Special Agent Charli Madison can’t get a break. After the stress of her last horrific assignment, all she wants is to spend time vacationing with her Gramps in Fort Lauderdale, a city they both love. Plans go awry, and she’s forced into witness protection, guarding a teenage girl who’s the only person able to identify a notorious killer.
To make matters worse, she has to accept the womanizing local FLPD Major as her fictitious fiancé and her backup on the dangerous mission.
Heaven knows, she doesn’t deserve this mess…
Blake Sebastian is tired of his role as lover for the women who hang around him in droves. Problem is – he doesn’t trust any of them with his heart, never mind with his future.
When pushed, he admits to the curly-headed, disapproving FBI agent under his jurisdiction, a man can get sick of so much sugar. Every so often, he needs a little sour to offset that much sweetness.
Charli was not impressed.
My father, the man we all called Poppa John, was my hero. Plain and simple! I adored the man as a child, a young girl, a married woman and most of all as a senior who truly understood the battles against age he overcame to stay sweet and kind until the day he passed.
He loved to make people laugh, said their smiles gave him joy… and hope.
One time, my son asked him the secret of being a good person, and his answer still rings true – be human.
We all miss him terribly, and the only way I could bear losing him was to write him into this book as my favorite character of all time. (And just so you know, most of the anecdotes told in this book were based on the truth.)
He’ll be remembered every time we see a yellow begonia, hear the song “Big, Bad John”, and see the wonderful stain glass memories he left behind.
He was… and will always be… my special hero.
Reviews: (the first two)
“In the world of mystery writing, some things can be telling. Like when you want to drop everything else in order to read a certain book, because you HAVE to find out how it’s going to end. Mimi Barbour’s SPECIAL AGENT CHARLI was such a book––in spades. Starting out with a heart wrenching foster care scene, I immediately fell for Kayla, the abused, parentless girl. A touching teen, she was, without warning, suddenly thrust into a Hitchcockian situation and bam! The book was off and running. The murder mystery itself was expertly paced; talk about little cliff hangers and edge of your seat chapter endings that headed toward a thoroughly dramatic, action-packed dénouement. But for me, what also created true staying power was the depth of the characters. Their motives, their backgrounds, their angsts, along with their consistent appeal. I really wanted the tough female lead, Charli, suffering from PTSD after a recently finished narcotics undercover stint, to fall for Blake, the sexy, used-to-women-throwing-themselves-at-him undercover cop and come together romantically…but because of their complete opposite dispositions, I wasn’t sure if it was ever going to happen. (No spoilers here!). Another star of the show was Charli’s Grandpa, her “Poppa John,” (Apparently based on Ms. Barbour’s own grandfather), who was a complete hoot, and a life saver in more ways than one. All in all, a wonderful 5* read!” ~ Reviewed by Kindle Customer 49
“I want to summarize to try to interest you in one of the best books I have recently read. The other day I was thinking about an earlier book, Special Agent Finnegan. It was the first Mimi Barbour book I had ever read. After rereading it i found i enjoyed it as much of not more than the first time. The reason I brought it up is that if anything she draws you in more completely now.
If you have read any of her books I’m sure you will enjoy this book. If you haven’t read any of her books this is a good place to start.” ~ Reviewed by Janine
Excerpt – Chapter One
Relief filled Alicia Shoal. Her foster parents, Bud and Margo White, and their loser friends finally ran out of beer in the apartment and decided to move their loud party to a local bar. Without their drunken noise, she’d have a chance to finally settle the three little ones they’d dumped on her to babysit.
She’d tried to calm the smallest boy, but three-year-old Buddy Junior, the White’s own kid, refused to share her attention.
A handful to say the least, a grumpy, dissatisfied child, he demanded constant care every moment he was awake. Thankfully, he too drifted off and that left her with the two-year-old toddler. Being the sweetest of the lot, she just needed a bit of a cuddle to settle down and close her eyes.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Alicia tiptoed from the bedroom, stretched and went to spray air freshener to clear away the distinct odor from the weed the adults had shared earlier. Then she cleared away the beer cans and empty snack dishes scattered all over the front room and kitchen.
The gluttons didn’t leave any for her, but then they never did. After an hour of tidying, even her foster mother, slacker Margo, shouldn’t find anything to bitch about. Alicia knew from experience, overcoming that hurdle took a lot of patience. When Margo was hungover, she pressed buttons and Alicia had to ignore a lot of crap.
Pushing back never paid off, she’d learned that lesson after the last three foster families. This time, she’d swallow the shit, keep her cool and wait and plan for her day of freedom.
She slid her fingers through her thick hair in the front and pushed the straight, black strands away from her neck and let them flow down her back. Being half Chinese, her black hair was a symbol of her heritage as much as her slightly almond-shaped dark brown eyes.
When she was younger, many others in the orphanage would tease her; make her aware of their differences. As she grew older, her slim Asian body became a real plus, and she stopped letting the slurs bother her.
Snagging the almost empty bag of pretzels and sneaking a coke from the bunch in the fridge, she headed for the sitting room to kick off her shoes and maybe get some homework done.
Her ninth grade math teacher was a stickler about the work she assigned and would phone the parents personally if her students didn’t hand it in on time.
Earlier in the year, Margo had been called about Alicia, and she’d cut off Alicia’s access to her stupid TV for a month by unplugging it and sticking it in their storage locker in the basement.
Considering this was her only form of entertainment, even though the dumb appliance was old, murky and small, she relied on having it for nights like tonight when she’d be expected to stay awake until the early hours of the morning. That’s when everyone would come stumbling in drunk and disorderly to pick up their kids, and in some cases they wouldn’t even bother until the next day.
Alicia lowered the bright lights to a dull roar rather than the full-on glare overhead that Bud liked. She hated feeling like a fish in a backlit bowl for all the neighbors to see.
The big windows across the front of their twentieth-floor Seattle apartment, in the middle of a bunch of other similar buildings, gave her the creeps. It made her feel like a target for some pathetic loser with no life and only a set of binoculars for entertainment.
She noticed that Bud, her foster father – and that moniker was a joke – had left his binoculars out. Usually, he’d lock them in the cabinet.
She sauntered over to pick them up, and as a lark, checked the dials so she could set them back as close to where they had been. Then she adjusted the lenses and leaning against the back of the sofa, she started to scan the buildings like she’d see Bud and Margo do all the time.
First, she looked to see if the older woman who lived in the building directly across was still up and watching TV. Bud had nicknamed her the “slouch on the couch” because most of the time that’s where she’d be found. Sure enough, there she was tonight, apparently sound asleep, or if the booze bottle on the floor was any indication, she’d passed out.
Moving on, Alicia saw that the lights were dimmed in many of the windows but the building across from her, a floor lower, suddenly glowed. Attracted to the light, she focused there and her breath caught in her throat.
She watched a large male figure enter the scene. With a gun held firmly, he skulked around the apartment threateningly, hidden from the blonde woman who’d just turned on the light.
Moving without a care in the world, the beauty took two more steps and would be crowding his space any second.
Beautiful, in a silky kimono, long hair streaming over her shoulders, rubbing lotion on her hands, she sauntered slowly to face a monster she didn’t know waited.
Alicia found herself whimpering. Stop! Please! Without intending to, she’d lifted her hand to wave frantically, to catch the other’s attention. Gurgled screams, straining to be released, sent shockwaves throughout her system. Numerous nerve endings in her head lit, shooting adrenalin to all her alarm centers. She fought to gather her scattered thoughts.
What should she do? What could she do? She pranced in place – a majorette in a parade waiting for the music.
The prowler began to move, like a cat stalking his prey. This kept Alicia glued to the scene. With tension unleased, a voice inside her began to warn, to shriek… to pray.
God, Lady, can’t you feel him waiting? Run, escape!
The binoculars became heavy, burdensome. She had a death hold on them. Clutched in her sweating hands, they didn’t waver, though it took a herculean effort to keep them in place.
Still Alicia couldn’t put them down – couldn’t stop watching. Mesmerized by the horror, she had a sudden urge to pee and at the same time to run.
She did neither.
The minute the woman stepped through the doorway, the lurker caught her by surprise. A punch in the face sent her flying across the room. He followed, lifted the gun and pointed it at the cowering woman now on her knees… begging. Whatever he said, the woman knew her pleas were in vain. She stiffened. Before Alicia could take a second breath, she saw a small flash of light.
The bullet struck the victim’s forehead, and the body flew backward in a sprawl against the couch. Only a small, dark hole in her head was visible. That tiny destructive stain symbolized the beautiful woman’s departed soul and it all took place in just a split second.
Now, Alicia screamed.
As if the thin screeching sounds, ringing with terror, reached across the compound to the other building, the gunman turned and looked directly at her. Like a living entity, her fear must have drawn him, called to him and his instinct attached itself to that wire-like thread.
Whatever the reason, his gun was now pointed in her direction. His evil grin of accomplishment subsided, and his eyes zeroed in on her. His expressions changed swiftly from anger to warning then ended in pure determination. He would come for her. She knew it like she knew she couldn’t stop him.
Dropping the binoculars, her heart pumping so hard she thought she’d faint, Alicia slid to the floor and cowered, squeaky whimpers escaping and ramping up her terror.
Hardly able to breathe, she dared another peek and saw the lights were now off across the way. It made her crawl to the wall where the switches for her place were located by the outside door.
“Oh my God, oh my God… help me.” Urges to run, get away, hide clamored in her brain. She wrenched open the door and then stopped dead. What about the babies? How could she leave them?
She needed to call 911. But what would Bud and Margo say? They’d be totally pissed if she brought the law to their place, considering the recreational drugs that Bud always hid around the apartment.
Suddenly, she remembered a lifeline, an FBI agent, Carolina Madison, who lived down the hall. If Alicia sought her help, she’d have to do something… wouldn’t she? A murder took place, she saw it. Carolina would have no choice but to believe Alicia after they found the body.
Not hesitating, though her knees gave out so she had to crawl the last few feet, Alicia banged on the door and begged, “Carolina Madison? Please help me. Oh God, help me.”