Scoop Out the Litter Box

Riley has a lot on her plate in Three Heartbeats Away. She’s dealing with a Bridezilla ghost, a jealous girlfriend, an alcoholic dad, and a hot guy that doesn’t remember her. But at least she has her best friend.  Kelsey and Riley have each other’s backs.  They talk, share secrets, and offer each other advice.  Do you have a friend like this?  Someone who listens, commiserates with you?  Here’s an excerpt showing Kelsey and Riley’s friendship.  Riley has just confided in Kelsey that she feels something is off with Hayden and her.

 

 

 

 

Excerpt

Kelsey sits up, crosses her legs, and stares at me. “Maybe you’re not as attracted to the real Hayden as you were the spirit Hayden. The whole ghost thing could have been what turned you on to him! Like bad boy versus good boy. Dead versus alive.”

“Are you crazy?” I pop up. “No. I look at him and I melt. At night, when I’m alone, he’s all I can think about. And he’s ten times more attractive now than he was!”

She holds up a hand. “Chill. I was just putting the worst-case scenario out there first. I have a few other possibilities.”

I exhale and drop back on my headboard. “Okay. What are they?”

“Maybe you’re scared.” She bites down on her bottom lip. “Like I am.” Her words come out sincere. “I know you were hurt when Carl started dating only a few weeks after you left. Maybe that scared you more than you know and now you’re afraid to love someone. Afraid they’ll walk out on you or yank your heart out and feed it to a Rottweiler.”

I let that reasoning crawl around my head and heart a second. “That’s not it, either,” I say. “Yeah, Carl hurt me, but even then I knew it wasn’t true love. I was more upset about Shala, my ex-best friend, than I was with him.”

Kelsey holds up three fingers. “Okay, third and last possibility. You need to close a few doors before you open up another one.”

“Huh?” I ask.

“Metaphorically. You’ve got a lot of open issues. Your mom issues. Hunting down a murderer. Things with your dad. That’s a lot of crap in your litter box. Maybe you need to scoop some out.” She sighs. “Which is another metaphor. A bad one, I know. What I mean is you need to solve something before you begin something.”

While her analogy feels a little off, it’s like I just heard the hammer hit the nail. I know she’s right. And her number-two reason isn’t that wrong, either. Though it’s not about Carl or Shala. This is about being abandoned and done wrong by the people I should have been able to trust. It even kind of explains why I went bonkers with the whole Brandy issue. Hayden’s needing time made me feel as if he was about to abandon me. Then when I thought he’d been seeing Brandy the same time as me, I felt like another person I loved hadn’t been honest with me.

I let out a deep breath of angst. I need to find my nerve. I need to scoop the poop out of my litter box.

I look at Kelsey. “You make a damn good shrink.” I hug her. “Now about you and Dex.”

“I’m okay,” she lies.

“No, you’re not.” I grab her hand. “Promise me that you won’t shut Dex out again. If he tries to kiss you, kiss him back. Take a chance. You know, if I’ve learned anything dealing with spirits, it’s that life is short. And I think we end up regretting more of the things we don’t do than the things we do. Give Dex a chance. He may not end up being the one. But he really likes you.”

Right then, the temperature in the room goes cold. Kelsey gets her wide-eyed there’s-a-ghost-here look. And she’s right.

Giveaway!!

You can order all three books in my Mortician’s Daughter series now from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Kobo.  Leave a comment to be entered to win a C.C. Hunter T-shirt.  (Sorry, but this giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only. And if you are on Goodreads, you need to go my blog at http://cchunterbooks.com/blog/ to leave a comment to be entered.)

 

When You Hug Someone

Did you know that hugging increases levels of the “love hormone” oxytocin, which is beneficial for stress levels, heart health and so much more? Did you know a ten second hug a day may fight infections, boost your immune system, ease depression and fatigue?

 

In Three Heartbeats Away, the third book in my C.C. Hunter YA series The Mortician’s Daughter, Riley learns about some of the science of hugs and discovers a twenty second hug (or longer) holds the greatest health benefits, especially for stress relief. And boy, could Riley use less stress.  I mean, she’s only trying to stop a killer. So, she starts counting the seconds when she hugs people and when they hug her. Here’s an excerpt of one of her best hugs from Hayden, the guy she loves that’s dating someone else.

Excerpt

We leave the hospital, and I barely get seated behind the wheel before Hayden says, “Tell me about your dead-bride search.”

I consider telling him it’s not his deal, but Hayden helped with my last two spirits. I start driving and give him the lowdown on the bride and about going to Delicious Donuts earlier.

A wrinkle appears in the middle of his forehead.“You went by yourself.”

“It was daytime. People were around.”

He shakes his head. “You’re trying to find a murderer. You shouldn’t go there alone.”

“I’m not trying to find him. I’m trying to find evidence to take to the police.”

“Same thing.” Frustration sounds in his tone.“Do you realize how crazy it is that you are even doing this?”

“What am I supposed to do? Not help them?”

“Maybe,” he says.

I halt at a stop sign and look at him. “I can’t not help them. I didn’t ask for this, but they come to me and it is what it is.”

For the next mile, we don’t speak. Then he says, “Sorry, I just… It still blows my mind. I’ll do some checking on the Internet, too.”

“Don’t you have enough on your plate?” I pull up in front of his house.

“I’m by myself all day.”

I cut the car off and pull out the keys to get his walker out of the trunk. When I set it down, I say, “I should go.”

He frowns. “You said you didn’t have to be home until five-thirty. You’ve got—”

“I know, but…my big showdown with my dad about Mom is supposed to happen this afternoon, and I need to wrap my head around what I’m going to say.” My voice almost trembles.

“You going to be okay?”

One look at his blue eyes and the truth slips out.“I don’t know.”

Hayden stands there. “Call me when it’s over. I’m sure you’ll need to talk.” He picks up the walker and sets it on the curb and uses it to step up.

I worry he did too much today.“Hand me your keys and I’ll unlock your door.”

He hands them to me, and I move with him up the walkway.

We get to the porch, and I unlock the door and hand him his keys.

Our hands touch, and the brief contact is almost painful. “Riley, I’m sorry you’re having to go through this.”

“I know.”

Before I realize his intention, he pushes his walker aside and hugs me.

I close my eyes and let my head rest on his chest. I know this spot. I can smell his skin, feel his chest rise and fall. Alive. The boy I was so afraid of losing is alive and walking. And he cares. About me. Emotion stings my eyes.

His cheek comes down to the side of my temple. I savor the closeness, relish the feel of his arms around me. I memorize his whispered breath against my cheek. Counting the seconds, I pray for twenty. Or more than twenty. I get to thirty before Hayden says, “I’ll be thinking about you.”

His arms fall from around me. I step back. Our eyes meet, hold, and I feel it, the connection I’ve never felt with anyone else.

“Call me,” he says. “If only to say you survived. I’ll worry if you don’t.”

Nodding, I walk back to my car. I get inside. The warmth of his embrace lingers. I look out the window. He’s still there watching me. Part of me wants to run back and hug him again. But I remember my appointment with Dad.

I start my car.When I pull out, I see a candy-apple-red Honda parked across the street. And I recognize who’s in the driver’s seat—recognize who’s staring at me. Brandy.

She had to have seen us hug. This can’t be good.

I keep driving. The moment I come to a side street, I turn, put my car in park, and text Hayden: Brandy’s parked across from your house.

Three dots appear, then disappear. And so does the sweetness of Hayden’s hug. I remember his figuring-out comment.

Why does everything in my life have to be so screwed up?


Want to read more about Riley and Hayden and their adventures? You can order all three books in my Mortician’s Daughter series now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

Are you a hugger? Do you easily hug your family and friends? Or is it something you are uncomfortable with?

 

Susan C. Muller

I’m very lucky to have a special guest on my blog this week. Susan C. Muller writes grabs-you-by-your-throat suspense books that you can’t put down. She loves to travel the world and has been known to snorkel with penguins, travel down the Amazon, zip line off tall buildings, and spend the night in a hammock in the rain forest. When not writing, she can be found doing volunteer work at a local hospital. She loves to read, travel, snorkel and take long walks with her dog..Her newest release, Time to Run, is about a woman on the run from the mob and the FBI. With heart pounding suspense, you won’t be able to put Time to Run down.

I couldn’t wait to ask Susan a few questions about Time to Run.

I really liked your heroine, Jax Duncan.  Can you give me three words that best describe her? 

Strong. Even when frightened she never gives up.

Resilient  Whatever life throws at her, she adapts and never loses faith things will improve.

Skeptical.  If you can’t trust the FBI, you can’t trust anybody…and she doesn’t trust the FBI.

In what way are you like Jax? 

Her favorite place is the local library.

And in what way are you different from her? 

She grew up a rich pampered princess. Her life changed in the blink of an eye and she learned to live with nothing.

Do you have an elevator pitch of the book that you can share?

When Jax Duncan witnesses a mob execution, she becomes the next target for the hit man and the prime suspect for the FBI. After four years on the run, both have found her. Now she must run again. Only this time she has an added burden… An injured FBI agent who depends on her to keep him alive until he’s well enough to arrest her.

Tell me a secret about yourself that your readers don’t know. 

I’ll tell you something that will make you sad. I’m allergic to chocolate.


When Jax Duncan stumbles across a mob execution, she becomes the next target for the hit man and the prime suspect for Special Agent Lincoln Montgomery. She decides to hide out until the case is solved and her name cleared.

In each new city she tries to make a life for herself, but no place feels safe. She can still hear the violent confrontation, smell the blood . . . she still watches over her shoulder everywhere she goes, terrified of being discovered . . . eliminated.

Now her worst fears have come true. The hit man has found her. And so has Special Agent Montgomery, the one person with the power to either lock her up or clear her name–if only he’ll believe her.

Unwilling to take that chance, she must run again. Only this time she has an added burden . . . a wounded FBI agent who depends on her to keep him alive until he’s well enough to arrest her.

You can buy Time to Run at Amazon. You can find out more about Susan and her books at http://susancmuller.com/.

EXCERPT

Lincoln heard a voice echoing up from the bottom of a deep well. His eyes cracked open a slit, slammed shut against the glare of the overhead light, and opened again.

Jax sat on the edge of his bed.

“You came back. I thought you’d left.”

“I walked to the nearest drug store and bought you something.” She held up a pair of shiny, aluminum crutches. “Try to stand, walk around a little. We need to get moving.”

“Where to?”

“Away from here. This place is too dangerous. If I found it, so can they.”

Thinking made his head hurt. He lifted the crutches from Jax’s hand and stood. The room only swayed a little as he maneuvered his way into the bathroom, turned on the tap, and splashed cold water on his face. The water in the sink turned pink.

He glanced in the mirror and almost fell backward. The face staring back at him was nearly unrecognizable. Dried blood from his nose still coated his upper lip like a disgusting, red Hitler moustache. His eyes were bloodshot. A purple bruise was forming on his forehead, and his hair fanned out in seven different directions.

He wet his hand and tried to smooth it down.

“No one cares about your hair, Romeo. Wash the blood off your face and let’s go.” Jax’s reflection stared back at him from the mirror.

He could learn to hate that woman.

Winner!

The winner of last week’s t-shirt giveaway is Becka Lynn. Becka, please send your t-shirt size and mailing address to christie@christie-craig.com. Congratulations!