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Authors: Patricia Watters

In Hot Pursuit

BOOK: In Hot Pursuit
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IN HOT PURSUIT

Patricia
Watters

 

DESCRIPTION:
Inheriting her uncle's yacht and living on it is just what Nellie needs to get
out of the financial abyss she's in and put the lives
of
 
herself
and her son back on track. But
what she initially thinks is a dream come true quickly becomes a nightmare. Not
only is the owner of the boathouse threatening foreclosure for back rent, he
claims he had an agreement with Nellie's deceased uncle for use of the boat for
his whale study. But if Will Edenshaw cruises off on her yacht, Nellie will
have him arrested for grand theft! And Will hasn't the heart to foreclose on a
homeless, jobless widow. But once at sea, life aboard becomes perilous. Will's
in hot pursuit and there's no place Nellie can run and hide from her heart. But
there are also others in pursuit—a grizzled old sea dog and a bald-headed man
with a gun—and Nellie and Will don't know why. But as they venture
into
rough waters, it's evident that whoever's in pursuit is
dead set on seeing Nellie... dead.

 

 

IN
HOT PURSUIT

Copyright
© Patricia Watters, 2011

NOTE
- also published under the title of A DOLPHIN'S GIFT

This
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of
the author's imagination, or were used fictitiously and are not to be construed
as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons,
living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. The
republication or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by
any electronic or mechanical or other means, not known of hereafter invented,
including xerograpghy, photocopying and recording, or in any information
storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the
publisher. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the
Internet or via any other means without permission of the copyright owner is
illegal and punishable by law.

CHAPTER 1
 

Nellie Reid
turned onto the dark vacant highway toward Port Townsend and glanced in the
rear-view mirror. The car with the dimmed headlight also made the turn. A lump
of fear lodged in her throat. She'd first noticed the car when she crossed the
Columbia River from Oregon to Washington, and it had kept a constant distance
behind, racing ahead when she accelerated, falling back when she slowed to let
it pass. Three hours later, it was still there.

A raw-edged
kind of panic gripped her. Why would someone trail a woman traveling in an old
mini van
, with a child and a dog
...

Unless it had
something to do with Uncle Vern.

Ever since
she'd received the grim news, she'd felt a niggling uncertainty about the
circumstances surrounding his death. He'd always been a conservative driver,
yet his Mercedes was estimated to have been traveling over a hundred miles an
hour when it left the road and plunged into the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of feet
below. And there were other disparities. All her life, Uncle Vern had been
wealthy, yet there was no money in his estate. And over three-thousand dollars
back rent was due on a boathouse she'd thought he owned. She'd also learned
he'd tried to sell the
Isadora
.
Another inconsistency. The finely-crafted yacht had been his pride and joy. But
the worst of it was, the owner of the boathouse filed a lien on the
Isadora
, and if she didn't pay the back
rent, he could foreclose, and they'd have no place to live. But she didn't have
anywhere near three-thousand dollars...

She looked at
her ten-year-old son, Mike, in the passenger seat, his little dog Katy curled
beside him and the carcass of Mike's scraggly stuffed teddy bear tucked
discreetly under his blanket. Reflected light in the rearview mirror softly
illuminated Mike's peaceful face, a face in sharp contrast to what she felt.
Other than the terrible weeks following Richard's death, when Mike was
recovering in the hospital from the accident that killed his father, she
couldn’t remember when her life had been in such turmoil.

In the past
three weeks she'd inherited a yacht, lost her job, given up her apartment, and
made the decision to move to Port Townsend and live on the
Isadora
. After uprooting Mike three times since his father's death,
they would at last have a place to call home. And as soon as she got a job and
paid off her debts, she'd never be in this vulnerable position again.

In the mirror
she caught the lights of a semi passing the car with the dimmed headlight and
pulling in behind her. Normally she'd feel anxious with such an intimidating
juggernaut thundering behind, but the presence of the truck with its glaring
lights offered her a bizarre sense of
security,
and
for the moment she hoped it would remain. But on the downhill, the semi sped
past. She glanced in the mirror. The car with the dimmed headlight was still
there. Deciding to keep pace with the semi, she gripped the wheel, braced her
arms, and stepped on the gas. The van hesitated, though she hadn't let up on
the accelerator. Faint at first, then growing in intensity, a singing,
reverberating sound emanated from somewhere in the bowels of the engine...

Mike opened his
eyes. "Why's the car making that funny noise?" he asked.

"I don't
know, honey," Nellie replied. "Maybe it's the gas. Sometimes there's
water in it. Go back to sleep." She adjusted the pillow behind Mike's
head, and he closed his eyes.

The van slowed
again for no apparent reason, and the singing sound grew louder. Mike sat up.
"There's that noise again," he said. "Do you still think it's
the gas?"

Nellie looked
at the dark, barren highway stretching before her, then in the mirror at the
car trailing behind. "I hope so," she replied, relieved as the van
surged forward once more.

"How much
farther is it?" Mike asked.

"About
forty-five miles. We'll make it," Nellie said with outward confidence,
masking the apprehension inside.

Several miles
down the road she pulled into an all-night diner. To her relief, the car with
the dim headlight—a light-colored, older model, four-door sedan—sped past.
Inside the diner, she ordered hot chocolate and donuts for Mike, intending to
stay a while. She wanted the mystery car to be far ahead when they set out
again. She also had a call to make. She and Mike would be staying in a motel
tonight, but first thing in the morning, they'd be taking up residency on the
Isadora
, and Will Edenshaw might as well
get used to the idea.

She punched in
his number on her cell, and a deep voice intercepted the third ring.
"Yes?"

"Mr.
Edenshaw?"

"Speaking."

"I'm
Cornelia Reid. My uncle, Vernon Sinclair, owns the
Isadora
. That is, he owned the boat—it’s mine now and—"

"I'm glad
you called, Miss Reid," the man interrupted.

"Mrs.
Reid," Nellie corrected.

"Mrs.
Reid," Edenshaw repeated. "I was very patient with your uncle about
the back rent due on the boathouse, in spite of the fact that he made no effort
to pay anything for the last seven months, but I can't continue to carry this
debt. I must have payment at once or I'll have to foreclose on the boat."

"I'm sorry
about my uncle's debt, and I don't know why he got so far behind in the
rent," Nellie said, nettled by the man's overbearing attitude and his
callous mention of her dead uncle, "but I assure you, you'll be paid every
cent he owed."

"I'm
afraid we're not talking pennies," Edenshaw said. "The rent's well
over—"

"Three
thousand dollars," Nellie interjected. "As I said, you'll be
paid."

"I'd
appreciate that," Will Edenshaw said. "So, if you and your husband
will cut a check, I'd like to square this away as soon as possible."

"I have no
husband," Nellie said. "I'm a widow."

After an
extended pause on the other end of line, Will Edenshaw said, "I'm very
sorry."

Nellie felt the
familiar constriction in her throat that came whenever she acknowledged her
widowhood. She was too young to carry that yoke. Though she doubted the
condolence was genuine, sympathetic words triggered the reaction. Clearing her
throat, she said, "Would it be possible for me to make payments on the
back rent, say, fifty dollars a month until it's paid."

"Fifty a
month?" The voice on the other end of the line was incredulous.

"It's all
I can afford right now."

"I'm
sorry, Mrs. Reid," Will Edenshaw said, "but it'll have to be
considerably more than fifty a month. I'd need at least five hundred or we'd be
looking at a very long-term loan, which I'm not in a position to carry at the
moment."

Nellie felt her
stomach twist. Five hundred a month? That would be impossible...

"Mrs.
Reid?"

"Oh...
uh... yes, you said five-hundred." She swallowed hard. "I'll need
some time, but I'll see what I can do."

"I'm
sorry, but like I said, I'm not in a position to extend any more credit."

"I'm not
asking you to extend credit," Nellie said, her voice rising. "I'm
only asking for a little more time. I've had some temporary financial
setbacks—" she paused, realizing Will Edenshaw's voice held no trace of
compassion or understanding. Actually it gave no hint of any emotion at all,
except impatience. "Never mind," she said. "We can discuss it when
I get there."

"Which
is?"

"Tomorrow
morning." Nellie hung up, feeling drained. Would Will Edenshaw foreclose?
He'd been quick to point out he could if he chose to. But maybe face-to-face
he'd be more open to compromise. However, the first thing she'd do would be to
move the
Isadora
from his enclosed
boathouse to a less expensive open slip so the rent tab wouldn't keep climbing.

Thirty minutes
later, they pulled onto the highway. For the moment, the engine problem seemed
to have resolved itself, and the road ahead was clear. Deciding that her fears
had been unfounded, she focused on the
Isadora
where they'd soon be living, remembering summers spent as a child cruising
Puget Sound with Uncle Vern. She could almost feel the warm teakwood deck
beneath her bare feet and the satiny-smooth handrail gliding against her palm.
She visualized Uncle Vern at the helm, tall and dignified in his navy-blue
yachtsman's coat and white cap with its shiny black bill, his mustache curving
when he smiled…

At a crossroad,
a car turned onto the highway. One headlight was dim. Nellie's stomach coiled
with renewed fear. Clutching the wheel, she stepped on the gas. The van
hesitated, then shifted into passing gear and shot forward. Hands gripping the
wheel, she tracked the serpentine road, braking around sharp turns, and
speeding on the straightaway, until the sing-song thrumming started again as
they climbed a long hill and the van slowed to a top speed of forty miles an
hour. The car trailing them maintained a constant distance behind.

An hour later,
with a string of traffic behind them as they crept along the winding road at a
top speed of forty miles an hour, the car with the dimmed headlight was lost in
the line. As they arrived in Port Townsend, the van slowed even more, and with
its last momentum, coasted into a service station and rolled to a halt. Nellie
watched for the car that had been following them, but as the vehicles passed,
it didn't appear to be among them.

She turned the
van over to the mechanic, who checked it briefly and told her it might need a
new transmission. Nellie glared at the old vehicle. Why, after eight years of
dedicated service, did it turn on her now? Considering her financial state, the
hurt she'd thought she'd come to terms with welled. How could Richard have left
her virtually penniless and with a son to raise? And how could she have been so
foolish as to entrust everything they had to a man with big dreams and little
business sense? She didn't know the business was failing until after Richard’s
death, when she learned he'd allowed their medical insurance to lapse. He’d
also cashed in his life insurance to finance the equipment for their printing
business, gambling nothing would happen. But she also knew that everything
Richard had done had been for her and Mike. They'd been his whole life too. She
sniffled, surprised to feel teary after so long, and she knew Richard was still
a part of her life, just as he'd been ever since his family moved next door to
hers so many years ago...

BOOK: In Hot Pursuit
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