A Good Excuse To Be Badby Miranda Parker
Smart, gorgeous, and too tough for her own good, bail recovery agent and single mom Evangeline Crawford moved to the burbs for a quiet life. Fortunately, it's not turning out that way. . .
Angel spent years digging up the dirt on some of the South's most grimy players. But after a scandal gets too hot, she officially takes a break from investigating. Unofficially… See more details below
Smart, gorgeous, and too tough for her own good, bail recovery agent and single mom Evangeline Crawford moved to the burbs for a quiet life. Fortunately, it's not turning out that way. . .
Angel spent years digging up the dirt on some of the South's most grimy players. But after a scandal gets too hot, she officially takes a break from investigating. Unofficially, she's up to much more: luring bad boys into handcuffs so she can collect a bounty. Business is good and the money is rolling in until a job gone wrong at an Atlanta nightclub kicks off a run of bad luck that puts Angel, and her family, on the wrong side of the law. . . .
"Parker combines murder, romance, and church scandals amid plenty of suggestive sexuality." Publishers Weekly
"An unexpected mystery filled with a good dose of humor and a good mix of characters." Urban Reviews
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A Good Excuse To Be Bad
By MIRANDA PARKER
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Miranda Parker
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWednesday, 11:00 PM Club Night Candy, Underground Atlanta, Georgia
If I weren't so screwed up, I would've sold my soul a long time ago for a handsome man who made me feel pretty or who could at least treat me to a millionaire's martini. Instead, I lingered over a watered-down sparkling apple and felt sorry about what I was about to do to the blue-eyed bartender standing in front of me. Although I shouldn't; after all, I am a bail recovery agent. It's my job to get my skip, no matter the cost. Yet, I had been wondering lately, what was this job costing me?
For the past six weeks, Dustin, the owner of Night Candy and my Judas for this case, had tended the main bar on Wednesday nights. His usual bartender was out on maternity leave. According to Big Tiger, she would return tomorrow, so I had to make my move tonight.
Yet, I wished Big Tiger would have told me how cute and how nice Dustin was. I might have changed my tactic or worn a disguise, so that I could flirt with him again for a different, more pleasant outcome. See, good guys don't like to be strong-armed. It's not sexy, even if it is for a good reason. Such is life ...
Dustin poured me another mocktail. Although I detested the drink's bittersweet taste and smell, I smiled and thanked him anyway. It was time to spark a different, darker conversation. The fact that his eyes twinkled brighter than the fake lights dangling above his station made it a little hard for me to end the good time I was having with him.
"If you need anything, let me know." He stared at me for a while, then left to assist another person sitting at the far end of the bar.
I blushed before he walked away.
Get it together. I shook it off and reminded myself that I was on a deadline. I wanted his help, not his hotness and definitely not another free, fizzled, sugar water. It was time to do what I was paid to do.
When he returned to my station to wipe my area again, I caught his hand.
He looked down at my hand on his, glanced at my full glass, and grinned. "Obviously you don't need another refill."
I giggled. "No, I don't, but I do need something from you."
"I was hoping you would say that." He smiled and took my hand, then held it closer to his chest. "Because I've wanted to know more about you ever since you walked into my club."
"Great." I couldn't help but giggle back. "Does that mean I can ask you a personal question?"
He nodded. "Ask me anything, sweetie." I leaned forward and whispered in his ear. "Do you have a problem with me taking someone out of here?"
"Of course not. You can take me out. My patrons don't mind, long as the tap stays open." He chuckled.
"No, Blue Eyes. I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about dragging someone out of your club. Very ladylike, of course, but I wanted to get your approval before I did it."
He stepped back, looked around, then returned to me. "I don't think I understood you, sweetie. You want to do what in my club?"
"Take someone out."
He contorted his grin into a weird jacked-up W. "And what does that mean?"
"It means that you have someone in the club that I want, and I'll shut this club down if I don't get whom I came for. I don't want to cause a scene, so I'm asking for your cooperation."
He scoffed. "Is this some kind of joke?"
"No, it's a shakedown, Dustin Gregory Taylor, and surprisingly, you're the one who sent me. So I need you to play along with me right now. Okay? Sorry for the inconvenience."
"Sorry?" He stumbled back and let go of my hand. "Who are you? How do you know my name?"
"You're causing a scene, Dustin, and that's not good for business. Why don't you come back over here and I'll tell you ... quietly."
He looked around the bar. The club was jumping so hard only a few people around us noticed his confused facial expression and his almost backstroke into the glass beer mug tower that stood behind him. He ran his hand through his hair, then walked back to me.
He murmured. "Who told you about me?"
"We have a mutual friend." I pulled out my cell phone, scrolled to a saved picture, and showed it to him. "I'm sure you know the man in this mug shot. It's your cousin Cade. Correct?"
His brow wrinkled; then he sighed. "What has he done now?"
"What he always does, Dusty, robs banks and skips bail. But do you want to know the worst thing he's done?"
Dustin just looked at me. He didn't respond.
"Well, I'll tell you anyway. He convinced your mom to put a second mortgage on the family house, in order to pay his bail the last time he got caught. Guess what? He got caught three months ago and then he missed his court date, which means—"
Dustin yanked the towel off this shoulder. "Say what?"
"Your mom's home is in jeopardy if I don't find him tonight. My boss Big Tiger Jones of BT Trusted Bail Bonds is ready to turn your childhood home into his Smyrna office, if you know what I mean."
"Son of a ..." He turned around in a full 360. His towel twirled with him. "This isn't fair."
I nodded. "Life can be that way sometimes."
"I had no clue he had gotten back into trouble. He didn't say anything to me, and my mom ... No wonder she hasn't been sleeping well lately." He rung the towel in his hands, then snapped it against the bar. "I don't believe this."
"Believe me, I understand how frustrating it is to watch your family make horrible mistakes and you or someone you love pay the price for their burden." I thought about my sister Ava. "Dustin, I have to take Cade downtown tonight. We both know that he's here in Night Candy right now and has been sleeping in your back office since his ex-girlfriend Lola kicked him out of her house. So tell me how you want this to go down, nice or easy?"
"Neither." He folded his arms over his chest. "You can't do this, not here. It'll ruin me."
I sighed. "I know, ergo this conversation."
Last year after a stream of violence and crime, the Atlanta Mayor's Office and the Atlanta Police Department issued a new ordinance against crime. Any businesses that appeared to facilitate criminal activity would be shut down. Night Candy already had two strikes against it: for a burglary gone bad that ended in the brutal murder of Atlanta socialite and real-estate heiress Selena Turner, and then there was that cat brawl between two NFL ballers' wives that was televised on a nationally syndicated reality TV show. The club definitely didn't need a showdown between a habitual bank robber and me. I'd tear this place up and anyone who stood between me and Big Tiger's money. I'm that bad, if I need to be.
"Maybe it won't." I touched his hand with hopes that I could calm him down. The last thing I needed was Cade to notice Dusty's agitation. "But you must do as I say."
Dustin leaned toward me. His starry eyes now looked like the eye of a hurricane. I shuddered. Man, he was hot.
"Listen to me," he said. "It's not you I'm concerned about. Cade has made it clear to everyone that he'll never go back to jail. He will fight. Lady, he'll burn my club down with all of us inside before he goes back in."
I patted his shoulders. "I believe you, and that's why Big Tiger sent me. See? Look at me."
"I've been looking at you all night."
"Exactly. This froufrou that I have on is a disguise."
"Didn't look like a disguise to me."
"That's my point, Dustin. I can sweet talk Cade out the back where Big Tiger's waiting for him in the alley. No one will suspect a thing, not even the plainclothes APD dudes hanging around near the champagne fountain."
He looked past me toward the fountain, then lowered his head. "I didn't see them there."
"That's because your attention was on me, just like Cade's will be once he sees me." I grinned. "All I need you to do is to introduce me to him. I'll take it from there."
"Makes sense, but there's a problem." He ruffled his hair again. "Cade's in the cabanas upstairs, but I can't leave the bar. I'll let Ed, the VIP security guard, know you're coming. He'll parade you around for me. What's your name?"
"Angel, that name fits you." He looked at me and then over me. His eyes danced a little; then he frowned. "You're very pretty and too sweet looking to be so hard. Are you really a bounty hunter?"
I slid off the stool, smoothed down my hair and the coral silk chiffon mini cocktail dress my little sister Whitney picked out for me, then turned in the direction of the upstairs cabanas. "Watch and find out."
Night Candy sat in the heart of downtown Atlanta—underneath it, to be more exact—on Kenny's Alley, the nightclub district inside Underground Atlanta. Real-estate moguls, music executives, and Atlanta local celebrities frequented the club whenever they were in town. They also hosted popular mainstay events there. The upscale spot had become so über trendy that unless you were on the VIP list, getting inside was harder than finding a deadbeat dad owing child support. But getting admitted was worth the effort.
On the inside, Night Candy was its name: dark, indulgent, and smooth. Chocolate and plum colors dripped all over the lounge. Velvet and leather wrapped around the bar like cordial cherries. It even smelled like a fresh-opened Russell Stover's box. Dustin looked and smelled even better. I wished we'd met under different circumstances.
The club had three levels with VIP at the top and the best live music I'd heard in a long time: vintage soul, reminiscent of Motown girl groups with a dose of hip-hop and go-go sprinkled on top. My hips sashayed up the stairs to the music until I stopped.
I checked my watch and huffed. In three hours the judge could revoke Cade's bail. There was no time for errors. Cade had to go down now.
I texted Big Tiger. He had assured me he would be outside waiting for us. Trouble was, Big Tiger's promises had 50/50 odds. I promised myself to hire a male tagalong next time, preferably one as big as this Ed guy standing in front of me.
Whoa. I reached the stairs he guarded. Ed was a massive, bronzed bald-headed giant. He had brawn and swagger. My little sister Whitney would eat him up. Dustin must have given him the green light, because by the time I reached the top of the staircase, he was smiling and holding out his hand to help me inside the VIP lounge.
As he gave me a personal tour of what I called a Godiva version of a party room, I spotted Cade and exhaled. The Taylor men definitely had great genes. I didn't have to take a second look at his Fulton County Corrections Office booking photo to know it was him. He was drop-dead handsome—bald and dark, a bad combination for me. I'm a recovering bad-boy-holic. I hoped he wouldn't give me too much trouble, but the thought of a good crawl with this guy was enough to send me to church first thing Sunday morning.
I melted into a milk chocolate lounge chair across from his cabana and waited for his jaw to drop at the sight of me. And boy, did it. He was talking to a barely clad and quite lanky teenybopper when he saw me through the sheer curtain covering the cabana. I grinned and slid my dress up too high for a woman my age to ever do without feeling like some dumb tramp. I wished I could say I was embarrassed acting that way, but I couldn't. I liked having a good excuse to be bad sometimes.
The sad thing about all of this was that the young woman holding on to Cade didn't notice him licking his lips at me. After five minutes of his gross act, she stood up and walked toward me. My chest froze. Maybe she had seen him and was now coming over to warn me to back off or to claw my eyes out.
Yeah, right, like I would let that happen. Homegirl better think twice about dealing with me. But I didn't want to hurt her. I didn't get all shiny and done up to scrap with some girl over a fugitive. Besides, I promised Dustin I wouldn't show out up in here. So I gripped the chair as she approached and relaxed when she breezed past. I watched her enter the ladies' room, then patted my cheeks with my palms. I was getting too old for this crap.
As soon as the child left his side, Cade slinked his way over to where I sat. I looked below at the bar where Dustin watched me. I waved my fingers at him until he dropped the martini he was making. Man, he was cute.
While I daydreamed of a date with Dustin, Cade stood over me. "So you know my cousin?"
I turned toward him. "Is that your way of introducing yourself to me, or are you jealous?"
He smiled and reached for my hand. "My apologies." He kissed my hand. "I'm Cadence Taylor, but everyone calls me Cade. Don't tell my cousin, but I think you're stunning."
"No, I'm not." I giggled. "I'm Angel."
"I can see that." He sat beside me. "Like a guardian angel ... no, a cherub."
"More like an archangel."
He clapped and laughed. "Not you. You don't look like the fighting type. You have sweetness written all over you. You're definitely Dusty's type."
Oh, great. Now you tell me. I moved closer toward him. "And you have 'Bad Boy' written all over you."
He grinned. "You don't have to be afraid of me. I'm a good guy when I need to be."
I smiled back. "Can you promise to be good, if I ask you for a favor?"
He nodded. "Anything for you, Angel."
"I'm tired. I'm ready to go home. Can you escort me to my car? I was supposed to wait for Dustin, but I don't have the stamina for this club life."
"Of course, you don't, because you're a good girl." He stood up and reached for my hand. "Surprisingly, I'm not a clubber either. How about you leave your car and I take you for a quiet night drive through the city, then over to the Cupcakery for some dessert. By the time we get back, Dusty will be closing up this place."
"I don't know. I don't think Dustin would like that so much. Sounds too much like a date."
"Yeah, I guess so." He scratched his head like his cousin, another Taylor trait.
"Besides, your girlfriend would be upset if you left her here."
I pointed toward the ladies' room. "Her."
"Oh, her. We're not together."
I came closer and whispered in his ear. "Neither are Dustin and me."
He smiled and his eyes outshined the VIP lounge.
"Why don't you escort me to my car and follow me home instead, just to make sure I get there safe?"
He placed his hand at the small of my back. "I can do that."
Because Cade almost carried me out of Night Candy, I couldn't text Big Tiger to let him know that I was coming outside. All I could do was hope he was where he said he would be.
We stepped outside. No Big Tiger. I hit the hands-free Talk button on my phone earpiece and voice-activated Big Tiger's phone number to dial. I got nothing. My heart began to race. Where was he?
"Is something wrong?" Cade asked. His hands were all over me.
I removed his hands, but said nothing. I had no words.
Sometimes bail bondsmen needed women locators to lure a defendant out of their hiding spot. I didn't mind doing it. Honestly, I needed the money, but we had a deal. I brought them out; he rode them in. So why was I out here alone? Well, not entirely alone ... with Octopus Cade.
Cade watched me. "Are you having second thoughts?"
"I have a confession to make." I scrambled for something to say while fiddling for my handcuffs. They were trapped somewhere under the chiffon.
"So do I." He pulled me toward him. "I can't keep my hands off you."
I wanted to cuff him, but I couldn't, because he had wrapped his hands around my waist.
"Not here, not like this." I removed his hold on me again, but held on to one of his hands.
He smiled until he felt—I assumed—my cold handcuffs clank against his wrists. "What the—"
"You've violated your bail agreement, Mr. Taylor," I said. Still no Big Tiger in sight. "So you'll have to come with me."
He chuckled as he dangled my handcuffs—the ones I thought had locked him to me—over his head for me to see. A piece of my dress had wedged between the clamp. They were broken. My heart hit the floor.
"Unless these handcuffs are chaining me to your bed, I'm not going anywhere with you, sweetie."
Then, quicker than I anticipated, he head-butted me. I saw stars and fell to the ground. A pain so bad crossed my forehead, it reminded me of labor pains. I couldn't scream. I had to breathe through it to ease the pain.
The head-butting must have stung Cade, too, because he stumbled before he could get his footing. I caught one of his legs and clutched it. I closed my eyes and groaned as he dragged me down the alley. Through the excruciating bumps and scrapes I received holding on to Cade, past the onlookers who didn't care to help this poor damsel in distress, I asked myself, "Why wouldn't I let go?"
Excerpted from A Good Excuse To Be Bad by MIRANDA PARKER Copyright © 2011 by Miranda Parker. Excerpted by permission of DAFINA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Angel Crawford is nothing like her twin sister, Ava. Older by just four minutes, Ava is poised and professional, the wife of one of Georgia's most prominent ministers. Angel, on the other hand, is a bounty hunter and also happens to be a single mother. When Ava's minister husband is found murdered, with Ava close by, it's up to Angel to find out what happened to the brother-in-law she didn't care for and the sister she does. With assistance from her own minister, Justus Morgan, and her mother breathing down her back to get her baby out of jail, Angel finds herself under the gun, literally. She calls in favors and relives her own painful past in an effort to clear her sister's name and bring her back home to her children. Though A Good Excuse to be Bad is not your typical colorful chick lit, there is the banter between Angel and her minister, Justus, that masks sexual attraction between the two. With Justus acting as her sidekick while she tries to solve the mystery, there is plenty of time for them to flirt, though it's often interrupted by life's situations or simply because it's inappropriate in light of what's happening around them. In Angel Crawford, Miranda Parker has the makings of a character with potential longevity, but she should be careful to pick a genre and stick with it. At times this felt like a true mystery, in the vein of Valerie Wilson Wesley's Tamara Hayle character or Grace Edwards' Mali Anderson character. There were times though when it felt like there was a strong desire to make this Christian lit, and not just because the story involved ministers, their families and their parishioners. And, as I said earlier, the flirting and banter between Justus and Angel gives it a chick lit feel, though Angel is a much stronger character than the typical woman you might find in chick lit. Parker should be careful going forward to define which genre this series belongs in, otherwise it may get lost in the crowd. What did you like about this book? Angel and Ava's mother was a riot. She really reminded me of Jenifer Lewis, who seems to have played everyone's mother in black Hollywood at this point. What didn't you like about this book? At times it felt like there was too much going on. Everything leading up to the solving of the mystery was planned out, but the point where the mystery was solved seemed rushed. I'm still not sure that I understood exactly why what happened did. What could the author do to improve this book? Find a genre and stick with it. And balance the story out so that it flows consistently throughout.