Caribou King owns The Broken Antler Gallery, selling original works of art to cruise ship passengers who stop by the tiny town of Coho Bay, Alaska. There are only two seasons that matter in Coho Bay — Winter and Cruise Ship. From May to September, six ships a week weigh anchor in the bay and thousands of passengers fill the two-street town. From dawn until dusk, everybody’s running to meet the demand. It’s a busy life, but Cara’s been happy with the success of her business. There’s even a new man in town to flirt with, or there would be, if she ever had a moment to herself.
That all changes when her best friend, Taylor Snow, shows up the last week of the season. Unannounced and unwelcome, Taylor is a lightning rod for trouble and Cara’s right in the middle of it. A body is fished out of the bay and it seems like everyone is lying about it, but Cara better figure things out fast or the next body might be hers!
Here’s a tidbit of my soon-to-be-released, The Fine Art of Deception.
I walked into the crowded dining room and looked for Mel, who should have been bustling back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room. I found her, but there was no bustle. She was leaning against the back counter, as silent as her customers, surveying the room. Her face was stormy, but it relaxed when she saw me. She nodded toward the barstool that was my customary spot. Tonight it was occupied. Taylor. At least now I understood the silence.
Crossing the room, I greeted friends at every table I passed, bantering gently, nudging them back to life. My gesture had the desired effect, and by the time I reached the counter, there was a murmur of quiet conversation throughout the room. “Hey, Mel,” I said with a cheer I didn’t quite feel.
“Bent and I figured you’d want your dinner to go tonight.” She handed me a plate wrapped in aluminum foil. Around that was a clean dish towel to keep the hot plate from burning me on the way home. I heard the room grow quiet again. I pictured a hundred eyes focused on me, a hundred ears attuned to the one conversation they were itching to hear.
“Yeah, thanks. Tay, you ready?” I took the plate, and as I did, Mel squeezed my hand.
“Thanks, Cara,” she whispered.
Taylor slid off the stool, and I led her through the gauntlet. As we passed, fifty heads dropped and forks worked noisily. I knew the room would explode as soon as we were out of earshot, but let them get it out of their system. A little gossip added spice to life in a small town.
Taylor and I walked in silence until we reached the gallery. We turned to walk around the side of the rustic log building, and in spite of the million questions I was dying to ask her, my mind took a detour. Dad, Johnny, and I, with a little help from assorted friends and relatives, had built the gallery out of wood harvested from our own land and cut into beams and floorboards and cabinets at Lennon Millworks. It took months of backbreaking effort, a lot of laughter and a broken finger—Dad’s, not mine—to turn the trees into a roomy gallery with an apartment upstairs. We weren’t always sure we’d finish, but we’d roughed it in before snow flew, and by the time the first ship anchored offshore the following May, we had been ready. We weren’t the most skillful builders on the bay, but every inch of that building carried pride of workmanship.
We’d made a great team, the three of us. Then Taylor had flown in from Seattle to help me get the gallery stocked for the first season and… well, that was three years ago. No sense in crying over spilt milk. I opened the door and promptly crashed into two oversized suitcases that were sitting in the entryway. “Cripes, Tay!” I grabbed one foot and hopped around on the other.
“Sorry. I didn’t want to bother you, so I just popped these in on my way to Mel’s.”
“You could have taken them upstairs,” I said, still hopping, which was quite a feat considering how small my entryway was and the fact that Taylor’s suitcases were taking up most of it. “I think I broke my toe.”
“Don’t be so dramatic.” She stepped gracefully over the small mountain of suitcases and started up the steps. “I’ll bring them up later, that is, if you’ll let me stay.”
“Tay, you know you’re always welcome here.” I stopped hopping and gingerly put weight on my offending foot. It was sore, but it held, and I followed her a little less gracefully over the suitcases and up the steps. These steps had been unexpectedly hard to build. Dad had put them in, torn them out, and put them in again twice before he declared that the uneven rise gave the place character. “I wish you’d let me know you were coming. I would have moved your renter into one of Dad’s cabins.”
“Who’s at the house?”
“Mr. Peterson. You remember him.”
“The banker. He’s the only one who thinks he’s a writer.” Mr. Peterson had been coming to Coho Bay for fifteen years, working on the novel he never seemed to finish. Sometimes he stayed in one of Dad’s cabins, but he preferred the houses on the far side of the bay. “I knew you wouldn’t want strangers living there, so when he asked about taking the house for the summer, I jumped. I’m heading out Thursday to get him. We can move you in at the same time.”
Taylor nodded and wandered over to the tiny kitchen. “It’s my own fault. I didn’t know I was coming until I was here.”
That was typical Taylor. “I don’t have a guest room, but the couch is all yours. Unless you’d rather stay in one of the cabins. I have a couple empty right now.”
Taylor made a face. “Running water?”
“When the catchment tank’s full. Dad and I put composting toilets in over the winter though. Renters were complaining about having to use an outhouse, can you imagine?” I laughed at the look of horror on her face. Impulsively, I put my plate on the table and wrapped my arms around her. “I’ve missed you, Tay! I’m so glad you’re back.”
Come back soon for the release of The Fine Art of Deception