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Excerpt for Vows & Victims (A Presley Thruman Mystery) by Laina Turner

Title:  Vows & Victims 
Genre:  Cozy mystery/chick lit

Release Date: February 6, 2014


Presley goes back home to help Katy plan for her wedding to Chris and instead of nuptial bliss, realtor Bethany Granville is found dead in Katy’s salon. Katy didn’t even know Bethany. Ever curious Presley wants to solve the murder but as usual things aren’t that simple and grow even more complicated when ex-friend Dirt who was in jail for murder escapes.

Is he headed back into town? And did Chris know Bethany? All these are questions Presley is determined to get the answers to.

Author’s Bio:  

As a child Laina thought she would either be a truck driver (thanks to Jerry Reed in Smokey and the Bandit) or work at Taco Bell (her favorite restaurant as a child). As she grew older she realized her talents lay in academics and business and for the last several years has been a business consultant and college professor where she uses the analytical side of her brain and not the side that makes up stories.
Through all her career choices she has continued to have a passion for writing. This stemmed from childhood whereas an only child she developed a vivid imagination spending most of her time making things up and thinking the Incredible Hulk lived in her closet.


Proud of her vast experiences in life from barrel racing to being on the dance team for a semi pro basketball team to being a mom of 2 amazing kids, she tells her family and friends that no one is safe from their escapades slipping in to her books.

Taking the plunge to write books that she actually lets people read in 2010, she has worked her way up to having 5 fans (maybe 6 now). Her blog, The Art Of Living Fabulously, was launched to share the daily fun in the life of a Real Housewife of the Midwest along with the musing of other fabulous ladies.


“I can’t believe you’re actually getting married,” I said to my best friend from back home, Katy, while packing to head down there for the upcoming nuptials.


You mean you can’t believe I’m actually getting married to Chris. I know you don’t approve.”

Katy, it’s not that I don’t approve. I just want you to be happy. And Chris doesn’t have the best track record in making you happy.”

know, Presley, but he’s changed. I realize you’re not going to believe me until you see for yourself which you will, I promise, when you get here. He’s a completely different person. You just need to spend some time with him. He’s really been trying hard.”

I held back a sigh. I wanted to be happy for her, but there was a lot of negative history there.  However, Katy was a grown woman and could make her own decisions, or mistakes, as I saw it. I just needed to be the supportive friend and if things fell apart, be there to pick up the pieces and not say I told you so.

So you’ll be here by noon, right? In time to go with me to the florist, and the caterers, oh yeah, and by the hall to make sure everything is set, just to name a few things?”

I plopped down on the bed, phone still in my hand and sighed quietly so Katy wouldn’t hear me. It was taking a lot of effort to try and show genuine enthusiasm not just for the whole wedding in general but for all the work the maid-of-honor was supposed to do. I was happy to be a part of her wedding, but I wasn’t the best at all the organization and stuff.

Yes, I’m going to pack tonight and head out first thing tomorrow. I can’t wait!”

Katy laughed. “Whatever. I’ll see you then.”

I got off the phone and sat up, taking a mental inventory of what clothes I had clean that I should pack. My bridesmaid dress was there already waiting for me. Hope to God it still fit, since six weeks ago when I had it fitted and altered it had been a little tight and I just hadn’t been in the dieting mood. Food was so good.

I quickly made my clothing decisions and got everything together, except what I needed in the morning to get ready. I got in my pajamas, set my alarm and laid down to try and get some sleep but my mind kept thinking about what Katy was about to do. It reminded me too much of the problems I was currently having with Cooper and I wasn’t sure sleep would be too forthcoming.

When the alarm went off at six, I wanted to hit the snooze once, or twice, as was my normal practice, but I knew I needed to get up and on the road if I was going to make to it to Alkon in time for the many meetings Katy had planned for us.

At seven fifteen, I was in my black Kia Sportage pulling into traffic to head out of town. Jared, my roommate, was still sleeping when I left so I wrote him a note to not forget it was garbage day. I joked that taking out the garbage was the only reason I kept him around.

I’m Presley, thirty-something, auburn-haired, size eight on a good day, size 10 most of the time, Thurman. I live in Chicago in a condo with my friend Jared and was heading back to my hometown of Alkon, which was a couple of hours south of the city. While I left that small town the minute after graduation, not all of my friends did. Katy, for example, and my parents were still there, so I frequently went back to visit.

This was only the second time I had been back since the murder of Senator Tom Daniels. I had become involved in the murder, no fault of my own of course, and some of the key players had been friends of mine.

Coming back stirred up some not-so-great memories and with Katy’s wedding I had a great big memory smacking me right in the face.

I merged onto the freeway and thought about Chris the guy Katy was marrying. He had never treated Katy very well, in my opinion. Not only had Chris and Katy been on again and off again since high school, but he had also been involved romantically with Helen, the wife of Senator Daniels, when he was murdered. Chris had been played by Helen so, of course, when he got his heart broken he ran back to Katy who, God knows why, took him back.  It had been their pattern for so many years I almost wondered if it was just her habit.

I tried to put it out of my mind because I truly did want to be supportive for Katy and obsessing over all the reasons why she shouldn’t marry Chris wasn’t going to help that. So instead, I thought of my own current situation. I had recently started a job as a food blogger. It didn’t pay much and was basically a start-up column for a local paper which had started taking their product online, much like the writing gig I’d started before that had indirectly gotten me involved with the murder of Senator Daniels.

In that case, I had been an online journalist and the online magazine had sent me to interview the Senator because he was visiting my hometown where Helen was from. Shortly after the murder, in an unrelated series of events, the online magazine went under. It was sad, not only because I lost my new job, but my friend Trevor had been the editor and was instrumental in getting it off the ground. He had lost his job, as well as his investment. Lucky for him, he had found another job quickly, not surprisingly though because he was talented. Me on the other hand, I was still searching. I was, by definition of my college degree, a human resource professional. I had spent many years after college climbing the corporate ladder working toward that golden job in the C-suite. Then I became disillusioned, was sexually harassed by my slime ball of a boss, and walked out one day. It was the best, and most scary, day of my professional life.

While I had never regretted leaving the business world, it had left me at a loss of where my true passions lay. Since then, I had tried to follow my childhood passion which was writing but while working on the great American novel, I had to make my condo payment. So I worked a variety of different job leading up to this latest one. I wanted to find a way to make a living doing what I loved, but it wasn’t easy. Life was funny. When you were young you thought you would have it all figured out by the time you left high school. Ha! I had left high school a long time ago and I still had no idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up. Writing this food blog scared me a little.

What I knew about food mainly centered around eating it but I was convincing enough, or they were desperate enough, that they hired me. My first piece was due Friday, in three days, another reason I was stressed about the wedding. I had to find time to write five hundred words on a topic I knew little about. Coming to Alkon was also a great opportunity to talk to my mom, who really was a person who knew about food and I was hoping she could help me. If only I could get her to write it for me.

I turned on the radio and station surfed, distracting myself from everything and tried to just enjoy the drive. A couple of coffee stops and a couple hours later, I made it into Alkon and went straight to Katy’s salon. As I pulled in I was surprised I didn’t see any cars in the lot and then I remembered she didn’t open until 1 p.m. on Tuesdays as it was one of her late nights.

I had made such good time I had arrived twenty minutes early so not even Katy was there yet. I got out of my car to stretch my legs and walked around in circles in the parking lot. Then headed over to peek in the window of the salon. Katy was always changing the décor and I was curious to see what the latest look was.

I shaded my eyes with my hands and leaned against the front window to eliminate glare so I could see in better. I could see she had replaced the tile colors with a softer blue which gave the salon a much lighter feel than it had before. As I looked around I saw a mannequin sitting, or rather slumped over in one of the hair styling chairs. Why would she have one of those? Or was it a mannequin? I squinted to see better and almost wished I hadn’t. Holy crap that was most certainly not a mannequin. I reached for my phone thinking what were the odds this would happen to me twice. I had just found a dead body.



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