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Sweet Music

Rotel Merona was a flashy young woman of questionable morals and certain obvious, brazen charms. She was the kind of woman that other women, particularly women with wealthy husbands, kept one eye on at all times. When the Latin Siren is found dead in her Minneapolis townhouse, the police are quick to confiscate the most damning piece of evidence: a tape from the dead woman's answering machine. Recorded is a quarrel between Rotel and a dashing young Senatorial candidate, a quarrel that escalates into threats. David Coleman is the wealthy young heir to Minnapolis' biggest and most powerful real estate clan. His arrest shocks the residents of Minneapolis, but no one more than his wife, Caroline, who was Rotel's best, and perhaps only, friend. Caroline has long suspected her husband of infidelity, had in fact decided to leave him, but this development turns her world upside down, setting in motion a chain of events she is powerless to stop or step away from.

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release


Linda Suzin

Linda has lived in and around the Minneapolis area all of her life and currently resides in the semi-rural town of Medina, where she covers the school board meetings and other events for the local newspaper. Aside from writing full time she is an active participant in both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, a third grade room mother and a Sunday school teacher.

She utilizes the few warm months of the year with camping, tennis, biking, boating and fishing. Other hobbies, when time permits, include reading into the wee hours and visiting dance clubs in the "city."

Her first published novel, SAND PIRATES, under the pseudonym Ellis Hoff, was released in May, 1999.

Reviews

"Suzin writes glitzy mainstream romance with flair. She provides the hidden details of her plot in careful succession, keeping the reader wondering about the outcome at each point along the way."

Affaire de Coeur

"Wow, what a book! This romance has twists and turns that only Alfred Hitchcock could really appreciate. Anyone will have trouble leaving this book to even answer the phone. Linda has also started a web site that has a twist of its own a little added bonus called Hunk of the Month". (Well if you only thought you could read about dashing men now you can email them too!)"

AnnMarie Vinge -- A Winning Reader Review


"Sweet Music moves faster than any ride I've been on. The characters are unique and exciting. The plot has a sweet twist and the ending is sensational. This book is definitely a must read and will satisfy all of your cravings!"

Marie Zappa, author of A Touch of Insanity -- A Winning Reader Review
Excerpt

Chapter 1

She watched him come up the walk toward her with the same appreciation, the same hunger, she always felt watching him; his faded jeans saggy from two day's wear, the worn indigo shirt flapping behind him in the breeze, held closed by the singe button that threatened to come undone at any moment to expose the muscular chest that had been her pillow. She smiled to herself noting that he'd made an attempt at pulling the black curls together at the nape of his neck but enough of them had escaped with the wind to blind him. He stopped abruptly. She watched him hold the newspaper up and study it.

Her heart skipped a beat as she studied the solitary figure. Frayed cuffs undone; thick, strong forearms exposed to the day's first light. He shifted his weight from foot to foot and she imagined the way this would look minus the Levi's. She should know, it hadn't been long since he'd grudgingly pulled them on. Holed up in the cabin a whole day and night she'd finally managed to convince him that it was time they checked in with civilization. Make sure it was still there. They still had today.

Leaving one bare foot planted solidly on gray concrete he turned away from the cabin, away from her, and she felt the breath slipping over her lips and out into the chilled autumn morning until, finally, he faced her again. He held the hair out of his eyes and looked at the newspaper again. Even from this distance she could see the tension that lined his face.

Something's wrong.

Before he could make the short distance back to the cabin Caroline hastily donned a loose blanket and yanked open the door fighting the wind's attempt to pull it shut.

"What's wrong?"

He didn't answer her. He came in and shut the door, never letting go of the paper. Something was very wrong.

"Mitch, what's wrong?"

"Sit down."

"Mitch, tell me--"

"Sit down!" He barked the words in a way that seemed to startle them both. Never had he raised his voice to her, or, she to him. Obeying, she sank down onto the edge of the unmade bed; he kneeled beside her and rested his head in her bare lap. "I'm sorry. I love you. Just remember I love you."

"I will." It was true. She would always remember. "Mitch?"

He handed her the newspaper still open to the front page. The pictures registered immediately: two smiling, happy people. She knew both of them. One was her husband, the other her friend. Then she read the headline and her world came apart.

David Coleman, Local Business Owner,
Charged in Gruesome Death

And in slightly smaller print:

Mistress Planned to Expose Love Triangle
Dashing Coleman's Chances at the Booth

"I have to go."

He nodded already retrieving pieces of clothing strewn about the room.

* * *

"MOMMY! Mommy!"

Caroline braced herself firmly preparing for the blow of two small male bodies, estimated impact speed at about fifty miles an hour. Their world was still unchanged. They didn't know. She was glad. She'd just as soon they never did but, of course, that wasn't realistic. Should she send Petey to school on Monday? She'd worry about that later. Right now she just wanted to collect her boys and go....

...home?

What could she hope to find waiting for her there, an deserted house dead still but for the blinking light of the security system? Or, worse yet: would it be filled with people? Strangers? Going through her house? Tearing through her things? Suddenly the prospect of going home seemed cold. As if on cue, a sudden draft filled the big tile foyer of her mother-in-law's house and she shivered. Tears sprang to her tired her eyes as the day's events threatened to overwhelm her. Swallow her up. She needed to cry but was fighting the urge for the sake of her children. Her boys. Hers and David's.

Tera Coleman shot Caroline a hard look and ushered her from the room with a stern hand. "Go play with Scooter a bit now, Boys. Grandma and Mama need to have a talk."

"Can we give him a snack?" asked Ricky and Caroline tried a smile. Ricky was fascinated with the way the Coleman's ancient Labrador swallowed up things without an evident chew. Still in a constant state of wonder at four, he relayed the phenomenon to Caroline the last time they were here. "He don't ebin' take one bite, Mom. He just sucks it in like a... a vacuum." They'd laughed so then. She at Ricky, and then he at her laughing. Could it have only been a week ago?

"Just one." Tera answered over her shoulder. Then, "Peter, watch your brother please. And remember, just one."

Grandma Tera was strict, but loving. Especially when it came to her boys. All three of them, David included. Caroline always suspected it was a different story when it came to her. Affection within the Coleman infrastructure was reserved for blood relatives. She cringed at Petey's answer.

"Yes, ma'am."

Ma'am? Tera's influence, no doubt. Surely not hers. She signed audibly and let her mother-in-law guide her into the kitchen, closed off on either side with doors.

"I haven't told them a thing," Tera confided securing the door behind them. Ah, Caroline mused with the onset of dread, this was to be a private conversation.

She wasn't sure what to say. How to answer. She sensed Tera expected gratitude over this act of common sense but could not comply. Of course she wouldn't have told the boys anything, she wouldn't have wanted the responsibility of her grandsons' tears. Questions. More tears. It would be have been a trying situation and Caroline was certain her mother-in-law was moved to silence by choice rather than respect. Respect for Caroline's role as the boys' mother. Respect for Caroline as capable adult.

She studied the older woman's face for a moment and thought the lines around her mouth and brow were deeper than they'd been a week ago. Noticeably so. As always, her resemblance to Caroline's husband was striking.

"Where's David?"

"Downtown. At the county jail."

"He can't get out? What about bail?"

"Not on the weekend. They won't rule on bail until tomorrow."

"Have you seen him?"

"Yes, I have. Melanie watched the boys. I spent most of last night with him. We tried to get a hold of you--"

"How is he?"

"Not good. Not good at all. Of course he's innocent. That goes without saying. This is some ridiculous mix-up. It'll be cleared up in a day or two, but it will kill him at the polls. Martin has already suggested he cut his losses and formally resign as soon as he gets out. Its all because of that girl. That friend of yours. I never liked her."

Rotel.

I liked her. Caroline thought. I liked her a lot.

"What happened? Why was David arrested?"

Tera looked almost helpless with the late afternoon sun streaming through the window behind her, washing out her usual vibrant coloring. Caroline softened. This woman's son was imprisoned. Her life's blood. Certainly she was going through a gamut of emotions. Tera's mouth turned down at the corners, her eyes seemed empty. Lifeless. Then she spoke and Caroline realized, as sad as this woman was, she was not to be pitied. She was Terafina Christina Hartman Coleman. Matriarch and leader of the grand Coleman clan. A force to be reckoned with.

"He's innocent. He was set up. But I shouldn't have to tell you that, he's your husband. You should be able to support him more than anyone else. You know what David is made of. He would never get mixed up in something like this."

"But he is," Caroline answered distractedly. "He's involved and, now, so am I."

"If you'd been home and not... not wherever it was you were, your husband would have had an alibi and he wouldn't be sitting in that cell right now. I called your mother, Caroline. She never saw you this weekend. I called your sister. She tried to cover for you but it was obvious she'd never seen you either. Do you want to tell me where your were? I'm sure David would like to know."

"No."

"I didn't think so. My poor son is set up by those thugs and you're out God knows--"

"Thugs?"

Tera Coleman crossed her arms and looked at her daughter-in-law in obvious disbelief. "Who do you think did this horrible thing? My son?" The older woman shook her head profusely answering her own question. "No. David had no part in this other than his threat to Ackerman. You know how worried he's been about this election. Especially since that last poll. David's nearly caught up to his lead."

"So what are you saying, Tera? That Ackerman killed Rotel and made it look like David did it? Is that what you're saying?"

"What else could have happened?"

"The paper said there was a tape from her answering machine."

"They're lying." Tera's tone was just short of hysterical, words pouncing from her lips in a fevered succession. "They've been backing Ackerman's reelection from the start. You know that."

Caroline took a deep breath compiling every bit of strength she could pull together.

"I don't know anything except that my husband is in jail and that he's been accused of killing someone close to me after, I might add, screwing her behind my back for who knows how long. That has nothing to do with me or where I spent my weekend. I also know that I'm tired. So damn tired. I'm taking my sons home. I'll think of what I need to do tomorrow when it gets here. That's what I know, Tera. Nothing more, nothing less."

"I think there's something else you know and I want to hear you say it." The rant mode continued. "You know as well as I do that David is innocent. And you know your place: beside your husband. He needs you, Caroline and, by God, you'd better be there."

Caroline didn't answer the older woman, instead waived her accusations away with the back of her hand. Who'd have ever thought? Sweet little Caroline dismissing the near regal Tera Coleman without so much as a word. The balance of power in the Coleman house was beginning to shift. She could feel it and, even under the grave circumstances, it felt... good. Strong. What Tera was saying, under the pretense of a command, was that for the first time since knowing her she needed Caroline. David needed Caroline. Ah, to be so needed.

"We'll have to get to the court house early for the bail hearing," Tera continued recovering smoothly from a well subdued flinch. "I'll pick you up at eight. We can leave Melanie with--"

"My mother is coming. She'll watch my sons."

A twisted smile crept over Tera's lips as she witnessed, Caroling knew, more control slip from her supreme grasp. Tera Coleman had never cared much for her daughter-in-law but she despised Caroline's mother with an off handed openness. Caroline could almost hear the assessment running through her mother-in-law's head: The woman is uneducated, common and close enough to her daughter to build an alliance of defense against us the one time we need her. She smothers my grandsons with cheap toys, lets them do just about whatever they want. This could be a problem. An enormous, irritating problem if not handled correctly.

"How wonderful of your mother to drop everything and come when we need her. It will work out so much better her being here."

"Yes, I'm sure of it," Caroline answered. She hadn't yet spoke to Mama about coming but she was sure of one thing: If Mary Anderson saw the paper this morning she was on her way. The trip from Detroit Lakes to Minneapolis would take three and a half hours. She might already be waiting at the house, Caroline thought suddenly, allowing herself a moment's pleasure. The boys would squeal with delight upon seeing her. She wondered if her mother had taken the time to pick up her usual supply of goodies. Under the circumstances, it was a tough call. "I have to go. My mother will be tired and the boys should be getting ready for bed."

"Of course," Tera's tone took on a soothing quality that seemed sincere, but contradictory, compared to the accusing one she had taken with Caroline just before. "Bitch at me in one breath, kiss my ass in the next" was one of Mama's regular sayings. Appropriate enough. What had she been thinking leaving the boys with Tera for the weekend? God, she had to get out of here.

Hastily she exited the kitchen, collecting her sons from the patio where a very sick looking yellow lab lay next to an empty bag of "Doggy Eats".