Authors: J.M Griffin,Kristina Paglio
Published Internationally by Lachesis Publishing Inc.
Rockland, Ontario, Canada
Copyright © 2016 Jeanne Paglio and Kristina Paglio
Exclusive cover © 2016 Laura Givens
Inside artwork © 2016 Joanna D’Angelo
All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the publisher, Lachesis Publishing Inc., is an infringement of the copyright law.
A catalogue record for the print format of this title is available from the National Library of Canada
A catalogue record for the Ebook is available from the National Library of Canada Ebooks are available for purchase from
Editor: Joanna D’Angelo
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any person or persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
To my beloved daughter, Kristina Paglio
My thanks goes to my daughter, Kristina Paglio, who first had the idea of writing the
series. With no experience in writing, she offered the concept and storyline to me. Together, we put together the series and while I have deviated from the original notes Kristina had made, the story belongs to both of us.
Kristina held a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, and was my go-to person for the
series when it came to public safety and laws pertaining to it. I will forever be grateful for her assistance, unending encouragement, fantastic sense of humor, and her patience. Kristina passed away on March 3, 2015 and will forever be missed by all who knew and loved her.
The Esposito Series:
For Love of Livvy (Book 1)
Dead Wrong (Book 2)
Dirty Trouble (Book 3)
Cold Moon Dead (Book 4)
Season For Murder (Book 5)
Death Gone Awry (Book 6)
The Esposito Series Box Set (Books 1-3)
Deadly Bakery Series:
A Crusty Murder (Book 1
A Crouton Murder (Book 2)
Focaccia Fatality (Book 3)
The Esposito Series:
Deader Than Dead (Book 7)
Bleary-eyed, I squinted at the number that popped onto the cell phone’s screen. I rubbed my eyes, jetlag hovered over me like a raincloud in spring. Slumped against the pillows, I tugged the duvet up over my chest before I answered the call. My grandmother waited.
“Gran, do you know how late it is in Massachusetts?” I asked with wry humor. My visit to Boston was about to be cut short, I just knew it.
Her weak and raspy voice startled me into listening more closely. My heart began to hammer against my ribcage. “You must come home right away, Linty. I need you here. There’s something important you must know.”
Her heavy accented voice had faded off, and my hand trembled. The next thing I knew a man was speaking to me. Sleepiness abandoned me on swift wings as I struggled to comprehend his words.
“Are you there, Ms. Dragon?” he asked tersely.
“Yes, yes, I’m here, and you are?”
“Samuel Smythe, I’m your grandmother’s attorney. It’s imperative that you come to your grandmother’s estate as quickly as you can. Essie is very ill and may not be with us much longer. She wishes you to be at her side at this time.”
My stomach muscles knotted, and my chest grew tight. “My grandmother seemed fine the last time we spoke. What’s happened?”
Smythe ignored my question and coldly insisted, “She wishes to tell you herself and won’t do so until you return to Dragon Hill. I’ve made arrangements for your flight. Be at the airport within the next hour. Your instructions should be in your email. Would you check to see if they are there? I’ll wait.”
I scrambled across the bed and reached for my iPad. In seconds, I was on the Internet and reading my email. His instructions were short and to the point.
“I’ve got them. I should be home in several hours. Have a car at the airport, will you?”
“Consider it done. Now get moving,” Smythe said and hung up.
I crammed the suitcase with clothes, jewelry and the rest of my oddments. I’d hardly had time to brush my teeth, comb my hair, and wash my face before the front desk clerk rang me to say a cab waited out front. I took a moment to clip my long, heavy, brown tresses away from my face and stared at the fear in my green eyes. Quickly looking away, I adjusted my slim fitting jeans, straightened the Boston Bruins sweatshirt I had slipped into, and tied my sneakers. I realized I hadn’t even thought as far in advance as cab service. Apparently, Samuel Smythe was two steps ahead of me.
My suitcase wheels rolled soundlessly on the carpet as I dashed toward the elevator. Reaching the hotel foyer, I was waved away when I attempted to settle my bill.
“You’re all set, Miss Dragon. Mr. Smythe has taken care of everything. Have a nice flight and come see us again,” the night staffer said with a polite smile.
A porter took my luggage, stowed it in the trunk and closed the car door once I’d settled into the backseat of the cab. He murmured orders to the driver and stepped back onto the curb. We flew down the street like hell on wheels, and I clung to the arm rest as though my life depended on it. None the worse for wear, we slid to a halt outside Boston’s Logan Airport. The driver passed me and my belongings on to another poor sot, who then rushed me along.
I didn’t like this rollercoaster ride one bit, and I wanted it to end, thank you. My usual lifestyle was less adventurous than some of my former classmates’ at Harvard. As a book restoration expert, I took time to make decisions, to work things out before jumping willy-nilly off a cliff with the hope that there’d be someone to catch me. I must have said it aloud because I received an odd look from the man who ushered me through the gate of the plane. I hadn’t even had time to stop for coffee or hit the restroom.
“Can we make a slight deviation?” I asked as he motioned me into the boarding line for the flight home.
“I’m sorry, Miss, the flight is about to leave and you must be on it. I have my orders.”
I gritted my teeth, hoped to get to the lavatory onboard before I soared over the Atlantic, and thanked him for his kind concern. When he smiled sweetly and gave me a nod, I knew my sarcasm was lost on him.
As my cell phone jingled, I was told it had to be shut off before takeoff. I nodded, stepped aside so others could board, and answered my father’s call.
“Your grandmother has sent for you, then?” Dad asked.
“She did. I’m not sure what it’s about, but Samuel Smythe seems to think her request is urgent enough for me to go to the estate and said she is in danger of dying. Will you be coming along, too?”
He explained that he couldn’t accompany me, which sounded like a cop out, but he and Gran hadn’t been on the best of terms these past several years, so I didn’t argue. My take on family is that when the chips are down, they’re all you’ve got. In my family, I was the only one who felt that way. He said he’d be home for the funeral if Gran passed away. Annoyed, I shut down the phone, boarded the plane, and went straight to the lavatory before I buckled into my seat for the long, anxiety-filled, flight to Scotland.
Daylight prevailed until we were outside Aberdeen International Airport. I could see planes sitting on the runway, tiny vans and trolleys filled with luggage ran busily to and fro. All the while, I wondered if Gran had made it through the night, or if this was her way of pulling me back to Scotland, and away from my father, whom I’d made the trip to Boston to see. I really disliked being used as a pawn, but this time I could be mistaken.
We landed with a bump, a rocking draft, and the roar of the engines grew louder and then softer, as the plane finally slowed. The entire flight had been turbulent, as though we were on a road filled with potholes and frost heaves. I hadn’t unbuckled my seatbelt once after I’d returned from the lavatory and taken my seat.
Through the gate, I followed signs indicating where I could claim my luggage. Once that was accomplished, I headed out the front doors. A man dressed in a black suit held a sign with my name on it. I greeted him and climbed into the backseat of the luxury car. We rushed into a stream of traffic that took us in and out of Aberdeen and west toward Mevie, beginning the trek to Gran’s. It wasn’t long before valleys and hills rolled gently, traffic was next to none, and fresh air abounded as we roared toward Dragon Hill Estate.
I leaned forward, tapped the driver on his shoulder and said, “I’d like to stop for coffee.”
“I’ll be dropping you at a car park shortly where you’ll find a car from the estate awaiting you. You’re not to stop anywhere, but to proceed directly to the house, Miss.”
Worried, I leaned against my seat, yearned for a latte, and wondered what the hell was so important that I had to fly back from New England to hear it. Was Gran really all that ill? I hadn’t visited her in person for nearly a year, though we had stayed in touch by phone and Skyped by computer. She had looked a bit peaked the last time we Skyped, but she explained it away as a touch of flu. Throughout my childhood, I’d visited the estate, and other than staying for a vacation or two during every school year and summer, I hadn’t lived there full time. My current residence was in Edinburgh, where I worked as a rare book restoration specialist.
We arrived at the car park and my luggage was deposited in the trunk of an old, but well kept, Volvo. The driver pulled out a set of keys from the wheel well, and dropped them into my hand. I opened my mouth to thank him when he said, “Get going, time is of the essence, I’m afraid.” He then turned and left. What the hell was going on?
By this time, my nerves were ragged and my need for coffee surmounted the urgency to reach the estate. I drove off in a huff and stopped at the first coffee shop available. In less than five minutes I was back on the road, the car chewing up the remaining distance to Mevie and Dragon Hill.
Skies turned dull and dreary, a mist of rain covered the windshield, accompanied by just enough fog to cause poor visibility. The windshield wipers dragged back and forth in slow motion, and the sound of rubber against glass annoyed me as the moisture was cleared. In the background, a radio station played one crummy song after another. Absentmindedly, I flipped the tuner to a community radio station, and listened to the local news. When I looked up, Mevie lay ahead and I swerved off the highway in the nick of time. There were still miles to go before I reached Gran’s house.
* * *
Dense fog shrouded the car as I drove along silent, deserted, side roads. Long tentacles of leafless tree branches seemed to reach out, as if waiting to grab an unsuspecting victim. Feeling a sense of dread, a shiver skittered up my spine. Okay, so my imagination had taken over, so what?
I finally turned left and slowed to a stop in front of black wrought iron gates sprinkled with rusty spots where the paint had chipped off. I left the car in park and hurriedly swung the gates open, wincing as they creaked and groaned on hinges badly in need of attention. I left them open and drove on.