I’m honored to have my friend, award-winning author Deatri King-Bey, as a guest blogger, introducing her latest release, FOR KEEPS.
In my new romantic suspense, For Keeps, Gina Guy’s daughter has witnessed a murder and the murderer is after the little girl. Child Protective Services is manipulated into the picture, and Jarvis Martin, a manager within the agency, steps in to protect the Guys’ rights. From the moment Gina meets Jarvis, she feels she can depend on him, but life has proven to her that the only person she can count on is Gina. Will they be able to stop the murderer? Can Jarvis earn her trust and love?
Heavy topic for a romance, huh? I’m known for taking nonconventional characters and topics and spinning them into a romance. I like to create dialogue. The moment I released the For Keeps blurb, people started asking me where the idea came from. I’ve often said that I have voices in my head that tell me their stories, then I relay those stories to you though my books. Basically, I put my psychosis to work.
Events usually wake those voices in my head and cause them to start speaking to me. The voices from For Keeps came about as the result of two incidents. A few years back, I noticed more reports of children being murdered down here (Arizona) by abusive parents on the news. This was a very noticeable increase. There was actually an event that correlated to the increase in deaths and abuse. I can’t remember the number, but there were like 2,500 reported cases of abuse that were never investigated during that time period. Big time scandal. Lots of people fired over that.
In incident two, I know someone who was reported to CPS by the hospital she delivered her baby in because there were narcotics in the baby’s system. Actually, hospitals must report when babies are born with drugs in their system. That sounds like a good thing, right?
Well, the hospital neglected to inform CPS that the mother had been a patient in the hospital and administered the narcotic by the nurses. The mother didn’t even realize what they were giving her was a narcotic until after CPS contacted her and told them they’d be taking her child from her for him testing positive for narcotics. This mother went into a panic. She did everything her CPS case manager asked for, but CPS didn’t do their part. Then the case manager’s boss came into the picture and took steps to take this child away from the mother. It got really ugly.
To make a long story short, the original case manager came back into the picture and stopped the insanity. Had it not been for that case manager, this woman’s child would have been taken from her even though the hospital had supplied the paper work requested by CPS. Sounds crazy, huh? Yeah, I couldn’t believe what was happening as it unfolded.
These incidents breathed life into Gina and Jarvis. There are good parents caught up in the system every day. There are bad parents that children need to be protected from. There are bad case managers and there are good case managers.
I don’t know, this seemed like the perfect backdrop for a romantic suspense. Next thing you know, Gina and Jarvis telling me their story. I hope you enjoy For Keeps.
Here’s a little sample:
He squinted at the seven-story condominium complex. She thinks by moving into a secured building she can protect you from me. His gaze traveled along the building and settled on the third floor, second unit from the right. Humph, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
Brenda ran out of the building.
Quickly, he ducked behind a tree. Reveling in a surge of satisfaction, he returned his focus to the third story window. Soon all of my worries will be over. Whistling a happy tune, he walked away.
* * *
The superintendent flipped through his keys, unwilling to select the correct one. “I assure you, she didn’t leave her child. I would know. There must be a mistake. Miss Guy is one of my best tenants. Someone made a prank call.”
Arms folded over her ample chest, Mrs. Clark tapped her foot and waited beside the police officer. “I hope you’re correct, but someone reported a baby being left alone for hours, so we must investigate.”
“Benda!” he heard the voice of a little girl on the opposite side of the door cry. It sounded like Tiara, Miss Guy’s daughter. “Where you at? I ascared.”
“Hurry.” Mrs. Clark pressed herself against the door. “Don’t worry, honey. Someone’s here.”
The superintendent’s fat, fumbly fingers worked the keys double-time to unlock the door. Something wasn’t right. Miss Guy wouldn’t leave Tiara alone. Maybe Miss Guy had fainted or was injured. He opened the door.
Mrs. Clark rushed into the apartment toward the screaming toddler and tumbled over the edge of the coffee table. Tiara stopped screaming, spun around and ran into a bedroom.
The officer helped the social worker stand. “Are you hurt?”
Mrs. Clark rubbed her shin. “It smarts, but I’ll be fine. Thank you.” She limped into the bedroom with the others following close behind.
Tiara was nowhere in sight.
“Come out, honey,” said the social worker.
She pointed at the twin-sized princess canopy bed. The officer knelt and lifted the comforter to check under the bed. No little girls.
The small bedroom only contained one other potential hiding place. The case manager searched through the closet, but still no child.
Confused, the superintendent sat on the dresser. It creaked under his weight. “Well, she couldn’t have disappeared.” A faint groan caught his ear. He nodded toward the space between the dresser and the wall. “I think we have mice.”
* * *
Fear raced through Gina’s veins as she dragged Brenda into the back office for privacy. “What do you mean they took her? Who took her? Calm down and tell me where my baby is.”
Shaking her head, Brenda rocked back and forth. “I… I saw the police and panicked. I’m so sorry. Please don’t be mad at me. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”
She grabbed Brenda by the shoulders and shook. “If you do not tell me where my baby is this instant, I swear I’ll kill you.”
* * *
Hollering, Tiara darted for the pile of blocks that sat on the middle of the toddler table in Observation Room three.
Helen Clark shook her head as she lowered herself to the couch. “Play with the blocks like a good girl.”
Jarvis watched the little hellion through the double mirror. Knowing she hadn’t finished yet, he grinned. Her screams when they’d entered the office were what had drawn his attention. This child had a serious set of lungs on her.
Now quiet and calm, Tiara carefully sorted through the blocks. Jarvis was rarely wrong where children were concerned, but it looked as if he’d been wrong this time. Tiara had found something more interesting than screaming her head off. Meticulously, she measured the blocks, then selected the largest one and threw it at the case manager.
Shocked, he rushed for the door as the block soared through the air and slammed square into Helen’s nose.
“Leave me ‘lone you mean o’ crow.”
Holding her nose, Helen cursed the child and stormed out as he entered.
“I hate you, you mean o’ meanie!”
Standing in the doorway, Jarvis remained silent. He’d deal with Helen for cursing in the presence of a child later. Tiara stopped yelling. Her eyes traveled from his shoes, along his legs, torso, then she craned her neck way back to see his face. Over six feet, he knew he was huge to the little girl. Hands shaking, she held up a block.
Arms folded over his chest, he raised a brow. “If you throw that at me, I’ll throw it back.”
She swallowed hard, then dropped the block, crossed her arms over her chest and raised her brow, impersonating his stance. “My mommy gonna get that mean o’ crow.”
“I’m sure she will.” He stifled a grin. “Let’s clean this mess.”
She stood still, blinking away the tears, fighting the oncoming cry. “You find my mommy? She doesn’t know where I’m at. She’ll be ascared.”
“She’ll be afraid.” He lowered himself to her level and held his hand out. “I’ll find your mommy.”
She ran to him, jumped into his arms and hugged him tightly. “I like you.”
“I like you, too.” Tired of the neglect, he shook his head. He became a social worker to protect children. To give them the childhood he had in a loving family. All children deserved to be loved. “What’s your name?” He released her. Though he already knew her name, he wanted to continue breaking the ice with her.
She stepped away and curtsied. “Tiawa Wose Guy.”
“Jarvis Neal Martin at your service.” Heart smiling, he placed his hand on his chest and bowed his head slightly. “You may call me Jarvis.” He settled on the floor beside her and helped pile the blocks on the Big Bird toddler table. “Do you know where I can find your mommy?”
Tugging on his arm, she tried to pull him toward the door. “You go get her? She’s at work. With the pancakes.”
Lifting Tiara, he stood and placed her on his hip. “How old are you?”
“Twee. Go get Mommy. She’s at the pancake place.” She pointed at the door. “She doesn’t know I’m here with you. You go get her. I’ll show you. That mean o’ crow took me. My mommy’s gonna get her.”
He walked to the front desk. “Where’s Helen? I need the file on Tiara.”
Mary, the office assistant, smiled at Tiara. “This can’t possibly be the little terror who came in kicking and screaming earlier. Oh no. This young lady is much too beautiful.” Tiara hid her face in the crook of Jarvis’s neck and giggled. “She’s in the process of being told off by,” she nodded toward Tiara, “a certain young lady’s mother. Helen may need to be saved. Room six.” Mary took Tiara from Jarvis.
Just what he needed, another substandard parent who didn’t give a darn about her child until the authorities were brought in. He stopped his train of thought. Just because the overwhelming majority of cases he’d seen of late had been proven cases of neglect and abuse, didn’t mean this one was also.