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In The Stars
"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'
Amber Reed’s at work making up the horoscopes for the local newspaper and wishing for some excitement in her life, when she gets a phone call offering her just that.
Plunged into the middle of a celebrity murder investigation she’s desperately trying to convince the scarily handsome special agent assigned to solve the case that she can help him catch the killer.
Amber’s soon battling something far more dangerous than she could ever have imagined – and it has nothing to do with the equally scary chemistry fizzing between her and special agent Charlie.
Has Amber’s wish for more excitement in her life landed her in big trouble – or is her fate written in the stars?
From the reviews:
“The start of what promises to be a very good series, Amber Reed (also known as Madam Zamber, astrologer in residence on the local paper) is about to get involved in murder!”
“Amber Reed's life isn't that exciting. During the day she works as a horoscope writer for a local paper and in the evenings she's a bar maid in a pub. However, Amber's life is suddenly shaken up when she is contacted by her ex-boyfriend Ennis McKarthy, who is now a famous actor, after his brother Joel has been found dead. Amber immediately goes to Ennis to see what has happened: was it an accident, suicide, or perhaps murder? Amber quickly meets Charlie Huxton, an agent for the CCIA (Celebrity Crimes Investigation Agency) who has been hired by Ennis to get to the bottom of things. Yet, Ennis doesn't trust Charlie 100%, so he asks Amber to keep track of things and follow Charlie. At first, Amber isn't so sure, but as the plot thickens and as she gets to know Charlie, she simply no longer can't seem to stay away until the case has been solved.”
“I quickly warmed to the main protagonist, Amber, and leading man Charlie has a bit of a James Bond feel to him which I think numerous female readers will definitely enjoy!”
READ AN EXTRACT:
“What kind of excitement are Gemini’s going to have this week?” I ponder, tapping my fingers against the keyboard.
I’m a third of the way through making up the horoscopes for this week’s local paper. Aries are going to get news of a fantastic job opportunity. Capricorns will receive some kind of windfall. But what about Gemini? I always like to give my Madam Zamber horoscope column an upbeat feel – after all, nobody reads their star signs to get depressed right?
My fingers hover over the computer keys as I debate on Gemini’s fate. I’m a Gemini so this one better be especially good; it’s been a rough week.
My phone, nestled somewhere in the depths of my bag, starts playing a chart tune at full volume. When I eventually find it I check the caller display and see Ennis’ name.
Ennis and I haven’t spoken for a while but I know he came home last week after he’d finished working on his latest movie, he sent me a text. He probably wants to meet for a coffee and a catch up. It’s strange; to me Ennis is, well, just Ennis. I don’t think of him as a heartthrob actor, just my ex, my university boyfriend, who I meet up with for a chat whenever he’s in Palstone.
Time for a little break from the horoscopes. I hit the answer button.
“Hi, how’s things?” I ask, leaning back in my chair.
There’s nothing but silence on the other end of the line.
“Ennis?” I sit up, instantly concerned. “Are you there? Is something wrong?”
His voice is so quiet I can barely hear him. “Joel’s dead,” he says.
“What?” I shout, leaping to my feet and earning myself a look of curiosity from the other two members of staff at The Palstone Courier. I lower my voice. “How? What happened?”
“We don’t know yet,” he replies, his voice heavy with emotion. “But the police are saying he died in suspicious circumstances.”
I gulp. “You mean murder?”
“Look, Amber can you please come over?” Ennis says. “Now? Please? I need to ask you a huge favour.”
I grab my jacket and bag. “On my way.”
The drive to Ennis’ place feels like it’s taking forever when, in reality, I pull up outside the security gates in less than ten minutes. I push the Attention button on the keypad and Siobhan’s voice crackles through the intercom.
“It’s Amber,” I say nervously.
“Come through,” she replies in a cold voice. I imagine she isn’t pleased Ennis has called me to ask for a favour, whatever the circumstances might be.
Siobhan is Ennis’ girlfriend. I’m not her favourite person. I suppose it’s because Ennis and I were once an item and we still keep in touch. He’s still got a special place in my heart, even after all these years.
I climb into my car and the huge metal gates start to slide open as I edge forward. Ennis’ house is set back from the road for privacy. He loves being an actor but struggles with the being famous side of things. He faces a constant battle, forever trying to fiercely guard his private life from the frenzy of paparazzi that follow him around.
My thoughts turn to the phone call and a thousand questions pop into my head.
Joel’s dead? When? Where? How did it happen? Why?
Joel is – sorry, was – Ennis’ younger brother. They didn’t get on and in the past year or so Joel had pretty much done everything possible to make Ennis’ life difficult. Which is why I was stunned when I’d had a text from Ennis last week saying we must catch up soon, and he’d also mentioned that Joel would be coming to stay for a few days.
If Joel was visiting and he’d been found dead then that means he’d died either here at Ennis’ house or pretty close by. The thought sends chills quivering through me.
This is a sleepy part of Derbyshire. We have fun runs, school fetes and jumble sales.
The only excitement in the past few weeks has been a couple of minor earth tremors. As the village is set on unstable ground on the edge of the moors, surrounded by hills, some creepy ancient standing stones and a very active quarry, which blasts the rocks on a regular basis, the tremors have largely gone unnoticed though. The local gossips would much rather talk about Ennis coming home than minor earth tremors. The locals love Ennis.
Driving round to the side of the house near the guest wing and the garages I park my little seen-better-days car between Ennis’ BMW and Siobhan’s gleaming sporty number.
Siobhan appears in the doorway. “Come though, we’re in the kitchen.”
I follow her into the house. “What happened to Joel?” I whisper to her, not sure I actually want to hear what happened. I still can’t believe he’s dead.
“We don’t know,” she replies, repeating the same phrase Ennis had said earlier. “It could have been an accident or suicide or…”
Her words drift off into nothing and we both know which option she’s left unspoken.
Was it an accident? It would be incredibly sad, but totally believable. Did he commit suicide? From bits I’ve seen in the national newspapers Joel had been in something of an unstable state of mind lately. So suicide could be a possibility too. But murder – no, surely not.
Ennis is sitting at the kitchen table. Even the angst and despair clouding his blond features right now can’t diminish the good looks which got him voted Sexiest Guy On TV earlier this year. He isn’t just some flash-in-the-pan heartthrob; he’s one of Britain’s best-loved actors, a gentleman, one of the good guys.
Unlike his brother Joel. Yeah, he stirred things up, caused trouble but I still can’t believe somebody hated Joel enough to actually kill him. I can’t believe a murder has taken place in Palstone.
I hover awkwardly, wanting to give Ennis a comforting hug but feeling, under Siobhan’s glare, as though I shouldn’t.
“Cup of tea?” Siobhan asks and I nod. I don’t really want a drink but it seems impolite to refuse.
“I’m so sorry,” I manage to say and before I know it Ennis is on his feet and wrapping me in a fierce hug.
It’s just short of ten years since Ennis and I dated when we were at university together. We parted amicably and have stayed friends since. Right now my heart aches for him. I know Ennis will be hurting despite the animosity between him and Joel. And, I suspect, he’ll also be blaming himself for what happened to Joel while he was in Palstone. That’s what Ennis does, it’s who he is. He’s tough on himself but would do anything to help his friends or family, whatever the circumstances.
We sit at the dining table as Siobhan places a teapot in front of us. I like the kitchen in this house, it’s my favourite room. For such a generous property the kitchen is nice and cosy. There’s a cherry red Aga, reclaimed floorboards and a scrubbed pine table. It’s welcoming and homely.
“What happened?” I say, my hand shaking as I reach for a mug.
“The local police called round first thing this morning,” Ennis starts to explain. “They said a body had been found up at the quarry. It was identified as Joel by the stuff in his wallet. They said they’re treating the death as suspicious. They’ll be an investigation.”
“Did he fall? Was he in a fight? Stabbed?” I don’t know why but the questions are pouring out of me. I’m horrified and, at the same time, intrigued by what happened to Joel.
“We don’t know yet,” Ennis says again with a shake of his head. He shifts in his seat and pushes both hands through his hair causing it to stick up in all directions. He looks more in need of a very large brandy than the mug of tea Siobhan is offering him.
“Who found the body?” I ask.
“One of the quarry workers,” he replies. “The guy had just started his shift this morning.”
“What on earth was Joel doing up at the quarry?”
“We have no idea,” Siobhan replies. “The policeman said that they estimate his time of death to have been around midnight.”
“Did he say anything before he went out last night?” I ask, looking from Ennis to Siobhan. “Mention where he was going? If he was meeting somebody?”
“He only arrived here a few days ago.” Ennis lifts his shoulders in a dejected way. “He didn’t know anybody.” Getting to his feet he starts pacing the room.
“Who else knows about this?” I wonder how long it will be before word gets out and Palstone is invaded by TV news crews and the rest of the world’s media.
“Nobody yet,” he says. “The guy who found Joel didn’t know who he was.”
“He obviously doesn’t read the trashy newspapers,” Siobhan mutters.
“How come Joel was staying here?” I ask. “I know he’d been making things difficult for you lately with all the stuff in the papers.”
Ennis tries his best to stay out of the papers and gossip mags. Joel was the complete opposite. As soon as Ennis’ career took off when he was offered the lead role in a period drama series Joel latched on to the benefits having a famous brother brings. He milked that connection endlessly and in the worst possible ways.
“Our mum asked me to let him come and stay. Thought it might help Joel get back on track.” He takes a deep breath then lets it out slowly, trying to compose himself.
“You don’t think there’s a real possibility Joel might have, er, taken his own life do you?” I ask Ennis softly.
“No way,” Siobhan answers for him. “Joel was way too selfish to do that.”
“It’s a possibility,” Ennis says briefly flashing a look at Siobhan. “I just need to know what happened to him and why, so we can get on with the funeral arrangements and put him to rest. Finally, he’ll be at peace.”
He stops pacing and sighs. “Right now, yeah, I’m freaked by the whole thing but I’m also terrified because we don’t know why he died. We don’t know if his passing had anything to do with us. We have to find out what happened and whether any of us are in danger. He might have died because of me, because of who I am.”
He looks close to tears. Getting to my feet I place a hand over his. “I’m sure nothing like that is behind what happened to Joel.”
“I just wish I could have helped him to…” Ennis starts to say before Siobhan shushes him and hands him his tea.
“Don’t go blaming yourself, darling,” she says. “There was nothing you could have done.”
He nods but doesn’t look convinced. “We asked the police if there was any chance they could hold off from making an official statement to the media about the case. They’ve agreed to work on the investigation quietly for the time being.”
“They’ve given us a time limit though,” chips in Siobhan. “They can’t keep his death under wraps for long.”
Ennis turns to me. “Which is where I need your help. On the phone I said I needed to ask if you’d do me a huge favour.”
“Well, I’m bringing in some specialists. There’s an agency, they’re called the CCIA.”
I frown, wondering what the letters stand for.
“Celebrity Crimes Investigation Agency,” Ennis explains without me asking. “CCIA for short. Anyway, they work on cases involving famous people. Cases where discretion is required and a speedy resolution is needed. Some of my friends in the business have used them before. They’re sending a guy over here today. Charlie Huxton. One of their best agents they said.”
“So he’ll help sort out what happened with Joel in super quick time?” I nod encouragingly. “That sounds like a good idea.”
“But we don’t know this guy at all. Yes, he’s supposed to be very good but even so…” Ennis stops talking, puts his mug down and starts pacing back and forth again. “Basically, I don’t trust a stranger to handle this case on his own.” He turns to face me. “Which is why I want you to work with him.”
“Me?” Suddenly my mouth is dry and I struggle to swallow. “I’d love to help you out in any way I can, Ennis, you know that, but I’m not a crime investigator.”
“I know and I’m not asking you to be. He’ll take care of all that side of things. All I am asking is for you to shadow this Charlie guy while he’s doing the investigating. I know they’re saying he’s one of their best agents. Totally trustworthy and all of that. Been with the agency for five years and he’s ex-army special ops. Regardless, I want someone I trust keeping an eye on him.”
My stomach, already churning from the news of Palstone’s possible first murder, now goes into freefall. “Is this kind of thing even allowed?”
“We’re not sure,” Siobhan says. She chews nervously on her bottom lip. “I told Ennis it wouldn’t work.”
“I’m going to ask if he’ll let you tag along with him on the case,” Ennis says, determination in his voice. “But if he says no…”
“You still want me to do it anyway,” I finish.
He nods. “Just without him knowing about it.”
Is he serious? “Ennis, he’s a private investigator or special agent or whatever they call themselves at this CCIA place. I think he’s going to notice if I attempt to follow him.”
Siobhan nods. “I know. That’s what I said but he’s insisting he wants someone to keep an eye on this agency guy, just for a bit of peace of mind.”
Ennis runs both hands through his hair, an anguished expression on his face. “Oh, Lord! I’m going to have to tell our mum and dad about Joel, aren’t I?”
My heart goes out to him and I know I can’t let him down. This agency guy will no doubt spot my attempts to spy on him within the first ten minutes of the investigation but I know I’m going to have to try. For Ennis.
I nod. “OK, I’ll do it.”
Making my way back to my car, I feel numb, my mind going over and over what’s just happened. The earlier spring sunshine has disappeared and a cool breeze tugs at my ponytail.
Joel is dead.
I still can’t believe it. A noise makes me spin round, almost falling over. All this murder and investigation business has put me on edge.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to make you jump,” Bert says, walking towards me.
Bert is the caretaker at Ennis’ place. He keeps an eye on the house while Ennis is away filming for months at a time. He also deals with all the repairs and maintenance side of things and looks after the grounds which stretch to about an acre in total.
I try to get my breathing under control. “Hi, Bert. How’re things?”
“Not bad. Not bad at all, thanks. I’ve got my daughter Tina staying with me for a few weeks. The ex-wife sent her over. Said she’d been up to no good, hanging out with dodgy types at home. She’s been no trouble here though.”
He scratches the back of his neck, looking bemused before continuing, “Reckon it’s doing her some good living here in the middle of nowhere, calmed her down a bit. Tina would never have agreed to stay though if I didn’t work for Ennis. Desperate to meet him she was. Completely start-struck when I took her up to the house the other day.”
He pauses for breath and nods across the parking area. “What’s with the police car that was here earlier? I saw it go past the gatehouse and was worried something had cracked off but I didn’t want to put my nose in where it’s not wanted.”
I link an arm through Bert’s turning him away from the house and across the nearest expanse of lawn. “Best stay out of the way a little while longer I think. Look, there’s no easy way to say it so I’ll just come right out. The police were here because Joel is dead. Found up at the quarry. Nobody knows what happened.”
Bert releases my arm and steps away from me looking stunned. “Dead? Joel?”
I nod. “Yes. Did you get much chance to meet him? He only arrived here a couple of days ago didn’t he?”
“Yeah,” he says. “I met him. He was in the kitchen when I took Tina in to meet Ennis. She loved it. Meeting them both. Took some of those selfie things with each of them she did on her fancy phone. She’ll be devastated about Joel.” He nodded towards the house. “How’s Ennis taken the news?”
“I think he’s still in shock at the moment. He’s asked for some specialist undercover operations guy to be brought in to investigate what happened. Ennis, naturally, wants to keep things out of the papers as much as possible.”
Bert nods. “Of course. The secret is totally safe with me. I’ll just tell Tina that Joel’s left instead. Is there anything I can do to help?”
Good question. “I don’t know.”
Joel is dead, in suspicious circumstances.
Some special agent spy-type guy called Charlie is on his way to solve the case.
I’ve got the task of keeping an eye on him throughout the investigation, possibly without him getting suspicious about what I’m up to.
And the locals, the world’s media and Ennis’ army of adoring fans cannot, absolutely cannot, get a whiff about any of this.
My phone rings and I check caller ID. It’s my mum. I take a deep breath and click the answer button.
And so the lying begins…
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