Happy Sunday! For your reading pleasure, an excerpt of Ghosts of Kingston Cottage (Revenant Investigations book one).
@copyright Libby Bishop
Arriving at the docks around a quarter to seven, Arabella wasn’t surprised to find Nick and Lena already loading the tech equipment onboard the Mad Hatter’s Mistress. She also wasn’t surprised to see the boat’s captain, Dustin Hatter, looking at her from the top of the boat ramp as if she were late to some gala event.
She hurried up the ramp. “Captain, thanks for doing this on such short notice.”
He raised a gray eyebrow before bringing her in for a hug. “Lass, it’s no problem. You know I love you kids.”
That’s how the fifty-three-year-old seaman referred to her and the rest of the Revenant crew—his ‘kids.’ He’d known all of them since they were babies. He was still good friends with her father, who worked on the boats as an engineer. He used to say ‘kids’ to annoy them, but now it was a heartfelt endearment.
He took her bag, helping her aboard. “So, where’s the skeptic?”
“Don’t know. Folger promised he’d be here on time, though. He still has a few minutes.”
“We’ll see about that, lass,” Dustin said, then he took her duffle bag below deck.
The Mad Hatter’s Mistress was a large boat—Dustin hauled fish and other seafood during their seasons. The twenty-five minute journey to Kingston Island would be a breeze, even with all of Nick’s delicate technical equipment on board.
In season, Dustin had three crew members. None were taking the journey today.
Out of the corner of her eye, as she looked out to the ocean towards the lighthouse, she saw Nick come back out to the deck.
“Hey, early bird,” she teased, giving him a hug when he reached her.
Nick had hated mornings since they were in high school. The only time he had voluntarily woken before ten was for Saturday morning cartoons. His blond hair had the bedhead look, as if he had just run his hand through it a couple of times after showering and that was it.
“I wanted to make sure everything was ready by seven, and Dustin said he’d be here early so that I could load all the equipment. Lena here—” he gestured behind him as she came out of the wheelhouse “—joined me about a half hour ago.”
Lena, her brown hair in a short ponytail, gave her a hug. “Morning, hon.”
“Looks like our skeptic is here.” Nick pointed at the end of the dock, where a man walked toward the boat, shading his eyes to read the names of the vessels.
Arabella was not expecting the reporter to be so…well…cute. Tall, dark brown hair, lean build. The closer he got, the more her hormones liked him. Geez.
“Ooo,” Lena teased, “he has the rugged-sexy thing going on. Your favorite.”
Arabella rolled her eyes. “Shut up.”
Lucas Brown stepped up the ramp. He did have the rugged-sexy thing going on, with his short hair and scruffy jawline, as if he had missed shaving for a few days. Damn it.
“You must be our skeptic.” She gave him her best welcoming smile and held out her hand. “I’m Arabella Pierce.”
He adjusted the straps of his two duffle bags before smiling back and shaking her hand. That smile caught her off guard, but she managed to hide her surprise. God, that smile could melt a woman.
“Lucas Brown, nice to meet you,” he said.
“And you. This is Lena Tompson, lead investigator and our empath. And this is Nick Mitchell, tech superman. No gift of the dead.”
He shook hands with the group.
Nick gestured to Lucas’s luggage. “Let me take your bags. I’ll put them down in the crew quarters.”
“No problem,” Nick replied.
While they didn’t know Lucas yet, his…vibe, so to speak, was a pleasant one. Arabella’s gift with the dead had taught her to rely on her senses. The other skeptics who came along on hunts felt off-putting—Lucas did not. That didn’t mean he was trustworthy. It just meant he had manners. After all, her senses had been wrong before.
Being rude wouldn’t help the situation, so Arabella swallowed her unease and decided to continue to be as nice as possible.
“Come on,” Lena said to Nick after he had Lucas’s bags in hand, “let’s get everything secured for the trip. Almost time to head out.”
“We didn’t know you were coming until yesterday,” Arabella said as her friends walked away, “so we weren’t certain what to expect from you. I will admit, you’re one of the few skeptics we’ve worked with who seems to be polite.”
“Folger explained your experiences with other skeptics. I want you to know I’m not that kind of guy,” he said. “I come in, ask questions, and watch. I will not ridicule or make a joke of your work. I promise. But if I find that there’s a chance of fraud, I will report it to my readers.”
Arabella stared at him, meeting his green eyes. Not what I was expecting. “That’s to be expected, but you won’t find fraud here. As you know, Lena—”
“Time to go, boys and girls,” Dustin announced. “Grab the ramp and the ropes, lass.”
“You grab the ramp, Mr. Skeptic,” she said. “I’ll get the ropes.”
After they were underway, Arabella took Lucas below deck to join Nick and Lena. He had caught her off guard with his sincerity, but Arabella had a suspicion that he was trying to break down her defenses. While proving a ghost was haunting the cottage was part of his investigation, it wasn’t the actual reason he was with them. He was there to investigate her, the medium on the hunt. And that made her wonder how Lucas had managed to convince Folger to let him come along.
The investigative crew gathered at the boat’s only table for a briefing. The table was large and could seat ten people. Lucas sat right across from Arabella, piercing her with those bright green eyes. Her mouth went dry—she cleared it, and focused on the case.