I’m writing the last chapters of this book now. It’s second in the Shirley Combs/Dr. Mary Watson series (first is THE HOUNDING). You don’t have to have read the first one to read this one, each mystery stands alone, though the relationship and lives of the protagonists grow and change with each book. Below I’m posting Chapter One, then below that, the book’s cover executed by Bev Standish.
CHAPTER 1: Rose City
Oceane leaned her head against Zaro’s left shoulder, laughing as she continued to sing a Danish lullaby to the giant panda she carried in her right arm. The night was cool as they strolled along Portland’s waterfront away from the Rose Festival City Fair, and toward the privacy of Zaro’s yacht. The bridge lights cast their rainbow colors on the water behind them as they passed the condos and strolled alongside the shop windows. Seagulls roosted on mooring pylons, letting her know it was probably later than she thought. She pulled her cashmere sweater a bit tighter as a breeze came off the Willamette River. Still, it wasn’t raining as her friends had warned her it would do everyday. Instead the days had been sunny more often than not for her visit to Rose City. She and Zaro enjoyed their relative anonymity here. Hardly anyone had recognized her as the European pop star she was. Not yet. Her performance would come on the last night of the festival, which meant she could remain relatively unknown until then and enjoy Portland as any other tourist would.
That was days ahead. Tonight they went to the carnival, rode rides, played games, and drank local wine.
As they approached the dock where Zaro’s yacht, the Freja, waited for them, Oceane squealed a bit, and ran ahead. Zaro laughed and ran to join her. Together they raced up the stairs to the main level. Zaro’s man Khalil opened the door and took their wraps, the bear, and asked what he could bring them. Zaro dismissed him for the night, and Khalil retired to his own quarters below decks. Zaro and Oceane hurried to the master suite, glancing at each other every few steps, smiling as if keeping a secret they could share with no one.
Zaro shut the door behind her. The king-size bed filled most of this quiet, lush room. The floor was overlain with Turkish rugs, the bed covered in silks and satins of grey and cream, with black, red, and orange pillows of various shapes and sizes. Oceane picked up the tiny remote and found a playlist of instrumental jazz to suit their mood. They met at the mirrored bar and Zaro poured wine for each of them from a bottle of Oceane’s family’s own vineyards. Tonight it was Chateau des Ouches’s Special Selection, a sparkling white known as Cremant.
As the music played in the background, and the bubbly tickled their palates, Zaro and Oceane shed their clothes. Oceane chose a satin robe to match her eyes, the color of espresso. Zaro slipped into pajama pants, pure silk. The pale ivory against her café au lait skin never failed to excite Oceane. She walked up to her and stood with her breasts against Zaro’s as her fingers found the nape of her neck and felt her blue black mane. The short hairs on her nape were as soft as the plush on the panda she won for her at the carnival. She tilted her head up, gazing into her eyes, opening her lips, touching her tongue to her upper lip. With a groan, Zaro kissed her deeply, and lifted Oceane from the floor into her arms.
As Zaro gently lay Oceane onto the bed and pushed the pillows out of the way, Oceane never took her eyes off her. She couldn’t believe this gorgeous woman was really hers. One of the most eligible lesbians in the world, with a fortune of her own, and bone structure any model would kill for – she knew Zaro had been with at least a hundred women before her. But ever since they met at the Rose Ball in Monaco, they were inseparable. That was nearly three months ago, and she had gone with her to every concert she had since. She had never had a woman cherish her the way Zaro did, cater to her every need or desire. She wasn’t experienced like Zaro, of course. She was only 20 years old. She’d had boyfriends in high school, had even given up her virginity to one of them. And she dated women now and then since becoming so busy. But it was difficult to find anyone who was interested in her for herself in the music business, or so it seemed. They all wanted a piece of her – of her contracts, that is.
Zaro was different. She was protective and generous. She thought about her every day in ways big and small. She didn’t seem to care about her being famous, in fact she would rather she weren’t. She loved her voice, of course. It was what drew her to Oceane in the first place. She had asked Prince Albert and Princess Charlene to introduce them. But she would be as happy if Oceane weren’t famous, didn’t have concerts booked, wasn’t working on a new recording. To prove how generous she was in spite of all that, she had her yacht fitted with a recording studio so Oceane could work while they were abroad, and wouldn’t have to leave at all.
Oceane touched Zaro’s face, then gently pulled her head toward her own. Their mouths sought each other out, and their tongues played together as if they had minds of their own. When Zaro lifted her mouth from her, she slid under Oceane on the bed, and lifted her on top of her lithe body. She pulled her up so she could tease her nipples with her tongue while cupping her behind with her hands. They were both becoming aroused. Inside, Oceane felt a melting, a loosening of the muscles, a solid core of heat running from her breasts to her inner thighs. She wanted badly to pull down Zaro’s pajamas and straddle her, but she let her take the lead as always. Zaro liked to keep her waiting until she was practically begging her to enter her. As she moved ever so slightly against Zaro’s heated thigh, she moved her off, onto the bed. Zaro untied the belt of Oceane’s robe, pulled it open, and began kissing her body. First the breasts, then under her arms and down to her wrists and hands, sucking a finger of each hand. Then her neck, and down her chest to her flat belly, which She gave tiny licks. When she reached her pubic area she turned to her thighs and gave them bites as well as kisses.
Oceane was moaning with desire and ready for more when Zaro suddenly stopped what she was doing and sat up.
“What is it?” she asked.
There was a sound outside the bedroom window. They both heard it this time. Zaro jumped up, threw back the drapes, opened the window and climbed out.
“Come back here, you!” She was actually chasing someone.
“Zaro, wait! Let me call the police. See, I’m calling them now.” Oceane was dialing 911 on her cell phone when she heard Zaro scream. She climbed out the window, pulling at her robe with one hand, still holding the phone in the other. Khalil came running from somewhere, yelling “Stop her, stop her,” to someone else.
Khalil and Oceane reached Zaro at nearly the same minute. Zaro was screaming and writhing in pain. She couldn’t tell them what had happened, but it was clear She had been attacked. Khalil took the phone from Oceane and spoke with the emergency dispatcher asking for both police and an ambulance.
“It looks like acid.”