Congratulations C. J. Baty on the release of Crashing Waves, Book 2 in the Warfield Hotel Mysteries series.
Justin Warfield ran away to Italy to put the events of last summer and a certain dark-haired private eye behind him, to no avail. If anything, he can’t help but rehash what happened over and over. When he finally returns to South Carolina, the hotel he runs with his brother has suffered a series of incidents that are starting to look less accidental after a death threat is received.
Not satisfied that Moses Lee and his local police will find the culprit, Peter Warfield calls in the services of his good friend Marcus Drummond to help. Marcus is torn. He wants to help his friend, but he also knows that if Justin has moved on after their failed flirtation last summer, he will be devastated.
Tensions mount as danger seems to follow them at every turn, stalking them as they get closer to solving the mystery of who is behind the sabotage of the hotel.
Enjoy this first look at Crashing Waves.
Enjoy this first look at Crashing Waves.
JUSTIN WARFIELD WRAPPED the blanket tighter around his body. Though the ocean didn’t quite reach the dune where he sat this early in the morning, the air was chilly and damp. It was mid-October, and the beach was deserted. Even the locals didn’t spend much time here at this time of the year. Waves crashed and pummeled the tiny shells and rocks into submission along the shoreline. Seaweed and driftwood littered the sandy beach going north and south as far as the eye could see.
The sky was overcast, gray. Dark clouds sure to bring a heavy rain storm later in the day matched Justin’s mood and his thoughts. Not for the first time, Justin realized this place—the ocean, the beach, the dunes—were a part of him. At any given time, he could come here and see his life played out in nature. He picked up a nearby stick and began to draw circles in the sand by his feet. His shoulder ached, a constant reminder of the events from the past summer. His thoughts drifted exactly where he knew they would. He didn’t want them to go there, but it was no use to try to stop them.
Marcus Drummond had been gone for three months, but Justin had been unable to get him out of his mind for a single day. If he wasn’t in his thoughts, then he dreamed of him. Going to Italy for a much-needed vacation should have helped, but if he was honest with himself, he’d been hiding. He had run away after being forced to come out publicly and the fear of what an open relationship with Marcus meant. Of course, now that he was home, he thought of Marcus even more.
It was beginning to be ridiculous. After all, he’d pushed the man out of his life, driven him away. Marcus had done exactly what Justin had wanted him to do. He’d left Beaufort and moved on. At least that was what Justin told everyone he wanted. The truth was a lot more complicated. He was afraid. Afraid of failing Marcus on every level. As foolish as everyone thought he was, suddenly being thrust from the safety of his locked-tight closet after so many years was not an easy thing for Justin. His younger brother, Peter, had hounded him for weeks to contact Marcus, to go after him, but had finally dropped it after he saw just how much pain it caused Justin to keep bringing up his best friend now that he was gone.
He didn’t want to think about Marcus. It only added to the maelstrom of conflict that he was still riding. Justin’s emotions ran the gambit on a daily basis. One minute, sure of who he was and what he wanted. The next moment he would plunge into despair and sadness so deep he physically ached from it. When he’d returned from Europe two months ago, he moved out of the hotel into the family home and that had helped. Surrounded by the loving support of the Manor’s caretakers, Michaels and Winnie had helped even more. They were more like parents than his actual parents had ever been. The sweet couple was helping him to restore the Manor. They never asked about his personal affairs or lack thereof. The only thing they wanted to do was make him feel comfortable and take care of his needs. He’d been able to work through his own messed up thoughts as he worked to restore the Warfield Manor to its glory days. More importantly, the Manor had no memories of the brief time he and Marcus had shared together. The hotel was filled with them.
The cell phone inside Justin’s pocket vibrated and pulled him away from his thoughts. One look at the incoming text message had him on his feet.
Come to the bar. Hurry!
Peter needed him.
He made his way back across the dunes to the flat sandy field sparsely covered in grass between the beach and the Warfield Hotel. He entered through the door on the left side of the back veranda and quickly made his way up the hall to enter the bar from the back.
“There’s too much of a coincidence. All of these accidents happening within the last few months. Peter, someone is sabotaging the hotel. It’s the only explanation. I’ll be right back.”
Robert Wyler sounded agitated, so Justin quickened his pace to see what had happened now, only to find Robert had left the bar through the main doorway and was heading down the hall toward the offices. As he took another step into the room, broken glass crackled under his shoes and wetness seeped into the canvas.
“What the hell?”
Peter was standing in front of the back wall of the bar but swiveled around at the sound of Justin’s voice. As he moved, Justin caught sight of red paint scrawled across the glass mirror.
Get out before it all comes falling down around you and someone dies.
Shivering, Justin briefly wondered if this had anything to do with Caroline and the other deaths last summer. It didn’t seem likely. Caroline was dead now, and even though he didn’t like to think it true, his wife had admitted to killing his former lovers. This must be something entirely different. He just couldn’t think of who would want to do this.
“Peter,” Justin said as he clasped his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “I don’t know who is doing this, or why, but now that I’m back, we’ll figure this out together.”
“Why would anyone want to destroy the Warfield? It just doesn’t make any sense. Who could hate us this much?”
Justin had hardly ever seen his younger brother this troubled. He was usually the happy go lucky one of the two of them. It hurt to think that he had somehow let his brother down . . . again, by not being here when Peter had needed him.
“I don’t know, but I do know we’re going to get to the bottom of this,” Justin assured Peter.
Their conversation quickly came to a halt when a familiar voice caught both brothers off guard.
“Goddamn, can’t you Warfield boys stay out of trouble for more than a day or two,” Chief Moses Lee said, clearly not expecting an answer.
“Who the hell called you?” Justin asked as he glared at the big black man. This was the last person on earth he wanted to see in his hotel again.
“I called him, Justin. We all know someone is causing this shit, and he needs to do something about it,” Robert answered, joining the group gathered in the bar.
Robert looked toward Justin. A subtle grin spread across his face. Justin felt his cheeks flush, and he turned away quickly to face Chief Lee.
Moses Lee took out a notebook and walked around the room. His boots made squishy sounds as they tramped across the damp carpet. He stopped in front of the large plate glass mirror behind the bar. He made a few more marks in his notebook then closed it.
“I’ve got a forensic crew on the way, though I doubt we’ll find any prints. Don’t start your clean up until they’ve finished. I’ll have them take several shots of the message,” he said as he pointed his notebook at the mirror. “Seems like you’ve made yourselves an enemy.” He smiled and added, “Two of my deputies will be taking your statements and talking to a couple of the guests. I’ve got to see to another matter. See you boys later.” Then he left as quickly as he had appeared.
“I get the feeling that he isn’t taking these accidents seriously,” Robert growled as the police chief exited the building. “Why send deputies to question us when he’s right here?”
“What can we do about it? He is the Chief of Police,” Peter replied.
Justin shrugged and turned to survey the mess again.
“There’s going to be a lot of cleanup work to do. Let me know as soon as the deputies and forensic team get here. I’ll call and rent some equipment to help clean up this mess. Then I’ll call Joe and have him and Alexander go by Duke’s Hardware to pick it up. I’ll be in the office if you need me.”
Two hours later, all three of them had given their statements to the deputies and the forensic team had finished and gone. Justin had finally reached Joe, and he was on his way to pick up the needed equipment. Justin needed Peter or Robert to take a complete inventory of the stock that was destroyed, and he’d forgotten to mention it earlier. He left his office and headed back to the lounge. He hadn’t meant to overhear their conversation, but Peter’s words stopped him as he rounded the corner.
“So how have the dates been going?” Peter asked between the sounds of glass shattering in a trashcan.
“Dates?” Another bottle landed in the trashcan.
“Dinner dates. You know those couple of times you and Justin . . .” Peter trailed off.
“I wouldn’t exactly call them dates. We’ve shared a meal twice and one of them was lunch in the hotel. It’s pretty clear Justin isn’t ready for any kind of relationship, other than friendship at this point.” Robert’s voice quieted before he added, “I’m not going to push him, Peter.”
“Have you told him how you feel,” Peter asked between more glass shattering.
“No, and I don’t plan on it, so can we just let it go?”
Neither man said another word. Only the sounds of their continued clean up of the bar could be heard. Justin swallowed the breath he’d been holding and slipped down the corridor to the manager’s office and closed the door quietly behind him.
Sitting at the large oak desk in the middle of the room, Justin studied the view from the office window. Robert’s words came floating back. Was he ready to move on? Was he ready to become involved openly with another man? An image of Marcus, his hair dripping with water from a rain shower they’d been caught in, formed before his eyes. His heart ached for what never had a chance to begin between them.
The morning he’d sat on the beach last May contemplating turning forty played in his mind as well. Two things stood out . . . he was still drifting, and he was still alone. He’d screwed up majorly with Marcus Drummond, and there was no way to fix that now, even if he could admit he wanted to. Would it hurt to try with someone else? Robert? He would never want to hurt or lead Robert on. Robert was a good man and had been a huge help to Peter while Justin had been away. He’d have to be honest about everything, including his confusion over Marcus. A soft knock at the door drew his thoughts away from the path they were headed.
“Just wanted to know if you’d called Duke’s and Joe?” Robert asked from behind the partly open door.
“Yes, the equipment is ready for Joe now. Is there a another problem?” Justin asked, looking at Robert closer than he had before.
Robert had rolled the sleeves up on his white dress shirt while he’d been working in the bar. Justin knew a little further up his arms barbed wire tattoos circled his biceps. Soft-gray eyes looked across the room at him, as Robert shook his head no. His ponytail of dark blond hair was pulled to the back of his head and held tight by a leather strap. It hung softly over his shoulder. Though he and Robert were probably close in age, Justin had learned the hard way that age had nothing to do with being attracted to someone.
“No, just don’t forget we need something that will suck up all that liquid.” A smile crossed Robert’s lips after he registered the double meaning of his own words.
“You know I meant a shop vac . . . right?”
Justin laughed and said, “Yes, I knew what you meant.”
His smile fading, Robert nodded. “The sooner Joe gets here the better. I don’t think we’re going to be able to open the bar again until we see if the carpet can be saved.” Robert waved and started to close the door, calling out, “Later.”
Justin made one of those spur of the moment decisions he hoped he wouldn’t regret. He stood from his desk and called after Robert, “Wait.”
Robert pushed the door open again and stepped into the office, a questioning look on his face.
Suddenly more nervous than he had ever been in his life, Justin took a deep breath and went for it. “Would you . . . I mean, I know things are a little hectic around here but . . .”
Robert smiled softly and Justin relaxed.
“Would you like to have dinner with me tomorrow night? I heard about a new place in town. Thought we could try it out?” Justin was proud he hadn’t stumbled over one word that time.
The half grin Robert had been wearing morphed into an eye-twinkling smile. “Yes, I would like to have dinner with you. Seven-thirty okay with you?”
Justin’s head slipped up and down slowly.
“Later,” Robert said again as he walked backward through the door and closed it softly behind him.
Suddenly, even with a destroyed bar and a death threat, Justin’s world looked a little brighter than it had this morning.
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