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Blaize of Trouble

Twelve-step counselor and recovering food addict Andrea "Blaize" McCue and Homicide Detective Stephanos Zoloski are one month away from tying the knot, his first step in his let's have a child campaign.

Uncertain about marriage and motherhood and hoping to blur Zoloski's focus, Blaize arranges for them to play aunt and uncle to Jenny, a friend's daughter, while her mother, Nicole, an FBI agent, works an important case. When Nicole fails to pick up Jenny as scheduled, Blaize discovers Nicole's been shot.

With Nicole lying in a coma, Blaize struggles to cope with all her fears around child-care, the demands of her counseling practice, and her rapidly approaching wedding while trying to locate Jenny's father. Her search leads to former FBI agent, James Quillan, who was convicted in a counterfeit scheme involving the disappearance of thirty million dollars. Now he's in violation of parole, wanted for questioning in the death of two FBI agents, and suspected of hiding in New Mexico on the Navajo reservation.

When Jenny is kidnapped, Blaize and Stephanos work together to find Quillan, hoping he will turn over the money to save his daughter--a daughter he never knew he had. Without a second thought, Blaize risks her own life to save Jenny's and discovers that she might have what it takes to be a good mother after all.

If she survives.

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release

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Louise Crawford

Louise (L.F.) Crawford holds an M.A. in Psychology – handy in developing murderous characters. One of the things she enjoys most about her writing is research – which included a helicopter ride in a Robinson-22 for her new “Dexter-like” series, first book, Born in Blood. For supernatural suspense fans, Fortune Cookie Karma is now out in e-book formats, and Bad Moon Rising. For edgy, romantic suspense/mystery buffs, check out her Blaize/Zoloski award-winning series. Her 4th Blaize book inspired her to get a dog! Three of Crawford’s books were nominated for the RT Magazine Reviewers Choice award for Best Mystery.

Reviews

4 Stars

"...gifted writer Crawford makes a much welcomed return to the gritty and dangerous world of Blaize McCue and Stephanos Zoloski. Crawford excels at delivering hard-edged suspense and dark drama that is populated with unforgettable characters."

Jill M. Smith -- RT Reviews
Excerpt

Chapter One

Nothing registered except the shrill ring of the phone. Then a grunt of annoyance from the love of my life, Sacramento Homicide Division’s lead detective, and green-eyed hunk, Stephanos Zoloski. It was Sunday, his first day off in three weeks. Our first wake-up-together morning.

We’d been together three years, from first date to now, had some ups and downs around trust issues, mine mostly, and had somehow made it to a stretch of everything’s peachy while in the back of my mind I still fretted about when peachy might turn into rotten fruit.

He rolled over, stealing most of the blankets, and yanked a pillow over his head, probably thinking he was being called out to a murder scene.

The clock glowed seven thirty-two.

I snatched up the receiver.

“Blaize, I need your help.” Five words laced with anxiety from my friend Nicole. To a co-dependent like me, they were the same as throwing gasoline on a fire. As a therapist who dealt with recovering addicts, I was constantly striving not to rescue them, so they could do their own work. But with friends like Nick, it was tougher.

Rolling out of bed, I said, “Nick, hold on a second.”

Nicole Jackson and I met when my buddy Lon was under investigation for murder. She’d been working undercover and once he’d been cleared, we’d stayed in touch. Nick and I worked out occasionally, met for lunch a couple times a month, and gabbed on the phone. My idea of a great relationship. In fact, at the moment, Stephanos and I were babysitting her daughter, who was asleep in our guestroom. So I figured something urgent had come up at the FBI and she needed to extend our babysitting services.

I grabbed a bathrobe, padded down the hall, and plunked myself onto the new couch—a genuine imitation antique we could spill popcorn on without the worry of ruining an investment.

I took a breath to settle myself, then said, “Okay, what’s wrong?”

“Could you keep Jenny until Monday morning?”

I could hear the anxiety in Nick’s voice, but was distracted at the thought of keeping Jenny another day. The Z-man considered Jenny good practice for the child he thought he wanted. For myself, I hoped the eight-year-old’s presence was a deterrent action...that the more Stephanos’ schedule was disrupted by a child’s needs, the less likely he’d be to continue down his let’s-have-a-kid path. But so far, her visits hadn’t done a thing except build a fun relationship between Jenny, Stephanos, and myself.

“Blaize, is that a problem?”

“No, no problem. FBI stuff going down?”

“What else? We have an emergency at one of the casinos in Tahoe,” Nick added, her voice low and urgent. “I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.”

“Be careful.”

She laughed, but it didn’t sound natural and my therapist cogs began to whir. Something was off.

“Don’t worry, Blaize. The most dangerous thing I’ve ever dealt with was that bungled bank job. And there was a car between me and the bullets.”

As I recalled, one of those bullets had whizzed awfully close to Nick’s head.

“Tell Jenny I love her, and that I’ll pick her up Monday and take her to school.”

Was she trying too hard to be cheerful, or was I reading too much into her laugh? The therapist in me was definitely suspicious.

“What kind of emergency in Tahoe?”

“If I told you, my boss would have my ass.”

Again I heard a forced lightness in her tone. “You know me better than that,” I said. “My lips are sealed.”

“It’s nothing. A bomb threat. We’re checking it out.”

“A bomb doesn’t sound like nothing.” Talk about understatements. “Harvey’s wasn’t that long ago.” That bomb had blown the casino into the next county.

“I’ll call you when I get there. It’s the Silver Mine. Should be ‘round twelve, twelve-thirty.”

“Five hours?” For a two hour trip?

“Gotta run by the office and the bank. Laundry’s in the drier... need the rest of the list?”

“No,” I said, a part of me wanting exactly that. “Is something else going on, Nick?”

All the forced cheerfulness dissolved. “About being Jenny’s god-parents. You said you’d talk to Stephanos about it. She really likes you and—”

“Hey, we like her too. She’s a sweetie,” I said, surprised at the emotion in my voice. How had the kid stolen my heart in such a short time? “I talked to Stephanos and he said yes. We’d be happy to.”

I twisted the engagement ring on my finger, reminding myself that it wasn’t a noose, and that offering to be a godparent was not a march to the gallows.

We bantered back and forth a couple of minutes.

I knew she had something else on her mind, waited, then said, “You’re worried about something. What?”

A hesitation. Her voice lowered. “Promise you’ll take care of Jenny if anything happens?”

I didn’t like the sound of that. “Make sure nothing happens. Jenny needs you. We’re her Aunt Blaize and Uncle Stephanos, not her mom and dad.”

“Right. And I need her just as much. But sometimes, with a job like this, things can go wrong.”

“That’s it?”

“I’ve got a weird feeling about this one.”

“What? About the bomb threat or something else?”

“Hey, I didn’t mean to upset you. It’s just a feeling. It’s nothing. Really. Gotta run, Blaize. I’ll call you from Tahoe.”

“Nick?”

The phone buzzed in my ear. Damn.