Title: The Merry Widow
Author: Adriana Kraft
Genre: Erotic Romance, Romantic Suspense
The millennium arrived with such promise—will it deliver for recently widowed Merry Delaney?
So much for all the anticipation about the new millennium. Merry Delaney’s life is still in a rut and shows no signs of changing. Sex? A fading memory, gone long before her husband actually died. Excitement? Hardly the hallmark of an accountant’s life. At forty-two, what can she look forward to?
Until her best friend takes Merry’s predicament into her practiced hands. One passionate kiss unleashes possibilities Merry never dreamed of—and she wants to sample them all. Men? Women? Young? Old? Ménage? Toys? Yes, to all, to pleasure, to making up for lost time.
Enter Chicago Detective Jim Barnes, who solicits Merry’s help with a mob funds-skimming case. Can the scorching passion that soon smolders between Merry and Jim survive the escalating mob threats of exposure? Having discovered a zest for sex, will Merry ever again be satisfied with one man?
So where was her new partner? He seemed more like a nemesis at times. He certainly was unpredictable. He’d shown up on a Monday when he wasn’t due until Friday. Now, an entire week had elapsed without her seeing him. He probably was working many cases. And, given his athletic frame, he probably had women hanging all over him.
Why should that thought stir her? She didn’t favor athletic men.
Merry scrutinized the computer screen and scrolled back up. Aha. Could be it. This would require more digging, but she might at last have something for Detective Jim Barnes to chew on.
He walked into her house later that afternoon. “What do you have for me?”
“Probably not as much as you hope,” she said, unsure what they were actually talking about. He wasn’t suggesting—or was he? She peeked at him as she led him back to her office. He was inscrutable, as usual. The man probably didn’t have a clue about sexual innuendo.
“Pull up a chair,” Merry said, scrolling down her computer screen. “Just about there. Here it is.”
Jim peered over her shoulder at the screen.
She breathed in his aftershave and momentarily lost her focus.
“Looks like a bunch of numbers to me. You’re going to have to spell it out in plain English.”
“Sorry. Of course. I’ve gone back over my audit reports for Fire and Ice Optics for the last five years.”
“Not much has changed. But what has changed may be significant.” She pointed to the screen.
“I’m still in the dark, lady. Words. Use some words. Tell me what you have.”
Merry turned her head and stared at him. “Right.” She steadied her breathing and continued, “Fire and Ice is reporting a steady increase in total revenue of about twenty percent a year. Healthy, but not overly robust. Not enough to draw immediate attention. On the other hand, profits are not keeping pace—averaging a meager three percent.”
“So where’s the other seventeen percent going?”
“Good question. During the past five years, Fire and Ice has added a new vendor each year, only to have it drop out of their vendor list the following year. Look at the list I’ve created. Year one—ABC Hardware. Year two—Industrial Supply. Year three—Solid Plastics. Year four—Beta Metrics. And year five—Hardy’s Glass. And I’ll bet you most anything Hardy’s Glass won’t appear on next year’s books.”
“I might like to take your wager, but I expect that’s a sure bet. I’ll run a check on those companies. They could be dummies or legitimate businesses being used as fronts. In any case, Fire and Ice doesn’t want to establish a pattern.” He squeezed her shoulder. “But my bright CPA found the pattern anyway. Good work. This may be all we need. Whatever you do, don’t breathe a word about this to anyone at the company. Don’t ask questions.”
Without thinking, Merry flinched from the dark scowl on his face.
“So far you’re only lurking behind the scenes here. Danger increases if you start asking questions. That’s my job. Got it?”
“Of course. It’s not like I have daily contact with those people. And my main contact is the chief financial officer, Ben Grayson. I think I’ve only met the CEO, Doug Henry, once or twice.”
“It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where both of them aren’t up to their ears in this shit. Be careful. It’s uncanny how the bad guys have an instinct for trouble. Sometimes they’re almost as good at it as cops.”
Jim stood and walked over to her bookshelves. “You appear to be an eclectic reader, Merry. Accounting, history, dance, art, romance—do you enjoy romance, Merry Delaney?”
“Of course I do, or I wouldn’t have the books.” She rose and walked over to see what he was looking at.
“I didn’t mean books. Do you enjoy romance?”
His dark smoky eyes could have leapt from one of the pages of her most recent romance novel. She stood her ground. “I’m not sure that’s any of your business, Detective.”
His features hardened.
Merry relented. “Yes, I do. I imagine most women do. Not that I’ve known much in years.” She glanced back at her desk. “Forgive me. Now I am rattling on.”
“I like to hear you rattle on. You have a lilting voice, Merry. Rich. Playful. Almost sultry.”
Merry turned and retraced her steps to her desk. If she’d stayed in close proximity to him a minute longer, she would’ve stood on her tiptoes and kissed the fool. Would that have been so bad? Probably not. So who is the fool?
“I’ll leave you to your work. If you think of anything else or come across something of interest, give me a call or—”
“Or you’ll check back in a few days.”
He waved and gave her a crooked smile. She waved back. Hopefully it was a confident wave. So why was she already looking forward to his checking back? Had he been flirting with her? Had she been flirting with him?
Merry hugged herself and stared at her computer, seeing nothing. There was something nice about flirting.
Barnes and Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/1014270702?ean=2940163931583
What’s your favorite way to combat stress?
We have lots of them, and believe me, we’ve been accessing them steadily. Keeping up with our workouts at home, since we can’t get to the gym. Taking long walks, two or three times a day. My favorite way is watching sit-coms (instead of the news) for an hour before bedtime. Laughter is so good for so many things – relaxing, stress-busting (if we’re genuinely laughing, we can’t feel afraid in that moment), just being happier, and in addition, it boosts our immune systems. And reading. Lots of reading. Getting lost in other peoples’ adventures, forgetting our worries for a while. We hope that works for you, too!
Why is your featured book a stress busting read?
If there can be such a thing, The Merry Widow is a low-stress suspense. There’s no high drama, no cloak-and-dagger, no ninja acrobatics – just two mid-life characters trying to fall in love and thwart the Chicago Mob at the same time. Well, and having lots of sexy escapades – m/f, f/f, f/f/f, f/f/m…you get the idea. It’s also very much the journey of one woman’s transformation. We hope readers will cheer for Merry as much as we did while we were writing it.
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