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Another deafening roar exploded from the coliseum, and when it did Marla threw down her partially smoked cigarette and ground it into the polished tile floor with the toe of her shoe. Quickly she reached for another cigarette from the opened pack in her small red handbag. She lit it, sucked the smoke into her mouth, held her breath, coughed, and then slowly released it. Marla didn't smoke, but when she paced up and down the hallways of basketball coliseums, puffing on cigarettes seemed appropriate. It gave her something to do with her hands, and it helped keep her sane.
Marla Connors, recently married to head basketball coach Neal Connors, travels with her husband to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the Piedmont State University Coyote team is playing in the NCAA Finals. Marla has not been accepted by the Coyotes, that loyal bunch of fans who follows the university team, partly because she is almost twenty years younger than Coach Connors and a divorcée, but also because the fans are afraid she will distract her husband from his duties as head coach. They see her as someone who married Coach Connors just for his money. Only Gale, the older wife of assistant coach Stu Simmons, goes out of her way to be a friend to Marla.
The Coyote team is plagued with problems from the very beginning of the season, and when they finally manage to reach the NCAA Finals, it's even worse. Their center is caught using drugs, Athletics Director Charlie Morgan, who is also in Albuquerque for the games, makes a pass at Marla in her hotel room, and Coach Connors comes down with the flu. No one believes that State can win the big game.
With so much happening, Marla can't shake the feeling that something evil is taking over her life. She tries to convince herself that it is emotional anxiety left over from the abuse she experienced during her first marriage to Dr. Martin Andrews and that the stress from the tournament has brought it once again to the surface. She soon learns, however, that the evil is real and it threatens not only everything she loves, but her very life.
Illegal drugs, illicit affairs, murder, and scandal that shakes the entire university system are woven inextricably into Marla’s life until eventually she comes face to face with her real tormentor. It is only then that she realizes the full depth of her love for her husband--and his love for her.
Enjoy this excerpt:
Christ it was cold. A blast of frigid air whistled around the door frame. He cursed again. At Morgan for getting him into this situation and at himself for doing it. This had to be the low point in Knox's career. Hanging out in darkened doorways in the middle of the night waiting to make a pay-off. To make it even worse, the guy he was supposed to meet was late. He had told Knox 2:30. Unless Knox got the directions mixed up. But the guy had said the service entrance on the east side of the coliseum. And that's where the hell he was. Freezing his ass off and dodging drunken Wolfpack fans so he wouldn't be seen.
Knox pulled out a wadded up handkerchief from his hip pocket and wiped his nose. He was probably getting sick. Morgan was going to make up for this big time if he expected Knox to keep doing his dirty work for him. No more cheap presents or token salary increases. Shit, he had enough TVs and cameras and electronic gadgets. Cheap toys from Morgan. He wanted some big money--security for when he decided to retire. And the way he was feeling now, he was ready to retire.
Knox heard footsteps, the empty beer can being kicked, and someone--a man--cuss. Knox leaned out slightly from the doorway and peered into the darkness. He smelled him--the rancid odor of nervous sweat--before he saw him.
"You got something for me, heh?"
Startled that the man was so close, Knox stepped out of the doorway wanting to get more space between them. Pressed into the doorway like that, he felt trapped. Like some kind of shit'n rat. The man was wearing a long heavy black coat. A scarf covered most of his face. What it didn't hide, the knit cap did.
About the Author: Originally from Carrollton, Illinois, author/agent Barbara Casey attended the University of North Carolina, N.C. State University, and N.C. Wesleyan College where she received a BA degree, summa cum laude, with a double major in English and history. In 1978 she left her position as Director of Public Relations and Vice President of Development at North Carolina Wesleyan College to write full time and develop her own manuscript evaluation and editorial service. In 1995 she established the Barbara Casey Agency and since that time has represented authors from the United States, Great Britain, and Japan.
Ms. Casey's two middle-grade/young adult novels, Leilani Zan and Grandma Jock and Christabelle (James C. Winston Publishing Co., Trade Division) were both nominated for awards of excellence by the SCBWI Golden Kite Award, the National Association of University Women Literary Award and the Sir Walter Raleigh Literary Award. Shyla's Initiative (Crossquarter Publishing Group), a contemporary adult novel (occult romance/mystery), received the Independent Publisher Book Award and also an award of special literary recognition by the Palm Beach County Cultural Council. The House of Kane (ArcheBooks Publishing) was considered for a Pulitzer nomination. Another contemporary novel for adults, Just Like Family, received “Special Recognition from the 7-Eleven Corporation.” Most recently, her young adult novel, The Cadence of Gypsies, was reviewed by the Smithsonian for its List of Most Notable Books. The Gospel According to Prissy, a novel for adults, has received excellent reviews and received an IPPY Award for Best
Regional Fiction. Warner Brothers Studio has also expressed interest. Newly released in paperback, The Coach's Wife (ArcheBooks Publishing), also a novel for adults (contemporary/mystery), was semi-finalist for the Dana Award for Outstanding Novel and listed on the Publisher’s Best Seller List.
Her award-winning articles, short stories, and poetry for adults have appeared in both national and international publications including the North Carolina Christian Advocate Magazine, The New East Magazine, the Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer, the Rocky Mount (N.C.) Sunday Telegram, Dog Fancy, ByLine, The Christian Record, Skirt! Magazine, and True Story. A thirty-minute television special which Ms. Casey wrote and coordinated was broadcast on WRAL, Channel 5, in Raleigh, North Carolina. She also received special recognition for her editorial work on the English translations of Albanian children’s stories.
Ms. Casey's award-winning science fiction short stories for adults are featured in The Cosmic Unicorn and CrossTime science fiction anthologies. Ms. Casey's essays and other works appear in The Chrysalis Reader, the international literary journal of the Swedenborg Foundation, 221 One-Minute Monologues from Literature (Smith and Kraus Publishers), and A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation).
Ms. Casey is a former director of BookFest of the Palm Beaches, Florida, where she served as guest author and panelist. She has served as judge for the Pathfinder Literary Awards in Palm Beach and Martin Counties, Florida, and was the Florida Regional Advisor for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators from 1991 through 2003. She is a frequent guest lecturer at universities and writers’ conferences around the country including the SCBWI Regional Conference, the Harriett Austin Writers Conference in Athens, SIBA (Southeastern Independent Book Sellers Association), Florida Writers Association, and the University of Auburn, Montgomery. She makes her home on the top of a mountain near Trion, Georgia, with her husband and Benton, a hound-mix who adopted her.
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