The story behind the prologue: I originally titled this novel Murder by Marigolds, which my agent was concerned made it sound like a cozy. She suggested I write a prologue that was scary and left the reader wondering what would happen when they got to that part of the story. The following prologue was what I wrote, but in the end, we didn’t include it in the proposal to editors.


            “This is not what it looks like.”

            Tom Parker glared at his FBI partner as traffic in the Wal-Mart parking lot crawled around them. “Do I look stupid to you? You promised me you’d end the relationship.”

            The leggy brunette his partner had left standing by her convertible two rows over, leaned against the hood and flipped a hank of hair over her shoulder as if posing for a photo shoot.

            Ian tossed her an I’ll-be-right-there smile then returned Tom’s glare. “It’s complicated.”

            “It won’t feel that way when you’re doing ten to twenty in federal prison.”

            “Go home,” Ian growled from between clenched teeth. “I know what I’m doing.”

            Tom grabbed Ian’s arm before he could walk away. “I can’t let you do this.”

            “It’ll be okay. You’ll see.” He shrugged off Tom’s hold and sauntered toward the grinning Jezebel.

            The early winter chill layering the air bit through Tom’s jacket as the pair embraced. Not relishing the prospect of the twenty mile drive back to DC headquarters to file a report against his partner, Tom headed for the coffee shop across the lot.

            An explosion ripped through the air. The force threw him to the ground. His head smashed into the pavement. White flashes burst across his vision as he clambered to his feet. Smoke clawed at his throat.

Suddenly Jezebel’s cherry red Mustang burst through the billowing black smoke and careened out of the parking lot.

Tom tore his gaze from the fleeing car to the flaming mass of twisted metal where he’d last seen his partner alive.

Along the same lines as the prologue above, I also wrote the following opening scene as an alternative to the prologue, and then totally forgot about it by the time an older version of the story sold. I kind of wish I’d found it sooner and run it by my editor.

            Surreptitiously, Kate peeled back the cuff of her blouse and glanced at her watch for the fifteenth time. Her lips quivered into an awkward smile for the benefit of the three businessmen seated in her research lab.

“Why don’t I call my partner?” Kate said, fighting to keep the nervousness from her voice. “She’s probably stuck in traffic.” Right. Port Aster had a grand total of three traffic lights. The closest the town came to a traffic snarl was trying to get out of the high school parking lot after a football game. But the men from the foundation for herbal research didn’t need to know that.

Kate excused herself and sidled toward the bank of windows as she jabbed Daisy’s number into her cell phone.

On the eighth ring, Daisy picked up.

Kate cupped her hand around the phone’s mouthpiece. “What’s wrong? Why aren’t you here?”

“Someone—” Daisy rasped, sounding much older than her sixty-plus years. The phone clattered.


For three breathless seconds Kate listened as an ominous silence drowned out the mutterings of the waiting men. Kate scrambled for another phone, all the while, screaming Daisy’s name into the cell phone.

She dialed 9-1-1 and the instant the operator answered, Kate recited Daisy’s address. “Send an ambulance and hurry. Please.” Kate raced for the exit. Halfway down the hall, she remembered the contingent of men who held her future in their hands. She spun around to find them standing outside the lab door staring after her. “I’m sorry, gentlemen. I need to postpone our meeting. There’s been an accident.”

Someone’s silenced my partner.