Last month I kicked off my Undercover Operatives series with the release of SEX, LIES AND MISTLETOE, and I shared a peek into the gossipy fun that goes on in the small town of Black Oak as the town’s two Information Matriarchs (much classier than gossips, right?) dished the dirt on the return of bad boy, Caleb Black. And boy, oh boy is the dirt dishing now that he’s not only back, but engaged. Just when the ladies are ready to settle back and start rehashing the shocking events of the last month, Black Oak gets another shocking visit. Not only is Maya Black back, but she’s brought her own sexy entertainment along as well.
Shifting irritably in her favorite chair, Hazel tapped her spoon impatiently on the side of her teacup. She wasn’t sure what bothered her more. That her guest for morning tea was later, or that things had been so exciting lately, morning tea was likely the only bright bit of excitement she had to look forward to for the next little while.
Before she could take a sip, though, the front door opened and shut with a snap. Less than a minute later, her neighbor and dear friend–bless her, she’d gained at least five pounds over Christmas–was seated next to her pouring tea.
“I know, I know,” Hortense said waving one pudgy hand before Hazel could issue a complaint. “I’m late. But I had to give my grandbabies extra kisses goodbye, didn’t I. I love the holidays, but it’s so hard to see everyone head home when they are over.”
Extra time with the grandbabies was a get out of a late-lecture free card. Her own eyes still burning from the cry she’d had after saying goodbye to her own, Hazel sniffed back her complaints and offered a plate of scones. “Have a treat, it’ll help distract you from thinking about the children all gone again.”
“It’s so hard after they leave the nest. Oh, we have a full life and plenty to do. But it’s just not the same as having all the loved ones close.” For a second Hortense looked like she was going to sob on her lemon scone. Then she took a deep breath and blinked away the melancholy. The look left in her eyes, pure glee, made Hazel sit a little straighter in her chair.
“I suppose Tobias Black is happy these days, having one of his children moving back to Black Oak,” she said before nibbling the iced corner of her scone.
“I suppose he is. Especially with Caleb engaged and ready to settle down here,” Hazel agreed slowly, trying to figure out what Hortense was up to. That gleam only meant one thing, the other woman thought she had a piece of gossip that would trump Hazel’s gold star for the best gossip of the year. The gold star she’d scored when she’d brought news of Caleb’s return.
“I wonder if this means the other two will soon follow. Wouldn’t Tobias be thrilled to have both Maya and Gabriel back, too?”
Hazel narrowed her eyes. What did Hortense think she knew? Since Caleb’s return, Hazel had taken to checking on the Black doings at least once a day. If there was news, she’d have it. Wouldn’t she?
“I’d imagine Tobias would be overjoyed to see any of his children,” she agreed slowly. “But Gabriel’s exit was even angrier than Caleb’s. And Maya, well, I don’t know what came between her and Tobias, but it must have been something major. She was always so devoted to her father, then poof,” Hazel snapped her fingers in emphasis, “She was gone.”
“I’ll bet it was that woman Tobias was dating,” Hortense said with a sage nod. “None of those three liked her much, did they?”
“Did anyone?” Hazel thought back to the hard-edged floozy who’d tried to rope Tobias Black. Luckily he’d kicked her to the curb a few months after Maya’s departure. “You’d have thought the man had learned his lesson about dating inappropriate women then, wouldn’t you?”
“Obviously not, if he’s dating someone as tacky and obvious as Lilah Gomez. And her the same age as his own daughter.”
“Poor Maya,” Hazel said with a tutting shake of her head. “Can you imagine her reaction if she knew that her father was dating her arch-enemy?”
“Actually, I don’t have to imagine.” Hortense set her plate aside and leaned forward. “I hear we’ll get to see it firsthand.”
Hazel bobbled her teacup, shock making her immune to both the splash of hot liquid and the stain on her new pink slacks.
“Yes. I heard it from Ham Bollinger when I was out at Black Oak Manor this morning to say goodbye to my cousin. Maya booked not one, but two rooms at the Inn.” Hortense gave a gleeful nod, practically bouncing in her chair. “Maya Black’s coming back and she’s not coming alone.”
And she’d been worried after all the recent excitement, things might seem boring? Not likely in Black Oak. Hazel leaned back, her grin so wide it made her earrings wiggle. “Well, this should liven up the New Year, shouldn’t it?”
Wellll… There you go. Maya’s home and she’s on a mission. Not only that, but she’s not alone! The ladies are right. The New Year is going to be pretty exciting in Black Oak. And you can, of course, read all about it in SEX, LIES AND MIDNIGHT if you’d like To make that easier, I’m giving away a signed copy today to one commenter – just let me know what wild plans you have for New Years Eve, and what you want to see happen in the New Year to be entered in the drawing.
And don’t forget to check out my Holiday Survival Tour as I celebrate the Undercover Operatives series with contests, giveaways and lots of good times.