TITLE: "Burning for You"
GENRE: Romantic Suspense
Set up: Carly is consoled by her gay friend, Brandon, who calls her from Los Angeles, while she's stuck in her former hometown in central Illinois. Carly is falling for Adam, the sheriff. But Adam has an ex-wife and children. (Complications). Kramer is her pooch.
Stop. Stop thinking about him. She discarded her plastic cup in a garbage can and observed the park grounds. Everything was still, not a breeze stirred the leaves or flowers. No one strolled along the cobblestone path. It was just she and Kramer.
A hot day, a strangely idyllic one. She brushed a fast-food napkin over her upper lip, wondering if she'd ever get used to the humidity.
Or looking over her shoulder.
Her cell rang. Grinning, she answered immediately. "Fred!"
"Ethel," Brandon said, his voice loud with energy. "When do I pick you up at the airport?"
"Have you booked the return flight? I'll send an armed escort for Kramer, so those airline idiots won't lose him again."
"Haven't booked the flight yet."
"What? You are so not blowing off that audition."
"You'd better tell me what's wrong, or I'll fly out there myself and horrify those crones with my pink feather boa."
When she laughed, she choked on a sob. She sank to the bench with its chipped green paint and told Brandon everything, about the tarantula, the mangled marionette, the mill saw, the drippy threat painted inside the barn. He listened quietly until she told him she slept with Adam.
"OMG, girl, at least you got a bonus round, putting up with all that stress. Did Studley live up to his name?"
"And then some." She bunched the leash around her left hand and told her friend about the ex-wife. Panting heavily, Kramer rested on his paws like a Sphinx. "Listen. I've got to get going." She rose to her feet. "Kramer needs air conditioning."
"Oh, Carly girl. I hear loooovve in your voice."
"Lust, Fred. Not love."
"Oh, it's love and you know it. Carly-kins, are you just going to lie there and take it? I'd double up the lip gloss and fight for my man."
"She's supposedly a looker."
"And what are you? Yesterday's leftovers? Don't you let that ex-wife re-claim that package. That Festival's coming up tomorrow, right? Don't you dare hide your hotness. You show that hunk and his junk what you're packing. Make him forget that ex-wife."
"What do you mean?"
"That white dress of yours."