One More Time (Paradise Bay Book 2)

By: Ella Linden

Chapter One

A brick through the window. That was one way to start the day.

Carter Daniels stood outside the brewery he owned with his brother in downtown Paradise Bay and looked up and down the street. He wasn’t the only business owner standing outside looking either stressed out, ticked off, or just generally irritated.

It looked like just about every business on the short block had been hit. Windows were broken all up and down Eighth Street.

Of course, this would happen the one day Scott was out of town. This was Scott’s world. The brewery. Downtown. Carter just grew the hops and brewed the beer. The last thing he wanted was to be in charge of the business side of anything.

He glanced a couple doors down, where Lauren and Holly, the co-owners of Gutters Comics and Books, were standing outside as well. They’d all been instructed to stay out of their shops until the police had a chance to look around. Which meant that in addition to the usual early morning tourist traffic, there were a couple dozen business owners standing on the sidewalks not quite knowing what to do with themselves.

He walked down to where Holly and Lauren stood.

“Can you believe this crap?” Lauren asked when he approached. He shook his head.

He’d been at the brewery for an hour already, after getting an alert that the alarm had gone off. Clearly, he wasn’t the only one.

“I’m not trying to be one of those people who complains, but why did they have to start at that end of the block?” Holly muttered. She was looking down the street, where the officers that had been called to the scene were taking reports from business owners and checking around for clues. “This is going to take all day,” she added.

Carter shrugged. “It’ll take as long as it takes. Not much we can do about it now. Did you call someone about your window yet?”

She nodded. “This is seriously the only time I regret having those old-fashioned windows. They’re not going to be cheap or fast to replace.”

Carter looked toward Gutters. A row of mullioned windows lined the front of the shop, trim painted a glossy black. The glass was shattered out of two of the windows, wood between the panes cracked and splintered.

“And now we’re going to miss out on a few hours of business,” Lauren said. Carter crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back against the brick at the front of Gutters. It was the same brick that fronted the brewery; Daniels Brothers, Gutters, and a little used bookstore shared a building at the end of the block, along with his friend Nate’s tattoo parlor, Paradise Ink. Same brick, same black trim, though the brewery had gone with huge plate-glass windows.

Scott was going to have a fit. Carter grimaced.

“I just hope they catch the idiot who did this. You guys know the same thing happened over on Thirteenth last week, right?” Lauren asked.

Holly and Carter nodded. While they stood there, he called the waitresses he had on the schedule for that day and told them to stay home. He wasn’t sure how long it would be before they could open again.

After a while, Holly stormed off, trying to get at least one officer to start at their end of the block, and Lauren glanced at him and rolled her eyes.

“She doesn’t handle waiting well,” she said.

“I noticed,” he said with a shake of his head. He was all too familiar with impatient women.

As he thought it, he saw Holly walking down the block with one of the officers from the Paradise Bay police department.

He blew out a breath and glanced at Lauren, who just gave him a look of pity. Anyone in his circle of friends, which included Lauren and Holly, knew that right about then, all he wanted to do was find some kind of large hole to vanish into.

Of course, Holly couldn’t have grabbed some other officer. No. She had to grab the one officer he didn’t want to deal with today. Or, pretty much ever.

The officer, Iris Nimura, walked with Holly to the front of Gutters, taking down information and then snapping photos. She talked to Holly and Lauren, and then the three of them went inside the shop and Carter was left alone on the sidewalk again.

He found himself wanting to throttle Scott for being out of town.

Maybe she’ll leave taking his report for one of the other officers, he told himself. They’d been absolute pros at pretending the other didn’t exist. He didn’t expect her to change that now.

Holly, Lauren, and Iris stepped outside of Gutters, and then Iris started talking to the elderly couple who owned the bookstore between the comic shop and the brewery. He did his level best not to stare at her.

Not that that had ever been easy.

Iris was, without a doubt, the most beautiful, bewitching woman he’d ever laid eyes on. Her long, jet-black hair was pinned up, customary for when she was working, but he remembered all too well watching her hair blow in the breeze out at his farm, or, even better, spread out on his pillow at night. When the light hit it just right, there was a hint of red to it that had never failed to mesmerize him. Her eyes, which reminded him of one of the dark ales they brewed, flicked past him as if he didn’t exist as she talked to the McCartys next door. She had a straight, petite nose and a chin that narrowed down into an almost severe-looking point. She’d gotten her gorgeous eyes and inexhaustible drive from her Japanese-American father, her height and quick temper from her Irish mother. He knew, because he’d met them both. It all came together to create the only woman who’d ever gotten under his skin.