My next guest on the Crime Cafe podcast will be Anne Laughlin, who’s provided an excerpt for your reading pleasure from the book with the cover on the left.
Anne will fill you in on the deets for entering the giveaway! So, check it out! 🙂
And check out the excerpt!
To tie in with my upcoming interview on Crime Cafe, I’m offering to give away two copies of my most recent release, Money Creek. All one has to do is comment on my website by clicking on the Contact page at www.annelaughlinwriter.com. The first two commentors will receive a copy of the book. Please be sure to leave an email address for me so I can get back to you.
Excerpt from Money Creek, Bold Strokes Books, 2020
The last time Clare woke up with a stranger she sworn it would never happen again. But here she was, opening her eyes to a room she’d never seen before. She lay on her side, naked in a four-poster bed, as a familiar gut-clenching remorse made her stomach tumble. Her breathing became shallow and rapid. She didn’t dare turn to see what kind of man she’d gone home with.
It was still dark out and only the glare of the streetlight poking through the window blinds lit the room. It smelled faintly of eucalyptus, very tidy except for the pile of clothes strewn near the door. Next to the bed was an antique table and Tiffany style lamp, a pile of books stacked high. She skimmed the titles. What a man read would tell her a lot. There were the most recent releases from Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, and Emma Donoghue. Contemporary fiction by women authors. Maybe she’d hit the jackpot and hooked up with a well-read feminist man. She turned to her right and found, instead, a woman leaning on one elbow, gazing at her. She had clear eyes, auburn hair hanging loose around her shoulders, and a crooked smile. Her face was handsome, with chiseled cheek bones and a slightly patrician air. Clare grabbed the sheet and pulled it up to her chest.
“Good morning, Clare,” she said in a timber rich alto.
Clare stared at her with fixed eyes. Hearing her name made her feel more vulnerable. The woman had the advantage of her—Clare knew nothing and she knew everything. She prayed she hadn’t done anything mortifying. It was a good sign the woman was smiling at her. Whatever she did couldn’t have been too bad. She broke her gaze and lowered her eyes. “Good morning,” she said, her throat froggy from sleep and God knows what else.
“You seem uncomfortable.”
Clare forced herself to look at her. “I’m a little nervous. I’ve never been with a woman before.”
“So, you said last night. I hope it was a good experience for you.”
She hoped so too. She wasn’t upset at having sex with a woman, something she knew would have happened sooner or later. But she was ashamed she didn’t remember meeting her or anything that came after that. Her short-term memory had been on the fritz–when she was in a blackout she forgot everything almost as soon as it happened, which is why drunks so often repeated themselves. At least that’s what she’d read in a depressing article on alcoholism. She scootched up to lean against the headboard and winced at the hammering in her head. She was beginning to feel the full strength of her hangover.
“How are you feeling?” the woman said. She now sat in a lotus position, facing her. Clare avoided her eyes. She seemed entirely out of her league.
“Not so bad. Yourself?”
“I’m surprisingly good, given how drunk we were last night,” she said. “But I have no regrets.” She reached over for Clare’s hand and held it gently. “I hope you don’t.”
Can you regret something you can’t remember? “No, it was lovely.” She looked on the floor for her cell phone. It was nowhere in sight. “Do you happen to know what time it is?”
The woman turned toward her nightstand. “It’s six, still time for more sleep.” She ducked her head to meet Clare’s eyes. “Unless you were interested in doing something else?” Her voice was sultry, as if she really desired her, which Clare found impossible to believe.
“No! I mean, I didn’t realize it was so late. I’ve got to go.” She swung her legs to the side of the bed.
“Six is late?”
“I have to get into the office. I work in a sweat shop.” Why was she lying? She remembered she didn’t have to go to work, that she’d quit the day before, but she was desperate to get away. She looked to where her clothes were scattered near the door. Apparently, they’d been in quite a hurry to get them off.
“I thought you were a lawyer.”
“I am. And the hours are ridiculous.” Clare took a breath before she slid off the bed and tried to walk in a reasonably dignified manner across the room to her clothes. She could feel the woman’s eyes on her.
“You’re beautiful. You know that, don’t you?”
No, she didn’t. Surely her outside looked as bad as her inside felt, a toxic brew of nausea, the hammering head, and a bucket full of recrimination. Her business suit laid crumpled on the floor and she pulled it on before glancing back at the woman. She’d gotten out of bed and stood naked in front of her, as comfortable as a hand in a glove. She was at least six feet, a few inches taller than Clare and a hundred times more confident. Whatever actually happened, she hoped she’d given the woman pleasere. Usually her blackouts erased the memory of behavior she’d rather forget, but she would have liked remembering her first time with a woman. Would like to know whether it was everything she suspected it to be.
Clare had to clear her throat to talk. “Sorry I have to run. I’ll let myself out.”
“Wait.” The woman came closer, her nakedness seemed billboard-sized. “You seem skittish. There’s no pressure around what happened last night. Two adults, and all that.”
“Sure. I understand. It’s just I have to get going.”
She stared at Clare for a moment before leading her out of the bedroom to the front door. She seemed ready to move on herself. She held the door open, unconcerned at who might pass in the hallway. “The name’s Ellen, by the way. I know you don’t remember.”
“I do remember. Of course, I do.”
Ellen raised one eyebrow. “Are you lying to me or to yourself?” She smiled and motioned Clare out the door. “Take care of yourself, Clare.”
Anne Laughlin is the author of six previous crime novels published by Bold Strokes Books. She is a four-time Goldie Award winner and has been short listed for a Lammy Award three times. Her short stories can be found in many anthologies. Anne was named a Writers Retreat Fellow by the Lambda Literary Foundation in 2008 and 2014. She’s been accepted into residencies at Ragdale and Vermont Studio Center, among others.
Anne lives in Chicago with her wife, Linda. Her reviews of contemporary LGBTQ literature can be found at the Lambda Literary Review. She is currently at work on a new book.