Dead (Nicki Sosebee #2) is one of the fastest books I’ve ever written. When I decided to write the series, I was still pretty new to Amazon and epublishing, but I knew instinctively that if I wanted a faithful audience, I had to write—and, in spite of my lack of marketing knowledge, I figured the best way for an audience to find me was, again, to write.
I’d never written a series or even a sequel before, so one thing I immediately found refreshing was the fact that, in the second book, I already knew the characters and the setting. That allowed me to spend more time conducting research (which I needed to for that book) and writing. So, from beginning of process to end, I wrote Dead in about three weeks, give or take. Yes, it’s a shorter book, but that doesn’t change the fact that I wrote it super fast. The best part? Something happened in this book that I, as the writer and plotter, hadn’t expected—but that’s okay. It worked and I ran with it.
Nicki’s love life might suck, but her sex life is great. The only way both could be spectacular would be if her best friend Sean would look at her as more than just a friend. Nicki knows she’s stuck in the friend zone, so she focuses her energies on her job. She’s becoming a better reporter every day, so when her editor asks her to interview a local politician, Nicki is thrilled. But when the politician’s secretary ends up dead, it’s anybody’s guess as to who did it. Nicki has a few ideas, though, and finds herself in deep trouble as she pokes her nose where she thinks it belongs.
Chapter Three from Dead (Nicki Sosebee #2)
IT WAS CLOSE to noon when Nicki walked out of the Winchester County building. The heat that blasted her as she walked outside felt almost physical. She strolled over to her red Volkswagen Jetta and unlocked the door on the driver’s side. As soon as she opened the door, she peeled off the red jacket. Whew. She then put it, the “Vote” button, and her pad and pen on the passenger seat. She got in, started the car, and turned on the AC. The back windows were open an inch to let the hot air out. The problem, though, was that the air conditioner had seen better days. It probably wouldn’t be really cool until she’d reached her destination.
She grabbed her phone out of the jacket pocket and, as she was dialing Sean, she noticed Commissioner Cannon and Sara walking through the parking lot. She heard Sean’s phone ring but kept her eyes on the two. The pair walked the length of the parking lot and stopped at the end where the cars were parked perpendicular to the three main rows in the lot. “Hey.” Sean’s voice came through Nicki’s phone. Jesus…like melted butter, that man’s voice. A low tenor, smooth as velvet. When Nicki fantasized about Sean, his voice was one of the first things in her mind.
“Hey.” Nicki cleared her throat…and her head. “So…lunch. Where do you wanna go?”
“How about the café?”
Nicki knew he meant the Winchester Café on Main Street. It was a throwback from long ago, had been in Winchester for who knew how long. Nicki only knew it was already old when she was a kid. The older generation of Winchester kept the café in business, mainly for coffee and eggs during weekday mornings. But she and Sean had started frequenting the café several years ago when they felt like having old-fashioned greasy food. Nicki wasn’t in the mood for the food today, but she was in the mood for Sean, so if he wanted the café, so be it. “Sounds good. Do you want to meet there?”
“Yeah. You ready?”
“Yep. See you in a few minutes.” She pressed End on her cell phone and watched the Commissioner and Sara drive away in his black Cadillac Sedan. But then it registered with her what she’d witnessed while she’d been on the phone with Sean. As Cannon had opened the door for Sara, his left hand had been resting on the small of her back, just above her rear end, guiding her in the car. But it wasn’t boss-like, and it wasn’t a friendly gesture.
Shit. Cannon was sleeping with Sara.
No, Nicki had no proof. It was just a feeling in her gut. He’d touched Sara intimately. And Nicki knew Cannon was married. What a creep. Sara didn’t have much further she could fall in Nicki’s eyes, and now Cannon was just about there as well. God, why had Neal given her this assignment?
She put her car in gear and drove out of the parking lot. The radio station started playing Korn’s “Blind,” so she turned it up. Korn was Nicki’s favorite band ever, and she would have been perfectly happy if the station played nothing but Korn songs. Because the County building was close to downtown and the café was downtown, the song was only halfway through when she eased her car into an empty space a few doors down from the café. Before turning off her car, she looked around for Sean’s truck. Maybe she had a minute or two to finish out the song.
But as Jonathan Davis’s voice started rising in intensity, building to the crescendo near the end of the song, Nicki realized that Sean had probably walked. His shop was just a couple of blocks away, on a street that ran parallel to Main. So she shut off the car and grabbed her purse. Just as she closed the door, sure enough, she saw Sean rounding the corner onto Main and walking toward the café entrance. He saw Nicki and smiled. She waved and stepped up onto the sidewalk and waited for Sean to catch up.
He was the yummiest man she’d ever known.
He was wearing a plain white t-shirt that didn’t quite show off his chiseled chest and six-pack, but it sure hinted at it. His hair was purposely tousled in a messy, sexy look, something he’d been doing with his hair for the last couple of weeks, and since he’d broken up with his last girlfriend, he’d had light blonde streaks put in his dark blonde hair. He’d also trimmed his mutton chops back into flared sideburns, but he’d left the soul patch. Sean made sure it didn’t seem like he spent a lot of time on his looks, but Nicki knew better. He was fucking hot, and he had girls chasing him like a limited-edition designer purse.
“You look like a full-fledged business woman,” he said as he closed the gap.
Nicki sneered. “Thanks.”
They began walking toward the door of the café. “I meant that as a compliment.”
Nicki shrugged and pulled her long brown hair out of the clip that had been holding it up. Sean had reminded her that she looked uptight and professional, not exactly the image Nicki wanted to maintain with most of Winchester. With the politicians, fine, but Nicki didn’t want to come across to the rest of the town as prim or proper or stuffy or…old. And she definitely did want Sean to think of her that way. Well, at least with the jacket off, she had a little skin showing. She pulled the café door open and felt Sean grab it as she finished walking through. Nicki took a deep breath. “Then thanks sincerely.” So that she didn’t sound snarky, she smiled to let Sean know she meant it.
The café was laid back, and Sean and Nicki knew they didn’t have to wait to be seated. They spied an open booth near the back and headed toward it. Sure enough, the place was busy with the silver-haired set. It was cool inside, and Nicki knew that’s why many of them lingered.
Nicki slid into one of the booth seats covered in red vinyl. She clasped her hands together on top of the white gold-flecked Formica tables that came straight from the age of innocence and took a deep breath, eager to tell Sean about her day. He was grinning at her. “What?”
“You will never guess who I saw today.”
Sean’s smile faded and his eyebrows bore down. “Who?”
The waitress approached the table. “Hi, guys.” She handed them a couple of menus. They weren’t quite as old as the tables, but they had seen better days. “Can I get you something to drink?”
Nicki thought about it for a moment. “How about an iced tea?”
The waitress nodded. “Make that two,” Sean said.
Once the waitress had left, Nicki lowered her voice. “You don’t remember Sara Carmichael?”
“Why should I?”
Nicki sighed. “She was head cheerleader our freshman year.”
Sean’s eyes lit up with recognition. “Oh, you mean the blonde?” He cupped both his hands in front of his pecs to indicate Sara’s then-famous boobs.
Nicki’s mouth screwed up in disgust. “I take it you remember her.”
Sean chuckled. “Yeah, it’s coming back to me now.”
“God, you’re such a pig.” She didn’t actually think Sean was that kind of guy, but she hated how he sometimes felt so comfortable around Nicki that he did stuff like that around her, things he’d usually just do around guys. Reminding him that she was a woman never hurt. Sean just rolled his eyes, because he knew it didn’t really bother her.
The waitress set their glasses in front of them and asked if they were ready to order. They hadn’t even glanced at the menus but they knew what the café offered and they’d already known what they wanted to eat before entering the restaurant. Sean ordered a bacon cheeseburger and Nicki ordered a fish sandwich. Both were having the homemade fries, probably their favorite food at the café. As they handed their menus to the waitress, Nicki stole a glance at Sean’s tattooed arms. She loved every inch of them. They were mostly black with a little color here and there, but she loved them. He’d never explained the meanings of all of them to her (someday, maybe), but she understood the tattoo on his right hand perfectly—each finger had a letter in the acronym BAMF, and that’s why Sean called it his punching hand. It had been years since Sean had been in an actual fight, but he’d earned his reputation around Winchester as a badass motherfucker, and the BAMF tattoo was a reminder for anyone who tried to forget.
Nicki took a sip of her tea. It was nice and cool. “Well, she’s still a stuck-up snot like she used to be.”
“I don’t even remember her. Sounds like she got under your skin.”
“Only because she acted like she was better than everyone else.” Nicki took another sip of her iced tea and her voice dropped a notch. “Honestly, I didn’t think running into someone from the past like her would have pissed me off as much as it did. I think it’s ‘cause she was being rude to most of the people who called, and I had to hear it all while I sat there. I can’t believe the commissioners have someone like that running their office.”
Sean snorted. “Maybe that’s the kind of response they want callers to receive. Did you ever think of that?”
Nicki pondered. “I guess. But don’t you think that would be political suicide?”
A grin spread over Sean’s face. “Not if you can blame it on someone else.”
Nicki knew Sean was distrustful of authority, and rightfully so, even though she’d never heard the whole story. She knew he hated law enforcement figures of any kind—police, sheriff deputies, the State Patrol. But she could tell just from what he was saying that his lack of trust extended to politicians. And maybe that skepticism was deserved by those figures as well. “So you think Sara is their scapegoat?”
“Not necessarily. Just saying it’s a possibility.”
Nicki pondered it, then shook her head. “Anyway, the interview…”
Sean smiled again, his blue eyes sparkling. “I bet that was some heady stuff.”
Nicki snickered. “How’d you know?” She took another sip of her drink. “You know, I’d feel pretty weird talking about myself like he did for that length of time.”
“They’re salesmen, Nicki. That’s what they do. If they can’t sell themselves to you, they’ll never get elected, right?”
She thought about it. “Now that you mention it, he was kind of like a used car salesman.”
“Since I moved the shop to Maple Avenue, political canvassers come by all the time, asking for donations.” For his shop’s formative years, Sean had started out in his mother’s garage, then moved to a shop on a side street in Winchester. For the last several years, though, Sean had moved downtown as his business continued to grow, and apparently that made his business well-known not just with the biker crowd, but everyone…including politicians. “They all sound the same. I don’t care what party they belong to. And all they do is talk about themselves. Not once have I had a political wannabe or their representative say to me, ‘This is what I will do for Winchester.’ Instead, they yap on and on about their education, their beliefs, their voting record. I wouldn’t give a dime for the lot of them.”
Nicki smiled. “Tell me how you really feel.”
Sean sneered. He’d gotten worked up. “They’re all a bunch of rich guys who don’t know how to really work for a living, and I just can’t respect that.”
The waitress brought their plates and set down a bottle of ketchup. “I’ll get you some refills on the drinks. Anything else?”
Sean asked, “Mustard?”
She nodded and smiled. “Should have known. Be right back.”
Nicki grabbed the ketchup and squirted a hill of it next to her fries. “So who do you respect, Mr. Ramsey?”
“Real people, Ms. Sosebee.”
The waitress brought a bottle of mustard that she handed to Sean, and then she filled up their glasses from a pitcher of tea she held. “Anything else you need?”
Sean shook his head. “Nope.”
Nicki smiled, already chewing on a bite of fish sandwich. A glob of tartar sauce squirted out the back of the bun onto the plate. It was messy but good. The waitress left and Nicki wiped her mouth with her napkin as Sean squirted mustard on the top bun of his burger. “I haven’t even told you the best part…the part that will never be in the paper.” Sean raised his eyebrows. “I’m pretty sure Sara’s sleeping with Commissioner Cannon.”
“Just the way he touched her. It was in the parking lot, before I left. I saw them getting into his car. And he just…I don’t know. He didn’t touch her the way a boss would touch a female employee. Hell, even a father figure wouldn’t touch her like that.”
“At least he’s a true politician. Isn’t it a requirement nowadays that they have at least one affair before running for a major office?” Sean winked as he picked up a French fry. “Now you know he’s legit.”