Welcome to Chapter 19 of the COLLATERAL DAMAGE excerpt tour. To new visitors ... I'm so happy to meet you. To my loyal friends ... I hope that you'll enjoy something a bit different today. In addition to informatiion about the book, this post includes a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card and more. Ready to get started? Let's go ...
COLLATERAL DAMAGE is the third book in the the best-selling Annie Ogden series by Frederick Lee Brooke. Here's a brief synopsis:
A love story
- When Annie Ogden’s ex-boyfriend Michael Garcia reappears, she has to confront a lie dating back to her time in Iraq. Will she go back to hot, passionate Michael, who has developed a disturbing interest in meth, or will she stick with her pudgy PI partner and fiancé, Salvatore?
- The calculus changes when Michael is arrested for murder. When Salvatore refuses to help investigate, Annie is forced to try to find the killer herself. Meanwhile her sister’s creepy husband, Todd, is making more of an ass of himself than usual.
- Annie's problems with three obsessive men suddenly pale in significance when she realizes the killer has set his sights on her.
Sounds intriguing, right? You can read the first 26 chapters of the book for FREE by following the excerpt tour (schedule follows). Or, you can buy it, right now, for ONLY $0.99 (limited time offer) at Amazon.
Excerpt Tour Schedule
Monday, June 24 - Shannon Mayer - Ch. 1
Tuesday, June 25 - Scott Bury - Ch. 2
Wednesday, June 26 - Raine Thomas - Ch. 3
Thursday, June 27 - Emily Walker - Ch. 4
Friday, June 28 - Simon Jenner - Ch. 5
Saturday, June 29 - Amberr Meadows - Ch. 6
Sunday, June 30 - Anne Chaconas - Ch. 7
Monday, July 1 - BestsellingReads - Ch. 8
Tuesday, July 2 - Tyler-Rose Neath - Ch. 9
Wednesday, July 3 - Naomi Leadbeater - Ch. 10
Thursday, July 4 - Mohana Rajakumar - Ch. 11
Friday, July 5 - Martha Bourke - Ch. 12
Saturday, July 6 - Marilou George - Ch. 13
Sunday, July 7 - J.C. Martin - Ch. 14
Monday, July 8 - Corinne O’Flynn - Ch. 15
Tuesday, July 9 - Tawdra Kandle - Ch. 16
Wednesday, July 10 - Helen Hanson - Ch. 17
Thursday, July 11 - Connie M. Chyle - Ch. 18
Friday, July 12 - YOU ARE HERE - Ch. 19
Saturday, July 13 - Kenneth Hoss - Ch. 20
Sunday, July 14 - Andrea Kurian - Ch. 21
Monday, July 15 - Andy Holloman - Ch. 22
Tuesday, July 16 - Marilyn Diekman - Ch. 23
Wednesday, July 17 - Christine Nolfi - Ch. 24
Thursday, July 18 - Jennifer Chase - Ch. 25
Friday, July 19 - Patricia Sands - Ch. 26
I'm pleased to offer you Chapter 19:
“The cafe is a small part of the business, although it’s growing,” June said. “People come in and want to try something gluten free. You want to know how to make customers happy?” She blinked three times, waiting. “Give them free coffee. We charge full price for their cookie or muffin, but we give away the coffee.”
We stood in the cafe area of her bakery. Eight small glass tables with fancy wicker chairs and soft cushions filled the room. Display cases on both sides contained cakes and breads and muffins as well as mixes for cookies, pies, cakes, and scones. All gluten free.
“Everywhere else they want to squeeze you for your last dollar,” I said.
“The beans are expensive. The machines are expensive. But coffee is an addiction, I’m telling you. I drink six or eight a day. I could live without wine for the rest of my life, Annie. Just don’t take away my coffee.”
“I hear you.”
“My problem is staff,” June said. “I can’t always find people at short notice for deliveries.”
“Who are all these deliveries going to?” I pictured an old lady stuck in some dusty apartment somewhere with a walker, unable to get down the stairs.
“Annie, it’s the fastest growing part of our business. We deliver to restaurants all over Tampa and St. Pete, grocery stores, the big chains and the corner groceries, convenience stores, hotels, motels. They get people in their dining room requesting gluten-free buns for the hamburger, and they’re helpless, you know? They don’t have the facilities, and they’re afraid of people having a severe reaction in their dining room. Demand is booming. We’re getting more new business every day. I had to hire a third baker two months ago. We can hardly keep up.”
“I had no idea.”
We sat for a moment in silence before June said, “Why do you think they called the party ‘Collateral Damage?’ I mean, the war’s over.”
“Michael told me. They’ve got this idea that we’re the real collateral damage. Us soldiers. The ones who came home.”
June wiped sweat from her brow. “I’m stressing, Annie. I need more hours in the day. Next Thursday we have The Charity Ball. I need people I can count on. This order runs twenty-nine pages. I don’t know how we’re going to get it all done. They’re holding it at the Four Seasons for a thousand people. There’ll be a section for gluten-free diets. It’s the biggest gig we’ve ever landed. They basically called up and said, we don’t want to know the price, just can you do it?”
“What an opportunity.”
“All the local VIPs will be there, black tie, evening gowns, music, dancing. We might be on TV.”
June’s bakery sounded more exciting than the insurance fraud investigations and background checks for companies that Salvatore and I were doing.
“I don’t know if we can get everything baked in time. I don’t have enough people to handle the normal business and also prepare for this huge catering job.”
She showed me the big ovens ringing the kitchen, and the six giant stainless steel preparation tables. She had ovens into which whole carts with twenty shelves could be wheeled, with cookies or muffins or rolls on each shelf all getting exactly the same exposure to heat at the same time.
Two out of three of June’s bakers were Iraq vets like us. One had been a baker before joining the army while the third had learned the trade on the job.
“Do you realize how hard it is for veterans to find a decent job?” June said. “It’s a problem they don’t talk about.”
I didn’t want to let on that I hadn’t spent much time thinking about other veterans. In fact, I didn’t think much about anyone, except maybe Alison. Mostly I’d only thought about myself since I got back. Salvatore talked a lot about the veterans he had in his courses, all the problems they had. He cared about them. He would get along well with June.
June hit the power switch on a giant coffee machine. “Go sit down, Annie. We’re going to have our own little party before we go back.”
She brought two cups of cappuccino and two brownies, and a half hour later we were still sitting at the little table in the cafe. The air conditioning was cool and comfortable but not walk-in cooler frigid, like so many places in Florida. The brownie was glazed on the outside, chewy and fudgy in the center, and sinfully chocolaty. We each had a small glass of water. It reminded me of Italy.
“How can there be no flour in this?” I said. “It’s the best brownie I’ve ever tasted.”
“There is flour, just not wheat flour,” June said. “You know what I was thinking, Annie?”
“If you could stay down here for a month, you could be one of my waitresses and serve people coffee and muffins. You could help me organize everything. God, wouldn’t you just love that?”
“It would be fun, but I already miss Salvatore, you know? That whole crazy business with Michael made me realize what a good, solid man he is. How lucky I am. I’ve got to get back home.”
“I wish you could stay here.”
“You need to find a good man,” I said.
“Oh, I’m in no hurry.” June looked down. She was a terrible liar.
“Have you set your sights on someone?”
June chuckled at the sniper reference, and then grew serious. “You’re going to freak out when you hear this, Annie. It was back in Iraq. The man I fell in love with was already spoken for.”
“No,” I said. I had a premonition of what was coming.
“I fell for Michael.”
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Be sure to check out all the books by Frederick Lee Brooke:
Having lived in Switzerland for the past two decades, Brooke has taught English, run a business and learned French, German and Italian. You can find him online at www.FrederickLeeBrooke.com. Sign up for his newsletter and read all about his travels, recipes, and upcoming works!