We turned the corner, but Bella was nowhere in sight. Quaint stores lined the busy sidewalk beneath the red glow of the setting sun. The boats docked at the pier swayed in place above the choppy waves. A salty breeze brushed through my hair. The mellow sounds of early evening lulled my senses until a high-pitched shriek broke the spell. “Why didn’t you follow me?” Bella marched toward us.
“We lost you.” Scarlett spun to her.
“How could you lose me? I didn’t even cross the street.” Bella’s 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 pink-and-white shingled building. “We’re here.”
We stepped into the pink. A long counter spanned the left wall, fronted with hot-pink stools. Light-pink booths lined the right and back walls. White wrought-iron tables and chairs filled the space in the middle. “Cute,” I said. The sweet aroma of ice cream, chocolate fudge, and cotton candy wafted to my nose. My mouth watered. I smelled peanut butter, strawberries, and I don’t know what else. “An ice cream heaven.”
Bella took a seat at the counter. “Hi, Eric. Can I have a banana split?”
“Sure thing, Bella,” a gangly teenager replied, scooping 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 above the ice cream.
“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 and dragged me across the room to a booth.
“Wow,” I whispered. “You must be in love. I’ve never seen you act timid.”
She turned to me with a scowl, her mouth wide open, 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 in his early thirties 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.
Sit back, put up your feet, and let me bring mystery and romance to your lives.
People strolled the sidewalks beneath the street lamps’ hazy yellow glow. Colorful 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 and inhaled a deep breath of the crisp, salty air.
David and Logan exited the parlor, taking positions on either side of us.
David whispered to me, “We’ll walk you home.”
I glanced over my shoulder at Logan, feeling uncomfortable in his presence after the intense interrogation he put us through in the ice cream parlor. Logan’s haughty mien lifted as he caught my glance and nodded to me, his gray eyes softening.
The ground beneath my feet shook. I shrieked and grabbed David’s arm.
The street lamps went dark as ear-shattering explosions cut through the silence, followed by frenzied shouts. Time turned sluggish and unreal, like a movie reel playing in slow motion. Flames shot to the sky from the moored vessels. I stood frozen, transfixed by the orange flames sweeping across the wooden planks at the heels of the fleeing pedestrians. Scarlett clutched my hand as the crowd headed our way, jostling us in their frantic path. Intense heat hit our faces. People screamed; sirens shrilled; engines pulled alongside the marina. Police cars swarmed the streets.
His face a blotched red, Lively strode from the parlor, puffing. “Take them home,” he shouted to David before rushing across the street to join the officers arriving at the scene.
“I’ll walk you home.” David snatched my hand, transporting me back to reality.
I hurried to keep pace with him as the hazy fog clouding my vision cleared. Scarlett strode ahead with Jonathan 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 turned to 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 grasped 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.” She emerged from the crowd. “The broken heel is making it difficult to walk.” Bella removed her shoes and loped toward us barefoot. “That’s better.”
Quick bursts of explosions shook the harbor, the blackened sky mirroring the orange and yellow flames consuming the pier.
People screeched as the panicked horde surged toward us, and David dropped my hand. “I’m sorry. The police need my help.” He pushed his way through the throng and headed back to the pier. “Remember to lock the 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.
Her expression sullen, Scarlett waited on the front steps, watching Jonathan race toward the flames engulfing the harbor.
Bella unlocked the front door, and we trailed behind her into the darkened hallway.
“Are you going to explain this creepy town to us?” Scarlett stepped in front of her.
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.
After breaking up with her boyfriend, twenty-four-year-old Elizabeth, together with her pal Scarlett, leaves town to pursue her dream of running a bed-and-breakfast in dreamy Blue Harbor in Maine. On arrival, Elizabeth draws the attention of David Hunt, a good-looking lawyer, and Scarlett arranges a date with the debonair owner of the ice-cream parlor. Everything seems perfect… But then things become ominous and sinister. Explosions, a series of unexplained, scary deaths, supernatural powers, shapeshifting… An ancient curse also comes into play… And Elizabeth and Scarlett find themselves right in the middle of it. No spoilers, but there’s a great mix of suspense, murderous mayhem and romance in this tightly-knit story. Recommended.