The Monet Murders

The Monet Murders by Jean Harrington Read Free Book Online

Book: The Monet Murders by Jean Harrington Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jean Harrington
in, pulled out, pulled in, pulled out, until, finally yanking on the wheel for the last time, I nestled that baby in place. Triumphant, I waved thanks to the row of waiting cars, locked up and crossed the street to Fern Alley.
    Off Shoots, the junior clothing shop next door where we’d found Lee’s new dress, buzzed with customers. Good for Irma and Emma, the hard-working twins who owned it. Their ad for holiday dresses in the Naples Daily had attracted a lot of interest. A green strapless gown in their display window caught my eye. It would be perfect for New Year’s Eve, but I wasn’t going…and then I saw him. Dreadlocks. The handsome young guy who promised not to drop his empties in my planters. Why was he hanging out in front of the shop? Sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk with a clipboard on his lap?
    He was so intent on what he was doing he didn’t hear me approach until I came alongside him. When he spotted me, he looked up and gave me a dazzling smile.
    “Hey, design lady!”
    “What are you doing crouched in front of my shop window? You’ll scare people away.”
    “I’m drawing. Have a look.”
    With a sigh of irritation, I peered over his shoulder and gasped in amazement. I couldn’t believe my eyes. His drawing was masterful. He had captured her. Lee Skimp. Her very essence, not just her beauty, lived on that page.
    I glanced from the clipboard into the shop window where Lee sat near the entrance at a desk—an antique bureau plat actually—looking stunning in her new black clothes, her hair a shimmering curtain to her shoulders.
    “It’s beautiful,” I told him, looking back at the clipboard.
    “Yes, she is,” he said, glancing from the page to the window…his glance lingering there…then back to the page.
    “Listen,” I said, hands on hips, “I can understand your fascination, but for the second time I have to tell you I’m running a business here. And it’s not a dating service.”
    “What?” He glared up at me as if I were the encroacher. “I’m not trying to make out. I’m an artist . I specialize in portraits.”
    “Yeah, right.” He scrambled to his feet. “This drawing is a study for an oil painting.”
    “How do you know she wants you to paint her?”
    His annoyance fled, replaced by something else. Uncertainty? “I don’t,” he said.
    I peered at his sketch again. The lad had a talent that leaped off the page. Lee looked alive in his rendering, her gentleness, her serenity, her strength uncannily revealed in a few bold lines.
    I waved at Lee inside the shop. She returned my greeting with an uncertain little waggle of her fingers.
    “Have you two met?” I asked Dreadlocks.
    He shook his head.
    “Would you like to?”
    That smile again. “Is the pope a Catholic?”
    “Okay, wise guy, come on.” I had my hand on the door knob before I thought to ask, “What’s your name?”
    “Paulo St. James. It’s Jamaican.”
    “I’m Deva Dunne. It’s Irish.”
    Clipboard in hand, he followed me into the shop. When the Yarmouthport sleigh bells stopped their jangling, I said, “Mr. Paulo St. James, this is Miss Lee Skimp.”
    I think they both heard me, but I couldn’t be sure. I wonder if the moment you fall in love you’re aware of anything except the beat of your heart banging against your ribs?
    Lee recovered first and, still seated behind the desk, she held out her hand. Paulo wiped a palm on his jeans before reaching across the desk to her. When they touched, I half expected to see a lightning bolt shoot across the shop, but no, he took her fingers gently, bowed and placed a kiss on the back of her hand.
    So French. Or so Jamaican. Whichever. I was impressed.
    And Lee? Well, Lee damn near fainted.
    “I declare,” she said. “I’ve never had my hand kissed before.”
    “You should have,” Paulo said. What he left unsaid would fill a volume.
    I cleared my throat. Startled that I was still there, they both looked at me, wide eyed.
    “Mr. St.

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