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First pages

Chapter One

Retiree, Maybelline Beasley slammed her foot on the brakes stopping her beat-up RAV4 just inches from hitting a spanking new, candy-apple red Lexus. The made-to-impress luxury car zipped across her path.

Stacy Weatherly waved a pretentious and inauthentic sorry through the car’s gleaming front window

“That little bitch!” Maybelline yelled, furious with the snotty, top-selling realtor in town for cutting her off, stealing her space, and thinking she was entitled to do so. “Damn it, Stacy, you always think you can have whatever you want.”

Instead of jumping out and confronting Stacy once and for all, Maybelline resisted the urge to blare her horn in anger. Instead, she eased her foot onto the gas, circled around to the next row, and located another slot.

Throwing her car into park, she peered at the entrance to the center. The exaggerated sway of Stacy's overpriced Lululemon spandex covered hips fell into view as the pompous bimbo rushed inside the building. A single thought sped through Maybelline's mind; Murder.

Determined not to take her irritation out on anyone else, she walked across the parking lot and swung open the main doors to the Silver Leaf community center with a smile.

“I don’t believe it. Maybelline Beasley, you’re the last one to arrive.” The bold announcement echoed off the painted white, concrete walls.

Maybelline drew in a quick breath and met the bright smile of the woman who worked the gym’s main entrance desk. Unable to remember her name, she didn’t let it slow her down and offered a nonchalant shrug. “I can’t always be first. Occasionally, I have to give my friends a chance.”

“Maybe, but the Sunrise girls aren’t moving without you to usher them along.

A little irked with herself for running behind after she’d gotten up early. Unfortunately, it’d taken more time and energy to finish all the last minute arrangements she needed to do for the brunch she was throwing for her friends than she’d allowed. This month, they were heading over to her house after they finished their workout. She wanted everything in order for their arrival.

When finally satisfied with her final touches, she’d stepped outside to her covered back porch for a short break to enjoy her coffee and the sunrise. The blazing red and orange colors had captured her thoughts. For the first time in two years, she hadn’t let the fact she was alone in the world bother her. A peace settled over her, and she’d lost track of time.

The woman behind the counter drew her attention back to the present with her next comment. “If you don’t get moving all of you are going to be late for your yoga class.”

Maybelline blinked and followed the line of the woman’s long finger to the clock on the wall.

“Your class starts in less than ten minutes,” the demanding woman stated with authority.

“Right, I’ll see if I can round them up and get them moving.” Maybelline flashed a departing smile and turned on her heels. The rubber soles of her tennis shoes against the polished concrete caused a high pitch squeak.

She picked up her pace, ignored the noise of the treadmills and other equipment, whining from the second story workout area. Bolting into the women’s dressing room, she caught the pungent scent of chlorine from the indoor pool. She hurried toward the lockers and heard her friend, Doris Samuelson’s musical voice.

“I’m telling you I don’t understand why in the world Rose Brownell has to climb up on her roof to enjoy the sunrise.” Doris picked up her towel and blotted her brow as if she’d already done a full workout. Her long auburn hair sat on top of her head in a loose knot with moist tentacles curling around her round face. Her red cheeks and breathy tone indicated she still hadn’t recovered from the exertion.

Obviously, she’d followed through with her plan to walk on the treadmill before their regular class.

Maybelline had no misconceptions about her friend losing weight. Not only did Doris love to eat, but also at five foot nothing every calorie consumed had a way of sticking to her. The sad fact was she’d never be thin. Maybelline didn’t care, but sadly it mattered to Doris. She felt it made her less desirable especially considering she was on the plus side of sixty.

Reluctant to address that particular debate again, Maybelline glanced at her other friends who were sitting on the bench facing Doris.

Fannie Sue Price, a woman over seventy, looked as spry as ever. A short, energetic ball of fire, she never seemed to sit quietly for more than a second. Even now, she bent forward to touch her toes and to stretch out short, black legs. Her chicly, trimmed, gray hair added with her mocha complexion highlighted her face. She glowed with vitality. “Rose has always been an odd duck, but you can’t ask for a nicer neighbor. She and Parker have the best Christmas party. The music and great food are to die for.”

“Oh, yes, do you remember last year?” Charlene Watermaker stood and swayed her hips. The stretchy, pink fabric of her matching spandex outfit accentuated the long, lean lines of her body and showed off her sleek curves. “They tried to teach everyone how to do the rumba. I don’t believe Dirk and I have had that much fun in years.”

Maybelline chuckled, “Yes. And I discovered I still have two left feet.” She continued across the room and joined her friends. “Luckily, our yoga class doesn’t require I have any rhythm.”

They laughed and shifted out of her way so she could dump her bag in the locker next to Charlene’s.

Doris shook her head and continued, “Come on, Maybelline. Are you saying it doesn’t bother you for Rose to sit up on her roof and stare down at you?”

“Not as long as she stays up there. I don’t want her crashing down onto her front sidewalk like a broken egg. Parker wouldn’t know what to do without her.” She retold her friends how Parker had sat on the sidewalk in front of his house, talking to anyone who would listen when Rose, his wife had left for a week to visit her mother. That had been some years back, and the two hadn’t spent more than a few hours apart since.

Charlene giggled, “Man, can you imagine what a commotion that would cause in the neighborhood if Rose fell off her roof?”

Fannie Sue grabbed her towel and water bottle. “Don’t even say such a thing. We haven’t had anyone died in the Silver Leaf community in months. We are probably due.” She turned for the door. “Let’s get moving. We need to select a mat and pick out a spot before Teresa arrives. You know how she hates it when she can’t start right away.”

Maybelline stuffed her things inside her locker and secured it. With a quick spin of the dial, she followed her friends out of the dressing room. “Let’s get to class and get it over with, so we can get to the brunch I have planned for us.”

Charlene flipped her golden blonde hair over her shoulder with a saucy grin. “What’s on the menu?”

Concerned about Doris’ diet, Maybelline had decided to cook a sweet dish and a savory one. “I made a pan of my Crème Brûlée French toast and that egg bake casserole I always fix. You know the one that has ham, cheese, and hash browns in it.”

A smile brightened Doris’ face. “I love that recipe. I never make it for myself, or I’d sit and eat the whole thing.” Squaring back her shoulders, she appeared to be preparing herself for the challenging hour ahead. “It’s the perfect reward for the extra time I put in this morning on the treadmill.”

“I also have an assortment of fruit to snack on until everything is ready. I found a very nice honeydew melon at the Super Walmart yesterday.” Maybelline walked into the exercise room, disappointed no one else had arrived but the sunrise girls. The lack of participation made her wonder if the gym might cancel the class. They’d done it before if not enough people showed up.

Catching a reflection of herself in the mirrored walls, she brushed a few curls away from her round face. At age fifty-seven, she wasn’t model thin. Nonetheless, she had a pretty face and a nice rounded figure that appeared athletic, not fat. With her tank top having ridden up around her waist, she tugged it back over her black yoga pants and stepped to the stack of mats. Dragging one across the room, she placed it in her usual spot and stared at herself in the mirrors in front of her. Doris, Fannie Sue, and Charlene stood in a row next to her, each getting ready with a few stretching moves to warm up. Each different from the other, ranging from short to tall, hefty to thin, and light skin tone to dark.

Laughter, from across the room, made Maybelline turn.

“I guess I should have known the Sunrise girls would be here.” Stacy Weatherly, the woman who’d stolen her parking spot this morning, strolled into the exercised room. She hid her advancing age by wearing Lululemon black spandex and a colorful oversized t-shirt that fell off one shoulder, revealing the white strap of her sports bra. Her gray hair bleached blonde also had a spiral perm. The unruly mess sat on top of her head in a bright red clip but the device couldn’t contain it all so several long ringlets danced around her neck.

As a real estate agent, Stacy had sold most of the people in the community their houses, making her agency one of the richest in town. She attended their parties and acted as if she was one of them but she wasn’t. Nevertheless, she acted as if she didn’t have an enemy in the world.

Maybelline wanted to inform her nothing could be further from the truth but reframed from voicing her opinion. She sank onto her mat.

Visions of her husband flashed in her head and her heart sank at how hard it’d been to lose him. His death two years ago had devastated her. She’d loved him more than anything in this world. He alone understood her troubled past and had adored her in spite of it. Their marriage had almost ended because of that woman standing across the room.

Theresa, their yoga instructor, followed Stacy into the room and retrieved a mat from the pile. “So glad you could make it. The attendance of this class has been dropping off since Easter.”

Stacy nodded, “I can understand why with the nice weather we’ve been having. I would’ve preferred to go on a long run. But I read an article that mentioned you need to mix things up to get the most out of your workouts.”

Their conversation rang through the open room.

Disgusted with the dribble, Maybelline gripped the toe of her shoe and leaned forward. The stretch created a burn in her calf muscle. She grimaced, having reached the limit of her flexibility much sooner than normal. Irritated, she blamed her pain on Stacy Weatherly.

I hate her fake smile. Just looking at her makes me sick.

Taking a deep breath, Maybelline reminded herself if she planned to get through this exercise class, she needed to concentrate on her abilities to relax and not on her desire for revenge.

****

Having showered and changed, Maybelline retrieved her keys from her gym bag. “See you girls at my house in a few minutes.”

She rushed from the dressing room and hurried from the building to her car. The sun beating down on her head drew her gaze to the bright blue sky. She marveled at how the morning was already heating up. Summers in Alabama could be hot and muggy or beautiful with a refreshing breeze to enjoy. She hoped for the latter, but one could never be sure what would develop over the course of a day. The cotton ball clouds floating high above gave her hope for a refreshing breeze.

Lucky for her, the Silver Leaf Community Center stood at the entrance to their exclusive fifty-five plus neighborhood.

So in mere moments, she’d cleared the security gate and marveled at the unique design of the single story custom houses, which lined the streets. The postage-size front yards had not more than six to ten feet of grass before flowerbeds or bushes hugged the front of the houses.

Seeing her turn up ahead, she hit her blinker and turned for home. The empty sidewalks spoke of her neighbors’ unwillingness to leave their houses before eight in the morning.

Ordinarily, she walked the short distance. However, with her friends coming over, she’d opted to drive so she could get home faster and do a few things before they arrived.

Glancing at the clock on her dashboard, seven-eighteen, she figured Rose would be inside her house by now. The urge to glance at her neighbor’s roof had Maybelline staring up ahead. A motionless mass lying on the shingles caused her heart to jump to her throat. She narrowed her focus to the fluffy pink housecoat and caught sight of white, spinally legs. “God, Rose, don’t tell me you’ve gone and done something stupid.”

She spun her car into her driveway, slammed on the brake, threw it into park, and cut the engine. Quickly jumping out, she ran to the end of her driveway and yelled, “Rose, are you okay?”

The woman didn’t move.

Maybelline’s heart dropped, and tears clouded her vision. A bolt of adrenaline demanded action.

“Aw, shit, don’t make me do this. I hate having to call the police.” Rushing back to her car, she dove inside to grab her cell phone. Hidden in her gym bag, she unzipped the center portion and frantically searched for the elusive device that had lodged itself in a corner.

Recalling her last call to the 911 operator, she grumbled to herself, “They already think I’m a nosy neighbor because I called about Mr. Roger a few days ago. Hell, the man wouldn’t open his door. He could have been dead inside his house, and no one would’ve ever known.”

She glanced up again at Rose. Nothing had changed. Her body still lay sideways on the slope of her roof with no sign of life. Concern bloomed in Maybelline’s chest, and her anxiety of being the brunt of more jokes died a quick death.

Hastily, she punched in the number and waited for the line to be answered.

“You have reached the 911 operator for Sitwell. What’s your emergency?” The calm voice appeared pleasant enough, but Maybelline wasn’t sure how long it would stay that way.

“I believe my neighbor is in trouble. She likes to hang out on top of her roof and meditate.” An unmovable lump formed in her throat. Swallowing her emotions, she started again. “But, she’s, uh, not moving and lying slightly off kilter as if something is wrong.”

“Could she have fallen asleep?” The operator suggested.

“No, I tried...” She stopped mid-sentence as she realized the woman might have a point. After all, Rose could be a little deaf. To test the theory, Maybelline searched for a way to make noise. “Wait, a second.”

She leaned into the car, set her hand in the middle of the steering wheel, and laid on her horn. The blast echoed around her, and she turned to glance up at her neighbor.

Rose didn’t move.

The certainty of an adverse outcome resonated through Maybelline’s body. The heaviness of grief robbed her of strength. She sagged against the car’s doorframe for support and lifted her cellphone back to her ear.

“Madam, madam, you don’t need to blow the horn. That might frighten her, and she could fall off the roof.” The operator sounded irritated by the interruption.

“But how else could I tell if she was asleep?” Maybelline didn’t understand the woman’s problem.

“Why don’t I just send someone out to check on your friend?”

“That would be helpful, thanks.” Maybelline lowered the phone knowing the 911 operator would want to keep her on the line, but she had no intentions of doing any such thing. She had gone through the whole rigmarole the last time and had no plans to do it again.

“Miss, I need...”

Maybelline hit the disconnect button and stuffed her cell in the pocket of her jeans. The moisture left from the shower at the gym seemed to sprout again on her skin. Heat washed through her. To cool off, she plucked at her cotton t-shirt and glanced at Rose. Misery warred with anger inside her chest. Attempting to work out some of her frustration, she swept her hand against her car door, slamming it shut. “What the hell am I supposed to do now?”

Luckily, someone higher up must have known she was ready to scream because a blue mini-van turned into her driveway. Recognizing her friend, Charlene behind the wheel, Maybelline waited by the rear of the car for her friend.

“I thought you’d be inside putting your breakfast casseroles in the oven.” Charlene exited her vehicle and walked between the two parked cars. “What’s up?”

Unwilling to repeat the same conversation she’d had with the 911 operator, Maybelline pointed at Rose.

“Holy shit!” Charlene slapped a hand over her mouth.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with her, but she’s not responding no matter how much noise I make.”

“Doris and her precognitive abilities. Damn it. We should have known when she started in this morning about Rose.” Charlene wrapped a comforting arm around Maybelline’s waist. “Do you think she’s dead?”

Maybelline dropped her head on her friend’s shoulder and sighed, “Why else would she be lying on her side like that if she isn’t?”

The light toot of a horn had her turning toward another vehicle pulling up in front of her house. Fannie Sue stepped from her small compact car.

“What’s gotten into you two? Did you forget something at the gym?” Fannie Sue glanced at the house across the street and must have caught sight of Rose. “Damn it. I told Doris not to tempt fate. How long has she been up there like that?”

“I don’t know,” Maybelline offered and walked toward the street. “I didn’t even look at her house when I left. But knowing how she likes to go up at around sunrise, it could be a few hours.”

“Do you think Parker knows?” Fannie Sue shifted toward the street as if she planned to hightail it over there.

A wave of panic washed through Maybelline, and she grabbed her friend’s arm. “No way, we’re not telling him. I called 911. They’ll be here any minute. They can wake him up and tell him.”

“Nonsense, the man has a right to know if his wife is in danger.” Fannie Sue tugged her arm free of Maybelline’s grip and glanced along the empty road for any traffic. “We have to let him know what’s going on.”

Charlene followed their friend across the street while Maybelline froze, debating the decision in her head. Did she really want to wake up Parker and inform him his wife was dead?

“Guys, please, the police will be here any minute now.” Maybelline tried to get her feet to move, but they appeared to be stuck to the concrete. “He’s probably not even awake yet.”

Her friends hesitated on their way up Rose’s sidewalk and stared back at her.

Fannie Sue pointed her finger at Maybelline as if scolding her. “We’re his friends. He deserves to hear from us what’s going on before the police get here.” Without waiting for a reply, she turned and walked to Rose’s door.

Charlene waved her forward. “Come on. It’ll be easier if we do this together.”

Fighting the urge to run in the opposite direction, Maybelline trudged across the street and grabbed onto Charlene’s arm. “Are you crazy? We’ll probably have to restrain the man to keep him from going up there after her. And how do you plan on doing that? Parker outweighs each of us by at least fifty pounds and can be as cantankerous as all get out when he’s riled.”

With a small smile of encouragement, Charlene slid an arm around Maybelline’s waist and directed her toward her neighbor’s door. “Don’t worry. The police should arrive long before we have to deal with that.”

Maybelline shook her head. A foreboding intuition told her there would be hell to pay. Nothing happened in this small town without the rumor mill running wild. Everyone would have a theory. Considering she had made the 911 call, she’d be the center of the chatter no matter how much she tried to stifle the noise.

If she were lucky, this would be a simple case of Rose having a heart attack in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unfortunately, her perceptive instincts and the queasy unease feeling in her stomach predicted chaos.

Chapter Two

After pounding on Rose’s door several times, Fannie Sue pressed her finger to the doorbell. The noise rang through the house, but Parker still hadn’t appeared.

Staring down the street waiting for the first responders, Maybelline struggled with what they could say that wouldn’t set him off. Even though, they were all friends. He’d naturally be upset if something had happened to his wife.

A low squeak sounded.

Maybelline spun around unsure if they were doing the right thing and faced Rose Brownell’s front door, as it swung open.

Parker stood in the doorway in his boxers and nothing else. “The house had better be on fire, or you ladies are going to be in deep shit.”

Fannie Sue didn’t hesitate. “Parker, you best get dress. Something is wrong with Rose, and we’ve called 911.”

Parker blinked. “Is she still on the roof?”

“Yes, and she’s not moving. You better get dressed.” Fannie Sue’s voice carried an unusual demanding tone.

“Hell, no, if Rose is in trouble I need to help her.” Parker shoved Fannie Sue aside and barreled out to the front yard. Charlene tried to stop him, so did Maybelline.

Both failed.

He didn’t stop until he made it out to the front lawn. “Rose, wake up. You’ve got everyone worried about you. Now get up.”

Not wanting the man to expose himself to the neighborhood, Maybelline muttered to Charlene to get him some clothes.

Charlene scurried into the house and exited a few seconds later with a worn bathrobe crushed in her grip. “He threw it over a chair by the door.”

With a head start on them, Fannie Sue caught up with Parker and grabbed his arm. “You need to go inside and get dressed.”

“No!” He shrieked. The shock of viewing his wife’s motionless body drained his face of color.

Charlene stepped up behind him and tossed his robe over his shoulders.

He shrugged his arms into the sleeves. His heart-wrenching pain etched deep lines into his anxious expression. Even the proud tilt of his head didn’t hide the endless agony in his eyes.

Maybelline’s heart broke, and she pulled his robe together, covering his white boxer shorts and bare chest. She tied the belt of his robe loosely and whispered, “Please, Parker, we’re just trying to help.”

Flashing lights drew her attention. Her old fear of the police swept through her like a speeding freight train. Her heart raced, the fast beat pounding in her ears. Palms suddenly clammy, she worried her hands together.

A firetruck pulled to a stop in front of Rose’s house with a police car and ambulance pulling in behind them.

Unable to breathe, Maybelline heard her psychiatrist’s voice in her head. “Nothing will hurt you if you don’t let it.”

Such bullshit.

Memories of her grandfather’s response to such nonsense allowed air to enter her lungs.

Charlene captured Parker’s hand and held it against her chest. “The fire department is already here. They can go up and get her down.”

“Shit, that’s exactly what I need to do.” He stepped back, dragging both Fannie Sue and Charlene with him.

“No!” They yelled in unison.

Fannie Sue continued, “Let the firemen do it then you can go inside and get dressed.”

Maybelline glanced around at the chaos developing around her and prayed to be somewhere other than here. She had no desire to see Rose brought down from the roof or to face the police questions.

Several firemen jumped down and gathered their equipment while two grim-faced police officers walked toward them. Their navy blue uniforms and bright shiny badges instantly plunged her back to her troubled youth. Nervous, she pulled her lip balm from her pocket and stroked the grease over her parched lips.

How many times had the police arrived at her father’s house?

Flashes of abuse, beatings, and suffering through the dysfunctional relationship between her father and stepmother raced through her head. Between the unruly fights and screaming matches, she had felt more than once that her life hung in the balance.

“We need someone to go up and check on Rose.” Charlene held onto Parker and greeted the approaching young officers.

“I can take care of my own wife.” Parker broke free of Charlene’s grip. He turned and glared at the dark-haired policeman. “Excuse me, I need to go rescue my wife.”

One of the officers stepped forward and reached out his hand in greeting. “Hello, Mr. Brownell. I believe I met you and your lovely wife at the community center the other night. You won the dance contest.”

Parker paused. A frown formed on his brow before his expression cleared. “That’s right. You’re Detective Cooter’s boy.”

“Yes, and we need your help, Mr. Brownell.” The police officer drew Parker to his side and spoke in a low tone. “I see your roof doesn’t have a steep incline to it. How did your wife get up there?”

Parker waved his hand at the side of the house. “She uses a ladder located on the back porch to climb onto the patio cover and then steps up onto the roof from there.”

Why did this man look so familiar? She couldn’t remember where they might have met before. A vague memory of an older man who looked a lot like Officer Cooter flashed through Maybelline’s head. Had she met someone related to the policeman during the short time she’d spent at the dance last Friday night?

Officer Cooter pointed to the EMTs and firemen coming up the sidewalk. “As you can see these men have their own ladder. If you don’t mind, they’ll go up from here?”

Parker brushed his fingers through his thin, gray hair and stepped aside. “Sure thing.” He walked back to the sidewalk leading to his front door, his short robe brushing the tops of his thighs. He managed three steps before Fannie Sue followed him.

Officer Cooter turned and waved the men forward. “Okay, guys, we’re all clear.”

The firemen propped the ladder against the roof and hurried up it.

“Chris, why don’t you make sure everyone stays back?” Officer Cooter pointed to the people gathering on their quiet street.

Charlene stepped to Maybelline’s side and tugged on her arm. “I’m going to head around back and retrieve a patio chair for Parker.”

Officer Cooter tapped Charlene on the shoulder. “Did one of you ladies called 911?”

Charlene released her grip. They turned to face the handsome, young man. “Not me, Maybelline is the one that first noticed her.”

“Maybelline Beasley?” The policeman looked perplexed.

Unexcited that he knew her name, she snapped the cap back on her lip balm, shoved the yellow cylinder into her pocket, and crossed her arms in front of her chest to hold off the panic attack building inside her. A soothing memory of her grandfather eased her fear of police. He’d rescued her from the circus her life had become while living with her father.

She glanced toward her house hoping for a means to escape. People were streaming out of their homes. Between the flashing lights and the emergency vehicles, they all knew something was amiss.

“Yes,” Charlene answered. “She called a week ago about Mr. Rogers.”

Maybelline bristled at the amused look that spread across Officer Cooter’s face. Suddenly, it dawned on her that he was the same officer she had spoken to at the time. She had no desire to talk to him again, or for that matter deal with the growing crowd.

Tucking one hand into her pocket, she turned and forced her feet across the grass, stopping on the sidewalk that led away from Rose’s front door. She’d seen enough and couldn’t handle watching the firemen cart her dear friend down from the roof.

Grief bubbled up inside her. She knotted her hands into fists to hold herself in check and wanted only to find her way back to her house. With a level stare, she addressed Officer Cooter. “In all honesty, I don’t know any more than anyone else. I just got home from the gym and saw her lying up there, so I called it in.”

With a casual hand gesture, she indicated her house across the street. “I’m hosting a brunch for my friends so if you’ll excuse me. I’ll leave all this in your capable hands.”

He glanced at the roof. “We’ll still need to talk to you.”

“Not a problem, just come over when you’re ready. I’ll be home.” She smiled and turned to tell Charlene she’d see her later. However, her friend had already taken off, probably to retrieve chairs for Parker and Fannie Sue.

Maybelline glanced over to where Fannie Sue stood talking to Parker. The two had known each other for years and had served on numerous community committees together. Not wanting to join them, she spun back around and bumped into Officer Cooter. His close proximity unnerved her. She met his gaze.

His eyes narrowed. Suspicion bloomed on his face. She couldn’t tell if it was because of her inability to say a word or her desire to get away from the chaotic scene.

“Make sure that you are,” he commented dryly and stepped to one side.

“I always cooperate with the law.” The innate comment rang through her head. He probably thinks I’m a little senile.

“Good,” he said, sternly.

Shaken by the encounter, she continued down the sidewalk and across the street. Returning to her car, she drove it into the garage and then gathered her gym gear from the front seat. Before she reached for the latch, her car door was yanked open.

“God, Maybelline! If I’d had any idea Rose was lying dead on top of her roof I would never have complained about her doing her meditation up there.” Doris pulled Maybelline out of the car and into a hug. “I got hung up at the gym, or I would have been here sooner. I just can’t believe this is happening.”

Knowing her softhearted friend would never intentional wish harm to anyone, Maybelline held her tight and fought the desire to cry. The stress of everything that had happened played over her nerves, reminding her how it felt to be in the spotlight. “Let’s just go inside and get away from the circus out here.”

Doris pulled away, her face wet with tears. “Shouldn’t we wait until they at least get her down?”

“No. I did my part by calling the police. I know this might sound cold, but I can’t deal with this. I’m heading inside to put my casseroles in the oven.” She slammed the car door shut and wiped at her face. “I need to distract myself by preparing for our brunch.”

Maybelline hesitated, her mind racing with what the proper thing to do was in this type of situation. “Or maybe, we should cancel it. But everyone is already here—well, they're across the street right now.”

Her shoulders slumped with her debating thoughts. “I guess then it’s too late to cancel. But who will feel like eating after seeing...Rose lying up there on her roof.” Tears welled up in her throat. She struggled to continue. “I don’t want to be alone, and right now more than ever, I really need to spend time with my friends.”

Doris pulled a tissue from her pocket and wiped away her own tears. “Yes, but...some of us are stress eaters.”

After blowing her nose, she continued, “Will there be enough?”

“More than enough for those who can find their appetite after all this.”

“Well, I'm starving. Let’s go heat everything up.” Doris glanced out the garage door and then shook her head. “Charlene and Fannie Sue won’t show up until the police leave.”

“Then we’ll get things ready for when they arrive.” Maybelline walked to the back door leading into her kitchen and hit the button to close the garage door. “Right now, I could use a drink.”

“Me too.” Doris nodded with enthusiasm.

“Great, I planned to have a couple of mimosas with breakfast.”

Doris’s heels rang against the floor, and the door slid shut behind her. “That sounds perfect.”

Maybelline opened the overhead cabinet. “I’ll get the glasses while you mix the drinks.”

“You got it.” Doris opened the refrigerator and removed the pitcher of orange juice.

“I need something to fortify my courage for what lays ahead.”

“Me too.” Doris popped the cork on the champagne.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

With over thirty romantic books written under two different pseudonyms, Tina Gayle has explored several different genres; romantic contemporary, fantasy, suspense, and murder mysteries. She enjoys the challenge of drawing a reader into a story and having them travel with her to the final page. Her books included strong women fiction elements and a happy-ever-after ending. Married thirty years, she enjoys spending time with her husband on the golf course and with her family.

Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
Romantic suspense is one of my favorite books to read. Not only do I get to guess who’s responsible for the crime but the characters are put in a stressful situation that shows their true character. Still, love blooms, and after the guilty party is caught, I can enjoy a happy-ever-after ending.
Q. This book is part of a series, tell us about your series.
A.
Set in a small, southern town with a thriving senior community, Tainted Rose is about the sunrise girls, who aren’t willing to sit back and age graceful. They workout regularly and are involved in whatever is happening around town. When murder strikes one of their own, they take action.
Q. Why do you write?
A.
I have been telling stories in my head since I was a small child. It is what put me to sleep at night. My mother drew me into the world of reading by introducing me to the romance and romantic suspense genre. I fell hard and have been in love with the affairs of the heart ever since.

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Will she bounce back from heartbreak?
When the Stars Align
She beckoned him from the past...
Magic in the Air
Magic police in the modern world