Title: PUBLISH OR PERISH
Author: Kerry Blaisdell
Genre: Romantic Mystery/Suspense
IN THE CUTTHROAT WORLD OF BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH…
When computer whiz Emma O’Manny’s scientist husband dumps her on Valentine’s Day, vandalizing his office seems like a justifiable—if petty—response. But then Dan’s small plane crashes under mysterious circumstances, and Emma’s suddenly the prime suspect in a double homicide. Worse, Dan may have faked important vaccine safety research, to further his career—and the digital trail leads to Emma. Can she determine which data is correct, to prove her innocence? Or will Dan keep controlling her life, even from the grave?
…THE FIRST TO PUBLISH WINS…
Detective Vin Bronislovas came to Portland to rebuild his reputation, after nearly blowing a years-long investigation by believing the lies of a mobster’s daughter. A single misstep—like falling for another suspect—would destroy his career and ruin his life. But when the killer strikes again, and Emma and her children are threatened, Vin must choose between the Job and love. Can he trust his gut? Or will repeating his past mistakes allow a murderer to go free, and potentially put millions of children at risk from an unsafe vaccine?
…AND ANYONE CAN MAKE A KILLING. ANYONE.
Juney burst in then, waving various paper items in her seven-year-old fists. “Mommy! The mail’s here!” She tossed it on the table, her brown eyes sparkling, curls quirking around her head like wavy golden butterflies, her cutoffs and t-shirt stained with dirt and grass.
After her came Emma’s mother, who commented dryly, “Do you remember when bills and junk mail were so exciting? Because I sure as hell don’t.”
Bethanne von Heinrich was as cool and self-possessed as ever, like there wasn’t a breeze that would dare mess with her perfect platinum bob or her crisp pink silk pantsuit. She regarded Juney’s grunge with mild distaste before planting a dry kiss on Emma’s cheek.
“Hello.” Her tone was a notch above sultry, though there wasn’t an eligible male in sight. If there was one thing she believed in, it was never stepping out of character.
Emma said, “I didn’t hear you pull up.”
“I had to park two houses down, since you won’t make room for my car in the drive.”
“We’ve been over this. The driveway’s only big enough for the minivan—you knew that when you moved in.”
“And the sacrifice is well worth it.” Bethanne beamed at Juney and Justin. “Living with my two best grandchildren is worth any price, even making these tired old legs work so hard.”
“We’re your only grandchildren,” Juney said, while Emma thought, Tired old legs, my ass.
Bethanne didn’t look a day over fifty, and probably never would. Whether it was good genes or all the advice her makeup artists had offered when she was an actress, Emma didn’t know. She wasn’t even certain of her mother’s real age—Bethanne wouldn’t say, and Emma’s father had died before she thought to ask him.
Bethanne poured herself an iced tea from the fridge, and Justin dribbled the basketball once.
“Don’t do that. You’ll break something.”
Justin looked about to say something very almost-twelve, so Emma broke in, “Don’t you want to go play with Zorro?”
Juney squealed. “Zorro’s here? Can we, Mommy? Can we? Please?”
Bethanne said, “Why you let your children play with him is a mystery. He’s so much older. They can’t have anything in common.”
“We like him!” Juney said. “He tells us jokes.”
“And he brings us free hot dogs,” Justin added, sticking to the essentials.
Emma’s breath caught again. Six months ago, they’d had a father. Now all they had was her, Bethanne, Karen and Nick. No cousins, aunts or uncles—neither she nor Dan had siblings, and Dan’s parents had died years ago. Was it any wonder they pieced together a crazy-quilt family of their own? And Zorro was sweet.
Emma said to Bethanne, “It’s not because of the Down syndrome, is it?”
Bethanne gave her a rare scowl. “Don’t be absurd.”
“Good. Because I would be really disappointed if that’s what you objected to.”
Bethanne’s expression smoothed. “But he is over forty.”
“So? He works every morning at the hot dog stand, and I get the feeling the nephew doesn’t have much time to play.” She bit her lip. The kids looked so hopeful. The thought popped into her head that Dan would have let them go, and suddenly the tears were back, lurking below the surface. She swallowed. “I really wouldn’t mind, but I’d like to meet the nephew first.”
Bethanne saw the unshed tears and softened. “They’ll be fine. I let you go to the park by yourself when you were younger than they are now.”
“And it was farther away. You had to walk four blocks, but they just have to step outside the yard.” When Emma still hesitated, Bethanne added, “If Zorro can go by himself…”
“All right. But I’m coming, too, after I figure out what’s wrong with this laptop.”
Justin whooped. “Thanks, Mom!”
He banged out the screen, followed by a squealing Juney, and Emma called, “Keep an eye on your sister! And don’t forget your rackets!”
Bethanne watched them go, then joined Emma at the table to sort the mail. Emma leaned across the wood surface to kiss her mother’s papery cheek. “Thanks.”
Bethanne raised startled violet eyes. “For what?”
Emma gestured at the door. “For that. For them. For helping us out these last months.”
“Oh, please. I’m not doing it for you. It’s all about me, remember? You’re going to care for me in my old age. Besides, who’d pass up a chance to live with the two most beautiful grandchildren in the world?”
Emma smiled and took her plate to the sink. “Fine, be that way. But I do appreciate it.”
“Hmm. You can repay me by fixing up your disgraceful yard.”
Emma sighed. “I know. I just don’t have time to deal with it.”
“Time? Or inclination?”
“Time,” she said firmly.
“Dan took great pride in the yard, and it’s shameful the way you’ve let it go.”
Emma turned her back on Bethanne’s pursed lips. “Yes. He spent all his spare time out there. I don’t have time to spare.”
“Then let Justin do it. It’ll be good for him, and he wants to.”
Emma turned back. “You talked with him about it?”
“Yes. Why not?”
“Because he’s my son, and it’s my yard.”
“And I live here, too, and it reflects poorly on me if you let the weeds take over.”
“I’ll get to it…”
“And Juney wants to help, too.”
“She’s too young. And I don’t want to talk about this now.” Emma turned to the sink again and Bethanne let it drop.
A little while later, Bethanne said, “Something for you from the financial aid office.”
Emma dried her hands and took the letter, opening it and scanning quickly. “Oh, no.”
“Don’t frown. You’ll get wrinkles. What is it?”
Emma sat down. “My application was denied. They say I have too much debt.”
Bethanne’s own forehead crinkled in puzzlement before she caught herself and smoothed her features. “It has to be a mistake. What about Dan’s life insurance?”
“I paid off our credit cards, and what he borrowed from the kids’ college funds when he started the lab. I’ve been living off the rest. The car’s paid, but there’s still the mortgage.”
“That shouldn’t be enough to deny your aid.”
Emma’s heart pounded and she set the letter down carefully. “I can’t go to school without it.”
“I know. You’ll think of something.”
“I wish I could call Dan’s accountant. Damn it—why couldn’t the letter have come on Friday?” She glanced up at the clock, down at the letter, and then at her laptop. “Well, maybe I can get one thing done.” She reached for her cell as the doorbell rang.
Bethanne rose, transforming miraculously from mildly concerned parent to movie-star glam. “I forgot—I invited Charley for dinner. You don’t mind, do you?”