Did Logan survive the attack at the restaurant? How many victims will the evil curse claim before it’s finished?
I trailed behind David at the hospital through a maze of corridors, announcements ringing in our ears, overhead fluorescent lights bouncing off the too-white walls. He reached for my hand when my steps slowed, and I took a deep breath. “I hate hospitals.”
“No one likes hospitals, but they’re a necessity.”
I frowned at his response.
A nurse exited as we entered Logan’s room. He lay on the bed, his eyes closed, a white bandage covering the left side of his head, closest to us. His eyes opened at our footsteps, and Logan tilted his head to see us.
I ran past the empty bed to reach him. “How are you?” I extended my hand before dropping it at my side. “We should have brought flowers or a gift.”
His slow grin made my heart flutter. “I don’t need gifts, just you.”
David cleared his throat.
Logan chuckled. “I need you too.”
“What happened?” His eyes flashing, David sauntered to the opposite side of the bed.
Logan glanced at him. “All business, no ‘how do you feel’ from you?”
“You’re conscious.” David cocked an eyebrow. “So, you’re fine.”
I inched closer to the bed and touched his hand. “What happened?”
Logan looked at me, his gray eyes softening, his chiseled face gaunt. “I spotted two men lurking on the pier behind the fish restaurant, so I tracked them until they ambushed me on a side street. While I was tackling one of them, the other hit me. The next thing I remember is waking in the hospital attached to tubes.”
“Did you recognize them?” David paced at the foot of the second bed, waiting in the shadows for its next patient, its lights and machinery dark.
Logan faced him with a disdainful expression. “They wore hoodies and dark clothing.”
“That’s it?” David halted, his expression grim.
A grunt escaped Logan’s lips. “Let me see you identify someone who bashed you on the head.”
“I was just checking.” David shrugged. “We’ve been attacked before.”
Logan frowned. “Thanks for the show of sympathy.”
I squeezed his hand. “Did you hear about the woman?”
“I was there.”
“Why were you there?” David asked, his voice hardening.
“The chief heard rumors of an attack at tonight’s opening.” Logan closed his eyes. “He asked me to check the restaurant.”
“The chief expected an attack?” I let go of his hand. “Scarlett was there.”
He opened his eyes, giving me a glassy stare. “I didn’t know until I saw her and Jonathan.” Logan winced. “I was approaching Scarlett when the woman… I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry.” I grabbed his hands in both of mine. “They could have killed you. You should rest.”
David grunted and strode from the room.
“We’ll return tomorrow.” I gave Logan a wistful look before hurrying after David into the corridor.
While he marched ahead of me to the nurses’ station, his tense words drifted to me over his shoulder, “I’m going to speak to the nurses before I drive you home.”
I waited as three nurses surrounded him, eager to answer his questions. After nodding to them, David led me to an empty lounge. “Do you need to sit?”
I shook my head.
“Logan has a severe concussion… they’re taking him for an MRI.”
“Poor Logan; you could have been nicer to him.”
“He has a thick head. This isn’t his first concussion or mine.”
“Are you trying to comfort me?” I frowned. “Your technique isn’t working.”
David shoved his hands into his pockets. “I guess not.” He searched my face. “I’ll take you home… I’m sorry for the way our date ended.”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
“Blue Harbor has an awful habit of interfering in my life,” he said as we followed the twisting hallways to the exit.
At my apartment, he stood in the hallway, watching me. “I’ll wait until you lock the door behind you.”
I unlocked the door, stepped inside, and turned to him.
A hooded expression crossed his face. “I’ll call you tomorrow.” The soulful chords of Tchaikovsky’s “Pas de Deux” from The Nutcracker drifted from his jacket. He pulled the offending cell phone from his pocket, glancing at the screen. “The chief is calling. Lock the door,” he said, backing into the hallway and motioning to the lock.
Let us return to MEET ME IN MAINE for the next chapter. Will our heroines be faced with another dead body?
David parked between the police cruisers blocking the street in front of a brown, shack-looking building, flashing red lights illuminating the bystanders standing in groups on the sidewalk. We hurried beneath the hanging wood sign, Blue Sea, and into the restaurant. A whiff of fish hit me as we entered. Round tables rimmed the perimeter, where three walls of windows faced the pier and moonlit water. A circular bar with bamboo stools took center stage in the darkened room. The half-eaten dishes filling the glass tabletops and the fallen bamboo chairs hinted at the patrons’ quick retreat. Police milled around a table beneath a shattered window sprayed with blood in the right corner.
David stepped in front of me when I gasped, blocking my view of the scene. “Stay here.”
“No buts.” He took my arm and guided me to a chair and a small table beside the front door. “Don’t move until I return.” Then he rushed to join the officers.
“I can’t believe there’s a murder during the grand opening,” a woman’s voice near me whispered.
“Yeah. And this time, it’s a woman,” a high-pitched voice replied. The police shooed them to the far left corner, where the other customers waited in a tight group, quiet and grim-faced.
I jumped to my feet, jarred by the thought: Jonathan had taken Scarlett to a new restaurant on a pier. What if the body belonged to her? I hurried across the room to where David stood beside the chief.
“Is it Scarlett?” I clutched David’s arm, getting a glimpse of a headless body draped across the table. So much blood. The woman wore a black dress. She wore a black dress, while Scarlett had twirled in a red dress for me.
“No.” David yanked me from the scene, but I’d seen enough: blood covered the window, table, and floor. He scowled at me, gripping my arm. “Why didn’t you listen to me?”
I tugged my arm from his grasp. “I was afraid it was Scarlett; she and Jonathan went to a new restaurant on a pier tonight.”
David pointed to the left. “She’s standing with Jonathan. Go join them.” He marched away as I slunk toward them.
“Elizabeth.” Scarlett wrapped her arms around me. “What are you doing here?”
“The chief interrupted our date,” I replied, nodding to Jonathan.
“Why?” Scarlett narrowed her teary eyes at me.
I sank into the chair Jonathan had brought me. “Logan was attacked.”
“Is Logan okay?” Jonathan asked.
“The chief didn’t sound concerned.”
Jonathan said, “Lively is only worried about his career.”
“What happened?” I asked. “I saw the body.”
Scarlett twisted her hands together. “We were eating at a table beside the window. The view was spectacular; there was music and plenty of tequila flowing. Then a woman’s head exploded at the next table. The woman sitting with her got covered with her friend’s blood before she screamed and fainted. Once the ambulance arrived, the paramedics revived the second woman and helped her to her feet. She didn’t appear hurt… but soaked in blood.” Scarlett grimaced as she gulped for air.
“Does this happen often?” I squinted at Jonathan in the dim light. “This is the second dead body we’ve seen in two days.”
“We’re having an outbreak of violent episodes.” He dragged shaky fingers through his shaggy blonde hair. “In March, two people turned to stone.”
“What do you mean they turned to stone?” Scarlett grabbed his arm.
Jonathan patted her hand before directing her to a chair across from mine. “Two new statues appeared on the dock, resembling a husband and wife living in Blue Harbor. The couple went missing as the statues appeared out of thin air.”
“You believe the couple turned to stone?” I asked, shaking my head at this absurd thought.
“The chief does.” He stared at the police surrounding the dead body. “He’s investigating with the help of Logan and David.”
My opinion of Lively plummeted to even lower than before. “I understand Lively having bizarre fantasies but not Logan or David.”
Jonathan looked at me. “This is a peculiar town.”
“These episodes have happened before?” I asked.
He nodded, his expression solemn.
“Have they called the FBI?” Scarlett asked, her eyes widening.
He shook his head. “Lively wants to keep it local; he doesn’t want the Feds traipsing through his crime scenes.”
“But if the chief can’t solve the crimes, he needs help.” Scarlett lowered her face. “This is ridiculous, and the whole situation borders on the ludicrous.”
Jonathan hunched on his knees in front of her, his bright blue eyes focused on Scarlett’s face. “I shouldn’t be telling you, but the town has secrets.” He shook his head, stopping himself from speaking further. “I shouldn’t be divulging them to strangers.”
Scarlett raised her face. “We aren’t strangers but will soon be owners of an inn.”
“What?” I stood, my head spinning. “When did you decide to stay?”
She turned tired eyes to me. “We can’t leave now.”
“No. You can’t leave.” Jonathan lifted her hand, bringing it to his lips. “We just met.”
“Wait a second.” I sat as the surrounding voices became muffled in my ringing ears. “The contract requires two signatures. And one is mine.”
“You don’t want to live here?” a deep voice whispered.
I turned my head to David. “My plans don’t include moving to a town of exploding heads and people turning to stone, where a psycho killer fulfills his delusions of grandeur by using Blue Harbor as his evil playpen.”
He took my hand, bringing me to my feet. “I can help make this town peaceful again.” His penetrating gaze pierced through me. “Please, let me try.”
“I don’t know.” I swallowed the lump growing in my throat.
“Give me a chance to make this right.” David wrapped an arm around my waist, backing me against his hard body, his warm breath tickling my ear. “I’ll keep you safe. I promise.”
I leaned against him with a sigh.
“I’m going to visit Logan at the hospital? Do you want to join me?”
I raised my face to his beseeching stare.
“We’re joining you.” Scarlett jumped to her feet.
When a police officer blocked her and Jonathan from leaving, David said to her, “You have questions to answer first,” before turning to me and extending his hand, “Join me, please.”
I took his hand and followed him past the officers surrounding the bloody scene to the police cars and camera crews flashing their lights across the night sky. When a reporter shoved a mic at my face, David pulled me against him and said, “No comment,” before leading me to his car.
I settled in my seat, my thoughts jumbled, my heart pounding. I don’t want to live in Blue Harbor, where the unusual becomes the usual. Then I glanced at David; Iwas not ready to say goodbye to him.
Lizzy getsready for her first date with David. Is she eager? Let’s find out.
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.”
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.”
“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.
“I’m bone-tired.” Scarlett plopped onto the couch, crossing her ankles on the glass coffee table. “I may never move again.” She leaned forward to massage her jean-clad legs.
I settled beside her, smoothing my hand across the plush gray suede. “When you said furnished, I didn’t know you meant living in luxury.” A massive flat TV screen faced the couch and two chairs; tall brass lamps stood on the glass end tables. Polished light-wood floors wove through the rooms, leading to a sectional beige leather couch curved around a second TV in the den. “And we have king-sized beds.”
Scarlett loosened her curls from the scrunchie. “In case we have company.”
“Do you expect company?” I asked, wiggling my eyebrows.
She snickered. “You’ll be welcoming a guest before I do.”
“I intend to sleep alone.” I felt my brow furrowing. “No more live-in boyfriends.”
“We’ll see after your date tomorrow.” Scarlett grabbed the remote from an end table and flipped through the channels, the changing screen absorbing her attention. “I’m set for the evening. Oh, look, we have cable and Netflix.”
I glanced at the empty pizza box sitting open on the coffee table. “I’m still hungry.”
“You’re always hungry, but you never gain a pound.”
“Neither do you.”
“I work hard at dieting and exercising.” She pointed the remote at the TV; a black screen replaced The Hallmark Channel. “What do you want to eat?”
“Are you two years old? Do you need ice cream as a reward for unpacking?”
“Yes, I do.” I stood. “Let me grab my bag.” I hurried to my bedroom and unearthed my handbag on the floral comforter between the mounds of matching pillows. Laughter and voices drifted through the open window. I moved to the white curtains, parting them to the setting sun and glowing red sidewalks.
Scarlett strolled into the bedroom and stood beside me. “Wow. Maine sunsets are much more impressive than Manhattan ones. I’ll grab my bag and jacket.”
I stared at the enticing view. No one moved in a hurry; no cars honked. Kids rode bicycles. A group stood laughing and gesturing with their hands. I reached for a fast-forward button to quicken the speed, but there was no button: Blue Harbor moved at a slower pace than New York City.
“Here I am.” Scarlett scooted in front of me with a black Michael Kors leather jacket draped across her arm, wearing DKNY jeans and a yellow billowy blouse. She spun in a circle. “Do I look ready to paint the town red?”
I grinned back at her. “You look terrific.” I stepped back from the window, letting the sheer fabric fall from my fingers. “Everyone is moving in slow motion.” I blinked, feeling disoriented. “We’re used to rushing from one place to the next. Here, no one is in a hurry. They’re even smiling at each other.”
“We’ll adjust to the slower pace.” She eyed my skinny jeans and flowered blouse. “No need to change: you look perfect. Just grab a jacket
I headed to the hall closet, reaching for my tan leather jacket. “Do you have the keys?”
Scarlett replied, “Yup,” as she swung the front door open.
I followed her into the hallway.
“Now, I’m getting hungry.” She shut the door, locking it behind us.
Bella sauntered toward us. “Hi, guys. Where are you going?”
Scarlett quirked a brow. “Out.”
“Do you need directions? I can introduce you to people.” The curvy redhead shifted to the right, blocking our path to the front door.
“You’ll get chilly in that skimpy outfit Scarlett narrowed her eyes at her.
We have a warm spell.” Bella smoothed the pleats of the black miniskirt that hit mid-thigh.
Tired of their banter, I said, “We’re going for ice cream.”
“Great.” Bella gave a catlike grin. “Wait for me.” She dashed to her apartment.
I turned away from Scarlett’s accusing glare. “She can lead us to the nearest ice cream parlor while introducing us to people.”
“I don’t trust her.”
“Neither do I.” As the approaching footsteps neared, I whispered, “Be nice.”
Bella appeared in tight jeans and a ruffled pink blouse. “I changed.” She slung a black beaded bag across her shoulder. “I know the perfect place for dessert.”
“Do we need a car?” I asked, eyeing Bella’s plunging neckline. I hoped she didn’t plan an evening chasing men.
“Nope.” Bella sashayed past us, flinging a lock of wavy red hair over her shoulder. “It’s only a block away.” We followed her as she greeted people on the sidewalk without bothering to introduce us. Men flirted with her, while women scowled as she ignored them.
“She’s not popular with women,” I whispered to Scarlett.
“Most women understand her game plan,” Scarlett said as another man stopped to stroke Bella’s impressive ego.
“Tempt as many men as she can until—” She froze.
“Until she catches the one she wants.” Scarlett cleared her throat. “And she found him.”
I followed her frozen stare to the corner where Bella spoke to a tall, muscular man who wore a pinstripe gray suit and red tie to perfection. When his sharp gaze swung to us, I bit back a sigh. Gray eyes observed us from beneath hooded lids.
In my ear, I heard Scarlett’s breathless words. “First, David, and now, this guy. Does Maine only produce gods?”
“And Bella knows them.”
“Introduce me to your friends.” The dark-haired Adonis strolled toward us, extending his hand. “Pleased to meet you. I’m Logan Rayne.”
Scarlett moved closer, taking his hand. “Scarlett Harding.”
“Elizabeth Reading,” I said as silvery-gray eyes met mine.
Bella emerged from behind Logan, linking her arm through his. “Will you join us for a bite to eat?”
“I’m sorry,” Logan replied, his heated stare capturing mine. “I have a late meeting.”
“Then we’ll expect a rain check.” Bella batted her impressive eyelashes. “This weekend will be fine.”
“I’m free Saturday night. Are you?”
I gulped; he was watching me. “We’re free since we just arrived today.”
“Good.” Logan stepped back, relinquishing Bella’s grasp on his arm. “Dinner?”
Bella sighed. “We’ll be ready at, let’s say, 9 o’clock.” She arched a red eyebrow at him.
“Did you move into Bella’s building?” he asked, his attention returning to me.
“I’ll see you then.” A smile flashed across his face before he strode to the navy-blue Mercedes parked at the curb. He folded his long legs into the two-seater, then nodded to us before easing the sporty vehicle into traffic.
“What are you? A man-magnet?” Her hands clenched at her sides, Bella stood at the corner, glowering at me, bright spots of red on her pale cheeks.
“I thought that was your job,” Scarlett said with an evil chuckle.
“Ha, ha.” Bella gave a “humph” before rounding the corner.
“Logan was asking us, wasn’t he?” I asked with a slight squeak.
“He was gawking at you.”
“No way.” I gulped. “No one looks at me while you’re standing beside me.”
“Yeah, right.” Scarlett shook her head, muttering something to herself.
We turned the corner to the busy avenue, where colorful stores faced the harbor, but Bella was nowhere in sight. Beneath the orangey-yellow glow of the setting sun, the docked boats swayed in place on the waves. A soft breeze brushed through my hair. The mellow early evening sounds lulled my senses until a high-pitched shriek broke the spell.
“Why didn’t you follow me?” Bella marched toward us, waving her arms.
“We lost you.” Scarlett spun to her.
“How could you lose me? I didn’t even cross the street.” Bella’s pale face reddened. “Unless you were trying to lose me.”
“We reached—” Scarlett glanced at the street sign. “Harbor Drive, and we didn’t see you.”
“Fine.” Bella pointed to the pink sign, Le Ice Cream Parlor, hanging between two 3D hot-pink ice cream cones on a white shingled building. “We’re here.”
We stepped into the pink. An extended counter spanned the left wall, fronted with hot-pink stools, light-pink booths lined the right and back walls, and white wrought-iron tables and chairs filled the middle. “Cute,” I said. The sweet aroma of ice cream, chocolate fudge, and cotton candy wafted my nose. My mouth watered. I smelled peanut butter and strawberries and didn’t know what else. “An ice cream heaven.”
Bella took a pink stool at the counter. “Hi, Eric. Can I have a banana split?”
“Sure thing, Bella.” The gangly teenager scooped ice cream into a banana-shaped glass dish, a toothy grin on his pimpled face.
“What can I get the young ladies?” I turned, expecting an older man. Instead, a man in his early thirties flashed his pearly whites at us. “Hi. I’m Jonathan Hale, the owner of this ice cream heaven.”
“You heard me.” My face heated as I faced the shaggy blonde, blue-eyed, surfer-looking guy.
“Yes, I did. And thank you for the compliment.” His gaze landed on Scarlett and stayed there. I felt relief; he fit Scarlett’s unique taste.
“What do you recommend?” Scarlett asked, her voice sounding breathy.
“I suggest the tornado.” Jonathan winked. “It has my best flavors topped with chocolate fudge, whipped cream, and a cherry.”
“We’ll share one.” Scarlett glanced at me, and I nodded.
As Jonathan retrieved a tall dish from behind the counter and began layering the decadent ice cream flavors, he asked, “Are you new to Blue Harbor?” His intense gaze met Scarlett’s through the glass dome covering the ice cream display.
“We arrived today.” Scarlett’s voice drifted as she glanced away.
He chuckled. “Then I’m happy to welcome you to Blue Harbor.”
Scarlett gave him a tremulous smile. “Thank you.”
“Take a seat at a booth, and I’ll bring my special concoction to you.”
Scarlett took my hand, dragging me across the room to a corner booth.
“Wow,” I whispered. “You must be in love. I’ve never seen you act timid. And shy. You’re never shy.”
She turned to me with a scowl, her mouth opening, ready to defend herself before her attention shifted to the front door.
The door flung open, hitting the wall beside it with a loud bang. A hush fell across the room.
Startled faces turned to the doorway.
A tall, thin man hurried inside, clutching his throat, his gaze darting around the room. “They’re back,” he whispered before collapsing to the floor, blood spurting from his neck and pooling around his body.