Hello romance readers!
Today author Deatri King-Bey is stopping by to share an excerpt from her latest romantic suspense, For Keeps. I really enjoyed the excerpt, and I’m sure you will as well. Happy reading!
Jarvis Martin, a manager within the agency, steps in to protect the Guys’ rights. From the moment Gina meets Jarvis, she feels she can depend on him, but life has proven to her that the only person she can count on is Gina.
Will they be able to stop the murderer? Can Jarvis earn her trust and love?
The superintendent flipped through his keys, unwilling to select the correct one. “I assure you, she didn’t leave her child. I would know. There must be a mistake. Miss Guy is one of my best tenants. Someone made a prank call.”
Arms folded over her ample chest, Mrs. Clark tapped her foot and waited beside the police officer.
“I hope you’re correct, but someone reported a baby being left alone for hours, so we must investigate.”
“Benda!” he heard the voice of a little girl on the opposite side of the door cry. It sounded like Tiara, Miss Guy’s daughter. “Where you at? I ascared.”
“Hurry.” Mrs. Clark pressed herself against the door. “Don’t worry, honey. Someone’s here.”
The superintendent’s fat, fumbly fingers worked the keys double-time to unlock the door. Something wasn’t right. Miss Guy wouldn’t leave Tiara alone. Maybe Miss Guy had fainted or was injured. He opened the door.
Mrs. Clark rushed into the apartment toward the screaming toddler and tumbled over the edge of the coffee table. Tiara stopped screaming, spun around and ran into a bedroom.
The officer helped the social worker stand. “Are you hurt?”
Mrs. Clark rubbed her shin. “It smarts, but I’ll be fine. Thank you.” She limped into the bedroom with the others following close behind.
Tiara was nowhere in sight.
“Come out, honey,” said the social worker.
She pointed at the twin-sized princess canopy bed. The officer knelt and lifted the comforter to check under the bed. No little girls.
The small bedroom only contained one other potential hiding place. The case manager searched through the closet, but still no child.
Confused, the superintendent sat on the dresser. It creaked under his weight. “Well, she couldn’t have disappeared.” A faint groan caught his ear. He nodded toward the space between the dresser and the wall. “I think we have mice.”
* * *
Fear raced through Gina’s veins as she dragged Brenda into the back office for privacy. “What do you mean they took her? Who took her? Calm down and tell me where my baby is.”
Shaking her head, Brenda rocked back and forth. “I… I saw the police and panicked. I’m so sorry. Please don’t be mad at me. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”
She grabbed Brenda by the shoulders and shook. “If you do not tell me where my baby is this instant, I swear I’ll kill you.”
* * *
Hollering, Tiara darted for the pile of blocks that sat on the middle of the toddler table in Observation Room three.
Helen Clark shook her head as she lowered herself to the couch. “Play with the blocks like a good girl.”
Jarvis watched the little hellion through the double mirror. Knowing she hadn’t finished yet, he grinned. Her screams when they’d entered the office were what had drawn his attention. This child had a serious set of lungs on her.
Now quiet and calm, Tiara carefully sorted through the blocks. Jarvis was rarely wrong where children were concerned, but it looked as if he’d been wrong this time. Tiara had found something more interesting than screaming her head off. Meticulously, she measured the blocks, then selected the largest one and threw it at the case manager.
Shocked, he rushed for the door as the block soared through the air and slammed square into Helen’s nose.
“Leave me ‘lone you mean o’ crow.”
Holding her nose, Helen cursed the child and stormed out as he entered.
“I hate you, you mean o’ meanie!”
Standing in the doorway, Jarvis remained silent. He’d deal with Helen for cursing in the presence of a child later. Tiara stopped yelling. Her eyes traveled from his shoes, along his legs, torso, then she craned her neck way back to see his face. Over six feet, he knew he was huge to the little girl. Hands shaking, she held up a block.
Arms folded over his chest, he raised a brow. “If you throw that at me, I’ll throw it back.”
She swallowed hard, then dropped the block, crossed her arms over her chest and raised her brow, impersonating his stance. “My mommy gonna get that mean o’ crow.”
“I’m sure she will.” He stifled a grin. “Let’s clean this mess.”
She stood still, blinking away the tears, fighting the oncoming cry. “You find my mommy? She doesn’t know where I’m at. She’ll be ascared.”
“She’ll be afraid.” He lowered himself to her level and held his hand out. “I’ll find your mommy.”
She ran to him, jumped into his arms and hugged him tightly. “I like you.”
“I like you, too.” Tired of the neglect, he shook his head. He became a social worker to protect children. To give them the childhood he had in a loving family. All children deserved to be loved. “What’s your name?” He released her. Though he already knew her name, he wanted to continue breaking the ice with her.
She stepped away and curtsied. “Tiawa Wose Guy.”
“Jarvis Neal Martin at your service.” Heart smiling, he placed his hand on his chest and bowed his head slightly. “You may call me Jarvis.” He settled on the floor beside her and helped pile the blocks on the Big Bird toddler table. “Do you know where I can find your mommy?”
Tugging on his arm, she tried to pull him toward the door. “You go get her? She’s at work. With the pancakes.”
Lifting Tiara, he stood and placed her on his hip. “How old are you?”
“Twee. Go get Mommy. She’s at the pancake place.” She pointed at the door. “She doesn’t know I’m here with you. You go get her. I’ll show you. That mean o’ crow took me. My mommy’s gonna get her.”
He walked to the front desk. “Where’s Helen? I need the file on Tiara.”
Mary, the office assistant, smiled at Tiara. “This can’t possibly be the little terror who came in kicking and screaming earlier. Oh no. This young lady is much too beautiful.” Tiara hid her face in the crook of Jarvis’s neck and giggled. “She’s in the process of being told off by,” she nodded toward Tiara, “a certain young lady’s mother. Helen may need to be saved. Room six.” Mary took Tiara from Jarvis.
Just what he needed, another substandard parent who didn’t give a darn about her child until the authorities were brought in. He stopped his train of thought. Just because the overwhelming majority of cases he’d seen of late had been proven cases of neglect and abusive, didn’t mean this one was also.
* * *
The raised voice Jarvis heard as he rounded the corner was typical of what he heard on a daily basis from parents who beat, emotionally abused and neglected their children except there were usually several curse words laced in. When his office took steps to protect the child, he had to fight through red tape with a reduced staff to protect the children. Let harm come to one of the children, or God forbid, one die, then his office was held to blame. But someone had to be there for the children. He had to try. For now, he prayed Ms. Guy was calmer around Tiara.
Helen slammed the door as she exited. “That woman is horrible!” She paced in front of the door. “I’m sick and tired of these no-account women putting their children in harm’s way. I’m not the one who left her baby alone. I don’t have to take her verbal abuse. Wait until I finish my report. We’ll see who gets the last word.”
Hands lifted slightly, he cautioned, “Let’s slow down a bit. Emotions are running high.” He understood Helen’s rage. Just as he’d had to put his emotions in check, she needed to do the same. “We don’t want to jump to conclusions. First there needs to be an investigation—”
“Don’t tell me how to do my job!” Shaking the file at him, she bit out, “I’ve been at this for twenty-five years. You think because you’re a manager you can interfere in my investigation?”
Brows lifted, he could chastise without saying a word.
“I’m sorry, Jarvis.” She lowered her voice and held the file and her hand to her chest. “I was out of line. After I take a few minutes to calm down, I’ll finish this interview and set up temporary custody for the minor immediately.”
He held no love for neglectful parents but, “How do you know temporary custody will be in order if you haven’t conducted an interview yet? Hand me the file.” He held out his hand.
“But this is my—”
“I will not ask again.” She handed over the file. “I wish to speak with you before you leave tonight.” Known for his fairness, he always investigated before considering taking a child out of the home. He expected the same from his case managers.
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