CAROL MCPHEE'S LOVE, LAUGHTER AND ADVENTURE NOVELS

Strong, smart, sensuous heroines; heroes to die for.

RETREAT TO DANGER

A reclusive Maine fisherman finds his emotional defenses shattered by a new pistol-packing neighbor intent on protecting her young son.

 

Excerpt from chapter One

"He won’t find us now, will he, Mom? He’ll never find us here, will he?" 

            Mauri glanced across the station wagon’s worn front seat into her son’s fearful brown eyes. Her fingers clamped tighter on the steering wheel. The beauty of the sun-dappled, pine forest tunnel lost her interest. Sam’s questions about their safety never failed to send shivers down her arms, even today, with the heat waves rippling off the car’s hood. He had repeated the questions numerous times from the moment they’d left Syracuse. The closer they drew to this remote section of Maine’s northern seacoast, the more reassurance he seemed to need. Nine years old, and already he’s experienced more terror than most people do in a lifetime. No matter what I have to do, Sam will have the happy childhood he deserves.

"No, Sam, your father will never guess we’ve moved this far away. Nobody back home knows and I’ll not tell them." Perspiration trickled down the front of her hot pink tank top, speaking for the surprising heat of early June, but the dampness also proclaimed her tension.

Why can’t Sam have faith in my answers? She answered herself: Because of all the lies I’ve had to tell him through the years. It’ll take time to build his trust.

"Do we know anyone that lives here, Mom?"

"No, sweetie, unless you count the lady whose cottage I rented. That’s the beauty of this place--a fresh start."

"You only talked to her on the phone; that doesn’t count."

"Oh, Sam, if you only knew how much I’ve always wanted to stand on the seashore and feel an ocean breeze against my skin. We’ll make new friends. Here’s a pretty mauve and silver sign coming up. Read it for me, honey."

"Wel... come to Ser... Ser..."

"Serenity Bay."

"What’s that mean?"

"Serene means calm, undisturbed. Serenity means peace. That’s what we need."

"Did the lady on the phone sound nice?"

"She’s anxious to meet us. You’ll notice she talks differently than we do. People in Maine have a neat accent. They don’t bother with the sound of the letter ‘r’; they’re famous for their friendliness, too."

Mauri kept her eyes on the curve looming ahead. We can both do with warm, hospitable neighbors. She rounded the bend, reached over and danced her fingers across her son’s back. His bony shoulder blades ridged through his Batman tee shirt, displaying his underdeveloped small frame. More delicate than most boys his age, he had only begun to fill out in recent months. Then came the news of his father’s pending early release from prison. The problems had started again--nightmares, loss of appetite, and worst of all--fear for her life. Fear that propelled him home after school everyday to make sure she was okay.

We have all summer to build our confidence and settle into a relaxed lifestyle. Sam will be ready for a good start at school in the fall.

"Okay if I turn on the radio again, Mom?"

"Sure, just not that Rap stuff. It gave me a violent headache last time. I didn’t mean to snap at you when I told you to turn it off."

"I know... you’ve got a lot on your mind."

Sam switched channels until he came to easy mood music. He leaned back and pretended to enjoy it. Mauri understood his need to alleviate her tension. He carried such guilt and now they’d had to leave his therapy sessions behind them. The agony that haunted his nights she still endured, too. She had to find him relief and a way to have fun.

Her worry was compounded by her husband’s threats to get even when he was out of jail. You won’t ever escape me, Mauri. I’ll find you no matter where you go, then you’ll damn well pay for turning me in. His words were never far from her thoughts back in the city. Now she would close her mind to them.

"They should have kept Dad in jail longer."

She sighed a long breath. She should have turned Joe in years ago when he had first started endless binges that resulted in her getting hurt. It was the last time, when he had attacked them both, that she found the courage to dial 911. He had yanked the phone from her grasp, but it was too late. Help was on its way. They both witnessed the police break down the door and handcuff the vicious drunk. At the time she couldn’t imagine the effect that would have on a child. She knew now. She would do the best she could to erase it from his mind.

Mauri shook her head to clear her ex-husband’s face from the thick cobwebs he had built in her head. "Hey, we’re almost there, Sam. The houses are closer together. That’s what we want. A nice, tight little community.

"Watch for a grocery store where we’re supposed to pick up the key. We’ll stock up on a few supplies as well. I hope the village has a garage so I can get the car’s dam... er... darn air conditioner fixed. Can you smell the seaweed in the air? Isn’t it wonderful?"

"All’s I smell is stinkin’ fish. Why couldn’t we have gone to Boston instead? Dad would never find us in a big city and there’s more to do."

"I need quiet to write my new novel and you need room to roam free and safe without me breathing down your neck. We’ve been through this before, Sam, and you agreed to give it a try."

"Only because you were crying. I don’t like it when you cry."

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Carol McPhee

Strong, smart, sensuous heroines; heroes to die for.

 

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