1) Your newest release features two of your most popular characters, attorney Morgan Dane and P.I. Lance Kruger. While this couple has a habit of getting involved in difficult (and dangerous) criminal cases, the mystery in this book is much more personal for them.
In Save Your Breath, Morgan and Lance aren’t working for a client. They’re looking for Sharp’s girlfriend, Olivia Cruz, who vanished from her home in the middle of the night. After Olivia goes missing, Sharp realizes his feelings for her run much deeper than he’d thought. As the investigation continues, with no trace of Olivia, the usually calm and centered PI begins to unravel. Morgan and Lance had always depended on Sharp for his insight and stability. Save Your Breath reverses these established roles.
2) How does the personal nature of the crime affect the other characters?
Morgan and Lance are also thrust into unaccustomed roles. In the previous five books, Sharp has been the source of stability. He is their rock. Now Morgan and Lance have to step up and help him hold it together. The book deliberately challenges the cohesiveness of the team.
3) The story starts with a terrifying scene where Olivia is kidnapped. It is raw and visceral and plays on everyone’s worst fear—being unsafe in our own home. How do you get into the mindset for crafting this kind of scene?
I close my eyes and envision the scene in my mind from beginning to end. Everyone has been woken by a strange noise in the middle of the night. We’ve all stared at the ceiling, listening for the sounds of a stranger moving through the house. Being attacked in our sleep is a basic, primal fear. That’s the vulnerable feeling I wanted to generate in the reader, so I imagined it happening to me. Basically, I’m channeling the overactive imagination that got me into so much trouble as a child.
4) Morgan and Lance are planning a wedding and solidifying Lance’s place as a step-dad to the Dane girls, all the while dealing with terrible crimes around them. How do they disconnect from the violence around them in order to create a space just for themselves and their family?
The family demands their full attention, and in their world of chaos and crime, their home is what keeps them sane. Both Morgan and Lance operate best when they have the support and love of their family to return to at the end of the day.
5) Can you give readers any hints of what’s next for Morgan Dane and her crew?
I wrote Save Your Breath as the final book in the Morgan Dane series, but my next project is a spin-off. The Bree Taggert Series will take place in Grey’s Hollow. Morgan and the crew will likely make appearances.
Her weekly dinner with her family had distracted her earlier in the evening. Her mother had served frijoles negros, Olivia’s favorite traditional Cuban dish. Olivia had overindulged, and the minute she’d left her parents’ house in Albany to make the hour drive back to Scarlet Falls, her true crime research had flashed right back into her mind and unsettled her stomach.
Chewing an antacid, she mulled over her stunning discovery. The implications of what she’d learned further stirred the black beans and rice in her belly. As a journalist, her job was to seek the truth, not play judge or jury. But should she choose to pursue and publish this truth, other people could pay the price for her revelation—possibly with their lives.
Her new book proposal was overdue, but Olivia’s predicament felt like a no-win situation. Ignoring the truth went against all her principles. Then again, so did putting other people in danger.
But how much risk was involved? Could she live with being responsible for even a single innocent person’s death?
Obsessing about her book research had translated into three consecutive nights of insomnia. Enough was enough. Olivia didn’t need to make this decision alone. What she needed was outside perspective. She brought the antacids with her into the bedroom, picked up her phone from the nightstand, and checked the time. Eleven o’clock. She sent a CALL ME IF UR UP text message to Lincoln Sharp, her . . .
The word boyfriend seemed silly at their ages. She was forty-eight. Lincoln was fifty-three. They’d been dating for several months, and they spent the night together once or twice a week. She assumed their relationship was exclusive, although they hadn’t specifically discussed it.
Labels weren’t important to either of them, but when she saw him or he called unexpectedly, the stirrings of excitement and joy in her blood made her feel like a teenager. Beyond her attraction to him, she respected him both personally and professionally.
So why had she been stewing over her decision instead of asking for his opinion?
Lincoln owned and operated a private investigation firm. As a retired police detective, his practical experience with the legal system—and his knowledge of criminal behavior—exceeded hers. She valued his insight and trusted him to keep her research confidential. If she decided to pursue the story, she would hire his firm to help with the investigative legwork anyway. She may as well bring him on board now.
She burped. Her indigestion began to burn its way up her esophagus. She chewed a second antacid, the chalky taste coating her mouth. She reached for the glass of water on her nightstand and sipped.
A few seconds later, her phone rang, and she pressed “Answer.”
“Is everything OK?” Lincoln asked in a worried tone. Her late-night text was unusual.
“Yes,” Olivia assured him.
“I’m sorry I missed dinner with your parents again,” he said. “I wrapped up my case tonight. I should be able to make dinner next week.”
He didn’t talk much about work, which was fine. She understood his professionalism and appreciated his need to maintain client confidentiality. But he had mentioned the case had involved a great deal of evening surveillance.
“They understand,” she said. “I called because I’m stuck in my research, and I’d like your opinion. Are you free sometime tomorrow afternoon? I can come to your office.”
“Sure.” Interest brightened his voice. “How much time do you want me to block out?”
“An hour should do.” She considered his associates. Lincoln’s business partner, PI Lance Kruger, and Lance’s fiancée, defense attorney Morgan Dane, could also provide useful insight on Olivia’s dilemma. Morgan’s legal advice might be particularly helpful. “I’d like Morgan’s and Lance’s thoughts as well. Could you see if they’re available?”
“Hold on. Let me check their digital calendars.” The line went quiet for a few breaths. “Lance should be here in the afternoon. Morgan has a client meeting at nine a.m. Her calendar is clear the rest of the day. How about I put you in the one p.m. spot?”
“Perfect.” Olivia lowered the phone and made a note in the calendar app. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
“You know, when you texted”—Sharp’s voice deepened—“I had hoped this was a booty call.”
A little thrill rushed through her, followed by another burp. Olivia rubbed the fire behind her breastbone. “Tonight isn’t a good night. I ate way too much of my mother’s food.”
He snorted. “That happens. She’s an incredible cook. Get some rest and feel better.”
“Good night.” Olivia lowered the phone.
Satisfied he would help her make her decision, she slid into bed and picked up a book. At midnight, she still wasn’t sleepy. She set down the book and redirected her mind. Lincoln was teaching her to meditate. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on her breaths. She conjured a mental image of the beach in her mind and synced her breathing to the ebb and flow of the imaginary waves. At first she had trouble concentrating, but eventually her body felt heavy.
Olivia jolted, her heartbeat quickening, sweat dampening her T-shirt.
What was that?
A glance at the clock on her nightstand told her hours had passed. It felt as if she’d just closed her eyes, but she must have fallen asleep. She scanned the darkness of her bedroom. Her gaze passed over her dresser and chair. Had she heard something real, or had it been a dream?
She concentrated, listening hard to the sounds of her house, but she heard nothing unusual. A thunk and hum signaled the heater switching on. Hot air blew out of the floor vent and moved the sheers that hung over her windows.
The alarm hadn’t sounded. She reached for her cell phone. It was far too early to rise for the day. She double-checked the security system app on her phone. The house was secure. She needed to go back to sleep.
She shifted her legs under the covers, closed her eyes, and tried to get comfortable.
Something whooshed. Her eyes snapped open. A large shape rushed toward her. A heavy body landed on top of her, pinning her to the mattress. The weight and size of her attacker felt male. She flailed and tried to push him off, but her arms and legs were trapped as he straddled her. She was cocooned in her comforter like a swaddled baby. Her throat constricted. She couldn’t scream.
Panic sprinted through her bloodstream as she stared up at the dark assailant looming over her. His face seemed distorted, his features brighter and flatter than normal. He was wearing a mask.
With a bolt of gut-twisting horror, she recognized the character as Michael Myers from the movie Halloween.
A flash of terror shot up her spine. She inhaled, preparing to force a scream out of her tight throat.
He slapped her across the face. Pain, bright and sharp, sang through her cheekbone but faded in seconds as her adrenaline surged. The scream died in her chest.
When true-crime writer Olivia Cruz disappears with no signs of foul play, her new boyfriend, Lincoln Sharp, suspects the worst. He knows she didn’t leave willingly and turns to attorney Morgan Dane and PI Lance Kruger to find her before it’s too late.
As they dig through Olivia’s life, they are shocked to discover a connection between her current book research on two cold murder cases and the suicide of one of Morgan’s prospective clients.
As Morgan and Lance investigate, the number of suspects grows, but time is running out to find Olivia alive. When danger comes knocking at their door, Morgan and Lance realize that they may be the killer’s next targets.