Freelance graphic artist Caitlin McGraw is living the hipster life in San Francisco when a jury summons brings her home to North Carolina. But doing her civic duty wasn't supposed to include a reunion with Seth Street, the celebrity Olympic medalist-and Caitlin's teenage love. She fell hard for Seth at thirteen, only to lose him when he left in the middle of that third summer . . . when everything changed between them.
You never forget your first love, and a decade of fame and fortune as the face of professional snowboarding hasn't dimmed Seth's memory of seemingly endless, perfect summers. Now, sequestered with Caitlin on a high-profile case, could Seth have a chance to rekindle those feelings of the past? Amid family conflicts and hard-hitting revelations in and out of the courtroom, Seth and Caitlin face some tough hurdles. With so much at stake, can they trust in what they've reawakened in each other and turn this season of change into a lifetime of love?
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"I'm so screwed." Seth stared at his phone.
Nate grabbed the device and looked at the screen. "Oh, yeah, you are. Didn't your mom warn you about this?"
Ben was on the sofa, his feet on the coffee table, his hands linked behind his head. "I don't know how you clowns ever get women when you still count on your moms so much."
"I don't know either," Nate replied cheerfully. "But we do."
The three guys were hanging out in the chalet they shared on the grounds of the Endless Snow Resort on Oregon's Mt. Hood. They were wearing long-sleeved tees and hoodies, low-slung pants, and knit caps pulled over their shaggy hair. A snowboarding video was playing on the newest-model, wall-mounted TV. The front hall was carpeted with boots and wet coats. Medals of every color were draped over the necks of empty beer bottles.
They were professional snowboarders, three friends in their midtwenties who had trained together since they were kids. On the mountain they were disciplined, dedicated, and determined. They had to be. Snowboarding is dangerous. The rest of the time they felt contractually obligated to have fun. Fans expected snowboarders to be the pirates of winter sports: brash, reckless, and a little weird. This came quite naturally to these three.
"This isn't a joke." Seth shoved his phone back in his pocket. "Have some sympathy. You don't have to go home and report for jury duty."
"Because we already are home," Ben pointed out. "We changed our addresses. We are officially Oregonians. Have been for a couple of years."
"My mom did it for me," Nate admitted. "But relax. Why would anyone ever want you on a jury?"
Despite living in Oregon, Seth was still registered to vote in North Carolina where his parents lived, he carried a North Carolina driver's license, and he paid his income tax to the Tar Heel State. He had already burned through two postponements during the winter competition season. Now he was stuck. He either faced a contempt of court citation, or he went home, spent the night on the Luke Skywalker sheets in his old bedroom, and reported for jury duty. Luke Skywalker it was.
So on the last Sunday in June the male twig on the Street family tree flew home and spent the evening with his parents and his sisters' families. Monday morning he drove to the courthouse, found the jury assembly room, and got in line to check in like an actual adult. As he waited, he scanned the room, looking at — let's be honest here — the young women.
One blonde, pretty in a popped-collar-and-pearls way, nudged her companion, also a blonde, also with the popped collar and pearls. They recognized him. Seth tried to make eye contact; they looked away nervously.
He took another step forward in line. A dark-haired girl, wearing headphones, was working on her computer, using a wireless mouse. Her elbow was propped up on the table; that hand blocked a view of her face. The rest of her looked petite and hipster cute. She was wearing a short black skirt, retro sneakers, and a big man's watch on her narrow wrist. There were empty chairs at her table. He would go sit there.
Then she straightened, dropped both hands to the keyboard, and started to type ... well, hello, was this possible? Yes, she was Caitlin, Caitlin McGraw, from the summers.
Suddenly he was a kid again, in his mother's kitchen, staring at the clock, desperate to have the minute hand move faster. The bus from Charlotte gets in at ... then her grandmother will pick her up ... and it takes twelve minutes for me ... But he would still get there too early and have to sit on her grandmother's front steps, waiting.
An instant later he was at her table. "Caitlin?" He touched her shoulder in case she couldn't hear him over her music.
She looked up, pulling out her earbuds as she did. One of the cords got tangled in her hair.
Those eyes, those beautiful brown eyes ... how could he have forgotten them?
"Seth." She stood up. "I heard that you were in town."
She had? Why hadn't she gotten in touch with him?
He wanted to sweep her up, spin her around, tell her great it was to see her, but they were in public, and for all he knew, she might not be so happy about seeing him. He shifted his backpack and pulled her into a quick one-armed hug, the kind you'd give anyone. "Why are you here? You don't live here, do you?"
"Only technically. I'm a twenty-four-year-old adult still using Mommy and Daddy's address."
He could hardly criticize her for that. "But your folks don't live here, do they? You were visiting your grandmother those summers."
"My dad retired, and they bought a house in that new golf-course community outside town."
He nodded. "My folks said that lots of retired military are out there. The golf course is supposed to be really good." Why were they talking about golf courses? He didn't give a crap about golf courses. "What about you? Where are you living?"
"Hadn't you better go check in?"
"I suppose." He dropped his backpack on the chair next to her. "Hold this place for me."
He returned to the line, and as he checked in, it occurred to him that if she knew that he had left the line without checking in, then she had seen him, been watching him.
When we were kids you said that you wouldn't play games. Let's not start now.
It took him a while to get back to the table. Too many people knew who he was. He sat down just as the jury coordinator called for their attention, welcomed them, then dimmed the lights in order to show a video. The screen was behind Seth so he had to turn his chair away from Caitlin. The video explained the court procedures and talked about how important it was for them to serve, how a trial by jury was a right first guaranteed by the Magna Carta, and —
Caitlin touched his arm and whispered. "You aren't supposed to say the Magna Carta. It's Latin so no article. Just Magna Carta."
He looked over his shoulder. "How do you know that?"
"I'm kind of nerdy."
One of their other tablemates gave them a stern look so they shut up and learned that if they were admitted to a jury, they would be issued red tags that they needed to wear whenever they were in the courthouse.
At the end of the video, the jury coordinator flicked the lights back on, and a different person, the Clerk of the Court, told them that there were two trials scheduled for that day, one civil, one criminal. He explained the difference between civil and criminal trials, repeating pretty much the same words that the video had just used. Then he told them about the little red tags, again using the same words as the video.
Within a few minutes fifteen people were called for the civil trial. Neither he nor Caitlin was called.
During the presentations he had been wondering if he should say something about what had happened. No, it hadn't "happened." He had done it. But, come on, it had been years ago, high school shit. There was no reason to mention it. Pretend that everything was fine. That worked for him. Ignore the sticky stuff, and it usually went away. Avoid the edges of the map; just have a good time with other people who wanted to have a good time. He was a snowboarder, after all. Having fun was part of the job description.
But when she started to lift the screen on her computer, he spoke quickly. "I kind of disappeared on you, didn't I?"
"You didn't disappear at all," she said evenly. "I knew exactly where you were. Your face was on the front of the Wheaties box, and you did start sending me form replies to emails."
"Oh, man, those autoreplies." He didn't like being reminded of them. Hi, the Olympics were a great time for all the US teams, weren't they? Thanks so much for ... "I wish I hadn't done that. But it was a pretty bad time for me, and I did a lot of things wrong."
"Bad time? You had just won an Olympic medal."
"Yeah. It was complicated. But tell me about yourself. What are you doing? Where do you live?"
She was a freelance graphic artist living in San Francisco. Yes, she liked it out there. And her parents and her grandmother, they were all fine. Her sister? "And her baby ... who's probably not a baby anymore."
She smiled. "No, he's not. He'll be in fifth grade next year. My sister and Trevor, Dylan's father, actually got married a few years ago."
"They got married? After all the crap you went through, they're married now?"
"Yes, but if they had gotten married back then, they would be divorced by now."
Seth noticed someone hovering by the table. He looked up. The man said that he worked for Seth's dad. Seth stood up and made nice. Caitlin put her earbuds in and went back to work. She didn't look up when he sat down.
He watched her work. Her fingers tattooed across the keyboard. Sometimes she would stop, hunching forward, staring at the screen, one hand over her mouth, obviously thinking. Then most of the time she sat back quickly as if she had had an "aha" moment and started the rapid- fire typing again. Other times she'd type slowly as if she wasn't sure of her solution.
The morning was starting to drag. He had stuff he could do, but he couldn't get started. This sucked. Such a waste of time. Since the assembly room had Wi-Fi, most people were on their phones or computers. A few older people had newspapers or actual books, the kind with paper and all.
Caitlin eventually took out her earbuds and stood up to go to the ladies' room. When she got back, he asked her what she was working on. She said that a lot of her clients designed video games, and she helped with the art and some of the coding.
"I had a game out there for a while." Kids were supposed to be able to get the experience of being Seth Street snowboarding.
She did? "It wasn't very good."
"I know that too."
"We weren't on the same page as the developer." His family didn't make many mistakes, but that had been one.
The jurors were given an hour for lunch. He walked down to the basement cafeteria with Caitlin, but the other people eating there recognized him, and he had to go back to being the Olympic medalist, the face of Street Boards. Seth Sweep, the media had dubbed him after he had won Olympic bronze in a shocking upset. His bronze meant that the United States had swept the event, taking all three medals.
"You're certainly sounding grown up," Caitlin said when they were gathering up their trash.
"It's an act. If I were really grown up, I wouldn't be here. I'd have changed my address."
"They don't have jurors in Oregon?"
She knew where he lived. "Undoubtedly. And actually scruffy riders are a lot more mainstream out there. Someone might actually want one of us on a jury. So maybe procrastinating was a good choice."
"You don't want to serve?"
"God, no. Deciding if someone is innocent or guilty? If they deserve to be in jail? Talk about grown up, that's above and beyond."
He had to go out and feed his parking meter. He offered to take care of hers. No, she hadn't driven. Her mother had brought her; her grandmother would pick her up. "It's like being fifteen again," she said, "and having to call for a ride."
Oh, good, she didn't want a car. He had been looking for an opening. "Remember if you're fifteen," he said lightly, "then I'm sixteen and have a license. I can run you home."
Sixteen ... Memories suddenly started swirling in his brain, shapes in a snowstorm. Look up at me. Look at me with those dark eyes of yours and admit that you're remembering too, remembering how great that third summer was because I could drive and we could go anywhere.
What was going on in his brain? All this past stuff ... he was a here-and- now kind of guy.
But it was good stuff, wasn't it?
"It's completely out of your way."
What? Oh, she was still talking about him driving her home. "All of ten minutes. And then maybe you will let me take you out to dinner."
He hadn't been able to get a read on her. Was she going to agree to have dinner with him? He wouldn't be surprised either way.
"They are paying us a whole twelve dollars for our service today," she answered. "I can buy my own food."
So it was a yes to spending the evening with him, but no to something that would make it seem like a date. He could live with that.
The afternoon dragged on. People were talking to each other more, complaining. Seth looked at his email, then his social media accounts, watched a few videos that the up-and-coming kids had made and were always trying to get him to watch, checked on a couple of games he had going with friends, and then went back to his email.
He could handle stress. Pressure, fear ... bring 'em on. But boredom? He wasn't so good at that. He wanted out of here. He'd take Caitlin with him if he could, but most of all, he wanted — he needed — to leave. Snowboarders weren't supposed to be model citizens. They were rebels, outsiders, countercultural iconoclasts, not jurors.
But Seth was the public face of his family's company, Street Boards. It manufactured snowboards and skateboards. His parents, his sisters, and his brothers-in-law worked there; it supported all of them. So there was no way that Seth could be a jerk here in the jury assembly room. If the moms and dads of America thought Seth Street was an asshole, they wouldn't let their kids put his poster up on their bedroom walls, and they certainly wouldn't buy a Street Board to put under the Christmas tree. Seth had to act like a good citizen even if it was driving him nuts.
There was a beverage station at the back of the room, just coffee and water. Seth didn't drink much coffee, but he kept getting water just to have something to do. Caitlin was still working.
By two thirty people were saying that if you didn't get called for a trial on the first day, you weren't likely to have to come back.
At three o'clock there was activity in the front of the room. The Clerk came back in and started talking softly to the jury coordinator. Surely they were going to be dismissed. A trial wouldn't start at three, would it? People at the tables started to put away their stuff, clear up their trash.
But when the jury coordinator stood up, she asked them to line up by the door as she called their names. She kept calling name after name until everyone in the room was standing in a line that snaked toward the back of the room. Caitlin's name had been called before his. She was too far ahead in line for them to talk.
And then they waited. And waited some more. Someone stepped out of line to get chairs for the older ladies. Seth winced. He should have thought to do that.
At three thirty, the jurors were all told to sit back down. At four o'clock, they were excused for the day. They could go home as soon as they signed for the little brown envelopes with their twelve-dollar payment. But the coordinator emphasized that they had to call the hotline or check the website later in the evening to see if they had to come tomorrow.
"But we won't have to come back, will we?" someone asked. "If you don't get a trial the first day, you're done, right?"
The coordinator said that that was not necessarily so and that they needed to check with the hotline or the website. Seth didn't like the sound of that.
"I came thinking that this might be kind of interesting," Caitlin said as they walked to the parking lot. She was carrying her computer in a messenger bag crafted out of an old Cub Scout backpack and a worn leather bomber jacket. "It wasn't."
"You got a lot of work done."
"It probably looked like it, but what do you know about the trajectory of bullets on a gravity-heavy planet?"
"The guy who designed the game apparently didn't either. Now it's too early for dinner. Do you just want to get a cup of coffee or something?"
No, he didn't want to get a cup of coffee. He wanted to spend the evening with her. He had already made a plan. That was one thing about three guys hanging out together. Someone needed to have a plan, or you never got out the door. "You remember the lake?"
"No. Why would I?"
She was being ironic. Of course she remembered the lake. "Let's pick up some barbecue and go out there. My parents have a lake house now."
"Their own place? So we don't have to trespass and eat on someone else's dock?"
"No." Or have sex on a blanket back among the trees.
Except they hadn't "had sex." They had made love. They had been in love.
That last summer he and Caitlin had been together, he had feelings for her that he had never felt again. Of course it was probably that your first love always did feel the most intense, the most consuming, but still ...(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Fourth Summer"
Copyright © 2018 Kathleen Gilles Seidel.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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