Monday, December 21, 2015

Hunting for Happenstance: A Merchant Street Mystery, Book 2

4.5/5 Stars on Amazon

High-spirited Daniela Estrada is tired of waiting for life and love to come to her in her poppa’s butcher shop. She wants to open her own doggie grooming business on Merchant Street and live her own life. Instead while deer hunting, her Uncle Benito goes missing and the area is swarming with aggressive black bears.

Practical Duston “Buck” Cooper, who owns the Bird Dog Gun Shop, has helped the police on cases with his German Short-haired Pointer and is training a Karelian Bear dog. Duston adores Daniela but secrets about his brother prevent him from getting close to anyone. He believes that if something is meant to be, it will.

Can Daniela recruit Duston to find her uncle, and will the two stop waiting for happenstance and attack what they both want—love?

Here's an excerpt of Hunting for Happenstance:
Duston sat at the red light on the deserted downtown street at twelve-thirty in the morning. Dead tired, he thought about running the light while no one was around but decided against it. He probably wouldn’t get to sleep tonight anyway. The conversation with Officer Malloy kept repeating in his head. Would they find Benito Estrada dead or alive? What took place after Benito shot that eight-point buck and why?

He cringed, remembering Malloy had told him he was off the case. Off this case and everything else in the future. He knew he had overstepped his bounds. Still, he’d do it again in a heartbeat for Daniela.

He splayed his fingers on the steering wheel and yawned. One thing he’d learned tonight from Kipp Waterbury, of all people, was relationships needed work. He was tired of dancing on the sidelines, watching life go by him without ever jumping in and getting his feet wet.

The light changed and he sped up. He’d told Daniela about Aidon and she hadn’t leapt from the truck. Maybe he stood a chance at happiness and companionship. However, Kipp had nailed it. Relationships took work, and he’d had very little experience. So far, he had spent his life avoiding any and all interactions with women. How he would have loved to ask Daniela to dance at one of the annual BearBQs. Daniela. He had to admit to himself, he had been interested in her for a long, long time.

He sighed and pulled into the alley behind the shop and parked. Dani’s father came to mind. He would not be pleased to know Duston’s thoughts about his daughter. Whatever he felt, he would have to forgo any such ideas until this matter was resolved with Benito. On the case or not, whatever Daniela wanted him to do, he would do. Officer Malloy certainly didn’t have jurisdiction over him. He could do what he wanted.

He entered the back and immediately noticed the door to the apartment open. He reached for the doorknob, but it was missing. He spotted it a few feet from the door. Then he looked inside the front of his shop. Guns were scattered everywhere along with broken shards of glass, the glass counter case and front window merely jagged pieces of pane. Shock enveloped him, turning his mouth dry. Ruger! Lahti!

He yanked the door the rest of the way open and, although dark, spotted someone in coveralls, a baseball cap, and heavy rubber boots standing at the top of the stairs. He took them three at a time, pouncing on the man and bringing him to the floor. Vanilla? Perfume? The dogs finally got with the program and barked. Why hadn’t Ruger attacked the intruder?

A small man, it didn’t take much to turn him over, trap his arms above his head, and straddle his hips. The man struggled and knocked off his own cap. Long, dark hair exploded onto the floor and revealed Dani’s frightened face. She looked at him, wide-eyed, and then leaned her head up and kissed him on the lips.

“Buck, it’s you,” she said.

“Daniela?” Duston froze in sheer surprise, not only from finding out Dani was the intruder but from her kiss. The taste of her lingered on his lips, clogging complete thoughts from his mind.

Ruger came up and licked her face, and she laughed. Duston released her arms but stayed straddled on his haunches across her narrow waist. He stared down at her, his throat so dry he couldn’t speak.

“The man,” she said. “The blond man from the camp in the mountains. He break-in but no steal. I think he plan to hurt your doggies.”

Duston’s head moved side to side, but he still couldn’t form a sentence. His brain flip-flopped back and forth between the seriousness of what she was saying and the fact that Daniela lay under him, her gorgeous hair spread out across his wood floor like ocean waves. He needed to pull himself together and think.

“Do you hear me, Buck?” she asked, leaning up on her elbows.

In truth, her words were slowly drifting into his head like driftwood to a shore. Yes, this was serious. His shop had been trashed by one of the men from the camp, and they had planned on killing his dogs. His thinking had been jolted too hard by the discovery of Daniela in those coveralls and her kiss to try and make sense out of anything right now. He needed distance from her…or possibly a cold shower.

“I forgot about the note,” she said.


“Wake up, Buck! Move.” She squirmed against him.

He finally shifted off her, and she jumped to her feet.

“He stuck a note or something in the counter downstairs,” she said, heading for the door.

Ruger barked and pawed at him, trying to get his attention. Daniela walked back and attempted to pull him to his feet. Crunching glass sounded downstairs.

“Daniela,” her father called in his booming voice.

Sirens sounded in the background.

“Poppa, up here,” Dani called.

Duston finally managed to make it to his feet just as Daniela’s father entered, flipping on the light switch and frowning.

“Poppa saved your doggies,” Daniela said with pride.

“No one messes with our street.” Her father’s chest puffed out.

Duston couldn’t make sense out of anything, especially not Dani’s father helping him after everything that had happened between them. And he seriously wondered why that man would trash his shop and try to harm his dogs? And for heaven’s sake, what had Daniela’s kiss meant? He shook his head, trying to clear the fuzziness away.

Lahti barked in her crate, and Daniela rushed over to open the door.

“I was going to take the doggies to our shop until you got home,” she said, bending down to pet Lahti.

Ruger growled, and Duston grabbed his collar. Four police officers stormed the room, guns drawn. Dani protectively wrapped her arms around Lahti and held her close. Her father stamped his boot and said something in Spanish.

“It’s okay,” Duston said, holding one hand up but keeping a strong hold on Ruger’s collar. “The intruder is gone. This is my shop.”

The police officers slowly lowered their weapons and communicated over their headsets. The process began of explaining what had taken place. Dani did most of the talking. Duston still hadn’t found his voice. The thought that Dani and her father had risked their lives for him and his dogs still astounded him.

Dani took his hand and lead them all downstairs to the counter where the blond man had taken the most expensive knife in the display case—a one-hundred-thirty-five dollar, four-and-one-half-inch guthook blade Alaskan Guide knife—and stabbed it through a note and into the wooden counter top. Duston pulled out the knife, eyeing all the merchandise scattered and possibly damaged that lay on the floor amongst broken glass. What a mess. Every gun would have to be inspected and re-sighted in.

He stared at the typed note and then turned the paper over. No identifying information. Dani said he wore gloves too. This man knew what he was doing.

“What does it say, Buck?” Dani asked, pulling on his arm.

He handed the paper over to the waiting officer. “Just as you thought, Dani. It reads, ‘Dead dogs tell no tales.’”

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Cindy A. Christiansen
Sweet romance, humor, suspense...and dogs!
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