Here's to my first blog tour of 2017! Let's hope they are all as good as this one. Today I have the privilege of showing an excerpt from Alison Brodie's novel Brake Failure. I hope you enjoy this excerpt as much as I did!
Brake Failure is a contemporary romance with humour, suspense and a kick-ass heroine. The story is set in one of the most fascinating periods of America's history: the months leading up to Y2K "melt-down."
"Is it too late to tell him you love him when you're looking down the barrel of his gun?"
Ruby Mortimer-Smyth is an English debutante, destined for Ladies Day at Ascot and taking tea at The Savoy. She knows the etiquette for every occasion and her soufflés NEVER collapse.
She is in control of her life, tightly in control. Until fate dumps her down in … Kansas.
Ruby believes that life is like a car; common-sense keeps it on the road, passion sends it into a ditch. What she doesn't know is, she's on a collision course with Sheriff Hank Gephart.
Sheriff Hank Gephart can judge a person. Miss Mortimer-Smyth might act like the Duchess of England but just under the surface there's something bubbling, ready to explode. She's reckless, and she's heading for brake failure. And he's not thinking about her car.
With the Millennium approaching, Ruby gets caught up in the Y2K hysteria. She joins a group of Survivalists, who give her a gun and advise her to stockpile basic essentials, such as gasoline and water-purifying tablets. So she bulk-buys Perrier, Gentleman's Relish and macaroons.
Ruby, far from home, is making Unsuitable Friends and "finding herself" for the first time. She falls in with a gang of Hells Angels and falls foul of the law. At every turn, she comes up hard against Sheriff Hank Gephart, whose blue eyes seem to look deep into her soul. She desperately wants him but knows she can never have him.
She's angry at the emotions he arouses in her. Pushed to her limit, she bursts from her emotional straightjacket.
As the clock strikes midnight of the new Millennium, she's on a freight train with three million dollars, a bottle of Wild Turkey and a smoking gun.
What happened to Miss Prim-and-Proper? And why did she shoot Mr Right?
Note: Alison Brodie wrote this story from first-hand experience. She lived in Kansas during this time and was stunned by the hysteria, unnerved that the US government was spending $150 billion preparing for Armageddon. As Lionel Shriver says in her novel, We Have To Talk About Kevin: “1999, a year widely mooted beforehand as the end of the world.”
That evening, Ruby heard the sound of a fist hammering on the front door. Hank stood on the door mat, his face dark with rage. ‘What the hell were you playing at?!’
‘Fuck off!’ She flung the door shut, but he banged it open with the heel of his hand.
‘Don’t you close the door on me!’ he shouted.
Rowdy, who had been turning circles in his usual embarrassing show of affection for this man, stopped and looked confused.
The fury in Hank’s eyes filled her with fear. But a part of her refused to be cowed; it rose up hard and vicious. ‘You step across this threshold and I’m gonna report you.’
He ignored this. ‘You were smoking a joint in front of every sheriff in the county! What were you trying to do? Get yerself arrested?’
‘You’d like that, wouldn’t you?’
‘You know what …? He gave a nasty laugh. ‘I would! You talk of reporting me, but I should be reporting you.’ He jerked his chin towards the interior of the house. ‘Does hubbie know what you get up to at nights?’
She went cold, thinking that Edward could now be listening to this exchange. Hank, believing her husband was at home, had come here to make trouble for her.
Hank grunted darkly. ‘I know he’s not here. But maybe I’ll come back when he is. Let you stew.’
‘You can’t scare me. My husband knows what I get up to.’
Hank snorted. ‘Yeah?’
‘Yeah.’ He locked eyes with her. Sometimes she felt like he could look her in the eye and know all the stuff that was inside her head.
He stabbed a finger at her. ‘And I didn’t appreciate your note. If anyone’s a conniving sneak, it’s you. Pretending you’re single. Why didn’t you tell me you were married?’
‘Because it’s none of your business.’
‘It is my business when a married woman asks me out on a date.’
‘I never asked you out on a date.’
‘Yes, you did. You asked me to meet you at Bronco’s.’
‘I was just being … friendly.’
‘Is that what you call it? Well, I saw the look in your eyes.’ He put his hand high on the doorframe, and leant down to her, his lips brushing the shell of her ear. ‘You want me, but you’re too scared to admit it.’
The truth ripped through her, scorching a path through her body. He had aroused these surging emotions which she could neither understand nor control, these terrifying waves of physical arousal, and she wanted to punish him for it, to make him suffer, like she was suffering.
‘Tell me, Ruby, why did you slap me when I kissed you?’
She went to slam the door. This time Hank kicked it open. She heard Rowdy growl. Rowdy had his head low between his shoulder blades, his hackles stiff, eyes on Hank. Fear gripped her heart. If Rowdy attacked a police officer, he would be destroyed.
‘Rowdy!’ she yelled. ‘Go to your bed!’ Rowdy didn’t move. ‘Bad dog!’ she yelled again. ‘Go to bed!’ Reluctantly, the dog slunk away but after a few steps, turned slowly and continued watching Hank.
Hank knelt down on one knee. ‘Hey, buddy boy,’ he crooned. ‘It’s okay. You’re not a bad boy. You’re protecting her.’ Hank’s tone was so gentle, so understanding, that for some reason Ruby felt the urge to burst into tears. The dog, still confused by the angry shouting, was uncertain. He saw Hank’s outstretched hand and came forward slowly and gave the hand a tentative lick. Hank ruffled the dog’s ear. ‘I’m sorry, Rowdy. We’ll keep the noise down, huh?’
Hank stood straight and faced her again, his big boot jamming open her door. His eyes were like granite. ‘So, Ruby, why did you slap me?’
‘This is ridiculous.’
‘Was it because,’ his voice was a sneer, his breath warm on her face, ‘you liked it too much?’
‘I would rather have kissed a goat.’
‘You melted in my arms, Ruby.’
‘You are a-!’ She threw a hasty look at Rowdy, and fell silent.
‘I know you don’t love your husband. Molly told me.’
‘I … You … !’ Ruby took a deep breath before continuing. ‘Of course I love my husband.’ The shock and hurt showed in Hank’s eyes, and she was pleased and savagely triumphant. ‘I love him more than … more than words can say.’
‘So why are you out at nights without him?’
‘Because we have a modern marriage.’
‘A modern marriage? That sounds like true love.’
‘You don’t know the meaning of true love. Not with all your girlfriends.’
‘What’s wrong with that? I’m unattached and searching for the right woman, who I thought was you.’
His words were like a gentle punch to her chest, leaving her breathless. Then she remembered his betrayal, his deception and how he had humiliated her. This time his honeyed words couldn’t fool her.
He was shaking his head in disgust. ‘But I was wrong. You see, the woman I’m looking for has to be respectable and-’
‘How dare you! I’m respectable.’
‘Respectable? You’re as respectable as a cow poke on pay day.’
She didn’t need a translation to know that this was a vile slur. ‘For some reason you have the misguided impression that I am attracted to you. In fact, I find you to be an impudent, treacherous, scurrilous boor.’
Knowing that Rowdy was watching them, they spoke at a low volume. They no longer had the luxury of shouting, waving their arms and slamming the door. Instead, they stood stiff and polite, talking like two vicars at the bishop’s garden party. But there was nothing stopping the anger in their eyes flashing between them.
Hank’s tone was light and friendly. ‘I can always tell when you’re lying, Ruby. Your lips move.’
‘Well, if I wanted to hear from an asshole, I’d fart.’ Ruby was stunned. Where had that come from?
‘Is that right?’ Hank continued. ‘Well, let me tell you, Oh, Duchess of England. That little trick you played driving up and down my street? You were wasting your time. Everyone ended up laughing ’cos they thought I’d paid you to do it. You should have seen them. They thought you were a joke!’
She gave a tinkling laugh. ‘I didn’t think the Donut Patrol had a sense of humour.’
‘And I didn’t think Princess Ruby was a tramp. Scrape away the veneer and what’ve you got? You cuss, you drink, you smoke pot, and you mix with trash.’ He nodded. ‘You know what I said to myself when I first met you? That girl’s got the devil in her eyes.’
The devil in her eyes. The devil in her eyes.
She continued to say nothing. His words had left her strangely detached. Hank was sneering at her just like her Aunt Abigail had been doing for all these years.
Hank stood straight and folded his arms. ‘And your message? I’d like to know what right you had calling me a conniving-?’
‘Sheriff Gephart.’ She spoke politely, a tremble in her voice. She would not stand here a minute longer and be verbally attacked by this man. ‘My name is Mrs Mortimer-Smyth; please address me as such when you speak to me. Now, if you have reason to arrest me, then please do so. If not, I would be grateful if you would remove yourself from these premises. Good evening, officer.’
It must have been the sudden change in her manner, because when she closed the door on him, he was staring at her in open-mouthed astonishment.
She listened to his footsteps recede.
The blood roared and surged in her head.
He had reported her to the authorities.
He proffered love yet he had kissed her in front of a laughing audience. And all the time he’d been in love with Roxanne.
Then he had said what Aunt Abigail had accused her of all those years ago. “That girl has the devil in her eyes.”
Ruby flung open the door and marched out onto the porch.
He had gone.
She wished she hadn’t sent him away, wished that he was still here so that she could tell him how much she hated him.
About The Author:
Alison Brodie is a Scot, with French Huguenot ancestors on her mother’s side. Alison was a photographic model for a wide range of products, such as Ducatti motorbikes and 7Up. She was also the vampire in the Schweppes commercial.
A disastrous modelling assignment in the Scottish Highlands gave Alison an idea for her first romance novel, Face to Face. It was taken up by Dinah Wiener, the first agent Alison sent it to. Three weeks later, Alison signed a two-book deal with Hodder & Stoughton. Subsequently, Face to Face was published in English, German and Dutch. “Vain, but wildly funny leading lady.” -Scottish Daily Mail. It was also chosen as Good Housekeeping’s “Pick of the Paperbacks.”
Unfortunately, Alison then suffered from Second-Book Syndrome. The publisher’s deadline loomed but Alison couldn’t think of a story! She found the whole experience a nightmare; and this is why she cautions first-time authors not to sign a multi-book deal unless they are prepared!
Alison lived in Kansas for two years. She loved the people, their friendliness, the history and the BBQs! Now, she lives in Biarritz, France with her rescue mutt, Bayley.
Alison’s previous release, THE DOUBLE, was published to rave reviews:
“Proof of her genius in writing fiction…Excellent.” –San Francisco Book Review.
Facebook PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/AlisonBrodieAuthor/