is our Jack of all Trades,” Nigel continued as though unaware of the sudden crackle in the air. “Writes a bit of everything.”
Maybe everyone was reacting this way to her. That would explain why she and Nigel seemed oblivious to the hostility Alec felt pouring off him.
Like an automaton, she held her hand out for him to shake. His mind was working itself into a fever pitch of resentment toward the woman in front of him, but his body responded the way it was conditioned to when face to face with a body like hers. He didn’t even realize he’d clasped her hand until her eyes widened and a spark drove away the emptiness that had been there a second before.
In the same moment, a charge shot up his arm and blew out all his circuits except one.
Fuck me. Please.
Like every other man in the room, he’d been semi-hard the moment she came into view. Now, touching her hand, looking into eyes that had come to life with intelligence, natural curiosity, and more than a modicum of sexual awareness, he graduated to an oversized railroad spike trapped in too-tight denim. And he wanted to nail her with that spike in the worst way.
The desire to step forward, to thrust his fingers through her hair until he bent her head back as far as it would go, was almost overpowering. He’d suck on that pouty lower lip, teasing it with his teeth before taking possession of her mouth; he just knew she’d taste like sex. Then he’d push that short, tight skirt of hers up and ride her on his thigh until she begged for more.
He was almost up to the pounding-his-chest-like-Tarzan part when Jackson dug an elbow into his side. Alec forced himself to shake off the fantasy.
Nigel was looking at him with narrowed eyes as though he had some kind of idea what had just happened. If he did, Alec wished like hell Nigel would explain it to him because he felt like he’d been hit by a semi truck speeding through Nevada on the driver’s eager way to the Mustang Ranch.
“Writes a bit of everything,” Nigel repeated as though the words contained a slowly dawning revelation. His gaze shifted to Cleo. A smile Alec didn’t like spread across his face. In as hearty a voice as Alec had ever heard from the ever-efficient Brit, Nigel said, “So he’s the perfect one to show you the ropes. He can teach you our style and demonstrate how to take a seed and grow it into our kind of story.”
Nigel’s words were like a dash of cold water in Alec’s face. Sexual attraction was one thing, but he’d be damned if he was going to be saddled with this too-good-for-everyone, I-almost-got-a-Pulitzer bitch. Unh-uh.
“Nigel―” Alec tried to interrupt, but his boss was on a roll.
“We can restructure the cubicles, so you two have a place to work together.”
I won’t be just saddled, I’ll be shackled! “Nigel―” Alec said in a louder voice.
“And I think we’ll put you out in the middle, so you absorb the atmosphere better and other staff can help you along as well.”
In the middle of the room? Hell, no! He’d fought too hard for the corner farthest from the coffee machine for a reason. He had to stop Nigel before it got worse. Alec wasn’t sure how it could, but he’d worked at The Word long enough not to underestimate his boss; Nigel was a master at thinking of ways to make it worse.
“Nigel!” Alec yelled.
Nigel was also a master at ignoring his staff when he chose to, so when he turned his attention to Alec and, in a far too reasonable voice, said, “Yes, Alec?” Alec found his mouth opening and closing like a broken trapdoor.
Jackson unexpectedly came to his rescue. “Are you sure Alec is the best one to shepherd our prize reporter, Nigel?”
Good old Jackson. Alec mentally promised his buddy a six-pack for coming in swinging on his behalf.
Jackson slid half a step closer to Nigel. His voice dropped as though speaking confidentially, but not enough to actually exclude anyone in the immediate vicinity. “I mean, with her background, she’s gonna wanna see his green card, and then she’ll be calling the INS―”
“Hey!” Alec protested. “I was born here!”
“Yeah, but your folks were illegals―”
“They were political refugees from Cuba, you asshole.”
Scratch that six-pack.
“Yes, quite so.” The light in Nigel’s eyes might have been amusement; it was hell working for someone with that dry British humor Alec didn’t always get. “Sorry, Jackson, but I think we’ll see how Cleo works with Alec. If she kills him the first week, well then, we’ll let her have a go at you.”
Nigel glanced at his watch. “I’ll take you down to HR to fill out your paperwork. After that, our editor-in-chief, Mr. Phillips, will welcome you to our happy little family.”
Slack jawed at how quickly his opportunity to head off this babysitting assignment had vanished, Alec watched them depart for Human Resources. Nigel certainly knew him better than to think it was a done deal he’d give up his corner spot.
“You okay?” Jackson asked.
“Yeah, sure. Why wouldn’t I be?” Alec said, distracted once again, this time by the swing in Cleo’s backside as she walked away.
“The way you were staring at her when you shook her hand, I started thinking you’d had a stroke. Not that she couldn’t give you one”—Jackson’s gaze flickered toward the disappearing Cleo—“but I figured it would take more than a handshake.”
“Of course, it would,” Alec agreed, though who knew what went through your mind when you had a stroke? It was a not-unreasonable explanation. But he didn’t want to talk about any fantasies starring Ms. Hoity-Toity, so he changed the subject. “I can’t believe you got in Lisa’s pants. I really thought she was immune to you.”
“It turns out she has a bigshot boyfriend.”
Alec shot him a questioning look.
“Who cheats,” Jackson said with a grin.
“Ah. Revenge sex. I thought you were better than that.”
Jackson added a shrug to his grin. “Sometimes you gotta take what you can get.”
So there it is. And you still have a week to get it for the pre-release price price of 99 cents.