Suzie Allen gets a call to inform her that her estranged Uncle Harry has passed away and has unexpectedly left her Dune House, a beautiful house on the beach that was once a Bed and Breakfast. With her best friend, Mary, going through a messy divorce, the two decide to get away and go to the small town of Garber to see the house.
Despite the stunning setting, the house has been neglected for years and is in a terrible state of disrepair. Suzie and Mary make the decision to refurbish the house together.
But then, Suzie and Mary start finding evidence that maybe Uncle Harry didn’t die of natural causes. Suzie’s investigative background as a journalist takes over and the ladies go on a search to discover what secrets the house holds. Will these secrets reveal a dark side to Suzie’s strange cousin, Jason?
Was the decision to refurbish Dune House the worst mistake of their lives? Or is this the beginning of an exciting new chapter?
Release date: April 27, 2014
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Print pages: 165
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At first glance the intricate architecture of the roof that rose against the early morning gray sky would take anyone's breath away. The wide eyes of its large attic windows seemed to stare down at the town it resided in, with a subtle affection. The grand, old building was very well known in the small seaside town of Garber. It was the toast of the town in the past, as it was the largest and oldest structure, and had traditionally served as the home of the wealthiest family in town. Over the years, it had changed as much as the town surrounding it had. Garber was a tiny town of only just over two thousand people. Its main businesses were tourist traps and the minimum required to keep a town functioning. It ran the length of a secluded beach, with a bustling town square as its social center.
At one time the quaint environment had drawn the wealthiest of the wealthy, but things had changed since then. Because it was a good distance from anything modern or convenient it had become a less popular destination. The younger crowds wanted to be near nightclubs and the most fashionable stores and restaurants. The older crowds preferred vacationing somewhere more exotic that boasted other amenities, like spas and all-inclusive resorts. Garber fell out of fashion, and seemed to fall out of the progression of time, too. Its buildings began to fade and become run down. Developers were interested in purchasing the properties because it was close to the beach, but the older residents of the town fought against it. They didn't want their town to be bulldozed and turned into a resort or a theme park. Their children moved away to find work, as there was little employment in the town.
The grand, old home that used to be the center of the town, affectionately referred to as Dune House because of its proximity to the beach, became the prime example of the towns steady downfall. Dune House had been converted into a bed and breakfast by its most recent owners, Beverly and Harry Allen, but it was closed to the public after Beverly passed away. Harry Allen spent the rest of his days as a recluse inside the walls of the home and showed little interest in its upkeep. After his recent death, the town breathed a collective sigh as if this was yet another sign of the town fading away.
Garber had a mayor who decided it was time for their town to have a new outlook. He began rallying to have developers come into the town and take over what properties they could. He began marketing Dune House as an excellent piece of property for the developers. However, before he could offer it up, he had to get in contact with the relative that Harry Allen had willed the property to, a niece who had not seen him in decades, Suzie Allen.
Suzie lived a pretty laid back lifestyle. She had a small condo that she enjoyed decorating. She filled her time with reading novels, and spending fun days out with her best friend, Mary Brent. Suzie had been friends with Mary since they were in high school together. They had remained friends, even when Mary's life grew very busy with marriage and two children to raise. Suzie had no interest in marriage or children, she found satisfaction in working as an investigative journalist for a regional newspaper. She was always investigating something, and coming up with new ideas for stories for the papers to run. However, since the digital age had struck Suzie found journalism to be less about the story and more about marketing. She decided to bow out of the field and pursue her creative side.
Suzie had dabbled in interior decorating, and adored looking into the history of old buildings and how they had changed through the years. She dreamed of restoring an old building. However, in a town as fast-paced and modern as Burlington, she knew there was little chance of that. Not to mention the cost. Her career as a journalist had left her with a comfortable retirement but nothing that could finance purchasing a historical building.
Now in her fifties, Suzie was feeling a little more restless. She had lived in the same place for so long that she sometimes forgot there was an entire world outside the city limits. She was finishing the latest suspense novel she was reading when the ring of her cell phone startled her. She eyed it with animosity. She was at a very good part in her book and considered not answering it at all. But the ring was persistent. She snatched it up and was happy to see that it was her friend, Mary, calling.
“Hi, gorgeous!” Suzie greeted Mary cheerfully as she answered the phone.
“Oh, Suzie,” Mary gasped into the phone, and Suzie knew right away that this was not going to be a happy call.
“What's wrong, Mary?” Suzie asked quickly. “Is it the kids?” She knew that Mary's children, a boy Benjamin, and a girl Catherine, were away at college. She had stood with Mary the day she had to say goodbye to each of them. Mary's whole life had been built around her children. She had been a housewife since Benjamin was born, and though she was very proud of both of her children starting their own lives, it had been heartbreaking for her, too. Not to mention that she was left to face alone the horrid man she called a husband. Suzie was not a fan of Kent, and she had let Mary know that from day one. But Mary had been in love, and Kent hadn't shown his true colors until after they were married.
“It's Kent,” Mary admitted with a sigh and a sniffle. “I can't believe he's doing this, but he's taking the house, the car, everything.”
“Oh, Mary, I'm sorry,” Suzie said gently. She would never tell her friend, 'I told you so'. Mary had been through so much with her husband, and Suzie knew that she regretted trusting him. But his name was on everything they owned. “Why don't you come stay with me?” Suzie suggested. “Get away from him for a while, we'll get you a good lawyer and we'll fight for the house...”
“No,” Mary said with determination, and a strength in her voice that Suzie hadn't heard in a long time. “I don't even want the house, Suzie. I don't want the car, I don't want anything that reminds me of him. The kids are okay now, they have their own lives, and it's way past time for me to start my own. I'm not going to let him take one more day from me.”
“I'm proud of you, Mary,” Suzie said quickly. “It's time for you to think about you a little.”
“Thank you, Suzie,” Mary sighed and Suzie could hear the hurt in her friend's voice. It broke Suzie's heart to think of her suffering, but it also made her feel excited that Mary would finally have some freedom from a man who had done his best to keep her under lock and key.
“Come over, I've got a bottle of wine with your name on it,” Suzie smiled into the phone, she knew that Mary wouldn't be able to resist.
“I'll be there in ten,” Mary replied before hanging up the phone.
Suzie didn't have a lot of family in her life and she felt very lucky to have Mary. She busied herself getting the wine and wine glasses ready, and completely forgot about the last chapter of her book. When the phone rang again, Suzie picked it up quickly, thinking it was Mary.
“Hey, beautiful,” she said, anticipating that it was Mary.
“Uh, is this Suzie Allen?” an unfamiliar voice asked with a slight stammer.
Suzie winced as she realized she must have accidentally answered a sales call. “May I ask who's calling?” she countered without admitting her identity.
“This is Bill Cooper, I'm an estate lawyer for your uncle, Harry Allen,” he explained quickly.
“Uncle Harry?” Suzie asked with surprise as she sat down on the edge of her couch. She hadn't thought of her uncle in many years. “Has he passed?” she asked with concern.
“I'm sorry, but yes,” Bill replied with a waver in his voice. “I've been trying to contact you for over a week. I'm afraid he passed almost two weeks ago, from a sudden heart attack.”
“Oh my,” Suzie sighed as she closed her eyes briefly. “I'm sorry, I haven't seen him in so long. I guess I missed the funeral?”
“Yes, again, I'm sorry for your loss,” Bill said in a professional tone. “But I'm calling to inform you that Mr. Allen named you in his will.”
“Me?” Suzie shook her head. “There must be some mistake. I haven't seen him since I was a child.”
“No mistake,” Bill said firmly. “He's left you his property in Garber.”
Suzie was silent for a long moment as she attempted to recall the house he was referring to. “Dune House?” he prompted.
“Dune House,” Suzie said with a wide smile as the memories flooded her. She had called it a castle as a child. “But, doesn't he have any children?” Suzie asked with confusion. “And what about Aunt Beverly?”
“I'm sorry to tell you Suzie, but Beverly Allen died a few years ago. Harry does have a son, Jason, but he did not leave the property to him, he left it to you,” Bill said firmly.
Suzie was stunned by his words. She hadn't thought of Beverly or Harry for a very long time. Harry was her father's younger brother, and they had had a strained relationship. She had heard briefly about a child being born when she was in her teens, but she had never been told about Beverly's passing.
“Well, this is very surprising,” Suzie said quietly as she tried to process the idea of inheriting such a large property.
“I'll need you to come to Garber to sign some papers,” the lawyer said. “He left you the property, the home, and all of its contents. Will you be able to travel to Garber?”
Suzie hesitated for a moment. She really had no reason not to go. In fact, she had been hoping for something to shake her life up a bit. It might also be nice to meet her cousin and find out what he was like.
“Sure, I can be there this week,” she offered as a bit of excitement began to build within her. She felt a little guilty for being thrilled considering that her uncle had passed, but she could barely recall his face, let alone anything personal about him.
The house she had stared up at as she had built sandcastles on the beach however, she could remember very clearly.
When Mary arrived at Suzie's condo, Suzie's mind was still spinning with the news of the inheritance, and the loss of her uncle. After her father had died when she was just a teenager, she hadn't kept in contact with his side of the family, considering that he hadn't seemed too interested in keeping in contact with them either. Now, the phone call had stirred up a lot of curiosity in Suzie. She opened the door for Mary with a dazed look in her eyes.
Mary stepped inside with her suitcase and smiled at Suzie. “Are you okay?” she asked when she noticed the distant expression on her face.
“I think so,” Suzie nodded and swept her shoulder length hair back over her shoulders. Since she had started to spot some grays in her forties she had been dying it a brassy gold color that seemed to suit her tanned skin and her bright blue eyes. She felt it was important to maintain a youthful appearance since society seemed to demand it. Mary on the other hand had left her looks up to nature. She had gray streaks running through her auburn hair, which Suzie actually thought made the loose curls of her mid-back length hair even more luxurious. Her deep brown eyes were soulful, and seemed to be holding more sorrow lately than they should have been.
“I'm fine, but what about you?” Suzie asked and hugged her best friend close. In truth, they were more like sisters than friends.
“I will be fine,” Mary promised her. They spent the entire night sitting up discussing the past, Mary's children, Suzie's career, and the ending of Mary's marriage. At some point Suzie brought up the property she had inherited.
“What a surprise,” Mary smiled at the news. “Are you looking forward to checking it out?”
“Oh, I'll probably just sign whatever papers I need to in order to sell it,” Suzie shrugged dismissively.
“But Suzie, this is what you've always dreamed of,” Mary reminded her with a frown. “Are you sure you want to sell it?”
“From what he said it needs a lot of work,” Suzie sighed as she thought of the beautiful house she remembered becoming run down, but that was how Bill had described it. “I'm not sure I'm up to doing it all by myself.”
“You should at least go and see it,” Mary insisted. “Maybe it's not as run down as he's saying.”
“Maybe,” Suzie frowned. “I feel badly that I missed my uncle's funeral.
Apparently, he passed away almost two weeks ago. I didn't even know.” “I'm sorry, Suzie,” Mary murmured sympathetically.
“I know I barely knew him, but I wish I had thought to reconnect with him,” Suzie admitted as she sat back against the couch. “I guess time just gets away from us.”
“It sure does,” Mary sighed as she took a sip of her wine. “I never thought I'd be in my fifties starting my life over again,” she laughed with a mixture of giddiness and fear.
Suzie laughed with her and they clinked their wine glasses together in a toast to Mary's new life. Then Mary trailed her fingertip thoughtfully along the rim of her glass.
“So, don't let another moment pass you by, Suzie,” she encouraged her friend. “This is a chance of a lifetime. Go to Garber and get to know the house that your uncle lived in, you might be able to get to know a little about him, too.”
“Maybe I will,” Suzie nodded a little and then met Mary's eyes. “But only if you come with me.”
“Me?” Mary laughed a little. “I don't know if I could do that.”
“Why not?” Suzie pushed as her blue eyes began to shine with renewed excitement. “Like you said, you want to get away.”
Mary thought about it for a moment and then nodded slowly. “You know, you're right,” a slow smile spread across her lips. “Let's do it,” she said, her smile becoming a wide grin. “It'll be so much fun!”
“Yes it will,” Suzie agreed and they clinked their glasses one more time.
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