About the Book
Title: Valentine’s Day is Murder
Author: Carolyn Arnold
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Jimmy finally takes a vacation--and a chance on love--only to be abducted. His female companion originally thinks he had cold feet about their relationship, but Sean and Sara know there’s more to it. Jimmy isn’t the type to just up and disappear, let alone leave a lady stranded.
Setting out on their private jet, Sean and Sara reach the tropical paradise of Ocho Rios, Jamaica with sightseeing as the last thing on their minds.
With a gold coin being their initial tie to Jimmy’s kidnapper, Sean and Sara even speculate about the involvement of pirates. Yet as the hours pass, and there’s no word from Jimmy’s captors, Sean and Sara will need to figure out the real motive before it’s too late.
With help from their friend, Adam, back in Albany, the pieces come together and not a moment too soon.
Strap in for an adventure that will take you to the beautiful island of Jamaica and have you wanting a piña colada.
CAROLYN ARNOLD is the bestselling author of the Madison Knight series, the Brandon Fisher series, and the McKinley Mysteries. Her love for writing dates back to her teen years, but her passion was reignited in 2006 when a fellow employee said "tell me a story." Since then Carolyn has never looked back.
Her writing has since been compared to New York Times Bestsellers such as JD Robb, Mary Higgins Clark, Sue Grafton, Michael Connelly, Tess Gerritsen, and more.
Carolyn was born in 1976 in a rural town of Ontario, Canada, and she currently lives with her husband and two beagles in a city near Toronto.
Under the Jamaican Moonlight
For a man who had given up on love, dining under the Ocho Rios’ moon reaffirmed that all things are possible. Jimmy Voigt sat across from Meredith, a woman who, just a couple months back, had been a stranger. She carried the black evening dress she wore elegantly, its straps loose and dangling over her shoulders. In the candlelight and a beautiful setting such as this, it was hard to resist her. A portion of him didn’t even want to try.
“Thank you for taking me with you, Jimmy.” She smiled at him, wistfully, as she lifted her wine glass for a toast. “To us.”
His lips twitched but he wasn’t sure if the full expression showed—he was terrified of falling in love. He went through with the expected response though. He clinked his glass to hers and watched as softness blanketed her features.
It was the perfect end to a perfect day.
They were both up with the sun and had met by the pool. They had spent the early morning strolling along the shore. With toes in the sand, they had shared whispered jokes and silly stories while the sea air cleared out any stench of the city and melted away stress. Tropical breezes also carried wafts of plant life and flowers.
“The Dunns River Falls was quite the experience.”
“You’re telling me.” He left out the fact that his knees had barked most of the way up. He found himself caring what she thought about him, which was a first since Clara.
While he had tried to put Clara from his mind, his ex-wife had a way of entering his thoughts at random intervals and at the most inappropriate times. He had loved her with his soul, but that hadn’t been enough. Maybe it was why he held back now. He feared that if loving someone with his entire being hadn’t been enough before, why would it be now? Yet, he had to shake the self-flagellation.
“The best part though, I must say, was snorkeling. The colors of those fish. Absolutely stunning.” Meredith took a sip of her wine.
Jimmy’s eyes fell to her slim fingers. When they held hands, they intertwined perfectly with his.
He needed to put the past behind him and leave it there. Sara had told him to open his heart, but he was starting to think it was secured behind reinforced steel doors. Still, he appreciated how far he had come—and not simply in literal mileage, but also in the emotional distance he had traveled to ask Meredith to accompany him to Jamaica. Really though, what fun was an island without a companion? Still, he wasn’t going to rush things and had ensured they had separate rooms.
Taking a long draw on his wine, he appreciated its flavor. He pursed his lips.
“You look mighty deep in thought.” Meredith laughed.
“Truth be told, I was.” If he allowed his mind to swallow him whole, it would. Enough of the scrutiny and inward reflection. He was determined to enjoy this moment in time—another wise piece of advice from Sara.
He reached across the table for Meredith’s hand. As hers molded to his, he had to admit that he felt better than he had in a long time. On some level, he felt more complete. If he had listened to his initial excuses, he wouldn’t be here with her. It was with that thought he realized she no longer wore the ring. He pinched his fingers around where it used to be.
She withdrew her hand and placed it in her lap. “You just noticed? I haven’t worn it since just before Christmas, but it was time for me to move on. I have a feeling it is for you too.”
Meredith’s husband had cheated on her after twenty years of marriage. She couldn’t forgive him. It was an offense Jimmy wasn’t sure he could have pardoned either.
Again, the internal talk would have him believe his situation hadn’t been the same. That somehow he’d suffered less the way his marriage had ended. All Clara wanted was more of him, yet it was a sacrifice he wasn’t able to make. He had continued to put the job first, and in the end, that’s all he had. Still, it had resulted in the same outcome as it had for Meredith—two hearts that had once been bound were ripped apart.
“I know you’re probably right.” Jimmy tried to smile. He hoped at least a glimmer of it came through. “I’ve been happy here with you. It’s been nice having a friend.” He knew it came out all wrong by the way her face fell and her eyes pinched.
“Yes, it is.” She cleared her throat as she took the napkin from her lap and put it on the table. “If you’ll excuse me for a moment.”
As she walked away, he felt like a schmuck, with a capital S. Why couldn’t he just put his reservations aside? What did he have to lose? His pride? He was certain his heart hung back, despite periodic suspicions to the contrary. All he had to do was breathe in, and breathe out.
His hand went to his neck and he stretched it side to side. It was then he felt a pinch and everything went black.
Sean sipped his orange juice as he peered out a window that overlooked the backyard. The morning was overcast and would be downright gloomy if it wasn’t for the white blanket of snow clinging to the bushes and the trees. He had an odd realization—how depressing it would be if the snow were black, red, pink, or, essentially, any other color.
He was in the sitting room, with the dark wood trim and piano, both of which Sara had fallen in love with at first sight. She was holed up in her office, a room of the house she had claimed for her writing. He was glad to see that she was back to her craft and taking it more seriously than ever.
This left him with one concern. Valentine’s Day. It was a few days away and he wanted to make it memorable for Sara. But it was tough to devise a plan that would surprise the imagination of a novelist. He had given her jewels and a top-of-the-line desktop computer with a large monitor for Christmas.
And if the pressure of a memorable Valentine’s Day wasn’t enough, the end of this month marked one year since the day he’d proposed—and Sara’s birthday. Tagged onto that, the start of March was their wedding anniversary. Time had flown.
The last two months had been particularly busy as they set out organizing their private investigator firm. Obtaining their PI licenses had proven easy, given the advantage of their past experience. They renewed their licenses and registered a couple semi-automatic handguns. They were ready to go. The only things left were deciding on a name and setting up shop.
Sara came into the room. “Good morning, darling.”
“How’s the book coming along?”
“Oh, it comes.” She went over to him and kissed his forehead, but he tugged her down into his lap, swept his fingers through her hair, and took her mouth.
She put her hand on his chest, and pulled back. “Someone’s in a great mood this morning.”
“You have no idea. I was just thinking about how far we’ve come and how fast time goes.”
Sara let out a puff of breath. “I agree. Can you believe it’s almost been a year since we got married? It’s unbelievable to me.”
“It feels longer?”
She batted his chest and angled her head. “You want me to feed your ego? It’s been the best twelve months of my life, Sean.”
She pressed her lips to his, and he didn’t want the display of affection to end, but the shrill ring of the phone on the side table was enough to disrupt them.
“Let Helen get the phone. Now, where were—” He put his hand to the nape of her neck and drew her to him.
“Sara? Oh, I’m terribly sorry.” Helen, their housekeeper, stood in the doorway, her hand beneath her chin, and her eyes screwed up toward the ceiling. Her face was flushed when she looked back at them. “It’s for you, Sara.”
“Thank you.” She reached for the handset while remaining on Sean’s lap. “Hello, this is Sara McKinley.”
Sean played with her hair, twirling the long chestnut strands around his fingers.
“What do you mean gone?” Her eyes cut to him before she got up, paced a few steps, and stopped. “You have no idea where he is?”
Sean sat straighter and aligned eye contact with her.
“He just disappeared at dinner? And you haven’t seen him since? We’ll be there as fast as we can. Stay put, all right? Everything will be fine.” Sara lowered the receiver to its cradle. She appeared peaked.
Sean took her hand. “What is it?”
“Jimmy. He’s missing.”
“Yes. Meredith said she’d excused herself to go to the washroom and when she came back he was gone. They hadn’t even finished their meal.”
“He never came back to the resort?”
Sara shook her head. “What could have happened to him, Sean? I can’t see him leaving her there. Did someone take Jimmy?”
“I don’t know, darling, but we’re going to find out and get him back.”
Pineapples & Alibis
“There was no answer in her room. She may be out by the pool.” The front desk clerk lowered the phone’s receiver and gestured toward a wall of windows that faced a pool, and, beyond that, the sea.
“Thank you,” Sean said.
“No worries.” The clerk smiled and flipped some papers over that she had been working on when they had approached her to call up to Meredith’s room.
Tourists, clad in bathing suits in a spectrum of colors, dotted both the poolside and the beach. It had Sara wishing all she and Sean had to do was enjoy the scenery.
The sun was beating down, the warmth all-encompassing, but thankfully, the humidity wasn’t extreme. Sara still wished to slip out of her dress to reveal the bikini she wore underneath. The thought of the rays kissing her skin was almost too much to dismiss from her mind.
She scanned the horde of vacationers and spotted Meredith lying out on a lounge chair. She sat up as if she sensed Sara watching.
“There she is, Sean.” Sara nudged her head toward Meredith.
“She doesn’t look too upset, does she?”
Sara put a hand on Sean’s shoulder. “We’re not going to assume she’s behind this.”
He stayed put. “She’s not behind this and yet she’s new to his life and he’s never gone missing before.”
“We promised on the flight we would give her the benefit of the doubt, unless something came up to convince us of her involvement.”
“I’m starting to rethink that decision.”
“If Jimmy trusted her—”
“Yes, then we should too.”
“That’s right.” Sara pressed her lips, hoping she conveyed more conviction than she felt at times—this being one of those times.