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Writing Progress - Sushi and Suspicions

I’ve been working on Sushi and Suspicions , a Christian contemporary romantic suspense which will be releasing in June in the multi-author box set Summer Suspicions . Trouble follows Liv on her vacation to Hawaii when she is framed for the theft of an antique rifle. Only a handsome investigator can help clear her name ... and maybe give her a reason to stay in the islands. If you want to read a snippet of what I wrote last week, check out my last newsletter !

Year of the Dog serial novel, chapter 19

I’m posting a Humorous Christian Romantic Suspense serial novel here on my blog! Year of the Dog is a (second) prequel to my Warubozu Spa Chronicles series.

Year of the Dog serial novel

by Camy Tang

Mari Mutou, a professional dog trainer, is having a bad year.

While renovating her new dog kenneling and training facility, she needs to move in with her disapproving family, who have always made her feel inadequate—according to them, a job requiring her to be covered in dog hair and slobber is an embarrassment to the family. She convinces her ex-boyfriend to take her dog for a few months … but discovers that his brother is the irate security expert whose car she accidentally rear-ended a few weeks earlier.

Ashwin Keitou has enough problems. His aunt has just shown up on his doorstep, expecting to move in with him, and he can’t say no because he owes her everything—after his mother walked out on them, Auntie Nell took in Ashwin and his brother and raised them in a loving Christian home. What’s more, his brother Dusty also needs a place to stay after being kicked out of his apartment—with a dog in tow. And guess who the dog’s owner is?

But then Ashwin gets a request from an old friend, Edytha Guerrero, a private investigator who also runs a day spa on O’ahu’s north shore. A strange bit of “vandalism” at Mari's facility had led her to find a purse belonging to Edytha’s sister—who had disappeared three years ago. Worried that Mari might be in danger, and finding out that security expert Ashwin already knows her, Edytha asks him to covertly keep an eye on the busy young woman.

Ashwin is reluctantly attracted to the lively, easy-going dog trainer. She reminds him too much of his happy-go-lucky mother, whose betrayal had caused him to keep people at a distance. Mari sees past Ashwin’s cold exterior to a man who is loyal to his family, unlike her own mother and sister, who only criticize her career choice.

In the midst of Mari’s disjointed family and Ashwin’s disruptive home, danger begins to circle around them from people who want the past to remain there. Can they shed light on the secrets moving in the shadows?

All the posted parts are listed here.

***

Chapter Nineteen - Skin-Tight Turquoise Jeans

It was too much to hope that they’d forgive Mari for her interference. So much for her recent tentatively friendly relationship with Jenessa.

At first, Jenessa gave her the silent treatment. When that wasn’t satisfying enough, she started sniping again, the way she’d done when they were younger.

“You can’t go out looking like that. Your hair’s a mess,” Jenessa told her a few days later.

Mari pulled at her ponytail, secured in her industrial-strength rubber band. “I’m going running with the dogs, not a beauty pageant.”

Jenessa sniffed. “I would think that someone like you, especially, would take better care.”

“Better care?” Was Jenessa worried for Mari’s safety? “I carry my cell phone with me when I run.”

“Why would you need your cell phone?”

The way Jenessa said it made Mari feel like she’d suggested running in a prom dress. “What are you talking about?”

“You’re leaving the house in that shirt and those shorts.”

Mari frowned at her activewear from a national running clothing brand. “They’re not wrinkled. They’re quick-dry.”

“They’re sloppy. What if you meet some guy out there?”

Oh, so that’s what this was about. “He’ll probably be wearing the same thing.” They could give each other a good Just do it! fist pump as they passed each other.

“You need to start thinking more about your appearance. You’re getting to that age where the men are slim pickings.”

As a slingshot of spite, it fell short of the mark. Mom had harped on Mari so much over the years that the whole, “You’re getting older and you need a man,” nagging had started to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher: Mwaaaa mwaaa mwaaa.

But then Kendall entered the living room.

“You are not going to school like that.” Jenessa sounded even more offended, if that were possible.

Kendall glanced down at her clothes just as Mari had done. “What do you mean?”

Sure, her turquoise-dyed jeans were a little tight, but Mari’s younger clients all had jeans skin-tight like that. The relaxed “these are my boyfriend’s jeans and I can make it look good without even trying” look was apparently out. And her shirt was a little low cut, but since Kendall had no cleavage to speak of, she wasn’t revealing anything. At all.

“You look like a prostitute.”

Mari flinched at both the word and the biting tone. Jenessa normally doted on the kids. It was as if William’s betrayal had turned her into a feral dog, trusting no one, working to protect its own filth because it had nothing else.

And as a trainer, Mari taught her students to leave feral dogs alone. Did she really want to antagonize Jenessa? Their relationship was already in the toilet.

But Kendall looked like she’d been kicked.

Mari’s protective instinct rose up, but she hesitated. She was in another dog’s territory. This house had never been her home—it was Mom’s house, and now it was Jenessa and Mom’s house. It wasn’t her place, and she had never felt she even had the right to own her own space in it, much less to protect the dogs in this pack. Kendall wasn’t her daughter.

But she was only thirteen years old. Mari was the adult here. Adults corrected other adults, especially if it looked like they were turning Carrie—a la Stephen King—on their daughter, right?

Her niece left the room quickly—not crying, not rebellious. Just escaping.

Mari had lost her chance.

***

The next day, Mari’s weekend dog class on the grounds of the community college was an unmitigated disaster.

“Blech!” One of her students clapped a hand to her mouth a second before Mari smelled it.

Faugh. What had the dog eaten? Poor Poochie even looked in pain as he squatted to unload whatever Vanessa had given to him to eat the day before.

Careful to move upwind, Mari circled around to Vanessa. “What in the world did you feed him yesterday?”

Big brown eyes opened wide. “Just some Flaming Hot Cheetos before bed.”

“Vanessa!” hissed the woman’s sister, Ebony, who stood on the other side of her.

“What? Poochie loves Cheetos.”

“Girl, how many rounds of dog training classes is this for you?”

“Six.”

“And you still haven’t figured out to stop feeding your dog junk food?” Ebony made a disgusted sound. “That’s it. This calls for more serious measures. I am not babysitting your kids until you—”

”Oh my gosh!”

The scream tore Mari’s attention away from the whispered argument.

Bradley, the pug, was trying to eat Poochie’s offerings. Bradley’s owner had screeched and was dragging her dog away rather roughly by the leash.

On the other side of the ring of students, several of them started gagging. Gertrude, the owner of her purebred English sheepdog, looked more offended than if a drunken man had pinched her bottom. “That is outside of enough!”

Bradley’s owner, Bonita, who had adopted him as her very first dog only a few weeks ago, started to cry. “It’s not like I walked him up to it and told him to chow down!”

“It’s all right,” Mari soothed her. “It’s not unusual for dogs to do that.” She shot Gertrude a look that would have been accompanied by a growl if it had come from a dog rather than a rather irate trainer.

“It’s normal?” Bonita asked.

“Well, it’s not good for the dog, but it doesn’t mean your dog is weird.”

“Of course her dog is weird!” Gertrude snapped. “My purebred English sheepdog would never do something so horrific. Your puppy-mill pug is an offense to dog owners everywhere.”

Gertrude, with her great big honkin’ nose and sagging jowls, looked nothing like Jenessa, but something about her pose of righteous anger brought her sister to Mari’s mind. And Bonita’s stooped shoulders and bowed head looked almost exactly like Kendall.

A storm rose in Mari's stomach, lightning flashing in front of her eyes. This wasn’t her mother’s house—this was Mari’s class, and no one exerted dominance in her pack.

Hands on her hips, Mari charged Gertude. She was in front of her in less than a second, carrying with her the forceful energy of an alpha dog.

Gertude started and involuntarily stepped back. Her sheepdog dropped to the ground in a submissive crouch.

But after a stunned second, Gertrude opened her long jaw, probably to say something nasty.

Mari cut her off. “Ah-ah!” She accompanied it with a “be quiet” hand signal.

The sheepdog’s head dropped even lower.

Whatever Gertude was about to say got stuck in her throat, making her face turn red.

Mari said silkily, “Think you can let the trainer teach this class, Gertrude?”

It was then that she noticed the complete and utter silence around her. Everyone’s eyes were on her—some shocked, but some amused. Bonita had stopped sobbing.

And Bradley was eating something in the grass.

“Bonita! Bradley’s …” Mari stabbed a finger at the pug.

“Oh!” Bonita yanked Bradley away.

Whispers broke out around her, and Mari turned away from a stony-faced Gertrude. Her heart had turned into red-hot lead dripping into her stomach, burning holes there. A part of her still wanted to take a bite out of Gertrude—except the priggish woman would probably be tough and stringy like a wild boar—while another part of her was on fire and would melt the ground right where she stood.

Had she really just attacked a student? Well, she definitely had lost Gertrude as a client. And how many other people would Gertrude talk to, spreading the tale of how her trainer had publicly insulted her?

Mari was supposed to train owners how to control hot-tempered dogs. Why couldn’t she control herself?

The rest of the class went relatively smoothly—the worst thing that happened was that a terrier peed on the owner of the dog next to her. But as the students filtered away, a snatch of conversation reached Mari as she picked up her orange marker cones.

“I wonder if she’ll lock owners up in the dog crates when she has her own facility?”

Someone snickered in response.

The comment had been in jest—she hoped, anyway—but it drove home the undeniable fact that her reputation was fragile. She couldn’t afford to let her angst at home impact her mood here, at her job. She’d never drum up business once her facility was up and running if people thought she’d go ballistic at every rude client.

She had to finish renovations quickly. The roof was being repaired this week, and plumbers would be coming the week after to repair broken pipes. Once the water was turned on, she could borrow a sleeping bag from Lana and rough it in an empty classroom.

Except that Mari’s defection from the house would hurt her mother. Who already felt abused because she now only had part ownership of her own kitchen.

Mari still hadn’t told Mom about her plans to move into the facility. She still hadn’t even hinted at it—how could she, with Jenessa and the kids moving in only two weeks after she did, the kitchen war, and the thick tension in the house for the past week?

She would. This week. When her Mom started showing signs of healing from the hurt caused by all the changes.

Mari had to move out. She had to escape.

***

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