Liar, Liar, Tabloid Writer

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Cleo Morgan’s dream of being a respectable member of the mainstream press is waylaid when her mother, a retired Las Vegas showgirl, gets into a financial jam. Instead of following up her Pulitzer-nominated story with more hard-hitting news, she’ll be writing a different kind of exposé. Soon it will be stories about Bigfoot sightings and alien abductions and having dinner with Elvis. And the day her byline appears in the tabloid, The Inside Word, her hopes of a bright and shiny career will be over.

Not everything at the tabloid is repulsive however. Cleo certainly never expected anyone on the dark side would have her thinking wicked thoughts. But Alec Ramirez is more than a pretty face (or even an enticing hardbody) as he proves when Cleo’s mother is arrested for the murder of a Las Vegas casino owner.

Together, they work to find out what really happened, who had the most to gain and, most importantly, to clear Cleo’s mother of the charges. That should be enough to keep anyone busy, but life gets even more complicated when Cleo’s very rich ex-boyfriend appears and tempts her with the one thing she might just sell her soul for. If she can bring in the story, swiping it from under the feet of Alec and her new employer, her old life will be hers again.

All it will cost is a little betrayal.

Cleo and Alec’s story concludes in Liar, Liar Heart’s Desire.

 
 

 
 
Excerpt:
     Cleo pulled her reading glasses from her purse and picked up the current issue to look again at the cover. A black-and-white totty shot of itsy-bitsy-bikinied Tanya Hwong, the beautiful twenty-five-year-old Hawaiian hula dancer who only eighteen months ago had married billionaire octogenarian Fred Denton, was superimposed over a photo of the hospital where her husband might be dying. The headline—properly lurid—screamed, Tanya Leaves Husband’s Deathbed to Party on the Beach!!!
     She was supposed to get intimately familiar with this?
     A headache was starting behind her right eye. She sat on the swivel chair and dropped her forehead to the desktop. What horrible thing had she done in her barely twenty-six years to deserve this?
     A month ago, she’d had a great life. A job she’d worked like the devil to get, the respect of her peers, and a successful man who adored her.
     Okay, so she’d discovered the hard way the adoration was really only shallow affection combined with the kind of fun that came from jetting off to the Bahamas for the weekend. The boyfriend had been a bust, but the job and respect had been real. Now she didn’t even have those.
     “Contemplating suicide already?”
     Startled, she jumped upright, nearly tipping her chair over backward. She grabbed the desktop with both hands to keep herself from going ass over teakettle. When she was sure she was no longer in danger of showing the world the color of her underwear, she discovered that, sitting in her chair, her eyes were level with Alec’s crotch.
     He apparently found uncoordinated women a turn on, because he either had a hard-on that would choke a giraffe or he stuffed his pants with rolled-up socks. Given their environment, her money was on the socks.
     She forced her gaze up and found herself staring into his dark eyes. He looked as if he halfway expected her to reach into her handbag, pull out a gun, and shoot herself in the head. “No, I’m not suicidal. Not yet anyway.”
     “Good.”
     He was her tour guide in this waking nightmare. Her own personal Welcome Wagon. She wasn’t dumb enough she couldn’t guess they were all speculating about why she’d leave a respectable paper for this… this hellhole. It would be easy for them to resent her. And if Alec resented her, it would be a walk in the park for him to torpedo her chances here.
     She couldn’t imagine what it would take to get fired from a place that ran alien abduction stories and Elvis sightings as though they were news, but if there was one thing more embarrassing than working at a tabloid, it would be getting fired from a tabloid. She hated it, but the simple fact was she needed Alec to like her. She needed someone on her side, so she forced herself to sound chipper. “Are you ready to start?”
     He took his time answering. About the time she started feeling like a butterfly mounted for display, he said, “I’ve got to run this”—he held up a sheaf of papers—“into Nigel’s office. As soon as he’s done telling me what crap it is, I’m all yours.” Around them, phones rang, keyboards clattered, and a voice asked a buddy to check his copy, but Alec merely stood there, his last three words hanging in the air between them like a promise.
     Before it could get too weird, she cleared her throat. “Great.”     “Great,” he echoed. “Well… I’ll be back.”
     “Promises, promises,” she muttered as he walked away. The partition walls were short enough she could easily see over them if she stood. Maybe the air wasn’t really rotting her brain. She slid her glasses down her nose and looked over the top of them to get a clearer view.
     He had a nice, tight ass. Great shoulders, too. Broad. Solid. At six-foot-two, or maybe three, he was tall enough even a tall girl, say five-ten, could wear heels and still feel girly.
     Suddenly realizing anyone who looked her way could see her staring after him, she dropped into her chair. Hoping no one had noticed, she threw her glasses onto the desktop and covered her face with her hands.
     What’s wrong with me? My life is spinning out of control, and I’m checking out the ass of some guy I just met.
     But it was such a nice ass.
     And why did the voice of her inner devil have to sound so much like her mother?
     It was time to get a grip. She was a competent person, wasn’t she? A functional adult who had come within heartbreaking distance of a Pulitzer. So her life was on a downhill slide. There had to be a way to get it back on track. She just had to survive this first.
     Someone cleared their throat.
     Please God, no.
     She opened her hands like they were church doors and peered out. The pretty, petite brunette in the stylish black dress who sat outside Nigel’s office stood in her cubicle’s doorway, her arms full of back issues of The Word.
     “Nigel said to give you these. Where do you want them?”
     Cleo rolled her chair back to make space. “There’s fine.”
     The tabloids hit her desk with a whomp.
     “Thanks.”
     “I’m Linny, by the way. If you need anything, you come see me.”
     “Thanks. I’ll do that.” Was she really so pathetic a simple kindness offered in a nonjudgmental tone felt as if she’d been thrown a lifesaver as she was going down for the third time?
     “Nigel wants you to have the sales figures by issue as well, so you can see what sells best. I’ll dig those out for you.” Linny smiled encouragingly. “They’re going to haze you, you know. Just grit your teeth and smile, and you’ll come through okay.”
     Cleo took a deep breath. “Thanks.” Linny’s kindness pumped a shot of courage into her veins. Yup, she really was that pathetic.
     After Linny left, Cleo faced the stack of papers on her desk. Leafing through the top one, her momentary optimism faded. Cancer Cure Suppressed!!! was printed so large she could have read it twenty feet away.
     Her headache got a little worse. She shoved The Word aside, crossed her arms on her desktop, and laid her head down.
     Gotta get a grip. Gotta get a grip. She repeated it like a mantra. I’d like to get a grip on Alec’s ass, she thought in her mother’s voice. Stop it!
     She could do this. She just couldn’t do it all at once. Start small. Pick one thing, one little corner of your life, and get it under control.
     The rest would have to wait. One thing at a time was the best she could do. The headache receded and she took it as a sign she was on the right path.
     Her time at The Tucson Sun had inured her to the noises around her. The phones, keyboards, and voices were the sounds of a newsroom breathing. Cleo forced her mind to go blank and listened to all the things she normally filtered out. Surprised, she realized that, if she ignored Jackson telling someone how to spot an alien, they were the same sounds that filled the bullpen at The Sun.
     Maybe it would be all right after all. No place that produced those reassuring noises could be so bad, could it?

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