...you know...before he's dead...
Where Miss Fortune meets Miss Chance
Miss Felicity Chance’s father is missing, and her sexy PI Calford Amity thinks he’s found him. Together, they follow a trail of gold coins to Sinful, Louisiana, where a homeless guy named Bayou Bubba turns up dead with an alligator tooth in his hand and a gold coin between his teeth. Is Bubba Miss Chance’s long lost father? Or will the mystery of his disappearance suck her down into the bogs of the Bayou, and ruin her favorite purse?
By the time we drove into Sinful, Louisiana, I’d reconsidered the wonderfulness of spending time with the once sexy Cal Amity. A more judgmental, stick-up-the-ass person I’d never met. I realized as he scoured me with a look that said “you’re an idiot aren’t you?” for about the hundredth time since we’d met at the airport in Indy, that the gulf between him and me just might be too wide to leap…or cross with a 747.
“I made us reservations at the Backwater Inn,” he told me as he turned left off Sinful’s wide, main street and headed for the dirty brown strip of water in the distance.
“Of course you did,” I murmured.
“I heard that.”
“Of course you did,” I murmured more softly.
“I heard that too.”
I glared over at him. “What’s the deal with the muddy puddle up ahead? Has there been a flood?”
“That would be the Bayou and I might need to use a boat for part of my investigation.”
I didn’t miss the “I” in his declaration. I would have argued, telling him there was no “I” in “me too” but the other part of his statement iced my bowels. My eyes widened as we turned into a pockmarked gravel parking lot, adjacent to a long building with fake logs for walls. “We’re going out there?” I jabbed a finger toward the muddy ribbon cutting a swath along the edge of Sinful. “Why ever would we do that?”
“Because that’s where I believe your father is.” Cal cut the engine and climbed out of the black Jeep he’d rented for us. He unfolded his long, lean length and stood, stretching enthusiastically before closing the door.
Yes, god help me, I did stare at his fine, round behind as he stretched. He might be a pain in my ass, but his was finer than hundred-year-old Scotch in front of a roaring fire.
Or as the people of Sinful would probably say…finer than frog hair. If frogs had hair.
Shaking my head on the question I climbed out too, groaning and clasping my back as pain zig-zagged down my leg. “I don’t want to sit down for a week.”
Cal focused his Caribbean blue gaze fringed with thick black lashes on me and, despite the “you’re an idiot aren’t you?” look on his chiseled features, my knee ligaments melted a little. “It was a long trip,” he offered in only a slightly disgusted tone.
I blinked, nearly toppling to the muddy gravel with surprise. “Um. Yeah. It was.”
I followed the intrepid Cal toward a door marked “Office” at the center of the long building.
A ten foot long concrete alligator adorned the narrow strip of grass alongside the door, his painted surface chipped and the flower hat on his head faded from the sun.
Cal’s assessing gaze slid right over the gator, seeing no entertainment value in it at all. But I just couldn’t resist a quick selfie. Crouching down next to the silly critter, I made my eyes go wide and my lips form a terrorized “O” and clicked a picture to send to my BFFs back in Indy. I chuckled as I hit Send and turned, squeaking a little as I almost ran into a man with a thin, graying ponytail and a tattoo of a gator running up his enormous biceps. “Oh, sorry.”
The man fixed me with a glacial gray gaze. He didn’t speak, his too-small mouth pursing a little inside the boundaries of a mustache and scraggly beard.
“Well.” I felt like a complete fool for my selfie antics so I laughed self-consciously and stepped around him, imagining I could feel the sting of his gaze on my back as I hurried inside.
Cal was talking to a man I assumed to be the manager.
“Yeah, I know him,” the manager said. “That’s Bayou Bubba. Sinful’s most interesting homeless guy. He don’t look like that no more though.” The manager grinned, showing jagged teeth the color of the Bayou.
Cal slipped the picture he carried of my father back into his shirt pocket. “Can you tell me where we can find him?”
The man’s mud-colored smile slipped away. He glanced at me…probably noting, too late, the shell-shocked aspect of my face. He inclined his head in my direction. “Ma’am.”
The man I assumed was the manager of the Backwater Inn reached beneath the counter and pulled out a key, handing it to Cal.
One key. Oh oh. I opened my mouth to object when Cal handed it to me. “Do you know where Bayou Bubba is living?” he asked the motel manager.
The man skimmed me another look.
Cal glanced my way. “Miss Chance, will you go to the room, please? I’ll join you in a couple of minutes.” Remembering my close call with the frigid-eyed guy outside, I considered digging in my heels and insisting that I stay, but something on Cal’s handsome face made me nod and exit the stifling office. Despite the thick, overheated air outside, I was thankful to leave the stale ashtray scent of the office behind me. I looked at the key, which had a grinning alligator key chain, and noted the number nine on the gator’s yellow belly.
Room number nine wasn’t far from the Jeep. Recoiling at the sour, coolish air that met me at the door, I shielded my nose with one hand. “Ugh!” The room was dark and noisy, with a portable air conditioner toiling loudly from its hole in the wall.
There were two beds, both covered in dark green cotton spreads, and one small table between them.
The carpet was also dark green, making the whole room depressingly dark. I went over and yanked the heavy drapes back, sneezing as dust bloomed on the air. Sunlight speared the room with light and heat.
The door snapped open and the delectable Cal was suddenly backlit by the blazing sun. He stared at me for a moment and I held my breath. My gaze followed him as he closed the door and crossed the room. He scanned a look over the bathroom before coming back.
“Do we have enough towels?”
He didn’t even crack a smile.
“Soap?” Okay, there was a slightly desperate sounding squeak in my voice. I twined my fingers together and swallowed. “Just hit me with it. Rip it right off like a Band-Aid.”
Cal’s dark eyebrows peaked. “Rip what off?”
Good god! “What did the manager tell you that he didn’t want to say in front of me?”
“Oh.” Scrubbing a big, square hand over his chin, Cal looked me right in the eye. “He told me your father’s in the morgue.”
My knees buckled and, to his credit, Cal proved he had excellent reflexes as well as a truly fine ass. Thank god he caught me. I’d have hated to land on the filthy carpet.
The sun streaming across it had illuminated something that looked a lot like dried blood.
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In real life, Sam lives in a cabin in the woods with 13 dogs and one husband. A self-proclaimed dog-aholic, Sam insists she's holding at 13...maybe...
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