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June 26, 2018
MIRA Trade Paprback
A Summer in Sonoma
Girlfriends make the best therapists
They’ve been best friends since seventh grade. But this summer, teetering on the threshold of thirty, four women are going to need each other more than ever.
No one delves into the complexities of female friendship better than #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr.
Originally published June 2010 in mass market paperback and June 2012 in eBook.
Cassie and Ken walked out of the bar together at seven-thirty. In the rapidly descending darkness of a perfect June night, he pulled her into his arms and covered her mouth in a powerful kiss. Wow, she thought. It was a good kiss—consuming and deep. His hands were running up and down her back. Then one slipped around her side, reaching for a breast, and she withdrew. She pushed him away, laughed nervously and said, “Hold on, pardner. Getting a little ahead of yourself, aren’t you?”
“Sorry,” he said. “I’ve been looking at you, wondering, you know…”
“Well, wonder no more, big fella—rest assured I am definitely a girl. Now, don’t we have plans? Live music in the park?”
“That’s right,” he said, laughing. Then, again, “Sorry.”
As he walked her to his car, she said, “Girls don’t get mad at guys for having romantic ideas. But you do have brakes, I assume?”
“Good. You were moving a little fast for me.”
The car was parked at the far end of the lot and she thought, Ahh, he’s car proud. He’d rather walk across the lot than risk a dent or scratch from neighboring cars. He opened the door to the passenger side and she slipped in. She immediately pulled on her seat belt while he got in the driver’s side.
He started the car, but didn’t put it in gear. Instead, he reached over to her side and began to gently caress her upper arm. He leaned toward her across the console, his eyelids becoming heavy, his mouth slightly open. It was like kiss-on-demand, but at least he was moving more slowly, giving her time, waiting for her to respond. She met his lips for a sweet, short kiss. He moved over her mouth with precision, but when she pulled away from his mouth, laughing nervously again, he grabbed her upper arms in his strong grip. “Cassie,” he said in a breath. “What do you say we rethink the music? Maybe skip it?”
“I don’t think so. I was looking forward to it,” she said, her heart rate speeding up a little. She started to smell an ill wind.
“Come on,” he begged. “Think about it. You won’t be sorry….”
She did a quick memory check. She’d been out for happy hour with friends from work when she met him. They’d talked for a long time. She was an emergency room nurse, he was a paramedic—they’d never met before but she did a lot of business with the fire department and had come to think of them as the good guys. He had been polite, attentive, interested. He was a nice-looking guy with a sense of humor. She’d taken his cell phone number and agreed to meet him again, this time for a cup of coffee. That’s how you play safe dating. He’d been a gentleman, walking her to her car after coffee and saying goodbye with a brief, platonic hug. Then she’d given him her cell phone number. So, after a few getting-to-know-you conversations, she’d accepted a date for live music in the park. She still hadn’t let him pick her up; they’d agreed to meet at a bar because finding each other in a park full of people could be difficult.
His behavior now took her by surprise. She’d have to back him down quick. She’d been attracted to him, but no way was she ready to take this to the next level.
“I don’t have to think about it,” she said, her palms pressed firmly against his chest. “I was looking forward to some music. It’s a beautiful night. And what you apparently have in mind is not on the agenda in the parking lot of the—”
Her words were cut off as he slipped a big hand around the back of her head and pulled her, roughly, onto his mouth. She pushed at him, making unintelligible sounds beneath his lips, but he was actually climbing across the console while silencing her with his mouth. For a guy about six feet tall, this was unimaginable, but he seemed to do it with ease. In seconds, he was straddling her hips, towering over her so fast she hardly knew what was happening.
“Hey!” she said when he released her lips. “Hey, what are you doing?”
She was thinking quickly. There were a few cars around his, but he had parked away from the crowd and his windows were darkly tinted. Her next thought was, How is this possible? This is a nice guy! This is a paramedic! My best friend’s husband is a paramedic; I know a lot of their friends! They’re salt of the earth— angels!
But he was pressing her back against the seat, devouring her mouth, breathing real hard and fast through his nose. He popped her seat belt off and although she pushed and her protests were lost as whimpers beneath his mouth, she was focused on the logistics of his attack. He couldn’t possibly plan to rape her in the front bucket seat of an SUV? She was wearing shorts; freeing her from her clothes would not be simple!
Then her seat began to recline—he had his hand on the button. He was slowly laying her down. She was beginning to understand his plan. If he got her flat, he could pull down her shorts. If he raped her and let her loose, if he didn’t leave bruises or marks, he’d claim she wasn’t forced. She’d run her share of rape kits in the E.R., heard her share of he-said-she-said stories while a skeptical detective took notes. Well, by God, she was at least going to force him to leave bruises! She began to kick and push and wiggle, throwing her head and body wildly back and forth, side to side.
“Stop it,” he said. “Stop it now. Come on. We know what we want!”
“Get off me, you son of a bitch!”
“Aw, Cassie,” he laughed, as if she’d uttered some kind of endearment. “Baby, come on—I’m totally into you!”
“You’re crazy! Let me go! Get off me! Now!”
“Come on, come on, settle down….”
“No!” she screamed. Just scream, she told herself. Bite, kick, scream, yell, hit, gouge, anything. She pushed at him with one hand, searching for the door handle with the other. Then, failing to find it, she pounded on the window, hoping to break it, screeching and turning her head away from his mouth so she could get volume. She tried head butting him, but he held her shoulders down and lifted his head back, and he laughed. She was moving around so violently, the car was actually bouncing. He tried to grab her wrist but she socked him in the eye. He grunted in pain and growled, but he didn’t hit back. She continued banging on the window and yelling. She knew one thing—he couldn’t get her out of this parking lot without moving to his side of the car, over that console, and by God she was going to fling herself out of the car before he could take her anywhere.
Suddenly there was a sharp rapping on her window. “Hey!” someone with a deep male voice yelled. “Hey!”
“Oh, God,” she cried, suddenly overcome with relief and hope. “Help!” she screamed. “Hel—!” And then Ken put his hand over her mouth.
Ken lowered the window an inch. “Hey, go away, pal. We’re busy!” And he powered the window back up.
Cassie bit his hand as hard as she could and he jumped so abruptly, he hit his head on the ceiling of the car.
Cassie heard the man with the deep voice try to open the locked door. Then the window’s glass suddenly cracked and, like a spiderweb, spread into a million cracks. But it was tempered glass and didn’t break, merely crystallized, leaving a dent in the glass where it had been hit. A sharp object she vaguely recognized as a key popped through the compromised glass and started boring a hole into it, releasing diamondlike pebbles of glass that fell into the car. Ken decided to return to the driver’s seat. “What the hell are you doing, man?” he screamed at the intruder.
A huge hand attached to a huge arm entered through the hole in the window and reached down to flip the lock. The door opened instantly and Cassie stumbled out. She was gasping as she looked into a face far more frightening than Ken’s. This was a giant wearing a tight white T-shirt covered by a black leather vest adorned with chains. On the arm that had freed her was a tattoo of a naked lady. He had a lot of facial hair—long, thick sideburns and a handlebar moustache that framed his mouth. His hair was pulled back into a ponytail. With his hands on her elbows to help her stand upright, he asked, “You hurt?” His voice was very menacing; he frowned blackly. Cassie was five-three and this guy had a foot on her, at least.
“No,” she said, gasping. “Yes. I mean, no. He…” She couldn’t finish.
He pulled her away from the SUV and turned her around so that he stood between her and the car. “You need the police? Or the hospital?” he asked as he pulled a cell phone out of his pants pocket.
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “You were in time.” Then she hiccupped and choked; a fat tear ran down her cheek. “Oh, God!”
“Can I call someone for you?” he asked, his voice miraculously softer.
Suddenly the SUV was in gear, and Ken—the polite, salt-of-the-earth paramedic—took off. The passenger door slowly drifted closed as the car banked and turned, leaving some skid marks behind.
“My purse…” she whimpered.
Suddenly the SUV skidded to a stop just before exiting the parking lot. Through the broken passenger door window flew an object, crashing to the ground. Then the car sped away. “Your purse,” the big guy said. “Stay here.” He walked across the parking lot, squatted to return scattered items from her purse back into it, then brought it back to her. “Here you go,” he said, holding it out.
Cassie looked up at the guy who had saved her. A biker dude. He looked scruffy and scary, like he could be a Hells Angel or something. But Ken, so clean-cut, turned out to be the dangerous one.
“God,” she said. “I never saw that coming. If you hadn’t…”
“You okay? Because I can call the police. I got the plate number.”
“I wasn’t hurt—just scared to death. I swear, that shouldn’t have happened.”
“It looked pretty bad there for a minute.”
“For a minute, it was pretty bad. I think maybe he was going to—” She stopped. She couldn’t say it.
“Hey, now. You sure you’re okay?” the guy asked again.
Cassie fished around in her purse for her keys, her hands shaking. “Yeah,” she said with a sniff. “I’ll be fine. I think.”
“You want me to follow you home or something? Make sure you don’t have any trouble?”
She let a huff of laughter escape through her tears. Imagine having a guy like this follow her, know where she lived? Suddenly the world didn’t make any sense. “I won’t go straight home. I’ll go to my girlfriend’s. She has a protective German shepherd and a six-foot-two-inch husband.”
“You sure you don’t want to just check in with the police?” he asked, his brows furrowing. “Talk to them about it?”
“She also has three kids,” Cassie said.
The big man laughed, a deep and rumbling sound. “Well, I guess that oughta hold anyone back.”
Another laugh puffed out of Cassie, but then she instantly plummeted into tears. Loud tears. Her purse dropped from her hands and she leaned against him, wailing.
“Whoa, kiddo,” he said. “I think maybe I should buy you a cup of coffee, get you a little straightened out before you drive….”
“I’m not… I wasn’t… I haven’t been drinking or anything,” she finally choked out.
“I didn’t mean to sober you up,” he said with a laugh. He bent down and picked up the purse and then, with a big arm draped around her shoulders, he gently, protectively, led her back toward the bar.
Looking up at him, she asked, “What if he comes back?”
“He’s not coming back,” the man said. “You’re okay for now. Come on, let’s have a cup of coffee. Calm down a little. Then you go on to your girlfriend’s. Huh?”
By the time he got all that out, they were nearly at the door to the bar. She wiped at her cheeks, her eyes. “I really don’t know what to do,” she said.
“I know,” he answered. “Coffee, that’s what we do.”
In just a few minutes she was sitting in a corner booth, staring into a cup of black coffee, across from one big, mean-looking biker. And he had a cup of coffee, too.
Cassie could hardly lift her head; she was exhausted, frightened, wrung out, relieved. But as she slowly realized what she really was, she looked up in some surprise, right into the amazing blue eyes of her rescuer. “God, I’m so embarrassed,” she said in a breath.
“You shouldn’t be embarrassed,” he said. “You didn’t attack him. He should be embarrassed, but he’s probably not. Bet he’s scared, though.”
“Not necessarily. You know, it’s not too late to call the police. My little brother’s a cop, actually. He’s not working tonight, but we could still call him. He’d be good for some advice, at least.” Then he laughed. “Of all us boys, he was about the worst one. Figures he’d turn into a cop. And a real hard-case cop, too. Not a lot of gray area with him. Listen, how well do you know that guy?”
“Apparently not well enough,” she said, shaking her head. “We met at happy hour, then had a coffee date and talked on the phone quite a bit. He works with people I know. I guess.”
“Well, he said he was a paramedic and my best friend’s husband is a paramedic. I know a lot of their friends. I thought we had mutual friends. Jeez. What if he was just lying?”
“License plates don’t lie.”
“How did you know to help me?”
He smiled. “You’re kidding, right? I heard you. The car was rocking. Two people in the front seat? I figured if it was consensual, you’d both be in the backseat.” He shrugged. “It was worth checking out.”
“What did you use to break that window?”
He lifted a hand. He stared at his own knuckles for a second. They were bruised and swelling.
“Holy cow,” she said. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. It’ll be fine.” Then he grinned. “Maybe he’ll try to sue me or something, huh? I’d love that. So, I’m Walt. Walt Arneson.”
“Cassie,” she said. Then she shook her head. “You must think I’m pretty stupid.”
“Doesn’t sound like it,” he answered.
© Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
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Thunder Point Book # 2
May 29, 2018
With humor and insight, #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr explores letting go of the past—and finding something worth building a future on.
Single dad and Thunder Point’s deputy sheriff “Mac” McCain has worked hard to keep his town safe and his daughter happy. Now he’s found his own happines with Gina James. The longtime friends have always shared the challenges and rewards of raising their adolescent daughters. With an unexpected romance growing between them, they’re feeling like teenagers themselves—suddenly they can’t get enough of one another.
And just when things are really taking off, their lives are suddenly thrown into chaos. When Mac’s ex-wife shows up in town, drama takes on a whole new meaning. Mac and Gina know they’re meant to be together, but can their newfound love withstand the pressure?
Originally published July 2013 in mass market paperback and eBook.
The way that wetsuit hugged her body—it was like art. She had incredibly strong legs, a perfect round tush, breasts about the size of his palms. She’d been born in a coastal town and was probably as comfortable on the water as she was on the land or in the sky—diver, swimmer, surfer, helicopter pilot. Ham was in his charge, and he’d been watching Sarah for an hour; she’d gone all the way out to the mouth of the bay and back. She was finally coming in, just ahead of the fishing boats headed home to the marina.
This life was the furthest thing Cooper had ever envisioned for himself. He had come to Thunder Point last October to look into the death of a good friend, Ben. To his surprise he had inherited what was Ben’s falling down bait shop with a bar. For lack of a better idea, he renovated, turning it into a first class beach bar, and had found himself a new home. He also found a woman, another surprise—he hadn’t been looking. After all the women in his life, short or long term, it was as if Sarah was everything he’d been waiting for.
He had officially opened the beach bar—no more bait—in late February. Now, as the proprietor, there was plenty of time to visit with folks from town, let the gentle lapping of the bay soothe him, watch his woman on her board, gently gliding across the calm water between the huge off shore boulders in the bay. He had a farmer’s tan, stronger shoulders from lifting and hauling bar supplies and a lot of new friends when he’d always considered himself a solitary kind of guy.
Sarah leaned her board and paddle against the dock and came up the stairs. When she reached the deck, he tossed a towel at her, and she dried her feet.
Hamlet stood to his horse height and wagged.
“What are you doing?”
“Absolutely nothing. Just watching my mermaid.”
She laughed. “Hamlet behaving?”
Cooper nodded. “He said he’d prefer to live here, with me.”
“Did he now?” she asked with a laugh. “Get your own dog.”
“There isn’t room for another dog around here. Come here,” he said, pulling her onto his lap.
She went to him, sat down, picked up his coffee and helped herself to a sip.
“Want me to make you a hot cup?” he asked. “You cold?”
She shook her head. “It’s nice out there. Breeze gets a little chilly sometimes, but the sun is so wonderful. You start to crave sun around here after winter rains and winds.”
Her cell phone rang. She’d left it on the deck with Cooper when she took her board out. She picked it up and said, “Yes, little brother?” Then she listened and laughed. “I’m at Cooper’s. I just took my board out—the bay is beautiful. I have the Razor and the dog. Then yes, have fun and I’ll see you later.”
She clicked off.
“How many times a day to you talk to Landon?” he asked. It was just Sarah and sixteen-year-old Landon; they were a family of two and kept pretty tight tabs on each other. And with Sarah being a Coast Guard Search and Rescue pilot who worked out of the North Bend station, sometimes it wasn’t easy.
“As many as it takes. Now that he’s dating Deputy Yummy Pants’s daughter, I don’t worry so much. Well, I worry that Mac might shoot him if he gets too frisky with Eve, but I figure that’s a long shot, forgive the pun. I think we check in three or four times a day.”
“At least,” Cooper said. “Did I interpret that last call to mean you’re now free for dinner?”
She grinned at him. “Is the chef preparing something special?”
“It won’t be busy here tonight, at least after seven—weeknight, sunset over. I have some steaks in the freezer, potatoes in the cooler….”
“Do you have anything green?” she asked.
Cooper ran the bar menu on deli items purchased from Carrie’s deli in town—simple things from pizzas to sandwiches as well as some desserts—things that could be served cold or warmed. This was not a restaurant. Cooper bought himself a grill for his own use, but didn’t use it to serve patrons.
Cooper had also inherited a helper, Rawley Goode, a Vietnam Vet who was not overly friendly and while he might be a good cook, he wasn’t pleasant enough. And he was needed for other things—maintenance, cleaning, purchasing and delivery from big box stores like Costco that were out of town. Therefore, personal groceries were often in short supply.
“I bet you have something green,” he suggested.
“I live on green things,” she said.
“I know this.”
“And you eat like a fourteen-year-old boy. You’d live on steak, hamburgers and home fries if it weren’t for me. If I go home to shower and change and bring a salad or a vegetable back with me, will you clean your plate?”
He loved her. He was frequently shaken by the intensity of his passion for her. He’d clean his plate, and then he’d tune her up for good measure. He knew his eyes glowed and knew she interpreted him correctly. When the “Closed” sign was on and the doors were locked, they’d eat steak in front of the fire and then retire to the playpen, his large bed upstairs. “Take my truck and leave the Razor.”
“I have to work in the morning.”
“That’s okay. You can take my truck and your dog home later. Much later. Then I’ll drive your Razor across the beach to trade vehicles tomorrow morning.”
Sarah was finished in the bathroom and on her way out the door before Landon stirred for school. She left him a note and twenty dollars for gas or lunch or incidentals. She certainly didn’t mind driving to work while feeling so fit and fresh after a day off on the bay, a good dinner with Cooper, a couple of hours of recreation under the sheets—something Cooper had a particular talent for. It added up to making her feel brand new and full of energy.
The station was getting ready for a big inspection in the next couple of weeks, and there was plenty to do, from preparing for check rides to auditing maintenance records. They’d have to show the command they were one of the best air stations in the Coast Guard, and they’d have to get ready while performing business as usual. Given that Sarah, Lieutenant Commander Dupre, was second in command of the flying operation at the station, her role in this prep would not be small. It was no surprise that when she turned on her computer there was a note from her immediate boss, Buzz Bachman, asking her to come to his office ASAP. She was sure, if she knew the man at all, he had a long list of things for her to do.
She made herself a cup of coffee on the way, stirring in some cream and sweetener. “Morning, boss,” she said, entering the small office.
“Morning, Dupre. Check the door.”
She turned to close the door and thought, Oh-oh, someone’s in trouble. The commander’s door was seldom closed, and when it was someone would generally say, “The spanking light has been lit.”
“We have a busy week and an inspection team en route the end of the month.”
“We’ll be ready,” she said, sipping her coffee.
“I want to tell you something I’m not supposed to know,” Buzz said. “How’s your poker face?”
She lifted an eyebrow. “When has my poker face ever let you down?”
“This could be tougher. It affects you directly.”
The eyebrow dropped. “Make it fast,” she said. “Rip that Band-Aid off.”
He took a breath. “I have a mole in HR,” Buzz said. “I’ve been cultivating him for a long time. I want as much warning as possible for my next change of assignment. What I didn’t expect was to have it whispered in my ear that there was nothing in the pipe for me yet, but one of my ‘men’ was being looked at for an assignment. An early assignment because of compelling need. Dupre.”
She was stunned silent. Her mouth hung open slightly. She forcibly closed her mouth. “I get an automatic refusal if they don’t even know I’m a woman. Right?”
“I wish. I shouldn’t say anything. It could all go another direction. Between now and notification, someone could put in for those air stations, and this could all go away. But I wanted you to have as much time to think about this as possible—we have two retiring Commanders and a compelling need with no outstanding applications for those locations and they’re both …” He paused to cough lightly. “They’re both on the east coast. Main and south Florida. As you might surmise, you’re probably going to be awarded a promotion within the year. Commander. I suspect that makes you a better than prime candidate.”
“And I’m not due for either,” she said, sliding forward on her chair a little bit.
“There’s no surprise here, Dupre. You’re good at your job. You’ve had a successful Coast Guard career. You’d make an excellent boss. You’re an excellent leader now.”
She looked at him earnestly, humbly. “I need another year here. Landon …”
“I know your situation, and I sympathize. That’s why I’m breaking protocol and leaking this. So help me, you let on, and we’ll have a real issue ….”
“Crap, there’s gotta be some wiggle room in here ….”
“I just gave it to you. I think you’ll be notified by June and will have a couple of months.”
She shook her head. “This plays hell on my family … Landon is prime scholarship material, but not if I move him. That’s saying nothing of the trauma of moving a kid right before his senior year in high school, moving him away from his football team, his friends, his school, his town. He’s done so well here, you have no idea.”
“I have every idea,” Buzz said. “I know exactly how you feel—I’ve gone through two divorces, proof of how the pressures weigh down the family. At least you’re not married.”
But there’s someone I can’t bear the thought of leaving, she thought. “Damn it, I love my job. But I don’t love this part.”
“And the Coast Guard loves you, Dupre. I thought you deserved time to think of your options. Aren’t you from Florida?”
“Long ago and far away. I grew up in Boca, practically on the water, but I’ve been north for most of my Coast Guard career. And there’s no family left in Florida—it’s just me and Landon. And I only have one more year of him before he goes off to college, starts a new life.”
“You always have that option we’re not talking about, even if you can’t retire yet.”
“Resign my commission? I have no idea what I’d do outside of the Coast Guard,” she muttered, looking into her coffee cup.
“And I know that feeling, too,” he said.
She looked up and connected eyes with him. She gave a half smile—small wonder he’d been married twice, he was a good looking man. Blond, expressive brown eyebrows, strong, smart, and a set of choppers that would put Donny Osmond to shame. All this had earned him the nickname Buzz Lightyear. “Why do you have a mole in HR?” she asked.
“I can retire,” he said. “I want plenty of notice on the next assignment, which should be coming down the pipeline in about six months. I don’t want a new location or a promotion. I’d like to fly forever, I love helicopters and I love the C-130 even more. Captain means more desk time than flying time and I have kids in California and Alaska. I’m moving on, Dupre. In probably a year.”
“But what are you going to do?”
“I’m working on that. But I’ve been down this road, and I have twenty in; my decision is made. You’re the one who has decisions to make. Maybe there’s some family friends around who can keep Landon in this school for one more year?”
She shook her head. “There’s no one.”
The only ones who came to mind were Gina or Cooper. Gina was trying to start a new life with Mac, aka Deputy Yummy Pants, and had a small house crowded with her mother and sixteen-year old-daughter. And Cooper? Oh, as great a pal as he was for Landon, he wasn’t in the market for instant guardianship. “The Coast Guard has always been inconvenient,” she heard herself say. “Not a lot of stability. But the job made up for that most of the time.”
“Where does Landon stay when you sit alert overnight?”
“He’s pretty much okay on his own, as long as he has phone numbers. If I have a temporary assignment out of town, like simulator training or something, there’s this guy I’ve been seeing …. Local guy, civilian. He doesn’t mind Landon duty for a few days or a week, but trust me …”
“Guy?” Buzz said. “Guy? Why don’t I know about this guy? He some kind of perv?”
Sarah smiled in spite of herself. “Not in a bad way,” she said.
“How long has this been going on?”
She gave a shrug. “Six months or so.”
“You never bring him around. You protecting us from him or something?”
“I could be protecting him from you ….”
“Hm. Well bring him around sometime. Happy Hour or something. I just wanted you to have a head’s up on the assignments,” he said. “With any luck someone requests a relocation in the next couple of months—just the right person to just the right relocation …”
“Two of them?” she asked cynically.
“There are people who would kill for a chance like you have,” he said.
“I know,” she said. She could go far in the Coast Guard; Commander was a prestigious rank in a demanding service, and she’d earned it. She was only thirty-three. “I could quit, but I can’t retire ….” Quit and do what? There was the little matter of paying rent, buying food, making car and insurance payments … Tuition. She stood up. “Well thanks, boss. I guess.”
“Don’t panic,” he said. “Yet.”
Landon was only five when their parents were killed in an accident, spent one horrifying year with their mean, spinster aunt and then had spent the last ten years as her responsibility. She’d moved him five times, put him through a divorce from a man he’d grown attached to and now, just when he was happiest … No, she couldn’t do it yet, not until she had time to think it through.
She could tell Cooper. He loved her; he was proud of her. But he’d just put all his energy into setting up his local business, and she couldn’t give him the options of breaking it off with her now or leaving behind all that he’d acquired to follow her. She could tell that his new lifestyle not only suited him, he was very happy. Relaxed.
She hadn’t even made it home after work before Landon called her cell. “You going out to Cooper’s tonight?”
“Not tonight,” she said. “I have things to prepare for our inspection.”
“If Eve comes over for homework tonight, will it bother you?” he asked.
“Nope. I’ll take my paperwork to my bedroom. What are you cooking?” she asked.
He laughed at the joke. “Want me to pick up a pizza? I still have that twenty you left me.”
“I’ll make sloppy joes. Save the pizza money. I sit alert tomorrow night, and you’re on your own. And before you even ask, no, Eve cannot spend the night.”
“Damn,” he said, making her laugh.
She made the same excuse to Cooper, though he didn’t buy it as quickly. “Can’t you do your paperwork tomorrow night while you sit alert?”
“I have enough for both nights. We’re gearing up for a big inspection. I’ll see you in a couple of days. I mean, we’ll talk, but—”
But I have to work on my poker face.
“—But, I have the day off after my twenty-four at the station, and I’ll come out. If the sun’s shining, maybe I’ll take out my board.”
“I love it when you do that,” he said. “The ocean is more beautiful when you do that.”
© Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
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May 29, 2018
MIRA Reissue in Mass Market Paperback
The Summer That Made Us
Mothers and daughters, sisters and cousins—they lived for summers at the lake house until a tragic accident changed everything. The Summer That Made Us is an unforgettable story about a family learning to accept the past, to forgive and to love each other again.
That was then…
For the Hempsteads, two sisters who married two brothers and had three daughters each, summers were idyllic. The women would escape the city the moment school was out to gather at the family house on Lake Waseka. The lake was a magical place, a haven where they were happy and carefree. All of their problems drifted away as the days passed in sun-dappled contentment. Until the summer that changed everything.
This is now…
After an accidental drowning turned the lake house into a site of tragedy and grief, it was closed up. For good. Torn apart, none of the Hempstead women speak of what happened that summer, and relationships between them are uneasy at best to hurtful at worst. But in the face of new challenges, one woman is determined to draw her family together again, and the only way that can happen is to return to the lake and face the truth.
Robyn Carr has crafted a beautifully woven story about the complexities of family dynamics and the value of strong female relationships.
Originally published September 2017 in trade paperback and eBook.
Charlene Berkey was devastated. Her television career had come to an abrupt end. She should have been better prepared—the ratings had been falling and daytime talk shows were shrinking in popularity, but she thought her show would survive. The suits at the network kept telling her she’d be fine. Then, without warning, they canceled the show. They didn’t offer her any options. There wasn’t even a position available doing the weather. She was on the street, unemployed and feeling too old to compete at the age of forty-four.
The situation put a terrible strain on her relationship. Michael, typically such a sensitive man, didn’t seem to understand what this turn of events did to her self-esteem, her self-image. She felt overwhelmed, terrified and useless. She had no idea what the future held for her.
If all that wasn’t bad enough, her sister Megan was only forty-two and fighting stage-four breast cancer. Her most recent procedure to beat the monster was a bone marrow transplant and now all she could do was wait.
Charley made a quick decision. She wanted to use this time she suddenly had to be with her sister. She picked up her phone.
“I want to go to the lake house,” Meg said. “Like we used to when we were kids. I want to get up on one of those bright summer mornings, sit on the dock and watch the sun rise and the fish jump, and see those old fishermen floating out there with their lines cast, waiting for a catch. I want to spend the summer thinking about the way we were—six little blondes with bodies brown as berries. Half-naked, dirty as dogs, flushed and happy and healthy and strong. Our sleeping bags out on the porch, giggling late into the muggy summer nights.”
“While the mosquitoes ate us alive,” Charley said.
“I don’t remember being upset about mosquitoes as a kid.”
“You got it the worst,” Charley said. “You looked like you had chicken pox.”
“I want to spend the summer at the lake.”
“God, no! It’s not the place you remember,” Charley said. “It must be uninhabitable. It’s been years since the family abandoned it. It’s old, Meg. Old and neglected. It’s dying a slow death, I think.”
“That makes two of us,” she said.
“Please don’t say that,” Charley begged.
“John and I snuck up there once,” Meg said, speaking of her husband, a pediatrician to whom she’d been married for twelve years. They were like the perfect couple with the exception of a brief separation just a couple of years ago. “It looked kind of tired and it needs some work. But…oh, Charley, it brought back such wonderful memories. The house might’ve gone to hell like the rest of the family, but the lake is still so pretty, so peaceful.”
“It’s a long way from your doctor, from the hospital,” Charley said.
“Better still. I’m sick of both. I want to rest, have some peace.”
“And you think opening up that lake house against Mother’s express wishes will bring peace?” Charley asked.
“Guess what? I don’t give a shit, how’s that? Bunny died twenty-seven years ago. If Mother wants to suffer for the rest of her life, what can I do about it? It’s time Louise learned, not everything is about her.”
“She’s going to be impossible,” Charley said.
Megan laughed. “Do you care?”
“I don’t have a key,” Charley said, refusing to answer the question. “Do you?”
“You don’t need a key, Charley. Those windows on the porch aren’t even locked. Or the locks rotted away and are useless. We can get in and have the locks replaced.”
“She’ll have us arrested.”
“Her dying daughter? And her unemployed and homeless daughter?”
“You’re not dying! And I’m not exactly homeless—I’m just going to rent out my house so I can come and be with you.”
“You are unemployed…”
“That’s just for now,” she said. “I’m going to be with you until you turn a corner and start to get better. Stronger. Which you will.”
“At the lake,” Megan said. “Aw, jeez…”
“Admit it, you’re dying to go back. To the scene of the crime, so to speak. We might figure out a few things…”
“What’s there to figure out?” Charlene asked. “It was the perfect storm. Bunny drowned, I was already in trouble even if I didn’t know it, Uncle Roy was down to his hundredth second chance and blew town and Mother and Aunt Jo weren’t speaking. When they couldn’t help each other through the darkness the rest of the family went down like dominoes.”
“All precipitated by Bunny’s accident?” Meg sounded doubtful. “There was other stuff going on or else Mother would have accepted whatever comfort Aunt Jo could give. They were so close!”
“Jo didn’t have much to give just then,” Charley said. “Her husband ran off, leaving her penniless and heartbroken. Mother seemed to blame Aunt Jo. Mother has always found a handy person to blame. All of us kids struggled as a result but I’ve made my peace with it—we were a completely dysfunctional family that, God forbid, should get help.”
Charley had often wondered how they could have been saved from such utter disaster. It was obvious what went wrong—poor little Bunny, gone. But it remained a mystery how everything could go as wrong as it had. That was probably why she had been so successful in the talk show business—that search for answers. She’d had a San Francisco–based television talk show for a dozen years and, since she’d studied journalism and psychology, she’d favored guests who had in- sights into dysfunctional people and relationships. It had been a very popular show.
And it was now canceled. “I want to go back,” Meg said. “I want to see if I remember.”
There it is, Charley thought. Everyone in the family had their own response to Bunny’s sudden death and Megan’s was to forget. Most of that last summer at the lake didn’t happen in her mind. She had been only fifteen at the time. The doctor called it a nervous breakdown and completely understandable, given the circumstances. They hospitalized and medicated her. She didn’t stay in the hospital long, then came home and seemed her old self with one exception—she couldn’t remember almost a year of her life. Pieces came back over time but it wasn’t talked about.
The Berkey-Hempstead family was very good at not talking about things.
“Do you think if you go back to the lake for a while it will all come flooding back, after twenty-seven years?”
“No,” Meg said. “I think I’ll remember the golden days of summers there. I think I’ll remember what a happy childhood we had. For the most part. I think it will be healing. So relaxing and healthy. I want to hear the ducks, the boats on the lake, the children at the camp down the road, the naughty teenagers partying across the lake in that cove. Surely that’s still there, the cove.”
Charlene remembered partying on the beach at the cove around the bend from the lodge. She had been all of sixteen. “Hopefully someone built a great big house there,” she said. “Or a parking lot.”
“I hope it’s not very changed…”
“That’s what you really want?” Charley asked. “It’s all I want.”
Charley knew she had no choice because you don’t deny your only sister who has cancer anything. “I’ll have to go there,” she said. “Certainly things will have to be done to make it civilized. I’ll have to make sure the house is habitable. I should tell Michael our plans, talk with Eric…”
“Will Michael put up a stink about this?” Meg asked.
“I don’t know why he should. Of course I’ll have his complete support—he loves you. Maybe he’ll even steal a little time and come out for a visit, bring Eric.”
“Everything is all right with you and Michael, isn’t it?” Megan asked.
“Of course! Why would you ask that?”
“I don’t know,” Megan said. “You sounded uncomfortable when I asked about him.”
Charlene laughed. “Sorry. This is an odd time. I have no job, no place of my own, no idea what’s coming next. The only home I have is Michael’s house in Palo Alto. It shouldn’t be such an adjustment. But it is.”
“I bet you feel dependent for the first time in your life,” Megan suggested.
“Maybe that’s it,” she said. But that wasn’t it. She and Michael were fighting. They’d had a standoff. About marriage, of all things.
© Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
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Sullivan's Crossing Book # 3
April 17, 2018
The Family Gathering
The Family Gathering is the highly anticipated new novel in #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr’s Sullivan’s Crossing series. Readers have fallen in love with Sullivan’s Crossing and the characters who live there and will be delighted to spend time with their favorite people again. The rustic campground at the crossroads of the Colorado and Continental Divide trails welcomes everyone—whether you are looking for a relaxing escape or a whole new lease on life.
An exceptional storyteller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr beautifully captures the emotionally charged, complex dynamics that come with being part of any family. Readers will laugh and shed a few tears as they discover what it means to be loved, supported and accepted by the people who mean the most.
Having left the military, Dakota Jones is at a crossroads in his life. With his elder brother and youngest sister happily settled in Sullivan’s Crossing, he shows up hoping to clear his head before moving on to his next adventure. But, like every visitor to the Crossing, he’s immediately drawn to the down-to-earth people and the seemingly simple way of life.
Dakota is unprepared for how quickly things get complicated. As a newcomer, he is on everyone’s radar—especially the single women in town. While he enjoys the attention at first, he’s really only attracted to the one woman who isn’t interested. And spending quality time with his siblings is eye-opening. As he gets to know them, he also gets to know himself and what he truly wants.
When all the Jones siblings gather for a family wedding, the four adults are drawn together for the first time in a way they never were as children. As they struggle to accept each other, warts and all, the true nature and strength of their bond is tested. But all of them come to realize that your family are the people who see you for who you really are and love you anyway. And for Dakota, that truth allows him to find the home and family he’s always wanted.
Sullivan's Crossing Book # 2
February 20, 2018
Any Day Now
Sullivan’s Crossing is a rustic campground at the crossroads of the Colorado and Continental Divide trails that welcomes everyone—whether you need a weekend getaway or a whole new lease on life. It’’s a wonderful place where good people face their challenges with humor, strength and love.
For Sierra Jones, Sullivan’s Crossing is meant to be a brief stopover. She’s put her troubled past behind her but the path forward isn’t yet clear. A visit with her big brother Cal and his new bride, Maggie, seems to be the best option to help her get back on her feet.
Not wanting to burden or depend on anyone, Sierra is surprised to find the Crossing offers so much more than a place to rest her head. Cal and Maggie welcome her into their busy lives and she quickly finds herself bonding with Sully, the quirky campground owner who is the father figure she’s always wanted. But when her past catches up with her, it’s a special man and an adorable puppy who give her the strength to face the truth and fight for a brighter future. In Sullivan’s Crossing Sierra learns to cherish the family you are given and the family you choose.
Originally published April 2017 in hardcover and eBook.
SO, THIS IS WHAT A NEW LIFE LOOKS LIKE. SIERRA
Jones opened her eyes on a sunny Colorado morning to that thought.
She had given this a great deal of consideration. Colorado had not been her only option but she decided it might be the best one. Her brother Cal, with whom she shared a deep bond, was making a life here and he wanted her to be part of it. Sierra needed a new place to start over. A place with no bad memories, where she had no history and yet, had a strong emotional connection. Her big brother was a powerful pull.
When she was a child, it was Cal who’d protected her, loved her unconditionally, cared for her, worried on her behalf. He was eight years older but had been more than just her brother. He had been her best friend. And when he’d left home, or what passed for home when she was ten years old, she’d been adrift. When she’d finally made up her mind to give this place a chance, Cal wanted her to come directly to his house. His house in progress, that is. But that didn’t sound like a good idea; there was only one bedroom finished so far. And, more important—she wouldn’t be a burden to anyone, and absolutely did not want to be in the way of a new couple who were just feeling their way into marriage. Cal and Maggie had been married less than six months and were living in the barn they were converting into a house. Sierra thanked them kindly and said she’d prefer to find her own lodgings and live on her own. A very important part of creating a new life was independence. She did not want to be accountable to anyone but herself.
That’s what she’d told them. The truth, hidden protectively in her heart, was that she was afraid to depend on Cal again as she had when she was a little girl. He had a new family, after all. She remembered too well the pain from her childhood when he’d abandoned her. It was awful.
Independence was a little frightening. But, she reminded herself, she did have her brother near and willing to lend a hand if she needed anything, just as she was more than eager to be there for Cal and Maggie. She was thirty years old and it was high time she built a life that reflected the new woman she was becoming. This was a joyful, challenging, exciting and terrifying change. If a little lonely at times…
She had a short checklist of things she wanted to settle for herself before seeing Cal. First—she wanted to look around the area. Timberlake was the town closest to where her brother and Maggie lived and she thought it was adorable. It was a little touristy, a little on the Wild West side with its clapboard shop fronts and Victorian-style houses, surrounded by the beauty of snow-topped mountains and long, deep fields. The first day she spent in the small town there was a herd of elk cantering down the main street. One big bull was bugling at the cows and calves, herding them away from the town and back to grazing land. They were at once majestic and klutzy, wandering in a little confusion through the cars. An old guy standing in front of a barbershop explained to her that with spring, they were moving to higher elevations, cows were giving birth, grazing was found in different areas. And in the fall, he said, watch out for rutting season. “Those bulls get real territorial.”
That was all it took for Sierra to begin to hope this would be the right place for her, because her heart beat a little faster just watching that grand herd move through town. The old guy had said, “You don’t see that every day.”
She’d found a comfortable, clean, cheap hostel that would let her pay by the week and they were just starting to get an influx of students and adventurers who wanted to take advantage of the Colorado springtime. She’d have to share a bathroom, but it wouldn’t be the first time; she wasn’t fussy and it would make decent housing until she could find something more permanent. The owner of the hostel, a woman in her sixties called Midge, had said there were rooms and apartments being let by local homeowners all over town.
The best part about the hostel—there were people around, yet she would be on her own.
She’d found a part-time job right away—the diner needed early-morning waitstaff help a couple days a week. They’d lost their main morning waitress and the owner’s wife had been filling in. As it happened, Sierra loved the early morning. The money wasn’t great but it was enough to keep her comfortable and she had a little savings.
The most important thing she’d researched before coming to Colorado was locations and times of AA meetings. She even had an app for her phone. There were regularly scheduled meetings everywhere. In Timberlake and in all the small towns surrounding it from Breckinridge to Colorado Springs. They were usually held in churches but there were some in community centers, in office buildings, hospitals and even clubhouses. She would never be without support.
Sierra was nine months sober.
Sierra had reconnected with Cal about seven months ago, right before he and Maggie married. He’d visited her twice since and called her regularly. He’d begun lobbying for her move to Colorado a few months ago. For the eight years previous they’d been in touch but not much a part of each other’s lives and for that she had regrets. Those years had been especially difficult for Cal; the past five years had been brutal. His first wife, Lynne, had suffered from scleroderma, a painful, fatal disease, and had passed away three years ago. Cal had been a lost soul. If she’d been a better sister, she might’ve offered her support.
But that was in the past and the future was her opportunity. She hoped they could rebuild the close relationship they’d once had and become family again. Right before she’d started the long trek south to Colorado, Cal had shared a secret—he was going to be a father.
Sierra was thrilled for him. He would never know how much she looked forward to a baby. She would be an auntie. Since she would never have children of her own, this was an unexpected gift.
Cal Jones lay back against the pillows, his fingers laced behind his head, sheet drawn to his waist. He watched Maggie preen naked in front of the full-length mirror, checking her profile.
“We got a thing going on…me and Mrs. Jones…” he said, his voice husky.
She really didn’t show much yet. Just the tiniest curve where her waist had been. She kept smoothing her hand over it. “I passed the dreaded first three months with no issues,” she said. She beamed at him, her eyes alive. “I’m not sick. I feel great. I’m going to tell my dad it’s okay to tell his friends now.”
“Don’t be too surprised if you find he already has.” “I wouldn’t be at all surprised.”
He watched her with pride. Thin as a reed with that little bump that he put there, her smile wistful and almost angelic. She wanted the baby as much as he did; she thrilled with each day it grew in her. This baby had healed something in her. And it filled him with a new hope. She was more beautiful now than she’d ever been.
“Mrs. Jones, you have to either get dressed or come over here and do me.”
She laughed. “I already did you. Magnificently, I might add.” “I said thank you.”
She reached for her underwear, then her jeans, then her sweatshirt. The show was over. Now he’d have to wait all day to have her alone again.
“It’s time for you to get to work—I need a house. Tom will be here anytime. I’m going over to Sully’s store,” Maggie said. There was much cleanup and restoration to do at her dad’s general store and campground at Sullivan’s Crossing. It was the first of March, and it wouldn’t be long before the campers and hikers started coming in force.
Cal and Maggie were living in the barn they were renovating into a big house with the guidance of Tom Canaday, a local with some amazing carpentry and other building skills. Tom had good subcontractors to help, speeding up the process. Maggie and Cal had married last October and, while the roof and exterior were being reinforced and sealed, dormers added to what were once haylofts, the wiring refreshed, the interior gutted and windows installed where there had been none, they’d been living at Sully’s, in his basement. Tom, Cal and a few extra hands had finally finished off a bedroom and functional bath- room along with a semifunctional kitchen. That bedroom on the ground floor would eventually be Cal’s office when the house was finished. The proper master bedroom would be up- stairs. They had a good seal on their temporary bedroom door so they could sleep there and not be overcome by sawdust or the dirt of construction. They’d been in residence two weeks, thanks to warmer weather and a good space heater.
Maggie spent most of her free time at the store helping her dad. Then there were those three or four days a week she was in Denver where she practiced neurosurgery. On her practice days she stayed at the Denver house she’d owned for several years. During her days away, Cal and Tom did the things that were noisiest, smelliest and messiest—the pounding and sawing, cutting granite and quartz, applying the noxious sealer, installing the floors, sanding and staining. Every time Maggie came home it was like Christmas—she’d find new stairs to the second floor, a bathtub, a new kitchen sink, ceramic tile on the kitchen floor, half a fireplace. But the most precious addition of all was the Shop-Vac. That little beauty kept dirt, sawdust, spillage and debris manageable. It was their goal to have the house finished before the baby came, due in October.
Tom Canaday was at the house, his truck backed up to the door, before Cal had finished making Maggie breakfast—very likely by design. Cal got the eggs back out and started making more breakfast.
Tom brought his twenty-year-old son, Jackson; something he did whenever Jackson had a day free of classes. In the cavernous great room they sat at a long picnic table. Tom had thrown it together and it became the table they ate at, spread plans on, used as a carpenter’s bench, a desk when they held meetings. They met with subcontractors there, spread material samples or design renderings on it, looked through catalogs. It was truly multipurpose.
Once Maggie had gone to Sullivan’s Crossing, the men were still seated at the picnic table, finishing a second cup of coffee when there was a knock at the door.
© Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
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Thunder Point Book # 1
December 26, 2017
Discover #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr’s popular Thunder Point—a heartfelt series that will make you laugh, make you sigh and make you fall in love with a small town filled with people you’ll never forget.
Nestled on the Oregon coast is a small town of rocky beaches and rugged charm. Locals love the land’s unspoiled beauty. Developers see it as a potential gold mine. When newcomer Hank Cooper learns he’s been left an old friend’s entire beachfront property, he finds himself with a community’s destiny in his hands.
Cooper has never been a man to settle in one place, and Thunder Point was supposed to be just another quick stop. But Cooper finds himself getting involved with the town. And with Sarah Dupre, a woman as complicated as she is beautiful.
With the whole town watching for his next move, Cooper has to choose between his old life and a place full of new possibilities. A place that just might be home.
Originally published April 2013 in mass market paprback and eBook.
Cooper stopped at the first outlook over the ocean and parked. His phone showed five bars, and he dialed up the Sheriff’s Department. “Hello,” he said to the call taker. “My name is Hank Cooper, and I’m on my way to Thunder Point following a call from someone saying my friend, Ben Bailey, is dead. Apparently he left something for me, but that’s not why I’m headed your way. The message I got was that Ben was killed, and there were no details. I want to talk to the Sheriff. Preferably, see the Sheriff when I talk to him. I need some answers.”
“Hold, please,” she said.
Well, that wasn’t what he expected. He figured he’d leave a number and eat his lunch while he waited.
“Deputy McCain,” said the new voice on the line.
“Hank Cooper here, Deputy,” he said, and in spite of himself, he straightened and squared his shoulders. He’d always been resistant to authority, yet he also responded to it. “I’m a friend of Ben Bailey and on my way into town to find out what happened to him.”
“Mr. Cooper, Ben Bailey’s been deceased for more than a couple of weeks.”
“I gather that. I just found out. Some old guy—Rawley someone —found a phone number and called me. He was killed, Rawley said. Dead and buried. I want to know what happened to him. He was my friend.”
“I can give you the details in about ninety seconds . . . .”
But Cooper wanted to look him in the eye when he heard the tale. “If you’ll give me directions, I’ll come to the Sheriff’s Department.”
“Well, that’s not necessary. I can meet you at the bar,” the deputy said.
“Ben’s. I guess you weren’t a close friend.”
“We go back fifteen years but this is my first trip up here. We were supposed to meet with a third buddy from the Army in Virgin River for some hunting. Ben always said he had a bait shop.”
“I’d say he sold a lot more Wild Turkey than bait. You know where it is?”
“Only sort of,” Cooper said.
“101 to Gibbons Road, head west. About four miles down Gibbons, look for a homemade sign that says Cheap Drinks. Turn left onto Bailey Pass. It curves down the hill. You’ll run right into Bailey’s. When do you think you’ll get there?”
“I just crossed into Oregon from California,” he said. “I’m pulling a fifth wheel. Couple of hours?”
“More like three. I’ll meet you there if nothing interferes. Is this your cell number?”
“It is,” he said.
“You’ll have good reception on the coast. I’ll give you a call if I’m held up.”
“Thanks, Deputy….what was it?”
“McCain. See you later, Mr. Cooper.”
Cooper signed off, slipped the phone into his jacket pocket and got out of the truck. He put his lunch on the hood and leaned against the truck, looking out at the northern Pacific Ocean. He’d been all over the world, and this was his first trip to the Oregon coast. The beach was rocky, and there were two-story boulders sticking out of the water. A low flying orange and white helicopter flew over the water—a Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin, search and rescue.
For a moment he had a longing to be back in a chopper, surprised it was only a moment. Once he got this business about Ben straightened out, he might get to the chore of looking for a flying job. He’d done a number of things air-related after the Army; the most recent was flying to off-shore oil rigs out of the Corpus Christi port. That job had really soured for him after an oil spill. He hated the thought of going back to work for an oil company.
His head turned as he followed the Coast Guard chopper across the water. He’d never considered the USCG. He was more inclined to avoid off-shore storms than to fly right into them to pluck someone out of a wild sea.
He took a couple of swallows of his drink and a big bite of his sandwich, vaguely aware of a number of vehicles pulling into the outlook parking area. People were getting out of their cars and trucks and moving to the edge of the viewing area with binoculars and cameras. Personally, Coop didn’t really think all these mountainous boulders covered with bird shit worthy of a picture, even with the orange chopper flying over them. Hovering over them . . . .
The waves crashed against the big rocks with deadly power, and the wind was really kicking up. He knew only too well how dicey hovering in wind conditions like that could be. And so close to the rocks. If anything went wrong, that helicopter might not be able to recover in time to avoid the boulders or crashing surf. Could get ugly.
Then a man in a harness emerged from the helicopter, dangling on a cable. That’s when Cooper saw what the other motorists had seen before him. He put down his sandwich and dove into the truck, grabbing for the binoculars in the central compartment. He honed in on that boulder, a good forty or fifty feet tall, and what had been two specs he recognized as two human beings. One was on top of the rock, squatting to keep from being blown over in the wind, the other clinging to the face of the rock. And now, thanks to the binoculars, he could see a small boat was floating away from the rock.
Rock climbers? They both wore what appeared to be wet suits under their climbing gear. There was a stray rope anchored to the rock and flapping in the breeze. The man who squatted on top of the boulder had issues with not only the crosswind but the helicopter’s rotor wash. And if the pilot couldn’t keep his aircraft stable, that EMT or rescue swimmer who dangled from the cable could start to swing and slam into the rock.
“Easy, easy, easy,” he muttered to the crew.
The emergency medical tech grabbed onto the wall of the rock beside the stranded climber, stabilized himself with an anchor in the stone, and held there for a minute. Then the climber hoisted himself off the wall of the rock and onto the EMT, piggy back to the front of the harnessed rescuer, both of them pulled immediately up to the copter via the cable. They were quickly pulled within.
“Yeah,” he whispered. Good job! He’d like to know the weight of that pilot’s balls—that was some fancy flying. And that was the hard part. Rescuing the guy up top was going to be less risky for all involved. The chopper backed away from the rock slightly while victim number one was pulled inside and presumably stabilized. Then, slowly edging near the rock once more, hovering there, a rescue basket was deployed. The climber on top waited until the basked was right there before he stood, grabbed it and literally fell inside. As he was being pulled up, motorists around Cooper cheered.
Before the climber was pulled all the way into the chopper, the small craft that had gotten away from them crashed against the mountainous boulder and broke into pieces. It left nothing but debris on the water. These guys must have taken a small boat out to the rock, tried to anchor it on a side that wasn’t battered by big waves so they could climb up, then climb back down to their boat. Once the boat was lost, so were they.
Who called the Coast Guard? Probably one of them, from a cell phone. Likely the one on top who wasn’t hanging on for dear life.
Everyone safely inside the helicopter, it rose, banked, and shot away out to sea.
Cooper found himself thinking, And that, ladies and gentlemen, concludes our matinee for today. Join us again tomorrow for another show. As the other motorists slowly departed, Coop finished his sandwich, then got back on 101 heading north.
It was a good thing Cooper’s GPS was up to date and followed the deputy’s directions, because Gibbons Road was unmarked. It was a very narrow two lane that went switchback style down a steep hill. It then hit a turn off, but there was only a sign and arrow pointing left, Cheap Drinks. Very classy, he found himself thinking. Ben had never been known as what Cooper’s southern grandmother had called “High Cotton.”
From that sign, however, he could see the lay of the land, and it was beautiful. It was a very wide inlet or bay that stretched like a U settled deeply into a high, rocky coastline. He could see Ben’s place, a single building with a wide deck and stairs leading down to a dock and the beach. Stretching out toward the ocean beyond Ben’s place was a completely uninhabited promontory. On the opposite side of the beach was a marina and a town. There, too, was a promontory that stretched out toward the ocean. However, there were houses all the way out to the point with what Cooper could only imagine to be a drop dead view. The town was built from the marina straight up the hill in what appeared to be steppes. He could see the streets from where he was parked. That would be Thunder Point. Between Ben’s place and the town, only the wide, expansive beach. Looking down, he could see a woman in a red hooded jacket and a big dog walking along the beach. She repeatedly threw a stick; the dog kept returning it. The dog was big, black and white and had legs like an Arabian colt.
He sat there a moment, thinking about anyone taking advantage of those cheap drinks and then getting back up to 101 on this road. It should be named suicide trail.
The sun was shining, and Cooper was reminded of one of Ben’s emails describing his home. Oregon is mostly wet and cold all winter, but there’s one part around Bandon and Coos Bay that’s moderate almost year round, sunny more often than stormy. But when the storms come into Thunder Point over the ocean, it’s like one of the Seven Wonders. The bay is protected by the hills and stays calm, keeping the fishing boats safe, but those thunder clouds can be spectacular . . . .
Then he saw not one but two eagles circling over the point on Ben’s side of the beach. It was a rare and beautiful sight.
He proceeded to the parking lot, not entirely surprised to find the Sheriff’s Department SUV already there and the deputy sitting inside, apparently writing something. He was out of the car and striding toward Cooper just a few seconds later. Cooper sized him up—this was a young man, probably mid-thirties. He was tall, sandy-haired, blue eyed, broad shouldered—about what you’d expect.
Cooper extended a hand. “Sheriff.”
“Sheriff’s Deputy, actually. The County Sheriff’s office is in Coquille. This is a satellite office with a few deputies assigned. Thunder Point is small, coastal, and there’s a constable but no other local law enforcement. The constable handles small disputes, evictions, that sort of thing. The county jail is in Coquille. And, Mr. Cooper, I’m sorry for your loss.”
“What happened to him?”
“He was found at the foot of the stairs to the cellar, where he kept the bait tanks. Ben lived here—he had a couple of rooms over the bar. The doors weren’t locked, but I don’t think Ben ever locked up. There were no obvious signs of foul play, but the case was turned over to the coroner. Nothing was missing, not even the cash. The coroner ruled it an accident.”
“But the guy who called me said he’d been killed,” Cooper said.
“I think Rawley was upset. He was kind of insistent that Ben couldn’t take a fall, but he’d had a couple of drinks. Not nearly the legal limit, but he could’ve tripped. Hell, I’ve been known to trip on no alcohol at all. Rawley found him, and the money was still in its hiding place. Ben kept the money in a cash drawer in the cooler. It was intact. The thing is,” the deputy said, scratching the back of his neck. “Time of death was put at two a.m., Ben was in his boxers, and Rawley insisted there’s no reason he’d get out of bed on the second floor and head for the cellar in the middle of the night. And Rawley might be right—except this could have been the night Ben heard a noise and was headed for the beach. Just in case you’re wondering, there is no surveillance video. In fact, the only place in town that actually has a surveillance camera is the bank. Ben has had one or two characters over the years, but never any real trouble; never been robbed.”
“You don’t think it’s possible someone who knew the place decided to rob it after midnight? When Ben was vulnerable?”
“Most of Ben’s customers were regulars or heard about it from regulars—weekend bikers, sports fishermen, that sort. Ben didn’t do a huge business, but he did all right.”
“On bait and Wild Turkey?”
The deputy actually chuckled. “Bait, deli, small bar, Laundromat, cheap souvenirs and fuel. I’d say of all those things, the bar and deli probably did the lion’s share of the business.”
Coop looked around the deputy’s frame. “Fuel?”
“Down on the dock. For boats. Ben used to let some of his customers or neighbors moor alongside the dock. Sometimes the wait at the marina got a little long and Ben didn’t mind if people helped themselves. Oh, he also has a tow truck that’s parked in town, but he doesn’t advertise it. Since he died and the place has been locked up, the boats have found other docks—probably the marina. There was no next of kin, Mr. Cooper.”
“Who is this Rawley? The guy who called me?”
The deputy scrubbed off his hat and scratched his head. “You say you were good friends?”
“For fifteen years. I knew he was raised by his dad, that they had a bar and bait shop on the coast. We met in the Army. He was a helicopter mechanic and everyone called him Gentle Ben. He was the sweetest man who ever lived, all six foot six of him. I can’t imagine him standing up to a robber—not only would he hand over the money, he’d invite the guy to dinner.”
“Well there you go, you might not have had the more recent facts, but you knew him all right. That’s the thing that makes everyone lean toward accident. That, and the lack of evidence to the contrary. No one would have to hurt Ben for a handout. You don’t know about Rawley?”
Cooper just shook his head.
“A vet with some challenging PTSD issues that Ben came across and gave work. Rawley Goode is around sixty, lives down the coast where he takes care of his elderly father, sort of. He’s not real good around people. He helped out here, cleaned, stocked, ran errands, that sort of thing. He could serve if no one expected conversation; people around here were used to him. I think he might’ve been homeless when Ben met him, but his father has lived around here a long time. Interesting guy, not that I can say I know him. So—Rawley found Ben and there wasn’t anyone to contact.”
“Are you sure Rawley didn’t push him down the stairs?”
“Rawley’s a skinny little guy. The coroner didn’t find any evidence to suggest Ben had been pushed. And Rawley. He was dependent on Ben. Don’t worry—the town gave Ben a decent send off. He was well liked. There are better bars around here to hang out in, but people liked Ben.”
“Yeah, I liked him too,” Cooper said, looking down. “There must’ve been a will or something. Rawley wasn’t the most articulate guy on the phone, but he said Ben left something for me. Could be old pictures from our Army days or something. Who do you suppose I should see about that?”
“I’ll make a few calls, check into that for you.”
“Appreciate it. And maybe you could suggest a place to hook up the fifth wheel?”
“There are several decent spots along the coast for tourists—Coos Bay is a nice area. You planning to hang around?”
Cooper gave a shrug. “Maybe a few days, just long enough to talk to some of the folks who knew Ben, pick up whatever he left for me. I want to pay my respects, just want people to know—he had good friends. We didn’t get together a lot and it sounds like I didn’t get a lot of inside information from Ben, but we were always in touch. And since I came all this way, I want to hear about him—about how people got on with him. You know?”
“I think I understand. The place is locked up—no one would care if you sat here for a while, while you look around at other possibilities. No hook up for your trailer, but you’d be fine for a couple of days.”
“Thanks, maybe I’ll do that. Not a bad view.”
The deputy put out his hand. “I gotta run. You have my number.”
“Thank you, Deputy McCain.”
“Roger McCain, but hardly anyone remembers that. Folks tend to call me Mac.”
“Nice meeting you, Mac. Thanks for helping out with this.”
Sarah walked with Hamlet, her Great Dane, down the street to the diner. She looped his leash around the lamppost and went inside, pulling off her gloves. This was one of the things she loved about this little town, that there was always somewhere to stop and chat for a few minutes. She wasn’t well known around here, had only lived here a few months, but by the way she was treated by her new and casual friends, it was as if she’d been here quite a while. If she wasn’t working, she liked to take Ham down to the beach and stop off at the diner on her way home. Apparently she wasn’t the only one—there was always a large bowl of water for dogs by that lamppost. Twin benches on either side of the diner’s front door frequently seated one or two old guys, passing time.
Gina James was behind the counter; Gina took care of almost everything at the diner except the cooking. There was another waitress at night and a couple of part time girls, but it was a pretty small shop. Gina’s mother, Carrie, was sitting on a stool at the counter, her friend Lou McCain seated beside her. Carrie owned the deli across the street and Lou was a school teacher who helped out with her nephew’s kids when she wasn’t teaching. Two of the said kids were in a booth eating fries and drinking colas, an after school treat.
Sarah said, “Hey,” and all three women said, “Hey,” right back.
“Something to drink? Eat?” Gina asked her.
“Could I have a water, please? And how is everyone?”
“What can I say, it’s Friday,” Lou said. “I won’t be seeing the little bast— er, darlings, till Monday morning.”
Sarah laughed at her. “You’re going to heaven for it.”
“If I died and went to hell, they’d have me teaching junior high,” Carrie said.
“You have a day off?” Gina asked Sarah.
“For Landon’s football game. I’m sitting alert Saturday and Sunday, that’s the price I pay for it.”
“But no one gives you any trouble about it, do they?”
“Nah. They like weekends off as much as anyone. And I’ll gladly fly weekends if I don’t have to miss Landon’s games. It’s not as though I have any other social life.”
Carrie leaned her elbow on the diner. “Wish I was something exciting, like a pilot.”
“Tell me about it,” Lou said.
Before Gina could weigh in the door to the diner opened, the bell tinkling to announce Ray Anne in her version of the Realtor’s business suit — too short, too tight, too much boobage. She scowled. “Sarah, that dog should be on a leash!”
“He is, Ray Anne.” She leaned back on her stool to look out the glass of the door. “He’s all hooked up.”
She wiped at her purple skirt. “He still managed to get me with that awful mouth of his.”
“Well, Ray Anne, you’re just so edible looking,” Lou said.
“Ha ha. Well, you’ll never guess what I just saw! The most gorgeous man—out at Ben’s place. He was built like a brick you know what—worn jeans, torn in all the right places, plain old T-shirt under a leather jacket. One of those flying jackets, you know, Sarah. Driving one of those testosterone trucks, pulling a trailer . . . . Handsome face, maybe a dimple, scratchy little growth on his cheeks and chin. He was talking to Mac. It was like an ad for Calvin Klein.”
“What were you doing out at Ben’s?” Lou asked.
“I wasn’t out there. I was checking on a rental up the hill two blocks. You know—that old Maxwell place.”
“Then how’d you see the tears in his jeans and his stubble?”
Ray Anne dipped a manicured hand into her over-sized purse and pulled out her binoculars. She smiled conspiratorially and gave her head a toss. Her short blond hair didn’t move.
“Clever,” Lou said. “Man watching taken to the next level. How old is this hunk of burning love?”
“Irrelevant,” Ray Anne said. “I wonder what he’s doing here. I heard Ben had no next of kin. You don’t suppose cuddly old Ben was hiding a handsome brother? No, no, that would be cruel.”
“Why?” Sarah asked.
“Because Ray Anne would love a shot at selling that property of Ben’s,” Carrie said.
“That’s not true,” Ray Anne protested. “You know me, I only want to help if I can.”
“And bag a single man or two while you’re at it,” Lou said.
Ray Anne stiffened slightly. “A purely heterosexual notion, Louise,” she said. “One you might not be familiar with.” And as the Sheriff’s Department patrol car passed slowly down the street, Ray Anne said, “Oh, there’s Deputy Yummy Pants—I’m going to go ask him what’s going on. If I can get past the dog!”
And out the door she wiggled.
“Deputy Yummy Pants?” Sarah asked with a laugh in her voice.
“The teenage girls around town call him that,” Lou explained drily. “I don’t recommend it. He hates it. Gets him all pissy. I should tell you what kind of pants Ms Realtor of the Year has. Maybe Busy Pants.”
Carrie’s lips quirked. “She suggested you don’t quite get the whole heterosexual pull. Louise.”
Lou had a sarcastic twist to her lips when she said, “If she turns up dead, can I count on you girls for an alibi?” Then she turned and called to her niece and nephew. “Hey, kids. Let’s make tracks.” To her friends she said, “I’m going to beat Yummy Pants home. Betcha I get more out of him that Busy Pants does.”
Once home, Sarah Dupre hung her red slicker on the peg in the mud room just in time to see her younger brother, Landon, coming toward the back door with his duffle full of football gear. “Hey,” she said. “I didn’t expect to see you.”
“I came home to get a couple of things and grab a sandwich,” he said. He bent to pet the dog. He didn’t have to bend far—Ham was tall. “Gotta get going.”
“Wait a sec,” she said.
“What?” he asked, still petting the dog.
“For Pete’s sake, can you look at me?” she asked. And when he straightened, heavy duffle over one shoulder, she gasped. There was a bruise on his cheekbone.
“Practice,” he said. “It’s nothing.”
“You don’t practice on game day.”
“Yeah, well, I hope I don’t get in trouble for that. A couple of us went out to run some plays, some passes, and I got nailed. It was an accident.”
“You were practicing without a helmet?” she asked.
“Sarah, it’s nothing. It’s a small bruise. I could’ve gotten it running into an open locker. Lighten up so you don’t make me look like a girl. Are you going to the game?”
“Of course I’m going. Why couldn’t you be into Chess or something? Choir? Band? Something that didn’t involve bodies crashing into each other?”
He grinned at her, that handsome grin that had once belonged to their deceased father. “You get enough sleep without me boring you to death,” he said. “Why couldn’t you just be a flight attendant or something?”
She took a breath. He had her there. She flew Search and Rescue with the Coast Guard. There were those occasions that were risky. Edgy. And admittedly, that was part of what she loved best about it. “I trust you’ll be wearing your helmet tonight?”
“Funny. It should be a good game. Raiders are a good match. They’re a good team.”
“Does it hurt?” she asked, touching her own cheek.
“Nah, it’s really nothing, Sarah. See you later.”
She suppressed the urge to beg him to be careful. He was a big kid, already six feet and muscled at sixteen; he was a beautiful specimen. She was his guardian and family. It was just the two of them. She sometimes wanted to just enfold him in her arms and keep him safe, yet when she watched him play, the thrill made her scream. He was a great athlete; she’d heard he was the best quarterback they’d seen in a long time here in Thunder Point.
For the millionth time she hoped bringing him here had been a good decision. He’d been happy in the North Bend high school last year, had barely found his footing, his friends, when she moved them. She just couldn’t bear the same town with her ex, in the home they had shared.
She’d moved them so often . . . .
She put out her arms as if to hug him. Retracted her arms—he didn’t want mush now. Not now that he was a man. Her arms lifted toward him of their own accord and she held back.
“All right,” he said, patiently. “Get it over with.”
She wrapped her arms around him; he gave her a one-armed hug back. Then he grinned at her again. He had absolutely no idea how handsome he was, which made him even more attractive.
“Play your little heart out, bud,” she said. “And do not get hurt.”
“Don’t worry. I’m fast.”
“You going out after the game?” she asked.
“I dunno. Depends on how tired I am.”
Sarah laughed. “When I was your age, I was never too tired to go out. So, if you go out, midnight would be nice. No later than one, for sure. Are we on the same page here?”
He laughed at her. “Same page, boss.”
But as she knew, he seldom went out after a game.
© Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
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Virgin River Novella December 11, 2017
Come back to Virgin River for New Year’s Eve in this classic holiday romance from #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr.
In Virgin River, holiday kisses don’t end with Christmas—there’s still the inaugural New Year’s Eve party at Jack’s Bar to attend. Locals and newcomers alike find themselves eager for that special countdown…and that midnight kiss.
Drew Foley and Sunny Archer are each visiting Virgin River for the holidays. Sunny was dumped at the altar the previous New Year’s Eve and is in no mood to celebrate. But her uncle and his fiancée drag her to Jack’s Bar. Drew, getting over his own heartbreak, sees Sunny across the crowded room and he’s instantly smitten.
As the townspeople gather, two lonely revelers decide the best balm for their broken hearts might just be each other.
Originally published November 2010 within Midnight Kiss anthology and November 2014 within ‘Tis The Season anthology in mass market paperback and eBook and November 2015 as a standalone eBook.
Virgin River Novella November 13, 2017
Under the Christmas Tree
Complete your Virgin River collection with this classic Christmas novella from #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr. There’s no better gift than the thrill of a holiday romance…
With snow falling over the redwood forests, secluded Virgin River is the ideal place to spend the holidays. Each year, the close-knit community gathers in the town square to decorate and light a massive tree. Carols are sung, hot chocolate is shared—and this time a surprise is left under the Christmas tree!
When the folks of the town discover a box of adorable puppies abandoned under the tree, they call on local vet Nathaniel Jensen for help. The puppies are the talk of Virgin River, but it’s Nate’s budding romance with Annie McCarty that really has tongues—and tails—wagging
Originally published October 2009 within That Holiday Feeling anthology in mass market paperback; June 2012 in eBook; Novemer 2014 within ’Tis the Season anthology in mass market paperback and eBook; and November 2015 as a standalone eBook.