A young family's lives are turned inside out when the man of the house, Michael, is killed by a crazed criminal on his way home from work. Left virtually without a penny since the family never thought this would happen and hadn't planned for the future, the family flounders under a mortgage suddenly too large, a teenage daughter so traumatized she wishes it had been her mother inside the twisted wreckage, and a younger son who believes it is his fault God took his father. Anna has always been a stay-at-home mother, but now she must become the head of a one parent family and look for a job, with no experience and an irrelevant degree. Out of her element, out of money and without her first love, Anna struggles to cope.
Jeff Thomas is a divorced detective who brings in Anna's daughter Mallory when she's caught shoplifting and then finds himself entangled in the family's trouble. As times goes on, he realizes he's also falling in love with Anna. Can he take Michael's place in Anna's life and in that of her family? Before Jeff has hardly begun to try, a dangerous situation in city hall threatens to determine the fate of the woman he's come to love and Jeff is the one person who can save her.
When husband David is unfaithful and commits the ultimate betrayal by bringing his mistress aboard Windswept, Caroline’s world is shattered. He leaves her and she is forced to rely solely on herself for the first time in her life. Caroline must learn independence after her husband leaves her following an affair. It isn’t easy to cope, especially when outside influences are trying to drive a wedge into their teetering marriage. She has to be a single parent to her daughter, Lily, and to decide if she can forgive David for tearing her family apart.
As David and Caroline work to put their marriage back together,
events and other people conspire against them, over and over. As their relationship begins to heal, the
couple is caught in a horrific storm and waterspout on the bay, heading
straight for Windswept. They want a chance to love again but Mother Nature
might have other ideas.
Chapter One Excerpt
Windswept’s mainsail was up, and the jib was a clean, crisp white against the clear blue sky. Wind filled the canvas with a snap as the sails billowed. The boat immediately heeled over with the force of the wind and surged forward through the waves with barely-leashed power.
Reaching down to kill the engine, Caroline stood to savor her favorite moment in sailing- the first instant with only the sound of the wind and the waves and the feel of the boat under her feet, driven solely by the power of nature. She grinned at David and he smiled back, akin in the joy of that marvelous feeling of anticipation and accomplishment-- ready, more than ready, to spend another summer season sailing up and down the bay.
Caroline handed the wheel over to David and wrapped her arms around the mast to savor the warm sun and deep blue sea. She loved Windswept more than she thought it was proper to love a possession. It was nearly indecent, her passion for it.
The boat had been part of the family for their entire married lives. The sailing bug had hit both of them unexpectedly after an excursion aboard a sailboat in the Caribbean. They’d decided immediately to buy the boat, and it seemed the perfect present to give each other for the wedding. It had taken every penny they had at the time, but it had been worth it. Over the years they’d spent every available minute of the summer on the boat, and it never seemed to get old.
She sighed happily. She was happier out here than anywhere else in the world. And today, the first sailing day of a new season, was extra special. She stood by the mast for a while watching the water fly up from the bow of the boat and sweep past the side. They’d spent hours getting her fiberglass glowing. The boat was aging now, though aging gracefully like a grand old damme.
When their fourteen-year-old daughter Lily raised her head briefly from her position sunbathing, Caroline winked at her and crept along the railing to join her. Caroline noticed that Lily’s figure in the bikini was getting almost voluptuous. In the winter, with thick sweaters and coats to hide her curves, Caroline hadn’t noticed the drastic changes.
Lily scooted over to give her some room. The breeze felt great brushing back her hair and the sun was hotter than it had been all spring. Caroline was beginning to feel over-warm in her Georgetown sweatshirt. Caroline and Lily stared at the white spray without speaking for a long time, then Caroline nudged her daughter with her shoulder. “Long winter, huh?” Lily had, in many ways, been raised on the boat and she could sail it with the best of them. Caroline had many fond memories of Lily as a toddler on her father’s lap, already learning about how to read the wind. There were images in her head of her as a eight or nine year old, running along the top of the deck and leaping off onto the dock without a thought of danger. She could remember Lily as an eleven year old begging to be allowed to keep the helm as the wind rose higher and higher. It often reached a point that made Caroline’s heart hammer with alarm at letting the whisper-thin preteen to steer through a five foot waves. Lily had done it though, albeit with her father close by.
“Oh yeah,” said Lily. “I’m glad I decided to go today. I can write up results tomorrow.”
“You’ve got lots of time before the Science Fair.”
“Yeah, but there’s still a lot to do.”
“You’ll get it done.”
“And how many days like this will we have to go out on the Chesapeake before it gets too hot? I’ve been chomping at the bit for weeks.”
“You’re telling me,” said Lily, rolling her eyes. “You guys have been at the marina since St. Patty’s Day polishing everything. I’m just glad I got out of it this year. I mean, I love this tub and all, but I have a lot of things going on now at school with Science Club and orchestra and all.”
Caroline let the sarcastic reference go because she knew Lily loved Windswept too and there was a tiny grin at the corner of her lips when she said it. “It was worth it, wasn’t it? Today?”
Caroline felt Lily nod against her arm, with a murmured “Oh, yeah.”
She put her arm around Lily and they leaned together, gazing raptly at the water as it hypnotized their senses- rushing, always rushing in a sheet of white foam past the bow.
Caroline ran her fingers through her daughter’s long, silky hair. “Needs cutting.”
“No, please,” Lily pleaded. “I like it this way.”
“Last time I knew, you thought long hair was too much of a bother. When did you change your mind?”
“Guys like long hair.”
“No! It’s not like that. There’s no one special.” Lily reddened. “The only stuff I’m interested in at the moment is finishing my science project. But it doesn’t hurt to... well... you know.”
Caroline laughed. “Sure. I know. Keep all your options open. Be ready just in case?”
“Sort of. “
“OK, you can leave it long. But we’ll get you a trim-- just for the split ends.”
“OK, Mom. You’d better get on back. Dad’s looking impatient.”
David, his white windbreaker tied now around his waist in the late afternoon sun, puttered around the cockpit. He was tall, and his light brown hair was windblown after the spirited beat upwind. But he seemed to be trying to keep from looking at Caroline.
Caroline tried to catch his eye but his tinkering today seemed distracted. He was uncharacteristically silent. Whenever she was not at the helm when they sailed, she relaxed and watched the water and the sky and the sails. David, however, kept up a never-ending ritual of adjusting sails and halyards. He was a perfectionist with the details on the boat. Today, though, it was more than that. He wasn’t being a perfectionist. He was avoiding her.
“Want to put up the spinnaker?” He asked, as he stood, hands on hips staring up at the mast.
“It’s pretty windy for it.”
“Yeah, I know. I just wanted-”
“I know. Long winter.”
He caught her eyes and immediately his gaze slid away. “Yeah.”
“Okay,” she said with a smile, anxious to please him and make this last run home just right. “Go for it. We can handle it.”
After they put up the spinnaker their speed picked up some. It was nerve-wracking, keeping it under control - the light sail was so huge. It was gorgeous, though - hundreds of square feet of blue and green nylon in a huge billow of color that undulated and swayed with each subtle change in wind direction.
“It’s good to be back out on the water, isn’t it?” said Caroline, staring skyward and enjoying the ripple of color.
“It’s fantastic.” answered David wistfully. “Want a soda? I’m going down for a beer.”
“Sure! Lily! Want a soda?”
“Yes, please,” Lily called back, scrambling back from her perch at the bow. She plopped down on a bench in the cockpit and put her feet up on the opposite bench.
David fetched the drinks out of a cooler below and turned to head topside. His heart stopped. It was dark in the cabin so behind the wheel Caroline stood out like an angel in the sun. There was a shimmer around her body as she stood behind the wheel concentrating on controlling the spinnaker. What in the world had he done?
Topside, Lily asked her mother, “Think we’ll be back by five? I told Debbie she could come over to help me with some of the data I recorded the other day. She’s way better at statistics than I am.”
“We should be back in time. But I think Dad has some more work to do on the boat before we head home.”
“Aw, Mom, please. I’ve got stuff to do!”
“You made the decision to come on this trip. We have to clean up some things when we get back. We didn’t have time to do much cleaning down here after the marine upholstery company got done making our new cushions.” She ran her hand over the fine, soft material on the settee. It was a color halfway between the blue of the sky and the green of the bay. It had cost the earth to do the entire interior of the cabin and cockpit cushions. She’d spent hours scouring fabric catalogues, but she was delighted with how it turned out.
She pulled herself away from admiring the new upholstery and turned to Lily. “You know your father won’t leave it until it’s perfect.”
“Don’t I know it! He’s a stickler about everything. Especially this boat!”
Her mother raised her eyebrow at her, letting her know she was on the verge of disrespect. “Resign yourself. If you help, we’ll get home sooner.” She smiled at Lily’s huge sigh of acquiescence. When they got close to their slip, David took the spinnaker down.
David took over the details of getting the outside of the boat put back together while Caroline and Lily went below to straighten up. He re-tied Caroline’s granny knots into square knots, put the sail cover on and coiled the lines. When everything was clean and neat, he joined Caroline and Lily.
“Caro- I think I’ll scrub some of the non-slip in the cockpit before we leave.”
“Then we can go home so I can call Debbie over to work on my project?” Lily asked her father.
“Yes. Then we can go home.” He leaned over to peer at a smudge in the fiberglass.
“We’re gonna go to the bathhouse and clean up a little bit,” said Caro.
“I’ll text Debbie that we’re coming home.” Lily pulled out her iPhone.
“Of course,” said Caroline with a touch of sarcasm. “She would never guess we were coming if you didn’t text her. After all, it’s been ten minutes since we pulled into the marina and you texted her about that, and twenty minutes since we headed into the estuary when you texted that to her.” Lily grinned and Caro shook her head in consternation.
The two climbed onto the dock and walked over to the log cabin structure that housed the toilet facilities and showers. David watched them go, Caroline with her arm around her daughter, and Lily laughing at something her mother said. He felt sick. He tossed the rag down onto the bench seat in self-disgust and capped the Soft Scrub. His stomach was roiling and he couldn’t stand to do any more work on the boat today.
Caroline and Lily returned and he picked up the cooler. Everyone took an armload to head back to the car. Caroline stopped halfway down the pier and looked back at all thirty-five feet of their beloved sloop. “It’s incredible that Windswept has been with us for so many years- that we’ve always been able to come down here anytime we wanted knowing that it’d be here, waiting for us.”
David swallowed past the lump in his throat and felt tears well up in his eyes. Caroline looked at him curiously, and then seemed to accept his emotion as happiness and pride. “I know,” she said. “I feel the same way.” She turned away from the boat. “Sometimes I wonder what I’d do now without it.”
David stood alone on the dock between the rows of boats clutching the cooler to his midriff as Caroline and Lily walked away from him. He watched them go but couldn’t make himself move. Fear, regret, and uncertainty kept him rooted to the weathered boards. His gaze turned toward the sleek white boat and suddenly it became a symbol of everything he had with his family.
In that moment it all crystallized like a portrait in his head- a vision of his wife and his beautiful little girl on the deck of the boat this afternoon, laughing and happy and excited. Life as they knew it was carefree. It was good.
It was an illusion.
The picture vanished. He turned grimly towards the car.