Saturday, December 7, 2013

Excerpt From Stacy Juba's Sink or Swim


It's hard enough being famous and not rich. When a stalker enters the picture, reality TV has never seemed so real. Ambitious personal trainer Cassidy Novak has gained fame for starring on Sink or Swim, a hit reality show. Not only does she lose and have to walk the plank, but after the game show ends, the terror begins. Upon returning home, Cassidy discovers she has attracted a stalker masterminding his own twisted game. She struggles to focus on her health club job and celebrity endorsement opportunities, but her stalker has other plans. As her former competitors get knocked off one-by-one, Cassidy refuses to play by the stalker's bizarre rules.

She's also being shadowed by hunky cowboy photographer Zach Gallagher, who has been assigned to capture her personal moments for a spread in the local newspaper. She wants to trust the mysterious Zach, yet fears he may not be what he seems. When the stalker forces a showdown, Cassidy must once again walk the plank...this time for her life. A #1 Kindle Bestseller in the Women Sleuths and Romantic Suspense Categories, a Nook Top 100 Bestseller, and a fun beach read endorsed by contestants from Survivor, Big Brother, and The Amazing Race.


Look! There she is!" A few hundred spectators pointed and gawked as Cassidy entered the ballroom of the Starlight Sensation. She gulped and smoothed down her sleeveless emerald pantsuit.

Deniz Jewell had called the other day with an offer for Cassidy’s first public appearance, and conveniently, it was only forty-five minutes from home. A cruise line had asked her to headline the grand preview of a new luxury ship, docked at the Black Falcon Terminal in the South Boston Waterfront District. They wanted her to sign autographs and socialize with the guests who’d paid to attend a cocktail party and information session.

Cassidy would have preferred something more fitness-related, like an exercise video or sneaker endorsement, but Deniz said she was putting out feelers and that in the meantime, her client should take any work she could get.

Although a cruise ship wasn’t what Cassidy had hoped for, she appreciated the marketing department’s interest in her and liked that the event was in Boston. Even better, the cruise line had sent a black stretch limo for her and her companions from the Garrett Daily News.

Lynn, the cruise line’s six-foot plus brunette director of publicity, rubbed her hands together in anticipation. Barrettes fastened sausage black curls off her rawboned face, lengthening her giraffe neck. Her springy ringlets bounced as she talked. "We’re delighted to have you here, Cassidy, especially on such short notice. We just knew you’d be the perfect ‘face’ of the Starlight Sensation. When we have our maiden voyage this fall, we’d love for you to cruise with us. We could do a huge publicity campaign."

"Oh ... wow, that sounds like fun," Cassidy said.

First SOS. Then the cruise runner-up prize. Now this. How many ships was she doomed to ride? 

"As you can see, you’re a big hit." Lynn waved toward the guests murmuring and sneaking glances from round tables festooned with drinks and appetizers. "You’ll sign autographs in here and our staff will be sure to keep the line orderly." 

Good to know, but Cassidy half-wished she’d jumped out of the limo a few miles back at Castle Island, a spacious urban park and her favorite spot in Boston. She loved walking or jogging around Castle Island and the peaceful Pleasure Bay, enjoying views of the ferries and vessels passing in the harbor, the low airplanes descending toward Logan International Airport, and the tourists milling about the historic Fort Independence. She’d give anything for a hotdog and ice cream at Sullivan’s, the popular family-run restaurant that serviced visitors. Alas, she’d get no relaxation today.

As Lynn conferred with a co-worker, Cassidy turned to her own personal news team. "Boy, does this beat the Atlantic Devil in the luxury department," she muttered.

"No kidding." Alison scrawled into her wire-bound notebook. With her sleek helmet of blonde locks and designer wardrobe, she looked more like a TV anchorwoman than a small-town newspaper reporter.

Zach Gallagher, her photographer, pulled his Nikon digital camera out of a padded bag and removed the felt Stetson from his wavy black hair. "I wouldn’t mind taking a trip on this baby myself." His flash blinked, triggering a half-dozen cameras from other parts of the ballroom.

"Cassidy! Cassidy!" An acne-scarred young man rushed over to them. Lank greasy blond strands hung ragged past his shoulders, limp as a used mop, and a torn tee-shirt with Cassidy's blurred likeness fell to the waist of his ripped jeans.

He cupped a camera to his heart. "Please, could I pose for one picture with you? I know this is a huge favor, but I can’t stay that long."

Lynn gave her a subtle nod. "Yeah, sure," Cassidy said.

She positioned herself beside the kid and Lynn snapped the photo with a cheerful "cheese."

His lip trembling, the kid stared at Cassidy. "You don't know what this means to me. You should have won. Reggie was a loser."

How could he say that? Reggie was dead. There were more important things than winning. Like living. Cassidy clamped down on her lip to keep from retorting. Telling off a fan wouldn’t exactly endear her to the cruise line. Being the "face" of the Starlight Sensation could mean a lot of money in her bank account. They were already shelling out $1,000, plus the expense of a limo, for her to scribble her name and act amiable.

Luckily, the rest of the fans acted more restrained. Cassidy spent a pleasant hour and a half smiling and signing autographs. Afterwards, the last group streamed out the French doors, heading to the theater for the travel spiel. She snagged a finger sandwich and a couple wedges of cubed melon off a platter before strolling toward Alison, Zach and Lynn in back of the room.

Lynn gathered papers into a folder and stretched to her Amazonian height. "Thank you, Cassidy. That was fantastic. The next presentation should be starting if you’d like to watch." 

"Great. I’m still shocked all those people waited in line to meet me. Thanks so much for inviting me today." Cassidy popped a piece of fruit into her mouth.

As Alison asked the publicist a few questions, Zach plucked a long-stemmed red rose off a vacant chair and extended it to Cassidy. "For you, my lady."

She looked at him over the blood red petals. Young face, mature eyes. Wisps of dark bangs straggled under the brim of his cowboy hat, which he had replaced after he finished taking pictures. He definitely improved the view around here. The harbor outside had nothing on him.

"Thanks," Cassidy said after she swallowed the melon.

Zach offered a sheepish grin, tanned olive skin setting off even white teeth. "It's not from me. I would have bought you a dozen if I knew you liked them. A little girl asked me to give it to you." 

Cassidy read the tag taped to the stem. "You're the flower of my life. My love for you is blooming. Miles."

Hair on the back of her neck bristling, Cassidy dropped the rose to the hardwood floor and spun around. All she saw were white-jacketed waiters, glittering crystal chandeliers and their own reflections in the mirrored walls. "Was she with a man? What happened? What did the girl look like?"

"She was five or six. Long blonde hair pulled to the side, pink shirt, blue jeans.  She came up to me on deck while I was walking around and said, 'This has to go to Cassidy.' I said, sure. I didn't see a parent, but I wasn’t paying much attention. You okay?" Frowning, Zach touched her arm.
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Stacy Juba has made numerous bestseller lists including GalleyCat’s Barnes & Noble Bestsellers and GalleyCat’s Mystery and Thriller Bestsellers. She has written about reality TV contestants targeted by a killer, an obit writer investigating a cold case, teen psychics who control minds, twin high school hockey stars battling on the ice, and teddy bears learning to raise the U.S. flag. She pursues whatever story ideas won't leave her alone. Browse her website for more information on her books for adults, teens, and children.

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  1. Very nice of you to tease us with that wonderful excerpt, Stacy! Again, the best of luck to you...

  2. Thanks so much for reading, Lisa!