All Washed Up
by: Joanna Campbell Slan
Cara Mia Delgatto Mystery #3
Publication Date: March 21, 2016
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Purchase: Amazon (#99c)
Synopsis: Half-drowned immigrants. A dead store owner. A vicious attempt on a woman’s life. Despite all this, shop owner Cara Mia Delgato still tries to do what’s right by returning a vintage Lilly Pulitzer frock to its original owner. As a result, she risks everything—including her son’s life.
With a plot echoing the weighty decisions of today, and a revelation that lays bare the intrigues of our nation’s most exclusive town, All Washed Up is a fast-paced, clean read, that sparkles with a cast of strong women. As an amateur sleuth, Cara Mia proves her courage. As a woman friend, she’s without equal. And as a crime-solving granddaughter, she’s not afraid to back up her grandfather when he’s in a tight spot, because that’s what women do…we take care of those we love. In this third book in the series, Cara’s romantic problems come to a nasty head, while her relationship with her sister grows ever more toxic. But throughout all the drama, Cara proves herself to be a woman you can count on in a tough situation. Of course, you can also count on her to come up with yummy recipes and terrific ideas for recycling. But hey, isn’t that what being a working woman is all about? Multi-tasking!
Cara Mia is going out on a date with Jason, a wonderful guy. He’s ready to take their relationship to the next level, but she’s not sure that’s what she wants.
Jason tucked my hand under his arm as we ambled down the sidewalk toward the restaurants that dotted the streets of Downtown Stuart.
“Yes, I found the woman who washed up on the beach. Can you believe it? That started my day on the wrong foot. I was primed for a nice walk with Jack, but after stumbling over the mermaid—”
“Mermaid?” Jason frowned as he pulled me closer so we could let other folks get by. As we walked, women’s heads turned. No doubt about it, Jason was major league eye candy. His sandy blond hair was sun-streaked from surfing. His shoulders were broad and his waist tiny. Not only was he well-built, but his chiseled features were well-balanced.
“Mermaid. That’s my private name for the woman I found. See, when I spotted her, she looked like one of those sand sculptures people leave on the beach. I didn’t realize she was a real person until she moved. Skye has been telling me I need glasses. She’s probably right. Of course, the mist made things blurry.”
We came to a crosswalk. “Cara, what were you thinking? Wandering around on a beach by yourself in the dark?”
“Jupiter Island is the safest community in the country. Our ratio of law enforcement officers—”
Jason interrupted. “Don’t give me that baloney. You didn’t have a cop escort, Cara. You could have been hurt. Seriously hurt. Someone could have overpowered you.”
“So I’ve been told. Repeatedly.”
“Promise me you won’t endanger yourself like that again.”
I almost snapped at him. Almost.
Instead of getting huffy, I stopped and kissed Jason on the cheek.
Jason walked me backwards into an alcove festooned with playbills. Putting both hands on my shoulders, he gently pinned me against the wall. “Cara? Ever since I took that job up in Jacksonville, I’ve come to realize how much I care about you.” Moving slowly, he leaned in for a kiss.
It wasn’t a friend-to-friend sort of smooch. It was long and deep. Fireworks exploded throughout my body. A shower of sparks set me tingling. Even though we were standing there on a public street, I heard a moan escape my lips.
“Whoa.” I pushed him away. His eyes had a gleam that could only be described as hungry. “Jason, that was, um, intense. I’m not ready for it. I mean, there’s our age difference.”
He tossed back his head and laughed. “Okay, Grandma.” With a tug at my hand, he pulled me toward the open sidewalk. “Let’s see if you can make it to the restaurant without your walker.”
Last week in January
Jupiter Island, Florida
Morning dawned gray and indistinct on Jupiter Island. Locking my front door behind me and gathering my Chihuahua’s leash in my hand, I pointed us toward the narrow road that led to the Hobe Sound Beach Park. The gloomy weather disappointed me, but Jack didn’t mind at all. Waving his tiny tail, Jack threw his weight (all two pounds of it!) against the leash so that he leaned away from me as he scampered down the street.
The fog sent a chill through me, but Jack’s merry attitude brought a smile to my face. Okay, so this gloomy weather wasn’t what I’d expected of sunny Florida. This was the best time of day for walking on the beach, right before the fisherman dragged their gear to the water’s edge. Long before the sunbathers would spread their colorful towels and pop the tops on their soft drinks. This quiet island would reveal its secrets to me while I watched the sun pop up on the horizon like a ripe orange being squeezed out of a grocery bag.
Jack and I turned left where Bridge Road dead-ended at Hobe Sound Park. The gloom muted the colors of larger-than-life sculptures of sea turtles, a vivid reminder of our fragile ecosystem. A sign on a plinth reminded visitors of the turtles’ lifecycle. I noted that nesting season was a full two months away. I tightened my grip on Jack’s leash, rather than let him roam the dunes. Raccoons, possums, and cane toads could all pose a danger to my small companion.
The wood of the boardwalk was old and bounced under my well-worn tennis shoes. Since finding a stray fishhook in the sand, I’ve learned that being barefoot can be hazardous. Especially early in the morning, when you can’t see clearly. At the crest of the boardwalk, I paused, taking in the magnificent view. An overcast sky touched the concrete-colored water, creating a seamless, endless ribbon of dull nothingness. A wave of vertigo made me dizzy as the band of dull, lifeless color stretched out in front of me, arched up and over me. One word popped into my head: Dead.
A shiver ran down my spine. I was being silly. Jack sensed my reticence. Rearing up on his back legs, he plonked his front paws against my calf muscles, urging me onward.
Determined to master my emotions, I shook my head and got my bearings. On either side of the boardwalk, sea oats rustled in the breeze. Their golden serrated heads created a spot of metallic color against the glum vista. Impatiently, Jack yanked me forward. Following his lead, my feet touched the wet sand. The pungent smell of seaweed greeted me. Last night’s storm had left a wrack line dark with dense mounds of Sargasso. Jack lunged to the right, sniffing eagerly at a knot of sand sporting a halo of wet feathers.
“Get away from that,” I urged him.
A handful of seabirds died in every storm. Riding the winds exhausted them. Eventually, the high winds would fling their bodies into the surf so that they littered the beach the next day. While Jack fought me to sniff and explore, adorable sandpipers ignored the carnage. Their tiny legs moved double-time as they raced to pick up yummy delicacies before the crustaceans burrowed too deeply in the sand, making their escape.
“Knock it off, buddy,” I chided Jack as he fought the leash and pulled me forward. He lunged toward a huge clump of seaweed, shaped like a person.
So I wasn’t alone on the beach this morning! Someone had gotten here before me. Jack tugged relentlessly toward the sand sculpture. Thanks to our walks, I’d discovered that beachgoers showed endless creativity. I’d found messages in bottles, seashells spelling out love notes, sandcastles of all sizes, and now someone had crafted a mermaid, half in and half out of the water.
“Huh. Somebody must have been working in the dark,” I muttered. “Weird.”
In the distance, the roar of an ATV signaled that the beach patrol had started its day, making the rounds. When the wind changed, a whiff of diesel made my nose prickle even though the ATV was a football field away.
I had rescued Jack after a truck driver tossed him out the window of his pickup. Not surprisingly, the little dog gets spooked by loud engines. But this morning, he didn’t notice the ATV. Despite the noise of the approaching vehicle, Jack dragged me toward the lumps in the sand. He pitched his entire weight against the leash as he strained toward the mermaid. Closer inspection showed a remarkably realistic creature with dark brown hair, presumably a wodge of seaweed. Her arms were thrown up over her head. Her face was turned toward the water. The advancing tide nipped at the tip of her tail.
Jack’s toenails threw up sand as he struggled to get closer to her.
“Come on, buddy. If you get wet, you’ll need a bath.” I tugged at his leash.
The put-put-put of the ATV’s motor roared louder and louder. The driver’s faded blue cap bobbed up and down, appearing and disappearing, as the vehicle climbed low hills and descended into dips. Usually our beach is perfectly flat, but last night’s rough tides had caused escarpments, jagged chunks carved from the friable surface. As the ATV got closer, Jack started to get nervous. He backed away from the water’s edge, growling at the mermaid.
“Come on,” I urged him. “It’s just a pile of sand, Jack! There’s nothing to be scared of!”
He froze in his tracks.
I nearly tripped over my own feet, rather than step on him. An ear-piercing howl splintered the morning quiet.
“Buddy, it’s okay!” I bent low to scoop Jack into my arms. My eyes followed the direction of his stare.
The mermaid lifted her head and groaned.
DON’T MISS THE OTHER BOOKS IN THE CARA MIA DELGATTO MYSTERY SERIES
Synopsis: A spin off from the Kiki Lowenstein Mysteries.
After her parents die within six months of each other and her son goes off to college, savvy entrepreneur Cara Mia Delgatto decides to construct a new life for herself. A road trip leads to her grandfather’s home on the picturesque Treasure Coast of Florida, where she impulsively snaps up a “tear down,” a building scheduled for the wrecking ball–only to discover it’s already occupied by a fresh corpse. While Detective Lou Murray tries to nail the killer to the wall, Cara Mia enlists the help of two new friends to open a store specializing in one-of-a-kind, recycled, and repurposed items. But before she can get down to brass tacks, Cara Mia decides to help Lou figure out “whodunit,” because she’s been painted into the picture as one of the prime suspects. To make matters more complicated, tensions are building with Cooper Rivers, an old boyfriend. Cara Mia wonders whether her second chance at love will pan out–or if her carefully constructed fantasies will lead her to a new life behind bars. Includes Crafts-Skye Blue’s Sparkling Votives and Recipes-MJ Austin’s Pineapple Casserole, Skye Blue’s Broccoli Soup, and Cara Mia Delgatto’s Clams in Garlic Wine Broth.
Synopsis: Joanna Slan has done it again with her murder mystery book. Book two in this series really grabs readers from the start. Cara Mia Delgatto seems to always have murder knocking at her door. She owns The Treasure Chest and is working with a fun, loving staff to turn “trash” into treasure. Shortly after her store’s big kick off party, a body is discovered out her back door. Cara was seen in heated discussion with the victim at Cara’s party. This was a very quick read to the end. Couldn’t wait to find out who did it.
ABOUT JOANNA CAMPBELL SLAN
Joanna Campbell Slan is the nationally bestselling and award-winning author of thirty books, including both fiction and non-fiction titles. RT Reviews has called Joanna “one of mystery’s rising stars.” Like her protagonists, Joanna loves nature, crafting, and long walks on the beach. A native of Florida, she lives with her husband David and their dog, Jax, on Jupiter Island, Florida.