New York Times Bestselling Author

“A” is for Actress

A_ds_newThe first novel in a fast-paced, funny new series that’s perfect for fans of Janet Evanovich and Sue Grafton.

“A” is for Actress is now an iTunes bestseller!.

After a decade spent in the glare of the Hollywood spotlight as the star of kids’ TV show Half Pint Detective, Sofia Salgado has had enough. Desperate to build a life outside showbiz, she quits acting to do something that everyone around her– including her family – thinks is plain nuts. Get a real job.

They think she’s even crazier when she announces that she’s going to become a real detective, instead of playing one on TV. She’s convinced the technical consultant from her TV show, Brendan Maloney, to take her on in his detective agency, but can accident-prone Sofia deal with paparazzi-filled stakeouts, the world’s most annoying partner, and real-life murder?


Chapter One

Sofia Salgado’s third grade teacher back in Indiana had been right. Every day really was a school day. There were always new things to learn. In fact life was pretty much one big educational experience. Today’s lessons for Sofia seemed to be:

1. No matter how much you loved the peach ice tea at the Marmalade Cafe, it was NOT a good idea to take the waiter’s offer of a third refill if you planned on spending the entire afternoon sitting in your car on a stakeout. Not a good idea.

2. If there was even the remotest possibility that you might lose control of your bladder while sitting in your car, any meal involving asparagus was not a good lunch choice.

3. Like so much in life, you never really appreciate toilets until you need one.

Of course Miss Kanouse had also dropped some pretty heavy hints to Sofia’s mom before they left Indiana for Los Angeles, saying that things would never work out for the girls’ acting careers in California and they should just stay in Indiana and learn typing, so she wasn’t entirely infallible. But when it came to viewing life as one big learning experience, she’d been dead on. None of which solved Sofia’s immediate problem. She desperately needed to go pee without ruining what, at least up until now, had been her first perfectly executed covert surveillance operation.

Without permission she couldn’t abandon her post, a quiet side street with a clear view of the main entrance to the somewhat unfortunately named Big Rock Rehab Clinic. Or to give the place its full title The Big Rock Rehabilitation and Spiritual Renewal Clinic.

She had already spent the best part of the last hour scouting the immediate area for a bush she could duck behind. But the area was sadly devoid of bushes. In fact, the only large cover was provided by a stand of three large saguaro cacti. Looking at their two inch long spines made her shiver. The idea of losing her balance and falling naked-ass backwards into a six foot tall cactus was even more off putting than the prospect of trying to explain why the interior reeked of asparagus-scented urine to the guys who valeted her car in Santa Monica.

That only left her the third option, which was potentially more embarrassing than needles in the butt or pee on the upholstery: she’d have to confess her predicament to the other half of her surveillance team. She hated to do it, but it was an emergency.

She scooted down a little further in her seat, reached over and grabbed the phone lying on the passenger seat. She made the call, but waited a second before speaking. “Aidan?”

There was a long silence before he finally answered. “How many times? You don’t use real names on a stakeout. I’m Nighthawk and you’re Little Sparrow.”

She rolled her eyes. “This isn’t a Jason Bourne movie.”

In fact, they were sitting outside the rehab clinic on behalf of a movie studio that wanted to make sure the star of their latest action movie franchise completed his 28 days without sneaking out to score some Bolivian marching powder, thus driving the insurance premium on the next movie in the series sky high. Code names weren’t required.

“There’s still a procedure,” he said.

She was starting to wonder if there really was a procedure or if he’d just invented one to drive her crazy. She squirmed in her seat, trying to find a position that might relieve the pressure on her bladder. “Okay, Nighthawk, here’s the deal. I really need to take a comfort break. Can you cover my position for ten minutes?”

Moving had been a bad idea. She needed to go even worse than she had a moment ago. She tensed, trying to hold on. She was already planning her next move. There was a deserted lot about four hundred yards down the hill on Big Rock Drive. She was pretty sure the lot wasn’t overlooked. She could pull in, dive out, use her car to shield her from any passing traffic, go, and be back at her post in no time.

“Why?” Aidan said.

“What do you mean ‘why?'”

“I mean, why do you need a break? We’ve only been here a couple hours.”

He must be deliberately playing dumb to drive her crazy. He thought that just because he’d done a few years in the LAPD, and his Dad ran the detective agency, that he was her boss. Fine, she’d tell him the truth. “I had too much iced tea at Marmalade, and now I have to pee. Okay? Happy?”

She threw the phone back down on the passenger seat and hit the button to start the engine. Sweet relief was only a short drive away.

“Request denied,” said Aidan.

“What do you mean request denied?”

“Hold your position.”

“If I wait any longer, my position is going to be under water.” She took a deep breath, doing her best to stay calm. The more irritated she sounded, the more he’d screw with her. It was pretty much how their relationship had been from the first day they’d met all those years ago on the set of Half Pint Detective when Aidan’s Dad, the show’s technical advisor, had brought his then twelve-year-old son onto the set in Burbank to meet Sofia, the eleven-year-old movie star.

He made a weird snorting sound into the phone that she was pretty sure was a laugh.

“Didn’t you hear what I just said?” She sounded far from calm. “I have to pee. In fact, scratch that, I don’t have to. I’m going to. Any minute now. And I don’t want to do it sitting in my car.”

“Go find a bush.” Aidan was, as usual, completely unsympathetic to her plight.

“There aren’t any bushes.” He knew that. He’d driven by the artistic landscape of rocks and cactus to get to his position in the back of the clinic. There probably were bushes back there. He’d probably gone to pee twice already.

“Look,” said Aidan. “If I cover the front for you that means no one will be covering the back. You’re going to have to wait.”

“I’m not kidding. I can’t wait. Believe me, if waiting was a possibility, I wouldn’t have asked.” Now each passing second was fresh agony. She wondered if the CIA had ever contemplated using denial of peeing rights as part of their enhanced interrogation tactics. She figured that they probably had, but it had been probably been considered as falling into the ‘cruel and unusual’ category and ruled out as unconstitutional.

“Sorry, but we have to have eyes on at all times. We can’t lose a key data point like five minutes of visual contact on the rear entry.”

“I know just what I’d like to do with your key data point,” she told him. “It involves rear entry where no visual contact can be made, and not in a way that you’d want to retrieve the data.”

“We need that data.” He was laughing so hard she could barely understand him.

“Improvise.” She moved the car into drive.

“Hold up!” said Aidan. “Give it ten more minutes. Surely you can hold it for that long?”

“Ten minutes? Then I can go pee?”


She really wasn’t sure she could make it for another minute, never mind another ten. And she didn’t exactly trust him to hold to his word. But she didn’t want to show weakness either. When his Dad had agreed to take her on as a trainee investigator, Aidan had been less than happy. If she made him too mad, he might run back to his father and tell him that she couldn’t do something as simple as a routine surveillance operation.

“Okay, ten minutes. But not a second more,” she said.

If she sat perfectly still and focused all her energy on the job, she could do it. Sheer willpower would carry her through. She had done things way harder than not pee her pants. Right now she couldn’t think what those things were exactly, but she was sure she had. She started doing a breathing exercise she’d learned from an acting coach. It was supposed to help you focus.
“Little Sparrow?”

This better be good. As in their target had better be vaulting the wall and jumping into a drug dealer’s car with a bunch of hookers.

“Yes,” she said, teeth gritted.

“Do you know what I’m looking forward to most when we finish here?” Aidan asked. “A nice, long shower. All that water cascading down from the showerhead. Just torrents of water, gushing down like a big waterfall.”

She leaned forward carefully to get the phone. She didn’t dare lean too far, though, and the phone had slid to the far side of the seat.

“Speaking of waterfalls,” he continued, “you should check out the pool they have back here. Think it has a waterfall feature. Here, if I hold my phone up you might be able to hear it running…”

She reached the phone and ended the call. She slammed the car back into drive, but it was too late to actually go anywhere. She couldn’t hold on any longer. Instead, she put the car back in park and turned it off.

She looked around. Apart from a couple of parked cars and a van that had been here when they’d arrived, the parking lot was empty. There wasn’t a person in sight, and the only house that had a direct view of her was the rehab facility itself, and that was mostly obscured by a long wall. She could shield herself a little with the car door, and nobody would see her. She just had to act fast and hope for the best.

She pushed the car door open, got out, pulled down her jeans and underwear, and squatted next to the side of the Tesla. As soon as the fresh air hit her, she peed. She reached her hand up against the car to steady herself.

Within seconds, a raging torrent ran to the edge of the sidewalk and into the gutter. It ran down the street in a stream. She smelled the asparagus, but she didn’t care. The relief was almost orgasmic.

A scruffy-looking young guy sporting a goatee, an over-sized Lakers shirt, and a backward-turned baseball cap appeared from nowhere. He was pointing a handheld video camera right at her. The light was blinking red.

So much for hoping for the best.

#62 bestselling audiobook in the iTunes store!

“Gives Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum a run for her money.” — Sara Stamey

” It was a blast – funny with great characters and a good mystery.” — Carol’s Notebook

“I think this book will be an absolute winner for people that aren’t hard-core crime and thriller fans, but like the element of mystery and intrigue…The biggest pull for me is Sofia herself who is a funny character but ultimately a woman that wants to become more involved in her job.” — Best Crime Books and More

“Cantrell and Black are taking readers on a fast paced ride through LaLa Land while we can almost hear the laugh track playing in the background…Will I read the next one? Most definitely.” — Mysteries Galore


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