Shattered by her husband’s infidelities after twenty-five years of marriage, Sam Collins is plagued by constant fear and loneliness, reliving the tragic death of her parents and the betrayal by the man she loved. She leaves Seattle seeking relief from the relentless darkness that has swallowed her. With only her dog for companionship, she sets out to live in her vacation home on San Juan Island.
In her search for a carpenter, she meets the handsome and very available, Jeff Cooper. Sam’s not looking for romance, but can’t deny the attraction to the retired firefighter, turned handyman. While working together and eating her pies, Jeff finds himself falling for her.
The past she wrestles to let go of comes hurtling back when she least expects it. In an effort to help a struggling young man, she is forced to confront the anguish she is desperate to escape. While torn between love and friendship, she must face her fears and choose between the life she’s known and a chance for a family and home she’s been longing for all her life.
Targeted Age Group:: 40+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I visited the San Juan Islands a few times and fell in love with the beauty of the area. While I was on the ferry I saw a woman with a dog and the story sprouted from that encounter.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My main character, Sam, is a woman approaching middle-age and I had her in mind based on my idea of a woman fleeing the big city and a successful career for a change of scenery. I set about creating a “community” of characters who she would meet on the island. This is the first book in the series, so the reader is introduced to the setting and some of the characters who continue throughout the series. This required thinking ahead and planning the subsequent books to some extent.
The beauty of the islands and the calm water comforted Sam. She gently petted her golden retriever, Zoe, as she gazed at the vista and felt the hum of the ferry engine. The sun glistened off the water and a breeze ruffled Zoe’s fur. Deceived by the sunshine, Sam wrapped her cashmere scarf tighter around her neck, as a gust of cold air crept under her baggy coat. She walked Zoe to the railing and the sight of the lush green swells of land made her think of long ago summers. She always loved the trip from the coast of Washington to the San Juan Islands. It was a trip she had made every June as a child, but this trip wasn’t a vacation. Sam was escaping to Friday Harbor.
As she looked down, the dark waters churned memories of the past year and her shoulders slumped as her head lolled forward, eyes fixated on the roiling sea. She gripped Zoe’s leash and led her to an empty bench. She reached down to pet her head and noticed the white line on her finger where her ring had been and glimpsed a new age spot on the back of her hand. She shook her head with disgust as she touched the brown dot, hoping it would rub off. Longing for solitude, she was thankful when she looked around and saw only one older woman standing at the railing. She settled in on the worn wooden seat, her eyes fluttered to stay open as the motion of the ferry lulled her. She felt Zoe stir and sensed a shadow.
The older lady she had noticed earlier was standing over her. “May I sit with you, dear?”
Sam nodded and motioned to the large empty bench. She angled her body away from the woman and shut her eyes again, praying the woman would take the hint and leave her alone.
“I love your dog and she’s so well behaved,” commented the woman.
Sam smiled and Zoe turned and gave the woman her irresistible doggie face.
“What brings you to the island? Are you visiting family?”
Sam opened her eyes and took a breath. “No, we’re moving to the island.”
“Oh, how exciting. Where are you moving from?”
She turned to face the woman, noticing her sparkling eyes and happy smile. It was obvious the woman was going to continue to chat. “I’m from Seattle, but we have a vacation home on San Juan Island.”
“That sounds lovely. Is your husband meeting you?”
“No,” Sam looked down at her lap. “We got divorced last year, so now it’s just me. And Zoe,” she said patting the dog’s head.
“I’m sorry. That can be difficult. Do you have children?”
Sam slumped further as she shook her head, “No, no children.” She paused to look across the water. “Right now that seems like both a blessing and a curse.”
“Oh, dear. That is hard. I love spending time with my children, now that my husband has passed on.”
Sam noticed the woman’s eyes tear up when she mentioned her husband. “I’m sorry. It’s difficult to be alone.”
“At least I have my kids and grand-kids. They make sure I’m busy,” she smiled. “So, how long have you lived in Seattle and what do you do for a living?”
“I’ve lived there all my life, so almost fifty years. After college, I ran my parents’ software company and I recently sold it. Our plan was to retire early and spend time traveling, but things changed.”
The woman nodded and reached out to pat Sam’s hand.
Her touch was soft and warm and Sam found it comforting. “You remind me of my grandmother,” said Sam. “My parents died when I was seventeen and I lived with my grandparents.”
A soft gasp escaped from the woman and she inched closer to Sam. “Grandchildren are special. I’m sure your grandparents loved being a part of your life.”
Sam’s thoughts were immersed in the past. The feel of the woman’s hand and the faint scent of roses were reminiscent of her grandmother. “I was lucky to have them and they tried their best to divert me from school and the software company, but I needed to focus on the plans I had made with my parents. It made me feel like they were still there.” She glanced down, fiddling with the leash. “My parents were killed in a traffic accident on New Year’s Eve. In one quick moment, my life was forever changed. Up until that tragic night, my childhood had been perfect.”
“I take it you’re an only child?”
“Yes. But, my best friend growing up is like a brother. His name is Max and he lived across the street. He’s always been my buddy and after my parents died, my grandparents moved into our house in Shoreline. I think partly to make sure I was near Max, who never left my side.”
“He sounds like a wonderful friend.”
Sam nodded and smiled, looking off in the distance at the islands. “We were inseparable until our junior year in college. He received a great opportunity to go to Stanford and left the University of Washington. It was horrible. I felt like my parents had died for a second time.” She felt her eyes grow heavy with tears. “I was alone again.”
The dog laid her head on Sam’s lap and she stroked her velvety ears. The feel of her ears transported Sam back a few years to the day Marty had handed her the new puppy, adorned with a giant pink bow. “That’s when I met my ex-husband, Marty. We met in college and became fast friends. He was gorgeous, funny, and charming. My grandparents loved him because he encouraged me to live again.”
“How long were you married?”
“Twenty-five years, last summer. We were married after graduation. He finished law school and I got my MBA and ran the company. We lived in my parents’ home.”
“I hope he didn’t take advantage of you in the divorce, with him being a lawyer. I don’t trust lawyers much,” said the woman, with distaste.
“No. Actually, when we were married Marty made sure the company and the house would always be mine. He wanted my grandparents to know he wasn’t looking for money. My parents were very successful.” She paused. “I still can’t believe I’m here now. I thought things were fine, but I found out he’d been cheating on me…for years. I’m just glad my grandparents are gone, so they didn’t have to witness Marty’s betrayal. They would have been devastated.”
The woman’s eyes widened, “That’s a dreadful surprise.”
“Yes, it was. I’ve always been a workaholic and had worked to expand the company, opening offices around the world. I received an offer for it, and after talking with Marty, decided to sell. He seemed so excited about the prospect of an early retirement. We were both approaching fifty and would have the means to work less and play more,” smiled Sam.
The woman smiled back. “I think you’re a strong and capable woman. You can still have fun and start your new adventure.”
“That’s what I finally decided. I need to get away from the constant reminders and start fresh. I spent summers here as a child and since I have a lovely home here, it made sense.”
The woman rubbed her hands together and pulled her coat closer. “I wish you the best and I hope you find everything you’re looking for. I’m afraid I’ve got to move inside out of the cold.” She stopped to pet Zoe and turned to go through the deck doors.
“Have a wonderful visit with your family. Thanks for chatting with me.” Sam waved as the woman toddled away.
Sam laughed to herself. She hadn’t wanted to engage in conversation, but in truth it had helped her to talk about it. The smooth motion of the ferry was soothing and the slowness generated more memories. She smiled thinking of the family house with its Italian inspired villa-like architecture. Her mother and father had purchased it after their business success and it had been a substitute for them after they died.
She felt herself growing weepy thinking she was leaving the only home she had known. Lately though, it hadn’t seemed like home and wasn’t offering her the comfort it once had, which was why Sam found herself on a ferry today, resolved to start a new life. Sam didn’t sell the house in Shoreline; she wanted to have the security of being able to go back to it. But for now, the pain of realizing her family home had been a love nest for Marty’s trysts left her hurt and angry.
The sun was still peeking through the clouds as the ferry crawled towards Friday Harbor. She gave Zoe a drink from a bottle of water, dug a treat from her pocket, and the dog settled in to nap for the rest of the ride. Sam mulled over the past, not believing her life could be so different than she had planned.
Sam had traveled the world for business, without Marty. She was the consummate professional, accomplished and capable. She never relied on him, but as she inched toward the island it all seemed overwhelming and she thought she might have made a huge mistake. She knew she could never forget his infidelities, but maybe she should have stayed in her own house and made the best of it. It was all too confusing and Sam had never been so unsure. Her usual confidence and self-esteem had been eaten away during the past year. The absence of her parents had left a deep scar in Sam’s heart and she missed them more than ever today. She longed to hear her mom reassure her and feel her dad’s strong hug.
European river cruises, white sand beaches, Australian adventures, and castles of Ireland that once beckoned from the brochures on her nightstand, were now only dreams that had been torn apart by the man she had loved and trusted. Instead of exotic travel, her future held a quaint island where she hoped the fond recollections of the past would wrap around her like a cozy blanket.
For almost a year she had been suffering and plunging deeper into her own dark thoughts. She had lost over twenty pounds and forced herself to eat, when she remembered. She knew she needed something fresh to focus on and the prospect of a new business venture and warm memories drew her to Friday Harbor.
Her musings were interrupted when the ferry captain made the announcement to instruct passengers to report back to their vehicles for arrival in Friday Harbor. “That’s us, Zoe. Let’s go,” Sam said, as she took hold of Zoe’s leash and headed downstairs.
As she guided Zoe between the narrow vehicle paths, she spotted the vivid green sticker proclaiming her golden retriever was smarter than any fifth grader. She reached the SUV, loaded Zoe, and after squeezing through the sliver of space the door allowed without smacking the car next to her, rested in the driver’s seat. Cars around her were starting and her lane began to creep forward, exiting the ferry.
As the metal planks of the ferry apron thumped under the weight of her car, she admired the charming shops and buildings neighboring the harbor, looking as if washed in colors from a box of artist pastels. She glanced up at a sign posted on the corner. It read, Welcome to Friday Harbor—Your Hometown Harbor. She could only hope it would prove true. “Well, girl, here we go. Let’s go see our new house and get settled,” Sam said, as she drove off the landing onto Front Street, determined not to let the weight of lost dreams crush her.
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