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Authors: June Shaw

Tags: #Mystery

Deadly Reunion

Table of Contents

Copyright

Deadly Reunion

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Seafood Gumbo á la Gil

Deadly Reunion

By June Shaw

Copyright 2013 by June Shaw

Cover Copyright 2013 by Ginny Glass and Untreed Reads Publishing

The author is hereby established as the sole holder of the copyright. Either the publisher (Untreed Reads) or author may enforce copyrights to the fullest extent.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher or author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages embodied in critical articles or in a review. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This is a work of fiction. The characters, dialogue and events in this book are wholly fictional and any resemblance to companies and actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Also by June Shaw and Untreed Reads Publishing

Relative Danger

Killer Cousins

http://www.untreedreads.com

Deadly Reunion

June Shaw

Chapter 1

“I see you got old and lost your figure,” my former high school classmate said as I stepped onto the cold Lido Deck, reminding me of why peers always wanted to kill her.

“What a way to start a reunion. I flew to Anchorage to hear insults?” I said.

“You know I was kidding, Cealie. Come here.” Sue Peterson threw out her arms.

“And you—” I said, ready to give a sassy retort to this woman I hadn’t seen in decades, “—are gorgeous.” To my dismay, she did look great. Her slinky dress revealed perky breasts thrust over a slim waist. Her hips were slender and legs shapely, accentuated by spiky heels. Her neck and face looked so tight my lipstick tube could bounce off them.

“I’m thrilled that you could join us.” She squeezed me in a hug, breasts so rigid I feared they’d indent my chest. “You know I was joking, right?”

“I did put on a few pounds,” I admitted. “And these wrinkles—”

“Can be taken away by a good plastic surgeon.”

Was that supposed to make me feel better? I shivered from the chilly air and imagined the ship rocking, although we couldn’t leave shore until we completed this safety drill. “Have you seen the others? I can’t wait to see what everybody looks like. This is my first reunion.” I glanced at the gathering crowd, wondering if I would recognize people I’d known so well, whose main concerns back then had been zits, passing exams, or losing last week’s boyfriend. Now many of us were grandparents.

“I saw everybody, especially Miss Popular. She sure has problems.”

“That’s what convinced me to come. That, and getting to visit my son and his family. I can’t wait to be with the old gang.”

“Not many of them showed up.”

“Please close in spaces to let others move in,” a petite female crewmember said through a megaphone. “We have passengers coming up from the Main Deck. Be careful. And make sure you have your life jacket.”

Sue squeezed against me alongside the outdoor pool. Unable to make my wrinkles suddenly disappear, I sucked in my stomach, drew up my five foot two inch frame, and still remained half a foot shorter than my striking classmate.

Scores of passengers wore their life jackets, while many of us gripped ours. Voices carried, and stomping feet came from passengers on outdoor steps.

I peered around, hoping to see familiar faces. Would I still recognize my classmates? Would they know me? What were they doing with their lives?

I stared at women. Were any of them people I’d gone to Westside High with? One had the round face and tiny eyes of someone I’d known in school. She didn’t return my smile. But a bride did.

“A bride,” I said, stepping to the young woman in a strapless wedding gown. “Are you getting married?”

“We did this morning on the ship.” With a bright smile, she shivered.

“Congratulations.” I gave her a hug and spied the young man in a tux behind her. “And congratulations to you,” I said and hugged him.

“Thanks,” they said in unison.

I turned to make sure Sue saw them, but she was no longer around. Figuring she’d found our friends on this deck, I squeezed through other passengers till I located her.

She leaned toward a man in a hot pink knit shirt who appeared fifteen years younger than we were, her breasts stabbing his chest. They shared sensual smiles.

Was this her boyfriend? Husband? His skin looked as firm as hers and his body as trim. But nature probably gave him his youthful appearance. He might have been her adopted son, but their flirty looks and body language told me they weren’t related. I knew about Sue’s earlier life but hadn’t heard much since our graduation.

“I’m glad I found you,” I told Sue and then grabbed the young man’s hand. “Hello, I’m Cealie Gunther. You two know each other?”

He gave her a lewd smile. “We just met.”

“Sue is actually my aunt,” I told him. “I only call her Sue because we’re the same age.” I lowered my head to make sure the skin on my neck drooped and a slight double chin formed. If this guy thought she was a youngster, I’d make certain he knew better. I almost wished I’d left my roots gray. Sue’s highlights ran to the base of her dyed brown hair. Anticipating a reunion with high school friends, I’d made extra preparations, and figured the other
girls
would, too. I’d had my hair dyed and styled, a manicure and pedicure and relaxing massage. A shopping trip and study of our yearbook rounded out preparations.

“Aunt and niece the same age—cool,” he said.

Cool.
We’d used that word to describe everything.

“Did you come on this trip alone?” I asked, not deterring the guy from casting a lusting scan over my classmate’s figure.

His wanting to make out with her would not be a good thing.

This was my Aunt Sue. But before that, she had been my Uncle Stu.

Uncle Stu became Aunt Sue two years after we finished high school. Friends and I thought he might wait to become a she, but his parents allowed the surgery.

I never found out how much of him had been altered.

“No, I’m not alone,” the man wearing pink told me.

“Your wife’s not with you?” I asked, but no one paid attention. Our crewmember with the megaphone ordered us to put on our lifejackets. She’d give instructions for hooking up the straps.

Our new friend helped Sue with hers, laughing flirtatiously as his hands grazed her breasts. She returned his smile and leaned into him, speaking softly.

Not soon enough, our instructions ended. We should return to our cabins to replace life jackets and be careful walking, especially holding up the straps.

“My cabin’s aft. Nice meeting you two,” the man in pink said. He winked at me. “Make sure you don’t trip on that strap.”

“I probably won’t.” I was ready to get rid of him.

“Isn’t he cute?” Sue asked the moment he evaporated into the crowd heading to the rear.

“Cute. And young.”

“Sometimes those are best.”

Conversing became difficult as we squeezed with scores of others into the smaller area near the elevators and stairwell. “What deck are you on?” Sue asked.

“Pacific.”

“Me too.”

“Great.” I faked a grin and hoped we didn’t have adjoining cabins.

“We’ll meet all the others at dinner.”

“Great. I’ll take the stairs now.”

“Okay, me too.”

We walked one deck down the wide crowded stairwell. At the next deck, I headed for the starboard hall. Announcements blared from speakers, but the buzz of people walking and talking drowned out the message.

“My cabin’s right there.” Sue pointed a few doors down. “I’ll see you at dinner in a little while. We have early seating, you know.”

Nodding, I watched her go. A man in the group walking behind her looked familiar. No, it couldn’t be Randy. No men from our class were invited on this trip. I was only imagining how other people from my class looked now.

In my stateroom I unpacked, wishing I’d brought more clothes made of wrinkly fabric. I always traveled lightly, especially since I’d shed my life of so many
things
. Things took up space and held people back. After my husband died, I found so many items stuffed into cabinets and closets, I decided to lighten my life and my house. I’d since then shucked the house. Now I traveled. I might need to purchase a few items in the onboard shops, I saw, counting the tops and dresses I’d brought and coming up short.

I’d worn comfortable shoes, knit slacks, and a light sweater for my flight here, planning to change into a nicer outfit to meet my school friends. But until I could buy more items, I decided to keep on what I wore. Sure, first impressions were important—especially since I was about to face women I’d befriended and sometimes competed with. But that was long ago. I had come way beyond that petty thinking, I told myself.

And then I envisioned Sue.

I grabbed my sexy skirt, the leather one that stopped inches above my knees. Yanking it on, I pulled on a fluffy sweater and exchanged my sensible shoes for heeled boots.

In the mirror covering the closet door, I found a more youthful Cealie. I grabbed my makeup kit and dabbed on more blush, swiped on another coat of mascara, and drenched my lips with coral lipstick.

The mirror’s image made my shoulders slump. I stared at a middle-aged woman trying to look younger than her grandkids.

Tugging off boots and skirt, I replaced them with the comfortable clothes and wiped off the makeup. A light coat of liquid makeup hid a few wrinkles. A touch of lipstick and mascara rounded out the work on my face. I wiggled my fingers through my waves and glanced out the door to my balcony at the crystalline blue water we rolled through.

I hadn’t come on a cruise to remain in my room or sit on my balcony. While waiting for dinner, I would get around other people and maybe find some I knew.

I trotted down the hall, snagged an elevator, and rode down.

In the Grand Atrium, every inch of the room displayed opulence, from the glittering chandelier hanging from its domed ceiling three decks above, to the shiny gild-trimmed glass elevators carrying guests, and the matching circular restraining walls above. Hundreds of voices competed with jazz from the grand piano played by a female pianist wearing a tux. Exquisite fawn-colored carpet and gold medallion wallpaper looked new. The scent of liquor drifted from passengers filling every spot near the bar. No face looked familiar.

I spied people gathering at one end of the deck above. The time for our dinner seating must be approaching. I walked up the circular marble stairwell, imagining I was Scarlett O’Hara, although my slight shortness of breath reminded me I was nowhere near her age.

One of numerous crewmembers in tuxes with our maître d’ greeted me at the dining room door. He checked the table number on my sailing card and guided me into the massive room with shiny china, crystal, and silver on linen-topped tables. Two women sat near each other at the nearby table for six where we stopped.

“Oh, my gosh, Cealie, it’s you.” Jane Easterly stood and squeezed me in a hug.

“Jane, I’ve missed you.” I felt her slight extra plump, which felt comforting, probably because of my own.

Tetter Hargroove sat with a tentative smile. “Hey, Cealie.”

I hugged her. “It is so great to see you.”

“You don’t know how many times I wanted to call you,” Jane said, “but I couldn’t find your number until lately when I was looking for a ticket in a drawer.”

“I’m so glad you did.” I sat across from her. “I was afraid I might not recognize either of you, but y’all look fantastic.”

“You, too,” Jane said.

“You haven’t changed,” Tetter offered.

She lied, but I accepted the compliment. “I would have thought you two might look really different, but you don’t.”

“I haven’t gotten any taller, just like you.” Jane grinned. She was tiny, a pinch taller than I was. Her soft blue eyes flashed extra bright and chestnut brown hair flipped at the ends. She wore a periwinkle dressy casual pant set.

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