My name is Trixie Troublefield, and I live on a cruise ship. My days are filled with exciting shore excursions, nonstop buffets, and ceaseless games of bingo—can life get any better than this?
It can! My children are coming along for this trip and I can’t wait to see them. And as it turns out Captain Crawford’s sons, and Ransom’s daughter is coming along for the ride too.
But something happened on the last cruise that blew the lid right off my supernatural secret—not with everyone—but with someone very important and the fall out could cost me everything.
The Emerald Queen is cruising Alaska, and good time will be had by most.
But the chilled heart of a killer sees to it that one unsuspecting passenger is not only on their way to the final frontier—it will be their final destination.
Midlife on the high seas is proving to be murder.
Emerald Queen of the Seas, Royal Lineage Cruise Lines
11 Night Cruise
Day One = Departure: Vancouver, Canada
Day Two = Tracy Arm Fjord
Day Three = Icy Strait Point
Day Four = Sitka
Day Five = Haines
Day Six = Scenic Cruising Hubbard Glacier
Day Seven = Juneau
Day Eight = Skagway
Day Nine = Scenic Cruising Glacier Bay National Park
Day Ten = Ketchikan
Day Eleven at Sea
Back to Vancouver, Canada
“I’m going to find the killer this time,” Nettie announces as the floodgates open and the passengers looking forward to an eleven-night Alaskan cruise storm the gangway.
“Would you stop?” Bess, a feisty redheaded granny, smacks her bestie with a handbag as throngs of humanity enter the ship like cattle. “There isn’t going to be a killer, or a murder, or so much as a crooked look on this trip. We need to think positive.”
“Think positive? I say we throw the killjoy overboard,” Nettie says, turning my way, and in doing so that gray pompom that sits on her head threatens to wobble off. “You know what they say. If one murder is good, two is better.”
“I’m no killjoy.” Bess scoffs. “Maybe it’s you who needs to get thrown overboard for the safety of the passengers? And most of all, myself.”
I chuckle at the two women. Both Bess Chatterley and Nettie Butterworth are somewhere in their eighties, feisty, and kind to a fault. I hardly think murder is in their wheelhouse. Although, it’s definitely been in the wheelhouse of others. Let’s just say the past few cruises have been a little more eventful than most of us would hope.
My name is Trixie Troublefield. I’m barreling toward fifty, stand at an average height of five foot five, and have medium-length blonde hair with my bangs cut in the same blunt manner they were back in the eighties. Okay, fine. I’ve got a little more gray than I do blonde, but from faraway it’s just about the same difference these days.
I met Bess and Nettie almost six months ago when I set out on my twenty-fifth-anniversary cruise—alone. It turned out my husband was a lying cheat, and I caught him in the act of doing both on the very same day we were due to depart for our dream vacation. Suffice it to say, I departed without him and have been living happily ever after on the Emerald Queen of the Seas.
Living on a cruise ship wasn’t exactly my idea. In fact, it was Bess and Nettie who convinced me to take the so-called plunge. And boy, am I ever glad I did. Not only do I get to cruise the world, but the ship hired me on as the official art instructor. And now two of my greatest passions have finally collided—eating all the delicious food I want with reckless abandon and teaching others my love of the art world.
Speaking of which, it’s well past four in the afternoon and my stomach is rumbling like a dryer with a single shoe in it.
I can’t blame it. It’s grown accustomed to a regular visit to the all-you-can-eat buffet between the meals we take in the main dining room.
I’ve never been one to let food go to waste, and with so many culinary treats aboard the ship, I’m doing my best to make sure they all get eaten. Which also explains my newfound love of elastic waistbands and A-line dresses.
Who knew fashion could be so forgiving?
And on the topic of newfound love, I sigh as I cast a glance toward the tall, dark, and dangerously handsome man standing next to the captain as the crew greet new passengers with lockstep precision.
The handsome man in question would be Ransom Courtland Baxter, my newly-minted boyfriend.
Ransom is a retired FBI behavior analyst, which is the very reason he was hired on as the head of vessel security to begin with. Let’s just say the previous murders that took place on the ship put Ransom and me in close proximity as we worked to solve the cases together. Not that he welcomed my help, but my days of acquiescing to a man’s expectations are long over.
Captain Crawford stands a few feet from Ransom, and between them is Tinsley Thornton, who has indeed turned into a thorn in my side. Tinsley is an auburn-headed, long-legged beauty who is about ten years younger than me, somewhere in her forties. She happened to date both Wes—Captain Crawford—and Ransom before I came on the scene. And well, once I arrived, both of those men turned their amorous affections my way.
Let’s just say Tinsley hasn’t been happy about it. Which would explain why she outed my oddball supernatural ability to them last night.
And what oddball supernatural ability would that be?
I see ghosts.
Thankfully, Ransom didn’t believe her. Actually, he accused her of diabolically editing the footage she had shown them where it looked as if I was clearly speaking to thin air.
And Wes, well, I may have fessed up and told him she was telling the truth. It was a moment of weakness and fear on my part, and perhaps the greatest blunder I’ve made in my whole life. We’ve yet to have a full conversation about it since he was quickly called away, but I’m wondering if I should somehow redact my statement.
The only people on board the Emerald Queen who know of my supernatural quirk are Bess and Nettie, and something tells me I should probably cap that number at two.
But right now, I don’t want to think about the dead. My focus is one hundred percent on the living—as in my living, breathing children.
It’s August, and I’ve finally convinced them to join me on a jaunt through the glaciers before they both head back to university. In fact, both Wes and Ransom convinced their kids of the very same thing. This is going to be a family reunion for the ages, and I can’t wait to meet everyone.
“Something is going on,” Bess says, shaking her head at the throngs of eager passengers boarding the ship, each with a piece of carry-on luggage clutched tight and a grin on their face that likely won’t expire until it’s time to leave.
“I’ll say.” Nettie squints out at the crowd. “Gone is the sea of gray—replaced with teenagers?”
I blink out at the passengers storming the atrium. In truth, I was too busy looking for Abbey and Parker, the two great loves of my life—aka my children—to notice the far too youthful faces of the other passengers.
Nettie is right.
Typically, the age range of these treks through the high seas tends to skew slightly older—think fifty and above, not that I consider myself old by any means. But the masses ambling on board look as if I could be their mother.
“These aren’t teenagers,” Wes says. “They’re college students.”
“Oh no”—Bess moans at the sight—“instead of senior year at the old folks home, we’re taking on senior year at Party U.”
A dull groan comes from me at the thought of the ship turning into a booze cruise. “I promised Abbey and Parker an eleven-night calm and restorative reprieve from the real world. And here I’ve inadvertently booked them in time for an eleven-night frat party.”
“Look on the bright side,” Nettie says. “There will be more than enough frat boys to go around.”
Bess huffs at her bestie, “Only you would come to that conclusion. Some of us aren’t interested in frat boys.”
Nettie rolls her eyes. “And it shows.”
Ransom arches a brow in my direction and I give a wink his way.
I’m not interested in frat boys either. My ex ensured I’ve had enough frat boy shenanigans to last a lifetime.
For the first time ever, I’ve got a real man to contend with.
“And here they are,” Wes says, all decked out in his captain’s regalia—white suit, white hat with a navy band, and enough shiny pins and buttons to make a brass band envious.
Wes is also tall, dark, and handsome—not to mention kind to a fault. And on an odd note, he was once married to Ransom’s sister. It didn’t end well, which explains the less than tepid relationship the two of these men share.
A couple of good-looking young men head this way, both tall with dark hair and bright green eyes just like the man they’re bounding for as they take on a three-way embrace with the captain.
“Boys,” Wes says, straightening his cap as he steps back and I can see a glint of tears in his eyes. “It’s so good to see you.”
“You, too, Dad,” the taller of the two says before nodding at Ransom. “And here’s our favorite funcle.”
Funcle as in fun uncle. I nod knowingly. My own kids have a few of those—some of which I don’t approve of—most of which.
“Uncle Ransom.” The other one grins as the three of them exchange an embrace as well.
Wes steps our way. “Boys, you remember Tinsley, Bess, and Nettie.”
They exchange niceties at lightning speeds.
“I’d like for you to meet Trixie Troublefield. She’s a new addition to the crew. Trixie is teaching art classes on the ship. Her kids will be joining us this go-around as well. Trixie, this is Owen and Carter.” He points to the taller and the shorter of the two—both of which still manage to tower over their father. “Owen is twenty-five and in med school. And Carter is twenty-four and in law school.”
“Wow,” I marvel. “Med school and law school? You did good, Dad.”
Ransom stiffens. “My sister did an expectational job raising these two.”
Both boys boom with laughter at the slight.
Owen slaps his father on the back. “Still the same old grudges running around, huh?”
But before Wes can answer, a cute little redhead with shoulder-length hair, freckles, and big blue eyes comes screaming this way.