Grave Misgivings

By: Lily Harper Hart

A Maddie Graves Mystery Book Four



One


“Marco.”

“Polo.”

Nick Winters smiled when he heard the melodic sound of his girlfriend’s voice. He shifted quickly, his eyes scanning the dark field for a glimpse of honey-colored hair. He exhaled shallowly as he tried to keep his exact position something of a mystery and listened for the telltale snap of a branch that would hint at Maddie’s location.

Summer was officially here, and even though northern Lower Michigan wasn’t mired in a heat wave, the nights were pleasant enough to enjoy a moonlit picnic. This was Nick’s favorite time of year, and the fact that he was spending his summer (finally!) with the love of his life made things even more special.

Now he just had to find her.

After June kicked off with a heat wave, temperatures settled into a more normal pattern. Three months of sun, fun, and love were ahead of him, and Nick didn’t want to miss a second of it. That’s why he suggested a romantic picnic with his best-friend-turned-girlfriend, Maddie Graves.

Her house was currently undergoing construction, an apartment for her elderly grandmother, Maude, being erected in the spot where the garage used to be. In addition to the apartment, the master suite on the second floor was undergoing a spruce so Nick could move into the house with Maddie in a few weeks. They spent every night together as it was, but they would be officially cohabitating in a month. He couldn’t wait.

“Marco,” he sang out, tilting his head to the side so he could listen closer.

Maddie didn’t immediately reply, which made Nick think his comely girlfriend was closer than she wanted to let on. His picnic turned into some heavy petting, which of course, meant Maddie wanted to torture him. They’d played this game so many times as kids he’d lost count. When she suggested playing it as adults – for clothes – Nick jumped at the chance. Now he just wanted to find her.

“You have to play the game right, Maddie,” Nick chided, shifting to his right when he thought he heard something behind him. The woods to the north of Maddie’s house were dark, but he knew them well enough not to fear tripping over a branch or getting lost. This was their safe haven. This was where they fell in love – even though they were both too young, and scared, to admit it. This would be where they spent their forever.

He just had to win the game first.

“Marco.”

The bushes behind Nick exploded as Maddie stepped out. He was in the middle of a heart attack when she wrapped her arms around his waist from behind and kissed his cheek. “Polo. I win.”

Nick couldn’t hide his grin as he turned, drawing her lithe frame into his arms and giving her a warm hug. “Are you going to think less of me as a man if I admit you just scared the crap out of me?”

“Nothing will make me think less of you as a man,” Maddie murmured, lifting her mouth so she could accept his welcoming kiss.

As emotions go, love is a funny one, Nick internally mused. He’d loved Maddie for as long as he could remember, but ten years apart – and a lot of rage – had not diminished the feelings he tried so hard to bury. The second she walked back into his life he’d known nothing had changed. He knew she was his destiny.

Sure, they had a few obstacles to overcome first. There was that pesky little girlfriend problem he had, and the big secret she was hiding. It turned out Maddie didn’t run away from Nick after graduation because she didn’t love him. No, Maddie ran because she was psychic and could see ghosts – and she misguidedly thought that would disgust him and make him turn on her.

Their past was littered with mistakes, but Nick was convinced their future was rosy and bright. He had everything he’d ever wanted. He was never going to let her go.

“I think you cheated,” Nick said, panting slightly as he pulled away from their needy kiss.

“How did I cheat?” Maddie asked, her sea-blue eyes sparkling under the moonlight. “We both started the game at the same time. It’s not my fault you’re a poor tracker.”

Nick snorted. “I’m the best tracker in the world, love,” he said, kissing the tip of her nose. “I let you win.”

“So, wait … first I cheated, and now you let me win? Methinks your ego is taking a beating,” she teased, her heart-shaped face splitting with a wide grin. “You lost to a girl. Admit it.”

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