By Peg Cochran

"You can put that upstairs in the children's room," Anne Pontier pointed at the suitcase in Kayley's hand. "It's on the right at the top of the stairs."

Kayley humped the bag up the stairs. This was her first trip to the Pontier's home on Cape Cod although she'd been working as a nanny for them for six months now at their Manhattan townhouse. She stopped on the landing and peeked out a small circular window. It was getting dark, but she could see a line of sand dunes, tall grass fronds waving in the wind, and a strip of blue that she supposed must be the Atlantic ocean.

She'd never seen the ocean before.

"Kayley," Anne called up the stairs a moment later. "Can you come give me a hand, please?"

Kayley paused briefly at the window on her way down, then scurried to the kitchen where Anne had a half dozen bags of take-out food spread on the counter.

She turned to Kayley. "Can you put the food into serving bowls," she gestured toward a cabinet behind her, "and put it on the table? The dining room table," she corrected as Kayley began to clear newspapers and empty water bottles off the kitchen table.

Adam dashed into the kitchen and stopped short at the sight of the food. His younger sister, Missy, skidded to a halt right behind him.

"Are we having mobsters for dinner?"

Ted Pontier removed the cell phone from his ear briefly. "That's lobsters, silly." He ruffled his son's dark blond hair.

"Do you like mobsters, I mean lobsters?" Adam asked Kayley with a glance at his father. "My mother is allergic to them. But Dad always gets them for us when we come to Cape Cod."

"I don't know," Kayley ladled a carton of kung pao chicken into a blue and white china bowl, "I've never had lobster before."

"You haven't?" Adam wrinkled his freckled nose in disbelief. "How about shrimp? And clams? I hate clams." He held his nose.

"Nope. I haven't had those either." Kayley was about to say that shellfish was pretty scarce in Wisconsin where she came from when Anne interjected.

"Now, Adam, you know not everyone has had as many privileges as you have." And she smiled her frosted smile at Kayley. The heavy gold bracelet on her wrist caught the light as she reached for the wine glass she'd left on the counter. She glanced at the diamond encircled watch on her other wrist. "Shall we eat now? The kids need to get to bed soon."

* * *

Adam and Missy woke Kayley up early the next morning. She groaned and tried to pull the pillow over her head. She was stiff and achy from being sandwiched in the back seat of the car for seven hours as they battled the Friday afternoon traffic fleeing New York City for the weekend.

"Come on," Adam grabbed her arm and pulled. "We're going to the beach today. Daddy says so."

Missy watched from the doorway, a bright red plastic pail and shovel swinging from her hand.

Kayley managed to get them to eat some cereal then cleaned up the spilled milk and scattered Cheerios before starting the coffee.

Anne wandered into the kitchen, a cotton wrap over her leotard and tights. "Make sure they make their beds, Kayley." She poured herself a mug of the coffee Kayley had just brewed.

Kayley sighed. By now Anne must realize that Kayley made the beds herself . The one time she'd let the kids do it, Anne had become practically hysterical because the spread was on crooked, and the sheets weren't tucked in properly.

"Who wants to go to the beach?" Ted wandered into the kitchen, flipping open his cell phone without waiting for their answer.

* * *

Kayley dragged the beach bag out to the station wagon along with an assortment of toys, towels and half a dozen water bottles.

Anne absent-mindedly kissed the children good-bye.

"Aren't you coming?" Kayley paused while buckling Missy into her car seat.

Anne shook her head. "I have way too much to do. I have Pilates this morning, my tennis lesson this afternoon, lunch with Amanda, then it will be time to get ready for the Desmond's cocktail party. I'm exhausted just thinking about it."

She was exhausted? Kayley thought, craning her neck at the passing scenery.

The roar of the ocean grew louder as they turned down a narrow road edged with tall grasses.

"We're almost there. We're almost there." The children chanted.

As soon as the car stopped, they bolted from the back seat. Ted sat in the driver's seat, his cell phone still pressed to his ear.

Kayley sighed and pulled the beach bag and as many of the toys as she could carry from the back of the station wagon, then followed Adam and Missy as they plowed through the sand toward the beach, the bag alternately banging and scraping her leg.

The sight of the ocean made Kayley stop in her tracks. It was so much bigger than she expected — and noisy — with foam-topped waves crashing onto the shore one after the other.

"Come on," Adam urged her, dancing ahead to an empty spot on the wide expanse of sunlit beach.

Kayley spread out her towel, hesitated, then pulled her t-shirt over her head. She'd found a cute yellow bikini on sale at a boutique around the corner from the Pontiers' townhouse in Manhattan.

Ted came toward them, and Kayley noticed how his eyes lit up at the sight of her. She knew she had a good figure. She bent forward deliberately and reached into the beach bag for the suntan lotion. Ted's gaze didn't leave her body as she unscrewed the top, poured lotion into her hand and slowly began to smooth it up one leg and down the other.

"I'd better do your back for you. I don't want you getting burned." Ted's voice was husky as he ran his hands up and down Kayley's back.

Kayley felt a surge of power at the awareness of her youth and beauty. Maybe someday she would marry someone like Ted Pontier and live on the upper east side, take Pilates classes, shop at the best stores and have people looking after their little brats for her. Look at Anne. All she'd done was snag a rich husband. She hadn't actually earned a penny of the money herself.

The more Kayley thought about it, the more she liked the idea. She glanced around the beach at the young men her own age. Were any of them rich? Maybe she'd be better off going after someone older — like Ted, for instance. He certainly seemed to be attracted to her. The idea took hold and burned into her brain along with the intensifying rays of the afternoon sun.

* * *

Kayley was disappointed when Ted had to fly back to the city for business on Monday. She could tell he was disappointed, too — the way his glance lingered on her as he walked toward the car. Kayley handed him his briefcase.

"Thanks, kid." He winked and chucked her under the chin.

Kayley felt her face get red. She looked around quickly, but Anne was still inside.

She felt another small surge of power as she rounded the children up and walked them to the club for their tennis lesson.

* * *

The Pontiers were going out Tuesday evening, Anne told Kayley. She was picking Ted up at the airport, and they were going straight to the club for drinks and dinner. Kayley wouldn't see Ted until the next day — and that was assuming he didn't rush off for an early golf game.

Anne spent the afternoon soaking in the tub and getting ready while Kayley sulked in the sun playing tag and hide-and-go-seek with the children.

"Kayley?" Anne called out the bedroom window.


"Can you run into town for me and pick up some Tampax? You can take the kids with you. It will do them good to have a nice walk."

"Can we get mobsters for dinner?" Adam squinted up at his mother.

Anne laughed. "Sure. Kayley, go to the Shack and get them lobster dinners. And one for yourself, too," she added belatedly. "Tell them to put it on our account."

Kayley's resentment burned as hot as the sun as she, Adam and Missy kicked their way down the sandy sidewalk toward town.

* * *

The Shack was busy even though it was barely five o'clock. Kayley had to keep the kids occupied for over half an hour while they waited for their order. She spent part of the time watching the patrons dining at the long picnic tables covered in checked oil cloth. She noticed how they used small rocks to crack open their lobsters and dig out the meat. By the time she was handed two large paper bags filled with steamed lobsters, corn on the cob and baked potatoes, she was pretty sure she could manage to eat one without making a complete fool of herself. Of course she still had no idea whether she would like it or not.

Kayley set the kids up with their meal as soon as they got home and watched as they dug in. She was saving hers for later — after the kids were settled in front of the television, and she'd have an hour of peace for herself.

"Kayley," Anne called from above.

"Coming." Anne went to the foot of the stairs where the scents of French perfume, bath oil and expensive candles drifted downwards on a cloud of warm steam.

"Be an angel, would you? Ted's flight is going to be late, and I'm starving. I'm going to faint if I don't eat something. Janey really worked us hard in kickboxing today so I think I've earned a tiny snack." She peered over the banister. Her hair was twisted up in rollers, and she had an eyelash curler in her hand. "There's some dip and some crudités — cut up raw vegetables — in the fridge left from cocktails with the Ericson's yesterday. Could you bring me some on a tray, please?"

Kayley nodded, her gut twisting with jealousy. She wanted to be the one getting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive perfumes to have dinner with Ted. It wasn't fair.

The kids had deserted the kitchen, their plates heaped with the remains of their lobster dinner. Kayley remembered how Adam had said Anne was allergic to lobster. Kayley's aunt Jo was allergic to strawberries and broke out in hives whenever she ate them. And her uncle Dennis got terrible stomach cramps from milk and other dairy products.

Maybe if Anne ate some of the lobster, she'd get sick and have to stay in bed. Kayley could then offer to pick Ted up at the airport herself. She'd wear the strapless sundress she'd brought along "just in case." She was tan from having spent hours in the sun, and the gold highlights had come out in her hair. She could imagine the pleased look on Ted's face when he saw her and feel the pressure of his hand on her elbow as he steered her toward the car. He would murmur that it was a shame to waste such a beautiful evening and how about if the two of them went to the club instead.

Kayley retrieved yesterday's dip from the refrigerator and spooned some into a dish, then arranged the carrots and cut-up peppers around it on the plate. Anne liked things done nicely and would complain if Kayley just brought it up any old way.

She glanced at the remains of the children's dinner again. Adam's lobster lay spread open on the plate with some strange green stuff inside the shell. She spooned some of it up, stirred it into the leftover dip and smoothed the top. Then she smiled and carried it upstairs to Anne.

Anne immediately grabbed a carrot and scooped up some dip. "Oh, this tastes good," she closed her eyes as she bit into the carrot. "I'm absolutely famished."

Kayley waited. Would she break out in hives like her Aunt Jo or have to run for the toilet like Uncle Dennis?

Anne clutched at her throat. Her face was red, and her breath wheezed between her swelling lips with a loud rasp. Kayley watched, curious, as Anne coughed and gasped. Slowly Anne slid to the floor, her face tinged a dusky red with an outline of blue around her lips.

Kayley stood there, hesitating. What on earth was wrong with Anne? She thought about calling Ted's cell phone, but Anne would probably be fine in a minute and would be angry with her for disturbing Ted. Finally, Kayley left her there and went back downstairs. She thought she'd have a bit of her lobster — just to try it. She wanted to save her appetite for dinner at the club with Ted. She wondered if they had filet mignon on the menu?

She cracked open the lobster tail as she'd seen the people at the Shack do, wrestled a piece of meat from the shell and dipped it in some of Missy's leftover melted butter.

It was delicious. Kayley cracked the shell wider and dug out more meat. She'd never tasted anything so good before. She'd finished most of the tail when she noticed a strange tingling in her mouth and around her lips. She gulped some water, but the feeling intensified. Her face burned, and her throat was closing up. Kayley clawed at her throat, as the pressure in her head built. Her nails left bloody streaks down her neck.

She was light-headed and spots of color burst before her eyes.

Then she fell forward, her head landing in the plate of lobster shells.

Peg Cochran's fiction publishing credits include a story in Orchard Press Mystery Magazine, and in 2012 she will debut two mystery series published by Berkley Prime Crime; Allergic to Death, Gourmet De-Lite Series, August 2012 and writing as Meg London, Sweet Nothings Series in September 2012.

Copyright © 2011 Peg Cochran. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!

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