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From beloved storyteller and #1 New York Times bestselling author Fern Michaels comes the second in the Lost and Found series, as siblings Cullen and Luna Bodman uncover the secrets behind a long-lost diary.
Every antique tells a story. Cullen and Luna Bodman learned that through their parents’ furniture business. Now, with their restoration shop and café, they often find themselves at the center of those stories, unraveling mysteries for their
clients. The old steamer chest that Cullen receives from an anonymous source is fascinating in its own right. But inside, Cullen discovers more—a locked diary accompanied by a letter, asking for the diary to be restored to its rightful owner.
Also in the trunk is a wooden box containing ticket stubs and an undated carnival flyer.
But everyone isn’t thrilled with Luna’s quest. Her budding relationship with U.S. Marshal Christopher Gaines comes under strain as he tries to talk her out of a wild goose chase. But intuition pushes her on, unveiling a surprising modern-day
connection, and leading Cullen and Luna to wonder if the diary’s secrets still hold power today …
Release date: August 23, 2022
Publisher: Zebra Books
Print pages: 368
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Listen to a sample
The guy shrugged. “I picked it up at the hub. It was on my route ticket.” He stopped at the door. “Where do you want it?” Cullen looked around the workshop, pointed to a space against the far wall, and moved out of the way.
“Is there some way I can find out where this came from?”
“Beats me.” The guy wiped his forehead with his sleeve. “Please sign this.” He handed Cullen an electronic clipboard and a stylus. Cullen scribbled his name and repeated the question. He didn’t get any further.
“You can call the dispatcher if you want.” The driver turned, hopped into his vehicle, and drove off, leaving a very perplexed Cullen standing in the doorway.
Like clockwork, Luna Bodhi Bodman arrived at the café at her typical time, nine A.M. On her way, she stopped at the Flakey Tart and picked up her usual basket of scones and muffins. Even though the Tart had its own kiosk at the art center, Luna served their delicious delights with coffee and tea during the day.
At the age of thirty-three, she was a dabbler in paranormal psychology and an amateur medium. Dabbled is probably an understatement. She didn’t want her unconventional way of thinking and feeling to be a detriment to her brother’s restoration business. But she certainly looked the part of a New Age psychic if there was such a thing. Her hippie wardrobe, waist-length hair, and granny glasses were a huge clue that she was not your run-of-the-mill barista. The café had been her brother’s idea. She had agreed to run it because doing so gave her the opportunity to do her readings as well as be of assistance to him. Plus, with the café being right next door to his shop, he could keep an eye on her. Not that she couldn’t take care of herself. But Luna had a way of generating more excitement than was either necessary or expected. But that, too, was part of her charm.
In addition to the readings her unconventional talent allowed her to engage in, she was an artist and design consultant. When called upon, she worked with her brother Cullen, assisting customers engaged in redecorating or refurbishing parts or all of their homes.
Cullen heard the bell that signaled that someone had walked into the showroom. He checked his watch—9:15 A.M. He was looking forward to one of the Flakey Tart’s blueberry scones. He knew it was a bad habit, but they were too delicious to pass up. The days the center was open, Luna would bring Cullen his morning coffee and his favorite breakfast pastry.
Luna was a bundle of energy, spinning her light into the room. Cullen, who was not and never had been a morning person, marveled at how bright and effervescent she could be so early in the day.
“Namaste, brother.” She gave a little bow as she handed him a tray holding a cappuccino with an extra shot of espresso and that blueberry piece of heaven.
“Good morning, sunshine.” Cullen gave her a slight bow in return.
“Something smells a little smoky.” She sniffed the air and turned to her dog, Wiley, a border collie. “What do you think, fella? Something smells different.”
Cullen cocked his head in the direction of the far wall. “Somebody had an old trunk delivered. It’s still in a crate.”
“Smells like someone had a fire sale.” Luna would never let her curiosity go unsatisfied. She inched her way toward the mysterious parcel. She kept inhaling and turned to Cullen. “Well, what are you waiting for?” Her eyes grew wide in an accusatory fashion.
“Jeez. Can I please have a sip of my coffee first?” Cullen gave her a playful sneer.
“Considering I made it special for you, yes, please do.” Luna crouched to get a better look at the crate. The crate was open-sided, so part of the trunk could be seen. “Hmmmm . . .” she murmured quizzically. “Where did it come from?”
“I have no idea. Neither did the deliveryman.” Cullen took another sip of his caffeine fix. “He showed me the bill of lading and this is the delivery address, including my name.”
“Huh.” Luna stood. “Curiouser and curiouser. All the more reason we should open it!” She clapped her hands and chanted, “Open it! Open it,” as Wiley yapped in rhythm.
Cullen rolled his eyes and set his coffee cup down. “All right. All right. But not until I get a bite of this.” He chomped down on the scone. “Delicious!”
“Come on! Come on! Let’s get snappy!” She snapped her fingers in rhythm.
“Let me swallow, please.” Cullen was always amused at his sister’s exuberance. She was one of those people who could turn going to the mailbox into a party.
He wiped his fingers on the cloth napkin that always accompanied his morning ritual. “Grab me that crowbar.” He pointed to the wall where he kept most of his tools.
“Aye, aye, Captain,” Luna said, saluting as she brought him the implement he needed. “Any note come with that thing?”
“Not that I can tell from the outside. I am hoping there will be an explanation once we unpack it.” He gently wedged the tool between two pieces of wood and pried the first slat off. He worked his way around the crate until the trunk was completely exposed.
“Wow. How old do you think this thing is?” Luna moved in a little closer.
“It looks like something from an old steamship. Maybe 1920s.” He brushed a finger along the worn leather straps and took a whiff. “Smoke damage for sure.”
“Smells like it was in or near a fire,” Luna observed. “Check it out.” She pointed to a small plastic pouch affixed to the trunk. It contained a folded piece of paper. “Maybe this will solve your mystery.”
Cullen gingerly removed the envelope taped to the lock, being careful not to ruin the leather any further. The lock itself was in desperate need of repair.
He read it out loud:
Cullen looked blankly at his sister.
“There’s no name or signature.” Cullen passed her the note and the money order.
When she touched the letter, a slight shiver went up her spine. “There is something amiss.”
“Uh-oh. Here we go.” Cullen let out a big sigh and shook his head.
“Well, now, don’t you think it’s rather odd?” Luna asked calmly. She ticked off her fingers. “One. You get a mysterious delivery. Two. The trunk has been in or near a fire. Three. The note has no signature. And a big number four, there’s a one-thousand-dollar money order. Come on, Cul. You don’t have to be psychic to feel as if something is a bit strange here.”
“Well, you’re right about that. The strange part. But why do you think something is amiss?”
Luna gave him her impatient sideways look. Not quite an eye roll, but close. “Brother, dear brother. When will you ever learn?” She gave him a “tsk-tsk” and retreated to her café.
The Bodman siblings had grown up around antiques, and Cullen had taken over the family business when their father retired. Cullen would provide consulting and procurement for certain clients who were shopping for specific pieces or redecorating. But Cullen was more interested in bringing things back to life and took great pleasure in restoration.
Cullen was the strait-laced, Ralph Lauren type. He stood around six feet and, at thirty-six, still had a full head of sandy hair, with just a few strands of gray at the temples. He had a good head for business and handled the finances for both his shop and the café.
Luna was clearly the ethereal one. They made an interesting pair. That was one of the reasons why Ellie Stillwell granted them one of the corners of the art center. In the beginning, Luna was concerned that Ellie would not approve of her paranormal abilities so she kept it on the down-low, only doing readings for people who were referred to her. She also had an overwhelming desire to help others by using it.
Just before the center had its grand opening, Luna sensed major anxiety coming from Ellie. Luna put her hand on Ellie’s shoulder and told her to “have no fear.” Ellie was stunned by the remark. It was something her late husband would say. Ellie was fascinated by this impish, perceptive young woman and asked for a little more, urging Luna to do an impromptu reading for her. Luna cited things from Ellie’s childhood—something Luna could not possibly know about. After the brief exchange, Ellie felt a sense of relief and optimism, and she immediately took to the young woman. Now they met every morning in the café for coffee and scones.
Before the siblings opened their shops in the Stillwell Art Center, Luna had been employed as a caseworker in Children’s Services. Luna’s extrasensory perception, together with her degree in psychology, created an odd yet interesting combination. Taking a night course in body language added to her professional toolbox. She drew upon all her skills when investigating a family issue, and they made her a remarkably successful advocate for kids.
Cullen, having been the traditional one of the two, was secretly thrilled to be out of the nine-to-five grind of working in an office. It was Cullen who had come up with the idea of the Namaste Café to be installed next to his workshop and showroom. Luna left Children’s Services with the promise she would always make herself available if need be. She would also lend her skills to the U.S. Marshals Service when asked. Now Cullen and Luna were in their own element, surrounded by like-minded and talented souls.
Luna began to get ready for the day. She opened the sliding glass doors and placed her NAMASTE CAFÉ sign next to the entrance. Scones, muffins, and croissants were displayed in large wicker baskets courtesy of Basket Case, another art stall at the center. She set up her easel in the far corner next to a table. It served as her medium for her readings; she sketched while using her ESP. Satisfied all was in good order, she looked across the atrium to see if her friend Lebici (Chi-Chi) had opened Silver & Stone, a one-of-a-kind jewelry shop.
Chi-Chi was from Nigeria and worked her own version of alchemy, creating beautiful pieces made from silver and stones from her homeland. Each morning, Luna, Chi-Chi, and Ellie Stillwell would have their morning coffee together before the center opened.
The light was almost blinding through the skylights and enormous sliding glass doors of the art center. One couldn’t help but feel immersed in the heavenly warmth of the sun. At certain times of the day, there was a magical feel about it, as if you were part of something bigger. Something greater.
Chi-Chi was elegant in every respect. Her long box braids reached past her elbows, creating a wave with every movement. She wore a colorful caftan with one of her own pieces around her neck. It was in the shape of a snake with emerald stones for eyes. A matching bracelet adorned her wrist. Luna was always in awe of Chi-Chi’s grace. She seemed to float a few inches above the ground. Stunning and mysterious. Her beautiful smile radiated affection. But don’t cross her. She was kind and level-headed. But also fierce and protective of those near and dear to her. She and Luna were kindred spirits, no pun intended.
The concept of the center was fashioned after the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia. Literally, once a torpedo factory during World War I, the factory had evolved into the largest collection of working artists under one roof. Now, the Stillwell Art Center boasted a fine indoor collection of artists, sculptors, pottery throwers, birdhouse builders, wind chime makers, jewelers, basket weavers, furniture restorers, cheese artisans, and so much more.
One of the main attractions was the artwork of a welding sculptor named Jimmy Can-Do. No one ever saw him in person; the only evidence that he even existed was the finished work that showed up every day the center was open. His forte was peeling apart beer cans and turning them into statues, wall hangings, and mobiles. Each day they were on display in his open shop and sometimes in the atrium. The items held price tags with a notation:
The box was placed just outside the glass doors of the stall. The sign on the box read:
Patrons could take the piece and leave their name and phone number on a sheet of paper and place the paper in the box. He made everything from palm trees to baseball bats, all finished with polyurethane. Some people would hang around just before closing time, hoping to get a glimpse of the mysterious artist. But to no avail. Even Ellie Stillwell had never met him in person, and she respected his privacy. As long as he paid his rent and provided interesting pieces of his work, she didn’t feel the need for a handshake.
The Stillwell Art Center was the culmination of two years of painstaking planning and development, including battling with local politicians. The same politicians were now among the center’s biggest fans since no one in politics was going to pass up the opportunity to take credit for something that succeeded.
Ellie Stillwell had used her family money and resources to give creative hands a place and opportunity to work on their craft. She also wanted it to be an experience for those in search of inspiration, and sometimes a gourmet sandwich. Of course, there was always a fine bottle of wine to be procured at the Wine Cellar.
Ellie’s vision had come to fruition, and now it was thriving. There was a five-year waiting list for a five-hundred-square-foot section of the glass-enclosed haven. Ellie wanted to provide a space where creativity could blossom and the community could gather. Every morning, she would arrive with her two German shepherds, Ziggy and Marley. And every morning she would marvel at the spectacular outcome of her wildest imaginings. Fundraisers were held at the center, with the artists donating their work for the local charity events. Stillwell Art Center was exactly what Ellie had envisioned. The humanities and humanity.
Ellie was in her early seventies, fit, and attractive. Her blunt, chin-length white hair gave her an air of sophistication. It was a very “artsy” look. She had earned her Ph.D. in art history from Duke University, where she had also met her husband, Richard. They led a simple life. She had taught at the local college, and he had practiced law. It wasn’t until after Richard had died of a massive heart attack that Ellie discovered how much money she was really worth—$50 million. Richard had been a brilliant investor, and Ellie owned acres of farmland and commercial properties. She could afford to drop half of that into the humanities and animal causes, leaving plenty for a very comfortable life. She had no other plans for big changes. The art center was enough.
Arriving early before the center opened to the public, Ellie walked the dogs to the rear of the atrium, where it connected to a covered patio and several large, landscaped acres. To one side was a dog park. All well-behaved canines were welcome and were supervised by Alex, the dog handler. Visitors could comfortably leave their fur babies in the care of Alex, who would throw Frisbees, balls, or whatever the owner would bring for their pooch’s pleasure. Alex was also in charge of keeping the place in super-pooper-scooper condition. Ellie was pleased to have someone who was trustworthy on the payroll, especially someone who loved animals. She let the dogs run to their favorite playmate, and Alex squatted to give them both big hugs. Ellie gave a thumbs-up and headed into the center. She spotted Luna and Chi-Chi and waved.
Wiley was the first to notice Ziggy and Marley bounding out the back. He lay down prone and covered his eyes with his paws. “Oh, do you want to play, too?” Luna scratched his ears. Wiley immediately perked up. She grabbed the walkie-talkie. They were required and provided by Ellie. Just in case. After the crazy incident with Rowena Millstone and the hillbillies from West Virginia, Ellie insisted everyone have a means of communicating with each other. Especially security.
Several months earlier—shortly after the center’s grand opening—Luna had found herself face-to-face with a couple of intruders in Cullen’s shop. Cullen was horribly late getting back and the only thing Luna had at her disposal was a fire extinguisher. Fortunately, the intruders were unarmed amateurs and she was able to keep them at bay until help arrived.
After that evening, Ellie purchased two-way radios for everyone to carry when they were on-site, and everyone was tuned to the same channel. Rather than using data on their cell phones, most of the tenants often used them to connect with each other.
Luna pressed the button on her handheld. “Alex?”
“Luna here. Incoming!” She unhooked Wiley’s lead and he made a beeline to the automatic sliding doors.
“Roger that!” Alex responded.
Ellie made her way to Luna and Chi-Chi, who were standing inside the atrium just outside the café. Ellie made a habit of stopping to greet the occupants of each stall she passed. She finally arrived where the two women waited.
“E kaaro.” Chi-Chi offered Ellie a slight bow with her morning greeting.
Ellie responded in kind. “E kaaro.”
“Namaste, Ellie.” Luna gave Ellie her version of a welcome.
“Look at us. Multilingual!” Ellie showed delight as the others smiled.
“Come. We have scones with your names on them.” Luna linked arms with Ellie.
“I am going to get fat,” Ellie chided.
“Not if you keep to only one per day,” Chi-Chi encouraged Ellie. “Moderation is important, yes. But one scone is important, too.” The women chuckled as Luna handed each of them a plate with a scone and a napkin.
“Having your regular?” Luna walked over to the coffee machine.
“Yes, please,” Ellie replied.
“Me as well. Thank you,” Chi-Chi echoed.
The three women took seats at one of the café tables.
Ellie leaned in. “So, Luna, what’s the latest with the handsome U.S. marshal?” Ellie was referring to Christopher Gaines, who worked for the service in the missing child unit.
Luna’s mind wandered. She had met him several months before the center opened when an AMBER alert was issued. She was still working in child services at the time. She and her dog, Wiley, joined the search party, and not surprisingly, Luna had a “feeling” about where the child might be. It took little convincing for the marshal to follow her lead. He understood the concept of having a “gut feeling” about things. In less than an hour, they found the missing little girl stuck in a large, felled tree trunk. She was unhurt except for a few scratches from trying to follow a bunny. The next day, Luna went to the hospital to visit the little girl and give her a stuffed bunny.
When Luna arrived at the hospital, she saw Marshal Gaines several yards ahead with a similar plush rabbit under his arm. It was at that moment that Luna wanted to swoon. The practical side of Luna told her not to even think about it. But several weeks after the missing child situation had been resolved, Gaines asked her to come to Charlotte to assist in a family emergency and a missing teenager. The service would pay her per day and her expenses, including a hotel. It was a two-hour drive in each direction, and the busy interstate was no place for a woman alone. Her boss let her use a couple of vacation days, insisting she not “make a habit out of it.” But it was an opportunity she couldn’t resist, in more ways than one. After it happened several times, her boss finally acquiesced to the needs of the U.S. Marshals Service.
Once they wrapped up for the day, Gaines, Luna, and one or two others from the field office would go out to dinner. It wasn’t easy for her to keep her giddiness in check, but Gaines was getting used to her zany but endearing personality.
She wanted to keep the communications open with him, but he lived two hours away. She didn’t know how many more times her boss would bow to the feds and let her go to Charlotte and she had no idea if there would ever be a reason for him to come to Asheville. Then it hit her. The grand opening of the center was a good opportunity for her to invite him back to Buncombe County. She wasn’t counting on his showing up, but for her own peace of mind she had to take the shot. What was the worst thing that could happen? Luna decided to pull up her big-girl pants and mailed him an invitation to the grand opening of the center. He hadn’t responded, which was rather disappointing. She told herself that maybe he didn’t get it. Or maybe he was on a case. Or maybe he just wasn’t interested. But a half hour before the event ended, he walked in with a bouquet of sunflowers. He had remembered. Luna was thoroughly impressed. During one of their earlier dinner conversations, everyone was talking about their favorite places on Earth. Luna mentioned Tuscany because of all the sunflowers. When she saw him enter her café, sunflowers in hand, she almost fainted.
When Gaines arrived at the gala, he and Cullen immediately clicked. Luna was beginning to feel like the “little sister” until she pulled Gaines into helping solve the mystery of a will t. . .
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