Ten minutes after arriving in Pirate’s Landing, Sabrina Hitchcock questioned her decision-making skills. She needed a job, true, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to live in a town that looked like it came out of a paint-by-numbers set from the 1970s. It was beautiful, but it was, to say the least, just a little creepy.
She should have made a visit up here before accepting the job. Three telephone interviews gave her an idea of what it would be like to run the library in this town of four thousand people, but the photos she’d looked at on the internet, and the research she’d done on the town, didn’t really give the whole picture.
For some reason she’d thought the pastel-fronted storefronts and the beautiful Victorian houses that she’d seen had just been part of what Pirate’s Landing had to offer. But, it turns out, it was all it had to offer. Every house was a Victorian, and every store looked like something painted by Norman Rockwell.
Would the people all be the same? Would they all be cookie cutter types that didn’t put a toe out of line? Maybe this was a zombie town, and nestled amongst the beautiful Victorian buildings, the only thing allowed due to a city ordinance, were zombies who ate the newcomers.
That would explain the fact that the last two people who held the job had not stayed long. The one before her had left after two months, and the one before her had been in Pirate’s Landing for six months, and had vanished without a trace.
Sabrina, known for her research skills, had not been able to find a trace of the woman, known as Linda Mace. Sabrina had tried to call the library clerk before her, Francis Cooke, but the woman had ignored her calls. All of that had left a bad feeling in the back of Sabrina’s mind. It had made her nerves tingle and her mind scream at her to stay away from Pirate’s Landing.
But then the foreclosure notice had come. It wasn’t for her, but for her landlord, a wonderful elderly gentleman who had fallen on hard times. Sabrina had been doing part-time work for more than a year, and the little bit of savings she had was almost gone. She’d looked for another place to live, but they all wanted deposits and first and last month’s rent at the same time. It was money Sabrina did not have. Which meant she would either have to find something in a part of Dallas where she did not want to live, or move to a smaller town where she could afford to live.
And then the notice had popped up on an employment board: WANTED: Librarian for small facility in Pirate’s Cove, Maine. Pay $1,000 a month, room and board paid. It gave a phone number and a name: Mrs. Potter.
Sabrina had immediately Googled Pirate’s Cove, and learned that it was now a small tourist town, known for all-summer long festivities celebrating the pirates that had founded the town back in the 1700s. It was also known for the artist’s colony that was nearby.
A thousand dollars a month wasn’t much money, but if they paid the room and board, well that was a big plus.
Her next stop on the internet had been the library website. The photo of the physical building had made her mouth drop open. It was a three-story Victorian with a widow’s walk on the top floor. According to the site the library was housed on the first two floors and the library clerk had an apartment on the top floor.
Sabrina had closed her eyes and thought about taking her coffee out on the widow’s walk, the cool air from the ocean drifting over her as she drank and read a novel. The idea had been enough for her to respond to the ad without doing any more research. The phone interviews had gone well, and she’d taken the job without coming to visit, even though she’d never been in New England in her life.
She’d never seen the ocean, had actually never been out of Texas. She told herself this was an adventure, something she could tell her grandchildren about—if she ever had any.
But now, as she stood in front of the library and looked up she wondered why she’d jumped in feet first.
They’d wanted her to start right away, and she’d agreed, mainly because her current home was about to be ripped out from under her feet. So she’d sold her furniture, none of which had sentimental value to her, packed her books in her 1966 Mustang and driven cross-country.
She’d used the proceeds from her garage sale to stay two nights in Boston and visit historic sights, including the Old North Church, the Tea Party Museum, and Beacon Hill. And, being a library clerk, she made a visit to the Boston Public Library.
Now that she was in New England she planned on using her weekends off to visit places she’d always dreamed about seeing. Boston was just the first stop.
Now, she was parked in front of her new home. She looked up at the third story and the widow’s walk that looked out over the cove. Her heart went pitter-patter as she thought about waking up there, about what she could see… endless ocean.
Sabrina turned to the woman standing next to her. She was short and compact, with hair as gray as the morning mist.
“Mrs. Parker? Or may I call you Mary?”
“Miss Hitchcock, we prefer to stay formal here at the Pirate’s Landing Lending Library.” Mrs. Parker glanced behind Sabrina. “I didn’t know you were bringing a vehicle. The streets here are old, and very narrow. You’ll have to put your vehicle in storage and walk, as all Pirate’s Landing residents do.”
“That will be good for my heart,” Sabrina said. “But storage? Is there not a garage attached to the house?”
Mrs. Parker reeled back as if Sabrina had slapped her across the face.
“Miss Hitchcock, this house is more than two hundred years old.” She opened her mouth and then stopped speaking as if to gather her thoughts. When she didn’t continue, Sabrina inclined her head ever so slightly.
“Surely the house has been upgraded since then.” Sabrina pointed with her right hand. “We’re so near the ocean. I would think the salt would be bad for the wood. It can’t be original.”
“Of course not.” Mrs. Parker sniffed in derision. “But, we would never, and I mean never, think about adding a garage to such an historic building. And as I said, the streets here are narrow.”
Sabrina knew that much. She’d noticed it while she’d been driving around town when she first arrived.
“You’ll have to give me the name of someone who could help me with the storage issue,” Sabrina said.
“I’ll give you my nephew’s name,” Mrs. Parker said.
Of course you can, Sabrina said to herself.
“In the meantime let’s go into the building and you can see what you’ve gotten yourself into.”
Her tone of voice suggested Sabrina had nabbed the best offering on the planet, and when Mrs. Parker opened the front door and Sabrina stepped inside she thought the older woman might be right. There was a turnstile entrance, surrounded by security bars, and Sabrina almost asked what it had taken to put in such a modern apparatus.
The library had many historical documents, she knew, because many of them were listed on the website. Many of their patrons would be doing research on the second floor, which was by appointment only and staffed by none other than Mrs. Parker.
Sabrina’s job would be handling fiction and non-fiction on the first floor, and living on the third floor.
“No one goes above the first floor without an appointment,” Mrs. Parker said. “We are very selective about the people we allow to view those things.” She waved her hand dismissively at the stacks in the main room. “This will be your world. You will be in charge of ordering popular fiction, which means you have to stay in touch with what people are reading. We have quite a few patrons who come in to gather reading materials. Get to know them and keep track of what they want.”
“Of course,” Sabrina said. “When do I get to see the second floor?”
“You don’t,” Mrs. Parker said. “The staircase stops on the landing. The door to the archives is locked, and I have the only key. There is a second doorway there that is also locked.” She took a key out of her pocket. “This is for that door. There is a spiral staircase beyond that which leads to your apartment.”
Sabrina said a silent prayer of thanks that the apartment was furnished and she wouldn’t have to worry about moving a bed, or couch, up a spiral staircase.
“You will have no parties in your new home, nor will you entertain gentlemen,” Mrs. Parker said.
Sabrina swallowed a laugh as she thought about a list of dos and don’ts for schoolteachers in the 1920s. One of the main rules had been that teachers would not ride in cars with men unless it was her father or brother. A sneaky suspicion ran up her spine as she thought about the possibility that she’d placed herself in a situation where other people had control of her.
Not that she had that much to be in control of. She was thirty-four years old and it had been almost a decade since she’d had a man in her life. She had hoped that would change with her move to New England, but with Mrs. Parker’s announcement she doubted it would. It was on the tip of her tongue to ask if the head librarian offered a stipend so that in the off chance Sabrina did meet a man she could rent a hotel room to get to know her new friend.
Something told her Mrs. Parker wouldn’t appreciate that bit of humor, so she kept her mouth shut. She wanted to keep to library business.
“May I ask why I don’t get to see the archives, or the rare book room?”
“Because that is my territory,” Mrs. Parker said, her tone dripping with acid.
It was almost as if she’d slapped Sabrina across the face. She hadn’t been this much of a snit when she’d interviewed Sabrina over the phone. In fact she’d been very pleasant. She’d even laughed a few times.
“May I explore the first floor?” Sabrina asked.
“Of course,” Mrs. Parker said, her voice now dripping with honey. Just like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Sabrina thought. Maybe she has a chemistry lab tucked away on the second floor where she makes her potions that keeps her bad side under control.
She took a step into the main room and drank it all in. It was magnificent, decorated in pastels just like the rest of the town. The shelves were made out of light wood, and there were various wingback chairs scattered around, giving patrons a place to sit and read their selections.
“The pictures don’t do this room justice,” Sabrina said. “It is so inviting.”
“We’ve worked hard to make it that way,” Mrs. Parker said. “Miss Hitchcock, the desk is in the corner. The books all contain modern barcodes for checkout, and there is a security checkpoint, as you saw when you came in. Now, we don’t allow food or drink, and patrons are allowed to take out ten items at a time.”
The website had given the number of books in the collection, but Sabrina couldn’t remember the number. She knew this library had books only. No DVDs, audio books, or music CDs. They didn’t have ebooks for check out either, something she wanted to talk with Mrs. Parker about, but she didn’t want to do it right now. The subject would be best left until Sabrina had settled in.
“I can’t wait to get started,” she said.
“Mrs. Sharp will be your first patron on Monday afternoon,” Mrs. Parker said. “Remember, we are open Monday-Friday, from one to five.”
That was another thing Sabrina wanted to talk about. She thought the hours were light, and they could pick up more patrons if they were open more. That would mean more funding from the state, but, once again it was a subject best left until later. She needed to make a list of the things she thought would improve the library.
It would be best to get into Mrs. Parker’s good graces before she brought up things like ebooks and extended hours.
“You have a few days to familiarize yourself with the library itself,” Mrs. Parker said. “I told everyone we would open the first of the month. Do not let anyone in early, please. They must follow the rules, no matter who they are.”
“As you wish,” Sabrina said. “I’m going to go upstairs to see my new home.”
“And I will find a few of the high school boys who can take your boxes upstairs,” Mrs. Parker said. “It will be up to you to pay them.”
“Of course,” Sabrina said. She started up the stairs as she heard a sound she hadn’t heard in years… that of a rotary phone being dialed. The only reason she knew that sound was because her mother had kept one in their living room as a joke.
“I’m back in the dark ages,” Sabrina said under her breath as she climbed the stairs. At the landing there were, as Mrs. Parker had said, two doors. One to her right, and the other right in front of her. She resisted the urge to try her key in the doorway that led to Mrs. Parker’s domain.
What was behind there? Books? Maps? The skeletons of those who dared question Mrs. Parker’s authority?
Sabrina bit back a smile and took a deep breath. She opened the door and stepped inside. The staircase was made of iron, twisted twice, and was very steep.
“Glad I won’t be going up and down this thing more than once or twice a day,” Sabrina said as she stared to climb. There was no door at the top, just a hole in the wall that opened into a room that mimicked the one downstairs. It was decorated with an oversized sofa and chairs. Past the main room was a dining room with a kitchen off to the left. To the right was a sliding glass door that Sabrina was sure led to the widow’s walk.
The sofa was soft under her touch as she trailed her hands over it. She walked through the dining room and went to the door at the far end. As she’d thought it was the bedroom, complete with a wrought iron bed. A doorway to the left led to a bathroom, with a claw-foot tub and hand-held shower nozzle.
“Old-fashioned but charming,” Sabrina said as she looked around. It seemed as if the storage space was limited, which meant the boxes of books she’d brought with her would be stuffed into every available nook and cranny.
The bed creaked when she sat down and bounced a few times. “Good thing no one lives under me, especially if I have company.” She laughed at her joke—company. Not only wasn’t it allowed, but the chances of finding an eligible male here seemed to be pretty low.
There was one more thing to explore, and she wasn’t sure why she was taking so long. Maybe because she was afraid the widow’s walk wouldn’t meet her expectations. Or maybe because it would, and she would want to stay there forever.
“Quit stalling,” she said as she stood and went to the sliding glass door. It wasn’t locked, which shocked her just a little. Mrs. Parker was a stickler for rules, and something told Sabrina locking doors was at the top of the list. Deciding to keep the information to herself, Sabrina slid the door open and warm air wafted inside.
She put a tentative step on the wooden deck, figured it would hold her weight, and stepped out. It was narrow, but there was just enough room for the small table and chair that sat to the left of the door.
Sabrina inhaled deeply. The salty sea air smelled like heaven to her, and she closed her eyes and savored her new favorite morning coffee spot; and her new afternoon tea spot; and her new evening wine spot.
“Incredible,” she said, right before Mrs. Parker made her presence known.
“Miss Hitchcock, I trust everything is to your liking?”
Sabrina wanted to ask Mrs. Parker why she could come into Sabrina’s lair when Sabrina couldn’t come into hers, but decided, once again, not to pick a fight.
“It’s wonderful,” Sabrina said. “It will be a little harrowing bringing things up those stairs, though.”
“Yes, I’ve hired three high school boys.” Mrs. Parker looked around, and Sabrina had the idea she was inspecting things, to make sure Sabrina hadn’t touched something she wasn’t supposed to. “They will be here in half an hour. It’s your responsibility to pay them.”
“Of course,” Sabrina said. “What price did you quote them?”
“That is between the four of you,” Mrs. Parker said. “My nephew will be here at six to show you where to park your vehicle.”
“Thank you,” Sabrina said.
“Once again that cost is on you.”
Sabrina nodded. At the rate she was going she would owe money to everyone in town.
“I’m leaving now,” Mrs. Parker said. “They will buzz the door when they arrive, but you’ll have to go down and let them in. No one comes into the building when the library is not open.
“Is there a list of rules for me to follow?”
“Don’t be snippy,” Mrs. Parker said. “There is a welcome packet in the drawer on your bedside table. It will explain everything. Good day.”
Mrs. Parker pounded down the stairs, and Sabrina worried the library had some sort of point system, like the DMV, and if she racked up too many demerits she would be out of a job.
Her next step should be studying the welcome packet, but she wanted just a little more freedom. She went to the widow’s walk and sat down, propping her feet against the railing. She once again inhaled deep lungful’s of sea air. So far, the wonderful apartment and library were the best parts of her new life. She would have to do what she could to avoid Mrs. Parker.
She closed her eyes and wondered what life would have been like when Pirate’s Landing came into being. She opened her eyes and looked at the ocean. There were small boats dotting the waves. In her mind those boats were larger, and they had large sails attached. Pirates, not the real, smelly types with bad teeth but the wonderful ones who graced romance novel covers, were at the helm.
In a now full-blown fantasy she was on the deck, wearing a dress that swept the floor and showed off more bosom than was legal in the 18th century. The captain turned to her. His dark hair flowed down his back and his chiseled face made her nipples hard.
“Madam, you are not permitted on the deck,” he said. “I have told you such before. Now you must face the consequences of your actions.”
“Which are?” fantasy Sabrina asked.
“A spanking, of course, one that you will not forget for some time.”
Two of the deck hands grabbed her by the upper arms and propelled her toward the captain, who looked as if he could be the whole offensive line of a football team. He now sat on a bench. When the shipmates let go of her the captain pulled her over his knee. He lifted her skirts and grabbed hold of her old-fashioned panties and ripped.
Real-life Sabrina gasped as the captain’s hand came down on her bare ass. He spanked her long and hard, and the fake Sabrina put up hardly any fuss. She moaned and wiggled and said, without much enthusiasm, “Stop that, you have no right, stop that.”
And then, fake Sabrina climaxed, her body shaking with the incredible feeling shooting through her as the captain continued to spank her bottom. She thought he would stop, but he didn’t, his hand slapping her bum over and over until she climaxed again, so hard that bells went off. And off. And off.
It took her a few moments to figure out the fantasy Sabrina was not hearing the bells, but the real one was, and it was coming from somewhere within her new apartment.
She ran inside and looked around, her heart racing as she tried to find the source of the noise. Finally she located an intercom system near the front door. After she examined the system she pressed the red button.
“I was about to call out the police,” a male voice said. “Come down and let me in.”
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Chuck,” he said. “Aunt Em sent me to come get your car. And there are three teens sitting on the stairs, too.”
Chuck. Aunt Em. Come for the car. “I’ll be right down,” Sabrina said, working to get her emotions under control. How long had she been out on the deck, fantasizing about a sea captain bringing her to orgasm?
After several deep breaths she hurried down the stairs and opened the door. A middle-aged man stood there, talking with the three youths who looked as if they could pick up her car and carry it to wherever it was going to be stored.
“Welcome to Pirate’s Landing,” Chuck said. “I have cookies for you in the car, sent by my wife. She runs a café on the main street. I guess these young men are going to bring your boxes upstairs, and then we’ll put the car in the storage units. You can take it out anytime you want. And I’m doing it free of charge, because my wife loves the library and she threatened to withhold cheesecake if I charged you.”
Sabrina felt a sudden kinship to Chuck’s so-far nameless wife. The young men looked at the boxes and decided that twenty dollars apiece would suffice for their labors. It was cheap to Sabrina’s mind since they would have to make more than a few trips up and down two flights of stairs.
Chuck sat down on one of chairs on the landing as the boys started to work. Sabrina told them all to just put the boxes, and suitcases, in the main room. They went back and forth as Sabrina tried to make small talk with Chuck. She learned the car would be four blocks from here, a very walkable distance.
“Aunt Em is not wrong when she says driving is hard here,” Chuck said. “During Pirate Month people usually park out of town and we bus them in.”
Pirate Month. Sabrina had read about that on the internet, a month where Pirate’s Landing hosted events to celebrate their history. She wanted to ask about the events, but the boys were back, boxes upstairs and hands out. She gave them each twenty-five bucks because it was worth it to her not to have to carry her things upstairs.
She and Chuck took her car to the storage units, where the Mustang fit with room to spare. He gave her a key to the unit and then drove her home.
“You need to hurry to the market if you’re planning to go,” Chuck said. “It closes in an hour.”
Sabrina ran up the stairs to store the cookies from Chuck’s still unnamed wife in the kitchen. She rushed back down and opened the door, where she plowed into the chest, and arms, of the fantasy captain who had reddened her bottom that afternoon.
Maybe she hit her head when she fell, but Sabrina could swear there was a gorgeous man standing over her, offering her his hand. He wasn’t the fantasy pirate she’d conjured up this afternoon, but he was very close.
This man wore jeans and a t-shirt, which was tight across his chest and arms.
“I didn’t mean to knock you down,” he said. “I just happened to see you here and I thought I’d see if, possibly, Mrs. Parker had gone back on her order that the library wouldn’t be open until the first of the month. Are you the new library clerk?”
“I am,” Sabrina said. She hadn’t taken hold of his hand. Instead she just sat there with her butt on the front porch and stared.
“Did I hurt you?” he asked. “We have a clinic that can look you over if need be.”
“No, I’m fine.” She took hold of his hand and he helped her up.
He shook her hand and said, “I’m Logan Peoples. And you are?”
“Sabrina Hitchcock,” she said after a pause.
“Any relation to the great director?”
“No,” Sabrina said with a laugh. “I’m the new library clerk, but it’s closed until the first of the month.”
He laughed, a deep one that made Sabrina tingle. “That Mrs. Parker, she’s a stickler for the rules. I’ve been on the library board with her for years, and I’ve never known her to go back on something.”
Ka-ching! This gorgeous man was on the library board? Nobody mentioned him during the interview process. If they had she would have been here the day after she’d interviewed.
“Did you need something inside?” she asked.
He leaned toward her, as if he were imparting a state secret. “A book.”
Sabrina laughed. “I’m sure Mrs. Parker would consider me in dereliction of my duty of I allowed you to take out a book after hours.”
“Well, it’s my book that I left here after the last meeting,” he said. “That’s the one where she told us she’d found a suitable candidate for the open position.” He raked his gaze over her and she felt as if her heart might stop. “I think suitable was not a strong enough word. I would go with perfect.”
“Thank you,” Sabrina said. She wanted to tell him he was perfect, too, but she just smiled. “Where is the book you want?”
“In the conference room,” he said. “I was just at a good point, too, where the bad guy was about to be unmasked. When I asked Mrs. Parker to open the library so I could retrieve it she just scoffed and told me to wait until the first.”
“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me,” Sabrina said. She unlocked the door and invited him inside. “Is she going to dock me when she finds out I let you in?”
“I’m sure she’ll think of something more suitable, like flogging or keelhauling.”
“Keelhauling?” Sabrina asked.
“It was a very unpleasant punishment for sailors,” he said. “But she won’t find out. I’ll grab it and run like the devil is on my heels. She knows I’m busy all day on the first and I can’t get in town. She just likes to make things harder for people.”
“Something that should have been disclosed to me in the interview,” Sabrina said.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got your back,” he said. “Wait right here and I’ll retrieve my book and get out of your hair.”
He was barely gone one minute, and when he returned he waved a popular spy thriller at her. “Ever read this one?”
“No,” she said.
“You can have it after me,” he said. “Unless someone else is waiting for it. Now, where were you going when I so unkindly knocked you on your tuckus?”
Sabrina laughed. This man had quite the personality. “I’m headed to the grocery store, to get something for dinner.”
Logan checked his watch. “You’ll never make it there before it closes. Come on, I’ll treat you to lobster rolls at Mickey’s. You’ll love ‘em, and we get to sit and chat for a while. It’s nice to have a new person in town to get to know.”
“Been here long?” Sabrina asked with a laugh.
“Born and raised,” he said. “I went to art school in Boston, but I returned because the scenery here provides great inspiration.”
“You’re an artist?” she asked, wondering what he thought of the lilt in her voice.
“Landscapes mostly,” he said. “Come on, let’s go eat and we’ll continue this conversation.”
Twist my arm, Sabrina said to herself as she followed him out the door and locked it behind her. But she stopped on the top step and stared after him as he walked to the absolutely enormous motorcycle parked on the street.
“I’ve never ridden a motorcycle before,” she said as she hurried down behind him. “Should we walk?”
“Mickey’s is way out in the cove, and it would take too long,” he said. He looked down at her feet. “You’re already wearing closed toed shoes and jeans, so you’re okay on outerwear. And I have an extra helmet to give you. Just lean when I lean and you’ll be fine.”
Sweat dotted her palms as she stared at the massive machine. Logan was undoing straps that held down a helmet. After it was in her hand she stared at it, turning it this way and that.
“I don’t know,” she said.
“Trust me, it will be great,” Logan said. “I’ll settle between your thighs and all you have to do is relax and enjoy it.” He wiggled his eyebrows and somehow Sabrina thought he was talking about more than riding the motorcycle. Then she told herself she was reading more into it than there was, and she put the helmet on her head.
Logan tucked the book into a leather bag that was strapped to the bike, and then straddled it. For the second time that day, Sabrina felt a surge of sexual tension that made her body feel as if it might burst into flames.
“Hop on,” he said.
She did as he said, and almost hopped off when he fired up the engine. The motorcycle hummed under her.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Nervous,” she admitted. “I haven’t even known you for ten minutes, and already I’m doing something I’ve never done before.”
He turned and winked at her. “Darling, I’m going to lead you places that will make your toes curl. Now, wrap your arms around my waist and just remember to lean when I lean. I’ll take it slowly so you can get used to it. Oh, and put your feet on the foot pegs.”
Darling. He’d called her darling. Sabrina exhaled slowly and when her feet were in place he moved his hands and a foot and the bike kicked forward. He drove them slowly down the street and stopped at the corner. Then he turned right and she did as he asked, leaning with him as he did. They did that several more times, and as they traveled Sabrina relaxed—just a little.
She was still nervous as they made the highway and Logan increased their speed. There was hardly any traffic, which surprised her somewhat. She could understand why people in town walked, but out here she would think there would be more traffic.
Logan negotiated the curves and corners with great skill, and Sabrina relaxed and pressed herself into Logan’s back. His muscles gave her comfort, and she marveled at the changes in her life—a new job, a new home, and now she was riding a motorcycle. What would be next?
She thought back to her fantasy. That was new, too. She’d never once dreamed of being with a pirate, much less one that would spank her. She knew from reading romance novels that people did things like that, but she wasn’t one of them. Of course, she wasn’t one that actually had sex, either. In terms of life there was every actuality that she was a virgin again it had been so long.
“Earth to Sabrina,” Logan said, and then he laughed. “Are you cationic? Did I scare you?”
“No, I was just, well, zoned out.” And thinking about you fucking me so hard my brain froze.
“We’re here,” he said. “You get off first.”
I’m so happy you think that way, her internal voice said. That means I should have more than one orgasm while we have sex.
Sabrina put her hands on his shoulders for leverage and lifted her leg over the back of the bike. Logan put his arm out and cupped her hip, which made those damn tingles intensify. Maybe it was the vibrations from the motorcycle that made her feel like she was on fire right now. She thought about it for a moment and realized that no, it wasn’t. It was the fact that he was touching her in what she felt was an intimate manner.
And he wasn’t moving his hand away.
Logan looked up at her and she coughed slightly and moved back a few steps. His hand stayed where it was.
“Is something wrong?” she asked.
“Did you enjoy the ride?” he asked.
“Very much so,” she said. “I never knew a motorcycle could be so fun.”
His gaze lowered to her nipples, which she knew were hard little nubs. “I’d like to think I’m responsible for a little bit of that fun. After all it can’t drive itself.”
For a moment she worried that he was the type of man who needed to be patted on the back for every little thing, but then he winked at her.
“Don’t worry, I don’t have to be on the motorcycle to get you humming.”
Her nipples tightened even more, and the idea of lobster rolls and beer didn’t seem important.
“I’m really hungry,” she said, knowing that came out as a very stupid statement.
“Me, too, but I’ll settle for lobster rolls right now.”
His meaning was clear, and Sabrina took another step back.
“Coming on too strong?” He dismounted the bike. “Sorry, I’ll tone it down a little.”
“I’m just out of practice,” she said.
“We’ll work on that.” He took her hand and led her down a wooden pier toward a building on the right. “What would you like for a side, potato salad or mac ‘n cheese?”
“Definitely mac ‘n cheese,” Sabrina said.
They took their seats and after they’d ordered and the waitress delivered two beers, Sabrina said, “So are you on the welcoming committee? Did you take out the last two library clerks who came to town?”
It seemed an awkward question, but it got the subject off whether or not he planned on reviving up her engines after they were done with food. She needed more time in her new situation before she thought about sleeping with a member of the library board.
“I met them, yes, but I didn’t invite them out,” he said. “Both of them were quite a few years older than me and not interested in anything but books. Well, books and the history of the town. I did invite Linda, the last one, to go on a ride one day and she told me my, and I quote, “death machine,” was not something she wanted to have between her legs.
“Did she actually say it that way?” Sabrina asked.
“No, I believe she said ride.” He took a drink from his beer and winked. “But I’ve always thought of a woman wrapping her legs around my bike to sound much better.”
“Do you talk to all women like this?”
“Only ones who make me want to do a wheelie.”
Sabrina couldn’t help but laugh, mostly because she couldn’t think of anything to say in response.
The waitress delivered the food, and Sabrina stared at her plate in awe. “There’s lobster in the mac ‘n cheese.”
“Yes, there is,” he said. “Dig in.”
She took a bite and felt as if she’d stepped into food nirvana. “I’ve never tasted anything like this in my entire life.” She took another bite, and another, and after the third one, where she felt as if she were shoveling food into her mouth, Logan put his hand on hers.
“You might want to try the lobster roll before you fill up on the mac ‘n cheese.”
“Maybe,” she said as she continued to eat. “But this stuff is amazing.”
She swallowed the bite in her mouth and sighed. “Where has this been all my life?”
“Right here in Pirate’s Landing,” Logan said right before he took a huge bite out of his lobster roll.
“I may be out here every day,” she said.
“That would please my brother, Thor.” Logan took a bite of his lobster roll. “He owns this place.”
“Are there other Peoples in town?” she asked.
“I have another brother, yes,” Logan said. “He’s the chief of police. We’re triplets. Identical triples.”
Sabrina giggled. “You don’t have to make things up to impress me.”
He put down his roll and took his phone out of his pocket. After clicking the screen several times he held it out to her. Sabrina took it in her hand and her mouth dropped open. Three identical Logans stared back at her, one wore a police uniform.
“That was at Christmas last year,” Logan said as she handed him the phone.
“Wow, I’ve never heard of identical triplets,” she said.
“Very rare.” He picked up his food. “Mom stopped having kids after we were born because she was afraid it would happen again.”
“I don’t blame her,” Sabrina said. “As gorgeous as the three of you are, six kids is a lot of kids.” Realizing what she’d said, she stared at him with her mouth open. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be,” he said. “When we’re done with dinner I’ll show you how I can do a wheelie.”
Sabrina laughed. “You come on strong.”
“I do, yes,” he said. “Thor’s a little shy, and Archer is a stickler for the rules. But me, I flirt, paint beautiful women and hunt for treasure.”
Treasure. She’d heard that word once or twice when she’d been doing research on Pirate’s Landing. “Is your family part of the original settlers of this area?”
“We are,” he said. “A great great grandfather, well more greats than two, was one of the original privateers who worked this coast.”
“Not a pirate?” She toyed with her food. She wanted to gulp it down but then it would be gone, and she wanted it to last, too.
“Privateers are not as romanticized as pirates, but they did work this area,” Logan said.
“You said you search for treasure.” Screw it. She took a quick bite of mac ‘n cheese, chewed and swallowed. “Is there treasure here?”
“There are tales of unfound jewels and money, yes,” he said. “What do you think Mrs. Parker does on the second floor?”
The memory of stern Mrs. Parker telling Sabrina that the second floor was her domain flooded her mind.
“She did seem a little testy when I asked about the third floor,” Sabrina said. “What does she do there?”
“Treasure hunters come to look over maps and books,” he said. He leaned closer as if he were imparting a state secret. “Rumor has it she won’t let you see the good stuff unless you slip her cash under the table.”
Words escaped her as she thought about the no-nonsense woman she’d met that afternoon. It didn’t seem like something Mrs. Parker would do. Why would someone have to give her money to look at the maps?
“What are the researchers looking for?”
“The hidden treasure, of course.” Logan took a bite from his lobster roll. When his mouth was empty he continued, “Of course there is no hidden treasure. It’s been a local legend for years, and those of us who have lived here most of our lives know it’s false. But every year during pirate month hordes of people take to the caves around the shore to hunt for wooden boxes that contain coins and jewels.”
“Of course the locals don’t want anyone to know it’s a false legend,” she said.
“Of course not.” Logan polished off his lobster roll and motioned for another one. “Telling people the legend is false would hurt the draw of tourists.”
They were silent for a few moments while they ate. Sabrina had just taken the last bite of her lobster roll when Logan—but not Logan—stepped up to the table holding a plate. This Logan—but not Logan—put the plate on the table and turned to Sabrina.
“Be careful, my brother can be an ass.” He held out his hand. “I’m Thor, mighty God of Thunder.”
“Mighty God of being last in line,” Logan muttered. “Don’t listen to him, Sabrina. He’s a good cook, but other than that he needs work, in all departments.”
“Sod off,” Thor said.
“You first,” Logan countered.
“Watch what you say, I might have tampered with the food you’re about to eat.” Thor pointed to the plate he’d placed on the table. “You might spend all night in the bathroom wondering why your body doesn’t like you.”
“I might do that with your cooking anyway,” Logan said.
“Then I’ll just take these back.”
Thor reached for the plate and Sabrina put her hand on his. “I might want one, or both of those on the plate. Plus, I have to wonder how old the two of you are that you’re still sniping with each other.”
“Twenty-nine,” Thor said. “But Logan is the first in line, so he’s an old man by our standards. I’m second, and Archer was third. Are you new in town?”
“I’m the new library clerk.” Sabrina reached for another lobster roll, and the realization of what Thor had just said hit her in the belly. Twenty-nine. They were younger than she was; only by four years, but still younger. “Thanks for these.” What would Logan say if he realized she was older? Would he quit flirting with her if he realized she was over thirty?
“I’m glad you like them,” he said. “What sort of lies is my brother telling you?”
“I told her you were a nice guy,” Logan said. He winked at her. “He’s really an ass.”
“Takes one to know one,” Thor said. “Sabrina, wonderful to meet you. If you can’t stand my brother’s company you know where to find me.”
“At the bottom of the barrel,” Logan yelled out good naturedly as Thor walked away and made a rude gesture with his middle finger.
“He is a good cook,” Logan said as he reached for the last lobster roll. “Where were we before he interrupted?”
“Talking about fake pirate treasure,” Sabrina said. “I take it this is something I shouldn’t tell Mrs. Parker I know.”
“No,” Logan said with a laugh. “You’ll figure it out soon enough, though.”
Sabrina took a drink from her beer. “There are a few things I want to know about though.” He lifted his brows before he bit into his roll. She took this as an invitation to continue. “Tell me about the two ladies before me, the ones who seem to have just vanished without a trace.”
The question must have caught him off guard, because he didn’t answer at first. He took a few more bites, concentrating on chewing and swallowing.
“I mean Francis Cooke, I found her but she wouldn’t talk to me.” She stopped speaking, hoping he would pick up on the fact that she really wanted to talk about the two women. When he didn’t say anything she continued, “The other one, Linda Mace, nobody seems to know what happened to her.”
“Archer said the evidence showed that Linda left town.” He licked his tongue over his teeth, and then motioned for the waitress. Sabrina wondered how many rolls he could eat, but then she examined his size. He was well over six-foot, and he had enough muscles on him to rival a body-builder. He obviously needed the nourishment.
“Something wrong?” One look told her he was studying her.
“You were laughing and joking earlier, but right now you look like you want to bolt. Why?”
Sabrina leaned back in her chair. She could tell him the truth, or she could lie. She opted for the truth.
“I had some misgivings about taking this job,” she said. She told him about her landlord losing his house, and her lack of a job. “But when I did some research on the Pirate’s Landing Library I found that the last two ladies quit after being here a very short time. But then I decided that wasn’t true; one quit, and one just sort of disappeared.”
He also leaned back in his chair. “I trust Archer.”
“Are you telling me what you think I want to hear, or are you telling me he investigated and everything was okay?”
Logan looked toward the sea, and Sabrina had her answer. Was it early enough in the day to load her car and head back to Texas?
“Please tell me the truth,” she said.
“Archer has his suspicions that something happened to Linda, but he can’t prove it,” he said. “All of her things were missing from the apartment, and Mrs. Riker insists that she saw her driving out of town on the last day that she worked at the library.”
“But your brother can’t find her to ask her?”
“Not a trace,” Logan said. “And he’s been working it, trust me. Mrs. Parker wouldn’t let him search the apartment, or the library, though. There might be something there that would lead him in the right direction. He might ask you.”
“That apartment looks like a hazmat team went over it with a fine tooth comb,” she said. “Unless there are things hidden in the floorboards, or out on the Widow’s Walk, I don’t think he’s going to find anything.”
“Archer is the stubborn sort,” Logan said. “He’ll want to find that out on his own. It’s why he’s such a good police chief.”
She wanted to say that she thought he was a little young to be the chief of police, but she decided to keep that thought to herself.
“Don’t be nervous about a missing librarian clerk,” Logan said. “You’re perfectly safe here.”
Tell that to Linda Mace, she wanted to say.
“I’m tired,” she said. “The food was lovely, but I think it’s best if I go back to my apartment and get ready for bed.”
“It’s barely six,” he said. “I was hoping we could take a ride on the bike. I could show you the artist’s colony that’s north of here. That’s where I live and work.”
“Yet you’re on the library board here in town?”
“Mrs. Parker likes me,” he said. “Plus, sometimes I think she thinks Archer is there instead of me.”
Sabrina couldn’t help but laugh. “I bet the three of you pulled that trick a lot when you were growing up.”
“We were rather naughty in that respect,” Logan said. “Listen, I realize you’re new in town and you probably want to stay at your new house for a while, so we’ll forgo the bike ride until later. You can come out for the First Friday of the month. There are lots of shops out there that you can look through. It’s fun, and it’s free. Lots of the artists have snacks and wine out for those who visit.”
“I’ll be there,” Sabrina said. “Something tells me it will be great fun.”
“We have a good time,” he said. “Do you have a car?”
“Yes,” she said. “Chuck is storing it for me.”
“He’s a nice guy.” He leaned toward her. “But come to me if you need anything. Give me your phone and I’ll put my number in there.”
She did as he asked, and she did the same for him. Then he paid the bill and headed toward the bike. Sabrina was looking forward to some time alone to process the fact that the librarian before her had disappeared, and not a trace of her had ever been found.
By Wednesday, Sabrina was once again questioning her decision to take a job so quickly, with nothing left to fall back on if things didn’t work out. Mrs. Parker criticized her every move, from not shelving returned books fast enough to not being friendly enough to patrons, which is something that Sabrina knew not to be true.
Not one patron had said a bad word to her, and she refused to believe that the wonderful ladies who had invited her to their church, to a tea party, and to a potluck dinner on Saturday evening, were talking out of both sides of their mouths. Or at least she hoped they weren’t.
The library was busier than she’d thought it would be. Either the town was full of readers, or everyone wanted to see who had the guts to replace the librarian who had gone poof, and was still gone.
Several times she saw people staring over the tops of books, who then whispered to their neighbors. She heard one say the word Logan, and motorcycle, and she was sure there was talk about town concerning her lobster roll dinner.
Logan hadn’t come back to the library, which bothered her. She’d thought they had bonded during their first meeting, but the fact that he hadn’t made any attempt to contact her again told her differently. She remembered his invitation to visit the artist’s colony on Friday, for the First Friday of the month event, where shops opened to display their paintings and have fellowship with fellow art lovers.
She supposed finding the place would not be hard, or she could ask one of the patrons who, according to Mrs. Parker, thought she was not suited for the job.
The clock on the village church struck one and Sabrina unlocked the door. Mrs. Wright, who had been at the door waiting for it to open every day this week, was the first inside. She’d checked out a book a day, returned it the next day and checked out another. Sabrina guessed her to be close to seventy. She wondered if Mrs. Wright used the library as an excuse to leave her house every day.
She also wondered how long the woman had lived here, and what secrets she knew, and would be willing to share.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Wright,” Sabrina said. “It’s so good to see you again. Before you leave you should give me the new titles of books you’re looking forward to. I can put them on my order list.”
“Oh, what a wonderful idea,” Mrs. Wright said. She looked behind her, and then toward the stairs. “Is Mrs. Parker here already?”
“Not yet,” Sabrina said. “Do you want to speak with her?”
“Not so much,” Mrs. Wright said. “She’s a sanctimonious old battleaxe.” The older woman grinned and winked. “Sometimes it’s good to call a spade a spade, if you know what I mean.”
Sabrina lowered her head to hide her grin. She didn’t want to tell Mrs. Wright that she totally agreed with her, because that might be bad for job security.
“Is there something I can help you with today, Mrs. Wright?”
“First you can call me Lola,” Mrs. Wright said. “I may be old, but I still think of Mrs. Wright as my mother. Second, I want the new Stephen King. Is it in?”
“Returned just today,” Sabrina said. “I just put it on the shelf.” Take that, Mrs. Parker, she wanted to say. They walked to the new books area and Sabrina pulled the book for her.
“Thank you, Sabrina,” Lola said. “I’m going to browse and see what else is new.”
“Let me know if I can help,” Sabrina said. She had just gone behind the desk when Mrs. Parker came in. She frowned as she looked around, and then stalked to the desk.
“Shouldn’t you be helping patrons?” she said, very loudly, to Sabrina.
“She’s already done it, Esther,” Lola said. She waved her book in the air. “Don’t run this one off. She’s a keeper.”
Sabrina once again looked down to hide her smile. When she looked back up, Mrs. Parker was glaring at her, and she worried she would tell Sabrina to pack her bags.
“I have an appointment at two-thirty,” Mrs. Parker said. “Send him up the minute he gets here.”
“What’s his name?” Sabrina asked.
“That is none of your affair,” Mrs. Parker said.
“How will I know who to send up?” Sabrina asked.
“Send up the man who asks for me at two-thirty,” Mrs. Parker said, her tone intimating that if Sabrina didn’t know that she didn’t deserve to have a job at the library.
“Charming as always, Esther,” Lola said. “You would think by now you would have learned to be nice.”
Mrs. Parker looked as if she were going to tell Lola to go to the devil. Instead she stiffened her shoulders and said, “Two-thirty.” Then she stalked from the room.
“She was a nasty one in grade school, junior high, and high school,” Lola said. “You would think by now she would have learned a few manners. But she has to be nice to me, or at least a semblance of it, since my son is the mayor.”
“That’s great news,” Sabrina said. “I can ask him for help if she decides to fire me.”
“She’s in a bad mood because she hasn’t been laid in about twenty years,” Lola said. “Every man in town is afraid if he puts it in her she’ll have teeth down there and bite it off. She’s a black widow. She’s buried four husbands.” She placed the King book and two other thrillers on the counter. “I might not be in for a few days, although I love my daily trip to the library. My daughter and her husband are going out of town and I’m baby sitting for my grandson.”
“Fun,” Sabrina managed to say, although her mind still centered on the teeth in the coochie area. She checked out the books and handed them to Lola.
“I’ll miss seeing you,” she said.
“Next time we’ll have a good, long talk and I’ll fill you on all the local gossip,” Lola said. She headed for the front door, throwing a “See you in a few days,” over her shoulder at the same time she said, “Hey, good to see you. Trade you places.”
Sabrina could see the front door from where she stood, and her eyes widened as a mirror image of Logan, different only because of the shorter haircut and the police uniform, stepped inside the door.
“Good to see you, Lola,” he said, his voice deep and sexy. He walked to the desk and held out his hand. “Archer Peoples.”
“Sabrina Hitchcock,” she said, as they shook hands.
“You look just like Logan said.”
“Is that a good or bad thing?” she asked.
“Good,” he said. “Is Mrs. Parker here?”
“Oh,” Sabrina said as she looked at the clock. “You’re early. I’ll take up to her.”
He stepped in front of her before she could head for the stairs. “I’m not here to see her, I’m here to see you, but I don’t want to talk to you if she’s here. Do you know how long she’s going to be here?”
“She doesn’t give me her schedule,” Sabrina said. “Have I done something wrong? Something against town rules?”
Archer shook his head. “Not at all. It’s about, well, about something else.”
“Are you going to warn me off your brother?”
He laughed. “No, it’s not that, either.” A noise from the stairs caught their attention. Archer grabbed the nearest book and shoved it at her. “Check this out to me, and if she asks, I was here for a book, nothing else.”
Sabrina held up the book. “Nora Roberts?”
“I like her,” he said just as Mrs. Parker came around the corner.
“Chief Peoples, what are you doing here?” she asked, her suspicion obvious.
“I’m here to check out the woman my brother is interested in,” he said, as he pushed aside the Nora Roberts book. “Plus, I’m interested to see if the new Tom Clancy is in.”
“Just checked it out yesterday,” Sabrina said. “I can put you on the waiting list.”
“Sounds great, thanks.” He drummed his fingers on the counter. “Like I said, Sabrina, be careful of Logan. He’s a ladies’ man. I hear the two of you are having dinner tonight.”
His look told her to say yes, so she did.
“Have him take you somewhere nice,” he said, “like Sal’s. They have more than just lobster rolls.”
“I will,” Sabrina said. “And I’ll give you a call when that book comes in.”
“Good.” He pushed the Nora Roberts book back at her. “In the meantime I’ll read this one. Don’t judge.”
“Not in a million years,” Sabrina said as she checked out the book.
He picked it up and headed toward the door. “Afternoon, ladies,” he said.
“You’re dating Logan Peoples?” Mrs. Parker asked, her censure obvious. Before Sabrina could answer, Archer said, “Well, look who’s here.”
He glanced back at Sabrina. “Don’t accept food from this woman. She’s a Logan groupie and these might have a month’s worth of laxative in them.”
“You’re a jerk, Archer,” the woman said.
“Glad to be of service,” he responded before he went out the door.
“Barbie, what are you doing here?” Mrs. Parker asked. “The foot traffic is heavy today.”
Mrs. Parker was looking at the newly-arrived blonde who had a plate of cookies in her hand, and Sabrina stared at Mrs. Parker. Three people was heavy foot traffic? Her count yesterday was close to one hundred twenty. What was up with the library director today?
“I am on the library board, Esther,” Barbie said. “I came to welcome our new librarian.”
“Staff worker,” Mrs. Parker said. “She doesn’t have an MLS.”
“As always you have the most welcoming tone, Esther,” Barbie said. She put the cookies on the counter. “Barbie—yes that’s my real name, not Barbara—McCormick. And don’t listen to Archer. I’m not a Logan groupie. In fact, I think the two of you would make a nice couple.”
“Thanks,” Sabrina said, not sure whom she should believe on the Logan front. “So no laxatives in the cookies?”
For an answer, Barbie picked up a cookie and ate it. When it was gone she took a bite out of a second one. “They are chocolate chip, but I left out the nuts, because you never know who is allergic nowadays.”
“For future reference, I love nuts,” Sabrina said as she took a bite out her own cookie.
“If tea time is over, Miss Hitchcock has work to do,” Mrs. Parker said.
Barbie looked around. “You’re a real stick in the mud, you know that, Esther? Looks to me like the book cart is empty, and there are no patrons. Give the woman five minutes to greet a member of the library board, someone who helped her get her job.”
Mrs. Parker huffed in indignation and headed for the stairs. “Five minutes.”
“She’s always been the brightest star in town,” Barbie said. She leaned closer to Sabrina. “Don’t let her bully you. She’ll try, but if you just let it wash over you she’ll soon figure out you won’t take her abuse.”
“She’s my boss,” Sabrina said.
“The library board is your boss,” Barbie said. “Check your contract. She can’t fire you without our approval. She’s an old windbag who hopes you’ll never figure it out and she can run you in circles.”
“Then why do you keep her?” Sabrina asked, truly perplexed.
“Because she runs the records room, and because former board members let her do anything she wants.” Barbie picked up another cookie. “She knows more about the town archives than anyone.”
“Well, she’s right when she says I don’t have an MLS,” Sabrina said. She waved at a newcomer she’d never seen before. The woman waved back and moved toward the mystery section. “But I do know a lot about filing and spreadsheets and the like. If you want to fire her I’m capable of doing it all on my own.”
“I like how you think,” Barbie said. She looked like she was about to say something, but then she closed her mouth and picked up another cookie. “I better go before Esther comes back down and boots me out.”
“It was nice to meet you,” Sabrina said. She greeted a woman who had just come in the door with her kids, one who looked to be nine or ten, and another that looked to be about fourteen. “I hope you come back soon. Remember, I like nuts.”
“I can do that,” Barbie said. “I own Scones and Cones downtown.”
“The tea shop slash ice cream parlor?” Sabrina picked up another cookie. “I’ve been there twice, and I’ve only been in town for a few days. It’s delicious.”
“Thanks,” Barbie said. “Drop by some morning and we’ll have tea and croissants.”
“I’ll be there tomorrow,” Sabrina said.
“It’s a date,” Barbie replied. “Talk to you then.”
When she was gone, Sabrina waited on fifteen patrons, and was checking out westerns to an older gentleman when a man stepped next to the locked gate that led upstairs and said, “I’m looking for Mrs. Parker.”
He wore a suit and carried a satchel. Sabrina guessed him to be close to forty, with dark hair with some gray mixed in.
“I’ll buzz you up,” she said. “One minute.” She finished checking out a woman and unlocked the gate so he could go up. He nodded his thanks and she called up after him, “It’s the door to the right.”
“Yes, I’ve been here before,” he said. His tone was dismissive, but not rude. Sabrina couldn’t help but wonder what he was doing. She knew people went into the archives to do research, but she also knew that Mrs. Parker was very careful about whom she allowed past the gate.
Sabrina turned to where a young man stood near the desk, a stack of graphic novels in his hand.
“Call me Sabrina,” she said as she took up her wand and checked him out. “If you have other books you want ordered let me know and I’ll see what I can do.”
She’d told that to everyone who had checked out recently. Mrs. Parker had put her in charge of ordering books, and she planned to make sure the Pirate’s Landing Library had the latest novels, for all ages. She also planned to talk to the board about ordering DVDs, and possibly CDs, too.
After the young man left, it seemed too quiet. She hoped for more patrons, and decided to dust the shelves while she wanted for readers. She was just on the second shelf when the phone rang, and she dropped the feather duster that had been behind the counter.
“Pirate’s Landing Library,” she said into the handset.
“Sabrina Hitchcock?” a woman asked in a pleasant voice.
“Speaking,” Sabrina said.
“I’m Elspeth Brand, from the Pirate’s Landing Treasure Chest, the local newspaper.” She paused for a breath. “I’d love to do a story on our new librarian.”
Library assistant, Sabrina almost said. Instead she said, “I think I should check with Mrs. Parker first.”
“Oh, Old Lady Parker will love the publicity,” Elspeth said. “But I know the library board president, Mr. Levin. He’s the one who suggested I call you. Of course he’s my boss, too.”
They both laughed before Sabrina said, “Well, in that case I suppose it’s okay. When would you like to do the interview?”
“Well, I’d love to come by and take some photos this afternoon if that’s okay with you.”
Sabrina looked down at her solid red wrap dress and supposed it would be fine, and since Elspeth’s boss was on the library board, Sabrina didn’t figure she needed to ask for Mrs. Parker’s permission, especially since the woman was with her unknown researcher.
“I’m here until five,” she said.
“I’ll be right there,” Elspeth said.
Sabrina went into the bathroom and fluffed her hair. She wished she’d brought her purse down so she could brighten her lipstick before the reporter arrived. She’d worked hard on her outfits for her first week at work, picking dresses that were below the knee in case she had to bend over to shelf, or find books, and that, hopefully, weren’t too tight.
She was what a lot of people called a BBW, tall and busty and about twenty-five pounds overweight. Her father always told her she was Rubenesque, and that lots of men liked that in a woman. She’d yet to find one that liked her shape enough to stick around.
“I’m here,” a woman said from the main room. Sabrina went out to find a woman about her age, standing there with a camera in her hand.
“Elspeth Brand,” she said, offering her hand.
Sabrina repeated her name and they shook hands. This was the second person that was close to her age that she’d met since arriving, and it made her feel more at home in Pirate’s Landing.
“Great dress,” Elspeth said. “It will look perfect in the shots. Let’s take one of you behind the computer, and then shelving books. Then, if there’s time, we can talk.”
“I don’t think I should do that during library hours,” Sabrina said. “But I am meeting Barbie at Scones and Cones in the morning. Would you like to join us?”
“Great!” Elspeth took out her phone and started punching keys. “Let me put it in my calendar. It will be great to have a library board member to quote, too.”
“Sounds great,” Sabrina said. They took the shots they’d discussed, and Elspeth held the camera out for Sabrina to look at the pictures.
“You’re good at what you do,” she said to Elspeth. “These all turned out great.”
Sabrina stiffened at the sound of Mrs. Parker’s voice. She turned to watch the man who had gone upstairs walk out the front door. Mrs. Parker glared at Sabrina and Elspeth.
“I don’t believe I gave permission for this,” Mrs. Parker said.
“No, but Mr. Levin did,” Elspeth said. “He told me the article had been discussed at the last library board meeting. He told me to call and get it ready for Saturday’s paper.” She turned to Sabrina. “We only publish twice a week, Saturday and Wednesday.”
“I will expect to have full control over the article and the photos,” Mrs. Parker said.
“Oh no, Mr. Levin has that,” Elspeth said. “If you don’t like that idea I suggest you call him.”
Sabrina couldn’t help but notice that of the two ladies who had been in the library today, not one of them seemed to like Mrs. Parker.
“I will not be disrespected,” Mrs. Parker said. “Mr. Levin will hear about this.”
She pounded up the stairs so hard Sabrina wondered if the wood on the stairs would come apart.
“I can’t stand that woman,” Elspeth said.
“May I ask why?” Sabrina said.
“It’s a story for later.” Elspeth closed up the camera and put it in its case. Then, from the look on her face, she seemed to reconsider her words. “On the other hand, I’m just mad enough to tell the story. When I married my late husband, Trevor, we bought an old house not far from here. We knew it was a fixer-upper, and we spent a lot of time peeling paint off the walls and sanding floors.”
“Okay,” Sabrina said, thinking that so far it sounded very normal. Except for the fact of Elspeth being a widow at such a young age. That was sad.
“Well, one Saturday morning Mrs. Parker showed up on our doorstep,” she said. “She said she’d heard from Mr. Chester at the grocery that we were planning on painting the house light blue. She threw an ever-living fit. She said that wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the houses on our block and she insisted that we paint it white.”
“Well, Trevor, who was the principal at the high school, told her there were no town rules about colors and designs for houses. He told her we would paint it whatever color we want.”
“Okay,” Sabrina repeated, hoping Elspeth would see it as a sign to continue.
The reporter paused for a moment and said, “Can you guess what happened next?”
“They got into a fist fight?” Sabrina asked, trying to keep her tone light.
“No, she appeared at the public forum part of the town council meeting and called him out, and we weren’t there to defend ourselves because we had no idea what she was going to do.”
“Oh my,” Sabrina said. She could imagine her new boss doing just that.
“She demanded that the city force us to paint it white, and, here’s the kicker, she graciously said we could use light blue for the trim.”
“I’m so sorry,” Sabrina said, wondering if Mrs. Parker was standing at the top of the stairs, listening to their conversation.
“Well, to end the tale, you should know our house is painted light blue, and we used cream for the trim.”
Sabrina bit back a laugh. She hated the thought that everyone seemed to dislike Mrs. Parker, whom she’d liked when she talked to her on the phone, but not so much when she’d met her in person. She supposed the library director had been on her best behavior during the interview. Which seemed strange to Sabrina, because that was generally how the person being interviewed acted.
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have put your boss in a bad light,” Elspeth said.
“Supervisor, right? Mr. Levin is my true boss, if I understand right.”
“True,” Elspeth said. “Just don’t tell her.” The reporter pulled out her phone and punched numbers. “Just checking on the time, around ten-thirty?”
“Yes, I’ll see you then,” Sabrina said.
When Elspeth was gone, Sabrina heard Mrs. Parker coming down the stairs, stomping so loudly, Sabrina knew she was about to be admonished, or even fired.
But just then the door opened and a woman came in with two toddlers. She asked Sabrina for help in finding books to read to her children. Sabrina showed her quite a few and they talked about stories that the kids could hear, including folktales and fairytales.
When the woman left, with fifteen books in her hand, Mrs. Parker came out from the back room.
“How dare you agree to an interview without consulting me.”
“Mr. Levin approved it,” Sabrina said.
“You went behind my back,” she said. “I’m going to suggest your immediate termination for insubordination.”
Before Sabrina could say anything, Mrs. Parker continued, “You’ve done no work today. All you’ve done is stand around talking to people. I’m sure I can convince a majority of the board to fire you.”
“Go ahead and try.”
Sabrina turned toward Logan’s voice. He stood just inside the gate, his hands on his hips. “I’ve been to several businesses today, and everyone I’ve run into that uses the library is very happy with our new hire. If Ira said the interview was fine, then it’s fine, Esther.”
Sabrina wondered how long he’d been standing there, and what exactly he’d overheard. Or maybe he’d run into Elspeth on the front steps and she’d told him the story.
“What are you doing here?” Esther asked.
“Sabrina and have I have dinner plans,” he said. “And it’s five till five, which means it’s time to lock the windows and close the doors.”
Without saying another word, Mrs. Parker went upstairs.
“She hates me,” Sabrina said.
“She hates anyone who gets along with others so well,” Logan said. “She’s never been very good at making friends.”
“So Mrs. Wright said.” Sabrina shut the front door and bent over to do a gate count. “More than yesterday,” she said. “Almost a hundred people.”
“Good job,” Logan said. “And good job with whatever you said to Archer. He called me about dinner and, surprise, surprise, he said it was his treat, which is a real shocker.”
Logan helped Sabrina into his truck, which was something a man hadn’t done for her in years. When he was seated behind the wheel she said, “I’m a little freaked out about how she’s turned. Is she going to fire me? I have nothing to fall back on. Nothing.”
“Sabrina.” Logan grabbed her hand and squeezed it. “Relax. We’re not going to let her fire you. Something is going on with Esther. I’m not sure what, but I’ve never seen her attack someone like she did with you today.”
“You saw the whole thing?”
“I did,” he said. “I should have spoken up earlier, but I wanted to hear what she would say. I’m sorry.”
“I’m not sure how I feel about that,” Sabrina admitted. “I feel sort of like you used me as a guinea pig.”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ll make it up to you later. In the meantime we need to get on the road or we’ll be late, and I don’t want to be late for Archer. He’s a stickler for that sort of thing.”
They started off and Sabrina turned to stare out the window, feeling as if she’d stepped into some sort of alternate reality where she was the in the middle of some weird tug of war.
“You’re angry with me,” he said. It wasn’t a question, more a statement of fact.
“You didn’t step in,” she said. “I was more the subject of your experiment.”
“I can see your point,” he said as he turned his truck onto the highway that led out of town. “I truly am sorry. I should have stopped her.”
She waited a beat before she said, “I accept your apology. I just feel as if the world is spinning around me and I don’t know where to get off.”
“I’ll get you off later,” he said, and then he laughed, softly and seductively, and she felt her nipples tighten.
“Why are we going to Sal’s Harbor to see your brother?” she asked, not sure how to respond to the comment he’d made. She didn’t want to go into the dinner with the urge to say to Archer, ‘Just one moment while you’re brother screws my brains out’.
“Not sure,” he said. “He just called and said to meet him at Sal’s.”
“He came into the library today,” she said. Then she described the meeting, and his reaction to the fact that Mrs. Parker was in the building.
“Once again we’re back to Esther,” he said.
Sabrina murmured a soft yes, and then looked beyond him to where the sea stretched out. “It’s so beautiful.”
“Next week I’ll take you on a picnic at my favorite cove,” he said. “Most people don’t go there because it’s quite a hike. You don’t mind hiking, do you?”
She wanted to say that her shape showed she didn’t hike much, but she bit back that response. Instead she said, “I’m not sure I’m in shape for much of a hike.”
“We’ll take it slow,” he said. “And we’ll go right at sunrise, if that’s good for you. The sun coming up over the ocean is incredible. The actual hike only takes about thirty minutes.” He paused and said, “Since the sunrise is five in the morning, I say we go the night before and spend the night on the beach. What do you say?”
“I’m not a camping type girl,” she said, hoping to keep her reply evasive while she considered what he was saying.
“We don’t have to zip our sleeping bags together,” he said. “Think about it. You’ll get a good taste of Maine, one that will, hopefully, take the sour taste of Esther, and the way I let her berate you out of your mouth.”
“I’ll take a good margarita for that,” she said as he turned off the highway and headed toward the coast.
“Sal’s in Sal’s Harbor,” she said. “Not really a creative name.”
“True, but they make a lobster pie that will knock your socks off,” he said.
“Sold,” she said.
They parked in a lot that was already full of cars, finding a space that was half on the lot, half on the grass.
“Definitely popular,” she said as they headed toward the building.
“I’m sure Archer already has a table, hopefully out the back door near the water.”
They found him easily enough, because the minute they walked in the door the hostess took them to the patio, where Archer sat at a table right against the railing.
“Hey,” he said as he stood. He indicated Sabrina should sit across from him, and she did. “I ordered hush puppies and they should be here any moment.”
“Sabrina wants a margarita, and I’ll take one of those,” Logan said to the waitress who appeared at their table almost immediately. He pointed at Archer’s beer.
Archer had changed into a black t-shirt and jeans, which was almost exactly what Logan wore, except his shirt was blue. She felt overdressed.
“So you’re wondering why I called you here today,” Archer said, and then he smiled and took a drink from his beer.
“That’s Archer, always straight and to the point,” Logan said. “He doesn’t like to beat around the bush.”
“I want to get into your apartment,” Archer said.
“Why?” She reeled back as if he’d slapped her.
“And not only is he blunt, he jumps into things without laying a proper foundation,” Logan said.
The waitress appeared with their drinks and the hush puppies. Sabrina had never been a fan of hush puppies, but she had to give these a try. When the waitress was gone, Logan took a small plate and placed three on it and handed it to her.
“Taste,” he said.
She took a small bite and moaned in pleasure. “There’s lobster in these,” she said before she took a larger bite.
“That’s what makes them so good.” Logan loaded up a plate and handed it to Archer, and then did his own.
“Take it slower, Archer,” Logan said before he popped a full hush puppy into his mouth.
Archer chewed and swallowed. “You know about the woman who had your job before you? Linda Mace?”
“I heard she disappeared,” she said. “Frankly, after the way Mrs. Parker has treated me the last few days I can understand why she just took off. The woman is a cretin.”
“She’s hard to deal with,” Archer agreed. “And she’s the problem I’m running up against while I try to find Linda Mace.”
“Why can’t you search the building?” she asked. “It’s a city building.”
“Esther Parker owns the building, and the city leases it from her for a dollar a month,” Archer said. “She refused to let me search because she said it would disrupt the library and it’s patrons.”
“Do it when the library is closed,” Sabrina said. She took a bite from a hush puppy and wondered if she could learn how to make these at home. They were delicious.
“She refused, which makes me think she’s hiding something,” Archer said. “But you are the legal resident of the apartment, and can give me permission to search.”
Sabrina had been about to pick up her last hush puppy. She moved her hand to her margarita glass, instead, and took a big sip.
“You’re nervous about it,” Archer said.
“I’ve already been threatened with termination,” she said. “What happens if she finds out I let you come into my apartment?”
“We’re there to have a drink,” Logan said.
“You’re using me,” she said. She wanted to push back from the table and leave. She’d go back to Pirate’s Landing, hitchhiking if she had to, pack up her car and go back to Texas.
“I’m asking for your help,” he said. “Linda Mace’s family has not heard from her in months. They call me every day, and I have to tell them I know nothing. If there is a clue in your apartment, I would like to be able to tell them I might know where she is.”
“I never should have come here,” she said.
“But they have great food,” Logan said. When she stared at him he shrugged, “Sorry, just trying to ease the tension.”
“Think about it,” Archer said. “If Esther has already been up in your face today, we don’t need to do it now. She will be watching. Personally, I don’t trust her. She’s up to something.”
Sabrina thought about the man who had visited Mrs. Parker that afternoon, who had not been in any hurry to give his name. Mrs. Parker had jumped her when she’d asked who she was. She thought about Linda Mace’s family and how they must feel since their family member had just disappeared from the face of the planet
“How about this weekend?” she asked. “I could host a dinner and you could come, with your wife, or girlfriend.”
“I’m sure Barbie would love to come,” Logan said, which earned him a glare from his brother. “Please, we all know the two of you are boffing.”
Archer’s mouth dropped open, and Logan laughed.
“Classic deflection, then, when you told me she was a Logan groupie,” Sabrina said.
“You did what?” Logan said, his tone dark. “Don’t try to ruin my chances with a woman I’m interested in because you can’t admit Barbie gives you a hard on. If I was her I’d dump you.”
“Hey,” Archer said, looking around. “Lower your voice.”
“Screw my voice,” Logan said. Then he turned to Sabrina. “Trust me, there is nothing between me and Baker Barbie.” He turned back to his brother. “If Sabrina dumps me I’m jumping your ass.”
“Yeah, because you don’t believe for a moment it could be you that’s the problem.”
For a moment, Sabrina thought Logan was going to launch himself over the table and punch his brother. She made her hands into the T used in sporting events and said, “Time out!”
“That’s generally used on a technical foul,” Archer said.
“Whatever,” Sabrina said. “The two of you are acting like children. Stop it.”
They continued to stare at each other for a few moments, and then turned to her. “Something wrong?” Archer asked.
“This is not the time or place for a brotherly fight,” she said. “And stop talking about me as if I’m not here. By the way, have we ordered food? Because I’m starved.”
“I took the liberty of ordering lobster pie,” Archer said. “It should be here very soon.”
They all took a drink, and Sabrina could still feel the tension between the two brothers. She wondered what it was like when all three of them were together. Would Thor break up the fight between Logan and Archer, or would he join in so the three of them were trading jabs?
The waitress appeared with their dinner and asked if they wanted refills on their drinks. The two men ordered tea, since they were driving, and Sabrina did the same thing. Then she took a bite of the enticing concoction in front of her.
“Oh good heavens,” she said. “That is incredible.”
“Yeah, it is,” Logan said as he dug into his food. “But don’t tell Thor that you enjoyed it so much. He’s a little sensitive about praising other restaurant’s cuisine.”
“Will do,” she said. They were quiet as they ate, except for a few questions about how she was enjoying her new job, except for the problems she had with Mrs. Parker.
“She’s up to something,” Logan said. It echoed the words his brother had used earlier, and Sabrina could see they were both telling the truth. She made a mental note to make sure her door was locked tightly that night, and to perhaps put something in front of the door that would make noise if someone opened it.
When they were done they each enjoyed a serving of Indian Pudding, although Sabrina was so stuffed she wasn’t sure she would be able to find room for it.
When the meal was over, Sabrina said, “Saturday night, a dinner party. The three of us, Barbie, Elspeth, and her significant other, since she told me she’s a widow, and Thor and his girlfriend. How does that sound?”
“Make it a pot luck sort of thing, so you don’t have to do all the cooking,” Logan said. “You and I will provide the meat. I have a small grill that we can set up on your balcony.”
“And don’t say anything to Elspeth about me searching the place,” Archer said. “She has a nose for that sort of thing and I’m afraid she would start asking questions about Linda Mace again, and I don’t want that to happen.”
“Got it,” Sabrina said as she watched Archer pay the bill.
“Make it seven,” Archer said. “And I’ll come at five to help set up the grill and cook. In actuality, Logan can do all that while I look for clues.”
“I’m a better griller than you are, anyway,” Logan said. He stood and offered Sabrina his hand. She took it and after they all said goodbye they left the restaurant. He helped her into his truck, then got in and turned it on.
Before he put it in gear, though, he turned to her and said, “Wanna go parking?”
She laughed, and the look on his face showed he was very offended
“I’m sorry, the answer is yes, it’s just I haven’t heard it called parking in years.”
“Necking? Petting? Fooling around? What would you like to call it?”
Sabrina giggled. ‘This afternoon I thought you weren’t interested because I hadn’t heard from you all week. I had thought you’d at least call.” She felt as if she sounded as if she were whining, and she hated that.
“We’ll go down to the beach and lay out a blanket and see where it leads us,” he said.
“You keep a blanket in your truck?”
“I live near beaches,” he said, “and I like being outside. But I don’t really like sand in my butt crack.”
Her giggles turned into laughter. “Does that mean you don’t want to make love on the beach?”
He leaned toward her and kissed her, ever so gently. “It’s a big blanket, and some sand is normal, just not a lot.”
He put the truck into gear and instead of heading back toward Pirate’s Landing he turned to the right.
“Where are we going?”
“There are beaches everywhere,” he said. “I want to save the one near Pirate’s Landing for when we stay overnight.”
“Or if you don’t want to go to the beach, we can go to my loft,” he said. “I’ve been setting up for First Friday, but there are still things there that you can see.”
“You want me to go to your loft so I can see your art?” she asked. “That’s on old line, isn’t it?”
“True,” he said, “and I don’t want to get to things too early. Friday night will be good for the loft. Which means we need to stick with the beach. After all I promised to get you off, and I always keep my promises.”
Getting off by Logan’s touch was an exciting idea, but it was also happening a bit too fast for her. He hadn’t even called all week, but now he wanted to give her an orgasm? Worse yet she wanted him to.
But that was all he wanted, right? She hadn’t done anything like this in ages, and she was rather worried about doing it now.
“I’m not sure we know each other well enough to have sex,” she said. She felt a little simple for saying it, and she supposed he was going to turn around and take her right home.
But he didn’t. He kept driving, and after about ten minutes he pulled into a parking lot lit by a few streetlamps. There were already a few cars there, and Sabrina couldn’t help but laugh.
“Are we going to be amongst a bunch of teen-agers who are trading spit?”
“Watch what happens when we get out of the truck,” he said.
He got out and opened the door for her. When she stepped outside several car engines fired up and three cars sped out of the parking lot.
“They think we’re parents here looking for their kids,” he said with a laugh.
“Sort of mean to interrupt their fun,” she said.
“Yeah, but there is a rock that looks out over the ocean here that is perfect for a little bit of privacy.” He held out his hand and she took it. “It’s a public place, with a path that has a railing to hold onto, so it will be an easy walk.”
“Walk off some of that dinner,” she said. She wanted to add that she’d eaten more food at that meal than she had all day yesterday.
They remained silent as they walked, first down a narrow path that did indeed have a railing of sorts, metal bars inserted into the ground and looped together with pieces of rope. When they got to an outcropping of rock the railing turned into something more permanent, and they walked to the end of the rock were there were three benches that looked out over the ocean.
“Pretty public place to go parking,” she said as they sat down on the center bench.
“The kids go somewhere else,” he said. “There are outcroppings all along the shore, caves and different places where they go for their sport. I wanted you to see this place.”
“It’s beautiful,” Sabrina said. He put his arm around her and pulled her close to him.
“I want to get to know you better,” he said. “While we were driving I wondered what you might be thinking about me. I did enjoy having dinner with you the other evening, and I should have called. I got wrapped up in getting ready for First Friday, and checking in a new artist.”
“We have a little colony on the outskirts of town,” he said. “Artists rent loft space, usually above a store where they paint and sell. We got a new resident today, a potter. I had to help him move in his wheel and a bunch of bags of supplies and completed items that are ready to sell. I think he’s going to be a good addition. His name is Ryan. Ryan Binks.”
“Are you a potter?” she asked.
He laughed. “I tried, because you know that sexy scene in Ghost, the movie? I think every artist wanted to be sitting at a wheel and have a sexy woman in front of him that he could cover in clay, and then screw.”
“Sorry it didn’t work out for you,” she said.
“I tried, but it takes a special kind of talent, and I don’t have it.” He squeezed her hand and then ran his fingers down her upper arm with the one that was around her shoulder. “But I am talented in other areas.”
Sabrina was sure he meant something sexual, but she wasn’t quite sure how to ask. She’d never been very good in sexual situations. So she asked something that would probably have him scratching his head.
“Um, what do you paint?” she asked.
“Okay, we’ll go that direction for a bit,” he said. “I paint landscapes. I enjoy trying to capture nature.” He paused… “But I don’t make a lot of money at landscapes, so I hire out to do portraits, too. They pay me to run the artists’ colony, which is good, otherwise I’d be begging food off of Thor and asking Archer if I could bunk down in one his cells.”
“Surely it can’t be that bad,” she said.
“The term starving artist has weight behind it,” he said. “But as a library clerk you can’t be rolling in it. I know because I helped approve your salary.”
“Well, then we need to have a talk,” she said. “I want a raise.”
“How about some benefits?” With one arm still around her shoulder he pulled her close. His free hand rubbed her thigh, and then he kissed her.
When the kiss broke she said, “So is that a benefit, or a bonus?”
“One kiss is a benefit.” He kissed her again. “After that they will be considered bonuses, and the bonuses will be doled out at my discretion.”
“Sounds like it could be seen as harassment of some sort.”
“Harass this,” he said before he kissed her again. This time his free hand cupped her breast, and he rubbed his thumb over it repeatedly until he found her nipple. When he pressed it into her flesh she moaned louder.
“Like that?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said. “But I should tell you something.”
“You’re not really a guy, are you?” he asked.
“No,” she said. “But I’ve had very little experience in the sexual world. Two lovers, one of them turned out to be an ass, because he said I was fat. The other one wanted to marry me immediately. I found out he lived with his parents, and they’d kicked him out and he was looking for someone to take care of him.”
“Good thing you found out before you fell for him,” he said. “Have you ever been married?”
“No,” she said. “You?”
“Nope,” he said. “I almost was one time, but she and I, well, we sort of fell apart at the last minute.”
“It wasn’t Barbie, was it?” She laughed after she said the words, but she silently prayed that his answer wasn’t yes.
“Nope,” he said. “She’s had her eye on Archer for years, and I’m pretty sure they’re doing the mattress tango. But he doesn’t bring her around to family events.”
“I wonder why not.” Sabrina looked back at the sea. “She’s a beautiful woman.”
“A bit on the thin side for my tastes,” he said.
That was music to her ears, but she didn’t want to say so. Instead she said, “What are your tastes?”
“I hate it when I get that question,” he said.
“I’m sorry.” She tried to stand, but he held her in place.
“Not for that reason,” he said. “A woman asked me once and I told her the most important thing to me was a woman who was my intellectual equal, who liked to read and talk about books and current events.”
“That’s a great answer,” she said.
“She told me it was false,” he said. “She accused me of saying what I thought she wanted to hear. But those words are true. I mean sex is great, and attraction is great, but you can’t fuck all the time, and you can’t like a woman just because she makes you hard if you can’t have a decent conversation with her.”
Sabrina liked him more and more. He was pulling her skirt up inch by inch.
“I want to touch you,” he whispered in her ear. “I want to feel your wetness between my fingers. I want to play with your clit until you’re wiggling and screaming under my touch.”
His hand was on her bare thigh now, and Sabrina moved her legs apart to give him better access. She knew things were moving much too quickly, but frankly she didn’t care. She wanted to come under his touch.
“No man has ever given me an orgasm before,” she said. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have told you that. They didn’t care if I enjoyed it. As long as they got off…”
He put his finger to her lips to stop her talking.
“Never think about them again,” he said. “I’m going to make you come, and come, and come. You’re going to be panting for air when I’m done with you.”
He lifted her as if she were a loaf of bread and helped her to straddle him. She looked around and saw that no one else was on this stretch of land.
Sabrina closed her eyes and savored his touch as he once again inched her skirt up over her hips.
“I feel so naughty,” she said.
“You do?” He kissed her neck, and then, out of nowhere, he slapped her ass.
“You slapped my ass,” Sabrina said, her voice much higher than she’d expected it to be.
“Did you like it?”
“No,” she said as she rubbed her bottom. “You slapped me.”
“Stand up and take your panties off,” he said. It was an order, and she wasn’t quite sure how to take it. There was a part of her that was thrilled with this turn of events, after reading books and seeing movies about BDSM. But there was another part of her that was scared out of her wits.
“Please don’t make me ask again,” he said.
“Can’t we discuss it?”
“Discuss your panties coming off?” he asked. “I did this out here for a reason. I wanted you to see the cars that were in the parking lot, and know that someone could come up at any moment. I would think that would tell you that I didn’t bring you out here to kill you, or hurt you. I just want to play with your pussy and land a few slaps on your ass.”
“You’re into BDSM.” She swallowed hard. “You’re a Master?”
“I’m a Dominant,” he said. “I like to play hard. I like my ladies to enjoy that play. We’re not going to do be doing that play now. I just wanted to give you a taste, and let you think it over.”
“You just sprang it on me,” she said.
“I just slapped your ass,” he said.
“And ordered me to take off my panties.”
“Something you haven’t done yet,” he said. “You have a choice. You can do as I ask, and I can give you a good orgasm. Or you can keep them on and I’ll still give you the orgasm.”
“But things will be different between us if we go the second route,” she said. “Like I said, this is a test.”
“It is,” he said.
“I’m either going to pass or fail.” She turned to look out at the ocean.
“Not exactly,” he said. “You either want to try it out, or you don’t. I wouldn’t call that a pass/fail. Now, do you want to take your panties off and play, or do you want time to think about it, or do you want to tell me to take a flying leap off the cliff?”
She couldn’t help but smile at the last part. She’d loved the demanding tone of his voice when he’d told her to take her panties off, of that she was certain. But it sort of frightened her, too. But wasn’t that the point?
From what she’d read Power Play heightened the senses, made the sex that much more enjoyable.
“I’m not sure how I feel about pain,” she blurted out.
“That’s not on the table right now,” he said. “A few smacks on the ass do not equate a spanking, really. But there will be a time when I want to take you over my knee and redden your bottom.”
Sabrina thought about the proper response to such a statement, but nothing came to mind. But then it occurred to her that she hadn’t run screaming back up the landing that led to this spot on the ocean, and she knew that she was enticed by what he’d said.
Standing was easy, but her hands trembled as she reached under her skirts and slipped her panties down her legs, stepping out of them gingerly, and thankful that she’d worn flats that day. If she’d been wearing heels she was sure she’d have fallen flat on her face.
He held out his hand and she gave him her silky undergarment.
“My panties and bra don’t usually match, but today they do,” she said, moving her wrap dress just a little so he could see her red bra. “Are you impressed?”
“Definitely.” He put the panties next to him and then patted his thigh. “Come back across my lap.”
She straddled him, an activity in which she had very little experience. She was not a little girl, and neither of the men she’d been with had asked her to do this. Once again her put his hands under her skirt and stroked her thighs.
“Your skin is so soft,” he said.
“I’m pretty sure it’s full of goosebumps right now, too,” she said, and then she tried to laugh, hoping to ease the nerves that had taken over her body.
“I don’t feel a one.” He inched her skirt up more and said, “Hold it up for me, please. I want your bare bottom to feel the cool, salty air while I slap it.”
She braced for the slap, but it didn’t come. Instead he kissed her neck, and then her collarbone, and then the V where her breasts came together. When she moaned in pleasure he pulled her closer and slapped her bottom, once, twice, three times.
“Oh,” she said. Something told her she should hate him for even thinking of doing it, but after the third one her bottom wiggled and she felt as if she were offering for him to do it again, which he did.
“What happens next?” she asked after he’d slapped her bottom one more time. She had a feeling her left side was going to feel left out, since he hadn’t slapped it once.
“I’m not going to fuck you in public if that’s what you’re asking,” he said. “I just wanted to play with you. Which means, as I promised, I’m going to make you come.”
He wiggled his hand between them and she was so wet that he parted her folds easily. Being in public, having him feel her after he’d slapped her ass, was so far beyond anything she’d ever done before that she was sure she would shoot off immediately.
She’d supplied all her own orgasms before now, which meant this was all new to her. He stroked her soft folds, and the moment he touched her clit she came, and when he pinched it the feelings increased and she screamed. She put her hands over her mouth to try and muffle the sound, because if there were people around, they would surely call 911 after hearing her yell.
When the feelings subsided she leaned forward and put her head on his shoulder. She wanted to say thank you, but somehow that didn’t seem like the right words. Instead she said, “That was incredible.”
“It was just the start of things to come,” he said. He nuzzled against her neck, and Sabrina felt as if he were the Prince Charming she’d been looking for all her life.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
“I’m not sure,” she replied. She sat back, even though her whole body still trembled. “This is all new to me.”
“Well, I’m happy to be the conductor on your train ride to pleasure.”
Sabrina broke out in laughter.
“Too corny?” he asked. “Okay, how about this… I’m going to lead you to no place you’ve ever been before. And when we’re done with that one we’ll go to another place, and another, and another. All you have to do is follow my lead.”
“I’m onboard,” she said. “I just hope I don’t chicken out.”
“We’ll discuss that later,” he said. He kissed her, and she opened her mouth to welcome him inside. It was a whole new world for her, which seemed to be perfect. There might be a few bumps, but she was ready to take the ride and see where it led her.
When she entered Scones and Cones the next morning, Sabrina wasn’t surprised to see Elspeth was already there. What surprised her was the fact that Mrs. Parker sat at the table with her, a cup of tea in front of her. The smile she pasted on her face said she’d gotten the upper hand with Sabrina, no matter what the new library clerk thought.
“Esther has invited herself to our interview,” Elspeth said as Sabrina sat down. “Obviously she doesn’t trust you.”
“Don’t put words in my mouth, Elspeth,” Mrs. Parker said. “I’m merely here to help welcome Sabrina with a cup of tea. I mean, after all, isn’t Barbie going to sit in, too.”
“Not until after the interview,” Elspeth said. She paused before she said, “If you’d like to leave for about thirty minutes that would be fine with me.”
“I’m already here,” Mrs. Parker said. “Unless Sabrina has something to hide?”
“You’ll be able to read it in the newspaper if she does,” Elspeth said. “We journalists love a good scoop.”
“I think I’ll just stay,” Mrs. Parker said. “I have no where to go for half an hour. I do want to get to know my new clerk.”
Elspeth stood. “We’ll reschedule, Sabrina. Give me a call at the newspaper some morning when you’re free.” She gathered her things quickly and left before Sabrina could tell her about the Saturday night dinner. But she realized if she told her now then Mrs. Parker would hear, and would invite herself to the event.
“Why are you here?” Sabrina asked.
“You will not question me,” Mrs. Parker said. “And you will not talk to that woman without me present.”
“Lighten up, Esther,” Barbie said as she sat a tray of scones, teacups, and a pot of tea on the table. She took the seat Elspeth had just vacated. “You realize you’re acting like an ass.”
Mrs. Parker opened her mouth as if she were about to admonish Barbie. Instead she stood, gathered her purse and left without another word.
“What is up with her?” Sabrina asked.
“Who knows,” Barbie said as she poured a cup of tea and offered it to Sabrina. “But look who’s back.”
Elspeth sat down in the chair where Mrs. Parker had been.
“I’m sorry,” Sabrina said. “I wish I could find an excuse for why she doesn’t like me.”
“Oh, it’s not you,” Elspeth said as she took her cup and warmed it with a splash of tea. “She’s up to something, and she thinks she’s hiding it pretty well, but she’s not. I’m going to do the story on you, of course, but I’m also going to dig into her and she what’s what. I’m going to talk to Mr. Levin about this, because she’s off the grid.”
Sabrina wasn’t sure she liked the sounds of that, but she didn’t say anything. After all, these people knew Mrs. Parker better than she did.
“She had a visitor the other day, very cloak and dagger,” Sabrina said, before she thought about the ramifications of her words.
“Who was he?” Elspeth asked.
“Who knows.” Sabrina took a sip of her tea. “She wouldn’t give me his name.”
“What did he look like?” Elspeth asked.
Sabrina must have looked uncomfortable with the way the questions were going, because Elspeth sat back in her seat. “I’m sorry, don’t tell me anything you’re not comfortable with. But if he comes back text me and I’ll sit outside the library and then follow him to see if I can figure out who he is, or what’s up with his cloak and dagger visits.”
“Okay.” Sabrina took a drink from her tea, and then they started the interview. It was, at least to Sabrina’s way of thinking, boring. She answered questions about her education, boring, her family, whom she loved but were boring, and her previous job experience, which was boring. The only thing that was interesting, at least to Sabrina, was the trip her parents had given her to England after her college graduation.
“Your readers are going to need an extra dose of caffeine while they’re reading this,” Sabrina said. “Sorry for being, well, boring.”
“Are you kidding me? You traveled to London and toured castles and every library you could,” Elspeth said. “And the story about the policeman threatening to arrest you at the changing of the guard near Buckingham Palace because you were in the street taking pictures? Classic things that readers love to see.”
“I bet you have people coming into the library just to ask you about your trip,” Barbie said. “And look out for Mrs. Craft. Her son took her on a cruise of Europe and she totes around the photos so everyone can see them.”
“Will do,” Sabrina said. “Although, it might be sort of interesting to see.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Barbie said.
“So I guess we’re done,” Elspeth said. “Thanks for talking to me. And if the witch gives you a hard time send her to Mr. Levin. In fact, stop by the newspaper office sometime before Sunday so you can meet him, and he can tell you that everything will be fine.”
Sabrina agreed that she would, and then she told them about the dinner party on Saturday night.
“Sounds like so much fun,” Barbie said. “Especially if Archer is going to be there. Hubba, hubba.”
The three ladies giggled. “The three of them are identical,” Elspeth said. “Do you know the odds of identical triplets? I looked it up when I met them because I thought there was no way it could happen, but it does. It occurs like twenty to thirty times on one million births. One million. And we have one here in town. I told them I wanted to do a story about it, but they all three said no.”
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Barbie said. “I bet if you go back in the archives you’ll find a story written when they were born twenty-nine years ago. I think they’re the type of men who think one story is enough.”
“But look at what they’ve done in their lives,” Elspeth said. “A noted artist, a chef who trained in France, and the youngest police chief in the history of Pirate’s Landing. That deserves a story.”
“Then ask them Saturday night,” Sabrina said. “They’ll all be there.”
“I think I will,” she said. “It’s harder to say no to someone’s face.”
A worker called Barbie’s name from the kitchen. “Gotta get back to work,” Barbie said. “See you Saturday night. I’ll bring sweets. Delicious sweets.”
When she was gone, Sabrina turned to Elspeth. “May I ask you a personal question?”
“I’ve been asking them of you all morning long,” Elspeth said. “Ask away.”
“You seem so young to be a widow.” She cleared her throat. “How did your husband die?”
“Cancer,” she said. She didn’t sound sad, just a matter of fact. “When he first got sick we thought it was just a bad cold. He never smoked a day in his life, yet he had lung cancer. We never really found out what caused it, just genetics, I guess. Bad luck.”
“I’m so sorry,” Sabrina said.
“Me, too,” Elspeth said. “He made me promise him that I would not give up on life. I had to swear I would find a man to love again, that I would get married once again. That I wouldn’t wait this time to have kids. We were married eight years, and he’s been gone two.”
“You grew up here?” Sabrina asked.
“Trevor did,” she said. “When he died I swore I would leave, but I’d fallen in love with Pirate’s Landing. I had friends like Barbie, who would do anything for me. I had his parents, who, after the first year, tried to get me interested in every single male in town.” She laughed. “There aren’t that many, and none of them really interested me.”
“Not one of the Peoples brothers?”
“No,” Elspeth said. “Thor was in France at the time, and I’m not into cops, or artists.”
“But you could be into a chef,” Sabrina said. “I noticed he wasn’t on the I’m not into list.”
“No, we never hit it off.” She shrugged. “I’m going to have to find someone out of Pirate’s Landing.” She leaned closer. “But the scuttlebutt around town is that you and Logan are buddy, buddy. Is it true?”
“He’s handsome,” Sabrina said. “And I like him. But we haven’t gotten too far into things yet.”
Unless you think him smacking my ass and making me come so hard I thought my heart would stop going too far. She took a drink from her tea to hide her expression.
“Are you going to First Friday?” Elspeth asked.
“Yes, I am,” she said. “Do you want to go with me?”
“I’d love to,” Elspeth said. “We can go eat at Mickey’s, and then go look at the art. It will be fun.”
“It’s a plan,” Sabrina said, happy to have a friend to do things with. She knew Logan would be busy at First Friday, and she didn’t want to be waiting around for him, so going with someone she could enjoy the festivities with was a great idea. They made plans to take Sabrina’s car, but before they stood, Elspeth asked what she was supposed to bring for Saturday night.
“Side dishes,” Sabrina said. “We’ve got the rest covered.”
Sabrina checked the clock and stood. “I’ve got to get to the library. Mrs. Parker is probably already there and she’s going to question me about what took so long since the interview was cancelled.”
“Tell her the truth,” Elspeth said. “I just wish I’d be there to see the look on her face.”
True to what she’d been thinking on the walk back, Mrs. Parker sat behind the desk waiting for Sabrina when she came inside.
“You tricked me,” she said, accusingly. “You’ve taken so long because you’ve been talking to that reporter. She’s not a good person.”
“I think she’s wonderful,” Sabrina said. “I’m glad that she and I are forming a friendship.”
“You’re on thin ice,” the older woman replied before she stomped to the stairs. “I have an appointment at three. Buzz him up when he gets here, and don’t ask any questions.”
At three, Sabrina looked toward the door where the man appeared. After she’d let him through the door she texted Elspeth to tell her he was there.
After she’d imparted the information about the man who had been at the library twice, the new friends had decided they were not going to ruin their Friday night by talking about the library, or its business, or Mrs. Parker.
“I will tell you that she came to see Mr. Levin and she was very upset that she wouldn’t be allowed to see the story before it ran,” Elspeth said. “I hope she doesn’t make too much trouble about it.”
“It will be pretty innocuous,” Sabrina said. “Unless she wants to hunt down the bobby in London and have me arrested for breaking protocol during the Changing of the Guard.”
They both laughed, then looked up when Thor appeared at their table with a plate in his hand. “Hush puppies,” he said. “And I made your lobster rolls myself.” He nodded at Sabrina, and then winked at Elspeth. “Enjoy.”
When he was gone, Sabrina nodded at Elspeth. “I think he fancies you.”
“Who says fancies?” Elspeth said.
“A woman who disrupts a parade in London.” They laughed and started to eat. As they ate they talked about likes and dislikes, and when Thor came back to deliver their main course, Sabrina knew he was sweet on Elspeth.
“We’re going to First Friday if you want to join us,” she said.
“I can’t be gone from the restaurant two nights in a row,” he said. “And I’m planning on bringing delicious food to your party tomorrow night. But thank you for the invitation.”
“Will all your food have lobster in it?” Sabrina asked.
“You can count on it,” he said, right before he winked at Elspeth again. “I’ll see you then.”
When he was gone, Sabrina lifted her tea glass and clanked it against Elspeth’s wine glass. “I think you have an admirer.”
“I’m sort of excited by the idea,” Elspeth said.
They finished their meal, and refused dessert because Sabrina didn’t want to feel as stuffed as she had after their meal at Sal’s the other evening. Once they were in the car, Elspeth directed her toward the artist’s colony. They found a parking space toward the end of the parking lot, as it was packed with vehicles.
Once she was out of the vehicle, Sabrina stared at the sight in front of her. There were clapboard houses on either side of a narrow walkway. All of them had signs hanging out that announced what they produced and sold.
“This is incredible,” Sabrina said as they walked between the first two buildings. The one on the left was a potter, and she couldn’t help but wonder if the artist was the person that Logan had helped settle in yesterday. On the other side was a glass blower. They visited each one, and Sabrina bought a beautiful purple vase from the glass blower.
The potter had not been in residence, but a woman whom he’d hired to work the event had tried to do a hard sell on a planter. Sabrina had told her that she lived in a three story building, and didn’t think the planter, although beautiful, would go with her décor, and it would be a hard fit on her balcony.
They nibbled on cheese, crackers, grapes and different finger foods as they went from building to building. As they neared the end of the walkway, Sabrina could see a white house with a large sign that said, “Peoples Portraits.”
The front door was open, and as they neared, Elspeth held back. “I’m going in search of a bathroom, and a glass of something that’s not wine. I need tea, or something. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
This time it was Elspeth who winked, and Sabrina laughed. She went inside the building and joined the crowd of about fifteen people who were looking at Logan’s work on the wall.
Sabrina’s eyes widened. She had no idea the man who had caught her attention was so talented. The people he’d painted were not just portraits. Each painting featured things that were obviously their hobbies, and included baseball, soccer, football, needlework, movies, and reading.
“They all look so lifelike,” she said.
“Don’t they,” a woman near her said. “I’ve hired him to do a portrait of my father. He’s a lobsterman, like Logan’s father was before he retired. Now they play chess together. He’s going to show me a sketch of what he has in mind. I can’t wait to see it.”
“I’m sure it’s going to be beautiful,” Sabrina said, just as Logan came up to them. He shook the woman’s hand and introduced her as Jessica Jahn.
“I have some work to do down here,” he said. “Go around the rope at the spiral staircase and go upstairs. I’ll be up there in a few minutes. I have something I want to show you.”
When Sabrina got to the stairs she looked back to see Logan talking to the woman and a man who had joined them. By his age she guessed that he was Jessica’s husband.
She did as he asked and climbed the stairs. The space was huge, with what was obviously painting space near the huge windows that overlooked the sea. She walked toward an accordion screen that could be used to divide a room in two. As she drew near she saw her name printed on a piece of paper taped to the middle panel. It read, “Look on the other side.”
She moved slowly, wondering what she was going to find. Her mouth opened as the reality of things set in place. There were sketches attached to each panel. On the first one she was full dressed, in Victorian regalia. In the second she wore nothing but a corset that showed her bare bottom. In the third her bottom was covered in red stripes.
“Oh my,” she said.
“Do you like it?” he asked.
“Is this how you see me?”
“This is how I want to immortalize you,” he said. “Will you pose for me?”
He kissed her gently, and then swatted her bottom.
Sabrina nodded and said, “Yes, I will.”
“Then we’ll start Monday,” he said. “Or sooner, if I can’t stand the wait.”