Monday, May 9, 2011

Valerie Massey Goree's Deceive Me Once

American Christian Fiction Writers 2010 Genesis Award winner Valerie Massey Goree resides in the Texas Hill Country northwest of San Antonio with her husband of thirty-eight years.

She was born in South Africa and grew up in Rhodesia—now Zimbabwe. Her desire to become a teacher brought her to the USA. She attended a Christian university and obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Special Education.

While at university, she met her husband, Glenn. After they married, they served as missionaries in Rhodesia for six years where their two children were born.

When the family returned to Texas, Glenn pastored a small church, and Valerie began her teaching career. She served twenty-five years in the public school arena, working with students with special needs and their parents. For the last eight years she supervised the Special Education Department, first at a high school, then at a junior high school. During her career she wrote curricula, materials for staff workshops, and presentations for parent groups. She retired several years ago and focused on her writing.

Valerie and her family have traveled extensively throughout North America, Africa, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. She also enjoys reading, gardening, and of course writing. However, her favorite hobby is spoiling her granddaughter.

Deceive Me Once

Maricella McDonough, known simply as Chella to her family and friends, has been living a life of deception in Hanson Ridge, Texas, ever since the day of her QuinceaƱera in Eagle Pass. Riddled with guilt over the part she played in the death of her parents, her best friend Eva, and Eva’s parents, she stuffed it all down into the deepest recesses of her mind and moved on with her life.
Now, many miles away and more than 25 years later, it has all finally caught up with her. The body of a young woman is found on the edge of Chella’s property. As she investigates the mysterious death, she discovers the woman is connected with her hidden past. Will Chella’s dark secret finally be her undoing and ruin the life she has built with her husband and sons? Will they ever forgive her for lying to them all these years? Grab this stirring story of intrigue, danger, suspense, and redemption now to find out!

Here's an excerpt of Deceive Me Once:

I scrubbed her blood off my hands and face. My tears mingled with the water escaping down the drain. The abrasion on my forehead still stung from the alcohol cleanse, and my stained clothes lay bundled in a heap on the bathroom floor.

Brutus pushed the door open and sniffed at my clothes. The stench of death clung to him. Without thinking, I grabbed the startled puppy and placed him in the tub. I used my shampoo to bathe the blood and odor away and rubbed his short, brown fur vigorously with an old towel.

After dressing, I plodded to the kitchen and closed the pet door leading outside, then paced the living room on wobbly legs. The sheriff had to drive only fifteen miles from Bandera, the county seat, to Hanson Ridge. What was taking him so long?

A booming car horn shattered the silence. Brutus barked and ran to the kitchen. I attached his leash and secured it to a cabinet handle, and opened the back door.

I traipsed toward the taupe patrol car. The sun glinted off the white caliche stones in the driveway. An officer climbed out of the car and straightened his brown trooper hat. He was probably close to my age, mid-forties, medium height, with solid arms and chest bulging under a khaki shirt, tucked into his brown slacks as if it had been glued down. His purposeful movements and demeanor inspired confidence.

A brief smile creased his bronze cheeks. “Afternoon, ma’am. I’m Chief Deputy Carlos Quintanilla.” His deep voice sounded more like he should be in broadcasting and not investigating this sad crime.

I extended my hand, but he removed his mirrored sunglasses, slipped them into his shirt pocket and rested his hands on his thick leather duty belt.

“I believe you found a body, Mrs. McDonough?”

His direct question and accusing gaze made me realize for the first time I might be considered a suspect.

I lowered my hand. “Yes . . . yes, sir. And a bag filled with money.”

His penetrating stare sent ripples swirling in my already queasy stomach.

“Where are they, ma’am?”

I stepped around his patrol car and headed down the driveway. “This way, Deputy.”

His long stride brought him beside me. “How’d you get that gash?”

I reached under the hair I’d pulled across my forehead and touched the scraped area. I must not have hidden it as well as I’d thought. “I fell on the driveway. On my way to the house to call your . . . you.”

He grunted.

Our footsteps crunched on the gravel and startled two vultures lingering on the dead branches of a Spanish oak. The skittish birds spiraled in circles above us.

He eyed them for a second then focused on the brush ahead of us. “How’d you discover the body and the money?”

“Brutus, my puppy—”

“Puppy. Where’s he now? Not by the body, I hope?”

“No, no. He’s locked up in the house. The dispatcher told me to keep him away.”

“Good. Now, tell me what happened.”

I stopped and pointed back to the house. “I was weeding that flowerbed and Brutus brought me the corner of a hundred dollar bill. That got my attention, so I followed him. He keeps a stash of treasures on the lawn over there. I saw bits of money littering the area. Dirty, chewed bills. We think he must be part goat because—”

“Mrs. McDonough, the body, the money?”

I cleared my throat. “Sorry, I talk when I’m nervous. My husband says—”

The deputy pushed back his hat and rubbed his forehead. “What happened next?”

“I followed the paper trail.” This time I pointed to the caliche. “See. Pieces of money.”

Quintanilla squatted and examined a scrap of paper. “This looks like part of a twenty.” He picked it up and stood. “Show me where you went next.”

We trekked along the driveway peppered with bits of money and veered off into the brush. This time my feet were protected by boots and my legs covered in jeans. My earlier wardrobe of sandals, T-shirt and skirt had proved no match for the rough terrain.

My husband had cleared a few of our nine acres in the Texas Hill Country northwest of San Antonio. The rest had been left raw. Quintanilla and I trudged through the un-cleared land south of the driveway. We stepped over rocks, clumps of dried grass and scraggy bushes. He reached an embankment before me and stopped.

I indicated the general direction and said, “We have to go up there.”

“Lead the way.”

I pulled myself up using the rough branches of the mountain cedar trees. Quintanilla followed. Even though I knew what to expect, the unpleasant odor of old boiled cabbage smothered me. I gagged and gasped for air in the stifling August humidity.

We pushed through the thicket of cedars and stepped into the small clearing. In the middle, half hidden by tall, dry grass, the zipper on the charcoal gray canvas glinted in the sunlight. Flies teemed over the bag.

The deputy stopped, surveyed the area and frowned. “Did you disturb anything, Mrs. McDonough?”

“Please call me Chella or Maricella.”

“I asked you a question, Mrs. McDonough.” He ignored my plea for less formality. His professional tone reminded me again of my precarious situation.

I stepped into the shade and sighed. “Well, just a little. When I got up here my dog dragged out a stack of bills. I picked it up.” I could still feel the wet flecks hit my face when I’d flipped through the bills, and see the brown speckles on my yellow shirt. I touched my cheek and shuddered. “I also pushed open the bag with a stick. Oh, and I threw up—over there.” I pointed to a tree. Sympathetic waves of nausea rose and fell like a barometer. I turned my back on the site.

With his muscled arms folded, he glanced at me. “And what do you know about all this?”

“Nothing. Like I told you already, my dog led me here. We don’t come out to this part of our land much.”

He bent over the bag and studied the bundles of money visible through the partially opened top. He whistled. “Whew. Quite a haul. Where’s the stack you handled?”

I moved closer to the tree where I’d lost my lunch and pushed the grass aside with my boot. “Here.” When I’d realized the maroon muck covering the money had been her blood, I’d dropped the bundle like it oozed maggots.

He strode over, glanced at the money and nodded. “Okay, now let’s examine the body.” He turned and tramped in the direction of the odor.

I followed a dozen steps behind him, reluctance clawing at my feet. Memories of Brutus whining and pawing at an object hidden by the scruffy grass clouded my vision. Goose bumps erupted on my skin as the cabbage odor deteriorated into the suffocating sweet smell of decay. Churning in my gut sent a fresh surge of bile up my throat. I swallowed and clutched a nearby branch.

Quintanilla reached the body and stood with hands on his hips.

I crept behind him. Nothing had changed. I don’t know what I’d expected. Someone should have come and straightened her legs, covered her, done something. But there she lay in a contorted heap. Her cobalt blue dress splayed out on the pale rocks like a fan. Shade from the close cedars splattered over the scene. Flies swarmed around; the grass shimmered in the asphyxiating heat.

Her torso was bloated, covered in blood and pock-marked with wounds. Matted long, black hair shielded her face. Her hands clenched across her chest. Her legs buckled at awkward angles, with a long gash on one shin.

The deputy snapped on a latex glove and pulled her hair back, exposing her face.

I gasped and stared. “Oh, she’s so young.”

“Do you recognize her?”

Stepping closer, I covered my mouth and nose with my hand and shook my head. “I don’t think so. It’s hard to tell, but no.”

“She hasn’t been dead long.”

A small yellow butterfly drifted over her body then disappeared in the grass. I forced my mind back to the deputy’s words. “How . . . how do you know?”

“State of the body. In this heat and—”

“I get the picture.” My vision blurred as I thought of her lying among the rocks while I yanked weeds and pruned rose bushes. “Do you know when, I mean how long she’s been here?”

He removed his hand and a few strands of her hair fell across her cheek. “Hard to say. We’ll have to wait for forensics and autopsy.”

My gaze locked on the girl’s legs. One shoe was missing. I tried to dismiss the image of her struggling to walk through the brush barefoot.

Purchase Deceive Me Once from Amazon.

Valerie is giving away a copy of Deceive Me Once. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.


Linda said...

Sounds very interesting. Please enter me. Thanks.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a great read. Would love to win a copy! Thanks for the chance to do so!

cjajsmommy said...

This excerpt definitely makes me want to read more of this book. Please enter my name in the giveaway.

Linda Kish said...

This sounds like an interesting story.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

ann said...

Would like to enter to win the book. thanks

Pam K. said...

The excerpt made me want to read more! This is a book I'd like to win.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to win this book!

Jo said...

This sounds like quite a interesting book and one I wouild enjoy reading.


Anonymous said...

Would love to read this!

Meredith said...

The excerpt was very interesting. I'd love to read it!

meredithfl at gmail dot com

lgm52 said...

Sounds interesting..please enter me

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