Trinity Island – Chapter 6

December 22, 2012 at 10:44 pm (Trinity Island)

Claire spent several days inspecting the house and determining what repairs would be needed. She’d gotten the keys to the guesthouses from Mac and gone through both buildings with an eye for what the kids would need. The dorm room would need updating. She doubted the plumbing was up to code anymore and there was that lack of a suitable kitchen space to consider. Also, if the retreat really took off, they wouldn’t have enough bedrooms to house all of the kids. They’d run bunk beds to double up, but she’d have to consider an addition, or a third guesthouse. She also had to consider where the staff would live. The stable master and his crew would have plenty of space in the rooms above the stables. She could convert the smaller guesthouse for the staff.

She needed to get a contractor in to inspect the buildings and let her know what she could build. She’d given calling Kent Grey some thought, but hadn’t resolved herself to it yet. Reggie had called her back to ask if she’d gotten around to it and threatened to call him herself if Claire didn’t. Claire knew she was lying, but she’d promised she would get on it. And she would, in another day or two.

She’d made sure to lock up the guesthouses after she’d toured them. Mac had told her about the missing women on the island. She’d been shocked to learn that women were disappearing and nothing concrete had been done about it. He’d told her that a cop was on his way from Victoria and would be staying in the second cottage while he was here. Claire assumed that Mac had aired the place out and made sure it was livable for whoever was coming, but she wanted to have a look for herself and make sure the linens and kitchen utensils weren’t in need of replacing.

Claire hoped that the cop’s presence would give whoever was causing the women to disappear a reason to stop. She didn’t want to think about what may have happened to them. Their families must be suffering, not knowing if they’d decided to leave the island, or if something much worse had happened to them. She hadn’t asked Mac for any of the women’s names, but she wondered if she knew them. She’d been gone for a long time, but a lot of the people who she had gone to school with were likely still around. Claire had kept in touch with Jenna, her best friend from the island. If anyone knew who was missing and what all the gossip was about the case, it would be Jenna.

She stepped into a small clearing of land that surrounded the cabin, making it feel quite secluded. It was only a short walk from Wallis House and anyone using it would have to park their vehicle in the garage at Wallis House and walk in. Claire knew that her parents had used it regularly for their many trysts. Claire walked up the steps to the porch and opened the front door. The place smelled clean and the drapery wasn’t dated. The carpeting wasn’t the revolting seventies shag she remembered. It had been ripped up and the original hardwood exposed. Stained a dark maple, the floors were gorgeous. They’d look great inside Wallis House. She made a mental note to talk to the contractor about what lay beneath the carpeting. With a little luck, there would be the same beautiful hardwood.

Closing the front door behind her, she took three steps into the room before she realized that something was a little off. Looking around the room, it took her a moment to grasp what it was. A pair of running shoes had been kicked off by the door and a laptop sat on the kitchen table. Just as Claire realized she’d walked in without first seeing if the cop had arrived, the bathroom door opened and a man stepped out of the steamy room.

Claire would be grateful, later, that he’d at least put a towel around his waist. Her mouth dropped open at the sight of him. He was fit, ridiculously so, but not like a muscle-bound gym rat. He looked more like a runner. He stopped when he saw her and she could see that he was still wet from his shower. She realized she was staring at his chest and her eyes shot up to his face. The smirk annoyed her, but then so did her rudeness.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize the place was being used. I mean, I knew it was going to be used, but I didn’t realize you were already here. I should have knocked first.” Her gaze dropped to the floor. She felt foolish, and like a blushing schoolgirl, but it was safer that way. He was, quite possibly, the most gorgeous man she had seen in a long time. He didn’t say anything to her apology and Claire didn’t know what else to say to him. She looked up again and he was still staring at her, but the smirk was gone.

“I’ll leave you alone,” she said. Claire turned to go when he spoke.

“You’re Claire Wallis.”

Claire turned back around and saw that he’d stepped closer. She focused on his face, nodding her head in answer.

“I’m Galen O’Brien. I’ve only just arrived.” He held out his hand, forcing her to step closer to shake it.

Claire let go of his hand and immediately stepped back several feet. She recognized his name. He’d been a few grades higher than her in school, so she’d not associated with him. “Your mom owns the bakery.” And made the best hazelnut cream she’d ever tasted.

Galen nodded, a grin slipping in place. “Yeah, she’s still there, making cannoli and doling out advice, or just giving you a piece of her mind.”

Claire smiled, remembering how Mrs. T, for none of the kids have ever used her last name, used to slip her a hazelnut cream cookie when no one was looking. She’d forgotten that Galen had an accent, too, though not the same as his mom’s. She’d been too young to think so when she was in school, but all the older girls had spent a lot of time discussing the sexiness of it. Claire could appreciate their point of view now.

Claire was staring again and his nearness was making her nervous. She glanced back at the door and edged a little away from him. Seeing his smile warm a little at her discomfort only made her feel more foolish. “Again, I’m sorry to have barged in here unannounced. It won’t happen again. Enjoy your stay.” She turned away and headed for the door.

“Claire, wait.” When she stopped but refused to turn around again, he shook his head, laughing silently. “Give me a minute.”

Galen walked into the bedroom and Claire breathed a little easier. She couldn’t remember the last time a man made her feel so ridiculous, like her brain had turned into mush. Jackson had been fit, but not quite as lean as Galen was and his skin had been paler. She’d thought him handsome when they’d met, but she couldn’t remember losing her damn mind over the sight of his bare chest. Disgusted with herself, she stepped out onto the porch waiting for Galen to return.

Claire closed her eyes and listened to the sounds of the forest, trying to settle her mind. Mac had taught her the trick when they’d gone hunting. If her mind was scattered by too many thoughts, he told her to let them all go and then slowly collect them again. She could sort them better that way. She could hear the birds chirping in the trees and a fat bumblebee collected pollen from the rhododendron blooming at the side of the cottage. Her body stilled and her eyes popped open. She sensed danger, but couldn’t tell where it came from. The island was home to cougars and black bears, but they usually kept to the mountain on the north side. Her eyes scanned the depths of the forest, but she couldn’t see well with the light shining in her eyes.

“Who’s there,” she whispered. Galen stepped onto the porch, breaking her concentration.

“Who are you talking to?”

“Myself, mostly.” She didn’t bother to tell him what she was thinking. She chalked it up to being a city girl in the country and figured her senses would acclimate soon enough.

Galen gestured to the rocking chairs on the porch. Claire sat down and faced him, happy to see that he’d changed into jeans and a t-shirt. She still felt a bit giddy looking at him and hoped she’d acclimate to him as quickly as she would to the country.

Galen asked Claire if she’d heard about the missing camper and when she shook her head, he explained why he’d been sent to Trinity. “I got an earful from ma about it, let me tell you. Apparently there have been some girls disappearing from the island, but no one thought anything of it. Then this camper disappears and I’m called in to investigate.”

“Mac told me about the girls, but he didn’t say anything about the camper. Did Mrs. T say why no one thought the girls disappearing was anything to get worked up over?”

Galen nodded. “Yeah, she said the mayor thought that the girls had just gotten bored with island life and left for the mainland.”

Claire cocked her head to one side and thought about that. It’s true that a lot of people left with the idea that the grass was greener in Vancouver, financially. Or they’d go further east and work for big oil in Calgary or Saskatoon. Some went looking for more nightlife. But they usually told someone, or were seen leaving on the ferry.

“It seems a little suspicious that no one would have seen any of these girls leaving the island and none of them told anyone.” Claire shifted in her seat and looked back out into the woods. The feeling of danger persisted and she wondered if she should mention it to Galen. Frowning, she tried to focus on where her senses were picking up the threat.

“What is it?” he asked.

Just as he asked her the question, she saw the shadow, slightly darker than the rest of the shade from the trees. And, as she watched it, it moved. Claire raised a hand and pointed. “Someone’s out there, watching us.”

Galen stared in the direction she was pointing. His eyes adjusted for the darkness and then he saw what she did. He got up and walked down the steps, keeping his eyes on the shadow. When it slipped behind the tree, Galen broke into a dead run.

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