Authors: Aaron Lazar
Tags: #mystery, #romantic suspense, #reunited lovers, #dual timeline, #romance, #horseback riding, #contemporary romance
A love story
Aaron Paul Lazar
This is a work of fiction. All concepts, characters and events portrayed in this book are used fictitiously and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by Aaron Paul Lazar.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, except brief extracts for the purpose of review, without the permission of the publisher and copyright owner.
First Edition, August 2013
Cover art by Kellie Dennis
Published in the United States of America.
To my wife, Dale, who is the inspiration for all the love scenes. Always and forever, honey.
And to Mr. Travis McGee, Florida beach bum extraordinaire, whose exploits inspired this writer from the early days when I voraciously inhaled all of John D. MacDonald’s books. I still read and re-read them, having been recently enthralled with the audio book versions narrated by Robert Petkoff. Thank you, Trav and JDM.
Huge thanks to Sonya Bateman, my long time critique partner, for her constant and unwavering support. I’ve learned more about writing from Sonya than from anyone else over the past decade. Generous and always open to frank discussion, she’s been a port in the storm for me on many occasions. She also writes one heck of a synopsis. (thanks again for this one, Sonya!) Please check out my favorite book of hers,
, as well as her urban thrillers at:
To Robin P. Waldrop, who inspired me (okay, she nudged really hard) to try my hand at a new venture and who encouraged me along the way by offering insightful critiques and catching my dumb errors. See her very popular YA paranormal romance books at:
Heartfelt appreciation to Sonia R. Martinez for her good-natured assistance and insightful edits. Sonia is my favorite food writer, who hails from Hawaii, who never fails to bring a smile to my face. See her articles and photos at:
Joan Miller, I truly appreciate all the hard work you put into finding my errors and inconsistencies. I wouldn’t feel right unless you read through my manuscript before publishing, and I will always picture you and Gretchen’s cat Jessie reading at night outside by the chiminea.
Cindy Guest Taylor—one of my all time favorite book reviewers—has written stunning reviews for my books for years now, and I was thrilled when she offered to Beta read this book as well. Thank you, Cindy, for all the years of support!
Sheila Deeth, author of the wonderful book,
Divide by Zero
. Like a human patchwork quilt, this dramatic family novel provides intimate glimpses into the minds of dozens of characters who will fascinate you. Sheila has always had a knack for picking up on the tiniest inconsistencies. Thank you for volunteering to help me into this new genre, and for reading and reviewing my books over the years.
Book Cover by Design
, for your help with our cover art. I love the fonts you chose and stand in awe of your expertise. Way to go! And thanks for reading and including your enthusiastic response to the story.
Janie Adams recently discovered LeGarde Mysteries (one of my mystery series) and offered to join the “inner circle” of the Beta Readers’ Team. Thanks so much for your support, Janie, and for finding those pesky errors.
Ardy Scott has long been involved in my books as a treasured cover artist for Twilight Times Books. But more than just creating beautiful covers, she has absorbed and understood my characters and created the most moving and meaningful artwork to represent my books. Now she’s joined the ranks of our inner circle, and I’m grateful for the astute edits she has suggested. Thank you, Ardy, for making
a better book than it would have been without your ideas.
Maria Benzoni Lombardo lives on the same gorgeous ridge over the Genesee Valley that we do, and we have been friends for years. She is reading and reviewing my audio books, and recently offered to try her hand at Beta reading. I’m very glad she did! Maria, thanks for finding the errors I made, especially the year that I skipped in the rough draft. I so appreciate your “catches” and valued your input.
Finally, deepest appreciate to Dina Von Lowenkraft, who writes Young Adult Fiction across the pond in Belgium, and whose new Twilight Times Book
was just released with a splash in the literary world. Dina, you are the ultimate finder of paradoxes. You have a brain like a steel trap, and because of you I was saved embarrassing post-publishing discoveries. I am forever in your debt, thank you!
Love and Loss
July 2, 2013
ife can change in the blink of an eye. This blink came when a cop car cruised up The Seacrest’s white shell driveway on a hot Saturday in July.
I’ll never forget the moment. You know how folks remember where they were when John Lennon died? Or when President Kennedy was assassinated? It was like that, every detail stamped into my brain, forever.
A fresh breeze laden with the scent of the sea rustled blue flowers in a nearby hydrangea hedge. Hot and sweaty, I stood in the blazing sun feeling like a fool. I’d just finished weed wacking around the paddock fence posts. Unfortunately, said weed wacker had spooked Libby Vanderhorn’s favorite mare, Serendipity, who I secretly called Dippy, because she was such a loose cannon. She’d bucked and twisted like a bronco in a Wild West show, knocking down several fence boards and unseating Libby, the boss’s daughter.
Libby ran The Seacrest’s dressage school and was an experienced rider, but this time she’d been caught by surprise and landed in a sprawling heap on the soft dirt, swearing at me.
At thirty-two years old, she stood tall and willowy, and quite lovely if you didn’t count the personality. When she came at me, she didn’t mince words. We were about the same age, but I worked for her family, and she never let me forget it. The sting of her accusations still sounded in my head.
How stupid can you be, Finn? What’s wrong with you?
Libby’s father held great power on Cape Cod. Rudolph Vanderhorn sat on so many boards, I’d lost count. His father’s fish canning company made a fortune back in the eighties, and he and his daughter had enjoyed the spoils ever since.
I stooped to pick up a hammer from my toolbox, planning to reattach the fence boards before any of the horses got hurt on the protruding nails. Curious now, I watched the Brewster Police car circle the long drive, heading toward the mansion. The local authorities stopped by every few days to discuss town matters with my boss. But today the blue light was flashing, which didn’t look like a casual visit.
A shudder went through me, and I turned cold. Something bad had happened. I sensed it.
The front door opened, and Rudy watched them approach, one hand shading the sun from his eyes. Like a majestic lion, he stood broad-shouldered and strong, his longish white hair lifting in the sea breeze.
Libby stopped hosing down her big white mare, who thankfully hadn’t hurt herself in the fit she’d thrown earlier. The horse snorted and rubbed her big head against her owner’s arm as if to scratch an itch. Long, dark hair blew around Libby’s face, and she stared with open curiosity at the cruiser, rhythmically combing her fingers through the mare’s curly mane.
I stood still, gripping the hammer, studying the patrol car as it drove past the front porch with its impressive columns and portico. It didn’t stop for Rudy, but passed the six-car garage, followed the driveway to the barn, and rolled to a stop ten feet from me, lights still flashing.
Police Chief Kramer and Deputy Lowell stepped out and ambled toward me, their eyes somber.
I dropped the hammer; it thudded to the grass near my feet.
“Finn?” Kramer said, approaching slowly. “I’m afraid we have bad news.”
There is nothing worse than hearing that bad news is about to be delivered. My brain went wild, imagining the worst scenarios. But somehow I didn’t quite picture what he was about to tell me.
“There’s been an accident,” Kramer said.
Lowell, a high school football star in his day, kicked the dirt at the edge of the path. “Car went over the cliffs,” he said, avoiding my eyes.
“For God’s sake, guys.” I looked from Kramer to Lowell. “
was in the car?”
Kramer pulled out a piece of paper. “I regret to inform you that your wife, Cora Mae McGraw, and your brother, Jaxson Robert McGraw, have been killed in a vehicular accident.”
Deputy Lowell touched my sleeve, then awkwardly stepped back. “We’re real sorry, Finn.”
“Car went into the ocean,” Kramer said. “We believe they were dead on impact.”
I stared at them, numbness creeping up my spine. “What the hell?”
“Er, look, if there’s anything we can do...” Lowell seemed remorseful, and he offered a hand when I lost my balance and grabbed for the fence.
Libby and her father appeared at my side in seconds, but in the dreamlike state of denial and shock, I caught only brief snatches of their words, as if the wind had grabbed them, teasing me with the bits and pieces.
was with her?”
And so on.
Libby guided me across the lawn and around back to the mansion’s cavernous kitchen. I leaned woodenly against the refrigerator while the family’s beloved cook, Fritzi, bustled her big, ample self about the kitchen making coffee and pushing fresh corn muffins at the officers.
Someone helped me into a chair. I sat, dazed and unmoving. The voices warbled around me and now my brain began to pick through the new knowledge, still not comprehending.
It wasn’t real. Couldn’t be real.
Jax is dead?
I hadn’t seen my brother in ten years.
Ten years since I’d even
to him. I sometimes almost drove past the blueberry farm, thinking of my old life. But I never actually stopped there.
Ten years since my parents died in that fire. Since I lost my little sister, Eva. Ten years since my family burned because of that cigarette smoldering in the couch.
Ten freaking years.
I didn’t even know what Jax looked like anymore. Had he lost hair? Gained weight? Turned prematurely gray like our father did in his thirties?
A shudder passed through me. A great gulping sound sputtered from my throat. I think I started to hyperventilate.
I locked eyes with Libby, whose mouth was moving. I couldn’t hear her.
Cora is dead.
Jax is dead.
Laying my head on my arms, I silently convulsed.
One thought wandered around the edges of my brain, refusing to go away, in spite of the enormity of what had happened.
What the hell was Jax doing with Cora?
July 2, 1997
’ll never forget the day I fell in love with her.
There she stood, all tall and lanky, dark hair blowing in the breeze as if it loved caressing her face.
She held a beach ball and faced the sea.
She was sixteen.
That’s all it took. That one salty, sandy, sunshiny day—forever staked in my memory.
Her father had claimed a spot on Paines Creek Beach, right next to ours. They laid out a red-and-white striped blanket and matching umbrella with beach chairs, a cooler filled with watermelon and soda, and white paper bags that smelled of fries and burgers.
I’d settled on a beach towel next to my grandfather, Dex McGraw, surreptitiously watching them.
Gramps sat beside me, drinking from a cold thermos of gin and ice, his favorite. He sat with his shirt off and long legs stretched out, his head back and shaggy silver-blond hair glinting in the sun. He always told me his time was “before the hippies,” but I had a feeling he would have made a good one. He was one helluva rebel. And he always stood up for what was right, no matter what.