Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bright New Murder: A Plain Jane Mystery by Traci Tyne Hilton Excerpt

Bright New Murder: A Plain Jane Mystery (The Plain Jane Mysteries, a Cozy Christian Collection) by Traci Tyne Hilton

Jane Adler sat on the cold, wet hood of Isaac’s car. She leaned away from him, her arms crossed. Their spot on the top of Mount Scott gave them a good view of the city lights. The day’s light rain had turned to softly falling snow as night fell.
She was damp, cold, and beyond irritated with her boyfriend.
“If you keep changing your degree, you’ll never finish school.” The vein in Isaac’s temple throbbed, and he flexed his jaw.
“Again: I have not changed my degree. And I’ll still graduate this spring even with the extra classes.” Jane exhaled slowly. Isaac had only been home a week, and they had already had this argument four times.
“You’ve changed your degree twice since I met you.” Isaac leaned back on his elbows. “It’s like you don’t want to finish.”
“You’re exaggerating, and it’s not fair. I finished Bible school and I started a bachelor’s degree in business. That is not the same thing as changing my degree.”
“And now criminal science.”
“Yes. I added a couple of criminal science classes to my schedule. As well as French. It’s more work, but I’ll get it all done.”
Isaac leaned over to bump shoulders with Jane. “See, that’s the thing. You don’t even speak the language. How are you going to be a detective in Montreal?”
Jane didn’t answer. She couldn’t say what she was really thinking—that she hoped she wouldn’t ever be a detective in Montreal.
“Talk to me, Jane.”
“Why? You only hear what you want to hear.”
“Just help me understand why you’re making it harder to finish. Are you trying to come up with reasons to stay here? To not move to Canada with me?”
“You may not stay there forever.”
Isaac leaned over and brushed her cheek with his lips. “I hope I do. It’s my dream job.” His voice was a low, sexy rumble in his throat.
She pushed him away. “Don’t kiss me while we’re fighting.”
“I haven’t seen you since August.” He tried to set his hand on her knee, but she moved a little. All of his little caresses and kisses were making the inevitable harder for her.
“You saw me yesterday.”
“And we had this same fight yesterday.” Isaac turned her gently by the chin and kissed her lips.
Jane froze, a hairsbreadth from his closed eyes and slightly parted mouth. “Then quit bringing it up.”
Isaac pulled a small square box out of the pocket of his ski jacket. He set it on the hood of the car, right between them. “I keep bringing it up, because I have something to ask you.”
Jane stared at the box.
The box.
The box she had been waiting to see since his last visit home. The box she had been dreaming of since she fell for him at first sight, a year and a half ago. The box every Christian girl hopes to get before she turns twenty-three.
Jane stared at the box and felt sick to her stomach.
“Jane…I want you to marry me. Move to Montreal this spring. Be a professor’s wife. Don’t ever worry about cleaning, or detecting, or anything ever again. Make Montreal your mission field.” He opened the box and held it out to her.
One large diamond, with a swirl of smaller diamonds cascading away from it, down both sides of the ring.
“Say yes.” He stroked the back of her head with his strong fingers and pulled her close, his forehead bumping hers. He went for the kiss, but hesitated—a pause that gave Jane the chance she needed to act.
She pushed him away and slid off of the car. “I’m not a prize—not another set of letters to add after your name, Isaac.”
“What? What is wrong with you this week?” Isaac held the ring out to her and cocked an eyebrow.
“Nothing is wrong with me. I’m doing fine. I’m working hard to follow my dream and make a difference in the world.” She took a deep breath. “What’s wrong with us? That’s the real question. Neither of us seem willing to admit the obvious.” She stopped. She had to say it, but it felt like something smashed into her heart. “This is not meant to be.” She was too mad to cry, but her whole body shook. Right now, at this moment, she should be slipping that diamond ring on her finger and kissing her fiancĂ©. The man she loved. Not yelling at him. Not…breaking up.
“What do you mean this isn’t meant to be?” He shoved the ring forward. “It’s right here. I’m asking you to marry me. We’ll go have adventures in French Canada. You can keep doing the career student thing. What don’t you like about this?”
“That!” The word felt like a knife in her throat. “That’s what I don’t like! I’m not doing a ‘career student’ thing. I’ve been a key player in successfully solving two murder investigations, and I want to do more of it. I plan on cleaning houses and solving murders for as long as I can, but it’s like you don’t believe me.”
“You wanted to be a missionary too, and you’re not doing that anymore.” His cocky voice made Jane want to punch him in the face.
“Who says I’m not going to be a missionary?”
“You just did. You said you’re going to be a detective.”
“Right now. I’m going to be a detective right now.”
“And for as long as you can. You just said that, Jane. You don’t know yourself very well at all, do you?”
“Well, if I don’t know myself, then I have no business getting married and moving across the continent, do I? I say no. No. No. I’m turning down your proposal.” She clamped her jaw shut and stared at him.
His mouth bobbed open. He shoved the ring box into his pocket. “Fine.”
“Fine.” She eyed the lone bus stop on top of the hill. Right next to the cemetery. “And I’m taking the bus home.”
“Now you’re just being stupid. Jane.”
Jane yanked her wallet out of her purse. “Don’t call.” The bus was lumbering up the hill, so she didn’t run for it. She didn’t want to look like a child, but she did stomp away as fast as she could.
She waited with her back to Isaac.
Merry Christmas to me.

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