In book 8 in the series, Abby's agent asks for help when the house she was going to rent to host a writers retreat becomes unavailable. After a bit of discussion, Abby agrees to have the retreat at the inn. The seven writers who will be staying at the inn for the week long event are new to publishing and Kate hopes the mentor she has hired to run things will be able to provide the valuable tips these new authors need. Of course what she doesn't know is that Abby has a past with this particular mentor, and when all is said and done, fireworks of one sort or another are likely.
Meanwhile, Georgia has started taping her new cooking show, Abby is worried about the approaching blizzard, and Colt has a murder to solve, after six men get together for a friendly poker game but only five of the six men make it to the end of the night alive.
Release date: January 14, 2020
Publisher: Kathi Daley Books
Print pages: 160
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Blizzard in the Bay
“Bali is nice this time of year.”
“Really? Bali?” asked my best friend, business partner, and roommate, Georgia Carter. I could tell by the expression on her face that she’d pretty much decided that I’d lost my mind. Not that I blamed her. I had been acting out of character ever since I’d found out who was going to be occupying the last of our six guest rooms for the upcoming week.
“What’s wrong with Bali?” I asked. “It’s warm, there’s no snow, and it is far away from here.”
“The Abby Sullivan I know is a brave woman who faces things head-on and wouldn’t book a last-minute trip just to avoid a difficult situation.”
“I have airline miles,” I said as if that would somehow make my insane response to an old colleague all that more rational.
“He’s expecting you to be here. If you run away, he’ll know he’s gotten under your skin. Is that really what you want?”
“No.” I sighed. “That isn’t what I want.” When Kate asked me if I’d be willing and able to host the writers’ retreat she’d planned but had lost her venue for, I was happy to help out. When she’d mentioned that she’d be sending along a bestselling author to mentor the new writers she’d recently signed, I was fine with it. When she mentioned, in passing, that the author she’d asked to mentor the retreat was none other than my old writing buddy, Dax Sherman, I pulled out my computer and began looking for vacation destinations.
“I have a feeling there’s more of a story here than just the fact that you don’t like this guy,” Georgia continued.
“I never said I didn’t like him.”
“You’re looking at flights to Bali,” she pointed out.
I stopped what I was doing and looked up. I leaned back in my chair, unwilling to admit even to myself the real reason I was looking at flights that would take me halfway around the world to escape coming face-to-face with Dax Sherman.
“Abby?” Georgia asked again.
I could see she wasn’t going to drop this, so I decided to answer. “I first met Dax during a writers’ gathering, much like the retreat we’ll be hosting at the inn. Kate invited me when I’d first signed on with her as a client. I remember being superexcited to attend and was working on my outlines and pitches for weeks. I was confident and well-prepared, and I was sure that I was going to be the one to really shine, but then I met Dax.”
“And he was better than you?”
“And how.” I groaned. “Not only was he better than me in every conceivable way, but he made me feel like a toddler taking her first steps and falling flat on my face every time.”
She narrowed her gaze. “Was he smug and condescending?”
“Not at all. He was actually very nice. He even offered to help me tighten up my manuscript.”
Georgia paused. She got up and poured herself a cup of coffee. She took a sip, leaned a hip on the counter, and then replied. “I’m not seeing the problem here. This guy sounds great.”
I walked over to the bookshelf and pulled out a hardbound book that said New York Times Best-Selling Author across the top. I turned it over so that the back book jacket was face up and handed it to her.
She looked down at the cover, and her brows shot up. “Oh.”
Dax Sherman was not only the best writer I’d ever read, but he was by far the best-looking author on the planet. In fact, he was quite possibly the best-looking man on the planet.
“Were you already married to Ben when you met Dax?” Georgia asked, reading between the lines.
She set the book on the counter. “And did something happen between you and Dax during your week together?”
I plopped myself down on the sofa and buried my face in my hands. “No. Nothing happened. Not really. Dax is a fantastic writer and a great guy. During our time together, he was kind and thoughtful, and he seemed to really want to help me. It’s just that …”
“There was chemistry between you that you didn’t know how to deal with because you were engaged to another man.”
Wow. She was good. “Exactly. Again, nothing happened. In fact, Dax was a perfect gentleman, and I’m sure we would have been great friends had I not started having these dreams about him. Very vivid and very inappropriate dreams. I needed to get him out of my head, so I decided to turn him into a rival I was determined to best. I guess I figured if I competed with him, I wouldn’t be attracted to him. If his book made number six on the list, I was determined that my next release would come in at number five.”
“And did that work?” Georgia asked. “Did competing with him make you less attracted to him?”
“No,” I cried as I laid my head down on the table in front of me.
Georgia came around the counter and sat down next to me. “So you aren’t really running away from him, you’re running away from yourself.”
“Is he married?”
I shook my head. “Divorced.”
“So maybe there really isn’t a problem,” she said encouragingly.
My head shot up. “Of course, there is a problem. The guy is sweet and thoughtful and gorgeous. We don’t need that sort of negative energy around here.”
“You realize that makes no sense.”
“And you are single now,” she reminded me.
I took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. “Am I? I mean, yes, I suppose technically I am, but I can’t help but feel that I’m still married to Ben. Even having lusty thoughts now about the same guy I had lusty thought about while I was engaged to Ben makes me feel like I’m cheating on him. And then there’s Colt.”
Georgia sat back on the sofa, tucking her legs up under her body. “Yes, I guess that much is true. You and Colt have been taking it slow, and so far, you’ve kept your relationship firmly in the friend zone, but I suppose there has been this unspoken understanding between the two of you that maybe someday when you are both ready, there could be something more.”
“So, you think Bali is a good idea?”
“No, I don’t think Bali is a good idea. It sounds like you have a connection to this guy. Maybe it’s real, and maybe it isn’t, but I do think you owe it to yourself to hang around and find out.”
I tucked my lower lip into my mouth and clamped down hard. I wanted to argue that playing with fire was never a good idea, but maybe Georgia was right. I’d considered the possibility that the attraction I’d felt for Dax was somehow all wrapped up with his ability as a writer. Maybe if we spent some time together, I’d realize that the attraction I remembered was nothing more than a fantasy born out of admiration.
“We’ve talked about the fact that you’ve been seriously thinking about taking the next step with Colt,” Georgia said. “Maybe not right away, but moving things along with him has been on your radar. Don’t you think it is in both your best interests to figure out if you are actually in love with this fantasy guy from your past, or if he was just some schoolgirl crush?”
Georgia was making some good points, even if I didn’t want to hear them.
“You can spend as much time or as little with Dax as you want,” she pointed out. “You have only offered Kate the inn, not your services as a mentor. If you find that being around this Dax is too much for you, you can take a break and hide out here in the cottage. You can tell everyone you are on a tight deadline and need to write, and no one will think anything of it. Staying here in Holiday Bay and facing your emotions might be a risk, but at least you’ll know.”
“What if the attraction is still there?” I asked. “What if our eyes meet and birds begin to sing? What then?”
“Then you should probably panic, because if your eyes meet and birds begin to sing, that probably means you’ve been transported into a Disney movie.”
“The attraction you felt for this guy. Was it mutual?” Georgia asked.
“I think it was. Neither of us acted on it, but I could sense his interest.”
“Have you ever regretted making the decision not to explore what was between you? I mean, you weren’t married yet.”
I slowly moved my head from left to right. “I don’t regret suppressing my feelings and going home to Ben. We had a good life, and I cherish every minute of the time we had together. But making Dax into the bad guy might not have been fair to him. He didn’t know about Ben, and he didn’t actually do anything wrong.”
“So, you weren’t wearing your ring at the retreat?”
I shook my head. “The stone was loose, so I’d dropped it at the jeweler on my way out of town. When I introduced myself, I guess I forgot to mention that I was engaged.”
“Forgot to mention or simply decided not to mention?”
I put my hands over my face. “I honestly don’t know. I really am the worst person on the planet.”
Georgia reached over and hugged me. “You aren’t the worst person on the planet. In fact, you’re the best person I know. You know I love you. You know I only want what is best for you. But I really think that this guy popping back into your life at precisely this time is destined somehow. You owe it to yourself to find out how you feel about each other. If you meet and birds sing, and you both feel the same way, then perhaps you should explore your relationship to see where it leads.”
“I could get hurt.”
“Yes, that is a possibility.”
“I might hurt someone else. Colt. Or even Dax.”
“But you think I should stay here and face him anyway?”
She nodded. “I do. I understood when you told me that you needed to work out your feelings about Ben’s death and your commitment to him before you were ready to move on, but it sounds to me like he isn’t the only relationship you need to work out your feelings about. If at some point you decide you want to take the next step with Colt, don’t you want to be sure that your heart is fully available for a relationship before you drag him into one?”
I took a breath and let it out slowly. “Yes. I guess I do.” I closed the lid to my laptop. I supposed Bali could wait. I still wasn’t thrilled that Dax was going to be spending time at the inn that sat right across the drive from the cottage where I lived, but it might be good for me to finally put any lingering feelings I might have harbored for the guy to bed once and for all.
“I think I’m going to take a walk along the bluff,” I informed Georgia. “I need to clear my head a bit.”
“I’d offer to go along, but I have to head over to the studio to tape this week’s show.”
Georgia had entered a cookie baking contest at Christmas, and while she had only placed second, she’d landed a role as a TV chef in a new show entitled Cooking with Georgia. She filmed once a week and was able to do her prep at the inn, so that commitment didn’t interfere with her job as the manager at the Inn at Holiday Bay.
“What are you making this week?” I asked as she continued to gather supplies.
“My hearty clam chowder. It seemed like a good option with the stormy weather we’ve been having. I hear we are in for a huge storm by the end of the week.”
“Yeah,” I sighed. “I heard that as well. I hope all our guests get here before the snow blows in. I suppose if the storm is strong enough, they may even close the road to town.”
“The writers are coming on Wednesday, and the storm isn’t supposed to hit until late on Thursday. I think the tough part might be for them to leave on Monday. The plow service has been dependable so far this year, so I think we should be fine.”
“I hope so.”
“By the way, what do you know about the other writers who are due to arrive?” Georgia asked.
I was surprised Georgia hadn’t already called and interviewed everyone. She took her role as inn manager seriously and went out of her way to know something about all our guests. Of course, I had booked everyone this time because I’d worked directly with Kate, effectively taking Georgia out of the loop.
“There are seven writers in addition to Dax planning to attend the retreat.”
“So eight guests in all?”
I nodded. “I put Dax in the attic suite when I did the room assignments. I figured that would give him the most privacy, plus he is young and healthy enough to handle the steep stairs from the third floor to the attic.”
“Dax is in his thirties?”
“I think late thirties or early forties. To be honest, I never asked him his age.”
“And the others?” Georgia asked.
“A man named Alfred Hawthorn will be in suite five. He is a new client for Kate, but I think he has already published several novels. He writes traditional-style whodunit mysteries that remind me a lot of Sherlock Holmes or Murder, She Wrote. The most interesting thing about him is that he used to be a doctor and didn’t decide to try his hand at writing until after he retired from medicine.”
“So, he must be an older gentleman?”
“I’d say he is in his late sixties, maybe early seventies,” I answered.
“He sounds like an interesting guy.”
I nodded. “I’ve never met him, but Kate speaks very highly of him. She not only went on and on about what an interesting man he was, but she was very impressed with his writing. She sent me one of his novels, and it was really very good. And of course, he has the forensic stuff nailed, which makes everything all that much more believable. I’m really looking forward to meeting him.”
“Me too,” Georgia agreed. “He does sound like a fascinating man. So, who did you put in suite four?”
“A woman named Piper Jensen. I’d say Piper is in her twenties. She has yet to publish, but Kate is over-the-moon excited about her potential. She signed her after reading only the first three chapters of her novel, which she never does. Kate seemed really enthusiastic about Piper’s potential. In fact, she said that Piper’s story gripped her more than anything has in a long time.”
“Is her work a mystery as well?”
“I haven’t read her yet, but Kate indicated that her first novel is a thriller about a serial killer. Or maybe it was a story about a victim of a serial killer. Or perhaps a witness. Honestly, while Kate was enthusiastic about the story, she was also sort of vague.”
“Well, I’m anxious to meet this woman. I’m sure it is not easy to totally blow away an agent who has been in the publishing industry for as long as Kate.”
“I totally agree. This Piper must be something special.”
“And the others?” she asked.
“On the second floor, we have two double occupancies. Sisters Connie Chase and Silvia Carrington, are in suite three, and Laverne and Larry Larson are in suite two. Connie and Silvia are both divorced and suffering from empty nest syndrome after their youngest children went off to college a year ago. It seems the siblings have decided to write cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of family dynamics woven into the stories. They are working on their second novel. The first published this past Christmas.”
“And Larry and Laverne?” Georgia asked. “I take it they are a married couple?”
I nodded. “They are. They have actually been self-publishing for a while now and have a pretty solid following. They wanted to try their hand at traditional publishing, so they signed with Kate. I’m not sure how much they’ll benefit from this gathering, but Kate thought it would be good for them to get to know some of her other new clients.”
“And suite one?” Georgia asked as she grabbed a box from the pantry to transport the spices she’d already chosen and set out on the counter.
“Hazel Garwood. Hazel is a first-time novelist in her early eighties. She started off with the idea of writing her memoir but ended up writing a fantasy story about a time-traveling nun.”
“A time-traveling nun sounds wonderful.” Georgia smiled. “I can’t wait to read her.”
“Yeah.” I nodded. “Me too. I love the fact that she decided to become something new at such an advanced age. I think that it is someone like Hazel, who is proof that it is never too late to be who you might have been.”
“That’s nice. Did you read that in a book?”
“Thought-of-the day calendar.”
“So now you know as much as I do,” I continued. “Everyone will check in on Wednesday and check out on Monday. Kate and Dax have everything planned, so we don’t need to provide any entertainment. We are responsible for a breakfast buffet each morning between eight and nine, a light lunch around one, and dinner between six and seven, although Kate did indicate it was fine to be flexible with the times if need be.”
“Okay. That sounds great.” Georgia glanced at the clock and then picked up her bag. “I need to run.”
“And I’m going to head out for my walk with Ramos and Molly.” Ramos was Georgia’s Newfoundland, and Molly was a terrier mix I’d adopted from the local shelter this past summer. She was an older dog who’d been having a hard time finding her forever family until I’d decided to bring her home.
“Don’t book any flights while I’m gone,” Georgia called out as she exited the door.
I knew she was kidding, but I had to admit I was still tempted. I looked at my Maine Coon cat, Rufus. He was a big orange bundle of fur I simply adored. “Do you want to come along?” Rufus liked to go on walks with the dogs in the summer, but not so much in the snow.
“Meow.” He turned and trotted into my bedroom, I assumed to have a nap on my bed. Not that I blamed him. It was blustery out today.
I pulled on a heavy down jacket, a bright blue knit scarf, and matching knit gloves and headed out the door. This was my second winter in Holiday Bay, but I could swear it hadn’t been this cold last year. Or maybe it had been, and I’d just forgotten the bracing cold as a storm blew in from the sea. I loved living along the coast of Maine, but the winters were a lot different here from what I’d been used to, having lived in San Francisco for most of my life. I’d had a good life in California and don’t remember ever wanting to live anywhere else, but there was something about this little strip of coastal heaven that spoke to my heart.
I’d come here to heal after the deaths of my husband and son. When I’d arrived at the dilapidated old house on the bluff overlooking the sea, I’d been a shattered woman. But then I’d entered the house and realized its potential, and somehow everything got just a tiny bit better. I’d needed a project to occupy my mind and tire my body, and renovating the house with the help of my contractor, Lonnie Parker, had turned out to be just the therapy my broken soul needed.
I could still remember the first time I’d really noticed the view. I’d been checking out the cottage behind the inn and had wandered into the bedroom I now called my own. I’d opened the sliding door and stepped out onto the deck. The lush green forest covered with a layer of snow bordered the dark gray of the winter bay, producing an absolutely stunning contrast. I remember the feeling of peace that wrapped itself around me like a warm hug. I’d always found the sea to have a calming effect on my nerves even during the worst of times, and in that moment I knew that it would be here, along this gorgeous shoreline, that I’d find the courage I’d need to heal my heart and rebuild my life.
I thought back to the woman I was when I had first stood on that deck. Things had changed so much for me in the past year. There had been a few bumps along the way, but most of the changes were for the better. I’d somehow managed to repair my relationship with my sister, Annie, and the anger and resentment that had once defined us had been replaced with cautious affection. I’d made new friends and had found a way to let others into a heart that was at one point so shattered I was sure I’d never be able to love again. I had a full and busy life. I had good friends and a real future, which was saying a lot after everything I’d been through.
I turned and headed back toward the cottage. The wind was picking up, which caused the waves below me to crash onto the rocks with enough velocity to send moisture from the sea up onto the trail. I’d seen the sea when it was so calm that it appeared to have barely a ripple, and I’d seen it so angry as to appear ready to swallow anything in its path. I wasn’t sure what we could expect in terms of surge in the upcoming days, but I suspected that with the wind speeds predicted, we were going to get some flooding along the coast road.
When I returned to the cottage, I fed and watered the dogs, then put on a pot of coffee. I glanced at my laptop, tempted to resume my search for tropical vacation destinations. But as tempting as it was to simply not deal with the confusing emotions I’d been suppressing for years, I knew Georgia was right. I wasn’t the sort to run from my problems. As scared as I was to face whatever feelings seeing Dax might stir up, I knew that facing him was exactly what I was going to do.
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