Monday, October 30, 2017

Christmas in the Sisters Tour and Giveaway!

Christmas in The Sisters
The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series Book 6
by Becki Willis
Genre: Cozy Mystery

Latest book in the Award-Winning The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series! 
Madison Reynolds can’t wait for Christmas this year. Rebuilding her life as a single mom hasn’t been easy, but after a challenging twelve months, she’s excited about the holidays. She and her twins have settled quite nicely here in The Sisters, renovations on the house are complete, her business is slowly growing, and, best of all, Chief of Police Brash deCordova is in her life. Visions of the perfect Christmas dance in her head. 
The tinsel begins to tangle when someone targets the community for a series of ‘Christmas Crimes.’ Homes are broken into and wrapped gifts are stolen from beneath trees. Even vehicles loaded with presents aren’t safe, particularly on a lone stretch of highway. Things like this just don’t happen in Naomi and Juliet. Torn between solving the rash of burglaries and shutting down the gambling ring that’s active in the area again, Brash does the only thing he can: he hires In a Pinch to help with the investigation.
Finding the common link between cases is like finding the bad bulb on a string of lights. Every lead is a short circuit. The frustration mounts when Madison and the Angel Tree she’s involved with fall victim to the crimes. Only the worst kind of Grinch steals from needy children! 
Brash has plans of his own for the perfect Christmas. With the help of a new jewelry store, he thinks he’s found just the right gift for Madison, until the Grinch strikes again. This wasn’t the surprise he had in mind. 

Ready or not, Christmas is on its way, and time is running out to create the holiday of their dreams. As the house fills with unexpected guests, Madison and the twins honor favorite traditions from the past while creating a few new ones of their own. 
Who has time for being kidnapped by men in Santa suits and bad beards? 

This is one Christmas that no one in The Sisters will ever forget!

Emergency lights clashed with the festive Christmas scene.
Beyond the police car’s glaring strobe, cheerful strands of twinkling white icicles dripped from the eaves of the house. Each porch post was wrapped in green. A profusion of multi-color lights sprang up in the yard, garnishing every bush, every bird feeder, and every tree in sight.
Wedging the cruiser into a slim niche between a Ford Expedition and a Pontiac Grand Am, Brash deCordova came within inches of a gigantic inflatable snowman. The chief of police picked his way between a stand of lighted candy canes, a herd of reindeer, and an animated gingerbread man. The obstacle course led him to the front porch, where a trio of wooden carolers greeted him, and a motion-activated wreath began the first bars of We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
It came as no surprise when the doorbell twinkled out the tune of Jingle Bells. Brash shook his head in wonder. The Hutchins certainly loved the season.
The door swung open and a plump woman motioned him inside. “Brash! You’re here.” The relief in Vanessa Hutchins’ voice was palatable. “Come in, come in.” She turned slightly away and bellowed down the hall, “Larry! The police are here!”
“I’m sorry to come calling like this, Vanessa,” Brash apologized, tugging the cowboy hat from his auburn head. “Larry tells me you’ve had some trouble.”
“I’ll say! Look! Just look at that!” She flung her arm toward the massive Christmas tree centered at the front windows. Dozens of bulbs, baubles, and ornaments covered every tip, illuminated by hundreds of miniature white lights. A red and green tree skirt peeked from beneath the lower branches.
“Nice tree,” Brash murmured, wondering how it kept from collapsing.
“Nice? It’s empty! Glory be, someone stole all our presents!”
A groove of worry puckered the officer’s brow. “All of them? How many did you have under there?”
“You mean an exact number?”
“For now, an estimate will do.”
Vanessa cocked her head to one side, mentally tallying up the gifts. “At least thirty. I’m almost done with my shopping. Or I was, until this happened!” She gave another emphatic wave toward the barren tree skirt.
“Calm down, Nessa,” her husband said, coming into the room carrying a steaming mug. He thrust it at his wife before offering his hand to Brash. “Brash, thanks for coming out so quick. Vanessa, take a few sips of hot chocolate and try to relax. Everything is going to be all right.”
“All right? You’re not the one who shopped for those gifts. And you didn’t wrap a single one of them, Larry, so don’t tell me to calm down!” Her voice rose with every word, both in pitch and volume.
“Can we have a seat?” Brash suggested.
Appalled by her lack of manners, the frantic woman immediately turned apologetic. She fussed around the officer, fluffing a snowman afghan at his back and producing a Santa-shaped ottoman for his feet. Brash politely settled among the excessive holiday pillows, grimacing when he activated one with music. Over the digital notes of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, he struggled to sound professional. “Tell me exactly what happened.”
“We were robbed, that’s what happened!”
“Were there any signs of forced entry?”
“The back door was jimmied open, if that’s what you mean,” Larry Hutchins offered. “We didn’t touch anything, in case you want to dust for prints.”
“Smart thinking. Was anything else taken?”
“Not that we’re aware of. We checked the gun case, jewelry box, desk drawers where we keep the checkbook, that sort of thing. Everything else seems to be here.”
“They were only interested in the presents,” his wife concurred. Hot chocolate already forgotten, she had taken to wringing her hands.
Brash jotted down notes in his trusty little notebook. It traveled with him everywhere he went, tucked into his shirt pocket. “Take me through this evening. We need to establish some sort of timeline.”
“Well, let’s see… I got off work around four. I stopped by Granny Bert Cessna’s to leave a donation for the Angel Tree. Bless her heart, that woman is over eighty and still as active as ever! She told me she’s going to Vegas to attend the National Finals Rodeo with her new beau, Sticker Pierce. They’re doing some big award for him, being as he’s a rodeo legend and all. Glory be! Anyway, on the way home, I spotted Glitter Thompson walking her dogs, so I stopped to chat for a few minutes. Poor dear is having trouble with her bursitis again. So, I must have wound up getting home about five fifteen or so. Since I forgot to lay anything out for dinner, we decided to go out for supper when Larry came home.”
Brash waded through all the useless chatter to find a kernel or two of helpful information. “Were the gifts still under the tree when you arrived home at five fifteen?”
“Yes. The first thing I do when I get home is turn on the tree lights. I’ve thought of getting one of those automatic timers, but I’m not sure I trust them.”
“What time did Larry get in?”
“Five thirty-eight, same as every day. You can set your clock by this man.” For the first time since Brash had arrived, Vanessa smiled. She patted her husband’s shoulder as she stood over him, too nervous to sit.
“And neither of you saw anything unusual? No strangers about, no cars out front, no unscheduled deliveries?” Brash clarified.
“No, everything seemed normal,” Larry answered.
“What time did you leave for the restaurant?”
“Around six thirty. And we called you the minute we got in, about ten minutes ago.”
“So that narrows down the window of opportunity to about an hour and thirty-five minutes.”
Larry nodded. “That sounds about right.”
“Vanessa, do you have a list of everything under the tree?”
“Of course. I keep a detailed list of what I buy for each person, and I check each item off as I wrap it. I’ll be happy to get it for you.”
“Fine, fine. But I’d like to ask a few more questions before you do. Have either of you noticed anything strange over the past several days, or weeks? Again, any strangers about, cars out front, deliveries, anything disturbed in the yard, anything at all?”
“I don’t believe so.”
“Glory be, not that I can think of.”
“How long has your tree been up?”
“We always put it up Thanksgiving evening, while the kids are here to help pull things out of the attic. Larry’s shoulder gives him a fit, you know. Rheumatism.”
“Old football injury,” her husband claimed, rotating his arm as if to disprove his wife’s claims.
Brash had been a few years behind the other man in school, but he knew Larry Hutchins did little more than warm the bench. The most strenuous thing he ever did during a football game was to carry the water cooler and hoist it in victory when the Cotton Kings won, dumping its contents on the coach’s head.
Himself Cotton King royalty, Brash chose to ignore the exaggeration. Instead, he turned to Vanessa. “How long have the gifts been under there?”
“I couldn’t start wrapping without paper, of course, and I didn’t decide on my theme until after Black Friday.”
She bobbed her head. “I do a different theme of paper each year, you know, and this time it was snowflakes. You should have seen the tree… it was particularly gorgeous this year, with at least six different snowflake papers in all different colors.” Her eyes turned misty as she clasped her hands over her heart and mourned the lost beauty. The monetary loss hadn’t been mentioned yet, most likely because she was still in the emotional phase of the theft. “As soon as I settled on a theme, I went to Bryan and bought all my paper.”
“And when was that?”
“Let’s see… It wasn’t Monday, and I don’t think it was Tuesday, because I had a Weight Off meeting. I had church on Wednesday night and played Bunco on Thursday.” She scrunched her face as she ran through her week. She had a brief argument with herself about whether she had missed the Wednesday night service, until she remembered Brother Greer’s lesson. She even went so far as to share the gist of it with the two men. When she still couldn’t pin down the exact day she went shopping, she called in reinforcement. “Larry, what day did I bring home dinner from Tasty’s?”
“What’s Tasty’s?” Her husband looked perplexed.
“That new fast food place on the way out of Bryan, the one with those low-cal smoothies I’m always raving about.” When he still looked confused, she added, “You know, where Merle Bishop’s granddaughter started working.” Nothing registered on his face. With an exasperated sigh, she found something he could relate to. “The spicy chicken wings, Larry. What night did I bring them home?”
“Oh, Tuesday night,” her husband readily supplied. “I had already eaten at the poker game, but they made a nice midnight snack.”
The mention of a poker game did not escape Brash’s attention, but he made no comment. For the better part of the past year, he had been chasing a gambling ring operating in and around The Sisters. The operation included poker games, cock fighting, and some serious football score pools. To his consternation, he had yet to make a solid arrest, but he was getting close. He could feel it.
With a mental note to ask about the game later, Brash focused on the crime at hand. “So, you purchased the paper on Tuesday and began wrapping shortly after that. Now, I want both of you to think about this carefully. Since last Tuesday, has there been anyone in the house that normally doesn’t visit? A repairman, perhaps, or a neighbor who surprised you by dropping by? A delivery man who offered to bring the packages inside?”
“I had someone come in and work on my cuckoo clock. Every year, I have the little bird replaced with a Santa for the holidays.” Vanessa glanced at her watch. “He should be making an appearance in about five minutes.”
“We had a new freezer delivered and set up yesterday,” Larry said. “I’m taking a taxidermy class and need a place to keep mounts before I work on them.”
“And of course, I hosted Bunco on Thursday. There’s sixteen in our group,” Vanessa supplied. She nodded her head vigorously. “Yes, I remember now. Glory be, I was so shook up, I couldn’t even think earlier. But yes, I bought the paper Tuesday night and I took off work on Thursday so I could binge-wrap presents. I wanted the tree to look perfect when the ladies came.”
Brash held in a groan. He had his work cut out for him, running down all these potential leads. “Anyone else you can think of that has been in or around the house in the past week?”
“I hired a couple of high school boys to help me hang lights.”
“The Avon lady dropped off my order. And I invited the paper boy in while I found my wallet and paid him.”
“So, half the town of Juliet has been here,” Brash muttered beneath his breath. To the Hutchins, he announced, “I’ll need the names of everyone you’ve mentioned, plus phone numbers if you have them. I’ll look at the back door, take a few photos, and write up my report. I’m sure the insurance adjuster will ask for it.”
“Insurance?” Vanessa blinked in surprise.
“Your homeowner’s policy most likely includes theft. You’ll need to call your agent to confirm.”
“Glory be, I hadn’t even thought of that!”
While Vanessa still looked dazed, her husband’s expression lightened considerably. “So, we might not be out all that money, after all?”
Brash stood from the couch, again setting off the musical pillow. “You’ll have to speak to your agent to be certain. If you’ll direct me to the kitchen, I’ll finish up and get out of your way for the evening.”


Thirty minutes later, Brash pulled out from their driveway, his ears still ringing. There had been more Hutchins cheer to behold.
On his way through the hall, Brash activated an entire collection of dancing, singing elves. Twice. A tiny little Santa not only popped out from the cuckoo clock, but he chirped HoHo, HoHo. In the kitchen, a radio belted out holiday music. The mat at the back door sang the opening notes of Over the River and Through the Woods. And as word of the break-in spread, Vanessa’s phone kept up a steady jingle with her holiday ringtone. By the time Brash made his way through the maze of dazzling lights and blow-up lawn decor, he welcomed the peace and quiet of his patrol car. He never thought the squawk of a police scanner could be considered peaceful, but then again, he had never visited the Hutchins’ home at Christmastime.
Glory be.

Don't miss the other books in The Sisters, Texas series!
The first four books of the series will be a Free Kindle book (in order) each Saturday in Oct, with the last book, Genny's Ballad, available for a .99 Kindle Countdown Deal Oct 24-31

Chicken Scratch
The Sisters, Texas Series Book 1

When The Stars Fall

The Sisters, Texas Series Book 2

Stipulations and Complications
The Sisters, Texas Series Book 3

Home Again: Starting Over
The Sisters, Texas Series Book 4

Genny's Ballad
The Sisters, Texas Series Book 5

Becki Willis, best known for her popular The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series and Forgotten Boxes, always dreamed of being an author. In November of '13, that dream became a reality. Since that time, she has published eleven books, won first place honors for Best Mystery Series, Best Suspense Fiction and Best Audio Book, and has introduced her imaginary friends to readers around the world. 

An avid history buff, Becki likes to poke around in old places and learn about the past. Other addictions include reading, writing, junking, unraveling a good mystery, and coffee. She loves to travel, but believes coming home to her family and her Texas ranch is the best part of any trip. Becki is a member of the Association of Texas Authors, the National Association of Professional Women, and the Brazos Writers organization. She attended Texas A&M University and majored in Journalism.

Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!

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