Every week on First Sight Saturday, a guest author shares an excerpt of a first meeting. Today I welcome author Kristy Tate with her lovely romantic mystery The Rhyme’s Library.
Kristy Tate is a mother of six, but now that her children are grown she would like to start a Schnauzer farm. Unfortunately, Grendal, her lone Schnauzer, doesn’t share Kristy’s passion for motherhood. Bereft of babies and puppies, Kristy now spends her time writing books.
Crazy Aunt Charlotte is missing again. Blair Rhyme, Rose Arbor’s young librarian, doesn’t bother to check Charlotte’s regular haunts — the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars lodge, the Four H-Club, or the bins behind Milton’s Fish shop – because Charlotte is dead. Blair discovered her body amongst the boxes of what-nots and whatevers in the library’s basement. Unfortunately, when she returns to the library with the police Charlotte is missing. Again.
Desperate to prove that she doesn’t share her aunt’s mental illness and that Charlotte really has been murdered, Blair tangles with a former lover, a disturbingly handsome stranger and a wacky cast of Rose Arbor characters.
CHAPTER TWO Where Claire first meets Alec
At first Blair tries to dismiss the skin-pricking sensation of being watched, but as small disturbances grow increasingly threatening, she must confront the enemies, real or imagined, that drove her aunt to madness and death in the Rhyme’s Library.
Stumbling through the gloom and maze of boxes of debris, Blair tripped once over a viola case and tore a hole in her socks. Righting herself, she plunged through the clutter to the top of the stairs and finally reached the phone and caught her breath. Picking up the receiver, she knew immediately that it too was dead. She scrambled through her purse for her cell phone. Dead as well. She remembered that she hadn’t been able to pay her last bill and her service had been cut. She couldn’t call anyone for help. Heading out the door, she took about three steps into the storm before returning for her shoes. No shoes. Where were they? She had left them on the porch. Who would take them and why?
Inexpensive, dirty, size six shoes that no one could possibly want to steal.
Blair stared into the library, trying to solve a puzzle with missing pieces. Charlotte dead, a face in the window, her shoes missing. Was she alone? Somewhere from inside the library a door slammed. Just the wind, Blair told herself, but when the kitten cried, Blair darted down the library steps.
Staggering more than running in a straight skirt, Blair cast a backward glance at the library high on Olympic hill. Rain pelted her face and soaked her blouse as she ran toward Main Street and downtown. A streak of lightning cracked the gray sky. Thunder rolled with such intensity that it shook the sidewalk. Above her, wood cracked as a pine bough broke in the wind. It tumbled to land in a heap beside her. Fallen twigs and branches scattered on the sidewalk and poked through her socks. Clutching the kitten’s creel, she ran the quarter of a mile to the closest house.
Aside from her brief years in college, she had lived in Rose Arbor since Charlotte’s accident. Blair knew the streets well. The flags of the United States and the State of Washington had been left raised and they flapped, snapped in the wind. Tiny pulleys attached to the cords holding the flags pinged against the metal flag pole.
Blinded by fear mingled with rain, Blair ran into a large, warm expanse of flannel. For a small moment a slicker engulfed her, and then she tangled with an umbrella. She slipped on the wet pavement and fell hard on her hands and knees. The creel landed beside her and the cat cried in protest. Rain and embarrassment washed over her. She pulled the creel onto her lap and checked its strap.
“Are you all right?” A tall man with wavy, honey colored hair gazed at her with kind green eyes. Stooping to pull her upright, his large hand swallowed hers. “You’re shaking.”
Stepping out of the umbrella’s protective canopy, and back into the storm, Blair tried to rally her thoughts as large, wet maple leaves cart-wheeled by and attached themselves to her legs. She shook herself, managed to run a trembling hand through her hair and stammered at the man, “Excuse me.”
“Here, let me help you,” he said, holding the umbrella over her.
“No, thank you,” she murmured, stepping away from him.
“Don’t you have a coat, or anything?” He followed her, umbrella held high.
Blair shook her head as wind whipped through her hair, and tugged at her wet blouse.
“Wait!” he called, hurrying beside her. “Would you like a ride?”
“I’m not going far.” She pressed on.
“Let me come with you,” he said, easily overtaking her and blocking her path. He looked pointedly at her stocking feet. “Let me help you.” He bowed his umbrella toward her. His eyes traveled over her. “Have you been fishing?” he asked.
He pointed at the fishing creel.
“Excuse me, please.” She pushed past him, but he easily kept pace. I don’t have time for this, she thought and the words became her internal mantra.
“Where are your shoes?”
Blair tried to match his face with the one at the window. It could have been him. Trying to ignore him, she stubbed her toe on an uneven bit of sidewalk and dropped the creel again. He caught her arm before she fell.
The kitten shot out of the creel. Blair, shook the stranger off, tripped toward the escaping kitten and stubbed another toe on another bump in the sidewalk. “Bugger that,” Blair swore.
The man laughed. Blair looked into his good-natured face, and fought the temptation to smack him. With her throbbing toes, Blair limped after the cat now scrambling up a trunk of a maple.
“Kitty, kitty,” Blair called. The cat scampered out of reach, lost in a maze of branches.
Rain and tears trickled down Blair’s face.
“I’ll get her. What’s her name?” The man’s voice lost its teasing tone and softened.
“Mouchard.” Blair closed her eyes and a vision of Charlotte lying on the floor of the basement flashed in her mind. Her legs went weak she reached out to brace herself against the tree trunk.
An old Ford wagon splattered up the street, and stopped at the curb. “Blair?” Emily rolled down the window. The wind ruffled Emily’s gray curls and teased the batik scarf draped over her shoulders.
At the sight of a familiar, friendly face, Blair’s shoulders sagged in relief. “Can you take me to the police?”
“Of course, dear,” Emily said as she climbed from the car. “You look a fright.” She stood in the rain, a sixty year old with a teenage body in designer jeans and a hip T-shirt. Emily, who would have been older than Blair’s mother, always made Blair feel about as vogue as an old boot. In all the years she known her, Blair had never seen Emily looking “a fright.”
Blair glanced at the kitten and then at the man.
“I’ll save the cat,” he said.
“And we’ll get the police to find your shoes,” Emily said over the car roof.
END OF EXCERPT
Thank you, Kristy, for visiting on First Sight Saturday. We welcome comments from readers, and hope you will all come back next week to enjoy another first meeting.