Shore Leave Cafe (Book Two)
The past summer has been a wild ride for Joelle Gordon, in more ways than one. After discovering her husband, Jackson, cheating, she fled Chicago for her small-town childhood home in Landon, Minnesota. There, her family's lakeside diner, the Shore Leave Café, remains unchanged.
Yet nothing else in Landon is the same, including her family of women, her three teenaged daughters, and the intense, passionate love she has found with Blythe Tilson. Now Blythe is in trouble and Jackson is back in Landon, rethinking their divorce. Can Joelle face one of the most difficult and important decisions of her life - or will the Davis family curse ruin any chances of finding and keeping love?
ISBN Trade Paperback: 978-1-77168-106-3
FICTION | Romance | 224 pages
List Price: $14.95
Praise for Abbie Williams
"There’s plenty of what most of us like, love scenes and downright romantic and hot conversations, fun, and thrills." — The Reading Cafe
"Williams populates her historical fiction with people nearly broken by their experiences." — Foreword Reviews (Soul of a Crow)
**Independent Publishers Awards Gold Medalist 2015** (Heart of a Dove)
"Set just after the U.S. Civil War, this passionate opening volume of a projected series successfully melds historical narrative, women’s issues, and breathless romance with horsewomanship, trailside deer-gutting, and alluring smidgeons of Celtic ESP." — Publishers Weekly (Heart of a Dove)
“Go after him?” Jilly repeated, disbelief raising her voice about a half-octave.
I lifted my head from her shoulder and curled my arms defensively around my bent legs. I wore our grandmother’s robe, my feet bare and chilly in the predawn damp, unwilling to be swayed by my little sister’s incredulous tone. Instead, resolute in my decision, I rested my chin on one knee and studied the smooth, inky surface of Flickertail Lake, bathed now in muted starlight. The eastern horizon bore a slim stripe of pale saffron, slowly brightening. Though not normally unwilling to voice his opinion, Justin Miller, seated on Jilly’s far side, wisely held his tongue.
Finally Jilly could stand my stubborn silence no longer and prodded, “Joelle, what in the hell are you thinking? You can’t possibly follow them to Oklahoma. You have to let him go, for now, anyway.”
At that I found my voice, ragged though it was from tears and exhaustion. “I won’t.”
I sensed my sister softening; her next question emerged more gently. “Jo, what did he say when you talked to him?”
It stung me to my core to repeat Blythe’s words, but I did, whispering, “He told me that he wasn’t good for me, that there were things about him that I didn’t know.” And then, realizing that Jilly certainly possessed information I did not, I demanded, “What did Rich say earlier? You must have talked to him.”
Jilly shifted and raked her right hand through her short golden hair, creating a spiky mess. From the corner of my gaze, I saw Justin curve his hand around her thigh and pat her twice, a calming gesture. For a moment I didn’t think she was going to elaborate, and I dropped my feet to the dock and turned to implore her.
“Jilly, please tell me,” I whispered, studying her familiar profile.
My sister bit her lower lip and then turned to face me, the blue of her eyes evident even in the meager light. She said, “Rich called about two hours after you’d gone to bed. Mom talked to him. He bailed out Blythe and then told Mom he was taking Bly back to Oklahoma. No ifs, ands, or buts. It was part of the condition anyway, since Blythe has to face charges there. Now, if Jackie decides to press any here, then Blythe will be in extra trouble.”
I curled my hands together and pressed against the ache in my belly. Jackie could most certainly decide to take that option; Blythe not only knocked him down twice, but Jackie was now also missing an incisor from his toothy grin. I closed my eyes, better to block out that image. Instead I saw Blythe’s eyes, deep blue-gray and wounded, as he told me he loved me, but that he wasn’t good for me. That there were things I didn’t know about him. I struggled to draw a deep breath, my heart thumping painfully; I was the one to end our relationship just a week ago, believing I was doing the right thing.
Jilly paused, studying my face now; I sensed more than saw her concern. She added, even more softly, “I think—and Jo, I promise I’m only saying this because I love you and I am fucking worried about you—I think you should stay here. I don’t think it will solve anything if you try to go there. What can you do?”
“Show him that I love him no matter what. I let him down, don’t you see?” I whispered fiercely, not caring that Justin was hearing all of this, too. To his credit, he didn’t clear his throat and excuse himself, didn’t so much as shuffle his feet. Instead he studied the lake, keeping his hand wrapped gently around Jillian’s leg.
Jilly asked, not unreasonably, “Wouldn’t a phone call accomplish that?”
I shook my head, unable to respond through the emotion clogging my throat. I couldn’t convey to Jilly just how much I needed to find Blythe, to see this through. He needed me, it was that simple. I finally whispered, “I won’t stay long. I’ll be back before school starts.” Necessity would pull me home before long anyway, the necessity of motherhood. But I understood what I must do, which was go after Blythe, even if it meant he would send me away for good. I needed to know the truth, for better or worse; otherwise I would forever torture myself with the wondering.
“Jo, sleep on it, at least,” Justin finally ventured, his tone gentle.
“I will,” I whispered, again bending my knees and threading my hands together around them. I didn’t mention that it wouldn’t change my mind.
The three of us made our way back up the shore a minute later, me in the lead, Jilly and Justin a few yards behind, walking with fingers loosely linked. I climbed the porch steps and then turned to watch them amble along, so glad for my sister’s happiness that I spent a moment soaking in it; Jillian was widowed twelve years ago, and only just recently began seeing Justin Miller, a longtime friend of our family. They continued on past the porch, where I stood with my hips pressed lightly to the top rail. Jilly called over her shoulder, “Stay there, Jo, I’ll be right back.”
I stayed on the porch, obeying her, watching as sunlight tinted the sky with amber hues. The birds were very much awake; the shore echoed with their lively chatter and conversational chirps. The lake itself remained secretive in the last of the silvery dimness of dawn, level as a mirror with no wind to mar its surface. I studied the familiar sight in all its clear-morning beauty, thinking about what happened since yesterday evening.
Blythe was in trouble. I didn’t know all of the details, but I vowed to find out. Just over a week ago, I’d told him that we had no future together. Despite everything my heart was screaming to the contrary, I felt as though it was wrong to ask him to stay, to bind himself in any permanent way to a mother with three girls of her own, one of whom was expecting a baby in February. For the countless time, my heart seized with the realization of Camille’s pregnancy. My oldest daughter, conceived when her father and I skipped the last half of senior prom to have sex in his car. No protection, just heat and desire and crossed fingers; roughly nine months later we were legally wed, living nearly a thousand miles from our hometown of Landon, Minnesota, and in possession of a newborn.
No matter that Jackie’s mother insisted we marry; we were in it for the long haul, I thought back then. And once upon a time, I’d loved my husband dearly, back when those damnable first-love stars clouded my vision. It wasn’t until over a decade and one gorgeous new assistant at my husband’s law firm later that the foundation of my marriage began to crack and crumble. I ignored it for years, purposely, and by the time I realized I better start paying attention, the whole relationship, foundation to rafters, lay in rubble around my ankles.
I’d come home to Landon this past spring, a place steeped in memories, most centered upon my rambunctious, freewheeling childhood and high-flying teenage years. As a teenager, the thought of settling permanently in this one-horse town seemed loathsome, despite its familiarity and the presence of the women who’d taught me everything I knew about life, love, and the pursuit of independence. I came from women who prided themselves on their ability to avoid relying on men, who equated happiness with that very principle; no man was ever granted ownership of our family business, the Shore Leave Cafe, since its founding in the 1940s. Never mind the legend of the family curse concerning our menfolk.
By Abbie Williams