Monday, March 14, 2011
I'm so excited to be bringing you this excerpt today - Executive Sick Days by Maria E. Schneider. Executive Sick Days is book three in Maria's Sedona O'Hala Mystery Series. I have read the first, Executive Lunch (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!) and am in the middle of the second (okay, I'm a little behind) Executive Retention, and am loving it just as much. The stories are funny and original and what I love most is Sedona herself. Funny, funny, funny. She makes me laugh at nearly every turn of the page.
Steve Huntington had a way of offering jobs that were too good to be true. Mark Huntington made offers too good to turn down. Sedona had a habit of being caught in the middle; somewhere in the proximity of bad guys with guns and family members she was trying to avoid.
Good thing the latest case involved a hospital. Then again, not all hospital personnel were interested in the lasting health of the patients…or that of their co-workers.
What readers are saying:
"I can't say enough good things about this book and this series. If you're looking for something to make you laugh and offer you a good, solid mystery, along with some romance, look no further. Executive Sick Days delivers that and more." - Annie B (Amazon Customer Review)
And now, CHAPTER ONE of Executive Sick Days:
Decisions, decisions. It was flattering to have everyone want me, but it was also a little frustrating. My head was currently swelled with the privilege of choosing between working for two computer companies: Strandfrost or Acetel. Strandfrost tried to fire me, but then relented. They feared a lawsuit because they mistakenly believed I was pregnant. To avoid the non-existent lawsuit, they offered me my job back at my old salary. I could live almost lavishly right until they realized that my sister-in-law was pregnant, not me.
Acetel, on the other hand, had never fired me, but my boss, Jacques, was back in residence after having recently survived his heart attack. I wasn't sure I wanted to be around for his next one. More to the point, I didn't want to be responsible for his next one.
The pay was better at Strandfrost, but I'd definitely be on rockier ground. Unfortunately, I was not certain Acetel paid enough to cover my lifestyle. It wasn't that my lifestyle was extravagant, but it did include me, a single woman, making payments on a small two-bedroom patio home.
I wouldn't have been working at Acetel at all had it not been for the nemesis in my life: Steve Huntington, undercover investigator of corporate issues. He'd had the brilliant idea that I could work at Acetel and discover who was pilfering money from the company coffers. That had been great, but once the case was solved, Huntington stopped supplementing Acetel's not-so-generous salary. I could make my house and car payment on Acetel's salary, but only if I didn't eat.
Of course, Strandfrost was a riskier job overall because if I was fired again, there would be no income at all, and that would really put a rumble in my stomach.
Instead of weighing the pros and cons of my problem, I used my Saturday to peruse Hawaiian brochures. Both Strandfrost and Acetel would be closed for the week of Christmas and since my parents had just visited for Thanksgiving, I had fulfilled my daughterly holiday obligations. Hawaii seemed like an awesome way to celebrate Christmas. Denton, Colorado was heaven for skiers, but not for beach-going, and I was really looking forward to trying out the latter.
The phone rang, rudely interrupting my daydreams. Since it wasn't likely to be a travel agent with free tickets to Hawaii, I was inclined to ignore it.
Curiosity was going to kill me someday.
The voice on the other end was that of my sister-in-law, Brenda O'Hala. I spontaneously started praying that she wasn't cooking anything.
"Hi Sedona! Remember when, uh, Huntington got shot and ended up in my living room?" Brenda whispered, a habit she had picked up after she became pregnant. In this case, however, she was probably keeping her voice low because she was discussing one of my more unsuitable acquaintances.
"It would be rather hard to forget." I accidentally tugged too hard on my ponytail holder. Flyaway brown hair suddenly obscured my vision, but didn't inhibit my hearing.
"Well, yeah, for me I'm sure, but you're involved in a lot of that sort of thing."
Patently untrue. I was never involved in underhanded, thieving, dangerous or ridiculous capers, at least not on a regular basis. In fact, I never had been at all until I met Steve Huntington. He had a way of bringing out the worst in me. His brother Mark brought something out in me too, but my feelings for him were even more alarming. Mark was…dangerous. Dangerously handsome, sexy and I was finding, dangerously irresistible. That didn't mean I shouldn't stay away.
"Do you remember when Mark mentioned the investigation at Crestwood Hospital?" Brenda asked.
It was understandable that Brenda remembered the comment. As a part-time nurse at Crestwood, she was there all day, every Thursday and Friday. "Yes, why?"
"I've been doing some digging," she continued. "And I think I know what they are investigating."
Now that got me up out of my chair. The brochures scattered across the table as I changed grips on the phone. "What?" Brenda involved in anything remotely resembling "investigating" could get me thrown in jail by my overprotective and just-so-happened-to-be-a-lawyer-brother, Sean. "Brenda, are you crazy?" Perhaps pregnancy had used up all her available brain cells or maybe they had transferred to the baby, leaving her senseless. "Do I have to remind you that the last case resulted in Huntington getting shot, and he wouldn't let us take him to the hospital? You're pregnant! You can't go around looking into things!"
There was silence for several seconds before she responded, her voice meek. "I just checked on a very few things. I've seen Huntington--Steve--there now and again lately so I know he is still working on a case. And I have access to records--"
"Have you mentioned this activity to Sean?" Just how long did I have to get on a plane to Hawaii before my brother came after me?
"Of course not! He'd have a fit!"
More like a diabolical plan to have me committed to a mental institution where his wife couldn't contact me. "Brenda," I squeaked out, "I really don't think you looking at records is a good idea."
"I know. I'm not supposed to access them, and if the supervisor finds out she'll fire me. We're only supposed to look at what is pertinent to patient care on our own patients. And I saw Radar the other day, so I figured he was probably investigating anyway, so what does Huntington need me for?"
My heart, already beating fast, went into overdrive. "You saw Radar at the hospital?" I had assumed Radar had gone back to San Jose. He had quit Acetel, and I was furious with him for leaving without a word of good-bye. Not that we were close friends, but I felt basic courtesy counted for something. "When did you see him?"
"Just yesterday. I'm positive he works at Crestwood now in the IT department."
My big head, inflated over two possible job offers and the successful solving of the crimes at Acetel, shriveled. Huntington had hired Radar to help with the case at the hospital. And I hadn't heard from Huntington since the Acetel incident had ended over two weeks ago. My heart slowed. I slumped back onto the tabletop, scattering what was left of the brochures onto the floor.
It was true that Radar was more capable than me. He could hack his way into God's own database. His expertise was the primary reason we had been able to solve the case at Acetel. He probably didn't argue about how to investigate things either. But…I was unreasonably hurt.
Huntington was often recruited to solve corporate cases because executives and board members preferred someone who spoke their language. It also let companies investigate without calling in nosy authorities such as police, FBI or heaven forbid, the IRS. Unfortunately for Huntington, since he was busy schmoozing with the upper echelons, he had to hire someone else to mingle with regular employees and sniff out suspicious characters. That had been my job, and I had helped him solve the cases.
But it appeared I had been replaced. Summarily pushed aside by…better talent. I sighed. My two job prospects were already less than ideal. This news made them look even more like booby prize.
"So I was wondering," Brenda broke into my depression, "do you think I should tell Huntington or Radar what I've found?"
A tingle of hope or...stupidity...started up my spine. "Well," I said slowly, sitting back upright, "that really depends upon what you've found, doesn't it?"
Maria writes cozy mysteries, cozy fantasy and has recently published "Under Witch Moon," the first book in an Urban Fantasy series. Not only does she concoct stories, she cooks, gardens and avoids anything resembling spring cleaning. Check out her latest endeavors at her blog: www.BearMountainBooks.com.
The Series: Book 1, Executive Lunch; Book 2, Executive Retention; Book 3, Executive Sick Days
Also on Nook:
Executive Sick Days
Other books by Maria E. Schneider: