Congrats Jo! I adore you to bits. No one deserves this more than you!
ABOUT THE BOOK
The city holds nothing but bad memories for Coop until he meets a quirky young woman with an old soul and curious insights by the name of Finnley Pierce. While she acts as his tour guide through a town he thought he knew, Finn helps him unearth the truth of his childhood and might even begin to open up his heart.
By unraveling the mystery of his father’s murder, Coop may finally accept who he is, where he came from, and perhaps even realize what he wants for his future.
“Raymond, I’m tired. I don’t have time for this to-”
The woman standing behind the front desk spins to see, not Raymond, whoever the hell that is, but me. As she comes to the realization that I’m not who she thinks I am, I get the feeling she still thinks I’m someone as she finishes her sentence.
Her long, brown hair looks as though it’s trying to escape the ponytail she’s pulled it into. Her eyes are dark, fierce even. It feels like she’s peering straight into my soul, or piercing it, as they stare across the front entry way toward me.
Her mouth falls open slightly as her eyes narrow, and now I’m getting the impression she’s trying to place me or, maybe she already has placed me.
She looks away when her eyes catch up with mine and I approach with caution. As she begins to type away at the keyboard in front of her, I try to side step the awkwardness beginning to form by clearing my throat.
“I know who you are,” she cuts me off, sharply.
“You do?” I ask. Blood begins to rush through me. I clench my jaw, waiting for the judgmental comments to arrive.
Her eyes soften then, and she simply nods with a thin line forming across her lips.
She studies me, then twists her mouth up as though she’s disappointed of all things.
I get it. Just about half the town thought I was the one that killed my father, even after my mother confessed,
“Seems like every other Tom, Dick, and Harry in the media’s shown up already. You may as well join ‘em,” she says, and I’m surprised yet relieved at her words. In a way.
“You think I’m...?”
“You’ve got paparazzi written all over you.”
She arches an eyebrow.
I don’t mean to but I laugh out loud from the sheer relief that she has no idea who I am. I also feel the need to defend myself because I’m not a fan of being lumped in with the paps.
“The funeral’s not for another week, ya know,” she informs me, going back to her computer.
“You’re mistaken,” I insist, even though she’s right. I am media. Technically.
“Really," she replies, like she’s not quite buying it. So I push harder. I’m very convincing when I want to be.
“Yes. Really,” I tell her and now she’s back to eying me and we’re staring each other down for a minute or two. I’m convinced she’s going to fight me on this but in the end, she bites her tongue and goes back to banging away on the keyboard.
“In town for the festival then?” she asks, changing the subject. Like whatever just happened didn’t happen at all, which both intrigues and irritates me at the same time.
I watch her a bit while she busies herself with the computer. The way she tucks some stray hairs behind her ear and then lets her fingers graze her neck before she goes back to typing. The easy way her fingers fly across the keyboard. And how she is most definitely avoiding eye contact with me for some reason.
I spot her name tag. She doesn’t look familiar to me but you never know.
Betsy, Betsy, Betsy.
I can’t think of a single Betsy I knew growing up.
She looks up and her eyes narrow again. It’s only now that I’m aware of the fact that I’ve been glaring at her for the past couple of minutes without saying a word. I clear my throat and forget to speak when she licks her lips and then takes the bottom one in between her teeth.
I am officially an ape.
She lets it go.
I stare some more.
“So . . . ?”
“What?” I snap, a tad more abrasive than I intend.
“Do you have a reservation?” she asks, trying to be polite without letting on that she most likely thinks I’m the slowest dolt on the planet.
Maybe I am crazy.
Maybe it runs in the family.
I gather my senses and shake off the odd feeling of vertigo I’m having.
“No,” is all I give her. Then I drop my bags and rest my elbows against the counter. My eyes close as I rub my temples, anxiously waiting to hear her tell me they’re all booked up, forcing me to drive those extra miles after all.
I mean, what would it take? Ten, twenty minutes tops to get there?
My lids open to see her staring at me with curled eyebrows and a worried look in her eyes. They look so familiar to me again.
I just can’t...
“Are you drunk?” She asks. It takes me aback.
“Because I’m not in the mood for-”
“I’m not drunk,” I assure her, wishing I was. As she eyes me carefully once again, I feel her staring straight through me.
“I forgot to pay you today,” I blurt out, and Finn finally turns to me.
“Is that why you came tonight?” she asks. There’s disappointment in her eyes. It’s in that moment, when she’s looking up at me, that I decide to be honest with myself as well as Finn.
“Good,” she says. “Because I don’t’ want your money.”
She stares and waits for me to say something. Although there isn’t anything we’ve done together that I want to forget, I do want to start over on some level. So I put a hand out and attempt to re-introduce myself.
She takes my hand and when she does, my entire body sighs a breath of contentment. I take another swig of my alcohol and begin to explain my actions.
“I didn’t exactly leave Salem on the best of terms. I created Cole Stone so I could write and not be recognized as the son of a murderer. I just thought it would be easier to keep up the charade here.” I trail off and check her reaction. She seems to be studying me awfully hard.
“It’s called a Penn name.”
She’s still silent. I take that, mistakenly, to mean I need to explain a little further. So I do. Like an idiot.
“I know what it is Mr. Shaw.”.”
I have to laugh. I don’t know if it’s the nerves or just that she’s so damn cute when she’s ticked off.
“Of course you do.”
She waits patiently while I regroup.
“I never expected to interact with anyone on a personal lever while I was here, Finn. I thought I’d be in and out of here before anyone I used to know knew and then I could get back to my life and forget about Salem again.”
“So, what happened?” she asks and I tell her plainly.
“I came by Geneva’s to see you this morning,” I tell her. She slides her hands inside my jacket, around my waist. She holds us together tighter.
“You did?” There’s a smile in her voice. I grin but she can’t see it.
“I’ve gotten used to starting my days out with you in them.”
“You have?” She leans back to look at me. She’s stunned although I have no idea why. I’ve been so transparent even a bat could see through me the past few days.
“Yeah,” I tell her, “I have.” I brush the hair out of her face. Even through the rainfall I can see the blush in her cheeks. This is the most vulnerable I’ve seen Finn since Geneva’s, when she thanked me for handling Dan.
“Most people don’t like the way I’m so pushy sometimes,” she says. “They find it offensive. Some might even say I’ve got a smart mouth. Too smart for my own good, blah blah blah.”
She trails off at the end there and I laugh at the way she thinks I’m buying that none of it bothers her.
“Come to think of it, you did say something I found offensive yesterday,” I tell her half serious. She looks hurt but I can’t stop the smirk from spreading across my face as I back her up against the nearest tree.
She’s caught off guard by the move, I can hear it in the way her breath hitches. “What was that?”
She tries to recover but she fails.
“I believe the term you used was friends,” I tell her, narrowing my eyes. Her lips part, just barely. She swallows something down then clears her throat.
“Isn’t that what we are?”
I move my head from side to side. “I don’t think so, Finn.”
Cursed be the Wicked has it all- mystery, intrigue, romance, humor and a touch of paranormal. Salem is a great back drop for this story. It makes the paranormal seem possible. The book is well written and great read. I could not put it down and I actually have read it for a second time already! I recommend this book very highly. – 5 star review from Goodreads member, BG
I would recommend this story to anyone who loves a good mystery with paranormal being involved but not in the forefront. The romance builds through-out the story and makes it feel real. – 4 star review from Goodreads member, Priscilla Kraut
J.R. gets the job done here. I couldn’t put the book down. It was fast paced, real to life, and an overall fabulous read. I love her descriptions and the way you are transported to Salem. I highly recommend it. – 5 star review from Susan Wisnewski, author of Secrets in San Remo
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jo grew up in Maryland with four siblings, three parents and an endless number of cousins within the vicinity. Today she lives in Florida with her two girls and a husband that shares her same sense of humor and basic take on life as we know it.
Life is too short to put dreams on the back burner.
She’s always loved writing, and always enjoys a good mystery, so in 2012, Jo wrote a novel that was picked up by the good people at Soul Mate Publishing.