This week, I’m hosting mystery author, Deborah Garner.
Deborah is an accomplished travel writer with a passion for back roads and secret hideaways. Born and raised in California, she studied in France before returning to the U.S. to attend UCLA. After stints in graduate school and teaching, she attempted to clone herself for decades by founding and running a dance and performing arts center, designing and manufacturing clothing and accessories, and tackling both spreadsheets and display racks for corporate retail management. Her passions include photography, hiking and animal rescue. She speaks five languages, some substantially better than others. She now divides her time between California and Wyoming, dragging one human and two canines along whenever possible.
The Moonglow Cafe
New York reporter Paige MacKenzie has a hidden motive when she heads to the small town of Timberton, Montana. Assigned to research the area’s unique Yogo sapphires for the Manhattan Post, she hopes to reconnect romantically with handsome cowboy Jake Norris. The local gem gallery offers the material needed for the article, but the discovery of an old diary, hidden inside the wall of a historic hotel, soon sends her on a detour into the underworld of art and deception.
Each of the town’s residents holds a key to untangling more than one long-buried secret, from the hippie chick owner of a new age café to the mute homeless man in the town park. As the worlds of western art and sapphire mining collide, Paige finds herself juggling research, romance and danger. With stolen sapphires and shady characters thrown into the mix, will Paige escape the consequences of her own curiosity?
Here is an excerpt from The Moonglow Cafe:
The newspaper fell to the table and Paige caught her breath. Jake was even more handsome than Paige remembered, all blue eyes, chiseled chin, deep tan and windswept hair. She had missed him. Now here he was, his sly grin revealing she was the recipient of a well-planned surprise.
“Hi, Paige,” Jake said, looking pleased with himself.
“You tricky rascal! How?”
“First a toast. To Paige MacKenzie, intrepid reporter.”
Paige lifted her own glass and clinked it against Jake’s. “To Jake Norris, mysterious cowboy!” She took a sip of champagne before setting down her glass.
“So, how did you pull this off?”
“Your office,” Jake said. “I called there yesterday because I couldn’t reach you
on your cell phone.”
“I was in flight. My phone was off. And you hate leaving messages, don’t you?”
Paige crossed her arms and tried to look annoyed. But she couldn’t stop smiling.
“And you just go trouncing across the country, heading west, no less, without a word of warning.” Jake’s tone was 95 percent teasing and 5 percent scolding.
“I didn’t have much notice, to tell the truth,” Paige said. “Besides, I thought maybe I’d surprise you.”
“Well, I do believe I beat you to it.” Jake rocked back in his chair, looking like a schoolboy who’d just gotten away with an excellent prank.
“Yes, I believe you did.”
Enya had moved seamlessly into a haunting blend of pan flutes and soft drums.
Jake’s eyes reflected candlelight. As Jake leaned forward and lowered his voice to a whisper, Paige gave in to the urge to touch his hand with light fingertips just to be sure she wasn’t imagining his presence.
“Will we be getting menus soon?” Jake looked around the café for Mist. “I worked up an appetite driving today.”
Paige slid her hand back to her champagne flute, leaned forward, too, and matched his secretive tone.
“Moonglow doesn’t have menus,” Paige whispered. “Menus complicate life.” She felt a wave of satisfaction at Jake’s puzzled look. He may have surprised her first, but at least she had a head start on knowing Timberton’s quirks.
Two plates of food glided silently onto the table; the aromas of caramelized onions and port sauce rose up. Slender stalks of fresh asparagus fanned out to the left side of two tender, beef medallions. A diminutive, almond-encrusted puff pastry of baked Brie accompanied the meal. Jake looked at the plate and back up at Paige.
“Trust me,” Paige said. “Just eat anything she serves. The breakfast I had this morning was heavenly. If I could, I’d eat every meal here for the rest of my life.”
Jake dug into the gourmet meal, glancing around the café between bites. Paige watched him and knew he was as curious as she’d been since she arrived in Timberton. Hunger trumped conversation temporarily, but as he finished a last bite of Brie, he spoke.
“What kind of town is this, anyway? It didn’t look like much when I drove in.
But then the only café in town serves up a meal like this? I don’t get it.”
Paige could only agree.
“I wish I could tell you. It’s an odd place, that’s for sure.” Paige paused as
Mist switched out the empty dinner plates for two coffees, one miniature chocolate soufflé and two spoons.
“What does Susan have you working on this time?” Jake sipped his coffee
“I’m writing a sapphire article to coincide with a gemology convention coming up in New York in a few weeks,” Paige said. “There’s a gem gallery in town, and the owner knows a lot about Montana sapphire mining and the town’s history. Once I get a good focus, I hope it won’t take long to pull it together. But there’s something else.”
Jake took a sip of coffee as Paige lowered her voice again.
“I came across an old diary last night while I was trying to figure out how to turn on the heat in my room.”
“One of those display pieces that hotels put out for guests to see?” Jake said, holding his coffee cup close to his face to breathe in the aroma. “Wow, this coffee is excellent.”
“No,” Paige said. “I mean, yes, the coffee is amazing, but no, the diary isn’t a display piece. It was hidden inside the wall. I’m sure it belonged to a local artist. This town is filled with unusual characters and secrets,” Paige said, dipping a spoon into the soufflé. “It seems surreal.”
“Yes, I agree, surreal,” Jake said. “What are the entries in this diary like? Do they have anything to do with sapphires?”
Paige looked a little guilty. “Nothing to do with sapphires. From what I’ve read so far, the diarist was a painting student who was frustrated with his teacher and his own work. He was an angry person, but his story intrigues me.”
“Yes, I remember how you can’t resist the possibility of a good story.” Jake’s voice had softened. He reached across the table and laced his fingers with Paige’s. That simple contact unnerved but warmed her. It was good to feel his touch.
“How does a cool, Montana evening walk sound after we pay the tab?” Jake nodded to the café’s front door.
“I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for a check,” Paige laughed. “Payment for meals here is just as bizarre as everything else in this town.”
“If we don’t get a bill, how do we know what we owe?” Jake said. Paige guessed that nothing in Timberton made sense to Jake.
“To quote what Mist told me this morning, ‘leave what your heart tells you.’”
“Well,” Jake sighed, “My heart tells me I’d better appreciate an extraordinary meal when I have a chance.” He stood and pulled out a worn, leather wallet from the back pocket of his jeans, taking several bills and dropping them on the table.
Just seeing Jake stand moved Paige to a familiar breathlessness. The scuffed boots were the same ones he’d been wearing when she’d first met him in Jackson Hole. The sound of his first step onto Moonglow’s wooden floor brought back memories of a day in another café, one state away. Had it really been only a month? She admired the snug, relaxed fit of his jeans. They looked like the same jeans as before, though the belt buckle was different. It was similar to the silver buckles she’d seen him wear, but with a trace of gold edging. The design featured majestic mountains and pine trees that surrounded a rustic bridge.
Paige blushed. She knew she’d stared at that belt buckle a bit too long. Of course she liked it. All of it. What was not to like about this Wyoming cowboy?
“Recent addition to your wardrobe?”
Jake grinned. “Even guys shop sometimes, you know.” He helped her up from her chair, picked up the long-stemmed, red rose and presented it to her with a slight bow.
“Dramatic,” she teased.
“Well, drama could be your middle name, if I recall your last visit correctly.”
Jake released her hand and slid his arm around her shoulders.
“Not this time.” Paige sighed. They stepped out into the cold night and paused on the sidewalk. “The people are interesting, and the diary adds an intriguing twist, but there’s not a drop of drama to be found in this town from what I can tell.”
“That’s fine,” Jake said. “You’re here to do an article on sapphires. Maybe the town’s old-time residents will find the diary interesting. Anyway, the most important thing is that you’re here.” He turned Paige toward him and drew her close.
“I think maybe you should show me this diary,” Jake whispered, his lips brushing Paige’s ear. “You know…the one in your room?”
“Yes.” Paige said with a soft smile. “I think that’s a good idea.”
Book Purchase Links for The Moonglow Cafe
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