Title: Southern Harm
Author: Travis Casey
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Oscar Novak-Chambers, Kentucky’s most eligible bachelor, is up to his neck in trouble with ruthless loan shark Louie Gomez after a racing bet goes wrong. To clear the debt, Oscar must use his family's good standing with the governor's office to obtain a monumental favor.
When he inadvertently misleads the governor, he gains yet another powerful enemy. Time for plan B.
Oscar targets the governor's daughter, Stacey Davenport, for the leverage she can offer with her father. However, as a consultant to the DA's office, Stacey is out to bring down Kentucky's criminal hierarchy—and Louie Gomez is on her list—the man Oscar needs to appease.
But Stacey has her own secrets. Can she keep her skeletons in the closet?
As the web of lies unravels, hidden secrets turn deceit into a motive for murder.
Oscar extended the flowers toward Stacey. "These are for you."
Her face hardened. "I would have preferred a phone call—yesterday."
"Yeah, about that. Can we talk? In private?"
She sighed. "Five minutes." She turned and walked toward her office, Oscar followed.
Stacey ambled around the side of her desk and sat in a high-back tan mesh chair. She leaned her head against the richly padded headrest, looking down her dainty nose at Oscar as he took a seat opposite her, still clutching the flowers.
She looked busy. Case files were stacked on both sides of the desk, but an alley was left open in the middle, so he had a clear view of her pretty face—although, it was somewhat steeled at present. She picked up a pen from in front of her, clicking the end of it. Her silent glare was his encouragement to talk.
Oscar looked around the room at the various diplomas and photographs. One with Jett Johnson squeezing Stacey by his side incited a course of jealousy. He averted his eyes quickly, pretending not to notice. "Nice place you got here."
"Cut the crap, Oscar. What do you want?"
He held out the flowers.
She pointed to a corner of the desk. "Put them down. I'll have Donna see to them later."
Oscar moved some files and managed to rest the flowers on the edge. Not even a thank you. This was going to be harder work than he thought. "About yesterday … sorry I didn't call you back. I had a lot going on."
"Well, you didn't have anything going on with Louie Gomez, because he was at my freaking house—unescorted. Which, by the way, leads to my next question. Where is he now?" The quickness of her pen-clicking evolved to rapid fire.
"It wasn't appropriate to bring him here."
She lunged forward, slamming the pen on the desk. "Not appropriate? You bring a gangster to the governor's mansion, introduce him to my father—the most important man in the state—then let that same gangster wine and dine him, getting him all tanked-up and making stupid promises and offering cabinet appointments, ignoring the fact that the district attorney you're supposed to be dating, or at least have some kind of affection for, is trying to lock up the goddamn gangster you keep bringing around to suck up to my dad for political favors—of which I've yet to find out any details. And when you're busy spending quality time and bonding with your Dad, you send the freaking lunatic gangster around to my house on his own." Her eyes narrowed. "Not to mention, you don't take my call, then hang up on me when I do get a hold of you."
She slammed an open palm on the desk. "Shut up! I haven't finished. I should put you in jail for breaking the terms of the bail conditions, and him too. Is that why it wasn't appropriate to bring him here? Because you're shitting yourself that I'm about to lock both of you up?"
"I'm not done yet!" She pointed to the flowers. "And then you come in here with some two-dollar gas-station apology flowers, thinking you and Louie Freaking Gomez can keep coming around, smaroozing my father and playing me for a fool."
"Smaroozing?" Oscar mouthed. He pointed to the flowers. "Those aren't two-dollar gas-station flowers—"
"I don't give a granny's goose how much they cost or where they came from. Here's what's going to happen." She pulled herself forward, resting her forearms on the desk.
"Louie Gomez is going down. If you don't want to burn with him, you're going to get me everything I need to lock him away for good. I want details of every crime he's ever committed, is committing, or intends to commit. Then you're going to testify at his trial." She leaned back, rocking in her chair. "Then you can go off and do your own thing and never have to worry about returning my calls again."
"Stacey, don't be like that. There were extenuating circumstances why I didn't come with Louie to the mansion, or why I didn't return your call. I was … indisposed."
"And now you're being disposed of by me."
"Look, in the first place, I can't cross Louie Gomez. He knows too many people in dark alleys, and someone would get killed—probably me. Secondly, I don't want you to end it with us."
She looked him dead in the eye. "I noticed who's first and who's second on that list. What does that tell you?"
"I can switch them around if you want, but I can't see you if I'm dead."
"No, you can't. And you can't see me if I'm not around, either." She examined her manicure. "After you help me put Louie Gomez away, I'm going back to LA. Jett Johnson just bought a new yacht. I think I'll go out there and be his first mate."
"Oh." That stung more than he would have thought.
What’s your favorite way to combat stress?
I'm a member of an online writing group. During times of my own stress I like to critique other's work. It takes my mind off my and I get an opportunity to help others in a profession I enjoy.
Why is your featured book a stress busting read?
My job is to entertain. In that vein, I write escapism. The trouble Oscar gets himself into will take the reader away from their problems and let them indulge in Oscar's. Fancy dating a woman to get to her father, but then liking her, while she's trying to lock up the fella you have to protect. This is a classic tale of the famous quote: "O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive." Walter Scott may have said it, but Oscar Novak-Chambers lives it.
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Runs May 1 – June 3.
Drawing will be held on June 4.
Born into a middle-class family in Midwest America, I had a normal upbringing for a preacher's kid moving from town to town every 3-5 years. That bred living in eight cities in five states by the time I was eighteen. So traveling and moving got into my blood. I left Indiana and joined the Navy and began on world travels. After sowing my oats on a Western Pacific Navy deployment, I married an Australian-raised Brit who has ping-ponged across oceans with me for the past 34 years. We've lived in Hawaii, Scotland, Seattle, England, Minnesota, back to England, and back to Minnesota where I reside today—but for how long who knows.
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