Jaden gasped. “Oh, you can’t. It’s far too valuable.”
“But you don’t intend to sell it. And anything is only as valuable as what one pays for it. You two should have it. You will appreciate it, as Cutter did.”
Jaden looked at Ted.
“We couldn’t!” Ted said.
Jaden pinched him. “Maybe we could!”
Liam laughed softly. “Kelsey wants you to have it. Take it.”
“Can you imagine, that monster lurking in that house, on and off, all those years? I guess he found the way in when he worked for the Merlins all those years ago,” Katie said. “Ugh! Too creepy.”
“I think,” Kelsey said, “that he got himself attached to Cutter, and he saw the book, and he found out more about the things that had gone on in Key West and decided bit by bit to put together everything that had been used over the years. He was invisible, because he could come and go so easily. He was a thief—and he was a psychopath! At least, that’s how I see it.”
“You don’t hate the house now, do you, Kelsey?” David asked her, frowning.
They were all at O’Hara’s. In the weeks since Vargas had attacked Kelsey, they had made a point of meeting each other every Sunday at four, if not during the week. They were at the back-patio table: Ted and Jaden, Clarinda and Jonas, Katie and David, Sean and Vanessa, and Kelsey and himself.
Good friends were hard to come by.
And all of his friends—including Jonas—had forgiven him for being a cop.
They still tried to figure out what could have caused such a madness, one that allowed a man to function in the world by day—and live in his own world of black rites and pure greed and obsession.
“No. I love the house,” Kelsey said.
Vanessa asked her softly, “When are you going back to California?”
Liam couldn’t help but answer for her. He leaned closer to the table, pulling Kelsey to him.
“She’s not,” he said, and he produced her hand, displaying the ring they had chosen. It wasn’t a diamond.
Kelsey had opted for an emerald.
“An engagement ring?” Clarinda asked, grinning.
“Absolutely, short engagement,” Kelsey said. She turned and smiled at Liam, that dazzling smile that made his heart melt. “We lost a lot of years somewhere. We’re hoping to make them up.”
“Oh, oh! Oh, how sweet!” Jaden said.
“Saccharine, actually!” Ted said with a laugh. She elbowed him, and he grunted.
“But what about your partner and best friend, Avery?” Jonas asked.
“Oh, I can answer that!” Vanessa said, actually waving a hand in the air. “If I may! Well, Avery Slater met a nurse in the hospital. They hit it off right away. Avery is looking at property down here. There’s a little Victorian on Whitehead, near the Hemingway House, that he wants to buy.”
“Really!” Clarinda said, laughing. “Well, soon he’ll be a freshwater conch.”
Sean O’Hara lifted his beer bottle. “To engagements!”
They all toasted.
Jaden and Ted had to get back to work on a cache of silverware that had just been brought up by salvage divers, and Clarinda was about to go to work. They all hugged and parted, with Liam setting his bottle down and saying, “Well. It’s time.”
David nodded at him. “It’s time.”
Liam took Kelsey’s hand, and they started off walking.
The cemetery wasn’t far.
Naturally, on the way, Katie started crying softly. It was contagious. Liam squeezed Kelsey’s hand, looking at her with tender assurance.
There, by the large sculpted angel, were Bartholomew and Lucinda, his beautiful lady in white. She was shy, but she smiled, and when Bartholomew came to them all, one by one, giving them his spectral handshake first, and then just hugging everyone with a breeze of tenderness, she did the same.
They each had a private word for him.
“Thank you for being here, my dear, dear friends,” Bartholomew said.
“Thank you,” Liam said huskily. “Thank you for our lives, and what’s most precious. Those we love within our lives.”
Trying to be jaunty, Bartholomew doffed his hat and bowed deeply.
Then he took Lucinda’s hands. “We’re ready, my love,” he said. “Let it come.”
And it came. A golden swatch of light. It settled over the pair, and it glimmered, and then they were gone.
It was a glorious moment. That shimmering light. The sun just beginning to fall. The palette of colors that was so beautiful on a winter’s day that was gentle and balmy.
Then Katie let out a loud sniffle, and they all laughed and comforted one another, and it was time for them to leave.
But Kelsey hovered just a moment, and Liam waited patiently, watching her.
There were tears shimmering in her eyes, but she didn’t shed them.
She walked over to him and placed her hands on his chest. She stood on her toes and tenderly pressed her lips to his.
“Love is forever,” she told him.
When he kissed her far more firmly in return, she knew that he agreed.
Water, water, everywhere! And, naturally, lots of fish.
Grouper, snapper and dolphin are popular in Key West, the “dolphin” being a colorful fish and not the warm and cuddly mammal some people think the natives are consuming. With fresh fish in abundance, it’s naturally a popular meal, from preparations that are hot and spicy to mild and flavorful.
Fish can be tricky. It needs to be cooked, and not overcooked. But fish is its own reward—lots of healthful aspects, low in calories and low in fat.
Here are just a few ways fish are prepared in Key West, South Florida and the Caribbean!