Working Stiff: A Sofie Metropolis Novel (Sofie Metropolis Novels)

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9780765356796: Working Stiff: A Sofie Metropolis Novel (Sofie Metropolis Novels)

Sofie Metropolis’s PI business is so successful at finding missing spouses and lost pets and at proving insurance fraud that she’s hired new staff, including her (formerly) layabout cousin. 

There are two men in Sofie’s life: sexy Greek baker Dino, who found a place in her heart—and bed—in Foul Play, and man-of-mystery Jake Porter, whose Australian accent is guaranteed to turn Sofie’s knees to water. 

The week before Halloween, a body disappears from Sofie’s Aunt’s funeral home. It might be a holiday prank, but Sofie’s barely begun to investigate when she’s handed a truly hot case:  prove the innocence of someone already on trial for murder! 

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About the Author:

LORI and TONY KARAYIANNI, who write under the name Tori Carrington, are winners of the Romantic Times BOOKreviews Reviewers’ Choice Award and nominees for the RITA Award and the National Readers’ Choice Award. Long-time writers of romance and romantic suspense, the Karayiannis have published more than twenty novels. They live in Toledo, Ohio.
 

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Working Stiff
OneTHE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MEN AND boys is the size of their toys.I slid my Glock 9mm from my shoulder holster and weighed the nearly pound and a half of deadly weapon in my palm along with the old axiom. If the saying was true, what did my carrying around this puppy say about me? And what would be the female equivalent? The difference between women and girls was the sheen of their curls? The height of their espadrilles? The size of their hills?That was me for you. More than Sofie Metropolis, but Sofie Metropolis, PI. And gender-bending questions like the one I just asked rated among my favorites. Not merely because I am a woman in a typically male-oriented career, but because I am a Greek-American woman of whom nothing more is expected beyond marrying a good Greek guy and providing my parents with grandchildren. Dark-haired, Greek grandchildren that would look cute in their traditional Greek costumes in the annual Greek Independence Day parade down Fifth Avenue every March.What made the reflection particularly interesting was that seven months ago I came very close to delivering on all of my family's expectations. Good thing I happened across my would-be groom Thomas the Toad's extracurricular activities before the ceremony rather than after (even if I still wished I hadn't found him playing an X-rated version of show-and-tell with my maid of honor five minutes before that same ceremony). Had I found out afterward ... well, I'd likely still be married to the jerk and probably would be pregnant with our first child, coming to accept my family's promise that Thomas would "grow out" of his need to show Little Thomas to other women. Despite my deep-seated belief that men like Thomas didn't change. They were much like young boys that graduated from Matchbox cars to the real thing as they got older. But in the end, they were still obsessed with cars.I shuddered as I popped the ammunition magazine and then pulled back the metal slide, emptying the round from the chamber before reaching across the stick shift and putting the gun into the glove box of the old Mustang I affectionately called Lucille. I pushed the single bullet into the magazine and then slid both into my handbag. (Hey, it probably wasn't a good idea to keep the gun locked up in a car that was as easy to get into as an old breadbox, so keeping the ammo separate from the firearm itself made me feel moderately better.) While the reason I was strapped had to do with my visit to a firing range in Woodhaven, I'd been carrying concealed a lot more often lately. Probably because the one time I'd been caught without my gun recently had been the one time I'd needed it most.Thankfully, my souvenir Mets bat had served as excellent backup against Santos Venezuela, who'd had a long-standingrivalry with his younger brother Reni Venezuela and decided that it was time to prove himself the better ballplayer once and for all by kidnapping Reni and taking his place as relief pitcher for the Mets, albeit not the ambidextrous one fans like me had come to expect.Lucky for Reni, Santos hadn't gotten rid of him and taken his place permanently before I figured out what was going on. Then I'd guaranteed Santos wouldn't be throwing any balls in the near or faraway future by whacking him in the right arm with a bat he'd autographed, breaking his shoulder.I stared through the windshield at Broadway. Not the Broadway in Manhattan, but the one in Astoria, Queens, essentially the Greek-American center of the universe, despite how hard the Ditmars Blvd. Greeks were trying to steal the title. The waning light told me that dusk wasn't far off. Which meant I was late. I looked at the clock on my cell to find it was just before six. Actually, I wasn't late. Instead, the shortening autumn days had pushed dusk up further than it had the day before.A cool, stiff breeze blew leaves across the street and foreboding up my spine.Of course, my reaction had a lot to do with the fact that I didn't want to be parked in front of my aunt Sotiria's funeral home. Scratch that. I didn't want to attend the viewing of a man I'd never met, but my mother had insisted I come too because, as she put it, "it's our obligation as fellow Greek expatriates."It didn't help that Nick Papadakis didn't have any family to speak of. Not anymore. After his mother had passed nearly a decade ago, and his father a few years before that, Nick had been left alone, meaning there were no relatives to grieve loudly over his body.If my reluctance to get out of my car now had anything to do with Halloween looming little more than a week away, I wasn't copping to it.That went double for the horror movie I'd rented last night that featured flesh-eating zombies."Oh, just go in and get it over with," I told myself. "It's not like Nick is going to reach out for you from the casket."Perish the thought.I adjusted the rearview mirror, checking that my light brown hair was neat around my shoulders, my mascara evenly applied around my green eyes, and sighed. I grabbed my black trench coat from the passenger seat and then climbed out, closing the door after me. The leaves that had blown across the street swirled in front of my feet and then stilled, as if daring me to cross them in my new pumps. I stepped on them, relishing the sound of them crumpling under my heel."It's about time you got here," my mother, Thalia Metropolis, said the instant I entered the east parlor to the left of the entrance.I repressed an eye roll. My mother. The guilt maven of America. Ever since she stopped working at my father's restaurant a few years ago, it seemed she had an endless amount of time to hound me about what I should or shouldn't be doing. And that extended to every aspect of my existence, including my sorry excuse for a love life as well as my job.I'd gotten a reminder of that last Sunday when I'd gone to family dinner at my parents' place. I'd forgotten to leave my Glock in the car and had tucked it under my jacket on a chair in the living room. I should have known better, because when I went back to collect it some hours later, I found my coat hanging in the closet and my Glock nowhere to be found."What did you do with it?" I'd asked my mother in the kitchen.She'd pretended she didn't know what I was talking about. "What did I do with what?""You know what."I hadn't been about to announce to everyone in the house that I'd carried a gun inside. Besides, my mother had known exactly what I was talking about.As did at least one other person, it turned out, as I'd watched Yiayia, my eternally black-clad paternal grandmother, open the garbage can and extract my missing firearm by the grip with her thumb and index finger as if it smelled as bad as the discarded spinach that was draped over the barrel.My mother had thrown away my gun.I stared at her now, trying to figure out how her mind worked. And how I might begin to work it to my advantage rather than playing ceaseless victim to it."I am not late," I said, taking in the three people milling about the small, nicely appointed room. "You're early."I didn't see my aunt Sotiria anywhere. Or her vest-wearing, pale son, Byron, who, it was joked, had never really been revived after a boating accident when he was nineteen. Rather, rumor had it that my aunt had somehow found a way to preserve her only child and that he was now officially a member of the walking dead.I used to laugh at the harmless talk. Until he'd taken much pleasure in repeatedly sneaking up on me during my three-week stint at the funeral home several years ago. That was back when I'd decided I didn't want to wait tables at my father's or grandfather's restaurants anymore (actually, it had more to do with my not wanting to spend more time than I had to around the overbearingGreek males who, at the time, had likened "daughter" and "granddaughter" to "brainless slave").Thalia waved her hand as if it were of no never mind to her. "Anyway, thank God you came. I contacted at least twenty women on the church call tree and I don't see a single one of them here."I looked toward the focal point of the room decorated with pressed curtains and a single pedestal of white carnations that I knew was included in Burial Package Five."Maybe they're running late," I said absently.Seemed they weren't the only ones late. Where was Nick Papadakis?No body. No casket. Nothing but an empty spot that had recently been vacuumed, the carpeting bearing sweeper tracks.I rubbed my arms against the chill I felt. Aunt Sotiria was religious about making sure the body was out on time. No body, no viewing, she'd been fond of saying. Normally the room wasn't open until everything was set up. And the body was obviously of key importance.My mother seemed more concerned about the few people that had showed up, completely oblivious to there being no body to view."Do you have your cell phone?" she asked me.I stared at her.She held her hand out.I didn't fill it.You see, one of the things for which I'm grateful is that my mother had yet to fully enter the twenty-first century. Twenty-first? My younger sister, Efi, sometimes joked that she would have been right at home in the nineteenth century, an idea supported by my mother's resourcefulness during a ten-day Queens-wideblackout last summer. Thalia not only managed to have a fully cooked meal on the table every day, but somehow had kept the house cool, had hand-washed the clothes we needed, and had even found a way to iron them.She also viewed my sister's computer as little more than a paperweight to be dusted, and I'd never seen her use a cell phone. Hell, it had taken us five years to talk her into getting a cordless phone at the house."What's the matter?" she...

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