Read Rock Harbor Series - 01 - Without a Trace Online

Authors: Colleen Coble

Tags: #Contemporary, #Romance, #Suspense, #Mystery, #Adult, #ebook

Rock Harbor Series - 01 - Without a Trace (25 page)

BOOK: Rock Harbor Series - 01 - Without a Trace
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“Hey, man, we weren’t doing anything wrong—” the boy began.

“Stow it,” Kade said. Obviously ill at ease, the rest of the kids stood with their hands thrust in their pockets. “Do your parents know where you are?” he asked.

The boy glared at him defiantly while the other two looked at the ground. This kid was bad news waiting to make the front page. “I didn’t think so,” Kade said. “What are your names? And don’t try to lie your way out of this.”

“Chip Elliott,” one of the boys said. His brown hair was tousled, and he wouldn’t meet Kade’s gaze.

Mindy opened her mouth, but Kade cut her off. “I recognized you, Mindy.” He turned his glare to the boy. “Who’s Mr. Smartmouth?”

The boy’s defiance was only a veneer. Kade saw panic flicker in his eyes. The teenager mumbled something.

“What was that? Speak up,” Kade said sharply.

“Brian Parker,” the boy said a little louder.

Brian Parker. Kade’s gaze narrowed. “You Max Parker’s boy?” Max would have a coronary. The town doctor was proud of his social standing and kept his family in order.

Brian’s brave front dissolved. “You’re not going to tell my dad, are you?”

“I haven’t decided yet,” Kade said. He didn’t like meddling in other people’s business, and it wasn’t his job to police Rock Harbor’s teenage population. Maybe he’d better stick to his own responsibilities. But he’d let the kids sweat it out a bit. Maybe next time they’d think twice about being so foolish.

He saw Lauri hadn’t moved. “Get your things,” he told her. “Unless you want your friends to hear what I have to say.”

Lauri dropped her gaze. He waited while she went to the lean-to. The silence was long and uncomfortable for the kids, who shuffled their feet and looked everywhere except at Kade.

When she reappeared with a backpack over her shoulder, he addressed the group. “I suggest you all head for home as well. It might be good to confess before I find time to talk to your parents myself.”

The kids scattered, and Kade took Lauri’s stiff arm. Lauri jerked out of his grasp. “I don’t need your help,” she snarled. They walked back to the truck in tense silence. He knew she wouldn’t hold her anger for long.

Lauri threw herself into the seat and slammed the door. His mouth tight, Kade slid beneath the steering wheel and jabbed the key into the ignition. The engine roared when he floored the accelerator, and it felt almost as satisfying as if he had been able to let loose the roar of rage building in his own chest.

The tires spun in the soft dirt, then the truck moved away from the river. Kade eased his foot off the pedal. The sandy track was too treacherous to go fast, much as he might want to expel his frustration by driving recklessly. He glanced at his sister. She stared out the window, her jaw tight. Then rage burst from her in a flood of bitterness.

“You’ve ruined my life; I hope you know that!” The gaze she turned on him would have burned him if his own anger hadn’t been just as hot.

“Let’s not discuss this until we get home,” he said tightly.

“Everything always has to be your way, doesn’t it? Well, not today.
Let me out of this truck.” She struggled with the truck door and managed to open it.

Kade hit the brakes as Lauri hurled herself out of the truck. He threw the transmission into park and jumped out, leaving his door open. Lauri had landed in a patch of raspberry brambles. The harder she tried to extricate herself, the more deeply the thorns pierced her.

“Oh, ow!” She began to cry. Blood marred her forehead, and droplets appeared on her arms.

“Stop thrashing. Let me help you.” Kade took out his pocketknife to cut her loose. Laurie kept still, her only movement coming from her chest as she sobbed.

“You don’t care about me,” she wailed. “I’m just a nuisance to you and everyone else. I wish I’d died with Mom. I hate my life. I hate this town, and I hate you!” Freed from the briers, she sat up and buried her face in her hands.

Her words stung. Could she really hate him? Kade knelt beside her. “That’s not true, Lauri. You’re the most important thing in my life. You’re the reason I’m here in Rock Harbor. I want to do what’s best for you.” He swallowed and dabbed at the blood on her forehead. She stood.

“You don’t even know me anymore, so how can you know what’s best?” Spent from her rampage, she let her hands fall to her sides. “Just leave me alone.” She brushed past him and got back in the truck.

Kade wished he knew the magic words to reach his sister. She was getting sucked away from him in a whirlpool of rebellion that would ruin her life. He couldn’t let that happen. Somehow, there had to be a way to reach her.

17

A
t six o’clock, darkness still cloaked Rock Harbor. Snow had finally come to the U.P. Nearly six inches of it blanketed the ground this early Monday morning. Naomi had thrown a coat over her exercise shorts and T-shirt and stood shaking with cold on the lighthouse porch. She rang the doorbell then waited to hear the patter of Samson’s feet and his soft woof before letting herself in. Bree had lit every candle in the place, and their apple-cinnamon fragrance welcomed Naomi.

She shut the door behind her and rubbed Samson’s head. He whined and wiggled all over with pleasure. “Where’s Bree, boy?”

He woofed softly again and turned to look up the stairs. Shrugging out of her coat, Naomi tossed it over the mourner’s bench in the entry then went up the steps.

“Bree?” she called. She followed the sound of a rhythmic thudding down the hall to the door on the left. Through the open door, she saw Bree running on the treadmill in her exercise room. She wore a headset, and her face was a mask of concentration.

Her jerk of surprise was almost comical, and Naomi grinned. Bree slipped the headset down to her neck and turned off the machine.

“Is it that time already?” She grabbed a small towel and mopped her face. “Get the aerobics video ready while I get some water.”

“You trying to show me up? I’d have rubber legs if I tried to run before aerobics.” Naomi took the Denise Austin aerobics disc out of its
case and popped it in the DVD player. She knew Bree trained hard. They both had to in order to manage the grueling ordeal of tramping over rough terrain on searches.

Bree went to the small refrigerator in the corner and took out a bottle of water. “Want some?”

“Not yet.”

Bree took a long swig, and Naomi studied her friend’s face. Had she been crying again, or was the redness merely from exercise?

Bree saw her staring. “I’m fine, so don’t fuss.”

“You’ve been crying.”

Bree took another swallow of water. “It snowed last night.”

“I know.” Naomi knew Bree was obsessed with the snow and cold. She wished Bree could understand her son wasn’t beneath that cold blanket of snow. But it did no good to harp on it. Maybe she’d feel the same way if it were her son lying out there somewhere, his bones naked and uncovered. This world seemed so real, sometimes it was hard even for her to imagine what heaven must be like.

“Let’s work up a sweat. I’m not ready for this cold yet. And turn on the sauna,” Naomi added.

“I already did,” Bree said. She picked up the remote and pressed the play button.

It was better not to talk about some things. They did their aerobics routine then went to the sauna. Naomi stretched out on the slatted cedar bench closest to the ceiling where the air was hottest. She had a book with her but laid it aside. Bree lay on the high bench along the other wall.

Bree rolled over on her stomach. “You haven’t told me about your date.” Her tone was mildly reproachful.

“It wasn’t a date. The kids were there.”

“Then why are you blushing?”

“I’m not blushing! It’s the heat.” Naomi couldn’t help the stupid grin that took control of her face.

“It’s a sad state of affairs when I have to hear about my best friend’s love life through town scuttlebutt.” Bree rolled back over and crossed her arms under her head.

“I don’t really have a love life, so there’s not much to tell.” Naomi didn’t know why she was so reluctant to talk about it. Maybe she was afraid talking about it would break the special connection that seemed to be developing between her and Donovan.

Bree sat up and stared at her. “Is this serious or something? We’ve always talked about your men friends, but right now you look the way Samson does when he’s rolled in something dead: defensive and ashamed all at the same time. Give me the scoop, or I’ll have to treat you like Samson and send you outside.”

Naomi managed to laugh at Bree’s feeble attempt at humor. “I don’t know how he feels yet. I’m afraid to know.”

“You know how you feel so soon?”

“It’s not soon. I’ve always liked Donovan,” Naomi protested. “And now that he’s free . . .”

“You don’t intend to let him get away again, is that it?”

Bree said the words mildly, but they stung. “Is that so wrong?” Naomi whispered.

“No, sweetie. I just don’t want to see you get hurt. A man in Donovan’s position might grab hold of the first available female. I want you to be loved for yourself, not because the guy needs a caretaker for his kids. You’re too special to settle for that.”

Naomi squeezed her eyes shut. “I’m thirty-two, Bree. I want a home, a family,” she said huskily. She didn’t want to face Bree’s doubts—the same ones that kept her tossing in bed at night. Donovan
did
seem desperate. Who wouldn’t be? But in spite of that, she clung to the hope he could love her for herself.

“There are worse things than being unmarried,” Bree said.

Naomi knew that was true, but being with Donovan and his children felt right. She felt like a puzzle piece that fit perfectly into an
empty spot. She’d prayed and prayed about it, and she really believed the Lord approved of this match.

The women left the hot, cedar-lined room and jumped under the cold shower spray before going back to the sauna. Questions roiled through Naomi’s mind. What if this didn’t happen for her? What if Donovan was merely using her because he needed someone for the kids? She wished Bree hadn’t brought it up.

“You still haven’t said what you did Saturday,” Bree said.

“We went shopping for school clothes for the kids. Emily had outgrown all her jeans, and Timmy needed new shoes. Then we all went to lunch at the Suomi.” Naomi smiled at the memory of their day.

“How did that go?” Bree asked as she led the way back to the sauna.

“Emily is still on her guard with me. She wants you to marry her dad.” Naomi attempted a smile. Bree frowned.

“Is that why you didn’t want to tell me about it? I told you I wasn’t interested in Donovan.”

“I know she’s just a child.” Naomi chuckled, but it had a hollow quality to it. She yawned. “This heat is making me sleepy. I suppose it’s about time to get out.”

“I have some breakfast burritos in the freezer. You want to stay for breakfast?” Bree stood and clicked off the sauna heater.

“No thanks. I need to get home. But you and I are supposed to go to Anu’s for supper tonight. She’s fixing spinach lasagna.” Naomi followed Bree to the cold shower spray for the final time. “I’ll drive tonight. Pick you up about five-thirty, eh?”

“Now that’s an offer I can’t refuse,” Bree said with a smile. “Hey, don’t forget your book.”

Naomi shook her head. “I lose more books.” She took it and followed Bree out of the sauna. Naomi could see the worry in Bree’s eyes and wanted to reassure her, but how could she now that the same worry had rooted in her own heart? She might be setting herself up for
a world of hurt. If she wasn’t willing to take a risk though, she might as well be dead. Without risk, she had no hope of gain. She pushed away the doubts and decided to concentrate on her day. They had supper with Anu to look forward to. She just had to deal with a million details at the bed-and-breakfast first.

Anu greeted them at the door with a hug then put them to work chopping vegetables for salad. The aroma of the lasagna, pungent with garlic and spices, filled the house. Bree loved Anu’s house. Furnished with clean-lined Finnish furniture in a light wood, it was homey and welcoming. The three women had often gathered in the kitchen for heart-to-heart talks. Arabia china in a warm yellow color accented the blue-and-white decor.

“Sit down, girls.” Swathed in a bright blue apron, Anu came into the dining room with the lasagna. “Supper’s ready.”

When they were seated, Anu said grace and Bree found herself listening to the words. Was Anu really thankful for every morsel of food she ate, every blessing God brought to her?

Anu lifted her head and began to ladle the food onto their plates. “Bree, what are you finding out about poor Fay?”

“Not much,” Bree admitted. She was getting tired of that question. Everyone seemed to think she had an inside track on the investigation just because she’d found Fay’s body. There were no answers in sight. Fay’s murder seemed just as random and senseless today as it had the night Samson and Charley discovered her body.

“Mason seems overwhelmed by it all,” Naomi said.

“Fay’s old boyfriend is back in town,” Anu interjected.

“He’s been here since the funeral,” Naomi said. “I think Mason considers him a suspect.”

“Yes.” Anu nodded. “I told Mason to look at him.”

“Do you know him?” Bree asked in surprise.

“He used to be my gardener. Hot-tempered, though a fine worker. One day he threw the pickax through the shed door when it got stuck shut. Two weeks later, he ripped out my prize roses when his sleeve got tangled in the thorns. I had to ask him to leave.”

“Wow,” Bree said. “I had no idea. What did he do? Did he leave?”

“He pounded on the door and smeared mud on the windows.” Anu raised her eyebrows for effect. “Mason had to come. This was before Eric went to prison.”

“So Eric’s temper is nothing new to Mason,” Bree said.

“Oh no. But you must stay away from him,
kulta
. He is a dangerous man. I can see from your expression you want to know more, but you cannot get involved with that man.”

“I read that psalm you told me to read,” Bree said. She paused to study their expressions. “You should see your faces. Don’t look so surprised!”

BOOK: Rock Harbor Series - 01 - Without a Trace
8.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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