Today I’m happy to welcome Amy to the blog. She’s sharing an original story set in her Long Con world and telling us more about her most recent release. Please help me welcome Amy!
Ladies Tea with Julie by Amy Lane:
Please scroll within the box to read the story.
This could be the last day she could meditate in the backyard, and she was saying goodbye to the pleasant little spot Felix had made up for her birthday a few years back. He’d planted a willow tree, installed a small pond and made sure the grass grown in that little patch of heaven was a soft, sweet Kentucky blue. There was a cherry tree nearby, for blossoms in the spring, a maple tree on the other side for gold leaves in the fall, and generally, it was the perfect place for contemplation and tranquility.
But Julia was too restless for contemplation and tranquility.
She should have been fresh as a daisy and it irritated her to no end.
After some very precarious weeks, it appeared the two bone marrow transplants Josh had undergone would be enough to get him through his next rounds of chemo, and his prognosis was good—so much better than it had been in early September, just thinking about the difference in hope made her want to cry.
And she’d just spent a very… stimulating two weeks with a handsome man who challenged her and made her laugh and could play chess like a champion and did not mind in the least that she and two gay men, one of them her husband, had been laying schemes and doing crime in order to keep their family together. The fact that he, too, had a rough past, and could empathize with doing the illegal thing to right a wrong made him extra amazing, and Lord, was that man handsome.
He could kiss like a dream.
But that’s where Julia had drawn the line. They’d had a suite—a living room space and a bedroom space, and she’d taken the bedroom.
After a torrid kiss goodnight, that is.
But the point was, she—a supposedly mature woman of newly forty—was as balky as a high school virgin.
In fact, she distinctly remembered giving her virginity up much more quickly to this same man’s brother, over twenty years ago.
Perhaps, she thought sadly, she knew what it was like to be hurt now, and knew what it was like to hurt others, whether you meant to or not. It made her a little more selective—and a lot more cautious—about giving her heart and her body.
Particularly to this man, who, she could sense, could mean so very, very much to her.
There was just not enough meditation in the world.
She needed to do something.
After her yoga and meditation, she stalked restlessly through the mansion and found Hunter, Molly, Stirling, Chuck, Carl, and Michael, all praising Phyllis for a batch of snickerdoodles hot from the oven.
“What are you all doing here?” she asked, pleased down to her toes that her home had become this bustling hive of activity. Josh had chemo this week—he was resting in his room, and probably would be sleeping for most of the day—but in the meantime, she had his friends to play with. “And where is Grace?”
Hunter gave a tired look toward the upstairs. “Grace is with Josh, although Josh keeps telling him to get out of the house.” He sighed. “Grace really needs to get out of the house.”
That morning Julia had found her closet rearranged by skirt length and her earrings rearranged by gem cut and clarity. She had to agree.
“Hm… I do have an idea. Sort of a project for you gentleman that might give Grace the outlet he needs, but I need someone on coms here at the house with Josh.”
“I can do that,” Michael said, eager to help, and she gave him a sweet smile.
“You’d be perfect, darling, but I have plans for you, if you wouldn’t mind going in costume. Stirling, Carl, I think you’d be best. Chuck, I do believe I’ll need you in one of your snazziest suits. You too, Hunter.”
“What about Grace?” Hunter asked, eyes bright. He was definitely looking forward to, well, anything.
“Grace will need a waiter’s tuxedo, and Michael, I hope you don’t mind valet red. Molly, if you can help him find the outfit—it’s in the panic room.”
“Absolutely,” Molly said, eyes dancing with curiosity. “What should I wear?”
“Your society afternoon best, my child. We’re going out to ladies tea.”
Molly squealed, jumping up from her stool and brushing snickerdoodle crumbs off her chest. “Oh you guys,” she said, looking at everybody at the table. “You have no idea what you’re in for. And all of us? Oh, this is going to be…it’s going to be fabulous. Come on!”
“I’ll meet you all back here in an hour,” Julia said. “Costumes and props, my children. Chuck, Michael is going to need your handy little master key. Stirling, everybody needs a bug in their ear. Carl needs the hookup by Josh’s bed, but you’re welcome to come with us into the restaurant if you like.”
Stirling gave her a sideways look. “I could either go to the Society Tea Room, in a suit, and run an op from my phone there, or hang out here, with Josh and Carl, and run the op from here? These are my choices.”
Julia suppressed a smile. “Those are, indeed, your choices.”
“Carl,” Stirling said, “I’m going to get my laptop and the long-distance coms. Don’t forget to bring Snickerdoodles up to Josh’s room when you come.”
“Deal,” Carl said. “But I’ll be getting my laptop as well.” He turned to Julia. “Is there anything you’ll need specifically?”
Julia wrinkled her nose. “Dirt, darling. I’m going to need all the dirt you can find.”
An hour and a half later, everybody had left the house, leaving Josh, Stirling, and Carl up in Josh’s bedroom. Josh had a hospital bed and an IV installed, and while he was wearing some warm fleece sweats, he also had a sublimely fluffy throw blanket over his knees and another one over his shoulders as he balanced his laptop on his lap.
“You guys,” he warned softly, “you know I’m mostly here as a witness. I…” He yawned. “I can’t promise I’ll stay awake throughout the hijinks.”
“We know,” Stirling said, looking at him worriedly. “But since Carl and I couldn’t be at the sight, we sort of wanted you to have a chance to participate.”
Josh gave him a faint smile. “I do miss the game,” he murmured.
Just then, Grace’s voice crackled over their earbuds. “Sh. You guys, we’re in position. Julia, Molly, Chuck and Hunter are at the table. Michael is out with the cars and I’m bussing tables. By the way, my boyfriend looks totally hot in his sport coat and ponytail thing and I bet you’re all jealous I get to hit that.”
“Yeah Grace,” Josh replied, suppressing a grin. “So jealous. Now hush.”
Stirling and Carl exchanged glances of relief. Grace, it seemed, understood why the coms van was all the way back in Glencoe when they were in Chicago.
What they didn’t exactly understand was the game.
Then Julia spoke quietly for coms only.
“Heads up, boys and girl, here comes our first mark.” Then her voice pitched for somebody else. Judging by her tone, somebody she didn’t like very much. Looking through the closed-circuit camera installed in the brooch she’d chosen, they could all view her intended victim on Josh’s laptop screen.
“Tessa Ventura!” Julia purred. “So nice of you to visit our table. How are you doing these days?”
The woman approaching the table—and peering down to where Julia sat—was of middle height, with a flat bob of brown-blond hair at her shoulders and blue eyes in an elfin face. Possibly in her mid-forties, she gave of an air of someone much younger—right until she spoke.
“Julia. I see you’ve recovered from Felix’s little… setback, in the spring.”
Everybody sucked in a breath. Felix had been accused of some heinous things that March—but he’d been very publicly exonerated, and the person who’d accused him had her credibility shot to shit and was now in prison for doing way worse than she’d falsely accused Felix of doing.
But apparently some people still had friends.
“What setback?” Julia asked blandly. “I do believe stock in the network is at a higher premium than ever. What about your husband’s company? I do recall him having to ask for a loan recently. I trust that was… approved?”
“It was not,” Carl said—he was the first to pull up the business records with Tessa’s name. “But Julia, you knew that.”
Stirling’s laptop had the camera picture from Molly’s brooch, and through it, they could see that Julia’s expression didn’t give a thing away.
“She totally did,” Josh murmured.
“Now?” Grace asked.
“Hold on,” Stirling murmured. Then: “Michael?”
“I need you to find a wasp yellow Humvee in the parking lot.” He rattled off the license number. “Grace,” he added, “wait until Michael finds the vehicle, or you’ll be wandering around the parking lot with a plate full of fish.”
“Coq au vin,” Grace murmured. “Pre-cooked. Ah, the best.”
They turned their attention back to Julia and Tessa.
“My husband doesn’t need a loan,” Tessa sniffed. “He’s in the middle of a business deal right now with a magnate from Springfield who’s going to invest in his company and make all our troubles go away.”
Everybody perked up at the mention of a “magnate from Springfield” because that sounded suspiciously like Chuck’s boyfriend, Lucius. Uh oh.
“Is he,” Julia purred. “But, isn’t your husband still under investigation for labor violations and discrimination? I could have sworn I read something like that. Firing women for getting pregnant, denying birth control in the health insurance—that sort of thing?”
Tessa’s expression darkened. “Those people,” she muttered. “As if women who can’t keep their legs closed are the company’s problem!”
“Mm…” Chuck murmured. “So compassionate. I’ll be sure to tell Lucius.”
Molly turned toward him and they got a glimpse of Chuck texting wildly.
“Lucius,” Tessa said quickly. “Lucius who?”
Chuck’s voice was nothing but velvet. “Lucius Broadstone. My boyfriend. I assume that’s who your husband was having a meeting with today?”
Julia and Molly both turned quickly enough to give them a dual view of Tessa’s face losing all color, and her hand reaching out to the back of Hunter’s chair.
“If you’ll excuse me,” she said faintly, and they go a glimpse of her retreating back as she headed to the ladies’ room, pulling out her phone.
“Car is located,” Michael said happily. “Grace, you’re on.”
“One fish surprise, on its way,” Grace murmured. “I bet a Humvee has all sorts of great hiding places.”
“Well done,” Julia murmured. “Next target?”
“Wait a minute, Mom,” Josh said. “Stirling’s doing a facial recognition sweep of everyone captured by your cameras and Carl and I are running names.”
“You do you, dear,” Julia said indulgently. “Look alive, boys, incoming.”
“Uh-oh,” Stirling murmured. “Molly, get me a face.”
The face that appeared on their cameras was wide and sweet, with highlighted blond hair in a chignon and pink lips. The woman attached to the face was wearing a mauve suit with a pink flowered scarf, and Stirling would have given much to capture his sister’s wide-eyed horror at such a getup.
“Julia,” the woman said effusively, coming in for the air kisses on either side of Julia’s cheeks. Once again, Stirling noted, Julia did not get up to greet this woman. She stayed seated and, according to Molly’s camera, peered upward with a mild, open expression on her face.
“Marion!” she said, just as Carl caught the name.
“Marion Kavanaugh,” he said. “Her husband owns and profits off of all the prisons recently built in Illinois—slave labor, if you will.”
“She drives a Maserati,” Stirling said. “Firebird red, with baby seal upholstery.”
Josh and Carl both snorted.
“Well, calf skin,” Stirling amended, scowling, “but seriously—”
“It’s insured for over a hundred-thousand-dollars,” Carl said.
“One more coq au vin,” Grace said happily. “Michael?”
“Looking for it,” Michael hummed.
Then they tuned into what Julia was saying.
“So,” Marion said nervously. “Did you get my email about the fundraiser?”
“For pro-forced-birth?” Julia asked, and Stirling wondered if there was any oxygen left in the room.
“Now, Julia, I know you don’t believe that—”
“Oh, but I do,” Julia said. “I chose to have my son—but I had options. Look at us, sitting here, surrounded by options. I won’t take those options away from other women—that’s cruel and demeaning.”
“But Julia, the church says—”
“Oh, Marion—I get that your church says slavery is okay, which is why your husband profits from human labor, but I really haven’t read that passage in the bible that says you get to make decisions for other people based on your beliefs. I rather doubt it’s there.”
“Then why did you come here for lunch?” Marion asked bitterly.
“So, so many reasons,” Julia murmured, and Marion paled.
“Serpentus just canceled her insurance,” Carl said quietly.
“Torrance Grayson is on the way to the restaurant with a film crew to put her on the spot,” Josh said, sounding more animated than he had in a month.
“I added broccoli to the fish,” Grace said, happy as a clam.
“And I put sugar in her gas tank,” Michael added, sounding very pleased with himself.
“And I’m going to disable the cameras,” Hunter muttered. Then, out loud, he said, “If you ladies will excuse me…”
Julia at Marion, all teeth. “Thank you so much for stopping by,” she said. “But if you’ll excuse me, the waiter is about to serve wine.”
Her face blotching an odd shade of mauve, Marion stepped aside and made her way woodenly to her table.
“When’s Torrance getting here,” Julia asked.
“Before your meal is served and after you finish your wine,” Carl told her. “Why, are you done yet?”
“Oh no,” Julia gave an ecstatic little shiver. “Molly, do you have any prey?”
“Mm…” Molly murmured. “That’s a tough one. See that young man there, having lunch with his mother?”
“Petitioned the college to cancel the LGBTQ booth for rush week, and attends Proud Boy events. Is, in fact, currently screwing his African American pool boy because blackmail. The boy’s father works for his parents and Cambridge there threatened to have him fired.”
So. Many. Deep. Breaths.
“Josh?” Julia said. “We need a new, better job for Cambridge Barret’s pool boy, and another one for his father. What does the boy’s father do?”
“On it,” Chuck murmured. “Carl, get me stats and—oh. There’s his Linked-In profile. Excellent.”
“Well,” Carl added, “once she mentioned Cambridge Barrett, I was able to access all sorts of things. Did you know Cambridge has wrecked three different Mercedes in the span of three years? Poor boy also seems to have a substance abuse problem.”
They all heard Michael blow out a breath. “Fuck.”
“Just because he’s got a substance abuse problem doesn’t mean he’s not a douchebag,” Carl said gently.
“Yeah—but we need his douchebaggery to stand in its own.”
“He’s right,” Julia said softly. “Let’s get his victim to safety and see if we can’t nail him on hypocrisy without…”
“His Grindr profile is filthy,” Stirling said.
“Outing him,” Julia muttered. “Good God. This is a tough one. How do we expose this man for a scumbag without punishing his victims or—”
Stirling started to laugh, low and dirty, and then Josh, and then Carl.
“What am I missing?” she asked.
“Nothing,” Josh said soothingly. “Stirling just… well, put a little truth on his Grindr profile.”
“What sort of truth?”
Chuck held up his hands. “Don’t look at me—I’ve never used the app.”
“Bibles full of truth,” Carl said dryly. “No pictures of his victims, and definitely no names—just a confessional of the things he’s done, how much he loves oxy, how many cars he’s wrecked, his affiliation with the Proud Boys—that sort of thing. Didn’t out his pseudonym, didn’t mention his parents—just a list of his misdeeds. He may never get laid again.”
“And if he does, they’re duly warned,” Josh added. “Some people love that bad guy—not even the bad boy, but the bad guy. But now they know.”
“Excellent,” Julia said. “Good enough, Molly?”
“Absolutely,” Molly said.
“But what kind of car does he drive?” Michael asked. “I’ve got more sugar for his gas tank!”
“Oh!” Stirling said. “My bad. Small black Mercedes—license plate…” He rattled off the numbers.
“Hunter’s going to help me put fish in the seat lining, aren’t you, Hunter?” Grace sounded absolutely besotted.
“Sure.” So did Hunter. “Why the seat lining?”
“Harder to spot,” Grace said. “Isn’t he cute?”
“So cute,” Molly muttered. “An absolute doll.”
“Hush, children,” Julia murmured. “Here’s the wine service.”
At that moment the sommelier approached, pouring the four glasses—even Hunter’s—a glass of Chardonnay.
“Can I take your order?” said the waiter, when the sommelier was done. “But first, I need to tell you, we’re running low on coq au vin.”
“Not a problem,” Julia said. “I’m feeling very predatory today. What are your red meat specials for lunch?”
There were more after that—three more, in fact, before the kitchen ran completely out of fish and Michael’s sugar supply for the gas tanks ran low.
Josh had fallen asleep two marks ago, and it was time to go.
As Julia led her family out of the restaurant—after leaving a very generous tip, for everyone inconvenienced, of course—she neatly bypassed Torrance Grayson’s meal of Marion Kavanaugh and continued to where Michael stood by the SUV, ready to drive them all home. Chuck took over the driving—Michael looked a little tuckered, because apparently he’d also been parking cars as a valet, because he’d felt bad about leaving the other guys panting, with all the tow trucks they’d needed to call and everything—and the SUV made its way home.
That evening, Danny and Felix arrived at the mansion, and Lucius followed them a few moments later. As everybody was enjoying drinks and chatter in the living room before dinner, Felix came alongside the woman he’d been married to for nearly twelve years and wrapped his arm around her waist in a very platonic gesture of affection.
“You look happy, darling. What did you do with your day?”
“Not much,” she said. “Took the children to lunch, put my thumb on a few scales, bought the restaurant out of fish.”
The look of admiration on Felix’s face was worth a thousand yoga/meditation sessions. “Oh, you are such a devoted mother, Julia. You shall have to tell Danny and I what games you played.”
She gave him a kiss on the cheek. “I’d rather let the children do it. Even Josh had a hand.”
Felix sobered. “Now that’s the best news I’ve had all day.”
They had hope now, but worry was still their friend.
But for the length of dinner that evening, as all of Julia’s playmates recounted the story of Ladies’ Tea, it was the hope that fed their souls.
Thanks for the fun story, Amy! Now let’s learn about her newest title!
The Suit by Amy Lane
Two and a half years ago, Michael Carmody made the biggest mistake of his life. Thanks to the Salinger crew, he has a second chance. Now he’s working as their mechanic and nursing a starry-eyed crush on the crew’s stoic suit, insurance investigator and spin doctor Carl Cox.
Carl has always been an almost-ran, so Michael’s crush baffles him. When it comes to the Salingers, he’s the designated wet blanket. But watching Michael forge the life he wants instead of the one he fell into inspires him. In Michael’s eyes, he isn’t an almost-ran—he just hasn’t found the right person to run with. And while the mechanic and the suit shouldn’t have much to talk about, suddenly they’re seeking out each other’s company.
Then the Salingers take a case from their past, and it’s all hands on deck. For once, behind-the-scenes guys Michael and Carl find themselves front and center. Between monster trucks, missing women, and murder birds, the case is a jigsaw puzzle with a lot of missing pieces—but confronting the unknown is a hell of a lot easier when they’re side by side.
Title: The Suit
Series: The Long Con series #4
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: June 7th, 2022
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Purchase Link: AMAZON
About the Author:
Mother, knitter, goober, fur-baby wrangler, occasional teacher, everyday wife, who sometimes pretends the voices in her head are real.
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS
Facebook Group: Amy Lane Anonymous