Monday, April 2, 2012

Before Her Eyes by Rebecca Forster : Interview & Excerpt

Mystery/Suspense

In a remote mountain community, the execution of a grocer and the abduction of a world-renowned model leave the local sheriff searching for a connection, two killers and a woman running for her life.

 As Dove sets his investigation in motion, Tessa Bradley, a hard assed Texas gal, faces off with her abductors. Her rangy beauty doesn’t mean a damn thing to the foreign men holding her at gunpoint. Just as one of them pulls the trigger, Tessa lashes out. Wounded but alive, she escapes her captors only to find greater peril lies ahead. As her life flashes before her eyes, Tessa struggles to stay alive, prays for rescue and fights for her soul's salvation.

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Dove Connelly’s Bedroom

2:17 a.m.

Dove Connelly caught up the phone on the first ring even though it was set so low as to make the sound virtually mute. Any other human being in a deep sleep wouldn’t have heard it, but Dove wasn’t any one else.
First, he didn’t sleep all that deep anymore. Then there was the thing he had in him: it was his sixth sense that let him hear and see what others didn’t, anticipate what others couldn’t.
Most people respected his talent, some thanked God for it and others who weren’t so law abiding steered clear of it. His wife, Cherie, would swear that she would be forever faithful because he would know her intentions even before she strayed. But that was before the unthinkable happened. Now, if Cherie spoke of that sixth sense at all, she did so with regret, sad that the gift had forsaken Dove when they needed it most.
Tonight Dove’s wife didn’t move when he pushed aside the covers and got out of bed. He put the phone to his ear, padding along to the kitchen in bare feet, wearing only old sweat pants, having no inkling that he’d be putting on his uniform any time soon.
“What is it, Jessica? Hogan boys tear up the tavern again?” He kept his voice low. The house wasn’t big.
Jessica Taylor started to speak but all Dove heard was the news catching in her throat. In all the years he had known her, Jessica reported to him using a scale of verbal sorrow, outrage or downright disbelief that gave him a clue as to enormity of the crime that was waiting on him. This night, for a layer of a second, she was speechless. Dove’s blood ran cold; as cold as it had run all those months ago when another crime was over and done before he knew it had even begun.
“Talk to me, Jessica.”
“Oh God,   ‘un. Bad as anything.”The woman pulled in a breath and it went no further than the middle of her chest.
“What and where?”
“One of ours, Dove. Paddy Johnson was drivin’ home, saw the lights at the Mountain Store and figured Fritz was hostin’ one of his poker parties like he used to.” Jessica breathed deep again and this time it went all the way in to her gut. “Paddy stopped into the store thinking to pick up a hand, Dove. He went into the store and found Fritz dead. Head splattered all over the back room. I’m so sorry.”
“Ah, Jesus.”
Dove put a hand to his face. There were no words to express Dove’s shock and sorrow. Bowing his head, covering his eyes did not make this news easier to take. They were talking about Fritz, a jack-o-lantern of a man: solid, round, possessed of a smile that cracked his face in two and lit up even the darkest times.
Dove remembered Fritz passing hot coffee to him on a bitter morning. Dove could still hear Fritz’s good words even when there was nothing good in his own life to speak of. Fritz was Dove’s best friend and confessor, the only one who knew what had really gone on in the sheriff’s home. Fritz was fond of reminding the sheriff that he carried the spirit of the bird his mother had named him for. Dove. Peace. Fritz had tried so hard to help Dove make peace with his demons.
Now Fritz was gone and Dove was shamed he slept through the man’s dying. That he didn’t feel his friend’s need was as close to a sin as anything he could imagine. There would come a time for personal reckoning. The time wasn’t now. Now was the time for Dove to do his job.
“Where’s Paddy?” Dove asked flatly.
“Says he’s sittin’ in his truck waitin’ on you. He called from the store but didn’t want to stay inside.” There was a beat before Jessica asked: “Want me to let the state boys know?”
“Give them a call but I’m not waiting on them, Jessie.”
“Alright, Dove.”
“Ring up Tim and get him out there. Call Nathan, too.”
“You going to trust Nathan with this?” Jessica asked tentatively.
“I trust him, Jessica. You make the call,” Dove directed. Then he thought again. “And Bernadette. We’ve got to let Bernadette know.”
“I’ll see to it, Dove,” Jessica offered but he had already changed his mind.
“Never mind. Not yet. I’ll go out to the store first. There’s always a chance Paddy is wrong.” Dove clutched for something that would make this better. The straw he came up with was speculation. It was a short one, a ridiculous dodge, but it was what he had. “Besides, if Bernadette’s awake she’ll know something’s gone down. Can’t be as close as those two have been all these years and not know.”
Jessica murmured something Dove couldn’t quite catch. It sounded like ‘hallelujah’. He was about to ring off when she stopped him.
“Dove, you think he could have done it himself? I mean, it’s been hard on him with Bernadette and all.”
“No,” he snapped. “Fritz wouldn’t have left us with that on our mind.”
“You’re right,” Jessica agreed. “You just do what you’ve got to do, Dove. I’ll be by the phone ready to help with whatever you need.”
“Jessie?”
“Yep?”
“Lock your doors. Keep your eyes open. Is your gun loaded?”
“Dove, whoever did this is probably gone. Besides, I can take ca. . .”
“You do it, Jessica,” Dove snapped. “One friend gone is enough. I won’t have another.”
Dove rang off. He kept his thoughts so close there wasn’t room for his huge sorrow. He dressed in the near dark, the small light in the bathroom casting only the faintest glow. Cherie saw that his uniform was laundered good as any city cop. She reasoned that if Dove’s size didn’t make people think twice before coming down on him, his starched and pressed uniform would. Even in these big mountains where so much law was made just by two people meeting up together, a fine uniform made a difference.
Dove put his gun in his holster and his jacket on over that. He slipped his knife into its sheath and took his hat off the peg. It was only when he went to kiss his sleeping wife that he paused.
Cherie was a powerful draw and it used to be he couldn’t be in the same room without wanting to touch her. Yet, her brow was furrowed as she struggled inside her dreams and it caught him up short. Those dreams were a place Dove didn’t want to go - he couldn’t help even if he got there - so he reached out and put his hand on her head. It didn’t ease her worry. It was a bad night all around.
Dove stepped back but the bassinette was in his way and he was forced to look at the baby. The girl’s eyes were open. Big eyes still blue from birth even though four months had passed. He prayed they would change dark like his and Cherie’s. Maybe if her eyes changed everything else would, too. But she looked up with those blue eyes without seeing him; Dove turned away as if he couldn’t see her.
One of the cats stretched when he took the keys to the car. Its yellow eyes followed him as he stepped into the small room off the kitchen. A basket of cleanly folded laundry sat atop the washer. It smelled of baby powder and pink cream. The scent made Dove gag but it didn’t stop him from staying long enough to check the security control panel.
The lights were lit green, each window and door of his house wired so that an alarm would sound at Jessica’s should anyone open them without a code. The indicators for the alarm pads that were buried around the perimeter of the property pulsed red. Finally, Dove flipped on the floodlights ringing his cabin home. That done he retraced his steps and opened the back door.
Outside, Dove saw his breath and gave the black dog no more than a glance as he walked by. The creature was all muscle, pointed ears and snout. He had teeth that could rip a man to shreds. Dove swung himself into his car, fired up the engine, switched on the headlights and headed out.
It was two thirty-five in the morning.


My name is Tessa Bradley.
I am, I have been told, a very beautiful woman.
Most men believe they would die happy if they could touch me; women have said they would kill to be me . I don’t see what the fuss is all about, but then I have lived inside this skin long enough to know that life balances everything out.
 While these looks of mine have earned me a few brass rings, there is always something on the back end to rub off the shine. Tonight that something is a gun pointing at my back. The heavy barrel drags over my spine to hurry me on. I do my best but I’m confused by the shadows as we move among the trees. I’m afraid and fear slows me even more.
“Bitch.”
The muzzle hits me between the shoulder blades. I don’t expect it because we’ve walked a fair way in silence. I fall hard to the cold ground. I play possum, wanting a minute more to figure out why I’m here, who these men are and why they hate me.
“Get up.”
Boots come into view. They are thick and worn. They belong to the man with the shaved head. He is the dog who grabbed me when we met up at the front door of that general store off the highway.
“Get up. Get up.”
His accent is so thick the words sound like ‘giddy up’. Tired of waiting on me, he swings his boot. It connects with my gut. Swallowing my cry of surprise and terror, I roll away and cup my body around the blow. It wasn’t hard enough to knock the breath out of me; it’s knowing he did it that makes me sick. What he’s done brings back memories.
“Hold your horses,” I mutter.
 I struggle to my hands and knees. I glare at him through a curtain of light hair. He doesn’t see the hatred in my eyes but I know he feels it. A man no more turns his own eyes my way than I feel what he feels. Usually it is his lust stamping me like a branding iron. In another place this man might think of me that way, but here I am the enemy and I don’t know why. I get to my feet. My ankle wobbles in my high-heeled boots. That sign of weakness gives the man with the gun courage.
For each step I take back he gets bolder and comes forward. My body convulses with fear and cold but mostly fear. An owl hoots. A wind ruffles the tops of the trees and runs over my cheek. The bright moon comes out from behind a cloud and I see a little better. A pinecone falls with a ‘whump’. Neither of us turns at the sound. We only have eyes for each other even though there are three of us on this mountain: me, the man with the gun and a younger man. That man is silent. He stops a little ways back.
 His shoulders are slumped. His hair is long and curly. His hands stick deep in the pockets of his old coat. He seems weary but I’m not fooled. Weary only means he isn’t going to put himself out one way or another. Slowly he turns his head and stares off into the darkness. His face in profile looks like a wolf gone too long without food. He leans toward the gunman, putting in his two cents in that language I don’t understand.
The tattooed man shakes his head. Like a terrorist, his scarf hides him from the nose down. I see only the top half of his face. Shaved head. White scar through the tattoo on his temple. His small eyes skate over the six flawless carats of diamond on my left hand, my jeans, my cashmere sweater. I am a woman people will miss and that makes him nervous.
 “What do you boys want?” There it is. The voice I thought I lost is back. I ratchet it up a notch. “Come on you bastards? What? Money?”
The man with the gun darts a look at his companion. The weary man smirks. He understands alright but money means nothing to him. That’s downright scary. To most people, money is everything.
“Is this about Jake?”
 My voice shakes. Not that it matters. They aren’t interested in how I feel and they aren’t inclined to answer my questions. The younger one speaks urgently, gesturing, unable to take his eyes off me now. I am not surprised. Someone once told me I’m most beautiful when I’m afraid. If that’s true, I must look like a goddess because I am scared shitless.
The one with the gun argues with the other one, biting off his words like tough meat as his eyes flicker and his arm straightens. His knuckles go white and his finger tightens on the trigger the way my daddy’s used to when he meant to shoot. The gun points at my face. My hand comes up, fingers spread wide. I always thought I didn’t care about my face, but I do. If he blows my face off what will anyone remember about me? How will anyone know me?
Sweet Jesus.
I pray, even though it has been my experience that Jesus isn’t paying much attention to what’s happening down here on earth. A tear creeps out of the corner of my eye. Reflected there I see things: Jake and Charlotte, mug shots of my lovers, ugly truths beneath the rocks that litter the path of my life.
I don’t want to see all of my life passing before my eyes. It’s not time and I’m not ready to admit this is the end.. Understanding that, I’m not afraid anymore. Instead, I’m just friggin’ ticked when I look at the ugly man square on.
Him and me, we make peace with our decisions at the same time. I see it in his eyes but he misses what is in mine. Bad call on his part. I scream ‘no’ just before I hear a click, an explosion and another scream. I feel heat and smell smoke. My shoulder is hot/cold with hurt. The dark in the mountains turns bright white. I have been blown to the ground but not to kingdom come. Half blind, I scramble up but the short one is on me.
I kick. I scream. The gunman’s scarf pulls away giving me a glimpse of the sad excuse for a man he is: weak jawed and scarred. His teeth are bad. He is nothing but we are the same. We live by our props. Without them he is a bully and a thug. Without mine, I am nothing but a gawky piece of Texas white trash. The difference between us is this: I’m wanting to live more than he’s wanting me to die.
The weary man is suddenly animated. He screams, too, as he dances around us. The man on top of me twirls my sweater into his fist and pulls me off the ground. He cracks me across the jaw. My lip splits. The taste of my own blood makes me crazy. I beat at him. It is then I feel something bite into my palm. My car key is still in my hand. I have me a weapon and that means I have a chance.
Clawing at the grip on my throat with one hand, I work the key into position with the other. Viciously I drive it into my assailant’s eye. Gore and blood covers my hand and splatters my face but I don’t stop. I twist the key. And twist. And twist. His howls deafen me. His hands fly up as he throws himself away.
He is hurt.
I am free.
He rolls on the ground.
I am standing. The third man bends over the first.
I am gone.
I run for my life.
 I fear what is ahead, but I fear what is behind me even more.




I'm pleased to welcome Rebecca Forster, today.  :) 

How did you start your writing career?


I started writing on a crazy dare. I was an advertising executive and my client was married to a woman who was a rather famous author. Sadly, I had never heard the name Danielle Steel. After meeting her and researching her work I told my colleague that, “I could write a book”.  She said, “I dare you.” I probably never would have followed up but for the fact that she told everyone in the office that I was going to do it. With my honor at stake, I gave it a whirl. Twenty-seven years and twenty-five books later I’m still at it and still passionate about writing.


Does travel play in the writing of your books?

I have been lucky to travel all over the world so I would say that travel plays not only into my writing but also into my life. Currently, my youngest is serving in the Peace Corps in a remote village in Albania. At this posting, I’ll be headed out on the longest flight I’ve ever taken. I can’t wait for a hug and to experience the culture. I guarantee that in some future book this adventure will come into play.


Where do you research for your books? What does your significant other and family think of your writing career?

I had to put these two questions together. My family has been incredibly supportive of my writing. Actually, both my sons are also in creative careers. One is a playwright and the other is in film. My husband is a judge. He jokes he’s the only one with a real job. He’s probably right. Because I write thrillers – usually legal or police procedurals – my research starts at home. I am a legal voyeur and often spend time in my husband’s courtroom watching trials, I read legal newspapers, I’ve done police ride-alongs and gone to crime labs. I am passionate about the genre I’ve chosen. I sure hope it shows.

Does your significant other read your stuff?

No. Nothing I can write would be stranger than what he experiences during the workday. I have to say, though, I think he’s my biggest fan. Without him, there were times I would have given up. This isn’t an easy business. Every author needs someone to believe in them unequivocally.


Do you have critique partners or beta readers?
I have used a wonderful freelance story editor for years. It’s hard to see the holes in your own work, and it’s good to have someone to help you reach your potential. Every creative person – writer, musician, actor - needs a trusted voice to critique. Since the digital revolution, I also have a group of reader-friends who are kind enough to read my works in process and help me polish them. Then there are general readers who contact me if they find a typo or other problem that escapes the core reading group. Turning out the possible book truly does take a village.


Who are your books published with?

I was traditionally published for 25 years of my career with houses like Harper Collins, Penguin/Putnam and Pocket Books. I have now gone completely independent. It’s scary and wonderful all at the same time. I’ve been very lucky to find success in the digital world and now I’m having some of my work printed and at least one will be an audio book in the near future. It is incredibly exciting to hear your work performed.
 

Tell us about the absolute BEST fan letter you have received
.

They are all the best because I know it takes time to sit down and send me a message. Well before computers, I was corresponding with fans. I still have pen pals from those days – we’ve grown old together! It is so awesome that people can connect over a shared love of books and find a new friendship in the bargain. The most SURPRISING fan letters have come from inmates in prison!







She marketed a world-class spa when it was still called a gym, did business in China before there were western toilettes at the Great Wall and mucked around with the sheep to find out exactly how her client’s fine wool clothing was manufactured.  Then on a crazy dare Rebecca Forster wrote her first book and found her passion.  Now, with over twenty books to her name she is a  USA Today Best Seller and her acclaimed Witness Series has appeared on Kindle’s legal thrillers bestseller list in both the U.S. and U.K.  Rebecca teaches at UCLA in the Writers Program and has been a featured guest on both radio and television and works with the Young Writers Conference to bring the joy of writing to middle school children. She is married to a superior court judge and is the mother of two sons.

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REVIEW SNIPPETS

 BRUCE RATERINK

“Rich characters, a fast-paced story and a tremendous ending that will have you rereading half the book to figure out why you missed all the clues. Download this now...”

 CARMEN BIANCHI

“Before Her Eyes is a stunning story both in style and delivery. I was intrigued and moved throughout; the set-up gets keener by the page. Forster’s style is unique and the format perpetuates the plot in an engaging and creative way. Without giving anything away, I will confess that I shouldn't have been in a public place when I reached the conclusion. It was a visceral experience.”

 LOVESTODIVE
“There is a twist I did not see coming and could not stop talking about for days. Anyone who enjoys a good mystery/suspense with twists and turns is going to love this book, I did.”





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