Marlene M. Bell
Publication date: December 5th 2022
Genres: Adult, Crime, Mystery
A rural New Zealand vacation turns poisonous.
Antiquities expert Annalisse Drury and tycoon Alec Zavos are at an impasse in their relationship when Alec refuses to clear up a paternity issue with an ex-lover.
Frustrated with his avoidance when their future is at stake, Annalisse accepts an invitation from an acquaintance to fly to New Zealand—hoping to escape the recent turbulence in her life.
But even Annalisse’s cottage idyll on the family sheep farm isn’t immune to intrigue.
Alec sends a mutual friend and detective, Bill Drake, to follow her, and a local resident who accompanies them from the Christchurch airport dies mysteriously soon after. A second violent death finds Annalisse and Bill at odds with the official investigations.
The local police want to close both cases as quickly as possible—without unearthing the town’s dirty secrets.
As she and Bill pursue their own leads at serious cost, the dual mysteries force Annalisse to question everything she thought she knew about family ties, politics, and the art of small-town betrayal.
“Nothing’s sinking in.” I pass the note to Alec and prepare myself. “Would you mind reading it aloud?”
“She and Ethan traveled together.” He gazes at me.
“Okay, we’d considered that.”
“Kate has business to conclude in New Zealand before she returns to New York. She asks me not to mention this to you until she arrives in the States but didn’t give a reason. Kate says she’ll meet you in person when she’s ready.”
“Seriously? Where does she plan to live? With me in Greenwich? The Goshen farm could be sold by now. Does she mention Jeremy finding her another place?”
Alec scans the page randomly. “No, she didn’t.”
I scratch my scalp and shake my head. “Then my sheep station trip to New Zealand is perfect timing. I have to leave now and see if I can catch her before she skips out. Ethan must know where Kate is. If it’s all the same, we’ll hang on to the tickets for our April trip, and I’ll buy my own way for this flight.” Tugging at my sweatshirt with clammy hands, I take the note from Alec and sail it into the flames, watching paper crinkle and burn on the log.
He steps forward, his chiseled profile gawking at the fire in disbelief.
“Were you ever going to tell me about Kate’s message?” A sob chokes my windpipe. “If it weren’t for Ethan’s invite, I doubt that we’d be talking about Kate.”
“Babe, I thought by staying neutral…” He twists his lips and looks at his shoes. “Seeing your reaction now; it was a mistake not to tell you.”
“That totally blows.” I ball my hands into fists. “More like you were afraid that I’d run down there to find her.” I’m mad enough to send smoke signals, so I take slower, calming breaths.
“If I’d told you… Yeah, I worried you’d run off. The ordeal in Italy, then Peter Gregory terrorizing you, and Helga has had barely enough time to settle around here. Your safety doesn’t include encouraging you to hop on a plane to another country so soon after a trauma like that. Waiting for Kate’s return felt right to me. At some point, I hope you’ll see things from my side. Kate put me in the middle, but it’s you I worry about.”
Willing myself to relax, I take his hand to get him to focus on me instead of the floor. “I know that.”
Peter Gregory, an old coworker from my past job at another gallery, is responsible for a young woman’s murder in Lecce, near the Mediterranean Sea on Italy’s eastern shore. Alec and I went to Southern Italy for a working vacation that spun us into solving more than one homicide in order for Alec to sell his dad’s Signorile Corporation, a sports car company.
“After a shower, I’ll give your mom a call from the car on the way home. I might have trouble getting a flight out on the spur of the moment, but if I do, I hope you’ll help me.”
“Anna, we should discuss this.” He catches my wrist. “I’d like to go along. Say the word, and I’m on that plane with you. Allow what’s happened with Kate to simmer. You might feel differently in the morning.”
Grasping Kate’s locket beneath my shirt, I slide the chain over my head and cup Alec’s hand, dropping the necklace there.
“Hold on to my locket while I’m gone. It’s the most precious thing I own. That way, you’ll know I’m coming back to you.” On my tiptoes, our salty kiss calls a loneliness— In a flash, two people are about to have a hemisphere drifting between them from outside influences that want to manipulate us. “Gen will be here to see Noah in a few hours, and you have him until Sunday. Let me go, Alec, and please wait for me at Brookehaven. I have to make this trip by myself. If there’s the slightest chance that Kate’s with Ethan or he knows where she is, I have to go. I’ve already lost precious time.” I start for the drawing room doors and remember something left undone. “Oh, and sorry for the sticky mess in your stable office.”
In a dead run, I’m biting a quivering lip. On the way to Alec’s bedroom suite, I send Chase a text to hold Ethan’s box and note for me at the gallery. True to form, Kate shoves us all out of our comfort zones, where I’m certain to find a disaster waiting for me to book a ticket to New Zealand in a mad rush.
Marlene M. Bell is an award-winning writer and acclaimed artist as well as a photographer. Her sheep landscapes grace the covers of Sheep!, The Shepherd, Ranch & Rural Living and Sheep Industry News, to name a few.
Her catalog Ewephoric began in 1985 out of her desire to locate personalized sheep stationery. She rarely found sheep products through catalogs and set out to design them herself. Ewephoric gifts may be ordered online or request a catalog at TexasSheep.com.
Marlene and her husband, Gregg reside in beautiful East Texas on a wooded ranch with their dreadfully spoiled horned Dorset sheep, a large Maremma guard dog named, Tia, along with Hollywood, Leo and Squeaks, the cats that believe they rule the household—and do.
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