Alexis: Hi Angi. Welcome to Happily Ever After Thoughts. Thank you so much for joining us and giving away a signed copy of .38 CALIBER COVER-UP to one lucky commenter. Can you start by telling us why you decided to write romance novels and why romantic suspense?
Alexis: Very true. So, what is 38 CALIBER COVER-UP all about?
Angi: The simple version? Bad Boy meets Good Girl. Trusting each other is out of the question, but they have to work together in order to obtain what they want. Of course they’re instantly attracted. And, yeah, there’s a hot air balloon.
Alexis: Hmm, a hot air balloon can make for close quarters and some great romance between two people. What are your favorite character traits of Erren and Darby and wherever did you find those names?
Angi: Erren? Wow...he came to me via a critique partner in 2003. He was a lot younger and rescued Steve & Jane from HILL COUNTRY HOLDUP. During the 2009 rewrite of their story (which sold to Intrigue) Erren grew up. I loved that he had a pirate dagger as an earring. I had to change that to a necklace for Intrigue. And I loved that I never knew WHY until the story was almost finished. Strange how things like that happen. AND DARBY? One of my daughter’s friends at the time had a brother named Darby. She was much more difficult to understand (heroines always are for me). Then Michael Hauge sat me down and suggested a few unique traits. I knew her mother had died and she’d been raised by her brothers. But Michael suggested that her dad let the four kids fend for themselves...after that she was clear as crystal. While writing the story, I discovered that her brothers were the THREE MUSKETEERS and in order to play with them, she dubbed herself Darb’tagnon.
Alexis: I love when that happens, when at first you have no idea how everything will work and then it all comes together. What sparked the idea for writing this story?
Angi: While writing HILL COUNTRY HOLDUP, Erren’s character took over the scene. I tried to write his story several times between 2004 and 2008...writing myself into corners, never finding exactly the right story for him or Darby. Then during the rewrite, he’d grown into a lonesome man who envied the relationship he saw with Steve & Jane. Everything fell into place after that.
Angi: HILL COUNTRY HOLDUP was released in September 2010, just nine short months after it sold. In fact, it went on sale the night it won the RWA Golden Heart award and is nominated for Best First Series book of 2010 by Romantic Times. I joke with other writers that it’s a reunited lovers, secret baby, Texas rancher-FBI agent meets secretive genius, kidnapping, maniacal villain story. And if one of those hooks don’t tell you anything...it’s a never-stops action romance packed with several twists.
Alexis: Wow! That sounds like it’s got something for everyone! No wonder it has been nominated for a Romantic Times award. Congratulations! Do you have any other romance novels in the works?
Angi: I am currently working on the proposal for my next Intrigues--a series about three business partners who accidently discover the new Kevlar and of course, those who don’t want them to. The tentative titles (keeping fingers crossed that I’ll get to keep them) San Antonio Showdown, Ambush at the Alamo, & River Walk Rescue.
Angi: I don’t remember the name, but I know it was a Harlequin Presents. My grandmother read a book a day and would keep them for me. She and my aunts would initial them as they finished, and she’d write “okay for Angi” inside the cover. That meant it was okay for me to read, and okay for me to take home. I still have many of those books on my keeper shelf. One of the first books I obtained for myself was Rosemary Rogers’ SWEET SAVAGE LOVE. I still have that book (with the cover falling off).
Alexis: Ah yes, that first book we bought with the cover falling off. I too have mine, yellowed pages and all. Thank you so much, Angi, for visiting Happily Ever After Thoughts. We like talking about romance novels here and especially with the wonderful people who write them :-)
Angi: Thanks so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure. I certainly hope everyone enjoys Erren & Darby as much as I enjoyed writing their story.
Alexis: For more about Angi and her books go to http://www.angimorgan.com/ Here’s a preview of .38 CALIBER COVER-UP.
Rhodes was certain no one had seen him at the funeral of his mentor, the man who had kicked his teenage years into shape. He’d stayed out of sight. He’d hung around the edges of the cemetery just like the edges of his fictional existence.
It was a dark and stormy night...blah, blah, blah. He’d laugh if it weren’t playing out in front of him like a colorized black and white film. It was time to get out of deep cover work, but not before he found Pike’s murderer. He wouldn’t let the bastard go without justice.
Unfolding his legs, he climbed from the POS rental he’d taken for the op. His first mistake. He should have insisted on something flashy like the sweet SUV at the end of the alley. Second mistake? This dark real estate. Drug deals went down at steak restaurants. Always in public places. So why was this meet for information set like a bad flick?
Backlit by the car’s headlights, two men came at him, arms extended, guns aimed at his chest. This was not the plan.
“You dudes have been watchin’ too many movies.” Yeah, he was mouthing off like a street thug--something he shouldn’t do but couldn’t help. He knew the drill and placed his hands at the back of his neck when Beavis and Butthead stepped closer. “Holdin’ the barrel sideways like that, empty casings can hit--”
“Shut up, fool.” The gold-toothed, eyebrow-pierced Butthead took another confident step closer.
Six years ago adrenaline shoved him to recklessness. Now it didn’t register. All these guys acted the same. Digging in with pond scum required a dedication he no longer had. His Dallas handler waited around the corner. Like he needed backup for this two-bit op? He could do this in his sleep.
Butthead shoved the barrel of a Magnum .357 under Rhodes' chin while patting him down.
“You don’t talk ‘til we says you talk,” the bleach-blond Beavis barked, nervously shifting from one foot to the other in front of the rental.
Nodding, despite the barrel rammed into his Adam’s apple, Rhodes let them think they were in charge. Two bad-ass-wannabes who didn’t know him from Jack. Butthead lifted Rhodes’ .38 from its shoulder harness under his Ed Hardy jacket and dropped it into his pocket. His eyes never met Rhodes’ straight on.
Flashy guns and jewelry, designer-label clothes and a Lexus. Not the ordinary run-of-the-mill street crap he’d been led to believe he’d be dealing with. Rhodes’ nostrils flared at the cloying scent of heavy French cologne floating through the smell of old garbage. Did he have the right guys? They sure seemed to know him since two barrels pointed straight toward unprotected parts he’d like to keep.
Shake it off. Nothing was wrong. He’d done this before. First-meet jitters. That was it. Yeah, that crappy feeling in the pit of his stomach had nothing to do with Beavis or Butthead and everything to do with the drive-through burritos for dinner.
“Get in the car,” Butthead demanded.
Rhodes stiffened. “No one said anything about a ride. I have the money in my backseat.” He came to conduct a small exchange of money for information. These punks were somehow connected to Pike’s murder and he was close to finding a serious lead to seal the coffin on the creep they had in custody. But that slippery grin behind the gun wasn’t the normal evil he faced every day.
These guys looked nervous, high and pre-paid...
“Do what you’re told,” Beavis yelled in a crazy-high voice.
“What’s wrong man? I got the cash.” Rhodes searched his right, hunting Dumpster locations. Butthead shoved the pistol barrel in his back again, pushing him toward the Lexus. No way was he getting in that SUV.
“Get your ass in the car.” Butthead circled the barrel of the gun in the air. “Get in!”
This op might get his blood pumping after all.
Rhodes shook his head. “What’s up, man? I’m only pickin’ up a package.” Getting in that car would be the last thing he ever did.
“You got that wrong, dipwad. You’re deliverin’ tonight,” Butthead said, hissing a laugh between clenched teeth.
Cryptic messages were not a good sign. With one step, Butthead had cut him off from his car. That sealed it. He’d been set up. What would they want with him? Or was someone trying to push him out of the picture? These guys had answers and he had lots of questions. A different dread took over his body. His mind released its hold on his tensed muscles. Everything automated, ready for a fight.
Patrol lights flashed at the end of the alley. Butthead froze. Wrong move. Spinning, Rhodes lifted his leg and let his worn-out Air Jordan knock Butthead’s gun behind the strip mall’s Dumpster.
Butthead wasn’t going down without a fight. Rhodes didn’t want to go mano-a-mano, but he threw a punch to Butthead’s chin. The man dodged, dipped his shoulder and gave a blocking tackle to make any football coach proud. Right into Rhodes’ gut.
Air whooshed from his lungs as they crashed to the ground splashing water from a pothole. Bright bits of light flashed across his briefly closed eyes. Thrusting the big goon off, he kicked out, catching the perp’s face. His shoe should have knocked the living daylights out of the goon.
Butthead sat up, spit out his gold cap and grinned.
Rhodes caught sight of Beavis’s weapon waving around, attempting to follow their rushed movements. A bullet pinged off the rental car behind him. Then Beavis dove behind the Lexus’ car door and fired a couple of rounds toward the lights.
Rhodes squinted into the blinding floodlights expecting his backup. Who was shooting? Why weren’t the cops demanding they drop their weapons?
Ricochets sent him scrambling for cover as a sudden surge of bullets peppered the broken asphalt. Beavis crawled into the Lexus, kept his head down and backed up leaving rubber in the potholes. One of the patrol cars quickly pursued him around the corner.
Rhodes couldn’t make it to his car and turned toward his alternate exit, but Butthead jumped him from behind. Even with the unknown gunmen firing shot after shot, this stupid dog wouldn’t let go of his bone--which just happened to be Rhodes’ neck.
He recoiled from Butthead’s blood-speckled face and fetid breath, but the solid pressure against his throat was making things fuzzy. With no other choice, he pushed his fingers into Butthead’s eyes. There was a growl in his ear and a rush of air into his lungs. The rapid fire around their heads had him wincing. He wanted this guy alive and talking. He wanted to stop the cops from shooting, but had little chance to catch his breath as he stumbled backwards.
“Give it up, man. It ain’t worth losing our lives,” Rhodes shouted. It really wasn’t. And right now those cops didn’t know he was one of the good guys.
Butthead pulled a switchblade, popped it open and charged. Rhodes grabbed the giant’s wrists, keeping the blade inches away. They went down a second time. Rolling over. Then back. Every rock jabbed into Rhodes’ bruised, sore body. The knife was between them. Then somehow pointing under Rhodes’ chin.
Desperate, he pushed Butthead’s hands further south. Butthead outweighed him by fifty pounds and the searing pain along his side proved that the bigger man had gained the upper hand.
“Aarrgg!” God, he was on fire. The expectation of the blade tearing his flesh again was worse than knowing he’d been double-crossed. His hands shook while he kept Butthead from twisting the handle and slicing his insides to shreds.
The blade slowly and painfully slid away.
A car window exploded above him. Butthead’s body blocked most but not all of the glass. He cringed, giving Rhodes the split-second he needed. He threw Butthead off and rolled to a crouch.
Butthead leapt to his feet. A bullet whizzed by Rhodes and hit his adversary straight where his heart should have been. A flower of blood blossomed over Butthead’s shirt and he fell to his back.
“Don’t shoot!” Rhodes threw up his hands and faced the flashing lights. He quickly brought his left arm back down to his injured side.
Another round whistled past. Son of a...who was shooting from above and behind him? The cops returned fire, leaving him caught in the dead zone. Any rookie could tell a man was down and his hands were empty. What more did they need?
He’d sort through the expanations later. Rhodes ran to Butthead and searched for his gun. He found an envelope. Maybe this was the evidence he needed.
The rented Honda hatchback was perforated with holes and lacked a passenger window, but he didn’t need to drive it far. He punched the gas, heading through the alley onto the deserted street.
Completely deserted. No Drug Enforcement Agency back-up in sight. Maybe he was the lone shooter? Just what he needed, confirmation he was on his own. But his priority was to stay alive.
He pressed the pedal to the floor, turning several corners to evade anyone following. The only thing he’d done right was stash his Suzuki four blocks away. He ditched the rental in a parking garage and avoided cameras on his way out of the building.
Up to his neck in alligators. Totally on his own. His gut told him not to follow protocol, ditch everything familiar. Someone wanted him to lay off Pike’s case. His stomach rolled and his side throbbed. He reached down and a warm stickiness oozed through a jagged hole.
“Man, he ruined my favorite Ozzy shirt.”
Pulling the lock from the wheel of his cycle, he straddled the bike and tore open the envelope. Inside was a photo of Pike with an unknown man. On the reverse was a hand-drawn map, some scribbles and instructions from his mentor for a meeting that should have happened three days ago.