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A Second Chance Beach Read

Book Cover: A Sea for Summer
Part of the Places in the Heart series:
  • A Sea for Summer

Friends have a strict no-spouse rule for significant others at their seaside retreat, but this year they break with tradition.

A pastry chef, Claire’s heart is breaking. Her marriage is crumbling, but her determined mother has a plan. Claire’s annual friends retreat will be morphed into a couple’s weekend to bring a husband and wife back together. The new couple experience at Daydream Island might be the key for a second chance at love.

A numbers guy, Peter understands he’s made mistakes and he’s not certain if his mother-in-law’s surprising, but welcome, intervention will change anything. The division between him and his wife has grown as wide as the ocean and therapy sessions might only create more distance. But if there’s hope of lessening the divide and rebuilding their life together, he’ll get down on his knees and make a plea with his heart.

Will Claire and Peter get beyond their pain and follow their hearts back to the love they once shared, or will this plan ruin what’s left of their marriage.

Excerpt:

Chapter One

“Claire…we can’t live like this anymore. It’s not enough to share space in a house where two people barely meet. We’re like strangers, two ships in the night coping with sorrow instead of joy. I don’t want to drown in our personal storm. I want to thrive. Something needs to change; we need to change…”

Claire knew Peter was right. She admitted for the first time that their marriage was in trouble. What could she do about it? When would the pain end? They didn’t share space together anymore. When they were in the same room, they hardly spoke two words. Neglect and a lack of communication propelled them toward separation.

Two hearts were broken. How could she mend the break?

Peter had made a valid point; change was necessary to rebuild their marriage. Yet they were so damaged, where should they begin? Where should she begin? What was her starring role in this drama?

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Claire didn’t know if the problems could be fixed. Peter’s position was clear. His criticism had led to brooding thoughts while preparing the day’s assortment of bakery items: pies, bread, and a variety of pastries for the family-owned bakery. The work had begun hours ago. She filled a pan with pastry dough and as she flattened the crust into place, crimping the dough around the edges, rougher than usual, Claire questioned if her marriage had taken its last breath.

Had her bond to Peter Douglas deflated like lost air in a balloon?

In Claire’s opinion, one issue was glaringly apparent, her happiness. No different than Peter, she didn’t want to face constant turmoil either. They were too volatile. If their voices weren’t raised in anger, they were weeping in silence. She missed their laughter, their playful chemistry, the way they used to hold hands. Claire wanted this and more back. How could she get it back?

The bell chimed at the front entrance, announcing her mother’s arrival to assist in the day’s work. Mary strolled into the back workroom, wearing a broad smile.

“Good morning, how’s my girl today?”

Claire blew a wayward strand of hair away from her eyes while reaching for the next pie plate. What should she say? In silence, she watched her mother place her purse on the countertop. She wore familiar clothing: a dusty blue shirt, polyester pants, and a cheerful smile. Her mother held a positive view of the future. Claire wished she shared her mother’s optimism as nothing about this Monday morning brightened her spirits.

“I’d rather not say.”

“That bad?” Mary asked, her eyebrows rising as he reached for an apron. “Trouble at home again?”

Claire perused her mother’s sympathetic expression, swallowing. Her finger tore through the piecrust. Damn. The agitation…tears were building behind her eyes and threatening to escape. She should talk to someone about her marriage rather than bottling up her grief. Hiding the truth from her mother had never been an effective solution.

Happiness dimmed to concern. “How bad is it this time?”

“Terrible,” Claire said, her lower lip quivering. “We’re not talking. Peter didn’t come home last night.”

“Look, Claire, I know you’re a strong woman, preferring to handle situations on your own, but if I can help...”

“There’s nothing you can do. Nothing you can say to make the situation better.”

Mary grasped an apron, staring at her seriously, soon tying the straps into place. “Peter is a strong-willed bear. But you don’t like taking advice at the best of times. Maybe my two cubs should consider counselling.”

Claire shook her head. The mention of the word ‘bear’ had her thinking about Peter’s ample chest and strong muscular arms that used to embrace her. In her mind, nothing was better than being held in his arms. Emotional, she tossed more pastry dough onto the counter and punched it down, perhaps a little too hard, then began rolling the crust. “I don’t have time for relationship negotiations. Neither does Peter.”

Mary grasped her hand, preventing further movement. “Make time. A marriage is an investment; you need to give yours more attention. Stop ignoring the problem. When will either of you make an effort, when it’s too late?”

“You’re not being helpful.”

“Look…a mother supports her children, even when they’re adults. Above all, my daughter comes first, but Peter is a part of my life, too. Neither of you can address the issues by hoping they’ll go away.”

Claire didn’t know what to say to her mom any different than she knew what to say to Peter. Though her mother made a valid point.

Mary drew closer to her. “I know the situation is complicated. Peter needs to accept his part in the marriage troubles as well. Look, your father and I have been married for, well…forever.” Mom shook her head, giving her a slight smile. “Men are difficult to live with on the best of days. I support my daughter, first and foremost, but relationships are never one-sided.”

“Your logic makes sense.” Knowing her mother grasped the situation didn’t make her feel better.

Mary sighed. “Look, you’re both my children and I love both of you dearly. I accepted Peter the first time you brought him into the bakery. I acknowledged him as my son the day you said your vows. Years later, two strong adults should address the issues in their marriage before it’s too late.”

Claire frowned, irritated they were having this discussion. “Mom, I know you mean well, but it’s too late to see a counsellor.” Emotion compromised her breathing and glistened in her eyes, but she had to disclose the truth. “I think there’s someone else.”

“Another woman?” Mary asked, her face whitening while pondering the disclosure. “Are you sure?”

Claire rolled the dough, too rough and too fast. “He comes home late at night, thinking I’m asleep, but I’ve been lying in bed for hours, worrying and waiting.” Claire brushed away a tear. “The backdoor banging alerts me someone is home. He enters the bedroom and gathers his pajamas, then retreats to another bedroom and drifts off to sleep. Why won’t he sleep with me? Why won’t he hold me, hug me? What do I need to do? Where is my husband and who is he visiting late at night?”

Her mother sighed, tapping her fingers on the counter. “Do you still love him?”

Claire swallowed, her emotions raw. “No matter what happens, I’ll always love him; I can’t sleep for worry about where he is and when he’s coming home. I need him. I don’t know how to fix us. He’s part of me and I don’t want to lose him.”

“If you love Peter,” her mom said firmly, “try not to let doubt enter your mind. It will eat away at your insides; poison you and make the situation worse. You know where your husband sits late at night. At his desk inside his office.”

“If that’s true, he’s not there alone.”

Her mother sighed, giving her a surprised look. She moved to the fridge, opened the door, then pulled prepared fruit from inside and placed it on the countertop. “You seem clear on your suspicions. I’m afraid to ask, is there something you’re not telling me?”

Claire took a deep breath and released a long, weary sigh. “I drove by his office the other night. There were two cars parked in the lot.”

“Is that so.”

“Yes, and I have reason to doubt him.” Claire closed her eyes, willing herself not to break down, yet an elusive truth had left her unsure of what she had seen. She stepped away from her mom, offering a view of her back, so her emotion could be somewhat hidden. One night, she’d driven to Peter’s office and parked near the building to learn if the boss and his employee’s working relationship had grown into something more. “In the early hours of morning, it doesn’t seem right that a boss shares a laugh with his office manager, grinning like a fool, when he should be at home with his wife.”

“I agree with you, in that some boundaries might be stretching. But building a relationship with Lori when he has you, well…cheating doesn’t seem likely to me.”

“Doesn’t it?” Claire said, a little too loudly, facing her mom. “Shouldn’t my husband be at home with me?”

“Of course, he should. You’re his number one squeeze. I’m just saying, there’s two sides to every conflict. Rather than believing the worst, you should talk to Peter. But in terms of working hours, the two of you have conflicting schedules. Peter probably thinks similarly when you leave the house at five a.m., leaving him alone while you address the bakery’s needs.”

“What choice do I have? I can’t abandon my job; the bakery demands attention. We need to bring back our customers. Our pies were the taste of the town.”

Her mother frowned. “Life has its cycles, but this business won’t survive if we burn ourselves out.” Mary stared at her in a meaningful way. “I can help. We can fix this. We can make changes to the bakery and give Peter and you more time together. Nora Jones has been looking for a job. She’s forceful with her ideas, but the bakery needs bold concepts.”

“Maybe.”

Claire had been so upset the night before, she’d come to the bakery after leaving Peter’s office to prepare today’s pie fillings. She hadn’t been home yet. Why should she bother? Peter wouldn’t be in their bed anyway.

Her mother filled the completed pie shells with peach filling while seeming to reflect on the ingredients, delicately placing peaches in the shell while shaking her head.

“It takes work to have a successful business. My children work diligently at two separate places. One leaves too early in the morning and the other comes home too late at night. I wish I had wise words or practical solutions that could bring you back together.”

“I know you mean well, Mom, but there’s nothing you can do. Maybe it’s best to keep our discussion on the pies.”

“We’re having a peachy day. It’s the perfect flavor for summer, especially with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. But I thought we’d make a key lime pie. Refreshing and delicious during the summer months,” her mom said, giving her an uneasy smile.

“Mom, please stop.”

“It’s Peter’s favorite. Maybe you could take it to him. A goodwill offering.”

Claire thrust an empty pie plate away, clutching her aching head. She massaged her temples. “I can’t talk about this anymore.”

“Of course, you’re upset.” Her mom took control of the situation like some mothers did. “Turn the oven on. Let’s focus on our work; finish the pies, get them in the oven and bake them before our first customer arrives.”

“The few customers we have.”

Claire didn’t feel like talking, so held the pain and grief inside. Mother and daughter worked in companionable silence, not speaking, until the last pie cooled off on the counter.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Self-Publishing Review on Self-Publishing Review wrote:

"A touching reflection on family, motherhood, identity, and forgiveness, A Sea for Summer by Shelley Kassian is a tenderly penned exploration of love, and a superb first installment of her Places in the Heart series. Peter and Claire are two stubborn and deeply tangled partners, but the author sets the perfect beachside scene for redemption, recognizable conflict, and thought-provoking conversations that may encourage readers to do more work on their own close relationships. The prose is stylishly straightforward, rarely relying on complex turns of phrase, which not only makes the book a quick and easy read, but also lends the characters a raw simplicity that makes it hard not to root for a happy ending." Self-Publishing Review, ★★★★½


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