Some guys have everything. With his stunning looks and dazzling charm, Jason Tyrone is America’s favorite new action hero. Make that was. Once so spectacular in action, the blockbuster idol was found dead in his hotel room after his latest premiere. Despite his chiseled physique, Jason is never getting up again…
Though the autopsy reveals Jason may have gotten his killer body through doping, no one wants to believe the beloved athlete is a fraud, least of all Savannah. Soon she’s deeply immersed in the dark world of body enhancing drugs, and wondering if the world-class gym where Jason worked out is really just a front for a lucrative drug ring. Was Jason’s death the price he paid for threatening to expose other celebrities caught in the clutch of keeping a flawless image? Or was everyone’s favorite hero a victim of his own desire to always be at the top of his game? No stranger to society’s obsession with image, Savannah is determined to get to the truth. And for the voluptuous investigator, this time it’s personal….
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A SAVANNAH REID MYSTERY
By G.A. McKevett
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 G.A. McKevett and Kensington Publishing Corporation
All rights reserved.
Standing at her bathroom sink, staring at the disgruntled, newly married woman in the mirror, Savannah Reid rehearsed the speech she intended to give the jury at her murder trial. It would be during the sentencing phase, no doubt, because she fully intended to plead guilty.
She was certain that if there was even one semipersnickety female on the jury, she'd escape the needle.
"You have to understand, ladies and gentlemen, that I spent three and a half long weeks redecorating that bathroom—all in anticipation of his parents' visit. I'm pretty sure I messed up my back permanently by hanging those fancy ceiling tiles ... the ones that used to be white but are now all globbed up with dribs and drabs of blue shaving foam. How in heaven's name does a grown man get shaving foam on the ceiling?"
She glanced around at the carnage of her freshly renovated bathroom and added in her thick, Georgia drawl, "I reckon the same way he got it all over the sink, the faucet handle, the light switch, and the mirror. My dear jury members, you haven't lived till you've tried to scrub that stuff off a mirror. It's blue cement. You can take a razor blade and fingernail polish remover to it, and it won't budge."
A brisk knock on the door interrupted her plea for mercy.
"You in there?" inquired a deep, annoyed male voice.
"Yeah," she barked back.
"You comin' out soon? Or am I gonna have to go downstairs again to do my business?"
She jerked the door open and stood—nose to nose, give or take a few inches—with her beloved new husband. "Boy, you and your thimble-sized bladder are irritatin' the daylights outta me."
He shrugged and grinned down at her with a sexy smirk that would have set her bloomers atwitter, were it not for the devastation behind her.
"Hey," he said, "when the dragon needs drainin', what's a guy to do?"
He waited, giving her plenty of time to chuckle, or at least grin. But all he got was an icy blue stare. It was the glacial glare that had made former cop, now private detective Savannah Reid infamous among suspected murderers, robbers, embezzlers, and jaywalkers. Evildoers of all shapes and sizes, including husbands who left the toilet seat up and burped loudly in fancy restaurants, had been on the receiving end of those cobalt lasers.
Rolling his eyes, Dirk moaned and said, "Oh, man. I'm always in trouble. What did I do this time?"
Stepping to one side, so that he would have a clear, unobstructed view of the crime scene, she waved an arm to indicate the extent of the damages. "That," she said. "That's what you did. Again."
He gave the room a cursory glance and frowned, obviously confused. "What? What's the matter? Did I fold the towel in half instead of perfect thirds? Did I leave the cap off the toothpaste? Am I gonna get shot at sunrise or hanged from the neck until dead?"
She decided not to tell him that she had, indeed, been fantasizing about an execution only moments before. Her own. Society's recompense for premeditated, first-degree homicide.
As she watched his eyes dart around the room, registering absolutely nothing amiss, by his own lax nonstandards, her ire rose. "Does this room look neat and tidy to you?" she asked.
"I've seen worse," he replied.
"Yes, I'm sure you have. But not in my house. Look at those toothpaste spit specks all over the mirror."
"Hey, happens when I floss. You don't want a husband with lousy dental hygiene, do you?"
"And why did you leave your deodorant, shave cream can, and jock itch powder there on the sink again? I asked you to put them back in the medicine cabinet when you're done with them."
He looked genuinely perplexed. "But why should I go to all that work when tomorrow I'm just gonna have to drag 'em out so's I can use 'em again?"
"Al-l-l that work? Dra-a-ag 'em out? You act like I'm asking you to pick a bale o' cotton in the hot Georgia sun."
He gave her a sappy, condescending smile that was, no doubt, intended to smooth her ruffled feathers, but in fact accomplished exactly the opposite. "If I put those three tiny little things away," he said, "will that make my beautiful new bride happy?"
"I reckon," she grumbled. "And maybe you could wipe off the mirror once in a month of Sundays, since it's you who gunks it all up four times a day."
Sighing deeply, he trudged past her into the room, picked up his offending toiletries, and with great ceremony placed them in the medicine chest. He fussed with the containers for what seemed like forever to Savannah, making quite a show of spacing them perfectly, evenly, among their neighbors, turning the labels straight outward, then readjusting ad nauseum.
With that delicate mission accomplished, he strode to the toilet, unrolled a giant handful of tissue, and returned to the sink. Still grinning like a goat munching sand burrs, he flipped on the sink faucet and wetted the paper.
As Savannah's blood pressure soared, he calmly, casually, smeared the sodden wad all over the mirror, leaving bits of soggy mess behind. Unfortunately, the blue blobs of shaving cream remained undisturbed.
Standing behind him, her face turning redder by the moment, Savannah looked around the room for potential murder weapons and wondered if it were possible to inflict a fatal wound with a Lady Gillette aloe-moisturizing bikini line shaver.
"There," he exclaimed, proudly displaying his handiwork. "Happy now?"
"Plum ecstatic," she muttered.
"Good. And now that I'm in here, I'm gonna choke the chicken. So unless you've got some picky-ass directions about how I oughta do that, too, you might wanna skedaddle."
With her chin a few notches higher than usual and a grim look on her face, Savannah marched stiffly to the door. She paused there for a moment as a hundred or so of Granny Reid's admonitions about "living in harmony with the man the good God gave ya" and "overlookin' the better part of a husband's transgressions bein' the path to domestic tranquillity" danced through her head.
She could take the high road and just walk out without saying another word. That would be noble, virtuous.
Blessed are the peacemakers, and all that good stuff.
Dirk was, after all, a decent man. He loved her. He'd put his crap away with a smile—okay, a smirk—on his face and kinda, sorta cleaned up when she'd asked him to. What more could a woman ask, really?
Yes, she would put away her anger and choose the path of peace.
Virtue, after all, had its own reward ... mostly in the form of self-righteous gloating.
Then she heard a sound behind her that made every muscle in her body kink into a knot. A merry little tinkling sound.
Not the sound of liquid hitting water. Oh, no. It was the unmistakable merry little melody of pee hitting tile.
She whirled on him with a vengeance. "Dammit all, Dirk! At the shooting range, you score forty-nine out of fifty shots from twenty-five yards—standing, kneeling, and prone! But you can't hit a dadgum toilet that's two feet away?"
He stood—chicken partially choked, dragon half drained—a look of shock and confusion on his face. "What?"
"If I were to paint a bull's-eye on the bottom of the bowl, do you reckon it'd improve that piss-poor aim of yours?"
He thought about it. Long and hard. Then, having given it all due consideration, he solemnly nodded, smiled, and said, "It could. Yes, I think it might at that. Good idea, babe. You get on that right away."
"You ... ! You ... ! I oughta ... ! A-a-u-u-gh!"
She stomped out of the room and slammed the door behind her, rocking the house to its foundation.
As she strode down the hallway, she could hear her groom laughing his butt off on the other side of the bathroom door.
Yeah, well, at least somebody's enjoying all this wedded bliss, she thought.
"Laugh it up, fuzzball," she muttered as she went into the bedroom to get dressed for their big night out. "I'll getcha back. One way or the other."
Granny Reid had told her many times, "Don't let the sun set on your wrath, Savannah girl. No matter how bad the squabblin's been that day, come nighttime you always make it right 'tween you and your man before you lay your head on your pillow to sleep."
Savannah had no problem with that sage advice. It would be at least seven hours before they retired for the evening. Surely she could arrange some soul-gratifying form of revenge before then.
Nope, she had no intention of going to bed angry. Come nighttime, she intended to be giggling on that pillow and rubbing her hands with glee.CHAPTER 2
As Savannah rode down the Ventura Freeway in the rear seat of the beautiful old Bentley—on her way to a major Hollywood movie premiere, dressed to the nines in her best, sapphire silk dress—she couldn't help thinking about that tiny, rural town where she had grown up.
McGill, Georgia, was, and remained, little more than a wide spot in a rough, pothole-ridden road.
Thanks to Granny Reid, who'd raised Savannah and her eight siblings, Savannah had many pleasant childhood memories. But she had even more grim ones from the days before Granny had taken custody of her grandchildren. And at times like this, when her life was full to overflowing with the abundant blessings of basic needs fulfilled, loving friends, and the occasional adventure, like this one, she thought about the child she had been in McGill.
Sometimes she enjoyed the irrational but healing fantasy of the adult Savannah returning to yesteryear, scooping up the ragged little girl she had been, setting her on her lap, and telling the child, "Things are gonna get a whole lot better, darlin', when you grow up. You just hang in there and it'll happen, sooner than you think. You're just a little caterpillar now. But when you grow up, you're gonna be a big, beautiful butterfly."
It would have helped, she had no doubt. Because if anybody in the world could have benefited from a crystal ball that showed a sparkling future, it was a poor kid from McGill, Georgia, struggling to make it through a tough childhood in a dark place with limited hope.
As Dirk reached over, took her hand, folded it between his large, warm ones, and squeezed, her earlier irritations with him melted away. She gave him a sideways glance, then a wink, and a grin that deepened her dimples. She had to admit he looked darn good in a tux. The end results were almost worth the trouble of having to hog-tie him first to get him into it.
He leaned his head down to hers and nuzzled her dark curls with his nose. She prepared her heart for the sweet nothing he was about to whisper in her ear.
"See?" he said. "I didn't have to wear this stupid penguin outfit, after all. The damn tie's choking me so bad I can't even swallow my own spit. Any minute now I'm gonna start drooling down the front of this sissy shirt."
Okay, she thought. Which will it be? Kill him with kindness? Or just open the car door and push him out?
She decided to be nice. "Nice" was the programmed, default mode for Southern belles. Though she could flip the switch into "cantankerous" when the situation warranted it—when "nice" wasn't getting her what she wanted.
Long ago, she had decided that Dixie gentility had more to do with effectiveness and efficiency than any code of ethics. And being a pragmatist, she had no problem with that.
"But, darlin'," she cooed, "you look so handsome in a tuxedo. Sorta like James Bond, Clint Eastwood on Oscar night, and Elvis—all rolled into one."
"Now, when did you ever see the King wearing a tux?"
"I don't know. He probably did when he and Priscilla got married."
Dirk nodded toward the front of the car, where their good friends, Ryan Stone and John Gibson sat—John at the wheel and Ryan in the passenger seat. "Yeah, well, you were wrong about the formal wear crap, about me having to wear this stupid thing to this stupid shindig. They're not wearing tuxedos. Hell, Ryan's not even got a tie on. I feel like an overdressed idiot. And that's the worst kind—gussied up and uncomfortable."
Savannah considered telling him the truth, which was: When you look like Ryan Stone—tall, dark, gorgeous hunk that he is—you didn't need a tie.
With a body like Ryan's, he would've looked good in a barrel or, better yet, in Savannah's humble opinion, a loincloth.
"He may not be wearing a tuxedo," she whispered. "But that's an Armani suit he's got on. I'm pretty sure that John's is Prada."
She glanced up, and her eyes met John's in the rearview mirror. Obviously having heard what she'd said, he was giving her one of his warm, kindhearted smiles.
"Before you complain too bitterly, old chap, about your formal attire," John said, his British accent thick and lush, like his silver hair and mustache, "remember that when this evening's festivities are over, you're the only lad in this vehicle who'll be going home with that lovely lady sitting next to you."
Dirk gave a little sniff. "It ain't like the two of you wanna go home with her, or any other lady for that matter."
Savannah gave him a warning pinch on the thigh. But Ryan turned in his seat, a grin on his face, and gave Dirk a long, deliberate, head-to-toe look. "If I were you, and I wanted to update my look, I'd ditch the tie, open the collar, and muss up my hair a bit."
Savannah cringed, knowing how well that suggestion would go over. Mussed hair looked a lot better on a guy like Ryan, who had plenty to muss. Dirk, on the other hand, worked long and hard on his hair to make the most of every precious strand. To a guy with so many bare spots to cover, "mussing" was simply not an option.
True to form, Dirk scowled and grumbled something semimenacing under his breath as he peeled off the tie, shoved it into his pocket and unfastened his top two studs.
Savannah decided she'd better turn things around, before her hubby's mood plummeted into the Dirk Abyss. In the space of two hours, he had been yelled at for messing up the bathroom, then squashed into a tuxedo that he now realized he didn't have to wear, and told to muss up hair that he didn't have.
She recognized the signs; their evening steeped in Hollywood glamour was circling the toilet. A full-fledged flush was imminent.
"I hear the special effects in this movie are amazing," she said a bit too brightly. "And they say that Jason Tyrone's been bulking up like crazy. Looks even better than he did in his last film."
A sideways glance at Dirk told her that this road might not be the one to take either.
"And the gal who plays the heroine looks fantastic, too," she added quickly. " 'Fills out her barely there costume exactly like a super-hot Celtic goddess should.' I believe that's what The New York Times reviewer said."
Dirk rewarded her efforts with a broad grin.
Ryan and John chuckled.
"Indeed," John said, as he guided the Bentley off the 101 and onto the Hollywood Freeway, heading toward Los Angeles. "I believe those were the reviewer's words verbatim."
"At least if it's got Jason Tyrone in it, you know there's gotta be some ass-kicking action," Dirk said. "It ain't gonna be one of those girlie flicks where everybody's just sitting around talking to each other, and the audience blubbers their faces off at the end."
"Heaven forbid," Ryan said, with a smile and a wink for Savannah. "I think you two will enjoy it. The production values are top rate, the special effects are awesome, and the acting and the script are pretty good, considering that it's a superhero action film."
"But above all else," John added, "we're looking forward to introducing you to Jason. He's a fine lad. Hasn't let all this fame and fortune go to his head."
"That's true." Ryan nodded. "We've known him since he was a kid, washing dishes in the bars and restaurants on Sunset Strip and working his way to the top in bodybuilding competitions."
"Didn't he do some modeling, too?" Savannah asked. "I think I remember seeing him and all of his muscles on billboards."
"Yeah, wearing nothing but his skivvies." Dirk gave a sniff. "You'd never catch me posing for something like that, showin' the whole world what I got."
"Oh, yeah?" Savannah gave him a poke in the ribs. "I seem to remember a certain policeman hunks charity calendar, where you were Mr. December. And if it wasn't for a well-placed Christmas package, you would've been showing off a certain package of your own."
Excerpted from Killer PHYSIQUE by G.A. McKevett. Copyright © 2014 G.A. McKevett and Kensington Publishing Corporation. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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