Wild Ride

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Overview

Mary Alice Brannigan doesn’t believe in the supernatural. Nor does she expect to find that Dreamland, the decaying amusement park she’s been hired to restore, is a prison for the five Untouchables, the most powerful demons in the history of the world. Plus, there’s a guy she’s falling hard for, and there’s something about him that’s not quite right.
But rocky romances and demented demons aren’t the only problems in Dreamland: Mab’s also coping with a crooked politician, a ...

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Overview

Mary Alice Brannigan doesn’t believe in the supernatural. Nor does she expect to find that Dreamland, the decaying amusement park she’s been hired to restore, is a prison for the five Untouchables, the most powerful demons in the history of the world. Plus, there’s a guy she’s falling hard for, and there’s something about him that’s not quite right.
But rocky romances and demented demons aren’t the only problems in Dreamland: Mab’s also coping with a crooked politician, a supernatural raven, a secret government agency, an inexperienced sorceress, an unsettling inheritance, and some mind-boggling revelations from her past. As her personal demons wreck her newfound relationship and real demons wreck the park, Mab faces down immortal evil and discovers what everybody who’s ever been to an amusement park knows: The end of the ride is always the wildest.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for

AGNES AND THE HITMAN

“Fabulous fun.” —Booklist (Starred review; a Top-Ten Romance of the Year)

Wildly entertaining.Seattle Times

 “A comic caper and raucous romance...laugh-out-loud funny...a fun ride.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Wickedly funny.”—Cincinatti Enquirer

“A bubbly novel with amusing banter and…moments of poignancy.”

Publishers Weekly

DON’T LOOK DOWN

“Bless the day that Crusie and Mayer sat down to chat, for this collaboration is inspired!”—Romantic Times BOOKreviews (Top Pick)

“Crusie + Mayer = a great time. Don’t miss it.”—BookPage

“Noted romance/chick-lit author Crusie (Bet Me) and adventure author Mayer (Z: A Dave Reilly Novel) team up [and] the writing is seamless.” —Library Journal

 “The two writers/two viewpoints style lends itself to humor, and the authors don’t stint on fast-paced action and complication.”—Tampa Tribune

“It’s light; it’s witty; it’s a page-turner. It’s romantic, in a he-man/she-modern-woman manner.”

The State (South Carolina)

“Combines wit, romance, and movie-quality action in one fast-paced book.”—News and Sentinel (Parkesburg, WV)

“Plenty of big guns, helicopters…and light repartee…all in good fun. Readers will be happy to get a bit damp.”—Publishers Weekly

“Think Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie True Lies.”—Georgia Library Quarterly

“This first collaboration between bestselling romance writer Crusie and adventure-thriller writer Mayer is a rare delight. Mayer’s delectably dry sense of humor perfectly complements Crusie’s brand of sharp wit, and together the two have cooked up a sexy, sassy, and smart combination of romance and suspense that is simply irresistible.”—Booklist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781423376064
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 3/28/2010
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 1 MP3-CD, 12 hrs. 18 min.
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer  Crusie

Jennifer Crusie is the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today bestselling author of Tell Me Lies, Crazy for You, Welcome to Temptation, Faking It, Fast Women, and Bet Me.

Bob Mayer is a former Green Beret and the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thirty-two novels under his own name and the pen name Robert Doherty. More than two million copies of his books are in print.

Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer are the authors of Don’t Look Down.

Biography

Don't expect to see Fabio's flowing mane on the cover of any of Jennifer Crusie's romance novels. She completely eschews the tradition of overwrought melodrama and heaving bosoms to toss a comic gauntlet into the romantic arena. Her fun, funny, and frisky books are a refreshing breeze in a genre that could easily grow stale.

Former schoolteacher Jennifer Smith got her Master's degree in Professional Writing and Women's Literature at Wright State University. She wrote her thesis on women's roles in mystery fiction before trying her hand at penning romance novels using her grandmother's family name Crusie. Despite her impressive credentials, she dismisses her debut novel Sizzle as "lousy" even as her fans clamber to gets their hands on this long out-of-print pulp romance. "That damn book is following me around the way early porn films follow actresses," so says Crusie one her web site of Sizzle.

No matter what the author thinks of her first effort, the astounding string of critically lauded bestsellers that followed it have firmly established Crusie as one of the very best writers of contemporary romantic fiction. Much of this is due to her sharp wit and ear for comedic dialogue, humor being an element often sorely missing in romance novels. From the sly private dick tale What the Lady Wants to the frantic Faking It, Crusie's books contain the perfect balance of suspense, snickers, and steamy love scenes.

What's more, the author has raked up a slew of awards, as well as spots on "best romance novels of the year" for Anyone But You, Temptation, Fast Women, and Faking It. Getting Rid of Bradley scored Crusie a RWA Rita award for Best Short Contemporary Fiction, and in 1996, she received a career achievement award for her work in the romantic comedy genre from Romantic Times magazine.

Now, after 13 crowd pleasers and award winners, Crusie is offering up her first-ever collaboration. She teamed up with hard-boiled action writer Bob Mayer (Operation Dragon-Sim) to conjure up Don't Look Down, a wacky escapade that is equal parts comedy, adventure, and playful erotica.

In Don't Look Down, movie director Lucy Armstrong goes toe-to-toe and heart-to-heart with J.T. Wilder, a green beret who serves as an advisor on a movie that is taking an unexpected turn from romantic comedy to blow-‘em-up action flick. Publisher's Weekly has declared the joint-effort "good fun," and Crusie reveals on her website that more fun with Mayer is on the way. The team is currently working on their second novel together Agnes and the Hitman.

As for future solo ventures by Crusie, there's plenty more in store. She not only has another release slotted for 2006 -- a sexy yuletide novella titled Hot Toy, which will appear in St. Martin's Press' Santa Baby anthology -- but she currently has no less than five additional projects on the burner. Among these upcoming releases are a collection of short stories and a book that Crusie is particularly qualified to create: a guide to writing women's fiction.

Good To Know

Crusie and Bob Mayer are making things a little easier for guys who want to check out their new collaborative novel Don't Look Down. All you have to do is remove the cutesy dust jacket to reveal a tough-as-nails camouflage cover design and voila! No one will ever know you're enjoying a romantic comedy.

Crusie is the proud owner of three dogs, one of which is named Lucy. Oddly, the main character of Don't look Down is also named Lucy -- and happens to be a director of dog food commercials. Coincidence?

Crusie has a few nonfiction works to her credit, including introductions in Totally Charmed, a collection of essays about Alyssa Milano's cult TV series, and Anne Rice: A Critical Companion, which the author wrote under her given name of Jennifer Smith.

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    1. Hometown:
      Ohio
    1. Date of Birth:
      1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Ohio
    1. Education:
      B.A., Bowling Green State University, 1973; M.A., Wright State University; Ph.D., Ohio University, 1986

Read an Excerpt

1

Mary Alice Brannigan sat on the roof of the Dreamland carousel at twenty minutes to midnight and considered her work in the light from the lamp on her yellow miner’s hat.

It was good.

FunFun, the redheaded clown sitting cross-legged next to her on the roof’s peak, was fully restored again. Of all the clowns in the park, including the beautiful seven-foot ironclad Fun at the Dreamland entrance, this wooden one was her favorite: exuberantly happy, one yellow-gloved hand pulling back his striped blue-green coat to show off his orange-and-gold-checked waistcoat, the other flung above his head, reaching for the gold panpipes he’d lost long ago.

“Don’t worry, baby,” she said to him, patting her work bag between them. “I got your pipes right here.”

He grinned crookedly down at her, or at least down toward the ground as a breeze picked up, biting with the chill of the Ohio October night. Mab pulled her canvas painting coat closer around her and looked out over the newly restored jewel box of an amusement park. It had taken her thirty-nine years, but now she was not only in Dreamland, she’d saved it. Once I finish the Fortune-Telling Machine, I will have put this place back the way it was at the very beginning. I will belong here. I rock.

And the best part was that she was surveying it all at night with no—

“You up there, Mab?” Glenda yelled.

—people around to spoil the moment.

“Stop what you’re doing and come down here,” Glenda called, the cheer in her voice sounding as platinum bright as her hair, and about as authentic. “We’ll walk you back to the Dream Cream, see you get upstairs to bed. You need your sleep, honey.”

Mab gritted her teeth. This was what she got for taking a break to gloat over her work: people showed up and shouted at her.

She pulled her bag closer and took out the pipes, careful not to scratch any of the five little golden cylinders. Then she fished a tube of fast-set glue out of the bag, stood up carefully, and reached to glue the pipes into the FunFun’s empty fingers, tilting her head back so the light from her miner’s cap shone on the hand.

A small black raven swooped down and perched on the clown’s head.

“Beat it, Frankie,” Mab whispered to the bird, trying to brush it away without dropping the pipes or falling to her death.

Frankie flapped his wings and rose above the clown and then settled down on the upflung hand, cawing at her like a cheese-grater dragged across a fire escape.

Cinderella got bluebirds doing her hair, Mab thought. I get ravens screwing with my work.

From below, Mab heard the raspy voice of Glenda’s friend Delpha, an echo of Frankie’s: “She’s up there, Glenda. Frankie knows.”

“I know, too,” Glenda said, and then she raised her voice. “I’m not kidding, Mab, stop whatever you’re doing up there right now.”

Mab leaned in, holding on to the glue with one hand and the pipes with the other, and looked Frankie right in the eye.

“These pipes are going in that hand, bird,” she told him, serious as death. “Do not get between me and my work.”

Frankie watched her for a moment, his eyes steady and bright with intelligence, and then he cawed again, the sound going down Mab’s spine like a rasp, and flapped off.

“Okay, then.” Mab checked for the side of the pipes with the broken metal rod on it, reached up and squirted a generous shot of glue into the hole in the FunFun’s palm, and slotted the broken rod into it. She held it for sixty seconds, ignoring demands to quit from down below, and then wiggled it a little to see if it had set.

The pipes clicked, the sound sharp in the night, as if the metal rod had moved into place, engaged a gear or something.

What the hell?

“Okay, that’s it,” Glenda said, the brightness gone from her voice. “I’m coming up there.”

At fifty-nine, Glenda was probably in better shape than Mab was at thirty-nine, but it was dark, and Glenda liked a cocktail or three after six, and while she was often annoying, Mab didn’t want her dead, so . . .

“Hold on.” Mab capped her glue and put it in her paint bag and eased down the turquoise-and-blue-striped carousel roof to peer over the edge, gripping the gold scalloped trim for insurance.

Glenda stood on the flagstone below in the spotlight cast from the lamp on Mab’s hat, one hand on her capri-clad hip, the other waving a cigarette, her spiky white hair glowing over her pink angora sweater. Beside her, ancient, black-eyed little Delpha looked up from under lowered brows, her improbably black hair slicked down on both sides of her sunken face like two strokes of black paint over a skull, the rest of her swathed in a dark blue shawl that blended into the night.

Frankie flapped down to sit on Delpha’s shoulder.

Death’s parrot, Mab thought. “Glenda, I’m almost done—”

“Done?” Glenda smiled up at her, tense for some reason. “But, honey, you shouldn’t be doing anything up there—”

Somebody staggered out of the night and lurched into Glenda, who bumped into Delpha, who stumbled back and dislodged Frankie, who went for the staggerer, who screamed and batted at him.

Frankie flew to sit on the edge of the carousel roof beside Mab, and the guy looked up.

Mab saw brown hair, bleary eyes, and a dense five o’clock shadow over an orange Bengals shirt: Drunk Dave, one of the Beer Pavilion regulars who should have been out of the park when it had closed forty-five minutes before. He’d probably stumbled off to pee in the trees that rimmed the island and gotten lost. Again.

“Whassat?” Drunk Dave squinted up at her, and Mab realized that to him, she was just a big light in the black sky.

“This is God, Dave. Go home, sober up, get a job, and never get drunk again. Or you’ll go to hell.”

Drunk Dave’s mouth dropped open, making him look even more slack-jawed than usual.

“Go home, Dave, the park’s closed,” Glenda said.

“Okay,” Dave said, and staggered on.

“Come down, Mab, and we’ll walk you back to the Dream Cream,” Glenda said. “It’s not safe for you to wander around alone.”

“I’ve been walking around this park alone for months, and now you tell me it’s not safe?”

“Well, there’s Dave.”

“I can take care of Drunk Dave with one hand wrapped around FunFun.”

“And there’s danger.” Glenda waved her cigarette around vaguely. “It’s . . . October.”

“Right. The dangerous month.” Mab shook her head, which made the light from the lamp on her hat swing wildly, and then she crawled back up the striped metal roof. The park people were just odd; that was all there was to it. It probably came from living on the grounds. You lived full-time in Dreamland, you got strange.

“Mab, get down here right now!”

“I’m coming!”

She fastened the flap on her work bag, made her way back to the ladder on the opposite side of the carousel, and climbed down to the flagstones that covered most of the park. Tomorrow she’d come out in the daylight and see the wood FunFun in all its finished glory, and then she’d move on to the Fortune-Telling Machine—

Something hard ran into her, and she lost her hat as she went down and smacked her head on the stone. “Ouch!” she said, and grabbed her hat and put it back on so that the light on it would stun the moron who’d knocked her down. “Damn it, Dave—”

Huge turquoise eyes gleamed down under iron-hard red-orange curls. A stiff turquoise striped coat loomed over her, metal protesting as it bent. Then the thing brought its red-orange lips together slowly and ground out “Mmmm” and then spread them apart with the sound of rending metal to say, “ab,” its smile widening and its cheeks splitting as it jerkily held out its yellow iron-gloved hand to help her up.

“FunFun?” Mab said faintly.

The thing nodded, its head moving slowly up and down with a metallic squeaking sound.

Mab screamed.

Ethan John Wayne stared across the causeway at the locked iron gates that led to Dreamland as the sound of his taxi faded into the darkness. Something was missing on the other side of the gate, but it had been a long time since he’d been home, and he couldn’t figure out what it was. Well, maybe they’d moved something. A lot of things changed in twenty years.

He rubbed his chest, feeling the scar that covered the Taliban bullet pressing on his heart. Dreamland was as good a place to die as any, and he had family here, which counted for something. What, he wasn’t quite sure.

He dropped his rucksack to the ground, pulled out a leather flask, and took a good, long slug. Then he put the flask away and squared his shoulders to go back into the park. It wasn’t much of a home, he thought, but at least it was peaceful, no people around to—

A scream rent the night. Ethan threw his vest on, grabbed his .45-caliber pistol from the pack, and sprinted for the entrance. He leapt as he reached the ten-foot-high wrought-iron gate, free hand reaching for the crossbar just below the top, and fell right onto his butt.

Cursing, he got to his feet and approached the gate, factoring in his inebriated state. Mission planning, sir. He tucked the gun inside his Kevlar vest so he could use both hands. It took longer to climb the damn thing than it should have, and when he got to the top of the gate, he tottered and almost fell again, but then he lowered himself and dropped the few remaining feet to the ground, narrowly missing the line of golf carts parked there. He drew his gun and ran across the causeway and down the midway toward the carousel, where he could see three people gathered.

He came to an abrupt halt when he saw his mother standing with her arm around a woman dressed like a bag lady in a long, bulky, paint-splotched coat and a yellow miner’s hat.

“What’s going on?” he demanded.

His mother turned, and her face lit up like it was Christmas. “Ethan!” she said, and flung herself at him, hugging him so tight that he couldn’t get a breath. “What’s this?” She pulled back and knocked her knuckles on his chest, testing out his body armor and making him wince, since she was banging right over his bullet. “Oh, I don’t care, you’re home!”

She flung her arms around him again, and Ethan patted the back of her fuzzy sweater and looked over her shoulder to see Delpha staring at him, with Frankie on her shoulder staring, too. “So you have returned,” Delpha said. A flicker of a smile touched her thin lips, gone as quickly as it had appeared, but for her, it was like Glenda’s bear hug.

“Yep,” Ethan said. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw old Gus come limping up from the back of the park.

“ ’Bout time you came home,” Gus said gruffly in an overly loud voice, but he pounded Ethan on the shoulder just the same. “Good to see you, boy. You’re just in time.”

For what? Ethan wondered.

Glenda raised a tearstained face. “How long can you stay? You have to stay a long time.”

“I quit the Army. I’m staying,” Ethan said, and Glenda looked startled, but then she must have decided not to look a gift son in the mouth because she let go of him and patted his chest again.

“I’m so glad.” Her eyes welled up again. “Oh, I’m so glad. We even have a job for you! You can help Gus with security!”

“I don’t want a job, Mom. I just want some peace and quiet.” He looked around at them. “Who screamed?”

“I did,” the bag lady said. “Sorry. Usually I’m very calm, but I got run down by a clown.” She touched the back of her miner’s hat gingerly. “I hit my head.”

“Someone hit you?” Ethan said, feeling something that would have been outrage once. “Where is he?”

“No, it ran into me. . . .” She stopped, taking her hat off. “I think there’s blood.”

“Which way did he go?” Ethan said, and she said, “I don’t know” at the same time Glenda said, “Let it go, Ethan.”

Ethan started to speak and got one of his mother’s famous Don’t Argue looks.

“She hit her head and hallucinated the clown,” Glenda said, enunciating each word clearly. Then she turned to the bag lady. “You hallucinated it.”

The woman blinked at her and then said, “Yes. I did.”

“Okay,” Ethan said, and reached toward her. “Let me check your head.”

She stepped back. “I’m gonna say no on that.”

“Mab, Ethan has been in the military,” Glenda said proudly. “Ethan, this is Mab, she’s restoring the park.” She looked from Ethan to Mab and her smile faded. “You look . . . so much alike,” she said, and then shook her head. “Never mind, I’m just so glad you’re here.”

Ethan looked at the bag lady. If he looked like that, he was closer to death than he’d thought. He said to the woman, “I’m trained in first aid,” trying to move the whole thing along before he passed out from exhaustion and alcohol.

“No, thank you,” she said.

Ethan circled around her to look at the back of her head. Her hair was a thick, red-brown choppy tangle—it looked like she hacked it off with a knife—but he couldn’t see much blood, so it was probably just a scratch, not a scalp wound or else it would have been a mess. Scalp wounds were bad, hard to stop the bleeding. And then if the bullet hit bone . . . Ethan closed his eyes for a second.

“What are you doing?” the woman said, turning to look at him.

“You’ll be fine. Who hit you?”

“A FunFun ran into me.” She looked up at the carousel roof. “I was working on the FunFun up there, but he’s still there, and anyway he’s made of wood. The one that ran into me was a big metal-covered one, like the iron one by the gate. Did you see it when you came in?”

“No,” Ethan said, now realizing what had been missing. The damn clown statue.

“Then it was probably that one. Of course, that’s insane. I’m not insane.”

“Right,” Ethan said, glancing at his mother, who looked sane but worried.

“I told her to get off that roof,” Glenda said, as if he’d accused her of not helping. “I told her to stop working.” Whatever had rattled her before was gone, possibly because she’d gotten a grip and realized they didn’t look alike.

Gus grabbed his arm and his attention. “Come on, I’ll show you how to do the Dragon run. Now that you’re here for good, you can take over.”

“See,” Glenda said to the woman, patting her arm. “Everything’s fine now. Gus is going to do the midnight Dragon run, just like always. Everything’s normal. No big iron, uh, robot clowns.”

“Robot clowns?” the woman said. “This park has robot clowns?”

“No, no.” Glenda patted again.

Patting, Ethan realized, was his mother’s main form of communication. That and a wide array of looks.

“I’ll take you back to the Dream Cream,” Glenda told her. “We’ll get that blood cleaned up, make you a cup of tea, you’ll be good as new.”

She gave Delpha a look, and Delpha nodded at her and then faded away from the carousel.

Glenda smiled at Ethan. “As for you, young man, you come right to my trailer when you’re done with Gus. Tomorrow I’ll get Hank’s old trailer cleaned out and made up for you. You’ll have a place of your own.” Her eyes welled up again. “I’m so happy you’re home, Ethan.”

“Right,” Ethan said. “Don’t clean up the trailer, I’d rather sleep in the woods. Are you sure you’re all right walking around here? If somebody’s in the park—”

“We’re fine,” his mother said firmly, and he thought, She knows who it was. “I’m so glad you’re back,” she added.

“Me too, Mom,” he lied, and made plans to get whatever the hell was going on out of Glenda once they were alone.

Once he was away from the carousel, the park seemed darker than Ethan remembered it, and he realized it was because there was orange cellophane over the streetlights for the park’s Screamland weekends, the reason for the skeletons somebody had strewn around along with—

A ghost flew in his face, empty-eyed and openmouthed, and he held off on drawing his gun as the pulley it was on yanked it back into the tree he’d just passed, not a ghost, just a skull beneath some white stuff that looked like fog but was probably cheesecloth.

“Geez,” he said to Gus, and Gus nodded.

“Mab knows how to make a ghost,” Gus said, and Ethan thought, I know how to make ghosts, too, as he relaxed his grip on his pistol.

He looked closer at the fence and saw the flickering red light of the infrared beam that had tripped the ghost, the same thing he’d seen in Afghanistan trip explosives. He shivered.

“Mab’s uncle got her the job,” Gus said as they headed down the midway to the back of the park. “Glenda wasn’t too sure about her, since her uncle’s Ray Brannigan, and you know them Brannigans, but once Mab got here, it was fine. Hard worker.”

“Brannigans?” Ethan said, keeping an eye out for more trip-wire ghosts among the skeletons and giant spiders, which wasn’t easy, given his current alcohol content.

“Yeah, you know, that crazy family, always trying to shut us down.”

Ethan bumped into the fence and another ghost flew at him. He batted it out of the way as its pulley yanked it back into the trees. “Of all the times I could have picked to come home, I had to come for Screamland.”

“What’s that?” Gus said, cocking his head.

“I had to come home for Screamland,” Ethan said in a louder voice.

“ ’Course you did,” Gus said. “Big party planned for Halloween ’cause that’s when the park’s gonna be all restored. We got media coming in Friday after next, get it on the news so a lotta people’ll come.” He sounded proud, like he talked about the media all the time.

“Great,” Ethan said in a normal voice and noticed that Gus didn’t hear. Well, he was old, and running the damn Dragon Coaster couldn’t be easy on the ears.

The good news was the park would close after Halloween and stay closed until spring. He could stand two more weekends of the park full of screaming people and cheesecloth ghosts to spend whatever months he had left in solitude and quiet.

They passed the paddleboat dock. A figure moved in the shadows out there, watching them, and Ethan’s hand again went toward the gun tucked into his vest.

Excerpted from Wild Ride by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer.

Copyright © 2010 by Argh Ink, LLC.

Published in March 2010 by St. Martin’s Press.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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First Chapter

Wild Ride


By Jennifer Crusie

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2010 Jennifer Crusie
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312533779

1
Mary Alice Brannigan sat on the roof of the Dreamland carousel at twenty minutes to midnight and considered her work in the light from the lamp on her yellow miner’s hat.
It was good.
FunFun, the redheaded clown sitting cross-legged next to her on the roof’s peak, was fully restored again. Of all the clowns in the park, including the beautiful seven-foot ironclad Fun at the Dreamland entrance, this wooden one was her favorite: exuberantly happy, one yellow-gloved hand pulling back his striped blue-green coat to show off his orange-and-gold-checked waistcoat, the other flung above his head, reaching for the gold panpipes he’d lost long ago.
“Don’t worry, baby,” she said to him, patting her work bag between them. “I got your pipes right here.”
He grinned crookedly down at her, or at least down toward the ground as a breeze picked up, biting with the chill of the Ohio October night. Mab pulled her canvas painting coat closer around her and looked out over the newly restored jewel box of an amusement park. It had taken her thirty-nine years, but now she was not only in Dreamland, she’d saved it. Once I finish the Fortune-Telling Machine, I will have put this place back the way it was at the very beginning. I will belong here. I rock.
And the best part was that she was surveying it all at night with no—
“You up there, Mab?” Glenda yelled.
—people around to spoil the moment.
“Stop what you’re doing and come down here,” Glenda called, the cheer in her voice sounding as platinum bright as her hair, and about as authentic. “We’ll walk you back to the Dream Cream, see you get upstairs to bed. You need your sleep, honey.”
Mab gritted her teeth. This was what she got for taking a break to gloat over her work: people showed up and shouted at her.
She pulled her bag closer and took out the pipes, careful not to scratch any of the five little golden cylinders. Then she fished a tube of fast-set glue out of the bag, stood up carefully, and reached to glue the pipes into the FunFun’s empty fingers, tilting her head back so the light from her miner’s cap shone on the hand.
A small black raven swooped down and perched on the clown’s head.
“Beat it, Frankie,” Mab whispered to the bird, trying to brush it away without dropping the pipes or falling to her death.
Frankie flapped his wings and rose above the clown and then settled down on the upflung hand, cawing at her like a cheese-grater dragged across a fire escape.
Cinderella got bluebirds doing her hair, Mab thought. I get ravens screwing with my work.
From below, Mab heard the raspy voice of Glenda’s friend Delpha, an echo of Frankie’s: “She’s up there, Glenda. Frankie knows.”
“I know, too,” Glenda said, and then she raised her voice. “I’m not kidding, Mab, stop whatever you’re doing up there right now.”
Mab leaned in, holding on to the glue with one hand and the pipes with the other, and looked Frankie right in the eye.
“These pipes are going in that hand, bird,” she told him, serious as death. “Do not get between me and my work.”
Frankie watched her for a moment, his eyes steady and bright with intelligence, and then he cawed again, the sound going down Mab’s spine like a rasp, and flapped off.
“Okay, then.” Mab checked for the side of the pipes with the broken metal rod on it, reached up and squirted a generous shot of glue into the hole in the FunFun’s palm, and slotted the broken rod into it. She held it for sixty seconds, ignoring demands to quit from down below, and then wiggled it a little to see if it had set.
The pipes clicked, the sound sharp in the night, as if the metal rod had moved into place, engaged a gear or something.
What the hell?
“Okay, that’s it,” Glenda said, the brightness gone from her voice. “I’m coming up there.”
At fifty-nine, Glenda was probably in better shape than Mab was at thirty-nine, but it was dark, and Glenda liked a cocktail or three after six, and while she was often annoying, Mab didn’t want her dead, so . . .
“Hold on.” Mab capped her glue and put it in her paint bag and eased down the turquoise-and-blue-striped carousel roof to peer over the edge, gripping the gold scalloped trim for insurance.
Glenda stood on the flagstone below in the spotlight cast from the lamp on Mab’s hat, one hand on her capri-clad hip, the other waving a cigarette, her spiky white hair glowing over her pink angora sweater. Beside her, ancient, black-eyed little Delpha looked up from under lowered brows, her improbably black hair slicked down on both sides of her sunken face like two strokes of black paint over a skull, the rest of her swathed in a dark blue shawl that blended into the night.
Frankie flapped down to sit on Delpha’s shoulder.
Death’s parrot, Mab thought. “Glenda, I’m almost done—”
“Done?” Glenda smiled up at her, tense for some reason. “But, honey, you shouldn’t be doing anything up there—”
Somebody staggered out of the night and lurched into Glenda, who bumped into Delpha, who stumbled back and dislodged Frankie, who went for the staggerer, who screamed and batted at him.
Frankie flew to sit on the edge of the carousel roof beside Mab, and the guy looked up.
Mab saw brown hair, bleary eyes, and a dense five o’clock shadow over an orange Bengals shirt: Drunk Dave, one of the Beer Pavilion regulars who should have been out of the park when it had closed forty-five minutes before. He’d probably stumbled off to pee in the trees that rimmed the island and gotten lost. Again.
“Whassat?” Drunk Dave squinted up at her, and Mab realized that to him, she was just a big light in the black sky.
“This is God, Dave. Go home, sober up, get a job, and never get drunk again. Or you’ll go to hell.”
Drunk Dave’s mouth dropped open, making him look even more slack-jawed than usual.
“Go home, Dave, the park’s closed,” Glenda said.
“Okay,” Dave said, and staggered on.
“Come down, Mab, and we’ll walk you back to the Dream Cream,” Glenda said. “It’s not safe for you to wander around alone.”
“I’ve been walking around this park alone for months, and now you tell me it’s not safe?”
“Well, there’s Dave.”
“I can take care of Drunk Dave with one hand wrapped around FunFun.”
“And there’s danger.” Glenda waved her cigarette around vaguely. “It’s . . . October.”
“Right. The dangerous month.” Mab shook her head, which made the light from the lamp on her hat swing wildly, and then she crawled back up the striped metal roof. The park people were just odd; that was all there was to it. It probably came from living on the grounds. You lived full-time in Dreamland, you got strange.
“Mab, get down here right now!”
“I’m coming!”
She fastened the flap on her work bag, made her way back to the ladder on the opposite side of the carousel, and climbed down to the flagstones that covered most of the park. Tomorrow she’d come out in the daylight and see the wood FunFun in all its finished glory, and then she’d move on to the Fortune-Telling Machine—
Something hard ran into her, and she lost her hat as she went down and smacked her head on the stone. “Ouch!” she said, and grabbed her hat and put it back on so that the light on it would stun the moron who’d knocked her down. “Damn it, Dave—”
Huge turquoise eyes gleamed down under iron-hard red-orange curls. A stiff turquoise striped coat loomed over her, metal protesting as it bent. Then the thing brought its red-orange lips together slowly and ground out “Mmmm” and then spread them apart with the sound of rending metal to say, “ab,” its smile widening and its cheeks splitting as it jerkily held out its yellow iron-gloved hand to help her up.
“FunFun?” Mab said faintly.
The thing nodded, its head moving slowly up and down with a metallic squeaking sound.
Mab screamed.
Ethan John Wayne stared across the causeway at the locked iron gates that led to Dreamland as the sound of his taxi faded into the darkness. Something was missing on the other side of the gate, but it had been a long time since he’d been home, and he couldn’t figure out what it was. Well, maybe they’d moved something. A lot of things changed in twenty years.
He rubbed his chest, feeling the scar that covered the Taliban bullet pressing on his heart. Dreamland was as good a place to die as any, and he had family here, which counted for something. What, he wasn’t quite sure.
He dropped his rucksack to the ground, pulled out a leather flask, and took a good, long slug. Then he put the flask away and squared his shoulders to go back into the park. It wasn’t much of a home, he thought, but at least it was peaceful, no people around to—
A scream rent the night. Ethan threw his vest on, grabbed his .45-caliber pistol from the pack, and sprinted for the entrance. He leapt as he reached the ten-foot-high wrought-iron gate, free hand reaching for the crossbar just below the top, and fell right onto his butt.
Cursing, he got to his feet and approached the gate, factoring in his inebriated state. Mission planning, sir. He tucked the gun inside his Kevlar vest so he could use both hands. It took longer to climb the damn thing than it should have, and when he got to the top of the gate, he tottered and almost fell again, but then he lowered himself and dropped the few remaining feet to the ground, narrowly missing the line of golf carts parked there. He drew his gun and ran across the causeway and down the midway toward the carousel, where he could see three people gathered.
He came to an abrupt halt when he saw his mother standing with her arm around a woman dressed like a bag lady in a long, bulky, paint-splotched coat and a yellow miner’s hat.
“What’s going on?” he demanded.
His mother turned, and her face lit up like it was Christmas. “Ethan!” she said, and flung herself at him, hugging him so tight that he couldn’t get a breath. “What’s this?” She pulled back and knocked her knuckles on his chest, testing out his body armor and making him wince, since she was banging right over his bullet. “Oh, I don’t care, you’re home!”
She flung her arms around him again, and Ethan patted the back of her fuzzy sweater and looked over her shoulder to see Delpha staring at him, with Frankie on her shoulder staring, too. “So you have returned,” Delpha said. A flicker of a smile touched her thin lips, gone as quickly as it had appeared, but for her, it was like Glenda’s bear hug.
“Yep,” Ethan said. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw old Gus come limping up from the back of the park.
“ ’Bout time you came home,” Gus said gruffly in an overly loud voice, but he pounded Ethan on the shoulder just the same. “Good to see you, boy. You’re just in time.”
For what? Ethan wondered.
Glenda raised a tearstained face. “How long can you stay? You have to stay a long time.”
“I quit the Army. I’m staying,” Ethan said, and Glenda looked startled, but then she must have decided not to look a gift son in the mouth because she let go of him and patted his chest again.
“I’m so glad.” Her eyes welled up again. “Oh, I’m so glad. We even have a job for you! You can help Gus with security!”
“I don’t want a job, Mom. I just want some peace and quiet.” He looked around at them. “Who screamed?”
“I did,” the bag lady said. “Sorry. Usually I’m very calm, but I got run down by a clown.” She touched the back of her miner’s hat gingerly. “I hit my head.”
“Someone hit you?” Ethan said, feeling something that would have been outrage once. “Where is he?”
“No, it ran into me. . . .” She stopped, taking her hat off. “I think there’s blood.”
“Which way did he go?” Ethan said, and she said, “I don’t know” at the same time Glenda said, “Let it go, Ethan.”
Ethan started to speak and got one of his mother’s famous Don’t Argue looks.
“She hit her head and hallucinated the clown,” Glenda said, enunciating each word clearly. Then she turned to the bag lady. “You hallucinated it.”
The woman blinked at her and then said, “Yes. I did.”
“Okay,” Ethan said, and reached toward her. “Let me check your head.”
She stepped back. “I’m gonna say no on that.”
“Mab, Ethan has been in the military,” Glenda said proudly. “Ethan, this is Mab, she’s restoring the park.” She looked from Ethan to Mab and her smile faded. “You look . . . so much alike,” she said, and then shook her head. “Never mind, I’m just so glad you’re here.”
Ethan looked at the bag lady. If he looked like that, he was closer to death than he’d thought. He said to the woman, “I’m trained in first aid,” trying to move the whole thing along before he passed out from exhaustion and alcohol.
“No, thank you,” she said.
Ethan circled around her to look at the back of her head. Her hair was a thick, red-brown choppy tangle—it looked like she hacked it off with a knife—but he couldn’t see much blood, so it was probably just a scratch, not a scalp wound or else it would have been a mess. Scalp wounds were bad, hard to stop the bleeding. And then if the bullet hit bone . . . Ethan closed his eyes for a second.
“What are you doing?” the woman said, turning to look at him.
“You’ll be fine. Who hit you?”
“A FunFun ran into me.” She looked up at the carousel roof. “I was working on the FunFun up there, but he’s still there, and anyway he’s made of wood. The one that ran into me was a big metal-covered one, like the iron one by the gate. Did you see it when you came in?”
“No,” Ethan said, now realizing what had been missing. The damn clown statue.
“Then it was probably that one. Of course, that’s insane. I’m not insane.”
“Right,” Ethan said, glancing at his mother, who looked sane but worried.
“I told her to get off that roof,” Glenda said, as if he’d accused her of not helping. “I told her to stop working.” Whatever had rattled her before was gone, possibly because she’d gotten a grip and realized they didn’t look alike.
Gus grabbed his arm and his attention. “Come on, I’ll show you how to do the Dragon run. Now that you’re here for good, you can take over.”
“See,” Glenda said to the woman, patting her arm. “Everything’s fine now. Gus is going to do the midnight Dragon run, just like always. Everything’s normal. No big iron, uh, robot clowns.”
“Robot clowns?” the woman said. “This park has robot clowns?”
“No, no.” Glenda patted again.
Patting, Ethan realized, was his mother’s main form of communication. That and a wide array of looks.
“I’ll take you back to the Dream Cream,” Glenda told her. “We’ll get that blood cleaned up, make you a cup of tea, you’ll be good as new.”
She gave Delpha a look, and Delpha nodded at her and then faded away from the carousel.
Glenda smiled at Ethan. “As for you, young man, you come right to my trailer when you’re done with Gus. Tomorrow I’ll get Hank’s old trailer cleaned out and made up for you. You’ll have a place of your own.” Her eyes welled up again. “I’m so happy you’re home, Ethan.”
“Right,” Ethan said. “Don’t clean up the trailer, I’d rather sleep in the woods. Are you sure you’re all right walking around here? If somebody’s in the park—”
“We’re fine,” his mother said firmly, and he thought, She knows who it was. “I’m so glad you’re back,” she added.
“Me too, Mom,” he lied, and made plans to get whatever the hell was going on out of Glenda once they were alone.
Once he was away from the carousel, the park seemed darker than Ethan remembered it, and he realized it was because there was orange cellophane over the streetlights for the park’s Screamland weekends, the reason for the skeletons somebody had strewn around along with—
A ghost flew in his face, empty-eyed and openmouthed, and he held off on drawing his gun as the pulley it was on yanked it back into the tree he’d just passed, not a ghost, just a skull beneath some white stuff that looked like fog but was probably cheesecloth.
“Geez,” he said to Gus, and Gus nodded.
“Mab knows how to make a ghost,” Gus said, and Ethan thought, I know how to make ghosts, too, as he relaxed his grip on his pistol.
He looked closer at the fence and saw the flickering red light of the infrared beam that had tripped the ghost, the same thing he’d seen in Afghanistan trip explosives. He shivered.
“Mab’s uncle got her the job,” Gus said as they headed down the midway to the back of the park. “Glenda wasn’t too sure about her, since her uncle’s Ray Brannigan, and you know them Brannigans, but once Mab got here, it was fine. Hard worker.”
“Brannigans?” Ethan said, keeping an eye out for more trip-wire ghosts among the skeletons and giant spiders, which wasn’t easy, given his current alcohol content.
“Yeah, you know, that crazy family, always trying to shut us down.”
Ethan bumped into the fence and another ghost flew at him. He batted it out of the way as its pulley yanked it back into the trees. “Of all the times I could have picked to come home, I had to come for Screamland.”
“What’s that?” Gus said, cocking his head.
“I had to come home for Screamland,” Ethan said in a louder voice.
“ ’Course you did,” Gus said. “Big party planned for Halloween ’cause that’s when the park’s gonna be all restored. We got media coming in Friday after next, get it on the news so a lotta people’ll come.” He sounded proud, like he talked about the media all the time.
“Great,” Ethan said in a normal voice and noticed that Gus didn’t hear. Well, he was old, and running the damn Dragon Coaster couldn’t be easy on the ears.
The good news was the park would close after Halloween and stay closed until spring. He could stand two more weekends of the park full of screaming people and cheesecloth ghosts to spend whatever months he had left in solitude and quiet.
They passed the paddleboat dock. A figure moved in the shadows out there, watching them, and Ethan’s hand again went toward the gun tucked into his vest.
Excerpted from Wild Ride by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer.
Copyright © 2010 by Argh Ink, LLC.
Published in March 2010 by St. Martin’s Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.


Continues...

Excerpted from Wild Ride by Jennifer Crusie Copyright © 2010 by Jennifer Crusie. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 110 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(27)

4 Star

(41)

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(18)

2 Star

(18)

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(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 110 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    His name is Joe!

    This book was a mind blowing read. I LOVED IT! Between demons run a muck and new guards not knowing what to believe. Finding true love, A crazy uncle and reveling shocking secrets. I could not this book down.
    It's definitely in my top five favorite reads!!! I gave it five stars!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 24, 2010

    totally hysterically absorbing

    I didn't want to put it down once I started the book. The characters are like family (we all have at least one member of our family like these folks!). Great story to curl up with.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 19, 2010

    Wild Ride Heads Downhill

    This book while not bad, was a bit disappointing after Agnes and the Hitman. Agnes and the Hitman was the funniest book I've ever read and I bought several copies so that friends and family members could also enjoy it. Perhaps my expectations were a little high then for the next Crusie/Mayer book. The characters are charmingly offbeat, but the paranormal aspect wasn't particularly entertaining (and I read a lot of that sort of fiction). I'd prefer to see Crusie/Mayer stick with what made Agnes so entertaining: offbeat characters, witty dialogue, and a tighter plot.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 4, 2010

    Wicked Good

    This book starts off a little slowly, like an old fashioned roller coaster going up that first hill, but once you roll past that up and over point the book is fun and funny, with a predictably unpredictable view of demons and US Government secret operations. Crusie and Mayer don't disappoint and the raven makes an interesting change from dogs.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 8, 2013

    After Bet Me and Agnes and the Hitman, Wild Ride was a bit disap

    After Bet Me and Agnes and the Hitman, Wild Ride was a bit disappointing. I don't think paranormal is Cruise or Meyer's thing. But it wasn't
    totally awful.


    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2011

    Disappointing

    I looked forward to this latest collaboration between Crusie and Mayer, but found it a repeat of Dogs and Goddesses, which was even less enjoyable than this book. I did like the raven and some of the dialogue in this book. However, it was difficult to figure out the story line, the characters weren't believable, and the whole thing just never came together.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 31, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Weird, but fun

    Sarcasm, romance, and demons. What's not to like?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Ms Crusie go back to your roots

    I normally can't wait until another release from this author, but this book was a HUGH disappointment. The characters were under developed, and the plot, there was no plot. The book didn't even start making any sense until the last quarter of the book. I'm from Ohio and look forward to reading the Ohio Authors, but Ms. Crusie you need to go back to the basics and rethink your writing.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 10, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Not Such a Wild Ride...

    Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer's new book falls short compared to their previous books. The dry humor is the only element that kept me involved in the book. If you are at all interested in the sci-fi/paranormal genre, then stay away from this book. Premise of the book: The devil and four other demons are trapped in a rural amusement park.really? I am a Jennifer Crusie fan, and I enjoyed the previous two Crusie/Mayer books. So I'd recommend any of those books.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2014

    Hello

    Loved amd enjoyed this very well-written humorous 350 page book of an amusement park and the supernatural. A couple of detailed sex scenes and violence so this book should be for mature adults.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2013

    Janette

    Well i have CC bo.obs, straight, strawberry blonde hair that reaches to my lower back, striking grey/blue eyes and im tall and lean. I do gymnastics track and cheer so im very flexible and athletic. I love wearing lace and i have a lip ring on my bottom lip, on my left. I dont usually go by Janette i go by Jane or Janie. In a guy i look for someone who can take charge but will also let me be ontop every once in a while. I also look for a very athletic, muscular guy who has a sense of humor. If anything just pick a book and ill meet cha there (;

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2013

    Luna

    I have 40 c bobs... brown hair and eyes.. love being domnated... love purple bikinis... hmm...... ask on anything else

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 10, 2013

    Wild Ride was a Fun Ride

    After reading several Mysteries I have to have a break and read somehting fun and relaxing. This book was really fun I hated reaching the end.Crusie needs t do a follow up.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2013

    Love it!

    This book is not what I thought it would be when I first started reading it but I absolutely fell in love with it! So much so, I actually receited the plot to my husband, which I never do since our taste's are so different.

    Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer- THANK YOU for entertaining me!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 4, 2013

    if you like strange you will love this.

    still reading trying to figure out who are demons and who isn't.
    a fun read.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2013

    In front of your face

    I had read this book before Agnes and the hitman, So i did not have any preconceived ideas about how the authors worked together . From what i have read in reviews they are getting better with each book. I really liked how the authors show reality and what is perceived at the same time. The main characters are so similiar.. not seen at first-- reread it and you are like "how did i miss that"? Great laughs and strong characters... wish there had been an follow up maybe two years in the future at the end like from Bet Me.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2013

    Love

    I really love every book they write together. My wish is they write a sequel. Even though it is 3 years old. Definatly a must read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2012

    Very good

    Good easy read

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 12, 2012

    A Fun Read

    This is a story about good overcoming evil in a novel manner. I loved it. It was a quick read and I loved the characters.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 110 Customer Reviews

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