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Evening Stars: A Blackberry Island Novel

Nina crossed the small parking lot and opened her trunk. As she walked around to the driver’s side, she felt the first drops of rain.

Although the house was only a few blocks away, she was going to have to go by the store and put up a sign explaining it would be closed for the next few days. She should also see what else might have been stolen. This may not have been Tanya’s first attempt. Tomorrow she would talk to Sam and find out what charges were being brought against the former employee.

Nina started her car and headed for the bay. Blackberry Pre­serves might not be classy, but it had a killer location, right across from the small beach. In the summer, there was lots of tourist traffic, which was what helped the business survive the slower winter months. But this time of year—

Two things happened at once. The rain went from light to pounding, and her car engine died. Completely.

Not sure what to do, Nina steered to the side of the road and pulled onto the shoulder before she lost all momentum. After putting the car in gear, she started it again, or tried to. The engine turned over, but wouldn’t catch. She checked the fuel, and her tank was just over half-full. What on earth?

Beyond how to put in gas and where to take it for service, what she knew about cars and their systems could fill a shot glass and still leave room for the shot. She was stuck.

She glanced down at her shirt. “You’ve failed me, Betty.”

The cartoon didn’t answer.

Nina got out her cell phone only to see she was in one of the dead spots on the island. Between the somewhat-isolated location and the hilly terrain, there were cell phone waste­lands, with no signal to be had.

So much for phoning a friend or Mike’s Auto Repair. Be­cause while Mike would come get her and give her a lift home, he wasn’t psychic.

She leaned her head back and tried to tell herself that a walk in cold rain wouldn’t kill her. She only needed to get to a part of the island with a signal. Later, when she got home, she would have that bath and glass of wine. But being ratio­nal didn’t take away her desire to scream or cry. Or just once want to hand this problem over to someone else. But there wasn’t anyone else, there was her.

She couldn’t remember a time when it hadn’t been her. She’d been taking care of her mother since she’d been old enough to ask, “Mommy, are you okay?” She’d taken care of her baby sister and the family business, and now she was still doing it all. Worrying about the store, picking up crap stolen by employees her mother had hired and…

She gripped the steering wheel with both hands and tried to shake it. “Drive, you stupid car! Drive!”

She stopped when her hands started to hurt, then separated her car key from the house keys on the chain and tucked the car key under the driver’s seat. Then she put her purse over her shoulder and stepped out into the rain. She was soaked in a matter of seconds.

The good news was, if anyone she knew drove by, he or she would stop and give her a lift home. The bad news was, it was dinnertime on a very small island and the odds of res­cue were slim.

Nina started the long walk toward some kind of signal. With each step she told herself this was good. Forced exer­cise. Plus shivering burned calories. It wasn’t cold enough that she had to worry about hypothermia. But her clothes clung to her in a way that wasn’t flattering, and her pants were rub­bing on her thighs. She was pretty sure she was going to get a rash. That would be attractive. Too bad she wasn’t a blog­ger, because this would make for a great blog. She could title it Nina Wentworth’s Very Bad Day.

Fifteen minutes later, Nina had started working through the five stages of grief. She’d quickly moved from denial to anger and thought that might be a good place to stay. Her en­tire body was chilled except for the friction where her thighs rubbed together. She was shaking, dripping and more mis­erable than she’d ever been in her life. She checked her cell, but there still wasn’t a signal. At this rate, she would be home before she picked up reception.

She heard a car coming up behind her and turned quickly. She didn’t care who it was—she would happily get in with a stranger, if necessary. Not that there were many on the island this time of year.

She squinted against the rain, trying to figure out if she recognized the vehicle. It was blue and shiny. A new BMW, she thought, as the car slowed. No one she knew drove one of those. The driver pulled up next to her and rolled down the passenger window.

“Hey, are you—” The man stared at her for a second. “Nina?”

Although she’d been reaching for the door handle, now she pulled back. The unfairness of the situation made her want to raise her hands to the sky and ask what she could possibly have done to deserve this.

“Nina?” he asked again. “You’re soaked. Get in. I’ll take you home.”

But she couldn’t, she thought, staring into those green eyes, remembering how they’d softened when he’d promised he would love her forever. Only he hadn’t. Dylan Harrington instead had abandoned her and their forever love his third year of college. He’d left the island and never come back. Well, he’d visited his family occasionally. But he’d never bothered with her again. Not once. Worse, he’d said she was the rea­son he’d ended the relationship. Yet another person in her life who had been unwilling to take responsibility for his actions.

“Nina, get in. It’s freezing.”

“I’d rather walk,” she said and turned away.

Lifting her head proudly, ignoring the rain stinging her eyes and the burning of her chafed thighs, she proceeded to do just that.

Copyright © 2014 by Susan Mallery

Evening Stars: A Blackberry Island Novel
by by Susan Mallery

  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
  • ISBN-10: 0778316130
  • ISBN-13: 9780778316138