Read an Excerpt
Tangled Up In You LP
The glowing white neon above Mort's Bar pulsed and vibrated and attracted the thirsty masses of Truly, Idaho, like a bug light. But Mort's was more than a beer magnet. More than just a place to drink cold Coors and get into a fight on Friday nights. Mort's had historical significance—kind of like the Alamo. While other establishments came and went in the small town, Mort's had always stayed the same.
Until about a year ago when the new owner had spruced the place up with gallons of Lysol and paint and had instituted a strict no-panty-tossing policy. Before that, throwing undies like a ring-toss up onto the row of antlers above the bar had been encouraged as a sort of indoor sporting event. Now, if a woman felt the urge to toss, she got tossed out on her bare ass.
Ah, the good old days.
Maddie Jones stood on the sidewalk in front of Mort's and stared up at the sign, completely immune to the subliminal lure that the light sent out through the impending darkness. An indistinguishable hum of voices and music leached through the cracks in the old building sandwiched between Ace Hardware and the Panda Restaurant.
A couple in jeans and tank tops brushed past Maddie. The door opened and the sound of voices and the unmistakable twang of country music spilled out onto Main Street. The door closed and Maddie remained standing outside. She adjusted the purse strap on her shoulder, then pulled up the zipper on her bulky blue sweater. She hadn't lived in Truly for twenty-nine years, and she'd forgotten how cool it got at night. Even in July.
Her hand lifted toward the old door, thendropped to her side. A surprising rush of apprehension raised the hair on the back of her neck and tilted her stomach. She'd done this dozens of times. So why the apprehension? Why now? she asked herself, even though she knew the answer. Because it was personal this time, and once she opened that door, once she took the first step, there was no going back.
If her friends could see her, standing there as if her feet were set in the concrete, they'd be shocked. She'd interviewed serial killers and cold-blooded murderers, but chatting up nut jobs with anti-social personality disorders was a piece of cake compared to what waited for her inside Mort's. Beyond the No One Under 21 sign, her past waited for her, and as she'd learned recently, digging into other people's pasts was a hell of a lot easier than digging into her own.
"For God's sake," she muttered and reached for the door. She was a little disgusted with herself for being such a wimp and a weenie, and she squelched her apprehension under the heavy fist of her strong will. Nothing was going to happen that she did not want to happen. She was in control. As always.
The heavy thump of the jukebox and the smell of hops and tobacco assaulted her as she stepped inside. The door shut behind her and she paused to let her eyes adjust to the dim light. Mort's was just a bar. Like a thousand others she'd been in across the country. Nothing special, not even the array of antlers hanging above the long mahogany bar was anything out of the ordinary.
Maddie didn't like bars. Especially cowboy bars. The smoke, the music, the steady stream of beer. She didn't particularly care for cowboys either. As far as she was concerned, a pair of snug Wranglers on a tight cowboy butt couldn't quite make up for the boots, the buckles, the wads of chew. She liked her men in suits and Italian leather shoes. Not that she'd had a man, or even a date, in about four years.
She studied the crowd as she wove her way to the middle of the long oak bar and the only empty stool. Her gaze took in cowboy hats and trucker caps, a few crew cuts, and a mullet or two. She noticed ponytails, shoulder-length bobs, and some of the worst perms and flipped bangs to ever come out of the eighties. What she didn't see was the one person she'd come searching for, although she didn't really expect to see him sitting at one of the tables.
She wedged herself onto the stool between a man in a blue T-shirt and a woman with overprocessed hair. Behind the cash register and bottles of alcohol, a mirror ran the length of the bar while two bartenders pulled beers and blended drinks. Neither was the owner of this fine establishment.
"That little gal was into AC/DC, if you know what I mean," said the man on her left, and Maddie figured he wasn't talking about Back in Black or Highway to Hell. The guy in question was about sixty, sported a battered trucker's hat and a beer belly the size of a pony keg. Through the mirror Maddie watched several men down the row nod, paying rapt attention to beer-belly guy.
One of the bartenders set a napkin in front of her and asked what she'd like to drink. He looked to be about nineteen, although she supposed he had to be at least twenty-one. Old enough to pour liquor within the layers of tobacco smoke and knee-deep bullshit.
"Sapphire martini. Extra dry, three olives," she said, calculating the carbs in the olives. She pulled her purse into her lap and watched the bartender turn and reach for the good gin and vermouth.
"I told that little gal she could keep her girlfriend, so long as she brought her over once in a while," the guy on her left added.
"That's what I'm talking about!"
Then again, this was small-town Idaho, where things like liquor laws were sometimes overlooked and some people considered a good bullshit story a form of literature.Tangled Up In You LP. Copyright © by Rachel Gibson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.