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Authors: T.C. LoTempio

Claws for Alarm

BOOK: Claws for Alarm
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Praise for


“Nick and Nora are a winning team.”

—Rebecca Hale,
New York Times
bestselling author of
How to Catch a Cat

“Nick and Nora are the purrfect sleuthy duo!”

—Victoria Laurie,
New York Times
bestselling author of the Psychic Eye Mysteries

“A clever debut featuring a wild and furry sleuthing duo . . . A big ‘paws-up' for
Meow If It's Murder
! . . . A fast-paced cozy mystery spiced with a dash of romance and topped with a big slice of ‘cat-itude.'”

—Ali Brandon,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Plot Boiler

“An absolute delight and Nick and Nora make a purr-fect mystery-solving team! I couldn't put it down!”

—Michelle Rowen, national bestselling author of
From Fear to Eternity

“[A] fabulous new crime-fighting team on the cozy crime scene . . . A triple-decker sandwich of murder, danger, and delight . . . Nick so brims with street smarts and feline charisma, you'd almost think he was human . . . An exciting new series.”

—Carole Nelson Douglas,
New York Times
notable author of the Midnight Louie Mysteries

“[A] lighthearted and engagingly entertaining whodunit . . . This was a great read and I can't wait to read the next book in this wonderfully terrific series.”


Berkley Prime Crime titles by T. C. LoTempio

Nick & Nora Mysteries



An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014


A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2015 by Toni LoTempio.

Excerpt from
Of Crime and Catnip
by Toni LoTempio copyright © 2016 by Toni LoTempio.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

BERKLEY® PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME design are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

For more information, visit

eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-63851-4


Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / November 2015

Cover illustration by Mary Ann Lasher.

Cover design by George Long.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.


For Larry Marshall and Mary Lou Ricciardi
Always in my heart


Once again I would like to thank my fabulous agent, Josh Getzler, and his assistant, Danielle Burby, for their encouragement, hand-holding, and prompt answering of all my questions and concerns even when they're trivial! I would like to thank Faith Black for believing in Nick and Nora from the start. I would also like to thank my new editor, Kristine Swartz, for stepping in to take over Nick and Nora and for all her help and encouragement, and the entire editorial staff at Berkley Prime Crime for the fabulous job they do. A special thanks to the fabulous copyediting team, who managed to keep this manuscript on track, and a big shout out to Mary Ann Lasher for another fabulous cover. (Although ROCCO thinks Nick's a bit too thin—but that's a discussion for another day!)

I would also like to thank all the fabulous authors that I have come in contact with through the years via ROCCO's blog. I've learned so much from all of you! Special thanks to Carole Nelson Douglas, who's always there with a word of encouragement. (And Midnight Louie, too!) A huge thank-you to Emily Hall and Laura Roth, who graciously consented to beta-read CLAWS for me! Your comments were much appreciated.

Finally, an author owes a lot to their readers, and I would like to thank each and every person who bought and read
Meow If It's Murder
, and who follow ROCCO's blog. Your support means the world to me, and I hope you are looking forward to the future adventures of Nick and Nora as much as I am!


hen he pulled out of the circular driveway of his beautiful English Tudor home that morning, Professor Thaddeus C. Pitt had no idea he was in the last hours of his life.

A robust man in his late fifties, he could easily pass for ten years younger. His thick, curly hair was still a striking jet-black, with nary a gray strand in sight. His health was quite good—it had been ages since he'd seen the inside of a hospital—and for that he credited his sensible diet, sparing consumption of alcohol, and the Gold Crown membership at his health club. Money had rarely been a problem for him: He'd amassed a considerable fortune over the years, partly due to his own talent as an artist and, in the later years after the arthritis had made it impossible to continue painting, through his art acquisitions. It was well known he had one of the largest collections of rare paintings and sculptures on the West Coast. Why, only last month Donald Trump and Sylvester Stallone
had offered him millions for the rare Cezanne he'd recently acquired. It had given him enormous pleasure to turn them down cold.

He liked having things other people wanted.

One thing he was certain several people wanted was the young, beautiful, blond wife he'd acquired a few years ago. Giselle couldn't tell a Cezanne from a Renoir, had not the faintest idea who Leonardo da Vinci was (“Isn't he the guy who was in that
Wolf of Wall Street
movie?”), but her other—ahem—attributes more than made up for her lack of polish. Yes, he was a lucky man indeed.

He pushed his wire-rimmed glasses up on the bridge of his aquiline-shaped nose and cast a wary eye at the stack of student portfolios left to grade that teetered on the edge of his cherrywood desk, threatening to spill over onto the thick shag carpeting. Even though teaching was a profession foisted upon him because he could no longer hold a brush in his hand for more than ten minutes, he had to admit to a certain satisfaction from nurturing his more talented students, inspiring them on to bigger and better things. The less talented ones—well, most of them, he feared—appreciated neither his candor nor his bluntness. Only the passage of time would most likely heal the wounds his words, perhaps cruel in tone but not cruelly meant, inflicted.

He leaned back in his chair. The glove leather felt like butter against his skin, and he let out a sigh of contentment as he reached for the top folder. He'd done half already, given them back in today's class. Not one student had gotten higher than a C—and none of them deserved any higher, in his opinion. Several of them had expressed their displeasure both verbally and visually, and his blasé attitude at their fury only
served to add fuel to their fire, which he could only hope and pray might manifest itself in future works. One student in particular had not taken his criticism well at all—although if he were to be perfectly honest, Lacey Charles wasn't quite as hopeless as the others. Her portrait work was quite good, actually, but even so, she was certainly no Anne Rowe or William Branson. Lacey's problem was, surprisingly, a lack of confidence. All she needed was a fire lit under her—that was why he'd told her to come to his office after her last class today.

One thing he was very, very good at was lighting fires.

His eye fell on the photo of Giselle in the silver frame square in the center of his desk, reminding him he still had yet to answer her about going to that damned fund-raiser. He leaned back in his chair, trying to think of a worthy excuse, and as he did so his gaze fell upon an object tucked on the shelf on the far wall. He abruptly straightened in his chair and reached for his phone, brows drawn together as he punched in a number. The frown deepened as voice mail kicked in, and when the beep sounded, he said, “It's me. You didn't call as you were supposed to. Avoiding me won't change anything. As I told you this morning, I've discovered the flaw—the dirty little secret of what you sold me, and since I don't take lightly to abuse of art in any form, unless this matter is resolved—and quickly—I'll be forced to take further action. Oh, and for the record, I don't bluff.”

That done, he rose, stretched, and made his way over to the well-stocked bar at the other end of his office. He poured himself a glass of port and stood in front of the bay window, sipping and looking out at the dimly lit street below. After a few minutes he began to feel groggy. He put his hand to his head, rubbed at his temples.

You're getting old, Thaddeus, my man. You can't drink like you used to.

He held the glass aloft, swirled the liquid, and took another sip. He held the glass out, frowned. Was it his imagination, or did the liquid seem a tad cloudy?

Impossible. I drank from this decanter only last night and everything was fine, just fine.

His knees started to wobble, and the wineglass slid from his hand, landing on the carpet with a soft
. The room seemed to spin crazily, and his vision blurred. His dimming gaze fixed on the bottle of wine as the shudder ripped through his body.

Good God. I've been drugged.

His legs went out from under him, and he fell upon the soft carpet, his head lolling to one side like a broken doll's. So dulled were his senses that he was oblivious to the creak of the office door as it opened, or the soft footfalls that signified the presence of an intruder. Pitt never felt the sharp blade of the knife as it entered his body and pierced his heart. He let out one long, shuddering gasp as his lungs started to bleed into his chest cavity, and his last conscious thought as the life slowly ebbed out of him was that, even had he been a praying man, no amount of it could help him now . . .

BOOK: Claws for Alarm
9.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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