The minute twins and mystery novelists Jovan and Cheyenne Parham find their lives settling into a nice rhythm, all hell breaks loose – in their personal lives and in the latest crime they find themselves mixed up in. Jo is trying to build a relationship with Mark Brockman, but the deaths of her husband and Mark’s wife, and the sordid nature of their coming together keeps her from jumping into the relationship with both feet. Cheyenne is head over heels in love with former detective-now P.I. Ian Davenport, but unexpected news and Ian’s involvement in a new case causes Chey to second guess the deepness of their love. Trying to figure out their love lives becomes all the more complicated when Jo and Chey are thrust into a series of kidnappings and murders involving young girls who seem to make the wrong friends online. When a mayoral candidate’s daughter is kidnapped, Ian finds himself on the case, much to the chagrin of Chey considering he spends an awful lot of time holding and caring for the candidate’s wife. Bringing the girl home safely and finding the killer pushes the twins to the limits of their personal and professional lives. Going into a web of infidelity, lies, deception, and murder often leaves all involved in disarray. Will Jovan and Cheyenne find themselves, once again, trying to pick up the remaining fragments of their lives once this is all over?
Those words rang in Jovan Parham’s mind as she danced around the ring, staring into the eyes of Derryck, her kickboxing trainer.
“Come on, Jo,” Derryck said while holding up his padded hands. “Pay attention. Jab left, cross right, jab right.”
“I’m doing it,” she said, her voice nearing a whine.
“You look lazy.” Derryck’s left hand made its way to Jovan’s headgear. She just managed to move, but heard the sound of his fist whizzing by her face. “I haven’t tagged your face in nearly four months.”
Jovan smiled and took two jabs to the side of Derryck’s face; the second one connected.
“And you didn’t get me this time either,” she replied.
The two continued to spar, sharing words and punches and kicks, but Jovan’s mind was still stuck on two words:take down.
She woke up in the middle of the night after a horrific nightmare, one she had almost every month since she moved into her new condo a year ago. The nightmare was always the same: she watching as a host of characters took part in killing her. She lay, shackled to a metal table, dressed in a white loose gown that had been ripped to shreds. Every few minutes, someone would come into the dimly lit room and cut her with a sharp, curved blade. No words were ever exchanged. She screamed with each flick of the blade, begged for her life, but it was all for naught. Cordell came in and took a chunk of her. As did his mother. As did his brother. Alisha took her share as well, as did Sarah, which broke Jovan’s heart more than Cordell wanting to kill her. She had thought Sarah was her best friend. Finding out she had slept with Cordell and carried his child tore at her heart. To know that even in her nightmares Sarah wanted to hurt her more nearly broke her.
The last person to come in was always Linda Hayes. And unlike the others, who were more like automatons, coming to do their robotic bidding, Linda had a sparkle in her eyes, a curl of her lip, an extra dig of her cut when she took her swipe of Jovan. She had hoped that her time at the altar during service that morning, where she begged God, begged him to remove the nightmares, might give her a night of respite, but it wasn’t to be. If she actually took time to think about it, she’d realize that her continuous thinking about the nightmares would only create more of them.
When she woke up last night from the nightmare, Jovan rushed to her office—a place that held warm, soft thoughts for her as it was the place where words took to life. She reached for the small blue bible she kept on the desk and rifled through the pages before landing her finger on Luke 10:19, I have given you authority …to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.
The words brought her peace, but she had an even better way of using her authority to overcome her enemies. She took out a pad and pen, and spent a good hour creating a list of people she needed to take down.
Linda Hayes was at the top of that list. For going on two years, the Trés Chic head reporter-now executive producer had been relentless in her pursuit to find something bad to report about Jovan. Even after everyone else had put the murder of Jovan’s husband and the fallout of it behind them, Linda was determined to continue to bring up Jovan’s painful story: Cordell’s murder. Cordell’s affair with Alisha. Cordell’s affair with Sarah. The baby Sarah carried. The complex scheming and plotting that revealed Cordell’s drugged-out brother was supposed to kill Jovan but instead killed Cordell. Jovan’s reaching out to Mark, Sarah’s husband, in a time of need and the subsequent relationship that continued long after Cordell was buried. The justice (though not peace) that was brought to Jovan and her family.
In all parts of the world, Jovan’s soap opera of a life had come and gone as new, crazier stories unfolded. But in Baltimore, where she and her twin Cheyenne were deemed stars for their bestselling-authors status and their charities, Jovan’s story continued to live—mostly thanks to Linda Hayes.
And somehow, she had managed to overcome her anger at Linda and this ferocious, tenacious need Linda had to break her down.
But then yesterday arrived, and Jovan became undone.
She had tried to go about her day. She went to a speaking engagement for her solo inspirational non-fiction, Picking up the Pieces, a book that detailed the story of her life with Cordell and the aftermath. She met with Cheyenne to work on the outline of their next mystery, Vanishing Keys.
She even got ready to meet Mark for a dinner date down at the Inner Harbor.
Not once did anyone in her inner circle mention the significance of the day: the second anniversary of Cordell’s death. They knew it wasn’t needed. They knew Jovan would have stayed up the entire night prior, still crying over the loss, still angry over the betrayal, still unsteady on what to do with her life. She was still fragile from the coming and going of Cordell’s birthday nearly three weeks ago. She had spent that day in quiet reflection, wondering why, yet again, she couldn’t find out about Cordell’s lies before anyone had to die. She still felt like an idiot over believing Sarah was her friend. She had spent hours talking to Sarah, telling her about the decline in her marriage—never realizing that her supposed friend was sleeping with her husband.
Any normal person, knowing what she’d been through, would have given Jovan this day to grieve, to feel, to think in her own personal space.
But not Linda Hayes.
Jovan had expected to hear from her. After all, she saw commercials regarding Linda’s anniversary special. Linda had her assistant call her earlier in the month, trying to get her to talk about Cordell on the day of his birthday. Jovan had told her to “Go read Picking up the Pieces if you’re so damn interested in learning what I’m willing to say about Cordell. Other than that, leave me the hell alone, Miss Hayes.” It was only a matter of time that Linda would call her again, trying to get some comment to use for her latest special.
Linda’s assistant called. Six, seven, eight times. Every time, Jovan would hang up.
On the ninth time, as she slipped her feet into her black stilettos, Jovan finally relented. She picked up the phone and yelled, “Let me speak to Linda.” She quickly raced into the office and picked up her digital recorder, turning it on and setting her phone on speakerphone.
Linda came on to the phone, her voice warm and soft as she said, “I’m so sorry for your loss, Jovan.”
“If you’re so sorry, why are you harassing me? Obviously, I have nothing to say to you.”
Jovan needed three things when she woke from her restless sleep: a comb to tackle her mangled mane, a strong cup of coffee, and a medication strong enough to drop kick the pain that throbbed behind her right eye.
The hair could wait awhile, Jovan decided as she rushed to the bathroom to down some pills, then headed to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee.
“Man,” she said, sitting at the island in her kitchen. She massaged her temples. “You’d think I drank all night long.” She moaned, then grabbed the remote to the small flat panel TV in the kitchen. Turning the volume down low, she mixed sugar and creamer into her cup of coffee while watching the morning news.
She sighed. Her mind was befuddled, filled with Linda, Mark, and Cheyenne. She had managed to have an encounter with Linda that left her unscathed, but seeing Linda’s anger toward Mark piqued her interest. She wasn’t sure why Linda would be so angry; she had nothing to do with Sarah or Mark. Jovan had left the café with questions about Linda and further sadness over her relationship with Mark. And though she wanted to spend the evening lamenting and thinking over both, the rest of her night and early morning was spent focusing on Cheyenne.
She barely slept the night before as she and Cheyenne sat up and talked.
Not once did Jovan smack at Cheyenne’s hands as she cracked her knuckles. She’d let her do whatever she wanted after learning possible-baby news.
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me before this,” Jovan said. “We share everything.”
“I know.” Cheyenne sighed. “It wasn’t my intention to leave you out, sis. Hell, I haven’t known for long.”
Cheyenne looked at her hands, then Jovan. “Few days. Was in the bathroom and saw my sanitary napkins and was like, ‘Yeah, I haven’t used you in a while.’ I went to my calendar and saw I was two weeks late.”
“So,” Jovan said, taking Cheyenne’s hand, “you could be pregnant right now?”
A smile grew wide on Cheyenne’s lips. “I could very well be.”
“Then let’s find out.” The two hugged, and Jovan watched as Cheyenne hopped from the sofa, grabbed her bag of tests, and ran to the bathroom.
She watched as her sister took four pregnancy tests, all negative. For a fleeting moment, Jovan smiled at the thought of Cheyenne being a mother, she an aunt. It saddened her when Cheyenne walked into the living room for the fourth time, holding a false pregnancy test. Tears clung to
“I really wanted to be pregnant, I think,” she muttered. She dropped onto the korndal green Karlstad sofa and rested her head on Jovan’s shoulder.
“You should still go to the doctor, sis,” Jovan said. “Make it official.”
Cheyenne lifted the pregnancy test. “Four of these ain’t official enough?” She hiccupped before the onslaught of sobs took over.
Jovan wrapped her sister in her arms and hushed her to sleep. After putting her to bed in the bedroom down the hall, Jovan fielded hourly calls from Ian wanting to know how Cheyenne was. After the fifth hour, Jovan turned off the house phone and all cell phones. She needed at least a nap before the start of the day.
What she got was a 45-minute nap and waking up on the tiled floor of the foyer near the front door. The last thing she’d remembered was sitting in one of the diline multi-colored chairs in the living room, reading pages of her and Cheyenne’s work-in-progress. Slowly, she had stood, moaning at the stiffness of her neck, the sore shoulders, the migraine that stabbed at her right eye, nearly taking her breath away. She didn’t even question how and why she’d end up on the floor. If she wasn’t having nightmares, she was walking in her sleep, something she still did when stress and anxiety overtook her. On her way to the kitchen, she had peeked into the living room and found pages puddling around the chair she had sat in.
“I need a damn vacation,” she muttered.
She lifted her cup to her lips as she stared at the TV screen. A breaking news flash appeared, and she dropped her cup and jumped from her seat. Hot coffee splashed her, but being burned was the furthest thing from her mind.
She drew closer to the screen and read the headline that flashed to the right of the anchor’s head: Leland Henson’s Daughter: MISSING.
The image changed from the TV studio to the front of the Hensons’ home where Leland Henson stood before reporters, his eyes a blistering red while Jocelyn cried in Ian’s arms.
“Ian!” Jovan shouted. She raced to the island, grabbed the remote, and turned up the volume.
“Our daughter is the most precious thing in our lives,” Henson said before breaking down.
“Please… please bring her back to us unharmed.”
Cheyenne walked into the kitchen, rubbing her eyes. “What in the hell are you yelling for?” she asked. “This place better be on fire.”
Jovan pointed to the television.
Cheyenne sidled up beside Jovan and stared at the TV. Her jaw dropped.
“Is that Ian?”
Jovan nodded. “Leland Henson’s daughter is missing.”
“But what is my supposed man doing there hugging the wife?” Cheyenne’s nostrils flared.
“I have no idea, but we’re going to find out. Shower and dress. Quickly.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shonell Bacon is an author, doctoral candidate, editor, educator–everywoman.
She has published both creatively and academically–novels, short stories, essays, and textbooks. She has had an essay of hers developed as part of a live theater documentary production. In addition to her love of writing and what the future holds in her literary life, she is also an editor who loves helping writers hone their literary craft.
Since 2001, she has edited for hundreds of writers who have gone on to pursue self-publishing careers and have been published within the traditional publishing arena. Her love for helping writers also moved her to begin writing articles and commentaries regarding the writing life and craft, and she publishes these articles on various websites. She is an educator, having taught English and mass communication courses in addition to fiction writing and other courses related to creative writing. And while taking part in all of those things, Shonell also finds the time to pursue her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University. Now a doctoral candidate, she is conducting research and writing her dissertation.
Get to Know Shonell:
When did you get bitten by the writing bug?
I was ten. My mom and I were at a flea market, and she bought me a .25 cent green diary. Instead of writing the typical 10-year-old girly things, I wrote sports articles on my beloved Baltimore Orioles and my own scripts to my favorite soap at the time, The Guiding Light.
When did you know that you wanted to pursue writing in a serious manner?
Probably the same time I got that green diary. During my teen years, I wrote a lot of bad screenplays, all featuring the same story – a woman who somehow comes to own a sports team and ends up falling for and getting the hot, great player on the team. LOL I finally broke away from those and in the 90′s, having recently graduated high school, I started studying the industry, trying to figure out how to become a better writer and how to break into the industry.
Plotter or pantser?
Definitely plotter. I visually write my stories bit by bit until they are pretty much developed, then take to drafting an outline and writing the story. I don’t let the outline confine me, however. I often go outside the outline; however, doing an outline gives me structure and enables me to be a fast writer. And not a fast writer who gets an idea and jumps to the computer and a few chapters in peters out. I typically go hard and fast until the story is done.
What genre(s) do you write?
Hard question, and it shouldn’t be, right? I consider myself a life writer–I write the stories of life. Extraordinarily vague, I know. Sometimes, my stories fit really well into a genre, and sometimes, they don’t. For the most part, I write mysteries/thrillers, and the bulk of my work tends to fall into women’s fiction.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
1- Do not write to fit a trend; they come and go, and so will your work.
2- Write from the heart; if you don’t care about your work, no one else will either.
3- Study the writing craft; it’s great to write because you have the love of it, but at some point, you have to show people you are serious about growing as a writer, too.
4- Get into PR; no one is going to promote your work as hard as you do. Study the various ways, online and offline, that you can sell your work to your audience.
What is your very favorite thing to do when you’re not writing?
Two things – watch sports and listen to music. Music evokes the same emotions I receive when a story lulls me to the laptop. It soothes this savage beast and sparks me to write. I ADORE sports and before I became a teacher, writer, editor; my dream was to be a sports anchor for ESPN, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a Sunday NFL game, the frenzy of March Madness, or a Saturday afternoon baseball game, you can often hear me commentating on the games just by walking past my house, LOL I’m THAT vocal!
We’ve talked about how you came to writing, the kind of writer you are, advice to aspiring writers, and your non-writing time. Let’s get to one good question about Into the Web. Why should people buy it?
OK, time to sell myself, I guess. LOL. Reason? Death at the Double Inkwell, the debut novel in the Double Inkwell series, has been my favorite book to write. I consider it the best story I’ve written, and I have plenty of novels written in the arsenal. Readers have enjoyed DDIW, giving it a 5-star rating, and they still purchase it and tell me how much they love the story. Once I finished the last sentence of Into the Web, I knew it was the best thing I’d written–better than DDIW. I loved the entire process of writing it and loved the layered stories that find their way into ITW. Love, lies, secrets, murder, mayhem, and the great sisterhood of Jovan and Cheyenne? Not much more a reader could ask for!