Today I am so pleased to welcome Isabelle Adler to Joyfully Jay. Isabelle has come to share an exclusive excerpt from her latest release, In the Winter Woods. She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
The Maplewood Public Safety and Outreach Department occupied the same building as the town hall. Unlike most of the rest of the buildings along Main Street, its redbrick facade was left unadorned by seasonal decorations, aside from the picturesque snowdrifts piled on both sides of the shallow marble steps. A brass plaque on the side of the building proudly proclaimed that the village was established in 1811.
The clerk showed me to the commissioner’s office, which was located on the first floor. It was only large enough to accommodate two desks and a filing cabinet. One of the desks, which I presumed belonged to the deputy, Gleason, was empty. The second one stood farther in, next to the window. Commissioner Monroe looked up from his computer, and for a moment, I was transfixed by the way the light touched his hair, creating a sort of halo around his head.
He’d been wearing a hat yesterday, so I hadn’t seen that his hair was blond, verging on golden. His eyes met mine, and I detected an awareness sharpening his gaze, something akin to appreciation.
Was Commissioner Monroe checking me out?
I hadn’t caught any vibes of interest from him before, but admittedly, I’d been too cranky and tired to notice. In any case, I doubted he really liked what he saw. I supposed I rocked the nerdy writer look well enough—thin frame, wavy dark hair that constantly got in my eyes, pale complexion, and an impressive array of knitted sweaters. Glasses would have completed the image, but I’d had Lasik done a couple of years ago and could boast nearly perfect vision.
I was also thirty-four and one step away from unemployment, which was bound to be a major put-off.
“Good morning, Mr. Kensington,” Monroe said when the silence stretched for a bit too long. I thought I could detect a trace of California in his speech now that I was paying more attention to him. “What can I do for you?”
I shook myself out of my preoccupation with his rather striking good looks (had I really compared him to a D-lister yesterday?) and my lack thereof, and said:
“I received an anonymous letter.”
Monroe gestured for me to sit in the chair facing his desk, which I did. I opened my messenger bag and took out the note. I’d carefully placed it in a plastic sheet protector I’d found inside a desk drawer in the cabin’s study nook.
“‘Get out or die,’” he read aloud and then looked at me. “That’s very…unspecific. Did you have a row with anyone yesterday evening?”
“No, I didn’t. I drove straight to my cabin after leaving the convenience store and stayed there all night. Alone.”
Monroe flipped open a notebook next to his computer and scribbled something in it.
“What’s the address?”
“123 Pine Grove Lane.”
“Did you see anyone on the premises?”
I shook my head. “No. But it felt to me like someone was there, watching me.”
He jotted that down. At least, I hoped that was what he was writing, and not something along the lines of “this neurotic New Yorker is wasting my time.”
“This looks to be cut out of the newspaper,” he said. “I recognize the print.”
“Right. The St. Albans Messenger? I saw you buying it yesterday.”
He nodded in acknowledgment. “That’s the one. I’ll keep the note, if you don’t mind?”
“By all means. I only handled it with tissue, so you could check it for fingerprints. I’m a mystery writer,” I explained when he looked at me questioningly. “This is basic stuff.”
Monroe sighed and leaned forward on the table, steepling his fingers. His expression took on that slightly exasperated quality of a kindergarten teacher addressing a particularly stubborn toddler, and my hackles instantly rose.
“Mr. Kensington. I understand you’re upset, and justifiably so. But this”—he nodded toward the letter—“looks to me like a simple prank.”
“A prank? This isn’t funny!” I tapped my finger against the plastic protector for emphasis. “This is a death threat!”
“I’m sure whoever sent it thought it was funny. Look,” he continued at my affronted silence, “someone must have seen you arrive in town yesterday and decided to pull your leg for kicks. It may come as no surprise to you that there’s not much for kids to do for fun around here, especially in the wintertime. Besides, we don’t have the means in Maplewood to conduct a thorough examination of the note—fingerprints and whatnot—and right now, I see no reason to put in a special request with the county sheriff.”
His tone wasn’t unkind, but his dismissal left me seething.
“So you won’t pursue this?”
“There’s nothing to pursue. If you get any more of these, let me know.”
“Why? So you can ignore them too?”
If he struggled for patience, he didn’t let on. In fact, he’d remained polite and professional throughout our conversation.
“I don’t believe there’s anything more sinister at play here than someone’s unfortunate sense of humor,” he said. “But I could be wrong, and if I am, I’d like to know as soon as possible, so I can make sure you stay safe.”
His answer took the edge off my earlier indignation, but I was still far from happy.
“Why would anyone do this?” I grumbled, mostly to myself. “Fun isn’t what it used to be.”
Declan Kensington isn’t really in the mood for Christmas. His latest mystery book sales are tanking, his finances are in a dismal state, and his spirits are anything but festive. Perhaps spending the holidays alone at his family lakeside cabin in the small village of Maplewood, Vermont, will provide him much-needed peace and quiet. Then he might finally get to work on a new book and (hopefully) jumpstart his stalling writing career.
When he starts receiving anonymous letters threatening him to leave, Declan realizes his solitary writer’s retreat isn’t at all what he bargained for. And if the threats aren’t enough, a killer strikes, casting Declan in the role of the most likely suspect. Now it’s up to him and the handsome local Public Safety Commissioner Curtis Monroe to find out the truth before Declan spends Christmas (and the rest of his life) in jail. But as dead bodies pile up and dark secrets are revealed beneath Maplewood’s picture-perfect facade, Declan’s heart may yet be in more danger than his life…
A voracious reader from the age of five, Isabelle Adler has always dreamed of one day putting her own stories into writing. She loves traveling, art, and science, and finds inspiration in all of these. Her favorite genres include sci-fi, fantasy, and historical adventure. She also firmly believes in the unlimited powers of imagination and caffeine.
Isabelle has brought a $10 NineStar Press gift card to give away to one lucky reader on her tour. Follow the Rafflecopter below to enter.
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