There were a few other businesses run out of homes or garages, but this was Golden Cove's main street. The post was delivered regularly, but the town had no post office of its own—if you wanted to mail something, the supermarket had the ability to sell you stamps and packaging. The farming supplies store was in the next town over.
Right now, with the autumn chill heavy in the air and the waves too dangerous for even the most extreme surfers, the street boasted no beat-up tourist vans or muddy rental cars. The only new vehicle was the dark green Jeep. It was parked in front of the Golden Cove Café.
Anahera had seen the cop stop by Nikau's place. She should've stopped, too. She and Nik had been friends once—before distance and bitterness and loss changed them both in different ways. But she wasn't about to make Nikau Martin the first person to whom she said hello in Golden Cove.
Getting out of the Jeep in front of Josie's café, she shut her door and, taking a deep breath of the permanently salt-laced air, walked into the cheery warmth of a café that seemed out of place in this gray landscape full of cloud and mist.
Face glowing, Josie threw her arms around Anahera almost before Anahera saw her coming. Her friend was shorter than her by a good six inches, but her height had never stopped the force of nature that was Josephine Wilson. No, it was Josephine Taufa now. Anahera had missed Josie's wedding for reasons too painful to think about, so she shoved them away and hugged the soft and curvy form of the best friend she'd ever had.
Josie's hard belly pushed into her stomach as Anahera held her close.
When they broke apart, Josie waved over a little boy who was sitting and coloring at one of the tables. "Niam's three already, can you believe it?" Her fingers in the child's thick black hair. "You know Anahera, Niam—you've seen me talking to her on the laptop."
The boy, his skin a warm brown that came from his Tongan father, smiled shyly at Anahera before running back to his coloring.
"Come, sit," Josie said, taking Anahera's hands and tugging gently. "The café's quiet today with the weather predicted to turn nasty, so we can have a catch-up."
Anahera let herself be led to a table near the window, in no hurry to go to the cabin. She had plenty of time to be alone with the memories, dark and brutal. "I brought you a gift," she told her friend as they took their seats. "It's in a suitcase, though."
"You're the gift, Ana." Josie's voice was as warm and gentle as always. "I'm so glad you're home."
Such a loaded word.
Josie glanced over her shoulder with a smile as Anahera's attention was caught by the arresting photographs mounted on the left wall of the café. "Miri, can you grab us a couple of cappuccinos? Decaf for me."
It was only then that Anahera realized her friend wasn't alone in the café. A slender long-legged girl, with a face so radiant that it stopped the heart and made Anahera suddenly, viscerally afraid for her, smiled back at Josie from behind the counter.
"Anything for you, Jo," the girl said, moving to the gleaming coffee-making apparatus with a dancer's grace. "Kia ora, Ana."
Anahera returned the greeting with a wave of her hand. It had been so many years since she'd been around people who said kia ora as easily as they said hello that the words stuck in her throat, rusty and old.
"You guys want cake, too?" Miri asked. "We've still got that carrot with cream cheese icing."
"Oh, twist our arms, why don't you." Josie laughed before turning back to Anahera. "Miri's been working for me for a while now. I mentioned it during our calls, remember? But six more weeks and she's off to the city lights of Wellington to take up an internship."
"You're Auntie Mattie's girl." It had taken Anahera's brain several seconds to make the connection between this striking creature and the skinny child named Miriama Hinewai Tutaia whom she'd known so many years ago and whom Josie had hired. As if time had slipped while she hadn't been watching.
"Auntie still has baby photos of you," Miriama warned, her eyes sparkling. "Don't worry, I told her it'd be bad form to frame them and stick them on the living room wall. Can't promise she won't pull them out if you visit, though."
Anahera laughed and the stab of fear rooted in a long-ago summer slipped away. Often, a person that genetically blessed felt no need to make the attempt at humor—or even civility. But maybe it was Miriama's very distinctiveness that had shaped her; the girl was a haunting beauty now, but that same bone structure had given her a markedly odd appearance as a child. As if parts of her were already adult sized, while others continued to grow.
This excerpt ends on page 14 of the hardcover edition.
Monday, June 15th, we begin the book Hour of the Assassin by Matthew Quirk.