I hope everyone is having a fabulous weekend! It’s Memorial Day and thoughts of summer abound. I have fond memories of family vacations when I was a kid. One of my favorite places to go was the wilderness of northern Ontario, where my family owned a tiny primitive cabin on a secluded lake.
For this week’s excerpt, I’m posting the first chapter of my brand new WIP, Lost and Found. It’s about pampered former child star Shasta Pyke, who, after getting into legal trouble, is sent to spend a month cooling her heels in the woods. There, she meets rugged ‘mountain man’ Blake Walker. The story is set in that same wilderness I loved as a child. I hope you enjoy!
Sunlight glinted through the first class window of the 777, momentarily blinding Shasta Pyke as the oversized tin can banked left towards the west on its final approach to Toronto Pearson International Airport. She frowned, lowering her Prada tortoise shell cat eye sunglasses, then pulled down the shade out of spite. She had no desire to see Toronto. It wasn’t her final destination anyway.
She huffed and glanced to her right. Eddie grinned at her like a used car salesman at a discount lot. “How ya doin’, kiddo?”
She hated when he called her that. Eddie had been a fixture in her life for as long as she could remember, a sort of surrogate father, if your father was a shark in a designer suit who lived for martini lunches and killer deals. It was he who had arranged this little adventure, which, in all honesty, beat the hell out of the alternative. That didn’t prevent her from hating him at the moment.
“How do you think I’m doing?” she snapped.
“Now, doll, you know this is a great plan. Think of it as a long-overdue vacation. A month in the woods. It will do you a world of good. Besides,” he added unnecessarily, “it’s better than jail.”
Shasta sank down in her seat, crossing her arms and closing her eyes behind the green-tinted lenses. She knew he was right and that just fanned the flames of her irritation. If it hadn’t been for Eddie and her legal team, she’d have been doing thirty days in an orange jumpsuit.
Eddie had instead proposed thirty days in a ‘private rehab’, and the prosecutor had agreed. Of course, this ‘private rehab’ was, in actuality, a wilderness lodge in northern Ontario, but it would accomplish the goal of having Shasta out of the public eye long enough, hopefully, for the entire incident to all blow over. Surely by the end of a month, the gossip outlets would have gone on to the next big trainwreck.
Forty-five minutes later they were tucked into the back of a black Lincoln and headed north out of the city. Shasta closed her eyes and dozed restlessly, visions of the past few weeks ruining any chance of real sleep.
She’d been dating fellow actor Jeremy Slade, a fact that had been well-documented by the paparazzi. But having grown up in the spotlight, Shasta was accustomed to media attention. The couple couldn’t go out to dinner without being swarmed by an army of cameras. Somehow the fact that Jeremy wasn’t actually divorced from his wife only fueled the insatiable interest of the public.
Of course, he’d assured Shasta that making their separation permanent was only a matter of time, and the twenty-three year old actress had believed him. She’d never had a serious adult relationship, just a series of boyfriends since her early teen years. At thirty, Jeremy had represented to her a break from her childhood.
It made it all the more heartbreaking when, at the moment Shasta most needed him, Jeremy chose to return to his wife. She was left wondering if it had all been a ploy by the older actor to gain publicity. His career hadn’t exactly been on fire. By dating Shasta publicly, he’d gained a great deal of press, and that had translated into new offers for films and television.
Still heartbroken, Shasta and her good friend Millie had been having dinner at Milo’s, a trendy upscale restaurant in Hollywood, when Jeremy walked in with his wife Lisa. He’d nodded to Shasta from his table across the room and she couldn’t stop staring at the handsome dark-haired actor and his stunning blonde wife. She downed glass after glass of sauvignon blanc as she watched the couple laugh and nuzzle each other like they didn’t have a care in the world. Like nothing had happened. But plenty had happened.
When she couldn’t stand it any longer, Shasta approached the couple and an argument ensued. According to police reports, the three engaged in a loud, heated verbal altercation and at some point Shasta poured wine on Jeremy and his wife before jerking their tablecloth from the table, spilling their dinner all over the floor.
Witnesses recorded the entire incident on their phones, including the moment when Shasta was led away in handcuffs. It hit social media nearly instantaneously and she spent a few hours in the county lock-up before Eddie was able to secure her release. She had retreated to her home where, outside, paparazzi camped out en masse. She’d only ventured out for court. Until now. Now she was on her way to her own, albeit much more pleasant, jail.
Preparations at Lake Matilda Lodge outside the small town of Eliot Lake had shifted into high gear three days previously. Jackie Walker had had to cancel the existing reservations for the next month, finding alternative arrangements for her displaced guests, who were told that the lodge was closing for some much-needed work. The truth was that the entire property was being booked to accommodate a VIP guest who would be paying three times what her regular guests would have paid, even had the entire place been booked. Which it hadn’t.
This, she gleefully informed her brother Blake, would allow her to take her two young children on their dream vacation to Disneyworld. Of course, they’d also be seeing Jackie and Blake’s parents, who’d run the lodge until they had retired to Florida five years earlier.
It would be up to Blake to see to their sole guest. How much trouble could one guest be? He could even see to some renovations and upgrades she’d been wanting to do.
“Blake,” Jackie called from the reception desk as she heard the front door to the lodge open and close, “have you signed the nondisclosure agreement yet?”
She looked up to see her brother, a scowl marring what would have been a ruggedly handsome face with its expressive dark eyebrows and neatly trimmed beard. He’d hastily pulled back his shoulder length dark brown hair into a messy bun. “Why the hell do I have to sign some paper?” he grouched.
Jackie raised a brown eyebrow and nodded toward her eight-year old son who had just entered the reception area. “Uncle Blake said ‘hell’!” Grant shouted.
“Thanks, Uncle Blake!” Jackie rolled her eyes.
“I mean, why the heck do I have to sign a paper?” Blake edited.
“Because it’s a requirement for this guest. She’s famous, you know. We can’t let anybody know she’s here.”
“I won’t tell anybody,” Grant promised. “Who is she, anyway?”
“Exactly!” Blake ruffled the boy’s light brown hair. “Who is she, anyway?”
“She’s the person making it possible for us to go to Disneyworld, that’s who she is.” She looked to Blake. “Is the Island Cabin ready?”
He nodded. “Fresh linens, pantry stocked, new propane tank in place. Just like you asked, ma’am.” He smirked lovingly at his older sister. She and her husband had taken over the lodge when the folks had retired. And the shithead had left her and the kids about a year after that.
Blake hadn’t thought twice about leaving his job as a wilderness counselor to come home and help Jackie with the place. There was no way a single mom could run the twelve-cabin main lodge, plus the Island Cabin and three other remote properties by herself. And he was helping her slowly expand the place, too, adding an additional three remote cabins accessible only by float plane. Having Blake there as a pilot boosted the lodge’s appeal to hunters and fishermen and they were on track to have a record year. Which was one reason he hadn’t fought her too hard about this VIP guest.
And he didn’t begrudge Jackie in the least for taking a vacation. He hadn’t been sure she’d known the meaning of the word. It would do her and the kids a world of good to get away and enjoy themselves for a while.
“Well, they should be here anytime.” Jackie glanced up at down at her brother. “Is that what you’re wearing?”
Black looked down at his scuffed brown boots, torn jeans, red Henley, and open red and black checked flannel shirt. “What’s wrong with this? Am I expected to dress for the princess?”
“A princess is coming?” Six-year old Emma had come in from outside.
“No, stupid,” Grant replied, rolling his eyes. “She’s just a lady.”
“But we’ll see princesses at Disneyworld, right Uncle Blake?”
Blake swept his niece up into his arms, causing her to erupt into giggles. “You are going to see all the princesses you can stand.”
“Great! I hate princesses,” Grant groused.
“Both of you, run upstairs and get packed. We leave first thing tomorrow.” Jackie’s voice was firm. The two children took off, the pounding of their feet echoing on the bare wood floor.
“Thanks, baby brother. For agreeing to stay and take care of everything.”
Blake looked into his sister’s eyes and saw her gratitude. “I’m happy to do it, sis. You work hard. It’s time you did something fun.”
This is still very much a work in progress. In the meantime, Luke & Bella: Two Streets Over and the Rannigan’s Redemption series are all available on Amazon, iBooks, B&N, Kobo, and Smashwords. Plus, Just One Night, a naughty summer novella is coming out soon.
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