New York Times Bestselling Author

“D” is for Drunk

Roll up your pant legs and bare your feet, there are barrels of grapes to crush in this hilarious fourth installment of the Malibu mystery series. Maloney Investigation’s new client? An eccentric vineyard owner convinced his even more eccentric neighbor is siphoning off his precious water. But of course it’s not as simple as that. Or as dignified. Sofia and Aidan soon find out these Merlot messiahs are turning water into wacky, plowing more than fields, and sowing more than grapes. But there’s no putting the cork back in when the opposing vintner turns up naked and face down in a trough of sour grapes. Can Sofia and Aidan clear their client and unmask the killer? Or will they, too, perish in the Pinot Noir?

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Chapter One

Sofia coughed out seawater and made a mental note never to follow through on a crazy middle-of-the-night scheme again. Last night she’d watched a documentary about surfing, and as she snuggled into her warm bed she’d decided to become a better swimmer by running down to the beach and practicing every morning before work. After a few weeks, she’d be swimming like a dolphin or paddling like a surfer. What could be easier?

But dolphins had blubber and surfers had wetsuits, and now she knew why. The cold water of the Pacific Ocean slapped her breath away, and she treaded water to try to get it back. She should have come in slowly, gotten used to the temperature, given herself time to decide to get a coffee instead. She’d convinced herself it was like taking off a Band-Aid—best to rip it off all at once and not draw it out. So, she dove in and swam as hard as she could for the horizon. Not the smartest move, she could see that now.

She counted three surfers—red board, white board, and blue board. They all wore black wetsuits, and none of them looked cold. Maybe she should do her swimming in a heated pool, one where she could reach out and touch the side, one with a coffee shop.

The ocean fell away under her, and a wave loomed over her head. ‘Turtle through it!’ said a voice in her head. Some character from last night’s movie. Deciding he probably knew what he was talking about, she dove beneath the wave and swam, pulling with her arms and kicking hard with her legs until she made it through. She swam another body length before surfacing.

No more big waves, so she turned to watch the surfers ride the one she’d passed through. Red Board knew what he was doing. He caught a good piece of the wave and rode it toward shore, balancing with arms extended. Blue Board must have decided to miss it, because he sat on his board behind the wave, looking out toward the blue-green horizon for the next one. Where was White Board?

She followed the wave back toward shore. She wanted a hot shower. She wanted an even hotter coffee. She wanted to be wearing warm, dry clothes. All three options lay in the same direction.

The wave ahead broke with a boom, and Red Board wiped out into the churning soup in a tangle of arms and legs. Another wave lifted her up, but she was far enough away from shore that it wasn’t ready to break yet. Blue Board caught it and rode it in, as graceful as her sorta pet seagull, Fred, in flight. Red Board caught the end of the wave and took it in, too, but White Board was still nowhere to be seen.

She stopped swimming and looked for him. His board had been pulled out by the previous wave, and bobbed along on top of the water, like an ice floe, not too far from her. She had a funny feeling in her stomach that didn’t come from the cold, and swam quickly toward the scrap of white.

With one hand still paddling, she grabbed the board and checked the back. A white line hung down from the end—the surfboard’s leash. Surfers used the leash to attach the board to their ankle. Maybe the leash had slipped off his ankle. Or maybe not.

Gulping a deep breath, she dove, following the leash down. A few feet under, she discovered a foot attached to the leash. The foot’s owner was still, eyes closed, skin a watery green.

She hooked one arm through his armpit and pulled him toward the surface. A long-ago class at the YMCA bubbled up in her mind, and she remembered you should never rescue someone in the water by grabbing them because they might start thrashing and drown you. Use a pool ring, use a shepherd’s crook. Use any one of a bunch of devices she didn’t have.

His weight dragged her down, but she kept kicking. Her lungs told her she didn’t have much more time to screw around underwater, and she kicked harder. She couldn’t let him drop to the end of his leash and drown.

Her face broke the surface, and she sucked in a deep breath, holding the man’s chin up out of the water, in case he decided to start breathing, too.

He didn’t.

She wrestled him half onto his board, turned him onto his side, and started waving for help. The beach had a lifeguard, so she just had to get his attention and he’d know what to do. She had no idea what came next. Any useful details from the class at the Y were gone.

Signaling for help didn’t seem to be working. Maybe she should take off her bikini top and wave it around her head like a flag. Maybe that would attract some paparazzi in kayaks who could make themselves useful. She yelled, but no one could hear her over the surf, no matter how much she projected her voice.

Finally, something seemed to work. The lifeguard ran from his station carrying a long red surfboard. He still looked small, but he was heading toward them. Help was on its way, and hopefully it would come soon enough.

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