Leslie's Newest Releases
Leslie is revising and reissuing her TROUBLE books.
HEADING FOR TROUBLE is available now and THEY'RE IN TROUBLE is coming in late 2021!
Watch for TROUBLE OR NOTHING in 2022!
Read on for excerpts!
HEADING FOR TROUBLE
Mortimer Potts was not insane.
He did, on occasion, like to slip into the past—at least in his mind—and relive his favorite days. Days that were certainly more exhilarating than those he lived now. But contrary to the belief of some of his detractors, he was able to separate fiction from reality. Usually.
The problem with reality was that it was boring. The idea of settling down into his role as elderly millionaire—sipping cognac and smoking cigars on the patio of his Manhattan penthouse as he watched the world go by—simply held no appeal.
He needed adventure. Excitement. Needed to ride through the desert on a fine black stallion, or sail into a secluded jetty on the coast of Malta to escape pirates. Or whisk three young boys away to an African safari.
That was one consolation—his grandsons, at least, did not think him mad. Eccentric? Yes. But not insane.
Or perhaps that wasn’t a consolation. Having a bit of madness in the family would certainly invigorate the lives of those three young men, who’d become just a bit too pedestrian in their adult years. A little insanity could be good for the soul.
He would go insane if he was forced to ring in his eightieth year at a boring club filled with artificial people who wouldn’t dream of walking unaccompanied in Central Park, much less fighting their way out of a smoky tavern in Singapore. Ah, the good old days.
At least, he thought they were his good old days. Sometimes his memory played tricks on him.
“Your morning papers, sir,” said a familiar, well-modulated English voice.
Mortimer looked up to greet his manservant—and best friend. Roderick had been with him for many decades—a dispirited Brit tooling across Africa with a rich American. He’d saved Mortimer’s life on one occasion and, as incongruous as it seemed, had helped him raise his grandsons.
Roderick had taught the boys how to live responsibly. Mortimer had taught them how to live.
“Anything of interest?” Mortimer asked.
“Not particularly.” Unruffled as always, Roderick, his dark, slicked-back hair now as gray as Mortimer’s was white, spread the papers on the small café-style table on the penthouse patio. Then the butler-cum-mechanic-cum-partner-in-crime-on-occasion stepped back and cleared his throat.
“What is it?”
“I believe the boy might be headed for a storm, sir.”
“Goodness, Roderick, how many times have I told you to call me Mortimer?” he asked. Then he focused on the man’s words. “The boy?”
Roderick merely sighed. “With a woman.”
Ah, Maxwell. A smile tugged at his mouth, even as Mortimer began to shake his head in feigned disapproval.
Mortimer did not play favorites with his grandchildren. But the rascally middle Taylor son, Max, was so much like him that he’d never been able to help being amused by his antics. Max was a rogue. A rapscallion, though a goodhearted one. At least, he had been. Before life had slapped him with a faithless wife.
Mortimer had had a few of those…wives, that is. Only one he’d wanted to keep. None, however, had sent him into the tailspin his grandson’s had. She had apparently destroyed Max’s faith in love. He seemed completely uninterested in trying marriage again…as were his two brothers, who’d never tried at all.
“What type of storm?” It probably didn’t speak well of him that he had a quick hope that his grandson had gotten a young lady in trouble. He would rather enjoy a great-grandchild.
“I fear he may be flying toward some rough publicity.”
Bad headlines. Bah. “Maxwell can handle rough publicity.”
Too bad. The idea of having to help his grandson with something scandalous was more appealing than sitting here in the city waiting to die. And a wrong-side-of-the-blanket infant sounded much more exciting than a media scandal.
Lifting the London paper, he idly began to flip the pages, finding nothing of interest. Until…“Did you see this?” he asked. “Property For Sale—A Pennsylvania Township.”
“A township, sir?”
Mortimer read on, barely hearing the other man. With each word, a surge of excitement built in his veins. Soon he was sitting straight in his chair, rereading, thinking, planning.
“I recognize that expression. You’re going to do something outrageous,” Roderick said, a note of resignation in his voice. “And I’m going to be dragged along, forced to break you out of some prison or find a bottle of your favorite Courvoisier XO Imperial cognac in a remote store that carries little more than six-packs of—” he shuddered “—Bud Light.”
Ignoring him, Mortimer said, “This town is looking for a sheikh, a prince or a duke to save them from bankruptcy.”
“Is that possible? A town being sold?”
“It happens. Some actor bought a town last year, I think.” Mortimer read on. “Being offered in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is the town of Trouble, Pennsylvania, established 1821.”
A dry chuckle told him what Roderick thought of the name of the place. Most people would probably be put off by it. Mortimer, however, had never been one to retreat, had never liked to ride out of the way to avoid trouble. “This might be just what I need,” he murmured. “They did say they wanted a sheikh.”
He peered out of the corner of his eye, watching for any sign of skepticism from his butler, as he occasionally saw on the faces of others when the subject of some of Mortimer’s adventures arose. There was none, of course. Roderick knew full well that Mortimer had been granted an honorary sheikhdom from the head of a Bedouin tribe after the winter of fifty-four.
“I wonder about the condition of the place, if it’s bankrupt,” Roderick said, reading over his shoulder. “A few buildings, roads and parks for that amount? I should think you’d be able to purchase an entire colony for such a sum.”
“They’re states,” Mortimer said. “Remember that tea party and several years of revolution?”
Roderick lifted a disdainful brow.
Still, the man was correct. The amount named in the ad was not a paltry one. “Well, see here, there is more for the price.” He pointed. “Beyond the courthouse, town hall and fire station, some formerly private buildings are also included.”
“Oh, goody,” Roderick said, his voice as dry as the sawdust-flavored English biscuits he so enjoyed.
Mortimer’s enthusiasm was not dampened as he finished reading the advertisement. “These include a movie theater, photo hut, school, barber shop, a big, furnished house, a gas station, two restaurants—one with working ice-cube maker—and a factory formerly occupied by Stuttgardt Cuckoo Clock Company.”
Roderick sniffed. “How very appropriate.”
“All government buildings are currently in use, all others are closed after bank foreclosure. Also included is the bank.”
Well, that cinched it, didn’t it? His family had been in banking for a hundred years. It was how the Potts family had made their fortune. Which had provided Mortimer with a comfortable inheritance that he’d parlayed into millions through prudent investing and a bit of international intrigue.
Destiny. He was a sheikh. He had the money. He loved trouble. And he would, most assuredly, love Trouble.
“About the boy…”
Mortimer set the paper down. “Is it serious?”
“It may be. He will likely need to do some reevaluating.”
There wasn’t anything Mortimer Potts wouldn’t do for his grandsons. And it suddenly occurred to him that the purchase of his own little Pennsylvania town could help in that respect, too. “You are aware that if I proceed with this, my grandsons are certain to come try to rescue me from my folly.”
Roderick nodded ever so slightly.
“Mitchell is preparing to fly off on some assignment for Time magazine. And Michael is doing something quite mysterious, which he referred to as ‘deep undercover’ work.”
That left Max. The rascal. Who would, without doubt, come to Trouble determined to save his grandfather.
Instead, Mortimer hoped, Max would be saving himself.
Please note: HEADING FOR TROUBLE is a newly revised and updated version of Here Comes Trouble, published by HQN.
It is available now on Amazon.
THEY'RE IN TROUBLE
Of all the pleasures in the life of Mortimer Potts, he’d have to call being the patriarch of a small Pennsylvania town among the finest. In the single year that he’d been living in Trouble, having purchased the bulk of it to save it from bankruptcy, he’d watched the place emerge from its cloak of depression the way a pretty flower might pop out amid a field of weeds and scrub. Not fully in bloom yet, it merely offered a hint at the color curled within its tightly wound petals. Observing it blossom had become his favorite pastime.
But the town wasn’t his greatest pleasure. It couldn’t compare, say, to spending time with his family—his grandsons and new granddaughter-in-law. Or having an eighty-year-old body that could perform all its necessary functions without benefit of odious amounts of fiber or Viagra. At least, most of the time. There had been that one occasion with the Feeney sisters when he’d discovered what the hoopla over that little blue pill was all about. It was a wonder his heart had survived the unexpected adventure. Still, watching the town emerge from its sleep was infinitely better than needing the obituaries to see who he’d outlived.
“I heard that sigh,” a disapproving voice said, the clipped British accent unaltered by decades of life in the U.S. “You’re thinking of those wretched sisters again, aren’t you? Either that or the time we rescued the harem in forty-six.”
Mortimer smiled in reminiscence. “A noble adventure.”
Roderick, his manservant—and best friend—sniffed, the same supercilious sound of disapproval he’d made since the day they’d met. “I doubt the sheikh would have been so quick with his golden reward if he knew how many of his wives thanked you personally.”
Ahh, yes. He did enjoy being thanked.
His fond memories quickly faded, Roderick’s words suddenly making him feel very old. Gone were his journeys to other continents, where he and his majordomo had been freewheeling adventurers. Or even, in his later years, where they’d been freewheeling parents, the two of them raising Mortimer’s grandsons.
Having lived life as a citizen of the world, he’d seen no reason to bring the boys up any other way. So, while other youngsters their age studied faraway places by reading about them in textbooks in stuffy schoolrooms, his grandsons were visiting those spots. South America. Africa. From sampans in Shanghai to digs of ruins in Greece, Mortimer and Roderick had taught the boys not merely how to think, but how to live.
Now, however, there were no more adventures. No more trips to other continents. If he were foolish enough to get on a horse today, he’d be more likely to break a hip than to win a race across the desert.
“Is everything prepared for Michael’s arrival?”
Roderick nodded. “Right down to his favorite dish.” His brow scrunching in disgust, he added, “Chili. How very—”
“Don’t tell me, let me guess,” Mortimer replied, his tone dry. “Pedestrian?” It was one of Roderick’s favorite words.
“I was going to say uninspiring.”
“No, you weren’t.”
“You can’t read my mind, Mortimer.”
Chuckling, Mortimer said, “I know you well enough to know how it must have pained you to shop for canned kidney beans.”
Rod laid one hand on Mortimer’s broad, oak desk and leaned over, as if exhausted. “You’ve no idea. It is impossible to purchase fresh chili peppers, or even cumin, in this town. I had to settle for a few of those dried-up, yellow envelopes full of mystery spice.” He sounded as disgruntled as if he’d been forced to substitute Chicken of the Sea for beluga.
“How very pedestrian,” Mortimer murmured, purposely gazing at his paper, though he saw Roderick puff up like a porcupine out of the corner of his eye.
What a funny, prickly man. And the truest friend anyone could ever ask for. They’d been together since the fifties, crossing the globe in search of adventure. Mortimer’s family money and high spirits had led the way while Roderick’s common sense had kept them out of trouble. Well, it hadn’t kept them out of trouble, but it certainly had extricated them from a few…tricky…situations.
Even when the occasional marriage had divided them, they’d remained close, and Rod had been the first person a widowed Mortimer had called when he’d experienced the second great loss of his life—the death of his daughter. As always, the stoic Englishman had come to his side, stepping forward with Mortimer to parent three orphaned little boys, who’d lost their father less than a year before in the first Gulf War.
“The point is,” Rod said, as usual changing the subject when he was losing an argument, “Michael has developed horrifyingly middle-class tastes.”
Mortimer smiled, lifting his drink to his lips, eyeing the amber-colored whiskey and suddenly wishing he’d helped himself to one of the beers he’d put on ice for his grandson. “Yes, he has, but considering he is a New York City police officer, I’d say that’s probably appropriate.”
“A police officer.” Roddy couldn’t have sounded more disdainful if Michael had decided to become one of those male go-go dancers. “If he had to go into law enforcement, couldn’t he at least have gone into the MI5?”
Grunting, Mortimer lowered his drink, still wanting that beer. “Aside from the fact that he’s an American, not a Brit, and would therefore have been more likely to choose the CIA, my grandson could never be a spy. He’s far too noble.”
Roderick’s eyebrows rose until they almost blended in with his gray hair. “The boy’s the toughest fighter I’ve ever seen.”
Well, yes, he was that. The youngest of Mortimer’s three grandsons had reacted differently to the loss of his parents than his brothers had. Mitchell, the oldest, had become an adventurer, much like his grandfather. Max, before settling down with his new wife last year, had been a playboy, with women dogging his every step.
Michael, though…He’d grown hard. Tough. Self-protective. And the boy did have a bit of a temper. Mortimer suppressed a chuckle, remembering the time he’d bailed his teenage grandson out of jail. He’d been arrested for brawling with three boys who’d made the mistake of harassing a young lady Michael liked. A born protector, that one. “He needs a good woman, that’s all.”
“Surely you’ve learned your lesson about matchmaking.” Roderick managed to sound both scandalized and interested by the idea. “Hasn’t the woeful expression on the face of your secretary been enough to cure you of such impulses?”
Hmm…true. His latest effort had backfired. When Allie, his assistant, had left here an hour ago, she’d seemed very blue over her botched summer romance. “Perhaps Allie and Michael…”
“No. He’d chew her up and pick his teeth with her bones.”
Roderick was probably right.
“Michael needs someone much tougher.” Slowly pouring himself a drink and sitting in the leather chair opposite Mortimer’s, Roderick pursed his mouth in concentration. “Someone smart. Independent. A woman who won’t let him dominate her. Who will stand up for herself. Someone…”
“I was going to say strong. Self-confident.”
“Yes, yes,” Mortimer said, waving an airy hand, “but sly. One who’ll humor Michael’s need to protect her, never letting on that she doesn’t really need protecting. You do know how much he likes taking care of people.”
“Taking care of women,” Roderick said with a sigh.
Yes, Michael did do a lot of that, especially since he’d become a police officer. But something had happened to the boy a few years ago, involving two women. His grandson had gone from a smiling good guy with a mildly quick temper to a brooding good guy with a lightning-fast one.
A good man in a fight. While Maxwell was the grandson Mortimer would have loved to have with him when he’d entertained a half-dozen ladies of the evening in a dingy, shadowy Bangkok bar, Michael was the one he’d have loved to have at his back in the alley behind that bar later that night. When the ladies’ protectors had tried to relieve him of his belongings.
They hadn’t succeeded. But they had left Mortimer with an interesting, half moon-shaped scar on his shoulder. One of many.
As for Mitchell…He’d have liked to have had him along when he’d been forced to claw his way out of an ancient tomb in Oman, where he’d been walled up for smiling at the wrong sultan’s wife.
“I suppose I cannot talk you out of this?”
Mortimer stared at his friend. “Were you trying to?”
The other man flushed slightly, then shrugged, giving up all pretense. “No. I don’t like to see him so hardened…. He needs to find something more for his life.”
“So we’re agreed.” Like Roderick, Mortimer wanted to see that smile return to Michael’s face. No, he would never become a prankster like his brother Max. But there was no reason for Michael to go through life with his guard always up. “He needs someone who will make him stop taking himself so seriously.”
“But he won’t go into that willingly,” Roderick said. “We’ll have to make him think things are very serious indeed.”
Lifting his glass again, Mortimer tried not to laugh. “Are you saying we’re partners in this sly, matchmaking venture?”
Shaking his head so hard a strand of graying hair fell over one eye, Roddy stood. “That is your purview.” He headed to the door, but before leaving, looked over his shoulder. “Though I suppose I can be counted upon to…supervise.”
Mortimer hid his triumphant smile.
Roderick continued, “Now, where do you think we’ll find this completely contradictory strong/weak, intelligent/dim, exciting/calming, tough/loving woman?”
When put that way, it did sound impossible. Then the image of a face swam into Mortimer’s mind. He was surprised he hadn’t thought of it sooner, since he’d been quite enjoying reading the young lady’s sarcastic advice-to-the-lovelorn book this morning. She was feisty and brash, yet pretty and soft. Just the ticket for Michael, who needed to play protector but could never be with a woman who’d let him ride rough-shod over her. “You know, it so happens I recently met a young lady who would be perfect.”
Roderick waited expectantly.
“Her name,” Mortimer said, drawing out the suspense, sure of his friend’s reaction, “is Feeney.”
He wasn’t disappointed. Roderick began to sputter, then turn bright red. “No. Not those two…”
“Their niece. A lovely young woman.”
“Is she a murderer, too?”
Mortimer knew what Roderick was referring to. There had certainly been gossip about the Feeney sisters, Ida Mae and Ivy. He wasn’t sure it was true, however. “That’s never been proven.”
Roderick marched back into the room, picked up his half-empty tumbler and tossed the remnants of his whiskey back in two gulps. Finishing, he breathed deeply and said, “You’re willing to risk Michael’s well-being by involving him with a Feeney woman. I say, Mortimer, have you quite gone off your nut?”
Perhaps. Some people certainly thought he had, at many times in his life. Including, most recently, when he’d purchased this weary town and taken up residence in a ram-shackle old mansion. “Who better to liven up Michael’s life than a woman he can never be sure of? Is she good…is she bad? Is she trustworthy…or dangerous?” He smiled and chuckled, liking the idea more and more. “Oh, yes, I think young Miss Feeney could be the answer to our prayers.”
“Do people pray for devil-women?”
With a frown, Mortimer snapped back, “She’s a nice girl.”
“Must not take after her relatives.” Obviously seeing Mortimer was not to be swayed, Roderick let out a long-suffering sigh. “I do hope you know what you’re doing. Do you truly want to find yourself tied to the Feeney sisters?” As if he knew the moment he’d said the words that he’d given Mortimer a risqué opening to reminisce about his adventures with Ida Mae and Ivy, Roderick immediately threw his hand up, palm out. “Don’t answer that. There are some things I just don’t want to know.”
Still chuckling as Roddy left the room, Mortimer settled back in his chair. Sipping his whiskey. Thinking of Borneo. Of his wives. Of Carla, his daughter. He also thought of three little tearstained faces watching him from across a flower-laden casket and remembered the vow he’d made on that day, to see to it that his grandsons lived very happy lives.
Maxwell certainly was. His happiness with his new wife rang clearly in his voice every time he called from California, so there was one taken care of. While Mortimer had not set out to “set up” his middle grandson, judging by how things had worked out, finding the right woman had been the key to Max’s happiness. So perhaps it would be the same for the other two. But since neither seemed interested in following their brother down the path of wedded bliss, they might need a nudge.
His oldest grandson Mitchell was currently in China, photographing the great terra-cotta army near Mount Lishan for National Geographic magazine. Oh, what Mortimer wouldn’t give to be with him; though, of course, his knees could barely manage the stairs of his house these days.
Anyway, with Mitchell out of the country, beyond Mortimer’s reach, there was only one single grandson near enough to work on. That was the youngest. The one who probably most needed a soothing, loving relationship in his life to counter the violence he dealt with on a daily basis.
Yes, it was most definitely time for Michael to fall in love. And if he needed a little assistance in that direction?
Well, Mortimer Potts was more than happy to oblige.
Pleaese note: THEY'RE IN TROUBLE is an updated and revised version of SHE'S NO ANGEL, original published by HQN.
Watch for THEY'RE IN TROUBLE in late 2021