Authors: Sibel Hodge,Elizabeth Ashby
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A DANGER COVE
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Copyright © 2016 by Sibel Hodge
Cover design by Janet Holmes
Gemma Halliday Publishing
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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They say that death, divorce, and moving are right up there as three of the most stressful things in life, and in the last two months I'd been through everything but the divorce. It was awful enough when my boss and good friend, Bob, had been murdered, and when I found the second body, I was starting to think I could be some kind of death magnet.
But I guess I need to back up a bit.
Bob owned and ran the Smugglers' Tavern in the quaint coastal town of Danger Cove, not far from Seattle, Washington. I'd worked for him as a bartender since I'd moved here a year ago, and we'd grown close. He hadn't been just my boss. He'd been more like a father figure, and evidently he'd felt the same way, because shortly before being murdered, he'd changed his will to leave his vast fortune, including the tavern, numerous rental properties in town, and a huge portfolio of stocks, gold, and savings, to me. You might think that sounded like a good thing, but unfortunately his scheming, gold-digging daughter, Elise, and lazy good-for-nothing nephew, Carter, didn't agree. Neither did the police. For a long time I was labeled as some kind of black widow who'd set out to entrap Bob into leaving me his fortune, and I'd been one step away from being locked up.
Fast-forward two months, and things were starting to brighten up a little. Although I still missed Bob, I was really grateful to have had him in my life, and I was convinced that he was still a presence hanging around me in the form of a three-legged kitten I'd named Karma, who'd padded into my life, more specifically my house, shortly after Bob's passing. Both Elise and Carter had now dropped their lawsuit to contest Bob's will and had slinked out of town to find some other rocks to crawl under, so my legal headache had gone away. And I'd moved out of the tiny but cute cottage I'd rented off Bob when I'd first moved into town and was now living in the spacious and rustic apartment above the tavern, which had amazing views of the Pacific Ocean, from the cliffs in front of the building, all the way past the old lighthouse, the harbor, and Two Mile Beach. And then there was Harvey Wynters, a British underwater archaeologist who'd arrived in town searching for the long-lost
, a smuggling ship that had disappeared in 1852, reported to have sunk somewhere off the coast. I'd had a strict no-dating rule for years after I'd caught my fiancé, Nick, cheating on me, but Harvey had saved my life when I'd ousted Bob's murderer, and the whole lifesaving thing kind of trumped the no-dating rule.
So, life had been messy for a while, but I guess it always was, and I was a big believer that everything happened for a reason. There would always be ups and downs, storms and lulls. There I was thinking I'd hit a lull, when another storm whipped up.
I was outside in the tavern's garden area, marking up the chalkboard with today's special cocktail, a Smugglers' colada laced with plenty of white rum, when Ruby walked up, her long red hair shimmering over one shoulder like a Danger Cove sunset. Actually, that was probably incorrect. Ruby didn't just walk. She flowed or bounced. Although she was in her late fifties, she exuded youth and vitality and was filled with more energy than anyone I'd ever met. She was an international yoga guru with her own renowned studio in Seattle, a huge following, and a string of DVDs under her belt. These days she spent less time teaching and more time running intimate yoga retreats in exotic places all over the globe. She'd also been helping me out in the tavern as a bartender and waitress because Bob's death had thrown everything into chaos. Carter and Elise used to work in the tavern, although that usually involved nail filing and flirting with the customers for Elise, and sleeping on the job for Carter. Now that they were both out of the tavern and out of my life, I was shorthanded until I could find some replacement staff. In fact, the tavern had also undergone an upheaval in the kitchen department. The previous long-standing chef, Charlie, was now history, and his kitchen assistant, Tara, had taken over. She was an excellent cook in her own right, who loved singing very loudly and very off key as she whipped up her gourmet creations. Her twin sister, Clara, was now her assistant, and they worked well together.
Like I said, things had been messy, but now I had a feeling the Universe's happy plan for me was unfolding.
"Hello, darling!" Ruby kissed me on both cheeks, continental style, before giving me a hug.
I hugged back. Ruby was the closest thing I had to a mom, and even though she wasn't the real thing, I loved her like one. My own parents had been alcoholics who'd lived in a commune. My dad died when I was seven, and my mom forgot I existed. I stuck it out until I was eighteen, then disappeared to travel the world, searching for the sense of family and belonging I'd been missing all those years. I finally found it in Danger Cove.
I breathed in Ruby's jasmine essential oil. "Morning. How are you?"
"I'm great." She rested her hands on my shoulders and looked deep into my eyes. She'd been worried about me since all this crazy stuff with Bob had happened. "But how are you?" With her fingertip, she swept away a tendril of my long waves that had blown messily across my face in the breeze. "I know you've been through a lot of upheaval lately."
I smiled. "No, I'm good. I'm getting there."
She linked an arm through mine and walked us back into the rustic interior of the tavern. I took a breath, inhaling the scent of the old oak floor and paneling around the bar, the salty air that always seemed to permeate the stone walls. I loved this place. And now it was all mine.
"Well, I had an idea that might de-stress you after the last few months." Ruby raised a knowing eyebrow. "I thought you could do with some spiritual therapy, so I've booked us both in for a crystal healing session this afternoon. We need to unblock your stagnant chakras and get some fertile energy flowing."
At that moment Vernon, who'd also been helping me out in the tavern, returned from collecting empty glasses and snorted loudly at Ruby. "Fertile okra? Crystal healing? What are you twittering on about now?"
," Ruby said proudly.
Vernon shook his head with disbelief. "Sometimes I don't think we talk the same language."
"Yes, that had crossed my mind on more than one occasion."
Vernon and Ruby had history together. I hadn't known just how much until we'd investigated Bob's death. On the surface they were friends who bickered like an old married couple, but both of them were too stubborn and set in their ways to admit they still loved each other. Everyone in town thought Vernon was a retired teacher, a harmless good-natured old guy who liked a drink. Ruby and I were the only ones who knew that Vernon was actually an ex-FBI agent who'd retired to Danger Cove to be closer to Ruby, even though he'd never admit that out loud.
"When are you going for your crystal meth session?" Vernon put the glasses in the dishwasher.
"Just because you don't believe in all this doesn't mean it doesn't work. And Hope's been through a rough time lately. She needs a bit of positive energy to lift her spirits."
"It's all a load of mumbo jumbo."
"Okay, guys," I interrupted before they could get into another round of sparring. "No more bickering today. Honestly, sometimes you guys give me a headache!"
Ruby opened her mouth to say something else to Vernon and then thought better of it. She turned to me. "I've booked us in at four so we can get back here before the dinner rush starts. How does that sound?"
I glanced at the clock—3:20 p.m. Then I cast a worried look at Vernon. The tavern was now my responsibility, and I was taking it seriously. I was a business owner now, and I wanted to do Bob proud and carry on his dream of running a friendly, local pub with excellent food and welcoming staff. I couldn't go traipsing off all the time and leaving people in the lurch. Especially when they were friends who were good enough to be helping me out. "Will you be all right here on your own until we get back?" I bit my lip.
Before Vernon could say anything, Ruby answered for him. "Of course he will. He's taken down hardened mobsters and gangsters. I think he can look after a bar for a few hours, can't you?" She tilted her head in a challenge.
He looked at me, and his gaze softened with sympathy. "Of course I'll be okay. You've been working your butt off lately. You need a break." He waved his hand toward the front door, shooing us away. "Off with you. I can hold the fort on my own. Relax and don't worry about a thing."
"There. That's settled." Ruby retrieved my handbag from underneath the counter and handed it to me. "Prepare to be healed!" She strode toward the door, holding my arm before I could object.
I gave a backward glance over my shoulder at Vernon, who smiled and gave me a thumbs-up.
"I didn't know anyone in town did crystal healing," I said as I slid into the passenger seat of Ruby's environmentally friendly Toyota Prius Hybrid.
"Oh, yes. I've known Pandora for years. She also does Reiki and Indian head massage too." She shifted the gearshift into drive and headed off down Craggy Hill toward town.
"Well, it's a great idea. Thank you for this." I'd had a couple of treatments when I was in India and thought the head massage was amazing. A spot of relaxation and rejuvenation was exactly what I needed.
"What are friends for?" She glanced over and gave me a coy look. "So, how are things going with Harvey? I saw him on the cliffs outside the tavern, excavating. How much has he managed to find so far?"
Although Harvey hadn't managed to find the remains of the
at sea yet, he had found the ship's bell. Together, we'd also found the entrance to some hidden caves used by the old smugglers, undiscovered since the ship sank in 1852. The caves ran underneath the cliffs outside the tavern and had preserved the gold, silver, and other smuggled items that were sought after at the time, like tea chests and alcohol, along with the skeletons of several of the smugglers who'd died the night the ship went down, trapped in a cavernous tomb with their booty. Harvey had been painstakingly recovering the loot, which was now safely ensconced at the University of Washington's Environment Studies Department in Seattle. Eventually, it would be part of a huge joint exhibition between Seattle and the Portsmouth Naval Museum, where Harvey worked. He was now bringing up the bones of the smugglers before he could turn his attention back to searching for the wreck.
"Things are going great with Harvey." I smiled as I thought about his vivid blue eyes that sparkled when he smiled, the cute British accent, those full lips—think Tom Hardy!—and his fun sense of humor and easy laugh. "Better than great, actually. He's been showing me some of the artifacts he's salvaged. It's amazing. Bob would've loved to see them." I sighed wistfully. Bob had always loved the history of Danger Cove, especially the smuggling angle that the town's roots were founded on.
Ruby patted my knee. "Bob would've loved Harvey, too, if he'd met him."
"Yes." I watched the town speed by out of the window and allowed myself a smile as I thought about my former friend. "He would."
"He's The One."
"The one, what?" I glanced back at her.
"The One! Harvey. He's your destiny."
I shook my head. "It's too early to tell that. We're just enjoying getting to know each other at the moment." Even though I didn't want to say it aloud in case I managed to mess things up, I'd been thinking the same thing a lot myself lately.
"Mark my words." She grinned, slowing down and parking on a quiet street in front of a gray-fronted, two-story house. There were large dormer windows on the second level and a porch contained by white railings that had faded in parts to the same color as the house.
We watched the front door of the house open, and Ruby let out a shocked, "Oh!" She stared, her jaw slack, at a guy exiting the front door wearing a well-cut charcoal suit and white shirt.
The man was definitely in a hurry, and he looked…well, either ill or in shock. His black hair was swept back, exposing a widow's peak at his forehead, and even from this angle I could see the sun reflecting a sheen of sweat on his pale skin. His eyes darted around wildly as he half ran, half stumbled down the path and onto the street. He didn't seem to notice us as he turned left and headed along the road that would take him back into town.
Now I was having second thoughts about the crystal healing session. Whatever Pandora had done to this guy didn't seem to have made him feel any better when he left.
"I don't believe it!" Ruby said, still staring in the direction the man had gone, even though he'd now disappeared.
"What?" I frowned.
"That was…" She trailed off, chewing on her lower lip.
I shrugged. His name wasn't familiar to me. I'd only been in town just over a year, and most of that time I'd been working, so I really only knew the regulars who came into the tavern. Plus, I was kind of a loner and enjoyed my own company. I'd had to be, all those years of being neglected growing up. Ruby and Vernon were my only close friends here, which suited me fine. I was happy with what I had. Ruby, on the other hand, seemed to know just about everyone in town.
"Tim Baxtor. He owns Baxtor's Pharmacy at the far end of Main Street. What was he doing here?" Ruby's gaze drifted to Pandora's front door, which Tim had left slightly ajar in his haste to get away.