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Authors: Kimberly G. Giarratano

Dead and Breakfast

BOOK: Dead and Breakfast
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

No part of this work may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher.

Published by Kindle Press, Seattle, 2016

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Amazon, the Amazon logo, Kindle Scout, and Kindle Press are trademarks of
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For my kids

Contents

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

CHAPTER THIRTY

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

Acknowledgements

About the Author

CHAPTER ONE

Liam Breyer stood at the pool’s edge and wiped his sweaty brow with the ratty hem of his blue T-shirt. The Florida sun was potent, even for early October, and the heat made his head throb. Liam dipped the skimmer into the murky water and scooped out a soggy palm frond. He swung the net over to the top of the white fence and tapped it on the splintering wood. The giant leaf disappeared into the neighbor’s yard. Somewhere a chicken clucked. He sighed, brought the skimmer back to the surface of the water, and did it again. This was what he had become. A pool boy for a decrepit old hotel.

Palm fronds and dead flies littered the pool’s surface. Not to mention beetles that floated belly up like blackened candles. It would take a while to clean out the gunk, and he hadn’t even gotten to vacuuming the pool floor yet. Then he would have to shock the water with chlorine. He carefully leaned over and peered into the cloudy water. Green algae clung to the bottom of the stepladder. He nodded. Yup, a ton of chlorine.

Not that any of this mattered. The rusty patio furniture sat untouched, and a film of dirt and grime had settled on its surface. He even left his cell phone on the table, afraid it would fall out of his pocket and into the gross water, and he’d have to dive in to retrieve it.

Despite the heat, there wasn’t one tourist by the pool. Liam hadn’t seen a guest all morning, although he swore he could hear a baby crying, or maybe that was just his hangover making him hallucinate. Nope, the Cayo Hueso Dead and Breakfast didn’t have many guests, or at least none that Liam had seen, and no one that seemed in the mood to swim. Who’d want to relax here?

Liam flicked a mosquito from his bicep. His grandfather used to talk about this place like it was a palace. Back in its heyday, whatever that meant. What difference did it make to him? He was paid no matter what, albeit it poorly and not very often. Evelyn Abernathy made it clear that she was doing Liam a favor by employing him, although, as he peered around at the empty beer bottles peeking out from behind neglected shrubs and large cracks in the patio concrete, he knew that wasn’t the case at all. Granted, this was the only job he could get. In Key West, where college grads competed for jobs waiting tables, Liam Breyer was lucky to be working at all.

Evelyn had pursed her lips when Liam told her he only recently acquired his GED. All she had said to him was, “The hotel needs to be in tip-top shape for Fantasy Fest. You’ll have to do.”

Gee, thanks, lady.

Liam hung up the skimmer along two hooks on the white fence. Flecks of white paint rained down on his knuckles. He opened the patio shed, the door squeaking on rusty hinges, and stepped inside. The air outside was humid and sticky, but inside the shed, a surge of cool air swirled around Liam. He was suddenly overtaken by a strong earthy smell. He grabbed the pool vacuum and hose, and hightailed it out of there.

Liam had heard the rumors about the Cayo Hueso. Haunted, they said. Half of Key West was supposedly haunted. Hell, even the ladies’ room at the goddamn Hard Rock Cafe on Duval Street was haunted. What made this place so unique? Of course, Liam didn’t believe in ghosts. He’d never seen one, and the kooks who claimed they had were just that—kooks. People would believe almost anything if they wanted to, but he had to admit, this place made his skin itchy.

Liam slipped his hand into his pocket and fingered the diamond ring he’d slid in there for safekeeping. Pops told him he could take anything he wanted from the little wooden box. “It’s all your abuela’s costume jewelry, I imagine,” Pops had said. “I’m not one to hold on to the past.” Liam didn’t think this ring classified as
costume jewelry
, but what did he know. Liam would pawn it and pay back Pops for the scooter.

Liam crouched by the filter and connected the vacuum hose. He stood up and submerged the vacuum into the pool as bubbles flittered to the top. Liam grumbled under his breath. He was finally old enough to be his own man, only to return home to Key West bankrupt. Liam planned to make something of his life. The vacuum sucked up a dead beetle. This was not it.

As he pushed the vacuum along the cement floor, something metallic caught his eye. Liam squinted into the water. Whatever it was glinted. A necklace maybe. His pulse quickened. Maybe he’d come into more money than he thought.

Liam rose and retrieved the skimmer from the fence. The skimmer pole wouldn’t be long enough to reach the pool’s eight-foot depth while he stood, so he crouched by the water’s edge. He plunged the net into the water and scooted the metal object along the cement floor. His heart sank. It was a necklace, but there wasn’t a diamond or even gold. This was silver and rectangular, like one of Pops’s old dog tags from the navy, similar to the one Liam wore around his neck.

He tried to scoop up the dog tag, but he kept pushing it away from the net. Someone must’ve lost it swimming. Liam cringed. Who would swim in this pool? The algae alone made him nauseous.

Something else beneath the water’s surface caught Liam’s eye. He leaned farther over the pool and waited for the ripples in the water to steady. When they did, the face of a young woman stared back at him. He whipped his head around, but no one stood behind him. When he turned back to the water, the woman’s mouth had twisted up in amusement. She climbed out of the water and clawed his face.

Liam screamed as the woman dragged him below the water’s surface.

#

Autumn Abernathy was Windexing the mirror when the music box slid across the nightstand, pushed by an invisible hand.

Autumn shook her head, as if exasperated by a petulant child. “No, Katie.”

The olive wood music box suddenly popped open, and the tinkling of a sweet lullaby filled the room. Autumn sighed and ran the dust rag over the dresser and along the mirror’s ornate wooden frame. She didn’t pay much attention to her own reflection, which looked unfamiliar if she wanted to be honest with herself. After six months in Florida, her normal pale skin was tanned and freckled. A bit of sunburn streaked her nose and cheeks. Her dark hair had frizzed from the humidity, and a lovely line of sweat ran down her cleavage. Autumn felt perpetually uncomfortable in her skin. That’s what happened when you took a Jersey girl and plunked her into hotter-than-Hades Key West.

Sometimes, Autumn imagined waking up from a dream and finding herself back in New Jersey. Her parents were still together. Her father hadn’t cheated and gotten remarried. Oh, and he and Jennifer didn’t have a baby on the way. Gross. And Autumn would be hanging out with her best friend and going to the movies just like they used to. Instead, Autumn spent most Friday nights watching old films with her mom and Aunt Glenda.

Autumn glanced past her disheveled appearance and focused on the music box. Katie was up to something, she just wasn’t sure what. The music box snapped closed.

Autumn whipped around, her ponytail smacking her cheek. She rubbed her arm across her sweaty forehead, leaving a smudge of dust on her skin. “Seriously, Katie. Don’t mess with Aunt Glenda’s music box. It was a gift from Uncle Duncan.” Darn, she shouldn’t have mentioned that. Katie loved to screw with Aunt Glenda. After all, it was Katie’s ghostly presence that drew in the guests who worshipped the occult.

Autumn waited a beat. “Fine. Don’t talk to me.” She went to the closet and rustled out a set of threadbare cream bed sheets. “Why don’t you haunt Mrs. Paulson in the January Room? She’s been bitching all week that she hasn’t seen a ghost.
And she paid to see a ghost
.” She mimicked Mrs. Paulson’s heavy Southern accent.

Autumn yanked the floral coverlet off the four-poster bed. Changing the bed linens of total strangers used to skeeve her out, but she had gotten accustomed to it. The Florida heat, however, she would never appreciate. In New Jersey right now, she’d be unpacking her sweaters and heading to Starbucks for warm pumpkin spice lattes. In Key West, the only thing she ever ordered were iced coffees, extra ice.

“Mrs. Paulson,” Katie said, materializing, “is a fat old cow and I have no intention of entertaining her. I don’t care what she paid for. It’s not like Aunt Glenda pays
me
.” Katie glided over to the window, the sunlight filtering through her semi-translucent form. A sly smile crept along her pale pink lips. “Now, that boy outside over there, he’s someone I’d like to know better. He’s groovy, don’t you think?”

Autumn slid a case onto a pillow. “His name is Liam, and don’t mess with him.” Autumn purposefully evaded her last question. He
was
handsome if you liked boys with dark hair and tanned skin. She didn’t know if she did. In New Jersey, she’d only dated Ryan Jacobs, and he was blond. And kinda pasty.

Katie pouted. “Why not? You don’t think he’d find me pretty?”

Tall with long straight blonde hair parted in the middle, Katie wore bell-bottoms and a tight striped sweater that showed off her large breasts. She wasn’t just pretty, she was a knockout. A dead knockout.

Autumn sighed. “You’re pretty.”

Katie examined Autumn’s green tank top and cotton shorts. “You could be pretty too, if you did something with your hair.”

Autumn combed her fingers through her brown ponytail. “It’s too hot to do something with it.”

Katie shook her head. “You have no imagination.” She peeked out the window. “Do you think I should say hello?”

“Absolutely not. You’ll freak him out. Besides, he won’t be here long. Mom hired him to help get the Cayo ready for Fantasy Fest. After November first, she plans to let him go.” Autumn wondered if Liam knew of her mom’s intentions. “So, don’t get attached. Why don’t you bother Mrs. Paulson before she complains to my mom for the billionth time?”

“Humph. Is that all you think I’m good for?” Katie nudged the music box closer to the edge of the dresser.

Autumn’s hand shot out. “Aunt Glenda will be crushed if you break it.”

Katie smiled mischievously. “Duncan died forever ago. She needs to let go and stop living in the past.” Autumn watched as the box teetered on the edge.

“Katie,” Autumn warned, but before she could leap over the bed to save it, Katie had knocked the music box off the nightstand, smashing it to pieces. Then she disappeared.

Autumn cursed and gathered up the wooden fragments. She’d have to tell Aunt Glenda what Katie had done, but not within earshot of her mother, Evelyn. Her mom bristled anytime Glenda or Autumn spoke of ghosts.

BOOK: Dead and Breakfast
2.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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