Cash feels a surge of jealousy about the line cooks. He wants to ask if Ayers has a boyfriend or is married. He could be getting carried away for no reason. But instead, he asks if Ayers has a picture of Rosie.

“A picture of Rosie?” Ayers says.

“Yeah,” Cash says. “I’d like to see what she looks like.” It has occurred to him since their conversation yesterday that Ayers’s friend Rosie might not be the same woman in the photograph with Russ. It would be better, so much better, if Rosie Small weren’t Russ’s lover. They would both still be dead, but maybe just friends or colleagues. It would be so much easier.

Ayers pulls out her phone. “Here,” she says. “She’s my screensaver.” She hands Cash the phone.

On the left is Ayers in a canary-yellow bikini on a beach next to a tree that supports a tire swing. On the right is Rosie, the same woman in the photograph with Cash’s father. She’s wearing a white bikini and beaming at the camera.

“She’s really pretty,” Cash says. “Though not as pretty as you, of course.”

“Oh, please,” Ayers says. She tucks her phone back into the pocket of her shorts. “You know, I want to apologize about being short with you yesterday… when you asked about Rosie’s boyfriend.”

Cash holds his breath. We don’t have to talk about it, he wants to say. When he’d registered for the trip, he’d been glad that Wade was handling the paperwork and not Ayers, because he didn’t want Ayers to see his last name and make the connection.

He needs to tell her who he is, but he doesn’t want her to know who he is. And he certainly can’t tell her now, while she’s at work.

“You don’t have to apologize…”

“He was rich,” Ayers says. “Some rich asshole who showed up every couple of weeks and completely monopolized Rosie’s time, but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that he had this shroud of secrecy around him. They’d been together for six years and I’d never met him. And I was her best friend. The first few years I accused her of making him up, that’s how bad it was. But he was always giving her things—silver bracelets, money, a new Jeep. He almost never left his property, and they never entertained or invited anyone over.”

“Maybe he was hiding something,” Cash says. “Maybe he was married.”

“Maybe?” Ayers says. “Of course he was married. But the one time I brought it up, Rosie flipped out and wouldn’t speak to me for three days. So that was the last time I mentioned it. She was two people, really: a very strong and independent woman, on the one hand—feisty, fierce, even. But when it came to the Invisible Man, she was a goner. She was so… blinded by him. So… in love, I guess you’d have to say.”

“Well, then,” Cash says. “He couldn’t have been all bad.” He tries a smile. “Right?”

HUCK

On Sunday, Huck cancels both of his charters. He’ll reschedule them for the following week. Today, he just wants to go out on the water by himself, maybe see if there’s any truth to Cleve’s school-of-mahi story. He still has the coordinates written down, saved from New Year’s Eve.

Back when Rosie was alive.

It’s a cruel trick of the world, a person alive and well one minute, thinking harm will never come her way, and then dead the next.

Huck doesn’t get as early a start as he would have liked, because he has to drive Maia over to Joanie’s house. They are planning on starting a bath bomb business. They want to make bath bombs in tropical scents and sell them to tourists.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come fishing?” Huck asks. Her company is the only person’s he would relish, and he worries that Maia is returning to her regular twelve-year-old routine too soon. Tomorrow, Monday, she’s going back to school.

“I’m sure,” she says.

Huck reminds himself that everyone processes loss in his or her own way. After LeeAnn died, Huck had gone through a rough patch—smoking and drinking, and spending one regrettable night with Teresa, the waitress from Jake’s, who everyone knew had a sleeping-around problem. And Rosie had handled LeeAnn’s death by meeting, and then shacking up with, the Invisible Man.

He’s going to let Maia be. If she wants to start a bath bomb business with Joanie, then Huck will be their first customer.

But today he’s going fishing. And he’s going to catch something, damnit.

He loads up The Mississippi with light tackle and his trolling rods, a chest of clean ice, a second chest that holds water, a case of Red Stripe, and two Cuban sandwiches from Baked in the Sun, plus one of their “junk food” cookies—the thing is loaded with toffee, pretzels, and potato chips—because those were Rosie’s favorite. He’s about to untie his line from the dock when he hears his name being called. His proper name.

“Mr. Powers? Sam Powers?”

He looks up to see a woman marching down the dock, waving her arm like she’s trying to hail a cab. She’s slender, with pretty hair—one fat chestnut braid hangs over one shoulder. She’s wearing round sunglasses, so he can’t get a good look at her, but as she grows closer he sees she’s older than he originally thought, and her expression can only be described as All Business. That, combined with the fact that she’s calling him “Mr. Powers” makes him feel like he’s about to be reprimanded by his high school English teacher. What was her name? Miss Lemon. Miss Lemon had once caught Huck writing dirty limericks. Instead of tearing up the page, as he expected her to, she had insisted he go in front of the class and read them aloud.

Good old Miss Lemon, responsible for the most humiliating moment of Huck’s young life.

And now here comes Miss Lemon reincarnated, although a sight better-looking. The original Miss Lemon, appropriate to her name, had a pucker face.

Reincarnated Miss Lemon marches right up to the edge of the dock. Huck has the line in his hand. All he needs to do is unloop it from the post and putter away. She can’t very well follow him.

“Are you Sam Powers?” she asks.

“Technically, yes,” he says. “But people call me Huck.”

She nods once, sharply. “So I’ve heard. Mr. Powers, do you have a minute to talk? It’s important.”

Does he have a minute to talk? No. It’s nearly nine o’clock now. He’s going offshore, a forty-five-minute trip. He has to be back here by four thirty at the latest to pick Maia up from Joanie’s by five. He wants to fish all day. To fish all day, he has to leave now. It’s important, the Reincarnated Miss Lemon says, and he somehow knows this isn’t a matriarch disgruntled by his postponed charters. This woman’s face holds a certain tension in it that Huck recognizes. He has an idea, but he hopes to God he’s wrong.

He cuts the motor, then offers the woman his barracuda hand. She takes in the sight of his half-missing pinky but doesn’t flinch, which he supposes is a good sign.

“You want me to get into your boat?” she asks.

“You want to talk?” he asks.

She removes her sandals without being asked—she must be a boat person, how about that—and she takes his barracuda hand and nimbly descends into the bow.

Huck flips open the cooler. “I have water and I have beer.”

“Nothing,” she says. “Thank you.”

Huck goes to reach for a water for himself when she speaks up. “Actually, a beer. Thank you.”

Huck’s eyebrows shoot up, but the Reincarnated Miss Lemon doesn’t notice. Her eyes are scanning the dock. Who’s watching? Well, the answer to that is: no one and everyone. The taxi drivers—Pauly, Chauncey, and Bennie—are lined up across the street from the cruise ship dock. Huck flips the top off two Red Stripes; he isn’t about to let a lady drink alone, and if she needs a beer, then he probably does as well.

Huck hands the Reincarnated Miss Lemon a beer. “What can I do for you, Ms….?”

“Steele,” she says. “Irene Steele.”

Huck closes his eyes a beat longer than a blink. Irene Steele. His bad feeling has been proved correct.

“I guess that answers my question,” he says. He offers Irene Steele one of the cushioned seats in the cockpit. He’s a bit concerned about who will hear what; acoustics over the water are funny. He sits down a respectful distance away but leans in. It could still be an ex-wife, he thinks. Please let it be an ex-wife.

“Russell Steele was my husband,” Irene says, immediately dashing Huck’s hopes. “And I understand that you’re the father of Rosie Small. Who was my husband’s mistress.”

Huck flinches at the word “mistress,” although he realizes she could have chosen worse.

“I’m her stepfather,” Huck says. “Was her stepfather. I married her mother, LeeAnn, nearly twenty years ago. LeeAnn passed five years back.”

“But you’re still close with Rosie? Were close with her? She lived with you?”

“You did your research,” Huck says. “How did you find this out?”

“It wasn’t easy,” Irene says. “I don’t know anyone here except for Paulette, from the real estate agency…”

***

***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com

***