Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Trust No One by Laurel Bradley: Interview & Excerpt



  • ISBN-13: 9780984725427
  • Publisher: Storyteller Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/5/2012
It’s all about secrets. Taylor Wilson’s husband, Phil, has them. His best friend and art agent, Sean, has them. Everyone has them except Taylor—yet she’s the one someone is trying to kill.

Moments before a bomb destroys Taylor’s home, Phil disappears. Soon after, her landscape design business blows up as well. FBI agent Mark Cochran puts her into protective custody, but whoever is behind the bombings continues to stalk her.

Cochran thinks Taylor’s husband is the culprit, but she refuses to accept it. She believes the cryptic messages Phil is sending her are proof he’s trying to protect her and lead her to where he is hiding.
However, while searching for Phil, Taylor learns he may not be as innocent as she believed.

Will Taylor’s faith in the man she loves keep her safe—or get her killed?   




CHAPTER ONE

            July 6—Bethesda, Maryland                 
            This was the reason men shouldn’t marry for love.
            Fuad Accawi’s favorite wife, the woman of his heart, skipped through the garden bubbling like the small stream that wound its way between manicured flower beds. His first and second wives would be cowering at his feet, but not Aisha. No, not Aisha. Watching her tugged at his heart. Her motions were graceful yet frenetic; her eyes unnaturally bright. Despite her promises, he’d seen her like this too many times before. Another relapse, but this time he knew who to blame.
            “I believe I told you my patience had reached an end,” he told her as she passed.
“I know, Fuad,” she laughed, too sure of his love. “But I couldn’t resist. You’ll see why in just a moment.” She returned to his side and slid her hand into his, her bones thin as a bird’s.
Accawi looked at his wife’s face. His feelings for her had made him weak.
            Near the center of the garden, a warm breeze wafted through the ornamental poppies. They followed the flagstone path around a corner to reveal Aisha’s surprise.
            “We simply must have this sculpture.” She opened her arms as if to embrace the beautiful work of art. “Isn’t it fabulous?”
            His stomach lurched. There it was, The Bedouin Ship, right in front of him instead of in Consul-General Farah’s office where it belonged. The three meter long bronze dhow with its lateen sail sharp as a gull’s wing sailed in a sea of decorative grass. The sculpture’s enameled finish depicted a Bedouin desert camp on the sail detailed with images of dromedaries and elaborate tented pavilions.
            Accawi shook his head. This could not be happening. Already, the police blamed him for the death of the drug agent masquerading as his wives’ personal shopper. Her killer had planted the body beside the trash just outside his back gate. Now this. He didn’t want to believe his assistant’s call. Didn’t want to believe the consul-general’s missing statue had finally been located—in his own private garden.
This had to be part of the plot to discredit him.
            “Isn’t it fabulous?” Aisha asked.
It was breathtaking. It was inspiring. It would destroy him and his entire family. And all he’d worked for.
            Allah, help me.
            “Oh, Aisha. Kahil is a serpent.” His heart bled the words.
            “Kahil?”
“Yes, Kahil.” Betrayal was bitter on his tongue. He had warned her not to have any more dealings with Kahil, her false friend, the blue-eyed Arab. “Your shopping woman was a drug agent. She recognized him. Called to him. But he lowered his head and ducked into the shadows avoiding the cameras once again.” But Kahil had misjudged his timing. Accawi arrived before he could sneak out the gate. He was not near enough to hear her words, nor see the man’s eyes, but no matter, his image burned in Accawi’s mind.
Worse than a viper, Kahil was a demon. He was to blame for everything. Accawi hated what the man now forced him to do. He closed his eyes for a moment, preparing himself before allowing his anger to bubble to the surface, hot and caustic.
“Stupid bitch. He puts eyes and ears in his art. In this.” He pointed to the statue. “Even now, he listens and laughs at your weakness, your stupidity. He wants me destroyed, and you have given him the way.” He backhanded her beautiful face, knocking the most beloved of his wives to the ground.
“Fuad!” She touched her cheek, staring up at him in disbelief. Tears chased some of the drug-induced sparkle from her eyes.        
“That statue belongs to the consul-general.” He reached down and ripped the lace hijab from her head. “Do you not understand what that means? His cruelty knows no bounds. Your stupidity brings death to the entire Accawi family.” He punctuated each word with angry blows of his wingtip shoes to her soft body.
“Fuad, don’t.” The terrified woman at his feet curled protectively around her slightly rounded abdomen. “Kahil would never—”
“Fool! He already has the police investigating me for the death of that secretary—and now this.” He hurled the hijab to the ground.
 “No.” Her left eye swelled, and her black hair stuck to her damp cheeks. “There must be some mistake. Kahil will take it away. He will fix it for me.”
“For you? Have you no idea how Kahil uses you?” He spat on the flagstones. She was on her knees before him, defending the bastard. He hit her again, knocking her once more to the ground. “He will do nothing. This was no accident. This is what I warned you about. He brings nothing but death, and you have helped him.”  
“I…I am sorry. It was a momentary weakness. He gave me a bag. A whole bag. Gave it, asking only that I do this one small favor—store this sculpture in our garden.” Sobs overcame her voice. Her eyes widened as he drew a curved blade from the jeweled sheath at his side—the blade and sheath he had worn specifically for this purpose. She had given them to him as an apology for previous weak moments.
“I thought you would like the sculpture,” she gasped out between sobs. “He said—”
“He said what you wanted to hear. He played you. Waved drugs before you, and you forgot all else.” He shook his head like a maddened bull, embracing the anger.
“I won’t do it again,” she cried, cowering.
Dear Allah, how he wanted to believe her. His beautiful Aisha.
“I promise. I will be good. Please. Th…the child—”
“—has been poisoned by the drugs you take again and again. He is better dead than with you as his mother.” Accawi grabbed a handful of hair and yanked her to her knees, drawing her head back to expose her throat.
He had kissed that neck, caressed those silky locks while taking his pleasure hours earlier. That was before he had received the call, before she’d fed her nose, and before they had taken this walk in the garden to see her surprise. Her beauty and ability to pleasure him made this final betrayal all the harder to take.
“Fuad, that cannot be. He gave me the bag in memory of his mother. He said she used it, and I would honor her memory if I used it as well. The powder is safe. Sons do not hurt their mothers. He said...” She blinked back tears. “I was weak. I am sorry. I promise to be better, Fuad. I promise.”
He looked into her glittering, pleading black eyes. His heart hardened, leaving him empty and cold. “You have promised the same before. Your promises mean nothing now.”
“B…but I love you.”
“You have killed us. Do you not understand?” he shouted. “This time you have killed us all.”
The pleading in her eyes turned to fear.
His throat was raw with unshed tears. She was already dead to him. Had been from the moment he had seen the glitter in her eyes fueled by Kahil’s drug; from the moment he heard she had another surprise for him. This was just a formality.
“I love you. Allah, help me.” He slit her throat with a hand heavy enough to cut bone. Her blood gushed, splattering the waving grass at the base of the ship sculpture.
He wiped his blade on her discarded hijab before sliding it back into the scabbard. Blood seeped into the thirsty ground between the flagstones, rimming them in red. He knelt in the blood to close her eyes. Maybe he could still save his sons.
He pulled a cell phone from his pocket and dialed. His assistant answered, but Accawi cut him off. “You were right. Arrange for its removal. I want it at the consulate this afternoon. And dispose of the...the corpse. Now.”
He turned his back on Aisha’s cooling body.
* * *
October 21—Fort Wayne, Indiana
Taylor Wilson always claimed coffee brought her to life, but this morning it saved her.
In the back corner of her deep, perfectly landscaped yard, bundled against the chill breeze, Taylor balanced a particularly warty pumpkin on top of the pile already mounding her wheelbarrow. She had more pumpkins to pick but left the wheelbarrow to take a break. Crouching down, she reached behind a decorative granite boulder to retrieve her precious cup. The coffee had cooled while she’d been working, but it was still good.
She stood, looking at the house. Where was her husband, Phil? They had both been on their way outside when Sean, Phil’s art agent, called. Poor Phil. She knew he’d rather pick pumpkins than talk business. She took one last sip and bent low behind the rock to return the mug.
A tremendous boom shattered the air.
In an instant of terror, she saw her wheelbarrow full of pumpkins take flight and slivers of glass slice through surrounding foliage. Flaming chunks of wood and stucco siding flew over the privacy fence into the neighbor’s yard. Taylor slammed into the ground, and the world went black. 
She came to on a gurney between two paramedics.
Her front yard looked like a war zone from an old newsreel or Hollywood movie. Fire engines pumped water on the smoking crater that had been her beautiful home. Nearby houses were missing their windows. Her neighbors huddled like refugees while men and women in uniform seemed to be everywhere. Police, firemen, bomb squad…
It took only a moment for her strange new reality to turn into fear. Phil had been inside the house.
“Phil!” She tried to sit up, but a paramedic pressed her back down on the gurney. “But Phil is inside.”
“There’s no one inside, ma’am.”
“But he was. I left him there. In the kitchen.” She struggled against newly buckled straps. They’d made love, had breakfast. Bacon and eggs with whole-wheat toast. “Phil!”
She shook as she stared at the remains of the house. There was no kitchen. No bedroom. No house. Breakfast rolled in her stomach.
The paramedic looked into her eyes. “No one was inside.”
She clawed at the IV in her hand. “You’re wrong. I have to find him.” Her head screamed with pain.
A second paramedic put her hand over Taylor’s. “Relax, honey. You’re going to be okay.”
Taylor blinked at the EMT. The woman clearly didn’t understand. Phil was inside. They needed to find him. Save him. “Phil...” The world went muzzy. Taylor struggled to gather her thoughts, but the words slipped away unspoken.



Tell us about your current release.
Trust No One is my latest book and first suspense. What starts out as an ordinary weekend for landscape architect Taylor Wilson ends in confusion when her house explodes and her husband disappears. Her life really spins out of control when the FBI enters the picture.
It's all about secrets. Taylor Wilson's missing husband, Phil has them. His best friend and former FBI partner, Sean, has them. Everyone has them except Taylor—yet she's the one someone is trying to kill. 
Will Taylor’s faith in the man she loves keep her safe—or get her killed?   
Trust No One is quite a departure from my other two books: Crème Brûlée Upset is a fun, contemporary romance in which Mike’s quest to win Patrice’s love involves four nosey parents, three scoops of ice cream, two other suitors and a Don Quixote singing troubadour.  A Wish in Time is an award winning time travel romance where the quest for a child causes two women to change places in time.
 Do you listen to music while writing?
No. I need silence. When the kids were younger I had a hard time writing in the summer because they were so wonderfully distracting.
Plotter or Pantser? Why?
Pantser. A writer friend and I were discussing this just the other day. She plots everything, I can’t. To me, heavy plotting is like reading the end of the book first. I just can’t do it. I know the characters and what motivates them and I vaguely know where the book is going, but I’m unclear on how it’s going to get there until I write it. It keeps things interesting. That said, I think being a plotter would make writing easier.
Tell us about the absolute BEST fan letter you have received.
That would be a letter of appreciation, a pound of Kona coffee and box of chocolate covered macadamia nuts from a fan in Hawaii. Chocolate and coffee are two of the best four things in life. Dry red wine and good books are the other two. Things—not concepts, not people.
Do you have a milestone birthday coming up? If so, how are you approaching it?
 Yes. I’m turning fifty soon. I’m hoping to be pampered, appreciated and made much of. Of course, isn’t that what we all want all of the time: to be appreciated and made much of?


Laurel Bradley, author of Trust No One, A Wish in Time, and Crème Brûlée Upset, lives in a small town in Wisconsin with her handsome husband and the youngest of their five charming children. The first three kids are now men. The eldest is grown and flown. He’s a rocket scientist, no less. The second is in seminary discerning the Catholic priesthood. The third just graduated from college in three years (yes!) and is getting married to a wonderful young woman at the end of the month. We are thrilled. Number four is the sole girl. She just finished her freshman year of college. So…there’s only the youngest son at home. He’s amazed how much mowing and shoveling there is to do and shocked that his older siblings think he has it made.

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 One copy of Trust No One.  Winner's choice of Print or digital copy in US only. 
Otherwise the prize will be  a digital copy of the book. 



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