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21 Romance Way (Celebrating Love Trilogy) 

 

21 Romance Way (Book two of the Celebrating Love Trilogy) is available in e-book and paperback at Amazon and in paperback at Barnes & Noble and CreateSpace.

E-book only at SmashwordsKoboSonyApple iTunesDiesel, Baker & Taylor's Blio OmniLit  and All Romance Ebooks

Also available at Amazon UK

Continue the journey from 14 Love Letter Lane as Darcy, Ginny and Andrea take Jim up on a generous business opportunity. Meanwhile, John's past sparks questions about his involvement with the fire at Revive and flames of a different kind sizzle between Darcy and Jim.

 

Chapter One

?Where do we start?? Ginny asked, eyeing the burned-out coffee shop.

?Borrowing a couple brooms and getting a supply of large trash bags, I guess,? Darcy replied.

They headed toward Revive to get a closer look when Douglas Carmichael stepped in their path. ?Sorry, you can?t go in there. A few hot spots still remain. Nothing to be alarmed about, but you wouldn?t want to step into one, I can tell you that from experience.?

?Do you know any more about what caused the fire?? Darcy asked.

The fire chief looked around to make sure no one was within earshot. ?I shouldn?t be telling you this, but we go way back. The perp who threw the bomb attached it to a brick and a standard round alarm clock.?

?Then it was deliberate. I mean, we thought it was, but now there isn?t any doubt, is there?? Ginny asked.

?No, there?s no doubt.?

?You didn?t find, I mean, there weren?t any, um? cat remains in there were there?? Darcy asked tentatively, cringing before she even heard Carm?s answer.

?We didn?t see any remains.?

Darcy looked at Ginny hopefully.

?Carmichael, Detective Wilson is on the phone for you,? a twenty-something police officer yelled from inside a squad car.

?I?ll be right back,? Carm said, then left to take the call.

?I bet she?s okay,? Ginny said. ?When the window broke, Sabrina probably got scared and ran out through the opening. The bomb went off after that.?

?Do you really think so??

?I?m certain of it,? Ginny said with conviction. ?It makes total sense and would explain why they didn?t find any remains. We just need to start looking for her.?

?She could be anywhere.?

?I don?t think she?d go very far. She was an indoor cat. I think she?d want to stay close by.?

?She?s probably scared and hungry and thinks we?ve abandoned her.?

?Cats don?t think about being abandoned. She?d just want to be comfortable. Sabrina has stared out the window of Revive for years. It stands to reason that she would go somewhere she?s seen over and over again.?

They both turned their attention to the view from Revive?s window. The boardwalk was to the left, but there wasn?t anything particularly interesting in that direction, just a lot of wood and a railing.

Straight ahead were a few benches and another railing; the beach and ocean were just beyond.

To the right there was a row of novelty shops, but they wouldn?t have been easy to see from the window.

A kite shop and a home-made ice cream parlor were across the road and down on the right and then Jim?s Flower Shop.

?Bingo!? Ginny said. ?Sabrina has seen Jim before and she must have looked at his shop a million times with all those plants and flowers just waiting to be explored. It would seem like a jungle.?

?Let?s go,? Darcy said.

The young police officer approached them as they headed across the street.

?Are you Ginny Matthews and Darcy Langston??

They nodded.

?I have a couple questions to ask you, then you can be on your way.?

?Okay, but can you hurry, we?re looking for our lost cat?? Darcy asked.

?Uh, sure. Which one of you called 911??

?I did,? Darcy said.

?And, which one of you was first on the scene??

?I was,? Ginny said.

?Why didn?t you call 911??

?I was in a state of shock, I guess. I couldn?t believe the coffee shop was on fire. I just sat in my car staring. Darcy pulled up right behind me and called immediately. Even after she told me she called, I could barely think.?

?You were also the person who closed up the coffee shop last night, is that correct??

?Yes.?

?Just exactly what are you trying to say, Officer?? Darcy looked at the man?s name badge, Gordon??

?I?m not saying anything, just gathering information.?

?We gave all this information to the older and experienced officer who was here this morning. Why don?t you compare notes with him? We?re leaving to go find our cat.? Darcy grabbed Ginny?s arm and pulled her along behind her until she yanked her arm free.

?Darcy! That?s no way to get the police on our side.?

?He was implying you were at fault somehow. I wasn?t going to stand there and listen to that bullshit! Some hot shot snot-nosed kid barely out of grade school dreaming about being a police officer. He has a lot to learn.?

?I bet you could teach him a few things.?

?Pfft!? Darcy rolled her eyes. ?I have one thing on my mind and it isn?t Mr. I?m So Special Because I Wear A Badge.?

Ginny suppressed a grin and glanced over her shoulder at the officer. He was still watching them. This could get interesting.

When they reached the flower shop, they began searching through the plants and flowers in the outside display first.

?Sabrina,? Ginny called as she moved potted plants around so she could see behind them.

Darcy did the same. ?Sabrina!? Darcy yelled.

When their search yielded no luck, they entered the shop.

?Darcy, Ginny, I?m so sorry to hear about Revive. Is Andrea okay?? Jim Watson asked.

?She?s not injured, no one was, thankfully,? Darcy said. ?Of course, she?s really upset about the bombing.?

?There was a bomb? I thought it was just a fire. Someone deliberately destroyed Revive?? Jim asked.

Ginny gave Darcy a look that clearly told her she had a big mouth. ?Mum?s the word about the bomb, Jim. It?s not public knowledge. But, since you already know, yes, it was deliberate. The police are investigating.?

?Damn shame. It?s not like we don?t work hard enough to keep our businesses afloat, especially with all the competition from the shop owners on the boardwalk. Now we have to contend with sabotage.?

Darcy looked at Ginny and the same idea crossed both their minds: Kathy Connelly, the owner of Saltwater Café. She had accused Andrea of trying to sabotage the Saltwater and Boardwalk Beans.

?What?? Jim asked, noticing the exchange.

?We came in here to see if Sabrina, our coffee shop cat, might have found her way here.? Ginny said, avoiding his question.

?We?re hoping,? Darcy added.

?Scott,? Jim yelled, ?have you seen a cat running around here anywhere??

?No. Well, wait a minute, it might have been a cat. This morning when I was making sure everything was watered, I heard a rustling under one of the ivy plants. It kind of freaked me out, to be honest. I just moved to another area of the shop.?

?Show us where,? Jim said.

Scott walked toward the back where a wide array of foliage was layered on shelving units, as well as the floor. ?It was around here somewhere.?

?Sabrina,? Darcy called. They waited, listening for even the slightest sound. Nothing.

?Kitty, kitty,? Ginny said. ?It?s okay. You?re safe.?

?We?ll keep looking,? Jim said. ?Don?t lose hope yet.? He placed his hand on Darcy?s shoulder.

?I?m trying not to,? Darcy said, as she held back tears. Her chin trembled and her lungs felt like they might burst. Every time she thought about little Sabrina running scared or being hit with shards of glass, or worse, her heart broke a little more.

They searched for half an hour. Ginny even got down on her hands and knees, hoping a different vantage point might reveal something they simply couldn?t see from above.

?Maybe she?s just not here,? Scott said.

A customer came into the shop and the bell above the door jingled.

Darcy saw something move behind a fichus tree. ?Over there. Ginny, look!?

?Sabrina!? Ginny yelled, then quickly ran to the place she had seen the blur of movement. Darcy was right behind her.

?It?s got to be her.? Ginny?s eyes filled with tears and she couldn?t see where she was going. She tripped over a small potted plant and slammed into the hardwood floor with a resounding, ?Oomph!?

?Are you okay?? Darcy asked.

?Get the cat,? Ginny yelled.

Darcy saw a flash of white paw and lunged forward into a fern that was half her height. When her hand met soft fur, she yelled, ?Got her!?

She pulled the cat from beneath the protective leaves and held her close. Her excitement turned to concern when she felt her matted hair and realized the cause, dried blood.

?It?s going to be okay,? Darcy whispered to Sabrina. ?We?re going to get you all better and everything is going to be just fine.?

Ginny joined her. ?It?s not as bad as it looks. Listen, she?s purring.?

The room fell silent, except for the sound of Sabrina?s gentle hum.

?Call the vet,? Darcy said.

?I?m on it,? Ginny said, reaching for her cell phone.



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