All Tied Up

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It’s no accident. Eve Lloyd is a magnet for trouble.

On the brink of settling into an uneventful existence, Eve Lloyd turns her attention to a new venture. She’s going to open an inn and she thinks she’s found the perfect house for it. It should all be smooth sailing from there, but she’s developed a knack for landing right in the thick of it. This time, she stumbles on a body in the least likely place and her fingerprints are all over the handcuffs found on the murder victim.

As the suspects list grows, and the dream of running an inn evaporates, she becomes a target of the killer’s rage.

Despite trying to keep her nose out of other people’s business, it seems the only way she can get her life back on track is if she sets a trap for the killer.

Clean read: no graphic violence, sex, or strong language.

 

Chapter One

 

“Captain Jack Blackthorn… everything a man should be… Magnificent build. Easy, playful manner. Oozing sex appeal…” Eve rolled her eyes, “I don’t like this one bit.” All these women daydreaming… entertaining fantasies about her man.

“Did you say something?”

Eve looked up from the stack of letters she’d been reading. Mira’s fan mail. Eve had now been living in Rock-Maine Island with her aunt for several months. Needing something to do, she’d been helping Mira with some of her author housekeeping duties… “I’m having trouble dealing with this surge of interest in Jack.”

Mira laughed. “He’s become a favorite with my readers.”

Detective Jack Bradford had come into their lives a few months before when he’d been investigating a murder on the island. They’d now been dating for a few months.

Mira, a.k.a. historical romance author, Elizabeth Lloyd, had been so inspired by Jack, she’d fashioned her latest swashbuckling hero on him. And while Eve had at first been amused, now she wasn’t so sure she could share Jack with Mira’s enthusiastic reading audience. The thought of all those women curling up in the evenings and filling their fantasies with him was putting her on edge. “What if your readers find out he’s real?”

“But he’s not,” Mira reasoned.

“You said you based Jack Blackthorn on my Jack.” Eve had now read Mira’s, or rather, Elizabeth Lloyd’s latest historical romance three times and with each reading Jack Blackthorn had become bigger than life.

A couple of days before, she’d been on a date with Detective Jack Bradford and had surprised herself by wondering why Jack couldn’t be more like… Captain Jack Blackthorn.

Eve tilted her head and smiled as she recalled one particular chapter from The Princess and the Sea Wolf. Captain Jack Blackthorn had launched himself from the highest ship’s mast, and had swooped through an ensuing battle to land on another ship where he’d swept the reluctant damsel—

“Eve.”

“Sorry, did you say something?”

“Perhaps you should give the fan mail a rest.”

Eve shook her head. “I want to do something, I need to do something.” Until recently, she’d owned a bustling business. Selling her restaurant had left her floundering. She’d never had so much free time on her hands. If she didn’t set her mind and heart on something soon, she’d go stir crazy.

“Have you given any more thought to running the bookstore? Or maybe you should just focus on relaxing. This is meant to be your time to redefine yourself.”

“I’m not sure I can still use that excuse.” She sighed and sunk back in her chair. “I feel I’ve been going against the current, turning my back on what I know best. It’s time I accept my fate. I’m a natural born chef, so I should stick to what comes easy to me. Jill suggested I open a bed and breakfast or an inn. The island gets enough tourist traffic to make it worth my while.”

“Then you should look into it. Abby’s place is still up for grabs and it’s large enough to convert into an inn.”

Eve gazed out the window at the sea beyond. Like Mira’s beach house, Abby’s house sat right by the shore with easy access to the beach. “That reminds me, I need to drop by Abby’s place. I promised I’d keep an eye on it.” Abby Larkin had recently sold her bookstore to Mira and had packed up to move to the city in search of her happy-ever-after. Instead of keeping the house as a safety net, she’d put it on the market, but so far, she hadn’t had any takers.

Eve suspected Abby’s asking price had been set too high on purpose. While Abby insisted she wanted to cut all her ties to the island as a way of making sure she stuck to her purpose, she might still be harboring some reservations.

“I might actually do that this afternoon. Is there anything you need me to pick up for you in town?” Eve asked.

“If you happen to be near the bakery, I wouldn’t mind some of their chocolate chip cookies. Of course, I prefer yours but I feel guilty neglecting local businesses.”

“They do well enough from Jill and me.” Not a day went by when her and the twenty-four year old artist she’d befriended when she’d come to the island didn’t drop in for a coffee at one of the establishments in town.

Eve nibbled the edge of her lip. She hadn’t baked in days. What had come over her? She loved cooking for Mira and she knew for a fact, Mira preferred her cookies. “Okay, I’ll finish these letters for you tonight.”

“Are you sure? I don’t want you to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable.”

“Have some faith in me. I can deal with a little jealousy. Besides, at the end of the day I have the real Jack.”

“All right, but please keep in mind these are my loyal readers and they know when someone is being tongue in cheek.”

“I promise they won’t know it’s me answering their mail and not you. By the way, some of your readers want to know if there’ll be a sequel to The Princess and the Sea Wolf.”

Mira smiled. “I’m thinking Captain Jack Blackthorn will put in a few cameo appearances. In fact, I’ve decided to give him a twin brother.”

Eve buried her face in her hands. Great. Now there were going to be two Jack wannabes to contend with.

 

* * *

 

During the drive to Abby’s beach house, it suddenly occurred to Eve that Mira’s loyal readers were the least of her concerns. Mira had created Captain Jack Blackthorn and that meant she’d spent a considerable amount of time thinking about the real Jack.

Eve tapped her fingers on the steering wheel and tried to remember how Mira had described the pirate.

… broad shoulders, long, lean frame… ruffled brown hair… a playful smile that promised a world of delicious fun…

Her mind meandered to the steamy chapters she’d read several times over. Mira didn’t shy away from explicit scenes. Eve fanned herself. The heat level in her books had astonished her. She’d never thought of Mira in those terms…

While they enjoyed an open, friendly relationship, with no holds barred, Eve preferred to nudge the door shut on some matters, never talking about her personal life, something she knew Mira found amusing, if not odd.

Reading those intimate scenes had definitely made her cheeks flush. Some passages she’d read over, sniggling like a schoolgirl, and if pushed for the truth, she had pictured herself and Jack… dressed in period costume…

Never mind that the heroine was blonde with a curvaceous figure, the complete opposite to Eve who, despite her healthy appetite, remained slim. She’d once considered changing her hair color but had decided once a brunette, always a brunette. Still, it didn’t stop her from daydreaming…

It made her wonder how Jack felt about role-playing.

It made her wonder if he’d read Mira’s books…

Should she suggest it?

Seeing a couple edging toward the road, Eve slowed down. Walking tracks crisscrossed the island with locals and tourists making use of them. She’d never before been much of a walker but since moving here, she’d taken up the exercise, mostly as a way of filling up her time. However, she hadn’t ventured out too far. Something she could rectify.

With a nod, she decided walking would be a good way to clear her head and find some inspiration. She had plenty to think about. She’d given herself enough relaxing time. Now she needed to push for more firm decisions and sketch out some clear plans.

It would keep her busy, and effectively take her mind off all those women thinking about Jack and using him for who knew what…

As she drove by, the couple waved. She didn’t recognize them but she still waved back. She’d been coming to the island since she’d been a little girl, but she’d never thought of herself as an islander. However, for the past few months she had been trying to fit in by building relationships with some of the locals.

Jill Saunders, the twenty-four year old local artist who lived near Mira’s beach house, was a constant companion. They often went on walks with Jill’s two Labradors, Mischief and Mr. Magoo. And Eve was, slowly but surely, getting to know other people through Mira.

This was all new to her. Having lived most of her life in New York where she’d rarely had more than a passing acquaintance with her neighbors, she’d decided she actually liked the feeling of belonging and of maybe becoming part of the community.

She was about to turn into the road leading to Abby’s house when a sports car pulled out forcing her to break hard.

“Ever heard of giving way to oncoming traffic,” she called out.

With her heart thumping all the way up to her throat, she watched the car speed off in the opposite direction and disappear into the distance.

Eve couldn’t remember ever seeing it around. Then again, there were over two thousand inhabitants, with plenty of people driving in from the mainland either to visit someone or just to spend the day.

Scooping in a calming breath, she drove the short distance to Abby’s place. She’d have a quick look around, and make sure everything was as it should be. The local realtor could be trusted to lock up, but it didn’t hurt to check.

She took a few minutes to walk around the property, checking windows and doors. While Abby’s house was closer to town than Mira’s place, Abby had told her this was the quiet end of the island with most of the surrounding houses owned by people who lived on the mainland.

As she strode in, she gave more thought to the idea of turning the house into an inn. The wide hallway entrance had a welcoming feel to it. Inside, the house looked as if it might have come out of the pages of an interior design magazine. A set of double doors opened to a sitting room with a fireplace. The dining room was on the opposite side of the hallway, with a door leading to a large country style kitchen in the rear with another sitting room attached to it, and a spacious sunroom to the side.

Eve thought it had been a smart move to list it fully furnished. While Jill had removed the more personal items such as photos, there were plenty of decorative items to make the place looked lived in and inviting.

Although, she wasn’t so sure about the rifle hanging over the fireplace.

She checked more windows and then made her way upstairs. Not that she thought she really needed to. If anyone broke in, there’d be signs of disturbance downstairs. But she’d become a little intrigued.

Could she really turn the place into an inn?

There were plenty of bedrooms. Another set of stairs led up to the top floor with two more bedrooms, both with uninterrupted views of the ocean. Abby had been using one of them. She’d offered the house with the lot, so the room was still furnished and that was probably why she was asking for so much since most of the furnishings were antiques.

Eve sent her gaze skating around the bedroom. Her attention caught on something glinting next the bedside table.

Too big to be a bracelet, she thought.

Taking a closer look, she frowned.

A handcuff?

It looked real enough.

What would Abby be doing with…

Her mouth gaped open.

Abby.

Naughty Abby.

Who would have thought?

Smiling, she opened the top drawer to put it away and found its twin.

“Well, well. Never judge a book by its cover.” Abby Larkin didn’t strike her as the type to walk on the wild side. It only went to show one never knew what went on behind closed doors.

With a small shake of her head, she locked up and made her way into town to pick up some cookies for Mira.

Later that evening, she caved into temptation and called Abby to tease her.

“What are you talking about?” Abby asked.

“Pleading innocence, are you? Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. I can keep a secret.”

“Do I look like the type to play kinky games?”

“Well… no. But is there a type?”

Abby growled into the phone. “Could you please do me a favor? Go back tomorrow and get them out of there. I’m having palpitations. What if the realtor finds them? What will she think of me?”

Eve laughed. “It could be a selling point.”

“It’s a large house targeted at families. Please, Eve—”

“All right, I won’t taunt you… much.”

They spoke for a bit longer, although Abby didn’t have any tales to tell, her efforts to find Mr. Right so far yielding nothing.

“By the way, I just finished reading The Princess and the Sea Wolf. All I can say is… hot, hot, hot.”

Eve groaned. “Not you too.”

 

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Copyright ©2016 Sonia Parin/All Rights Reserved

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