Bittersweet Motives, Serena Manchester, Book 2 by Tyora Moody
Tyora Moody is an avid reader, an award-winning author and literary entrepreneur. Tyora is the author of eleven (11) Soul-Searching Mystery and Suspense books. She mainly writes in the following genres: Cozy Mystery, Women Sleuths and Romantic Suspense. Believing a writer should always try to stretch her skills, she has been experimenting with Romance Short Stories and Mystery Chapter Books for Kids.
Her current book listing include the Serena Manchester Series, Eugeena Patterson Mysteries, Reed Family Series, and the Victory Gospel Series. She is also the author of The Literary Entrepreneur Series, editor for the Stepping Into Victory Compilations and Aspiring Love Short Stories Compilations under her company, Tymm Publishing LLC.
As a literary-focused entrepreneur, she has assisted countless authors with developing an online presence via her company, Tywebbin Creations LLC since 1999. Popular services include book covers, book formatting, and virtual assistance services.
In 2012, Tyora started Tymm Publishing LLC. Under her company, she has published several anthologies and six authors.
When Tyora isn’t working for a client or doing something literary, she enjoys reading, spending time with family, binge-watching crime shows, catching a movie on the big screen, and traveling. For more information about her literary endeavors, visit her online at TyoraMoody.com.
Former reporter Serena “Rena” Manchester has transitioned into her new career as a private detective. The Clayton Matthews Law firm sends a few investigations her way that pay the bills, though the work is hardly exciting. However, a shift occurs one day while she is taking photos of a prominent businessman, Edwin Peters, with his young mistress. When the woman shows up dead, Serena has no doubt that Edwin Peters is the prime suspect.
A monkey wrench is thrown at her theory when Serena realizes her client, Mrs. Judith Peters, has just as much motive to kill the young woman. Rena is going to need her hard-nosed tactics to find a murderer because the suspects keep piling up. Which one of these people succeeded in killing the troubled woman?
As the investigation heats up, Serena decides to keep the love-of-her-life, Minister Trey Evans, at a comfortable friends-only distance. Will she finally push him away forever?
Read an Excerpt
From Chapter 1…
Georgetown, South Carolina
Wednesday, November 7, 7:35 pm
This is really what my life has become. Spying on people.
I peered through my newly acquired Nikon camera, pondering for the third time why I was standing out in the cold. The sunset had occurred well over an hour ago. I was dressed in black from head-to-toe, but I should have dressed warmer. My black bomber jacket seemed useless against the sharp breeze fueled by the Atlantic Ocean. I stood crouched in the shadows of the beach house. The entire back of the house had ocean view windows. I wished I could be on the inside, experiencing the crashing waves I heard behind me.
I never understood why people left windows open for all the world to see. I guess the tall shrubbery around the expensive home provided some sense of security. I huddled in the darkness, not daring to come any closer. I had scoped out the motion detectors and cameras around the house last week, and to keep my cover, I had to remain concealed at least fifty feet away. I hoped that would be enough. I also needed something to happen soon. For freezing my butt off, I needed the satisfaction of finally nailing Edwin Peters in the act this evening.
Alright, Serena. Stay focused. Stop with the complaining.
I quieted my inner whining as the man appeared in my camera lens, and then adjusted the zoom. After talking in depth with the salesman at Best Buy and a few tests, I knew the 70-300 millimeter telephoto zoom lens would capture what I needed from this distance. I felt fairly certain I could deliver images good enough for my employer, Clay Matthews and his client, Mrs. Judith Peters.
In another lifetime, I’d been an investigative reporter at a television station in Charlotte, North Carolina. For over twenty years, I was constantly on the move breaking the latest news stories. For one particular story involving corruption in the city of Charlotte, I pushed too far for the truth and found myself at the bottom of a stairwell, left to die by a madman. Three years had passed, and while I’d recovered from my head injury, I lost my career in the process. I still had days when my old noggin wasn’t exactly one hundred percent, but I longed for the days when I investigated more than a man cheating on his wife. Or vice-versa.
I’d followed the Georgetown businessman for a week, hoping to catch him. I was hoping to catch him at his office building, Waterway Commercial Real Estate, but Peters had sense enough to not have the typical young, good-looking secretary. I’d done so many of these cases over the past year with a spouse wanting me to track down their cheating spouse. Often these illicit affairs started at the workplace, and usually the man was with his secretary or a co-worker.
It was fairly common knowledge from my conversations around town, that Edwin had been cheating on his wife for years. Until recently, his wife had either been turning a blind eye or was really that clueless. Judith Peters was a long-time educator and the current principal of McDonald Elementary School. I suspected the woman chose to keep her head in the sand as a way to preserve her privacy. Recently, something had changed or shifted in the marriage to light a fire under Judith. As a result, about a month ago, she filed for divorce. Thankfully, she hired my brother-in-law and current employer to take her case.
Despite Edwin openly sneaking around with other women, the past week seemed a waste of my time. With a pending divorce, maybe Edwin had finally come to his senses. Or, maybe his lawyer warned him about the possibility of someone like me trying to catch him in the act.
Tonight, I’d followed Edwin to Pawleys Island. From piecing together a timeline, I discovered Edwin had officially moved out of the Georgetown family home around the time I started tailing him last week. The man made the trek each day to the family’s expensive waterfront property. From my background search on Edwin, he owned the family home and the beach house, with both being in the million dollar price range. A price range that was staggering to me. It also made this assignment of yet another cheating spouse slightly more interesting than past assignments. The divorce between Edwin and Judith, his wife of twenty-two years, was going to be an all out war. My mission was to deliver the arsenal Mrs. Peters needed for her side of the battle.
That isn’t going to be a problem tonight.
Twenty minutes into scoping the side of the house, a young woman arrived driving a lime green Volkswagen Beetle. She seemed familiar to me. I’d seen the sandy curly hair recently, but where wasn’t coming to me. I creeped, tiptoeing like some cat burglar towards the back of the house. Behind the house, I’d found the perfect spot to see into the kitchen through the glass windows. Edwin had a glass of white wine ready for the young woman as she shrugged out of her coat.
I squatted, feeling my knees protest. Too much time sitting in my car over the past few days made my forty-three year old body my enemy. Age was already a factor, but the lack of physical activity was no fun. And thanks to the cold, crisp November air, a steady weariness had crept into my bones. My fingers had started to stiffen from holding the camera, but quitting wasn’t an option. I wiggled around, trying to make my position as comfortable as possible despite the wind at my back, peering through the camera lens again. By the way Edwin’s arm was wrapped around the young woman, I’d say in exactly sixty seconds, I would have plenty of provocative photos to share with Mrs. Peters.
Hello! It’s about time!
I watched Edwin guide the young woman by the shoulders into another part of the house. I shifted slowly to the right, seeing them appear in another room. I dared to move closer, keeping in mind I needed to stay at least fifty feet from the patio to avoid triggering the motion detectors. Game over for this assignment if I did. I peered easily inside a bedroom. As Edwin slipped the young woman’s dress off her shoulder, I positioned the camera lens.
Click. Click. Click.
The young woman’s dress fell to the floor displaying her bare backside, and I pulled the camera from my flushed face. I hated this part of the job.
When I joined my brother-in-law’s law firm as his private investigator, chasing after adulterous spouses was not what I had in mind. Last year, I’d pushed my way into a police investigation, and while the detectives won’t admit it, I solved not one, but two homicide cases for them. Those cases served as the catalyst I needed to push me past the funk I’d been in since my lengthy hospitalization years ago. I had a thirst for seeking the truth and solving criminal cases.
Almost a year later, my fantasy of being the most sought-after private investigator in the state of South Carolina had slowly fizzled to a faded dream. I needed a new kind of case.
I took a deep breath and returned the camera to my eyes.
I cringed. Edwin had his shirt off, and all that chest hair made me want to gag.
Or, maybe the source of my queasiness was the young woman. She had to be young enough to be the man’s daughter. Through the camera lens, her bronze complexion was clear. Despite the ruby red lips, she barely seemed eighteen to me.
Something shifted between the two as I watched the young woman’s hand slap Edwin across the face. A red mark was visible on his face.
But Edwin’s next move made me gasp in shock.
He’d wrapped his hands around the young woman’s throat.
Was he trying to kill her or was this something kinky?
Without realizing it, I’d stepped forward from the shadow of my hiding place with my eyes still peeking through the lens. My fingers pressed the camera’s button capturing the woman as she flung her hands at Edwin’s face again. Her ruby red fingernails made contact with his face, leaving a definitive scratch across his left cheek.
He reached out and slapped the woman causing her to fly backwards out of my line of sight. Edwin moved towards her like a raging bull, his arms outstretched. I could no longer see either of them.
This assignment had gone horribly wrong. Was he going to kill her?
I have to do something.
I shoved the camera in my side bag, crouched down and moved closer to the patio doors outside the bedroom. I certainly didn’t want to be responsible for this young woman’s death. I also couldn’t blow my cover. Mrs. Peters and Clay were counting on me to deliver confidential images.
Screams pierced my ears.
What should I do?
I’d been to the gun range the last few months and finally received a license to carry my SIG. But it wasn’t on me and my car was parked down the street.
If I moved any closer, I would risk being caught on the security camera and triggering the motion detector near the patio.
The motion detectors.
I looked around for a way to distract Edwin.
My eyes fell to the tiny pebbles that lined the patio shrubbery. I grabbed a few and, without a second thought, flung one towards the patio.
It was too quiet.
I threw more pebbles, hearing them bouncing off the side of the house.
Edwin appeared at the sliding door, his face a contortion of anger and concern.
I ducked down, but my feet almost slipped in the sand. I scrambled backwards towards the tall shrubbery, hoping the young woman wasn’t hurt and could get away.
Edwin slid the door and peered out. His eyes glimpsed in my direction. Could he see me? The wind caused the shrubbery to sway around me. I hoped that would keep my hiding spot concealed. My heart was beating in my chest. I’d never been this close to being discovered by my assignment. I’d never been in these conditions either, shivering in the cold with the possibility of a murder or attempted murder taking place right before my eyes.
This was definitely a different kind of assignment.
Not seeing anything, Edwin’s face scrunched in fury. Sliding the door closed, he retreated and I used that moment to make my move. I had plenty of photos; I needed to get out of here. Conscious of the security camera, I pulled my baseball cap down towards my head and moved close to the shrubbery until I’d made it around the side. I sprinted towards my car, thankful for the darkness and the quietness of the nearby homes.
Once inside my car, I whipped out my phone and dialed 9-1-1.
“What’s your emergency?”
“I’m at 6100 Sunset Lane. A young woman has been assaulted.”
The dispatcher responded, “Can you tell us what’s happening?”
I huffed into the phone. “You need to get someone here now. I think he’s trying to kill her.”
If he hasn’t already.
The silence after those screams had me anxious and scared.
I was a newbie to my newfound faith and still found praying a bit awkward. But tonight, I stuttered a prayer. God, please protect that young woman.