Tag: Whidbey Island Series

NAVY HOPE Chapter Eleven

Navy Hope

By Geri Krotow

Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Books S.A.

Chapter Eleven

Val didn’t speak for several strides, and Lucas sent her a quick look to see if she was tearing up.

“Needless to say, Chet left almost everything to his wife and my nephews, but he also left me a sizable chunk of cash. It was totally unexpected and I planned on giving it to my sister-in-law and the kids. She persuaded me not to, said they were more than taken care of, thanks to Chet’s smart financial planning and preparation for the worst.”

They were near the crest of the run, the highest point on the tiny island. She slowed her pace to a walk and he did the same.

“I was so proud of him. A career in the Army isn’t what I would’ve picked for him, especially considering our family background, but it was his calling.”

Val’s profile against the backdrop of the Pacific Northwest was an artist’s dream. Her soft curves contrasted with the harsh contours of the wind-eroded cliffs behind her. Lucas wanted to reach out and embrace her, but he simply let her tell her story.

“I had horrible nightmares the first six months after Chet was killed. He was on the battlefield, and I couldn’t stop thinking about his suffering, his blood soaking into the desert sand.”

“It was awful, that whole first year. I stayed with Chet’s widow, Erin, and my nephews, to help her out. Since I was looking for a change but didn’t know which direction to take, and I’m single, it made sense for me to move in with them. I’d been living in Seattle for ten years, and Chet was stationed at Fort Lewis, a short drive away. Erin’s family is on the east coast and she didn’t want to relocate the boys right away. Now she’s even thinking of buying a place on Whidbey Island.”

Val flashed him a grin. “She’s a schoolteacher, and kept her job in the same elementary school the kids attend. But the boys are getting older, and she’s ready for something different.”

“Like you were.” Like he was.

Val nodded.

“How did you find this place?” He was impressed by how much she’d accomplished in such a short time.

“I came here on a trip with my boyfriend, Bob. It was supposed be a fun weekend, a chance to rekindle our relationship after I’d spent so much time with Erin and the kids, after Chet’s death.” She shook her head as if shaking off bad memories.

“It turned into our break-up fight. But that’s all ancient history. It happened more than two years ago.” She turned toward Lucas. “Something good came out of it, though, because I went for a run and ended up here, in this very spot. And after some serious thought and meditation, I concluded that this would be the perfect place for families to heal. Even with my soon-to-be-ex sleeping in the resort a few miles away, I’d been able to find peace, serenity, in these surroundings. I knew it was where I could start my life over.”

She laughed. “Pretty naive of me, wasn’t it? It sounds crazy, but I had a gut feeling that I had to be here, to live here, to stay here. So I did. Bob packed up and left by himself after our disaster of a weekend, and I stayed behind for two weeks. I scoured this island and several nearby. The old abandoned family hotel I finally bought was the best option and the most financially feasible for me.”

“I know what you mean,” Luke said, nodding. “The best things in my life have happened when I’m not trying too hard. Like finding this job on the same day I’d had a rough time at work in DC. I thought it’d cheer me up to see all the other jobs I could apply for, knowing none would be as good as what I had at Walter Reed. Until I read I’d be in ‘God’s Country’ for six months, making a difference to Gold Star families.”

She laughed again. “I put that ad out there on impulse. I’ve usually hired all my other counselors locally.”

“Are you still in touch with him?”

“With whom? Oh, you mean Bob?” She shook her head. “No, not at all. We were together because it was convenient for both of us. That’s the sad truth of it. He never wanted me to move out here and I decided I didn’t want to move back to Seattle. You could say I had an epiphany while I was living with my sister-in-law.”

“I can see why you fell in love with this area.”

“Even after your horrible ferry crossing?”

Lucas groaned. “Don’t remind me. But yes, even after that. It seems like a lifetime ago, and it was only last month.”

“This place does that with time. No sense of hurry, yet so much more seems to get done.” She gave him a shy grin. “I’m scaring you, aren’t I? You’re wondering exactly what you signed on for?”

They both laughed.

He watched her face, her exquisite smile, and marveled at the lovely ring of her laughter as they stood in the morning mist that clung in wisps about the cliff’s edge.

Had he died and was this heaven?

NAVY HOPE Chapter Three

By Geri Krotow

Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Books S.A.

Chapter Three

“I appreciate your time, sir, but Beyond the Stars is non-profit and I intend to keep it that way.”

Val rolled her eyes at Maggie, her assistant, as she listened to the umpteenth investor who wanted to buy out her resort and make her a very rich woman.

“It’s not about the money, it’s about the military families who need healing. I’m sorry to cut you off, but I’m late for a meeting.”

She stopped herself from slamming down the phone, setting it back on its base with a quiet click.

“Meeting?” Maggie’s blue eyes twinkled in her flushed face.

“Yeah, with you. We always have a meeting on the schedule, right?”

They both laughed and Val let the sound wash over her.

“Thank God my brother left me the money he did,” she said. “Much as I hated accepting it at first, it’s been the cushion we need, so we didn’t have to make this a commercial resort.” She’d argued with her brother’s widow over not taking the money, but her sister-in-law insisted it was what Chet had wanted. He’d left his family well-insured, prepared for the worst-case scenario.

“You’re doing well with the grants from the various veterans’ associations, plus the fundraising we do. And as long as families leave with something positive after their week at Beyond the Stars, what more can you ask for?”

“For the rest of the world to leave us alone.” Val tapped her fingers on the side of her soda can. “I want this place to stay special, to be the safe haven it’s meant to be. I know we need to press to keep the private donations coming in, but it brings in some unwanted attention, too.”

“You’re doing great, Val,” Maggie said again. “Your brother would be so proud of you.” Maggie fanned herself with a Beyond the Stars brochure. “He died too young, honey, a true hero. This is what he would’ve wanted you to do. I have no doubt that the families who come here are blessed with some peace.”

“I’m not denying that, Maggie. I just have to make sure our finances stay in the black.” Val’s heart ached whenever anyone mentioned Chet. She’d never get over losing her baby brother to the war in Afghanistan. But Maggie was right. Beyond the Stars made a difference for other Gold Star families.

Maggie continued to fan herself.

“You okay?” Val asked. She didn’t like the beet-red tone of Maggie’s skin.

Maggie groaned. “I’m perfectly healthy. These personal ‘power moments’ are all part of a normal menopause, according to Doc Maura.”

Val wanted to give Maggie a big hug but knew it might embarrass her. It had taken two years to convince Maggie she was right for this job. To work on an isolated island at the edge of the North American continent, with the goal of benefitting the families hardest hit by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“What about ginger tea? I heard ginger might help.”

Maggie laughed. “If anything really worked, I’d be rich off the cure for hormone hell.” Maggie flapped her hands as if she were shooing away flies. “Don’t you worry about my problems. By the time you get to this point in your life, there’ll be a cure for hot flashes.”

Val smiled. Maggie wasn’t here for the paycheck. She was here because she was a Navy widow, a Gold Star family member. She’d lost her husband and been left with three teenage boys to raise. This was back during the first Gulf War, when the support system for Gold Star families hadn’t been as strong as it was today.

They went back to their usual routines at their respective computers.

“You sure you’re ready for this?”

Maggie’s voice broke through Val’s desperate attempt to keep her mind off the man who’d be walking into her office thirty minutes from now.

“Yes, I am. He’s probably married or at least involved, and even if he’s single, I’m not looking.”

Maggie snorted. “Honey, that’s the exact attitude I had before I met Mike.”

“If it didn’t happen with Bob, it’s not going to happen.” She’d ended the relationship with her long-term boyfriend from Seattle two years ago. “I was comfortable with him. We had so much in common. But it wasn’t enough to keep us together when I moved here.”

“‘Comfortable’ was your first mistake, Val. The man who’s best for you won’t be the one you’re most comfortable with. He’ll be the one who sets your teeth on edge and makes you a better person, all at the same time.”

“I’ll take your word for it.”

“Do you really think this man won’t remember you?”

This wasn’t the conversation she wanted to be having before their new employee showed up. He’d been a college boyfriend…briefly.

He broke your heart.

Yes, he’d broken her heart—but wouldn’t any boy have back then? She’d been young, he’d been her first, and it wasn’t as if he was ever anything other than wonderful to her.

Except when he didn’t come back junior year. He’d disappeared from her life with virtually no explanation.

“It’s in the past, Maggie. Fifteen years ago. Anyway, how many people remember who they dated in college?”

You do. And it’s been a while since you dated. You’re too isolated out here. Not to mention that if you ever want some kids of your own, sooner is best.”

“Tell me something I don’t know, Maggie. But just because I’m plowing through my thirties doesn’t mean every eligible male is a potential father for my babies.”

Maggie giggled.

Val knew she’d want male companionship again. And yes, a family. But not yet. Beyond the Stars was too new, and she couldn’t foresee a time when she’d willingly leave San Juan Island for the mainland. She’d invested her entire life in BTS and was determined to see it flourish.

“I need to get this schedule straight before he shows up.”

“I’ll leave you alone. For now.” Maggie’s voice was soft, but her steady gaze let Val know that this conversation was far from over.

Peace, Joy, and Total Spring Madness

We’ve been back home in the States for 10 months. I’ve settled my office (um, er, well, you know–it’s functional), planted flowers and now vegetables, and both kids have made it through most of a full school-year. I’ve had more writing success than ever–I’m launching my Whidbey Island series in June with the first book (and my fourth published novel) NAVY RULES, and I’m in the midst of contract negotiations for a 3-book deal with Harlequin Superromance. There will be more Whidbey Island books–yeah!!

Cold Weather Blooms

The work-up for June promo, as well as getting ready to speak at RWA in July with my Romvets sisters, is exciting and exhausting. I’m so excited about all of the new changes and opportunities that I often find myself awake at 4 am, pondering the universe (or what subplot I should write next). I’ve found that when I’m getting too full of “me” stuff, it’s good to get grounded by reaching out and helping others. So this year I’m again happy and humbled to be a part of Brenda Novak’s Auction for a Cure for Juvenile Diabetes. Whether you’re a writer or a reader, there’s something here for you, including a book club basket from me and an Amish gift basket from the Three Glindas–me, Ann DeFee and Linda Cardillo. Check it out–there are so many wonderful items to bid on, and each bid takes us another dollar closer to a cure for this devastating disease. http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/.

I’m also getting geared up to meet my readers and re-connect with so many writing colleagues at many different events this spring and summer. Please peruse my bio page and scroll down to the Events list. If you can come out and meet me, please do! I’d love to meet you and talk about books, writing, knitting, military family life–you pick!

I don’t know about you but I’m going to brew a cup of tea now. Plain green. Peace.

Container Gardening–the Basil is from Seeds