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.

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.

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.

WHO WILL SURVIVE?

Candles in basement

Are you invited to a party?
Can it be at End House?
A deserted house at the edge
Of the forest in Oasis, Florida.
People have disappeared from this house,
Never to be seen or heard from again.
Are you going to this party?
I admire your courage.
Your tenacity.

I will tell you what you may expect.
No one will answer your knock on the door.
The door will open by itself,
Inviting you to step inside.
Flickering candles and gargoyles line the staircase.
Your group will divide into two.
The first group will follow the staircase candles.
Your group will follow the flickering
lights in the right hallway to the basement.

Which group will find the elusive host?
Who will survive to tell the tale?
Only I know.
For I am one of The Dead.
We love our games.
Welcome to THE DEAD GAME.

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MEET ME IN MAINE – The Perfect Backdrop

It’s time for chapter two of Meet Me In Maine, book one of The Blue Harbor Series. Our heroines arrive at Blue Harbor, eager to see their new home. The town meets their expectations but with a deadly twist.

Chapter 2

After three brief stops and seven hours of driving, we rolled into Blue Harbor. Once we’d crossed into Maine, the traffic had thinned. A blanket in alternating shades of red, yellow, and green draped over the hills on either side of the open road. Instead of crowded sidewalks, traffic jams, and tall buildings, grass and groves of trees filled my vision. A salty breeze from the window swept across my face, and the tension eased from my body. Freedom smelled divine.

Scarlett said, “We’ve arrived,” sporting an eager smile on her face.

“I hope the people are friendly.” The sign on the highway welcoming us to Blue Harbor passed my window.

She glanced at me, her long brown curls lifting in the warm breeze. “I’m sure they are.”

I checked the visor mirror. Almond-shaped green eyes stared back at me as I patted my straight blonde hair in place. Stop worrying, I told myself. Everything will be fine. Martin will never find me; he won’t even miss me.

“Did you say something?” 

“Nope.” I folded the visor, reaching for the map spread open between us. “Do you need directions to the apartment?”

“I memorized the street map.” She threw me a saucy wink.

After exiting the highway, Scarlett followed the road past sculpted lawns and well-maintained homes painted in vibrant colors, the quiet streets turning busier once the harbor came into view.

“I bet the town was more congested during the Labor Day weekend.” I stared through the window at the people strolling the sidewalks, smiling as they greeted one another. Two men, sitting on rocking chairs on the front porch of a barbershop, nodded hello to us. Hope blossomed in my heart as I smiled back at them. 

“I heard Blue Harbor was a madhouse of tourists last weekend.” Scarlett changed lanes to pass the double-parked cars. Beyond the colorful shops, turquoise water shimmered beneath a cloudless sky as boats of various sizes coasted along on its choppy swells. She turned a corner, slowing the car to check the addresses before parking in front of a red-shingled, two-story house. “We’re here.”

As we stretched our legs on the sidewalk, a white puppy ambled toward me and sniffed my leg. He nuzzled my hand with a wet nose when I bent to pat his head. “Hi, boy. You’re adorable.”

“He’s a girl, but she is adorable,” a deep voice replied. “Her name is Stella.”

I raised my face to light-blue eyes. The sandy-haired man grinned and extended his hand. “Hi, I’m David Hunt.”

I straightened and took his hand. “I’m Elizabeth Reading.”

Scarlett cleared her throat. “Don’t forget me.” She pointed to herself. “Scarlett Harding.”

His gaze glued to mine, he asked, “Are you moving into the rental?”

“Yes.” Not able to meet his direct stare, I shifted my focus to his cleft chin and chiseled cheekbones. “How did you know?” 

“The rent sign and the fact you have luggage stored in your car.” He nodded to the backseat.

“That’s right, Sherlock.” Scarlett pushed past me. “Hi.” She eyed David with a mischievous grin. “We’re moving in today.”

“Let me help you.” David handed the leash to me before rushing to open the car door and unloading the bags to the sidewalk.

“We have more luggage in the trunk.” Scarlett sauntered to the front steps. “I’ll find the owner.”

“Where are you from?” he asked, piling bags in his arms.

“New York City.” I crouched beside the puppy, who licked my hand.

After depositing the baggage on the porch, David descended the steps and hunched beside me. “I see you’re a dog-lover. Is your friend a dog-lover? Maybe she can babysit.”

“Babysit?” I swallowed. “Do you have children?”

“No.” A chuckle rumbled deep in his throat. “I’m not married.” He straightened to his full height, between 6’ 2’’ or 6’ 3’’, revealing broad shoulders, a narrow waist, and sculpted muscles beneath his white T-shirt. “We’ll need a babysitter for Stella if I take you to dinner.” A shy smile appeared between an enticing set of dimples. 

“You’re taking me to dinner?” One last pat on the puppy’s head, and I rose to my feet. “Are you asking me or telling me?” I refused to date another aggressive man.

“Asking. I’m not usually so forward.” He cleared his throat. “Is tomorrow evening too soon?” His blue eyes twinkling, David shifted closer, letting his fingers graze my cheek. “I must work on my technique… I’m rusty.” He dropped his hand to his side. “I should have waited to ask you.”

“That’s okay,” I replied. “Are you divorced?” He seemed sweet, but there had to be something wrong with him: no one was as perfect as they appeared.

He stepped back. “No. I’ve been busy with my practice.” He stared into the distance. “My last relationship ended a few years ago.”

“Are you a doctor?”

“No. A lawyer.” His attention drifted back to me. “Why are you smiling?”

“I’ve just ended a relationship with a bossy doctor.” I wiped sweaty palms on my jeans. “I’ve sworn off doctors.”

“Then I’m happy I didn’t attend medical school.” He grinned. “My parents… both doctors… were eager for me to follow in their hallowed footsteps.”

“Do you enjoy the law?”

He smiled, dimples emerging again. “Yes, I do.”

Scarlett called my name from inside the brownstone. 

As I headed to the front steps, David whispered in my ear, “Is that a yes for dinner?”

Am I ready for a date, or is it too soon? I turned to him, hesitating before nodding.

A grin crossed his face as he climbed the stairs and hurried to open the door for me. “That was the answer I was hoping for.”

When we stepped into the narrow hallway, David nodded to the door standing open to our right. “That’s the owner’s apartment.”

Scarlett strolled through the open doorway with a tall redhead trailing behind her. “You have a spacious apartment.” Scarlett turned her companion. “Is the rental as large?”

“All the apartments are the same size,” the redhead replied in a bored voice, but as soon as she spotted David, she became animated, batting heavy-mascaraed eyelashes at him. “David, are you visiting me?” She crossed the hall to stand at his side, sliding an eager arm around his.

“No, Bella.” He stepped back, removing his arm from hers. “I’m helping Elizabeth and Scarlett with their luggage.”

Bella glanced at me with an annoyed frown.

Scarlett grabbed my arm. “Let’s check the apartment.” As we crossed the hall, she whispered, “Bella doesn’t trust you because she sees you as competition for David. But he can’t keep his eyes from you.”

Bella’s voice took on a sugary tone behind us. “See me before you leave, David.”

“Sure, Bella,” he replied before shutting the apartment door.

Scarlett said with a chuckle, “Good riddance.”

I walked into a room flooded with sunlight from the large kitchen window straight ahead, highlighting the yellow cabinets and white granite island with a cheerful glow before settling its translucent rays across the gray suede couch and chairs. 

“Isn’t this an awesome apartment?” Scarlett asked before disappearing into the hallway to the right of the kitchen.

As Scarlett investigated the two bedrooms, we followed the narrow hallway to a small den. David joined me at the window overlooking a compact lawn. “I’m happy I walked Sally on this block today. I got a feeling.”

“A feeling?”

He grinned. “I get those.”

“What other feelings do you get?”

“Let me see.” David paused as he took my hand, his thumb rubbing the inside of my wrist. “I have a feeling you’ll enjoy the French cuisine at the restaurant I picked for tomorrow evening.”

I gave a nonchalant shrug. “Everyone likes French food.”

“They make a delicious chocolate mousse.” 

“They do?” I swallowed. “Mousse is my favorite dessert.”

“I’ll store that information for future use.” David winked before handing me the puppy’s leash. “I’ll get the luggage.”

Scarlett rushed into the den, her eyes sparkling with mischief. “Wow. David is handsome and nice. I’m happy you found him. Well, he found you.”

“Is he acting too pushy?”

“No. David likes you.” She watched me with a concerned expression. “Don’t worry, David is not Martin.”

“Okay.” I exhaled the breath I was holding. “I like him.”

She chuckled. “So does Bella.”

I frowned. Forcing Bella from my mind, I said, “We should help him with the bags.” Then I remembered Stella, who was watching me with soulful brown eyes. 

“I don’t need help,” David whispered in my ear.

I twirled to him. “You’re finished?”

“I move fast.”

I followed him to the bags piled high in the living room. “Yes, you do.”

“I believe Stella needs a walk.” He took the leash from my hand. “Can I pick you up at 8 o’clock tomorrow? I have a late client.”

“That’s perfect.”

David lifted my chin with his finger. “See you tomorrow.” He nodded to Scarlett before leading Sally through the doorway.

Scarlett pouted. “You met a cute guy right away.”

“Dumb luck?” I quirked an eyebrow.

“Lizzie, one thing you’re not is dumb.” She laughed.

“Let’s unpack, then we can order pizza.” I marched toward the bags. “Maine must have pizza places.”

“We passed a few.” Scarlett wound her long, brown curls into a ponytail with a scrunchie. “You noticed nothing but David.”

I grinned. Freedom felt divine.

SILENCE REIGNS SUPREME

Silence reigns supreme.

The sun hides its face.

Palm trees shake their leaves.

Winds quicken their pace.

The hotel stands deserted.

Flapping sounds fill the air.

Dark shadows join the fray

Beneath his icy stare.

THE DEAD GAME SERIES

ALIVE AT NIGHT

The wood floor creaks.

I slowly turn around.

Where are The Dead freaks?

I hear no other sound.

The lights flicker.

Can the rumors be true?

I feel sicker.

The Dead will take me too.

I can see their faces.

Dark eyes stare at me.

They take their places.

I’ll never be free.

I run through the hall,

But I’m running in place.

I give up and fall.

A grin covers his face.

He leers at me.

Eyes glowing bright red.

A sight to see.

I flee toward my bed.

He lifts me in his arms.

We fly into the dark night.

I won’t fall for his charms.

The Dead come alive at night.

THE DEAD GAME

SNOWBOUND

Snowbound at the inn,

no one can get in,

besides the cursed one

who has already won,

by picking off bodies,

one by one.

MEET ME IN MAINE

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