I knew when I planned this tour that I wanted to include Poppy and J.J.'s Love Story it begins here . . .
“I’ve never asked. Do you like dancing?” J.J. looked across the passenger compartment of his truck to Poppy when she didn’t answer. They were on their way to Beaver Falls to visit Madison Whitaker’s studio. Preferring to make use of the element of surprise, he hadn’t called to make an appointment.
Staring straight ahead, Poppy chewed her bottom lip. She picked at the brim of her western hat, which rested in her lap. Why she had taken it with her to sign up for dance lessons, she had no idea. It must have been because she was wearing it while riding Gulliver when J.J. told her it was time to leave. She hadn’t even bothered to change out of her riding boots.
“I wasn’t planning for us to learn anything too complicated,” J.J. said.
“I haven’t danced in years.” She sighed. “My dad wanted his little girl to be a dancer.” She shot a glance in his direction. “A ballerina. I was in dance classes from the time I could walk.”
“I pictured you more as a line dancer than a ballerina.”
“Yeah, who would’ve thought. Mom let me continue with the lessons after Dad disappeared. That was only because all of the right people had their daughters in dance.” Sadness filled her face. “But then, after …” Her voice trailed off.
“Forget about that.” He reached for her hand. “Think about here. Now. Today. You loved dancing. I love to dance. It’s something we can love together. Let’s have fun with it.”
She squeezed his hand. “And drag information out of your former girlfriend.”
He smiled at her. “Have I told you today that I love you?”
She brushed her fingers down his cheek and across his jaw. “Maybe not in so many words.”
In the middle of the lunchtime rush, downtown Beaver Falls was busy with customers filling the cafes and restaurants, which made it impossible to find available parking in front of the studio. J.J. circled the block twice in search of a space big enough for his truck when he spotted a familiar face behind the wheel of a purple SUV that had scored a spot in front of the dance studio.
Her long dark hair spilled in long waves over her dark cloth coat. J.J. recognized her even with sunglasses covering her eyes. He was so focused on watching her enter the dance studio owned by her rival that the car behind him had to lay on the horn to move him along.
“There’s a spot right there.” Poppy pointed to the empty space on the next block.
After putting coins in the parking meter, he took her hand and kissed her on the mouth when she stepped up onto the sidewalk. “I saw Heather going inside just now.” He led her across the street.
“Why would someone go into a dance studio owned by her archenemy?”
“Good question.” He flashed a grin at her. “I intend to use all of my charm to find that out.” He grabbed the door handle to open the door for her.
“And I’ve never seen you charming before,” she whispered as she stepped inside.
LATER: INSIDE THE DANCE STUDIO
Hoping that Madison would fill the void of silence with useful information, J.J. waited. Madison stared at him while chewing on her bottom lip. He could see her mind working. He felt like she was about to say something more when Elizabeth announced that she had a lesson in five minutes.
Madison uttered a visible sigh of relief.
Inwardly, J.J. groaned.
“Well, it was good to see you again, J.J.” Madison moved for the door.
“Would you believe I forgot what we had come in for.” J.J. took Poppy’s hand. “We would like to schedule some private lessons. As you know, we’re getting married at the end of March and I hear a lot of couples have the first dance choreographed for them. I was hoping—” Taking Poppy into a bear hug, he flashed a wide toothy smile.
“You brought your fiancé to your old girlfriend for dance lessons for your wedding?” Aaron asked from under the desk. “Dude! You’ve got more guts than I ever did.”
Madison regarded the two of them for so long that J.J. feared she would refuse and usher them out of her studio with an order to never return. Finally, she asked, “What’s your song?”
Unarmed with that information, J.J. paused while Poppy answered promptly, “We want to do the Viennese Waltz to ‘Endless Love.’”
Madison took a step back. Slowly, she looked Poppy, dressed in jeans, riding boots, and a western hat in hand, up and down. “The Viennese Waltz?” Her lip curled up. “That’s not exactly for newbies. I’m sure J.J. could handle it but—”
“I danced in the children’s company of the Rocky Mountain Ballet Theater for five years.” Poppy put on her hat and cocked her head to look at Madison out of the corner of her eye. “I can handle anything you throw at me.”
Madison let out a sigh. “I’m sorry. I misjudged—”
“That’s okay.” Poppy winked at her. “You’re not the first one to underestimate me.”
“Being underestimated is Poppy’s superpower,” J.J. said.
About the book
Homicide Detective Cameron Gates learned long ago that there is no such thing as a typical murder case. Each mystery is special in its own right—especially for the family of the victim.
The homicide of a successful executive, husband, and father seems open and shut when the murder weapon is found in his estranged son-in-law’s possession. The circumstantial evidence is so damning that when her step-son, J.J. Thornton, agrees to act as the defendant’s public defender, he assumes his first murder case will be a loss. Only the report of a missing husband proves that this case is not as open and shut as it seems.
Strap on your seat belts for a wild ride in this mystery rooted in decades of deception that sprouts into murder.
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Read my review
I read The Root Of Murder when it was released in 2019.
I loved the book. Which for this Lauren Carr is no surprise.
Click here to my review.
The Lover's In Crime series features J.J.'s dad and his wife Cameron. If this little excerpt and Poppy's Interview (it's over here) have you wanting to read more check out the series.