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(Barrow Bay Mysteries)
by Annabelle Hunter
About Number’s Up
Number’s Up (Barrow Bay Mysteries)
1st in Series
Independently Published (August 13, 2019)
Print Length: TBD
Jennifer Ward’s To Do List:
1) Turn in my business partner and his lying, cheating, law-breaking client to the SEC for insider trading.
2)Cooperate with the FBI. Do not kiss – scratch that. Do not yell at Special Agent Nicholas Kelly, the FBI agent leading said investigation.
3) Discover a dead body…
Jennifer Ward, MBA, CPA, and business consultant, likes a nice, orderly lifestyle. Schedules and To Do Lists are what gets her through the day. So when the by-the-numbers fashionista finds her business partner was breaking the law, she turned him in to the SEC. Which brought the FBI to her door, and her ordered world to an end.
But that was three weeks ago. Things couldn’t possibly get worse. Right?
Until Jen discovers her business partner dead in his hotel room. With Nic the handsome FBI agent dogging her every step, Jen must use her skills to discover the truth. Who killed Henry? And will she be next?
Character Guest Post
I moved to Barrow Bay, well now, hmm… quiet a few years ago. Before I lived in the suburbs of San Francisco with my parents. They had paid for me to go to college, and in turn, I was their good little girl working on my Mrs. degree, not anything specific or could get me a real job. Jobs were for poor women, working woman. Not me, I was going to be a good stay-at-home wife, like my mother.
On the outside, I was good. I worked on my literature degree, because that was feminine and unintimidating, and went on the minimum amount of dates to keep my parents off my back. And then snuck into business classes when they weren’t looking. I even had registered for a few under the guise of required electives.
That’s when I met her.
Natalie was beautiful. There are so many ways to describe it, but when you saw her, beautiful seemed to overtake the rest. I knew I wasn’t alone, because you could hear it whispered as she passed, the sound of the word echoing behind her like it was a vocal entourage. Blond hair, blue eyes, and so skinny that even the weakest man felt manly next to her, she was the closest any of us would ever get to a movie star and we all knew it. Boys and girls followed her around, but she only had eyes for Ken, a very tall, only mildly handsome man with a quiet demeanor that I found calming and a stinging sarcastic humor that made most of the class laugh. We used to joke that they were a real-life Barbie and Ken, but Nat would just laugh it off and tell us that she wished she had that kind of rack. Ken ignored it, like he did anything else he didn’t want to hear.
Anyway, she was a knockout, and honestly, for the first few seconds I hated her. Then she turned and those blue eyes settled on me. I remember that they narrowed, scanning me from head to toe, and I cursed myself for not embracing more trendy clothing. No, I was in my poodle skirt with pig tales. I wasn’t thin, with a flat stomach that I could show off in the cut off shirts, and my shoulders were already overachieving. Shoulder pads just made me look like I was playing football in regular clothing. But I had a tiny little waist and, well, ample assets, so the fifties dresses were my cat nip. I didn’t care that they made me stand out from the crowd. I felt pretty. It also made my parents less suspicious if I dressed in ‘morally upstanding clothes.’ The conservative necklines and long skirts were good at taking them off the scent of my rebellion.
Yes, I was comfortable in my skin, or at least, I was until this moment. Until the most popular girl in college assessed me, and I knew that she found me wanting. Suddenly, I felt like the weird girl that snuck into the boring classes that everyone else was trying to sneak out of. Probably because I was. I loved numbers. I wanted to run my own café when I grew up, I had it all planned out in my dream notebook that I carried everywhere with me. The truth was, I wasn’t like everyone else. And for some reason, this girl that I didn’t know… knew it.
She smiled and walked over. “You’re Helen! I’m Natalie Johnson. You have class with my husband, Ken.”
“Yes.” I had nothing else. Just an agreement.
She tilted her head at the answer, her smile flickering for a second, before coming back even wider. “He says you’re smart. And that you want to run a café.”
“Yes.” Although I scanned my brain frantically for when I’d mentioned that out loud. He took two of the same business classes that I snuck into. Wait. He might have sat next to me last week. Had he seen my notes? “No. No, I’m not that smart. I’m here looking for a man. Husband. Provider.” I needed to stop talking.
“Do you only want to find a man?”
“God, no.” I admitted before my parent’s voice in my head could stop me. “I want to own my own business.” Oops.
She smiled even wider. “Come with me, Helen. I have someone I want you to meet.” She pointed over to a car with a boy our age and an older woman.
Oh! Oh, she was setting me up. Evidently, I looked like someone who might like her male relative or over appreciative male friend. I guess this wasn’t about me being smart. I couldn’t stop my shoulders from dropping as I took a step back. “No thank you, I need to get to class.”
“You mean sneak into class?” She pinned me with a laughing glance. “Trust me. You two will love each other.”
“That’s not really how love works.”
She stopped for a second before she let out a loud laugh that had eyes focusing on us. Nope. I was out. Too many people looking at us. I didn’t want to be the center of attention. Attention was not my friend. My freedom rested on my ability to blend in and not make waves.
“Fine. Let’s go met him,” I muttered quietly.
Another laugh, this time hard enough that she had to stop for a second, holding me off with a raised hand before grabbing my arm and pulling me over to the car.
“You’re a hoot.” She stopped us just short of the car and our linked arms pulled me down as she leaned over. “Hey Mom! Hey, dork.”
“Hey, sweetie.” Natalie’s mom smiled at Natalie, and you could see how much she loved her. It was like that love just reached out and wrapped you up. Not like my parents. Unless I was bringing a guy around, my mother never even looked at me. “What’s your name?” she asked me with a kind smile.
“Helen.” I was the queen of one-word answers today.
“And what are you studying, Helen? Are you getting a real degree, unlike my crazy daughter?” Natalie let out a laugh, telling me she wasn’t offended.
“It’s a history degree, mom. History is important.”
“It’s not going to make you any money.”
I closed my jaw, shocked that Natalie’s mother cared about her making money. She didn’t want her to be housewife, like my parents?
“Ken has that covered. He wants me to study what I want.”
“That man coddles you too much,” she harrumphed before turning back to me. “So? What are you studying?”
“Business.” Natalie, cut me off, giving me a long look to stay quiet. “She’s in Ken’s classes.”
Natalie’s mom gave me the same assessing glance that Natalie had. It was a little disconcerting how similar it was. “Business?”
I nodded. The boy hadn’t spoken up at all, and I found myself throwing him a quick glance. He was gorgeous. Not that it was surprising with Natalie’s looks. He wasn’t as startlingly pretty as his sister, more of a normal, small town handsome, but still… very attractive. Too attractive. But uninterested in the conversation. Like I hadn’t been brought for him. I was so confused.
“So, Helen. What are your summer plans?” I looked back at Natalie’s mom, but I wasn’t able to read her smile. Something about it made me want to run, but I was also intrigued.
“No plans. My parents wanted me to go back East to visit my aunt and uncle, but nothing’s been decided.” Mostly because I had refused. They had a list of available men for me to meet, and that was the last thing I wanted.
“I’m starting a business, and I could use someone who knows about numbers.”
I froze. Had I just heard, that right? A glance at Natalie, showed a satisfied smile. This had been her plan all along. “I’m sorry, are you offering me a job?”
“And a place to stay. Flynn moved out, so I have a room for you. Barrow Bay’s a little bit of a drive.” About two hours of a drive.
“A job? A real job? Running a business?” These things only happened to men. No one just walked up and offered girls jobs unless they were of the unsavory type.
“Yep.” She drawled out the word in that way that would drive my mother crazy.
“Yes!” I was going to be disowned. But… “Yes!”
“Perfect. Call me Elise. Let’s go to lunch and talk out the logistics. I have a tea house to open.”
I went to lunch. I went to Barrow Bay and I never came back again.
About Annabelle Hunter
Annabelle Hunter is a stay-at-home mom and an avid fan of classic mystery shows and dressage. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two children, and too many animals.
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