“Is there something wrong with the peas?” my dinner companion, Ambrose Tate, asked me.
“No, they’re fine.” We were supposed to be celebrating my return to the small Berkshire Hills town of Wharton after too many weeks in Boston, undergoing endless medical tests and consultations related to my lupus. I didn’t feel like celebrating anything, and the peas had taken the brunt of my irritation. It wasn’t their fault, though, so I set my fork down. “I just felt like stabbing something.”
“Something or someone?” Tate held out a hand to forestall an answer. One finger sported a small bandage, presumably from a minor accident in his woodworking studio. “No, don’t tell me. I probably don’t want to know.”
Always the lawyer, I thought, anticipating how my words could be used against us both. “Inanimate objects will suffice for the moment. And I hope you appreciated that I didn’t stab the maitre d’.”
“It made my day. Although, to be honest, I’m not sure why you were so annoyed with him.”
“He practically ripped my coat out of my hands.” I wasn’t as stable on my feet as I’d like, and his sudden tug on my coat had almost knocked me over.
“Ah, yes,” Tate said. “I forgot how much you hate it when people help you without your asking for assistance. As long as you’re jogging my memory, perhaps you could explain why you’re annoyed with me too. I didn’t take your coat or even open the car door for you.”
“You came to Boston three times while I was there.” I knew I was being irrational. I hadn’t even decided yet whether I was more upset that he’d visited at all or that he’d only visited three times. “I asked you not to make the trip.”
“I had to. Vicky missed me.”
“My cat hates you.” That wasn’t unique to Tate. Vicky hated everyone except me. “She knows you advised me not to adopt her.”
Tate shrugged. “She got over it when I smuggled some treats in to her. She doesn’t hold a grudge. Unlike some people.”
“I like grudges. They give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”
“I thought that was what your gardening was for,” Tate said. “And your penchant for challenging violent people to kill you.”
“The garden is shut down for the season, and no one’s threatened to kill me lately.” I had a bad feeling my voice was getting whiney.
“So you’re bored.”
“Not bored, exactly.” Even when I was irritated with Tate, I appreciated the way he helped me to sort through what I was thinking. “More like restless.”
“And you think stabbing things will make you feel better?”
“I know it will.” I always felt better when I had a plan for dealing with my issues. I decided it was safe to pick up my fork again and enjoy the chicken and rice. “Perhaps I should take up fencing.”
“You did assure me you weren’t going to stab people.”
“Fake stabbing doesn’t count.”
Tate sipped his wine while he considered my words. Finally, he said, “I can’t think of anywhere around here where you could take fencing lessons. You’d probably have to go back to Boston for that, and I’m pretty sure you’ve had enough of the big city and living with your niece.”
He was right. Next time I went to Boston, it was going to be for something fun, like a museum tour, and I was staying in a hotel, not my nagging niece’s condo. I might even invite Tate to go with me.
For now, if I couldn’t learn to fence anywhere nearby, maybe there was something else I could do that would be equally cathartic. I needed to vent some of the irritation that I was even taking out on Tate, who didn’t deserve it. Even if he had made the six-hour round-trip to Boston to see me after I’d asked him not to.
Rather than stab something, perhaps I could thump something instead. A friend had recently opened a martial arts studio here in Wharton. He ought to have a punching bag I could use. First thing tomorrow, I was signing up for membership.
“Don’t worry about me,” I told Tate. “I’m already feeling less inclined to stab anything. You and your car will be perfectly safe on the drive home tonight.”
“No one is ever completely safe around you, but I’ve got years of experience with minimizing risks.” Tate reached across the table to take my hand. “Having to keep my woodworking tools locked up so you won’t stab me with them is a small price to pay for being with you.”
You can read more about Helen in A Darling of Death, the fifth novel in the “Helen Binney” Mysteries, coming March 7, 2017.
Helen Binney is frustrated with the challenges of her lupus and is desperate to hit something—anything! So what better place to go than a martial arts studio owned by a friend? Only her frustrations remain when she finds herself in a minor car accident, a female martial arts competitor mocks her physical limitations, and the studio owner won’t let her engage in any satisfyingly high-impact exercise.
But when the rude competitor is found dead in the locker room, Helen is distracted from her personal problems. She learns that the woman owned a Bed & Breakfast, and wasn’t very good at making friends. Murder suspects abound, with several ex-boyfriends, mistreated employees at her B&B, a competing B&B operator, and a romantic rival. And the murder isn’t the only mystery in Helen’s life. Her handsome ex-lawyer Tate seems to be withdrawing from their newly personal relationship, and she can’t get him to tell her what’s wrong. Can Helen keep Tate from giving up on their relationship and defend herself against a killer who was able to overpower a highly skilled martial artist? Or will this be one fight she doesn’t limp away from?
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About the author
Gin Jones overcame a deeply ingrained habit of thinking and writing like a lawyer in order to write fiction. In her spare time, Gin makes quilts, grows garlic and serves on the board of directors for the XLH Network. Connect with Gin at ginjones.com.
All comments are welcomed.
A Darling of Death is available at online booksellers.
Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a Kindle or Nook copy of A Darling of Death. The giveaway ends March 6, 2017. Good luck everyone!