Page 13 of Beach Bodies

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“We’ll leave the trunk open. Get in.”

“Jeez, he didn’t even flinch at the insult,” Pam said. “I’d never stoop so low.”

“He’s right,” Dan said, grimacing. “I need a new car.”

“Aw, I love the beater,” Ryan said, getting in. “Pam, call you later.”

“Me, too,” Dan said. “Later.”

Alone again, Pam walked backward, watching the men drive off. Checking her watch, she decided she’d go to the gym and the grocery store. That would kill a few hours.

Chapter 2

Earlier that morning, Laura Long stood at the sink, washing out coffee cups. The view from the cottage kitchen window didn’t inspire. It looked out on her neighbor’s garage, and if she strained to the left, she could see across the street. Nothing of interest had been happening lately, the gradual shift from autumn to winter depressing.

She poured coffee into one of the cups and handed it to her live-in boyfriend, pathologist Will Peterson. He was dressed for work in dark-gray suit pants and a white shirt, his striped tie tucked between buttons so he didn’t get butter on it from the toast she handed him. Curly salt-and-pepper hair pulled into a ponytail gave his mature face a playful look. With the body of a fit, athletic middle-aged man, Will did it for the younger Laura. And she was in love.

“Thank you, sweetheart. You didn’t have to do this.”

“I know. I wanted to,” she replied, turning to him with her own cup. “Do you want to sit on the terrace before you go?”

“It’s a little foggy out this morning,” Will said. “But we can.”

“I feel like we won’t have many days left to sit out there, and I’m dreading it.”

She wrapped up in an afghan, and he grabbed a down-filled jacket off the coatrack before leading the way, opening one of the French doors that faced the beach. The sun on the horizon was trying to burn through the haze, a big, ineffective orange ball of gas.

“It was so cold last night, the furnace clicked on. I guess it’s the official start of autumn.”

“Yeah. I’m not ready for winter,” Will said, pulling out her chair. “I wish I could stay home and walk the beach with you.”

Laura leaned over to kiss him. “We’ll go tonight after dinner.”

He looked at his watch. “We have baby night soon. You should be ovulating in twenty-four hours.”

“I’m ready whenever you say,” she said, her anxiety shooting into the danger zone. She wanted a baby, and she wanted one now. The fear of disappointment kept her from getting too excited about trying to get pregnant, but thrilled to have sex with Will.

They shared the outlook of their day. Will liked to get to his office and change into scrubs before surgeries for the day began in case his opinion was asked for. It was Dr. Owen’s day in the OR. He’d do one breast biopsy with lymph node dissection after another, the outcome of the rest of the patient’s life resting securely in Will’s capable hands.

This hospital didn’t have the resources to hire specialized pathologists, so he did several roles with excellence, including his job as medical examiner. Will was a forensic pathologist with specialized training in death investigation.He did autopsies, interpreted toxicology reports and other lab results, collected and documented evidence from the body, and could provide expert testimony in court cases. He also examined surgical biopsies and specimens as the hospital pathologist.

“I have two new cheating spouse cases to open,” Laura said. “I hate to say it…”

“I know, you’re waiting for another murder.”

“I do have a taste for death investigation. That baby skeleton did it for me.”

When Laura had bought her beach shack, a baby’s skeleton had been discovered in the attic during renovations. She’d been hooked on solving the mystery, digging around to discover who the skeleton had been, and who had left it there. It had inspired her to become a private investigator.

They went back inside together, Will’s arm around Laura’s shoulders. “Well, I guess this is it until tonight. Five more years and I can retire.”

“Oh, I don’t want to wait that long,” she said. “I want the team of the PI and the coroner to begin as soon as possible.”

He chuckled, leaning over to kiss her. “I’ll try to make it happen sooner.”

Exchanging the down-filled jacket for a suit jacket and overcoat, he looked in the mirror over the fireplace and straightened his tie one last time. Laura waited at the door with a travel mug of coffee and his briefcase, amused watching the routine he went through, standing with his long legs apart, flexing his buttocks while he stuck fingers in the collar that was already bugging him after the comfort of wearing a sweatshirt all weekend.

“You’re so hot,” she said, standing on tiptoes to kiss him goodbye.