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Body Movers: 2 Bodies for the Price of 1
With fugitive parents, a brother dodging loan sharks, a hunky cop who's made her outlaw family his business, a buff body mover looking to make a move on her and her ex-fiance back in the picture, Carlotta Wren thought her life couldn't get any more complicated. And then...Her best friend jumps on the body-moving bandwagon.Her fugitive parents phone home.Her identity is stolen by a look-alike.Her look-alike is found, well...dead.Under suspicion for murder, Carlotta discovers that her devious double might've been bumped off accidentally--and that she could be the real target! Throw in dealing with her motley crew of family, friends and wannabe lovers, and Carlotta begins to think that jail isn't such a bad alternative after all....
Starred Review. Bond's charming new Carlotta Wren mystery (after 2006's Body Movers) has all the ingredients for a chic sleuth-a-thon, from identity theft and designer clothes to dead bodies and poker. Rich girl-turned-Neiman's shop girl Carlotta was left at 18 to raise her 10-year-old brother, Wesley, after their parents, Randolph and Valerie, skipped town to avoid investment fraud charges. Ten years later, snarky Atlanta DA Kelvin Lucas has reopened the case. Grouchy love interest Det. Jack Terry wants information that Carlotta's afraid to divulge. Randolph makes a mysterious call to Carlotta and also gets in touch with Peter Ashford, her attentive ex-fiance. Wesley, an oddly likable slacker and compulsive gambler, believes in their dad's innocence, but Carlotta's not so sure. When a woman with Carlotta's car and I.D. apparently kills herself, Lucas requests a fake funeral to lure her parents back. Bond keeps the pace frantic, the plot tight and the laughs light, and supplies a cliffhanger ending that's a bargain at twice the price. (Aug.)
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June 30, 2008
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Excerpt from Body Movers: 2 Bodies for the Price of 1 by Stephanie Bond
"Sweetheart, it's me...Daddy."
Carlotta Wren stepped off the up escalator in the Atlanta Neiman Marcus department store where she worked, so shocked by the sound of the voice on the other end that she dropped her cell phone. It landed on the shiny, waxed f loor with a smack, bounced and skidded away. With her heart in her stomach, she frantically scrambled after the f leeing phone, the baritone of her long-lost fugitive father ringing in her ears.
Was it really him calling after ten years of silence? Ten years during which she'd put her life on hold to finish raising herself and her younger brother Wesley after her parents had skipped bail--and town--on investment fraud charges. Ten years of feeling alone and abandoned after her friends and even her f ianc� had withdrawn their affection in light of the scandal.
The tiny phone spun away like a mouse scurrying for cover. Carlotta gulped air as she clambered after it, brushing the shoulders of people in her path, darting between racks of clothing. The foot of a striding customer struck the phone and sent it spinning in another direction. Carlotta hurtled after it, feeling her father slip farther from her grasp with every agonizing second that passed. She was practically hyperventilating when she fell to her knees, curled her f ingers around the elusive phone and jammed it to her ear. "Hello? Daddy?"
Dead air. If it had been Randolph Wren on the other end of the line, he was gone.
A sob welled up in her chest. "Daddy, can you hear me?"
She couldn't bring herself to hang up, unwilling to sever the only connection she'd had with her father in over a decade. Then she realized that he might be trying to call her back and stabbed the disconnect button. Sitting under a rack of beaded bathing-suit sarongs, Carlotta stared at the phone, willing it to ring again, thinking how ridiculous she would seem to an onlooker--an almost thirty-year-old woman sitting on the f loor waiting for a call back from her long-lost daddy.
Somewhere between her nonexistent career goals, her brother's legal problems, their hulking debt to loan sharks and her confused love life, she'd made the transition from pitiful to pathetic.
Suddenly she remembered the callback feature and realized with a surge of excitement that she'd at least be able to see what number he'd called from. She stabbed at buttons on the phone, but was rewarded with a rather sick-sounding tone and noticed with dismay that the display was interrupted by a hairline crack. Liquid gathered in one corner, much like when Wesley had broken his Etch-a-Sketch when he was little.
"You can't be broken," Carlotta pleaded, blinking back tears. What would she tell Wesley? That their father had f inally made contact and she'd hung up on him? Wesley still believed that their father was innocent and that he and their mother would return some day to clear his name and unite their shattered family. Carlotta felt less forgiving, especially toward her mother Valerie, who hadn't been charged with a crime, yet had chosen a life on the lam over her own children.
"Ring," she whispered, hoping that only the display had been compromised. She sat on her heels for f ive long minutes, her thumb hovering over the answer button, perspiration wetting her forehead. A shadow fell over her. When she looked up, she winced inwardly to see the general manager, Lindy Russell, standing with her eyebrows raised.
Minus ten points.
Next to Lindy stood a tall, narrow blonde, conservatively coiffed down to her upper class hair f lip and wearing a haughty expression. Carlotta recognized her from sales meetings; she was new and worked in accessories next to the shoe department where Carlotta's friend Michael Lane worked. Patricia somebody or another.
"Carlotta, is there a problem?" Lindy asked.
Carlotta pushed to her feet and straightened her clothing. During the dash for her phone she'd lost a shoe. "No."
"Glad to hear it. You know you're not supposed to be using your cell phone while you're working the f loor."
"Yes," Carlotta said, her throat closing. "But this is a-- an emergency."
"Oh?" Lindy crossed her arms in front of her chest. "Are you on an organ-donor list?"
"The phone-a-friend for a contestant on a national trivia show?"
"Waiting to hear back from your next employer?"
Patricia snickered and Carlotta swallowed. "N-no."
Lindy extended her hand. "Hand it over. You can pick it up at the end of your shift."
"No buts, Carlotta. You're already skating on thin ice around here."
Carlotta bit her tongue. Lindy had been more than fair to give her a get-out-of-jail-free card for buying clothes on her employee discount, wearing them to crash upscale parties, then returning the fancy outfits for full credit. Ditto when she had been involved in a knock-down drag-out fight with a customer right here in the store--and been implicated in that customer's subsequent murder.