Home > Close to the Bone (Widow's Island #1)

Close to the Bone (Widow's Island #1)
Author: Kendra Elliot


“I’ve been hauling people out to Ruby’s Island all night,” Dick Jacobs told FBI Special Agent Cate Wilde.

It was two in the morning, and Cate tightened the knit scarf around her neck, thankful the night was clear and there was no wind. But the speed of the small boat made the temperature feel much colder than its thirty-five degrees. The fifteen minutes to motor from Washington State’s Widow’s Island to Ruby’s Island was fourteen minutes too long in the cold.

Cate had been summoned because human bones had been found on Ruby’s Island.

“Who else needed a ride?” Cate asked the gray-haired driver. Dick had driven an unofficial water taxi around the islands since Cate was a child. When someone needed a ride and didn’t have a boat available, they called Dick. He charged twenty bucks, a twelve-pack of beer, or a fifth of vodka. Cate paid cash.

His thirty-year-old son, Adam, accompanied him these days and stared at Cate in a way that gave her the creeps. She stared back, and Adam finally had the grace to look away.

Cate decided she’d never ride with Adam when he took over for his father in the future.

“I brought over Dr. Powers,” answered Dick. “He’s the one who said to call the FBI. Kurt Olson from the sheriff’s office and a new deputy, Bruce Taylor, were already there.” Dick glanced over his shoulder at Cate. “You met Bruce or Dr. Powers yet?”

“No.” She only knew Kurt. He’d been a deputy on Widow’s Island forever.

“Bruce is young. Only been here a few months. From southern Oregon. Haven’t made up my mind about him yet,” Dick said, pulling at his beard. “Dr. Powers is a good guy. We’ve needed a doctor on the island since Dr. Hardy died three years ago. Tessa Black from the sheriff’s department shared his ride. Didn’t you two run around together when you were young? You know she’s a county deputy now, right?”

“Yes.” Tessa had been like a sister to Cate while growing up. After nearly ten years of being a Seattle police officer and detective, Tessa had returned to Widow’s Island about a year and a half ago and joined the sheriff’s office. Cate had been back on the island for five days and still hadn’t contacted her good friend. Her grandmother had repeatedly pushed her to call Tessa, but Cate had dragged her feet, stating she needed more rest, and had firmly ordered her grandmother to keep this visit to the island under her hat.

Cate wasn’t ready to face people.

But tonight’s discovery gave her no choice.

Trespassing teenage lovebirds had found the bones. The coroner—the new Dr. Powers—believed they belonged to a teenage female. Two years ago the FBI had conducted an investigation of a missing local girl, Becca Conan, with no results. Fourteen-year-old Becca was the daughter of Rex Conan, sole resident and current owner of Ruby’s Island. Now the FBI—meaning Cate—was back to see if the bones belonged to Becca.

An old memory struggled to the forefront of Cate’s brain, and she shut it down.

The odds say this will be Becca.

Dick pulled up to the tiny dock. The county sheriff’s boat gently rocked on the other side, and Adam jumped out to tie Dick’s boat. Cate remembered how the dock had nearly crumbled into the water when she was a teenager. Now it sported fresh boards and ropes, and she assumed the new owner of Ruby’s Island had repaired it.

Rex Conan isn’t really new. He’s been here for years.

But to people born on the island—like Cate—everyone else was new.

What is it like to live alone on an island after your daughter disappears?

Adam held out a hand to help her out of the boat. She hesitated but held her breath, took his hand, and stepped out of the boat. Pain shot from her shoulder, and she gasped. Adam gave her a strange look. “Something shocked me,” she lied as she rushed past him, not wanting to share that she’d been injured on the job three weeks ago.

Cate looked up the island’s rugged slope to the lighthouse. Tiny Ruby’s Island sat in the center of Widow’s Island’s huge horseshoe-shaped bay. Five thousand residents lived on Widow’s Island, but only one person lived on Ruby’s. Besides the lighthouse, there was nothing on the island except the mansion on the north side. Ruby’s Island was not for tourists; it was for the owner.

“The lighthouse looks different,” she said to Adam.

“Yeah, the coast guard updated it. Now it’s solar powered and flashes an LED light instead of the sweeping beacon.” He shrugged. “No one likes it. They say it’s obnoxious.”

Cate agreed. “Is it still haunted?” she jokingly asked.

“Yes.” Adam’s scowl was deadly serious. “The new light didn’t chase her away.”

Cate bit her tongue. As a teen she had believed the story of the haunted lighthouse. She’d done her share of sneaking onto the island’s south beach with friends at night, ignoring the NO TRESPASSING signs. Everyone wanted to see Ruby’s ghost, who was rumored to haunt the island’s woods and lighthouse.

Cate swore she’d seen Ruby a few times. Each time it’d been a white wisp. A cloud of cold when the air was warm. An electric tickle in her spine.

She’d never told anyone.

“Everyone’s up that way. Follow the lights.” Adam pointed to the left and up the slope to the start of the woods. A hint of artificial light peeked through from deep in the forest. “Those lights were a bitch to transport,” Adam muttered.

Cate understood. The big ferry system of the Puget Sound area didn’t stop at Ruby’s Island. All supplies were delivered by smaller boats. She thanked Dick and Adam and headed for the woods, glad she’d worn her heaviest boots. The ground was soft from the recent November rains.

Cate’s boss had called her in the middle of the night, well aware she was on leave for six weeks. “The ferry from the mainland to Widow’s Island is down, and we need an agent on the scene immediately,” he’d told her. “I hate to ask you, but I’m also relieved that you’re already there.”

“I’m on leave,” she’d muttered into the phone, knowing it didn’t matter. When children were lost, the FBI got involved.

“I’ll get another agent out there as soon as the ferry is running again.”

Cate had sighed. Widow’s Island was small and distant from the more popular San Juan and Puget Sound Islands. Seattle commuters didn’t live in this area; only island locals lived here. Sometimes the ferry was unavailable for days because Widow’s Island was low on the priority list.

She hiked up the slope, the pain in her shoulder reminding her that she was on medical leave.

Not tonight.

After following the lights through the woods for several minutes, Cate spotted a group. Three men and one woman. Happiness bubbled up in Cate’s chest at the sight of the woman’s profile. The group turned to see who was approaching, and Tessa Black’s jaw dropped open.

“Cate!” Tessa launched herself at Cate and nearly knocked her over with a big hug.

“Hey, Tessa.” Cate returned her old friend’s hug, joyful tears burning in her eyes. I should have told her days ago that I was visiting.

Tessa pulled back, her gaze searching Cate. “You’re the FBI agent they sent?”

“Yes.” Cate wasn’t ready to explain.

“It’s so good to see you. It’s been forever.” Tessa squeezed Cate’s hand, her smile nearly as wide as her face.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
Most Popular
» Tools of Engagement (Hot & Hammered #3)
» Love Her or Lose Her (Hot & Hammered #2
» Fix Her Up (Hot & Hammered #1)
» Never Look Back (Criminal Profiler #3)
» I See You (Criminal Profiler #2)
» Hide and Seek (Criminal Profiler #1)
» No Offense (Little Bridge Island #2)
» Burn You Twice