Debby Grahl and Jim Riggs
Debby Grahl writes about mystery, magic and romance. She is the author of: His Magic Touch, Rue Toulouse, The Silver Crescent, Decorated to Death and The Haunted West. Her work also appears in the IWN anthology Ebb and Flow. Grahl lives on Hilton Head Island with her husband, David. She enjoys biking, traveling, and a glass of wine at sunset.
The Unexpected Gift (an excerpt)
Dedicated to Captain Phil
What on earth am I going to do with a boat? Ashley Wingate thought as she stared with dismay at the double-decker, twin-hulled catamaran. The Castaway, named for her grandfather’s favorite sitcom, had taken tourists for sunset cruises on Hilton Head Island for decades. Now, after her grandfather’s passing, it was hers.
Ashley gazed around the marina where a variety of watercraft sat at anchor. A flock of pelicans flew overhead while teenagers in kayaks paddled past. Memories of childhood summers spent with her grandparents came rushing back—sitting on her grandfather’s lap as the boat cruised past Daufuskie Island. He’d taught her to fish, and she’d loved tossing bait over the side to attract dolphins. Her parents’ bitter divorce had brought an end to it all.
After getting a degree in journalism, she’d been undecided what to do next. There was nothing to keep her in California, and her grandmother needed her.
Lost in thought, Ashley didn’t hear the man approach until he spoke.
“Does this boat belong to you?”
She looked up to see a tall man around fifty scowling at her.
“Yes. I inherited it from my grandfather.”
“What do you plan to do with it?”
“I’m not sure. Why?”
“Because it’s nothing but an eyesore. Either you clean it up or remove it. Tourists expect to see well-maintained watercraft, not a tub of peeling paint and rust. I also take people out on sunset cruises.” He pointed down the marina to a shiny, new catamaran.
Incredulity filled Ashley’s eyes. Sure, the Castaway needed some work, but it wasn’t ready for the junkyard. What a pompous ass.
“Are you the marina supervisor?”
His scowl deepened. “No. I just don’t want anyone thinking that wreck is mine.”
“I believe most tourists can read and can tell the difference between the Castaway
and … ” she peered down the dock at the name on the side of his boat, “the Neptune.” Red suffused his face as he took a step forward. He pointed his finger at her. “I told your grandfather, and I’m telling you, clean it up or move it.”
“Is there a problem here?”
Ashley turned to see a handsome man around thirty. His hair was light brown streaked with blond, his eyes the color of the sky, and his well-toned body looked great in a Hilton Head T-shirt and cut-off jean shorts. Ashley ran her fingers through her wind-tossed hair and wished she’d applied more makeup before leaving her grandmother’s condo.
“I’m Luke Connolly.” He held out his hand to Ashley. “I knew Buck. My condolences on your grandfather’s passing. He’ll be missed here at the marina.”
When his hand closed over hers, he smiled and gave it a light squeeze. She looked into his kind eyes and smiled back. “Thank you. Um, this gentleman has a problem with my boat.”
He turned to the scowling man. “Owens, what’s the trouble?”
“This is none of your business, Connolly. Stay out of it.”
Luke folded his arms across his chest.
“The Unexpected Gift” © Debby Grahl (2019), from Reflections
Jim Riggs enjoyed four decades as a mathematics teacher, three decades as a nature photographer, and two decades as a writer. He and his wife, Darlene, have lived on Hilton Head Island for seven years. His first novel, Freedom Run took four escaped prisoners on a tour of America’s Southwest as they attempted to find new identities and avoid the law. His short stories and poetry have appeared in the IWN anthologies: Time and Tide, Ebb and Flow and Reflections.
Cold and snow inhabited the caldera,
as she collapsed near a thermal pool
wooing the earth’s deep warmth.
Wrapping herself in the benevolent reprieve,
heat penetrated her tired, frail bones.
She was a mere residue of her former self,
retaining life, but filled with aches
and stiffness in her joints.
When the wolves came,
tearing, chewing, and feasting,
they seized her strength for their own.
In the spring, hikers discovered her bones,
gnawed bare, bleached white,
scattered wide in the thermal pool.
Yellowstone’s rangers investigated,
wondering, contemplating her story.
“Elk Bones” © Jim Riggs (2019), from –