Taylor Winslow needed peace and quiet, at least over Labor Day weekend. She had teacher prep days beginning on Tuesday where she taught in Portland and her brand new first graders started school on Thursday. But the pressing issue was the manuscript for her book, due to her editor next week. Three chapters in the latest Holly Bright story were still not finished. She worked better away from the noisy city.
Early Friday morning, she packed up her laptop, lounging clothes and comfort food, loaded Misty, her little Yorkie, into a travel crate, and headed out for the under-an-hour drive to Brookview, the family camp on Running Brook near Sebago Lake in North Windham. Without Internet and e-mail access to distract her, she'd be totally focused and could finish the rest of the book.
Her grandfather had built Brookview, located in Campfire Circle, a cul-de-sac at the end of a dirt road. Five other families had built about the same time. Other camps had been added as children grew up and land was divided.
Any chance her older brother's friend, Brad, would be at his camp next door for the long weekend? She'd had a crush on him forever. He'd gone away to college, then grad school--and come home with a degree and a daughter. Taylor had never heard the whole story of what happened to Faith's mother. Different versions floated around. She'd always been curious, but never got up the courage to ask him.
This was not the weekend to wonder about him. She had work to do.
By the time Taylor arrived at camp on Campfire Circle, the dark clouds chasing her had turned into a steady downpour. She hadn't bothered to get an update on the weather and now it was too late. Whatev... The only thing she'd planned on doing outside was write on the deck. Not an option now.
Misty scampered inside, shook off rain in a mini-shower of drops, and curled up in her favorite spot on the couch. The little dog watched Taylor's every move as she put things away. Food in the ancient refrigerator and on paper-lined shelves. Sleeping bag upstairs on the iron-framed bed she'd slept on since a kid. She hauled in an armload of firewood, filled a couple of jugs with emergency water and set a pail on the deck to catch the rain. Just as her family always did when a storm was approaching.
Taylor rolled her computer desk in front of the bay window overlooking the tree-lined brook. As soon as settled into the chair and opened her laptop, Misty closed her eyes, content Taylor wouldn't leave.
* * *
Brad Jennings agreed to spend the weekend at his camp, Time Out, on Campfire Circle. When his four-year old daughter, Faith, pushed out her little lower lip and looked at him with pleading puppy-dog eyes, he couldn't say no to heading to camp. A hurricane brewing out in the Atlantic had been downgraded to a tropical storm. So nothing more than lots of rain and a bit of wind was all that would be left.
He crossed the wooden-plank bridge over Running Brook and pulled into the driveway. He spotted a car parked in the Winslow's drive. Taylor? Looked like he wasn't the only fool to leave home on a stormy day.
At least he'd have adult company. Maybe they could get together later, do a Maine-style tropical storm watch, playing a couple of Faith's board games. Normally, he didn't mix his dates and his daughter, but she knew Taylor, so it wasn't the same thing. At least in theory.
"It's raining pretty hard, sweetie." He unbuckled Faith's car seat. "We can still go back home."
"No, Papa. We can have a camp tea party with Huggy Bear and Barky Dog."
Hoodie pulled up, Brad unloaded the car, needing three trips to haul in the sacks of food and Faith's toys. After sliding off her backpack, she immediately opened the huge plastic tote and pulled out her favorites, covering the living room floor with pink princesses and stuffed animals. These few moments of peace gave him a chance to respond to e-mails from students. Some first year students were already confused after only a couple of weeks of classes at USM. He also wanted to organize the notes for his upcoming lectures.
He'd been working for about an hour when the wind whistling around the corner of the camp startled him. He looked out the window, and saw the treetops swaying back and forth.
Stepping outside, Brad's concern about the weather increased. The temperature felt more like high summer in the tropics than early September in Maine. A gust of wind pushed against him. No choice but to hunker down and ride out the storm.
* * *
Late morning, Taylor pushed back her chair, needing a break from trying to write a scene that just wasn't coming together. Still lots more to go. Glancing outside, the sky was darker than it should be, looked more like early evening than nearly noon. Stressed, Misty had jumped on and off Taylor's lap several times. Now, she sat at Taylor's feet, looking up with worried eyes, and she'd begun her tell-tale nervous panting.
Never a good sign.
She turned toward the window facing the creek. A sheet of rain swept across the yard obliterating the trees outside.