"This is going to be the snowstorm of the century," the action
reporter, Brad Dayton, cried with a certain hysterical glee. Clad
in bright yellow foul weather gear, he was standing on the side of
the New Jersey Turnpike. Cars were inching by, sliding and
spinning, as a gusty wind blew wet snow in every direction. The
flakes seemed to target the reporter's face and the lens of the
television camera. The sky was thick with gray clouds, and the
whole Northeast was hunkering down for an unexpected
"Don't go anywhere," he cried as he blinked to avoid the pelting
precipitation. "Stay home. And forget the airports. They're closed,
and it looks like they won't reopen for several days."
Regan Reilly stared at the television in her cozy Los Angeles
office in an ancient building on Hollywood Boulevard. "I can't
believe it," she said aloud. "I should have flown out
"Be careful out there, Brad," urged the cable news anchor in the
climate-controlled studio. "Try to stay dry."
"I will," Brad shouted over the shrill wind. He started to say
something else, but the sound was knocked out. The news director
cut quickly to a weatherman standing in front of a map with lots of
ominous arrows pointing in all directions.
"What have you got for us, Larry?" the smiling blond anchorwoman
"Snow coming from all directions," Larry explained urgently as his
hands made circles around the map. "Snow, snow, and more snow. I
hope you all have lots of canned goods at home because this storm
is going to stay with us for the next several days, and it is
packing a wallop!"
Regan looked out the window. It was a typically sunny day in Los
Angeles. Her suitcase was packed for New York. Recently engaged,
Regan was a thirty-one-year-old private investigator based in Los
Angeles. Her honey, Jack "no relation" Reilly, was the head of the
major case squad in New York City. They were to wed in May, and she
had been planning to fly out for the weekend to see Jack and her
parents, Luke and Nora, who lived in Summit, New Jersey.
Regan and her mother were supposed to meet with a wedding
coordinator on Saturday to review all the plans for the big day --
menu, flowers, limos, photographer, the list went on and on. On
Saturday night she and her parents and Jack had arranged to hear a
band they were considering for the reception. Regan had been
looking forward to a fun night out. The snowstorm would have
precluded those plans, but if Regan had gotten to New York
yesterday, she could have had a cozy weekend with Jack. It was the
second week in January, and she hadn't seen him for ten days. And
what's more romantic than being together during a snowstorm?
She felt lonely and frustrated, and the sight of the shining sun
she found irritating. I don't want to be here, she thought. I want
to be in New York.
The phone rang.
"Regan Reilly," she answered without much enthusiasm.
"Aloha, Regan. It's your maid of honor calling from Hawaii."
Kit Callan was Regan's best friend. They'd met in college on a
junior year abroad program in England. Kit lived in Hartford and
sold insurance. Her other job was the hunt for Mr. Right. So far
she was having better luck peddling her policies.
"Aloha, Kit." Regan smiled and immediately felt better just hearing
her best friend's voice. She knew that Kit had gone to Hawaii for
an insurance convention. "How's your trip going?"
"I'm stuck here."
"Not many people would complain that they were stuck in
"The convention ended Tuesday. I took an extra day to relax, and
now I can't get home. My travel agent says you can't get anywhere
near the East Coast."
"Tell me about it. I was supposed to go to New York today to see
Jack. And my mother and I were going to meet with the wedding
"Promise me you'll go easy on me with the bridesmaids'
"I was actually thinking of plaid pantsuits," Regan quipped.
"I've got an idea. Come out here, and we'll pick up some grass
Regan laughed. "Now there's an idea. People always want their
weddings to be different."
"So you're coming then?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Get out here, Regan! How many chances will we have to be together
like this again? Once you get hitched, that'll be it. You'll never
want to leave him, and I don't blame you."
"I'm keeping my office in Los Angeles," Regan protested. "At least
for a while."
"That's different. You know what I mean. This is a perfect
opportunity for us to have a fun girls' weekend before your
wedding. What else are you going to do for the next few days? Watch
the weather reports? Come out here to Waikiki. I'll have a tropical
drink waiting for you. I have a room on the second floor with two
big beds and a balcony overlooking the ocean. You can almost dip
your toes into the sand from here. As a matter of fact, I'm sitting
on the balcony right now waiting for room service to deliver my
"Be careful. With the sound of the waves crashing, you might not
hear them knock," Regan muttered as she looked around the office
that had been her home away from home for several years. The
antique desk she'd found at a flea market, the
black-and-white-tiled floor, the coffeepot in its place of honor
atop a filing cabinet were all so familiar. But now they didn't
feel welcoming. She had cleared the decks for a weekend away and
felt the need to get out and go somewhere. It was true that she
hadn't seen Kit much in the year since she'd met Jack.
"Where are you staying?" Regan asked.
"The Waikiki Waters Playground and Resort."
"That's a mouthful."
"You should see this place. It was just renovated, so everything is
brand-new and beautiful. There are restaurants, shops, two spas,
five pools, and several towers of rooms. We're in the best tower
right on the water. And there's a gala charity ball this Saturday
night. They're auctioning off a shell lei that belonged to a
princess from the royal family. They're calling it the 'Be a
Princess' Ball. So come on out. We'll both be princesses." Kit
paused. "What's going on down there?" she said softly, more to
herself than Regan.
"What are you talking about?" Regan asked.
Kit didn't seem to hear her. "I don't believe it," she said with
Regan's grip tightened on the phone. "Kit, what's going on?"
"People are suddenly running down to the water's edge. I think a
body just washed ashore!"
"Are you kidding?"
"A woman just tore out of the water screaming her head off. It
looks like she came across the body when she was out for a
"Oh, my God."
"Regan, you're not going to let me stay by myself here this
weekend, are you?" Kit inquired meekly. "This place could be
"I'll call the airlines."
Excerpted from BURNED: A Regan Reilly Mystery © Copyright
2005 by Carol Higgins Clark. Reprinted with permission by Pocket
Star, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights