The honeycomb-weathered limestone, prickly as tiny needles, poked into my hands. I edged my sneakered feet on the narrow trail and pressed against the outward-bowing boulder. A wave crashed on the rock pinnacles beneath me, the water swishing with a thousand eager fingers into the crannies of the cliff, relentlessly sculpting the ancient fissures.
The grainy rock, the thunderous crash of the waves, the fine mist beading my face and hands, the scent of seaweed and salt water enveloped me, creating an embryonic world confined to this place, this moment, these sensations. Slowly, carefully, knowing a false step could tumble me onto the rock pinnacles below, I moved ahead, easing around the bulge.
I felt a moment of triumph when I saw a widening shelf, a three-foot indentation invisible from the rocky headland above, cupped on either side by jutting boulders. Trails lead somewhere. I'd followed the faint ridge in the rock and my gamble had paid off.
Breathing hard, I dropped shakily to the mist-slick ledge, drew my knees up under my chin and looked out at the dark surging ocean. I watched as the pink tendrils of sunrise turned the water from the blackness of night to vivid color. I don't know how long I sat, long enough for the sky to move from a milky opalescence, streaked with red and gold, to a pale cloudless blue. I looked south at the distant horizon and knew there was nothing beyond that meeting of sky and sea but hundreds of miles of water. Ships were out there, of course, and birds and ocean flotsam, but at this moment nothing moved on that endless horizon and I had this spectacular marine world to myself.
My lips quirked ina wry smile. That was always the problem, wasn't it? Wherever you go, the old saying points out, there you are. Here I was, recuperating from pneumonia, a guest at Tower Ridge House, one of Bermuda's lovelier small hotels, and yet I was not at peace. Instead, I was trying to empty my mind of fleeting images jostling and tumbling as unpleasantly as modern television's witless flip-flip-flip of pictures. I'd pushed those images away, submerged them in the moment of struggle on the rock face, savoring the challenge, glorying in the feel of sun and mist on my skin and the sensation one I'd not had in many years of sheer adventure.
I cocked my head, watched a flock of terns diving for fish. I'd had an instant of fun, the kind of fun you know when you are ten and the limbs of a tree beckon you high above a garden or the roller-coaster crests the rise and plunges down the slope. But I wasn't ten. I was seventy-odd and, truth to tell, had no damn business clinging to slick rock with waves crashing beneath me. Besides, now that I was alone in my retreat, the images could not be denied:
Diana slumped in the window seat, staring determinedly out of the airplane at the expanse of ocean, her young jaw set, a tear trickling down her cheek. She had her mother's delicate, almost sharp, features, her father's fair complexion and reddish-gold hair. Lovely Diana, my cherished granddaughter, facing a future she could not alter and was unwilling to accept.
Dark-haired Neal astride the bright red scooter, remembering to stay left on the steep hill, shouting, "Hey, Grandma, hold tight," his voice exuberant, but his sideways glance at his sister somber and concerned. Chunky, blunt-faced, direct, uncompromising, my adored grandson. Neal, though, was always pragmatic. What would be, would be.
And the others:
Lloyd Drake, my former son-in-law, raising his champagne glass, earnest face flushed: "To Connor, the loveliest woman I know." Lloyd had looked across the dinner table last night with doglike devotion, uncritical, impervious to the waves of dismay and hostility and anger rising from the other guests, his attention focused solely upon Connor. Lloyd was enjoying late-come love with the enthusiasm of a basketball fan at the Final Four, pumped up, eager and oblivious to criticism.
Connor Bailey fingering the quite perfect pearl choker at her slender throat, her coral nails bright as the bougainvillea spilling over the yellow stucco walls of the hotel. Connor was almost beautiful sleek black hair cupping a Dresden-china face, flashing eyes shiny as amethyst, a lithe yet voluptuous body. What kept her from true beauty? The restless movement of her hands? The glance that demanded too much, gave too little? The unceasing hunger for admiration in her bright, beseeching eyes?
Marlow Bailey pushing up too-heavy, unfeminine tortoiseshell glasses, her dark brows drawn in a worried frown. She was near in age to Diana, but they might have sprung from different planets Diana graceful and vibrant, Marlow subdued and understated. Odd to see them in such agreement, both opposed to the wedding scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
Aaron Reed smiling ruefully at his future mother-in-law Connor and future stepfather-in-law Lloyd. Last night Aaron had looked perplexed and sad when Marlow stormed from the bar, angry because Lloyd had dismissed Marlow's suggestion that they plan a ski trip in March to the Bailey family's lodge in Vail. "Not this year," Connor said firmly. "Lloyd wants to go to Barcelona." Aaron tried to patch over the moment. "Things sort themselves out." His voice was husky, pleasant and vacuous, but his eyes were sharp and thoughtful.
Jasmine Bailey, perhaps the most cheerful member of the Bailey family, staring adoringly at Lloyd, her ten-year-old face wreathed in a sunrise smile when she and Lloyd tossed a beach ball back and forth. "Lloyd, I'll bet I can catch it a hundred times," and Lloyd's good-humored laughter...
Resort to Murder. Copyright © by Carolyn Hart. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.