Free Excerpt: Backwoods Bailout

BACKWOODS BAILOUT
Bailout, 1
M. Levesque
Copyright © 2014

Backwoods Bailout Cover Art
Chapter One
The GPS told me to take the next left, but I wasn’t sure whether what I was looking at was a real road or not. Sure it had a street sign, but the single lane path that vanished into the forest didn’t look much like a road. I sighed and turned left. Though it wasn’t dark just yet, in the thick shadows of the forest I had to turn the headlights on. I bounced along for another couple of miles before I finally came to the mailbox at the end of the road leading up to the house. I eyed the thick bramble suspiciously before deciding my car had sustained enough damage on my trip here without the paint job taking a hit too. If I was going to get any trade- in value for the tiny car, I was going to have to take it easy. I climbed out of the car and grabbed my purse and duffel bag from the trunk. I could come back for the rest of my meager possessions in the morning. I started marching up the steep, narrow driveway and smiled at a chipmunk as it scurried across the path a few feet away from me. I took in a deep breath of the heavily perfumed fall air from the surrounding forest. The house came into view and I stopped momentarily to take it all in. I had to admit that buying a house, unseen and over the Internet, was one of the riskiest things I’d ever done, but it had paid off in the end. I smiled in relief; it was just as it promised on the seller’s website. The majestic log home looked as if it had jumped straight off the pages of a magazine. It was small but newly built and well made. But it had been the little details of the architecture that had caught my
attention more than anything else. The arched windows were all intricately carved out of the logs and they were all glowing warmly from the welcoming light radiating from within. The seller had promised to have it all ready for my arrival tonight, and Janet hadn’t failed me. What friends I hadn’t lost in the divorce thought I was nuts for buying a house sight unseen, but the thought of staying amongst The Circle, in our small, tight-knit community any longer made me crazy. I was willing to take my chances out here in the woods before I’d get one more sympathetic smile from another one of my former friends. I’d admittedly married very well, and I’d never truly fit in with his lifelong clique of acquaintances. It was always a little too Stepford for my tastes, but maybe I would have tried harder had I known it would all end this way. I’d never imagined that one day, after seven long, hard years of marriage, he’d come home one night with the news of a mistress and a divorce. So after a bitter, one-sided divorce, I’d lost the mansion, the money, and the man. I was surprisingly at ease with most of it but I knew couldn’t stay there, not when I might run into him and his new girlfriend. She had a pedigree that would win her top-prized show bitch at Westminster if platinum blonde, gold-digging whore was a dog breed. She was long and lean, with birdlike bones. If it weren’t for all the fake tanner, she would have been one wash of white, from her Scandinavian white-blonde hair and pale blue eyes to the tips of her pedicured toes. I on the other hand am not tall; in fact, according to national averages, I’m short. At five foot two—and three quarters of an inch—I don’t refer to myself as short, just fun sized. I have black hair and dark eyes. My bone structure is exotic…a little too exotic for The Circle , but they’d had to accept me when Ethan eventually proposed. In the seven years we were married, I’d heard it all, from “Oh she is very exotic, isn’t she?” to “My, my she does have a very native American appeal, doesn’t she?” Native American, my ass. I am a quarter Korean, half French, and a quarter Irish. In other words, I had more European in me than most of them but my skin was just a little too dark, my eyes a little too almond, and my temper a little too hot. In other words, his new girlfriend and I couldn’t have been more different, and that fact alone told me the marriage I’d had with Ethan Glenridge had always been a little forced. Part of me assumed it
had something, if not everything, to do with his hateful mother. The woman detested me but she tolerated me throughout college, blaming her only son’s affection for me, on her dead husband. Apparently Mr. Glenridge had a thing for exotic brunettes as well, but when what Mrs. Glenridge first assumed was her son planting a few wild oats, turned into marriage, her little English head almost exploded. What started out as little nasty, underhanded comments turned into an outright attack, but God bless her demonic soul, she had probably extended the life of our marriage by several years. The more she pushed her son to file for divorce, the longer he stayed. I dropped my bags on the porch and opened the front door. The house welcomed me in shades of warm tones from all the polished wood, from the floors to the ceilings. I stepped inside and took another deep breath. Some of my old girlfriends had bigger closets than this, but I didn’t need all that now. There was no competition here, only solitude. During the divorce, after several months of going back and forth for what amounted to table scraps, I finally gave up and simply told my ex-husband that I didn’t want anything from him. It was supposed to make him feel stricken with guilt. When he’d sighed out a breath of relief at knowing his family fortune was safe, I’d nearly tackled him over the top of the marble conference table that separated us. In that moment I realized he hadn’t loved or cared for me in a very long time, and that hurt more than anything else. Unlike a lot of the other trophy wives in The Circle, I had a career as a writer. I was no J. K. Rowling but I did all right, and I’d accrued quite a little nest egg over the years. That nest egg was a whole lot smaller and seemed to be shrinking by the day since my divorce, but now that my house was bought all I had to worry about was finishing the sequel on time and awaiting my next royalty check. Unfortunately, inspiration for my latest romance was running a little toward the dark side these days. My heroine always seemed to catch her hero cheating on her, and then it would turn into an even darker version of the Tell Tale Heart as she ran the bastard over with her car fourteen times and dumped his body under the pool house. What I really needed was time alone to heal. Sooner or later, boredom or starvation would force me to write again.

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Free Excerpt: The Semi-Perfect Life

THE SEMI-PERFECT LIFE
M. Levesque
Copyright © 2014
Chapter One

semi-perfect cover art

I walked into the bar on a wave of pure confidence. I was under thirty. I was hot and had the perfect life. I had the perfect career. I made great money. I drove my dream car and lived in my dream house, which happened to be a high-rise apartment on the good side of town. Okay, to be completely honest it wasn’t on the good side of town, but it was right on the edge and if I hadn’t been lied to by that scumbag of a real estate agent about spill over economics…I’d be smack dab in the center of the good side of town. I was cool with it though. It gave me an edge the other people in my office didn’t have and I used that edge like a sword. While I’m telling you about my life, I have to confess that a lot of my current state of mind and confidence is actually coming from the Red Bull and vodka I drank before leaving my semi-awesome apartment. Which leads me to why my awesome life needed Red Bull and vodka to start with. I was on the prowl tonight. There are some things that a girl just can’t get from latex covered toys and the interoffice dating of blue blooded Ivy League boys that got their jobs, businesses, and money from family fortunes. Those other things were just fine on a regular day, but right now I was shopping for something with muscles and tattoos. I was actually celebrating my new promotion and while doing that I wanted to be riding a hard body with a police record and a motorcycle. Hey, don’t judge. Everyone has their thing. Mine just happens to be a long standing sexual fantasy of epic proportions. Since high school I’d always wanted to slum it. Every great romance from the eighties was about a rich girl and her unfortunate love affair with a bad boy, and I’d held off long enough. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t looking for the romance bit. After watching my mother marry
and divorce her way through most of Manhattan’s high society, I knew better than to bank my happiness on something as unconfirmed as love. I vowed to make my own happiness and right now that happiness involved me finding someone that would pull my hair and slap my ass. I have to admit that a large part of this fantasy was the fact that my sexual experiences up to this point in my life had been forgettable, weak imitations of what I imagined it was supposed to be like. It was bland, boring, and mostly just weird. I stepped timidly up to the bar and ordered a shot of coffee tequila while checking my reflection in the mirror behind the rows of alcohol. I looked self-assured, sexy, and the not so neutral shade of red hot lipstick I was sporting was doing wonderful things for my naturally above average lips. I threw back my shot and waited patiently for the first person to arrive. After five minutes, I looked over my shoulder to make sure that I wasn’t in a gay bar. There were women and men, everywhere. So I turned back to my reflection and reapplied my lipstick. Five minutes later, I was really starting to get nervous. I checked myself over to make sure I wasn’t wearing mismatched shoes or something equally awkward, still nothing. I shimmied my skirt a little higher and crossed my legs before angling for a better view of the men in the bar. I tried catching the eyes of several potential candidates, but all looked unimpressed and quickly returned their attention to their drinks, looking almost scared. I could not believe this was happening. I knew it wasn’t cellulite or my clothes. My long, straight black hair was awesome and I did an hour on the elliptical five days a week. The vodka and energy drink confidence was quickly wearing off, and I started to hear my mother’s nasty comments about my looks from my wonder years. I don’t know how many hours of therapy this little trip to the dark-side was undoing, but if I lasted five more minutes without Mr. Tall Dark and Leather-clad making an interested appearance, I was going to have to reread a self-help book or two. I ordered another drink before the last one wore off and I ran screaming in terror out of the bar. “It’s on the house,” the bartender said, flashing me a bright smile.
He wasn’t wearing leather, I didn’t see any tattoos, and the most intimidating thing about him was the fact that he had his shirt untucked. Still, he looked like he worked out and he had all his hair. He seemed tall too, but I was almost sure it was just because the bar was raised on the other side. He was pretty hot, when I put the whole package together. Maybe I didn’t need biker drama anyway. Maybe I just needed a taste of bad without having to worry about little things like restraining orders and the little pink, worst case scenario, Taser in my clutch. He leaned forward and rested his chin in his folded hands, his elbows on the bar. “You’re sizing me up, aren’t you?” I shrugged a shoulder and feigned disinterest. He smiled at that. “Tell you what, Slummer, if you don’t hook what you’re after in one hour…” He looked me over slowly. “I’m all yours.” “Deal,” I said bravely.

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Free Excerpt: A Succubus’ Guide to Gold Digging

succubusguide cover

Prologue

 

My name is Madison Knowles, not of the Beyoncé clan, and I live what many would call a charmed life.

First off, I am a Succubus. For those of you who are unsure what exactly a Succubus is, the short description is a sex demon. Succubae need to feed off the lust of men to survive. In exchange for this unfortunate situation, I also have the power of persuasion. When I work my magic, I can convince men to do small requests that work to my benefit. The more intimate a Succubus’s relationship, the stronger their mojo works on that man.

It doesn’t always have to be, though. I once convinced a health teacher to do a strip tease while lecturing on the importance of safe sex. I was only thirteen at the time and didn’t really take into account the consequences of my actions, but said teacher retired well on what my mother paid him to keep his mouth shut.

I live in a Manhattan townhouse that someone else pays for, and I haven’t opened a door for myself in almost six years. It’s a little game I play to keep my persuasion skills in top form, though I’m hardly eating Ramen and shopping for shoes at the Goodwill.

My mother is the gold digger. We aren’t prostitutes or black widows. Prostitutes don’t like the commitment involved in the whole con game. And the black widows… well, they aren’t in it for the money—they just have a habit of killing their husbands for the fun of it.

The definition of gold diggers has changed slightly over the years since the increasing popularity of prenuptial agreements, but that was nothing a good old-fashioned funeral couldn’t solve.

My mother’s made quite a good living from marrying rich old men. The men constantly changed, but it’s always been Mother and I. And despite the fact that I refuse to take up the family business, she pays most of my bills and allows me to flitter through life on dreams of romance while I work at getting my long-term boyfriend to propose without using magic.

Mother had recently buried Larry number two—also known as her fifth “husband”—and she liked to use her time of mourning as an excuse to get a little work done so she could snag her next spouse. She promised me she’d eventually retire, but the truth was, my mother truly enjoyed her chosen vocation. She relished the thrill of the chase and walking down the aisle more than anyone else I knew. She loved it almost as much as she loved funerals and a lawyer reading wills.

I was a fifth-generation gold digger, coming from a long line of Succubae, but since the first time I saw The Notebook at nineteen, I proclaimed I would never marry for money. I would only marry for love.

Mother didn’t do love. She went as far as to claim that Succubae were never intended to fall in love. She’d always accepted that fact rather than dwell on it, and she’d followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a professional gold digger. A very, very successful one at that. Her mother was a gold digger, and hers before that. Over the generations of practice and training, they’d managed to perfect the art of marrying men who were doomed to kick the bucket of natural causes. Said doomed bucket-kicking usually happened during some creative foreplay.

I’d always been very different from the other women in my family, and my mother—our current, unofficial matriarch—had always taken this with a surprising level of grace and acceptance. Growing up, I retained just enough of my mother’s relentless Succubus training to get by. Any additional information, like the fine art of bagging someone off the Fortune 500 list, I quickly learned to tune out and shrug off. I couldn’t change the fact that I was a Succubus, but I could refuse to be a gold digger.

Things were absolutely perfect in my life until last week, when my entire existence started to crumble and I lost every preconceived notion of who I was and where my life was headed.

It all started last Tuesday when I was meeting my mother for our biweekly luncheon. If I made it sound like a business meeting, that’s because it was. Our scheduled mother-daughter time invovled more business than a UN conference. We went over the basics. We’d give a brief description of the highs and lows of our lives. She’d bring up finances, we’d talk fleetingly about her current “husband” and his most recent “health issues,” and then she’d cut me a big fat check, just for being her offspring. Afterward, we’d finish off by saying our farewells and schedule our next appointment.

But last Tuesday’s was a little different. Just before the standard air kisses and right after she grabbed the waiter’s ass, she sprang the news on me: she was in love and was getting vaginal reconstructive surgery as a birthday gift for her new man.

The reconstructive surgery wasn’t the problem—Mother had more plastic parts than Barbie. No, the problem was the fact that my mother was in love.

Mother announced her surgery, went under the knife on the day after our lunch-date, and promptly died in a freak accident when a morphine-gluttonous nurse replaced my mother’s pain medication with Tylenol, which she was deathly allergic to. So the only constant in my life—my mother—was suddenly gone forever without warning.

 

I spent the next few days in a depressed fog, planning my mother’s funeral. Maybe if I’d been more mindful, I would have noticed the pregnant woman stalking me throughout New York City.

That Sunday, I attended the funeral dressed in my mother’s favorite black Gucci dress, salt water pearls, and gorgeous Jimmy Choo platform stilettos in her favorite shade of purple. It was her signature move. Da Vinci liked to hide secrets in his works of art, and my mother liked to wear purple shoes to funerals. So this was only fitting.

There I sat in the front pew next to Timmy, my devoted, loving, future husband.

When I first met Timmy, nearly four years earlier, I was a recent graduate of the University of All Things Fun in Hawaii and he was a middle-aged tourist soaking up the sun on the beach, in the middle of a Manhattan winter. We hit it off and discovered we both lived in New York. We instantly fell in love, and from that moment forward, I was lost in our budding romance.

As of the last six months or so, I’d also begun subtly dropping the marriage bomb like he was Hiroshima and I was the United States Air Force. Unfortunately, up to this point, he wasn’t biting, but I figured if I gave him enough time, he’d come around. We were in love, after all, and I had the 2.3 karat diamond promise ring to prove it, or at least placate me in the meantime.

Then suddenly, in the middle of my beloved mother’s funeral, in waddled a seriously pregnant woman, pointing a large gunthat I was a homewrecker. This was news to me, but I let her have the floor until someone bothered to call the police.

Monica, Timmy’s self-proclaimed wife of ten years, quickly informed me he owned another townhouse in Manhattan and had a cocker spaniel named Roland, two children, and a baby on the way. This seemed to be pretty specific for a delusion, but what did I know about such things? Sure, he never wore a ring, but that seemed of little consequence at this point in Monica’s speech, because I suddenly found myself staring down at his neatly folded hands as if one should suddenly appear. I was starting to doubt my own reality as I counted up the business trips and excuses in my head.

She stood in front of my mother’s casket, waving the gun like it was a Fourth of July sparkler with one hand, while gripping her swollen stomach with her other. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying, but they held a level of crazy that could not be matched by anything but an enraged, hormonal bull shark. I sat quietly while she announced in a very shrill, out-of-control voice that I was a slut and I’d used my vagina to lure poor Timmy away from his loving family with my Succubus ways.

I was hoping her Succubus comment was pure luck and not the outstanding efforts of a well-paid private detective.

Then, just as she stepped up to me and Timmy, she doubled over in obvious pain, and water gushed forth from beneath her skirt and splashed onto the floor below her with an audible splash. I raised my eyebrows in surprise. I’d always imagined what you saw on television was an exaggeration of real life, but I’d been wrong, very wrong.

I just sat there in stunned silence, trying to control my gag reflex while lifting my beautiful shoes away from the oncoming wave of bodily fluids. She she gripped her belly with both hands, forgetting one was locked around a loaded weapon, and then bam! A searing pain tore into my right shoulder, and I too went down into a heap on the floor and directly into the puddle of what I’m choosing to refer to as baby water.

My beloved Timmy dove for his laboring wife, while I lay in a forgotten heap on the church floor, bleeding from a gunshot wound.

I knew in that moment that Monica wasn’t just some deranged pregnant woman.  She really was Timmy’s wife and I really was a home wrecker—an accidental home wrecker, but a home wrecker nonetheless.

My mother was right: Succubae can’t be loved. We were lusted after and sometimes that felt like love, but it never was.

 

****

 

So, here I was, a week later, and I was mercilessly out of the hospital. I was a new woman. I’d lost a lot of blood. I would have a gross scar for about a month that would prevent me from wearing any strapless dresses until my Succubus magic took over and healed it to smooth perfection. And I now had a very drained EMT in Succubus lust with me who was now following me around town like I was a goddess. I’d needed to feed on the way to the hospital and he just happened to be the closest thing to a Succubus Happy Meal as I was going to be able to get in the back of an ambulance.

During my lengthy stay at Mid-Coast Medical Center, I found myself thinking back to the day of my mother’s funeral over and over again. During that time, I came to terms with the sad truth of my predicament. My mother was dead, and I had to move out of Timmy’s townhouse, and pride dictated I also return the car, the clothes, and the ring… well, maybe not the ring.

I was currently headed to my mother’s reading of the will, my hair and nails were perfect, and I was driving my mother’s favorite Mercedes like I stole it, because I kind of did. But it was about to become mine anyway, so I didn’t see the harm in barrowing it until then.

I walked into the Nicklestein Law Offices and barely gave the receptionist a second glance before entering Nicklestein’s office and sitting down with a huff of irritation. After a moment I realized I wasn’t the only one on this side of the desk, and I turned a dangerous expression on the young man sitting beside me. He was well dressed, his hair perfectly coiffed, and he was wearing a smug smile that put me instantly on edge.

“Who are you?” I snapped.

He offered me his hand, but it was Nicklestein who took the liberty of answering the uncomfortable question.

“This is Baylor Simons. He was your mother’s latest husband.”

“And you must be the little minx who is driving my car,” Baylor said in a faux English accent that made my skin crawl.

Without missing a beat, I turned up my nose and faced Nicklestein again. “I would like this man removed immediately. He is a fraud. He is not my mother’s husband. She would have told me if she were thinking of remarrying,” I said definitively.

I looked back as I said fraud, but he was still smiling like a shark and playing with what had to be the ugliest necklace I’d ever seen. “Oh, love, she wanted to tell you, but it happened so soon after the loss of her last husband that she thought people would think she was cheap and easy.”

I felt my expression darken at his barely veiled insult. My mother may have been easy, but she was never cheap. I pursed my lips and faced Nicklestein’s desk again. I’d been to a few of these things, and I was not going to play the role of the victim. I don’t even remember how many self-entitled offspring of rich fathers my mother had swindled out of their “rightful inheritance,” and I was not going to be that cliché. There was more than enough money to go around. I knew for a fact that my mother had millions in the bank and she would not leave me penniless. That kind of money was probably more than this cougar-hunter would know what to do with. I wondered briefly how many cheap, ugly necklaces he could possibly buy before I realized Nicklestein was talking.

“The full amount of seven million, three hundred ninety-three dollars and forty-seven cents will go to my husband, Baylor Simons. To my daughter I bequeath my favorite black Gucci dress, my saltwater pearls, and my purple platform stilettos.”

I looked down at the shoes I was already wearing. “What about the house!” I shrieked.

They both blinked at me like I was batshit crazy. Nicklestein cleared his throat. “I’ve already said the house and all her possessions will go to Mr. Simons, as well as her savings.”

“But I live there!” I shouted. Reality was quickly crashing down and I was hoping it was all a nightmare. After moving out of Timmy’s townhouse and leaving behind everything he’d ever given me, which in truth was almost everything I had, I moved myself into my mother’s guesthouse. I’d been wearing her clothes until I could buy my own. After all, I never imagined everything wouldn’t be mine by the end of the week, anyway. I was simply living in the guesthouse as a matter of politeness until all legal documents were signed.

“Not anymore, love,” Baylor announced proudly. “Also, I have a paper here for you… I believe they call it a cease of entry order, and if you are seen on my property again, you will be promptly arrested.

I stood and turned to face him, all thought of pride and holding back knee-jerk responses out of my head. “Why you son of a….”

“Whore?” he added quietly.

My pulse was pounding in my ears and I was breathing erratically, but even through the haze of my rage, I realized what had happened. He was an Incubus, the male offspring of a Succubus.

Succubae were rarely interested in their male young, and in the recent past, it was common practice to abandon them for their human fathers to raise. It could be messy, but we were a strongly matriarchal race and have been for millennia. The accounts of the Amazon woman warriors were derived from stories of Succubae living in tribes together, before little things like woman’s rights and certain domestic bylaws were actually enforced.

Incubi were renowned for their hatred of Succubae—it ran deep—and they are well known for taking revenge on our race, whether or not we were personally responsible for dumping a male child.

Succubae are stronger than Incubi. Incubi were never more than half demon, while Succubae were always 100 percent Succubae. It’s like a genetic trait passed down from female to female. We, unlike our male counterparts, were trained on how to control our gifts from an early age, but since waking up in the hospital, I hadn’t been able to do anything of use with my persuasive magic. I couldn’t even get out of the traffic ticket I’d gotten on the way here, and I broke my six-year-long door-opening record on the way in. My mojo was off, and when I normally would have had the stuff to knock this guy to his knees, at this point I didn’t have enough spark in me to light a birthday candle… and for some reason, he knew it.

He looked me over slowly as I straightened my stolen pantsuit. “You can keep that one, on the house, love. I’d hate to see you walk out of here naked. I know that’s how you make your living and all, but maybe not on the streets of Manhattan. This place is a little out of your league.”

I looked to my mother’s longtime lawyer for backup. What I got was a blank, uncaring stare. This was reality. Nicklestein wasn’t going to come to my aid. He was the type of lawyer who didn’t ask questions about things like my mother’s many marriages as long as he got his cut of the profits. He certainly didn’t care about a spoiled little socialite who just found out her well was dry.

As if reading my thoughts he cleared his throat. “Ms. Knowles, may I ask that you leave us so that we may finish going over the private information pertaining to your mother’s husband’s inheritance?” He said all of this with about as much emotion as one would use when ordering a salad with dressing on the side.

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