The yacht owned by newspaper heiress, Stacey Winchester's family, the Barlow-Barretts, pulls out of the harbor in Beaufort, North Carolina and heads toward an undeveloped barrier island. In celebration of Laura Browning's latest release, Heart Broken, Stacey's family has taken over the
island for the weekend.
Mary leans over the rail, squashing the girls. "Oh, look! Dolphins!
"Stop leaning so far over the rail," Lilly says grabbing Mary's sarong. "You're going to fall in."
"If I do, you can jump in after me. Your butt looks pretty buoyant."
Melissa elbows Vonnie in the ribs. "Or, we could throw her one of Lyn's big shoes to use as a canoe. Then she can paddle over to the island."
Vonnie snorts a giggle. "Why? It's not like Mary could drown. She has her very own, personal, double D flotation devices."
Mary turns a scowl on Vonnie but then Lyn points to the starboard side of the boat, drawing everyone's attention. "Look! A horse."
"Lyn and I love horses," Mary says.
"Herds of wild horses live along the Outter Banks of North Carolina," Lilly says, showing off her knowledge of her home state. "They're the ancestors of Spanish horses that swam ashore after shipwrecks over 400 years ago. They also live along the salt marshes of Virginia and Maryland too. Stacey mentioned it when I was helping her and Laura with today's menu."
"Horses?" Mac scrunches her face. "I thought this was a beach party. Did I get my wires crossed again? If I had known this was going to be another western roast, I would have worn warmer clothes. I don't care if it is still above 70 in North Carolina in October. It's too cold for a bathing suit."
"That's why I'm not wearing a bathing suit," Melissa says. "You, know, there's no law that says you have to wear a bathing suit on the beach."
AJ looks up from her iPhone, squinting into the warm, fall sunshine. "Horses? There're horses? Where? I don't see any horses."
"That's because you're blind as a bat," Melissa quips. "Now put that phone away before you drop it in the ocean."
AJ gasps, hugging her precious to her chest. "Do you really think I'd bring her out here without protection? She has a waterproof case and I'm not letting her out of my sight."
"Not letting who out of your site?" Mac asks. "Foster and the other sidekicks are below deck. Lilly was afraid TT would fall overboard."
Lilly frowns. "TT doesn't like boats. We put her on a ferry once and she hated it."
"I hope we're not late," Melissa says, changing the subject. "There's already a crowd gathered on the point."
On a narrow strip of sand jutting out between the ocean and the intercoastal waterway, a crowd--some dressed in bathing suits as if it were still mid August--are setting up chairs to enjoy the late autumn sunshine. Further inland, there are tents and temporary shelters. The Barlow-Bartlets spared no expense. The boat pulls up to a wooden dock and the hostesses gather their familiars--except for AJ, who is clutching her precious iPhone in her hand.
"Laura said Stacey's family wanted to do this roast right," Vonnie says as the hostesses survey the island. "They even have a merry-go-round."
"And live music," Lyn adds. "I see two music tents."
The roast is being held along a path between the ocean and the sound.
Trailers are set up to cook the seafood Laura has requested for her roast. There's plenty of beer kept in coolers in make-shift bars and lots of shrimp, scallops, french fries and oysters. They're even serving fried lobster bites, fried soft-shell crab burgers, and cheesecake and ice cream for desert.
Smelling food, TT, Nibbie, Cuddles, and Creighton dash off in search of lunch while Morena and Foster follow at a more leisurely pace. The ocean side of the island is practically deserted, but along the sound-side, a handsome young man is swooshing around over the water with a water-propelled jet-pack strapped to his back while other young men are riding jet skis
"Mmm. Eye candy," Mary says.
"Speaking of eye candy, I wonder if Stacey's parents know that Mason Hatch is going to be here," Lilly says as they walk past an open shelter serving as a bar.
An assortment of beers fill the refrigerator. Oliver walks pasts the hostesses and serves a couple of young women colorful drinks.
AJ taps out some letters on her phone. "According to Google, Stacey is still married to Jace Winchester."
"And Mason is Stacey's former lover," Lyn adds, exchanging a significant look with Melissa.
Melissa waggles her brows, "Well, then let's join the roast and watch the fireworks begin!"
Broken Heart by Laura Browning
Stacey always tried to be the perfect child. Now she's trying to be the perfect wife. But she's finding out perfection isn't all it's cracked up to be. Her husband doesn't seem interested in her, and her former lover is driving her crazy. Something's got to give...and Stacey's worried it might be her.
Avoiding him was nearly impossible. Wherever Stacey looked, Mason Hatch was in her line of sight. Since she was attending her brother Brandon’s wedding, she couldn’t leave, but she sure wished Jace would stick by her side this once. She scanned the room, but her husband was nowhere to be seen.
“Hubby MIA again?” Mason’s voice was as smooth as silk in her ear. The fact he simply echoed her thoughts didn’t make his intrusion into them any more palatable. “I could tell you where to look, but I don’t think you’d like what you’d find.”
“Stop it!” Stacey hissed between clenched teeth. Every time she encountered Mason, he made some cryptic remark about her husband. Stacey was tired of it, in part because she had enough doubts concerning her marriage. But not today. She refused to have them today. Today was supposed to be perfect. Jason had made love to her last night, had tried once again to talk her into starting a family. She wanted children. She did, but something always held her back. She couldn’t stall too much longer, doing so wasn’t fair to either of them, yet the mere thought of a divorce in her oh-so-Catholic family made her shudder. God, was she really contemplating divorce? Her mother would flip.
“Just trying to make conversation among these Virginia purebreds,” Mason purred, once again barging into her brain. Why was there always a hint of amusement in his voice, as if he were actually laughing at her? Yes, she had been unfair to him, but had his contempt been there all along? Had he always regarded her with a smirk?
She sneaked a glance, finding her heels brought her nearly eye-to-eye with him. He was not short by any means, she’d simply inherited every bit of the Barlow-Barrett height and her mother’s slenderness to boot. How often she had wished for even a touch of her younger sister Preston’s curviness and her infinitely more diminutive height.
“Why can’t you single out someone else to talk to?” she demanded, knowing she sounded as petulant as she felt. “Don’t you have a date?”
He arched one dark brow, his eyes glittering like obsidian. “Perhaps I’m conducting a scientific experiment.”
“Oh? And what would your experiment be?” She didn’t want to continue this conversation, but she had no defense against his goading, had never been able to resist it, and that was what had gotten them in trouble to begin with. He was the match. She was the kindling.
“To see if there’s actually a living, breathing woman still left under your high-class brittleness, or has the rarified air of your married life already drained it away?”
After a long career in journalism, Laura Browning changed gears and began teaching English. The change in pace allowed her to get back to her love of writing fiction. After a push from her husband, she finally landed a book contract. She loves hearing from readers.
You can find her at: www.facebook.com/pages/Laura-Browning-Author/216152421732408
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