An impending divorce. An ornery homicide detective. The cruise of a lifetime. And ghosts.
Midlife on the high seas is proving to be a real killer.
A Paranormal Women's Fiction Novel: Cruise Ship COZY MYSTERY
If I thought the first half of my life was a bumpy ride, I’d better buckle up because I’m about to go over the hill and off the rails.
*A laugh out loud Paranormal Women’s Fiction Novel by New York Times Bestseller Addison Moore* A cruise ship cozy mystery!
My name is Trixie Troublefield, and I see ghosts. It’s sort of a new thing, and it’s more than a problem.
While I was busy running around doing some last-minute packing for my tropical anniversary cruise, my husband was busy bedding three other women—at the same time. So I did what any other sane person would do—I grabbed my suitcase and took to the high seas, alone.
Here’s the thing. I’ve never been on a plane or a cruise ship. I’ve never left the state of Maine. I’ve never been on my own. I’ve never seen ghosts before either, but that seems to be on the universe’s agenda for me, too.
I’ve got eighteen nights to recalibrate, rethink my life, recharge, and eat all the food I can get my hands on. And I might look into a poltergeist pest control service while I’m at it.
Of course I’ll start a travel blog and log all of my adventures for the world to see. Why not rub all the fun I’m having in my cheating ex-husband’s face? I’ll call it Suddenly Single! What a Trip.
But no sooner do I step on board of that stately cruise ship than I stumble upon a body.
Midlife on the high seas is proving to be a real killer.
From the NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author, Addison Moore— Cosmopolitan Magazine calls Addison's books, “…easy, frothy fun!”
My first thought is that they had fallen.
Honestly, I thought they had fallen.
I thought my husband and the woman we hired to watch our home while we were away on our twenty-fifth anniversary cruise, a pretty young thing of twenty-five, had fallen onto our bed, naked, and he was merely trying to help her up.
My next thought is something a little more on target. Something is up.
Something was up, all right.
Parts are bouncing. The mattress is squeaking—I’m ashamed to say it’s squeaking like it’s never squeaked before. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the headboard is pounding out a Morse code against the bedroom wall that my brain clearly translates as get out and take the fool for all he’s worth. Or maybe it’s saying it’s time to put the electric knife to the test and Jackson Pollock this place with the blood of a cheating Irish man. Not that Stanton is Irish per se, at least not in the sexy accent fresh off the boat way. He’s third-generation American with a familial history of utilizing beer as a nighttime sleep aid.
But Stanton isn’t sleeping now. And if booze had any role in this coital equation, I couldn’t care less. There aren’t enough beer bottles to excuse this behavior—or for me to drown it from my memory.
Stanton flips the woman around and takes her midair with the deftness of a professional aerialist, and suddenly it feels as if I’m being treated to a pornographic version of Cirque du Sol-Lay.
And to think I thought Stanton and I had built a decent life together—married twenty-five years with two kids, a boy and a girl.
A rush of adrenaline hits me. I can’t stand here all day watching my marriage crash through hell in a hand basket—not when Stanton and his hussy with a tramp stamp are rocking the hand basket so violently with their incessant rutting.
Two primal options vie for my attention: fight or flight.
I choose to fight. Murder isn’t exactly off the table either.
I’m about to take a baseball bat to the two of them when in walks a naked woman holding a bottle of champagne.
A howl of a scream evicts from me and reverberates off the walls like a hurricane.
The girl screams back. All activity on the mattress comes to a halt. And out of the bathroom door to my right walks yet a third nude nudie—a blonde with a turned-up nose who looks quasi-familiar.
“Oh my word.” The words leave my lips along with an entire profanity-laced tirade.
“Trixie,” Stanton the Stamina King riots from the bed. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Me?” I screech so loud I hardly recognize my voice as it echoes around the cavernous room. “I live here. The better question is, what are they doing here?” A hard groan escapes me. “Never mind. It’s obvious what they’re doing here—they’re doing you!” I glance around the room in a rage and spot the oversized matching suitcases already packed and ready to go for our silver anniversary cruise, so I head on over and grab the one that belongs to me.
“What do you think you’re doing now?” Stanton asks as he quickly herds his naked harem into his closet—and considering his closet is the size of a small city, they could have been living there for years for all I know.
“I’m leaving.” I quickly hustle my rolling suitcase and myself to the door, but Stanton beats me there and barricades the exit. He’s as naked as the day he was born, albeit hairier and scarier in places. And once he catches me glowering at his body, he snatches a straw hat off the rack next to him—my gardening hat—and lands it precariously over his privates.
“Well, that’s a good look,” I tell him. “Maybe the four of you can do a little ‘Farmer in the Dell’ role-playing once I leave. I hope one of them takes on the role of a gopher who rips your turnips and cucumber off when you least expect it.”
I lost an entire vegetable garden that way one year and it taught me a valuable lesson, much like Stanton and his hussies are teaching me now.
Stanton Troublefield is handsome by nature. His once chiseled features are what initially attracted me to him. He is also a very smart man. Although it appears after twenty-five years those brain cells have dissipated. He’s tall, barrel-chested, and has the face of a deity—if that deity was a hundred pounds overweight and had a chin that dipped down to his belly. His blond hair has gone gray and his soft brown eyes have hardened over the years. Currently, his face is full of gray stubble, his hair is rumpled, and his ears are hiked in the way they get when he gets unnaturally aroused, and I mean that in the nonsexual sense, although given the circumstances, maybe it works both ways.
“Out of my way.” I slap him silly until he’s forced to step aside and I bump and thump my way down the stairs as I leave our palatial six thousand foot home that happens to be equipped with enough wrought iron and marble to make any mausoleum jealous.
I told him it was too pretentious, that we needed to raise the kids in a humble home, and at half this size it still would have been ample room for the four of us. But no—Stanton Troublefield, plastic surgeon to the imaginary stars, had an image to uphold. And today I got a firsthand glimpse of what image really lies in the broken mirror of our marriage.
“Trixie, wait,” he says, running down the stairs while pulling on the silk green paisley Veragamo robe I bought him last Christmas. It seemed ridiculously extravagant at the time, but knowing that Stanton only appreciates ridiculously extravagant gifts, I knew it would be the only one he would appreciate. “You can’t go like this. We’re not supposed to leave until three. What are you doing home so early? I thought you had appointments until two-thirty?”
“My hair lady canceled and my nail lady had a slot open up early.” I fan out my fingers in front of his face so he can get a good look at my shiny new French manicure. “And really? That’s why you were hosting some sort of perverted bon voyage party upstairs? Because you thought I’d be gone for the afternoon? What if Abbey or Parker showed up out of the blue?”
He inches back as if I struck him. “I don’t see why you have to drag the kids into this. You know as well as I do they’re both hundreds of miles away in college.”
“Parker is hundreds of miles away,” I correct him. “Abbey is a short drive down the highway. Never mind. I don’t see any point in trying to talk some sense into you. All of your good sense went out the window once those floozies showed up.” I pull out my phone and call a rideshare service to pick me up, stat.
“What the hell are you doing?” he squawks. “I still need to shower and shave. Call them back and tell them to show up in an hour.”
“You don’t have to shower and shave for two weeks, for all I care,” I riot at him. “You are not coming with me,” I shout as I stampede past him, rolling over his bare feet with my suitcase on the way out.
“Ouch, geez,” he shouts, following me out into the frozen January air.
January in Maine is never kind, but this January it feels particularly sinister with its knife-sharp winds and temps so low you could freeze both lungs solid if you happen to sneeze. Of course, I’m used to it—we both are. We’ve grown up in Brambleberry Bay—high school sweethearts, college sweethearts, the whole nine oxygen-depriving yards. And even though Brambleberry Bay is a seaside town, neither of us has ever been on a cruise before, let alone a boat.
For the most part, Stanton is a workaholic and doesn’t believe in vacations in general. He always said he planned to retire early and that we would make up for lost time when he got to the finish line. But our kids pooled their knowledge of how to use our credit cards and booked us an eighteen-night cruise that leaves out of Los Angeles tomorrow morning.
Honestly, if they had consulted me on the matter, I would have booked one out of Portland, or even New York would have been close enough. We could have swapped out Hawaii for the Caribbean, but my daughter thought it was probably a good idea to get her father as far away as possible from his office. And now it will be just me headed that way. All alone in the South Pacific. All alone on that big giant boat. I’ve never so much as seen a movie on my own, let alone been on a plane by myself.
A part of me thinks I should cancel and go to my mother’s.
A chill runs up my spine at the thought. I know most people get sappy when thinking about their mothers, but I don’t have most people’s mothers. There’s no way I could ever move back in with her. I wouldn’t last ten minutes. I wouldn’t want to.
“Trixie”—he barks— “you’re not traveling all the way to Hawaii without me. This is my anniversary cruise, too, dammit.”
“Well, maybe you should have thought of that before you asked those hussies to hop on pop. And guess what, you lunatic? We’re not having any more anniversaries because our marriage is over!”
“You can’t be serious.” His chest pulsates with a dull laugh. His hair is wild and wiry, stretching inches off his scalp, and his face looks piqued the way it does after a good run—a testament to the cardio he just pulled off, no doubt. “Divorces are expensive. The last thing I want to do is line some attorney’s pocket with my hard-earned money. All you ever do is spend my money, so of course, you don’t care.”
“I don’t spend your money—I spend our money. And for the record, I’m not even a big spender—not that it’s neither here nor there. But had you allowed me to get a job, I would have had my own money to spend!” I gag on my words. “Allowed?” I shake my head. “I can’t believe I listened to every word you said. I obeyed you like an idiot because I wanted to be an obedient wife, never causing any waves. Well, guess what? I’m about to cause a few waves—on the high seas! Have fun filling this house with cheap hookers because I’ll be on a tropical beach sipping mai tais while chatting on the phone with my shiny new divorce lawyer!”
“Trixie,” he growls. “Enough of this talk. Now give me a minute to get dressed. We’re going on this cruise together, and I’m sure we’ll work it all out. I wasn’t in my right mind. I was—”
“Caught red-handed,” I finish for him as a black SUV pulls up to the front of the house. “Go on and get back to your live-action porno. I’ve got a plane to catch. I’m taking this vacation by myself. I’m going to catch up on my reading, paint—and I’m going to have a fling, too. I’m going to sleep with every man on that ship, from the cabin steward, to the bartender, to the captain. I’m going to work my way up in rank, and I’m going to laugh in your face while doing it, too.” I take a bold step in his direction and look into those brown eyes that I used to think loved me. “Goodbye, Stanton Troublefield. This is the last time we will be in the same space together without an attorney present for a very long time. Don’t come after me, don’t call me, and don’t try to twist this around as if it’s all my fault the way you do when anything goes haywire in our lives.”
A beefy man with a goatee steps out of the SUV and pops my suitcase into his trunk before opening the passenger door for me.
“Trixie,” Stanton barks again in a way that lets me know he’s drawing a hard line in the sand. “Don’t you dare get in that car. If you do, things will never be the same and it will be all your fault.”
“Things will never be the same, Stanton. And it’s all your fault,” I say, climbing into the gargantuan SUV that smells of new leather.
“What are you going to do without me, Trixie?” he shouts. “Think about it! I can afford the best of the best. You’ll get nothing. You’ll end up under a bridge without my money in your pocket. You can kiss your ritzy lifestyle goodbye. You’ll never make it in the world without me. Get back here right now, Trix. I mean it.”
“Drive,” I tell the man as I slam the car door shut. “Bangor Airport, please,” I say as we pull away from the house I’ve lived in for the last two decades. We leave the neighborhood and soon we’re out of Brambleberry Bay altogether, and a part of me wonders if I’ll ever come back.
The word mills around in my mind a moment too long and the irony isn’t lost on me.
Stanton can bang whoever he wants now.
I’m going to Hawaii.