When Mr. Black becomes the top suspect in a murder investigation, Isobel Avery is roped into helping Etta, her Glock, and her greyhound clear his name.
Except her boyfriend Connor is warning her to stay out of it, the new client she’s protecting from poison threats requires her full attention, and oh yeah, Izzy thinks Mr. Black might be guilty… He did once try to beat her to a pulp after all.
To make matters worse, Etta and Izzy aren’t the only ones digging in to this case, and the other parties are a whole lot more dangerous. And if Mr. Black didn’t do it, then the real killer is still out there and might not appreciate their interference.
As Izzy struggles to make sure the right bad guy goes to prison, find her footing in her new romantic relationship, and integrate herself into her client’s alien world of high-society ladies—the same world the victim is from—she’d better watch out for poisons, vengeance, and firebombs.
*** Includes bonus short story: Taste of Christmas ***
Her hair was the color of Snow White’s poisoned apple, her lips painted to match. She used those lips to smile sweetly at me and clasped her hands in her lap. “I’ve never met a Shade before. What a quaint little thing you are. You must be so brave to put your life on the line for perfect strangers.”
Blue eyes assessed me. Wondering whether I’d read between the lines. Wondering how I’d react.
I read between the lines just fine. She thought I looked like an uncultured bumpkin, and she wasn’t pleased about it. The brave comment was to remind me who held the power in this relationship. If I’d been born naturally brave, I wouldn’t have wasted the virtue on protecting the rich and famous. There was only one reason for me to take this job: money. And my potential client had me pegged. Whoever had the money had the power, and she had loads of it.
“I’m pleased to offer you a new experience, ma’am,” I said, matching her saccharine tone.
Those eyes narrowed. She didn’t appreciate the reminder of our age gap. Considering her wealth, designer clothes, and the best face and body modern medicine could offer, it was the one thing I had going for me.
“Call me Mrs. Madison. I insist,” she said with emphasis on the insist part.
“Of course, Mrs. Madison.”
She let her hands fall apart and then folded them together again. We were sitting in a parlor, the type that only exists in houses with more rooms than anyone knows what to do with. It was a pretty place to be judged wanting, with a large open fireplace and three arched windows edged with soft, gauzy curtains. The ornate, solid-timber furnishings paired with their pale luxury fabrics were chosen to demonstrate money and taste. At least Vanessa Madison had both. Money was a given in the glamorous western district of Los Angeles, but style was a rarer commodity.
“I thought the Taste Society would send someone with more polish for this role,” she told me. “The Westside Elite Charity and Social Club can be vicious, and you’ll need to withstand intense scrutiny.”
Vanessa Madison was president of the Westside Elite Charity and Social (WECS) Club, and it was the other members she needed protection from. But she didn’t need the type of protection a normal bodyguard could provide—threatening someone that way would be tactless. The rich and famous had their own, more subtle, weapon of choice. Which was where Shades like me came in—to protect them from sabotage and murder attempts of the poison variety.
“That won’t be a problem,” I lied. Acting wasn’t exactly a strength of mine, but I was learning to bluff with the best of them.
“And you’re so pale. As my dietary adviser, shouldn’t you look more healthy?”
She was evaluating me as if I were an animal on the auction block, and I wondered if she’d want to check my teeth and gums.
With great restraint, I resisted baring them at her. “I have extensive food and catering experience that will be an asset to the role,” I said instead.
It was a stretch of the truth, but that’s what you did in job interviews. Not that I was sure I wanted the job anymore. It had looked good on paper: a client I only had to attend at public functions rather than around-the-clock protection; a low risk of lethal substances; and a cover story that gave me no need to feign an intimate relationship. I should’ve known it was too good to be true.
Vanessa Madison might just be my most terrifying client yet.
“Well, all right then.” She cocked her head, her glossy red hair gliding over her shoulders as if it were starring in a shampoo commercial. “I suppose if you don’t work out, I can always fire you and get a new one.”