Bethany White squared her shoulders and gripped her feather duster until her knuckles were white. There was no way Mr. Fluffy Britches was going to win this round. A haberdashery was no place for a cat, and the sooner he learned, the better.
“Come down here, you!” she cried, flailing the duster at the giant tomcat who had found a nest for himself in the top basket of fabric scraps.
The cat hissed at her.
Of course, this basket, one of five, was not much in use and had been stowed on the top shelf in the storeroom. The cat had a way of finding nooks and hidey holes like it and wedging himself in there like a giant, unpleasant fur stole.
“I’ll make mittens out of you if you don’t come down right now!” Bethany yelled, branching the feather duster.
Once again, her shouts resulted in nothing more than cat hisses and an extended paw with the razor-sharp claws extended.
“Bethany, what are you doing in there?” came her employer’s voice from the front of the haberdashery.
“Trying to dislodge Mr. Fluffy Britches, Mrs. Newman,” Bethany called once again, waggling the duster in the cat’s face. He swiped at it, and his claws caught it. Bethany yanked the duster free, almost pulling Mr. Fluffy Britches right out of his nest. He managed to catch himself before he fell, but Bethany, horrified at the thought of actually hurting the cat, let out a squeal and let go of the duster.
“Oh, saints preserve us!” Mrs. Newman exclaimed as she entered the room. “Just tip up the basket and get on with it.”
“But he’ll hurt himself,” Bethany protested, trying to grab the duster, which Mr. Fluffy Britches was now playing with.
Mrs. Newman, a forthright woman who wore thick-rimmed spectacles, gave Bethany a look magnified through her glasses. “Do it like this.” She grabbed the duster and, in a sweeping motion, had the basket handle snagged. Then with a jolt, she tipped it, making satin, cotton, velvet, and taffeta pieces cascade to the floor around a squealing Mr. Fluffy Britches.
“And that is how one unbaskets a cat,” Mrs. Newman said as the cat landed with a groan on his paws. He hissed angrily at the two women and then, bushy ginger tail up like a flag, trotted out the back door. “And keep that door closed. We don’t want him back.”
Nodding, Bethany closed the door. She couldn’t really blame Mr. Fluffy Britches; the weather outside was gray and horrible. She would like to curl up in the cuttings too.
“I’ll speak to Mrs. Wallace about him,” Mrs. Newman said hotly as she replaced the duster in its corner. “Honestly, she could at least try to keep her cat home.”
Bethany nodded in agreement. The truth was that Mr. Fluffy Britches got into all kinds of places, including pantries where he would eat anything he liked, cellars and closets, leaving a trail of empty dishes and ruined clothing or linen behind him. He was a most destructive creature liking nothing more than to jab his claws into something.
After cleaning up the pieces of material that were too small to do much with, Bethany returned to the front of the store where the gray day continued outside.
“Don’t look so gloomy,” Mrs. Newman said. “The rain will clear up later.”
“I suppose so,” Bethany said. She watched the unhappy and now thoroughly drenched cat slinking down the street before returning to cutting a pattern she’d been working on.
Several outfits needed cutting and stitching. Bethany was learning to be a seamstress from Mrs. Newman, a very fine dressmaker. They had several orders for dresses, blouses, and skirts to finish, and with the Singer sewing machine that Mrs. Newman had bought, they should get them done quickly.
It was good work, and Bethany enjoyed it immensely. From time to time, she would look up from the large table, positioned so that the light from outside lit it all day, and she would stare at the rainy world.
People walked by with their collars up and their heads down, some entering the bakery and coffee shop across the way or moving on to other stores. But one man with a hat on sat in the window all day. He’d been there for three days now. It was a little odd.
“What are you staring at, Beth?” Mrs. Newman asked, sounding exasperated. “You won’t get a thing done staring out the window.”
“I was just, do you see that man in the window?” she asked.
Mrs. Newman peered out and nodded. “Yes?”
“He’s been in the coffee shop for three days now, sitting at that table in the window every day, watching us,” Bethany said.
“Are you certain?” Mrs. Newman asked, peering harder through the window. “He might be looking at the display in our second window.”
Mrs. Newman was rather proud that her shop had two large street-facing windows, and she made good use of them, displaying the finished garments in one and them working in the other.
For some reason, Bethany couldn’t explain, she got the feeling that this man in the hat was not looking at the fine suits or dresses in the other window. She would swear blind that he had been watching her.
“Or perhaps he’s waiting for someone, and since they haven’t arrived, he’s been watching us work to pass the time,” Mrs. Newman said. “Perhaps he’ll order a new coat or a suit.” Her eyes gleamed. “Just keep working hard, and we’ll see.”
“Yes, Mrs. Newman,” Bethany said, lowering her gaze to the fabric she was cutting.
The rest of the day passed in this way, with Bethany becoming unnerved by the man across the street. He never wavered from sitting at the table, didn’t even read the paper. He sat and stared out of the window all the time.
That was until the workday was done, and Bethany was ready to leave. Luckily, the rain had stopped as Mrs. Newman had predicted, and the sun had finally decided to poke its head out between the rain clouds. She was grateful for that. Overcast, sullen days always made her feel kind of sad, even though she wasn’t sure why. The feeling came with the weather and not, as feelings should, from events currently happening in her life.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Bethany called as she donned her coat and hat and picked up her bag.
The local paper stuck out of the opening. Mrs. Newman got it every day and read it over lunch. Then being done with it, she would pass it on to Bethany, who took it home for her father. Father never remembered to buy one for himself.
Dressed and ready, Bethany cast one last look into the coffee shop window and was relieved to see that the man in the hat had left. Perhaps he had been waiting for someone, and they had arrived, or he’d simply given up. Either way, this was much better.
Bethany made sure to close the haberdashery door behind her and turn the sign from open to closed before heading off down the street.
As she walked, she felt her spirits begin to lift. The shafts of sunlight were golden and beautiful, shining down through the hovering clouds like cracks in heaven’s floor.
They lit up the puddles on the ground, the drops still clinging to the new leaves on trees and bushes and the delicately placed diamonds on the freshly budded flowers. The world was suddenly alive with sparkles and lights, and Bethany stopped to admire one of Mrs. Wallace’s lilies.
The large white flowers loomed out over her low garden fence, standing tall and proud on their thick green stems. Bethany always wished that she’d been named for a flower like Lilly had. Would it be so bad for her to be a Lavender or a Petunia?
Bethany sighed. She wasn’t a flower; she was a Beth, and that was it.
“Don’t touch the lilies,” Mrs. Wallace’s voice said. Bethany almost jumped out of her skin. She’d been so wound up in her own thoughts she hadn’t heard the old schoolteacher approaching.
“Oh, Mrs. Wallace! I wasn’t going to touch them,” Bethany assured her. “I was only looking at the lovely raindrops still clinging to them.”
Mrs. Wallace drew in a breath. “Of course,” she said. “I’m just worried. Have you seen Mr. Fluffy Britches? It’s not like him to miss his afternoon milk.”
“Oh, didn’t he come home?” Bethany asked before mentioning as casually as she could that the cat had been in the store.
“No, oh well, then I guess he’s just off hunting mice,” Mrs. Wallace said, scrunching up her face, so it wrinkled like an apple left too long on the shelf.
“Well, if you see him …”
“I’ll keep an eye out,” Bethany said and was about to move on when Mrs. Wallace called her back.
“Just a word if you don’t mind,” Mrs. Wallace said, gesturing for her to come closer.
Bethany stepped closer, careful not to touch the flowers.
“Now, I’m not one to gossip,” Mrs. Wallace said, her breath smelling of a strong cheese that made Bethany wish she had her handkerchief out to hold under her nose. “But your sister should be stopped.”
“Yes, yes, going on with that Tindale boy all over the place,” she said, looking horrified. “I even caught them kissing outside my gate!”
“I’m sure they …” Bethany began but was cut off.
“You must speak to your parents,” Mrs. Wallace said. “It’s unseemly! They should behave with more restraint.”
“Yes,” Bethany said. “I will,” she promised, wishing she could roll her eyes. In Mrs. Wallace’s book, holding hands and talking was going too far and a light peck on the cheek was positively scandalous. She was so old-fashioned it was amusing, and Bethany was glad she hadn’t ended up in that household.
“Well, I must be going. Thanks for the warning, Mrs. Wallace,” Bethany said, hurrying down the lane. “I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for Mr. Fluffy Britches.”
It would have been wrong to run, but Bethany walked as fast as she could until she reached the bottom of the road and could turn the corner. Then out of sight of the old schoolteacher, she could slow down and walk normally.
What could Lilly and Jake Tindale possibly have been doing that was so bad? They had been stepping out for ages now. Surely, no one was surprised to find them together, holding hands and strolling along?
Bethany sighed, and for no reason she could fathom, looked behind her.
Her blood instantly froze.
There walking up the street not twenty yards behind her was the man in the hat. Her first thought was that it had to be a coincidence. It had to be. He couldn’t be following her, could he? Ice ran down her spine, and with her heart hammering full tilt in her chest, she began to walk faster towards her house. It wouldn’t hurt to get there quickly.
As she walked on hurriedly, the bushes poking out of the houses’ fences seemed to reach for her. Could she hide? No, he was watching her; she could feel his eyes following her. What did he want? What was he doing?
She chanced another look and found he was closer. How was that possible? He was just walking. Surely, he shouldn’t be able to move that fast. And something flipped in her head.
Bethany had had nightmares for as long as she could remember; dark figures closing in around her, feelings of being followed, of being hunted. Feeling all this now while being awake was too much for her. Her nerves gave out, and she began to run towards the turning to her street.
She just had to turn into her road, and things would be better. The house was close. If she could just reach it and get inside, things would be better. She would be safe there.
Reaching the turning, she chanced a look behind her. The man was still coming on with dogged determination. Fear cut off the air to her lungs, and Bethany gasped, and suddenly tears filled her eyes. She was so desperate to get away from him that she didn’t care if she looked silly. This was a matter of life and death.
Halfway up the rise, their house stood solid and familiar. Safe. It was there and not far at all now. She ran on, finding her side ached, and her heart was hammering, but she didn’t care. She was almost there.
Pushing open the front gate, Bethany hurried up the path to the steps that led to the front porch.
She hoped and prayed that the front door wasn’t locked. She had to get in. Twisting the doorknob, she felt it give, and the door sighed open. Bethany stumbled inside and turning closed it, leaning her back against it.
But what if the man had followed her into the yard? What then?
She turned, peeking through the window beside the door.
There was no one in the yard. No one on the street either.
Bethany stared. But he’d been there, hadn’t he? She had felt his cold gaze on her the whole way. Or had it merely been something slipping from her dreams into her waking hours?
She gasped in horror. Had she gotten herself all wound up about nothing? It certainly seemed that way.
Chiding herself for being silly, she went into the entrance hall to put her things down.
“Lilly? Beth? Is that you?” her mother called.
“Only me, Ma!” Bethany called back as she shrugged off her coat and took off her hat.
“Oh? Where is Lilly; do you know? I asked her to stop by the market on the way home and buy me some lard,” her mother said, appearing at the doorway to the kitchen. She was a tall woman with strawberry blonde hair tied up in a bun at the nape of her neck, and her green eyes had smile wrinkles around them. She was wiping her red hands on her apron.
“Good heavens, Beth, are you alright?” her mother exclaimed.
“Yes, I’m fine,” she said. “I just gave myself a fright, is all.”
Her mother gave her a knowing look. “It’s alright. We’ll have tea. Did you see Lilly?”
“No, sorry,” Bethany said, thankful her mother hadn’t pushed the subject. She felt bad enough as it was. “I didn’t see her on the way home. Is Pa home?” She picked up the paper she’d laid on the table in the hall.
“Not yet,” her mother said. “You should put that by his chair.”
Bethany nodded and hurried into the parlor where her father had his comfy chair he liked to sit in when he got home from the mill in town. Milnerton was a lumber town, built around a center where chopping down trees and cutting them into planks was what most fathers seemed to do all day.
Her father, being a good man with numbers, worked in the office, and to hear him say it, he shuffled papers around and drank too much coffee.
Having deposited the newspaper for him, Bethany hurried into the kitchen. Her mother was at the sink in the scullery washing up what looked like two bread tins and some other things.
“What can I help with?” Bethany asked.
“Would you mind checking on the rice for me? I can smell it getting over done,” her mother said.
Striding to the range where two pots stood over the heat, Bethany lifted a lid to find that the rice was indeed getting over done. That was her mother’s way of saying it had used up all its water and was now starting to brown on the bottom.
Fetching more water in a jug, Bethany poured it over the rice and was happy to see it bubble. The other pot held a rich, delicious-smelling stew. She couldn’t wait to eat, and her stomach agreed. The sandwiches she had eaten for lunch seemed a really long time ago.
With nothing needing to be done now with the cooking, Bethany got to work setting the table. If they were having company, she would have to set the long, oak table in the dining room, but since it was only family, she began to put the plates at the kitchen table.
“How was your day?” her mother asked, done with the dishes as she was.
“It was …” Bethany began, but at that moment, a hearty cry of, “I’m home, my blossoms,” filled the air.
Smiling, Bethany turned in time to see her father enter the kitchen. He had shrugged off his coat and hat and strode in to greet them. First, he kissed Bethany’s forehead, as he had done for years now, and then went on to give her mother a kiss on the lips. Then, looking around, he said thoughtfully, “I appear to be one blossom short.”
“Lilly isn’t home yet,” her mother said.
“Well, now, I wonder what is keeping her,” Bethany’s father said. He smiled. “So, how are you, ladies? Did you have a good day?”
Again, Bethany was about to respond when the front door opened for the third time, and Lilly came bustling in. She was beaming. Wisps of her strawberry blonde hair, the same as their mother’s, were flying at all angles, and her cheeks were red, her eyes unusually bright.
“Oh, Mother, Father!” she exclaimed theatrically. “You’ll never believe what happened.”
“What?” her mother asked.
Bethany noticed that a young man was trailing behind Lilly, looking nervous and sheepish at the same time. Jake Tindale. He held his hat in his hands as he stepped into the kitchen.
Lilly was beaming, clearly more excited than she had ever been in her life. Bethany wondered what had happened down that wet lane she’d found so menacing.
“Well,” Lilly said, elbowing the nervous young man in the ribs. “Go on.”
“Um,” Jake said, his voice low and gruff. “I … would it be … um.”
Lilly sighed and, shaking her head at the luckless Jake, said, “Jake asked me to marry him, and I said yes!”
San Diego, California
As Terrance Fenway closed his hand over the folder that held what he was looking for, he felt a pang of terrible guilt rush through him. He was such a weasel. The dear, sweet girl, Elise Winston, who sat downstairs propped in an armchair, sleeping the restful sleep of the drugged, did not deserve this treatment, not even a little.
It was hardly her fault that her uncle and guardian was a bad man. That he had swindled and embezzled. It also wasn’t her fault that his business partners had grown ever more concerned about their company’s finances or that said business had started to flounder. And she had had no hand in the business finally starting to smell like a week-old fish left out in the sun. No, the sweet young lady hadn’t been aware of any of it, and if all went according to plan, she would only find out much later when Terrance was safely on the coach heading away from San Diego.
He checked the folder, opening it and casting an appraising look down the long rows of figures. Sure, he had only an inkling of what he was really looking at, but enough of it popped up as being the kind of thing his client asked for, for this to potentially be it. He wasn’t a hundred percent certain, though.
He needed more. Under the folder in the bottom drawer of Archibald’s desk, he found a ledger. It was only when he opened and read it that things began to make more sense. Here there were names and dates, notes scrawled in the margins. My, how helpful old Archibald Winston had decided to be in his own takedown. His partners would have a field day with this.
Terrance slipped the folder into his inner jacket pocket and the ledger under his arm. He would leave the way he had come, through the front door.
According to Elise, the young lady asleep downstairs, her uncle would be out to dinner for at least another hour. Terrance had slipped just enough sleeping draught into her wine to let her slip off quickly after their own dinner but not so speedily that he couldn’t get her home in time. They had arrived with minutes to spare before she simply passed out.
He would leave her a kind note, promising that Jonathan Winter, his alias for the job, would stop by the next day to see how she was. It was another weasel thing to do, but he had to go, and he couldn’t have her running all over town trying to find him while he was still there.
Best for him to get his money and be done with all this nastiness. Mr. George Harris and Mr. Russel Turner could deal with the calamity that would accompany them getting their hands on the ledger and folder he had for them. They could deal with Miss Winston and her broken heart, which it was certain she would have, not for him but for her uncle, who would most likely end his days in jail.
And as for him, Terrance Fenway? Well, he would go on to the next case. That was the life of a private investigator. It was like being the trash man. If there was rubbish to be removed, he seemed to be the man to do it. Only the rubbish he removed wasn’t the odd broken thing or household dust, but rather dishonesty, lies, and subterfuge. The irony that he employed all these methods to remove them from other people’s lives wasn’t lost on him. But then, wasn’t that the way of the world? Sometimes you needed a wolf to catch a wolf.
Making his way downstairs, he encountered the cook, standing at the bottom of the stairs.
“What are you doing up there?” she demanded.
Mrs. Tiller was a round woman who clearly tasted her cooking with a little too much relish. Her face was red, and she was in her gown, her hair done up in a scarf, the ends of the ribbons sticking out from the edges.
“Oh, Mrs. Tiller,” Terrance said hastily, sticking his best, most charming smile to his lips. “Miss Winston has fallen asleep in the parlor. Poor thing was all tuckered out. I went upstairs to see if I could locate her room to get her up there, at least. I didn’t think I should leave her there on her chair. She looks so uncomfortable.”
With narrowed eyes, Mrs. Tiller folded her arms across her ample chest and made her way into the parlor across the hall. There she let out a squeak and moved faster than Terrance thought she was capable.
He hurried after her to find Miss Winston had slipped out of the chair and onto the floor where she lay in a most unladylike position with her skirt halfway up her legs. All he could see were her undergarments, but that was enough to make Mrs. Tiller frantic.
“You can’t see her like this!” Mrs. Tiller said. Then, as though a thought had suddenly dawned on her, she said, “What did you do to her?”
“Oh my!” Terrence said, playing the part of Charlie Bones, the caring suitor. “I think she might have had a little too much wine at dinner. I am so sorry. I thought I had propped her up sufficiently.”
“Well, clearly you did a poor job,” she snapped. “How much did you drink?”
“A fair bit,” he admitted. He had only sipped his just to make sure there was some taint of it on his breath should his story for Miss Winston’s sleepy state be questioned.
Mrs. Tiller nodded, and he hastily turned his back as any good gentleman would, with a lady in such a lot of distress.
“Tell me when she is decent,” he said. “Then I can carry her up to bed for you.”
“You’ll do no such thing!” Mrs. Tiller said, sounding horrified. “You go up to her room?”
“With you in tow,” Terrance insisted. “I only want to get her comfortable. I swear it.” Honestly, what did this woman think he would do? Rip their clothes off and have his way with her? She had to be insane or perhaps she had read too many of Miss Winston’s romance novels. There seemed to be a lot of that sort of thing in there. “Anyway, you can’t carry her on your own, can you?”
“No,” Mrs. Tiller conceded. “Fine.”
It took her a moment to get Elise decent enough for him to pick her up and take her upstairs. This meant leaving the ledger in the parlor, but Terrance was hoping that with the shock of finding her employer’s niece on the floor, she would forget he was holding a book at all.
At the top of the stairs, Terrance followed Mrs. Tiller to Elise’s bedroom and quickly placed her gently on the bed. Then he left the room, saying he would see himself out while Mrs. Tiller tended to her. She agreed that would be best, and in five minutes, he was out the door.
The evening air was chilly but not cold. Clouds were scudding across the sky as though they too were in a hurry to get somewhere, but there was more than enough moonlight for Terrance to see by. San Diego was a blossoming town, but there were few streetlights, and most streets relied on the candle and lamp light that spilled from houses’ windows. Luckily, he didn’t have far to go.
His destination was Mr. Turner’s house, which was one block over and another up. The house was a grand, stately thing with a large front yard and its own stables around the back. Being on the outskirts of town, it had a fair amount of backyard, too, from the look of it.
He was ushered into the parlor by a man servant where Mr. Edmund Turner and Mr. George Harris were having drinks. A quick look around the room was all that Terrance got, but it was enough to spot the bag on the small table by the armchairs. Close to the fire though they were, the table was positioned so that its contents could be easily reached. He guessed that bag held his fee. These two gentlemen were paying quite handsomely for his services.
Having spotted what he came for, Terrance quickly turned his attention to his clients.
Turner was a tall, thin man with sharp cheekbones and salt and pepper hair brushed back from his temples. Harris, on the other hand, was a stocky man, a head shorter than his companion with blond hair and the sharpest blue eyes Terrance had ever seen. He imagined it was tough to pull the wool over those eyes.
“Ah, Mr. Fenway,” Mr. Turner said. “I trust you have succeeded in your task?”
“I have,” Terrance said. He indicated the ledger.
“May we have a look at it?” Harris asked.
Terrance hesitated a moment. This was the part of the job where a fine hand and a smooth tongue needed to be employed. It had happened on previous jobs, where his clients decided they wouldn’t be paying him for his services. They had pulled guns on him and threatened him with his life. Now Terrance never handed anything over without being paid first. He wanted to look at the bag but resisted the urge. It was still there, and it still held his money.
“Oh, don’t be a fool, George,” Mr. Turner said, gesturing with his tumbler filled with amber liquid. “He wants to see the color of our money.”
“Well, I never! The sly jackal doesn’t trust us,” Mr. Harris said, those cold blue eyes boring into Terrance.
They were trying to intimidate him. They weren’t the first or the last to try that. Terrance headed into the room proper and stood well out of their reach, with his back to a wall. From this position, he had both of them in his sights, and unlike them, he was armed. It was with a blackjack in his trouser pocket, but it was still a weapon. He could have it out in a moment and slap them silly before they knew what had happened.
“Oh, calm down, Fenway,” Turner said, waving his hand around and sloshing some of that probably expensive whiskey on the rug. “We were only playing with you. We know your reputation. Your money is on the table. Feel free to count it.”
Getting to the bag would mean coming within reach of these two clearly untrustworthy men. He didn’t like that much, but he also didn’t have much choice. He needed to be paid. Not being paid would mean not paying Jimmie the Hand, a small-time local bad man who ran a gambling den.
Terrance was into him for more money than his sorry hide could make in a month, which was never good. And that wasn’t even his fault. Man, how life loved to play with people.
This wasn’t the time to get distracted, though, so Terrance set his features into something along the lines of a smile and nodding, made his way to the table.
He did so slowly, keeping his eyes peeled. Neither Turner nor Harris moved until he reached the table, then Harris took one quick step forward, and Terrance reacted. He had the blackjack out of his pocket in a blink and raised it, ready to brain anyone stupid enough to look for trouble.
But there was none to be had. Harris burst out laughing, as did Turner, and the two men exchanged a look.
“You are as jumpy as they say,” Harris said, stepping back. “My goodness!”
“More skittish than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs,” Turner commented.
“Tell me, what got you so nervous?” Harris persisted. He was peering at Terrance, who saw that Harris wasn’t entirely sober. His eyes had that glean to them that only drink could offer.
Lowering the blackjack, but not returning it to his trousers pocket, Terrance smiled and shook his head. “That, gentlemen, is a long, sorry, sad story that we truly do not have time for. So, if it’s all the same to you, I will be taking my money and taking your leave.”
A quick inspection of the bag’s contents confirmed that his fee was all there. As he took the bag’s straps into his hand, he stowed the blackjack and deposited both the folder and ledger on the table. Then he backed away.
“Go ahead, take a look at them,” he said.
Turner was there first, inspecting the ledger. His eyes bulged, and his face went a terrible shade of red as his eyes shot over the scrawled letters and numbers on the pages.
“Diligent old codger, isn’t he?” Turner snapped. “Winston kept a record of everything …” He sighed and snapped the book shut. “Well, thank you, Mr. Fenway, for a job well done. We wish you well for the future.”
Harris looked concerned. “You won’t tell anyone about this?”
“No,” Terrance said, frowning. Why would he? There was no reason for him to run his mouth off. Getting work didn’t work that way, and apart from that, there was little Terrance cared about. The only person he had in his life was his brother Benji, but he wasn’t stupid enough to tell that boy anything. Benji could run his mouth without even realizing he was.
“Good,” Harris persisted. “Because it would be bad for business if it got out, you know, what Archibald did.”
Terrance nodded. “Sure, I understand. Discretion is what you pay for, among other things.”
He really wanted to get out of there. These men were unnerving him with their strange talk and behavior. Suddenly, Terrance wondered if they planned to set someone on him before he even got to the coach.
He nodded curtly and made for the door.
“Oh, and Fenway,” Mr. Turner said, a glint in his eye. “You take care now. And let’s not see you in San Diego any time soon. Alright?”
Terrance didn’t run.
He sped down the drive and away from the house, the bag with his money slung across his body. It was better that way, harder for someone to come by at speed and slip it off his shoulder.
The coachyard was a good way away, and Terrance needed to pick up his things at the local hotel where he was staying. He kept checking behind him to ensure that no one was planning anything. Having dealt with men with reputations, with their good names at stake before, Terrance was careful not to take his leaving San Diego as a given.
Sadly, no coaches were leaving at this time of night, but there were other places in town he could stay. He always made sure of that before taking a job. All he needed was his bag of clothes and personal items. Then, he would find somewhere else to spend the night.
They were waiting for him the moment he opened the door to his room. Two big men with even bigger pistols trained on him. It was only Terrance’s practiced speed that saved him. That and the two bottles of beer the men had drunk while waiting for him to return.
Their aim was off, and that was a good thing. The slugs slammed into the wall behind him as he ducked and rolled right passed his door. Darn it, his own pistol was in the bedside table. He should never have left it.
Oh well, no point in being all upset about that now.
Regaining his feet, Terrance pulled the blackjack from his pocket and stood with his back to the wall. The men clearly expected him to have run down the corridor making an escape, so they were surprised when they came through the doorway and met the smooth, lacquered surface of the blackjack.
He hit the first one on the hand holding his pistol and the second in the nose with a fist. Turning, he effectively hit them both again, one in the solar plexus and the other under the chin, hearing his teeth click together with a satisfying jolt. Then he kicked them one after the other and thought he might just get away with this. They were terrible hand-to-hand fighters, and he was well trained by many a brawl where he had been fighting for his life. But that was before he found out about the third man.
The first thing he knew about that man was when the butt of his pistol came crashing down on Terrance’s head.
“Lost In A Sea of Emotions” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Bethany White’s adoptive parents push her to marry a man she doesn’t love, underlining the emotional distance she always felt from them. In a desperate attempt to find a place to call home, she takes the painful decision to find the truth about her past. As if sent by heaven, a handsome man, Terrance, appears to guide her through the dark…
Is there a ray of light at the end of this tunnel?
Since he first felt the sting of betrayal, Terrance Fenway decided to shield his heart from pain by focusing on his work as a private investigator. He would like to find his other half, but the fear is just too strong… When a rich man hires him to find out if Bethany is his long-lost daughter, he doesn’t anticipate she will captivate him from the very first moment.
Could she be the answer to his prayers?
Bethany and Terrance aren’t prepared for the profound impact they will have on each other’s life. Will their growing affection have the time to blossom into undying love, as they try to solve the mystery of Bethany’s real parents? Will they find a way to stay united even as they are confronted with tremendous obstacles?
“Lost In A Sea of Emotions” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.