Chapter One of Love at Crystal Lake

And now for something new… 

Most people don’t realize it, but reviews are golden for indie authors. We need them to make it through the 32 millions (yes, that’s millions) of books on amazon.com to even be seen.

Below is Chapter One of “Love at Crystal Lake.” It’s a clean romance (which means light romance with no profanity or nude scenes). If you like what you read, please consider buying it and leaving a review. Or if you know someone who might like it, a recommendation would be appreciated as well. I would be forever grateful for the gesture. It’s available on amazon.com, smashwords.com, barnesandnoble.com and is available in ebook and paperback. Just click on the retail link of your choosing or click on the book cover. Thanks for your support!

 

Chapter 1

As the sun was setting behind the houses across Crystal Lake, Audra Carter walked through the plaza, struggling as she balanced her grocery bag on one arm, and her purse on the other on her way home from the office. She held her keys in her mouth, something that her mother always told her was a dirty habit that would make her sick one day. Twenty-six years, and she was still healthy and going strong.

She walked by old Roy and his cronies as they sat outside the Either-Or-Bookstore discussing politics and smoking cigars. One of the men winked at Audra, but didn’t bother to offer her any help, even though he could see she was clearly struggling. She rolled her eyes in disgust and made her way to the stairs.

Her apartment was directly above the bookstore. She both loved and hated the location. She had a balcony and a clear view of the sunset each night, but it also meant she had to tolerate Roy’s awful cigar as well as his loud friends and their bellowing voices sometimes late into the night.

She stumbled up the first step but recovered before she almost dropped her bag of groceries. Thank goodness her apartment was only on the second floor. She used her left hand to unlock her door and pushed her way in as the grocery bag slid lower down her leg. She made it to the kitchen table before the bag hit the floor.

“Ugh!” she said and plopped into the chair, exhaling violently.

She heard a loud guffaw from the cronies below.

“Of all nights, Roy,” she grumbled to herself. “What kind of men don’t even offer a lady some help!” she said, but she lived alone, so no one heard her.

She took off her heels and tossed them into the bedroom. Then she proceeded to put away her groceries, leaving the microwave meal on the counter for dinner. She walked over to the sliding door in the living room and opened the door, inhaling deeply only to be met by cigar smoke. She coughed wildly, nearly choking and slammed the door.

“Seriously? Why do I even bother!” she said, again, to no one.

Her phone rang. It was her father.

“Hi, Dad,” she said.

“No, I’m sorry. I can’t make it tonight. How about this weekend? I promise I’ll come visit. I just can’t make it tonight. I’ve got some work to catch up on, but I should be good by the weekend,” she explained.

He seemed placated by her explanation and she hung up quickly.

“Now, to start dinner and get comfortable,” she said, and put the frozen meal into the microwave and pushed ‘start.’

While it cooked, she took off her makeup and changed into her yoga pants and a sweatshirt; the single girl’s at-home uniform.

After dinner she curled up on her red sofa and laid out her paperwork and started working on her proposal. The women and children advocacy group she worked for needed funding for a new distribution center. It was a big gamble and would involve some clever marketing, but she’d managed bigger projects. She could easily swing this one.

There was a knock at her door, and she looked at the clock…7:34pm. She wasn’t expecting anyone. She considered ignoring it, but it could be the neighbor, Mrs. Simpson, looking for her cat again. Poor woman lost her cat probably twice a week.

She opened the door a crack to see Roy standing there. She felt an impulse to slam the door in his face. The smell of cigar reeking from his pores.

“Roy? What do you…uh…can I help you?” Audra asked, without opening the door more than a crack.

He cleared his throat loudly. “Ehem… uh, the Misses made too much roast and thought you might want some,” he said, and held out a porcelain plate covered in plastic wrap.

She took it from him carefully. It was still warm.

“Oh, uh. Tell Dotty thanks, will you? That’s really nice of her,” Audra said.

“I told her that you were a grown woman and could take care of yourself, but she insisted. I’ll tell her what you said,” he grumbled and walked back down the hall.

She closed the door behind him.

Dotty frequently came to the bookstore when Roy had stayed there too long or forgotten to go home for dinner. On a few occasions, he’d stayed outside on the patio talking to his gang and smoking cigars until well past midnight. Audra knew she couldn’t be the only neighbor annoyed by that. But Dotty Lockwood was different. She was sweet and well-intentioned, though sometimes abrasive. But who wouldn’t be from living with the likes of Roy for as long as they’d been married? Audra wasn’t sure if they had any grown children, but if they did, she never saw any of them come to the bookstore. For all she knew, it was just the two of them, which Audra thought was kind of sad. She thought that Dotty would have made a good mother. After losing her own mother to cancer six years earlier, Audra looked for motherly qualities in all the older women she knew. Even the abrasive ones.

She didn’t want to waste her microwave dinner, but the roast smelled so good. She could save it for the next night, but she knew it wouldn’t be as tasty if she didn’t eat it while it was still warm. She tossed the microwave dinner in the trash and sat down at the table where she enjoyed the first home-cooked meal she’d had in a really long time.

In the morning, as Audra walked across the plaza toward the parking structure, she was tempted to stop at “Taste of Heaven Pastry Shop” but resisted the temptation. The Either-Or-Bookstore was closed up and quiet, and the smell of cigars was no longer. She reminded herself to stop by there later to look for a new book to read. Not that she had a lot of spare time, especially with this new proposal she was working on, but she liked the idea of having the option to read should she get a free moment.

The women and children’s charity organization, Felicity’s Heart, was on the other side of town, in the business district. The organization had wanted to move to a better locale, but they got a good deal on the lease, at least for the first year. Audra figured that it was a matter of time before finding a new location would be her next proposal to work on.

She sat down at her cubicle and her best friend and co-worker, Carrie, stuck her head over the top.

“Morning!” she sang.

Audra jumped. “Don’t do that! You scared me to death!”

Carrie laughed. “I know. That’s why I do it.” She sat down across the desk from Audra. “Did you finish?” she asked, referring to the proposal.

“Not yet. But I worked on it last night, so at least I’m ahead of the game.”

“That’s good. There’s a meeting at 10am. They’re serving donuts,” Carrie said.

“Don’t worry. I’ll be there. How are things for the newlyweds?” Audra asked, referring to Carrie and her husband, Josh. They’d only been married for a few weeks, and Carrie had just recently gotten back from her honeymoon.

Carrie smiled. “Things are great. Now we have to get you married.”

“Oh, no you don’t. I don’t have time for a man right now,” Audra said.

Carried pouted mockingly. “Ahh, you’re no fun at all. I’ll get Josh to set you up with one of his friends,” she teased and stood.

“Don’t you dare!” Audra called after her.

Carrie laughed and nearly skipped down the hall. “See you at 10:00!” she called.

Audra shook her head. “A man. Who has time for a man?”

 

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