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the Dreamland Series
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Here's part of Chapter 1 to get your started!
Five miles from the exit she’d taken off the interstate, Trixie Collier Blake slowed her Jeep Cherokee for a closer view of the salmon pink stucco structure set some five or six yards from the narrow road. Flashing blue lights illuminated a sign with faded letters spelling out Moonlight Tattoo Parlor, prop. Rudy James.
She mulled the name. The Rudy James she’d known in high school would own a tattoo parlor. The class clown, he mostly inhabited the principal’s office where Trixie’s mother Lucy worked as the school secretary. She could picture him—long, lanky, a thatch of spiked carrot-colored hair, pale and freckled, a perpetual smile crinkling the corners of his light blue eyes. Oh, yeah, she could see Rudy James running a place like she’d just passed, although she might have wished something better for a popular classmate.
Forcing her attention back to the road, she considered that according to the sign just before the exit, twelve miles remained between her and the place where she’d been born and lived until just past her fourth birthday. Though no particular bad memory lurked around her hometown, she’d felt weighed down almost since leaving North Carolina two days earlier.
“It’s just an empty building,” Lucy complained. “Daddy’s lawyer can handle the sale without you going all that way. I don’t know why he left it to you anyway. He didn’t even leave your brother a half-interest in it, which seems wrong to me. So just sell it. It’s money in your pocket, and you can use it now that you’re starting over.”
The remark rankled Trixie, but it was useless to argue with Lucy. She couldn’t remember ever getting her own point across to her mother, at least not without paying a high price. Lucy could sull like an old possum forever. Even though her parents’ divorce when she was four had affected Trixie only minimally, she knew as she grew older that her father was better off alone—or at least not married to Lucy. Clark had been a good father to Trixie and her older brother Bill, even with the almost prohibitive distance between Little Rock and New York City.
So why am I on my way to Dreamland when I’m going to end up selling the Quimby Building anyway? I barely remember the town, and I sure don’t know anyone there. I didn’t even know Grandfather since Mother never took us back to see him, and he never came to see us. Of course, Bill said it was because he and Mother had that huge fight just before we left. I never knew what that was about. I never asked, so I guess I didn’t want to know.
She hadn’t known what it was about, but she’d heard the fight. Part of it anyway, and one word had stuck in her mind. Later she’d seen it scrawled on a bathroom stall in a store in Little Rock when they’d gone there to shop. Daddy had told her, when she spelled it out for him, that nice little girls didn’t say words such words, and she should forget it. She’d heard another word she’d looked up in a dictionary at school the next day. It had something to do with somebody born without a father, but she and Bill had one, so she didn’t really understand why Grandfather Quimby was yelling at her mother. Something told her not to ask Daddy about it either.
That almost forgotten long-ago day played out in her mind as she entered the city limits before she realized the highway had run out smack in the middle of town. The courthouse loomed a dull gray in the dusk, and the dark bulk of two dozen other buildings stood like silent sentinels around the square. Only the lighted signs of the Lloyd House Hotel and the Twilight Bar and Grill suggested some possibility of life.
Trixie parked at the curb and entered the hotel through a glass and brass revolving door. Above her, crystal drops from half a dozen chandeliers shimmered as if awaiting some momentous event. Behind the semi-circular wooden desk, a man stood with his back to her, only turning around when she said, “Excuse me.”
“May I help you?”
“I’d like a room, please.”
“Certainly. How long will you be staying?”
“I’m not sure.”
The clerk glanced at her, then back at the register he’d just moved across the desk. “I’ll need to see some identification.”
She laid her driver’s license and credit card on the desk and signed the register Beatrice Collier Blake. The clerk glanced at her signature, ran her credit card, but then seemed to hesitate before he took a key from one of the boxes on the back wall.
Trixie smoothed her curly-cropped ginger-red hair. “Is there any place I can get something to eat?”
“Our coffee shop is closed for the day, but you can go across the street to the Twilight.”
“It’s not exactly a bar, and it’s very popular with the locals.”
“There’s nothing else?”
“Not unless you want to drive out toward the bypass.”
“Oh, well, I guess I don’t.”
“We don’t have a bellboy in the evenings, but there’s a luggage trolley by the elevator.”
Trixie nodded. “No problem.”
Somewhere far away a telephone rang, and the man disappeared through a door in the back wall.
Find the complete chapter on my website.
I'm visiting Luana Erlich today to talk about why I write romantic suspense. Luana is the best-selling author of the
Titus Ray 'thriller' series.