Building Character (Northwoods Trilogy #2)

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(Northwoods Trilogy #2) Indie authors Jade Winslow and Petra Davis threw caution to the wind to be together. But now caution is called for when a dark figure from Jade’s past comes calling with murder on her mind. Set against the backdrop of spring in the Northwoods of Minocqua, Wisconsin, Jade and Petra align with Gina, a recent victim of Ruth Harp, and Detective Erin Samorske ferrets out the true history of the femme fatale, who is much more dangerous that Jade ever realized.

EXCERPT:

Snap this Bitch in Half

The place was cleaner than last time she’d been there. When you spend most of your time at home, it gave you the opportunity to clean more. But then again, Becky was at home more than that in previous years, and her place always looked like it had been inside a blender. Sam recognized the truth of the psychological tenet that your environment was a reflection of what was in your head. Looking around at everything in its proper place, she knew that Becky’s mind was healthier than it had ever been, even if she still spent too much time alone. She had her women’s vet group meetings. Her work at the community center, teaching women how to defend them-selves. She was finally giving back, spending less time in her own head, battling her own demons.

Becky returned with the Cokes, handing one to Sam, who waited on the sofa. The scars on Becky’s arm were less angry-looking. And she was wearing short sleeves again, not trying so hard to hide them like some ugly testament to her own imagined failure. Sam looked up at the framed photograph on the wall. A group-shot of Becky’s unit in Afghanistan. She had been the only one of them to survive that day when their NATO convoy carrying supplies in Peshawar was hijacked, the cargo trucks and Humvees torched and bombed east of the Khyber pass. Under fire, and eventually wounded, Becky managed to dig herself in behind a big rock until help came.

Becky scowled at her laptop, open on the coffee table.

“What’s wrong?”

“I keep putting my computer on sleep and it keeps waking up.”

“Maybe it’s not tired,” Sam offered with a smirk.

Becky closed the laptop and took a drink of her Coke, gesturing toward the laundry basket, full to overflowing. “Sorry about the mess.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty terrible,” came the usual sarcasm.

“Well, Mom called last night, and kept me on the phone for several hours. I had trouble sleeping, and I screwed up my routine.”

“Routine? Like what? Cheerleading?”

“Yes,” Becky shot back. “I use batons, and I light the ends on fire and dance around with them.”
Sam laughed. “I’m just giving you hell.”

“I know.” Becky winked at Sam, sat back against the sofa. “I love her, Erin, but you know, Mom always did drive me batshit crazy. I don’t even go over there anymore. Every time I do, she offers me a tomato sandwich. She says, Would you like a tomato sandwich? I say, Mom, I’ve only told you a hundred times I hate tomato sandwiches. But she still offers me tomato sandwiches. So the next time she came to my house, I said, Mom, I just made some flaming turds on the grill, would you like one? she goes, Oh Becky, what are you talking about? That’s so rude. I said, Well, I’m all out of tomato sandwiches. I mean, I’m her daughter, she gave birth to me, you’d think she could remember one factoid.” Becky reached into a jar where she kept sunflower seeds, and filled one side of her cheek with them.

Sam said, “I love her tomato sandwiches.”

“HER tomato sandwiches? How many recipes are there?”

Sam gave in to her laughter. “You are just two different people, that’s all.”

Hopefully, Sam thought, tomato-sandwich-pushing mothers, glitchy computers, and unwashed clothes were the only challenges my sister had to deal with, now. For the longest time, Becky had convinced herself that she didn’t deserve to be alive, when the rest of her unit came home in boxes. The usual survivor’s guilt. But gradually, through conversations with other vets in the support group, she began to realize the truth. War was indeed hell, and anyone who came out of it with their life was blessed, should embrace the value of being alive, rather than lament what could have been. That’s when her sister began volunteering at soup kitchens, and teaching women how to defend themselves. It gave her purpose.

Now, Sam was about to add another purposeful activity to that list. “Like I said on the phone, I could really use your help on this case,” she said. “I wouldn’t trust anyone else to back me up if things get dicey. Cody’s over there right now, but these girls need someone like you to keep them safe from Alice Larkin. I don’t think it will be for very long. Sooner or later, Larkin will make a mistake, and I’ll be there to lock her up.” Sam drank her bottled baby Coke, always stocked in Becky’s fridge, watching Becky pull the empty sunflower seed hulls from her mouth, dump them in a ceramic bowl, as she cracked each open and scooped out the seeds adroitly with her tongue. Jalapeno Salsa flavored. Becky ate them almost 24/7. Maybe it just gave her something to do all the time, so she didn’t feel idle when she wasn’t teaching self-defense or dispensing soup to the homeless. Becky never was very good at sitting still and doing nothing, and also had a bit of an oral fixation. At least now, Becky was sucking on seeds, and not on Jack Daniels. Although, she had said many times if Jack Daniels was a real man, she would have sucked on him, too. But Sam could tell Becky never truly believed that any man, fictional or otherwise, would see past the scars she brought back from Afghanistan.

Becky sucked at the spicy juice from the seeds in her mouth. “You know I’m there for ya, sister. You were always there for me.”

“Thanks, Beck. We’ll swing by around seven to pick you up for the reunion.”

Becky gave her a two finger, cursory salute. “So, you think this psychochick is nearby?”

“She could be. We think she found another vehicle. In Arizona.”

“Or she could have just answered an ad for one, and now is looking for a place to hide.”

“Either way, she was smart enough to evade capture, and smart enough to get rid of the Civic. So she knows we’re probably looking for her.”

“Well, let her come. I’ll be waiting right with you.”

“Don’t underestimate her though, Beck.”

“Are you kidding me? I’ve dealt with the fucking Taliban. I’ll snap this bitch in half.”

Northwoods Trilogy #2amazon_logo_sweeping_paperback150x_300dpi

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