Hi everyone – I’m taking part in my first blog tour of 2017 today, which is one of my own and I’m very happy to have for you an excerpt of Alison Brodie’s Brake Failure. Please find info about the book below, including an exclusive little excerpt for you to enjoy with a cuppa this morning!
About the book
Blurb: 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.” Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
‘Ruby!’ Karla shouted. ‘Git yer ass over here, gal.’
She wandered over, aware that he was more stoned than usual. He grabbed her hand and tugged. ‘Come on, Ruby-Ruby; tell us more about the Tower of London.’
She was not at all alarmed by his manner. Although he was built like King Kong, he was a pussy-cat. But she was in no mood for talking. ‘Nah, I’m going back inside,’ she said, making a half-hearted attempt to disengage herself.
‘GET YER HANDS OFF HER!’ The voice cut through the night air.
Gephart was striding towards them, his face murderous.
Karla was on his feet, hands bunched: ‘You talking to me?’ he growled, unaware that he was threatening a cop out of uniform.
‘Yeah, I’m talking to you.’
Karla stepped forward, chin thrust out. ‘What I do with her ain’t none of yer business!’
‘It’s alright!’ Ruby cried, grabbing Gephart’s sleeve to restrain his threatening punch. This was a mistake. With his arm held back, Gephart was unable to defend himself and took the full force of Karla’s fist in his face. Gephart let out a yell and fell back clutching his nose.
Ruby spun to Karla. ‘You idiot! Why on earth did you do that?’
Karla, startled by her verbal attack, didn’t see Hank’s fist coming. It cracked against his jaw, sending him reeling back.
Appalled, she turned angrily to see Hank going in for another punch. ‘STOP IT!’ She jumped between them and held out her hands. ‘THIS IS ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS!’ Goodness, she sounded like the Queen.
It worked, though. The combatants stared at her with a “what-the-hell-was-that” look.
Karla’s girlfriend arrived on the scene, wobbling on spiked heels and screeching. Everyone was making a fuss over Karla, yet no-one cared about Hank, who was bent over, cupping a hand under his bleeding nose. Ruby’s fury turned to pity. She picked up his Stetson.
‘Come on,’ she said, putting a hand on his back. ‘Let’s go inside and I’ll clean you up.’ She steered him towards the entrance, along the corridor and into the ladies lavatory. ‘You shouldn’t have hit him,’ she said, sitting him on a stool by the sink and taking the tube of Savlon from her bag. Apart from a pair of tweezers, the rest of her emergency medical supplies had long ago been abandoned to make space for makeup and perfume.
‘You were in trouble.’
She began filling the sink with hot water. ‘I wasn’t in trouble.’ Gephart was so close; she could feel the power of him.
‘Didn’t look that way to me.’
‘Karla’s my friend. He was just being silly.’ She yanked paper towels from the dispenser, soaked them in water, squeezed them out and began to wipe the blood from Hank’s face. He was staring at her but she refused to meet his gaze. Being so close, she could smell him, the beer on his breath, the smoky smell of hickory wood from his hair, the warm scent of male sweat; musty yet inoffensive. She could see the kink in his noise where it had broken, the crows’ feet at the corner of his eyes.
In the dance hall, the band finished their song with a rousing roll of drums. The roar of chattering voices filled the sudden silence. It was the interval. Females began filing in to the lavatory and, seeing Gephart, rushed forward, squeaking their sympathy. ‘Hank, sweetheart, does it hurt?’ ‘Can I help?’
When a hand reached out to touch his cheek, Ruby slapped it away. She was appalled at this base action. She quickly collected herself: ‘Ladies, please!’ That voice again. ‘We need space.’ Throwing her cautious looks, the females backed off.
Why had she slapped that girl? Shame-faced, Ruby soaked another fistful of paper and began cleaning the side of Gephart’s nose. All around was the sound of flushing loos, the spray of perfume, the click of lipsticks. Then the room went silent as everyone left. From the dance hall came the plaintive sound of a woman singing:
‘Let me ride through the wide open country that I love. Don’t fence me in. Let me be by myself in the evening breeze, listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees, send me off for ever but I ask you please, don’t fence me in …’
When Hank spoke again, his tone was low, dejected. ‘What happened to you at Shady Acres? I was waiting with a bunch of flowers to say thank you.’
She felt a twinge of guilt. He’d bought her flowers. ‘I’m sorry, Hank. I must have gone out the wrong door.’
‘You were running from me again, weren’t you?’
Her glance flickered over his blue eyes and quickly away.
‘Was it because I called you Sweet Cheeks?’
She was silent for a moment then a tiny laugh escaped. ‘Possibly.’
He stared at her. ‘You’re the most beautiful woman I ever did see.’
Ruby knew from the heat in her cheeks that her face had turned the fiercest red. She was panicking, unable to cope with these feelings.
‘How kind,’ she said coolly, trying to re-assert control of her emotions.
She sounded like Claire. Good. Now she had to be Claire.
‘I want you to know I’m more’n just a cop.’ He flexed his right hand – his punching hand – and grimaced. ‘I’m a bull-rider. I’ve won the bull-riders’ championship at Flint Hills Rodeo three years straight, and no-one west of State Line can rope a steer as good as me.’
‘Evidently, you are not a man who sits at home in a smoking jacket listening to Schubert.’ She was using biting sarcasm as a defence and was surprised when he chuckled.
‘Sure don’t sound like me.’ He shifted. ‘I’m building my own house out in Abilene with a veranda looking west to the sunset. And a picket fence that goes all around. Out in the yard there’s a live oak some say was used by Sherman’s scouts.’ He paused. ‘Come out with me Ruby. No strings. Just you and me. Bottle of wine. Steamboat on the Missouri. Moonlight. Then we can talk, start over. What do you say?’
It sounded appealing, and very romantic. All the pieces fitted perfectly, except one:
It would be like wanting a cuddly cat and being given a tiger. He was too masculine, too overpowering, too much in charge. If she wanted to rock the security of her little world by going off with another man, she would choose Payat. Payat with his gentle manner, his shy dark eyes and, of course, his wildly romantic appeal.
But she wasn’t prepared to go off with another man. Like a filing cabinet, her life was compartmentalised and ordered. Edward was her husband. Payat was a delicious fantasy. And Gephart was the rogue piece of paper that had to go in the bin.
It was time to tell him she was married.
‘I’m mar-’ She stopped and thought: This man is a cop, a control freak. What if he has the old-fashioned notion that this little lady should be at home with hubbie and not in some seedy bar mixing with drug-fuelled Hells Angels? What if, in a fit of pique, he tells Edward? Then I’m in big trouble and all “shore leave” will be revoked – permanently.
Hank sighed. ‘Sometimes I get the feeling you don’t like me.’
He grabbed her wrist. Astonished, she found herself staring him straight in the eyes. ‘No, you don’t dislike me, Ruby,’ he whispered. ‘In fact, I bet if I asked nicely, you’d give me a kiss.’
She had the sensation of standing on railroad tracks and feeling, or imagining, the far-off trembling of something large racing her way. And yet she was powerless to move away as much as a step.
‘Go on, Ruby, I’ve been injured in the line of duty. Give me a kiss.’
‘No.’ His hand felt like a steel band around her wrist.
‘I saved your hide.’ Although his tone was cheeky, his eyes pleaded.
‘Then will you to let me go?’
‘Alright,’ she conceded, telling herself that for right or wrong, he was now sitting here because he’d believed she’d needed rescuing. She lowered her head, touched her lips to his cheek and jerked back.
His face was stamped with indignation. ‘What the hell was that?’ he thundered.
‘I meant on the lips.’
She stared down at his mouth. A voice in her head told her to do it, another voice told her to run like hell. But she couldn’t run; not with him holding her. She bent and quickly pecked him on the lips. ‘There! That’s a kiss.’
‘Where I come from lady that was no kiss.’
He stood up abruptly. She sensed what was about to happen and felt the flutter of giant wings open inside her chest. But before she could step away, he pulled her against him, one hand coming around her to hold her arms, the other gripping the back of her head. She was immobilised, unable to turn from his advancing kiss. He lowered his head and slowly brushed his mouth across hers; she could feel his breath coming into her. She felt a dart of hot desire shoot up from between her legs. Then his mouth was on hers, pressing down…
A cheer of female voices and male wolf-whistles erupted from the doorway. Hearing it, Hank lifted his head to his audience, his arms loosening their hold on her. ‘Now that’s a kiss!’ he smirked.
Humiliated, she slapped him across the cheek and strode for the door. Laughter broke over her head like a wave. She shouldered her way through a jubilant crowd of heavily perfumed females and grinning cowboys. The bastard had got a laugh at her expense!
A man shouted out. ‘Hey, Hank, I got a notion she don’t like you!’
Another man agreed. ‘You ain’t gonna be herdin’ that pretty heifer into yer corral any time soon.’
In the babble of voices she heard: ‘… got yerself a maverick.’ ‘… Roxanne.’
It wasn’t until she was outside that she realised she was crying.
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. Links: Goodreads | Twitter | Website | Facebook | Pinterest
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