It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
LESLEY ANN MCDANIEL is a lifelong lover of words, and theatre. While earning a degree in acting, she fell in love with theatrical costuming, and pursued that as a career while nurturing her passion for writing on the side. Through God’s guidance, she has shifted her focus to honing her skills as a writer of women’s fiction. She is a member of the Northwest Christian Writers Association and of a wonderful critique group. A native Montanan and a Big Sky girl at heart, Lesley now resides in the Seattle area.
Visit the author’s website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
What happens when a New York City opera singer flees to a small town in Montana to escape a stalker? Tracy Fontaine is about to find out.
When an obsessive fan forces Tracy to change her name to Grace Addison and go into hiding, the last thing she wants is to get to know the locals. Now, not one but two men have worked their way into her daily routine, much to the chagrin of jealous local girl Sophia, who insists on prying into Grace’s past and stirring up deadly trouble.
Will Grace find love in Madison Falls…or will her stalker find her?
Madison Falls. Home of faith, love, peach pie…and a dollop of danger.
List Price: $14.99
Series: Madison Falls
Paperback: 278 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 27, 2013)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
The real estate agent’s lilting voice hummed in Grace’s ear. She turned, marveling not only at the whiteness of the agent’s slacks, but at the boldness of that fashion choice for a woman whose figure resembled that of a snowman.
“…cab ride even longer than your flight.”
Something pinged against the wooden planks. Grace jolted, dizzied by days of wakefulness. The agent dipped down gracefully as her plump fingers extended.
Just a dropped key.
“I know you’ll fall in love with this adorable house. The pictures on our website don’t do it justice.”
Her chipper tone set Grace’s tired nerves on edge. Why couldn’t the woman move a little faster? Casting a wary eye down the shadowy street, Grace eased the strap of her computer bag off the tense spot on her shoulder. Her over-worked adrenal glands pulsed as the agent—what was her name…Cookie? No. Spritz. Spritz Cole, that was it. As Spritz righted herself and lifted the rescued key toward the mahogany Craftsman door.
“Of course,” Spritz lobbed her an encouraging smile. “Most people want to actually see a house first before signing the papers. You must be anxious to start out fresh.”
“Yes.” Grace coerced a steady tone. “This place just felt right.”
An air of confidence spread over Spritz’s carefully made-up face. “You won’t be disappointed.” She clicked the key, and the deadbolt gave an obliging swoosh. Pushing the door open, she took a theatrical step back. “Welcome home.”
Grace’s heart made a thump that could have come from the score to a Hitchcock movie. She peered in. Her lungs filled with paint-infused air as she took a careful step across the doorsill and into the foyer.
She blinked away welling emotion, plunking her suitcase down on the polished wood floor of the vacant bungalow. Her chest ached as she perused the living room, which looked bigger than her entire studio apartment back home. Its white walls stared at her like a vast canvas.
“Well?” Spritz’s voice glistened with just enough gusto to instill consumer confidence without falling into phoniness.
Grace forced a step further into the house which now bore her name on the title—or rather her chosen name. She found it impossible to whip up much enthusiasm when all she really wanted was her life back. “It’s…adorable. Just like you said.”
The door ka-thunked shut, sending Grace’s heart into her throat.
Spritz let out a pleased breath. “You were smart to snap it up. Houses like this don’t come on the market very often. Why, folks in Madison Falls tend to stay put till they die.”
Grace shot her a fretful glance. Was she being funny or merely factual?
Apparently oblivious to Grace’s unease, Spritz breezed into the living room. “Let me just give you a quick tour.”
Exhaustion jabbed at Grace like a maestro’s baton. “No, you don’t have to—”
“You’ve come all this way,” Spritz cajoled. “I can’t just abandon you at the door. I don’t mind at all.”
Too weary to argue, Grace ran a jittery hand through her hair. Startled once again by the shortness of her cut, she flinched. “Alright then.”
As Spritz took center stage with a clearing of her throat, Grace backed up just enough to secure the deadbolt. She forced attentiveness, though frankly her only architectural concern was the structure’s ability to keep danger at bay.
Spritz stepped seamlessly into tour guide mode. “The key feature of this cozy room is of course the striking Craftsman brick fireplace.” She recited the painstakingly penned text of her own website.
Feeling like a reluctant audience to a friend’s baby-picture-slideshow, Grace swallowed her protest and stepped into the living room.
“…loads of light from this generous picture window.” Spritz pulled a cord, sending the front blinds clattering upward.
Grace shrank back, feeling the same vulnerability as she did whenever someone burst into her dressing room unannounced. The darkness outside chilled her. Why hadn’t she planned for a day-lit arrival?
“…cut glass…original to the house.” Spritz dropped the cord. Her arm extended toward the smaller windows above the built-in bookcases which flanked the fireplace.
Keeping a polite focus on her guide, Grace slid toward the picture window. She felt for the cold metal of the latch, breathing easier at its firmness. She gave the cord to the blinds a quick yank then twisted the wand to smooth the slats.
“…1920’s charm.” Spritz clasped her hands in front of her, clearly moved by her own narrative of the home’s features. A well-rehearsed pause, then a twirl toward the dining room.
Forcing her tired eyes to stay focused, Grace pulled shut the blinds on the smaller windows. 1920’s charm, indeed. Feigning cheerful interest, she crossed under the wide arch which separated this room from the next.
Spritz drew her arm with a flourish in the direction of a built-in china hutch. “This room is perfect for entertaining.”
Grace huffed at the suggestion that she would actually invite people over. Spritz’s eyes narrowed.
“I…I…” Grace stuttered, dismayed that fatigue had wiped out her ability to self-censor. “I just never had my own dining room before. I didn’t know I needed one.”
Spritz’s face lit like a make-up mirror. “Our neighborhood progressive dinner is coming up. I’ll be sure to add you to the circuit.”
Grace shivered, giving in to a long blink. Just what she needed. An invitation to the biggest event of the Mayberry social season.
Spritz swung open a double-hinged door, taking a calculated step through it as she spoke. “I just love the charm of this vintage style kitchen.”
Grace cast a polite look through the doorway. Vintage style? Was that real estate lingo for badly-in-need-of-an-update?
“Cute.” Too bad she couldn’t cook. All those years of dorm food and take-out had made that skill superfluous. At least she knew how to make coffee.
Thoughts of a comforting beverage warmed her momentarily, then vanished as her inaugural step into the kitchen almost sent her plummeting.
Spritz let out a yelp, catching her by the elbow. “Sweetie! Are you okay?”
Her heart racing, Grace clutched Spritz’s arm as her feet surfed for solid flooring. “I… I’m fine. Thanks.” She let go, testing the tiles using the care of a person treading through a minefield. One tile near the door had a definite trampoline-like quality. Funny that hadn’t made the web site’s list of fancy features.
Spritz gave the floor a healthy stomp with the heel of her Easy Spirit pump. “I really had no idea there was a problem here.” She patted Grace’s bicep. “Not to worry. We’ve got a wonderful handyman in town who’ll fix it for a song.”
Grace’s stomach fluttered. The last thing she needed was some strange man in her house expecting her to sing. “I’m sure I can take care of it myself.”
“Oh, a DIY girl, huh?” She looked impressed. “Why not let Sam handle this, and put your energy into the fun projects?”
With a decisive nod, Spritz stepped over the aberrant flooring to the rectangle of a hallway. Grace followed, anxious to finish the tour and get on with her plan. All she needed was to be left alone, to let down her guard at last, and fall into a deep sleep.
“Storage closet. Linen closet. Basement.” Spritz flung open each door in turn. “The floor is original to the house, but it’s been refinished. Let me show you the back bedroom.” She disappeared, rattling off facts as if her audience still needed convincing.
Grace’s body followed her eyes to the cracked-open bathroom door. A golden trail of light across the floor taunted her. Flashes of that last moment before her life had changed for good. She looked intently at the light—an eerie implication that someone else had recently been in the house. Be strong. What other choice did she have?
She reached out. A light touch to the crystal doorknob. Good grief, it’s only a bathroom. Wouldn’t be practical to avoid it indefinitely.
Shoving the heavy door with one hand while instinctively clenching the other, her own breath threatened to choke her.
The bathtub held a dead body.
No! Reflexively, her hands shielded her eyes. Then through parted fingers, she forced a second look. It was just a bathtub. Clean, white…and empty.
It had been more than two years now, but the image of the blood splattered porcelain still haunted her.
“Don’t you just love the claw foot tub?”
Grace sucked in a sharp breath, jolted by the perky voice from behind. She shook off the memory. Why couldn’t the place just have a shower, like her apartment?
“Let’s take a look at the front bedroom,” Spritz chirped with an air of unruffled confidence. She stepped into the room to her left, flicking a switch to illuminate it.
Grace followed, heavy with fatigue. She hovered in the doorway of the big white box that would be her bedroom, piqued by Spritz’s unnecessary perkiness.
Spritz beamed with professional pride. “The bedrooms are the same square footage, so it really depends on which view you prefer.”
Grace heaved an anxious sigh. She had already decided she’d sleep in this room. Best to keep track of the world out front—as if anything would happen in a town this size. Yawning, she lifted her wrist slightly, shocked at the hour—nearly eleven. One o’clock in the morning back home. Her eyelids felt like they had stage weights in them.
“Where’s my head?” Spritz crossed toward her, hands outstretched. “You flew all the way from Seattle, then had that long cab ride from Missoula. You must be dead on your feet.”
Grace’s stomach pitched at the ill-chosen words, but she coerced a smile. Spritz had shown such kindness without even knowing how much Grace had needed it. She allowed the realtor to enclose both her hands in a solid, warm grasp.
“I’ll see myself out.” Spritz gave Grace’s hands an extra squeeze. “You just call if you need anything.” She turned for the door, speaking over her shoulder as she walked. “Or stop by my office. It’s on Main, right across from the park. You can’t miss it.”
Grace chuckled to herself. As if finding anything in this town would require the use of MapQuest.
Grateful for her long-awaited solitude, she bolted the door after Spritz’s exit and lowered the blinds over its small cut glass pane. Talk about impractical. Why would anyone want a window in their front door?
Looking around the quiet house, she surrendered to a welcome yawn. She hadn’t been this tired in a very long time. All she needed was a refreshing night’s sleep to plan her next step for surviving this ordeal.
She dragged her feet back to the bedroom and stopped. Looking down at the hard wood of the floor, she let out a throaty moan. Where had her head been? She had always prided herself on her ability to think things through down to the minutest detail. How could she have neglected to arrange for a bed?
She sat down with a thud and buried her face in her hands, not knowing if she would burst out in laughter or sobs.
“Good grief, Grace Addison.” A quiet laugh escorted her words. “Or whatever your name is. Get your act together, would you?”