At the River’s Edge The Chesapeake Diaries

At the River’s Edge
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A Ballantine Books eBook Edition

Copyright © 2014 by Marti Robb
Excerpt from
On Sunset Beach
by Mariah Stewart copyright © 2014 by Marti Robb

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.

B
ALLANTINE
and the H
OUSE
colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.

This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
On Sunset Beach
by Mariah Stewart. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

ISBN 978-0-345-53842-0
eBook ISBN 978-0-345-54559-6

Cover design: Scott Biel
Cover image: Britt Erlanson/Cultura/Getty Images

www.ballantinebooks.com

Ballantine Books mass market edition: February 2014

v3.1

Diary ~

I keep thinking about that expression, “bucket list.” It seems that, these days, everyone has one—present company excluded. My, the things people want to do before they die … well, let’s just say, to each his own
.

Now, I have to admit that I’ve never really thought about it—my life is full and I’ve done pretty much everything I’ve wanted to do. I married my soul mate, had three terrific kids, and raised them in this wonderful town surrounded by love and family and friends in abundance. I have my work—my newspaper, passed down through several generations and entrusted to my care. I’ve been to Paris and Rome, and Dan and I celebrated our twentieth anniversary in Egypt, before travel there became so dicey. I’ve seen pretty much what I wanted to see and done most of what I wanted to do. So no bungee jumping from the Eiffel Tower or scuba diving with sharks for me, thank you. Someone in my circle of friends actually has those two on her list—not for me to say who, of course, but it’s got me wondering if that person wishes to meet her maker sooner rather than later. If she passes anytime soon, you can be sure I’ll be asking those who have already passed if Bungee Jumper a/k/a Swims with Sharks arrived banged and bruised or missing a limb or two
.

That Ouija board does come in handy at times
.

It would be nice if the weather this year would make up its mind—winter or spring? Cold enough to freeze your Winnebago one day, melting all over the place the next. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey (someone called me that just the other day. Cheeky little bugger!), I miss the old days when winter meant three months of cold weather that gradually gave way to spring. This warm-cold-warm-cold nonsense has the trees and the spring bulbs not knowing if they’re coming or going. Clay—that would be my son-in-law—said last week he’s covering his peach trees at night because he’s afraid the buds will pop too soon and he’ll end up losing his entire crop to a freeze. Some say it’s global warming; others insist it’s just nature following an age-old pattern. Either way, it’s annoying the devil out of me. Now, I’m not one to wish away my life, but I could happily skip right through February and March and get right to April
.

And of course, this year spring will bring a wedding many of us have been looking forward to. Jesse Enright and Brooke Bowers are tying the knot in April. Poor Brooke was widowed far too young—these recent wars have been devastating to our young generation. For her to have found love again—and with such a wonderful young man—well, I couldn’t be happier for them. Our invitation arrived yesterday and I was delighted to be included in their big day. Of course, I will cover the wedding for the newspaper. Some think it’s old-fashioned, but the
St. Dennis Gazette
has been covering weddings in this town for over one hundred years, and I’m going to keep that tradition alive for as long as I own the paper. Which will be until I leave this world, because I’ll never sell it. I was hoping that one of my children would take it over someday, but I’m not holding my breath. Daniel is perfectly happy running the inn, and Lucy’s event planning business is going great guns. Yes, of course, there’s always Ford, but I can’t see my youngest settling down to run a small-town newspaper. I’ll even go out on a limb here and predict that, after years spent living in all manner of places as a UN Peacekeeper, chances are that running the
St. Dennis Gazette
is not on Ford’s bucket list
.

~ Grace ~
      

Chapter 1

S
OPHIE
Enright stared at the two flat tires on the driver’s side of her car and wondered if she’d ever had a worse day in all her thirty-two years.

It started when both the victim and the star witnesses for the assault case she was prosecuting failed to appear in court and were nowhere to be found. The judge had given her until four o’clock to produce them, and when she couldn’t, he dismissed the case.

It was never a good day when that happened.

She opened the trunk of her car and peered inside. One spare, two flats. She slammed the lid, got into the car, called her boyfriend, Christopher, and listened while the phone rang, then went to voice mail.

“I’m on the fourth level of the parking garage with not one, but two flat tires. My case went into the tank after my victim and my witnesses failed to show and I was forced to endure a blistering tirade from Judge Palmer. I’m parked in my usual spot. Bring food.”

She disconnected the call, then dialed for roadside assistance.

“I’ll need your guy to bring a spare,” she said after
being told that they had someone on the road in her area.

“Not a problem,” the dispatcher assured her. “Hang tight right there and we’ll have you fixed up in no time.”

Sophie sighed and searched her bag for the paperback novel she’d started over the weekend, grateful that she had enough gas in the tank to keep the heater running. She opened one window for a little fresh air, then settled back into her heated seat to read. After twenty minutes, she tried Christopher again. Still no answer. Thirty more minutes passed, and she called the dispatcher once more.

“He’s on his way,” she was promised. “He’ll be there any minute.”

“Any minute” turned out to be fifteen, but once help arrived, both spares—hers and the one the driver brought with him—were changed and she was free to go.

She glanced at her watch: seven twenty. Cursing softly under her breath, Sophie turned the key in the ignition and started out of the parking lot. She drove down to the second level, which was now empty except for a black BMW sedan off by itself on the far side of the garage.

A black BMW sedan that looked uncannily like Christopher’s.

She drove slowly around one concrete post, then another, and stopped in front of the car. How many black BMW sedans—complete with a UPenn sticker on the right rear bumper—could there be in the courthouse lot at this hour?

Sophie figured that Christopher—also an assistant
district attorney—must be working late. She started to dial his number once again, then decided to surprise him in the office. She parked next to him and got out, slammed her car door, and had taken three steps in the direction of the stairwell when she heard voices coming from the BMW. Without thinking, she walked around the car and looked into the backseat.

“Oh, crap.” Christopher’s voice.

“What?” a woman asked. “What is it? Chris, where are you going?”

The back passenger-side door opened and Christopher
—her
Christopher—emerged, his shirt unbuttoned, one hand zipping his pants and the other slamming the door to keep whoever was inside, inside.

“Sophie, I … I can explain …,” he stammered.

“No, actually, you can’t.” Sophie’s stomach knotted and her mind went blank. She took several steps back, then got into her car and poked the key into the ignition with shaking hands.

“Sophie, wait … wait …” Christopher’s voice trailed behind her as she pulled away.

“You asshole!” Tears rolling down her face, she yelled as loudly as she could, even though he couldn’t have heard. “You are a total and complete
asshole
.”

She slammed a hand on her steering wheel for emphasis. Her phone began to ring and she knew who it was without looking at the caller ID.

“I’m only answering because I want you to know what a dickweed I think you are.”

He sighed heavily as if exasperated. “Dickwad.”

“What?”

“I think the word you want is dick
wad
.”

Funny, but that professorial tone that she used to think made him sound intellectual suddenly seemed obnoxious.

“Whatever,” she snapped.

“Sophie—”

“Can it. We are so done.”

She hung up.

She blew the red light at the corner and felt a momentary touch of relief when she realized there were no cars coming from the opposite direction and no police officers to flag her down. Since starting at the DA’s office seven years ago, she’d been careful not to do anything that might cause her embarrassment when she had to face the cops in court. Getting stopped for running a red light would be one of those things … especially at that moment when she knew her mascara was running and her face was a blotchy mess from crying. Hardly the professional image she’d worked so hard to create.

The street in front of her condo was slick with the cold rain that had been falling since early afternoon, and she was lucky to find a parking spot close to her door. She hopped out and dodged puddles. Water splashed up on her legs and her skirt anyway, but she barely noticed.

The red message light was flashing on her phone, but she ignored it. She dropped her briefcase near the door and kicked her shoes halfway across the room. Then she went straight into the bathroom, turned on the shower, peeled off her clothes, and tossed them back into her bedroom, where they landed on the floor.

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