Today it is my pleasure to welcome romance author Debbie Herbert to HJ!
“Edits Unleashed” gives authors an opportunity to share with readers deleted scenes that did not make it through the final edits into publication.
Today, Debbie Herbert will be unleashing edits from her book Siren’s Secret
Shelly’s world is threatened when a swim turns deadly and the mermaid witnesses a horrifying act. With a killer hot on her trail, Shelly turns to her boyfriend, Sheriff Angier. But he’s determined to solve the murders, and knows she’s hiding something. Can she trust him with her deepest secret?
Shelly is a shape-shifting mermaid, looked down on by merfolk because her father was human. Kind and beautiful, she is nevertheless lonely and vulnerable, feeling like she doesn’t belong in either the human world or undersea. Tillman, the hero, has an extreme sense of loyalty and duty — to the point it has caused problems in his past relationships.
This is the first introduction to the hero, Tillman, and his family. His mother has a drinking problem, leaving him the primary caretaker for his brother with severe autism. The scene also shows his dedication to finding the local serial killer in the bayou and shows the first glimpse of the latest victim.
The scene was deleted because It interfered with the first meeting of the hero and heroine.
Close your eyes, all is well
Seal your mouth, don’t ever tell
For if you do, shame will come
Mama’s Boy falls all undone.
The booming sound of the football game assaulted Tillman Angier as he walked in. Damn, he’d probably missed most of the first quarter.
Sliding the 9 mm Glock from his holster, he went to the safe and secured his weapon before entering the kitchen which was filled with the pungent scent of his mom’s gumbo, a mixture of peppers, shrimp and Cajun seasonings. Moving aside a nearly empty bottle of wine on the counter, he scooped a large helping of rice into a bowl and ladled the spicy gumbo on top.
“More,” demanded a voice from the doorway.
His brother Eddie entered, holding an empty plate. He wore cotton pajama bottoms with the fly positioned backwards, and no shirt. The usual. At age twenty-eight, his younger brother was firmly set in his autistic quirks.
Tillman took Eddie’s plate, and hesitated. “Hey Ma,” he yelled. “How much has Eddie already eaten?”
“More,” Eddie said, a little louder this time.
Tillman peeked in the den. His mom was sprawled on the sofa holding a full glass of wine tilted at a precarious angle.
“Who’s winning?” he asked.
Portia Angier jumped and wine spilled over the front of her University of Alabama t-shirt. “You scared the hell out of me,” she complained, swiping at her shirt with a napkin.
Tillman took the glass out of her hand, noting the smear of crimson lipstick along the edges of her thin lips. The hound’s tooth scarf she wore in homage to the legendary Coach Bear Bryant was knotted haphazardly around her neck and stained with streaks of red wine.
“Eat,” Eddie yelled from the kitchen.
“. . . and Alabama misses the field goal,” came the sports reporter’s announcement.
Tillman checked the score. Alabama led 17-7. At least one thing was going right today.
“How much has Eddie eaten tonight?”
His mom shrugged. “At least a couple of bowls. You know how he is.” She rose holding the wet, sticky shirt away from her skin. “I’m gonna go change.”
Tillman felt a tug on his shirt and whirled around. Eddie held up his empty bowl.
“Okay, buddy. I get the message. But this is the last bowl, okay?” If he wasn’t watched close enough, his brother would eat himself sick. Literally. Although only a couple of inches shorter than Tillman, he weighed a good twenty-five pounds more. Tillman scooped out more gumbo and they planted themselves in front of the TV.
“. . . and South Carolina’s got the ball in the red zone after a terrific pass downfield by the freshman quarterback.”
“Crap. Carolina’s fixin’ to score.” Portia reentered the den, weaving her way to the sofa with a slight stumble. She frowned at the hardwood floor, as if it were somehow at fault.
Tillman suppressed an impatient sigh.
Eddie held out his empty bowl. “All done,” he pronounced.
Tillman smiled and pointed to the kitchen. “Put it in the dishwasher.”
Eddie obediently – if reluctantly – complied.
Tillman slipped out of the uniform shoes and settled in for a distracting game of football. No guilt, he promised himself. The past few weeks had been hell trying to solve the town’s first murder in three years. A particularly gruesome one at that.
But try as he might, the hard pounding South Eastern Conference football matchup failed to divert his mind from the case. Four years ago he left Mobile and took over the sheriff’s job when his father died, never dreaming he’d end up with the most violent case of his career. Imagined he’d quietly slip into small town life, helping out his mom and brother, and refereeing the occasional bar fights and domestic disputes. Should have known better. Meth labs, gangs and violent crime were as much a part of the rural landscape as the larger cities these days.
The vibration of the cell phone in his pocket made him wince. What now? He glanced at the phone screen – it was his deputy, Carl Dismukes. A good twenty years his senior, Carl had also worked for Tillman’s dad.
“What’s up?” he answered.
Carl spoke in his customary, slow drawl. “You better get back to work, son. Another
body’s been found.”
Tillman’s heart pounded. “Don’t tell me.” Shit. At the silence, he took a deep breath. “Same MO as the last one?”
“Yep. A teenage couple walking on the beach at Murrell’s Point found it.”
A serial killer. Jesus.
Tillman glanced at his watch. 8:30 p.m. “Be there in ten minutes. Are you at the scene?”
“No, I’m at the station. J. R. was on patrol duty nearby so I radioed him to respond.”
Officer J.R. Langham was young, only five years in law enforcement, but he was thorough and conscientious. “Before you go, call the Mobile Crime Lab and ask them to send a couple of techs. Then call Saunders at the Coroner’s Office to meet us out there.” Tillman hung up.
His mom raised an eyebrow. “Another one? Your dad worked that job thirty years and the worst thing that happened was a few bar room shootings.” She took another sip of wine from a refilled glass.
“Times change.” He ignored the veiled censure as he slipped his feet back into his shoes.
“ . . . South Carolina scores and pulls within three points of Bama.” The replay showed a seventy-yard interception and run back after a badly underthrown pass from Alabama’s quarterback.
Portia’s attention returned to the game. “Take that boy’s scholarship away,” she screamed at the TV.
Eddie looked up from his piles of Legos on the floor, neatly sorted by size and color. Rows of colored pencils, sharpened to crisp points, lined up like vertical rainbows around an artist sketch pad. “Uh oh,” he pronounced in his flat monotone.
“Couldn’t have said it better myself, buddy.” Tillman tied his shoelaces and retrieved the Glock. He’d grab coffee on the way out, anything to dispel the weariness from all his never-ending obligations.
Tillman arrived on the scene at 8:39 p.m. Although early September, the days had already shortened and darkness had fallen. A line of cars and pickup trucks filled with teenage couples was exiting the public parking lot by the Point, a known make-out haven. Nothing like a couple of patrol cars to douse the flames of adolescent lust. It seemed like eons ago he’d used this same area to seduce the local high school girls.
Using his flashlight, he crossed the sand to where Langham was interviewing the two teenagers who’d found the body.
Langham looked up from his note-taking. “Body’s over there.” He jerked his head toward a large object laying twenty yards away.
In the elliptical beam of the flashlight, Tillman scanned the area around the body. Footprints made from uniform shoes like his led to the body. Must be Langham’s. Two sets of footprints appeared on the opposite side. Tillman cut the flashlight to the feet of the witnesses. The girl wore flip-flops and the boy sneakers.
“Any other footprints?” he asked Langham.
“Just got here. I’ve been busy with the witnesses.”
“When backup arrives, have them come to the body this way.” He swept the flashlight’s beam over the tracks they had both used.
The girl, who looked to be about fifteen, was visibly shaken. The boy, who might have been a couple of years older, had his arm around her although he was a little green around the gills too. Hell of a sight to stumble on with your brain already scrambled from raging hormones.
“Send them on home after you get their statements.”
Tillman approached the corpse and directed the beam on the mutilated body. This kind of thing never got easier, but he’d learned early on that letting emotion get in his way made him useless to everyone involved. Especially the families.
The corpse lay in a cocoon of plastic, split open from the top of the deceased’s head to the waist. A thick nautical rope encircled the waistline, and about a foot of rope dangled at the end where someone had severed it with a sharp instrument. Bending over, Tillman took in the gouged eye sockets rimmed with the remains of heavy makeup, lips still crimson from lipstick wax, a skimpy sequined halter top, obvious signs of neck trauma and strands of wet black hair plastered in ribbons across her neck and breasts. His scalp prickled. “My God,” he muttered. Next to the body lay a white baseball cap with Trident Seafood Industry and its logo of Poseidon’s spear, both stamped in blue.
“This hat belong to either of you?” he called out to the teenagers.
The boy shook his head. “No, sir. And we didn’t touch nothin’ either.”
The girl sobbed. “I’m not supposed to be out here. Are you gonna tell my parents?”
Ah youth; it was all about them. Tillman shook his head before turning back to the body.
Nothing about this scene seemed right.
In the distance came the wail of approaching sirens. By the time the Mobile techies arrived, the beach would be teeming with police and possibly the press and curious onlookers. He wanted a good look before all hell broke loose. He circled the light around the victim.
At the foot of the body were a set of footprints and a dragging sand pattern leading directly to the water where they disappeared in the sea. The footprints were made by a barefoot person, and the small size suggested a female – or a smaller-sized male. Someone must have approached by water, dragged the body to shore, and then left.
It made no sense. Why wouldn’t the killer dispose of the body in the water where DNA and forensics evidence would erode, especially if it remained under for some time?
Voices and light beams came closer. Tillman hastily checked the area one last time. He had confidence in his team and the techs, but he didn’t want anything to escape his notice.
He would catch the bastard this time.
As his team arrived, Tillman gave directions. One officer took pictures, flashes exploding in the night, while others canvassed the area and measured the footprints. Although a popular hangout during the day, Murrell’s Point was fairly isolated at night and it was doubtful anyone had seen or heard an altercation. Pure luck those two kids, no doubt seeking a little touchy-feely by the beach, had literally stumbled upon the corpse.
“What we got here?” Chief Deputy Carl Dismukes patted him on the shoulder.
Tillman pointed at the corpse. “Take a look and tell me what you think.”
Carl cocked his head to one side. “Lots different from the scene where Jolene Babineaux was found. Only similarities are the eye maiming, neck trauma and possibly, judging from the halter top the deceased wore, the latest victim might be a hooker too.”
“I don’t like it. The whole thing is staged, the most obvious being the slit in the plastic to expose the face and part of the body.”
“Copy cat killer?”
“Maybe. Look at the way the hat is positioned beside the body. Doesn’t appear it happened to fall off the killer’s head. And the body is positioned in a perfectly straight line.”
Carl nodded, swatting at a buzzing mosquito on his arm. “Jolene’s killing didn’t look preplanned. The body wasn’t covered in plastic and it was found in shallow water.”
“Could be our killer liked the publicity from the last one and wanted more. Speaking of publicity – if reporters show up before the body’s taken to the morgue, have Langham keep them at least twenty yards away.”
Tillman studied the corpse. That rope probably held a heavy object to keep the body submerged underwater. Either the killer changed his mind about hiding his latest kill . . .
. . . or someone else found it and placed it here for discovery.
In Debbie Herbert’s debut novel, there are two secrets, each one with a deadly consequence…
Shelly Connors’s worlds—on land and in the sea—are turned upside down when an evening swim turns into a nightmare. On a sweltering night deep in the bayou, the mystical mermaid witnesses a horrifying act. With a monstrous killer now hot on her trail, her life and the lives of her kin are in jeopardy.
Terrified of becoming the next victim, Shelly has no choice but to turn to Sheriff Tillman Angier. Tillman has had his intense gray eyes on the sultry honey-haired beauty for a while. The feelings are mutual…and impossible to ignore. But he’s determined to solve the murders, and he knows Shelly’s hiding something.
Debbie Herbert writes paranormal romance novels reflecting her belief that love, like magic, casts its own spell of enchantment. She’s always been fascinated by magic, romance and gothic stories.
Married and living in Alabama, she roots for the Crimson Tide football team. Unlike the mermaid characters in Siren’s Secret, she loves cats and has two spoiled feline companions. When not working on her upcoming books, Debbie enjoys recumbent bicycling and motorcycle riding with her husband as well as spending time with her two adult sons.
A past Maggie finalist in both Young Adult & Paranormal Romance, she’s a member of the Georgia Romance Writers of America. Debbie has a degree in English (Berry College, GA) and a master’s in Library Studies (University of Alabama).
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Giveaway: Two copies of Siren’s Secret — either signed, print copies (US only) or kindle digital versions (International).
To enter Giveaway: Please Post a comment to this Q: Is it important to you that the romatic partners meet very early in the book – say, first chapter? Why?
Please note: This contest will close on Friday April 4 2014 at 8:59 PM (PT) and the winner(s) will be notified via email and on this Post. Winner(s) will have 48 hours to respond to the e-mail before a new winner is selected. All entrants must adhere to HJ’s official giveaway policy.