Hidden Gem: the Secret of St. Augustine by @msspencerauthor is a Spring Break pick #mystery #romance
Hidden Gem: the Secret of St. Augustine
M. S. Spencer
Barnaby and Philo’s story begins with very bad chili and a dead body. Barnaby is in St. Augustine, Florida, to teach a college seminar, and plans to use The Secret—a treasure hunt book—as a framework for his class. He enlists Philo Brice, owner of an antique map store, to aid him in seeking clues in the historic sites of the ancient city. Together they face murderers, thieves, thugs, and fanatics, heightening their already strong attraction to each other. Can they solve the puzzle and unearth the treasure before the villains do? Philo and Barnaby pursue several twisting paths and false leads before arriving at a startling conclusion.
“Oh my God, what the hell is that?”
Philo rolled over and rubbed sleepy eyes. “What is what?”
Barnaby sat up in bed, a trembling finger pointed at the aquarium. “That. Is it…is it…?”
“A snake? Yes. That’s Delilah.” Her pet had uncoiled and was tapping the glass.
“What’s it doing? Is it attacking us?” He pulled a pillow out from under Philo and crammed it over his stomach.
“Of course not. She’s probably just hungry. She’s a scarlet kingsnake. Would you like to meet her?”
He cringed. “Not really. Especially not if she’s hungry.” He covered his chest with a second pillow. “If I’d known I would be sharing a room with two females, I’d have opted for humans.”
Philo started to rise and realized she was naked. She snuggled under the sheets and gave Barnaby a come-hither look. “Forget Delilah.”
He reluctantly hauled his gaze from the reptile. “Delilah, huh? I’m not sure which of you is the worse vamp.” Nonetheless, he assented to being caressed, maintaining one eye on the other occupant of the room.
An hour later, Barnaby edged toward the door, his back to the wall, keeping as far as possible from the snake. “I’ll make us some breakfast while you take care of…of your friend.”
After Delilah received her weekly intake of pinkies—to the horror of the hero of our story—Barnaby set a plate before Philo and sat down opposite her. “What is this?” She poked at the dish.
“Toad in the hole. See, you make a hole in the bread and drop the egg into it. It’s the only recipe I know. Found it on an index card in my English grandmother’s desk.”
She dug into it. “Not bad.”
He picked up his fork but held it motionless in front of him. “I presume these eggs are from a chicken and not from some gelatinous cold-blooded creature?”
Barnaby took a bite. “Tell me, how did you come by this wholly unnatural attraction to the class Reptilia?”
“It was the Crocodile Hunter. He was an Australian zookeeper who had an animal show on television. We watched every episode when I was a kid.” She sighed. “My first hero.”
“Enough. Someday perhaps I shall gird my loins and fondle the animal…but you have to promise me you’ll love me forever if I do.”
Philo assumed he was joking and didn’t respond. “Do you think we’ll be able to see Joseph today?” When he didn’t answer she looked up. His green eyes were somber. “Barnaby?”
He slugged down his coffee and got up to refill his mug. His back turned, he said lightly, “We can but try. They seemed to think he’d recover quickly. Shall I call the hospital?”
“Yes, please. He’s at Shiloh General.”
“Okay.” He looked at his phone. “No bars. I’ll try in the hall.” When he came back, he said, “He’s out of ICU. Visiting hours are ten to two.” He sidled over to her. “I believe we have enough time.”
“Either to play with Delilah or play with each other. Your choice.”
I can play with Delilah any time.
If money were no object, where would you go for a Spring Break vacation and why?
Right now I’d love to go to Chincoteague (an island in the Delmarva peninsula). Our family used to go every spring and fall for the bird migrations. It also has a lovely beach. But if money (and current inconveniences of travel) isn’t a deterrent, I’d go to the first place on my bucket list: the Galapagos. I used to love to visit historic sites, but now I really prefer nature excursions. Animals other than human!
Why is your featured book a must-read this spring?
Quirky romance, a murderous stalker, a mysterious map, cruciverbalists, and treasure—all in the oldest city in North America—what more could you ask for?
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon US or Canada gift card
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon CA account to win.
Runs April 1 – 30
Drawing will be held on May 2.
Librarian, anthropologist, Congressional aide, speechwriter—M. S. Spencer has traveled the globe. She has published fifteen romantic suspense or murder mystery novels, with two more on the way. She has two fabulous grown children and an incredible granddaughter. She divides her time between the Gulf Coast of Florida and a tiny village in Maine.
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