Proof of Murder (Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery #4) - Lauren Elliott

Chapter 1

Addison Greyborne stepped into the warm, New England morning, closing the front door of Beyond the Page, her book and curio shop, behind her. Her heart skipped a beat when the scent of the briny tang of the sea niggled at her nose. She licked her lips, savoring the taste of the tiny salt crystals on the tip of her tongue. The added aroma of fresh-baked bread from the bakery next door made—in her mind—the perfect start to a day.

In spite of the elation this moment brought her, she couldn’t escape the twang of guilt that tugged at her chest. She had left her shop assistant, Paige Stringer, to sort through and catalogue a large bin of books a customer brought in to be sold on consignment, while she herself went out on this beautiful summer morning for a little adventure. However, one look at Paige’s face through the bay window alleviated Addie’s guilt. It wasn’t often she met another person who matched her own love of books, especially unearthed treasures. At last, someone else she knew who giggled with glee on every new find.

Leaving Paige to dive into the books with Christmas-morning gusto, Addie pressed the papers in her hand close to her chest and critiqued her window displays. The new summer dioramas were starting to come together, but she needed to make certain nothing was overlooked. Since the town council first announced that Greyborne Harbor was going to become a regular port of call for one of the small East Coast cruise ship lines, the whole town was abuzz. Addie’s displays had always been eye-catching but now, with this new onslaught of summer tourism, she needed to step up her game.

The additions of a Barbie beach blanket, umbrella, bicycle, and picnic basket that Paige had borrowed from her daughter Emma’s doll collection were perfect. Now Addie only needed an assortment of classic romance and mystery novels to showcase around the sand-and-water display to complete the scene. Her brief glance into the bin Paige was sorting confirmed she’d have plenty of quick summer beach reads that tourists flocked to, but the stockpile in her aunt’s attic was running low on the classics. She needed to shore up her supply. Crossing her fingers, she hoped her recent run with Lady Luck hadn’t run dry. The yard sale and auction flyer clutched in her hand gave her confidence. That’s it, girl. Stay positive. You’re going to find some wonderful treasures today. She approached the curb and headed toward her red-and-white Mini Cooper parked across the narrow street.

“Stop! Wait right there!”

With her foot hovering over the curb edge, Addie winced and slowly turned toward the one woman she knew was capable of unleashing that ear-splitting screech. “Serena, good morning. I see you’re out and about early today. It’s only nine thirty. Is your morning rush over already?”

“Why?” Serena Chandler, her best friend and local tea merchant, stood on the sidewalk, hands on hips, her big brown, not-so-innocent eyes locked with Addie’s. “Were you hoping to make the great escape without me finding out?”

“Don’t tell me you’ve been standing by your window waiting to pounce on me for the last half hour?”

“No, of course not,” Serena shot back. “But I know you, Missy.” She wagged a finger in Addie’s direction. “So I got my eye on you.”

“I was just . . . never mind.” Addie tossed her long-ponytailed head back and gave her best imitation of a heartfelt laugh, which, judging by the look on Serena’s face, was completely unconvincing.

“Is that why you have that girl-gone-crazy look in your eyes right now?” Serena tapped her fingers on her crossed arms.

Sensing Serena’s impatience, Addie confessed. “Yes. I’ll admit it.” She ignored the self-satisfied smile creeping across Serena’s face. “I’m heading out to the same place you warned me not to go to last night.”

“And . . . that’s because you—what? Can’t stay away from a murder scene?”

“Give me a break, Serena. It’s not like those murders at Hill Road House happened yesterday.”

Serena’s mouth dropped. “Did you not hear anything else I said last night?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. But you’re forgetting one thing, my friend.” Addie waved off the look of concern written across Serena’s face and started across the road for her car. “I don’t believe in ghosts,” she called back over her shoulder.

A gasp escaped Serena’s lips. “Just don’t call me in the middle of the night when you have nightmares,” she shouted over the engine roar of a passing car.

“Don’t worry about me.