The Gunny & The Jazz Singer (Birchwood Falls #1)

Author's Note:
 
This book was
originally published as
Lost and Found
.

It now has a new title and new cover.

 

U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Marc
Rahn, Jr. enlisted after high school graduation to escape the pain of his
parents' fatal car wreck. Now on leave after eight years and multiple Middle
East deployments, he returns to his hometown to put to rest his suspicions that
the "accident" might actually have been anything but.

What he doesn't expect on move-in
day from the neighbor across the street is an intriguing flash of pierced
nipple. The breast's owner, Phoebe Barnes, is a beautiful young jazz singer who
has plans to make it big in the music business. Her early years in foster care
made her hungry for attention and fame, and she's out to achieve both at almost
any cost.

Despite their differing goals, Marc
and Phoebe quickly give in to the sizzling attraction between them. But will
their passion turn deadly when the person who killed Marc's family decides two
murders might not have been enough?

 

Review for
Lost and Found

The Jeep Diva
-- "The
characters are strong, compelling and easily related to and the author conveys
their emotions, passions and personalities with vibrant intensity making it
easy for the reader to become engrossed in their stories."

***

The Gunny & The Jazz Singer

A Birchwood Falls Novel

by Jane Leopold Quinn

 

Chapter One

Birchwood Falls, Iowa

Early May

In the inky blackness of the small
club, a lone spotlight beamed down on her. At this moment in time, Phoebe
Barnes was the center of the universe, all eyes on her. She heard only her
accompaniment, Hank One at the piano, Hank Two on sax. The minor notes of both
instruments filled the room, overshadowing the clinking of bottles and glasses
and the low-toned conversations. Blocking other sights and sounds, she sang of
the sadness of trying to save love only to lose it in the end.

Her petite body sheathed in a
floor-length black tank dress with ruffles running diagonally across the
bodice, Phoebe warbled into the microphone. The campy thick streak of her
bright fuchsia bangs belied the melancholy, bluesy tones of
It Doesn't Matter Any More
by Eva
Cassidy.

Deep in the moment, she closed her
eyes, tipping her head to the side, her pursed lips stretching out the words "over
you". Selling the sorrowful lyrics wasn't hard for her. In her soul she'd
never gotten over being left literally on the firehouse doorstep as an infant.
Her adoptive family loved her, and she loved them back, but there was still an
emptiness inside her. She'd been abandoned as some woman's mistake.

She held the last note, softening
it, gentling it into a dreamy musical sigh. Head bowed, hands clasping the
microphone to her chest, she waited for reactions. Then at the sound of
applause and with a gracious smile, she raised her head to make eye contact
with the audience. A lot of them were friends here to support her in the new
series of songs she was trying out. She knew they would have cheered her on
even if she'd sung flat. But she hadn't. That was the best part. She was
succeeding in her chosen profession, and she'd never been happier.

Moira Logan, a model-tall svelte
redhead, approached the small stage. "Phoebs, that was wonderful. Did you
send a tape to William Morris?" She referred to the iconic artistic
agency.

Phoebe stepped down and leaned in
toward her best friend. "Tomorrow. I wanted to see if anything needed to
be re-recorded after this set."

"Well tonight was fabulous, so
it's a go."

The noise level in the club had
kicked in and seemed even louder compared to the moody silence when she'd been
singing. She loved the clubs, the excitement, the din of laughter and
conversations. She loved being out with people and having fun. But
unfortunately she had to go home. Singing at night and working a day job was an
exhausting combination.

"Baby." Davy bumped
shoulders and kissed her on the cheek. "You were hot."

"Thanks, honey. And thanks for
coming." Sliding an arm around his waist, she gave him a quick squeeze.
Davy, her other best friend, had features almost as pretty as Moira's but
softer and sweeter. His glacier-blue eyes were the most striking color she'd
ever seen.

"I wouldn't have missed it. I
can't wait to go to the Grammys and tell everyone that I knew you when," he
said, offering her a glass of white wine.

"You're not going alone on
that trip, Davy," Moira chimed in.

"You guys are totally welcome.
If I'm ever lucky enough to even
go
to the Grammys, let alone win one, I'll want you there." She rolled the
cold, crisp liquid around her tongue and swallowed it with a tired sigh. "But
I've got to get some sleep. It's been a long day."

"The most hyper woman I know
is finally tired?" Moira grinned sympathetically.

"I had to be at work early this
morning to open the store. At least I can sleep in tomorrow. Thank goodness my
neighborhood is quiet."

***

Unhhh,
what's that?
Phoebe cranked open one eye to check the time. Nine
twenty-two. Shit. She'd wanted to sleep until at least ten. Nine twenty-two
wasn't really too early but still—

Rolling off the bed, she slowly
trekked to the front room of her small house and peeked out the picture window
to see what the ruckus was about. Someone was moving into the bungalow across
the street.
Finally.
The house had
been empty for quite a while and was too cute not to have a family living
there.

A big man at the back of a truck
directed movers into the house. It was a small truck so there wasn't all that
much furniture. An iron bedframe balanced against a tire while the man bent
over, his gray t-shirt riding up exposing a muscular back and giving her a peek
at a gorgeous ass in snug jeans. He and another man in work clothes hoisted a
black leather couch into the air and marched it up the porch steps and through
the door.

She put out a hand to balance
against the window frame, too curious now to go back to bed. When the man
bounded back down the porch steps, his chin lifted and his gaze riveted on
hers.

His face with its hard features,
strong chin, and dark shadow of a beard tugged at her heart. Short black hair
stuck up over his forehead, which would have made him look boyish if he hadn't
been filling out that t-shirt and jeans so well. She saw all this clearly. The
street was only two lanes wide. Did this small amount of furniture mean the
fascinating-looking man didn't have a wife and family? Not that it would make
any difference to her.

He lifted a hand to shade his eyes,
a big grin splitting his face.

She shivered. The arm holding her
up shook. "Oh my God!" Slamming back to the side of the window, she
pressed both palms against the wall's rough plaster.

Naked! She'd just shot him
full-frontal nudity. She'd been so engrossed in the sight of him she'd
completely forgotten her own bare-assedness.
Oh shit! He'll either never speak to me or he'll be over here in five
minutes.

How the hell was she going to get
back to the protection of the bedroom? Her tiny house offered a clear view from
the front window all the way through to the back. Afraid to peek around the
curtain to see if he was still watching, she realized how cold she was. Her
nipples—with a little gold ring piercing one tip—stood out like ripe, hard
raspberries. Of course it was the chilly temperature and not her immediate
attraction to the man's jeans. And chest. And flat belly…

Okay.
Pull yourself together. Just sprint to the bedroom. He's probably not looking
any longer. Just go!

She flew through the bedroom door,
threw herself onto the rumpled bed, and pulled the covers up to her chin. A
fine time to be embarrassed by her nudity but she liked to pick the time and
place to grace a man with her body.

And welcoming a new neighbor with a
buck-naked flash wasn't quite the same as taking over a plate of cookies or a
tuna casserole.

Then it hit her again. She had just
flashed the new neighbor. Laughter pealed out in a rush.
Jesus. What a nutcase. Well it probably wasn't the first naked woman he'd
ever seen. Unless maybe he was gay?

Crap!
What a waste that would be.

 

Chapter Two

"Well I'll be damned."

"Did you say something, Mr.
Rahn?"

His balls had instantly drawn up
into the hot shelter of his groin, his cock swelling in interest. Swallowing
heavily the last spit in his mouth, he stood transfixed.

He
would
have to have perfect long-distance eyesight.

He reluctantly turned from the view
of the picture window back to the mover. "Um, no. Nothing important."
Luckily the guy hadn't noticed the show. Was this an example of the
neighborhood's welcome wagon?
Not a bad
idea. It's better than a casserole.

But right now his job was to move
in. Being distracted was not in the plan, but his brain remembered very well
the slender figure with long, dark hair on her head and a nice dark bush at the
juncture of her thighs. Because he was a man, his eyes had alternated between
pubic hair and breasts. There might have been a pretty, delicate face too. He
thought
so. And he was pretty sure he
saw an intriguing bright flash on her chest.

Damn
hot!

He sighed. She'd disappeared from
the window. Time to get back to work. Furniture didn't move itself.

What belongings he had were
minimal. It wasn't like he was used to sumptuous living after eight years in
the Marines. He did desire comfort, though. Big, overstuffed black leather man
couch, laminate wood coffee table for holding beer cans and pizza boxes—no need
for femmy things like coasters—a round maple kitchen table, four matching
chairs, and a king-size bed with a black wrought iron headboard.

He was only home on a six-week
leave and had bought just what he'd need for now. The rest could wait until he
was finally out of the service by the end of the year. The closet was plenty
big enough for his few clothes and had built-in drawers for the underwear.

He'd rented the Linden Lane house
empty but had the realtor stock it with kitchen items and food before he moved
in. No way was he going to trek to a housewares store for dishes and pots and
pans. He did want to buy a gas grill for the backyard though. He was a man,
after all.

The mover was finished and paid and
Marc slumped at the kitchen table, cold beer in front of him, elbows just
barely holding him up. He gazed out the window over the sink to the yard and
the line of trees at the back. He loved the idea of having country behind him,
the way it had been growing up. But he couldn't keep his mind off what he'd
seen across the street, could
not
forget the sight of that lush body.

His nuts tightened, the warmth
radiating into his belly and down over his thighs.
Did chocolate cake come with the girl? Apple pie?
This was what he'd
fought and sacrificed for. He didn't regret his years in the military. After
his parents were killed, he'd lost his bearings. The Marines had become his
home and family. He'd grown close to some of his buddies. Closing his eyes didn't
banish the sudden memory of the losses he'd suffered in Iraq deployments
either.

Having no major wounds was a
miracle. He'd kicked in as many doors as anyone else. He'd run for cover along
pockmarked, crumbling stone walls. He'd been inside a Humvee when it went over
an IED. He'd survived when others hadn't.
Shit!

With sheer grit he held back his
tears. The last thing he wanted was to wallow in depression. He'd grown up in
the safety of his home in Birchwood Falls with a mom and dad who loved him.
Losing them had almost destroyed him. He'd done his crying for his parents
years ago, and once he opened that door he wouldn't be able to do what he'd
come home for.

For years he'd been tortured by the
questions in his mind. That's why he'd finally come home. To find the answers.

After setting things up in his
bedroom, Marc headed out to survey the town he hadn't seen for just short of a
decade. He strode down Linden Lane toward Route 20 and hooked a right down the
long block to the courthouse.

Everything looked different. New
businesses had built out from the center of town and joined the old reliable
ones. Trees and bushes had grown taller and fuller. What did look the same was
the gas station on the corner of the highway and Third Street. He smiled at the
sight of the old-fashioned, rounded-top gas pumps.

Time slipped away at the sound of
the ding of the service bell. A bored-looking gas jockey meandered out toward a
car, nodded at the driver, and proceeded to
fill
'er up
. They still did that in B Falls. His shoulders twitched at the chill
racing along his spine. Things looked different, but some things never changed.
Would he get used to this again?

A square in the center of town held
the more than hundred-year-old ornate county courthouse surrounded on three
sides by a large park with flowerbeds, walkways, and iron benches. The fourth
side was always left open for weekend farmers' markets.

The building housed the police
station, jail, courtrooms, the mayor's office, and city council chambers—and
was his destination. He climbed the wide stone steps to hunt up Butch Wilcox,
an old high school buddy who was now a Birchwood Falls cop.

Memories raced through his mind of
long-ago football games, make-out parties with the cheerleaders after those
games, rolling eyeballs at each other during the most boring of classes. More
reminders of a life that had happened what seemed like centuries before.
Simpler, safer, fun times. It was good to see Butch. He wanted to catch up with
Mike Banning too. He'd been friends with Butch but best buds with Mike.

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