After Love or Money made them reality TV stars, former cop Georgia Thornton and her new boyfriend Scott were supposed to live happily ever after. Unfortunately as their fifteen minutes of fame came to an end, actual reality kicked in and their prize money quickly evaporated.
So Georgia and Scott agree to appear in a new program, pitting them against other teams in an athletic journey across the countryside of Spain for a chance to win $250,000. But the fierce competition turns frightening when Scott disappears during an overnight camping trip in the Pyrenees Mountains, leaving only his bloody wristwatch behind—and a woman’s dead body.
With the Spanish authorities ready to convict Scott, Georgia must find him and prove his innocence in an amazing race against crime…
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
A First Date with Death
PRAISE FOR DIANA ORGAIN’S OTHER NOVELS
Maternal Instincts Mysteries
Love or Money Mysteries
Praise for Diana Orgain
Berkley Prime Crime Titles by Diana Orgain
Excerpt from A First Date with Death
About the Author
The cold snap in the Spanish Pyrenees was a surprise. My sleeping bag had only been rated for forty degrees and it was already thirty, if not lower.
I shifted in the bag, hoping to share a little body heat with my boyfriend. The space beside me was empty, so I stretched my arms and reached across the length of his sleeping bag, thinking maybe he’d shimmied over to the side of the tent in his sleep.
“Scott?” I murmured.
When no answer came, I pried an eye open and scanned the dark tent. “Scott?” I said, bolting upright. My head rubbed against the microfiber of the tent, making my hair stand on end.
Where was he?
Perhaps nature called.
I sighed, shivering as the low temperature caught up with my brain. My back ached, too, and I realized I must have been sleeping directly on a rock. What in the world was I doing tent-camping? How had I gotten myself into this mess?
Oh, yeah. Becca.
After our stint on the breakout show Love or Money, where Scott and I had met, we’d agreed to appear on the reality TV show Expedition Improbable. The show was a series of races and competitions. Whichever team came in last in each leg would either be penalized or eliminated.
There were five teams of two people. Scott and I were up against an NFL player and his manager, two girls trying to break into the Nashville scene, a mother-son team, and a brother-sister team.
How or why I had agreed to be on the show was still a bit fuzzy—except that the prize money we’d won on Love or Money had seemed to evaporate into thin air.
First off, there was the issue of taxes, and then the matter of the medical bills Scott still owed for his deceased wife’s care. Finally, the drought in California had made the cost of water astronomical, so much so that my dad had nearly lost his farm. Scott and I had agreed that we’d loan him the money he needed to buy water from the state. That pretty much accounted for the prize money. And being that my recent resume lacked any marketable skills, I was hard-pressed to land a job. Not that I’d ever find a job as a cop again after starring on reality TV.
I guess you could say, When reality TV comes to an end, reality kicks in!
Grabbing my phone from the end of my sleeping bag, I clicked on the flashlight app. I unzipped the tent and poked my head out. The frigid air snapped through my hair, leaving me feeling cold and exposed. My vision adjusted to the darkness and I could make out the other tents scattered across the campsite.
The ten contestants were all camped out here along with a skeleton crew who looked out for us. This was our first camp. Tomorrow we would be given the first quest to locate something—like a scavenger hunt—and we were warned it would include an extreme sport. God knows what the producers would cook up for us.
The rest of the crew was staying at what was considered “base camp,” a bed-and-breakfast in a nearby town. In short, they got to sleep in warm beds, drink sangría, and gorge on tapas, while we poor slobs froze. My best friend, Becca, the show’s producer, was probably out flamenco dancing at this very moment.
I shrugged on the down jacket the crew had provided me with earlier and zipped it up, shoved my feet into cold-weather boots, and put on a knit cap. All bundled up, I’m sure I wasn’t the epitome of sexy, but hey, at least I wasn’t shivering out a samba beat with my teeth.
I left the tent and took the dirt trail toward the outhouse. Scott had probably just taken a quick trip and hadn’t wanted to wake me. I watched my breath float out around me as I hiked toward the outhouse.
“Georgia!” A deep voice called out.
I whipped around and came face-to-face with Parker, one of the contestants who’d come on the show with his sister, Victoria.
I lowered the flashlight, so as not to blind him. “Hey, Parker. You can’t sleep, either?”
He shook his head. We wore matching gear: down jacket, black boots, and knit caps. We probably looked like stalkers. “Something woke me. Did you hear it?”
“Hear what?” I asked.
I hadn’t actually heard anything—but why had I awoken in the first place?
“Something like a roar. Do you have bear spray on you? We probably shouldn’t be walking around unarmed.”
A chill edged up my spine and the hairs on the back of my neck tingled.
I was unarmed, save for the pitiful cell phone I wielded in my hand. We all were unarmed and, come to think of it, it made no sense. Who camped in the mountains completely vulnerable to nature?
Goodness, I hate the reality TV show business.
Parker stepped closer to me. “Do you have a weapon?”
I shook my head before questioning the stupidity of admitting I was unarmed to a relative stranger in the dark woods miles away from civilization. “Do you?”
His eyes flickered to the left, shifty-like. “No.”
I remembered earlier in the day Parker had seemed overly interested in Scott and me and I’d found it odd. My former cop instincts took over and I subtly moved away from him.
Where was Scott?
Why was Parker walking around the campground? If there had really been a roar why wasn’t everyone else clamoring around to see what it was?
Parker took a step toward me, but I was faster. I swept his knee with my booted foot, pitching him forward. He tripped over himself and fell to the ground, letting out a wail before dropping his light in an effort to break his fall. I dove on top of him, my knee pressing on his throat. I shined my flashlight at him. His eyes were wide and there was a look of dumb confusion on his face.
Had I just made a mistake?
No. Something was off about Parker and after my last experience with murder on the show, I needed to stay on my toes.
His hands faltered against my leg, the stupid fish look still on his face.
I suddenly felt bad. I eased up on his throat, enough to let him speak.
“Georgia,” he squawked out. “What are you doing?”
“What the hell are you doing?” I hissed. “Wandering around camp in the pitch dark and asking me if I’m armed.”
He swallowed, his throat constricting under my knee. “I heard the roar—”
“Liar! There was no roar.”
Anger flashed across his face and he found his strength, pitching his hands against my shoulders and toppling me to the side. He slipped out from under my grasp and pinned my arms to the ground. My phone dropped, skittering away; blackness engulfed us.
The cold earth clawed at my back; the freezing ground stealing warmth from my body. That would show me. How many times did I have to learn the same lesson over again? I had to be smarter. Tougher, not lenient just because he looked pitiful. His grip on my wrist let up a bit and he said, “I couldn’t sleep, okay? I woke up and wanted to take a walk.”
I wiggled out from under him and he let me go.
He backed off and I got up from the ground. When he let his guard down, I shoved him hard. “Don’t you ever tackle me again, you creep. Understand?”
He nodded slowly and then he sagged like a deflated balloon. “My sister’s not in our tent,” he confessed. “I came out to find her. She’s got a bad habit of going off on her own and I want to win this stupid contest. If I don’t get control of her, I can kiss this thing good-bye.”
A nervous energy wiggled through my stomach.
His sister was missing and so was Scott.
Okay, maybe missing was an overstatement. But he sure as hell wasn’t where he was supposed to be and according to Parker, his sister, Victoria, wasn’t, either.
I picked up my phone. “Where do you think she skulked off to?”
He shrugged. “I was going to check the outhouse. She’s probably not there though, because she would have come back by now, right?”
I remained silent. Silence was usually the best way to get information out of people. At least that’s what they’d taught us at the police academy.
“Anyway,” Parker continued. “I figured I’d walk down the trail to the restrooms, then check the path that goes to the mountain stream. It’d be just the kind of thing she’d do alone.”
My stomach churned as I considered that perhaps she wasn’t alone. A midnight stroll to the mountain stream would be right up Scott’s alley, too. I flashed my light against the dark soil, illuminating a small circle. “Let’s get a lantern,” I said. “If we’re going down to the river, we’ll need more light than this.”
Parker disappeared back into his tent. I returned to my own tent, tossed my cell phone onto my sleeping bag and grabbed my lantern. When I left my tent, Parker was already at the picnic table, igniting his gas lantern. He stretched out his arm and blue light shined across the path.
Before we left camp, I grabbed a slim log near the fire pit. Parker gave me a strange look, then picked up his own log. “If we come across a bear, we’ll be prepared, eh?” he asked.
I didn’t answer him and we set off in silence. It was so dark I could make out the stars. I hadn’t seen the Little Dipper since I’d been home at Cottonwood. One of the things I hated about living in a city was not being able to appreciate the stars. It had to be country dark in order to see the constellations.
The dirt trail crunched under my boots as we walked. I cursed myself again for letting Becca talk me into the show. What exactly was I doing walking in the pitch dark next to a stranger I didn’t trust, freezing my derriere off, and carrying a stick?
Looking for my boyfriend, that’s what.
My heart did a little flip-flop as I thought of him. He’d been excited about the trip, looking forward to seeing places he hadn’t traveled to yet. Spain was only the beginning of our journey. The final locations hadn’t been disclosed to us, but we knew we could expect at least five destinations.
Parker and I reached the outhouses, which were as we’d expected: dark and empty.
Earlier in the day we’d all arrived at camp by bus. It’d been hot in the afternoon and we’d gotten filthy pitching our tents. The crew had suggested a short hike to the river and even though everyone was exhausted from the day of travel, we’d enjoyed the time by the water.
Parker turned toward the stream. “Everyone thinks you and Scott are particularly tough competition.”
He was making small talk to ease his nerves. I knew the feeling.
“Why’s that?” I asked.
“Because you won the other show.”
“The other show had been a glorified version of The Dating Game. If that’s even the right way to describe it. I mean, we didn’t have to do anything. No zip lines or rafting or whatever extreme things they have in store for us here.”
“You guys rock climbed,” he said.
I didn’t want to tell him the rock climbing had been staged. After we’d had a disaster with the bungee jumping, the producers didn’t want to risk the liability. Anyway, what good would it do to argue my limitations? That would be silly.
We walked down the steep path in the dark, the lantern barely casting light a few inches ahead of us.
“I think we should be noisy,” I said. “That way any critters drinking by the stream will know they have company and skedaddle.”
Parker called out loudly, “Victoria? Vicky? Are you here?” He glanced nervously at me. “No offense, but if we find the two of them in a compromising position, you won’t hold it against me, will you?”
Fear jolted through me.
What an idiot I was!
Until that moment, the thought of Scott getting to know Parker’s sister in the biblical sense hadn’t occurred to me. Could it be that my brand-new boyfriend, the one I’d fallen for so hard at the end of the last show, was cheating on me? I felt sick to my stomach.
“Don’t say that. Why would you say that?” I asked.
“Well, don’t get me wrong, I love my sister, but she plays fast and loose with social mores. Like she wouldn’t think twice about getting together with someone else’s boyfriend. She’ll just excuse the behavior by saying she’s breaking down the competition.”
A howl pierced the night, stopping Parker and me in our tracks. It’d come from the direction we were headed. I tightened my grip on the log I carried.
“Was that animal or human?” Parker whispered.
“I don’t know for sure,” I said. “I think animal.”
“Maybe we should go back and get some of the others,” he said.
He was probably thinking of Cooper, ex-NFL, the guy was bigger than a jeep, with muscles on his muscles.
Another howl skirted across the night. This one definitely human.
We took off running, down the embankment. Suddenly the earth fell away from us and we flew through the air.
Oh, my God!
What the devil was going on?
Parker screamed out. My arms helicoptered through space, my life flashing before me.
Dear God! We’d just run ourselves off a cliff.
Could it really end like this?
The wind buffeted my face as I sped through air. The horror of my impending fall sent my nervous system into overdrive. My fists tightened, my jaw clenched and my heart ached for Scott. I wanted to see his face again.
Did he know how much I loved him?
The ground seemed to rush up to meet me, and abruptly my feet crashed into the earth. I landed with a jolt, dropping my lantern and the log. My boots locked onto the ground, pitching my body forward so that my hands dug into the sandy beach of the riverbank.
Air rushed into my lungs as Parker hurtled down next to me. He landed awkwardly twisted on his side, his lantern and log smashing together near a rock.
“What the . . . Owww!” Parker shrieked
“You okay?” I asked.
“My back. Awww. My ribs, too. What happened?”
We were in a clearing by the river, the light of the waning moon barely enough to make out the cliff we’d taken a tumble off of. It was only about six feet high, but in the pitch dark the fall had felt eternal. I was lucky to have landed on my feet.
There was a rustling sound approaching us. Someone running toward us. I grabbed the lantern and called out. “Scott?”
“Parker?” A woman yelled. “Is that you?”
“Victoria!” Parker said, moving himself into a sitting position.
She rushed forward. “What happened? What are you doing out here?” She gave me a strange look.
“Looking for you,” he said. “What are you doing out here?”
She was bundled up like both of us, holding a small LED flashlight. “It was so cold I couldn’t sleep.”
“Is Scott with you?” I asked.
A blank look crossed her face. “Who’s that?”
“My boyfriend,” I said, impatience building inside me.
“I figured that. I meant, what does he look like? Which one was he?” She pressed a hand to her temple. “We met so many people today.”
“He’s tall. Shaved head.” Sexy as hell and you better keep your hands off him.
She smiled. “Oh, yeah. That guy. He’s hot.” She shined her flashlight on me, giving me a cursory evaluating glance from my head to my toes, then back again.
I’m sure I looked great sausaged in the parka I had on.
“I was hoping maybe he was your cousin or something,” she said.
“Have you seen him? He’s not at camp, either.”
She shrugged. “The only guy I’ve seen is the NFL guy.”
Parker struggled to his feet. “Ah, my ribs. I think I busted something.”
Victoria pushed hard on Parker’s shoulder. “Oh, no you don’t. I know you didn’t want to come here in the first place but you’re not getting out of it!”
Parker grabbed his side. “Stop pushing me!”
I stepped between them. “Victoria. We heard something howling . . .”
“Howling?” Victoria looked alarmed. “I haven’t seen any wildlife. Maybe we should get back to camp.” She pointed upstream. “The path actually bottoms out over there. We don’t have to scale this cliff.”
We walked upstream, my eyes scanning the river.
“The river’s so high,” I noted.
“It’s been a high-water year,” Parker said. “I remember them telling us that on the bus ride.”
They had? I didn’t remember anything about the bus ride except that Scott hadn’t let go of my hand. I’d been content to hold his hand and rest my head on his shoulder feeling happy and full like a cat that’d eaten a canary. Practically bursting with joy.
Now, that feeling seemed like a distant memory.
“The river’s moving fast, too,” Victoria said. “Someone could get swept in it, huh? Scary!”
My throat constricted.
Oh, Scott. Where are you?
Even though I’d wanted to search for Scott, Parker and Victoria convinced me to go back to camp. After all, it was likely Scott could have returned in the time we’d been away. When we arrived at camp, the silence was ominous.
Parker unceremoniously announced, “My ribs are killing me. I’m going to lie down.”
I turned to Victoria, shining the lantern in her face. “You said you saw the NFL guy. Did you mean Cooper or his partner, Todd?”
Victoria snorted. “Todd’s not NFL. He’s more like a sumo wrestler, if you know what I mean.”
It was true that Todd hadn’t played football for the NFL, but he was still associated with it somehow, as Cooper’s manager or something. I realized with a shudder how little I knew about the people I was stuck here with.
Victoria shrugged. “Anyway, I meant Cooper. He was hanging around the campsite when I got up. We chatted for a few minutes, but when I asked him if he wanted to walk to the river with me, he said no and went back to his tent.” She motioned toward one of the two-man tents across the meadow.
My mind was whirling. Should I wake Cooper and ask him if he’d seen Scott? Should I call Becca or the authorities and start a search and rescue? In the States, anyone could call for search and rescue as soon as someone in his or her party was overdue. Was it the same in Spain?
Was Scott overdue, or was he just taking a midnight stroll?
Scott was a writer and I knew he liked to take long walks, but I hadn’t known him to do so in the middle of the night.
Indecision bit at me, but I found myself marching over toward Cooper’s tent all the same.
Victoria called after me, “What are you doing?”
I ignored her and stood outside of Cooper and his partner Todd’s tent. “Cooper,” I called out in a loud whisper.
I was rewarded by some rustling and rummaging sounds coming from inside the tent, then someone murmured, “Who’s there?”
A head emerged from the opening of the tent and the man shielded his eyes from my lantern. It was Todd. “What’s going on Georgia?” He half smiled. “Is it reveille?”
“No. It’s the middle of the night. I’m looking for Scott. He’s not at camp.”
Todd frowned up at me and scratched at what little hair remained on his head. “Well, he’s not in here!” He sounded offended.
“I understand. Sorry for waking you, but Victoria said that Cooper was up a while ago. I’m wondering if he knows where Scott is.”
Todd chewed his lip. “Oh. You want to talk to Coop?”
Todd ducked back into the tent, mumbling. “It’s always about Cooper.”
I heard a thump as if Todd had socked Cooper’s arm. Then some hushed exchange between the two of them. “Darling, I don’t know where your beau has gone off to,” a deep groggy voice called out.
A light flashed from inside a neighboring tent. I couldn’t recall whose tent it was, either the girls from Nashville or the two crew members assigned to babysit us.
“Cooper, did you see Scott leave camp? Do you know which way he went?”
“Nah. I didn’t see nothing, baby,” Cooper said. “Go back to sleep. He’s probably just off on a nature call.”
“Or on a booty call,” Todd snickered.
Anger surged through my body, heating my veins. I clenched my teeth and stalked back toward the picnic table. Victoria, I noticed, had retired back to her tent.
I added some logs to the smoldering embers that remained of the campfire and paced. I desperately wanted to search for Scott myself, but that wouldn’t be prudent in the dark. I could easily fall and injure myself worse than Parker had and not be able to make it back to camp and then the team would have to find two missing persons.
No, better to wait until daylight.
I fingered our lantern and then the thought occurred to me that Scott likely had his phone with him. While we were prohibited from using devices during the competitions, we were allowed to have personal items with us. Not like on the previous show, Love or Money. And since the lantern was here with me, he’d probably used the flashlight app on his phone.
I dashed to our tent and picked up my cell phone. Unfortunately, the cell phone coverage in the mountains was nonexistent, and I realized with a sinking heart that I wouldn’t be able to call Scott, much less Becca to organize a search-and-rescue team.
I glanced at the dim digital display on the phone.
The deadliest time of night.
• • •
The emerging sunlight woke me, the empty sleeping bag next to me jolting me back to reality. Alarm and dread mingled in my stomach as I realized Scott had not returned in the middle of the night.
Where could he be? It was still cold out, but not freezing. I zipped up my down jacket anyway and exited the tent. I tossed some firewood onto the smoldering embers of the fire I’d made the night before.
My shoulders were tight and my neck sore, and what little sleep I’d gotten had been spent tossing and turning. There was some rustling behind me and I turned to find Juan Jose, one of the crew members, walking toward me.
“Good morning,” he said, striking me as overly cheerful. Perhaps it was my sour mood. Juan Jose was a local, hired to help with the show. He was in charge of logistics. He was supposed to know the terrain like the back of his hand.
“Juan Jose, I need your help. My boyfriend, Scott, isn’t at camp.”
A look of surprise crossed Juan Jose’s face. “What do you mean? Not at camp? Where is he?”
“I don’t know. He’s missing,” I said, anxiety fluttering in my chest. “I woke up in the middle of the night and he wasn’t in our tent. I went looking for him with Parker.”
“Yeah, the tall guy. The one here with his sister. He was looking for her, too, but she was down by the river—”
The look of surprise on his face changed to alarm and he whispered almost to himself, “The river?”
“Yeah. She said she was alone and hadn’t seen anybody. Well, except for Cooper, but I already talked to him. He doesn’t know where Scott is.”
Juan Jose stroked his dark stubble, a concerned expression clouding his features. “Mmm.” After a moment, he said, “The river is very high this year. Very dangerous.”
“Right.” Unease strangled the breath out of me as a vision of Scott’s dead body floating down the river crossed my mind. “We need to organize a search party! Can you help me with that?”
Juan Jose nodded, looking slightly dumbfounded. “He cannot have gone far. The terrain is very steep.” He shrugged and stifled a yawn. “Maybe he is hurt.”
“What’s the situation with wildlife around here?” I asked. “We heard howling. Are there bobcats? Bears?”
Juan Jose shook his head. “Not many bears. We tried to reintroduce the brown bear to the mountains, but the program hasn’t been very successful. There are a lot of wild boars, though.”
The mother-and-son team emerged from their tents. The son, whose name I’d already forgotten, approached me. “What’s going on?” he asked.
“My partner’s missing. Scott. Do you remember him? Tall—”
“We remember him, Georgia.” His mother stepped forward. She was in her late fifties, the skin on her face still smooth. “He’s a doll. Where did he go off to?”
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out. I don’t know.”
The two glanced at each other and then back at me and Juan Jose.
The son said, “Maybe he went looking for firewood or something.”
“It is really cold, isn’t it?” the mother asked. She crossed her arms and stepped closer to the fire. “Practically freezing!”
I glanced at the firewood piled neatly by one of the pine trees that lined the perimeter of our camp. “Well, being that we’re not short on firewood, I doubt it.”
“Is anyone else missing?” the mother asked.
There was a sound of boots crunching on gravel from behind us and a deep voice called out, “Todd and I are here,” Cooper said.
“Maybe he got scared of the competition.” Todd said, as they joined us by the fire.
Cooper laughed and flexed his massive bicep while chuckling, “He should be!”
The action seemed so stupid and superficial it immediately irritated me.
What was wrong with these people? Couldn’t they see the difference between a real emergency and some stupid TV stunt?
Todd frowned at me and suddenly became serious. “Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll pop up any moment.”
Juan Jose glanced at his watch. “The rest of the crew will be here in an hour.”
“I’m not going to wait for another hour to pass! I’m going to look for him now.”
Cooper reached out a large hand and rested it on my shoulder. “Calm down, darling. We’ll go with you. We can all look for him.”
“I’ll wake the others,” Todd said, transitioning into action mode. He strode across the meadow toward the tents.
Soon the girls from Nashville emerged; both had taken the time to do their makeup. Really? It was thirty degrees in the Pyrenees mountains, we were without showers, and the camera crew still hadn’t arrived. I didn’t get it.
Parker and Victoria joined us at the picnic table along with the other crew member who had overnight duty with us, Miguel. Juan Jose explained the situation to Miguel in Spanish while Cooper brought the others up to speed. Miguel fetched a trail map from his tent and laid it on the table.
We divided up the nearby trails, agreeing to work in three teams. I was to go with the local crew members, hoping they had the expert knowledge of the trails that would help us find Scott first. Cooper and Todd were to set off with the gorgeous girls from Nashville, DeeCee and Daisy, who called themselves Double D, making me question exactly how much terrain that search party would cover. Then the mother-and-son team agreed to search with Victoria. While Parker, with his ribs still sore from last night’s fall, was to stay at camp in case Scott returned.
As Miguel, Juan Jose, and I headed down the main trail, I saw a familiar figure approach. I sprinted down the path nearly trampling my best friend.
Becca hugged me, her auburn curls brushing against my check. I sobbed into her shoulder.
“Georgia! What’s wrong?” Becca demanded, pulling away from me so she could see my face. “What’s going on?”
“Scott’s missing,” I cried.
A small group of people led by Kyle, one of the makeup artists I knew from the previous show, turned the corner of the trail and approached.
“What do you mean missing?” Becca asked, her delicate features crinkling.
“He’s gone. I woke up in the middle of the night and he wasn’t in our tent. I went looking for him with Parker.”
She pinched the bridge of her nose, a look of distress on her face as she glanced at Juan Jose and Miguel, who both looked stoic. “This is going to get complicated, isn’t it?”
I choked back my tears as the other crew members approached us. “I don’t know. I just know I need to go and look for him.”
“We organized a small search party,” Juan Jose said. “Some have gone to look for him down by the river and others took the trail north.”
“What’s going on?” Kyle demanded.
Becca ignored him and pulled out the walkie-talkie that was permanently affixed to her hip. “The rest of the crew is behind me. I’m going to radio down and see if anyone still has some cell reception. We’ve got to call the authorities.”
“Authorities? Oh! Sounds exciting,” Kyle said.
“Shut up,” Becca admonished him, as she wrapped her arms around me. “Don’t worry, G, we’ll find him. I’m sure he’s fine. Maybe he got lost or disoriented or something, but we’ll find him.”
I felt myself nod in agreement, but the thought that penetrated my consciousness was, I just hope we’re not too late.
After searching the woods into the afternoon and coming up empty-handed, Juan Jose, Miguel, and I headed back to base camp to check in with Becca and the others. I prayed that Scott had made it back to camp during our absence. After all, if he’d gotten lost last night, the sensible thing to do would have been to wait for daylight to find his way.
Becca was pacing by the picnic table, the other cast and crew members gathered nearby; everyone looked downtrodden. I immediately knew by the look on Becca’s face that Scott hadn’t returned.
When Becca saw me she looked at me hopefully, but surmised quickly that we hadn’t had any luck, either. Becca’s walkie-talkie chirped and she said into it, “What?” She held it away from her ear, glanced at it, then said, “Reception up here is choppy.”
I sagged onto the picnic table bench. Victoria and Parker, who were standing close by, distanced themselves. Suddenly the others, who’d been roaming by the campfire, disappeared into their tents, as if my bad luck was catching.
Becca patted my shoulder. “Don’t worry honey, we’ll find him. I know we’ll find him.” Then into the walkie-talkie she said, “Our GPS coordinates are forty-two north, uh . . . Oh . . . Yeah . . . The camp that’s over . . . okay, okay sure,” she said, hanging up. “They’re here.”
I sprang to my feet and we both looked down the trail. A tall woman with honey-blond hair slicked back into a ponytail came into view. She wore black pants and a windbreaker with an official logo on it. She seemed capable and sure of herself. On a leash was a Great Pyrenees dog. Behind her was a group of people, each with dogs. There was also a man, who walked a bit apart from them. He had dark hair and wore a matching windbreaker.
The woman stuck out her hand and I shook it. She had callused palms, giving me the impression that she’d done search and rescue a thousand times over. I hoped they’d been successful. She introduced herself as Montserrat. The man who stood apart from her shook my hand as well, introducing himself as Sergio. In contrast to Montserrat, his hand was smooth and warm.
A desk cop.
We went through the necessary intake procedures for a missing person, complete with description, last time seen, and various search-and-rescue protocol.
“Do you have something of his for the dog to smell?” Montserrat asked me.
Becca squeezed my elbow. “It’ll be okay, honey.”
I retreated to my tent and pulled out Scott’s sweatshirt, pressing my nose against the soft cotton. It smelled like him, a bit of cedar mixed with musk. I choked back a sob and quickly exited the tent. The dog seized Scott’s sweatshirt and sniffed it, growling and howling in between his sniffs. Montserrat nodded and patted him. Then she took the sweatshirt around and let the pack of dogs smell it.
Montserrat tapped her walkie-talkie and waved to Sergio saying, “Nos vemos.” The pack of dogs tore off in the direction of the river, the same path Parker and I had hiked the night before.
I started to follow Montserrat, but Sergio stopped me. “Wait! Please, I have some questions for you.”
I hesitated. “But they’re going to try to track my friend down.”
Becca gave me a queer look, and I realized I had omitted the word boy in front of friend. What was wrong with me? Just because the cop looked like Antonio Banderas’s younger brother didn’t mean I could throw my boyfriend under a bus.
“Sit,” Sergio said. Becca and I went to comply.
“You are free to go,” he said to Becca, “if you like.” She gave me another look, unsure what to do. “Or if you want to wait nearby, perhaps it is better. I’ll have some questions for you, in a moment.” He nodded toward the tents, implying that he wanted to speak with me alone.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Reality TV show in Spain with wine and good food….what a fun way to win $250,000 . Contestants include: a mom-son team, the Double D’s; a country music want-a-be’s, Cooper and Todd; a former NFL player and his flaky friend, Victoria and Parker; a brother-sister team and finally Scott and Georgia; winners of the previous TV show. Only problem: Scott disappears before the challenges begin. Georgia’s father is brought in to replace Scott so the show can go on. Georgia must find Scott, win the challenge and deal with the “drama” from the other teams while somehow avoiding the advances from the local policeman, Sergio. Where is Scott? Who is the murderer? Good read!
What a fast paced, fun read that included a mystery that wasn't too easy to wrap up. Using reality shows as a basis for this series is proving to be a lot of fun, from both the behind-the-scenes aspect and cutthroat nature of the competition. Georgia Thornton, who just won a previous dating style reality show, finds that she and boyfriend Scott are in need of money again. This time, her friend Becca is working on an Amazing Race style competition show called Expedition Improbable. The Spanish countryside is a beautifully described setting for the event, and when a body of a woman is found near their base camp in the Pyrenees, Georgia's former cop training kicks in. Along with some new characters in the guise of other contestants and the local Spanish police, I was glad Georgia's father Gordon reappeared in the book too.
‘Second Chance at Murder’ is second in the exciting new Love or Money Mystery series; it can be easily be read before the first one. This is more fun and adventure than the first in series, perhaps because the new reality show this time was a real trip in more ways than one! Georgia and her new boyfriend Scott may have won the first reality show they were on, Love or Money, but they already spent every penny. They loaned part of the proceeds to her father to help keep his farm. After paying taxes and Scott’s late wife’s medical bills, they were willing to try another show produced by Georgia’s best friend, Becca. Expedition Improbable took them to the gorgeously wild Spanish Pyrenees, preparing for their first surprise “scavenger hunt” with four other pairs of contestants. Scott disappeared from their tent during the night. The next morning, a murdered woman’s body was found with Scott’s watch, and police search dogs traced Scott’s scent to a nearby road where he probably got into a waiting car. Gone. No note, nothing. Just my kind of day. Until Scott was found, the reality show ran smack into the local police reality. Nobody could leave the country; their passports were confiscated. The officers, Montserrat and Sergio, lacked a sense of humor; Sergio was more adorable than any cop should be. They learned that the murder victim was a member of a terrorist group. Georgia didn’t want to believe Scott was part of any crime, except in self-defense, and absolutely no terrorist group. Becca’s boss, Cheryl, and Georgia’s dad became a couple when ‘Love or Money’ was filmed. They were flying in, and Georgia’s father would be her partner when they were released for their scavenger ‘missions’. Georgia’s dad told her that he had an email from Scott that he decided to not do the show and couldn’t face Georgia. Cheryl decided to not waste time and money, and planned day trip quests in the region. Anything they needed was easily leased. Maps or teaser clues were re-planned for where they could go. One contestant wanted to win at all costs, no matter what she had to do to get ahead, even kill. Some of these expeditions amid gorgeous Spanish backdrops were outrageously funtastic! Some were exhausting or dangerous, but Georgia and her dad persevered. The characters were a blend of interesting, likeable people. Well, most of them. Georgia and Becca were very well defined. I appreciated and enjoyed them as well as Georgia’s wit. The other characters, especially the police and contestants, were enigmas. We saw them through Georgia’s eyes; they were revealed per their roles in each day’s event. I enjoyed the basic plot and loved the daily adventures, and was completely stumped about where Scott was and who killed the woman. For those of us who couldn’t withstand the physical rigors of the quests, it was exciting to go along for the run, or ride, or…bullfight? Many contestants had things to hide, making thus easy to suspect. The story flies by, keeping the reader entertained and invested with suspenseful plot twists and turns. The end, while a surprise to me, was also very satisfying. I highly recommend this to cozy mystery and reality show aficionados, especially those who enjoy plots that are rife with surprises. With a grateful heart, I received a copy of this book from the author for the purpose of providing an honest review. All opinions are my own, and no monetary compensation has been received.
Amazing Race of Murder With all the TV I watch, you will notice I don’t watch too many reality shows. One of the few I do is The Amazing Race because the tasks and the globetrotting appeal to me. When I realized that author Diana Orgain was riffing off that for A Second Chance at Murder, I couldn’t wait to read it. Money spends faster than you think it will. That’s what Georgia and Scott have discovered when the prize money they won from Love or Money disappears quickly to pay off their bills. So when Georgia’s friend Becca asks them to appear on Expedition Impossible, a show that will pit them against other teams in a race across Europe, they agree. Things quickly go south when Georgia wakes up the night before the first leg of the race to find Scott isn’t in the tent they are sharing. The next day, no one can find any trace of him. All they can find is his watch under the body of a dead woman. The good news is the police are indeed looking for Scott. The bad news is that they are looking for him because they think he’s a killer. Can Georgia find Scott first and prove he’s innocent? When I read the first in the series this summer, I did comment that the reality show (that time a dating show) seemed to overwhelm the mystery. That wasn’t the case here at all. Yes, we got plenty of scenes of the race and the tasks that Georgia had to do, but the show and the race were a sub-plot to finding and clearing Scott. And what a great mystery it was. Between wondering what happened to Scott and who the killer was, there are two different avenues to forward the plot while giving the mystery a little something different. There were plenty of clues and twists before we reached the logical, satisfying, and page turning ending. Even though this book is set in Spain, all the characters we came to know and love are back for this second adventure, and we get to learn more about all of them. Naturally, there are plenty of new characters as well, and these characters are just as real to us, and plenty of them take their turn in the suspect position before we reach the climax. I also really enjoyed the fact that this book was set in Spain. That added a fresh touch to the book and the author really used this location to the fullest. Heck, I want to go visit some of these sites (without the mystery so I can fully enjoy it, of course). All of this combines into a fun book that you will enjoy just as much as I did. There is nothing second rate about this book. A Second Change at Murder is a page turning delight you will race through. NOTE: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Great Book! This is a great book; this is the second book in the A Love Or Money Mystery series by Diana Orgain. This book can be read as a standalone, but once you read this one you will want to go back and read the first book. Georgia met her new boyfriend Scott on the reality TV show. They both agree to appear on a new program which puts them against other teams in an athletic journey for a chance to win $250,000. The night before the start of the competition Scott disappears during an overnight camping trip in the Pyrenees Mountains. The next morning they find Scott’s watch next to a woman’s dead body. Georgia is determined to find out what really happened to clear Scott’s name. If you are looking for a great mystery that will keep you reading way past your bedtime, then you need to read this book. I am looking forward to reading the next book in this series. A Review copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. The free book held no determination on my personal review.
Dollycas’s Thoughts In this first book, A First Date with Death, it was like The Bachelorette. This time it is like The Amazing Race, except when someone goes missing and a dead body is found on the first stop, forcing the entire contest to travel nowhere. Yes, the went from America to Spain but that was then the reality show became real and the police wouldn’t let them leave. Georgia and the bachelor she picked in the first story, Scott, are again appearing on a television show. Scott doesn’t get much time onscreen because he disappears before the competition even begins. He will get some jail time though if the police find him because his fancy watch was found next to a woman that had been murdered. The producers expect Georgia to continue the race with a new partner. Can she race and find the real killer? She knows Scott wouldn’t kill anyone…or would he??? Diana Orgain has penned an excellent story that had me staying up late until I finished the whole thing. I wasn’t exactly sure where she was going to go with this series and I love the direction she took in this second book. The characters we loved from the first book are back and we meet several new ones in Spain. I especially liked police detective, Sergio, and the senora that owned and operated the B&B, a very wise woman. The people making up the race teams were very interesting too. We follow the race teams to many places as they find hidden items and complete the challenge tasks. There are a couple of very scary moments and a couple of funny ones too. Like the real television show expecting the unexpected is key. The places they visited sound so beautiful and rich with history. Orgain painted wonderful pictures with her words. As the race went on almost everyone was a suspect in Georgia’s eyes while the police stayed focused on Scott. I was completely in he dark for most of the book. I knew something was amiss but never dreamed it would play out the way it did. I am ready for more right now. I was blessed to receive an advance copy of this book. Maybe I can get an advance of the advance copy for the next one. :)
This was a good addition to a fun series. I enjoyed following Georgia and Scott as they went to Spain to try and win a pot load of money. The author will keep you turning the pages as you follow along on this adventure to prove that Scott is innocence. I liked the reality tv theme to this series as I am a fan of some reality shows. Now don't judge me I watch the shows for entertainment and not for the reality. I liked how I was kept guessing up until the end. I think the author's writing style is good and makes the book flow.
I received an ARC of this book, so no pretty cover pictures for me. But I was very happy to receive the book and read it. I am sure there will be some editing done yet before the book actually comes out. There were just a few minor things, like a word missing here and there. Anyway, the story was very interesting. I have not read the first book in the series but that was not a problem at all. We are caught up with the past pretty quickly in the beginning of the book. This series is about reality TV shows, of which I am not a fan so some of the storyline wasn't my cup of tea. But soon that didn't matter, as I got caught up in the story. I liked that Georgia's dad came along to be her partner after Scott disappeared. I will enjoy reading more about Georgia and her dad and friends. I also enjoyed the first chapter of the first book in the series that was included at the end of this book. It sounds like a very good beginning to another good story. Thanks, Diana Orgain, for the entertainment!