THE SECRET LIFE OF MAGGIE BLAKE is a contemporary romantic suspense, light action & adventure tale — a story for fans of humorous husband/wife spy films like “True Lies,” readers who love slow-build romantic suspense, admirers of heroes in disguise like Zorro & The Scarlet Pimpernel, and anyone who’s ever found themselves having “Walter Mitty”-like fantasies in the middle of the day…
In an affluent Chicago suburb, Maggie Santori Blake, a clever stay-at-home mom with vivid daydreams of a more exciting life, is caught up in a dangerous game of espionage when an elusive motorcycle-riding hero returns to town.
The Motorcycle Maverick’s top-secret government mission puts Maggie’s life, her family’s safety, and her marriage at risk…especially when she discovers that the sexy, highly skilled, and masked special agent is none other than Preston A. Blake III—her seemingly mild-mannered CEO husband.
To protect those she loves, Maggie must not only confront the man she thought she knew and the decade of lies between them, she’s also forced to put aside her fantasies and become the heroic woman of her imagination.
Available now worldwide in both ebook & paperback!
Twelfth Night Publishing
Ebook & Print
Light Romantic Suspense
May 4, 2022 (Amazon); Nov. 1, 2022 (all other platforms)
2 Story Excerpts from THE SECRET LIFE OF MAGGIE BLAKE (copyright 2022 by Marilyn Brant) — one from Preston’s point of view and one from Maggie’s:
Preston had a new plan marinating in his mind. He opened his mouth to throw his brainstorm out to the group, but Tony beat him to it with an idea of his own.
“You know what time it is, Preston?” his friend said with one cockily raised eyebrow.
“What time is it, English?” he answered gamely.
Tony downed the rest of his drink and smiled, showing all of his teeth. “It’s time for the Motorcycle Maverick to ride again.”
Preston’s reaction was immediate and visceral. “WHAT? No! No, it’s not,” he shot back. “It’s not that time. It’ll never again be that time.”
A crease appeared in the middle of Armando’s forehead. “And besides, how could we even locate him?”
J.C. gasped. “OMG, Armando! You don’t know? Preston’s a legend. When I first found out he was the Motorcycle Maverick, you could’ve knocked me over with a Dupioni silk necktie. It’s one of the many reasons I love being part of The League.”
Armando swiveled toward Preston and sputtered, “W-W-Wait. That was you? The whole Motorcycle Maverick thing several years ago?”
“Shh!” Preston said, even though there were no bugs in the room and there wasn’t a civilian within ten yards of their glassed-in enclosure.
His brother-in-law lowered his voice but still looked shocked. “Oh, man, does Maggie know? I remember she was still writing for the newspaper then, and she was obsessed with that story. The assassination attempt at the parade. The casualties before the Motorcycle Maverick came to the rescue. The way he thrilled the city and captured the imagination of the media. How everyone was speculating about who—”
“It was just supposed to be a one-time thing,” Preston said. “Only once,” he reiterated, firing a sharp glare at Tony, who was cheerfully smirking across the table, the jerk. “The situation necessitated an extension for a few weeks, but when it looked like my identity was on the verge of being compromised, we stopped it. For good. And no, Maggie doesn’t know about my involvement—nor do I want her to know. I only did it to help The League. To help Michael Llewellyn, who’d been our leader at the time. I really don’t think it’s a good idea to go resurrecting—”
“I hear black leather is the new Armani,” Tony quipped, nudging J.C.
The younger operative actually clapped. “Oooh, this is so good! It may have been several years, but the press doesn’t forget. You’re an icon in the media. They don’t need to catalog and categorize you. They’ve done that already. So now, like a crime-fighting phoenix rising from the ashes, the Motorcycle Maverick can ride again.”
“Yes,” added Tony dryly. “He is risen. And just in time for Easter, too.”
Preston found it impossible to contain his irritation. “Oh, you two, seriously. Shut. Up.”
J.C., however, couldn’t be deterred from detailing his fantasies about how this plan should play out. “The Motorcycle Maverick is back, and he’s even bigger, badder, and better dressed than before. He’ll have a faster motorcycle, cooler clothes, calling cards, and—”
“No!” Preston roared.
But Tony jumped back into the act. “Yes! As Mark Twain once said, ‘Clothes make the man. Naked people—’”
“‘—have little or no influence on society,’” J.C. interjected with a grin, completing the quote.
The Englishman cackled and high-fived J.C.
“Precisely,” Tony said. “I can see it now. The Maverick rides in, disrupts the drug-dealer shooting, drops a card for the press, and anonymously delivers the cocaine bag and the loaded gun to the police. It’ll be just like the reaction Batman gets when he helps the Gotham City cops, only better. Plus, Preston, you won’t have to wear a stupid hood with ears.”
“I’m not going to wear—” He started to say, but then stopped to look from one man’s face to the other. All three of them were radiating a level of exhilaration he found impossible to reverse. Somehow he’d lost control of this conversation, his leadership having slipped away while he was trying unsuccessfully to recover from his shock.
As a teen, he’d felt his life had mirrored fictional Bruce Wayne’s in more ways than one. His wealthy family, his murdered parents, his only-child status, and his deeply rooted desire to use his resources and skills to combat injustice. He’d always loved and identified with the Batman story, but this was taking it too far. “I won’t—”
Undaunted and relentless, J.C. remarked, “No, of course you won’t have to wear the ears, but you will need a black mask or something similar this time. Kind of like Zorro.”
Preston winced. “Look, even assuming I were to do it again, which I’m not, the bike helmet should be disguise enough.”
J.C. got a faraway look and he took several deep breaths before speaking. “Maybe while you’re riding, but you’ll eventually need to get off the motorcycle. What if you need to lift your visor to speak? And Tony’s right about the black leather.” He paused again, considering. “With your long legs and imposing form, you could look fantastic, but I think the calling cards will really hammer our point home. We need to print up something the media will immediately latch on to. Something bold, comic-book style. Something with a catchy phrase…”
“He Does It Again!”
Maggie scanned the latest headline and the corresponding article. Three days in a row the Motorcycle Maverick had been out on the town—defending the city from evil, protecting its citizens, righting wrongs, and bringing bad guys to justice. How cool was that?
“He intercepted a liquor store robbery last night,” she told Preston, unable to keep the glee from her voice. “Some kind of gang-related theft thing. It’s on the front page of the Daily Post.”
Her husband yawned. Despite being halfway through his fourth cup of full-bodied, highly caffeinated, 100% Colombian Supreme. “Good for him,” he muttered, sounding more irritated than impressed.
Maggie watched him flip through the Science News section of the paper in lethargic silence. This morning was the third time in as many days that she’d found him asleep in the basement TV room. Who knew how little rest he’d gotten this week?
“Hey, can you hand me Sports?” he asked, taking another gulp from his coffee mug.
She passed the requested newspaper pages to him and shot him a frustrated glare. One he was clearly oblivious to. Of course he was miserable and out of sorts because of his allergies, but did a little hay fever give him the right to ignore the most exciting development in recent Chicagoan history? How could he not care about these news reports? Not be impressed by this man who risked so much to send a message of righteousness to an increasingly apathetic and immoral world?
Preston blew his nose just as the twins came clattering into the kitchen.
“Breakfast, breakfast, breakfast!” Tyler chanted, getting Taryn to join in. Maggie fixed them bowls of oatmeal, purposely overlooking their pleas for more Trix.
Her husband abruptly got up from the table and reached for the black and red striped necktie he’d tossed on the chair beside him. Fastening it in dramatic loops, all without the assistance of a mirror, his impeccable taste and years of meticulous attention to formal dress shone through. While he might have preferred the comfort of casual clothes, Preston never gave in to sloth. He was the very picture of sartorial elegance—a refined, Ivy League-educated professional—and appeared to be becoming more like his posh pal Tony Lord every day. Much to her dismay, Maggie’s very own brother was following in their fastidious fashion footsteps, even without the blue blood pedigree.
She watched as Preston kissed the top of each child’s head and pulled on his suit jacket.
“See you tonight, Daddy,” Taryn whispered around a mouthful of oatmeal.
He squeezed her little shoulder. “I’m sorry, princess. It probably won’t be until morning.”
Tyler looked incensed. “Aw, no! But you promised we’d play Chutes and Ladders tonight.”
“I really wish I could, kiddo. Will you let me make it up to you tomorrow?”
Neither twin appeared remotely happy with this idea but they knew, as Maggie did, that arguing would prove futile. Although she didn’t voice her displeasure in front of the children, their expressions of disappointment mirrored her own emotions. She hated the single-parent lifestyle she was forced to live when her husband was at evening meetings or away on business trips. It was preferable to have him home—even when he was being grumpy and inattentive—than to not have him with them at all.
He studied his shirt cuffs intently, smoothing the folds with painstaking concentration, probably so as not to have to meet her eye.
“What’s going on tonight, Preston?” she asked, trying to keep her tone steady and not let on how hurt she felt by his casual dismissal of her and the twins for the evening.
He cleared his throat and glimpsed at his watch—the super-expensive Rolex one—before finally allowing their gazes to meet. “I’ve got a meeting and a huge project to work on tonight, and that’s going to keep me really late at the office. I might not make it home until after midnight or even one o’clock.” He gave her a regretful glance that seemed sincere, though it was tinged with an oddness she couldn’t quite put her finger on. He grabbed his briefcase and took one last swig of coffee. “I’m really sorry, Maggie.”
She studied his hands, his jaw, his eyes. Exhaustion was evident in every part of him. He didn’t look fit to drive into Chicago, let alone spend all day and half the night at work. “Are you sure you’re feeling well enough to be at the office for so long? You’ve already had several nights with very little sleep. Maybe you should go in to see Dr. Danz? She might be able to prescribe something stronger for your allergies than—”
“I’ll think about it.” He strode to the door, stopping midway to turn around and stare at her. Waiting for her to come up to him, hug him, kiss him goodbye. Sometimes he seemed so childlike, so vulnerable…
“I’ll be fine,” he informed her when she put her arms around him.
She kissed him lightly and looked deep into his blue eyes. His gaze had turned sharp, intense, almost pained. And in that instant Maggie sensed something far bigger than work concerns and hay fever was troubling her husband. If he was struggling in some way with the future of Blake Industries, he hadn’t chosen to confide his fears in her. And if his struggles involved something else, something weightier and more emotional, well, she was really in the dark then.
When he and the twins had gone for the day, she sat in one of the straight-backed dining-room chairs and studied the paper. She clipped out today’s article and read it carefully, alongside yesterday’s and the one from Tuesday. Piecing together the reports and pictures, she’d determined that:
1) The Motorcycle Maverick had returned for a specific (albeit an as-yet-undisclosed) reason. But based on his late-night raids, it seemed to have something to do with being anti-street gang and drug trafficking. Not a bad choice of focus.
2) He rode a Suzuki Hayabusa—in perfect riding form.
3) He dressed from head to toe in black—primarily formfitting black leather—save for the helmet, which was fiberglass, and the scarf, which looked to be…Versace? (Maybe the illustrator had taken artistic license with that.)
4) He now wore aviator sunglasses to further conceal his identity and/or because he could mask a potential vision problem with them. (Might the M.M. need prescription lenses?)
5) He was male, lighter skinned, and between the ages of thirty and forty.
6) He was mortal. Probably.
7) He was as intriguing today as he’d ever been. Maybe more so.
But why had he chosen to return now? Why mess with these bad inner-city drug gangs and interfere with their operations when they’d been around for years and he hadn’t stepped into the ring since that long-ago parade? What instigated his involvement this time?
Maggie’s old journalism instincts kicked in. She had a million questions about the Motorcycle Maverick, and she had every intention of getting answers.
Soundtrack of the Story:
I Can See Clearly Now ~Johnny Nash
Listen to Your Heart ~Roxette
My Shot ~Lin-Manuel Miranda/”Hamilton”
Back in Black~AC/DC