Author: Shannon Myers
Genre: Literary Fiction/Romantic Comedy
Release Date: January 24, 2019
Describe Jake Hopkins in two words?
So, maybe he solved cases with a precision not seen since Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. It didn't matter. The guy was a grade A prick.
And killing him was the best decision I ever madeâuntil it wasn't.
It was supposed to be a good move for meâa way of showing that I wasn't one to back down.
I never imagined it would cause such a visceral reaction...among my readers.
I didn't get it. He was barely tolerable most of the time and his death opened the door for a new detectiveâmaybe one who had her act together.
I never would've guessed that he'd show up on my doorstep, begging for a second chance, or that he'd look even better than I ever imagined. Characters die and everyone moves onâthat's the way it works. Sometimes it's even necessary for the story to progress.
When the hate mail gives way to something more sinister, Jake insists that he's just the man to handle the case. He vows to keep me safe in exchange for his life.
The problem isn't resurrecting him.
No, my problem is much worse.
How do I stop myself from falling in love with a fictional character?
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âOkay, now when we get there, act normal. Order whatever you usually get. Sit where you normally do. That kind of thing. Donât get too focused on looking for a suspect. Thatâs my job.â Jake hit his turn signal and switched lanes. I was riding shotgun in the shiny black Raptor Iâd written for him and, any moment now, I was going to wake up back in bed, having dreamt this entire thing. I rubbed my damp palms against my jeans and focused on my breathing.
After getting dressed in record time, Jake had wanted to know my schedule for a typical day. When I mentioned that I wrote at a local coffee shop a couple of times a week, his eyes lit up. I was relieved that Iâd left out the fact that I worked at a salon in the afternoons and evenings because there was not a chance in hell of me letting him tag along there.
We pulled into the parking lot and Jake turned to me. He studied me for a second, giving a slight head shake at my youâve got to be kitten me right meow, t-shirt. âThis is the place?â He looked through the windshield at the Cold Brews Co. sign and then back at me. âIt looks like a bar.â
âNo, their specialty is cold brew coffeesâlook, is this a good idea?â
Translation: Is this safe?
He nodded. âIâm not going to let anything happen to you.â
The thought that someone, besides Bootsy and Aaris, wanted to keep me safe did weird things to my heart, even if it was coming from Jake. I fought the urge to pump my fist in the air while laughing like a lunatic.
âAfter all, youâre my meal ticket. If you get dead, I canât get back home,â he finished with a pouty smirk.
Oh good, the limbic rage was back. Iâd been worried it was gone forever once the handcuffs were off.
âWhy do you do that with your mouth?" I snapped, as I unbuckled and climbed down to the pavement.
âDo what? He pursed his lips again.
âThat! Youâre doing it again.â
At his blank expression, I forced my own lips into a duck pose as he held the coffee shop door open for me. âLike this.â
âWhy are you doing that to your face? Stop. People are staring.â He hissed, glancing around.
"You look like that all the time.â
âGood Morning, Hayden,â my favorite barista, Damien, called over the espresso machine as the door jingled above our heads, announcing our arrival. âThe usual?â
I immediately softened my expression, trying to channel the joy and tranquility that tried to flee when Jake entered a room. âYeah, thatâll be perfect. Thanks, Damien. Howâd Paul do on his test?â
He poured steamed milk into a paper cup for a to-go order with a dramatic eye roll. âNailed it. Like he does everything else. I just have to talk him off the ledge every time though. Howâd I end up the motivator in this relationship? I swear.â
âBecause youâre a positive person and deserving of all the good things life has to offer,â I reminded him as I selected a bottled water from the refrigerated case
âI just come here a couple of times a week, but know everyoneâs life story,â Jake quietly taunted at my back, his body inches from mine. A shudder worked its way down to my toes as the scent of campfire and pine flooded my nostrils.
Were there notes of citrus layered in there? No, I was definitely detecting hints of clean laundry that had been dried on a clothesline mixed with something.
Gah, what was it?
I wanted to lean back and rest my head against his chest while looking up at him adoringly. Just like Iâd witnessed the younger couples that frequented this place do on more than one occasion. But this time, itâd be me experiencing something other than abject disappointment.
Me and my very own tree.
And Iâd climb that redwood every day.
Just doing my part to save the earth, kids.
I was struck with the image of massive hands on my hips, pinning me in place. Iâd just bet that his fingers would curl in possessively, marking me as his to anyone who dared to look. The cold air blasted around bottles of juice and water, yet inside, I was sweltering.
His proximity was messing with my brain waves. I straightened with a shaky exhale and carried my water over to the register, doing my best to ignore my flushed cheeks and the giant I came in with.
Damien added a heart to the foam and handed me my caffÃ¨ mocha before noticing Jake. âHey, you brought a friend,â he exclaimed in his typical sing-song.
I shook my head. âWe just came in at the same time. I donât know this man.â
I wasnât just imagining all the ways Iâd like him to defile me in front of the poor beverage case, either, in case you were wondering.
âAre you sure you donât want to get to know him?â He stage-whispered, raising his eyebrows up and down suggestively as he snagged me a cinnamon roll from the case.
âOh, no. Iâve got quite enough excitement in my life.â
Damien gave Jake another once over. âIf you say so. I personally think when excitement comes packaged like that, you thank the universe and donât ask questions. But, thatâs just me. Howâs Bootsy doing? Is she still loving her holistic food?â
âYes. It has made such a difference with herâ¦â
Shit, what was it supposed to do?
âPoops?â I offered hesitantly just as Damien suggested, âHer coat?â
He frowned. âIt shouldnât have changed her bowel habits. My girls didnât seem to be any different. Maybe check with the companyââ
I waved my hand. âOh, no I meant that she was much more âregular,â if you know what I mean. Poor thing, uh, couldnât get the job done before. This food has really taken in her interconnectedness with her, um, environment. Sheâs living her best holistic life now.â
I made the mistake of looking over at Jake. He stood at the counter with wide eyes and a what the fuck are you talking about expression on his face.
â¢ Confession: I never actually bought the cat food that Damien recommended. I went to the pet store with every intention of purchasing the all-natural, chock full of vitamins and omegas, and completely grain-free canned cat food until I saw the price. At six bucks a tin, I decided that I would just let Bootsy continue her unwholesome lifestyle. Unfortunately, Damien asked about it the very next time I was in, and instead of coming clean, I told a little white lie. Heâd just made it seem like letting your fur baby eat anything else was bad pet parenting. And, it wasnât like he would ever know. He wasnât going to show up to my apartment, demanding to see the contents of Bootsyâs litter box.
Damien nodded. âWell, let me know if you need anything else for her. Oh, have you noticed how much more connected she is spiritually to you now? I swear, I recommend it to everyone.â
I avoided Jakeâs penetrating stare as I paid before patting the front pocket of my backpack. âDefinitely. Soâ¦ Zen. Well, I better get to it.â
âSame. Iâll come by and check on you in a bit.â
I stuck the bottle of water in the side pocket of my bag, juggling the cinnamon roll and mocha as I made my way to the wooden table near the back. It was the only table with an outlet that was out of direct sunlight.
Next to it was an old wooden hutch that held cream and sugar. I found that it was the best seat in the house for eavesdropping, which was a win-win for an author in need of a story.
I loved everything about coming here. From the exposed brick walls and ceiling beams to the vintage signs and old produce case turned bookshelf, it was the perfect place to let my creativity flow.
Jake solved his first case here. Incidentally, he also fell off a balcony at this very table. It held a special place in my heart.
âIâm going to sit on the other side of the room,â Jake said in a low voice. Instinctively, I turned to where his voice came from just in time to see him add sugar to his coffee.
âNo, donât turn around. You and I arenât having a conversation.â
He was going to add precisely two and a half raw sugars, keeping the other half in his pocket for his next caffeine fix. When I heard the distinct sound of paper being folded, a victorious smirk spread across my face. God, I loved being right.
âWhy are you smiling?â He kept his back to me, so it appeared as if he was having a conversation with the various creamers.
âIâm not.â My grin widened.
He sighed, âYou are. I can see your reflection in the carafe. What about this investigation is funny to you? See, someone shoots up my door, Iâm not laughing. Then again, Iâm not trying to have a spiritual intervention with my cat.â
My smile faded, and I turned all of my attention into retrieving my laptop from the backpack at my feet. âYouâre just soââ What was he? âPredictable. Everything you do is exactly the way I wrote it. Sometimes, Iâm even convinced that I know what youâre going to do next before you do.â
I saw him reach for a stirrer in the reflection of my laptop screen. Judging by how vigorously he was using it, Iâd gotten under his skin.
âYouâre probably right,â he finally conceded. âYou are, after all, operating on an entirely different plane than the rest of the world. Iâll be across the room; try to act normal.â
I bit the inside of my cheek. âAnd how am I supposed to do that when youâre watching me from across the room?â
âJust write the book, Hayden. Donât worry about whoâs coming or going. Let me handle that. Tap your finger twice against the table if you understand.â
I did, feeling like a secret agent in a summer blockbuster.
With villains at every turn, there was only one woman capable of saving the world. All she needed was her trusty laptop and some caffeineâ
âHayden, I just needed you to tap twice. You can stop now.â He snagged a newspaper off an empty table and tucked it under his arm before moving toward a table near the front. From there, heâd be able to see everyone coming and going.
I took a bite of my cinnamon roll and cracked my knuckles before pulling up my manuscript.
Alright, Laura. Letâs solve a mysteryâ¦
Laura stood, shoulder to shoulder, with some of the cityâs most upstanding citizens. It was unfathomable to think that any one of them couldâve been responsible for the body lying in the street, but her instincts told her that was exactly the case.
My mind went blank, and I began distractedly counting each pulse of the cursor. I was simply rehashing what Iâd already covered. In all honesty, I had no idea what to do with Laura. Jake had pointed out her implied elderliness more than once and now I couldnât help but picture her as some blue-haired granny with a cane.
How was she supposed to solve a murder?
Plus, by mentioning her husband early on, Iâd destroyed any chance of adding a love interest for friction. It was shit.
I tried again.
Laura stepped away from the crowd and searched forâ¦ a way out of this story. Sheâd gotten roped into playing the main character after the author killed off the other one. Laura didnât want to be next.
Laura was fucking everything up.
Jake caught my eye and frowned from over the newspaper. Obviously, he was enjoying the drivel I was spewing out about as much as I was.
I took a long drink of coffee, but the caffeine only confirmed what I already knew. I needed a new main character. Someone who was younger. Female. Maybe sheâd been exposed to law enforcement by a former boyfriend or family member. Just enough that sheâd know her way around a crime sceneâoh my god.
My legs caught the edge of the table as I quickly stood up, rattling the plate containing my half eaten cinnamon roll. I just needed to act discreet.
Jake had the paper up again, reading, so I couldnât signal for Plan A, which was for him to meet me in the bathroom. I was going to have to go with Plan B. I walked over behind his table and looked out the large glass garage door that they opened during the summer months.
Realizing I still hadnât grabbed his attention, I stretched my arms overhead and yawned loudly.
âHayden, what the hell are you doing?â He asked, without lowering the paper.
âI have a question,â I said, much louder than anticipated. I tried again, this time lowering my voice. âI have a question. About the book.â
When he remained quiet, I continued. âI think youâre right about Lauraâoh man, what a beautiful day it is! Sorry, I thought that person was coming over here. We gotta stay discreet, right? So, Iâm starting to think that maybe sheâs not the right character. I was wondering if maybeââ
Jake dropped the newspaper and pushed his chair back away from the table, the legs scraping loudly against the concrete floor.
Good. We were going to discuss this like real people and not spies. Although I really felt like I was starting to get the hang of it.
âOur coverâs completely blown. Iâll be out in the truck.â I followed his gaze over to the counter where Damien was waving slyly at me.
I returned it and turned back in time to see Jake disappear through the front door.
âDecided you were in the mood for some excitement, after all?â Damien carried a damp cloth in his hand, but he wasnât here to wipe down the table. He was here for the dirt.
âUm, well, I tried. Got shot down. Better luck next time, I guess.â I kept sneaking furtive glances toward the parking lot, hoping to catch a glimpse of my surly detective.
Well, not mine, mine.
âHeâs kind of a pretty boy, isnât he?â Damien asked.
I nodded. âYep. It wouldnât have worked out. Bootsyâs the most high maintenance thing in my life. I donât have room for another. Would you mind boxing up my cinnamon roll and getting me a to-go cup? Iâm just not feeling my muse this morning.â
It was supposed to be part of the cover, but I realized that there was no scenario where Jake suddenly developed feelings for me. Heâd said just as much before we came in.
Damien brought me my food items as I packed up the laptop, consoling me with promises of what heâd do to Jakeâs drink if he ever bothered showing up again. By the time I made it outside, the air had turned cooler and clouds darkened the sky. I walked around to the back parking lot.
âI think they saw us come in together,â Jake said, by way of greeting, as I struggled to climb up into the truck with full hands
âOh, hey. Hello. Iâm doing great, thanks for asking, Jake.â
He leaned across the seat and took both the coffee and the cinnamon roll from my hands before helping me up. âHi, Hayden. This will come as a bit of a shock to you, but you stick out like a sore thumb.â
I snapped the seat belt into the buckle. âI do not! I was inconspicuous.â
He put the truck in reverse just as the first drops of rain began to fall on the windshield. âYou were about as inconspicuous as a beer vendor at an AA meeting. And what the fuck was that cat food conversation?â
âYou told me to be myself!â I bit out.
âYeah,â he agreed before merging into traffic. âThat was a mistake.â
âYou coming back to life was a mistake,â I muttered to the passenger side window.
He prodded. âCâmon, Hayden. Surely you know that this operation failed miserably?â
Why couldnât he have been hideous? At least then the exterior wouldâve matched the interior.
âAny good stalker worth their salt is gonna stake out the parking lot. So, probably. Maybe. Alright, fine. Yes. Thereâs a very good chance that if someone was watching, they probably saw us together. Itâs mostly my fault.â
âMostly?â Jake asked, with a quirked brow.
âYeah, I wasnât thinking this morning and I put on my oil spray.â
He stopped at a red light and turned toward me. âYou put on oil spray.â His speech was slow and measured like Iâd suddenly stopped speaking English. âWhat does that mean exactly?â
âOh, Iâm an empath, so if I donât use my spray every morning, I am drained by lunch. You know, it gets way too people-y out there.â
Instead of agreeing, Jake signaled and pulled into a gas station. âHayden, I didnât understand two words of what you just said. What the fuck is an empath and how does oil spray factor into this investigation?â
Seriously? What planet was he living on that he didnât know about oils and empaths?
âMy spray repels negative energy, so itâs a protective measure. It blocks any energy attacks and keeps me running on a full tank. Itâs vital when Iâm in writing mode.â
His eyebrows lifted. âSo, let me get this straight; the spray kept the stalker away?â
âNot exactly,â I admitted with a sigh. âI have my crystals too. I swear, I didnât even think about it being a problem. Itâs just a habit to keep them in my purse. I mean, itâs not like I typically go out in search of negativity.â
He shook his head. âSo, the crystals and sprays keep you safe from the bad people?â
âYes,â I nodded happily. âAnd, with the work that you do, you could really benefit from it. Iâd start small. Maybe keep some black tourmaline in your truck and house. Oh, amethyst would be a good one for you; they work as both a protector and a stress reliever. Itâd definitely make things more bearable for you at work. Hematiteâs anotherââ
âSweetheart, thereâs not enough oils and crystals in the world to make some people bearable. Do you catch what Iâm saying?â
I opened my mouth to respond, but only managed a growl. The back of my eyelids burned and I knew that if I tried to talk, itâd just come out as a sob. That, in turn, would just freak Jake out completely.
I hated that about myself. Other people got mad and spoke their minds. Me? I cried and babbled incoherently.
Aaris once informed me that I got âwet angry.â According to her, the majority of my emotions, including anger, were expressed through tears. Aaris? She was in a separate category known as âdry angry.â She expressed her anger like angerâit both amazed and scared the hell out of me.
We drove in silence for about ten minutes before he asked, âWhat are you thinking?â
I turned away from watching the raindrops race each other across the window to answer. âI was just thinking that thirty stories wasnât high enough.â
Shannon is a born and raised Texan. She grew up inventing clever stories, usually to get herself out of trouble. Her mother was not amused. In junior high, she began writing fractured fairy tales from the villain's point of view and that was the moment she knew that she was going to use her powers for evil instead of good.
In 2003, she moved to Denver and met the love of her life. After some relentless stalking and a few well-timed sarcastic remarks, the man eventually gave in to her charms and wifed her so hard. They welcomed a son in 2007 that they named after their favorite Marvel superhero, Spiderman.
Sick of seeing beautiful mountains through their window every day, the three escaped back to the desolate landscape of the west Texas desert in 2009. She welcomed her second son not long after and soon realized that being surrounded by three men was nothing at all like she'd imagined in her fantasies.
After an unplanned surgery in 2014 and a long pity party, she decided to pen a novel about the worst thing that could happen to a person in order to cheer herself up. She's twisted like that. Thus, From This Day Forward was born and the rest, as they say, is history.
Not only does Shannon enjoy stalking people, she also has a fondness for being stalked. Visit her at www.shannonshaemyers.com to keep up with her latest schemes and shenanigans.
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