Jannifer Hoffman

Sample Chapters

 

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Random Fire Sample Chapter

Hope you enjoy the sample chapter, below, of Random Fire.

 

 

Chapter One

Katie Benson held up a powerful set of binoculars staring out over Sturgeon Lake. She spotted five fishing boats but only one had a lone fisherman in it. The lake, good for bass and walleye fishing, was located only ninety minutes north of Minneapolis/St. Paul and usually attracted many fishermen from the big city. During the height of the season there would be dozens of boats, but the first week in May was too early for serious fishing in northern Minnesota, even if it was an unusually balmy day.

With an exasperated sigh she put the binoculars down and turned to face her best friend Ruby Hatcher, taking up the conversation where they’d left off. “I don’t see why you can’t take my money. Ryan is, after all, my God child.”

“I told you, I’m not going to let you risk your life savings for a procedure that may not even work. Spinal stem cell research is still innovative. His condition is so rare in children we won’t even know if he’s a viable candidate until after they examine him. It may all be a wasted effort. Besides, we’re trying to save the money. The doctor said Ryan can go another year before his situation becomes critical.”

“You’re going to need a lot of money, Ruby. Going to Mexico City and staying in a hotel, for who knows how long, is expensive, not to mention the medical costs.”

“I know. It’s sad that our country can’t approve doing it here. At least then my insurance would pay for it.”

Katie knew they didn’t have any money to spare. Ruby’s LPN position paid a decent salary, but with Jerry working on commission as a mechanic, and Ryan’s medical bills, they seem to be always strapped for cash. Ruby had been working trying to improve her position for nearly two years, but her spare time was limited.

 

Random Fire by Jannifer Hoffman

“What if it’s not my life savings?” Katie asked.

“What do you mean? You don’t have that kind of money.”

“Sure I do. My father’s inheritance.”

“Unless you found a new loophole, you have to have a baby to get that.”

Katie snorted a bitter laugh. “Oh yeah, ironic, isn’t it? Dear old Dad found a way to go on controlling me from his grave. Would you take the money if I found a way to get it?”

Ruby shrugged. “Well, yeah, I guess. We could pay you back eventually. But how can you get your hands on the money?”

Katie grinned. “I’ve been having a lot of thoughts on the subject of having a baby.”

“Just to get your inheritance? That’s unconscionable, even for someone as off-the-wall as you, Katie.”

“I wouldn’t do it just to get the money. I’m nearly thirty-four years old, my clock is ticking. I want a baby.”

“You don’t even have a boyfriend, so that’s not going to happen anytime soon.”

“I have a plan.”

“A sperm bank?”

“No, Daddy dear made sure we couldn’t do it that way. I have to have the father’s name on the birth certificate.”

Ruby gave Katie a narrow glare. “I’m not even sure I want to ask what kind of plan you’ve concocted.”

 

Random Fire by Jannifer Hoffman

Katie picked up the binoculars and trained them back on the fishing boat near the island’s covered bridge halfway across the fifteen hundred acre lake. “I had a specific reason for asking you to come all the way up here this particular weekend,” Katie said over her shoulder. “I’m ovulating. Come here and take a look at the father of my baby.”

* * * *

Virgil Douglas took the scrawny crappie off his line and tossed it back in the lake. He’d learned to enjoy fishing but somehow he wasn’t in the mood. He’d taken a two week vacation hoping to leave New York behind for a few days and spend the time alone at the cabin he’d bought for his folks last summer.

Mostly he needed to do some thinking. Ever since his youngest brother Stephen got engaged four months ago, Virgil was the only sibling still living on his own. The worst part about it, he was the oldest.

It’s not that he had a burning desire to get married but he seemed to continuously pick the wrong women. The first one he’d actually planned to marry turned out to be already married. Not only that, she’d left her husband taking his life savings with her. Virgil escaped that fiasco only because his brother Hunter had run a check on her. The second one, Tracy, someone he really cared about, decided after three months of dating, she wanted to go back to her old boyfriend. She laid that little tidbit on him three weeks ago.

He really should have been here nursing a broken heart, but somehow his ticker had repaired itself a little too quickly all on its own.

It was still a mystery to him, the whole woman thing.

People told him he was an above average looking guy and being a lawyer in an established firm gave him a healthy income. So what was his problem?

 

Random Fire by Jannifer Hoffman

Women took one look at him, fell in love instantly, discovered where and how he lived and wanted to marry him. Shit. He’d come to the conclusion he needed to scruff up a little, get rid of the pretty boy look and not reveal his lawyer status.

Hence he’d decided to quit shaving, cover his face with hair. Not that he intended to go out picking up women, but he needed to get his attitude in order.

Hoping to do just that, he looked around, taking in the tree hugged shoreline. In winter and early spring you could see the lake homes that surrounded the lake, but by the time the leaves had filled out, most of the houses would be hidden and all you could see were the docks stretching out like long fingers.

Adding to the charm of the lake was an old-time, single-lane covered bridge leading to the island where he lived. He’d seen boys of every age, bass fishing on either side of the bridge where small landings extended over the narrow channel. Often they played down below, catching frogs or doing whatever it was kids did when they were free to roam on their own.

He had to admit he loved this time of year when the trees were sprouting new leaves, the lilac were budding, getting ready to bloom, and the air smelled like hamburgers on the grill. It wasn’t just the scenery and clean air he appreciated, he was beginning to enjoy this country living where the nearest town was ten miles away and it was so small you could walk from one end of it to the other without breaking a sweat.

The people were friendly, readily waving even though they didn’t have a clue who you were and children played on the sidewalks, and weren’t afraid to smile at a stranger. Nothing here resembled the hubbub of New York City where parents clutched onto their youngsters like every single man was a pervert ready to grab them.

 

Random Fire by Jannifer Hoffman

His brother was fortunate to have found a good country woman and a place like this to raise his kids.

* * * *

“Katie, you are certifiably insane if you’re actually considering this.”

Katie grinned and handed her friend the binoculars. “You haven’t even taken a look at him.”

“What the hell difference does it make what he looks like? You’re just going to run out there and ask him to get married?”

“Who said anything about getting married? I want a baby, not a husband. Husbands are a pain in the ass. Well, except for your hubby; Jerry’s a honey.”

“You and Jerry went to school together. Did you ever think of dating him back then?”

Katie laughed. “No, we were just friends, but if I’d known then he was one of the few good men on the planet I might have considered it.”

“What about your sister’s husband. I thought you liked him.”

“Dirk? He’s the best, but Julia has a stronghold on him.”

“I thought you had a thing going with that rancher you met out there.”

“I did, but we never got past the friend scene. Nice guy but no chemistry.”

“Oh, and you can get chemistry by spying on a fisherman half a mile away?”

 

Random Fire by Jannifer Hoffman

“You don’t need chemistry to have sex.”

Ruby ran a hand through her short blond hair. “I forgot. You’re just planning to go out there and say, ‘Excuse me, but I need to get pregnant. Do you have a little extra sperm you could spare?’ Katie, you’ve never engaged in casual sex. Have you even had sex since your divorce?”

Katie shrugged.

Ruby gave Katie a triumphant look. “That’s what I thought. You really think you have the guts to take your clothes off in front of a stranger and say, ‘okay, let’s do it’? That’s ludicrous and you know it.”

“You have a better plan?”

“Yes, fall in love, get married, then have a baby. Hopefully in that order.”

Katie made a derisive sound. “Been there, done that. Not the baby part, thank God, but the other two. I thought I was in love with Jack when I married him. I guess I was until I caught the cheating bastard at a motel with the singer from the local beer joint he frequented. Not surprising he had the nerve to charge the room to our joint credit card—along with a few expensive trinkets he’d purchased for her. What a dumbass.”

“What if you do get pregnant? What are you going to do about Sam Henley?”

Katie took a sip of the tea she had setting on the window sill. “What can I do? I have no proof he beat up his wife. Until she comes out of the coma—if she comes out of the coma—and points the finger at him, I’m screwed. I can’t even get a restraining order to keep him from visiting her at the hospital. If Mona shows any sign of recovering, he’ll find a way to silence her, I know he will.”

 

Random Fire by Jannifer Hoffman

Ruby took the binoculars from Katie and looked out over the water. “It’s you I’m worried about. Henley’s a powerful man. Your accusations are not an asset to his senate campaign. I think he could be dangerous. It would be in your best interest to just forget about him.”

“You might be right but the bastard belongs behind bars, not in congress. I’d do just about anything to keep him from getting there. I never did like him, even when we were in High school together. The guy gave me the creeps then. I nicknamed him ‘the ogre’.”

Ruby frowned. “Sometimes I forget you’ve known both Sam and Jerry since grade school.”

“For that reason I probably shouldn’t have taken on Mona as a client, but she begged me. She wanted someone she trusted.” Katie sighed. “Mona came to me for help. I’m a trained professional. I should have been able to prevent him from getting at her.”

Ruby shook her head. “No matter how many doctorates you have, you can’t help a person who doesn’t want to be helped.”

“She did want help, but she was too afraid of him. Maybe she tried to leave him and that’s when he put her in the coma.”

Ruby was staring out at the boats as they talked.

“Do you recognize him?” Katie asked.

“No,” Ruby replied. “But then I know very few people on the lake. Just coming up for weekends you don’t get to meet people or get in on the lake gossip. You’re up here just about as often as I am. Hey, I think he’s packing up to leave.”

 

Random Fire by Jannifer Hoffman

Katie grabbed the binoculars in a semi-panic and stared out at the fisherman. “No, he’s just hunting in his tackle box, but it’s nearly four o’clock. If I’m going to do this I need to get going. Do you still have that old disposable camera you got free with your shoes?”

“Sure, but he’s too far away to get a picture with that thing.”

“I’m not going to take a picture of him. I’ve always wanted a shot of the covered bridge. Get the camera and help me put the canoe in the water.”

* * * *

Virgil was just thinking about calling it quits when he noticed the canoe coming toward him. At first he thought it was a boy scout from the lakeside camp wearing one of those big red Halloween clown wigs. When the canoe got closer, he realized it was a woman and the color surrounding her head was hair—flaming red hair, and lots of it.

Even paddling alone she was moving fast and managing the canoe quite well. He decided to put another worm on his hook and settle back to watch the entertainment.

She must have been focused on something because she stopped paddling about twenty feet from him without so much as a glance in his direction. When the canoe came to a stop, she fiddled with a bag in the bottom and stood up. If there was one thing he knew about canoes, it was you don’t stand up in them. He thought about calling out a warning, but she paddled so well he assumed she must know what she was doing.

Then he realized she had a camera in her hands and was trying to take a photo of the bridge. Well, hell, stupid woman, she could have done that just as well sitting down. At least she was smart enough to wear a life jacket.

 

Random Fire by Jannifer Hoffman

He barely had that thought process when the canoe started rocking. It looked like she tried to steady it, and in doing so, caused it to rock harder. She gave a startled scream and pitched forward, head first, into the lake.

When Katie hit the water, even though she knew the ice had only been out of the lake for about three weeks, she wasn’t prepared for the cold, icy tentacles that grabbed her from all sides. She came up gasping, flailing in the water attempting to reach the canoe all the while trying to remember why she had undertaken this ridiculous endeavor.

She unsuccessfully tried to hoist herself back into the canoe when a strong hand grasped her by the back of the life jacket; she realized it was the fisherman falling into her plan. At the moment, it could have been Godzilla and she’d have accepted his help.

“Grab onto me,” he shouted. “I’ll pull you in.”

Within seconds, she was in his boat shaking uncontrollably from the cold.

“What the hell were you doing, standing up in a canoe?”

She opened her mouth to tell him she was trying to take a picture but the words wouldn’t come out of her chattering teeth. Never in her life had she been so, all consuming, cold. For a moment, she thought she’d actually lose consciousness.

Through her mental fog she realized he was swearing at her. Had he really called her ‘fucking stupid’?