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"Addictive new series, approach only if you are willing to read into the early hours of the morning!!!"
Chicks That Read
'Humorous romantic cozy mystery in the world of the rich and famous'
One soap star death is a tragedy, but three all in the same week, that’s a case for the CCIA – otherwise known as the Celebrity Crimes Investigation Agency.
Amber Reed, the agency's newest support officer, is sleuthing again! This time she's sent to Vancouver, Canada’s answer to Hollywood, where soap opera North Shores is filmed. She needs to track down who is targeting and killing the show’s stars – and fast.
Alongside her, making up the rest of the CCIA team for this high profile case, are man-eater and troublemaker Martha, agency bad boy Dan and Amber’s kind-of-ex-boyfriend, special agent Charlie.
Can they catch the killer before another star is murdered? Will Charlie and Amber kiss and make up or is it over between them, this time for good? Will sworn enemies Charlie and Dan manage to resist gunning for each other?
The team need to find a way to set aside their differences and focus on the investigation because this time there’s not just one murder case to solve but three!
READ AN EXTRACT:
think I’m about to be arrested. Going through customs and passport control is
nerve-racking enough to put me in panic attack mode at the best of times. And
today is definitely not the best of times. I’m making my way through customs after
a ten hour flight, sleep-deprived, and terrified of what is waiting for me at
flashes his agency badge and a flirtatious smile at the stern-looking female custom’s
officer, who I felt sure was about to demand to search my luggage or whisk me
away for interrogation. The woman simply nods and steps back.
good at using his Mediterranean good looks and charm to get what he wants. A
wink from his chocolate brown eyes, a tanned hand pushed through his dark
fringe of hair. It always works.
my hand, Dan pretty much whisks us both off in the direction of the arrivals
hall at Vancouver International Airport.
One problem solved. I’d allow myself a sigh of relief but there are still two
major issues I have to face. One is trying to help solve a murder case, and the
other is a tall, dark and handsome special agent called Charlie.
should meet us in the arrivals hall,” Dan says, as he steers the baggage
trolley containing our cases with one hand, still keeping a firm grip of me
with his other.
Someone. I hope it’s not…
we reach the arrivals hall, I spot him straight away. Charlie is leaning
against a wall, eyes focused on the doors Dan and I have just walked through. Suddenly,
I’m very aware Dan is still holding my hand. The flicker of annoyance in
Charlie’s eyes is obvious when he sees us, even from this far away. Hastily I
try to tug my hand free from Dan’s but he’s holding on tight. I look up at my six-foot
plus special agent work colleague and see him glaring right back at Charlie. Confrontational?
Just a tad.
tug harder and eventually gain my freedom. Gulping and trying not to freak out,
I wander over to Charlie who has now pushed himself off the wall and is walking
Charlie says and manages to find a weak smile from somewhere and pin it on his gorgeous
face. “Good flight?”
open my mouth to speak but can’t seem to form the words. Charlie, my Charlie, is standing opposite me. The
man I love but am no longer in a relationship with shuffles awkwardly from one
foot to the other. We don’t know what to do. Hug? No – too familiar and
comfortable for the circumstances. Shake hands?
No - too formal and uncomfortable.
settle on doing nothing.
flight, mate, thanks for asking,” Dan says, beaming from ear to ear. He’s doing
it just to annoy Charlie, I know he is.
and Dan hate each other.
slept most of the way,” Dan continues, pointing the baggage trolley towards the
exit as Charlie and I walk along, one on
each side of him.
I know,” I say, just because I feel I need to say something. “I was the one sitting next to you and listening to you
snore your way across the Atlantic.”
laughs. “Hey, I can sleep any place, no worries.”
scowls again. Even the scowl doesn’t detract from his classic dark good looks
though. Add in his tall frame and broad shoulders, and I can understand why
he’s catching the eye - and hearts - of most of the females in the vicinity.
is going to be a very long drive from the airport to downtown Vancouver. As we
whizz along a highway – is that what they call them here in Canada? – Charlie
is at the wheel of a flash SUV hire car. Dan claimed the passenger seat as soon
as we’d reached the car, leaving me to sit in the back. The atmosphere is
beyond knife-cutting. I think you’d probably need a chainsaw to cut through the
heavy air in this particular vehicle at the moment.
three murders then, yeah?” Dan asks Charlie as we head towards the waterfront
area of the city. “All actors on this soap opera called North Shores?”
“That’s right,” Charlie replies stiffly. He
glances in his rear-view mirror and for a second our eyes meet. I’m the first
to look away. “Martha and I have already made a start on gathering background
information, interviewing, all of the usual stuff. This is big. We’ve got to
hit the ground running on this one. We have to solve the case and also try to prevent
any more murders on the show.”
are we staying?” Dan asks, looking out of the window. “I’ve never been to
Vancouver before. Pretty amazing setting, with the harbour and the mountains.”
slows the car to join a long queue of downtown traffic. “We’re not here to
sightsee,” he replies abruptly. “We’re here to track down a murderer.”
city is bustling. I try to get my head around time zones. Western Canada is
eight hours behind the UK. We left London at eleven this morning and it’s a ten
hour flight. So, UK time now is about nine in the evening and Vancouver time is
… I try to force my jetlagged brain to do the calculations, allowing for
airport security and baggage reclaim time, and then helpfully spot a skyscraper
with the time of day and the air temperature emblazoned on it. Just after two
in the afternoon on this late May day, and it is sixteen degrees centigrade.
got to sleep somewhere though, murder or not,” Dan replies with an edge to his
voice. Silence falls and I stare out of the window. People are everywhere, all
going about their business. Signposts point the way to the harbour and to places
called Stanley Park and Gastown and lots of other tourist spots that, in
different circumstances, I’d be itching to explore. I read up about Vancouver
on the flight over here. Amazed at the fact the residents, if they feel so
inclined, can whiz up to Grouse Mountain overlooking the city and enjoy a
morning or afternoon of skiing. The thought of snow and skiing and mountains
pulls me straight back to France where Dan and I have just finished working on
a case together. Dan taught me to ski as a key part of the undercover part of
the investigation. I was probably the worse student ever and ended up crashing
into him a lot and we’d both land in a heap on the snow. Which cued more
flirtatious behaviour from Dan. He just can’t help himself.
Charlie pulls into an underground parking garage in a reserved slot. “We’ve got
three SUVs on hire out here,” he explains. “The next one over is ours too.
Martha’s out in the other at the minute.”
two guys tussle over carrying the cases. Dan wants to carry both but Charlie
grabs mine and slams the boot of the car closed, narrowly missing Dan’s
this?” I ask spotting a piece of paper tucked under the windscreen wiper of the
other SUV assigned to us for the duration of this investigation. “It’s not a
parking ticket, is it? We are authorised to park here, aren’t we?” Reaching
across I snag the note and open it.
If you now what god 4
yous, bac off.
guys, I think you should see this.”
takes the scrap of paper and they both read it.
thing’s for sure, whoever wrote this can’t spell for toffee,” Dan says.
tut at his frivolity. This is serious. “It’s not their spelling abilities that
concern me. We’ve only just arrived and already somebody knows who we are, why
we’re here and where we’re staying. That’s not good, guys. They’re already
warning us off.”
tucks the note into his jacket pocket. “Don’t worry about it. Come on, we’re
all on the fifth floor.” We traipse across the brightly lit car park and I
can’t help feeling on edge. Every sound makes me turn and peer at the numerous
vehicles. Is somebody watching us right now? If they know we’re staying here,
do they also know our apartment or room numbers? “Charlie, do the parking space
numbers correspond with the accommodation by any chance?”
he replies as we step into the elevator.
At least whoever left the
note can’t track us down to an actual apartment number then.
I push the button for the fifth floor, opting
to stand in the middle of the elevator. Charlie on my left. Dan on my right. A
part of me wants to leap on Charlie and kiss him senseless, but I can’t do
that. Not anymore. We are ‘on a break’.
The elevator pings and the doors open.
way,” Charlie says, leading us down a corridor. It’s all very neat and modern
but it’s also bland. Grey carpet. White walls. Doors with numbers on them.
is this place?” Dan asks. “Apartments?”
nods. “Yeah, for long and short term rentals.”
the agency has sprung for an apartment each? They’re not usually so generous.”
Dan nods his approval.
Dan and I all work for the Celebrity Crimes Investigation Agency – otherwise
known as the CCIA. It’s the agency
for actors, pop stars, basically anybody famous, when they need a crime solving.
Charlie and Dan are special agents. I’m a support officer. This is only my
third official case for the CCIA and I’m still in training. I passed by entry-level
stuff, now it’s all about learning on the job.
there are only two apartments,” Charlie replies, stopping outside a door and fumbling
for some keys in the pocket of his jeans. “Martha and…” He looks at me and my
heart flickers. “Amber, you’re sharing this one with Martha. Here’s the key.
Martha is out right now but settle in and then come down the hallway to
apartment number two two three as soon as you can please.”
nod and take the keys. I think I see him flinch slightly as our fingers touch.
Dan mutters. “Does that mean I’m sharing with you?”
nods. “Afraid so. It gets worse. They’re one bedroom apartments.”
swears and shakes his head.
than that,” Charlie smirks. “There are three of us. The CCIA has rerouted an
extra agent to help out as this case is a lot to take on. Jack Mathis arrived
from New York this morning. He’s taken the other bed, which puts you on the
couch in the apartment’s open plan living room. But, hey, you can sleep any
place, no worries, right?” Charlie says sarcastically, throwing Dan’s earlier
comment about sleeping on the flight right back at him.
storms off down the corridor in the direction of the other apartment and I
unlock the door to mine and slip inside. For a second I think it’s been
ransacked then I remember Martha and tidiness are not the best of
acquaintances. I haul my case onto the one bed which doesn’t look as though
it’s had a herd of elephants trample across it, and flop down next to it.
feel sick. When my ex-boyfriend had phoned to tell me he was leading this case
and that we needed to talk, a part of me had hoped Charlie had reconciliation
on his mind. Now that I’m here and Charlie is scowling all the time and
avoiding so much as a handshake, I’m thinking the prognosis for rekindling our
relationship is not good. The first sight he caught of me being Dan and I
holding hands would not have helped matters on the reconciliation front. I gulp
and get up to go in search of a glass of water. If Charlie ever finds out what
happened in France… I shake my head, find a cupboard, a glass and turn on the
tap. Charlie and Dan are sharing an apartment along with this Jack guy who I’ve
never met before. What if Dan deliberately tells Charlie about France? He’s not above stirring things and Dan does
not want Charlie and me to get back together. Dan wants me to be with him. I
like Dan. But I still love Charlie.
in the bedroom, I debate if I have time for a shower. The guys will want to be
cracking on with the case but I could use a quick freshen up. Working for the Celebrity
Crimes Investigation Agency has its perks. Sadly, first class air travel is not
one of them. They wouldn’t even stretch to business class for the flight.
Beside me, squashed into his economy seat, Dan had indeed slept like a baby. Whilst
I, in a cold sweat, had watched movies without really watching them, attempted
to read but only taken in a word here
and there, and counted down the hours until I would see Charlie again. Switching between being excited at the
prospect of seeing him, and completely dreading the prospect of seeing him.
both been working on a case in France when Charlie had been pulled off it and
sent to Los Angeles at the demand of top actress Diva Delilah. Dan had been
sent to France to work with me as Charlie’s replacement and things had got
complicated in Europe with Dan and I, as well as in America where Delilah had proclaimed
to the world’s media that Charlie was, and I quote, ‘the love of her life’.
Charlie denied anything happened between the two of them but my jealousy ran
riot and Charlie suggested we take a break because he was frustrated by my
‘issues’. Yes, I admit, I struggle to
trust men, which maybe is an ‘issue’ but Charlie is smart and sexy and funny. Diva
Delilah is glamourous and rich and successful. They could be made for each
other. And I’m… well, just me. A twenty-something woman with self-esteem
issues, pale skin, strawberry blonde hair and an ambition to be someone, someday.
decide to forget the shower for now and get down to some work. I hear the
apartment door slam and go to see if it’s Martha. She breezes in. All six-foot
blonde goddess. She’s dressed in skin-tight jeggings and a vest top with an off
the shoulder jumper sitting at a jaunty angle.
When I first met Martha, working on a case about a murdered popstar, I
felt sure she had designs on Charlie.
she says and bounds over to give me a hug. Martha and I parted, once that case
was solved, on friendlier terms. Though I didn’t realise we were at the hugging
stage. “Good flight?”
really,” I say, returning her hug. “I flew over with Dan.”
nods knowingly. “Ah. Right. Snoring? I’ve travelled with Dan on cases before.
He’s a sweetie but not the best travelling companion.”
Charlie fetched you guys from the airport, right?” she says, moving into the
kitchen area, opening the fridge and pulling out a bottle of apple juice. “I
bet that was fun.”
knows all about my issues and my relationship with Charlie. By the way she’s
speaking I’m also thinking she’s fully up to date on our relationship status.
Or should I say, lack of relationship.
enough with the awkward vibe with you and Charlie, throw Dan into the mix and
things get even more volatile.”
lean against the breakfast bar which divides the living room portion of the
apartment from the kitchen portion of it. “I take it you know Charlie and I
was going to say on a break.”
nods thoughtfully then takes a sip of the juice she’s poured into a glass.
Placing the glass back on the countertop she says, “That makes more sense. The
way he told me I got the feeling it wasn’t quite the end of the road.”
hops onto a stool. “When Charlie told me, all he said was, Amber and I have things
on pause for the moment. There’s some stuff we need to sort out. That’s what he
on pause.” I mull over her words.
what do you make of Dan? He’s pretty yummy, right?”
“I guess so. I thought that you and Dan might
laughs. A rich raucous laugh, which goes perfectly with her personality. “No
way. Dan’s gorgeous but he’s not my type. Like I said, sweet, but not for me.”
at her watch, she then gulps down the rest of her drink and dumps the glass in
the sink. “We’d better go meet with the guys. Three murders to solve and the
body count might still be rising. We need to get this case sorted pronto.”
follow her out of the apartment and along the corridor. The door to the guy’s
place is ajar and before we step inside she turns and winks at me. “You and
Charlie will sort things out between you. If I can help, just let me know.”
their apartment, Dan is lounging on the sofa, his unpacked suitcase sitting by
the coffee table. Charlie is in the kitchen making coffee and a guy I don’t
know is tapping away on a laptop. That must be Jack, the guy from New York that
Charlie mentioned earlier. Because of that, I expect him to speak with an
American accent when we exchange greetings, but he doesn’t. He’s as English as
I am and hails from Cumbria, not a million miles from my own home county of
puts his mug down and strides into the lounge area. “Great, you’re here, let’s
get everyone up to date on this case then.”
flops onto the sofa next to Dan, and I take a chair on the opposite side of the
coffee table. Charlie kneels on the floor and starts spreading notes across the
glass surface. Jack takes the last remaining seat, next to Martha, flashing her
a smile as he does so.
does a round of introductions which would make one minute speed dating sessions
look positively leisurely. We all nod our hellos and then it’s straight down to
target appears to be a soap opera called North Shores. It’s been running for
five seasons. Filmed in studios with various regular outdoor locations added
into the mix. The main one is a flash mansion of a place sitting right on the
waterfront on the city’s north shore,” he says.
all the angst about seeing Charlie again and nerves about being part of such a
major case, not to mention the crazy rush to get out here, I forgot to buy a
notebook. I feel lost without somewhere to scribble down all the details of an
investigation. I always like to buy a new notebook for each case. I’d have to
anyway because the CCIA are very particular about case confidentiality as we’re
dealing with the rich and the famous. My notebooks have to be handing in to
agency HQ after each case is completed.
three murder victims were actors on the show. The first was Cate Villiers,”
chips in Martha, taking over the case update. “Age twenty one. An unknown
actress before she landed this prime role on North Shores. She only started on
the show this season but quickly became popular with the fans. The gossip
magazines loved her too, apparently. She died when the brakes failed on the car
she was driving and she crashed off a hilltop road.”
get this,” adds Jack. “The car she was driving wasn’t hers. It belonged to her
co-star Ed Kingston. He was one of the many eye candy guys on North Shores. Age
twenty six. Former jeans and aftershave model. He’d been on the show for a few
years. Big fan base. Very popular with the ladies.”
had borrowed his car because her own was in the garage for repairs,” Charlie
says, taking up the story again. “But she lost control of the vehicle and it
went off the road, crashing down a hill. Within twenty four hours though, Ed turned
up dead too. Found by an early morning jogger, he was washed up on a beach
outside the city. Confirmed as drowning by force, not an accident.”
flinch at the news. Murder cases are tough to deal with. I suppose the other
agents have grown used to it but I haven’t, not yet. I doubt I ever will.
finally, we have Maurice Fabio,” Charlie continues. “He’d been on North Shores
since the start of the show. Over the years he’d made no secret of his battle
with alcohol but he claimed to have been sober for the past two years. He died
on the same day as Ed Kingston. Initial verdict was suicide. A bottle of
whisky, a bottle of painkillers, even a suicide note. He was found dead in the
bath by his cleaner.”
was Ed the original target if it was his car Cate was driving when it went off
the road?” Dan asks.
doesn’t even look at him as he replies. “Seems that way.”
“Do the three victims have anything in common
other than being on the show?” Martha asks.
the stuff you’d expect,” Charlie replies. “They all live here in the city. They
have mutual friends via the show and working in TV. Other than that, nothing
else has come up on our radar yet.”
who would stand to gain from these deaths?” Jack asks, his expression clouded
with concentration. “Certainly not the production company. All of this must
have affected the show’s ratings, and not in a good way. I know North Shores is
popular, but surely people won’t be queuing up to work on the show in the
current circumstances. Not with everyone wondering who’s going to turn up dead
obviously has it in for the programme if they’re systematically killing off its
stars. The money guys behind the show are in a panic, the cast are fearing for
their lives and the fans are sobbing outside the filming locations, leaving
flowers, cards and gifts,” Charlie replies.
about suspects?” Dan asks. I know he doesn’t wish he had a notebook like I do.
Dan never writes anything down. I can’t understand how he remembers everything.
Even Charlie has a notebook. My eyes skim across to Charlie. He’s wearing jeans
and a plain blue shirt. His short dark hair is in need of a trim and looks
sexily dishevelled at the front. My
fingers ache to reach out and touch his arm. But I can’t.
much showing up as yet. We need to get down to this waterfront mansion and
speak to the show’s director, a guy named William Denver, see what he can tell
us re some leads. Oh, and Cate had an ex-boyfriend who might be worth having a
chat with.” He hands around folders and I open mine to see a summary of the
case, a list of contact numbers and sheets of information about the city, the
show and the investigation.
who is doing what?” Jack asks. He’s tall and solidly built with cropped dark
blonde hair and a cheeky-chappy smile. I already like him. He seems friendly.
you and Martha go down to the North Shores house and start interviewing the
behind the scenes guys. Then we’ll all meet up for the chat with Denver.” Charlies
gets to his feet, collecting up the various papers. “Amber and I will start
with Cate’s ex. Let’s get going then, guys. Keep each other updated with any
news you get along the way. Contact numbers are in the folder. Several times
each day I’ll arrange a time and place for us all to meet, assess where we’re
at and plan our next move. OK?”
turns to Dan and, as though he’s an afterthought, adds, “Stone, you can
interview the victim’s families.” Most of the time Charlie calls Dan by his
surname, Stone. Dan tends to refer to Charlie as Charlie Boy. Sometimes I think
they’re more like bickering boys in the school playground than highly-trained
gets to her feet and places a hand on Charlie’s shoulder. “I do love it when
you’re in masterful mode.”
did mention Martha is a huge flirt? I think she’s probably on a par with Dan on
about the note?” I ask, edging forward and planting my elbows on my knees.
note?” Jack checks.
was a threatening note left on the windscreen of one of the SUVs in the parking
garage downstairs,” I explain. “Charlie, you’ve got it, right?”
gets the note, unfolds it and drops it on the table so everyone else can read
it. “It’s nothing. I’m not wasting time getting surveillance installed to see
who is leaving these, and there’s no point moving to another apartment block,
they’ll only track us there as well if they want to. We’ve got more important
things to be getting on with.”
Martha says, tapping a fingernail against her cheek as she reads the note. “So,
it looks like they know an awful lot more about us than we do about them.”
know they can’t spell,” Dan chips in, and throws me a wink.
claps his hands together. “Then let’s track ‘em down and find out all about
them.” He heads off to what I presume is the bedroom. Maybe he’s going to get
changed or he’s looking for car keys or something. Whatever the reason, he’s
vacated the room for a moment and it gives me a chance to see if anyone will
swap with me. I don’t want to have to work this case with Charlie. It’s so
awkward between us at the moment. My stomach clenches at how good things used
to be, and now we’re reduced to this. Not knowing what to say or do around each
other. He could have paired himself off with Martha or Jack. OK, I get that he
wouldn’t want to work beside Dan, but he didn’t have to choose me…
grip Martha’s arm. “Why don’t you work with Charlie? I’ll work with Jack.”
looks momentarily confused. “Am I missing something here?”
Dan and Martha both chorus.
to enlighten me?” he asks with a questioning raise of his eyebrows.
and Charlie have a thing. Well, I should say, they used to have a thing,”
then Charlie screwed it up, so now they don’t have a thing,” Dan helpfully finishes.
thought Charlie was involved with that actress,” Jack says cautiously. “You
know, the gorgeous one called Delilah. I saw it in the papers. She said he was
the love of her life. Lucky devil.”
stare at my feet and an awkward silence hangs in the room for a few seconds.
catches on. “Ah, so Delilah was the catalyst for the two of you splitting up.
Did they really have a thing though or was it all for show, a part of some
claims the latter, but we’re not convinced,” Dan chips in. “I mean, come on,
Delilah is stunning.”
slips an arm around my shoulder. “And what’s Amber? A troll?”
course not. I didn’t mean that,” Dan actually looks embarrassed at Martha
twisting his words.
this case is going to be confusing,” Jack says with a shake of his head. “And
not just because we’re dealing with three murders instead of one. The
relationship dynamic between you guys is crazy.”
Martha chimes, heading for the door. “Jack, you’re with me. Let’s get going.”
follows her out of the room, shaking his head and chuckling to himself. I turn
pleading eyes on Dan. He doesn’t want me to get back with Charlie so surely he’ll
swap, won’t he? Not that I want to be the one to interview the relatives of the
deceased, I shudder at the thought, but right now, it might be preferable to
having to spend time alone with Charlie. I smile at him and before I can even
get to ask the question, he’s replying.
I’ll swap,” he says, slipping an arm around my shoulders. “Consider me your
knight in shining armour.”
about to thank him profusely when Charlie walks back into the room, sees Dan’s
arm around my shoulders and stops in his tracks. “No.”
Dan asks as I try to edge away from him.
swapping case allocations.” Charlie picks up two sets of car keys. “Amber, you’re
with me.” He tosses one bunch of keys to Dan. “There’s another hire car in the
underground car park here. You take that one. The registration is on the hire company’s
sighs and heads for the door.
make a move then, shall we?” Charlie says to me, gesturing towards the door.
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