The Island Woman: A Chesapeake Story

The Island Woman: A Chesapeake Story

by Anna Gill

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781481756198
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 05/31/2013
Pages: 324
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.73(d)

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The Island Woman

A CHESAPEAKE STORY


By Anna Gill

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2013 Anna Gill
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4817-5619-8


CHAPTER 1

Great! Just great!

Siren blasting and lights flashing meant Willa Carpenter's day was about to get worse, if that was possible. Already that morning she had dealt with the most demanding woman in the world, Kit Winthrop, queen of the publishing industry, tyrant extraordinaire. While doing battle with Kit, Willa realized the thump, thump, thumping inside her head was not going away. She was regretting the wonderful wine she'd had to have the night before. Now, having been stopped by one of Washington's finest, she was definitely going to be late to the literary awards luncheon. Yes, today was one of those days the bear was eating her.

"Good morning, miss. Can I see your license and registration, please?" At least he wasn't so bad on the eyes. She reached over to the glove compartment and got the necessary papers. However, coming back up wasn't so good. She felt as if her head was sideways and she was going to throw up. Steady, girl.

"Here, officer. I think these will do. I really don't know what I was doing wrong to be pulled over."

He smiled politely and said, "I hear that all the time."

Did he just wink at me? God, my eyes are out of control, too.

"Well, you were caught on our radar gun going fifteen miles over the speed limit."

"Really?" Willa offered up in a low, soft voice. She knew she was guilty and, at the moment, too nauseous to try to go further. "I won't do it again; I promise."

The young man smiled, exposing a set of perfect white teeth. Willa loved gorgeous teeth on a man. Showed he took care of himself. "I'm sure you won't, Ms. Carpenter."

Willa slouched down in her seat. She knew she was busted and could only pray that one thing would go right in this already lousy day.

"I really don't like to give these out, but you were speeding. Please slow down from here on out."

Willa took the ticket reluctantly but did offer a slight smile. He really was cute and about her age, too. Maybe a date with a ... nah, she couldn't get serious with a man who hadn't yielded to her charms and who had given her a ticket.

"Can I go now? I really need to get somewhere," she lamented, "although it isn't going to change anything."

The officer grinned. He was definitely attracted to her.

He leaned into the window and said, "Don't rush now, Ms. Carpenter. Wherever you're going and whatever you're doing, it'll wait. Nothing is that important."

He sure was good at summation. "Okay, officer. Will do. You have a good day."

"You try to do the same."

If he only knew what was ahead for her at that awards luncheon, he would have chucked his beat and asked her out to lunch. She would have accepted without hesitation.

Composing herself, she watched the officer get into his nifty police car and drive off. Her mood changed suddenly as she reflected on the last time she had seen the police this closely.

It was the night two of them came to the front door of her family home in Connecticut. She knew the minute she answered the door that something had happened. They weren't inside three minutes before the wonderful life she had enjoyed with two of the best parents on earth had come to an end. There had been an accident. A car was passing another and hit her parents' car head on. It was instantaneous; there was nothing anyone could do. She needed to go to the hospital so she could identify them.

That scene at the hospital would play in her mind forever. You can't ever wipe that out. You go on and do what had been planned—college, friends, life—but that dull, nagging pain never leaves you.

At eighteen, she had become an orphan. She was grateful for the loving aunt and uncle who had taken her in. They had made the best of it and helped her through those dreadful years of separation from all she had known and loved. As an only child, there hadn't even been a sibling to share in the grief. The three of them had been all they had.

When she eventually crawled back up out of the pit of despair, she went on to college and took up writing just like her mother. She found she was good at it—maybe even a little better than her mom. After graduation she began writing romance novels and they were well accepted in the literary world. She was on the New York Times Best Seller list right off the bat. She wanted so much to prove to them that she could go all the way. If her famous cartoonist father and famous novelist mother could do it, so would she. And she wasn't about to let some man get in her way. There was no room in her heart for love other than that she had shared with her two dead parents.

Get a grip, Willa! Stop talking to yourself. You have to go to that luncheon. And you know you will be seated with that damned Susan Crandall, who not only copies your stories but is dying to take your place in the eyes and pockets of the lovely Ms. Winthrop. On top of that, you aren't going to win novelist of the year. Your ninth novel was impressive but you've won so many times and they get snarky about that sort of thing. No, they'll give it to someone else just to show you who's boss. But beware: the gawkers will be watching for your reaction. Remember to put on that happy face you hate so much.

Best part is that the high-and-mighty Kit doesn't know the worst of it yet. Her darling of romance has that dread disease that afflicts literary types sometimes: Writers Block. Oh, she's going to love that. She'll be on to Susan Crandall like white on rice, and you can bet that Susan won't wait one minute to rush to her and replace me as her top novelist at old Kitwin Publishing. Yep, if I don't come up with a cure for this little problem, along with this blasted head of mine, I will be headed for the literary boneyard of yesterday's best-selling writers.

Now, on to that dreaded luncheon. Yes, I know what the cute officer said ... slowly.

* * *

Wheels down and parked in the lot of the hotel, Willa popped out of her car to hurry on in to the lion's den. Only problem was that, when she popped, she snagged her panty hose. When she looked at her leg, a gargantuan run was moving from the bottom all the way up to her unmentionables. Why is this happening? The day just gets better and better. What's next? Oh, we already know that, don't we?

Out of breath by the time she reached the reception table, she leaned over to sign in and heard, "So nice to see you, Miss Carpenter. You look ... well ... here's your table number. I personally seated you with all your friends. Have a lovely lunch."

Bitch. She didn't mean one word of that "have a lovely lunch," and she had looked at Willa as if she had two heads. And, come to think of it, she did. One was still trying to find the other after that dreadful wine she'd drunk last night. Geez!

Answering the call of a friend's waving hand and a yell-out to signal where her table was, Willa arrived to the purring delight of Susan Crandall who, by the way, looked as if she had been downing happy pills with vodka. What's that look all about anyway? Bitch. Seems they're all over the place.

"Here's ourrrrr dear Willa," Susan slurred. "Come, sit down here next to me, sweetie."

Sweetie? Willa was perplexed. She sat down, feeling that run in her stocking doing all manner of gymnastics up her leg. She couldn't stand seeing Susan any longer with that stupid look all over her face, so she said, "Geez, Susan, what's in that soup you're eating? I don't think I want any."

Really grasping for words, Susan responded slowly, "Whatever do you mean, sweetie?"

"Quit with that sweetie stuff, Susan, and never mind about the soup."

"Hey, Willa," said her friend sitting on the other side. "So happy to see you made it. I was beginning to worry."

"Have I missed much yet, Gwen? Sorry I'm late. I'm not having a very good day and got held up by one of D.C.'s finest. He was cute though."

"Oh my, Willa. That's not good. Did he give you a ticket?"

"Of course he gave me a ticket, Gwen. That's what they do. The cops give out speeding tickets while the really bad guys run amok. It's just what I didn't need and now—"

A booming voice came from the podium. "May I have your attention, everyone?"

Willa leaned in to Gwen and said, "There she is, Kit Winthrop, the lady of the hour."

"We're here today to celebrate romance and the writers who move us to express our every emotion. They're the best and the brightest, and each year we applaud them."

Willa was so uninterested in Kit's every word that she leaned across Susan to get a roll. She was so craving carbs by now. Susan was doing a little leaning herself, only it wasn't in the direction of the rolls.

Willa glanced at Gwen and chuckled slightly. She and Gwen had become good friends since meeting at a book fair a few years before. Both in their early thirties, they had much in common, but the one thing they especially shared wasn't their writing. It was the fact that Gwen had lost one of her parents, too. And, while Gwen's mother was alive, she wasn't a candidate for mother of the year, so, after college, Gwen had made the break with her forever. Thus, they never had to explain to each other blue days or feeling lonely.

The thread, however, that held them together even more than that was their shared sense of humor. They both always got the joke and both loved to laugh, usually at someone else's expense. And, today, that someone seemed to be Ms. Susan.

"Looks like I really didn't miss that much, huh, Gwen? As we know, nobody speaks before Kit Winthrop, so I made better time than I thought."

"I hope everything's okay with you. I have to tell you that you look as though you've been rode hard and put away wet."

"Boy, did you hit the nail on the head with that one, Gwen. It's one of those days that, from the minute you hit the floor, you know it's going to go downhill from there. And, to make it all the better, I got into a bottle of wine last night for inspiration and the only inspiring it did was make me fall into bed and crash."

"Poor baby. Why didn't you just piss off on today? This luncheon isn't going to make you feel any better. You and I know that."

"Yeah, I know, but Kit's been riding me pretty hard lately and I haven't given her what she wants. I'm stuck right now. I need something wonderful to happen, and, while I thought that might take the form of the hottie in the police uniform, I passed on that fantasy and came here to this fun instead."

"You might regret that decision."

"Hey, I know what's going to happen here. We're all adults, or"—she looked at Susan—"we're trying to be."

"She's such a mess, Willa, but it's going to be a hell of a lot of fun if she wins top novelist award. Seeing her try to get out of that chair will be worth the price of admission."

"Yeah. Wonder how many steps in she'll be before she trips the light fantastic."

Kit finished pontificating, finally getting to the part they had all been waiting for. Or, at least, waiting for it to be over. As always, she was dragging it out so all eyes were on her for as long as she could hold them.

"This is agonizing, Gwen. She's taking forever. Can I go now?"

"Hush, Willa. Behave."

Finally, with yet more drama and fanfare, she did it. She flashed her perfect set of implanted teeth and said, "Best novelist of the year goes to ... why, it goes to one of my own: Susan Crandall."

The other women at the table practically swooned over Susan as Willa quietly said, "What a surprise. She's so original in her plot lines, isn't she?"

"That's not nice, Willa," Gwen whispered.

"Maybe not, but she won't remember I said it. I don't think she can even get up."

Finally, after an impatient second announcement by Kit, Susan made it out of her chair and began her long day's journey into night on her way to the stage.

Willa began to giggle so hard, she couldn't stop. "This is really too good to be true, Gwen. This day might be changing after all. This isn't going to be pretty, but oh so much fun."

Willa stood and clapped with everyone else, and then, for some reason or no reason, she shouted out, "Bombs away, Susan!"

At this point Gwen couldn't hold it in anymore and broke into a belly laugh as she watched Susan weave right out of the room. "Where is she going, Willa?"

Willa was doubled over. "She's off the radar and headed to the Potomac. Someone needs to go fish her out and give her my award."

By this time, Gwen and Willa had lost it completely. And, it might be added, many others had, too. "I needed this, Gwenny. I thought today was going to be the closest thing to burning in hell, but it's turned out to be one of the best of my life. Thank you, dear friend, for being here to share it with me. Too bad our other dear friend, Prue, had to work. She would have fallen on the floor laughing."

"I know. But, when you tell her, I'm sure the story will get even better. I just wish I could say I was responsible for this joy, but, finally, Susan Crandall has risen to the occasion. Oh, look, Willa! Someone went out and steered her back into the room with a firm grip on her so she can't go AWOL again."

"I can't stand any more, Gwen. I'm going to pee my panties. Let's get out of here."

"Roger that one. Lead the way."

With that, the two of them made a hasty exit before the crowd could sit down from their standing O for the fool of the year.

What a day!

CHAPTER 2

"I don't care what ye say, ye ain't goin' out in that derned boat today. Do ye hear me, James?"

"Ye got yerself all worked up, missy. I know when ye call me James, I'm in a heap of troubles, but I have to go out, rain or shine. You know that. Now don't fuss at me any more, woman."

"Ye will catch yer death if ye do."

"Then so be it, Franny girl."

"Don't ye 'Franny girl' me. Ye be yellin' with the fever by tomorrow."

"Nah, I won't. Now come on over here and give me a big hug before I take my leave."

"Derned if I will, Jimmy. You make me so riled up, I could scream. That water will kill ye yet, but, if yer mind is set, then please make sure yer clothes are on ye heavylike."

"I will, pritty lady. Now come on and give me a hug. I got to get goin'."

"Ye do make me mad, ye know. Ye must be the stubbornest man on the water, but, if it's a hug yer lookin' fer, then a hug you'll get. Take heed out there today, Jimmy. That Bay kin turn on ye faster than anything."

Smiling at his wife, he got his hug and opened the door.

"I will, hon. Be back for dinner a little after noon. Then I have to get on down to the shed. It needs working on before the spring comes and the crabs start to run."

"Be careful out there, and pick me out some oysters for our meal. I love ye."

His old worn cap on his head and wearing a warm wool coat, Jimmy gently closed the door before the sun was even in the sky.

Miss Frances poured herself another cup of strong coffee from the old percolator on the stove and sat down to begin thinking about the day ahead. But first things first. She bowed her head and prayed that her husband's catch would be good and he would be given safe passage on the water. This, Frances Ruth had been doing faithfully for the past forty-five years without fail. Her husband, Jimmy, and her only child, Nellie, were her entire life, though her friends and neighbors were almost kin to her, too. They were all bound by a common life on the island and a common purpose on the waters. A hard life it was, but a good one that they couldn't imagine ever coming to an end.

I know, Lord, he is a stubborn man, and I am a stubborn woman. But isn't that how ye made us? It's how we survive on this island and bear the hardships of a life different from the rest of the world. Please watch over him, and, if I'm not asking too much of Ye, please let my Nellie know we love her, and please protect her while she is way off in Washington, D.C., studying, working, and trying to help us poor folks out back at home. Bring her back to us soon, dear Lord. We miss her terribly. Amen.

With that morning ritual out of the way, Frances Evans began to make her lists. Those lists kept everything in her world running smoothly and kept her from forgetting all she had to do before her Jimmy came through that door looking for his dinner. It was the noon meal that was the biggest one of the day, so that was her first chore, and she was glad that, for once, she had all her fixin's for the meal. However, she would still have to "go off" to go shopping at the big grocery store across the water on the mainland.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Island Woman by Anna Gill. Copyright © 2013 Anna Gill. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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