I turned in Compulsion ten days ago, book 2 in the Max Revere series, and am awaiting notes from my editor which will come in the next week or two. One of the problems I had was, because I’d written two Lucy books (Cold Snap, Dead Heat) between Notorious and Compulsion, I wasn’t certain I had Max’s voice down. She is distinctly different from Lucy. So I read parts of Notorious to put myself back into Max’s head. I rarely re-read my books, and usually only skimming to find facts I need for a work-in-progress. I tend to cringe, thinking I should have worded something this way or that way, or wish I’d cut a repetitive word or phrase. Yes, I’m my own worst critic. But sometimes, there are scenes that just work for me, even when I read them in print.
The excerpt below from chapter five is one of those scenes. It shows Max as she is, with some of her vulnerability that she doesn’t show often, and with her courage.
I’m traveling today, taking Kelly to visit three colleges, hoping she’ll be able to make up her mind where she wants to spend the next four years of her life … A big decision for and 18 year old. But I’ll pop in tonight!
Tomorrow I’ll have an exclusive excerpt from DEAD HEAT and on Wednesday we have Guest Blogger Scott Graham — so please come by and talk with him in my absence. He writes mysteries set in the national parks — I know there are many of you who would love his books!
From Chapter Five, Notorious:
The Menlo Grill, attached to the Stanford Park Hotel, had always been one of Max’s favorite restaurants. It had a warm, relaxing, semiformal atmosphere without being ostentatious. Since her last visit two years ago they’d remodeled extensively, and she wasn’t sure she liked all the changes, but the menu looked good— she’d skipped lunch and was ready for an early dinner.
She asked for a table in the bar, pointing to a dark corner booth. Less likely anyone she knew would spot her there. She didn’t care if she was seen, but she was in no temperament for conversation. The cross-country flight had caught up with her, but she despised eating a meal in her hotel room. Along with the need to unpack her suitcases and make her temporary lodging a temporary home, not using room service was a rule she rarely broke.
She ordered the fish of the day, fresh trout, because she planned on making it an early night and didn’t want a heavy meal right before bed. She pulled out her iPad and folded the case so it angled toward her, and checked her email while she ate.
She’d avoided Ben’s phone calls through the day, so she wasn’t surprised that he’d sent her a long message about how difficult it was to find a competent assistant, how difficult she was to work for, excuse after excuse. Then near the end he wrote: However, I agree with you about Ginger.
She laughed out loud, then covered her mouth.
I have an idea that might work, hope to have answers by Monday.
When will you be back in the city? We need to strategize on the Bachman trial, there’s a stack of documents up to my ass you need to review, and Gertrude Grant wants to interview you about your Ramirez article. Gert’s show has fantastic ratings to promote Maximum Exposure within our key demographic, and it’ll give you the opportunity to follow-up on the case and file another article, plus I think it would make a good two minute slot.
I can’t believe you went to fucking California when we’re up to our necks in work. You’ll be back on Monday?
Max loved Ben even though he drove her crazy. She supposed that was the role of a television producer, but if she hadn’t been friends with Ben since college, if they hadn’t grieved together over Karen’s death, she’d never have put up with him.
Likewise, she doubted he’d have tolerated her. They were oil and water, and not in the good, sexually combustible way, either.
She responded to his email:
Don’t know when I’ll be back. We have three weeks before the Bachman trial, more than enough time to prepare.
I don’t know how many times I have to turn Gert down before you understand that I’ll never go on her show. In case you misunderstood my previous sentence, I will not go on Gert’s show. I do not like her. She’s a bitch. So am I. It’d be bloody if we’re on set together. And Gert ask me questions? Never going to happen.
However, I like the idea of a two-minute slot on Ramirez. I’ll write it up and we’ll shoot it as soon as I get back. Squeeze it into the May show.
That would irritate Ben. The May show was already cut and promo’d, he’d hate cutting in a two-minute “mini-story,” but there was a timeliness factor.
She thought a moment and sent another message:
On second thought, let’s do a live cut-in with an up-to-the-minute status on Ramirez, with a 90-second historical overview. I might have an article for the web page on a cold case I discovered when I got here.
She sent it off and grinned. The waiter took her plate and brought a second glass of wine. Ben was going to flip, because it would be a lot more work and he couldn’t edit her, but it was a good idea. The last time they’d done a live cut-in, it had been featured on multiple news programs that night and the following day.
“Thinking about a friend … or a lover?”
She looked up, startled but not surprised to see Andy Talbot standing at her table. She was speechless, a rarity.
“May I? You are alone.”
He sat, though Max hadn’t explicitly invited him.
The waiter came over immediately and asked Andy if he’d like a menu. Andy looked at Max, and she shook her head.
“Not dinner, then,” Andy said. “Glenlivet, neat.”
“Yes, Mr. Talbot.” The waiter glanced at Max. “Another pinot grigio, Ms. Revere?”
She shook her head. She still had nearly a full glass in front of her.
The waiter left, and Andy turned to her with a mock frown. “I’m hurt.”
“I’m tired. And I’m not big on surprises.”
“I should have called.” There was no apology in his tone and Max was as irritated by his unspoken lie as she was of the way he trailed his fingers up and down her arm. “You’re stunning, as usual.”
She put her hand on his and squeezed. “Andy, it’s always good to see you, but I truly am tired and I have a lot of work to do.”
“You’re here on business, then.”
“You know why I’m here.” She lifted his hand off her arm and placed in on the table. Leaning back she sipped her wine. Being near Andy was always problematic. It wasn’t simply that he was attractive, like Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy if Butch wore a Caraceni suit. It was their history. The familiarity and chemistry, the love and hate. After Thea’s wedding, she’d ended up at Andy’s house and in his bed. That had been a mistake, just like the time before when she visited for William’s wedding. Andy had been her first boyfriend, her first lover, her first love. Being with him made her feel young and nervous when ‘nervous’ wasn’t in her personality. Could she even admit that she still felt insecure with him? For someone like her, anyone who made her apprehensive was someone she tended to avoid.
Two years ago, Andy had sensed the same distance she had. They weren’t the same teen-age lovers. They weren’t the same people. Max respected Andy—she even loved him in a way, since he’d been a major part of her life for so long. But she wasn’t in love with him, and had a hard time with forgiveness. Being back for Kevin’s funeral reminded her that she and Andy had split because of Kevin: Max believed he was innocent, Andy believed he was guilty. There was no middle ground. But that fundamental disagreement was only a symptom of why they wouldn’t have worked for the long haul.
The waiter brought Andy’s drink. When he left, Andy said, “I’d offer you a penny for your thoughts, except you’ve always given them away for free.”
Max raised an eyebrow. “Why are you here?”
“Why do you think I’m here?”
“I honestly don’t know. I’ll tell you what I told William when he came by earlier. Jodi O’Brien asked me to come to Kevin’s funeral. I had the time, so I came.”
He stared at her in that deep way he had, making her think he could read her mind when Max knew he’d never truly known what she was thinking. He said, “Jodi has made it clear to anyone who’d listen that she doesn’t think Kevin killed himself. You show up. You investigate crimes.”
Max held up her hand. “I’m not here because of my job.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“Why do I think you’re interrogating me?”
She stared at Andy pointedly. Most people, including William, would glance away at her stern look. Not Andy. She’d never intimidated him, as a teen-ager or as an adult. She used to be able to read him well, but thirteen years was a long time. And if she were honest with herself, which she always tried to be, the few times she’d seen him since—the few times she’d slept with him—they’d each had a wall up, knowing they couldn’t go back to being eighteen.
Andy avoided her question by asking bluntly, “Do you think, like Jodi, that Kevin was murdered?”
“I’m not investigating his death.” She’d found his postscript akin to a suicide note. She could tell Andy that she believed it was suicide, but she didn’t want to explain why, to Andy or anyone, until she had more information.
“Is that why you were at the police station this afternoon?”
“Who told you that?” But as Max answered with the question, she had a dozen more. Why did he care? What was he hiding? Why did he feel the need to confront her tonight, without warning?
Andy’s jaw was tight, and while he leaned back casually, his neck muscles were also tense. “Kevin’s doing it to us again.”
“It’s because of him that we broke up in the first place. And it’s because of him that we’re fighting now.”
She sighed, weary and in sore need of eight hours of sleep. “I’m not fighting with you, Andy. I was having a very pleasant working dinner. Alone. I’m in town for Kevin’s funeral. I’m gathering information for Jodi so she can move on with her life.” She hesitated then added. “Kevin didn’t break us up. We were eighteen-year-old teenagers who had a fundamental difference of opinion. There’s no ‘agree to disagree’ when you have two hot-headed, young, passionate people who both are certain they are right.”
“And I guess we’ll never know,” Andy said.
“I know I was right. I never believed then or now that Kevin killed Lindy.”
“You’re still so positive. If not Kevin, then who?”
“I don’t know.”
“But you’re here.”
“Not to find out who killed Lindy.”
“I don’t believe you.”
Max glared at him. He was essentially calling her a liar, a serious charge. “I’m talking and you’re not listening.”
“I’m looking at the evidence.”
“I’ll tell you the truth. I didn’t come here to investigate Lindy’s death. I didn’t come here to write about Kevin or his trial or the fact that the police never seriously looked at any other suspects. I came here for Jodi.”
Max stood, her anger building, and she needed to get out of the bar before she lost her temper.
“But,” she added, bending over the table, her face inches from Andy’s, “if I decide to stir the hornet’s nest, it’s certainly none of your business.”
Buy NOTORIOUS in print at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, IndieBound, Books A Million, and many independent bookstores. Or, signed copies are still available at Poisoned Pen (Scottsdale), Mysterious Galaxy (San Diego), Anne’s Book Carnival (Orange), Face in a Book (El Dorado Hills), Kepler’s (Menlo Park), and Murder by the Book (Houston). The links to those stores are on my website here. Also available in ebook for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Apple.