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An explosion jolted Addie Sutton awake to a shuddering, dark world of groaning woodwork and rattling windowpanes. Her bedroom floor jerked and pitched in nauseating waves, and her tall oak dresser pitched forward and slammed against the iron frame at the foot of her bed.
Not an explosion.
"Dilly!" She grabbed her oversize cat before he could leap from his spot beside her. A dresser drawer jounced open, wedging against her foot and spewing socks and lingerie over the quilt. The lamp on her nightstand toppled and smashed on the wood floor. Shards from the Tiffany-style shade skittered and danced across the hardwood planks, spreading in a path that threatened to shred bare feet and paws.
She clasped the hissing, struggling cat to her chest, shrinking against her pillows to wait it out. For how long—twenty seconds? Thirty? How strong were the tremors? Where was the epicenter? It could be anywhere—this stretch of the northern California coast was a crazy quilt of fault lines.
Another crack-and-jerk rammed the headboard against the folding screen behind it, toppling the divider separating her sleeping alcove from the living area of her small apartment. Somewhere in the kitchen something fell and shattered. How much more broken glass would she find in her shop?
"The shop," she whispered in the sudden silence marking the end of the final tremor.
A Slice of Light—her stained glass shop in Carnelian Cove. She stared at the jagged, moonlit pieces on her floor and wondered if she'd find more costly rubble scattered about the workplace beyond her apartment door. She had to get out there, to check on her projects andsupplies, to try to salvage and stow what she could before the aftershocks hit.
With a quake that strong, aftershocks were sure to follow.
She kicked free of the quilt, slid across the mattress and carried Dilly to the armoire angled in one corner of her bedroom space. She managed to keep her grip on her squirming pet while she slipped into a pair of flip-flops, and then she dumped him into the cramped closet area.
"Sorry, Dill," she said as she shut the door. "You may develop a case of kitty claustrophobia, but it's better than slicing up your paws."
She shoved the dresser upright with a grunt, then carefully picked her way around the remains of the lamp shade. Edging past the fallen screen and into the open living space, she flipped the switch for the chandelier swaying above her kitchen table. "Oh, no."
The pretty little pitcher she'd stuffed with marguerites the evening before had broken in a dozen pieces when it hit the floor. Books had slumped and slid from their shelves, and two of them lay facedown in the puddle of flower-specked water. She plucked them from the wet mess and mopped at the pages with a corner of the tablecloth before spreading them open to dry.
Behind her, the cell phone on her nightstand trilled an inappropriately cheerful tune. She lifted the screen as she moved toward her bedroom area, folding it so it would stand upright and out of the way. Soft light from the chandelier fell across the face of the old enamel clock hanging on the wall opposite her bed, and she squinted to make out the time. Five forty-three. It would be light soon; sunrise came early in late June.
She picked up the phone and returned to the kitchen. "Hello?"
"Addie." Lena Sutton, her mother, had always been able to inject galaxies of worry and relief—or impatience and annoyance—into that one word. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm okay." Addie rolled her tiny island butcher block back into place and frowned at the remains of a fruit bowl at her feet. "I've found a broken lamp and a vase and bowl so far, but I managed to catch Dilly before he stepped on the pieces. How about you?"
"I'm fine. Just a few things to set right, a few pictures to straighten. Goodness, I'm still shaking," her mother added with a short, breathy laugh. "That was a wild one."
"It sure was." Addie stared at the indistinct outline of her reception counter through the lacy folds of the curtains in the windows that divided her apartment from her business. "I'm almost afraid to look in the shop."
"All that glass." Lena heaved one of her I-knew-there-would-be-trouble sighs. "Call me right back, as soon as you've checked things out."
"There's probably no cause for alarm. And if there is, it might take a while to assess the damage."
Addie swept aside one of the panels of lace and peered into the darkened shop. Shadows angled across the storage shelves and flowed over the floor, cloaking the evidence. If she found too much breakage, she didn't know what she'd do—she couldn't afford to replace ruined stock, and she couldn't afford a hike in her insurance rates.
She grabbed the hem of her nightshirt and twisted the fabric in her fist. "I'd better get out there and have a look. I've got to open in a few hours."
"That's right. You're busy." Lena's tone had shifted into a familiar gear: politely strained and faintly injured. "Sorry I bothered you. I won't keep you, then. I just wanted to make sure you were all right."
"I told you—I'm fine." Addie pressed two fingers against the spot between her eyes, where a headache brewed. Sometimes it was difficult to be patient with her mother, but Addie always dug deep to find the appreciation she deserved. Addie had never known her father—he'd disappeared shortly after Lena had informed him she was pregnant. Her mother had sacrificed so much to give her daughter everything she needed; surely Addie could afford to spare her a little time. "And it's not a bother," she added. "Thank you for checking up on me. I appreciate it, really."
"I know you do. You're a good girl, Addie."
"Yep, that's me," she agreed with a weak smile. "A good girl."
She disconnected and stood for a short while as pearly dawn light tickled its way through a fuzzy blanket of fog. A good girl. A twenty-nine-year-old wimp with an overweight cat, an overbearing mother and a business teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
A faint rumble shot her pulse into triple digits before she identified the sound as a passing fire truck— probably an earthquake-related emergency call. She straightened, sucked in a deep breath and aimed her attitude toward positive as she pulled her broom from the cupboard. It was just another Thursday, and she had a new day to face and responsibilities to handle. But first, she had a cat to rescue.
By opening time, Addie had cleared the mess in her shop and was beginning to inventory the full extent of the damage. An entire section of rough-rolled and glue-chip glass was gone, and the sample box of cathedral-glass squares had fallen from its shelf, damaging the tiled tabletop below. She'd called her insurance agent to discuss the possibility of a claim, and she'd fretted over how she'd deal with the deductible.
Her lips thinned in a tight, tense frown as she swept shards too small to use for scrap into her dustpan. A Slice of Light's financial situation was so precarious that one good shove would send it toppling over the edge. She hoped this earthquake hadn't been the shove to do it.
"Morning." Tess Roussel, the Cove's newest architect and one of Addie's best friends, strode into the shop on a pair of stylish heels, wearing a neon-pink sundress and toting a matching neon-pink handbag and two cups of takeout coffees from the café around the corner. "I wanted to see if you'd survived. Hell of a way to start a Thursday."
"I'm all right," Addie said as she took one of the cups. The rich, earthy scent of the brew triggered a rumble through her empty midsection, reminding her she'd skipped breakfast. "I'm not so sure about Dilly. He's probably considering running away from home."
"That tubbo tabby?" Tess brushed polished fingertips through her short, black hair. "He'd never make it past his food bowl."
Sipping her coffee, Tess wandered to the deep storage bins suspended on one of the brick side walls, noting the empty spaces. "I see all the reds are gone. And most of the yellows, too."
"Figures the most expensive stock would be the stuff to fall." Addie dumped the contents of the dustpan into her industrial-size trash bin. "I don't know how I'm going to replace it."
"You've got to replace it. We need it for Tidewaters."
Tidewaters was Tess's masterpiece, a clever combination of fabulous commercial space and gorgeous condo units under construction along the waterfront. She'd generously incorporated several stained-glass windows and panels into her design, and Addie had counted on that upcoming contract to give her business a needed boost.
"Believe me, I'm aware of that," Addie said. "That project is the one thing that's keeping me from advertising a going-out-of-business sale."
"You can't quit. And it's not just because I need you." Tess gestured toward the fanciful displays hanging in the window. "You've poured everything you've got into this business. Besides, you're too talented to simply give up and walk away from it."
"Thanks for the support. You have no idea how much it means to me." Addie shoved the broom into its cupboard. "But talent doesn't pay the bills. I haven't sold anything in days. Summer's always tough without the university students around to shop for their projects, but I can usually count on the tourists to fill in the gap. This year the gap's gotten wider. Lately the window-shoppers haven't been buying any windows."
"What about your idea for classes?" Tess rested her hip against the corner of a display table, letting one of her long legs dangle. "With the delays at Tidewaters, you could squeeze some in before business picks up again."
Addie winced at Tess's mention of the setbacks at the construction site. A stretch of vandalism had ended two weeks earlier in a spectacular blaze, leveling the framed skeleton of Tess's design to its foundation. Tess had been devastated, but she'd rebounded almost immediately with a surprising engagement to Quinn, the general contractor on the project. Now the two of them were working harder than ever to raise their building from the ashes.
"I can't just advertise classes," Addie said. "I need to come up with lesson plans, and check on the insurance, and—"
"So do it." Tess took another sip of her coffee. "And get a move on. Offer a special summer session for whiny ten-year-olds, and I promise Rosie Quinn will be the first to sign up."
"You want me to offer a bunch of kids the opportunity to slice themselves on cut glass or burn themselves with soldering irons?"
"So it wasn't one of my most brilliant ideas." Tess shrugged. "Desperation must be taking its toll."
Addie smiled. It was a struggle imagining her friend as a stepmother—and Addie was certain Tess was having the same trouble adjusting to the idea. "Is Rosie giving you trouble?"
"Nothing I can't handle with tranquilizers and pain relievers. For me, not the kid," Tess added. "I'm sure we'll figure things out, right about the time she leaves for college."
"What about kids of your own?"
"God." Tess grimaced and lowered her cup. "Let's talk about something more pleasant, like a nuclear blast on Main Street. Or how we're going to get Charlie to commit to a date for her bridal shower."
"I'm relieved she finally set a date for the wedding." Charlie Keene, their friend since elementary-school days, had agreed to marry Jack Maguire, her new business partner in Keene Concrete. But Charlie's dread of being the center of public attention and her dislike of formal social events, shopping, lace and tulle were complicating the wedding plans.
And Tess's love of the social events and shopping Charlie detested—not to mention her fondness for organizing her friends' personal business—had made her the logical choice for Charlie's maid of honor.
"Jack threatened to arrange for a flock of doves and a dance orchestra," Tess said. "That got her minimalist rear in gear."
"Even his threats are romantic," Addie said with a dreamy sigh. "He really loves her, doesn't he?"
"Poor guy." Tess grinned. "I remember threatening him with thumbscrews when he first blew into town. Turns out getting engaged to Charlie was worse than any torture I could have dreamed up."
Addie slid onto one of the work stools behind her long reception counter. "They're going to be very happy together."
"Yeah, they deserve each other, all right. And don't get your feathers ruffled," Tess added when she caught Addie's frown. "I mean that in the nicest possible way."
Tess dropped her empty cup in the giant bin as she headed toward the door. "Better swing by my office before I head out to check up on Quinn and give him his midmorning kiss."
"That's so sweet." Addie's smile was wide and guileless. "He deserves you, too."
Tess paused, her hand on the doorknob and her eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Sometimes I think that syrupy sweet exterior of yours is a fiendishly clever disguise. Beneath all that fluffy gold hair, those big blue eyes and those angelic dimples lurks the heart of a serial insulter."
"You know I always try to avoid hurting anyone's feelings."
"Like I said," Tess added as she headed out the door, "fiendishly clever."
Addie watched her friend climb into her bright red roadster and speed off toward the waterfront. Tess had Quinn; Charlie had Jack. Currently, Addie had Mick O'Shaughnessy, a baseball-playing carpenter on Quinn's construction crew—though she wasn't quite sure what to do with him. Their relationship seemed to be skidding from romantic to platonic.
Addie also had bridesmaid duties to perform and bills to pay. She switched on her aging disk player, popped in a CD of Motown classics and reached for her sketches for a new set of window ornaments.
Five minutes later, the sun had burned through the morning fog to fire summer light into every corner of the shop, and a honeymooning couple had wandered in to admire a hummingbird and rose done in filmy opalescent and clear textured glasses. She excused herself when her desk phone rang.
"A Slice of Light, Addie Sutton speaking."
She stiffened. It had been several years since she'd heard Geneva Chandler's voice on the phone. "Good morning, Mrs. Chandler."
"Must we be so formal?" Geneva, Tessa's grandmother and the wealthiest woman in Carnelian Cove, had once employed Addie's mother as housekeeper. Addie had lived most of her childhood at Chandler House, playing quietly in a corner of the enormous kitchen or tucked up in her attic bedroom.
Or romping in Tess's suite, when her friend had come north to visit. Tess had grown up in San Francisco, but she'd spent school holidays and long summers in Carnelian Cove. Geneva had often claimed the two of them were a matched set, like night and day.
"Formal?" Addie twirled a strand of hair around a finger so tightly her knuckle turned white. "No, I don't suppose so. What can I do for you, Geneva?"
"Two of my windows were damaged last night during the quake. I'd like you to come out today and see about repairing them for me."