Against the Tide
The Brodies of Alaska #3
by Kat Martin
Releasing May 26, 2015
Secrets—and safety—melt under a midnight sun…
Liv Chandler is running for her life, and the cops haven’t been able to do a thing to help. But there’s one man who makes her feel safe, no matter what…rugged charter boat captain Rafe Brodie.
To Rafe, Liv is a beautiful mystery, one he can’t ignore. He means to unearth her secrets, and in the process, if luck is on his side, maybe the spark between them will ignite.
But Liv’s past is more dangerous than Rafe could guess, and when his first mate turns up dead, she fears that she’s next. That there’s something else coming she can’t see. That even Rafe and the remote village of Valdez, Alaska can’t protect her forever…
The breakfast crowd at the Pelican Café had begun to arrive, as people did every morning when it opened at six a.m. The café had opened its doors in the fifties and been going strong ever since. Of course, it had passed through a dozen different owners, had its ups and downs, and been near financial ruin more than once.
Having purchased the restaurant six months ago, Olivia Chandler was the most recent person to step into the driver’s seat. Unlike the previous owner, who had let the place sink into disrepair, Olivia had been making changes, most of which had been heralded with great enthusiasm by the local customers.
The bell above the door rang as a young mother and her little girl walked in and headed for one of the light blue vinyl booths. Melissa Young, Olivia remembered, was her name. Liv made a point of getting to know her customers— just not too well.
While Melissa grabbed a child’s high seat and settled one-year-old Suzy in it, the waitress, a slim little blonde named Katie McKenzie, grabbed the coffeepot off the burner behind the counter and headed for the booth. Katie smiled as she filled Melissa’s mug and handed her a menu.
“I’ll give you a minute to decide,” Katie said, hurrying off to another table to refill an earlier patron’s cup.
One of the changes Liv had made was to hire a new cook—one who wasn’t high on marijuana half the time. Wayne Littlefish was Alaska Native, reliable and great in the kitchen. An older man, Charlie Foot, worked the dinner shift.
Liv had also hired two part-time waitresses instead of one full-time worker, which gave each of the girls a more flexible schedule and made taking time off easier for all of them, including Olivia and long-time employee, Nell Olsen.
A buxom woman with thick, silver-streaked black hair, Nell had worked at the café for more than ten years. She was as much a fixture as the sky-blue interior, the ocean theme, and the anchors and fishing nets on the walls.
Nell had been invaluable in helping Liv take over the business since, aside from waiting tables for the past couple of years, being a fairly decent cook, and a very fast learner, Liv had almost no experience in running a restaurant.
Still, in the last six months she had managed to keep the old clientele happy and add new customers. The tourist season was just starting, so business was getting even better.
“Well, look who’s coming,” Nell said, staring out the window at a tall man in jeans and a sweatshirt crossing the outside patio. The brick patio was empty now while it was still cold, but with summer approaching, soon would be noisy with people. “If it isn’t Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome.”
Katie walked past Liv just then, a platter of bacon and eggs riding on the flat of her hand. “I just call him Mr. Freakin’ Hot.”
“Shame on you,” Liv teased. “You just turned twentyone. Rafe Brodie’s got to be at least a dozen years older.”
“Just means he’s a man not a boy. And I like a guy with a little experience.”
“From what I hear, he has plenty of that,” Liv said dryly as Katie sailed off to deliver the food.
Nell chuckled. “I’m fifty years old and that man can still make me swoon.”
Olivia busied herself wiping off the long Formica-topped counter as Rafe shoved through the door, ringing the bell above. Seating himself in his usual booth, he stretched his long legs out in front of him. Rafe was a regular in the café, which sat on North Harbor Drive right across from the boat dock.
“Katie’s busy,” Nell said with a matchmaking glint in her eyes. “Why don’t you wait on him?”
Olivia shook her head. “I’m busy, too. You go ahead.”
Knowing there was no persuading her, Nell sighed. “Probably better you don’t. Everyone in town knows Rafe’s a dedicated bachelor.”
As the owner of the café, Olivia caught most of the local gossip. According to Cassie Webster, the other part-time waitress, Rafe Brodie had dated a woman named Sally Henderson for nearly three years, until she dumped him four months ago because he refused to marry her.
Apparently, he’d made his intentions—or lack thereof— clear from the start, but Sally hadn’t believed him, poor girl.
Dedicated bachelor or not, Nell and Katie were right. With the thick, dark brown hair curling just over his collar, the faint shadow of beard that usually lined his hard jaw, and those hot, whiskey-brown eyes, he was one of the best-looking men Olivia had ever seen.
Which was exactly the reason she had avoided him since the day she had met him.
Oh, she’d been pleasant enough when she had to be, spoken to him for a moment when she’d been introduced to him at a chamber of commerce mixer right after she’d bought the café, but she always managed to be too busy to wait on him.
No use putting temptation in her path. It was simply too dangerous.
Still, as she worked taking orders and delivering meals to the patrons at the counter, she couldn’t help an occasional glance in his direction. He had always reminded her of a dark-haired lion, powerful and dangerous yet fascinating in some primitive way. He looked different today, the shadow along his jaw darker, as if he hadn’t had time to shave, his handsome features set in grim lines, and faint shadows under his eyes.
She watched as Nell chatted with him a moment, then Liv watched the easy smile Nell usually gave him slip from her face.
The coffeepot wavered. Rafe grabbed the glass pot to keep her from dropping it and spilled hot coffee over his hand.
Olivia didn’t hesitate, just grabbed a towel, wet it with cold water, and hurried in Rafe’s direction. He was sitting down again, Nell fussing over him, relieved to see Olivia approaching.
“Here—wrap this around your fingers.” She handed him the wet towel. “It’s cold enough to ease the pain and keep the burn from getting worse.”
“I’m all right,” Rafe said. “It’s no big deal.” But he accepted the wet cloth and looped it over the back of a big, suntanned hand.
The man was all of six-four, two-hundred-plus pounds, with a solid, athletic build and very wide shoulders. Liv was five-nine, but Rafe was more than half a head taller. She tried not to stare at his mouth, which seemed harder this morning without the smile he always had for Nell.
She glanced in her friend’s direction, sucked in a breath as Nell’s pale blue eyes filled with tears.
“Oh God, what is it?”
Nell blinked and the tears rolled down her cheeks. She wiped at the wetness with a trembling hand. “I could tell something was wrong. It was stamped all over Rafe’s face.”
Liv glanced from one to the other, saw the same grim expression on both of their faces. “Tell me what’s happened.”
Nell swallowed. “It’s . . . it’s Scotty. He was killed last night.”
Olivia felt the blood seeping out of her head. She found herself sinking down on the bench opposite Rafe. “Oh God. That’s why Cassie didn’t show up for work this morning.” The reason Olivia had had to call Katie.
Rafe’s towel-wrapped hand unconsciously fisted. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything. I figured since Cassie works here, Nell already knew.”
“I’m glad you told me,” Nell said. “I need to go to her, make sure she’s okay.”
“I’ll cover while you’re gone,” Liv said. “We’ll be fine.” Nell wiped fresh tears from her cheeks. “This is going to break her heart. She loved Scotty so much. Everyone loved him.”
“I can’t believe he’s dead,” Liv said, aching for the young woman whose future had been shattered. “What happened?”
“The police think it was a mugging,” Rafe said. “Whoever did it stole his wallet, jewelry, cell phone.”
“Where did it happen?”
“On the dock next to the Scorpion.”
Liv frowned. “What was he doing down at the dock at night? He’s usually home with Cassie.”
“I don’t know. I talked to Jaimie Graham before I came over. She had no idea what he was doing down there.”
“Jaimie had an awful crush on Scotty,” Nell said. “She must have taken the news real hard.”
“Jaimie isn’t good at hiding her feelings,” Rafe said. “She ran out of the house as soon as I told her, took off so no one would see her cry.”
Nell shook her head, moving the thick, salt-and-pepper hair that came to her shoulders and was clipped back on each side. “Poor thing.”
“I still can’t figure why Scotty was down at the dock,” Olivia said.
Rafe’s brown eyes swung to her face. “I’m hoping once things settle down, Cassie’ll be able to tell us.”
Olivia thought of the young woman who worked for her, imagined her pain, and her throat went tight. In the six months she had been running the café, she and Cassie had become close friends. Or at least as close as Liv could allow.
She looked over at Nell, whose face was still pale. “You go on. Go to her. As soon as the breakfast rush is over, I’ll join you at Cassie’s house.”
Nell just nodded. Picking the coffeepot up off the table, she headed for the breakfast counter, set the pot on the burner at the back. Removing her sky-blue Pelican Café apron, she slipped out through the side door near the rear of the building.
Liv glanced across the table at Rafe. His jaw looked iron hard, his eyes so dark she could barely see a hint of gold. For the first time it occurred to her that Rafe was hurting, too. Scotty was his first mate and they were friends. Cassie had said Scott idolized Rafe, had thought of him as an older brother.
Reaching toward him, she settled a hand over the fist he rested on top of the table. “Are you okay?”
His dark eyes flicked down to her hand, then moved up to her face. “Scott was a good man. One of the best. Whoever killed him is going to pay.”
A little shiver ran through her. It wasn’t a statement. It was a vow. “Surely the police will find the man who did it.”
“There’re eleven guys in the Valdez department. Eleven police officers to cover two-hundred-seventy square miles, including the pipeline terminus.” Valdez was the end point of the Alaska pipeline. The huge oil shipping facility at the edge of town was one of the things that made Valdez famous.
Along with the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Eleven million gallons killed 250,000 seabirds and hundreds of otters and seals, a disaster it took thirty years to recover from. That and the biggest earthquake in U.S. history.
More recently, the tiny town was a place known for its majestic scenery and fabulous fishing.
“What about the State Troopers?” Olivia asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe. Rosen is a good man, but cops can be pissy about their territory. He may think he can go it alone.”
“Maybe he can,” Liv said, but she didn’t really trust the police. Hadn’t since she’d been forced to run for her life and couldn’t count on the police to help her.
“Maybe,” Rafe said. “I guess we’ll see.”
Liv watched his jaw settle into a determined line and thought of the vow he had made. Clearly it was a promise he meant to keep.
As she slid out of the booth, she realized her legs still felt shaky. “Would you like something to eat? You look like you could use it.”
Rafe rubbed a hand over the bristles along his jaw. “Lost my appetite. I just need some coffee. That’s what I came in for.”
She noticed the china mug in front of him had never gotten filled. “I’ll take care of it.” She headed across the café, grabbed the pot off the burner, and returned, poured his mug to the brim. “It’s on the house today.”
“Thanks . . . Liv.” Rafe’s gaze fixed on her face. It was the first time he had used the more familiar version of her name.
Olivia didn’t like the way her stomach lifted at the way he said that single, softly spoken word.
Kat Martin is the New York Times bestselling author of more than sixty books across multiple genres. Sixteen million copies are in print and she has been published in twenty-one foreign countries, including Japan, France, Argentina, Greece, China, and Spain. Her books have been nominated for the prestigious RITA award and won both the Lifetime Achievement and Reviewer’s Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews.
A resident of Missoula, Montana, Kat is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. She and her author husband, L.J. Martin, spend their winters in Ventura, California. She is currently writing her next Romantic Suspense.