MEET ME IN MAINE – Let’s Read A Chapter Together

Chapter 9

Elizabeth’s first date with David goes differently than expected.

I spun in front of the full-length mirror hanging from my closet door, eyeing my black dress and high heels. My hands trembled as I smoothed the silky fabric against my thighs.

Scarlett came through the doorway, wearing a tight red dress. “Sexy.”

“Is it too short?” I turned to her. “I can change.”

“Don’t change. You look hot.” She grinned. “It’s not as short as my dress.”

“You’re comfortable in too-revealing clothing while I’m not.”

“Are you calling me a slut?” Her eyebrows arched.

“If the shoe fits.” 

Scarlett stalked across the room, a shoe dangling from her hand.

I stepped back, shaking my head. “You wouldn’t.”

The doorbell rang.

“Now, you’ll never know.” She slipped her foot into the pump and winked before rushing from the room.

“Lizzie. It’s for you,” Scarlett called from the living room.

Why was David early? I raced for my bag and coat. My heart was pounding as I came to a stop. I must act cool and collected. I took a deep breath and sauntered through the doorway.

He came to his feet. “Hello, Elizabeth.”

My gaze drifted from his cleft chin to chiseled cheekbones, coming to rest on dazzling blue eyes. I opened my mouth, but no sound escaped.

“I hope you’re happy to see me.” He shifted closer, lifting his hand to stroke my cheek.

“I am.” I closed my eyes as his touch sent shivers through my body.

“Okay, lovers.” Scarlett pushed between us. “You’ll miss your reservation, and my date will be here soon.”

David took my hand. “We can take a hint.” I followed him from the apartment, but not before I stuck my tongue at Scarlett behind his back.

* * *

After clicking the remote to unlock the black Jaguar parked at the curb, David opened the passenger door, and I sank into the beige leather seats. Once the car was humming, he seat-belted himself and faced me. “Are you comfortable?”

I nodded. “It’s a gorgeous car.”

“Air-conditioning or sunroof?” David grinned, giving me an enticing glimpse of dimples.

I thought of the wind messing my hair. “Air-conditioner, please.”

We drove in silence until I asked, “Is there any news?” When he didn’t respond, I added, “We don’t have to mention the explosion or –”

“Pick any topic.” He glanced at me. “I want us to relax and enjoy the evening.”

I lowered my face and smoothed the black fabric bunched beneath the seatbelt. 

He placed his hand on my arm, and I lifted my face to the glittering blue eyes seeking mine. “Don’t worry. We’ll find the ones responsible for the explosion.” David pulled the car in front of a one-storied teal blue building, its windows and door strung with twinkling lights. “We’re here.” 

Valets rushed to open our doors. I took David’s arm as we headed inside behind the couples filing through the doorway. Soft music accompanied the hushed conversation in the darkened room. A fire sizzled in the fireplace, nestled in the far left corner. The maître d led us to a table set for two overlooking the water.

After the maître d seated us, a server filled our water glasses and handed us menus. I glanced through the pages, amazed at the steep prices.

“Don’t look at the prices.”

I raised my face and stared at the handsome man sitting across from me, grinning. “I wasn’t.”

“You were.” David chuckled. “Your arched brows tell the complete story.” When I blushed, he continued, “Don’t worry. You have lovely eyes and brows.” As heat suffused my face, he laughed. “I have the money, so spend it.”

I shook my head.

He reached for my hand, which rested on the table, covering it with his. “Order what your heart desires.”

“I’m not familiar with most of these dishes.” As I perused the menu, my gaze drifted to the tables closest to us. Well-dressed couples drank wine and ate, smiling at each other, laughing, and holding hands. His finger stroked the inside of my wrist, and I shivered.

“Are you cold?”

I met his gaze. “I’m fine. Can I order the same dish as you?”

A smile deepened his dimples. “I was going to order steak and home fries.”

“A steak-and-potatoes man.” I smiled. “I’ll have the same.”

The server took our orders and David’s choice of wine. I turned to the window where the moon stroked the dark water with shimmering silver streaks. The soft music and murmur of conversation helped to soothe my frayed nerves.

“Are you upset?”

I caught his concerned expression. “No. Why do you think I’m upset?”

He leaned forward, giving me a lopsided grin. “I was hoping you weren’t angry from last night.”

“Last night?”

His jaw tightened. “The way Logan interrogated you, I should have stopped him. The chief allows him to take control.”

“It wasn’t your fault.” I twirled the wine glass in my hand, watching the dark burgundy liquid catch the votive candle’s flickering light. “Why does the chief allow Logan to intervene?”

“Logan is wealthy and has influential contacts.” He leaned back in his chair. “The chief needs his help to solve the recent crime wave.”

“Is it a crime wave?”

David took a sip of wine, his unhurried gaze following the contours of my face. “A few incidents have occurred in the past six months.”

“Murders?” My stomach plummeted as if I’d consumed a lump of coal.

“Yes.” David shifted in his seat. “Chief Lively has requested my help.”

“Why you? Aren’t you a lawyer?”

“Yes. I’m a mere lawyer.” His eyes darkened to midnight blue as they met mine. “But the chief claims to enjoy my keen mind; he told me I chose the wrong profession.”

“I can see you as a detective.” I busied myself with sipping wine instead of witnessing his woeful expression.

David laughed out loud. “I’m not hurt.” Heads turned from neighboring tables. “I’ve been an officer of the law.”

“As a marine?”

“You’ve heard.” He winked. “Major David Hunt, at your service, ma’am.”

“Nice.” His uneven smirk captivated me as I struggled to compose myself. I didn’t hear the server arrive and place our dishes on the table.

I came to realize I loved to watch David eat. He cut his steak with precision, chewing with his mouth closed, his Adam’s apple bopping along his tan neck. My gaze lingered at the juncture of his white shirt and blue-striped tie. I noticed he had stopped eating, and I raised my face. 

“Hi.” Dimples appeared in the light stubble on his cheeks.

“I enjoy watching you eat.” Blood rushed to my face, and I glanced away. Why did I say that?

David took my hand. “And I love watching you.” His face shifted closer to mine, and I shut my eyes. “Lizzie.”

I opened my eyes.

“You’ve mesmerized me as no other woman has for a long time.” He sat forward, his hungry gaze devouring me until I trembled from its intensity.

“There you are.” A shout rang across the room, followed by the husky figure of Chief Lively. 

David shot to his feet, facing Lively with an annoyed expression. “What’s wrong now?”

“There has been another death.” The chief halted beside our table, his dark glare landing on me.

“I can’t help you; we’re having dinner.” His face ashen, David sat, replacing his fallen napkin on his lap.

“I need you,” Lively replied, his voice sharpening. “They took Logan to the hospital.”

“What happened?” David threw me a concerned look before hurrying to his feet and leading the chief to an isolated spot beside the window.

“Logan will be okay. A woman is dead.”

“A woman, this time?” David glanced over the chief’s shoulder at me. “I’ll drive Elizabeth home.”

“No. We don’t have time.” Lively stepped in front of me, his heated gaze meeting mine. “You’ll have to come with us.”

I nodded.

David said to the chief, “I’ll meet you.” He then turned to me. “I’m sorry.”

Attempting a smile, I said, “I’m fine. I might even help.”

His eyebrows rose in disbelief as he escorted me from the restaurant. And so began my journey into Blue Harbor’s secrets, known only to the select few, which now included me.

MEET ME IN MAINE – Sneak A Peek

CHAPTER 8

Were Elizabeth and Scarlett ready to buy an inn and settle in Maine? Scarlett wasn’t so sure of the answer.

Scarlett’s car bumped along the winding road, farmhouses peeking at us from behind thick clusters of trees and bushes, the afternoon sun warming the inside of the vehicle with its hazy glow.

“Are you sure you know the way?” I asked. “I thought the inn was in Blue Harbor.”

“It is.” Scarlett squinted at me. “Not everyone lives near the main harbor.”

Ten minutes later, she said, “We’re here.”

A red-bricked building appeared between two thick groves of maple trees. A lush green lawn and white picket fence fronted the house. Four wide steps led to the wrap-around porch, dotted with white wicker chairs and tables. A chubby, middle-aged woman stood on the top step between two white pillars supporting the steep overhang.

“That’s Lucy Green.” Scarlett parked on the graveled driveway to the right of the house.

Lucy descended the steps, wiping her hands on the yellow frilled apron tied around her waist. “I’m happy you could meet with me today, considering the recent excitement.” Her short, brown curls fluttered in the cool breeze as she crossed the blue paving stones to the driveway.

“We were at the ice cream parlor when the guy ran inside bleeding.” Scarlett halted in front of her. “The customers ran from the place screaming and yelling.”

“How awful.” Lucy wrung her hands. “I hope you’re still interested in my inn.”

I drew alongside Scarlett. “We’re rethinking our move to Blue Harbor.” I ignored Scarlett’s sidelong glare. If Lucy believed we were reconsidering, she might lower the price. I grew up in New York City and couldn’t help my big city frame of mind.

Lucy pursed her lips. “Chief Lively will clean the riffraff from Blue Harbor, he’s done it before, and our town will be peaceful again.” She motioned for us to follow her into the house. The warm glow from the Victorian lamps, sitting on small end tables, lit the spacious room dotted with comfortable-looking couches and chairs. We followed her through an open archway to the right. Leather couches and chairs faced a red-bricked fireplace. Across the room, a set of glass doors overlooked a side garden bursting with red and yellow rose bushes. When she swung open the doors, a rose-scented breeze drifted toward us.

“Lovely,” I said.

She gave a sweet smile before shutting the glass doors. We trailed her from the den and the front room to the dining room, where glasses and silverware sparkled on the five tables set with white linen. The doorway on the back wall led us to an industrial-sized kitchen with a white marble island dead-center, surrounded by yellow stools. The view from the picture window took my breath away. Rose bushes lined the pebbled path through the green landscape to a lake filled with floating Canada geese.

“Nice,” Scarlett said.

“Thank you.” Lucy hovered behind us. “Are you ready to see the guest rooms?”

“Sure,” Scarlett replied.

A narrow door in the kitchen, wedged between the double wall ovens and built-in refrigerator, led back to the front room. We climbed the carpeted stairs between the curving wood banisters as Lucy regaled us with tales of the house’s vibrant history. On the second floor, doors stood open on either side of the hallway, revealing canopied beds and flat-screen TVs. At the end of the hall, we stepped into the owner’s apartment. The two bedrooms, eat-in kitchen, and sitting room offered impressive views of the lawn and sparkling blue lake.

“Iced tea and pastries in the sunroom?” Lucy asked as we descended the staircase.

“Sounds good. I’m thirsty,” Scarlett replied.

Lucy led us through the den to the bookshelves spanning the left wall, where she tilted a group of books forward. The bookcase shifted, and a hidden door creaked open.

“Neat,” Scarlett said as the door of bookshelves shut behind us.

I asked, “Does the house have hidden passageways?”

“There might be.” Shirley’s round face wrinkled into an eager grin. “This is an old house. A hundred years old next year.”

The sun shone through the picture window on the far wall, throwing bright squares of light across the mint-green couches and chairs. A pitcher of iced tea and a tray of pastries waited on the glass coffee table. We took seats as Lucy poured the tea into tall glasses.

“Are you still interested in purchasing the inn?” Lucy asked, handing a glass to Scarlett.

“We are.” Scarlett glanced at me. “But I’m confused.”

Lucy’s chocolate brown eyes widened.

Scarlett continued, “You have tables set in the dining room, but I didn’t see any preparations in the kitchen. Where are your guests and staff?”

“The guests aren’t arriving until Friday.” Lucy’s eyes twinkled. “And the staff have left for the day.”

I asked, “How large is your staff?”

“I have a maid, chef, and waitress.”

“Do they work every day?” Scarlett asked.

“The cook and waitress work when we have guests, and the maid cleans twice a week, even if we don’t have guests. This past year, we began offering dinner twice weekly, and the chef and waitress have increased their hours.”

“Once you sell the inn, will they be willing to continue working here?” I asked.

“They love the bed-and-breakfast. I have a contract ready to be signed.” Lucy huffed to her feet. “Relax and finish your tea and pastries.” She grinned before hurrying from the room.

“We have decisions to make.” Scarlett bit into a red velvet cupcake.

“I’m not ready to make them today.”

“Me neither.”

Lucy returned with a stack of papers. For the next hour, we discussed the price and conditions of the contract. We departed with a promise to call her in the next few days. Scarlett needed to show the paperwork to her lawyer, who will now be our lawyer. Even though the price was within our budget, we needed time to decide whether Blue Harbor was right for us.

MEET ME IN MAINE

Lizzy gets ready for her first date with David. Is she eager? Let’s find out.

CHAPTER 7

Scarlett stepped through the front doorway, halting in surprise. “I thought you’d still be asleep.”

“Where were you?” I asked from my perch at the kitchen counter, eyeing the white paper bag clutched in her hand. “You’re never an early riser.” 

With a grin, she sauntered into the kitchen, placing the bag beside my coffee cup. “I bought muffins at a cute cafe around the corner.”

“No diet?” I asked.

“Not today.” Scarlett popped a Keurig cup into the machine, withdrawing two plates from the kitchen cabinet and settling beside me before reaching for the bag. “I’m hungry from scouting the town.”

“What?”

She set a chocolate chip muffin on a plate before sliding it toward me. “Everywhere I visited, people were discussing the explosions.” Scarlett bit into a corn muffin, her voice muffled as she continued, “No one was hurt, but plenty of boats were damaged.”

I quirked a brow.

“Ten boats burned to ashes, and many residents believed it was arson. The shipowners have insurance, but it takes time to collect; for now, they’ve lost their livelihood. The cafe owner handed around a collection to support them, and I pledged money from the both of us.” She glanced at me. “Is that okay?”

“Of course, it’s okay. The boat owners need our help.” Losing my appetite, I shoved the plate away. “Were these people shocked?”

“Nope.” She shook her head, her long ponytail bouncing around her shoulders. “A wave of violence has plagued the town for the past six months.”

“That’s strange; the residents should be more concerned their harbor exploded.”

Scarlett stopped eating and looked at me. “I don’t know the details since people are closed-mouthed, but I’ll find out.”

“Are you canceling our appointment at the bed-and-breakfast for this afternoon?” I stood and began pacing the tiny kitchen. “New York City was dangerous enough; I don’t want to move to a place where I’m afraid to walk home in the evening.”

“I’m not canceling.” Scarlett swiveled to me. 

“We can find a town with no crime wave. The coast of Maine is lined with towns offering picturesque harbors and inns to purchase.”

“No.” Scarlett scrambled to her feet, retrieving her cup from the Keurig and bringing it to the counter. “I want to live here.”

“Why?” I sat as she sipped her coffee. “Is it Jonathan?”

She peeked at me from the corner of her eye. “Yes, it’s him. Then there’s David and Logan. Blue Harbor has interesting characters.”

“Are you seeking characters for a murder mystery or a Hallmark movie?” 

Scarlett pulled a plastic knife from the paper bag and cut my rejected muffin into bite-size pieces. “I don’t want to live in a boring town.” She offered me a piece, but I shook my head. “Blue Harbor offers a unique way of life.”

“The town offers more options for dying.” 

She popped a chunk of muffin in her mouth. “Every town has crime. Once the police catch the ones responsible, the town will be peaceful again. Blue Harbor has the best shops and harbor, and I don’t want to live farther north.”

“The explosions destroyed the harbor.”

“The planks are being replaced as we speak.” Scarlett gave me a pleading look. “Blue Harbor has other piers.”

“Okay. We’ll keep the appointment.” I took a sip of coffee.

“What will you wear on your date with David tonight?” 

“I forgot.” My head pounded. How did I forget?

“Don’t tell me you forgot a date with a gorgeous man.”

“I’ve been trying to forget yesterday; the bleeding man, burning boats, and chilling screams gave me nightmares.”

“Are you keeping the date?” She gawked at me. “No way are you canceling it.”

“I’m going.” I shrugged. “But I don’t need a man to feel whole; I can find happiness without being half of a couple.”

“You can still date and have fun.” Scarlett winked. “You remember how to have fun, right?”

I turned my face to the window where white puffy clouds coasted along the blue horizon. “It’s been a long time.”

“One date doesn’t have to lead to another.” Her expression becoming somber, she added, “I’m not looking for a commitment either.”

I nodded.

“You can’t help men falling for you; you’re blessed with blonde hair and green eyes.” Scarlett tossed her ponytail. “While I sport a frizzy mop of brown with boring brown eyes.”

“Nothing about you is boring.” I laughed. “And you have no problem finding men.”

“But I’m always one step behind you.”

“And I picked Martin.” I stared at the shredded napkin clasped in my hand.

“Forget Martin; he’s history.” She took my hand, peeling pieces of napkins from between my fingers. “Turn your thoughts to David, tall, dark, and handsome.”

“He has those Nordic blue eyes.” I gave a soft sigh.

“Nordic blue?” Scarlett chuckled. “Is that a color?”

“Yes.” I wrinkled my nose. “I found it on Google.” A side glance at her confirmed my suspicions; she sat there grinning like a cat who consumed a bowl of cream. “When is Jonathan taking you on a date? Tonight?”

“Yup.” She slid from the stool. “I’m excited; he’s taking me to a new restaurant on a pier.”

“Nice.” I swallowed. “A pier that didn’t burn?”

“Blue Harbor has many piers.” Scarlett shook a finger at me. “Remember, happy thoughts.”

I planted a smile on my face.

Scarlett gave me a smirk before continuing, “I checked the restaurant online, and it’s fancy.” She leaned her hip against the counter. “Should I wear my strapless red dress?”

“Perfect choice.” I grinned. “You’ll catch the big fish.”

She laughed. “I won’t tell Jonathan you called him a big fish.” Scarlett tilted her head to the side. “What will you wear?”

“I have my little black dress.”

“With an emphasis on little.” With a snicker, she added, “Perfect.” 

I got to my feet and began rinsing the dishes. “Who gets Logan?” I turned to her.

She canted her head to the side.

“If I pick David, and you choose Jonathan, who gets Logan?”

“Can he be the spare?” She clapped her hands together in delight.

A giggle slipped from my mouth. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Men refer to women as spares, so why can’t I?” 

“As long as they don’t hear it.”

“I’m sealing my lips,” Scarlett replied, running an imaginary zipper across her lips.

THE DESERTED MANSION

The mansion is dreary.
One should be leery
of entering its gate.
Better leave it to fate.

Each room offers a view
of history for you.
Beautifully furnished rooms
swept clean by invisible brooms.

“Who lives here?” you might ask
if you dare take him to the task.
“Only I,” he might reply
with a twinkle in his eye.

He steps closer to me.
His eyes are red I can see.
Is he a creature of the night?
My heart pounds with fright.

THE DEAD GAME
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THE HARBOR BURNS

As explosions rocked the harbor, the blackened sky mirrored the orange and yellow flames consuming the pier. People screeched as the panicked horde surged toward us.

Chapter 6

People strolled the sidewalks beneath the street lamps’ hazy yellow glow. Bright window displays beckoned to visitors as music wafted from the open doorways. Boats rode the soft swells on either side of the long dock, jutting into the dark water. I stood beside Scarlett at the curb, taking a deep breath of the crisp, salty air.

David and Logan exited the parlor, taking positions on either side of us. 

I glanced at Logan, feeling uncomfortable in his presence after the intense interrogation in the ice cream parlor. His haughty mien lifted as he caught my glance, and his gray eyes softened. He nodded to me before turning and heading back to the store.

The ground beneath my feet shook as flames shot to the sky from the moored vessels and ear-shattering explosions cut through the air. Time turned sluggish and unreal, like a movie reel playing in slow motion.

I stood frozen, transfixed by the orange flames sweeping across the wooden planks at the heels of the fleeing pedestrians. Scarlett grabbed my hand as the crowd headed our way, jostling us in their frenzied path. As an intense heat hit our faces, people screamed; sirens shrilled; fire engines pulled alongside the marina. Police cars swarmed the streets.

His face a blotched red, Lively strode from the parlor, puffing. “Take them home and then hurry back,” he shouted to David before rushing across the street with Logan to join the officers arriving at the dock.

“I’ll walk you home.” David snatched my hand, transporting me back to reality. 

I hurried to keep pace with him, the hazy fog clouding my vision cleared. Scarlett strode ahead while Bella hobbled beside us on a broken heel. I glanced back at the burning harbor. “I don’t understand; the advertisements depict Blue Harbor as a peaceful town.”

“It used to be.” David shrugged. “Things have changed.”

“What things?” I asked, but he refused to look at me. “David?”

He faced me. “Maybe you shouldn’t move here.”

“Do you want me to leave?”

“No, then I won’t see you again.” He halted as people rushed around us. “But the town hasn’t been safe for the past few months, and I don’t want you hurt.” David took my hand, and we continued walking.

“Do you believe I’m in danger?”

“I don’t know. I’ve been working with Logan and the chief, but we’ve made no headway.” He checked over his shoulder. “Where’s Bella?”

“I’m here.” Bella emerged from the crowd. “The broken heel is making it difficult to walk.” She removed her shoes and loped toward us barefoot. “That’s better.”

As explosions rocked the harbor, the blackened sky mirrored the orange and yellow flames consuming the pier. People screeched as the panicked horde surged toward us. 

David dropped my hand and looked at me. “I’m sorry. The police need my help; I must go back.” He pushed his way through the throng and headed back to the pier. “Remember to lock your doors,” he yelled over his shoulder before disappearing.

“What’s wrong with this town?” I eyed Bella.

“What isn’t wrong with it?” she replied before stumbling ahead to our building.

Scarlett stood on the front steps, gaze riveted to the burning harbor, her arms wrapped around her shivering body.

Bella unlocked the front door, and we trailed behind her into the dark hallway.

“Are you going to explain this creepy town to us?” Scarlett stepped in front of Bella.

Bella hit the light switch. “No, and don’t shut the hall lights. Tomorrow, I’ll explain the town’s strange history.” She rushed into her apartment, throwing the bolt on the door.

MEET ME IN MAINE

Book Review

From the start I couldn’t stop reading. The characters were fun and believable. The setting is fabulous. A small town on Maine’s coast led the way for the paranormal fun that ensued. The action was nonstop and I enjoyed the creativity in how some of the death’s occurred. I caught myself laughing while thinking yuck.
This book is far more than a cozy mystery and in a similar fashion to The Dead Game series its filled with all types of elements that make me anxious for the next book in the series. I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves paranormal and/or mystery.

MELTING DESSERTS

Silhouette of a man behind a frozen glass

As the desserts melt, Chief Lively questions the witnesses of the bloody crime.

MEET ME IN MAINE

CHAPTER 5

The blood congealing in the chalk outline made my stomach queasy. Jonathan and Eric stood behind the counter, their faces pale, ice cream dripping from the sides of the banana split dish. Colorful dessert melted in the deserted dishes on the tables and the cones that had fallen to the sparkling white floor. 

“Elizabeth.” David rushed to me. “What are you doing here?”

“We were ordering ice cream when the man collapsed.” I shivered.

David pulled me into his arms and whispered, “I’m sorry you witnessed this,” as he rested his chin on my head.

“You know her?” Logan’s deep voice rumbled behind me.

“Have you met Logan?” David stepped back, staring at me, his hands gripping my shoulders.

“I met both of you today.”

“Nice,” the chief said. “You come to Blue Harbor and meet two of my men… how convenient.”

“What are you suggesting?” David glared at Lively.

“I’m not suggesting but pointing to the fact these two women have insinuated themselves into our town on their first day.”

“A coincidence.” David focused his stare on Logan. “How did you meet?”

Logan raked long fingers through his thick hair. “Bella was showing them the town when I bumped into them… a coincidence.”

“We’re full of coincidences today.” The chief paced the room, sidestepping the crime scene outline. “And now, we have a dead body.” He pointed to the thick mass of blood.

“How does this relate to us?” I asked.

“It could be nothing.” Lively scowled. “Or could be everything.” A strange light shone in his dark eyes.

“Stop with the macho act.” Logan marched to the chief, jabbing a finger at his chest. “They’re new to our town.”

The chief stepped back. “Okay, big boy, no need to argue. I’m doing my job.”

“So, do it, and don’t harass the women.” Logan took a deep breath before approaching us and turning his face from Lively. “Ladies, please have a seat. We have a few questions.”

“Sure,” the chief mumbled behind Logan’s back. “Do my job for me.”

David led me to a table, taking a position behind my chair, while Bella and Scarlett took seats on either side of me.

With a stern expression on his face, Logan halted in front of Scarlett. “Did the shop appear unusual before the man entered?”

Scarlett cleared her throat. “I don’t know what’s unusual for this town since I just arrived.”

“You know what I mean.” Logan lowered his face near hers.

“I was trying to lighten the mood.” Scarlett averted her face. “No. I saw nothing strange.”

“Did you?” Logan directed his sharp gaze at me.

I shook my head.

When he glanced at Bella, she mouthed, “No.”

“Okay, let’s try this.” Logan circled the table before standing in front of Scarlett, his hands on his hips. “What do you remember?”

Scarlett squirmed in her seat. “The man ran into the store, blood gushing from his neck. He said, ‘they’re back,’ and then collapsed.”

“Nothing else?”

She shook her head. “Nothing else.”

“Elizabeth?” He faced me.

David’s fingers tightened on my shoulders as I replied, “I remember the same.”

Logan swiveled his head to Bella. “I take it you have nothing to add.”

“There’s nothing to add.” Her face reddening, Bella came to her feet. “He walked into the store and bled to death.”

“Did you recognize him?”

We shook our heads in unison.

Logan directed his icy glare at me. “Why did you choose this week to visit Blue Harbor?”

“What do you mean?” I squinted at him, confused.

“Most people visit our town during the summer and leave after Labor Day.” Logan tilted his head, watching me. “Why are you visiting after the season?”

“We’re not visiting.” Scarlett rushed to her feet, her voice rising in tone. “We’ve moved here.”

Logan spun to her. “You’re staying?”

“Why is that so strange?”

David replied, “It’s unusual because we didn’t hear of your arrival.”

Scarlett shoved her hands on her hips. “We didn’t arrive with a parade and horns blaring.”

David gave her a sullen look.

The chief grunted. “I don’t enjoy surprises.”

“I didn’t think we were an unpleasant surprise,” I said.

“You’re a pleasant surprise.” David patted my shoulder.

“We had nothing to do with the man’s death,” Bella said. “Let us go home.”

Logan frowned at Bella. “Thank you, women. You can leave.” He strode to the door and held it open for us.

THE DEAD GAME SERIES

I stroll past the storefronts,

tinted windows mirroring the fading sunlight.

I descend the steps to the beach,

soft sand trickling through my toes.

The sky turns black,

the clouds a dark gray.

The waves thrash in a demented dance,

and the wind propels me forward.

I race to Main Street,

palm trees bowing in unison.

Howling winds toss garbage cans,

and debris coats the streets.

The windows hang broken and twisted,

glass crunching beneath my feet.

The saddest sight is the church.

The once-white church stands charcoal-black.

The Dead are here.

The games have begun.

DARK PARADISE

A more beautiful place cannot be,

It faces the waves of the dark sea.

White sand and quiet beaches galore,

You can’t ask for anything more.

Life is perfect as can be.

Come and frolic with me.

Tourists visit from far and wide.

Oasis is Florida’s pride.

Beware when The Dead descend.

We can no longer pretend

This is a perfect place to be

As The Dead rise up from the sea.

Darkness brings flying creatures and death.

Beware that this won’t be your last breath.

THE DEAD GAME

by Susanne Leist

ARE YOU READY FOR THE NEXT CHAPTER?

Chapter 4

A bleeding man. Fleeing customers. This isn’t what our heroines expected in Blue Harbor, Maine.

Screaming customers shoved past us, stepping over the bleeding man and rushing from the shop. Soon, the store was empty except for Jonathan, Eric, and us. Bella sat frozen on a stool, her hazel eyes round as saucers. Scarlett backed away until her back hit a pink booth. I shivered as I watched the blood spread around the body and across the white-tiled floor.

Jonathan jumped over the counter and raced to the young man dying on his floor. He yelled over his shoulder, “Call an ambulance.” 

“I will.” Bella fumbled with her handbag. “What should I tell the police?”

“He’s bleeding to death,” Scarlett said, her face white from shock.

“They cut his throat.” Jonathan came to his feet, staring at his bloody hands. “It’s too late.”

“They?” I asked with a squeak.

“I called the police,” Bella said.

Jonathan withdrew a cloth from behind the counter and wiped his hands. With a grim expression, he turned to us. “You can leave; I’ll answer the police’s questions.” He looked at Eric, who stood beside the counter, his skinny body quivering. “You too.”

“The man said ‘they’re back.’” I faced Jonathan. “Who are they?”

Icy blue eyes glared into mine. “I don’t know.” Jonathan averted his face, rubbing at his red-stained hands with the blood-soaked cloth.

“Let’s go.” Bella grabbed my arm. “We’ll get in the way.”

I followed Bella and Scarlett from the shop. The sun had set, leaving behind dark and deserted streets. I didn’t hear any sounds until a stretcher and officers rushed past us. Then the wail of sirens and shouts of police bombarded my eardrums, a veil lifting to show the ugly truth.

“Move, lady,” an officer yelled in my ear.

Scarlett yanked my arm, pulling me across the street. Bella joined us as we watched the paramedics and police swarm into the pink parlor, a white van labeled The Coroner’s Office pulling in front. A man ran into the store with a black bag clutched in his hand. Once the sirens quieted, people emerged on the streets, but no one dared to approach Jonathan’s shop. 

“Look.” Scarlett pointed at David, who rounded the corner and strode to the parlor. He opened the door and hurried into the shop. “What is he doing here?”

“He works with the police,” Bella replied.

“But he’s a lawyer.” I gaped at Bella. 

She shrugged. “A smart lawyer who knows how to fight crime. As an ex-marine, he’s handy with a firearm.”

“Oh, no.” Scarlett touched my arm.

I followed her gaze to the tall man opening the shop’s hot-pink door. “Don’t tell me Logan also works for the police.” I frowned at Bella.

“Okay, I won’t tell you.”

“Spill it.” Scarlett grabbed Bella’s arm.

Bella shrugged Scarlett’s hand from her arm. “Logan owns an investment firm, but he helps the police on occasion.”

“No way.” Scarlett shook her head. “Is he an ex-marine like David?”

She averted her face. “Logan wasn’t a marine but a Navy Seal.”

Scarlett shot me a look, and we kept silent.

The pink door opened. Two police officers carried a stretcher, the body covered by a sheet, and loaded it into the coroner’s van. A heavy-set man, wearing a blue uniform, stepped from the doorway, scowling at the people crowding the sidewalks. 

“The chief of police,” Bella said. “Ryan Lively.”

“He’s focusing his beady eyes on us.” Scarlett stepped back from the curb. “We should head home.”

“I agree.” Bella shivered. “He gives me the creeps.”

The police chief marched across the street. 

“Too late,” Scarlett whispered. 

The chief halted a few feet from us, his short, stocky body blocking our escape. “Hello, Bella Fox. We meet again.”

I turned to Bella, who stood frozen like a deer caught in headlights.

“And who are you?” Black eyes stared at us from a beefy face. 

“I’m Elizabeth Reading.” I nodded at Scarlett. “This is Scarlett Harding.”

“I was told you were present at the scene.”

“We were ordering ice cream,” I replied.

“Is that so?” His thin lips curled. 

I didn’t answer. Ryan Lively didn’t appear to be a friendly, small-town cop, and I wasn’t offering information unless asked.

“What do you want from us?” Bella yielded first. “We witnessed a man bleeding to death on the floor.”

His bushy eyebrows met in a straight line. “Don’t be difficult, Bella Fox.” He swiped a hand through his short gray hair. “Not as last time.”

“Last time?” Scarlett asked before clamping her mouth shut at the chief’s scowl.

“There’s always trouble in Blue Harbor,” Bella replied.

“Keep your opinions to yourself.” Lively swung his back to Bella, turning his attention to us. “Join me at the scene.” He glanced over his shoulder at Bella. “You too.” The chief strode across the street, the crowd parting as we followed him into the ice cream parlor.