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First pages

Chapter One

Dakota Lee was twelve years old when the spirits first started talking to her.

She never called them ghosts. Her native American father had corrected her the first time she had done so. "To us the word ghosts means evil, Kota. Not so spirits. Our people believe spirits are all around us."

She could call them fantômes, like her French momma, but she'd given up on French things at thirteen when her mère had walked out the door and out of their lives.

Eleven years ago, on her twenty-first birthday, she'd looked her mom up on the internet, found her and even composed an email. When it came time to press send she'd turned off the computer, stood and walked away. Eight years without a word. Why should she be the one to reach out now?

Dakota frowned. It was easier to think about dad and "our people". They were the Chumash tribe. From old photos, Dakota knew she looked like her paternal great-grandmother, Topanga, with her dark hair and eyes, honey colored skin and high cheekbones, but it was from her maternal grandmother, Aimee, that she had inherited her physic ability. Her dad had filled her in about Grand-mère Aimee when she'd told him of her first encounter with an upset spirit. He'd assured her she wasn't crazy, that it was a rare gift she'd inherited and she'd learn to embrace her abilities. Embrace was a strong word, but she had learned to control her gift and the spirits that came along with it, for the most part. Her father had been right. None of the spirits Dakota had encountered in the past twenty years had ever been evil. Some had been exasperating, but never evil.

She took another sip of her coffee. This week had been a peaceful one. Not once had a discontented spirit demand she do something for them. In fact, they'd hardly spoken to her at all. Dakota stared out the kitchen window. She hoped everything was okay in the netherworld. She smiled. That's what she called the realm where the spirits lived. It seemed to fit and the spirits had never told her differently.

She turned back to the Santa Mesa Times and flipped the page. A German Shepherd dog, posted by the local animal shelter, stared back at her. Maybe she should adopt a dog. She'd always had one. Her last dog, Austin, a shaggy little guy, went to the Rainbow Bridge right before she bought her bakery, Sugar Babies. But would it be fair to the dog? Owning her own business kept her away from home most nights. True, she did have an assistant at now, so she didn't have to be there as much anymore. She could even have a social life, date, maybe dabble in a romance. Dakota snorted. She and love didn't seem to get along well. That was okay. She liked herself and she had her friends and her bakery.

She glanced at the clock. Ten p.m.. She needed to get moving if she wanted to get her run in before it was time to head to Sugar Babies. Tim was off tonight and she had an order of twelve dozen glazed doughnuts for a six a.m. pickup.

Dakota pushed the newspaper aside and picked up her cell phone. The weather app showed it was still 75 degrees outside. No need to change her clothes, her shorts and t-shirt would work fine.

At her front door she stretched for her mandatory ten minutes, then set off at a slow jog.

A full moon glowed in the blue-black sky and stars sprinkled the cloudless expanse.

At the barred entrance to the county park, she jogged in place and considered; should she cut through? The moon provided plenty of light to see by and it would cut her time by ten minutes. Nope, no cheating. She'd stuck to her New Year's resolution for six months. She wasn't quitting now. "Doing my full three miles. It's buttermilk bars tonight and God knows I'll have to eat at least one." Dakota jogged on.

Her best friend Lela said it was a crime for someone who looked like Dakota to own a bakery. Cher look-alikes didn't own bakeries. Bakery owners were gray-haired, short and plump. Dakota snorted. Lela considered herself a modern woman, but in many ways she was as cliché as they came.

Dakota turned the corner and headed up a hill.

So what if she owned a bakery? She'd always loved to bake and was tired of people telling her what she should be doing, just because of her looks. She snorted, a very un-lady like sound that her mère had always hated. Good grief, when she was ten she'd even let her mom talk her into taking a modeling course. Dakota laughed. Modeling? Not for her. Way too much upkeep.

She slowed at the top of the hill, checked the street, then jogged across.

Dakota had always thought her tom-boy ways were a disappointment to her mother. Her dad said no, but she always felt he wanted to add more. Something like, "Nope, you've never disappointed your mother, but I sure have." She guessed she'd have to take his word for it.

She slowed to a fast walk. Her dad had been a Santa Mesa Police Officer. Twenty-three years he'd been on the job. A heart attack stole him away from her a year ago last month. "I miss you Dad. Sugar Babies is doing great. I know you never doubted me, or it, for a minute."

A newer black Toyota slowed beside her and she felt for the mace in the pocket of her shorts. Santa Mesa's crime statistics were low, but a girl couldn't be too careful. The mace was a compromise she' d come to with her dad. He'd taught her to shoot when she was ten and she had a .38 Special tucked away in a nightstand at home, but she'd refused to jog with the gun, so mace it was.

Dakota glanced at the driver, a young guy who held a cell phone pressed to his ear. She shook her head. Well, at least he'd slowed down to take the call.

The Toyota sped away.

Dakota turned and jogged toward home. Time for a hot shower, then off to Sugar Babies.

Chapter Two

"Hey, Detective Flattop."
Rod Kane looked up at Blake's call. Rod had been lost in a mental review of the night, a profitable ten hour shift in his mind, but the captain hadn't seen it that way. Rod knew when he returned to the station and saw Captain Hawkins, aka, Hawk, still there, that he and Blake would be called on for an update. The captain didn't hang around until ten thirty at night without a reason. Rod got it. The newly promoted Hawkins wanted results, but results required a framework of time, and they weren't there yet.

His partner reached him, and the two walked down the three steps leading into the parking garage. "The Hawk lean on you?" Blake asked.

"Yeah, where were you?"

"Had to answer a text."

"Must have been a long text. Who was it this time? Bridgett or Barbie?"

Blake grinned. "Don't know any Barbies."

Rod snorted. "They're all Barbie dolls. When you going to date someone with an IQ higher than their bra size?"

Blake didn't answer, but then he didn't need to. Rod knew why Blake hopped from woman to woman. Her name was Amanda. Bad news from day one. When she drove away in a rich lawyer's red Jag, Blake had lost all faith in love.

 "What did Hawk say?" Blake asked.

"He sat there, listened, then nodded his head and asked when we were going to nail Ian McConnell."

"And you said?"

Rod grinned. "The definitive non-committal, soon."

Blake laughed. "He offer up any additional bodies for our other cases?"

"Still the same one, Clarkson," Rod said.

"Hell, no. The kid doesn't have the right mind for undercover. He's a good cop, but he'd crack in three days."

A lady came in from the garage's side entrance. She glanced at them as she walked by. They smiled, but she lowered her head and quickened her pace.

Rod shrugged. "Hawk knows how I feel."

"We've almost got McConnell," Blake said. "You've played Runt just right. He's ready to spout like Vesuvius. We sure as hell don't have time to babysit."

Rod nodded. He’d thought tonight Runt would crack. They’d been so close. If McConnell hadn't arrived....

The woman suddenly turned. "Why are you following me?" She waved a cell phone at them. "I'll dial 9-1-1. A police officer will be here in less than a minute."

Rod and Blake stopped.

"Lady—" Blake said.

"You just stay away from me." The woman opened a door of a silver Lexus and scrambled inside.

They both stood in silence as she started the engine, backed up and sped away.

Blake glanced at Rod. "You think it's our fashion choice?"

They were both still in their Stiletto and Raptor street guises and wore dirty jeans, faded t-shirts and bleached-out army jackets. Blake's shaggy blonde hair should have seen a barber two weeks ago, and the three days of beard growth didn't help either of them.

"Don't think it would have done any good to tell her we are cops. I'm sure it's my angelic appearance," Rod said. He knew he looked as far from an angel as a bear looked from a butterfly. His black flat top, pale-blue eyes, crooked nose, and scar above his right eyebrow didn't scream nice boy. He smiled. But, then, I'm not a nice boy. I’m the Raptor. He glanced at Blake. Raptor and Stiletto. One hell of a team.

"Damn, it's still eighty degrees out here. You wanna grab a beer?" Blake asked.

Their usual watering hole was The Blue Dog, the local cop bar, and it would be jumping right now. Santa Mesa was different than a lot of bigger cities. In most large cities detectives didn't hang with uniform cops, but here, all they had was The Blue Dog, so everybody got along just fine.

"Nope. Gotta get home. I plan to get a run in before I hit the sack." Rod opened the Toyota’s door, climbed inside. "Tomorrow."

Blake waved, then continued on to his 1968 sky-blue Camaro.

Chapter Three

Jewell stretched upon the bed. The clock radio read ten thirty a.m.. She flipped on the beside lamp, looked around, admired the all white furnishings trimmed with gold. The condo was where she met with her higher paying tricks, but Daddy-D had let her stay the entire month, and not one trick in all that time. It looked as if she'd finally made head bitch status.

She frowned. Those girls better not be slacking off just 'cause she wasn't there to keep them in line. No, they were smart. They knew when they had it good. She laughed softly. Besides they were all half in love with Daddy-D. Each of the silly bitches thought Daddy loved them, but Jewell knew the only one Daddy-D loved was her. She wouldn't be in this bed, right here, right now, if he didn't.

She stretched again. She could get used to this.

Jewell heard a soft snoring. She smiled at the basset hound curled beside her, then reached to caress the hound’s tan and white mottled ears. Lace ears, Daddy-D had told her. Only special bassets had them. That was Daddy for you. He'd heard about lace ears and had looked all over 'til he'd found a breeder who'd had a basset with them. Everything Daddy owned had to be special. She traced a design with her finger. They did sort of look like lace. "Pretty."

The basset hound stared up at her with his soulful brown eyes.

 "Daddy's coming for you tomorrow." She couldn't believe the dog had been with her for a week. Jewell sighed. She hadn't had a dog since she was a kid. She'd forgotten how much company they could be. Maybe Daddy would let him stay for good. "Let's take a look. Roll over," she said, not expecting much.

The hound immediately rolled onto his back.

 "Well, who taught you that?" Jewell examined his white stomach. "Nice. You can't see a thing." She opened the door of the nightstand and pulled out the small black light. She flipped off the bedside lamp, turned on the black light, then shone the beam on

the hound's stomach. There, glowing green, was the word, rbrthdates.

 "Ultraviolet ink. Daddy-D will love this."

He knew about the tattoo, her idea, but not about the invisible ink. Her real daddy had been a tattoo artist. He'd given her an ultimatum when she turned twelve, learn how to ink, or learn how to make a man happy. She'd chosen ink, but at sixteen her daddy had wanted her to make him happy, so she'd hit the road. Five years ago. The last three she'd been with Daddy-D.

Jewell sighed. She sure as hell knew how to make a man happy now. She wondered if her daddy would be proud of her.

Her cell phone rang. The caller ID read Daddy-D. "Mornin', Daddy."

"How's my dog?"

Jewell sat up straighter in the bed. "He's fine."

"Hoped to get by to see you last night, but had to pick up some new merchandise."

New girls. That surprised her. Daddy had been laying low since Deidre and Janie had been arrested for getting a bit rough with their tricks.

They hadn't hurt the assholes that much. Jewell punched her pillow. What were they supposed to do? Just take the beating 'til they passed out?

She knew what really pissed Daddy off was having to bail them out. Daddy-D had been discreetly warned to lay low for awhile. These new ones must be special.

"You need any help unpacking?"

"No, Willy and Chrissy can handle things. You just get yourself and my dog ready."

"We'll both be ready, Daddy."

The call ended.

Jewell glanced at the basset. "You’re one lucky hound. Daddy-D loves dogs. He treats them a hell of a lot better than he does his girls. You're gonna live like a king. He'll never raise his hand to you." She frowned at the fading bruise on her thigh, then shrugged and stood. "You want to go out?"

The basset hound scrambled to his feet and jumped off the bed.

"We need to give you a name. Maybe Daddy'll let me name you."

She led the way downstairs, then to the glass patio door. "Make it quick. I gotta go to the bathroom myself. Be right back for you."

Jewell came out of the bathroom just in time to hear the back gate slam. "What the...?"

She ran into the backyard and saw a gust of wind grab the gate and slam it against the side of the house again. Who'd left the damn gate unlocked?

"Dog," she called. "Here, dog."

A loud bark came from the front of the house.

"Damn it to hell." Jewell ran toward the barking hound.

The basset hound stood on the opposite side of the street. His head came up when he saw her and his tail wagged. "Stay right there. You hear me?"

Jewell dashed into the street. The screech of brakes and the thud of the Ford pick-up that flipped her body into the air and ended her life, shattered the stillness of the morning.

*****

Diamond glanced into the backseat where the basset hound trembled.

"It’s for the best, you dumb hound. I don't give a damn if the kids love you already. I should have said no when the cops called. That’s what I should have said. Sister or not. If Bud's, family hadn't been all staring at me, I would've."

She scanned the city park.

"Those kids can't be that attached. You've only been here one damned day."

The area looked empty but soon it would fill with families and morning joggers.

 "One of them'll take you. Give you a good home."

The dog whined.

"Just shut up. I could've taken you to the pound or out to the river." Diamond climbed from the Buick, opened the back door. "Come on."

The basset hound shrank from her.

"Get the hell out, you stupid dog."

The dog growled.

"Oh no. You don't growl at me." Swearing beneath her breath, Diamond stomped around to the other back door and jerked it open.

The hound scrambled to the opposite side of the car.

"Get out."

She grabbed the baseball bat from the floorboard and thrust it at the shivering dog.
With a yelp he jumped from the seat and raced toward the trees.

"Good riddance to you. Too bad you got out and ran away."

Back home, Diamond cut her turkey sandwich in half. She glared at the kitchen's white Formica counter tops. When he proposed, Bud promised her granite counter tops and she wanted them, and all new stainless steel appliances too. Those ghastly red-and-white checkered curtains had to go, too. What was this, the damn 1950's? They'd been married six months and it was time for her new husband to live up to his promises. She sure as hell had kept up her end of the bargain. Bud left for work with a big smile on his face every morning.

"This kitchen may have been fine for his momma, but it isn't fine for me." As she reached for the cold beer beside her sandwich, a voice came from behind her.

"Where's my dog?"

The quiet, honeyed words sent a delightful shiver down her back.

She spun around. A man stood there. He was as black as her daddy's heart, stood at least six-foot three and wore all white except for a black fedora with a red headband.

"Who the hell are you? Get out of my house." She gave the order, but what she really wanted was to grab his hand and drag him to her bed.

The man took a step toward her and flashed gleaming white teeth. "You're Diamond, right? Jewell's sister?"

How did he know Jewell? Was he one of her tricks? She stared at him for a moment. Then it hit her. He’s Daddy-D. A badass, not to be crossed from what Jewell said. Diamond smiled. Well, she was a bit of a badass herself.

Diamond reached a hand behind her and grasped the handle of the knife that lay beside the sandwich. If he came another step closer she would cut him up good, just like she did her last husband.

"You were Jewell’s man."

"The police officers made a mistake." He flashed his white teeth again. "The basset hound belongs to me. I don't want any problems. Just my dog."

She shrugged. "Don't have him anymore."

He stared into her face for two heartbeats before saying, "Where is he?"

Diamond brought the knife around. Held it in front of her. "Get out of my house, asshole."

The man's smile fled. His eyes narrowed, stared into hers. "Not without my dog. It would be best if you told me where he is."

"If I don't?"

"Oh, you will. If you tell me now, then maybe I won't kill you." The words were delivered in a matter-of-fact monotone. Nothing about them the least honeyed now.

Diamond laughed, waved the knife in front of him. "In case you missed it, I've got this and I know how to use it. You wouldn't be the first I've carved into roasts."

Enough damned talk. Catch them off guard. It worked better that way.

She lunged toward him.

The handgun made little noise as Daddy-D fired it through the suit jacket's pocket.

A small hole erupted in Diamond's forehead.

She dropped to the floor.

He moved to her. Kicked her hard in the ribs. "Damn it, bitch. Now I'll have to find the dog myself."

*****

Dominic looked up from the stock information he studied. A new tech start-up company, seemed a good buy. He'd call his broker tomorrow. He settled back in his chair and let his gaze roam the room. Satisfaction rose from his gut as he ran his fingers across the golden oak of the desk.

 

He had seen one like it in Congressman Heed's office and had to have his own. The same with the muted Turkish carpet and Monet reproductions. He nodded. It was what a true businessman's office should look like, and that's what he was, a businessman, not some lowlife, hustling pimp.

A knock sounded on the door and anger replaced his glow of pleasure. Who was being stupid? They all knew the house rules and number one was no uninvited visits to his office, ever. "Yes."

"Daddy-D," Chrissy's hesitant voice said. "I know you don't like to be disturbed while you're workin', but I found your dog."

The dog? It was about time. He pushed back his chair.

"Come in."

The door opened. Chrissy's normally pale cheeks were flushed with color. She wore white short-shorts and a pink-flowered tank top. With her blonde hair pulled back into a pony tail, she looked about twelve, not eighteen. Still not young enough though, not for his latest client. Different clothes to hide her curves might work. If not, there were the two new girls. Ten year old twins, but that might not be the most profitable way to go.

He was in negotiation with a overseas gentlemen. God bless the Internet. It all came down to who had the deepest pockets.

Chrissy flounced toward him, then stopped at the edge of his desk. "A local shelter has him."

Against good sense, he felt his hope rise. It had been two weeks. He'd had his girls look everywhere for the missing basset hound. He had even let three of them reschedule their tricks to search, but to no avail. He had consoled himself with the thought if he didn't have the flash drive, then neither did anyone else.

"How did you discover this?"

She looked proud and smug. "I talked to some kids at the park across town. Their mom picked him up and took him to a shelter. Second Chance, it's called."

"Have you called this shelter?"

Chrissy smugness vanished . "Not yet. I just came in. I wanted to tell you first." She backed toward the door. "I'm sorry, Daddy. I'll do it right now."

He remained silent as she exited and closed the door behind her.

Dominic leaned back in his chair. Stupid little bitch. Definitely not head bitch material. He sighed. Damn, he missed Jewell. She'd been one of his hardest workers. Always a high earner. Never made demands, never refused a trick, no matter what they asked her to do.

Dominic frowned. Maybe he'd liked her too much. Having one copy of the information on a flash drive was smart; he knew that, but trusting Jewell with it? Well, not a good idea, as it turned out.

He stood, walked to the mini bar, then poured himself a shot of bourbon.

The flash drive was his insurance policy, every trick his girls served, their likes and dislikes, all listed on a spread sheet. Lots of pictures too. Dominic smiled. Business was good. Growing every day.

He downed the shot, poured himself another. He just had to recover the dog and find out where Jewell had stashed the flash drive. Too bad about her sister, but some bitches were too damn stupid to go on breathing.

A knock sounded on the door. "Yes."

Chrissy entered again, this time slowly, with her head down.

Dominic's fingers clenched around the shot glass. He really hated being disappointed. "Chrissy?"

She kept her gaze on the floor. "They had the basset hound."

He waited.

"They adopted him out."

"Oh."

Chrissy cringed, but went on. "To a guy in Santa Mesa." She looked up, eyes wide. "I told them it was your dog. That you wanted him back, but they said he wasn't licensed, or chipped and this guy had come in. They wouldn't give me his name, but they let slip that he's a cop in Santa Mesa, so—"

"Thank you, Chrissy. How are the new girls doing?"

"I'm sorry, Daddy-D. I—"

"I said, how are Lilly and Rose?"

"They're doing fine. They miss their mommy. Keep asking when they can go home."

"I'll be up to check on them later. Please tell Willy I'd like to see him."

"Of course, Daddy. Right away." She turned and ran out the door.

Dominic moved to his desk, settled into the chair behind it. A police officer in Santa Mesa had stolen his basset hound. What was this world coming to... a thieving cop. Something would have to be done. He pulled out his address book, flipped through the pages. Found the number he wanted. Called.

"Congressman Heed's office," a woman's voice said.

"It's Dominic. He in?"

"I'll put you right through, Mister Dominic."

Dominic tapped his fingers on the desk. He would have the name of the dog thief within the hour.

"Dominic." The congressman's voice said. "How may I help you?"

*****

A knock sounded on the office door. "Yes?"

Willy Little sauntered in. "You wanted to see me?"

"I have a job for you."

Willy reminded him of a weasel. On the short side, skinny, he was always hiking his pants up. He had a sharp nose and beady green eyes. His gaze never stayed on anything long, it was always shifting, here, there, everywhere. You really couldn't trust someone who wouldn't meet your eyes. But Willy had his uses.

Willy slunk forward to stand before the desk.

"It's in Santa Mesa. Someone has stolen my basset hound, and I want him back." Daddy-D pushed a sheet of paper toward the smaller man. "Here is the information."

"Damned dog thieves. I hate dog thieves." Willy picked up the paper. "How you want it handled?"

Daddy-D smiled. "Bring the hound to me. The thief is expendable." He watched Willy's hand rise to caress the small hand gun that always rode in the small of his back. His enforcer was so easy to please. One of the girls in his bed now and then, and when he was really good, someone to kill.

"I'll leave in the morning." Willy turned away.

"Oh, and Willy. Don't bring any problems home. Understood?"

"Never do, Boss. Never do."

*****

Willy sauntered into the kitchen. Chrissy sat at the table. She looked up, then smiled.

"What's up?"

"Daddy-D found the cop in Santa Mesa. I'm going after the hound."

"When?"

"Leaving in about an hour."

Chrissy pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. "You hungry? I'm going to fix myself a grilled cheese sandwich."

"I'd love one."

"Wanna a Coke, Willy?"

"Yeah, sure."

Chrissy stood, then crossed to the refrigerator.

"Thanks," he said accepting the Coke from her. Her hands were soft and she smelled like pink jasmine. There had been pink jasmine in his grandma's back yard when he was a kid. He'd always loved the smell.

Willy opened the soft drink and watched as Chrissy pulled out cheese and bread slices. He had only known her for six months, but it seemed like they'd been friends forever. He remembered the first time he'd seen her. The girls were all out with their tricks and the boss had gone to spend time with Jewell. The house felt like it was closing in on him, so in spite of the rain, he'd climbed in his Mustang and gone for a drive. He'd ended up at the bus station.

A hunched figure stood beneath a streetlight. As he passed its head had come up and their eyes met. It was a girl. All of sixteen maybe. The streaming rain plastered long hair against her pale face. He drove by. Daddy-D didn't need any new girls. But those eyes. A sixteen year old kid shouldn't have such haunted eyes.

Willy put the Mustang in reverse.

He stopped beside the girl. "Hey, you looking for work?"

Again she locked her gaze with his. "What kind of work?"

He almost went into his song and dance; modeling, escort work, acting, then stopped. "I think you know exactly what kind of work."

"You the boss?"

"No. I take care of the discipline, but only when it's needed."

A shudder traveled through the girl and she swayed.

"You get a place to stay, food, clothes and ten percent of what you bring in. No one gets rough with you, unless that's what you want."

She circled the car, opened the door and got in.

"Sorry, I don't have a towel," Willy said. "What's your name?"

"Chrissy," she answered through chattering teeth.

Willy had nodded and reached to turn the heat up.

 "What's you thinking so hard about, Willy?" Chrissy's words brought him back to the kitchen. She placed a grilled cheese sandwich in front of him.

"Thinking about the night we met."

"Seems like a long time ago," Chrissy said.

Chrissy and Willy shared a long look. He was the first to look away. He'd been with a few of the girls. Part of his job perks. Willy could have Chrissy if he wanted to and yeah, he wanted her, but not like that.

"How are the new girls doing?"

"They miss their momma. They have no idea why they're here. What are those two little girls going to do when they find out?"

Willy frowned."Addicts shouldn't have kids. It won't be that bad. Their momma was going to sell them one way or another." He shook his head. "The boss'll take good care of them. And you'll be here, you know, to talk it out."

"Yeah, I'll be here." Chrissy stood, then walked to the kitchen window.

Had Daddy-D told her about the new trick he'd lined up for her? A kiddy pervert. The boss liked to brag, and Willy was his favorite sounding board. Right now the trick was in Europe somewhere, but would be returning soon. Straight sex Willy understood, even a little kink, but those kiddy perverts made him want to puke.

She turned to face him."You be careful in Santa Mesa, Willy. I don't have a good feeling about this one."

He smiled. Maybe Chrissy did like him. He patted his gun. "I'll be fine. Always got me a little insurance."

She crossed to him and touched his shoulder. "Just get the dog and come back this time, Willy. No funny stuff. Just get the dog."

He frowned, then stood. "I don't need no momma. I'll do what needs doing. A guy's gotta have a little fun sometimes."

"Yeah. I get it." Chrissy sighed. "I guess I should go check on those kids. I hope they've quit crying. Daddy wants to do a video of them." She looked at Willy. "Sounds like he's going to do an online auction. Has he ever did that before?"

Willy shrugged. "Don't think so, but he's never had ten year old twins to offer."

"I don't think I like this, Willy."

"Don't think Chrissy. Just do what you're told. He's the boss."

Willy watched her walk away. Thought about the dog thief in Santa Mesa. Maybe he would just get the dog and leave. He shook his head. He and Chrissy together, away from Daddy-D. That was nothing but a dream, and dreaming was for assholes. He'd take his fun when he could get it. Willy stood. He'd better make sure his Mustang was full of gas.

Chapter Four

Rod parked in the driveway of his tan, stucco, one-story home. The grass looked a little brown. He had better run the sprinklers tonight. The sight of the three-foot, redwood-picket fence circling his front yard still surprised him for a moment when he saw it, but JB loved being out in the front.

He chuckled. Only two weeks and the hound had him wrapped around his paws. He'd been thinking about getting a basset hound. He'd been in touch with basset hound rescues all over California, and when JB had come into Second Chance pet rescue in Butler's Bend, they'd called Rod. He'd driven the two hour drive to meet the hound, filled out all of the paperwork, and bingo, JB was his.

Rod heard the welcoming bark before he made it halfway to the door. The sound, although on the loud side, was much better than the silence he had come home to before. His cell phone rang. It was Blake.

"What's up?"

"What the hell is all of that noise?"

"Just got home. Haven't made it inside yet."

"That's your dog?"

"Yep."


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Barbara M. Hodges is the author or co-author of twelve fiction books. She lives on the central coast of California with her husband Jeff and a sassy basset hound girl, Heidi.

Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I crave suspense stories. Add a good paranormal element and a basset hound and I am in love
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
My website is: http://barbaramhodges.com
Q. What books are you reading now?
A.
Right now my passion is dog, suspense or mystery books. I love anything by Donna Ball.

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