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A ramshackle cabin on the lake—a haven for people at the crossroads of their lives.
This prequel novella, the introduction to The Fortune Bay Series, is the perfect weekend read.
Since his wife’s death two years ago, Alex Potter has struggled to stay afloat. Now, losing his grandfather, always his rock in the tough times, is the last straw. The day after the funeral, Alex goes AWOL from the family firm and retreats to his grandfather’s island lake house in Fortune Bay, the only place he’s ever really felt at home.
Colleen Murphy’s maternal time bomb isn’t just ticking, it’s ready to explode. When her live-in artist partner tells her his plans don’t include a family, Colleen heads home to Fortune Bay. Working in Seattle didn’t suit her anyway, away from the lake and forest she loves, so she’s back on Majestic Lake for the summer, living in the cabin, helping out at the marina and looking for Mr. Right.
Alex seems to be a secretive drifter, not the solid family guy Colleen is looking for. But as together they spearhead a local environmental battle, he wonders if he might finally have found something worth fighting for.
Welcome to Fortune Bay
Lake of Dreams.
Six years ago.
Prying the screen door open with the toe of her sneaker, Colleen Murphy wedged her arm-full of boxes against the frame and squeezed between the cabin doors. She twisted the knob of the solid front door and gave it a thump with her hip. It didn’t budge.
Her brother followed her up onto the porch, carrying an equally heavy load and trying to hide his smile when he saw her trapped between the doors. “I left it open this morning, but it can be stubborn. You have to know the trick.”
“Well you try. And make it fast. These are heavy.”
Jake put his hip to the door and thumped. Nothing.
Colleen smirked. “Tried that.”
Jake lowered his brows. “Come on Augusta,” he muttered. “Quit fooling around.” He hit the door again and this time it flew open.
Colleen look at him skeptically. “Augusta? Seriously? She’s been dead for fifteen years.”
Jake carried his load into the cabin. “Yeah, well, sometimes she forgets.”
Colleen’s eyes narrowed, then she grinned and followed him in. “You’re kidding, right?”
He hitched one shoulder. Jake had lived in the cabin off and on since Aunt Augusta died. If anyone would know if the cabin was haunted, it was him.
“Really. You’re kidding.”
“Well, there were things…”
“Little things. She’d hang up my clothes, clean up my mess, things like that. I heard sounds in the attic once, but that was during a storm so I wasn’t sure…”
He set his boxes on the living room floor.
Colleen put her load down with them and rested a hand on her hip. “You could have warned me the cabin was haunted.”
“It’s not haunted. It’s just Augusta. She’s pretty friendly.” Jake grinned. “You scared?”
Colleen tossed her head, throwing her hair back over her shoulder. “It would take more than a ghost to make me move back in with Mom and Dad. I was glad to hear you and Rena had moved out of here and into the farm. Good timing.”
Jake shook his head. “Rena couldn’t handle living here last winter. The cabin’s not really winterized. Never bothered me, doesn’t get that cold, but she wasn’t used to the wood stove.”
They each other a grin and said, “City girl.”
Colleen walked back to the porch. “I probably won’t be here next winter either. Unless I find a job in town.”
Jake sat on the step and looked out at the lake. “Otherwise what? Back to Seattle?”
Colleen shook her head. “No. I’m through with the city.”
“What about Kyle?”
“Finished with him, too.”
Colleen joined him on the step. “The guy’s a jerk. We were together four years and I wanted to move on to the next step. You know, a family, children.”
“He didn’t want that?”
“Not. At. All. Cripes, what a waste of four good years.” She gazed at the snowcapped mountains rising up around the bay and sighed. “No, this is home and I’m happy to be back. There’s nothing for me in Seattle anymore. Who knows, maybe I’ll find work here, or in Majestic.”
“When do you start at the marina?” Jake asked.
“Tomorrow, bright and early.”
Jake hesitated. “Doesn’t it feel like a bit of a step back? Not that there’s anything wrong with it,” he hastened to add. “It’s just, you did work there every summer all through school…”
“I know. I’ll look for something in finance for the fall.” She frowned for a moment, then couldn’t help smiling. “I love working at the marina though. Being on the water, around the boats. Driving the lift to help Pete get the boats in the water in the spring. He’s getting older, really needs the help. When he asked, I was glad to say yes. It’s just for the summer.”
Her smile broadened into a grin. “I even like opening at six in the morning. All alone on the water, a little haze lifting.” She shrugged. “It’s blissful.”
Jake nodded. “My favorite time to fish.” He lowered his brows thoughtfully. “Haven’t been fishing for months though. I’ve got to make some time.”
Colleen looked at the lake lapping the shore thirty feet away and the mountain rising coppery gold in the afternoon sun across Fortune Bay. “I love this view.”
Jake stood. “Me too. I hated to leave it. You can hardly see the lake from the farm. But now that the baby’s here, we need the extra room.”
Colleen smiled fondly at her little brother who now towered over her, his face infused with joy when he talked about Sarah, his baby girl. “Remember, if you need a sitter, Aunty Colleen is right across the road.”
Jake grinned. “You’ll have to get in line. First grandchild, you’ll have to wrestle her away from Mom.”
“You coming to their place for dinner tonight?”
“We’ll be there.”
* * *
Alex Porter dug the oars into the water, rowing the old wooden boat around the point and into the quiet water of the bay. Built in the days of quality boat building, his granddad’s lapstreak rowboat might take on a bit of water, but it was still a pleasure to row. Leaning forward, he put his back into another pull on the oars, enjoying the slight burn in his shoulders as the blades met the resistance of the water.
There was something relaxing about rowing, facing backwards in a boat, watching the shoreline recede, the things you left behind slipping farther away with every pull. Two Merganser ducks lifted off from their hideout in the grasses by the shore where they’d probably hidden their brood of ducklings in the reeds. He angled further out into the lake. Next time he’d bring his camera.
Leaning into another stroke, he lined up the center of the stern with the rocky point to guide him. It had been fifteen years since he’d rowed this stretch of shore, but as far as he could see, not much had changed in Fortune Bay. The log house on the point was still there, then a cluster of bungalows built by some mill workers here on the edge of town, the little white cabin set in the trees, a fallow field, then more trees along the shore.
Bracing his feet against the footrest on the bottom of the boat, he put his back into the job. He was a lot stronger than he’d been at seventeen and the boat ate up the distance. Getting back in shape was one of the things he was looking forward to this summer, his first summer out of the office since he’d finished law school eight years ago. The memory of freedom was beginning to percolate up through the crusty layers of sediment in his mind.
All at once he realized he wasn’t going back to the family firm in Seattle. Life’s too short.
The sun was sinking behind the mountains across the lake, sending long shadows creeping across the water. Majestic Lake was fed by snowmelt from high on the slopes, and now, in early June, the water would still be too cold to swim.
Alex rowed passed a single-berth boathouse which, if he remembered correctly, signaled it was time to turn slightly away from the shore to avoid running into a dock. He pulled one oar to adjust his trajectory and glanced over his shoulder to check. There was a dock right behind him, and on it a woman with raven black hair hanging down her back was dancing to a silent song of the universe.
He lost his rhythm, his oar caught the water and the boat began to rock. Resting the blades of the oars on the transom, he turned to enjoy the show.
Thud, she stamped one cowboy boot on the dock. Stamp, clap, she swiveled her hips.
One side of his mouth pulled up in a smile.
Stamp, clap, spin on her heel— Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped when she saw him. Popping the ear buds out of her ears, she put a hand on the filmy fabric at her heart. “Cr-ipes. You really know how to sneak up on a person.”
She followed the rowboat with her eyes as it glided toward the end of the dock.
Alex’s smile broadened. “Sorry. Next time I’ll slap an oar on the water.”
The goddess put her hands on her hips and grinned, shaking her dark wavy hair back over her shoulders. An image flashed through Alex’s mind. A girl, thirteen to his seventeen years, standing on this very same dock, hands on her hips, appealingly bold with her almost-black curls and bright blue eyes.
She’d grown into that promise in the years he’d been away, and her smile washed over him, like waves of sunlight… He patted his pockets in search of the pad he’d forgotten at home. Too bad. Lines of poetry were as elusive as, well, a woman’s smile, and were usually gone, hovering just beyond the edge of his memory, when he sat down to write.
He grabbed onto the dock to keep from drifting away. “What kind of dance was that?”
“Cowboy Cha-cha.” She gave her hips a little swivel and laughed. She tilted her head and squinted at him. “Don’t I know you?” He saw a flash of remembrance in her eyes. “You’re from the island.”
“I am.” He held out a hand. “Alex Porter.”
She reached down and took it. “Colleen Murphy.”
She straightened up and gave him a bold, welcoming smile. “Nice to meet you Alex Porter. Welcome to Fortune Bay.”
Lake of Dreams is Free at