Dual Power of Convenience – A Review

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Dual Power of Convenience by Chautona Havig

Released on July 28, 2020

When Richard Danforth inherits the family estate on Merriweather Island, he doesn’t have time to deal with it—especially not from halfway across the globe. He’s too busy working to become the world’s newest billionaire and avoiding the women who would detract him from his goals.

Enter Lyla Santana. Fresh out of Oxford University with a degree in antiques and a relationship that nearly killed her to leave, she’s eager for the isolation and treasure trove that is Danforth Hall. Lyla also is determined to avoid men at all costs. Forever.

It was supposed to be a match made on paper. With him halfway across the globe, they’d never have to see each other again.

So, what’s Richard doing on Merriweather just weeks after the wedding? And how will his arrival test Lyla’s faith, not to mention stretch their so-called relationship?

In a twist on billionaire romance and marriage of convenience, this “Merriweather book” kicks off a new series featuring five islands, six authors, and a boatload of happily-ever-afters.

The Independence Island Series: beach reads aren’t just for summer anymore.

My Review

I will confess, I am not a fan of straight romance and have never read a billionaire romance story. I am, however, a fan of Chautona Havig and her books. When I read the description for Dual Power of Convenience I found myself fascinated.

Dual Power of Convenience has such a lovely setting. The southern neighbors, the water, the little book nook… It really made me want to visit the island and stay in that lovely house with all the antiques! Or buy it from Richard Danforth.

Speaking of the characters, I quite enjoyed Richard and Lyla. They were different than other characters I’ve met through Chautona Havig, and I enjoyed getting to know them. Richard, especially, was not what I expected at all – but I won’t tell you in what way, as I don’t want to spoil anything!

I really enjoyed way she spun the marriage of convenience story. It wasn’t typical, but then, her books usually aren’t. Even though I guessed how the book would end – because, it’s pretty obvious what the basic conclusion will be – I read the entire book in two days, eager to read the next part.

The only complaint I could make is that there might be a point or two that I think the author could have elaborated on or added to. I shall not, however, spoil the story by listing that here. I would, indeed, recommend this book.

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Chautona is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book (winner’s choice of eBook or paperback format)!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter:

https://promosimple.com/ps/ff14/dual-power-of-convenience-celebration-tour-giveaway

Blog Tour

Texas Book-aholic, August 5

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, August 5

Inklings and notions, August 6

lakesidelivingsite, August 6

deb’s Book Review, August 6

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, August 7

Rebekah Jones, Author, August 7

For Him and My Family, August 7

Artistic Nobody, August 8 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, August 8

Locks, Hooks and Books, August 9

Ashley’s Bookshelf, August 9

21st Century Keeper at Home, August 9

She Lives To Read, August 10

Simple Harvest Reads, August 10 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, August 11

Adventures of a Traverlers wife, August 11

Emily Yager, August 12

Stories By Gina, August 12

CarpeDiem, August 12

cultivating us, August 13

Connect in Fiction, August 13

Livin’ Lit, August 13

Read Review Rejoice, August 14

Quiet Workings, August 14

Blossoms and Blessings, August 14

Just Your Average reviews, August 15

Rebekah Reads, August 15

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, August 15

Lis Loves Reading, August 16

The Meanderings of a Bookworm, August 16

Splashes of Joy, August 16

Pause for Tales, August 17

Captive Dreams Window, August 17

Spoken from the Heart, August 17

Lots of Helpers, August 18

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, August 18

About the Author

Chautona Havig lives in an oxymoron, escapes into imaginary worlds that look startlingly similar to ours and writes the stories that emerge. An irrepressible optimist, Chautona sees everything through a kaleidoscope of It’s a Wonderful Life sprinkled with fairy tales. Find her on the web and say howdy—if you can remember how to spell her name.

Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXV

Chapter XXV – Ginger Thomas

“You’re a little arrogant for someone who just admitted to being a liar.”

Ginger could feel her face flame at Kimberly’s words, but for Eddie’s sake alone, she didn’t raise her voice. She couldn’t help, however, but reply. “I did not admit to lying. I admitted to an omission of fact – and one that could have no bearing whatsoever on this case.”

“Maybe we should be the judges of that.” Kimberly glared down at Ginger over her crossed arms. “I still don’t fully believe that you are siblings, but if you are and you omitted one thing, who knows what else you decided not to tell us!”

“Enough, please.” Adrian cut off the reply on the tip of Ginger’s tongue. “This conversation is going to lead us nowhere and arguing will not do anyone any good.”

“If she’s hiding something-” Kimberly began.

“If she’s hiding something, then my cousin and I will talk to her. That is what you asked us to do.”

Kimberly huffed, marched over to a chair, and sat down with crossed arms.

Ginger just caught her glare, before redirecting her gaze. She looked down to find Eddie watching her. He looked confused and it worried her that it might have something to do with his loss of blood.

“What do you know, Ginger?”

“Never mind.” She squeezed his hand, despite the somewhat rough tone she used. “Don’t worry about it.”

“You only say that,” the words came quiet and strained, “when there’s something to actually worry about.”

Ginger could feel him tense, then he closed his eyes again.

“I don’t know how he’s bearing the pain so well.” Renee pushed her hair out of her eyes. “It must be terrible.”

Ginger had a ready retort about the understatement of such a comment, but at a warning look from Timothy, she bit her tongue instead.

Mary crept closer again and Ginger tensed. “He’s still a-alive. I didn’t kill him. I keep expecting him to slip away.”

“Yes, he’s still alive.” Timothy didn’t look up.

The woman stepped even closer.

Fabian beckoned her back. “No, you didn’t kill him. No, you may not try again.”

Mary opened her mouth to wail or argue, Ginger didn’t know which, but a look at Fabian and another at Adrian clamped it shut again.

With a sigh, Adrian turned to rejoin his cousin. Ginger watched him go, then looked across Eddie at Timothy.

“You’re sure that he’s stable?”

“For now, at least.” Timothy gave her a hint of a smile. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to keep him there.”

She nodded, then gently squeezed the hand she held. “Eddie?”

He opened his eyes, but didn’t bother answering.

She tried to speak gently. “Will  you be okay if I go talk to the cousins for a minute? It’s probably better if I volunteer, before they call me.”

He stared at her for a long moment. “You’re sure everything’s okay, Ginger?”

She shook her head. “Don’t worry about it. Will you be all right?”

He nodded faintly and Ginger hesitated.

“I’ll call you if he needs you.” Timothy kept his voice lowered, as she had done.

Ginger looked up at him a moment, then nodded. Squeezing Eddie’s hand again, she tried to push to her feet. Fabian noticed her and offered a hand of assistance.

She nodded at Fabian, looked down at Eddie, and tried not to sigh. “I’ll be right back.”

She made herself ignore Mary Dill’s stare as she passed her, heading straight for the cousins. Mary, however, didn’t care to be ignored.

“You know that he killed Gary Bradshaw.”

Ginger stopped in her tracks, but didn’t turn toward Mary.

“You know it. We all know it! Just… let yourself admit it.”

Ginger slowly turned to face the woman, whose wide-eyed expression had changed into a serious, almost crafty stare.

“Just let yourself admit it.” She spoke in a low, wheedling tone. “It would help all of us.”

Ginger grit her teeth. “Eddie didn’t kill anyone, so there is nothing for me to admit. You are the psychopath who thought ending a person’s life was a good idea. Which reminds me; where is the weapon? How do we know that you won’t try again?”

“I…”

“We took the knife.” Fabian gestured across the room. “The lawyer has it. I don’t know where she got it from though.”

Mary looked between the two rapidly. “I – I saw it over the counter as I passed. I just grabbed it while I walked. I was trying to protect us!” She started to raise her voice.

“Oh, save it.” Ginger turned away. “The only person who believes such a stupid reason for stabbing someone, especially Eddie, is you.”

Mary stopped her escalation toward a wail. “And the only person who thinks Eddie McIntyre did not kill Gary Bradshaw is you!”

Ginger paused again.

“Mary…” Adrian rose from his seat.

“She is! Why are we placating one angry woman! We need to do something!”

“What would you suggest?” Anna’s eyes flashed. “The man is lying on the floor with a knife wound in his side! Would you like to tie him up?”

“It – it would be a start!”

“Even is he is the killer, do you really think he looks able to hurt anyone right now?” Anna pointed to where Eddie lay. “He’s barely moving!”

“Mary does have a point, Anna.” Kimberly sat forward in her chair. “We don’t want another incident.”

Ginger looked back at Timothy, who hadn’t left Eddie’s side. He didn’t contribute much, but he didn’t seem to be missing anything either.

I wonder if he would let them tie up Eddie…

“Mary does not have a point.” Anna shook her head. “You do not tie up a badly injured person. You of all people should know that!”

“You will not throw that into my face.” Kimberly’s cold voice took on an angry edge. “Disrespecting me by bringing up the past…”

“It’s not only your past.” Anna’s eyes glistened. “You weren’t even there. I was.

“It doesn’t matter. I-”

“It does matter, Kimberly. If the past can’t give you compassion for others, that’s up to you. Even if Eddie is guilty, we have no way of knowing that yet and there is no way that he ought to be restrained. And…” She glanced at Ginger and tried to smile just barely. “I don’t believe that he’s guilty either. Ginger isn’t the only one.”

“I can’t say that I believe it either.” Fabian pushed his hands into his pockets. “It hardly seems likely.”

Ginger did all that she could not to sigh in relief.

“But, he did do it! You can see it in his face! In her face too!” Mary raised an accusatory finger in Ginger’s direction.

“That is hardly evidence, as we might have mentioned before.” Fabian almost seemed to smile.

“It’s true though!”

“It’s not!” Ginger glared. “You can’t see something in a person’s face, if it’s not actually true.”

Mary wrung her hands. “It is true!”

Ginger grit her teeth until they hurt to prevent a reply escaping her tongue. She wanted to throw herself at the woman, but held back.

Eddie. Eddie doesn’t need me acting on my temper right now. Everyone doesn’t even believe her. Stay calm for Eddie.

Fabian shook his head. “Maybe we should let our ‘detectives’ do their jobs and stop trying to ‘help.’”

“They aren’t doing their jobs!” Mary wailed. She fled across the café, much more swiftly than Ginger expected. She shook the door wildly, her hair sticking out even more than before. “We’re still locked in! With a murderer! They haven’t proven who is guilty. They haven’t done anything!”

“They were trying, until you stopped everything by stabbing a man,” Fabian answered mildly.

Mary blinked.

“You need to give them time.” This time Renee spoke in a very soft voice.

“Time!” Mary recovered from Fabian’s remark. “We’ll all die one by one!”

“One person has died.” Xavier made everyone turn toward him. “We will do everything we can to find out why and by whose hand. Panicking will not help anything.”

“I just want out!” Mary shook the door again, but nothing happened. “I can’t be stuck in here any longer!”

She grabbed a chair with rather astonishing strength and threw it into the fogged glass window. She screamed when both she and the chair met an impassible barrier. It must have hurt, but the glass remained unbroken.

Ginger coughed to keep back her laugh. “You won’t break it. It’s bullet proof. I’m pretty sure that makes it chair proof too.”

“Why on earth does the café have bullet proof glass?” Anna raised an eyebrow as she stared.

“How should I know? I don’t own the place. I just work here.”

“Curiouser and curiouser.” Fabian could barely be heard.

Mary’s hands shook. “We can’t get out! We can’t get out!”

No one answered her. Ginger expected that someone would, but they didn’t.

Fabian finally shrugged, turning away from Mary Dill. “What should we do now? I hardly think that we can return to Agatha Christie.”

“If we’re so certain that those two should be left to investigate, perhaps they should go back to investigating.” Kimberly bit out the words savagely.

Ginger recalled why she no longer knelt beside Eddie and glanced toward the cousins.

I should still talk to them. Before they make me.

“We’ll need to confer for a moment, but then we can continue our investigation. We’ll probably continue the interviews, as well.” Adrian looked incredibly weary.

Ginger swallowed. “Can I talk to you for a moment first?”

Adrian glanced toward Xavier and then nodded. “Certainly, Miss Thomas.”

“It’s about time,” Kimberly muttered. “Keeping secrets at a time like this…”

Ginger ignored the added glare and marched toward the booth.

You and Mary Dill are the reason why I’m not letting most of these people know what I have to say. You can not be trusted.

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Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXIV

Chapter XXIV – Timothy Teller

When Timothy first caught sight of Eddie lying on the floor with a stab wound to his chest, time seemed to freeze and he with it. It could only have been seconds before Ginger screamed and Adrian stated the rather obvious need for medical attention, but it felt like an hour. Memories raced through Timothy’s mind, all but blinding him. Then, he heard Adrian, the images vanished, and he could work.

He heard everyone around him, while he cleared and checked the wound, kept watch over Eddie’s vitals as best he could, and applied pressure with the towels that Adrian and Anna had found. He only spoke when he had to, and kept the majority of his attention on Eddie and stopping the blood flow. He needed to stop it before it grew critical.

The fighting between Ginger and Mary alarmed him, but he decided that he could only do one thing at a time, so he didn’t even turn to watch them. Eddie’s distress worried him, but he could scarcely assuage that either. When the injured man asked for Ginger, Timothy couldn’t be certain that calling her over would be a good idea, but Eddie seemed to calm somewhat while she remained quiet beside him.

When Kimberly began her interrogation of Ginger, Timothy became annoyed.

I’m trying to save a man’s life. Who argues that someone cares about a possibly dying man? Insanity.

He grit his teeth and held his tongue, though he wanted to tell the older woman to be quiet. Eddie appeared to ignore them all and Timothy wished he could do the same.

“Well?” Kimberly’s voice grated on Timothy’s nerves every time she spoke. “Why do you care so much?”

He glanced at Ginger. She looked exhausted as she watched Eddie. “Because…” She barely looked at Timothy when she raised her head. She saw something and her eyes hardened. “Because, Eddie is my younger brother.”

Eddie’s eyes flew open and he stared at Ginger. Timothy blinked and tried to process this new bit of information.

“I knew it!” Fabian sounded exultant. “I just knew it!”

“I don’t believe it!” Kimberly snapped.

Ginger tilted her chin up. “You don’t have to believe it. He is. Your belief of a thing does not determine its truth.”

“If he’s your brother, then why on earth have neither of you said anything before?” Kimberly seemed determined. “Did she say anything to you and your cousin?”

“No.” Adrian’s voice came from somewhere behind Timothy. “No, neither of them did.”

“Then, if it’s true, then why haven’t you said anything?”

Eddie cried out in pain as Timothy shifted the pressure on the towel, and Ginger sighed.

“Because…” She watched Eddie, who squeezed his eyes shut against the pain. Timothy just saw her grimace. “Because, we parted ways four years ago.”

“Parted ways?” Fabian sounded amused. “Sister, you two are co-workers – and didn’t one of you mention earlier that you have been co-workers for years? That’s not parting ways.”

“I disowned him.” Ginger’s annoyance flared again. “Just trust me, I did.”

“Must have been fun working together then.”

Timothy wished that Fabian would be quiet.

“What did he do?” Kimberly asked.

“Do?”

“You disowned him, so what did he do to make you disown him?”

“He has a criminal record and she didn’t want to be associated with it!” Mary’s voice made Timothy jump. “I can see it in her face! He’s been in trouble with the law before!”

Ginger practically snarled. “You don’t get to make any assumptions, Mary Dill! In trouble with the law? You are going to be in trouble with the law whenever we get out of here!”

“I-I-I was protecting us!”

Ginger glared, but Timothy caught her eye.

“Don’t.”

“Don’t what?” She spoke through grit teeth.

“Don’t keep the argument going.” Timothy glanced down at Eddie’s drawn face. “If this is your brother and you want to help him, do not engage.”

“She’s a liar!”

“And you’re going to change her mind?”

Ginger frowned.

“Just tell us what he actually did.” Renee still knelt nearby, ready to offer assistance if needed. “Truth is the best contradiction for falsehood.”

“He didn’t do anything!” Ginger raised her voice somewhat and Kimberly heard her.

“If he did nothing, then why did you want to get rid of him?”

“I didn’t say I wanted to get rid of him!”

“You disowned him!” Kimberly almost seemed to laugh. “Of course, you wanted to get rid of him.”

Pressure applied to Eddie’s wound seemed to be doing its job at last. Timothy didn’t dare to stop just yet, but he began to feel a bit hopeful.

“Well?” Kimberly didn’t give up.

Eddie opened his eyes. “Just let it go, Ginger.”

She didn’t respond, but sat still, watching him. Timothy couldn’t be sure if she actually saw him or just her thoughts.

“Failure to respond is admission to accusations.”

“Kimberly, please,” Anna said. “You don’t know that.”

“We don’t know much of anything,” Fabian added.

“Mary’s probably right. He was a criminal and Ginger just doesn’t want to say.”

Ginger shook her head. “I told you. He didn’t do anything. I had to… Sometimes you have to choose between two people because they aren’t compatible with each other. When I chose, Eddie got cut off in favor of… someone else.”

“You’re saying that he’s never been implicated in any criminal activity whatsoever?” Kimberly asked.

Ginger glared at the woman as her only response.

“He was!” Mary squealed. “Maybe he’s murdered before this!”

“You people are incorrigible!” Ginger glanced at Timothy and then softened her voice. “Fine. Yes. Once, several years ago, the police took Eddie in for questioning regarding a shoplifting case. But they never charged him and that has nothing to do with why I disowned him.”

“Sure it doesn’t. No charges filed also doesn’t mean that he didn’t do it.” Kimberly tapped her foot.

“He says that he didn’t do it!”

“You think that Eddie killed Gary Bradshaw.” Fabian spoke in a measured tone. Timothy imagined him with his arms crossed and watching Ginger, but he didn’t turn around to see.

“What? No, I don’t!”

“That’s why you keep protecting him so adamantly.”

“Fabian, please don’t…” Adrian tried to intervene.

Fabian pressed on. “It’s not just that he’s your brother, you think – or you’re afraid – that he’s guilty and you’re desperate to protect him.”

“That’s not true!”

“Don’t get me wrong; if my little brother had a murder charge hanging over him, I’d probably get pretty desperate too.”

“I told you that he did it!” Mary’s wail pierced the room. Again. “I told you!”

“He didn’t! Eddie wouldn’t kill anyone!”

Possibly the only one in the room doing so, Timothy watched Eddie. He’d opened his eyes, but too weak to defend himself, in a world of pain, and in obvious distress over Ginger, his face was a study in various emotions.

Adrian left the others, kneeling near Timothy. He nodded toward Eddie, speaking in a quiet voice aside from the rest of the group. “How is he doing?”

“He’s stabilizing. He still needs a hospital, of course, but he’s stabilizing for now.”

“Thank the Lord. Can I ask him a few questions?”

“You can try. He doesn’t seem able to speak very well though.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Adrian smiled a bit and bent over Eddie. “Can I ask you a few things? You can nod or shake your head.”

Eddie nodded carefully. Ginger watched Adrian, but didn’t try to intervene.

“Is Ginger your sister?”

Eddie glanced at Timothy and then nodded.

“Did she disown you?”

Eddie nodded again, this time more slowly.

“Did the police questioning you regarding a case of shoplifting have any bearing on her disowning you?”

This time Eddie shook his head.

Adrian sighed. “Were you charged with a crime in regard to the shoplifting?”

Another shake of the head.

“Were you guilty?”

Eddie shook his head again.

Adrian paused for a long moment. “Eddie, if the truth, as you know it, contradicted anything Ginger had already told us – would you tell me the truth right now, despite that?”

Eddie took his time responding, but finally nodded just before a wave of pain took over. He squeezed his eyes shut and Adrian sighed.

Timothy looked over at him.

“I wanted to hear it from him, not only Ginger.”

Mary, possibly emboldened by Kimberly’s doubts, stepped closer to Eddie. Ginger stiffened, apparently ready to spring at a moment’s notice. Adrian stood and Fabian came forward.

“You did it! Just confess!” Mary wrung her hands. “It would be better for all of us and then everyone would understand why I had to stab you! Just confess!”

“Why don’t you back up…” Fabian took another step forward.

Eddie didn’t say anything and even Ginger held her tongue.

Timothy had turned to keep an eye on the woman and saw her point a shaking finger toward Eddie. “I know that I’m right! I saw it in your face!”

“Maybe he knew Gary Bradshaw.” Kimberly still had her arms crossed. “Just because he’s not a regular here, doesn’t mean that Eddie doesn’t know him from anywhere else.”

Mary jumped and pointed at Ginger. Fabian put a hand on the excited woman’s arm. “He knew him! I see it! I see it in your face!”

“For goodness sake, stop claiming to see everything in someone’s face!” Renee probably voiced what everyone thought.

Timothy looked at Ginger, who had gone nearly white, but she neither said anything nor moved from Eddie’s side.

“Confess!” Mary resisted Fabian’s attempts to make her step back.

Eddie watched Ginger, the furrow on his brow showing utter confusion. Ginger didn’t look at him.

“Confess!”

“No!” Ginger took a deep breath, and then sighed. When she spoke again, she used a normal tone. “If I know anything, and I’m not saying that I do, I’m certainly not telling you.”

Mary tried to speak again, but Ginger had no intention of allowing it.

“I’ll speak with the people who we asked to investigate. Not to a lunatic woman who thinks that stabbing an innocent man is the best way to solve a murder.”

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Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXIII

Chapter XXIII – Ginger Thomas

Unlike Mary Dill, Ginger knew how to scream once and then stop. Even when in near panic and even when it felt like the world had gone black.

He wasn’t supposed to get hurt! Why him?

She didn’t raise her head, but slowly became aware that she could feel the rise and fall of Eddie’s breathing. He hadn’t died. Fainted, perhaps, but hadn’t died. Not yet.

A second more and she heard Adrian’s voice above her. “He has a rapid heartbeat, but I can’t tell how deeply he’s been injured. He needs medical attention – somehow.”

“Let me look at him.”

Ginger had to raise her head to identify the speaker. Timothy, pale and haggard, took Adrian’s place on Eddie’s other side. She would never have guessed the voice to be his, it sounded so strange.

Ginger looked down at Eddie’s face again. She had never seen anyone alive and yet so ashen. She realized that she trembled, but whether from fury, grief, or both, she didn’t even know.

Timothy called for supplies and Adrian went for them with Anna. Renee knelt nearby, prepared to give any assistance. The sickening sound of tearing fabric set Ginger’s teeth on edge, as Timothy pulled material away from the wound. She tried to keep from watching.

He has to be all right. He has to be.

Eddie’s eyelids fluttered and then with a cry of pain, he seemed to return to consciousness. He lurched upward and Ginger tried to help Timothy steady him.

“I need you to stay still, buddy.” Timothy gently forced Eddie to lie back down. “I really need you to stay as still as you can.”

Eddie only grunted in reply, clenching his jaw so hard Ginger wondered if he might break his teeth. She couldn’t tell if he had difficulty breathing or if he just reacted to the pain.

He’s never had high pain tolerance. Maybe that’s why he fainted.

She turned her attention to Timothy. His face still pale, he seemed calm and determined. At least his voice sounded nearly normal again.

“Will… Will he be all right?” She wondered if her own voice always had such a strain to it.

Timothy didn’t respond at first, but after a pause, he nodded. “I hope so. If I can stop the blood flow. It’s bad, but it could be a lot worse. Nothing touched his heart or any other vital organs, so far as I can tell. I think it hit his rib and stopped.”

“As far as you can tell?” Ginger barely spoke above a whisper.

Timothy only looked at her for a brief second and didn’t say anything.

He could be wrong. Being wrong could be fatal. He needs to be right.

She became more aware of her surroundings and realized the quiet in the café. Certainly, people spoke, but in hushed tones and no one stood around screaming.

On that realization, Ginger looked for Mary Dill. The woman stood a little distant, clasping and unclasping her hands together, her wide eyes darting around the room.

“It was you!” Ginger stood, all of her fury channeling into her sudden realization.

Mary saw her and froze.

You got up from the table. You have had it out for Eddie ever since he found that stupid ice pick! You tried to kill him!” Her voice escalated with each word, until she nearly shouted the last.

“I did it to protect us all! He’s a murderer!”

Ginger couldn’t listen to excuses. She ran at the woman, sending them both to the ground. Mary Dill had found her lungs, but Ginger barely knew what she herself did. Her anger blinded her as she wrestled with the flailing woman beneath her.

Someone much stronger than herself practically lifted Ginger off of her victim. She fought like a cat, but found her attempts futile. Mary still wailed.

“Stop with the noise already!” Ginger still pulled against whoever held her back. “I didn’t kill you! I didn’t even start to kill you!”

“I was trying to protect us all!” Mary struggled to her feet. “I did it for a good cause!”

“Eddie hasn’t killed anyone, you half-witted monster! He wouldn’t!” Ginger struggled again. “The only person in here that we know tried to kill anyone is you!”

The man, who still managed to keep her from hurling herself back at Mary, somehow managed to make her turn around to face him at those words. She tried to wrench free, but even wild, she couldn’t match him for strength.

“Ginger!” He shook her lightly. “Ginger, look at me!”

Fuming, she stiffened and obeyed. She hadn’t paid any attention to his identity and when she looked up into Adrian’s face, she nearly started. She’d expected anyone else.

“You have to calm down.” He spoke firmly, but with a touch of compassion that she couldn’t mistake. “You have to calm down. You are accomplishing nothing!”

“She tried to kill Eddie because of something that he didn’t even do!” She hadn’t intended to answer in a raised voice; she couldn’t seem to help it. “We don’t even know yet that she didn’t succeed!”

“You still have to calm down.”

“She ought to have as good as she tried to give!”

Adrian shook his head. “It wouldn’t do any good whatsoever for you to go through with that.”

“She deserves it!” Before he could answer, she twisted her head to look around the café. “How did none of you see her? You were all at that table together!”

“I saw her coming toward the table.” Anna stood near Timothy, probably waiting to see if he needed her to fetch anything else, her voice low as usual. She shook her head. “I thought that she mistook her chair. Yours was next to Eddie and it was empty. I never dreamed that she would try to stab him.”

Try to? She did stab him!” Ginger nearly spat out the words.

“Ginger!” Timothy half-turned and looked up.

She started.

Timothy’s expression reflected reproach, but he nodded toward the man on the floor. “Eddie is asking for you.”

Adrian released her when she turned and Ginger hurried toward the injured man. He still looked far too pale and he clenched his jaw over and over, in a constant effort to combat the pain. His eyes, hazy and dull with pain, opened when Ginger knelt beside him.

He looks awful. He doesn’t look like he’ll be all right.

“You’ve got to stop.” Rough and strained, Eddie’s voice barely reached her ears.

She started to reply, but a sharp intake of breath stopped her. She laid a hand on his shoulder and she could feel him trembling.

“You have to stop, Ginger.” He looked up at her again, pleading. “You’re… You’re just making yourself look guilty.”

“You didn’t do anything!” She felt a lump fill her throat. She absolutely refused to cry, but hated the feeling. “You aren’t a danger; you didn’t kill anyone!”

“I didn’t,” Eddie rasped. “That doesn’t mean that you should.”

He didn’t say anything else and Ginger couldn’t answer. Her thoughts spun in several directions at once, always coming back to the pale young man fighting for his life in front of her.

Eddie groaned, his eyes closed once again. Ginger took his hand and sighed.

“Why do you care so much?” Kimberly’s cold tone made Ginger look up.

“What do you mean, why does she care?” Fabian asked. “She’s allowed to care.”

Kimberly shook her head, her arms crossed. “I don’t see her caring half so much about any of the rest of us. It’s suspicious.” She turned her gray eyes back on Ginger. “So, what makes you care so much about what happens to this particular young man?”

Ginger looked back down at Eddie. If he even heard the conversation around him, he didn’t show any sign. He didn’t even open his eyes. He squeezed her hand as a wave of pain seemed to pass over him, and then he went back to shaking and trying to breathe slow, measured breaths, as Timothy had instructed him. She wondered that he could stay so quiet and still.

“Well?” Kimberly asked. “Why do you care so much?”

Ginger sighed, her shoulders aching under the burden that only seemed to grow with each passing moment. “Because…” She raised her head, a strange defiance taking hold when she could read the expectant expressions on a few faces. “Because, Eddie is my younger brother.”

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Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXII

Chapter XXII – Adrian Terrence

Ginger appeared compliant enough as she took her seat beside him, but Adrian wondered if it was real or put on. Either the woman’s outbursts of anger tended to be short lived or she knew how to stuff them down at times.

He headed his next page and looked up. “You’re Ginger Thomas, correct?”

“Correct.”

“How long have you worked at the café, Ginger?”

Ginger seemed to count. She nodded. “A year and a half, at least.”

“Are you and Eddie McIntyre the only employees?” Adrian noticed her flinch at Eddie’s name.

“No. Neither of us work the weekends or the night shift. A couple of kids work those. I only know about the weekend because I come in every now and then for coffee on Saturday.”

“You don’t get food?”

Ginger laughed. “Not unless I’m starving. Have you had a sandwich here? Worst café food on the planet. The coffee is the best though.”

Adrian saw Xavier frown, though he also looked amused. He turned back to Ginger.

“What age would you call the ‘kids’ who work weekends?”

“One of them looks like she’s still in high school. The other is, maybe, twenty? I heard her talking about college classes one day.” She shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“I see.” Adrian wrote down a note. “You mentioned that you had seen Gary Bradshaw in here previously? Was that on a day that you worked?”

Ginger nodded, her ponytail bouncing. “Yes. Last week.”

“Can you recall anything specific about his visit that day?”

The woman frowned in thought, then raised an eyebrow. “I remember that he ordered a coffee and a sandwich, same as he had today.”

“Why do you remember that?” Xavier asked. Monique started to move around and he stopped speaking.

Ginger waited until the child grew still again, and then lowered her voice. “I remember all the orders. They’re like names; easy. And usually typical to the person. I can tell you your cousin’s orders. He has three that he goes through.”

“Three?” Xavier looked from one to the other and then back to Ginger.

“Yes, three. I haven’t figured out what makes him choose which one or why, but he has a mood for each one. I never know which version of your cousin we’ll get on Tuesdays, but it’s obvious once he gives his order. If it’s an iced coffee with cream, he’s very serious. If it’s hot and black, he’s completely distracted. If he orders a chai latte instead, he’s elated over something.”

Adrian cleared his throat, unsure what to say.

“I suppose everyone is that predictable to you?” Adrian could hear the laughter in Xavier’s voice.

“Oh, yes. After I’ve seen them a few times.” Ginger glanced around the café and back again. “Renee, for instance, orders an iced black coffee, unless it’s the last Tuesday of the month. Then, she orders the blended coffee with extra whip cream.”

“That’s very routine of her.” Adrian opened a blank page and wrote down Renee’s name.

I don’t know if it’s important, but I want to remember it.

“Then you have Fabian, he orders the exact same coffee every single time, with two chocolates on the side. Same with Timothy Teller; he always gets the same order. Black coffee with a shot of chocolate.”

“Doesn’t anyone order food?” Xavier asked.

Ginger chuckled. “Not our regulars. I should tell Eddie to make you a sandwich. You’ll understand why not then.”

Adrian tapped the table. “About Gary Bradshaw’s visit to the café last week. Did he speak to anyone? Seem to recognize anyone?”

“Not that I noticed.” Ginger shook her head. “He spoke to me, of course. He nearly had a run-in with Mary Dill, but it stayed peaceful. For a wonder. He spoke to Eddie for a minute when he fixed his order, but that’s all that I recall.”

Adrian looked up. “Eddie fixed his order?”

“He’d forgotten something. The cheese, maybe? On the sandwich. I was busy with Mary, so Eddie talked to him and fixed the sandwich.”

“Eddie didn’t mention an exchange to us. He didn’t mention having direct contact with the man at all,” Xavier said.

Ginger’s chin went up and her eyes hardened. “He probably forgot. We were busy and he doesn’t always remember things like that.”

Xavier nodded. “Do you know Eddie McIntyre pretty well then?”

The woman crossed her arms. “I know that he’s not the murderer, if that’s what you’re implying.”

“I’m not implying anything, Miss Thomas.”

Ginger’s glare started to return and Adrian decide to shift the conversation again. “Can you remember who else, specifically from among our friends here, might have been in the café on that day last week, Ginger?”

Ginger raised an eyebrow at ‘friends’ but uncrossed her arms. “That was Wednesday last week, I think, so myself. Eddie, of course. Mary Dill… Fabian Smith.” She paused and drew her brows together in concentration. “Renee might have been in here. She usually only comes in on Tuesdays, but she came in on an odd day last week. Either Wednesday or Thursday; I can’t recall for sure.”

Adrian glanced across the room to what he could see of the pregnant woman leaning back in her chair. She looked worried as she continually rubbed on her rounded belly. It could have been the story worrying her, though.

She doesn’t look like a killer. None of them do though.

He saw Mary Dill stand, then pass them on her way to the restroom. He glanced back down at his notebook.

“You can think of no one else who might have been in here?”

“Oh, plenty of people!” Ginger almost laughed. “The number of customers ran us ragged that day! I just don’t recall anyone one else who is in here today.”

Adrian tapped his notebook with the pencil. “How about today? Tell us about Gary Bradshaw and exactly what he did.”

Ginger made a face that he couldn’t quite understand. “He sat in the same booth, got the same order that he had gotten last time, though why he would want another sandwich is beyond me.” Her gaze caught on Mary Dill exiting the restroom, but with a frown seemed to deliberately avert her eyes, trying to focus on the question at hand. “He sat by himself, same as last week, working away on his tablet. Well, I assume he worked. I suppose, he could have been playing a game or something.”

“Did you notice anything about him in particular, while he sat there?”

Ginger blinked rapidly. “Besides that it was incredibly boring to watch him? He hardly moved!”

Adrian sighed. “You can vouch that he was alive, if boring, however?”

“What do you mean?” Ginger’s eyes widened as she looked up at him.

“I mean that you just said that he hardly moved. Are you certain that Gary Bradshaw was still alive, while he sat there hardly moving.”

“Most certainly.” Ginger practically rolled her eyes. “He sat bent over his tablet. He didn’t look like a corpse. He wasn’t energetic, but he wasn’t dead.”

Adrian nodded. They remained silent for a moment.

“How about closer to the explosion and when he must have been killed?” Xavier asked. “Did you notice anything then?”

Ginger considered long and hard. She crossed her arms. “I-”

A male scream, filled with pain, cut her off. Monique jerked awake and Ginger’s head spun toward the rest of the group. Eddie’s chair stood empty and most of the others had leapt to their feet.

With a scream or a shout, Adrian couldn’t define which, Ginger threw herself from the booth and bolted across the room.

Adrian followed as swiftly as he could, only reaching Eddie after Ginger had dropped to her knees beside him. Eddie didn’t move, but lay perfectly still on the floor, the wound in his side drenching his shirt and the floor beneath him.

“Eddie?” Ginger’s voice shook, as well as her hands when she touched his arm.

He didn’t respond or make the slightest move.

Adrian’s heart slammed into his chest, but for several seconds, he couldn’t move forward. He could hear Xavier faintly in the background, probably trying to calm Monique.

Ginger shook the injured man’s opposite arm and shoulder. “Eddie!”

He remained pale and unresponsive, almost ghostly next to the growing crimson of his shirt.

Ginger grit her teeth, gripping his arm harder. Clenching one hand, she pounded it against him. When Eddie still didn’t move, Ginger dropped her head against his shoulder and screamed.

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