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About the author:
Sterling and his wife travel extensively and live at their mountain ranch in Colorado with their Golden Retriever, Shelby.
What inspired you to write your book?
So many things, really. But the biggest inspiration is the prospect of bringing joy and entertainment to other people’s lives. The author/reader connection is incredibly intimate, and it’s thrilling to share that with so many people. Then there’s the creative process of forming stories, inventing characters and bringing it all to life through fun writing, all of which gets me so excited that I can hardly wait to get to my study every morning. I know, in my heart, that it’s truly what I’m meant to do.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Jack Lazar raised the icy mug of Shiner Bock to his lips and allowed a healthy gulp to cool his mouth and throat, extinguishing the fire from the spicy chicken wings. It was a repeating cycle of masochism and frantic rescue he frequently practiced while watching sports on television, although he often questioned why. Surely, his internal systems didn’t appreciate being assaulted by the epicurean equivalent of Drano on such a regular basis.
Still, in his opinion, this Orange County sports bar made chicken wings just right, dipping them in a delicate batter, frying them crispy, and dousing them in a generous helping of buffalo sauce. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, they were accompanied by a cold stack of celery sticks and a ramekin of the best blue cheese dressing he had ever passed by his lips. As usual, he ordered the wings DEFCON 2, the second most punishing of five hotness levels, and they were doing a great job of blasting through his sinuses. He had once made the mistake of selecting DEFCON 1, but that went beyond the masochistic to the point where it felt more like attempted suicide. Never again, he resolved.
The plate of wings sat on the bar between Jack and his friend Jerry, who attacked them with nothing short of reckless abandon, all the while revealing hardly any physical distress except for a thin layer of sweat on his brow. Jerry reached for his IPA and took a couple of sips before turning toward his friend and steering the conversation away from football.
“I have a favor to ask you, Jack.”
“Of course. Anything you need.”
Jerry’s lips curved upward. “It’s a pretty big favor.”
Jack narrowed his eyes. “How big?”
“You’re going to Egypt, right?”
“My cruise stops there for three days. So, yes.”
“I’d like you to look into something for me while you’re there.”
“Let me guess. It’s an airplane.”
Jerry McGreevy crafted the most stunning jewelry out of reclaimed aircraft materials, and part of the intrigue about each creation was the history of the plane from which it was made. That meant Jerry was perpetually in search of new material, so it was an easy guess.
“Oh, it’s more than just an airplane.”
Jack chuckled. “It always is.”
“You want to hear about it, or not?”
“Absolutely. Hit me.”
“A couple of weeks ago, an oil and gas exploration team ran across an RAF Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk in the Sahara desert that crash-landed there in 1942, and no one has seen or heard of it until now. The pilot was apparently flying the plane to a British air base in Egypt for repairs and must have somehow veered off course before losing his engine. It’s in great condition except for some damage from the landing and, of course, battle scars from fighting the Germans in Northern Africa. I saw a few pictures of it on the Internet, and it’s pretty cool.”
Jack raised his eyebrows. “Wow. That actually is interesting. What happened to the pilot?”
“No one knows for sure, but the assumption is he died trying to walk through the desert in search of civilization. There wasn’t anything within two hundred miles of the crash site at that time, so unless he miraculously ran into a caravan of some sort, he didn’t make it.”
“I imagine not. So, what is it you want me to do?”
“I’d like you to visit with the Egyptian authorities while you’re there, get approval to recover at least some of the material from the plane, and have it shipped to me. I’d prefer some aluminum from the wings or the fuselage, please.”
Jack tilted his head and raised his eyebrows. “Oh, is that all?”
“I figure if anyone could negotiate his way through the red tape in a foreign country and make it all happen, it would be you.”
“Europe, maybe. But Egypt? Are you crazy?”
“Aren’t you the guy who recently disarmed a nuclear bomb in Paris, killed the terrorist behind it, and saved the G20 Summit?”
“Shh,” Jack whispered, looking around. “No one’s supposed to know about that.”
“Regardless, you did it, right? So this should be a piece of cake. Besides, you owe me big time.”
“Uh-huh. And how many more favors will it take before we’re even?”
Jerry folded his arms. “I saved your life, Jack.”
“I know. If you hadn’t caught my line on that mountain, I would have probably fallen to my death.”
“Yeah, probably. I had another anchor, and it may have held, but we’ll never know, will we?”
“Would you rather I had allowed you to test that theory?”
“No, of course not. And I’m truly grateful for what you did. Why else would I have bought you that BMW?”
The bar erupted with a combination of boos and applause as the Cowboys completed a huge pass downfield. After that, Jack and Jerry couldn’t help but look at the screen above the bar to watch the instant replay.
“So,” Jerry finally responded, “you’re talking about the BMW I refused to accept?”
“Yup. That’s the one. But remember, it’s the thought that counts.”
“Fine. Then let’s say, after you do this last favor for me, we’re even.”
“Agreed. And if the Egyptian authorities tell me to go screw myself, we’re still done, right?”
Jerry furrowed his brow as if seriously thinking about it. “I suppose.”
“C’mon, Jer. I’ll be putting forth pretty much the same effort either way.”
“I guess that’s true.”
“So we have a deal?”
Jerry sighed. “All right. Yes.”
They shook hands and dove back into the plate of wings until their eyes instinctively shifted upward, fixating on a couple of attractive young women entering the bar and gradually working their way to the barstools at Jack’s left.
“Are these taken?” the closest of the two asked as she rested her hand on Jack’s shoulder.
“They’re all yours.” He immediately took in the radiance of her blue eyes as he wiped his fingers on his mostly orange napkin.
The girl’s lengthy blonde hair had been tied back with a colorful elastic band, and she was dressed in a black sports bra, skintight black exercise pants and white sneakers. The outfit revealed her chiseled stomach, delicate navel, and a small flower tattoo above her right hipbone. Her friend looked almost identical, right down to the workout ensemble, sans the body art, and it was clear they had come from an exercise class, most likely at the mammoth health club next door.
“What’s the score?” she asked.
“The Cowboys are up by seven, but they have a first-and-goal at the two, so make it fourteen.”
The little box in the corner of the TV screen contained the information she was looking for, so the question was clearly intended as an icebreaker.
“I’m Jack,” he said, extending his freshly wiped hand. “And this is my good friend, Jerry.”
“Hi.” She proffered a surprisingly sturdy handshake and nodded toward Jerry. “I’m Briana, and this is my sister, Courtney.”
That explains the resemblance.
“Great to meet you. Are you twins, by chance?”
“We are.” Briana raised an eyebrow. “But don’t get any crazy ideas.”
Was she reading his mind?
“I wouldn’t think of it.”
“Uh-huh. Then why have you been staring at my body since I walked in?”
“Well, it’s pretty impressive, if you don’t mind my saying.” He waggled a finger up and down at her. “And your outfit really shows it off, which can’t be an oversight on your part.”
“This is perfectly normal exercise attire.”
“Maybe, but you intentionally wore it into a sports bar full of men bursting with testosterone, so you can’t be surprised that the majority of us are undressing you with our eyes.”
“A guy would have to be gay otherwise.”
“Besides, I’ve been staring at your body particularly hard because I’m mesmerized by that flower tattoo on your hip. Is that how I tell the two of you apart?”
Jerry busted out in laughter.
“Oh my,” she said. “You’re a feisty thing, aren’t you?”
Jack nodded. “I’m afraid so.”
Briana looked toward Jerry. “Is he always like this?”
Jerry raised his hands. “I’m married. No feistiness here.”
“You can sit next to Jerry if it makes you feel safer,” Jack offered. “Truth be known, I’m not very good at keeping my hands to myself.”
“No need. I think I can handle you.”
Briana shook her head and smiled. “There you go again, getting more of those crazy ideas.”
“You started it.”
“Hell, yeah. You come in here, dressed like that, and plant crazy ideas into the heads of poor, unsuspecting men…”
Now Courtney laughed. “Boy, he’s got you pegged, Brie. Just leave me out of it this time, okay?”
Jack leaned back in his chair and locked eyes with Courtney. “Okay, at this point I really am getting some crazy ideas. This time, you say? What happened the other times?”
Chip, the bartender, showed up at just the wrong moment to interrupt what promised to be some juicy details. “Hi, Brie. The usual?”
The young man was undoubtedly a bodybuilder, sporting arms that threatened to tear through the sleeves of his referee-striped shirt at any moment, and his lengthy blond hair spilled beyond his shoulders. Jack had a pretty good idea why Briana enjoyed coming there.
“Same for you, Courtney?”
“Coming right up.”
Jack jumped back in. “So, are you really a Monday Night Football fan or just a Chip groupie?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Yeah, right. I saw how your eyes locked on his ass while he walked to the other end of the bar. Hell, even I had a hard time ignoring it.”
“Okay, so he’s great eye candy and a lot of fun to watch, but the boy is far more likely to go home with you than me.”
Jack was about to take a sip of his beer, but he set it back on the bar instead. “Wait. Are you saying the Chipster bats left-handed?”
“You catch on fast.”
“Damn. I didn’t get that at all. Too bad for you, though.”
“Why? I’m having lots of fun playing with you tonight, and it looks to me like you’re in fine shape.” She reached over and squeezed on his upper arm. “Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.”
“Well, I thought I was pretty well ripped until Thor showed up.”
Briana stifled a laugh as Chip returned with two cocktail glasses rimmed in sugar, and he drained the contents of a large shaker into both of them before adding a toothpick pierced through a slice of orange and a cherry. The amber liquid had a cloudy appearance with little bits of citrus floating in it.
“What in the world is that?” Jack inquired.
“It’s a sidecar,” Briana answered.
“Yeah, it’s really old school.”
“Must be with a name like that. What’s in it?”
“Brandy, orange liqueur and fresh-squeezed lemon juice shaken over ice.”
“It’s actually quite good. Try it.”
Jack reached over, took her glass and sampled the drink. It was rich and tart with the sugar on the rim adding just the right amount of sweetness. “Not my cup of tea, but pretty good.”
“Please add their tab to my bill,” Jack instructed as Chip the Adonis sauntered past them again. “Sky’s the limit.”
“That’s very generous of you,” Briana said. “Thanks.”
“Yes, thank you,” Courtney added.
Briana flashed him a wicked smile. “I suppose you’ll be expecting something in return?”
“Is that actually a question or just wishful thinking?”
“What’s your preference?”
“Look, if you keep answering my questions with more questions, this conversation won’t go anywhere.”
“Maybe I like ambiguity.”
Jack leaned back and locked eyes with Courtney again. “Am I being picked up, here? If so, it’s the most unusual strategy I’ve ever seen.”
“I have no idea what she’s doing,” Courtney answered. “But then, I usually don’t. You’d think, as twins, we’d be totally in sync, but in reality…”
“You’re completely different.”
“So, I guess the whole ménage à trois concept your sister conjured up is off the table, huh?”
“You are correct, sir.”
Jack tilted his head and raised his hands in a “too bad, so sad” fashion and adopted his best wise guy accent. “Eh. Whattaya gonna do?”
They all laughed as Jack leaned forward and turned toward Briana again. He grabbed the seat of her barstool and pulled her toward him, between his legs.
“So. Where were we?”
“I believe you were trying to sleep with my sister.”
“And you, too, of course. We mustn’t forget that.”
“No, we mustn’t.” She chuckled.
“Besides, as I just pointed out, you planted the whole sexcapade with the twins idea when you sat down.”
“Actually, I told you not to get any crazy ideas like that.”
“C’mon, if I told you not to think of elephants, what would you think about?”
They both took sips of their drinks.
“So, my dear Briana. What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a sex therapist.”
Courtney snickered in the background.
He reared back. “Seriously?”
“No.” Briana laughed. “I own a boutique clothing store, just down the street.”
“What do you do?”
“Well, let’s just say I work on mergers and acquisitions.”
She wrinkled her brow. “Why are we just saying that? Isn’t it true?”
“Yes, it’s true. But my life has become complicated recently.”
“The truth is,” Jerry interjected, “he’s just a rich playboy who does whatever he damn well pleases.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Really?”
“No. He’s exaggerating. Right, Jerry?”
“Uh, no, actually. I’m not.”
“Thanks, buddy. I can always rely on you to back me up.”
Jerry gave him a roguish smile and downed another gulp of his beer.
Briana tugged on Jack’s shirttail. “So. How rich are you?”
“I’m not. Look, can we change the subject to something more interesting like…where we’re going after this.”
“Okay, I’ll bite. What do you have in mind?” She picked up her glass and raised it to her lips.
“Well, I live only two hundred and forty-seven blocks from here.”
Briana almost choked on her drink. “Oh really? How convenient! We should just pop on over there.”
“That’s kinda what I was thinking.”
“Then again, I live in the high-rise across the street.”
“Ah, well, that really is convenient, isn’t it?”
“Yes it is.”
Jack strategized for a moment. He really wanted to maneuver this girl into his own king-size bed at his grand house with perfect coffee from his Jura-Capresso machine ready to greet them in the morning after a satisfying night of acrobatic sex. “But my car is right at the curb with the valet. I’m just saying.”
“Really? If it’s the silver Aston Martin, I’m all in.”
“That’s my baby.”
“All right, then. We’re headed to San Juan Capistrano after the game.”
She rolled her eyes. “San Juan Capistrano? I think that’s more than…what did you say? Two hundred and forty-seven blocks?”
“Hmm. Maybe you’re right. I haven’t counted them. Does it matter?”
“I suppose not. But it’s just that much longer before you get your reward.”
Jack’s eyes lit up. “My reward, huh? Sounds intriguing.”
“That was my goal.”
“Um…what would that be, exactly?”
She leaned into him and whispered in his ear. “You get to inspect my body for more tattoos. Every inch of it.”
That shot a thunderbolt from his loins to the base of his neck, and he whispered to her in return as he absorbed the sweet fragrance and moist heat of her sweat. “I suspect it’s a journey worth taking.”
“Oh yeah. You never know what you’ll find. And you can stop along the way to sample a little of this, a little of that. Whatever looks tasty to you.”
Sweet mother of…
He pulled back and stared into her eyes. “So. Your place is right across the street, huh?”