Authors: Stacey Coverstone
Tags: #lighthouse mystery., #Paranormal Romance, #science fiction and fantasy
THE SPYGLASS PORTAL
A Lighthouse Novel
The Spyglass Portal
, Copyright © 2013 by Stacey Coverstone
Cover Art © Sheri L. McGathy
Digital Layout by
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
To Sue Billings and Mary Whealdon for your friendship and loyal support.
And to my husband, Paul, as always.
Thank you to my first readers, Mary W. and Christine Bails for taking time from your busy lives to give me comments and suggestions. A big thank you goes to my friend and editor, Sue, for your encouragement and spot-on recommendations, and without whom this book would still be sitting in my computer slush pile.
The thunder grew closer and more ominous with each growling rumble. Samantha Landers glanced into the sky to note darkening clouds moving in. Maine didn’t get a lot of bad storms this time of year, but she’d been listening to the radio. The weatherman predicted a spring storm for Portland that would be the mother of all storms, complete with torrential rain, lightning and heavy winds.
“Storm’s closing in fast,” Chad, her business partner said, striding toward her.
She sat at a picnic table next to the driveway of their latest house-flipping project. With design plans scattered around, her attention was riveted to a laptop computer studying a financial spreadsheet.
Glancing up, she noticed his eyes sparkled with more than admiration as his gaze roamed up and down her slender frame. Chad often told her she should have been a model, not a construction foreman, because of her long blonde hair, cornflower blue eyes, and flawless skin. But Sam wasn’t the type to want to be on display, gawked at and fawned over. She was most comfortable in jeans, boots, and her hair in a ponytail. Besides, she loved to eat. The construction life had suited her just fine for the past ten years. At thirty-two, she was proud of the reputation she’d built as an honest and highly regarded businesswoman in the community.
“I suggest you move inside or you’re going to get soaked,” Chad warned, planting a heavy work boot on the bench.
She met his hazel eyes. “I’ll do that, just as soon as I finish up what I’m doing here.”
He glanced at the laptop screen. “Whatcha working on, boss?”
Wincing, she smacked his arm. “I’ve told you a hundred times to stop calling me boss. We’re equal partners in this business. Payton and Landers Construction. Some people might even think
the boss, since your name comes first on the business cards and on the sides of our trucks.”
“But we both know that’s not true, don’t we?” He grinned, flashing those dimples that had melted a couple of girls’ hearts since she’d known him. “The guys on our crew certainly all agree on who the whip master is.”
“Please.” She rolled her eyes. “A woman working in a man’s world of construction has to be a bit of a hard ass. I don’t care what the guys think as long as they do their job. Besides, teasing me gives them something to do besides complain about their wives.”
Another boom that sounded like an exploding cannon rocked the earth. Their chitchat halted abruptly. “I think you’re right,” Samantha said. “I’d better head inside to work. If this computer gets wet, that’s a couple hundred dollars down the drain, not to mention all the files that would be lost.”
Chad crossed his arms over his chest and cocked an eyebrow. “I know your top priority is production and budget, but I came over to tell you I’m letting the guys go.”
Her gaze moved from his short black hair to the stubble on his chin and cheeks. “Can we all wait out the thunderstorm inside the house? Maybe it’ll pass soon and then they can get back to work. Those shingles have to be installed today or we’ll fall behind schedule. Time is money, and we don’t have any wiggle room in the budget. This project will finally pay off our start-up loan. You know that.”
Chad’s chin jutted. “This storm is supposed to be a real humdinger. The workers have asked to leave so they can board up their homes. I’ve been listening to the forecast.”
“So have I.”
“Then you know it’s going to get nasty. The roof will have to wait until tomorrow. We’re not going to risk the lives of our crew. We’re going to allow them to go home to be with their families, where they’re supposed to be.”
Chad was an easygoing guy, but when he made up his mind about something, there wasn’t much Sam could do but give in. Being single with no children, and more focused on work than a social life, she had to remember that most people had lives beyond their jobs. She was a tough employer, but she didn’t lack compassion. Her cell phone rang before she could comment more. “Hold on,” she said, grabbing Chad’s arm as he turned to leave. “Let me take this. I’ll only be a minute.” She pulled a cell phone out of her pocket and pushed the answer button. “Hello. Oh, hi Linda. What’s up?”
“Hey, girl. I’m calling to see if you have plans for the weekend.”
Sam half-listened to her best friend talk about a day spa she wanted them to go to. Standing at her side, Chad surveyed the ever-threatening sky. He craned his neck around to nod at the crew standing under the porch eaves, apparently waiting for him to give them the go ahead to leave. Samantha watched him hold up his pointer finger, the symbolic gesture for:
give me a minute
“Sounds like fun,” she told Linda, “but unfortunately, I can’t get away this weekend. I have to make sure this flip gets completed. We’re on a deadline, and there are a dozen items still to be marked off the punch list.”
Pausing to listen to Linda’s attempt to convince her to go, she tapped her foot, the way she did when she felt impatient. When she could interject without sounding rude, she interrupted Linda. “I’m sorry, but I really have to go. It’s about to start raining any minute, and I need to talk to Chad about a few things. Thanks for the invite though. Let’s try another time.” After saying goodbye, Sam ended the call and sighed.
“You haven’t spent much time with her lately, have you?” Chad asked. “You work too hard. It’s okay to go out and have fun once in a while, you know.”
“I know, but keeping this business in the black means staying on top of things, every minute of every day.”
“That’s what a partner is for,” he reminded her. “There’s no need for you to take on everything yourself. I can handle things just fine if you want to take off for a couple of days.”
“Thanks, but there are some immediate budget problems I need to work out. You’re the brawn in this operation and I’m the brains. Remember?”
Chad groaned and shook his head. “You sure know how to hurt a guy. No wonder you’re still single.”
“Touché.” His comment could have stung, but she could tell Chad was joking. Besides, it was true. She was alone for more reasons than her occasional smart mouth. “I’m sorry.” She apologized quickly and gently punched his arm. “I’m just concerned about production shutting down so early today.” Nodding toward the men waiting on the porch, she said, “Would you agree to them staying at least another hour? If you don’t want them on the roof, they could complete some of the interior work that’s scheduled for later in the week.”
Chad shoved the hammer he’d been holding into the pocket of his tool belt and pursed his lips. His voice was low, so the crew couldn’t hear, “No, Sam. I’m letting the men go home now, so they can ride out this storm in safety with their families. They’ve already packed up the tools and secured the house. You’d feel guilty and to blame if any of them got hurt. And a medical or personal claims suit would be the end of us. You and I are leaving, too, so shut down your computer and get your stuff together.” He turned on his boot heel and strode toward the men. They murmured their thanks and scrambled to their vehicles and drove off.
Samantha knew she was a bulldog when it came to work. She didn’t do it on purpose; it was how she’d been raised. Her single mother had instilled a hardcore work ethic in her early on. It was something impossible to shake.
She stared into the sky and shouldn’t have been surprised at Chad’s stance just now, considering the dicey weather situation. They both knew an injury lawsuit would ruin the company. Closing down the laptop, she snatched up the portable radio from the picnic table and strode purposefully toward him as rain began to fall. Her hair whipped around her face as the wind suddenly picked up.
“You were right to let the men go,” she relented, joining him on the porch. “A few hours is not going to put us that far behind. You know I wouldn’t put any of their lives in danger.”
He nudged her shoulder with his and smiled, happy with her change of mind. “I know. We’ll make up the loss of time, I promise. Don’t worry.”
“Okay.” As the wind whistled through the trees in the front yard, her gaze moved to the side of the house where a cord dangled. “Dammit. Looks like someone forgot to bring one of the power tools down from the roof.” She swept past Chad into the rain and propped a ladder against the house. Her foot was on the second rung when he jerked her down by the waist.
“Get down from there. I’ll get it. It’s probably the new nail gun.”
She jumped when lightning lit up the sky. The storm was approaching much quicker than expected. “Forget it Chad. I don’t care about the equipment anymore. Neither of us should be on a metal ladder. Come down. A nail gun is not worth you getting killed over.”
He’d already started the climb up the ladder. “It’ll just take me a minute. It’s an expensive tool. I don’t want it ruined either. We’re on a budget, remember?”
Their roles had suddenly reversed. Chad hastily made his way to the roof. Samantha glanced at the trees twisting in the wind and hugged her body to ward off a chill. A bad feeling washed over her. “Chad, please come down! I shouldn’t have said anything. We can buy another nail gun if that one rusts. We’re not that broke. Let’s get out of here!”
“Be right down,” he hollered. He crawled to the pitch of the roof and grabbed the gun.
The next round of thunder shook the ground like a freight train. Samantha’s gaze searched the sky again. It had grown dark and hostile within a matter of moments. When a bolt of lightning streaked across the sky, she screamed.
Chad jolted, lost his grip—as well as the nail gun—and slid down the roof on his belly. “Watch out below!” he yelled. Sam screamed again as the gun thumped to the ground, just missing her foot. “Are you alright?” he shouted.
“Yes! What about you?” Squinting through hard pellets of rain, she saw Chad’s boot had caught in the gutter and he was adjusting his hold on the roof.
“I’m okay,” he called, inching toward the ladder.
Another bolt of lightning lit up the sky, with thunder following behind and cracking like a whip.
Samantha screamed a third time. “Hurry up and get down here!”
“I’m coming,” he shouted. “Get inside the house where you’ll be safe!”
“I’m not going until you’re on the ground with me.” Risking her own life, she grabbed the rungs of the ladder to physically support him and gazed up at him with water pouring down her face.
“Stand back,” he yelled. “My boots are wet. If I slip, I don’t want to fall on you.”
“Are you sure the ladder will be secure without my holding it?”
“Yes. Please stand back.” He waited until she’d backed away and then placed one foot on the metal rung.
Chad gave her a thumbs-up sign. It was the last thing she saw before lightning struck the ladder and electricity surged through his body.
Three Months Later
“The nightmares haven’t stopped, Dr. Teagan.” Samantha sat in front of her psychiatrist with her head bowed. “I keep seeing Chad struck by the lightning. I’m covered in a cold sweat every morning. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night screaming.” She nervously fingered the gold cross necklace that hung from her neck. A single diamond lay in the middle of the cross. The necklace had been a birthday gift from her mother when Samantha was six, and it was something she’d been wearing ever since.
“The medication I prescribed isn’t helping?”
“No.” Samantha lifted her head and glanced around the office. The modern design and neutral color of the furnishings harmonized with the doctor herself. Guessing her to be in her forties, her straight, shoulder-length hair was light brown, her makeup was perfectly applied, and her pencil skirt and sleek blouse was classic and stylish. She waited patiently until Sam spoke again.