Inn the Spirit of Legends
Spirits of Texas Book 1
by Becki Willis
Genre: Paranormal Cozy Mystery
From the author of The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series and Forgotten Boxes, comes an intriguing new book series, the Spirits of Texas Cozy Mysteries.
“I have a contractor coming out today, to give us a bid on turning the old store into a third cabin.”
“I beg your pardon?” Hannah said, looking up from the bowl of oatmeal she doctored with brown sugar and granola. She paused before stirring in the fresh cream.
Walker had shown her how the cream rose to the top of the milk, just waiting to be scooped off and enjoyed. Fresh cream, she adored. The milk, not so much. It had been several days now, and she still hadn’t acquired a taste for it.
Walker repeated his announcement as he dished out his plate of scrambled eggs and toast, next to his own bowl of oatmeal and a thick slice of country-style ham.
“And you did this without consulting me first.”
Something in the quiet timbre of her words snagged his attention. He jerked his head up, just in time to see the flash of fire in her blue stare. His voice remained calm. “That’s right.”
“And why is that? As you are so fond of reminding me, I am the owner of this—this kingdom now!” She spread her arms wide, to indicate the whole of the outdated kitchen, wood stove and all. She waved toward the tiny town beyond. “Don’t you think that was my decision to make, and mine alone?”
Not that she was opposed to the idea of another cabin. Ever since the crazy notion of improving and expanding had entered her mind, it was all she could think of. Truth be told, she was angry with herself for not thinking of this idea first. Turning the run-down old store into another rental cabin made perfect sense.
Still, he should have consulted her first.
Walker took his time, scraping out the last of the eggs and returning the skillet to the burner, making certain it was cool to the touch before doing so. “Perhaps your decision to make,” he conceded, sauntering across the room to join her at the table. He settled into the chair, added salt and pepper to his eggs, and continued, “But not alone, it’s not. I have a stake in this, too, you know. As executor of the trust, all major decisions and purchases have to go through me.” He stirred a spoonful of peanut butter into his oatmeal. “Keep in mind, I’m not ordering any work done yet, and certainly not without your input. I’m merely gathering bids, so that when the time comes, we can make an informed decision. Together.”
“You mean at the end of my thirty day imprisonment.”
“It’s not an imprisonment.”
“Says the man who is free to come and go at his leisure.”
“Are you saying you want me to cancel the appointment?”
Surprised—and pleased—that he offered to do so, Hannah blinked in surprise. “Uhm, no. No, that won’t be necessary.”
He ruined the moment by flashing his most charming smile. “Then we don’t have a problem, do we?”
The contractor drove a beat-up old truck with peeling paint and a slightly crooked magnetic sign that identified his business as Jobs Done Right. Hannah thought he should have done a better job making his own first impression right. What if his run-down truck was a reflection of his workmanship? He might leave the cabin in worse shape than it was now.
Just the same, she followed Walker out to greet the carpenter. She wanted him to understand, right from the beginning, that he would be dealing with her, should he get the contract.
As the man crawled from the front seat of the truck, she felt Walker stiffen in surprise. “Who is that?” he muttered.
“Don’t you know him? You’re the one who called him!”
“I called Hank Ruby. That’s not Hank.”
They watched as a burly man stood outside the truck, preparing himself for the work ahead. He stuffed a pencil behind his right ear, tucked a measuring tape onto his cavernous overalls, and fumbled around on the dashboard until he came out with a clipboard. Adding a cap to his balding head and a flashlight to his pocket, he turned and saw that he had an audience.
“Howdy, folks. Pretty place you got yourself here.”
Hannah trotted alongside Walker, trying to match his purposeful stride as he greeted the man, more or less. His voice was as hard as steel. “I was expecting Hank Ruby. He and I spoke on the telephone yesterday.”
“Ah, yeah, about that.” The man scratched at his head and offered a sheepish smile. “The wife and I are down from Wichita Falls, visiting her family. Cousin Hank woke up deadly sick this morning, don’t you know. Could barely lift his head off the pillow or his be-hind off the commode, if you’ll pardon the reference, ma’am.” He bobbed his head in Hannah’s direction. “I have a contracting business myself, don’t you know, so I offered to come for him. You don’t mind, do you?”
Walker’s hesitation was obvious. “As long as you take good notes and measurements,” he slowly agreed, “I don’t see why it would hurt.” He extended his hand. “Walker Jacoby, Attorney at Law. And this is Hannah Duncan, owner of the property.”
“Owner, eh? You and your husband, I reckon? Is he here, too?” The man craned his neck to look for him.
“I’m not married,” Hannah said, taking an immediate dislike to the man. “I didn’t catch your name.”
“Pardon the manners. Harry’s sudden sickness threw me for a loop this morning,” the man chuckled. “Name’s Tinker. Everett Tinker.” He thrust out a big, sweaty hand that Hannah reluctantly shook.
“No, ma’am, Everett. Everett Tinker.”
“You said Harry’s illness. I thought your cousin’s name was Hank.”
“Oh, right, right. It’s a nickname my wife had for her cousin when they were kids. He had long hair, don’t you know, back in the day.”
Hannah wondered why Walker regarded the man with a frown. Perhaps he didn’t like the contractor any more than she did.
The stranger didn’t notice. He peered into the bright sun as he surveyed the property. “Which one of these buildings are we tearing down? Looks like they all pretty much need it.”
“We aren’t tearing down any of them. We’re remodeling that third building there. But perhaps we should wait until Hank is feeling better.” Walker’s voice was tight.
“No, no, we’re fine. I can get you fixed right up. I can even start the work tomorrow morning, don’t you know.”
“That won’t be necessary. All we need today is a bid.”
Everett Tinker looked disappointed. His eyes roamed over the town again, zeroing in on the old inn. “I reckon that one is next on your list. I can work up a bid on that one, too, don’t you know.”
“Again, that won’t be necessary. Just the one.” Walker’s reply was cool and firm.
“Hey, you’re the boss.” The contractor flashed a big smile, revealing his aversion to dentists.
“Actually, Miss Duncan is the boss.”
The man had the audacity to chuckle. “Well, sure, she is.” He may as well have acknowledged she was the tooth fairy, for all the conviction in his voice.
Hannah stiffened immediately. Walker put a hand to her waist and leaned in to whisper, “Easy there, tiger.”
Leroy came bounding up from unknown parts, none too happy to find a stranger in their midst. He barked wildly, charging right up to the man in baggy overalls.
“He—He don’t bite, does he?” The large man visibly paled.
“Not with one of us around. But I don’t recommend dropping by, unannounced,” Walker was quick to warn. He reached out his other hand to quieten the dog. “Leroy. Sit.”
The shaggy white beast obeyed the command with obvious reluctance. He growled low in his throat, just to state his position on the matter. Hannah leaned into Walker and whispered out of the side of her mouth. “I agree with Leroy.”
The three of them walked down to the old storefront, Leroy close on their heels. Walker gave the carpenter a brief description of the work needing done.
Tinker squinted in the sunlight and stabbed a beefy finger toward the structure next door. “Might need to see one of the other cabins, don’t you know, so’s I can get a feel for what you’re looking for.”
After exchanging a look with Walker, Hannah shrugged and pulled out her keyring. Tinker grinned as they moved to the small cabin.
The carpenter poked through the space, opening doors and examining hinges, sliding out first one panel, then the next, testing the sturdiness of a wall or the bottom of a drawer. He had even looked under the bed.
“Mighty fine workmanship in here,” he commented at last.
“Thank you,” Walker said stiffly.
“Hank did this, did he?” When Tinker ran his hand under the edge of the bar, Hannah hoped he came out with a long, sharp splinter.
“As a matter of fact, I did this,” the attorney replied.
Hannah and Tinker both snapped their heads in his direction. All Hannah could manage was a stunned, “You?”
Tinker, on the other hand, droned on about first one thing, and then another. He liked the sliding panel over the television. Were there other hidden surprises? He had suggestions for where the electrical panel should have been… where was it, by the way? Where was the main breaker box for the property, just in case he needed to know? Some old buildings had a false floor, or a lowered ceiling. What about these? Any crawl spaces he could know about?
“Let’s take a look at the other cabin,” Tinker suggested eagerly.
“Honestly, Mr. Tinker, all we’re asking for is a bid on the old store.” Walker glanced at his watch. “I have another contractor scheduled for two o’clock.”
“Oh, well, sure, sure. I can be done by then, don’t you know.”
“Actually, I don’t know,” Walker replied smoothly. “Let’s go fine out, shall we?”
Hannah breezed past his outstretched arm, her grin stretched wide. For once, the lawyer’s smirk was directed at someone other than her.
Becki Willis, best known for her popular The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series and Forgotten Boxes, always dreamed of being an author. In November of '13, that dream became a reality. Since that time, she has published eleven books, won first place honors for Best Mystery Series, Best Suspense Fiction and Best Audio Book, and has introduced her imaginary friends to readers around the world.
An avid history buff, Becki likes to poke around in old places and learn about the past. Other addictions include reading, writing, junking, unraveling a good mystery, and coffee. She loves to travel, but believes coming home to her family and her Texas ranch is the best part of any trip. Becki is a member of the Association of Texas Authors, the National Association of Professional Women, and the Brazos Writers organization. She attended Texas A&M University and majored in Journalism.
Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!