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Oil & Water

The Wild Rose Press

Heat Rating: SWEET
Word Count: 23,768
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When gallery owner Ginny Brent accepts a post as judge for the prestigious Oil & Water Arts Festival in Ogunquit, Maine, she is looking forward to a weekend of pampering, good food, and camaraderie with creative people. Family feuds, business spats, a barroom brawl, and lobster pot thefts are definitely not on the menu.

Then the body of a missing artist turns up on the rocky shore—just in time for Ginny to find it. Despite her determination not to get involved, she finds herself tracing the threads between deadly rivals, non-kissing cousins, and an artist’s sketchpad.

Finally, she finds herself on a park ranger’s tiny boat, up the proverbial creek, on the track of a killer.

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From this vantage, the parking area and some of the buildings of Perkins Cove picked up the first rays of the new day. Even now, the lot was half full of cars, no doubt belonging to tourists out for a fishing expedition. The thought of coffee pulled Ginny on. One of the cafes had to be open.

She bypassed the big, well-known restaurant at the edge of the parking lot, preferring someplace more intimate. Maybe a luncheonette; that old-fashioned word brought up memories of tall stools along a counter, tightly-spaced booths, and sassy wait staff. But would anything so simple still exist in the highly competitive enclave between Oarweed Cove and The Basin?

A tall, rangy woman was wiping down the white metal tables in a narrow, graveled yard in front of a gray-clapboard building. Its window was hung with fishing nets and lobster buoys, and a weathered, hand-painted shingle proclaimed the place to be “Chowders.” A rickety, covered stairway on one side led to a second-story shop with framed paintings in the windows. Enticing aromas wafted from Chowders.

Ginny flagged down the woman. “Any chance of coffee yet?”

Danea, according to a nametag matching the shingle, straightened and shook out her cleaning cloth. “Just about, I think. Could use some myself. Come on in.”

It wasn’t exactly a luncheonette, but close. Three tables, with two chairs each, filled one side, while the rest held a compact kitchen, a small counter with a register, and a display case of cold bottled drinks. Racks of bagged chips, candy bars, fridge magnets, and postcards covered most horizontal spaces.

“Haven’t cleaned the tables yet in heah,” Danea tossed over her shoulder. “Mack! Coffee done?”

“Two minutes,” a masculine voice replied.

“Cinnamon rolls just out o’ the oven. Gimme a minute, and I’ll get a slice for ya with the coffee.”

Ginny nodded agreement and strolled to the single, salt-stained rear window. The place was only about thirty feet deep and ten wide, tight quarters for any shopkeeper. That explained the tables out front.

The sun balanced on the horizon now, and the direct shafts of light nearly blinded her. The rocks rising up in the cove cast long, black fingers across the water, and the damp, seaweed-covered stones of the beach reflected glints into Ginny’s eyes. She scanned the curve, from the pines she’d just passed under, across the parking lot, past the restaurant, and out to the fabulously costly private homes at the tip of the neck. As her eyes adjusted, she could pick out more details—fish bones, bird droppings, a twist of netting, many shells. She puzzled over a large, shadowy lump, and her breath caught.

“Danea,” she croaked. “You’d better call the police.”

“What for?”

“There’s a body on the beach.”