THE PERFECT SUSPECT:  here's an excerpt:

​Early summer, the present:
Jen Wright stared, unbelieving, at the dilapidated log cabin in the small woodland clearing. Even the warm early summer sunshine couldn’t make it look inviting. She took a deep breath, stepped up on the tilting porch and muttered, “What the hell have I got myself into?”

The rusted screen door sagged. The windows on either side were dirt-fogged opaque squares surrounded by yellowing white paint flaking off even as she watched.

So much for buying this rustic charmer sight unseen. Jen remembered the chirpy realtor saying she doubted anyone here had ever heard of Jen Wright.

That would be a plus. She'd bet anybody she knew had never heard of this place, either. Boomer, Wisconsin. Truly north woods. The locals call it God’s Country. Jen wondered what, if anything, had ever boomed here.

She sighed. Had she been out of her mind to sell her Minneapolis condo and head for the woods? Maybe. She needed a quiet place to hunker down and work on a plot for her next novel; one her agent and editor were anxious to publish to keep her work in front of the public. If not a complete plot, they at least wanted an outline proving Jen was alive and working. And they wanted it sooner than soon.

Well, I'm here. Let's take a look.

The door bolt slid back with only a slight screech. The hinges weren’t as accommodating. Her shoulder-push got them moving with a rusty shriek, imitating the door of a deserted mansion on a TV creep show.

Thank God it’s ten on a sunny summer morning, or I’d turn and run right now.

Her smooth leather high-heeled boot pushed the heavily-painted door open the rest of the way.

She stepped into chaos. Bad-smelling chaos.

An overturned sofa vomited stuffing from slashes in the old frieze upholstery. Gray lumps of scattered dirt led to a dead potted ivy strung out on the wide plank floor. Fanned-open books lay on the faded braided rug near a tipped-over bookcase, its shelves askew.

Jen shut her eyes and counted to five, an old trick that always made things seem better when she looked again.

Not this time. Just vandalism? Kids partying gone amok? Where were the beer cans? The crumpled chip bags? Everything was clean, just trashed. Really trashed.

Jen held her breath and pushed back a strong feeling of dread as she stepped across the debris into a narrow hallway. Something, somewhere is surely rotten.

The door on the right opened to a rust-stained sink, stool, and her own face reflected in a wavy mirror, her humidity-frizzed hair a pale brown, flyaway nimbus. The showerhead plinked slow drips into a dingy bathtub.

The opposite door required a hefty push before it burst open. She nearly fell into the room, recoiled and shrieked louder than the door’s rusted hinges.

A strong stench clouded her senses, pulled bile up into her throat. Her eyes burned. Swarming insects buzzed around a man sprawled face down on the lumpy mattress of an old iron-framed bed. One arm dangled over the edge near an overturned bottle of brandy. Along with the putrid odor was the all-too-familiar reek of a damn good drunk.

Dead drunk. Jen had seen the man’s pose modeled many times by husband number two. Anger boiled up from the soles of her well-heeled boots and erupted in a vitriolic tirade. “Who the hell are you and why have you wrecked my cabin?”

No response.

She stepped closer, swatted away flies, leaned down to flip him over and fought back a strangled gasp.

The dark red stain on his shirt had pooled into the mattress.

Her mind reeled. Not dead drunk.

Just dead.

She bolted out of the room, through the short hall, leaped over the ivy and out the door. She was beside her Windstar without knowing how she got there, gasping and reaching for her cell phone, instinctively pressing 9-1-1. She sucked in great gulps of quiet pine-scented country air and tried not to throw up.

Type your paragraph here.


"Oh, don't you love this place, Oliver?" Catherine turned to look down at the living area as they climbed the open staircase. "So secluded here at the end of this road, and so lovely. I wonder why the owner wants to sell, don't you? It's--oh, I'm being silly--but it feels as though this house has just been waiting for us."

"Nothing is silly if you feel strongly about it." Oliver stopped at the top of the stairs, and whispered, "Maybe there are ghosts. I'll bet that's it. At night chains clank in the walls, and the furniture flies through the air."

"Be serious." She gave him a gentle push as they stepped into the bedroom. "Oh! Look at that beautiful little stained glass window between those two large clear ones! See that patch of colors it throws on the floor?" She turned around. "This is--why, this is the most beautiful bedroom I have ever seen in my life!" Her face glowed. "Pegged oak floors polished to a sheen, the colors all blue and green like the lake and the sky, and look, this upper porch with cushioned wickers. Oh, Oliver, what a place!" Catherine's wide blue eyes searched every inch. She opened French doors to the upper porch and stepped into the June breeze that lifted strands of hair from her thick coronet as she walked to the screen and leaned her palms on the sill. "I could dream myself right into being the mistress of this house."

Oliver laid his arm gently across her shoulders. The fresh, wet, green smell of seaweed mixed on the breeze with the mewing of gulls. "Do you want it, Cathy?"

"Want it!" She laughed up at him. "What would I do with it? Live here and starve, without a job?"

"I could keep you here. If you wanted. I could afford to."

"What!" Catherine nearly sputtered with laughter. "A princess in a Lake Michigan two-porched tower? No, thank you, kind sir, she said, but I think not." She curtseyed.

"I'm serious. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have this to come to, you and I?"

She smiled, shook her head and ignored his question. "Enough silliness. We'd better get out before we get arrested." She stepped away from Oliver, back into the cool blue and green bedroom.

Oliver caught her arm as she crossed toward the door. His eyes held hers. "Let's not hurry away, Cathy. There's a magic here, don't you feel it? As though this house has been waiting for us to claim it. Let me hold you, here, where we belong."

She hesitated, then leaned against him, loving the feel of
him, loving the moment. "Yes." Moments were all they had. She tipped her head back, her parted lips asking for his.

Gently, so gently, his arms enfolded her, his lips searched hers, found response, became more eager, more demanding.

She pressed against his tall, strong frame, her breasts hurting to be touched, her whole body answering the unspoken question in his. Finally, he turned his head enough to moan, "Cathy? It's time, Cathy. Now?"

And she answered, "Oh, yes, Oliver. Yes!"

His fingers fumbled with the back buttons of her dress. She arched out of it, her face dreamy with want, her lips finding his neck, his softly furred chest which she had bared. Together they sank to the honey oak floor, their passion mounting in waves that loosened all their unexpressed longings. All guilt forgotten, their bodies gave and took, took and gave, colored blue and green and gold by the afternoon sun.

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