Home > A Bone to Pick (Widow's Island #2)(2)

A Bone to Pick (Widow's Island #2)(2)
Author: Melinda Leigh

He was the older brother of her best friend, Cate. A former army ranger, he’d left the military and returned home two months ago. Tessa had known him for most of her life. She’d even had a crush on him as a teen. But this wasn’t the same man who had left the island a decade before to join the army. Logan’s once-shaggy black hair was shorn close to his head, and his body had toughened, leaving his tanned face looking almost gaunt. But it wasn’t the physical changes that stood out for Tessa. It was the absence of his easy smile. This Logan was darker, the expression in his blue eyes harder in a way she couldn’t quite define.

But then, her life had taken unexpected, unwanted turns as well.

Logan gestured toward the Jetta. “Someone’s here.”

“It’s Jerry Hooper’s vehicle.” Tessa switched on her flashlight.

“Let’s see if we can find him.” Logan started toward the entrance to the trail that led to the beach.

Tessa stopped at the edge of the gravel and directed her light on the ground. “The ground is too dry for footprints.”

Tessa and Logan walked in silence down the trail, pausing when it opened onto Broad Beach. Moonlight shimmered on the water and brightened the sand. Tessa lowered her flashlight and scanned the beach, but she saw no one.

Logan pointed ahead. “Let’s try the picnic area.”

He turned left and walked parallel to the shoreline. Tessa followed him, her ears straining for sounds over the roll of surf in the darkness. The wind blew off the water, shifting the sea spray into her face. Every footstep that brought her closer to the picnic area also lifted the hairs on the back of her neck. Something was wrong. She could feel it. Under her uniform, her skin felt more sensitive, prickling. Her bones hummed with warning, as if every cell of her body sensed danger.

They walked past a curved rock outcropping that formed a small cove. The quieter waters hosted a public boat ramp and dock. Just before the tree line, the picnic area faced the cove. Branches arced over the sand, casting deep shadows. They approached the wooden picnic tables. The wind shifted, and Tessa caught an alarming scent. Her steps hesitated, and her brain screamed, Turn around! It was a wet, raw smell.

Like fresh meat.

She swept her flashlight in a slow semicircle. Her beam fell upon a pair of boots. Tessa raised the flashlight and nearly dropped it. She almost didn’t believe what was right in front of her. For her last couple of years with the Seattle PD, she’d been a detective. She’d seen dead bodies. But this . . .

Her stomach lurched. This was nothing like she’d ever seen in her eleven-year law enforcement career.

Logan said something unintelligible, and his voice dropped off with a choking sound. Tessa’s throat went too dry to speak.

Directly ahead of her, on the sign that listed the items prohibited in the park, the body of a man had been impaled by a harpoon.

She and Logan simply stared for a few heartbeats, the beam of her light locked on the blood-soaked jacket and the spear protruding from the middle of the victim’s torso.

Then Tessa shook off her shock. She approached the body and pressed two fingers to the side of the neck. No pulse, not that she had expected one. But she had to be sure. She took two steps back. She wouldn’t touch the body again until after the coroner had seen him.

Tessa shone her light on the victim’s face.

“That’s not Jerry,” Logan said. “Do you know who it is?”

“Yes,” Tessa answered, her stomach turning.

Widow’s Island was a small community. Outside of the tourist season, newcomers were noticed. Heck, everyone and everything was noticed and noted.

She opened her mouth to answer. A twig snapped in the forest, the sound seeming as loud as a gunshot. Adrenaline shot through Tessa’s bloodstream. Sweat rushed from her pores and dampened her chilled skin. She drew her sidearm.

Next to her, Logan pulled his weapon from its holster.

Tessa held her flashlight in one hand and her gun in the other. Logan positioned himself at her left flank. As a unit, they moved out of the open and into the trees. Tessa skimmed her flashlight over the dark woods, scanning for a human form.

The foliage rustled. Tessa pivoted. She aimed her gun and flashlight at the noise. Her heart sprinted, the beats echoing in her ears and drowning out the sounds of the forest. The beam of her light gleamed on three pairs of eyeballs. Three tiny black-tailed deer spun away and bounded through the trees.

Tessa breathed. Her lungs felt as tight as spandex.

Logan exhaled. “Damn deer.”

They swept a semicircle around the picnic area, then returned to the body.

“Whoever did this is probably long gone.” But Logan did not immediately holster his weapon.

Neither did Tessa.

They stood back to back, as if Logan was also thinking that the killer could still be out there in the dark. It was not possible to search the entire area, not without substantial backup, and the small satellite sheriff’s station didn’t possess enough portable lights.

If she had still been in Seattle, Tessa would have called in a forensic unit, a dozen uniforms, and a K-9 team. But this was Widow’s Island. Assistance was hours away, available only via ferry, private boat, or helicopter.

But the death did need to be reported and investigated. Tessa would start with the coroner. She pulled her phone from her pocket. “I’ll call Henry.”

Dr. Henry Powers was the new doctor on Widow’s Island. Much to his surprise, he’d inherited the job of coroner along with the family practice he’d taken over.

She woke Henry and gave him the location and details of the death. Then she called the sheriff on the mainland. Widow’s Island was remote, and the deputies on the island had learned to function independently. His line went to voice mail, and Tessa left a message.

“Henry is on his way.” She turned her attention back to the body. Her light traveled over the victim. He wore a puffy down jacket in pale blue and dark skinny jeans. A camera case lay on the ground at his feet. His heeled boots were more fashion than function. They belonged in the city, not in the Pacific Northwest wilderness.

But then, so did he.

Sadness filled her as she studied his face. He’d been handsome—pretty, even—with a long, slim face and tousled hair that fell just below his ears.

“His name is Dante,” she said. “I don’t remember his last name. He hasn’t lived on the island long, less than a year.”

“Has he been in any trouble?” Logan asked.

“No.” Tessa shook her head. “He is—was an artist. He painted landscapes of the island and sold them in Rachel Abbott’s shop in town. He lived in the converted barn behind Jerry’s house. He must have borrowed Jerry’s Jetta. He seemed friendly enough with Rachel and Jerry. I’ve never heard any complaints about him from anyone else either.”

So why would someone drive a harpoon into his chest?


Logan had seen terrible things in the Middle East.

Things he would like to forget.

Unfortunately, his imagination liked to remind him when he closed his eyes. But he’d never expected to see something this barbaric on Widow’s Island. He’d returned home specifically hoping to escape this kind of brutality. His nightmares had subsided since he’d come back to the secluded island. He’d thought he’d finally left the horrors behind, but maybe peace was out of his reach for good. The world—and his perspective of it—had changed. There was no escaping the ugliness.

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