Gulf of Deception
by Kelly Ann Hopkins
(Gulf Shores Mysteries, #1)
Publication date: May 17th 2021
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult
Beach life is killer, literally.
On the cusp of her high school graduation, Lily Harmony needs to figure out how to break it to her lawyer parents that she doesn’t want to follow in the family footsteps–especially with her band in high demand on the Fort Myers beach scene.
But when her father is killed inside his office and their mother accused of his murder, Lily and her estranged sister Annabelle are convinced the police have the wrong person. Clues are hard to come by until a mysterious man hands Lily a flash drive and warns her the information contained on it might get her killed. As Lily works to unravel what the files and pictures mean, a stunning discovery reveals the murderer might be closer than she thought.
With the help of her gamer BFF and maybe something more, Lily and her sister scour the Everglades for connections to her father’s killer. But what they find hidden in the canopy of cypress tress is more dangerous than they ever imagined—a long-lost secret worth millions—and worth killing for.
Sunlight streamed through the windows, and pang thudded deep in my chest. Hard to believe I was leaving this stunning scene in a few short months for college. A thousand miles north in Boston, away from the sun, the sand, and the balmy breeze. At least the ocean was nearby—except it would be the lumbering, lead-colored, frigid Atlantic, and I’d be wearing an unflattering parka with boots up to my knees. Maybe when the snow melted in June, I could trick myself into believing I was standing on the Gulf.
All so I could one day add my name to the Harmony Law letterhead. Except that was the last thing I wanted.
My feet stopped short as a shock reverberated through the walls, like something heavy crashed down in another part of the building. But there were no other offices on the top floor. I pulled my headphones from my ears and turned off the music.
At the office door, I peered into the hall. A gust of humid air rushed down the narrow passage and ruffled my hair. Now where had the breeze come from?
Delicate music came from the speaker system—some unnamed melody that sounded familiar and should have vocals. Another blast of breeze hit me as if someone had forgotten to shut a window.
“Mom?” I called. The law office answered me with soft strains of piano wafting down the hall.
“Dad?” My father’s door stood ajar at the far end of the building. Next to it, my mother’s office door was shut. Maybe they were both in Dad’s office. His was the only one with a balcony. They could have gone outside and left the door open.
Another violent crash came from the direction of his office. A gunshot rang out. Then another. Followed by a blood-curdling scream.
Terrified, I crept down the hallway, my back pressed against the wall, my cellphone pulled from my pocket and clutched in my shaking hand. My heart pounded, making me faint. I blinked away the sensation. Sharp blasts of unintelligible conversation drew me toward the office as wind whipped down the corridor.
I hesitated at the door and gasped.
Mom knelt beside Dad, a gun in her hand. Blood colored the front of his polo shirt—a crimson stain spreading from his chest and down his left side on a backdrop of stormy blue fabric. Strangled sobs ripped from my lips. I rushed in, dropped to the floor beside my father, and took his limp hand.
Glass shards bit into my knees as a terrible gurgle erupted from his throat. Bloody froth colored his chin and lips. The room spun around me.
“Dad? Please, Dad. Can you hear me?” Spots popped in my brain, and another wave of vertigo hit as my abdomen heaved. I forgot how to inhale.
His bewildered eyes were wide, his mouth moving soundlessly, his fingers splayed against the floor. I couldn’t tear my gaze from his face as I laced his fingers in mine and squeezed. “Dad! What should I do?”
“William?” Mom whispered. She pressed a wad of orange fabric—the scarf she’d worn this morning—over the wound on his chest. Fresh terror gripped me as blood dripped down her cheek, and I couldn’t tell if it belonged to him or her.
Dad struggled to lift his other arm, but it fell back to the floor.
“He’s gone, William,” she said. “You’re going to be fine.”
Somehow, I unlocked my words. “Who’s gone?”
She ignored my question, or maybe she didn’t hear me. Tears and blood trickled off her chin, making pink spots on her white shirt. “Call for an ambulance. Oh God.” The gun slipped from her hand and landed on the carpet with a thud. “William.” Her voice broke on his name.
My heart tore from its moorings on a crash of agony. “Dad? Dad.” For a split second, his gaze fixed on mine, then he was gone as if a candle extinguished in a sudden, sharp wind.
Kelly Ann Hopkins is the author of Misled (coming 2021) and Buried Beneath (coming 2022). She spends her days as a high school librarian and creative writing teacher, where she challenges her students to read with abandon. When she’s not creating perilous adventures for her characters, she is dreaming of her next trip to the Florida Gulf Coast. Kelly lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two children, and too many books.
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