Home > Close to the Bone (Widow's Island #1)(13)

Close to the Bone (Widow's Island #1)(13)
Author: Kendra Elliot

“You have Bishop blood.”

She shrugged. “To me, my side of the Bishop blood represents strong women. The other side of the blood was about Elias’s money. Ruby’s sister proudly raised that baby despite all the rumors and taught that little girl to be resilient and tenacious. The pride and strength continued through each generation. Jane is a perfect example.”

Jane’s granddaughter is too. She was shot and is back to work like nothing happened.

“Everything you’ve told me is true, right? I won’t make a fool of myself if I mention some of the story?” Uncertainty filled his voice.

Cate choked on a sip of water. “Yes. All true. I’m sorry you’ve been teased.”

“You told me about Ruby’s ghost in the lighthouse last night.”

“That’s true.” Her tone was sincere.

Henry studied her. I can’t tell if she’s joking.

“No teasing. I actually saw her during my teenage years, but please don’t tell anyone.” Her eyes were earnest, stronger than any gaze he’d seen from her. “Jane says I see her because we’re related.”

I believe her.

“You made a believer out of me somehow,” he said slowly, accepting the truth in his words. He was floored. He didn’t believe in ghosts. Until now.

“I promise to always tell you the truth about the island stories,” she said solemnly and held out her hand across the table to seal the bargain.

A faint warmth shot through his limbs as he took her hand. He shook it, reluctant to let go. “Deal.”


After lunch with Henry, Cate drove to Stan Irish’s home.

She had recognized the address. There was no need for her to use GPS on the island because she had a permanent road map in her head. Stan’s location was among a string of rural farms halfway between the town of North Sound and Harlot Harbor. As she drove she called Daphne Conan, Becca’s mother. Missing the ease of the Bluetooth connection in her vehicle back home, she wore earbuds with a mic.

As the phone rang, her mind drifted back to the lunch she’d enjoyed with Henry Powers, and she acknowledged that something subtle yet electric had started between them. To her surprise, she wanted more. That thought stewed in her brain for a long moment. An attractive, smart man. Why not? A smile curved her lips. Her recovery time on the island was becoming more than she’d expected.

“This is Daphne.”

“Hi, Daphne. My name is Cate Wilde, and I’m a special—”

“I’ve been expecting your call, Agent Wilde. Rex called me this morning.” The woman’s tone implied that Cate had waited too long to call. “Do you know if you found Becca?” Her voice cracked on her daughter’s name.

“We haven’t been able to confirm yet. The ferry has been down—”

“You don’t need to explain. I lived there for several years. Things always move slower on island time and then come to a grinding halt when the ferries break down. I assume your forensic specialists are on the mainland.”

Cate exhaled. “Exactly.”

“A county deputy sent a photo of a jacket and bracelet that were found with the remains. I didn’t recognize either one.” Plates clinked in the background. “This makes me think it isn’t her.”

“We’ll have a definitive answer for you as soon as possible,” Cate said, hating the vagueness of her statement. No matter how much she wanted to, it would be wrong to share Henry’s strong suspicions based on the teeth.

Daphne’s laugh was forced. “I see nothing has changed in how FBI agents speak to grieving parents.”

“I’m sorry, Ms. Conan. I wish we had results already.” Cate cleared her throat. “I wanted to ask you about Dustin—”

“He’s a sneaky little shit.”

Cate blinked at Daphne’s bitter tone. “Can you clarify what you mean by that?”

“Several times I caught him stealing our booze during his visits. He was underage. I had some small jewelry pieces and expensive pens disappear too.”

“Oh.” Cate wondered why Daphne had allowed him to drive Becca around if she didn’t trust him.

“His parents let him run wild. He got fired and was prosecuted for stealing from his employer here in New York. He still owes them a lot of money.” She snorted. “Rex was the only one who would give him a job. He always had a soft spot for Dustin.”

“You think it was a mistake for Rex to hire him?”

The line went silent. “Not exactly,” she finally said. “I’m glad Rex isn’t alone in that behemoth of a house, even if it is with that pissant nephew. And I smile when I think of Dustin stuck there on the island. I’m sure it’s a prison for him. He thought of himself as a bit of a player here in New York.” Her laugh was a cackle. “Now he’s a player with no one to show off to except fish and those tiny deer.”

Cate smiled in spite of herself. “He wasn’t in town when Becca disappeared, correct?”

Daphne sighed. “He wasn’t. And even though he was a self-centered little jerk, I think he enjoyed his older-brother role with Becca. Your next question is if I think he’d hurt her, and the answer is no.”

Cate scrambled for another question. “I’m surprised you and Rex are still married,” she said. “Many marriages wouldn’t survive.”

“I still love my husband, Agent Wilde.” Daphne’s voice had softened. “The loss of Becca has changed both of us, and I hope once we have an answer that he’ll return to the man he used to be. If he knows what happened to Becca, I think he’ll be able to leave that giant house.”

Remembering the author’s comment about feeling empty off the island, Cate wondered if that was possible.

“Investigators always ask about money—I’ve had a lot of interviews since Becca vanished,” Daphne continued. “They want to know if we stay married for financial reasons. I’ve been Rex’s literary agent for nearly thirty years. Our relationship started as a working one, and I could divorce him tomorrow and be very comfortable.”

The two women spoke for a minute longer before Cate ended the call. Daphne had been more forthcoming than she’d expected. She mulled over the quick conversation.

Dustin owes money?

Daphne had shared the name of his angry employer. Could there be a connection between the missing girl and her cousin who owed money? Becca had disappeared two years ago. It was a stretch, but she’d call the employer anyway. It spoke to Dustin’s character.

Cate slowed her vehicle, checking address numbers on posts along the side of the road. Stan Irish’s address was on a prominent sign. HOME OF THE CHEERFUL COWS WHO CREATE WIDOW’S ICE CREAMERY ORGANIC ICE CREAM.

“Ice cream, cows, and sex offenders,” she muttered as she took a hard right onto the dirt road that led to the dairy farm. The rough road passed between two pastures dotted with cows. How do you recognize a cheerful cow? They all looked bored.

A hundred yards later she spotted multiple corrals attached to a low, long barn. Off to the right sat a small ranch home with an ancient VW van and a large Ford pickup in front. She parked between a corral and the van, amused at the hundreds of stickers that decorated the van’s back. Many were faded and peeling, looking almost as old as the van. Several said Widow’s Ice Creamery: Organic Bliss.

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