Jannifer Hoffman

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Secret Sacrifices Sample Chapter

Here’s a quick start for you! Chapter One of Secrets Sacrifices is below.

Please note that the actual book cover has not yet been made public.

 

 

Chapter One

Keeping a wary eye on her rear view mirror, Jamie eased off on the accelerator, hoping the flashing red lights would pass her by. The merciless patrol car stuck to her bumper like a pain-in-the-butt hemorrhoid, and when the siren howled she muttered a curse and pulled over.

Jamie’s fingers did an impatient tap dance on the steering wheel as the officer got out of his car and ambled toward her with a no-nonsense expression that was anything but cozy. When she pushed the lever to slide her window open, the sweet scent of freshly mown hay awakened her senses. At any other time she’d have paused to take pleasure in the earthy country smell.

“Good afternoon, ma’am, I’m Officer Gentry.” His voice wasn’t any too cozy either as he eyed her bright pink BMW like a pretty bug that needed squashing. “Do you know how fast you were going, young lady?”

“Yeah. A hundred and ten—just give me my ticket and let me be on my way.”

Officer Gentry’s bushy brows rose. “Would you remove your sunglasses, please?”

She looked glumly up at his reflective glasses. “I will if you will.”

His brows went up another notch. “Fair enough.” He took off his glasses, and tucked them into his breast pocket.

His compliance surprised her, but didn’t lighten her sour mood. She took off her Stussys and flipped them onto the padded dash.

The officer leaned down to allow his gaze to sweep the inside of her car, from the suitcase in the back seat, to the plastic covered medieval costume hanging over the far window, to the crutches and oversized purse laying on the seat beside her.

 

Secret Sacrifices by Jannifer Hoffman

With a quick glance at her bandaged left knee, he straightened back up. “Actually, you were only going ninety-five.”

“Whatever. The sooner you write my ticket, the sooner you’ll be rid of me.”

He gave her a curious frown. “Lady, if you have an ax to grind, the Wisconsin Interstate is not the place to do it.”

Jamie looked away and stared through the windshield into the low hanging August sun. At the most it had forty-five minutes of life remaining, and she was already two hours late. This stop was just another bad card in the miserable deck of her life…

“May I see your license please?”

Jamie reached into her purse, dug out her license and handed it to him.

Officer Gentry grunted, took a few steps toward his patrol car, stopped, and came back. For an uncomfortable moment he studied her face and short-cropped, blond curls. Then he looked straight into her amber eyes.

“You’re Jamie LeCorre, the NASCAR driver.”

“And I suppose you’re a dedicated fan,” Jamie shot back.

Gentry glanced at her bandaged knee. “As a matter of fact I am. I happen to be one of the few people who think you got a bum rap being blamed for that pileup in Indianapolis. I’ve watched you drive for the last eighteen months—you’ve placed in the top ten in all but thirteen races. No way you’d make a mistake like that in the last lap. I, for one, believe you would have won that race.”

Jamie looked up at Gentry with an appreciative shrug. She was impressed he knew her statistics. “Thanks for the vote, but as you said, you’re in the minority. Unless I can prove it wasn’t my fault, the association will expect an apology.” Jamie stared back into the sun. Her hands gripped the steering wheel, her jaw clenching. “They’re not going to get it.”

 

Secret Sacrifices by Jannifer Hoffman

Gentry grinned. “Good for you. Hang tough. Tell those good old boys to stuff it.”

That forced a laugh from Jamie. “I guess I could use a few more fans like you. Sorry for coming off like such a smart ass.”

Gentry handed back her license. “No problem. It sounds to me like you’re into a little male-bashing right now—and maybe you’re entitled—but try to keep your aggressions on the speedways and off the freeways. Trust me—Wisconsin is not the state you want to be caught speeding in.”

Jamie tucked her license away, giving him a genuine smile. “Thanks for the warning. I guess I’d better hold it down for another sixty miles until I get to the Minnesota border.”

Gentry’s grin broadened into a belly laugh. “Heck no, don’t be giving them any money. Where you headed anyway?”

“Sunset Bay, a small town in rural Minnesota. I’m singing in a wedding—for my college roommate. The ceremony is tomorrow, and I was supposed to be there for a five o’clock rehearsal.”

Gentry glanced at his watch. “It’s past seven. I’d say you’re going to be a little late. Pretty tough to make up that kind of time by speeding.”

“That’s not why I was—” She really didn’t want to admit that she was speeding because she was bitter at the world. “I called her earlier, and I already have my costume, so I didn’t need to be there.”

“Costume? Sounds like an interesting wedding.”

Jamie laughed. “Very interesting. The whole wedding party and most of the guests will be wearing Renaissance attire. The bride is a costume designer.”

 

Secret Sacrifices by Jannifer Hoffman

Gentry whistled through his teeth. “Sounds like men in tights. Her future hubby must be one brave man.”

“I haven’t met him yet, but according to her, he’s a regular knight in shining armor so he should feel right at home in tights.”

Laughing heartily, Gentry gave her a two-finger salute. “You take care now—and keep your wings tucked in.” For a brief moment he gave her a hesitant look. “Sorry about your brother,” he said. “I was one of T-Roy’s fans too.”

For three miles, Jamie managed to concentrate on the rolling green hills dotted with dairy cows—and avoid thinking about T-Roy. A year and a half and the memories still hurt. T-Roy had been the light of her existence, her beacon. One slip, one mistake, and his life was snuffed out forever.

She was left with an abrasive father who’d virtually ignored her from the time she was dumped on his doorstep after her mother’s death.

It wasn’t Jamie’s fault Katherine deserted Buster LeCorre and four-year-old T-Roy, without telling Buster she was pregnant. At five years old, Jamie not only had to deal with her mother’s death but with a father who flew into a rage anytime Katherine’s name was mentioned.

Jamie recalled vividly the day Buster came home with the results of the paternity tests he’d had done on both her and T-Roy. They must have proven she was his daughter because, though he swore so loudly the windows rattled, he kept her with him. Unfortunately, all his love and dreams were reserved for T-Roy, leaving Jamie to feel like excess baggage. If T-Roy hadn’t taken her under his wing, loving her and caring for her, protecting her from her father’s lack of sensitivity, she didn’t know how she would have survived.

 

Secret Sacrifices by Jannifer Hoffman

The two of them grew up in the NASCAR pits where their father graduated to crew chief. It was a dream come true for Buster LeCorre when T-Roy joined the racing crew. Those dreams were shattered when Thomas Leroy LeCorre was killed on a qualifying run at Bristol after four years on the track. He had never won a race.

Jamie was suddenly—against her father’s wishes—shoved into a car and told to race, while her brother lay dying in the hospital. Up to that point Buster LeCorre had ignored her while she secured a license, driving under T-Roy’s tutelage in the Busch races. Since she went in as a substitute driver, she had to start in the twenty-sixth position. She surprised herself by finishing eighth. At the end of the four-hour race, T-Roy was dead, the crew chief detested her, and their sponsor threatened to drop them if Jamie didn’t continue to drive.

The sponsor, Pink Mink International, published notorious men’s magazines, sold risqué outfits for women, and was reportedly involved in a number of other illicit activities that kept it a regular visitor in court. The owner insisted on supplying her with a BMW in the Pink Mink signature color, along with a full line of outrageous clothing and magnetic decals to display on her car. Jamie flatly refused to be seen in public wearing anything they made, and the decals found a permanent home in her trunk.

#####

Saturday morning dawned to a cloudless perfect-wedding-day sky. The guests who weren’t staying at the bride’s home were put up in a local motel three miles away. There were only twelve units. The groom’s brother and cousin shared one of them.

When the phone rang between the queen-sized beds, Virgil Douglas answered it. “Yeah, hello.”

“Hi, sweetie, it’s Cynthia.”

“Sorry, this isn’t sweetie, it’s Virgil.”

 

Secret Sacrifices by Jannifer Hoffman

“Oh—well, you sure do sound a lot like your cousin. Is Quinton there?”

“Just a minute.” Virgil yelled toward the bathroom, “Quint, Cindy’s on the phone.”

Quint Douglas appeared in the bathroom doorway, stripped to the waist, shaving cream half covering his face. He’d heard his ex-girlfriend’s grating voice all the way across the room. “What the hell does she want?”

Grinning, Virgil put the phone back to his ear obviously intending to ask just that. Quint was there in an instant, snatching the phone out of Virgil’s hand. He took a deep breath before putting the receiver to his ear.

“This is Quint. What’s on your mind?

He didn’t have to ask how she found him in a rural Minnesota town. The woman had an IQ that was off the charts and more connections than the New York City subway system. As a talk show host, she made three times the money he did, had the personality of a pit bull, and was possessive as hell.

“Sounds like you have a little attitude problem,” she said.

“If you called to check on my attitude it hasn’t changed since the last time I talked to you.”

“What is your problem, Quinton? We were doing just fine. I don’t see why you didn’t want me to come to your cousin’s wedding, and I don’t understand why you want to break off a good thing.”

Quint grunted. A good thing for you, not for me. He was nothing more to the infamous Cynthia Harman than a dog on a leash—a short leash. “I thought we settled all this before I left New York.”

“You can’t just dump me. Nobody dumps Cynthia Harman.”

 

Secret Sacrifices by Jannifer Hoffman

“Well I guess that makes me nobody.” Quint dropped the receiver in its cradle with a satisfactory thunk. He turned hostile blue eyes on his grinning cousin. “The next woman I date is going to be blond, stupid, and—docile with a face that’s not recognized all over the frisking country. If I forget remind me, will you?”

Virgil gave an unsympathetic bark of laughter. “I can just hear Harman’s next topic to air, Foolish Men Who Dump Powerful Women.”

Quint snorted. “It wouldn’t surprise me at all. Where does she find those goons anyway?”

“You mean foolish men who dump powerful women?”

In spite of his anger, a grin kicked up on Quint’s face. “You met her first. Why didn’t you keep her?”

“She was a client. Lawyers don’t date their clients. Besides, she goes for wide-shouldered, blue-eyed, athletic types. Plus, I’m five years older than you and five years wiser.”

“Maybe I’ll quit going to the gym,” Quint mumbled, heading back to the bathroom. He glanced at the 15th century leather smock and tights they’d be wearing for the wedding that afternoon. “We can all be glad she didn’t come along. She’d have a field day gathering information for her next show, Men Who Wear Tights.”

“To be honest, I’d rather wear these getups than a monkey suit. Look on it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” Virgil sighed. “Our brother is one lucky man to find a woman like Nicole.”

Quint stepped out of the bathroom, drying his face. “I’ll second that—but you seem to forget, I’m just a cousin.”

Virgil laughed. “You’ve been a member of the family for—let’s see, I was ten when you came to live with us—you’ve been around twenty-eight years. You’re grandfathered in.”

 

Secret Sacrifices by Jannifer Hoffman

“Sounds like lawyer mumble-jumble to me,” Quint said, chuckling. He pulled a New York Yankees T-shirt over his head and sat on the bed to slip into his sneakers. “How about we hunt up some breakfast. I saw a Ma-and-Pa café across the street.”

Before Virgil could answer, the phone rang again.

Quint swore. “Tell her I’m not here. I’ll wait outside for you.” Shoving his T-shirt into his jeans, he stepped into the early morning August sunlight before his cousin could object.

His eyes fell on an outrageously brilliant pink BMW with Illinois plates parked in front of the unit next door. The thing stuck out like a flamingo in a chicken yard. It had a flat front tire on the passenger side and the trunk was open. A curvy blond displayed a delightful view of her jean clad tush while she ran her hands around the tire. It was the nicest tush he’d seen in a long while. What did she think she was doing? Trying to caress it to life? She looked like a damsel in extreme distress to him. After Cynthia, a blond bimbo looked pretty good.

“You’re not going to get that thing changed by feeling it up,” he said, thinking he wouldn’t mind at all being felt up by her.

She straightened up to a full five-feet-four inches and turned to face him. Her trim little cropped knit shirt matched the color of her car and hugged her softly curving breasts, leaving a slim waist, including belly button, exposed. Her jean cut-offs were short to the point of being sinful. She had a sensually pouty mouth and hostile amber eyes.

“Who the hell asked you?”

So much for the damsel-in-distress theory. An ill-concealed grin played on his lips. “Just thought you might need a man’s help about now.”

“Shove it.”

 

Secret Sacrifices by Jannifer Hoffman

Quint leaned back against his own car, folded his arms over his chest, and settled back to watch her. “I seriously doubt you’ll find an AAA service within fifty miles…but suit yourself.”

She ignored him.

He didn’t notice her bandaged knee until she grabbed a crutch leaning against the car and used it to hobble to the trunk. A small pang of guilt shot through him—a pitifully small pang. He could have been a little more tactful when he’d offered to help, but damned if he’d make another offer just to give her the opportunity to shoot him down again.

She pulled a small jack out of the trunk and positioned it under the car with amazing nonchalant ease. Next she lifted the dummy tire out, rolled it over and let it drop beside the jack. He waited for her to ask for help but she seemed determined to manage on her own. Too stubborn to be sensible, he decided. No skin off his back. With a car—and a body—like that she probably had a sugar daddy lurking about somewhere. He didn’t know they even made cars that color, much less in a BMW. It had to be a special order.

She was loosening the lug nuts when Virgil stepped out of the motel. Virgil looked from the girl to Quint with a curious frown. Quint thought about warning him—but he didn’t.

“Would you like some help with that?” Virgil asked.

“I’d appreciate it,” she said in a sweet voice, handing him the tire tool.

She limped to the trunk and brought out a rag to wipe her hands. By the time she came back, Virgil had lifted the spare into place. Nursing his bruised vanity, Quint watched. When she suddenly glanced up at him with penetrating amber eyes, he expected her gaze to be antagonistic or smug, but it was neither. In fact if he didn’t know better, he could have sworn it was sensual. He shook that thought off in a hurry. Obviously his imagination worked overtime.

 

Secret Sacrifices by Jannifer Hoffman

Virgil interrupted his thoughts. “Put that in the trunk for me, would you, Quint?” Virgil nodded toward the flat as he lowered the jack.

Her wide gaze darted from Virgil to Quint as though just realizing they were together. Quint’s first instinct was to refuse Virgil’s request but that seemed a bit juvenile. He bent down, picked up the tire, and carried it to the trunk. She looked like she wanted to object but there was little she could do short of wrestling the tire out of his hands. She skipped ahead of him on one foot to rearrange things in the trunk. Quint got a glimpse of two large Pink Mink decals before she was able to cover them.

What the devil was a Chicago Pink Mink doing in small-town Minnesota?

She waited for Virgil to put the jack in the trunk, slammed it shut and got in her car, mumbling a curt “thank you” over her shoulder.

Quint and Virgil stood on the curb watching her drive away.

“Did you recognize her?” Virgil asked.

Quint stared at his cousin. “No. Should I have?”

“She was the Pink Mink centerfold about a year ago.”

“Hot damn!” Quint said. “I’ve heard that magazine is nothing more than a front for high class hookers. No wonder she can afford a fifty-thousand-dollar car. I wouldn’t mind seeing that body nude.”

“She wasn’t nude. If I remember right, she was wearing some kind of a racing get-up and was sprawled across the top of a race car.”

“That’s odd. Centerfolds are always nude. What did the article say about her?”

Virgil chuckled. “Those pictures come with articles?”