When Hunter Kittrell and his beautiful friend Miki arrive in Beaufort, NC, for their summer stay, they decide to liven up the small town by pulling a harmless prank. That prank, however, quickly finds them deeply entangled in a blood bath face-off with a knife-wielding serial killer. As the usually peaceful town is plunged into chaos, Hunter and Miki find themselves drawn more deeply into the investigation, and it turns out their connection to the murders might not be as tenuous as it seemed at first. As the investigation continues, burning questions bubble: Why is Hunter being framed for at least one of the murders? And why does his missing father’s name keep popping up all over town? Everything crashes to a startling conclusion on Hunter’s 21st birthday, when Hunter is forced to face the truths he’s been running from his whole life.
The author has rated this book PG-13 (questionable content for children under 13).
He sat on a bench on a balmy spring day and sharpened his knife. Nobody paid any attention. People walked right by him on Beaufort’s wooden boardwalk, inspecting the yachts in their moorings, taking in the calm morning blue of the inland water. Overhead, a gull shrilled a question, and another one answered. Close by, somebody hosed down a yacht, the sound of water spraying the only ambitious noise on the waterfront.
He could make out snatches of conversation as people strolled by. A kid, excited: “Hey, look. That boat’s from Jamaica. How did it get to North Carolina?” A woman, with anticipation: “Ooh, this place has grouper sandwich! Let’s eat here for lunch.” A man, quite seriously: “The tide’s going out.”
Actually, the tide had just turned and was coming back in. He knew this because he knew the water. Smiling to himself, he returned the knife to its sheath. People may not have noticed his knife today, but very soon, all of Beaufort would fear it.
A couple strolled by, and he watched them closely. The young woman was quite beautiful, and he could tell by the lift of her chin and the sway of her hips that she enjoyed the stares she was drawing. The white gauzy skirt she was wearing flowed seductively in the breeze, and she dangled a wide-brimmed blue hat in one hand.
The young man sauntered along, one hand in his pocket, the other lightly brushing his companion’s back. To the casual observer, the young man might appear nonchalant, unaffected by the glances from other folks on the waterfront. But the man with the knife was far from casual. He could read a cocky swagger in the square of the young man’s shoulders. He knew to the minute what time the couple had arrived in Beaufort the previous evening, and he even knew the young man’s name: Hunter Kittrell.
Just then, a kitten, perhaps lured by the odor of frying burgers that drifted from the closest restaurant, danced around his legs, bumping him, begging attention. When he picked it up, it purred. Perfect timing. A Kittrell and a kitten in the same breath. He decided to call himself “The Cat.”
* * *
Unaware of the man’s stare, the young couple continued on their way, and soon they were seated on the dining porch of a waterfront restaurant. While Hunter Kittrell tucked into his burger and fries, the young woman returned the stares of passersby, her gaze enticing, her smile bemused. When she noticed a heavyset woman hovering just off the porch, she set the blue hat on her head at a deliberately precarious angle, the brim nearly hiding her face.
“Miss Singer? May I have your autograph?” asked the heavyset woman as she tried to peer around the hat brim to see the young woman’s face.
“Of course. And what is your name?”
“So nice to meet you, Carol. It isn’t often that I get the chance to meet my public.” And “Miss Singer” scribbled a bold, illegible script on a paper napkin and extended it by delicate fingertips to Carol.
“You don’t know what this means, Miss Singer. I’ll treasure this always.” Carol continued to hover expectantly, clutching the napkin with one hand and twisting the hem of her Beaufort souvenir T-shirt with the other.
“Do,” the young woman said, and she pulled the brim of the hat lower, shutting out the woman. She reached a manicured hand to grasp the arm of her companion. “Hunter, please forgive the interruption.” Her voice was practiced, lacking accent. “You were saying you were caught in a storm?”
“Mmm.” The young man’s voice was bored, but his gray eyes were not.
“How awful that must have been for you,” she said in exaggerated horror.
“Not nearly as awful as you are, Babe,” Hunter answered, his voice low, his eyes amused. “Miki, you keep me in awe.”
“Shh. I’m Vanessa Singer today, and my fans think I am the goddess of Hollywood.” She gave him a sly, wicked smile. Sensing other patrons staring, she said loudly, “This place is boring. Let’s motor on down the waterway,” and abruptly she stood, leaving half-eaten sandwiches for the gulls or the startled waiter, whichever arrived first.
Hunter flourished a twenty and drowned it carelessly in his glass of water. “I’m right behind you, Vanessa. Just where you want me.” A few steps and they were off the dining porch and on the boardwalk, gliding toward the yacht slips, the spring breeze billowing Vanessa’s skirt around her legs.
A subtle tip of the hat and a wink brought a middle-aged fellow scrambling off the porch. “Vanessa! Wait! Miss Singer!” He cut them off on the walk, more out-of-breath than the distance warranted. “I thought that was you, and I told my wife . . .” He stopped, anxious. The blue eyes he sought were staring at the water; all she was offering him was her profile.
“Miss Singer will be delighted to give you an autograph,”
Hunter said easily. “She’s quite worn out by the cruise. You understand.”
“Oh, of course,” he said, not questioning why a cruise would tire a body, and after fumbling, produced a wadded dollar bill from the depths of his pockets. “Make it to Bob and Vena. That’s my wife, over there.”
Miki gave a delicate fingertip wave in the direction of the porch, scribbled across George’s face and left the bill and pen in Bob’s hand without a word. A few more steps and she was off the boardwalk, down the ramp, past the “Boat Owners Only” sign, followed by the obliging Hunter.
“Thanks! We loved your last film!” shouted Bob.
“My fans always have the last word,” Miki said smoothly and passed through a gate and down a narrow dock. Now they were hidden by a Hatteras cruiser from the stares of the tourists. The yacht’s owner raised an eyebrow and a highball glass in their direction and went back to his charts.
“The lovely Vanessa was last seen lunching in Beaufort on her way to West Palm and points beyond,” Miki announced, giving the hat to the wind and the skirt to the bowsprit of the yacht before slipping into the salty water.
“Damn, Miki,” was all Hunter said as he followed her.
Copyright© Sheri Wren Haymore. All rights reserved.
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