Authors: Ashantay Peters
Tags: #Suspense, #Contemporary
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
COPYRIGHT © 2013 by Lynda A. Peters
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Crimson Rose Edition, 2013
Digital ISBN 978-1-61217-961-2
Published in the United States of America
“Ms. Peters does what we've all wanted to do—she kills off that snooty yoga instructor who's far too flexible. The author successfully combines laugh-out-loud humor with sweat-inducing suspense and delivers one of the best debut novels you'll ever read.”
~Robin Weaver, author of BLUE RIDGE FEAR
“Suspense and romance seasoned with a lusty sense of humor—
is a fast, fun, laugh-laced read!”
~Linda Lovely, author
Thanks to Robin Weaver—
she pushes me when I drag my heels
and is directly responsible for this book's existence.
And to Linda Lovely,
plot hole finder and line editor extraordinary.
In addition, both are excellent writers
and author role models.
A blackmailer had targeted my best friend. Otherwise, I'd be home in bed. Alone, but it’d still be better than sharing a warm yoga classroom with a bunch of bogus corpses.
Sweat rolled off my forehead, trickled to my jaw, and flowed to the pool of moisture between my boobs. We'd been instructed to keep our eyes closed, but my impatience trumped the yoga master’s directive. I peeped at my limber classmates. If the pile of bodies really were dead, the studio would stink. The room didn't smell all that great anyway.
The elevator music that had pushed me closer and closer to a coma-like state since the class began stalled, hiccupped, and resumed. Still, no one moved. Including me.
I rolled my head toward my friend's pretzel-twisted leg. “Ginger.” My whisper reverberated through the room, louder than intended. Huh. No surprise there.
“Katie, shh. We're supposed to lie quietly.” Her lips hadn't moved.
Ginger's clear yet almost inaudible speaking tone chastised me, and I lowered my voice. “When can we get up? I gotta pee.”
My friend didn't blink. Truly, she's a guru. “Any minute now. Morgan should end the session soon.”
I enrolled in the Saturday morning yoga class with Ginger to find the creep that threatened her. Someone was blackmailing Ginger, and she suspected a class member, or even the instructor. I’d joined the class to help her discover the villain, but I wasn’t sure why she thought I could help. Reading mysteries non-stop isn’t the same as solving them.
The instructor, Morgan Anderson, personified hunk. Not my type, but eye candy is, well, eye candy. His hunk-squared muscles were hard to ignore. Ginger and I didn't want to believe anyone that pretty could be the blackmailer, but wouldn't rule anyone out.
Relaxing into the corpse pose didn't happen. I rolled to the side, sat up, and waited out my dizzy attack. “I need to pee, and I'm thirsty.”
“Go already.” Ginger's whisper provided all the encouragement I needed.
I stood. Crap. Classroom courtesy demanded I pick up my mat before leaving the studio, but if I bent over, I'd wet my yoga pants.
Oh hell. I'd come back for my stuff. Everyone was sure to leave the room in a few minutes anyway.
I picked my way through the sea of mats and yoga outfits, probably all organic cotton except for mine. Morgan's well-packaged muscles blocked my path to the bathroom. I stopped two feet from the instructor and crossed my legs, jiggling in place to keep myself—and the floor—dry. His chiseled lips looked ready to open and twist into a semblance of my most-disliked grade school teacher's sneer
His expression didn't change, but I wasn't fooled. Mrs. Crankshaw, the afore-mentioned teacher, looked the same way right before she slapped me with detention. Every time I needed the bathroom.
A fly circled Morgan's nose, looking for a place to land. He didn't flinch. Although his composure made me wonder, I had to move. He wouldn't lie still much longer and I
had to go.
being the operative word.
I looked over my shoulder as I entered the bathroom. Everyone was as still as death. I hoped no one could hear me doing my business. Leaving the studio early was embarrassing enough.
Bladder empty, I crept back into the practice room, keeping to the edges to avoid Morgan. What the heck? Everyone still held the corpse pose. Something wasn't right. Skulking my way back to my friend, I stood above her, hands on hips.
“This doesn't feel right.”
“You're right.” Ginger sat up with a fluid motion, her red hair tumbling around her shoulders. That move from anyone else would spike my jealousy, but Ginger and I are best buds.
“Morgan?” Ginger's voice was as fluid as her sit-ups.
When he didn’t answer, my friend headed toward him, I followed. We stopped several feet away, and for good reason. Mr. Hunk had vomit running down his chin, forming a small pool on his chest.
Even so, the dude didn't move. My gut rolled. The only psychic ability I have is located there, and I trust it. My innards screamed something was seriously wrong.
Ginger grabbed the towel lying at his feet and wiped his mouth clean. “Morgan?” The whisper disappeared. My friend sounded on the verge of hysteria. “Are you okay?”
Nothing. Nada. Zip. That wasn't good.
“What's going on?”
I twisted, almost bumping into the flashy blonde who'd sniffed when I first entered the studio. A quick glance showed most of our classmates hovered behind Flash, a.k.a. Blondie.
I grabbed Ginger's arm as she reached to touch Morgan. “Let me.” I swallowed, trying not to inhale. Laying two fingers against a pulse point, I was afraid I'd find nothing and was almost right. “Holy crap. Somebody better call 9-1-1. Now.”
“Katie, what's wrong?” Ginger's voice shook nearly almost as much as my fingers when I snatched them away from Morgan's neck. Her green eyes flashed in her pale face.
“His pulse is almost non-existent.” I raised my voice. “We need a doctor. Fast. Has anyone called?”
My tone hit vibrato and cracked.
Ginger threw her arm around my shoulders. “Take it easy.” Her presence comforted me, but my blood pressure surged, adrenaline shook my body.
The women moved forward, magnetically pulled in to the drama.
“Okay, everyone. Back away.” Ginger took control, seeming to have shifted from panicked to person-in-charge in mere seconds. “Give Morgan room to breathe. While we're at it, let's all do some deep cleansing breaths.” She pinched my arm.
I checked Morgan's pulse, just in case I'd made a mistake. Nope, I hadn't. While my fingers touched his neck, his pulse stuttered to a stop. I pulled my sweaty towel from around my neck. Throwing it over his chest, I jumped into continuous chest compressions. Excited chatter drove my adrenaline higher. Good thing I'd learned the new CPR technique at my construction company job. No way I wanted to put my lips on someone who’d collapsed the way he had, not even Hunky Morgan. My flat-handed rhythm didn’t cease until the paramedics arrived and took over.
Too bad none of our efforts made a difference. A paramedic pronounced Morgan dead.
Who knew yoga could kill you?
Justin Nash, Morgan's assistant, ran into the room. “What's wrong?”
Silence dropped over the studio faster than the Times Square ball dropped on New Year’s Eve.
Justin looked around. “Where's Morgan?”
The women standing around the instructor—or rather, former instructor—stepped aside. One of the paramedics had covered the large body with a blanket.
Justin saw us trying not to look at the instructor’s body. He hurried to Morgan and dropped to his knees. Jerking back the blanket, he pushed on Morgan's shoulder. “What's wrong with him?”
I leaned forward to whisper, “Um, Justin? I'm sorry, but he's dead.”
The paramedic frowned at me, momentarily marring a face I was sure matched Mr. January on my Rescue Hunks calendar.
“No, no, that can't be.” Justin placed his palms against his cheeks. “Not Morgan. He's too young.”
He dropped his head into his hands and sobbed. Ginger patted him on the small of his back.
No one said a word as a second paramedic re-entered the room, tucking a cell phone into his pocket. “The police want all of you to wait in the other room.”
Police? Other room?
“Why?” Flash asked the question the rest of us were afraid to voice. I suppose when you're blonde, boob-enhanced, and beautiful, you can demand answers.
“Can’t say.” Mr. January appeared blonde-proof. “Please, everyone, move into the outer room.”
We shuffled into the small office where all students left their shoes. Like the dozen or so shell-shocked classmates around me, I didn’t look anyone else in the eye. Following a few minutes that felt like hours, sirens echoed off the downtown buildings then stopped, abrupt and final, outside the yoga studio.
“The cops are here.” After stating the obvious, Flash leaned against
one of the two windows in the second-floor space. “And that is one hot guy getting out of the unmarked car.” She fanned herself in the time-honored gesture known to women across the planet.
I sat hunched into myself, Ginger at my side. We were the only two who hadn't charged forward to check out the scenery. Police. I'd been on the wrong side of the cops once too often in the past. They're not my favorite people.
Besides. Gawking over some hot cop seemed disrespectful to Morgan.
“Why are they here? It was food poisoning or a heart attack, wasn't it?” I hadn't meant to ask that out loud.
Ginger didn't answer but gripped my hand.
Flash turned from the window. “What makes you think some bad food affected his heart? Morgan’s a stud, through and through. His stamina—” She broke off, conscious the group listened. “He could hold the downward facing dog pose longer than any yoga instructor I've worked with.”
The exchanged smirks flying around the room implied everyone knew something I didn't, but I couldn't find the energy to care. I'd just performed CPR on a dead man. “Maybe it wasn't a heart attack, but he just died. Who called the police?”
A deep voice answered from the doorway. “I can answer that.”
Heads turned in unison and we inhaled a roomful of oxygen in a collective breath. A deep, deep yoga breath. Flash hadn't exaggerated. A dark-haired man commanded the doorway, making an off-the-rack suit look designed only for him and sewn with loving hands.
“The paramedics are required to call us if the cause of death is questionable. I'm Detective Johnson, and my partner is Detective Pulaski. We’ll be asking a few questions.” His take-charge attitude attracted me as much as his six-foot-plus height, wide shoulders, and well-defined jaw. I even found his crooked nose and butchered haircut appealing.