Today I am so pleased to welcome A. E. Wasp to Joyfully Jay. A. E. has come to talk to us about her latest release, Pros & Cons of Betrayal. She has also brought along an exclusive cover reveal and excerpt. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
I have a confession to make. I think the entire dumpster fire of 2020 is my fault. I’ve always said if I ever got my act together, it would be the end of the world.
Unfortunately for you all, I had 2020 planned out. I had a bullet journal and a collection of colored pens and washi tape. I was using it faithfully. I had a publishing schedule and covers and editors book out for the year! I had travel plans and places to stay until OCTOBER including a three-month stint apartment sitting in the Bronx. Starting in April. The people I was sitting for were going to Italy.
So. Sorry about that.
Can I just say quarantine sucks and COVID19 sucks?
The hardest thing about this quarantine for me was the loss of privacy. I went from living alone to being trapped in a house with 4 other people (including a ten-year-old) 24/7 for weeks at a time. I had no room that I could be alone in and write. I found it difficult to even get alone time to think. If I can’t hear the characters in my head, I can’t write. So that was very hard.
The upshot is Pros & Cons of Betrayal, book #4 in my Leverage/Charlie’s Angels-but-Make-it-Gay series is a month delayed. But today I have a cover reveal and an exclusive excerpt for you!
I grew up watching Mission:Impossible and Charlie’s Angels. I’ve seen every heist movie I can find and I adore Leverage. (I can’t wait for the new series!)
The set up for Pros & Cons is blackmail from beyond the grave. Five men were recruited to do five jobs tailored to their expertise. Each time a job is completed, one person’s blackmail material gets destroyed. They are best read in order. #1, is Pros & Cons of Vengeance and features my hitter, Castille (Steele) Alvarez, former Army Ranger and close protection specialist, and Breck Pfeiffer, the hustler with a heart of gold who gets picked up by a bad, bad man.
Book #4 is Carson’s story. Carson is the con-artist of the group, and the one with the most mysterious background. No one knows much about him. His assignment is the most terrifying yet. He has to go home.
For a character list and excerpt from the previous books, check out PROS & CONS on my website.
The cover is by the inimitable Angsty G. I adore the covers for this series.
So, Carson, this is where you grew up? Davis asked.
“If by this, you mean La Crosse, yes,” I said to Leo. We were getting good at having conversations over the coms without looking at each other.
“I thought you said you’d rather go to jail than come back here,” Leo said. “So what changed your mind?”
Yeah, Breck chimed in, spinning away from Shauna who was in deep conversation with Ridge. Why the about face? At first you were all like ‘No, no, Miranda, I would rather go to jail.’ And then you’re like—‘No, we are going to Wisconsin.’ His imitation of me was somewhere between Katherine Hepburn and Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.
“Yes, quite,” I replied in my favorite I’m bored by life tone. I had a whole library of tones. And yes, I did practice them when I was alone. When I was younger, I had practiced facial expressions in the mirror, too. I also read psychology books and books on human behavior. Running cons on people was an art and a skill. It took both practice and education.
“Seriously,” Steele said. “What changed your mind? What was in that envelope Miranda handed you?”
My hand hovered over the wallet in my jacket pocket. Should I show them?
Maybe it was the enforced closeness that came from driving in an SUV with six grown men for days, or just maybe it was the way I’d come to realize these guys really did have my back, but a part of me I thought was long dead and buried wanted to tell him the truth. I wanted someone to see at least part of the real me, whatever that was. If there ever had been such a thing, the remnants of it lived in Wisconsin on the banks of the Mississippi river.
I looked at Leo, to see if I could trust him with this secret. Did he have any idea what it meant for me to be sharing this piece of myself with them? He smiled warmly. “It’s okay if you don’t want to share. We’ve all got private lives.”
Speak for yourself, Breck said. I’m an open book.
“Yeah, an open comic book,” Ridge said, high-fiving his new BFF Shauna. She looked confused but slapped his palm.
“No, I will.” They were going to find out everything eventually. I considered telling them everything, but a lifetime habit of secrecy kept me silent. I took my wallet out of my jacket pocket and opened it slowly. The complex mix of emotions contemplating my history always created flooded over me as I studied the small photograph Miranda had given me.
I handed the picture to Leo.
He took it, eyebrow eyebrows rising to his hairline. “Is that…?”
“She looks like you.” He flipped it over. I knew what he’d see. Charlie had written me a message. You have a great family. Don’t let misplaced pride keep you away from them.
“In a way, I feel like I owe Charlie,” I said as partial explanation. “It being his dying wish and all.”
“Let me see,” Steele said. Leo passed him the picture on my nod.
Steele frowned. “Aw, it’s just a nice-looking old lady.”
“Don’t let her hear you call her old,” I said. “You won’t think she’s nice then.”
Who is it? Danny asked.
I almost jumped at his voice in my head. I’d forgotten the boys were here. I looked over to see him and Wesley apparently enthralled by the game they were playing.
I took the photo back and touched it gently.
For fuckssake, Carson, Ridge said, who is it?
“It’s my mother.”
“Well, dayumn,” Steele said reaching for the envelope. “Carson’s got a real life momma.”
“Of course I do. Unlike you, I wasn’t hatched from an alligator egg.” I pulled the photo out of his reach.
I want to see, Breck said, spinning his stool around and reaching towards our table. Gimmie. Steel, gimmie.
With a sigh, I handed the picture back to Steele who surreptitiously slipped it to his irrepressible boyfriend.
Alligators lay eggs? Breck asked. Well, yeah, I guess they would. Don’t know why that sounded so funny.
I want to see Carson’s mom, Danny said.
Ridge stood up and walked towards the bathroom. He stopped to comment on Wes and Danny’s game table and handed them the photo before entering.
She does look nice, Danny said. So is your mom is the bad guy this time? he asked in a whisper.
“No,” I said immediately. “Of course not.”
Oh sure, Davis said. Flaunt your non-shooting parental unit.
“Have you told her you’re back in town yet?” Leo asked.
I shook my head. “It’s been a long time. I’m not sure how she would take it.”
Now I want to see Carson’s mom, Davis said.
Wesley got up from the table and wandered to the bar. Leaning over the bar to get the bartender’s attention, he passed the photo to Davis without making eye contact.
Charlie wanted you to reconcile with your mom? Danny asked.
“And take down Smallman,” I reminded him.
“And he just happens to live in the same town as your mother?” Leo asked mildly, his expression giving away nothing. Special Agent Shook was good at hiding his feelings, I’d give him that. But I was better at reading people. He was suspicious and given what I’d learned about him since we’d been together, I’d bet he was jealous.
“It is a convenient overlap of two of Charlie’s goals,” I said.
What does old Chuck have on you? Breck asked. What is his corpse holding over your head?
“Everything. And I owe him a specific debt,” I answered with total honesty. That was the thing about being around people who knew you were a professional liar. Sometimes you could safely tell the truth knowing there was a fifty-fifty chance they’d believe you.