Deep Waters

( 27 )

Overview

Charity Truitt and Elias Winter, two of the Pacific Northwest?s most powerful corporate figures, are both facing crises of career and the heart. Fate has brought them together in Washington?s tiny Whispering Waters Cove, each eager to downsize and simplify. They?re both determined to avoid mergers of any kind?but when they meet, the attraction is nothing short of blue-chip. And they definitely have at least one thing in common: A martial arts master, Elias is a novice at relationships; a formidable former CEO, ...
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Deep Waters

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Overview

Charity Truitt and Elias Winter, two of the Pacific Northwest’s most powerful corporate figures, are both facing crises of career and the heart. Fate has brought them together in Washington’s tiny Whispering Waters Cove, each eager to downsize and simplify. They’re both determined to avoid mergers of any kind—but when they meet, the attraction is nothing short of blue-chip. And they definitely have at least one thing in common: A martial arts master, Elias is a novice at relationships; a formidable former CEO, Charity is starting in the mail room when it comes to love. But when the town is rocked by two shocking murders, Charity and Elias realize that they must join forces to catch a killer. Because behind the town’s sleepy façade run currents fed by treacherous secrets and Deep Waters.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Two disillusioned yuppies fall off the fast-track and into each others arms in this quirky romantic suspense novel from the ever-popular Krentz (Absolutely, Positively, etc.) Elias Winters, a well-known Pacific Rim wheeler-dealer, spent years plotting revenge against the man responsible for his father's fatal plane crash, only to be unable to destroy his enemy when he meets him face to face. Thanks to years of training by Hayden Stone, master of a martial arts philosophy known as Tal Kek Char, The Way of the Water, Elias sees that the empire his father's murderer has built will crumble on its own. Trying to fathom his future now that his quest for vengeance is over, Winters moves to tiny Whispering Waters Cove, near Puget Sound, to claim the legacy Stone bequeathed himDa pier, Crazy Otis Landing, and one of the stores on it, Charms and Virtues. In that dark curiosity shop, Elias meets 29-year-old Charity Truitt, a former corporate executive recovering from a nervous collapse and a broken engagement to a man so "big" he made her claustrophobic. Suspecting that Elias is a heartless speculator, Charity, whose small bookstore also stands on the pier, takes him to task. Romance blossoms, of course, as do complications from a murder in the lovers' midst, when the leader of a kooky religious cult turns up dead after falsely predicting the arrival of savior aliens. Drawn into the investigation, Elias and Charity ultimately apprehend the killer, even while attempting to solve their own mysterious relationship. Although light on suspense, Krentz's tale captures sexual tension with wonderful accuracy. Her Zen-like water-based philosophizing, however, scattered throughout the narrative ("To understand the waterfall, one must view the world from behind it") is, wellDall wet. (Feb.)
Library Journal
For those who can't tell their Krentzes from their Krantzes, Krentz is the one who writes both contemporary and historical best sellers. Here, a pair of powermongers find love and danger in Seattle.
Kirkus Reviews
With her customary offbeat setting and flair for the supernatural, Krentz (Absolutely Positively, 1996, etc.) offers a tale that depends heavily on the other elements in her standard formula: one-part romance, one-part mystery, with a dash of sex and adventure for good measure.

It's Charity Truitt's elaborate, lavish engagement party in downtown Seattle and everyone's having a good time except for Charity. She suddenly realizes that she doesn't care that Brett Loftus is such a great guy or that their marriage would put the final stamp on the merger between the department store chain she's inherited from her mother and stepfather and Brett's family's company—Loftus Athletic Gear. Charity really wants true love and is willing to wait for it, so she runs out on the party, leaving her stepbrother and sister (not to mention hapless Brett) in utter shock and comes to rest in the isolated community of Whispering Waters Cove. Her newfound career managing a bookstore is a far cry from her executive roots, and it's clear she won't be satisfied with small-town life indefinitely. But excitement comes knocking on her door soon enough in the form of Elias Winters, a strikingly handsome man with sea-gray eyes and an uncertain past, who appears mysteriously and takes over Charms & Virtues, a "junk shop" owned by the recently departed Hayden Stone. Unbeknownst to Cove folk, Elias has just come from the climactic resolution of a lifelong trauma—avenging his deceased father, whose business success was thwarted by the evil Garrick Keyworth. Charity and Elias don't share much about their pasts, but they do fall in love. Then a series of violent deaths causes them to realize that there's more going on in Whispering Waters than they'd imagined; their quest to uncover the inner-workings of the community forces them to learn—and then face—each other's complicated histories.

Intermittently hokey and unsurprising, but, still, with an appealing drive.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439154526
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication date: 12/24/2008
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 991,387
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jayne Ann Krentz
Jayne Ann Krentz is a New York Times bestselling author of contemporary romantic suspense novels. She also writes historical romance under the name Amanda Quick and paranormal romance under the name Jayne Castle. Jayne loves to hear from her readers and can be found at Facebook.com/JayneAnnKrentz.
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    1. Also Known As:
      Amanda Quick, Jayne Castle
    2. Hometown:
      Seattle, WA
    1. Education:
      BA in History, University of California at Santa Cruz, MA in Librarianship from San Jose State University (California)
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Only the most discerning observer can sense the deep, hidden places in the sea of another's life. And only the unwary or the truly brave dare to look into those secrect depths.

— "On the Way of Water," from the journal of Hayden Stone

He waited deep in the shadows at the back of the poorly lit shop, a patient spider crouched motionless in his web. There was something about the very stillness emanating from him that made Charity believe he would wait as long as necessary for his prey to venture too close.

"Mr. Winters?" Charity hesitated in the open doorway, clipboard in hand, and peered into the gloom interior of Charms & Virtues.

"Ms. Truitt." Elias Winters's voice came out of the darkness behind the cash register counter. "Please come in. I had a feeling you might show up sooner or later."

He had spoken softly from the far end of the cavernous old wharf warehouse, but Charity heard every word. A tiny tingle of combined interest and alarm went through her. His voice was as deep as the sea, and it beckoned her with the same dangerous allure. She took a cautious step through the doorway and tried to shake off the strange mix of wariness and excitement that gripped her. She was here on business, she reminded herself.

"Sorry to bother you," she said briskly.

"It's not a problem."

"I'm the owner of Whispers, the bookshop at the other end of the pier."

"I know."

An extraordinary quality underlay the very ordinary words. Charity had the feeling that she was being summoned. Uncertainty made her pause.

When in doubt go into full executive mode, she told herself. She had been out of the intense, competitive corporate world for a year, but she could still tap the old skills when she needed them. The important thing was to take charge immediately. She cleared her throat.

"As the President of the Crazy Otis Landing Shopkeepers Association, I want to take this opportunity to welcome you to our little group," she said.

"Thank you."

Elias Winters did not sound particularly impressed. On the other hand, he did not sound unimpressed, either. There was something unnaturally calm about that dark, velvety voice. She wondered if he was tanked to the gills on tranquilizers and then decided that was highly improbable. No one who was stuffed full of sedatives could have managed to infuse so much subtle power into such softly spoken words.

She took a step closer. A floorboard creaked. The gentle lapping of the waves beneath the aging pier clearly audible in the solemn quiet. Another step produced a ghostly moan from a protesting timber. Dust motes danced in the air.

Whenever she entered Charms & Virtues, she thought of haunted houses and old cemeteries. As she had occasionally pointed out to the previous owner, Hayden Stone, a little dusting and some decent lighting would do wonders for the place.

Elias stood, unmoving, behind the counter. He was cloaked in the false twilight created by the weak lamps and the little slits of windows located high on the walls. She could not make out his face. In fact, she could barely distinguish him from the looming bulk of the antique fortune-telling machine positioned just behind the counter.

Elias Winters had opened the doors of Charms & Virtues three days ago on Monday, the first day of August. Thus far she had caught only brief glimpses of him as he came and went down the central walkway between the pier shops. She had been left with disturbing images that intrigued her and aroused her curiosity.

For some reason she was pleased that he was not too tall, just under six feet. A rather nice height for a man, Charity reflected. He was not built like a side of beef, either. There was, however, a disturbing aura of elegant, lean strength about him. He did not walk, he paced.

Each time she had seen him he had been wearing a dark, long-sleeved pullover and a pair of jeans anchored at the waist by what appeared to be a leather thong. His nearly black hair was a little too long for a man who appeared to be in his mid-thirties.

Yesterday Charity had assigned her counter assistant, Newlin Odell, the task of foisting off Hayden Stone's obnoxious parrot, Crazy Otis, on the new owner of Charms & Virtues. The excuse she had instructed Newlin to give to the unsuspecting Winters was that Crazy Otis missed his old, familiar surroundings. It was true, as far as it went. Otis had fallen into a serious depression when Hayden had failed to return from his last trip to Seattle. It was Charity who had nursed the ungrateful bird through the trauma.

She had held her breath while Newlin ambled down the length of the pier to deliver Crazy Otis and his cage. She had fully expected that Elias would refuse to accept the responsibility. But to her unmitigated relief, Newlin had returned empty-handed.

Newlin's only comment on Elias was that he was "kinda strange." Newlin tended to be a young man of few words. Luckily he could sell books and magazines.

"I'd also like to talk to you about some business matters that concern all of us here on the Landing," Charity continued crisply.

"Would you like a cup of tea?"

"Tea?"

"I just made a pot." Elias set two round, handleless cups on the grimy counter. "A very fine grade of China keemun. The Abberwick Tea & Spice shop in Seattle imports it especially for me."

"I see." Charity did not know any men who drank tea. All the men she knew in Seattle were into espressos and lattes. Here in Whispering Waters Cove, they tended to favor plain coffee. Or at least they had until Bea Hatfield, owner of the café a few doors down on the pier, had installed the town's first espresso machine three months ago. "Yes. Thanks. I'd appreciate a cup."

"Please come back here and join me." The deep voice echoed in the cavelike surroundings.

Feeling uncomfortably like a small, very reckless fly, Charity made her way through the cluttered shop.

Elias seemed to be alone. She glanced around to be certain, but there definitely were no customers to disturb the tomb-silent atmosphere. She frowned. This was just the way things had been when Hayden Stone had run Charms & Virtues.

The curiosity shop had been closed since Hayden's death two months ago. Hayden had been away in Seattle when he had collapsed from a heart attack. A quiet funeral had been arranged by some unknown associate in the city. It had all been over before Charity or any of the other shopkeepers on the Landing had even learned of their odd landlord's demise.

There was no question but that Hayden would be missed by the Crazy Otis Landing crowd. He had been a little strange, but he had also been a sympathetic landlord.

No one had ever gotten to know him well. Hayden had lived in his own world, detached and remote from those around him, but he had never been rude or unfriendly. Everyone had accepted him as a harmless eccentric.

His death had precipitated a potential financial catastrophe for the shopkeepers of the Pier, however. The threat had roused Charity's executive instincts, which had lain dormant for months. Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, she had shaken out her wings and allowed them to dry in the sun. She was determined to head off disaster before it overtook her newfound friends.

Her plans required that the shop owners form a united front. That meant that the new proprietor of Charms & Virtues had to be convinced to get with the program.

She went forward determinedly between the aisles formed by the sagging, disorganized counters. What little summer sunlight managed to filter into the room through the high, narrow windows was dimmed by the years of grime on the glass.

Charity wrinkled her nose at the sight of the heavy shroud of dust that covered the assortment of bizarre goods heaped on the display tables. She was dismayed to see that the new proprietor had made no effort to tidy the premises. The goods were still stacked willynilly on the counters. There was no organized pattern to the displays.

Odd little carvings were piled high in one corner. A jumble of brass bells and whistles overflowed a nearby packing crate. Small, colorfully dressed dolls with exotic faces painted with startlingly grim expressions tumbled from a box. Plastic masks leered down from the walls. Below was a counter laden with invisible-ink pens, little magic smoke-producing tubes, and puzzles composed of interlocking metal rings.

And so it went throughout the shop. Oddities and imports from far-off lands filled the shelves of Charms & Virtues. Handwoven straw baskets from the Philippines sat next to a hoard of mechanical toy insects manufactured in Hong Kong. Miniature plastic dinosaurs made in Southeast Asia occupied shelf space with rubber worms produced in Mexico. Cheap bracelets, music boxes, imitation military medals, and artificial flowers littered the countertops. Most of it looked as if it had been sitting in the same spot for years.

The wares sold in the dusty import shop could be described in a single word so far as Charity was concerned. And that word was junk. The new owner would have to apply some energy and enthusiasm if he wanted tar revive his newly purchased small business. She made a mental note to present him a feather duster as a welcome gift. Perhaps he would take the hint.

Charity had never figured out just how Hayden Stone had managed to make a living from Charms & Virtues, or the pier rents, for that matter. He had lived a life of stark simplicity, but even eccentrics had to pay real estate taxes and buy food. She had finally concluded that he'd had a private income from some other source.

"I don't have any milk or sugar," Elias said.

"That's all right," Charity said hastily. "I don't take anything in my tea."

"Neither do I. Good tea should be as clear as a pool of pure water."

The comment brought back memories. "Hayden Stone used to say the same thing."

"Did he?"

"Yes. He was always muttering weird little Zenny comments about water."

"Zenny?"

"You know, Zen-like. He once told me that he was a student of some sort of ancient philosophy that had been forgotten by almost everyone. He said there was only one other person he knew who also studied it."

"Hayden was more than a student. He was a master."

"You knew him?"

"Yes."

"I see." Charity forced herself to a more confident pace. She held her clipboard in front of her as though it were a talisman and summoned up what she hoped was a bright smile. "Well, on to business. I realize that you haven't had a chance to get settled here on the Landing, but unfortunately the lease problem can't wait."

"Lease problem?"

"The shopkeepers have decided to band together as a group to deal with our new landlord, Far Seas, Incorporated. We'd like you to join us, We'll have a great deal more negotiating power if we go in as a united front."

Elias lifted a simple brown teapot with a curiously precise but fluid motion. "What do you intend to approach Far Seas about?"

"Renewing our leases." Charity watched, fascinated, as Elias poured tea. "As you no doubt know, this pier was owned, lock, stock, and barrel, by Hayden Stone, the former proprietor of this shop."

"I'm aware of that." A muted shaft of sunshine from one of the ceiling-high windows slanted briefly across the right side of Elias's face. It revealed a bold, hawklike nose and savage cheekbones.

Charity drew a deep breath and tightened her grip on the clipboard. "From what we can gather, at the time of Hayden's death, the ownership of the Landing was transferred automatically to a company called Far Seas, Incorporated."

A low hiss interrupted Charity before she could continue. It was a familiar sound. She spared a brief glance for the large, brilliantly plumed parrot that was perched arrogantly atop a fake tree limb on a stand behind the counter.

"Hello, Otis," Charity said.

Crazy Otis shifted from one clawed foot to the other and lowered his head with a menacing movement. His beady eyes glittered with malice. "Heh, heh, heh."

Elias examined the bird with interest. "I sense some hostility here."

"He always acts like that." Charity made a face. "He knows it irritates me. And after all I've done for him, too. You'd think that bird would show some gratitude."

Otis cackled again.

"I took him in after Hayden died, you know," Charity explained. "He was extremely depressed. Moped around, let his feathers go, lost his appetite. It was terrible. He was in such bad shape I was afraid to leave him alone. During the day he sat on the coatrack in my back room office. I kept his cage in my bedroom at night."

"I'm sure he's grateful," Elias said.

"Hah." Charity glared at the bird. "That bird doesn't know the meaning of the word."

Crazy Otis sidled along the tree limb, muttering with evil glee.

"You don't know how lucky you were, Otis," Charity said. "No one else on the pier was willing to take charge of you. More than a couple of people suggested that we try to sell you to some unsuspecting tourist. And one individual, who shall go unnamed, wanted to call the pound and have you taken away. But I was too softhearted to allow that. I gave you shelter, food, free rides on Yappy's carousel. What did I get in return? Nothing but nasty complaints."

"Heh, heh, heh." Otis flapped his clipped wings.

"Take it easy, Otis." Elias reached out with one long-fingered hand and scratched the bird's head. "An obligation exists until it is repaid. You owe her."

Crazy Otis grumbled, but he stopped chortling. He half-closed his eyes and promptly sank into a contented stupor as Elias stroked his feathers.

"Amazing," Charity said. "The only other person that bird ever treated as an equal was Hayden Stone. Everyone else is just so much old newspaper beneath Crazy Otis's grubby claws."

"Otis and I had a long talk after Newlin brought him over here yesterday," Elias said. "He and I have decided that we can share this shop together."

"That's a relief. To tell you the truth, when I sent Newlin down here with that nasty beast, I expected you to refuse to take him. In all fairness, Crazy Otis isn't your responsibility. Just because you took over Charms & Virtues doesn't mean you have to take charge of him."

Elias gave her a long, considering look. "Otis wasn't your responsibility either, but you took him in and gave him a home for the past two months."

"There wasn't much else I could do. Hayden was very fond of Otis, and I liked Hayden, even if he was a little weird."

"The fact that you liked Hayden didn't mean that you had to take care of Otis."

"Unfortunately, it did." Charity sighed. "Somehow, Crazy Otis has always seemed like one of the family here on the pier. A particularly unpleasant relative, I admit, one I'd prefer to keep stashed out of sight in the attic, but, nevertheless, a relation. And you know what they say about your relations. You can't choose them. You have to take what you get."

"I understand." Elias stopped rubbing Otis's head and picked up the teapot again.

"You don't have to keep him, you know," Charity said in a burst of rash honesty. "He's not a very lovable bird."

"As you said, he's family."

"Parrots like Otis have long life spans. You'll be saddled with him for years."

"I know."

"Okay," Charity said, cheered by the fact that Elias was not going to change his mind on the subject. "Otis is settled. Now about this situation with Far Seas."

"Yes?"

"All of the rents on the pier are due to be renegotiated before the end of September. Today is the fourth of August. We've got to act quickly."

"Just what action do you plan to take?" Elias set down the teapot.

"As I said, we want to approach Far Seas as a united front." Charity realized with a start that she was staring at his hands. They were very interesting hands, powerful hands imbued with a striking, utterly masculine grace.

"A united front?" Elias watched her as she hurriedly raised her gaze from his hands to his face.

"Right. United." She noticed that his eyes were the color of the sea during a storm, a bleak, steel gray. Her fingers clenched around the clipboard. "We intend to contact Far Seas immediately. We want to lock in long-term leases at reasonable rents before the corporation realizes what's happening here in Whispering Waters Cove."

"What is happening here?" Elias's mouth curved faintly. "Aside from the impending arrival of our visitors from outer space?"

"I see you've already met some of the Voyagers?"

"It's a little hard to miss them on the street."

"True." Charity shrugged. "They're quite an embarrassment to the town council. Most of the members think the Voyagers give Whispering Waters Cove a bad image. But like the mayor says, one way or another, the cult should be gone by the middle of August."

"What happens then?"

"Haven't you heard?" Charity grinned. "Gwendolyn Pitt, the leader of the group, has told her followers that the alien spaceships will arrive at midnight on the fifteenth to take them all away on an extended tour of the galaxy. During said tour, everyone will apparently be treated to a lot of pure sex and philosophical enlightenment."

"I've been told it's difficult to mix the two."

"Yeah, well, evidently the aliens have mastered the problem. As you can imagine, the town council is hoping that when nothing happens that night, the Voyagers will figure out that the whole thing is a hoax and will leave Whispering Waters Cove bright and early on the morning of the sixteenth."

"In my experience people tend to cling to a belief even when they are confronted with clear evidence that it's false."

"Well, it won't bother me or anyone else here on the pier if some of them decide to stay in the area," Charity admitted. "Most of the Voyagers seem pleasant enough, if a little naive. A few have become good customers. I've made a killing during the past two months with paranormal and New Age titles."

The long blue and white tunics and bright headbands worn by the members of the Voyagers cult had become familiar sights in and around the small town. Gwendolyn Pitt and her followers had arrived early in July. They had parked their motley assortment of trailers, motor homes, and campers on a patch of primeview land that had once been an old campground.

The town's mayor, Phyllis Dartmoor, had initially been as hostile toward the group as the council members, but after a short flurry of fruitless efforts to force the Voyagers out of town, she had become surprisingly sanguine about the situation. Whenever the local newspaper produced an editorial denouncing the newcomers as a blot on the landscape, she reminded everyone that the cult would likely disintegrate in the middle of August.

"The Voyagers do add some local color," Elias said as he handed Charity one of the small, handleless cups.

"Yes, but they don't enhance the new upscale image that the town is tying to create to draw tourists."

Charity took a sip of tea. The warm liquid rolled across her tongue, bright, subtle, and refreshing. She savored the feel of the brew in her mouth for a few seconds. The man did know his tea, she thought.

"Like it?" Elias watched her intently.

"Very nice," she said as she put the cup back down on the counter. "There is something very distinctive about keemun, isn't there?"

"Yes — ,"

"Well, back to business. Actually, it's the town image thing that makes it necessary for those of us here on the pier to move quickly on the lease issue."

"Go on." Elias sipped tea.

"The mayor and town council would like to see this pier converted into a boutique art mall filled with cutesy shops and antique galleries. They want to attract high-end tenants. But in order to do that, they have to convince the owner of the landing to remove the current shopkeepers. We're not exactly trendy, you see."

Elias glanced around at his own gloom-filled store. "I get the picture. And you think Far Seas will go along with the council's plans to kick us out?"

"Of course. Far Seas is a big corporation in Seattle. Its managers will be interested only in the bottom line. If they think they can lease these shops to a lot of upmarket art dealers who can afford sky-high rents, they'll jump at the chance to get rid of us. Or, they may try to sell the landing itself."

"What do you know about Far Seas?"

"Not much," Charity admitted. "Apparently it's some kind of consulting firm involved with the Pacific Rim trade. A couple of weeks ago all of us here on the pier received a letter from Hayden Stone's attorney instructing us to start paying our rents to Far Seas."

"Have you spoken to anyone at Far Seas?"

"Not yet." Charity smiled grimly. "It's a question of strategy."

"Strategy?"

"I decided it would be best to wait until the new owner of Charms & Virtues arrived before we made our move."

Elias took another meditative sip of tea. "So at this point you're operating on a lot of assumptions about Far Seas?"

The hint of criticism irritated her. "I think it's safe to assume that Far Seas will react in the same way that any large company would in this situation. As the new owner of a piece of commercial real estate, the company will naturally want to get the highest possible rate of return. Or the best offer, if it chooses to sell the pier."

"When one studies an opponent's reflection in a pool of water, one should take care to ensure that the water is very, very clear."

Charity eyed him uneasily. "That sounds like more of Hayden Stone's old sayings. Were you a very close friend of his?"

"Yes."

"I suppose that's why you got Charms & Virtues?"

"Yes." Elias's eyes were unreadable. "It was his legacy to me. I also got his cottage."

"I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, Mr. Winters, but you won't hang on to your legacy for long if we don't get those leases renegotiated with Far Seas. We've got to move fast now that you're here. There's a strong possibility that someone on the town council or Leighton Pitt, a local realtor, will contact Far Seas directly."

"Elias."

"What? Oh, Elias." She hesitated. "Please call me Charity."

"Charity." He repeated her name the way he sipped tea, as if he were tasting it. "Unusual name these days."

"You don't meet a lot of people named Elias, either," she retorted. "Now, then, if you'll just give me a few minutes to explain our plans for dealing with Far Seas, I'm sure you'll see how important it is for you to join with us."

"Yes."

"I beg your pardon?"

Elias raised one shoulder in a lethally graceful movement. "As the new owner of Charms & Virtues, I see the importance of joining with you in your what did you call it? Ah, yes. Your united front. I've never been part of a united front before. How does it work?

She smiled with satisfaction. "It's quite simple, really. I'm the president of the shopkeepers association, so I'll do the actual negotiating with Far Seas."

"Have you had much experience with this kind of thing?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I have. I was in the corporate world before I moved here to Whispering Waters Cove."

"Charity Truitt." Recognition gleamed in the depths of Elias's eyes. "I thought the name sounded familiar. Would that be the department-store Truitts of Seattle?"

"Yes." Charity's spine stiffened in automatic reflex. "And before you say anything else, let me answer all your questions in three sentences. Yes, I'm the former president of the company. Yes, my stepbrother and stepsister are now running the business. And, yes, I intend to remain here in Whispering Waters Cove."

"I see."

"While I am no longer involved in the operation of Truitt department stores, I haven't forgotten everything I learned during the years I ran the company. If your résumé is stronger than mine, I'll be glad to turn the job of confronting Far Seas over to you."

"I'm satisfied that you're the best person for the task," he said gently.

Chagrined, Charity set the clipboard down on the counter. "Sorry to sound so belligerent. It's just that my decision to leave Truitt last summer was, uh, complicated and difficult."

"I see."

She studied him closely, but she could not tell if he had heard the rumors of a broken engagement and a nervous breakdown. She concluded that he had not. He showed no signs of curiosity or concern. But, then, he showed no real emotion of any kind, she thought. She decided to plunge ahead.

"The pier is prime property," she said. "We're going to have to fight to keep our shops."

"Something tells me that you will be successful in renegotiating your leases."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence." Charity glanced at Crazy Otis. "If I'm not successful, we're all going to be looking for new locations. And that includes you, Otis."

"Heh, heh, heh." Otis slithered along the perch until he reached the far end. He stepped off the fake branch onto Elias's shoulder.

Charity winced, recalling the occasions when Otis had climbed onto her arm. Elias did not seem to notice the heavy claws sinking into his dark green pullover.

"Another cup of tea?" Elias asked.

"No, thanks." Charity glanced at her watch. "I'm going to call Far Seas this afternoon and see if I can get the lease negotiations started today. Wish me luck."

"I don't believe in luck." He looked thoughtful. "The stream flows inevitably into the river and then on into the sea. The water may take on different aspects at various points in its journey, but it is, nevertheless, the same water."

Newlin was right, Charity thought. Elias Winters was kind of strange. She smiled politely. "Fine. Wish me good karma or something. We're all in this together, remember. If I don't pull this off, everyone on this pier is going to be in trouble."

"You'll pull it off."

"That's the spirit." Charity turned to go. Belatedly she recalled the other item on her agenda. "I almost forgot. The shopkeepers are having a potluck here on the pier Monday night after we close for the day. You're invited, naturally — ."

"Thank you"

"You'll come?"

"Yes."

"Good. Hayden never came to the potlucks." Charity glanced at the notes on her clipboard. "We still need hot dishes. Can you manage an entr&#233e?"

"As long as no one minds if it doesn't contain meat."

Charity laughed. "I was just about to tell you that a couple of us here on the pier are vegetarians. I think you're going to fit in nicely."

"That would be a novel experience," Elias said.

Charity decided not to ask him to elaborate. Something told her she would not like the answer. Her comment had only been a polite, offhand remark. She doubted that Elias made those kinds of comments. She had the feeling that everything he said was laced with several layers of cryptic meaning. She'd had the same sensation whenever she talked to Hayden Stone. It did not make for a lot of comfortable, casual conversation.

Charity experienced a surge of relief as she walked quickly out of the dark confines of Charms & Virtue into the sunlight. She hurried down the wide corridor between the shops and entered the airy, well-lit premises of Whispers.

Newlin Odell looked up from a bundle of weekly news magazines that he was placing on a rack. His thin features were pinched in the expression of someone who had just recently returned from a funeral. For Newlin, that was normal.

He was a skinny young man of twenty-four. His narrow face was partially obscured by a scruffy goatee and a pair of wire-framed glasses. Charity was almost certain that he trimmed his lanky brown hair himself. It hung in uneven hunks around his ears.

"How'd it go?" Newlin asked in his blunt, economical fashion.

Charity paused in the doorway of her small office, aware of a familiar wave of sympathy for Newlin. She had hired him a month ago when he had shown up out of nowhere to ask for a job. He had come to Whispering Waters Cove to be near his girlfriend, a young woman named Arlene Fenton, who had joined the Voyagers. He spent the time that he was not working at Whispers trying to coax Arlene away from the influence of the cult.

Having thus far failed in his mission to talk sense into Arlene, Newlin had stoically determined to wait out the situation. He hoped that on the fifteenth of August Arlene would finally understand that she had been taken in by a scam.

Charity sincerely hoped that he was right. She found his devotion to Arlene heartwarming and quixotic in an old-fashioned, heroic sense. But she secretly worried about what would happen if Arlene did not come to her senses at midnight that night. Having nursed a depressed parrot for two months, she was not eager to deal with a stricken Newlin Odell.

"You were right, Newlin," Charity said. "Elias Winters is kind of strange. He was a friend of Hayden Stone's, so I guess that explains it. But the good news is that he's willing to go along with the rest of the shopkeepers in order to negotiate the new leases."

"You gonna call Far Seas?"

"Right away. Cross your fingers."

"It's gonna take more than luck to talk Far Seas into giving you a break on the leases if Pitt or the town council has already gotten to 'em and convinced 'em that the pier is valuable real estate."

"Don't be so negative, Newlin. I'm banking on the fact that the town council doesn't yet know who owns Crazy Otis Landing. We only found out ourselves a couple of weeks ago. I told everyone on the pier to keep quiet."

"I don't think anyone's blabbed."

"I hope not." Charity pushed open the door of the back room and wound her way through stacks of boxes to her desk.

She sat down and reached for the phone. Quickly she punched in the number for Far Seas, Inc., which had been included in the letter Hayden Stone's attorney had sent to the shopkeepers.

There were some odd noises on the line, a click, and then the phone finally rang on the other end. Charity wondered if the call had been forwarded. She waited impatiently until the receiver was lifted.

A newly familiar voice answered.

"Charms & Virtues," Elias said.

Copyright © 1996 by Jayne Ann Krentz

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First Chapter

Chapter One<<P>

Only the most discerning observer can sense the deep, hidden places in the sea of another's life. And only the unwary or the truly brave dare to look into those secrect depths.
-- "On the Way of Water," from the journal of Hayden Stone

He waited deep in the shadows at the back of the poorly lit shop, a patient spider crouched motionless in his web. There was something about the very stillness emanating from him that made Charity believe he would wait as long as necessary for his prey to venture too close.

"Mr. Winters?" Charity hesitated in the open doorway, clipboard in hand, and peered into the gloom interior of Charms & Virtues.

"Ms. Truitt." Elias Winters's voice came out of the darkness behind the cash register counter. "Please come in. I had a feeling you might show up sooner or later."

He had spoken softly from the far end of the cavernous old wharf warehouse, but Charity heard every word. A tiny tingle of combined interest and alarm went through her. His voice was as deep as the sea, and it beckoned her with the same dangerous allure. She took a cautious step through the doorway and tried to shake off the strange mix of wariness and excitement that gripped her. She was here on business, she reminded herself.

"Sorry to bother you," she said briskly.

"It's not a problem."

"I'm the owner of Whispers, the bookshop at the other end of the pier."

"I know."

An extraordinary quality underlay the very ordinary words. Charity had the feeling that she was being summoned. Uncertainty made her pause.

When in doubt go into full executive mode, she told herself. She had been out of the intense, competitive corporate world for a year, but she could still tap the old skills when she needed them. The important thing was to take charge immediately. She cleared her throat.

"As the President of the Crazy Otis Landing Shopkeepers Association, I want to take this opportunity to welcome you to our little group," she said.

"Thank you."

Elias Winters did not sound particularly impressed. On the other hand, he did not sound unimpressed, either. There was something unnaturally calm about that dark, velvety voice. She wondered if he was tanked to the gills on tranquilizers and then decided that was highly improbable. No one who was stuffed full of sedatives could have managed to infuse so much subtle power into such softly spoken words.

She took a step closer. A floorboard creaked. The gentle lapping of the waves beneath the aging pier clearly audible in the solemn quiet. Another step produced a ghostly moan from a protesting timber. Dust motes danced in the air.

Whenever she entered Charms & Virtues, she thought of haunted houses and old cemeteries. As she had occasionally pointed out to the previous owner, Hayden Stone, a little dusting and some decent lighting would do wonders for the place.

Elias stood, unmoving, behind the counter. He was cloaked in the false twilight created by the weak lamps and the little slits of windows located high on the walls. She could not make out his face. In fact, she could barely distinguish him from the looming bulk of the antique fortune-telling machine positioned just behind the counter.

Elias Winters had opened the doors of Charms & Virtues three days ago on Monday, the first day of August. Thus far she had caught only brief glimpses of him as he came and went down the central walkway between the pier shops. She had been left with disturbing images that intrigued her and aroused her curiosity.

For some reason she was pleased that he was not too tall, just under six feet. A rather nice height for a man, Charity reflected. He was not built like a side of beef, either. There was, however, a disturbing aura of elegant, lean strength about him. He did not walk, he paced.

Each time she had seen him he had been wearing a dark, long-sleeved pullover and a pair of jeans anchored at the waist by what appeared to be a leather thong. His nearly black hair was a little too long for a man who appeared to be in his mid-thirties.

Yesterday Charity had assigned her counter assistant, Newlin Odell, the task of foisting off Hayden Stone's obnoxious parrot, Crazy Otis, on the new owner of Charms & Virtues. The excuse she had instructed Newlin to give to the unsuspecting Winters was that Crazy Otis missed his old, familiar surroundings. It was true, as far as it went. Otis had fallen into a serious depression when Hayden had failed to return from his last trip to Seattle. It was Charity who had nursed the ungrateful bird through the trauma.

She had held her breath while Newlin ambled down the length of the pier to deliver Crazy Otis and his cage. She had fully expected that Elias would refuse to accept the responsibility. But to her unmitigated relief, Newlin had returned empty-handed.

Newlin's only comment on Elias was that he was "kinda strange." Newlin tended to be a young man of few words. Luckily he could sell books and magazines.

"I'd also like to talk to you about some business matters that concern all of us here on the Landing," Charity continued crisply.

"Would you like a cup of tea?"

"Tea?"

"I just made a pot." Elias set two round, handleless cups on the grimy counter. "A very fine grade of China keemun. The Abberwick Tea & Spice shop in Seattle imports it especially for me."

"I see." Charity did not know any men who drank tea. All the men she knew in Seattle were into espressos and lattes. Here in Whispering Waters Cove, they tended to favor plain coffee. Or at least they had until Bea Hatfield, owner of the café a few doors down on the pier, had installed the town's first espresso machine three months ago. "Yes. Thanks. I'd appreciate a cup."

"Please come back here and join me." The deep voice echoed in the cavelike surroundings.

Feeling uncomfortably like a small, very reckless fly, Charity made her way through the cluttered shop.

Elias seemed to be alone. She glanced around to be certain, but there definitely were no customers to disturb the tomb-silent atmosphere. She frowned. This was just the way things had been when Hayden Stone had run Charms & Virtues.

The curiosity shop had been closed since Hayden's death two months ago. Hayden had been away in Seattle when he had collapsed from a heart attack. A quiet funeral had been arranged by some unknown associate in the city. It had all been over before Charity or any of the other shopkeepers on the Landing had even learned of their odd landlord's demise.

There was no question but that Hayden would be missed by the Crazy Otis Landing crowd. He had been a little strange, but he had also been a sympathetic landlord.

No one had ever gotten to know him well. Hayden had lived in his own world, detached and remote from those around him, but he had never been rude or unfriendly. Everyone had accepted him as a harmless eccentric.

His death had precipitated a potential financial catastrophe for the shopkeepers of the Pier, however. The threat had roused Charity's executive instincts, which had lain dormant for months. Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, she had shaken out her wings and allowed them to dry in the sun. She was determined to head off disaster before it overtook her newfound friends.

Her plans required that the shop owners form a united front. That meant that the new proprietor of Charms & Virtues had to be convinced to get with the program.

She went forward determinedly between the aisles formed by the sagging, disorganized counters. What little summer sunlight managed to filter into the room through the high, narrow windows was dimmed by the years of grime on the glass.

Charity wrinkled her nose at the sight of the heavy shroud of dust that covered the assortment of bizarre goods heaped on the display tables. She was dismayed to see that the new proprietor had made no effort to tidy the premises. The goods were still stacked willynilly on the counters. There was no organized pattern to the displays.

Odd little carvings were piled high in one corner. A jumble of brass bells and whistles overflowed a nearby packing crate. Small, colorfully dressed dolls with exotic faces painted with startlingly grim expressions tumbled from a box. Plastic masks leered down from the walls. Below was a counter laden with invisible-ink pens, little magic smoke-producing tubes, and puzzles composed of interlocking metal rings.

And so it went throughout the shop. Oddities and imports from far-off lands filled the shelves of Charms & Virtues. Handwoven straw baskets from the Philippines sat next to a hoard of mechanical toy insects manufactured in Hong Kong. Miniature plastic dinosaurs made in Southeast Asia occupied shelf space with rubber worms produced in Mexico. Cheap bracelets, music boxes, imitation military medals, and artificial flowers littered the countertops. Most of it looked as if it had been sitting in the same spot for years.

The wares sold in the dusty import shop could be described in a single word so far as Charity was concerned. And that word was junk. The new owner would have to apply some energy and enthusiasm if he wanted tar revive his newly purchased small business. She made a mental note to present him a feather duster as a welcome gift. Perhaps he would take the hint.

Charity had never figured out just how Hayden Stone had managed to make a living from Charms & Virtues, or the pier rents, for that matter. He had lived a life of stark simplicity, but even eccentrics had to pay real estate taxes and buy food. She had finally concluded that he'd had a private income from some other source.

"I don't have any milk or sugar," Elias said.

"That's all right," Charity said hastily. "I don't take anything in my tea."

"Neither do I. Good tea should be as clear as a pool of pure water."

The comment brought back memories. "Hayden Stone used to say the same thing."

"Did he?"

"Yes. He was always muttering weird little Zenny comments about water."

"Zenny?"

"You know, Zen-like. He once told me that he was a student of some sort of ancient philosophy that had been forgotten by almost everyone. He said there was only one other person he knew who also studied it."

"Hayden was more than a student. He was a master."

"You knew him?"

"Yes."

"I see." Charity forced herself to a more confident pace. She held her clipboard in front of her as though it were a talisman and summoned up what she hoped was a bright smile. "Well, on to business. I realize that you haven't had a chance to get settled here on the Landing, but unfortunately the lease problem can't wait."

"Lease problem?"

"The shopkeepers have decided to band together as a group to deal with our new landlord, Far Seas, Incorporated. We'd like you to join us, We'll have a great deal more negotiating power if we go in as a united front."

Elias lifted a simple brown teapot with a curiously precise but fluid motion. "What do you intend to approach Far Seas about?"

"Renewing our leases." Charity watched, fascinated, as Elias poured tea. "As you no doubt know, this pier was owned, lock, stock, and barrel, by Hayden Stone, the former proprietor of this shop."

"I'm aware of that." A muted shaft of sunshine from one of the ceiling-high windows slanted briefly across the right side of Elias's face. It revealed a bold, hawklike nose and savage cheekbones.

Charity drew a deep breath and tightened her grip on the clipboard. "From what we can gather, at the time of Hayden's death, the ownership of the Landing was transferred automatically to a company called Far Seas, Incorporated."

A low hiss interrupted Charity before she could continue. It was a familiar sound. She spared a brief glance for the large, brilliantly plumed parrot that was perched arrogantly atop a fake tree limb on a stand behind the counter.

"Hello, Otis," Charity said.

Crazy Otis shifted from one clawed foot to the other and lowered his head with a menacing movement. His beady eyes glittered with malice. "Heh, heh, heh."

Elias examined the bird with interest. "I sense some hostility here."

"He always acts like that." Charity made a face. "He knows it irritates me. And after all I've done for him, too. You'd think that bird would show some gratitude."

Otis cackled again.

"I took him in after Hayden died, you know," Charity explained. "He was extremely depressed. Moped around, let his feathers go, lost his appetite. It was terrible. He was in such bad shape I was afraid to leave him alone. During the day he sat on the coatrack in my back room office. I kept his cage in my bedroom at night."

"I'm sure he's grateful," Elias said.

"Hah." Charity glared at the bird. "That bird doesn't know the meaning of the word."

Crazy Otis sidled along the tree limb, muttering with evil glee.

"You don't know how lucky you were, Otis," Charity said. "No one else on the pier was willing to take charge of you. More than a couple of people suggested that we try to sell you to some unsuspecting tourist. And one individual, who shall go unnamed, wanted to call the pound and have you taken away. But I was too softhearted to allow that. I gave you shelter, food, free rides on Yappy's carousel. What did I get in return? Nothing but nasty complaints."

"Heh, heh, heh." Otis flapped his clipped wings.

"Take it easy, Otis." Elias reached out with one long-fingered hand and scratched the bird's head. "An obligation exists until it is repaid. You owe her."

Crazy Otis grumbled, but he stopped chortling. He half-closed his eyes and promptly sank into a contented stupor as Elias stroked his feathers.

"Amazing," Charity said. "The only other person that bird ever treated as an equal was Hayden Stone. Everyone else is just so much old newspaper beneath Crazy Otis's grubby claws."

"Otis and I had a long talk after Newlin brought him over here yesterday," Elias said. "He and I have decided that we can share this shop together."

"That's a relief. To tell you the truth, when I sent Newlin down here with that nasty beast, I expected you to refuse to take him. In all fairness, Crazy Otis isn't your responsibility. Just because you took over Charms & Virtues doesn't mean you have to take charge of him."

Elias gave her a long, considering look. "Otis wasn't your responsibility either, but you took him in and gave him a home for the past two months."

"There wasn't much else I could do. Hayden was very fond of Otis, and I liked Hayden, even if he was a little weird."

"The fact that you liked Hayden didn't mean that you had to take care of Otis."

"Unfortunately, it did." Charity sighed. "Somehow, Crazy Otis has always seemed like one of the family here on the pier. A particularly unpleasant relative, I admit, one I'd prefer to keep stashed out of sight in the attic, but, nevertheless, a relation. And you know what they say about your relations. You can't choose them. You have to take what you get."

"I understand." Elias stopped rubbing Otis's head and picked up the teapot again.

"You don't have to keep him, you know," Charity said in a burst of rash honesty. "He's not a very lovable bird."

"As you said, he's family."

"Parrots like Otis have long life spans. You'll be saddled with him for years."

"I know."

"Okay," Charity said, cheered by the fact that Elias was not going to change his mind on the subject. "Otis is settled. Now about this situation with Far Seas."

"Yes?"

"All of the rents on the pier are due to be renegotiated before the end of September. Today is the fourth of August. We've got to act quickly."

"Just what action do you plan to take?" Elias set down the teapot.

"As I said, we want to approach Far Seas as a united front." Charity realized with a start that she was staring at his hands. They were very interesting hands, powerful hands imbued with a striking, utterly masculine grace.

"A united front?" Elias watched her as she hurriedly raised her gaze from his hands to his face.

"Right. United." She noticed that his eyes were the color of the sea during a storm, a bleak, steel gray. Her fingers clenched around the clipboard. "We intend to contact Far Seas immediately. We want to lock in long-term leases at reasonable rents before the corporation realizes what's happening here in Whispering Waters Cove."

"What is happening here?" Elias's mouth curved faintly. "Aside from the impending arrival of our visitors from outer space?"

"I see you've already met some of the Voyagers?"

"It's a little hard to miss them on the street."

"True." Charity shrugged. "They're quite an embarrassment to the town council. Most of the members think the Voyagers give Whispering Waters Cove a bad image. But like the mayor says, one way or another, the cult should be gone by the middle of August."

"What happens then?"

"Haven't you heard?" Charity grinned. "Gwendolyn Pitt, the leader of the group, has told her followers that the alien spaceships will arrive at midnight on the fifteenth to take them all away on an extended tour of the galaxy. During said tour, everyone will apparently be treated to a lot of pure sex and philosophical enlightenment."

"I've been told it's difficult to mix the two."

"Yeah, well, evidently the aliens have mastered the problem. As you can imagine, the town council is hoping that when nothing happens that night, the Voyagers will figure out that the whole thing is a hoax and will leave Whispering Waters Cove bright and early on the morning of the sixteenth."

"In my experience people tend to cling to a belief even when they are confronted with clear evidence that it's false."

"Well, it won't bother me or anyone else here on the pier if some of them decide to stay in the area," Charity admitted. "Most of the Voyagers seem pleasant enough, if a little naive. A few have become good customers. I've made a killing during the past two months with paranormal and New Age titles."

The long blue and white tunics and bright headbands worn by the members of the Voyagers cult had become familiar sights in and around the small town. Gwendolyn Pitt and her followers had arrived early in July. They had parked their motley assortment of trailers, motor homes, and campers on a patch of primeview land that had once been an old campground.

The town's mayor, Phyllis Dartmoor, had initially been as hostile toward the group as the council members, but after a short flurry of fruitless efforts to force the Voyagers out of town, she had become surprisingly sanguine about the situation. Whenever the local newspaper produced an editorial denouncing the newcomers as a blot on the landscape, she reminded everyone that the cult would likely disintegrate in the middle of August.

"The Voyagers do add some local color," Elias said as he handed Charity one of the small, handleless cups.

"Yes, but they don't enhance the new upscale image that the town is tying to create to draw tourists."

Charity took a sip of tea. The warm liquid rolled across her tongue, bright, subtle, and refreshing. She savored the feel of the brew in her mouth for a few seconds. The man did know his tea, she thought.

"Like it?" Elias watched her intently.

"Very nice," she said as she put the cup back down on the counter. "There is something very distinctive about keemun, isn't there?"

"Yes -- ,"

"Well, back to business. Actually, it's the town image thing that makes it necessary for those of us here on the pier to move quickly on the lease issue."

"Go on." Elias sipped tea.

"The mayor and town council would like to see this pier converted into a boutique art mall filled with cutesy shops and antique galleries. They want to attract high-end tenants. But in order to do that, they have to convince the owner of the landing to remove the current shopkeepers. We're not exactly trendy, you see."

Elias glanced around at his own gloom-filled store. "I get the picture. And you think Far Seas will go along with the council's plans to kick us out?"

"Of course. Far Seas is a big corporation in Seattle. Its managers will be interested only in the bottom line. If they think they can lease these shops to a lot of upmarket art dealers who can afford sky-high rents, they'll jump at the chance to get rid of us. Or, they may try to sell the landing itself."

"What do you know about Far Seas?"

"Not much," Charity admitted. "Apparently it's some kind of consulting firm involved with the Pacific Rim trade. A couple of weeks ago all of us here on the pier received a letter from Hayden Stone's attorney instructing us to start paying our rents to Far Seas."

"Have you spoken to anyone at Far Seas?"

"Not yet." Charity smiled grimly. "It's a question of strategy."

"Strategy?"

"I decided it would be best to wait until the new owner of Charms & Virtues arrived before we made our move."

Elias took another meditative sip of tea. "So at this point you're operating on a lot of assumptions about Far Seas?"

The hint of criticism irritated her. "I think it's safe to assume that Far Seas will react in the same way that any large company would in this situation. As the new owner of a piece of commercial real estate, the company will naturally want to get the highest possible rate of return. Or the best offer, if it chooses to sell the pier."

"When one studies an opponent's reflection in a pool of water, one should take care to ensure that the water is very, very clear."

Charity eyed him uneasily. "That sounds like more of Hayden Stone's old sayings. Were you a very close friend of his?"

"Yes."

"I suppose that's why you got Charms & Virtues?"

"Yes." Elias's eyes were unreadable. "It was his legacy to me. I also got his cottage."

"I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, Mr. Winters, but you won't hang on to your legacy for long if we don't get those leases renegotiated with Far Seas. We've got to move fast now that you're here. There's a strong possibility that someone on the town council or Leighton Pitt, a local realtor, will contact Far Seas directly."

"Elias."

"What? Oh, Elias." She hesitated. "Please call me Charity."

"Charity." He repeated her name the way he sipped tea, as if he were tasting it. "Unusual name these days."

"You don't meet a lot of people named Elias, either," she retorted. "Now, then, if you'll just give me a few minutes to explain our plans for dealing with Far Seas, I'm sure you'll see how important it is for you to join with us."

"Yes."

"I beg your pardon?"

Elias raised one shoulder in a lethally graceful movement. "As the new owner of Charms & Virtues, I see the importance of joining with you in your what did you call it? Ah, yes. Your united front. I've never been part of a united front before. How does it work?

She smiled with satisfaction. "It's quite simple, really. I'm the president of the shopkeepers association, so I'll do the actual negotiating with Far Seas."

"Have you had much experience with this kind of thing?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I have. I was in the corporate world before I moved here to Whispering Waters Cove."

"Charity Truitt." Recognition gleamed in the depths of Elias's eyes. "I thought the name sounded familiar. Would that be the department-store Truitts of Seattle?"

"Yes." Charity's spine stiffened in automatic reflex. "And before you say anything else, let me answer all your questions in three sentences. Yes, I'm the former president of the company. Yes, my stepbrother and stepsister are now running the business. And, yes, I intend to remain here in Whispering Waters Cove."

"I see."

"While I am no longer involved in the operation of Truitt department stores, I haven't forgotten everything I learned during the years I ran the company. If your résumé is stronger than mine, I'll be glad to turn the job of confronting Far Seas over to you."

"I'm satisfied that you're the best person for the task," he said gently.

Chagrined, Charity set the clipboard down on the counter. "Sorry to sound so belligerent. It's just that my decision to leave Truitt last summer was, uh, complicated and difficult."

"I see."

She studied him closely, but she could not tell if he had heard the rumors of a broken engagement and a nervous breakdown. She concluded that he had not. He showed no signs of curiosity or concern. But, then, he showed no real emotion of any kind, she thought. She decided to plunge ahead.

"The pier is prime property," she said. "We're going to have to fight to keep our shops."

"Something tells me that you will be successful in renegotiating your leases."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence." Charity glanced at Crazy Otis. "If I'm not successful, we're all going to be looking for new locations. And that includes you, Otis."

"Heh, heh, heh." Otis slithered along the perch until he reached the far end. He stepped off the fake branch onto Elias's shoulder.

Charity winced, recalling the occasions when Otis had climbed onto her arm. Elias did not seem to notice the heavy claws sinking into his dark green pullover.

"Another cup of tea?" Elias asked.

"No, thanks." Charity glanced at her watch. "I'm going to call Far Seas this afternoon and see if I can get the lease negotiations started today. Wish me luck."

"I don't believe in luck." He looked thoughtful. "The stream flows inevitably into the river and then on into the sea. The water may take on different aspects at various points in its journey, but it is, nevertheless, the same water."

Newlin was right, Charity thought. Elias Winters was kind of strange. She smiled politely. "Fine. Wish me good karma or something. We're all in this together, remember. If I don't pull this off, everyone on this pier is going to be in trouble."

"You'll pull it off."

"That's the spirit." Charity turned to go. Belatedly she recalled the other item on her agenda. "I almost forgot. The shopkeepers are having a potluck here on the pier Monday night after we close for the day. You're invited, naturally -- ."

"Thank you"

"You'll come?"

"Yes."

"Good. Hayden never came to the potlucks." Charity glanced at the notes on her clipboard. "We still need hot dishes. Can you manage an entr&#233e?"

"As long as no one minds if it doesn't contain meat."

Charity laughed. "I was just about to tell you that a couple of us here on the pier are vegetarians. I think you're going to fit in nicely."

"That would be a novel experience," Elias said.

Charity decided not to ask him to elaborate. Something told her she would not like the answer. Her comment had only been a polite, offhand remark. She doubted that Elias made those kinds of comments. She had the feeling that everything he said was laced with several layers of cryptic meaning. She'd had the same sensation whenever she talked to Hayden Stone. It did not make for a lot of comfortable, casual conversation.

Charity experienced a surge of relief as she walked quickly out of the dark confines of Charms & Virtue into the sunlight. She hurried down the wide corridor between the shops and entered the airy, well-lit premises of Whispers.

Newlin Odell looked up from a bundle of weekly news magazines that he was placing on a rack. His thin features were pinched in the expression of someone who had just recently returned from a funeral. For Newlin, that was normal.

He was a skinny young man of twenty-four. His narrow face was partially obscured by a scruffy goatee and a pair of wire-framed glasses. Charity was almost certain that he trimmed his lanky brown hair himself. It hung in uneven hunks around his ears.

"How'd it go?" Newlin asked in his blunt, economical fashion.

Charity paused in the doorway of her small office, aware of a familiar wave of sympathy for Newlin. She had hired him a month ago when he had shown up out of nowhere to ask for a job. He had come to Whispering Waters Cove to be near his girlfriend, a young woman named Arlene Fenton, who had joined the Voyagers. He spent the time that he was not working at Whispers trying to coax Arlene away from the influence of the cult.

Having thus far failed in his mission to talk sense into Arlene, Newlin had stoically determined to wait out the situation. He hoped that on the fifteenth of August Arlene would finally understand that she had been taken in by a scam.

Charity sincerely hoped that he was right. She found his devotion to Arlene heartwarming and quixotic in an old-fashioned, heroic sense. But she secretly worried about what would happen if Arlene did not come to her senses at midnight that night. Having nursed a depressed parrot for two months, she was not eager to deal with a stricken Newlin Odell.

"You were right, Newlin," Charity said. "Elias Winters is kind of strange. He was a friend of Hayden Stone's, so I guess that explains it. But the good news is that he's willing to go along with the rest of the shopkeepers in order to negotiate the new leases."

"You gonna call Far Seas?"

"Right away. Cross your fingers."

"It's gonna take more than luck to talk Far Seas into giving you a break on the leases if Pitt or the town council has already gotten to 'em and convinced 'em that the pier is valuable real estate."

"Don't be so negative, Newlin. I'm banking on the fact that the town council doesn't yet know who owns Crazy Otis Landing. We only found out ourselves a couple of weeks ago. I told everyone on the pier to keep quiet."

"I don't think anyone's blabbed."

"I hope not." Charity pushed open the door of the back room and wound her way through stacks of boxes to her desk.

She sat down and reached for the phone. Quickly she punched in the number for Far Seas, Inc., which had been included in the letter Hayden Stone's attorney had sent to the shopkeepers.

There were some odd noises on the line, a click, and then the phone finally rang on the other end. Charity wondered if the call had been forwarded. She waited impatiently until the receiver was lifted.

A newly familiar voice answered.

"Charms & Virtues," Elias said.

Copyright © 1996 by Jayne Ann Krentz

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 27 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 21, 2012

    Really interesting and fun to read!

    A little more "philosophical" than some of her books, definitely interesting, and like many other readers, I kind of want to know more about "the way of the water"! Highly recommended, one of my favorite authors for consistently good books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2004

    J.A. Krentz' BEST NOVEL !!

    the book is titled DEEP WATERS (could be titled The Many Moods of Otis!). I highly reccomend this book, The mystery story line was intriguing. The best part throughout the book is the conversation between the two main characters, Charity and Elias - its clever,its sometimes serious, its a lover's exchange, the humorous repartee often makes the reader chuckle aloud. After the first page, The reader feels she/he is a citizen of the small village of Whispering Springs Cove and involved in the 'goings on'!(Who or What is Otis?? - read the book and find out!!!)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2015

    Nice read

    This one is one of the first books I read of hers & still is one of my favorites.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2014

    Kat

    K

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2012

    RIVERCLAN TERRITORY

    Go. Shoo. Get out. Or stay and be shredded, your choice.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2001

    Pretty Good

    Kind of confusing but a real winner!!!! The plot was very weak and the two epiolouges was sort of confusing. Elias didn't know the name. But all in all pretty good.

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