Read an Excerpt
"Tell me there weren't any first floor apartments available on this island." Claire leaned against the gray siding of my new home, her cheeks pink from exertion and the hot summer sun. She reached out to test the weathered wooden stair railing leading to my door. It wiggled, and she inhaled deeply.
"None I could afford." I squinted up the steps to the landing. A stray lock of hair teased my cheek, and I jumped. Islands and bugs went hand in hand. I giggled at the mistake and shrugged. Time to get serious. There was plenty left to do.
"Besides, upstairs apartments are safer," I reminded Claire. "Didn't you pay attention to anything the FBI taught you?"
"Not really. I still can't believe they let you go."
"Hey, I was downsized, not let go."
Claire shifted a box marked Kitchen against her hip, trying to see the steps. Her petite five-foot-two frame was deceptive. She easily maneuvered boxes I struggled with. The fact she did it in four-inch heels said it all. She was small and mighty despite the southern belle upbringing, of which her smooth southern drawl served as a reminder. While Virginia was considered a southern state, Claire was a few borders north of her home state of Georgia. She called it Jawja. I called her cute.
"How will I get through those horrendous meetings without you?" she asked.
"Chincoteague is only a couple hours from you. We can meet on the mainland for lunch." My first trip up the steps and I already wished it was my last. "Or shopping," I huffed. I'd gained a pound a year since I left the island ten years ago. Three of those I didn't mind keeping, if they stayed in the right places. The other seven should be gone by the time I finished carrying everything up these steps.
See? Moving home had bonuses. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking.
Claire puffed air into long, side-swept bangs and waited while I opened the door. She gazed admiringly at the historic two-story next door. Pale blue with cream trim and plenty of detail, it reminded me of a gingerbread house. My new place reminded me of the dough, the kind that had been kneaded thoroughly and hit with a roller. Victorian was a local theme, especially among the homes in the center of the island, away from the pounding waves during storm season. On Main Street, the shops blended easily with the houses. Chincoteague was the picture of peaceful living.
Homes were in demand this time of year. Tourists rented every available space between June and August. I thanked my lucky stars to have been able to get this place-the one house I knew would be available on zero notice. A decade-old rumor labeled the house haunted. On an island rooted in superstition and watered with ghost stories, my new place was the equivalent of swearing in churchi.e., to-be-avoided. Luckily, I didn't believe in ghosts. I did, however, believe in low-cost rent and proving a point. Moving home was a real kick in the teeth after the big show I made of landing an FBI job on the mainland. Sure, I was working in human resources, but stil;...making a life for myself on the mainland had been a big deal. While it lasted.
"Wow. This place better come at a discount." Claire's nose scrunched up as she turned in a small circle.