WHERE DREAMS BEGIN
When I say I’m a former teacher, people usually assume I taught English in high school or college. However, I taught in an elementary school and kindergarten was my favorite grade. I worked with some wonderful teachers and when I first began to write, they expected me to produce a charming children’s book. When I explained I was writing a big, lusty historical set in early California, mouths fell agape. I rather enjoyed that. LOVE’S ELUSIVE FLAME was written in the days when editors encouraged their authors to write long lavish love stories which might involve lengthy sea voyages, travel through several countries and all manner of fights, brawls, duels and any other mayhem we could work in. The women were beautiful, the men brave, and the deep conflicts between them kept readers up all night to make certain the lovers had their happy ending.
There was little room for a pretty teacher in those stories, but in my June release from Samhain publishing, WHERE DREAMS BEGIN, I had a contemporary story that worked perfectly with a teacher as my heroine. Catherine Brooks is a young widow who believes volunteering at Lost Angel, a Hollywood shelter for homeless and runaway teens, will ease her return to a high school classroom. Luke Starns is the director of Lost Angel, and he’s fighting to hold together what’s left of his life after his daughter’s senseless suicide. He takes one look at Catherine and doubts her commitment to the shelter. She takes one look at him and believes his tough love approach is all wrong for teens who need love and attention. Then a flamboyant murderer in a red cocktail dress targets the pimps who prey on the teens coming to Lost Angel. Luke says, “Good riddance!” But Catherine is intrigued by the mystery until the murderer comes too close, and she and Luke may not live long enough to have a second chance at love.
A biting chill fogged the air, but Felix “The Cat” Mendoza was still on the prowl. He knew Hollywood’s alleys better than the geeks at MapQuest and, after midnight, conducted a hasty sweep of his favorites. He wore khakis and a navy blue windbreaker. His thick, black hair was cropped short, and he moved with a brisk stride, as though he was eager to get home after work.
As he passed by, hungry kids huddled in doorways and hunched down beside Dumpsters called out to him, but his generosity was limited to the youngest girls. Whenever he noticed a fresh face with real possibilities, he’d be quick to approach her.
He would break into a shy smile as he handed her a couple dollars that first night. It might be a five the next. By the third evening, she would be waiting for him. He would buy her a meal, and before she’d finished her french fries, he would offer a warm, clean place to spend the night.
This week he’d lucked out and won the confidence of a frightened pair who were clearly underage, although should anyone be foolish enough to ask, they would swear they were eighteen. As he helped them into the backseat of his Camaro, he thought, as he often did, that “The Cat” had a real nose for pussy. He would never attract former madam Heidi Fleiss’s prestigious clientele, but he more than satisfied his patrons’ prurient desires with a steady stream of nubile talent.
After a quick stop at a drive-through for the hamburgers he’d promised, he planned to take the girls to one of his small, rented apartments. He would make them laugh as he fixed them hot chocolate topped with marshmallows, but like all the others, they would awaken in the morning minus any memory of the night.
To mark them as his, the rosy tips of their small, soft breasts would be newly pierced with tiny gold rings, and the ache between their legs would last for days. Drugs liberally laced with shame would keep them loyal, and as Felix closed the passenger door, he turned away to hide an all too predatory grin.
That was when he spotted the blonde. Her long, shimmering hair brushed the shoulders of her slinky red dress, and as she moved toward him on red satin heels, he paused to admire her slow, seductive sway. Unfortunately for her, he never paid for sex.
“I’ve already got a date,” Felix bragged. “Two of them, in fact.” He started around the front of his car, but the blonde veered toward him to block his way. In too great a hurry to play her games, he dropped his voice to a menacing hiss.
“Vayase, puta.”Felix’s insult dissolved in an anguished gasp as, after one brutal lunge, the blonde shoved against his belt buckle to withdraw her razor-sharp switchblade. Her flying curls slapped his cheek as she turned away, and he grabbed for his torn belly, but a torrent of warm blood spurted through his fingers. His eyes closed on a last glimpse of red satin, and he was already dead when his skull cracked on impact with the curb.
The two girls in the backseat of the Camaro weren’t certain what they had seen, but they knew it was bad. They scrambled between the front seats, bolted out the driver’s door, and didn’t dare look back as they fled the scene in a frantic sprint that would have set a new high school track record back home.