Authors: Kassandra Lamb
Tags: #Thriller, #female sleuth, #Psychological, #mystery
A Kate Huntington Mystery
The Kate Huntington Mystery Series:
(to be released Spring, 2013)
(to be released September, 2013)
Cover art by Rebecca Swift Artwork.
E-book design by Kirsten Weiss
Copyright © 2012 by Kassandra Lamb
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and events are ALL products of the author’s imagination (as are some of the places). Any resemblance to actual events or people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. The Make A Wish Foundation is used fictitiously and real places have been used fictitiously.
No part of this book may be used, transmitted, stored, or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the writer’s written permission, except very short excerpts for reviews.
All Rights Reserved.
“Fame is like a river, that beareth up
things light and swollen,
and drowns things weighty and solid.”
– Sir Francis Bacon
The watcher hunkered behind a tree fifty feet from the barn. The back screen door of the house slammed and the woman–
woman–strode across the yard toward the barn, catching her honey-colored hair up into a hasty ponytail as she went. Her slim body was tucked into snug jeans and a crisply ironed, light blue shirt and, yes, she was wearing riding boots!
An hour of patience was about to pay off... maybe.
The golden voice that thrilled her fans called out, “Bobby?”
The groom ambled out of the barn and shook his head in answer to something she said. Nodding, she headed for the paddock. Bobby returned to the barn and came out a few minutes later, leading a frisky bay horse. He wrestled the less than cooperative animal through the paddock gate, then handed the end of the long lunge line to his boss. She began to put the colt through his paces.
Damn! Why wasn’t she going trail riding today?
Maybe the last note hadn’t been such a good idea. The things it had hinted at had apparently spooked her.
The answer became clear when Bobby came out of the barn again, leading another horse. The sturdy gray gelding was limping. The groom led the horse around in a slow circle, then stopped him and leaned over to slide a hand down a front leg. The hand stopped and Bobby shook his head slightly.
Looking out over the pastures, the watcher cursed softly through gritted teeth. The two mares in the distance were heavy with foals. There was no horse for her to take out on the trail.
A grim smile spread across the watcher’s face as another idea materialized. There was more than one way to get his woman’s attention.
Waiting until she and the groom both had their backs turned, the watcher edged away from the tree and blended into the shadows of the woods behind the farm.
Skip Canfield paused on the sidewalk and looked up at his home of the last three years. He noticed that the old Victorian could use a fresh coat of paint. That would please his wife, who seemed to thrive on such projects. His lips curled in a slight smile as he took the porch steps two at a time.
His expression grew serious again as he thought about the difficult case he would have preferred to leave at the office. Inserting his key in the front door lock, he shook his head. Time enough to deal with that later. He would talk to Kate about it after dinner.
“William Robert Canfield, what
you thinking?” His wife’s raised voice came from the kitchen.
Slipping around the corner, Skip paused in the kitchen doorway to take in the family drama. His young son was slouched down in his chair, a pout on his face. A china bowl was tipped on its side, half its contents rolling across the big oak table.
“Me no like peas,” Billy said.
Hands on hips, Kate scowled at the child. “
do that again.”
Maria muttered something in Spanish, too low for Skip to make out the words. She carried a plastic colander to the table and scooped the runaway vegetables into it. The peas, after a good rinsing, would no doubt show up in tomorrow’s soup or stew. Having grown up poor in Guatemala, the nanny/housekeeper gave frugality a whole new definition.
Four-year-old Edie looked up and saw Skip leaning against the doorjamb. “Daddy’s home,” she sang out, blue eyes sparkling and dark curls bouncing as she wiggled in her chair.
Edwina Huntington-Canfield was a miniature version of her mother. After all this time, it still warmed Skip’s heart to hear the little girl, who was not his biologically but was most definitely his nonetheless, call him
He gave Edie a slow, easy grin. “Hey, Pumkin,” he said, walking over to kiss the top of her curly mop.
Looking across the table at his son, Skip had trouble maintaining a scowl. His wife’s use of the boy’s full name, William Robert, had reminded him of how lucky they were that this child even existed. Three years ago, Kate’s friend, Rob Franklin, had been instrumental in saving her life, and that of the baby in her womb. Skip was honored to now call the man his friend as well.
Chubby arms crossed in defiance, Billy eyed his father through the veil of light brown hair hanging down over his forehead. Unconsciously, Skip ran long, slender fingers through his own unruly forelock. Billy might look like him, but personality-wise, the child was all Kate–energetic, intense and stubborn, but also kind and cheerful. Most of the time. Lately, however, he had been illustrating how the terrible twos earned their name.
As Skip opened his mouth to add his own reprimand to his wife’s scolding, Kate shook her head. “Let it go,” she said in a low voice. “I’m not up for a tantrum right now.”
Skip looked at his watch. Why were they eating so early, and weren’t they going to wait for him? Then he noticed the table was set for three, not five.
Kate was smiling at him. “Two steaks in the fridge, in Maria’s marinade, alongside a salad and a bottle of Beaujolais.”
He started to grin back, then froze. Had he forgotten some special occasion?
Kate’s smile widened at the worried look on his face. “I figured we’d both been so busy lately, we could use some quiet time together.”
“Darlin’, that’s the best offer I’ve had all day,” Skip drawled, and headed for the study to lock up his pistol.
Once back in the kitchen, he took his seat at the table, where only a glass of iced tea awaited him. Maria sat down and Edie stumbled through the blessing.
After several miracles in their lives, including the two little beings sitting at this table, Kate had decided their family should be taking the time to thank the good Lord more often. They had also started attending the Episcopal church several blocks from their house.
As the kids told their father about their day, Kate rested her chin on her hand and let her mind wander. It didn’t take her long to start fantasizing about what would happen once the kids were in bed and Maria had retreated to her third-floor apartment.
Time and domesticity had impacted very little on the intensity of their attraction for each other. At five-seven, Kate was an average-sized woman, but next to her husband, she felt tiny. He was just shy of being a foot taller and weighed almost twice her weight. However, there was hardly an ounce of fat on his broad chest, strong arms, thick powerful thighs... Kate unconsciously licked her lips.
Skip had been watching her while making “I’m listening” noises in response to the children’s chatter. As Edie wound down her description of her day at preschool, he addressed his wife, letting a touch of his native Texas creep into his voice. “I really hate to break the mood, darlin’.”
Kate looked at him, slightly startled. Even from the opposite end of the table, she could see the gold flecks dancing in his hazel eyes. She grinned and blushed at the same time.
“But I need to talk to you about something later,” Skip continued, his voice sobering.
So much for her fantasies, well, at least until after they talked.
Maria was usually off duty after supper, but this evening Kate had negotiated a different arrangement. When the children had finished all they were likely to eat, with Billy now finger-painting on his plate with his applesauce, Maria announced it was bath time.
The children protested but the short, plump nanny determinedly herded them out of the kitchen and up the stairs, singing out in her heavily accented voice, “Early to bayd, early to rise, and de early bird gets de worm.” Maria, the cousin of their friend and Skip’s business partner, Rose Hernandez, had immigrated to the U.S. four years ago. Her English was much improved over the dozen words she had known then, and lately she had developed a fascination for American sayings. She could produce one for almost every occasion.
Skip waited until she and the children were well up the stairs. “I have a client I think could use your services. You know who Cherise Martin is?”
It took a moment for the name to register. “Isn’t she that up-and-coming pop singer?” Kate said. “She and her boyfriend are all over the tabloids at the checkout line in the grocery store.”
“Yeah, that’s her. She’s my client.”
“Wow, so you’re private investigator to the stars now.”
“PI and bodyguard. Normally I’d just assign a couple of our men to her. I have Ben on duty when she’s home, but I go with her whenever she’s out in public. Big-name client wants the boss, not the underlings. That’s why I’ve been working such odd hours lately.”
“I didn’t realize she lived around here,” Kate said.
“Closely kept secret,” Skip replied, getting up to clear the table. “Cherise Martin is her stage name. Her real name is Carol Ann Morris. She owns a fifteen-acre horse farm in that name, out in Howard County.”
“So what does this have to do with me?” Kate asked, as she put away leftovers.
“She’s been receiving weird notes from an anonymous fan. Love notes on the surface, but they have a sinister twist to them. Rose is looking into that. But I think the stress is starting to get to Cherise. I’m not sure she was real well wrapped to begin with, and now she seems to be coming unglued.”
Kate grimaced. She had opened a private practice as a psychotherapist shortly after Billy was born, rather than returning to her job at a not-for-profit counseling center. Her main reason for going private had been so she’d have more control over the clients she saw.
“What did you tell her?” she asked.
“Not much yet,” Skip said, putting the last of the dishes in the dishwasher. “I just asked if she might want to see somebody to help her cope. She seemed open to the idea, so I told her I might know somebody good and I’d check it out for her. Didn’t mention that the somebody was my wife.”
“I’m not sure I want to become a celebrity therapist. I have no desire to be the next Dr. Phil,” Kate said.