Read Wishbones Online

Authors: Carolyn Haines

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths, #Mystery Fiction, #Women private investigators, #Hollywood (Los Angeles; Calif.), #Delaney; Sarah Booth (Fictitious Character), #Costa Rica, #Motion picture industry

Wishbones

BOOK: Wishbones
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Praise for Carolyn Haines and
WISHBONES

"Funny, ingenious . . . and delightful."

--Dallas Morning News

"Wishbones is reminiscent in many ways of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels, only fresher with a bit more of an edge . . . Light, breezy, and just plain fun. Call Haines the queen of cozies."

--Providence Journal-Bulletin

"Stephanie Plum meets the Ya-Ya Sisterhood! Non-Southerners will find the madcap adventure an informative peek into an alien culture."

--Kirkus Reviews

"Sarah Booth Delaney heads for Hollywood in Haines's entertaining eighth cozy . . . The chemistry sizzles between Graf and Sarah Booth."

--Publishers Weekly

"Haines' warmth, wit, and authenticity come through in her characters. . .
Wishbones
is a story about the bonds of friendship and the strength of Southern women and is also a good, old-fashioned, fast-moving whodunit."

--Mobile Register

"Haines' writing style is reminiscent of our beloved Anne George . . . tongue-in-cheek, clever Southern mysteries."

--Birmingham News

WIS

Carolyn Haines

St. Martin's Paperbacks

NOTE:
If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

WISHBONES

Copyright (c) 2008 by Carolyn Haines.

Excerpt from
Greedy Bones
copyright (c) 2009 by Carolyn Haines.

All rights reserved.

For information address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2008013402

ISBN: 0-312-37709-6

EAN: 978-0-312-37709-0

Printed in the United States of America

St. Martin's Press hardcover edition / July 2008

St. Martin's Paperbacks edition / June 2009

St. Martin's Paperbacks are published by St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

For John and Judy Adams--my talented friends

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Growing up in Lucedale, Mississippi, I had several advantages, but one of the biggest is that my family told stories. My mother, father, and grandmother were all accomplished creators of tall tales, spun out with pace and drama. The fact that we all leaned a bit toward ghost stories was also helpful--except on those dark nights when the old house I grew up in began to creak and talk to me.

My love for "the possible" in each story and in life comes from these people, who enriched my imagination every night with a bedtime story. Good or bad, I am a product of the things they instilled in me.

I also have to thank my agent, Marian Young, who shares my love of dogs, cats, horses, and a good yarn. And Kelley Ragland, my editor, who has followed me from the dark side to the more humorous stories of the Mississippi Delta mysteries. Her instincts are right on target and because of her, I end up with a better book.

The entire St. Martin's team has been terrific. Matt Martz makes the day-to-day business of being a writer easier to bear. Lauren Manzella in the PR office, the entire art department, and the library team--thank you all. This has been a
great publishing experience, and I'm looking forward to the next book.

I also have to thank Aleta Boudreaux, Alice Jackson, Renee Paul, Stephanie Chisholm, Susan Tanner, and Gary and Shannon Walker. These members of the Deep South Writers Salon have been great readers. And good friends. Talented in their own rights, they've shared their time to read my manuscript.

A special thanks goes to Suzy Dutton, who won the Bones naming contest. She was the first person to suggest
Wishbones
as a title. And for all of her hard work, she ends up a glamorous movie star who . . . well, you have to read the book to find out.

In the past few years, I've lost several of my wonderful family of four-legged friends. Sweetie Pie, my valiant hound who fought diabetes and other illnesses, and the beautiful and fabulous Maybelline, who stood in for Sweetie at book signings and photo shoots wearing sunglasses and a scarf, have both died. Sweetie was twelve, and she lived far longer than anyone expected. Maybelline was seventeen. Both leave a hole in the fabric of my day.

Younger dogs and cats, many of them abandoned after Hurricane Katrina, have found their way to my home. Down here in the South, there are no laws requiring neutering of pets. But I urge you to please spay and neuter, and to adopt from your local shelter. You never know when you'll find your own canine or feline star.

If you wish to write me, please do so at [email protected] And visit my Web site at
www.carolynhaines.com
. There's no telling what shenanigans we'll be up to there.

WIS
BONES

CHAPTER ONE

Spring is not the time to leave the South. This is the season when Mississippi is truly the belle of the ball, dressed in vibrant azalea frills, white lace dogwoods, and bridal wreath. The promise of money drifts on the dirt-scented breeze that blows across freshly planted soil. For those of us with Irish blood and the heritage of farming, this is the beginning of the gambling season, when futures will rest on the unpredictable weather and the possibility of a good crop.

My great-great-grandmother Alice planted and farmed the land around Dahlia House. She stood each spring, hands on her hips, determining what to plant, where, how much. One wrong decision could mean the loss of the land--which to a Delaney is equal to the loss of our soul. Year after year she bet and won, hanging on to the plantation against all odds. I won't be planting this year. Like Alice, I'm taking a gamble. Not on crops, but on my own talent.

Sitting on the front porch of Dahlia House with my mother's battered red "good-luck" suitcase at my feet, I'm going to my new life.

Whenever I think of the future, my stomach jigs and lurches. As hard as that is, it's better than thinking of the past and all that is gone and can never be again. Somewhere
between the two is the lost dream of Sheriff Coleman Peters and a family of our own, living here in my ancestral home, raising our children, and continuing on with a life that once sounded near perfect.

"He was never less than married." The voice drifts to me from inside the open front door.

Jitty, the resident haint at Dahlia House, has come, at last, to tell me farewell. I was afraid I'd have to go without saying good-bye.

"Now that I'm leaving, do you think Coleman will divorce Connie?" I asked her. In the year I've been home, I gave my heart to Coleman but never my body.

"Did you really want him to leave his wife to be with you?"

I drummed my fingernails on the gray floorboards of the porch and wished for a cigarette. Instead, I pulled out a stick of gum. Jitty stabbed too close to home. I didn't want him if I had to take him from someone else. I didn't want him if I had to "take" him at all. Love has to be a willing surrender.

If I'd insisted on action, if I'd seduced or demanded that we consummate our love, I could have snared him. Instead, we'd both played by honor rules and tempted fate to snatch away the offered gift of our relationship. We'd hesitated, and he who hesitates is lost.

"I guess what I wanted was for Coleman to leave Connie and then find me."

"Your life got out of order, Sarah Booth. Sometimes it happens that way."

I turned to see if Jitty was being consoling or annoying, and I almost swallowed the gum I was chewing. Jitty came swooping toward me, her eyes wide and glazed with madness framed by lashes at least two inches long. She wore a dress with shoulder pads and her hair was smoothed into perfection.

"Camera! Lights! Action! I'm ready for my close-up, Mr.
DeMille," she said as she came down the front steps of Dahlia House. She swiveled and gave a low bow. "How was that, Sarah Booth?"

"An excellent imitation of Gloria Swanson." I applauded. "Come out to Hollywood with me, Jitty." I'd been trying to work on her to make the trip with me, but she wouldn't commit. In fact, she ignored my request and generally took a powder. Now, at least, she was listening.

She sauntered back to the steps and dropped down beside me on the wooden porch. "I don't think so."

"Then you'll stay here and keep the home front safe while I'm gone, right?" I was taking Sweetie Pie with me, and Reveler, my horse, was already grazing peacefully in the lush pastures at my friend Lee's. This trip to Tinseltown wasn't permanent, but it was my shot at being a movie star.

Jitty lifted an arm and the silver bracelets she'd worn since the first day I met her jingled merrily down her wrist. In contrast, her voice was low and sad. "Sarah Booth, we need to talk."

Her words sent an Arctic chill down my entire body, and suddenly I realized that since I'd been cleared of Renata Trovaioli's murder only a few weeks ago, Jitty and I hadn't really talked. My life had whirl-winded from clearing my name to going to Hollywood to star in a movie with Graf Milieu. Everything was moving way too fast for me.

"What is it? You will stay here, in Dahlia House, and watch over everything, won't you?"

Jitty stared straight ahead, sighting on the driveway and whatever memory that held her undivided attention. "I'm not sure that's the right thing to do."

She was freaking me out. "What do you mean?"

She turned to me, and her smile made tears spring to my eyes. I'd never seen anything so lovely or so sad. "Remember the first time we met?" she asked.

How could I forget that? She'd nearly scared me out of
my shoes. But she wasn't interested in funny stories of the past, she was making a point. "Go on," I requested.

"I came to you because you needed me. When you first came home, after all the loss you'd suffered and after things didn't work out in New York, I came because you were alone, without the guidance of family. Dahlia House was a big responsibility, and potentially a huge burden."

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