Sat 9 Jun 2012
At last – at long, long, endlessly long last – my new book – Dangerous Relations: The Office Ink - is out and available. This is the third book in my “love and the law” line, which we call ”Dangerous Relations.” The books out so far aren’t related, so they’re not really “a series” – except for the fact that they occur in Myrtle Beach (my home town) and some of the characters recur and/or know each other.
Okay, maybe it’s sort of a series. Except it’s not.
This one arose when my demented mind began pondering the old cliche – “never dip your pen in the office ink.” Before you’d have been able to call the little men with a padded truck and a straitjacket, the office had become The Ballinger Law Firm in Myrtle Beach. It came fully equipped with Mommy lawyer, Daddy lawyer and two battling lawyer brothers – Jed, the firstborn and Mark, the younger brother. The brothers couldn’t be more different – except that underneath their differences, they’re an awful lot alike.
For one thing, they’re both very competitive – or at least they are on the surface. Perhaps, beneath it all, the only one competing for anything is Mark. Exactly what he’s competing for only becomes clear late in the story. Mark is very much a central figure in the tale – despite the fact that he never appears as a living, breathing character. As the story opens, Jed hears a scream, which catapults him to consciousness – much to his regret. He finds himself on his office sofa, where he’s passed out after taking a physical beating following the emotional one he delivered to Gemma, his associate – the lady who just screamed – the lady he and his brother both wanted and neither could have.
See, Joe Ballinger and Sophie Ballinger, parents of Jed and Mark and Senior Partners at the family law firm had a rule forbidding anyone from dipping their pen into the office ink. Translation – no hanky and no panky at the office. That prohibition should’ve been reason enough for Jed to have listened to his parents a few months back at the interviews at the Law School. Gemma walked into the room to interview for an associate’s job right after Mark hired the candidate Jed would’ve hired. In exchange for Jed backing down and letting Mark hire the disputed candidate, Sophie promised that Jed could have first choice of the others.
When Gemma Marshall walked in the room for an interview she captured both brother’s interest. But Jed was locally famous for his success with the ladies. He was the designated Damsel Delighter of the Esquire Club, a group of Myrtle Beach lawyers dedicated to the bachelor life. The Club would send Jed the name of the next lady he was charged with seducing. After he succeeded – and he always succeeded – they’d carve a new notch in the ceremonial gavel. There were a lot of notches. But Gemma? From the instant Jed laid eyes on her, he knew she was someone he had to hold onto by any means necessary.
It took some maneuvering to get Gemma to accept the job Jed insisted on offering – over his parent’s objections – but finally he backed Gemma into a corner so that she had no choice. But once she joined the firm, the sibling rivalry became local legend and an office joke, although it was no joke to the brothers. Her presence created a pressure cooker for Jed – he wanted her more with every passing day but he couldn’t have her and he couldn’t have anyone else either. Jed’s family and friends wanted Miss Marshall gone and Mark was convinced Jed would return to his ingrained Damsel Delighter ways, betray Gemma and then she’d turn to Mark.
Well, the day did come when Jed had taken too much, been pushed too far, had changed too much from the man he’d always been. And his Esquire Club buddies picked the right night to push him into joining them at a strip club where they’d arranged for all the strippers to be especially friendly to Jed. Even though the touch and taste of her made him sick – literally- Jed ended up taking the stripper back to the office bcause he thought it would help him get himself back. Instead, it cost him everything.
Gemma walked in to find Jed and the stripper naked on his office sofa. So Mark turned out to be right – Jed did betray Gemma. But Mark also turned out to be wrong – he didn’t win the lady and ride his Harley off into the sunset. Because that scream that awakened Jed the morning after his go-round with the stripper and his later go-round with his brother? That was Gemma screaming when she discovered Mark lying bloody and dead, very dead, on his office floor – just a wall away from where Jed had crawled onto his sofa and into a bottle to try to drink away his troubles.
But Mark is found holding a bare-breasted photo of Gemma cavorting in a waterfall. So not only did Jed have all the motive in the world – Gemma had a few reasons to have killed Mark as well.
The appearance of Mark’s ghost should make solving his murder a cinch – except that he appears only to Jed and refuses to disclose the killer’s identity. Well, he doesn’t so much refuse as claim that he can’t because it violates some after world code of ethics. Either way, Mark keeps insisting that Jed has all the clues he needs to solve the crime. If that’s so, Jed just can’t see it. He sees the puzzle, but he can’t make the pieces fit.
And Jed better figure it out soon – if he wants to avoid being convicted of the crime. Because the trial has started, the Judge has named Jed as co-counsel in his own defense and all Jed can see is how he still feels about the woman who betrayed him in ways he never imagined possible.
Will Jed be able to put the pieces together in time to get the real killer convicted, save himself, and see whether he and Gemma might still have a future together?
Pick up Dangerous Relations; The Office Ink to discover how dangerous, enticing, and deadly pen dipping can be. You’ll never look at ink the same way again!
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