Happy New Year, everyone! Today is exactly one week from the official launch of my next Downward Dog Mystery, Pre-Meditated Murder. In honor of the new year, I’m going to give away an awesome coloring and activity book called Moments of Mindfulness to one of the readers of my blog. After all, who doesn’t want to start the new year with a little more mindfulness?
To enter: Read the five snippets from Pre-Meditated Murder below, and pick your favorite. Leave a comment below saying which one you chose and why. Don’t forget to leave your e-mail address so I can contact you if you win. Winner will be selected on launch day, next Monday, January 8!
Rene yelled from the front door, “Kate, get in here!”
She didn’t have to ask Bella twice. Bella lunged towards Rene’s voice, practically dislocating my shoulder. I slipped and slid and tried to hold on as she dragged me through the front door and down the long bamboo hallway.
Rene laughed and reached toward Bella’s collar. “For goodness sake, Kate. Let her loose.”
“I don’t think that’s a good id—”
The metallic clank of the leash’s clasp hitting bamboo interrupted my sentence. One hundred pounds of pure German shepherd bliss galloped down the hallway, leaving me in a horrified silence punctuated only by the scrape of German shepherd toenails against flooring. Not a single room escaped Bella’s inspection. A long drink from the guest bathroom toilet, a dig in the family room’s rug, and a joy-filled roll on a bedroom’s queen-sized mattress later, Bella flopped on the deep red couch across from the living room’s stone fireplace. A storm of silky black undercoat snowed down on the fabric around her.
Shedding season. Fabulous.
He took a deep breath. “Stay here.” He strode toward the two women without looking back.
I pulled Bella’s leash tight and marched behind him. Gabriella glanced at me curiously. When her gaze flicked to Michael, she jolted, then froze, hands suspended mid-gesture. She didn’t speak, so I tried to read her facial expression: wide eyes, tense jaw, open mouth.
Was she surprised?
She had to be, of course, but I read something else. She certainly didn’t seem happy. If pressed, I’d have said her expression looked an awful lot like fear.
Bella stopped lunging and whipped toward the child. The ecstatic toddler bee-lined it toward Bella, across the busy parking lot. The blue Chevy Malibu (driven by the male teenager that had been making out earlier) sped toward him, seemingly unaware that a child was careening toward his front bumper.
“Stop!” I yelled.
In a freeze-framed moment of gut-wrenching clarity, the teenager’s face twisted in horror. He slammed on the brakes and the car flew into a skid. I dropped Bella’s leash and dove for the child, praying that Bella wouldn’t go after Gabriella again. Tires screeched on pavement. Burning rubber stung my nostrils. My knee scraped painfully against the sidewalk, but I grasped hold of the child and yanked him toward me.
As the twilight darkened, so did Bella’s mood. Every shadow became danger; every person, a potential threat. Leading her was like walking unexploded ordnance, apt to go off at any second. She snapped at a man with a goatee and lunged after a beagle. She body-blocked me from a dozen perceived evils, including a downed piece of driftwood, a man on a bicycle, and a white plastic grocery bag floating along the shore. I shortened her leash and wrapped it tightly around my wrist. “No off-leash time for you tonight, Missy Girl.”
I looked down at the mantle and realized what Shannon hadn’t wanted me to see. A shrine to a life that Michael claimed had never existed. My own metaphorical spine shattered, slicing my heart into pieces.
In the eight-by-ten portrait farthest to the left, Gabriella smiled at the camera, wearing the white cotton dress she was wearing in the wedding photo taped to Crystal’s mirror. She held a vibrant bouquet of yellow, orange, red, and pink Gerbera daisies. Michael gazed adoringly at her in a black tux with a yellow Gerbera daisy boutonniere. In the photograph next to it, the couple shared a wedding kiss so romantic it made my stomach churn. Next up was a four-photo collage. Michael and Gabriella on the beach, cuddled next to a campfire, hiking in the forest, clinking champagne glasses. If Michael and Gabriella’s life together had been the sham Michael claimed it was, why did it look so real?
Vote for your favorite in the comments below, good luck, and Happy New Year!
PS–Want your very own autographed copy of Pre-Meditated Murder? E-mail me at Tracy@TracyWeber.net. I have a box hot off the press that I’m selling for $15.99 plus $3.99 shipping. First come first served!