RETURN TO GLEBE POINT Copyright ÂŠ 2015, 2017 Patricia Paris
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the publisher. This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the authorâ€™s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Published by Windswept an imprint of BHC Press Library of Congress Control Number: 2017941240 ISBN-13: 978-1-946848-29-1 ISBN-10: 1-946848-29-8 Visit the author at: www.authorpatriciaparis.com & www.bhcpress.com Also available in eBook Edited by S.M. Ray Book design by Blue Harvest Creative www.blueharvestcreative.com
also by patricia paris A Murderous Game Run Rachael Run THE GLEBE POINT SERIES This Time Forever Letters to Gabriella The Cottage THE BONAVERAS Lucia Caterina
harlene Morrison leaned over the dark green, metal guardrail of the Clara-Sue, that afternoon’s last ferry out to Brenton. She dropped one, then the other of the four-inch spiked heels Phillip had insisted she buy because he said they made her legs look longer, into the rising tide of the murky river. A woman wearing tight white shorts and a hot pink tank top with the words Sexy Babe spelled out in silver glitter across the front stood a couple of feet away tossing bread into the air. Charlene glanced up at the seagulls that had begun to swarm above the ferry and shook her head. Really, lady? She started to move away when the woman let out a sudden, shrill shriek, drawing the startled attention of the handful of passengers scattered around the deck. “Eeewww!” She reached out and grabbed the person closest to her—Charlene—and shoved her bleached-blonde pouf within inches of her face. “Tell me I don’t have bird crap in my hair!”
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Angling away, Charlene eyed the splat of whitish-brown excrement seeping into the highly teased mound, and winced. “I do! I do, don’t I?” The woman scrunched up her nose and pulled her lips back into an expression that made her look a bit like a feral dog. “Bud!” She gesticulated toward someone before Charlene could respond, and then hurried toward a man who had just exited the inside seating area with a drink in each hand. Tourists. Charlene rolled her eyes. There was a reason for the signs posted around the deck that read: Do Not Feed the Birds. She turned back to the rail, looked down, scanned the water, but saw no trace of the three hundred and twenty dollar footwear that epitomized everything gone wrong with her life the last year and a half. There was only the churning wake of the Clara-Sue. The wind picked up, blowing several long, unruly curls across her face. Charlene pulled the dark mass to one side and wove it into a thick braid before letting it drop to hang halfway down her chest. It was late afternoon, hot and humid, typical of Maryland summers, especially near the water. She tilted her face up toward the sky, closed her eyes, and welcomed the breeze as it brushed against her cheeks. Rolling her shoulders to work out some of the tension, she released a slow, steady breath—as much a sigh of relief she’d pulled things off, as one of fortification. The ferry plowed through the wake from a tugboat pushing a barge loaded with rock up the river. Charlene swayed with the motion of the boat as she zipped up the outer pouch of her old black and yellow backpack. She’d stashed the heels in it after changing them out for a pair of navy flip-flops before boarding. The zipper on the bag’s small front pocket had torn years ago, held together now with an assortment of various-sized safety pins. She didn’t care that it looked shabby. It had been her cousin Blake’s when he was in high school, until he’d given it to her, one of the few possessions she still had from her former life.
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Growing up, she had idolized her twin cousins, Blake and Justin. They’d been more like brothers than cousins, and they had looked out for her like a well-loved little sister. Charlene gripped the railing. She should never have let so much time pass without getting in touch with them…just one more thing on the list of things she’d change about the last few years if she could. Slipping her arms through the straps of the backpack, she hiked them up over her shoulders, grasped them in her hands, and pulled the bag in snugly against her body. Tucked in an inside pocket was a red leather pouch containing forty-eight thousand dollars in cash, money left over from the small inheritance she’d received when her father died the year after she’d started college. She’d had it in a savings account Phillip didn’t known about, plus what she’d been able to scrimp and save over the last six months without raising his suspicions. Early that morning, she’d walked out of their prestigious penthouse condo, locked the door, taken the elevator to the garage, gotten into her silver Mercedes, and driven over sixty miles to a grocery store in New Jersey. There, she abandoned the car in the parking lot and taken a cab to the bus terminal. She paid cash for a ticket to Baltimore, Maryland. In Baltimore, a friend she hadn’t spoken to in over five years, before last night, picked her up and drove her another fifty miles to the ferry that was now transporting her to Brenton. When she got there, she would make a call to one of her cousins in Glebe Point, her final destination—all because the man she’d been living with for the last two years had suddenly decided he wanted to get married. As the ferry drew nearer to the opposing shoreline, Charlene leaned forward and rested her forearms on the top of the guardrail and watched their approach.
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Mountain laurel was the predominate understory populating the sandy soil on this part of the river. In mid to late spring, tiny clusters of white and pale-pink blossoms burst forth in jubilant profusion against its lance-shaped, evergreen leaves. In July, not much bloomed in the muggy heat. Here and there, though, a few swamp mallows grew close to shore, towering over the reed grass to show off their dinner plate-sized flowers, mostly white with dark maroon centers, but with a smattering of pink blossoms scattered amongst them. They flourished in the river’s brackish waters, softening the otherwise green backdrop of mid-summer that grew beneath the taller loblolly pine and white oak that were so common to the area. The Clara Sue slowed and began to sidle up to the pier where it would be tied off for the night. Beyond the pier lay Brenton, which consisted of little more than a country store that doubled as the ferry station; the Brenton Inn, which had the only restaurant in town and served the best oyster stew and beaten biscuits in Maryland; a one-pump gas station; and Smythe’s Book and Brew, where you could get a cup of coffee while you browsed the book stacks. And beyond Brenton…the road to everything Charlene held dearest to her heart. Phillip wouldn’t get back from his latest business trip to find her note until Thursday night. That gave her four days’ lead before he discovered she’d left him. She didn’t know if he’d try to find her, but she’d covered her tracks as well as she could just in case. For the first time since making the decision to leave, she began to relax. Inhaling deeply, she dragged in a soul-bolstering breath of the churning salt water air. It filled her head with a thousand old memories and her heart with a whisper of hope. She was a Bay girl, and she was going home.
ednesday morning Blake drove Charlie to Mary O’Meara’s Bed and Breakfast Inn. Mary, an old family friend who’d always been like an aunt to Charlie and her cousins, had been delighted when Charlie called the day before to see if she could stay at the Inn until she found something more permanent. She’d suggested the cottage that sat about a hundred feet from the main house and Charlie had jumped at the offer. After pulling up in front of the Inn’s big wraparound front porch and getting out of the truck, Blake got Charlie’s bags from the backseat and then came around to give her a hug. “I’m glad you’re back,” he said. “You let me know if you need anything. Okay?” “Okay. Thanks.” Charlie watched him pull away. She waved until he made a right out of the driveway, and then turned to go into the Inn to let Mary know she’d arrived. As she mounted the steps, the Inn’s front door opened and a tall man wearing black slacks and a white dress shirt stepped out. He
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was looking at his cell phone, but when he glanced up and saw her, their eyes connected and Charlie momentarily forgot to breathe. His eyes were black, or as close to it as she’d ever seen—dark, mysterious, and seductive—a triple danger. His hair fell rakishly over his forehead like midnight silk, as straight as hers was curly. He was killer gorgeous, and he made her instantly wary. “Morning.” He had a sexy smile, too sexy for her comfort zone at the moment, and she looked away. “Morning,” she mumbled, barely acknowledging him, and walked up onto the porch. “Are you checking in?” He sounded friendly and open, but she had no desire to make small talk with a man who could interrupt her breathing pattern with nothing more than a glance in her direction. If he lived in Glebe Point, she would have known him, which meant he was probably a guest, so probably not someone she’d run into again. It didn’t matter. Men had no place in her short-term plans, especially ones she had such a strong, unexplainable reaction to—even if they were only in town for a few days. “Yes.” She walked forward, stopping about a foot in front of him. She glanced up, in the general direction of his face, without really looking at him. “Do you mind letting me by? I want to go inside.” “Sure. Sorry.” He pushed the door open and stepped to the side, extending his hand with some flair toward the entrance, and she walked inside. She’d probably just come off as rude and snotty. She wasn’t either, but he wouldn’t know that. Was she going to be rude to every man she encountered now because of Phillip? She could apologize, but what would it matter? She’d never see this person again, and for whatever reason, he’d made her uncomfortable. Maybe he was a serial murderer or something, and her gut was warning her to steer clear of him. Charlie hurried forward. She glanced back over her shoulder as she walked through the front lobby area. The man with the piercing
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black eyes was watching her and shaking his head. She hadn’t made a good impression. Why had she acted that way? It wasn’t as if he’d been trying to hit on her. He was only being friendly and she’d weirded out, and she knew why. She’d found him attractive. It caught her off guard—frightened her even—and she’d overreacted. She’d never been a rude person, and she couldn’t let her experience with Phillip change that. Disappointed in her behavior, she started to turn around. She would go back outside to apologize; it would be character building. Before she could, Mary came walking into the lobby from the kitchen. “Why Charlie, aren’t you the best sight these eyes have seen in a long time!” Mary bustled over to her and wrapped Charlie in a warm hug. “Hey, Mary. It’s so good to see you, to be here.” She returned the hug and then stepped back. “I wanted to stop by to let you know I was here before going to the cottage to unpack.” “Well, I’m glad you did. Why don’t you get yourself settled and then come back up to the Inn before lunch so we can catch up?” “I’ll do that.” Charlie went back outside and got her bags. As she walked over to the cottage, she looked around but saw no sign of mister tall, dark, and breathtaking. Let it go. Don’t look back, only forward. It would be her new mantra.
CHARLIE UNPACKED the two suitcases that represented the remains of everything she now owned in the world. She spread the extent of her possessions out over the top of the bed and slid the cases underneath. She didn’t have much; still, the cottage afforded her more space and privacy than a room at the main Inn. Knowing Mary, that was precisely the reason her hostess had suggested it.
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The quarters were small, roughly six hundred square feet of charm. The walls were painted a pale, watery blue, accented by crisp white beadboard and trim, giving it a fresh and casual waterside feel that invited relaxation. Sunlight streamed in through the open windows, the Bay breezes flirting with gauzy white curtains, casting dancing patterns across the polished, light oak floorboards. In the main living area, an oversized couch and club chair sported creamy white canvas slipcovers, the perfect foil for the colorful array of pillows scattered about in generous abundance adding cheerful punches of blue, orange, and green. A few feet behind the couch, an island counter separated the living room from an efficiency kitchen. It was little more than a back wall fitted with the basic appliances and a small sink, but it meant she could cook her own meals if she felt inclined. Having a kitchen area also made it feel more like sheâ€™d be staying in a small apartment instead of just renting a room. Like everything else, the bedroom was compact, but plenty big enough for her needs. The walls were the same watery blue framed by crisp white trim as the rest of the cottage. A large bay window faced the water, with sweeping views of the marsh that could be enjoyed from the cozy window seat. A back door off the kitchen led outside to a private, covered brick patio, where Charlie foresaw having her coffee, some evening meals, or just relaxing and doing nothing more than taking in the sights and sounds of the marsh, content to be in the moment. After she finished putting away her clothes, she walked back up to the Inn and found Mary in the kitchen doing one of the things she loved mostâ€”baking. Two trays of cookies were cooling on the sideboard. Charlie breathed in their rich, fresh-baked aroma and sighed.
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“The scent of those cookies has been drifting in through the cottage windows for the last hour and had my mouth watering like a leaky faucet.” Mary chuckled, her blue eyes twinkling with delight. “Then I’ll make a fresh pot of coffee and we’ll have some together.” She held up a platter already piled high with cookies, probably to put out on the screened-in back porch for guests to enjoy throughout the day. “Crunchy Jumbles. They were always your favorite,” Mary said, and Charlie had no doubt that was the reason she’d decided to bake up a few batches that morning. Her mouth started to water all over again at the thought of biting into one of the chewy delights, crisp around the edges and filled with chocolate chips, pecans, and whatever else Mary had decided to add into the mix this time. The ingredients could change, depending on what the pantry held, but one thing remained constant, they were always amazing. She pulled out a chair and sat down at the large kitchen table where she’d enjoyed many a meal in years past. A soul-deep comfort, the result of being in familiar surroundings, flowed through her and she relished in it. “I haven’t had one of those since you made them for me to take with me when I moved away. You filled that huge tin so full the lid barely closed, and you had to tape it shut. Do you remember?” “I remember.” Mary poured water into the coffee pot and started it to brew. When it was ready, she set two cobalt blue mugs of steaming coffee and a pretty little china plate with a half of a dozen Crunchy Jumbles on the table. Charlie plucked one up and bit into it. It was still warm. She moaned with pleasure as her taste buds wrapped around a mouthful of rich, gooey deliciousness. “Oh, God! This is sinful. It was worth coming back to Glebe Point just for one of these.”
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“Well, it’s wonderful to have you sitting at my old table again. I’ve missed seeing you at it.” Mary regarded her with kind eyes. “And you know you’re welcome to stay in the cottage as long as you need to. I don’t have any requests for it right now. Any guests I had scheduled to put out there I can put in the main house.” “I appreciate that. I’m not sure how long it will take me to find a job and a place of my own.” Charlie curled her fingers around her coffee mug and regarded her hostess. “I can’t accept your offer to stay for free though, Mary. I’ve got enough money to last me a bit, so I insist on paying like any other guest. One of my first orders of business will be to get a job. I should be able to find something in my field.” She leaned her elbows on the table and brought her cup up to her mouth, holding it there without taking a sip. “I mean, there have to be dozens of jobs around here for someone in marine biology!” “I’m sure there are.” Mary gave her a reassuring smile. “And don’t you worry—” The phone started to ring and she stood up. “Let me just get that and then we’ll visit some more.” Mary hurried over to answer the phone, an old rotary that hung on the kitchen wall. Charlie smiled. How many people still had a phone on their wall? Or a landline for that matter? All she had at the moment was a disposable she’d picked up at the Walmart next to the grocery store where she’d left her car in Jersey. She’d tossed her own cell into the Dumpster next to the parking garage exit of the condo building three days ago. Although she’d have to get another permanent one soon, there was a certain freedom that came with not being available to the rest of the world 24/7. There would be missed calls from Phillip. Charlie stood up, carried her cup over to the sink, and rinsed it out before putting it in Mary’s dishwasher. Let him call. “Well, will you look at what the tide washed in!” Charlie spun toward the kitchen doorway and took in the tall man strolling toward her. He was six foot three inches of break-your-
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heart, gorgeous male. Fortunately, he was one of only two men she knew she could trust to never break hers. “Blake told me I could find you here.” He held open his arms and Charlie walked into them. “Justin.” She wrapped her hands around his waist and held on, a deep, bittersweet comfort infusing her. “It’s so good to see you.” “Sorry I missed you yesterday. Gabriella and I took the kids to Ocean City for a few days. We just got back last night.” He held her away from him, at an arm’s length, and gave her a once-over. “Didn’t they feed you in…Connecticut, was it? You’re as thin as a blade of reed grass.” Charlie ducked her head. She’d never been overweight, but Phillip had criticized her constantly for not being model slim. And she’d shed pound after pound trying to please him, right along with her perspective and self-esteem. “Hey, Mary, you’re going to have to fatten our girl up. We don’t want to lose her again to a gust of wind.” Justin kept one arm around her waist and grinned down at her, his amber eyes, so much like her own, glowing with affection. “Good to have you home, Charlie. Blake says you’re back to stay.” “That’s the plan. I hear you’ve moved back as well, and you’re married.” She gave a half laugh and shook her head. “You and Blake both…and with kids!” She cleared her throat—embarrassed she hadn’t been there for either of them—or even known they’d gotten married until her return. “I’m sorry I missed the weddings. I should have been in touch before this.” It was just wrong she hadn’t known, been out of contact for so long without a word, distanced herself so completely from family— they were hers. “I never intended to—” “Hey, life gets away from us sometimes. It would have been nice to know where you were and that you were okay, but you’re home now and we’ll have plenty of time to catch up.”
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Justin cocked his head, studied her a moment, a shadow of concern darkening his eyes. “So, is everything okay? Is there any other reason besides missing your adoring family that you decided to come home?” “Everything’s fine.” Charlie slipped out of his arm and made a show of sauntering over to the table where she picked up a cookie and waved it in the air. “Crunchy Jumbles, Jus.” She quirked her lips, gave him a saucy smile. “These are the real reason I returned to Glebe Point.” He chuckled. “Okay, I’ll let Blake know; that should eliminate his concerns.” “What concerns?” Charlie asked. She wouldn’t be surprised if Blake had told Justin he was concerned about her. Despite whatever assurances she might voice that she was fine, she knew her appearance would set off alarm bells in their minds. She weighed almost fifteen pounds less than when they had last seen her. She hadn’t really taken a critical look at herself until that morning when she was getting dressed and caught her reflection in the mirror on the back of the bedroom door. What she saw was a woman who was clearly underweight. It had almost brought tears to her eyes—in part that she’d fallen so far under Phillip’s control, but more so, because she’d felt such a wave of relief that she’d escaped his control before he could crush her spirit completely. “That’s settled!” Mary returned to the table before Justin could answer Charlie’s question. “That was my friend Clara. She’s coming to dinner Sunday, and she’s going to invite her nephew Cooper to come along. I don’t think you’ve met him, Charlie. He’s only lived here about three years. Justin, you and Blake are friends of his, aren’t you?” “We are, and I like him, so I hope you didn’t tell Clara to bring him along because you’re trying to fix Charlie up with someone already. The poor girl hasn’t been back a week.”
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Mary put a hand on her hip and sputtered. “Why, Justin! I’m doing no such thing. Clara and I made plans a couple of days ago to get together. She just told me her nephew was stopping over on Sunday to help her with some painting, so I thought since he’d be there working all day, he might enjoy coming to dinner with her instead of having to fend for himself afterward.” “Hmmm.” Justin pulled out a chair and dropped onto it. Mary sat back down also and took a sip of coffee. “He is a very nice young man, though.” Charlie glanced at Justin and they rolled their eyes in unison. “Handsome, too.” Mary picked up a Crunchy Jumble and took a nibble. “He actually stopped by this morning to pick up some of the Inn’s brochures to put in his office for me. Why, you two just missed each other, Charlie. If you’d gotten here a couple of minutes earlier you probably would have run into him.” Charlie had a bad feeling she may not have missed him. And now the man with the piercing eyes who she’d been so rude to might be the same one joining them for dinner in a few days. She hoped she was wrong. Justin arched a brow at her. “I think you may be in trouble, cuz.” She might be, but not in the way her cousin was thinking. “It doesn’t matter if she’s scheming. I’ve declared a moratorium on men.” Charlie reached for another Crunchy Jumble and wondered if there was some psychological reason for her sudden desire to stuff her face with sweets. “Poppycock.” Mary waved her cookie in the air. “A nice young woman like you needs a good man in her life to take care of her.” “I can take care of myself, Mary.” Charlie chose to leave it at that. The last man who said all he wanted to do was take care of her had almost stripped her of her soul in the process. No, she didn’t want or need a man in her life. Now that she’d taken back her freedom, she intended to keep it.
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Justin sat with his arms crossed over his chest, watching her. If her cousins ever found out the truth about Phillip, she wouldn’t put it past either of them to pay her ex-boyfriend a visit. The less they knew the better for everyone. She cleared her throat. “So when do I get to meet the family?” “Tomorrow night. Gab and Delaney are already planning a barbecue in your honor, so I hope you don’t have other plans. They’re intrigued that Blake and I have this female relative we grew up with who they never knew existed. I think they’re hoping to pry stories of our youthful foibles out of you.” Charlie grinned broadly and wiggled her brows at him. “I can be bought.” “Can you now? Just remember, you were in on a fair number of our escapades.” Justin’s eyes sparkled with amusement as they held hers. “Payback can be hell, little cousin.” She chuckled, enjoying the lighthearted banter they’d always engaged in once again. “Point taken.” “So I can tell Gab you’ll be there?” “Yes. I’m looking forward to it. Thanks, Jus.” She set her mug on the table, thought of home and homecomings, all she’d given up when she’d moved away, and what she hoped to regain now that she’d returned.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Patricia Paris lives in the Chesapeake Bay area of Maryland with her husband John; a lazy, but lovable cat named Shiloh; and James Brown, aka JB, the baddest, but also, most lovable dog in town. When not writing, youâ€™re likely to find the author exploring the Bay areaâ€™s small towns and waterways, which provide endless inspiration for her writing; battling the weeds that insist on invading her gardens; or, being an avid foodie, experimenting with a new recipe in her kitchen. Patricia admits to being an unapologetic romantic, and she loves to give her readers that happily ever after, every time.
Imprint: BHC Press/Windswept Genre: Romance/Contemporary Publication Date: 5/8/2017 Description: After leaving Glebe Point, Maryland over fi...
Published on Dec 27, 2017
Imprint: BHC Press/Windswept Genre: Romance/Contemporary Publication Date: 5/8/2017 Description: After leaving Glebe Point, Maryland over fi...