Read an Excerpt
"Roll up the window, Michael." Abby Drake turned the steering wheel and brought the Toyota around a sharp curve in the unfamiliar road. Warm summer rain splattered through the open window, threatening to soak the children.
"Roll up the window, Michael," Erin echoed softly, as if Abby needed an interpreter.
"I like the feel of the rain," Michael protested. But at Abby's warning glance into the backseat, he reluctantly complied.
Sighing, Abby returned her attention to the road. Had she made a mistake agreeing to this? Things hadn't gone according to plan since they'd left Tempe, and were getting worse by the minute.
Lightning flashed, momentarily illuminating the road and the dense forest on one side. Though Abby knew the other side of the road dropped sharply away toward the Columbia River, she couldn't see it through the storm.
"How much longer till we get there?"
"I don't know, Michael. I'm doing the best I can."
"I'm tired of sitting here."
"Have a cookie," Erin suggested.
Good idea. Abby wished she'd remembered the cookies herself. But concentrating on the road for so long had obviously taken more out of her than she'd expected. At least Erin, at eleven, was old enough to help with her brother. And at almost nine, Michael didn't require the kind of care a younger child would.
"I want to sit in the front seat," Michael muttered.
If they didn't find Pine Cove soon, Abby knew she'd have to pull off the road to rest. The unfamiliar highway and four long days of travel had taken their toll.
All that mattered was reaching Pine Cove and the house she'd rented for the summer. Then she'd get the kids into bed, take a hot bath and go to sleep. Everything else could wait until tomorrow.
Straining to keep her eyes focused, she negotiated the wet road slowly until Erin lunged upward in her seat, her hand pointing over Abby's shoulder. "There's a sign!"
"Thank goodness." Pine Cove, Washington. Population 800. Perfect. They should be safe here.
She found Water Street easily and followed it to number twelve, a weathered gray house facing the town square. Block lettering on the roadside mailbox read Z. HUTCHINGS. She'd made it to the right place.
Because it stayed light so late in the summer, Abby had expected to arrive before dark. But negotiating the narrow winding road had put them behind schedule, and the sun had gone down well over an hour ago. Since she'd never spoken directly with their landlady, Abby could only hope Mrs. Hutchings would still be awake.
She grabbed her sweater and looked back at the kids. "Are you ready?"
Erin frowned at the water streaming down her window. "I don't want to get wet. Can't we wait here?"
"I'll come." Michael flung his door open, letting in the rain.
"Please, Erin. You know I can't leave you here by yourself. Grab your sweater." Abby pushed open her door and stepped out into the storm.
With a sigh, Erin followed.
Light shone from the front window, leading them easily up the walk. Mrs. Hutchings must still be awake, Abby guessed, so this shouldn't take long. The last time Abby had spoken to her friend Ted, he'd assured her everything was arranged. All she had to do was pick up the keys and get directions to the house.
Searching in vain for a doorbell, she rapped her knuckles against the door and waited. And waited. With a sinking heart, she knocked again. If anything else went wrong, she didn't know what they'd do. She hadn't seen a motel in miles. The kids couldn't stay awake much longer, and neither could Abby. Mrs. Hutchings had to be awake.
Rain poured from the roof onto the unsheltered porch as Abby huddled deeper into her sweater in a futile attempt to stay dry. The kids looked as miserable as she felt, and Abby knew she had to get them settledsoon. At last, after what seemed an eternity, the door opened to reveal a round little woman, her wrinkled face beaming up at them from beneath a halo of wispy white hair, her hands clutching a walker.
"Mrs. Hutchings? I'm Abby Harris." She had to stop herself from saying Drake.
"Oh. My dear. Weren't you coming in tomorrow?"
Abby's heart plummeted. Disaster. Surely Ted had explained that they'd get there as soon as they could, and no later than tomorrow.
"Well, I can't let you stand there all night," Mrs. Hutchings said, backing away from the door.