Impacted by the recession, twenty-four-year-old artist Gina McKenna is down to her last few dollars and days away from living in her car when a successful businessman buys a painting and commissions another. As their relationship evolves, she’s seduced by his charm and mesmerized by his luxurious lifestyle until she discovers he’s a drug kingpin. As her world turns upside down, she struggles to survive vicious brutality.
Miguel Lopez is a cocaine supplier with a weightlifter’s physique and ‘the rules do not apply to me’ attitude. Maniacal and ruthless, he has no qualms about killing anyone who interferes with his distribution network, including Gina.
Dedicated to eradicating illegal drugs, DEA Special Agent Bobby Garcia spent months and hundreds of thousands of dollars working undercover to buy his way up a dealer chain to identify the moneyman. When his fourteen-year-old daughter overdoses on cocaine, he traces the blow to Lopez. As Bobby’s mission becomes personal, he makes emotional decisions, which negatively impact civilians and his job. Unable to let go, he risks his career to orchestrate the biggest drug sting in Southern California. What happens isn’t what he expected.
When a deputy district attorney meets Gina at a party, he is smitten. As his attraction grows, so does Gina’s involvement with the DEA’s case, of which he is the designated prosecutor. Mindful of his professional ethics, he tries to stifle his feelings.
Sex and violence permeate the twists and turns of this cautionary tale about choosing one’s friends well.
I am thrilled to have Michele I. Khoury as the guest on my blog today and delighted to be sharing an excerpt from her debut book.
Writing my debut novel took six years. Not because I started and stopped, but because I created a plot that involved subjects that I didn’t know. Therefore, as I wrote, I researched. The storyline is about three people who collide over cocaine and is a cautionary tale about choosing one’s friends well.
The protagonist, Gina McKenna, is a twenty-four-year-old artist, and the only character that’s a composite of several people. Since I’ve never painted, I consulted with two friends: the first is a retired artist, who displayed her paintings in her Laguna Beach, California art gallery, and the second is a middle-aged black male artist. Gina’s personality reflects their passion, dedication, and philosophy.
Gina’s naïveté comes from me—as I learned, so did Gina. I didn’t experiment with drugs or use cocaine, so for the party scenes, I interviewed friends and strangers, and extrapolated from their experiences.
Gina’s need for money and her innocence clouded her judgment, and she made poor decisions. One reader shared that she became so enraged at Gina that she wanted to throw the book across the room. I asked, “Did you ever make a decision that was a bad choice?” She blushed and answered, “Unfortunately, yes.”
As Gina grows in the story, so does her character. She realized her false beliefs and incorrect thinking stem from childhood wounds. When she hits rock bottom and in the midst of her darkest moments, she developed a new perspective, which gave her strength and enabled her to heal.
What about you, dear reader? Have you made a decision that turned out to be a bad choice? Did a particularly painful experience become “one of the best things that ever happened?” Have you attended parties where drugs were used? Were you comfortable or uncomfortable? I’d love to hear about your experience.
Michele I. Khoury
Chapter 4: Gina-Gardenia-Scented Candle
A muscular man barged in front of them as if she and Suz didn’t exist. How rude.
He had short black hair; a chunky gold chain glimmered around his neck, and he held a beer bottle. A tiger’s eyes peeked above the tank top on his back, which matched the insignia on his leather wristbands. Holy cow. He was the gnarly guy who’d argued with Jason at Heisler Park.
“Seen Halloway yet?” he asked Jason.
“Miguel, this is Gina, the artist I told you about.”
He spun around, and his obsidian eyes bored into hers.
Intimidated by his glare, she said nothing.
Jason gestured with an open palm, “And this is Susie.”
Miguel glanced at her then did a double take, checking out her curvaceous figure.
Susie, a gentle soul with long dark brown hair and sea-green eyes, held her hand in front of her chest like a shield.
Gina’s protective instincts were triggered, and she stepped closer to her friend.
A clean-cut man strode up, grinning. “Miguel! Jason. Finally, we have our tres amigos reunion.”
Miguel bro-hugged the newcomer. “How ya doin’, man?”
“Always good to see you.” Jason thumped Tom’s back. “Gina and Susie, this is Tom Halloway, our good friend from high school.”
Taller than Jason and Miguel, Tom had broad shoulders, a prominent jaw, and sand-colored hair. He projected a polished image in a navy blazer, white shirt, and light– blue jeans. His charisma drew Gina in, and when he glanced at her, his cerulean eyes widened.
Noting his interest, she hoped he was an art supporter and smiled. “Hello.”
When Susie shook his hand, she blushed. “Nice to meet you.”
Aww, she likes him. Susie yearned for marriage and a family, and Gina wondered if they’d develop a relationship.
Two guys approached, and Jason discreetly ushered them a few feet away. The party noise drowned out their conversation, but as they chatted, one of the men gazed at Gina. Thinking that Jason was teeing her up for an introduction, her hopes rose.
Miguel playfully punched Tom’s shoulder. “Been a long time, man.”
“Ten years. Heard you’re in the import business.”
“Yep. Clay pot containers.” Miguel chugged his beer.
The men who’d been talking with Jason sauntered away. He rejoined their group.
Feeling a tad let down, Gina assured herself there was still plenty of time to meet the art patrons.
“How about you?” Miguel asked Tom. “What are you doing?”
“Didn’t Jason tell you? I’m a Deputy District Attorney.”
“Are you shittin’ me?” Miguel raised his eyebrows. “Where?”
“Right here in the OC.”
Miguel and Jason exchanged glances.
Wondering if Susie had noticed, Gina looked at her, but her gaze was glued to Tom.
“What do you do?” Tom asked Gina.
“I’m an artist.” Seizing the opportunity, she reached into her purse and withdrew a couple of marketing pieces. She gave one to Tom and one to Jason. The leaflet featured five paintings plus her contact information.
Using the light from the flaming torch, Tom perused her brochure and pointed to a painting. “Isn’t that the Big Corona Beach Jetty?”
“Yes.” Did he like it?
“Thought so,” Tom said. “I jog by there every day.”
“Do you collect art?” Susie asked.
“Not until I pay off my student loans,” Tom said.
Gina was disappointed, but she understood. Thank God she’d had a scholarship, or she’d be in even worse trouble.
Jason slid the piece into his pant pocket. “Give one to Miguel.”
Not wanting to waste any, she reluctantly offered another.
He snatched the leaflet and jammed it into his jeans.
Tom carefully tucked her pamphlet inside his jacket, and she appreciated the respectful way he treated it.
People streamed by, and one couple stopped to chat with Jason. The man, dressed in a charcoal Armani suit, escorted a hot-looking Asian woman in a short skin-tight scarlet dress. She hugged Jason.
“Awesome party,” the woman said.
The couple looked interesting, and Gina wanted to talk with them. Before she had a chance to introduce herself, they noticed Miguel and scurried off.
He was creepy, and she wished he’d leave.
“What department are you in?” Susie asked Tom.
“Do you work with the Feds?” Miguel asked.
“Collaborate with the DEA all the time.”
“Sounds interesting,” Susie said.
“The big cases are fascinating. But too many non-violent people are being incarcerated. We need to decriminalize drugs.”
Whoa. Gina exchanged glances with Suz, who looked as shocked as she.
“If you believe that, then how can you prosecute?” Jason sounded incredulous.
“With total dedication. I’m just saying, prohibition didn’t work for alcohol, and it’s not working for drugs.”
Writing is Michele I. Khoury’s third career. After graduating from the University of California at Riverside with a Masters degree in Economics, she worked at Xerox, where she set multiple sales records, and Apple Computer, where she received the Business Development Manager of the Year award. For twenty-one years, she was an international business consultant and taught technology companies around the world how to sell.
Her writing career began when she took the Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Novel Writing Classes offered through the University of California Irvine’s extension program. She was one of three out of the fourteen students her professor choose to mentor and attended weekly critique sessions for six years. BUSTED is her debut novel, and she is currently writing her second book, which is about domestic violence and abuse.
She lives in Orange County, California with her husband and rescued dogs, Bubbles and Thriller.
Please feel free to contact or follow me:
Publisher: Page Publishing, Inc.
WOW! Well wasn’t that great. Makes you want to rush out and get a copy doesn’t it?
My thanks go to Michele I. Khoury for her terrific post and the amazing excerpt from her debut book #Busted.
Also, thanks to Kelly at #LoveBooksTours for inviting me on board this wonderful Blog Tour and, with Page Publishing Inc., providing an eBook of Busted. I have not received any payment in relation to my participation in this Blog Tour nor any future review that may appear on my blog.
Would you like to read more about Busted by Michele I. Khoury? Then take a journey on the #BlogTour……
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