Then she walked into the business office, and her Zen mood flew out the window. Everything wasn’t fine; it was in chaos. Lucy was standing in the doorway of an office at the back of the room barking orders to six employees. She clutched a Pearson Furniture catalog against her chest as she shouted. She looked a fright. Her bangs were sticking up on end; her horn-rimmed reading glasses were tilted precariously on the tip of her nose, and her cheeks were bloodred. Her sweet—most of the time—problem-solving, level-headed sister had turned into a raving maniac.

Peyton was mortified. She quickly said hello to the employees she knew and introduced herself to the rest, then suggested they take off for the evening, promising them it would be much better tomorrow. From the look on Lucy’s face, it couldn’t get worse.

She tackled Lucy next, all but shoving her into the office before shutting the door.

“What is wrong with you? You don’t shout at your staff. That’s horribly disrespectful. You treat them the way you want to be treated.”

Lucy wasn’t in the mood for a lecture. “This place is a mess. I’ve done nothing but put out fires since I got here.” She dropped the book on the desk and folded her arms across her chest. “What took you so long? I expected you days ago.”

“I was busy packing your stuff and putting it in storage. What’s with the attitude, Lucy?”

Her sister closed her eyes for a few seconds. “I’m tired,” she admitted.

“What about the general manager? Christopher . . .”

“Ellison,” Lucy supplied. “He doesn’t take suggestions well. I can’t work with him.”

“Uncle Len thinks highly of him.”

Lucy shrugged. That reminder obviously wasn’t important to her. “I won’t fire him, not yet anyway. He needs to know I’m in charge.”

That comment jarred Peyton. “You’re what?”

“I’ve already made some changes . . . necessary changes,” she said. “I’m just so weary of everyone fighting me on every little thing.”

“You need to calm down.”

“You have no idea the pressure I’m under.”

She didn’t want to get into an argument with her sister, so she didn’t call her a drama queen. Instead she asked, “What was Debi doing here? I saw her leaving the office.”

“She wants in on Bishop’s Cove. She said she made a mistake taking the money instead of King’s Landing. You’re not going to believe how much it sold for,” she added.

Peyton recalled that Debi had been smiling when she left the office. She started to get a bad feeling. “What did she do when you told her no?”

Lucy braced herself. “I didn’t tell her no. In fact, I agreed to let her in. The four of us will run Bishop’s Cove.” She put her hand up before Peyton could protest and said, “She’s trying to save her marriage. She told me Sean wanted to run King’s Landing, but she was against it. She wanted the money. She’s sorry about her choice now. They’ve already spent quite a lot of it.”

“No,” Peyton said emphatically. “Debi is not going to be part of this. She’s lying. Sean would never want to run a resort. That would mean he’d have to work.”

Lucy rounded the desk and dropped onto a chair. “It’s done. I’ve made the decision, and you’re going to have to live with it.”

Lucy expected her sister to put up a fight. She was unprepared for her laughter.

“Did Dad call and ask you to let Debi get her way?”

“Yes. You know the drill. Debi will win. She always does. Whatever she wants, she gets by siccing her father, our dear uncle Brian, and our father on us. I gave in to save time.”

“You know it would be a nightmare. She wouldn’t lift a finger; she’d fight over every decision, and Sean is completely useless. You didn’t really believe he wanted to run King’s Landing, did you? No, it’s out of the question.”

Lucy’s lips were pursed. “I already told Dad I’ll let Debi be part of this.”

“When did you talk to him?”

“Just a few minutes ago while Debi was here. She listened in.”

Peyton pulled out her cell phone, hit speed dial, and waited for her father to answer.

“Hi, Dad. Love you,” she began. “I called to let you know that Debi isn’t going to be joining us at Bishop’s Cove. Lucy was having a little nervous breakdown when she agreed. She forgot that it would take all three of us to decide to let Debi in, and neither Ivy nor I would ever do that. Do you want me to call Uncle Brian or will you?”

She was relieved to hear that her father would call his brother and give him the decision but warned Peyton she had better be ready for a fight.

The second she ended the call, Lucy said, “You know this isn’t over. Debi will make all sorts of trouble.”

“She can try,” she said. “Give me her cell phone number.”

A minute later Sean answered. She asked to speak to Debi, but Sean, who had the personality of a three-toed sloth, explained that his wife was too busy to talk.

“That’s okay,” Peyton said in a gratingly cheerful voice. “Just give her a message from me. Tell her she is never going to be part of Bishop’s Cove. We don’t want her . . . or you . . . to have anything to do with this resort. You had your chance to run King’s Landing, and you turned it down for the money. Live with it, Sean. You aren’t touching ours. Bye now.”

Sean was shouting, “Wait . . . wait . . .” as Peyton disconnected the call.

Lucy had stopped frowning and was slowly regaining her sense of humor. “I’ll bet they’re in the car. Debi told me they were staying at a motel off the main highway. She thinks the two of them will move into this hotel . . . free of charge, of course. She’s probably turning around right now. Hope you’re up for the screaming match that’s coming.”

“I’m not going to scream,” Peyton said. “And I’m not in the mood to see them tonight.” She found the resort directory and made one more phone call to the gatehouse, informing the security guard that Debi and Sean Payne were not allowed in, no matter what reason they gave.

“That’s not going to deter them,” Lucy scoffed. “They’ll park at one of Cassady’s high-rises and walk the beach to get to us.”

“It’s a very long walk, and it will slow them down. Let’s go get something to eat. I’m starving.”

Their two phones rang at the same time.

Lucy picked hers up and looked at the screen. “Sean’s calling me.”

“Debi’s calling me,” Peyton said.

Both sisters turned off their phones as they walked out the door.


Finn had just finished a grueling interrogation. Both he and Ronan couldn’t have been nicer to the suspect, Jory Tyson, and his inept attorney. It was a real stretch for Ronan, who much preferred terrifying the suspect to befriending him to get what he wanted, but in this instance that wouldn’t have worked. Charm ruled the day. Ronan went to get a cola for Tyson while Finn sat across from him and chatted about everything from the weather to Billy Kearns’s batting average.

It didn’t take Finn long to figure out how the suspect’s twisted mind worked. Tyson wanted to prove how smart he was, and all Finn had to do was guide him in that direction, three hours of back-and-forth until Tyson was so relaxed and comfortable he stopped fencing and began to do some real boasting. It was obvious he was proud of his accomplishments. Tyson knew they had him cold for two murders and understood he would be going away. In the hope of becoming a celebrity in prison—a possibility Finn had suggested—he told them about two other women he’d killed. He even gave them directions to the park where he had buried them.

Finn ended up spending the entire day with Tyson, and by the time he got home, all he wanted was a shower and a beer . . . and Peyton. It was funny how she would pop into his thoughts and he’d find himself smiling. He wanted to call her, but he didn’t. They were wrong for each other. She was eight years younger than he was, and she certainly didn’t have his warped ideas about marriage. She probably wanted a family. He didn’t. They were going in opposite directions. He’d told her he was moving to Dallas, but now there was talk that he’d be transferred to D.C. She was going to live at Bishop’s Cove for at least a year, probably longer.

He shouldn’t have taken her to bed. He had let the situation get out of hand. Yet, he wasn’t sorry for any of it. Their night together was incredible . . . but it was just one night. He knew that if he saw her again, the same thing would happen. And so he didn’t call her.

While he was debating all the reasons he should leave Peyton alone, Mark Campbell phoned.

“About Peyton,” Mark began and then hesitated.

“Yeah? What do you think?”

“I’d marry her in a heartbeat,” he said. “That’s what I think. I’m still mad you didn’t mention how frickin’ pretty she is. Nearly bowled me over when she walked in.”

“Yeah, yeah, she’s pretty,” Finn agreed, letting his irritation show. “You already mentioned that fact last phone call, and we both agreed she’s frickin’ pretty. Now let it go.”

“Do you think she’d go out with me?”

“Depends. Do you have any cats? She loves cats. The more you have, the better your chances.”

Mark laughed. “I guess I’ll have to get some.”

“She lives in Florida now. You live in Brentwood. It’d be a hell of a commute. Tell me why you called.”

Serious now, Mark said, “I know a guy who knows a guy, and he did a little investigating for me. I’m telling you, Finn, Albertson is dangerous,” he added. “But I figure you already know that. What I found out is that he goes ice fishing and hunting with a buddy who’s a real badass. Name’s Rick Parsons.”

“Yeah, I know about him.”

“He’s got a record a mile long. He’s been hauled in on assault charges a couple of times, did a short stint in prison a while back for drug trafficking, and his most recent prison stay was for armed robbery. Doesn’t look like he can stay out of trouble. He now works for Albertson at the magazine and also does other odd jobs for him. These aren’t nice people, and I hate to think about Peyton going up against them.”

“I don’t like it, either. Let me think about this and get back to you.”

He had only just disconnected the call when the phone rang again. Peyton was on the line. He was surprised by how relieved he was to hear her voice.

“I hate to bother you,” she said. “I’ve just got one quick question. When you were looking at my car, did you happen to notice any bullet holes in the roof?”

“No, I . . . bullet holes?” He tried to sound calm. “No, there weren’t any bullet holes in the roof.”

She muttered something he couldn’t hear, and then said, “Finn, someone shot at me again.”

He didn’t hesitate. “I’m on my way.”


There was a screaming match going on inside the lobby of Bishop’s Cove, and Finn walked right into the middle of it. The hotel was undergoing a renovation, so no guests were present to witness the battle that was raging among the small group gathered by the front desk.

Peyton’s full attention was on the spectacle. Debi was throwing a rather theatrical tantrum complete with tears and torn tissues. Everything about the woman was excessive. From her overly bleached hair to her tarantula eyelashes to her surgically amplified chest—it was apparent that moderation was definitely not her strong suit. Her husband, Sean, a large man with a receding hairline and a potbelly that suggested an aversion to physical activity, was trying his best to keep up with her. He actually stomped his foot once or twice to make his point.

Lucy stood in the thick of the fight. Her responses to the pair bounced back and forth between shouting and cringing. She hated drama unless, of course, she was the one causing it and there was a principle at stake.

When first confronted by the angry couple, Lucy had been quite calm and reasonable as she told them that all three sisters had to agree to let Debi join them in this venture. She then informed them that Peyton had refused. If they had a problem, they should take it up with her. For the first few minutes, Lucy had been relatively composed, but when Debi started making threats, she lost it.

“I’ll ruin this place,” Debi shouted. “I can do it, too. You’re not pushing me out of this.”

“You were never in it,” Lucy reminded.

Christopher Ellison, the general manager, a tall and tanned man with laugh lines around his eyes, stood next to Peyton, waiting for the storm to be over. He was an impartial observer and seemed to be taking it all in stride.

“This is mortifying,” Peyton whispered. Dear God, she was actually related to these people.

Christopher heard her comment and, in an attempt to offer sympathy and support, put his arm around her shoulder and patted her. “Maybe I should come back later,” he said. “This seems to be a family issue.”

Finn walked over and stood behind Peyton. He could have politely asked the guy next to her to remove his arm from her shoulder, but he chose to shove the arm away instead. He didn’t even try to reason why he was acting so territorial. He simply didn’t like another man touching her, and so he stopped it.

Peyton was still focused on the argument and didn’t notice Finn. Debi’s voice had risen to a teeth-grinding level, and her wrath was now turned on Peyton.

“You better agree to let me in on this, or you’ll be sorry. I’ll burn this place to the ground if I have to. If I can’t make any money, neither can you,” Debi shrieked.

“It’s time for you and Sean to leave,” Peyton said.

Debi tried another tack. “I’m trying to save my marriage,” she cried. “And you’re ruining it.”

When she paused to take a breath, Peyton said, “Maybe you’ll do better with your next one.”

Neither Debi nor Sean liked hearing that. Sean nudged his wife out of his way so he could get in Peyton’s face. He pointed a long, chubby finger at her and said, “You could save yourself some time. We both know that Debi’s father will force you to do the right thing. You can’t say no to him.”

Peyton folded her arms across her chest defiantly. “I already did say no to him. I’m through talking about this. Now please leave.” Copyright 2016 - 2024