Dear Reader,

I wrote the first draft of Jackrabbit Junction Jitters in 2006, after my son was born. Because I couldn’t finagle a trip to Arizona at that time, I did the next best thing and read books about Southeastern Arizona geology, fauna, and flora. I scoured the internet for write-ups about the area from other travelers. I watched movies set around Tucson.

The result was a very long sequel to Dance of the Winnebagos with a few too many details about rocks, animals, and plants. But it was written. And then it was shelved after publishers rejected the first book in this series time and again. When was I going to learn that mixing my genres would not land me a publisher?

Apparently, I was too hard-headed to accept that because at this point in my writing career I wrote the first in my award-winning Deadwood Mystery series, Nearly Departed in Deadwood, which mixes mystery, romance, humor, and paranormal.

Last fall, Corvallis Press published Dance of the Winnebagos, the first book in the Jackrabbit Junction Mystery series. I was thrilled for many reasons, especially since I knew that Claire’s second book in the series would see the light of day. So, off the “shelf” came the book in your hands.

As I began to read through and make edits on this story, I realized that what the book and I both needed was a trip to Southeastern Arizona to really soak up the setting and give the book a desert polish. Well, that’s the excuse I gave to my family when I was talking them into going with me on a road trip “to the desert.”

Fourteen days and five-thousand miles later, we returned home from our Arizona ‘research’ trip, covered in dust and filled with wonderful memories of cacti and sunshine, wild flowers and tamales, frybread and canyon-filled landscapes. I had stood at the location where I’d placed my fictional town, Jackrabbit Junction. I had looked over the huge open pit mine that I’d used as a basis for the Copper Snake Mining Company. I had found the ravine where Ruby’s Dancing Winnebagos R.V. Park was located. Finally, I could hear and smell and see the setting for this story and could smile wide at the knowledge that all of my previous research had paid off—I’d gotten it right.

Now, it’s finally your turn to read Claire’s continuing story and return to the Southeastern Arizona desert, where the Grackles chatter, the coyotes howl, and the monsoons thunder.

As always, beware of deadly critters, including over-bearing mothers whose good intentions are delivered via razor-sharp tongues.

Welcome back to Jackrabbit Junction!

Ann Charles



Excerpt from Jackrabbit Junction Jitters

© Ann Charles

The waxing moon shed silvery light on the tool shed’s aluminum roof. Claire’s shoes crunched over the dry grass as she snuck behind the shed and peeked around the back wall at Gramps’s car.

Mabel’s bonnet was open, the flickering under-hood light casting a sallow glow over the engine block. An upside-down quart of oil jutted from the engine.

Claire squinted in the darkness, noticing the passenger side door was also slightly ajar, but the dome light turned off.

Thunder rumbled from the northeast—the last goodbyes from the storm that had skirted the valley earlier. Lightning flickered, flashing behind the cluster of clouds as they rolled over the horizon.

“Mac?” Claire hailed quietly, listening for a reply.

A warm breeze trickled over her skin and threaded through the cottonwoods overhead, stirring the leaves into a whispering twitter. An owl hooted twice from the canyon behind the campground, its call echoing off the walls.

“Mac?” Claire said again, a little louder this time. He had to be around here somewhere.

She crept over to Mabel and pulled the passenger door open wide. She popped the glove box, digging through the paperwork.

Ah, sweet Mother Mary, she thought as she pulled a wrinkled pack of Virginia Slim cigarettes from the box, just where she’d stashed them months ago.

All day, all she’d wanted to do was hide in Ruby’s office and figure out what those scrawls on that Post-it note meant, but between that damned toilet and Gramps’s crazy plan, she hadn’t had a single moment to herself.

Until now.

She tapped a bent, undoubtedly stale cigarette from the pack, and held it under her nose, inhaling that old familiar bouquet of tobacco. Damn, she missed smoking.

After spending half of the afternoon driving Deborah and Kate to Tucson International Airport in Ruby’s old Ford (sans air conditioning) only to find out at the ticket counter that Deborah had “accidently” forgotten her wallet with all of her identification at Ruby’s place, Claire needed nicotine as much as oxygen.

Her mother hadn’t stopped crooning her nobody-loves-me sad song until they were half way home. But then she’d changed her tune, and Claire’s ears still burned from her fiery rant.

She stuck the cigarette butt between her lips, tasting the stale tobacco, pulled a book of matches from her back pocket, and struck a match. A burst of flame lit her palm, the sharp smell of sulfur an aphrodisiac.

“Rough day, Slugger?”

She dropped the match. “Jesus, Mac! You scared the shit out of me.”

“You better put that out.”

Crap! She stomped around in the grass and dirt.

He plucked the cigarette from her mouth. “What’s this for?”

“I’m a little stressed.”

“Your mother’s been here a week now and you’re only a ‘little’ stressed?”

“You have no idea.” Satisfied there’d be no middle-of-the-night wildfires, she stopped taking her frustrations out on the flattened weeds.

Mac grabbed the pack of cigarettes from her hand, stuffed the bent cigarette back in it, and tossed it in the front seat.

“Come on, Mac. Just one.”

“You don’t need it.”

“You weren’t there on the drive back from Tucson. If you had been, you’d buy me a new pack and smoke half of it with me.”

He leaned against the back quarter-panel and caught her hand, pulling her toward him. “Come here. I have something that will relieve your stress.”

Claire liked the sound of that. “You promise?”

“Oh, sweetheart.” He caught her by the belt loops on her shorts and tugged her close. “I guarantee it.”

She wrapped her arms around his neck, inhaling the warm, desert-fresh scent that was Mac. “I missed you.”

“I bet.” He groaned as she pressed against him, rubbing. “How do you manage to live without me?”

“I carry your picture in my locket and moon over it day and night.”

He brushed his mouth over hers. “Please tell me you’re not wearing anything under these shorts,” he whispered as his lips feathered along her jaw.

“Why don’t you see for yourself?”

“Claire.” His hands spanned her hips. He nuzzled the crook of her neck, his beard stubble rasping her skin. “I missed you.”

She slipped her hands under his shirt, dragging her fingernails down the center of his chest. He shuddered under her touch. “You know what I want you to do to me?”

“Tar and feather you?” He nipped her collar bone, his hands drifting northward.

“Kinky, but no.” She gasped as his thumbs worked some magic.

“Lock you in an iron maiden?” His breath warmed her inner ear as his lips grazed her earlobe.

“Too S-and-M-ish. Try again.”

His fingers slipped beneath her underwire. “Tie you to the rack and give you a good stretch.”

“I’ve always wanted to be a couple of inches taller, but not quite.” Pulling her hands free of his shirt, she ran her palms up his forearms and biceps, trailed her nails over his shoulders, and then sank her fingers into his hair.

“I want you to do that trick you do, Mac.”

“Which one?” His gaze dipped downward, watching his fingers move under her top.

“The one you do that makes me scream.” Claire covered his lips with hers, her tongue teasing, tasting.

“Mmmmmm.” The sound rumbled up from Mac’s chest.

Drawing back to catch a breath, she said. “Come on, let’s get in the car.”

Mac glanced through the back window. “In there?”

“Mabel has a big backseat.”

“Not big enough.”

“Come on, where’s your sense of adventure?”

“I lost it down a shaft. How about the shed?”

“No way. It stinks like oil and gas in there, not to mention that colony of scorpions I’ve been battling.”

“Why not right here.”

“Against Gramps’s car? What if somebody comes?” Claire didn’t relish Manny or Chester walking up on them, or watching them through their binoculars. They probably had night vision on those things.

“They won’t. Harley has it all planned out. They’re leaving early to go out to breakfast before heading to the courthouse.” He kissed her again, turning her knees to Jell-O. “Come on, Claire. Where is your sense of adventure?”

Mac unbuttoned her shorts and slipped his hands inside the cotton, cupping her hips. “Hmmm, you are wearing panties.”

“I can change that if you’ll join me in Mabel’s backseat.”

“No way. I’m not getting caught in that car with your hands in my pants again. It took months for the ornery old goats to let me live that down.”

Mac’s fingers found their way inside her satin underwear.

She groaned, rubbing against him. “So you’d rather get caught out here with your hands in my pants?”

His mouth covered hers, kissing her long and slow, exploring every corner of her mouth while his fingers kneaded her.

Claire dissolved against him, giving in to his onslaught. When his lips moved south, down her throat, his tongue licking the hollow at its base, she gasped and grabbed his wrist, moving his hand around to the front of her shorts.

“Touch me,” she whispered in his ear, then nipped his earlobe.

“Oh God, Claire. You make me want to—”

“Damn it, Claire!” the sound of Gramps’s voice scared a yip out of her. “What did I tell you about sex in Mabel?”

Mac yanked his hand out of her shorts, but when she tried to step away from him, he held her in place, blocking him from their unwanted visitor’s view.

“Don’t move yet,” he said under his breath.

Claire zipped up her shorts. “For your information,” she said over her shoulder, “we were not having sex in Mabel.”

“I think they were going to have sex on Mabel,” Manny clarified. “We should have waited a little longer before interrupting, then we could have really gotten a show.”

“I should have brought my night vision goggles,” Chester said and wheezed out a laugh.

“From now on, no sex in or near Mabel, period,” Gramps snapped.

“Well, there’s nowhere else we can go to get a little privacy around here.” Claire turned around, still shielding Mac.

Ruby appeared next to Gramps in the moonlight. “You can use my bedroom. Harley and I have decided to elope.”

Amazon Barnes & Noble Corvallis Press



Contest!


To celebrate the release of her latest novel, Ann Charles has a special contest just for you! For a chance to enter, just visit Ann's website  and find the answer to the following question:

How many awards has Ann actually won (and not just been a finalist for)?

Then email us at staff@authorsoundrelations.com with your answer by midnight on July 16th, 2012. Be sure to include your full name and mailing address and please mark the subject heading as 'JJJ2'. And as an extra treat, the first book in this series, Dance of the Winnebagos, will be listed on Amazon for free on July 11th and 12th, and then for $0.99 cents on the 13-15th!

1st prize: A $50.00 gift certificate from Amazon.
2nd prize: A $30.00 gift certificate from Amazon.
3rd prize: A $20.00 gift certificate from Amazon.
4th prize: A $15.00 gift certificate from Amazon.

Good luck!

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