Happy autumn! Have you pulled out the apple cider and pumpkin everything yet? I love this time of year, with the crispy morning air and school buses running around town. I’m totally enjoying this fall, but it’s a bit different for me this year. My life has taken some crazy detours which slowed my progress on In my Dreams, the sequel for All in my Head. I’m working on it, though! I wanted to share a scene… Hopefully I’m not sharing too much but I’m so excited about this story and can’t wait to share the entire novel with you. In the meantime…
Here’s a look into the new book: (and if you haven’t read All in my Head, the format is different, and Marcus has his own font when he’s just a voice.) This is after Avery leaves Marcus in Portland to return to school.
Why did it hurt so much? The bed felt wrong just like my life, and I couldn’t understand why I felt that way. Marcus was ok. We were ok. Life was fixable now.
The fixable just felt so big and scary right now. So alone.
“Marcus?” I whispered into the dark, gazing blindly up at the ceiling. “Are you there? I need you.”
I tried to breathe but my body shook, so I rolled onto my side and curled up, squeezing my eyes shut.
Why couldn’t I feel him? Hear him? It felt so wrong to be this far away, knowing he was lying in a hospital bed. What would it be like to recover from a brain injury and a coma? He wasn’t sure about his life and his body right now, and that had to be super hard on a athletic guy like him. I wanted to be there, holding him, telling him it’d be okay.
I needed to feel him.
How was I supposed to focus on my life here when my thoughts would be up there with him?
I needed escape.
Please just let me go to sleep.
The words were like a prayer and I felt myself falling into sweet oblivion.
It wasn’t empty; it was the silence of a white, padded world where everything is brighter, clearer. The smell of snow filled my nose. Clean. Crisp. The cold, clean air shot into my lungs like a drug, racing through my veins and hitting my brain with a burst of serotonin. Pure happiness filled me.
I had a board under me and miles of pristine powder stretching out, inviting me to explore. Diamond-like sparkles speckled the snow, dancing in the sunlight and leading the way as I raced forward. Clear blue sky blessed me from above. Smelling pine, I turned my head. A forest stood off on one side decorating the edge of the clearing, and a mountain beckoned before me.
My core temp came up from the excitement. Pure, so pure. Such a singleness—it was just what I needed. I became aware of board shhhing over the snow, and I suddenly loved that sound with a terrifying intensity.
Overflowing with gratitude, I yelled out, my jubilant voice filling the meadow and slopes and gullies.
I turned my body and took a new direction, gliding over a rolling section that felt like waves under me.
He filled my soul, his joy matching mine.
How’d we get here, babe?
I don’t know! I just know it feels great!
I know, right!! Let’s hit this!
With a whoop, we moved together, flying toward a hill, anticipation of the jump practically lifting us before the takeoff. We flew off the top.
It wasn’t anything fancy. No flips. No 180. No board grabbing.
The beauty of the ride just froze us in a silent flight out over the powder, feeling the cold wind on our skin. That’s what a live feels like. We landed soft knees and glided down.
My thoughts swirled, wondering how Marcus felt out here, with…reality back there. I felt his mind react, turn toward that thought, and then shove it away.
Who cares about that now?
I didn’t. Not when I can have this.
Wow, deep powder out here today.
I pulled in a super deep breath, wanting to capture as much as I could from here. I’d need it later.
We took the downhill, swinging around the few trees and enjoying it silently. Just being here. Just being.
A sharp incline came up and we took it fast. Probably too fast. It didn’t matter. We soared higher than possible, flying, laughing in the face of life.
I expected a complete yard sale but we just fell into the snow and rolled. That’s when I became aware we were both there—it wasn’t just his voice and being filling my head. We were both lying in the snow.
His laughter filled the air, full and sure, one of those laughs that pause life. We ended up side by side on our backs, my arm over his.
I rolled my head to look at him—this was so different to see his face, the sky reflected in his eyes, the white of his teeth as he smiled.
What is this, I wondered, and he lifted his eyebrows in answer.
Just us. We’re different.
I love you, babe.
I sighed and realized I was waking up in bed, alone. I felt around under the covers, half expecting Marcus to still be with me. He wasn’t, of course. I knew that. But he was with me in a way.
I want answers. I’ll find way to get them. Eli has an explanation for everything…until he doesn’t. I finally crack him and gain leverage, only to learn a new, more twisted story. How can I believe round two of his lies? Now I know for certain he’s not the only one in on this conspiracy, but I still don’t know why this is happening to me.
Series info (Book 1 is free on iBooks and Smashwords, with more retailers coming soon.)
New twists, turns, and surprises! Can Megan fight her attraction to Eli as she searches for answers?
Good god, when that woman gets an idea in her head, nothing short of Armageddon can stop her.
You don’t trust me, Megan. You think I’m going to put a bullet in your head and chop you up with an ax like some deranged murderer. You think I’d do that to my wife, the love of my life, the woman who saved my life and soul.
So what now? What do I do?
She really didn’t know what she was asking me back then. That, or she thought more of me than I do.
What if she does make a break for it out here? Her talents lie more in the interpersonal realm, not so much outdoor survival. She can navigate life with the rich and twisted, surrounded by power hungry tycoons and white collar killers, but I’m not sure she’d keep her head about her in a survival situation out here, especially in her confused mental state.
Why did I leave her by herself? Did I really think it’d prove that I trust her?
Did you miss the first two? Series info
I’m living with a stranger and tiptoeing over secrets. Strange memories shift into my brain, memories that I can’t explain. Despite all the evidence that Eli and I are married, I know something isn’t right. I’m pretty sure he’s spying on me. I wonder what Eli is hiding from me. For that matter, what is he hiding from? He’s keeping secrets, but are they related to my memory loss? Is something even bigger going on? I’m playing a double agent, working with him to rebuild a life while trying to uncover the truth.
“You have a tattoo?”
He pulls the shirt back off in one motion and sits on my side of the bed. Between his shoulder blades, there’s a set of wings with a dagger of some kind in front of it.
I graze my fingers over it, making him shiver. His response makes me pull my hand back.
“It’s okay.” He throws a look over his shoulder at me. We’re so close I can smell the scent of his skin—it makes me want to lean in and nuzzle my face. It’s a strange, fleeting feeling. A real feeling, though. That part feels good.
“This looks like…a military tattoo.”
“Got it in the Air Force,” he says like it’s common knowledge. “Oh… I know you don’t know, but it keeps happening. I have to stop and remember that you don’t remember.”
“It’s not the Air Force emblem,” I say, almost to myself. It’s very close, though. Here and now, I remind myself, but still I wonder about it.
“No, my own take on it. I liked the wing concept. That I can fly away.”
Lower on his side, the one tilted away from me, I spot a scar and lean over to look. It’s five inches long and thick.
“How did this happen?” I run my finger down it, but my heart thumps hard enough to hurt. It’s from a knife wound.
“Oh, that’s not from my service. I jumped out of a tree when I was twelve and a branch had a sharp point. It cut pretty deep.”
It looks like it’s not that old, and I’m sure it was a knife. I feel lightheaded suddenly. Am I creating an image of an open wound in his back or remembering it?
So, it was another crazy year in publishing.Trade book prices came down, overall book quality (Indie and trade) went up in my opinion due to increased competition, and the number of books on the market skyrocketed. Of course, that’s been a trend over the last few years. Kindle Unlimited rolled out in the US and then in countries all over the world, drastically cutting book sales for many authors. I think a few have profited, but I’ve seen a majority of authors saying their sales (including borrows) and income doing a nosedive.Yeah, publishing continues to change, and the playing field has leveled out once again, where Indies no longer have an advantage with lower prices and faster releases.
All of the above is good for readers. I’ll admit I’m happy I can get books from my favorite authors for lower prices. And, the truth is, being an author isn’t like other jobs. You don’t put in the time and schooling and then know you have a career path with steadily increasing pay. Being an artist of any kind has challenges. Authors are creatives and business people, and our books have to compete with Facebook, TV, free content, and all the other books out there. In essence, if you’re going to be an author, you have to do it because you love it.
What about me? I’ve been writing away as usual. I released three full novels in 2014:
Costa Rica, In A Field of Oranges, and It’s All In My Head
And I recently released the first novella in a new romantic thriller series, Stranger in my Bed. This first novella doesn’t have so much of the romantic element in it–I’d even call it a psychological thriller.
2014 was a really great writing year for me. I pushed myself to offer something really different with each book. I took It’s All In My Head to a week long, intensive writing workshop, and it eventually became my longest work to date, and my first novel in 1st person. I just LOVE that story and the characters. Some books are harder to write, and that one had challenges, but I still smile when I think about the writing process, and remember it like a life-changing vacation.
I took the lessons learned while writing that novel and started my new series. There’s a lot of mystery in Stranger in my Bed. It’s great fun to write! I also wanted to try a different format, so I’m using a TV episode format, where I’m going to release novellas hopefully once every month. The entire story is much bigger than my usual novel length, too, so this format works well. I really like having smaller conflicts in each novella that will also build the overall problem. In the end, I’ll probably release a box set of the entire story.
I’m also finishing a nonfiction project–my first book about novel writing. I’ve held off on offering writing advice because there’s an abundance of that there. But I haven’t seen one that covered my content. I took my notes on bestsellers and looked at lists of books that were turned into movies, and something jumped out at me. It was one of those amazing moments when a light bulb turned on and I literally stood up in amazement. This happens when I see something about my writing or writing in general, but I’ve never felt my new insight was a really new insight for writers in general. This time I thought, wow, I need to share this! So I am.
The guide is actually about plotting, creating a blockbuster plot, and making any story bigger. I break down the plot of mega bestsellers to form a simple novel map that anyone can use to plan their novel with critical points that set stories apart.
Blockbuster Books, Broken Down is up for pre-order in Kindle and will release on January 30, 2015. There’s a workbook for the print version, and I hope to release that in January.
Well, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and New Year– I’m celebrating Christmas vacation with two weeks of sleeping in!
So… All In My Head is out!!
Avery Waldorf wakes up from a concussion to find a voice inside her head—an adventurous male voice belonging to Marcus, who doesn’t know where he came from, but has an opinion on everything about her life. She just wants to work on her screenplay, go to her writing classes and flirt with the guy of her dreams, Nash, who is finally noticing her.
Marcus wants to get up at dawn, run, snowboard, and basically take over her life, and even her body at times. He thinks she’s freaking hot and does not like Nash touching her. Marcus may be smart, talented at snowboarding, drawing and playing the guitar, but he’s not real! When she needs help, she has to call Nash.
She can’t tell anyone about Marcus without sounding like she’s crazy. Meanwhile Marcus doesn’t know where he’ll go if he leaves her mind. Maybe she is losing it…
This is my longest book to date, my first time writing in first person, and my first college age romance. I’m excited! It was such a fun book to write, and Avery and Marcus came to life. You might remember my writing challenge: that I want to write books that different, unique, and beyond what I’ve written before. This story is fun, flirty and very emotional, and full of surprises.
It’s All In My Head TEASER:
Then, mid-class, I realized that instead of paying attention, I was looking down at my notepad, sketching instead of taking notes or even trying to listen. It took a few slow seconds for me to see that I was drawing myself. And I don’t draw.
I stared in horror like it was a dead rat. Holeeee hell. Really, I can’t draw at all, and this was pretty good. Really good. I mean, it looked like me, even with expression.
Marcus, is that you drawing?
Oh … sorry. Bored out of my mind.
Wow, is that a … what do you call that? Oh, a compliment.
I scanned the few people around me who could see my desk. No one was looking my way.
How do you know what I look like when you’re on the inside, looking out?
I’ve seen you in the mirror.
He got all this from a few glances in the mirror? Marcus had a fine memory.
You have very striking looks. Now can I please get back to my artwork?
Worried and yet fascinated, I watched my own hand move the pencil in confident strokes, filling in my lips. When had Marcus been able to study me that much? The only time he saw my face was when I looked in the mirror. Speaking of my face, it got hot—for several reasons. First, I was drawing myself. I’d die if anyone noticed. Second, it blew up some of my theories about Marcus, or what was causing all this. If I can’t draw, I can’t make up a person who can, right? And third, he was drawing me in a certain mood. I looked … suggestive.
Excuse me, Marcus, but when have you seen that look on my face?
I have an imagination. A very vivid one at times.
Read the first 10% on Amazon.
It’s here! The Montlake Romance edition of Point Hope is live on Amazon.
I’ve had an amazing journey with this novel. The story came together so easily, and I wrote the first draft in two months. Some stories I can see clearly while others take more effort to bring into focus, and this one just pulled together like magic. (I think that happens when the plot has inherent conflict and I have a good feel for each character and what they want.) I spent another month going through the story before sending it to my editor. Editing takes about a month as well. I was so excited to share the story with my readers, and I published the book in June. Then Montlake Romance emailed in early August, and here we are on the Montlake Romance release day!
I received my author copies a few weeks ago, and I found myself flipping through and reading the story. After going through the publishing process twice this year, you’d think I’d be tired of it. Instead, it’s just the opposite. I can fall into the story just by opening the paperback or the Kindle version. (I got both just to see them.)
And in case you’re wondering, or waiting for my next book, I’m still writing! I’m finishing the first draft of Costa Rica and working on a newer project called In a Field of Oranges. I’ll share more about those in the next few months.
After his Navy career came to an end, Trey became an EMT in his hometown of Coos Bay, Oregon. He struggles with PTSD, which affects his ability to do his job and connect with his family. His wife seems to be living life without him.
Rosette can’t figure out what happened to her marriage, or to Trey—the man she once loved so desperately. It feels like she’ll lose everything along with him. Meanwhile, he’s enclosed in his own world without her.
Their marriage is on its last legs when their family is faced with two deaths and an orphan. They’re already raising two young children and Trey’s teenage brother, Alex. Trey and Rosette make a shaky agreement to play “family” for now so they can take care of Trey’s recently orphaned niece. But can faking it ever be enough?
It’s make-it or break-it time. If they split apart, who will raise Hope?
So many readers emailed about Trent and Molly from More Than Memories that I wanted to continue their story. This story takes place a few months after the close of the previous novel and lets everyone see how things are going for Trent and Molly, and for the other characters in the first book.
A Wedding to Remember, Book 2 of the Memories series (following More Than Memories) is now available in Kindle!
Every girl dreams of a wedding… Trent knows that, and he wants Molly to have the wedding of a lifetime. She’s the love of his life and means everything to him. They eloped before she lost her memory and disappeared, and then they lost four years, so he wants to make up for that lost time in a huge way. Now that they’re reunited, he wants to celebrate their love in front of their family and friends.
It’s the happiest time of her life… but thinking of a wedding brings up all kinds of emotions. Molly’s not sure how to handle things at first! But not only is Trent there for her, he’s bringing in reinforcements.
Did you miss the first book?
More Than Memories (A full length novel)
Can she love him if she can’t remember him? Molly Anderson returns “home” to a town she doesn’t remember, hoping it will spark a memory. She runs into Trent Williams, a Ridge City police detective, and something else definitely sparks.
He wants to know why she left town, with her parents, but without a word to anyone. She doesn’t remember that life. She can only tell him she knew her parents briefly before they died . . . or were murdered, she’s not sure. She hopes regaining her memory will help answer that question.
Trent has his own secrets, but they have a mystery to solve. As they work together and Molly meets their old friends, she realizes their relationship went deeper than memories. In fact, she grew up in Ridge City, even though her parents had said they lived there just a few years. How could she have forgotten her lifelong friend and love? Can she love him again if she doesn’t remember him? There’s also the possibility that she did something awful — and maybe that’s why she’s afraid to remember her old life.
Molly knows she wants him now, but the truth might destroy their love.
The mighty Pacific has a rugged, rough, unforgiving beauty—like Trey’s life.
After an IED brought his Navy career to an end, Trey became an EMT in his hometown of Coos Bay, Oregon. He struggles with PTSD, which affects his ability to do his job and connect with his family. His wife seems to be living life without him.
Rosette can’t figure out what happened to her marriage, or to Trey—the man she once so desperately loved. It feels like she’ll lose everything along with him. Meanwhile, he’s enclosed in his own world without her.
Their marriage is on its last legs when their family is faced with two deaths and an orphan. They’re already raising two young children and Trey’s teenage brother, Alex. Trey and Rosette make a shaky agreement: to play “family” for now so they can take care of Trey’s recently orphaned niece. But can faking it ever be enough?
It’s make-it or break-it time. If they split apart, who will raise Hope?
I’m so excited to share my latest novel with you–this is my biggest story yet. Point Hope is my longest novel, has a larger cast and more point of views. I so enjoyed working with the different people in the story, from the main couple Trey and Rosette, to teenager Alex and troubled Summer. Several characters came to life and made the writing even more fun. It was an emotional journey, too, as writing all novels are.
If you’re from Coos Bay or have visited, you’ll recognize quite a few places and landmarks!
Rosette awoke to the faint sound of Trey’s cell phone ringing downstairs. Funny how a mother wakes to the quietest noise, even a soft newborn cough. Thank the good Lord they were past those early years with the kids. She rolled over in bed to squint at the alarm clock.
It was midnight. Who would be calling him so late? It didn’t sound like he’d answered it, but he could be returning the call. Rosette sat up, feeling alternating chills and waves of heat, as she feathered out the suspicions creeping in. Did he think they’d already severed their tie, and he was now free to talk to other women?
The landline phone on the nightstand rang.
Her heart skipped a couple beats. Something had happened, she could feel it, but what could be worse than Ricky dying?
She always answered the phone with “hello,” but this time she picked up the phone and spoke with a shaky voice. “Yes?”
“Rosette?” a rough voice asked. Harry. Trey’s boss.
“It’s Amanda. She has you and Trey down as her emergency contacts. We just brought her into the ER. We need you here right away. I tried Trey and couldn’t get him. Is he there?”
She said yes again and listened without hearing the rest of Harry’s words before ending the call.
OhMyGod OhMyGod OhMyGod. Rosette threw back the covers and ran out of the room, down the stairs, and into the living room, hitting the light switch on her way as she almost charged right into the couch.
She startled Trey so badly that he threw up his hands, flinching and turning away. Great. Not a flashback now. She needed him.
“Amanda’s at the hospital. We need to go.”
He shielded his eyes from the light. “She’s in labor?”
A momentary relief sank through her, warm and comforting. Of course Amanda was just in labor. Why hadn’t she thought of that? Because Harry sounded… “I don’t know. Harry called and said she’s in the ER, and we need to get there right away.”
I spent a fun weekend with some amazing people and Zulu 7 Media, and I wanted to share a few pics with you. If you’re a Leverage fan & Kaniac, you might like this first one!
Christian Kane is an amazing actor and guy. I am so impressed with what he puts into his acting. It looks easy when you watch the final project, but it’s hard work, physically and mentally.
Timothy Hutton – amazingly talented actor and director!
Dale Comstock, American hero, Delta Force and actor, has a book coming out soon. He’s also in my next book project called Delta Moms. It’ll be a story for every woman that’s ever wanted to kick ass!
We were walking in downtown Portland with Paul Bernard and suddenly someone barreled through with a bike helmet on and kept going. He wasn’t even on a bike! Apparently a Portlandia fan spotted him!
The mighty Pacific has a rugged, rough, unforgiving beauty—like Trey’s life.
Trey and Rosette Sinclair were once in love. Now they both feel hurt and unwanted. Their marriage is on its last legs when their family is faced with two deaths and an orphan. They’re already raising two young children and Trey’s teenage brother, Alex.
After an IED brought his Navy career to an end, Trey became an EMT in his hometown of Coos Bay, Oregon. He struggles with PTSD, which affects his ability to do his job and connect with his family. His wife seems to be living life without him.
Rosette is the mother hen and friend to all. She can’t figure out what happened to her marriage, or to Trey—the man she once so desperately loved. It feels like she’ll lose everything along with him. Meanwhile, he’s enclosed in his own world without her.
Trey and Rosette make a shaky agreement: to play “family” for now so they can take care of Trey’s recently orphaned niece. But can faking it ever be enough?
It’s make-it or break-it time. If they split apart, who will raise Hope?
Trey held an aged picture in one hand, rubbing a thumb over it. It showed two young boys with dark hair sitting on the front steps together, a yellow lab puppy on their laps—the front half on Ricky’s lap and the back half spilling onto Trey’s cut-off jeans.
Trey had wanted the chocolate lab, but Ricky had begged and pleaded for the yellow one. It was a girl to boot, and Trey had wanted a boy dog. A boy like them. But his younger brother had fallen in love with that yellow lab, with her imploring brown puppy eyes, silky soft fur, and tiny pink tongue that licked them both. Marked them both, apparently.
Even at that age, Ricky was a people person and knew how to be persuasive. It took just a flash of his little-boy smile, a tilt of his head, and his, “Aw, come on, Trey.” So Trey had given in and let Ricky pick their new puppy, denying—of course—that Ricky had pushed him into it. There had been something special about the way Ricky had looked at that tiny dog and the gentle way he’d held her.
They’d named her together: Helen of Troy. It was a strong name, they thought, judging from a movie they’d just watched.
Helen had been gone a long time—she’d hailed back in the days of paper airplanes, secret forts, catching snakes, and baseball in the backyard.
Now Ricky was gone too.
A noise startled Trey, and he slipped the small photo back into his shirt pocket. He looked up as Rosette walked into their home office, noticing it took her a few steps to see him silently sitting in the brown leather chair in the corner. They’d been sharing the office, one person coming in when the other was out. The room had her mark all over it. She’d painted the walls a soft seafoam green. Her pictures and notes for their family history book were spread across their old oak desk. Her light purple sweater was slung over the armchair in the other corner—they’d picked out his-and-her chairs together a good six years ago. His sole decorating contribution was a large, framed photo of the Cape Arago Lighthouse, with the ocean and fiery sunset behind it, which he’d taken himself.
Her dark hair was swept over one shoulder and cascaded down, looking like it wanted to curl. That was the usual state of it: doing what it wanted while she always tried to brush it straight. She wasn’t wearing makeup, and her crisp blue eyes and dark lashes looked stark in her pale face. He watched her slack expression stiffen.
“Oh.” Her body tensed and she paused, ready to turn around, but something stopped her. Maybe his expression, but more likely it was the new awkwardness they both felt around each other. They hadn’t spoken in several days, except when the kids were present.
“Rosette,” he started, but all the words he had been thinking over the last twenty minutes fled his mind.
Her face softened. “I’ve been trying to find a way to truly tell you how sorry I am about your brother.”
He sucked in a breath as if she’d kicked him in the stomach. The pain was so fresh, raw, alive. “Thanks for that,” he managed. “I was sitting here thinking about tomorrow.” He preferred to say tomorrow instead of the funeral.
She gave a weak nod, a half nod really, unsure of what to say. When Trey had learned his brother had been killed in action in Afghanistan, he’d wanted to go to her. Maybe he had. That day was hazy in his mind now. He had wanted to run to her so many times in the days since, but the reality of their situation came back, again and again, like a paper cut popping open. You can almost forget a paper cut until it gets pulled open and the pain shoots back, just like the cut now ripping across his heart. They were still living under this roof together only because Ricky’s death had interrupted their plans.
She fidgeted. They both knew they should talk about them—the divorce—but it was the worst possible timing. He saw the tension in her drawn mouth, the darkness to her eyes, the way she twisted her fingers together.
Finally, he said, “We can put everything aside until after the funeral. We can do that, can’t we? It’s not like we haven’t lived together for ten years. We can handle a few more days.”
Almost ten years, he mentally corrected himself. Their anniversary was coming up this summer, but it might not mean anything by then. She didn’t answer, and he wondered if she thought his words were yet another jab aimed at her. Honestly, he wasn’t trying to hurt her. It was actually rather ironic—a week ago they’d been stabbing each other with words, and now he was afraid of hurting her.
She nodded without looking at him, then shrugged. He thought she was looking at the family pictures on the wall to avoid him, but suddenly he realized she really was looking at them, remembering their lives. She glanced over to say, “I was thinking the same thing. Why do a double whammy to the kids?”
The kids. For Christ’s sake, how could they do this at all to their kids, and to Alex, his little brother? Trey choked down any response to that. Their kids, Candice and Jake, were so young they might not really understand all this, but his brother Alex was fifteen. This had been Alex’s home and family since he was barely walking. He had lost his parents once, and now he’d be losing another set all over again. This is all my fault.
“It’s agreed then,” Trey said. “We’ll just act normal and attend the funeral.”
“Okay.” She turned to leave but paused in the doorway. Looking over her shoulder, but not directly at him, she added, “We’ll tell the kids afterwards.”
Afterwards. The word hung there like a fragile glass ball, waiting to fall and shatter. As much as he dreaded his brother’s funeral, now he dreaded the afterwards even more. Ricky was already dead. And Trey’s marriage wasn’t in the ground yet—it just seemed like it. But he hoped it was still gasping; he was not quite ready to give up the fight.
After Rosette left the room, he couldn’t sit in the office any longer. It had begun to feel more like her office than theirs. Sometimes it felt more like her house and her life, and he was just there by accident. She’d painted the kitchen a bright, warm yellow and the living room a light coral. He had never minded, but now he found himself looking around for even a tiny glimpse of his mark on their home. On his way through the kitchen, he paused and told Rosette, “I’m going for a walk.”
Were you supposed to tell your soon-to-be ex-wife that you were leaving the house? What was the protocol for this? He could have left without saying anything, but that felt rude after she had made an effort just minutes ago.
He barely looked at her, but it was long enough to see the fall of her face and the hurt in her eyes. Even with a divorce on the horizon, they had two young children and a teenager to care for, and she expected him to do his part. He was home from work for a few days due to his brother’s death, and the funeral was tomorrow.
He went out the back, which just as easily could have been the front because it faced the ocean. His little brother—and only remaining sibling—Alex was coming up the path from the beach. “Hey, Trey.” He had an easy smile, which baffled Trey. Alex took a lickin’ and kept on tickin’. Maybe he was trying to make the rest of them feel better?
“How are you doing?” Trey asked, hoping his sincere tone would get a real answer.
Alex shrugged. “Okay, fine, I guess.” They stood in silence for a minute before Alex added, “Are you and Rosette doing okay? With all this, I mean.”
That last part seemed to cover for something. Had Alex noticed how he and Rosette had hardly spoken this week? Trey shrugged and then felt bad for the vague answer. “Things are going to be okay.”
Things weren’t okay at all. Trey felt even worse.
Alex offered a weak smile and headed inside. The kid needed a haircut. His almost-black hair was curling this way and that, down past his eyebrows and over his ears. That would irk their dad to no end if Jonathan Trevor Sinclair II were still alive. As it was, Trey was raising the youngest of the Sinclair boys, and he couldn’t tell if he was doing a good job or not. He sure hadn’t done right by Ricky.
Maybe he shouldn’t be leaving. He slowed his step and then heard the back door shut. Oh well. Alex had Rosette to talk to, and they seemed to connect better anyway.
Trey walked across the yard to the rough wooden stairs leading down to Lighthouse Beach. They had a private beach in front of the line of neighboring houses, secluded from the rest of the coastline with Yoakum Point to their north and the Cape Arago Lighthouse on the south side, perched proudly where the land jutted out. He enjoyed walking in their cove, or even further to Bastendorff Beach, if he wanted to walk around the bend.
Bastendorff was a public access beach, but it usually wasn’t too crowded, especially this early in the spring. If he really wanted to wear himself out, he could walk the complete length of that beach and continue out onto the jetty.
The beach stairs serviced his neighbor’s house as well. He wasn’t surprised when Leena from next door called his name, and he turned his head in time for a quick glimpse before she engulfed in him a tight embrace.
“Trey, I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do? Anything at all? If you need to talk or anything, I’m right next door.”
He nodded against her head, not shrugging out of the embrace. Actually, he found he’d slipped one arm around her as well.
She leaned back. “Want to come in and talk?”
It was tempting. He went as far as to look over at her house before shaking his head. “I need to walk awhile and clear my head.”
That phrase wasn’t an alarm bell to Leena. It was Rosette who worried about his PTSD when he said things like that.
Leena just nodded, looking disappointed. Pouty might be a better word. She had naturally light brown hair but added bleach-blond and red highlights, and curled the ends. The added colors changed often. She was always too tan for the Oregon coast and wore lipstick that was a shade too bright. Her overall appearance made him think of the girls on the magazine covers in the grocery store. “Snooki” or some name like that came to mind. Suddenly, her face brightened. “I could come with you.”
Her enthusiasm for him always left him confused, kind of flattered but overlaid with guilt. He had a perfectly valid reason to want her company right now, but he just couldn’t do it. “I’m sorry, Leena, I want to go alone.” He stepped back. It took great willpower not to glance back at his house for any parted curtains.
For a second, he wanted to feel Rosette’s arms around him.
Trey headed down the stairs to the beach, where he always ended up. Always escaping, he thought. Today he wanted to get away from death. His brother’s death. His marriage’s death. He wanted to get away from his mixed feelings about Leena. He didn’t think any of those thoughts would have invaded his mind without her flirting. It wasn’t like he’d been having sexual fantasies about her. Instead he found himself thinking about her company—just talking with someone without all the complexity of his other relationships.
From down on the beach, he could see his renovated farmhouse up on the hill, its warm yellow glinting through the trees. Leena’s house was mostly hidden from this viewpoint. He tried picturing a different life, but it was fuzzy. Yet that was the reality: his brother was gone, his wife was probably leaving him after the funeral, and he might lose his family home. Trey had no idea how he’d even gotten to this point, so he turned his attention back to the physical world around him, something that didn’t slip away.
It was a quiet spring day, calm for the beach, with not too many people around. Of course, the beach was big enough that you could be alone even with other people around. The colorless sky was thinking about raining, with gray clouds that lightened toward the horizon. But he had the feeling it’d hold off for a while.
The water called to him today. Sometimes he meandered along the inland edge of the beach, close to the Scotch broom growing profusely on the bank, but today he headed straight down toward the ocean. The tide was in, so he didn’t have nearly as far to walk. He always viewed the mighty Pacific as having a rugged, rough, unforgiving beauty—like his life.
He thought of his wife and wondered, yet again, why he didn’t feel in love with her. Back in high school and the first year in the Navy, he was ready to tackle life. Everything waited for him. She waited for him. And he came back home and romanced Rosette. They had grown up together here, but when he came home and saw her, it was love at first sight for both of them.
All the excitement had faded since then, during his time treating wounded Marines. He’d seen the ugly side of life and what people can do to other people. Then, when he was counting down months until he’d get out, he was wounded.
They were close by when an IED took out one Marine and wounded another. The shock. Even as a Corpsman, it was still an awful shock to see someone’s flesh opened up, torn apart… He’d reached a point where he saw it and put the shock away for later. They’d had to in order to stay calm and treat the wounded. That’s exactly what they were doing with a second IED triggered.
Hot metal ripped all through him. But he was one of the lucky ones. He was so close to the blast that it gave him a concussion, knocking him unconscious. A gift from heaven in that situation.
He’d finally healed on the outside. Only scars remained now: white tears in his skin, like tally marks. Maybe he had one for each life that was lost under his team’s care.
Salty wind blew sand into his face as he hiked around the rocky bend to Bastendorff Beach. You learn to live with the taste of salt on your lips on the Oregon coast. It was home to him. At least that wouldn’t change. The rest of his life was another story.
He kept seeing Rosette’s face the last time they’d fought— a week ago, with hushed yelling and tears. He’d reached the end of sanity and control and had burst out, “Do you want a divorce?”
Within the span of two seconds, her face went from shock, horror, and hurt to plain angry. She’d turned on her heel and left the room in three steps. It was late afternoon, and the kids were home from school. Rosette might have been hiding in their bedroom or taking a bath; he wasn’t sure, so he made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the kids and sat at the counter with them, talking about their day. It was perfectly normal and routine except that everything was falling apart inside him.
When he’d heard her moving around upstairs, he kissed the kids on the head and told them he had to run some errands. He waited until eleven that night to come home and slept on the couch. She woke him up in the morning by standing at the far end of the couch, where his feet were uncomfortable wedged against the armrest, staring at him.
“I do want a divorce.”
Now he couldn’t figure out which end was the carriage and which was the horse. Did she want a divorce before he had asked? Or did he plant the idea? Did she really want to split up? Did he?
She had walked away after her declaration. He got up, showered, and tried to eat breakfast so he could talk to her without getting too upset. It seemed to him, even though they were to this point, that they should discuss it rationally. So he’d found her sitting in the office, staring at the papers and pictures on the desk. He stopped in the doorway and leaned on the doorjamb.
She turned her head a bit toward him but didn’t look at him. Apparently it was his job to begin. The phone rang, startling them both, but they ignored it until it stopped ringing. A couple seconds passed, and his cell phone rang in the other room. He debated if he should answer it for too long, and it stopped.
Rosette sighed. “Trey…”
The landline started ringing again. He grabbed it, saw Sinclair on the Caller ID, and still barked hello, knowing it was his sister-in-law.
“Tre-ey-yy,” Amanda sobbed his name into three syllables.
He didn’t panic right away, but instead slipped into EMT mode, pulling up his soothing voice.
“Honey, calm down.” He met Rosette’s gaze. She could hear the wailing over the phone too. “Amanda, just take a breath, okay? And tell me what happened. We’ll walk through it together.”
“Oh, God, they came in uniforms to the door.”
He visualized the two Marines in front of him, in full dress uniform. The horrible news hit him. It reflected in his wife’s eyes.
Ricky should be coming home from deployment in mere weeks—in time for his first child’s birth. Not this. God, not this.
There were sparks in front of him, like Fourth of July sparklers, and Rosette’s voice mixed with Amanda’s crying. He even heard himself telling Amanda everything was okay (how was it okay?) as he fell back against the wall and slid down to the floor.
Was that only a week ago?
A week since his brother died and his wife asked for a divorce?
Trey stopped at the end of the jetty, startled to find himself there. For the life of him, he couldn’t remember turning onto the jetty in the first place. The ocean moved on both sides of him, slapping the rocks. It was time to turn around, or past time, but he kept watching the waves reach up and the sunlight turn the water green; then each wave would crash with magnificent anger onto the sand.
~ ~ ~
Rosette paused in the middle of the walk-in closet, looking down at the dusty suitcase. She’d walked in here at least ten times and stared at it, thinking about picking it up and packing. That was before they’d gotten the call about Ricky, of course. Once that happened, she knew she couldn’t just up and leave. But who was she kidding? There was no way she could simply pack a suitcase and solve things. What would she do, pack up the kids and take them with her? Leave them here with Trey? How would she explain all this to them in the first place?
She batted a tear off her cheek and set her mouth. This wasn’t a time for weakness. Instead of giving into the tears and the urge to crawl into bed and hide, she impatiently pulled her black suit off the hanger and got dressed for the funeral. When she left the bedroom, the house was quiet. No TV. No fighting kids. No teenager talking on the phone. The silence gave her the heebie-jeebies.
She wondered if everyone was outside, but as she walked down the hallway, she saw Candice and Jake playing together in Jake’s room, dressed in the church clothes she’d laid out last night for them. Even with the door open, they weren’t making any noise. Though Candice was seven and Jake was five, they were the same size. Jake wasn’t overly tall for his five years, but Candice had always been small because she was born early. With the same dark hair, they looked like twins. Watching them made her heart warm with love and pride, but it was tinged with the pain of knowing the recent deaths had already eroded their innocence, and now she was thinking about splitting apart their family.
Rosette had painted Jake’s room blue, and Trey had picked out the sports-themed accents. It’d really touched her when Trey had joined in and taken such a big part in decorating. Candice had a light pink room, dotted with Precious Moments figures, but she would have probably preferred an outdoor theme, if she’d picked it out herself. Rosette hadn’t planned on such a free-spirited, nature child—not that she’d change her daughter for anything.
She didn’t pause long enough in the doorway to see what kind of game they were playing. There was a jumble of action figures and Barbie dolls on the bedroom floor. Somehow they knew to get along today. They didn’t notice her, so she left them alone and started for the stairs.
She found Alex downstairs, sitting on the sofa in the living room, bent over with his elbows on his knees, his face in his hands. He was staring at the big window, but he wasn’t looking at the view of the ocean. He wasn’t even there, not mentally.
Trey was nowhere to be seen. Must be nice to be numb all the time. She was drowning in emotion and felt pulled away from the kids and Alex, and certainly Trey. How could she help any of them while falling apart herself?
They had an hour till the funeral. She poured another cup of coffee, stared at the breakfast dishes, and thought about all the things they’d need to do later today and this week. Well, at least a list was something she could manage.
~ ~ ~
“Ricky loved to laugh, and he would want us to remember him that way.”
This could have been any Saturday on the calendar, but this one would stick in Trey’s mind for a very long time. The rain still hadn’t come, as if the sky were holding its breath along with him. What they were waiting for, he wasn’t sure. There wasn’t going to be a phone call announcing that it was all a mistake, that Ricky was alive and well.
Trey and Rosette sat on the padded church pew with Candice and Jake between them. Alex sat on Trey’s other side, looking down. They surrounded Amanda along with her close friends. Summer, Amanda’s sister, sat rigidly on her right side. The two looked so much alike with their golden hair and sweet faces. They didn’t both inherit the same sweet personality, however. Summer might as well have been named Trouble.
Not that Trey’s life was perfect, not by a long shot, and he hated passing judgment on people. He might not be a hellraiser, but he was on the brink of letting everyone down. Maybe he already had. As far as he knew, no one else was aware of their marriage problems and especially not the recent divorce development. That almost didn’t matter today.
He looked at his pregnant sister-in-law, dressed in black over her swollen belly, and once again wondered how life could be so cruel. What would Amanda do now?
And Ricky. What would they do without Ricky?
He and Ricky had always been rivals. Trey was the firstborn, Jonathan Trevor Sinclair the third, so his little brother had always felt second best. It wasn’t the truth. Sometimes Trey felt like he had to be upstanding and responsible while Ricky got to be fun. Ricky was contagious—people inherently liked him. Trey and Ricky were teenagers when their parents had had a surprise third baby. Their brother Alex was almost like a nephew to them. Life was good until their mom died. Later they lost their dad too.
He’d give anything to have his parents here with them. On the other hand, it’d break both his parents’ hearts to lose Ricky and to hear how Trey’s life was turning out. Maybe it was a blessing that Mom and Dad weren’t here for this.
Trey had joined the Navy because he wanted something different. Now he couldn’t say what that was, but he’d wanted to go off somewhere. His grandfather and father both had been in the Coast Guard, and everyone was proud of that tradition. Then, Ricky had followed Trey’s lead of doing something else and joined the Marines. He could still hear his mother telling them, “But the Coast Guard doesn’t go off to war! They serve here at home, keeping people safe.”
Now Ricky was dead, and Trey’s life was a mess.