I've just started a new romantic suspense MM series and I thought I'd share a tiny snippet with you. The first book deals with a Hollywood detective who's called to the set of a reality show where a man has been killed by a tiger. The series will have three books to begin with, all featuring different Hollywood Detectives and another MC in each who's also a part of the Hollywood scene.
Here's an excerpt from the first book Reality Bites:
My phone always rang when I was juggling a cup of coffee and a bagel with cream cheese. It was like the universe waited for me the leave the damn coffeehouse before pressing send. I clamped my teeth on the paper bag that held my food and clumsily pulled my cell from my pocket.
“Decker here,” I growled.
“We’ve got a weird one for you, detective.” Lieutenant Bartlett sounded distracted.
As I opened the car door, the plastic lid on my coffee popped off and java spilled down the front of my white shirt. “Shit.” I hissed as the hot liquid burned my chest.
“Did I get you at a bad time?”
“Not at all. I was just taking a bath in my coffee.” I set the half full cup in the holder and tossed the bag onto the passenger seat. I slid behind the wheel and wiped at the big brown stain on my shirt to no avail.
“Anyway… you know that new reality show Don’t Die?”
“No.” I didn’t watch a lot of TV, reality or otherwise.
“Seriously? It’s a huge hit.”
“Did you call to rag on me for not watching enough reality TV?” I started the car. “Where do I need to be?”
“Zecker Studios down in North Hollywood. One of the contestants on Don’t Die got eaten by a Tiger.”
I winced. “What the hell?”
“Shouldn’t you call Animal Control instead of me?” I pulled onto the street and headed in the direction of the studio. “What am I supposed to do, arrest the tiger?”
“I’m serious. Why am I going there?”
“Because Max Thornton is in charge of the show and he’s a big deal right now.” There were muffled voices in the background. “Look, I have to go. Treat the guy nice.”
“Wait. Do not hang up until you tell me why a man being killed by a tiger is a murder investigation,” I grumbled.
“Thornton seems to think there’s been foul play.”
I tried not to laugh. “Did you seriously just use the term ‘foul play’?”
“Decker, get your ass over there and talk to the guy. That’s an order.”
“You’ve got it, boss.” I rolled my eyes and hung up. Thankfully it was a Saturday, so the traffic wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I managed to stuff down most of my cinnamon raisin bagel, minus the cream cheese, by the time I reached the front gate at Zecker Studios. I flashed my credentials, and the guard waved me in. There were already several black and whites and a forensic team at the scene. I gulped the last of my coffee and headed into the big building.
The first thing that struck me as I entered the hangar was the strong smell of urine and the five hundred pound tiger pacing back and forth in a long steel enclosure. Outside the cage was a body covered with a black tarp. The animal seemed agitated as it chuffed and growled with its giant head hung low.
“He’s a magnificent beast isn’t he?” A woman with a large felt hat approached. “Look at him; it’s like he knows he’s in trouble.”
I showed her my badge. “I’m Homicide Detective Cabot Decker.” I studied her as I tucked my ID away. Her hat was crooked, and she had strands of auburn hair hanging messily around her shoulders. “Mind if I ask you who you are?”
She grimaced. “Sorry. Lucinda Pinwheel.” She held out her hand. “I’m Benji’s handler.” Up close the deep lines around her eyes and forehead were obvious. She’d looked much younger from a distance with her long hair and slender build. “Benji wouldn’t hurt a fly usually.”
I glanced at the covered corpse. “Maybe he was having a bad day.” I moved to the body and lifted the tarp slowly. I held my gag reflex in check as I studied the bloody torn mess in front of me. There were obvious teeth marks around the throat and the head was almost severed from the neck. The smell of blood made my stomach roll, but I kept examining the corpse looking for anything that might be inconsistent with an animal attack.
“Hey, Decker.” Officer Eugene approached. “This is some grisly shit.” He looked a little queasy as he spoke.
“Yeah.” I dropped the tarp back over the body and pulled out my note pad and pen. “What can you tell me?”
He put his hands on his hips. “That some people will do anything for money?” He shook his head. “How desperate would a man have to be to spend the night in a cage with a wild animal? Jesus.”
“I didn’t mean I needed you to get philosophical. What do you know about what happened here?”
“It’s pretty cut and dried. The guy was in the cage and the tiger went after him.”
“Was he alone?”
“You mean other than the tiger?”
I sighed. “I mean were there any witnesses?”
Officer Eugene pursed his lips. “He was alone when it happened. There’s supposed to always be a camera man with the contestants. But apparently the guy assigned to our victim had severe intestinal issues and was on the toilet when the attack occurred.”
“I’ll need to talk to the camera man ASAP.”
“He’s at the hospital.”
I frowned. “Why?”
“Dehydration and hysteria. He found the body.”
Lucinda shifted uneasily. “I still can’t believe this has happened. It doesn’t make any sense. I’ve worked with Benji’s for ten years and we’ve never once had an incident. He’s never even looked weird at a human before.”
“Something triggered him.” I noticed a guy in an expensive suit standing a few feet away. He had his phone glued to his ear, and he emanated an air of confidence that told me he might be in charge. He was tall with broad shoulders and jet black hair, and as he hung up, he lifted his chin and strode toward me, holding out his hand.
“I’m Max Thornton.” His grip was firm and his palms felt smooth against my calloused hands. His cologne was spicy, masculine and probably way out of my budget.
“Detective Decker.” The intensity of his gray stare was unsettling. I didn’t get unsettled easily, but he radiated power and confidence like a convection oven. When his gaze dropped to the dark stain on my shirt heat filled my cheeks. “I had a run in with a cup of coffee.”
“Looks like the beverage won.” His voice was deep and his gaze enigmatic.
Something about him made me feel like Oliver Twist in front of the head master begging for more pudding. “I’m not really familiar with the concept of your show. Could you maybe fill me in? Why was a man inside the cage with a tiger to begin with?”
He exhaled roughly. “Dale was one of ten contestants. Each week one of them is randomly assigned an animal and then they either spend the night in the cage or they decline and leave the show.” He flicked his gaze to the corpse. “Dale didn’t decline.”
“Why would he do something so crazy?” I scratched my head.
“Money. If they spend the whole night, they get lots of money.”
“Wow. I think I’d rather be poor and alive.”
Max smirked. “Looks like things are working out for you then, detective.”
I narrowed my gaze. “So why’d the animal attack him?”
“Somebody must have provoked Benji.” Lucinda spoke up brusquely.
Max turned to her with a grim look. “I hope you’re not suggesting me or any of my employees did that sort of thing?”
She sniffed. “All I know is ratings are everything to you people.”
He pulled his dark brows together. “Having one of my contestants eaten by a wild animal isn’t good for ratings.” He slid his gaze to mine. “Besides, ratings are already through the roof.”
“I’m happy for you and all, but I need to figure out why I need to be here.” I tried not to sound heartless, but I still wasn’t sure why an animal attack was my problem.
Max glanced at Lucinda. “Would you mind if I spoke to Detective Decker alone?”
She shrugged. “No problem.” She pressed her big hat firmly on her head and wandered over to the cage where her tiger still paced.
He turned to me and the pulse at the base of his throat beat swiftly. “The premise of Don’t Die is people take a huge risk and if they pull it off, they get a lot of money. The risk is exaggerated.”
He winced. “What I mean is we take great care in picking animals that are gentle and have never been involved in anything violent.” He swallowed. “We take precautions like making sure the creatures are well fed and exercised.”
“I’m no expert in animal attacks, but it was pretty clear from the body the animal didn’t just maul the victim. He… he ate parts of him too.”
Max blanched. “But why would he? We feed the cats constantly to keep them satiated.”
“Obviously this cat wanted seconds.”
He gripped my arm which surprised me. “Listen, I don’t want to be dramatic, but as I told your Lieutenant; something seems off lately.”
The feel of his fingers on my arm was oddly distracting. I ignored the fluttering in my gut and said, “Off how?”
“I don’t know. Things keep happening.”
“Elaborate, please,” I said gruffly.
“One of the Burmese Pythons got out of its cage last week and almost strangled a camera tech. The snake’s cage is a double lock type of thing. How would he get out?”
“Okay. But my pet iguana got out when I was ten. Shit happens.”
He twisted his lips. “I want to believe this is an accident. I really do. But I have a bad feeling.”
I chuffed. “Well, just because you have indigestion I can’t open an investigation for murder. This could easily just be a tragic animal attack.”
His mouth tensed. “I understand you don’t want to waste your time. I don’t want to waste your time either. That’s why I hesitate to even mention the letter I got a week ago.”
There's just a little taste. :) Stay tuned.