In 2015 when Nicki Stewart, a med student and Army widow, arrives at the lake duplex bequeathed to her by her deceased husband's Aunt Maggie, she finds not only Lieutenant Josh Taylor, a cocky Navy Pilot, residing next door, but also an old diary. Nicki soon learns that the journal Josh is reading belonged to the same Hank Jones mentioned with disdain in the aunt's diary. Intrigued, Nicki and Josh decide to read the two books together and are soon engrossed in Maggie and Hank's lives during the summer of 1950.
Maggie Frank, a prim widow and librarian, buys a duplex cottage at Olcott Beach, New York where she hopes to find solace. She soon discovers that the tenant next door is both a womanizer and a drunkard. Hank Jones, a World War II Veteran struggling to adjust to civilian life, decides to spend a month at the lake before he rejoins the Army to fight in Korea. He is first annoyed but later intrigued by the straight-laced Maggie whose situation he finds puzzling. Before long the two opposites become friends in an odd sort of way until the day Maggie's secret is exposed and Hank returns to the Army. Maggie and Hank must then decide if love can overcome their wounds of the past.
Will be available through Soul Mate Publishing, Amazon, & Story & Song Bookstore - Fernandina Beach, FL
. . .As Maggie Frank strolled along the pebbled shoreline, she bent periodically to pick up shells and to breathe deeply of the fresh air. The late sun's rays on her face warmed her through and through, and for the first time in a long time, she felt a semblance of peace. That is until she spied a strange man standing on her porch hunched over trying unsuccessfully to open her front door. Thank goodness she had the foresight to lock it.
"Excuse me," she said, when she reached him. "Can I help you?"
The rather scruffy man bent over her doorknob trying uselessly to unlock it ignored her and continued to jab his key in the lock, mumbling under his breath what sounded like some rather inventive cursing.
"Hello." She stepped closer. "I'm the owner of the cottage you're trying to enter. Can I help you? I think you may have the wrong place."
Finally, the man straightened and turned to face her.
She took a step back, unnerved by his appearance. He obviously hadn't shaved in several days or bothered to change his clothing, and she'd bet her bottom dollar that he'd slept in them the night before. The odor of alcohol wafting from his breath would have knocked a lesser body over. She couldn't imagine how he still stood upright.
He squinted at her then opened his bloodshot eyes wider as if he were having trouble seeing her. "Nope, this is my cottage, I'm sure of it."
Her heart plummeted into her stomach as the realization hit. Oh, please God, don't let this be my neighbor. "Perhaps you should try your key in that door." She pointed to the black one next to hers and held her breath.
"Oh," was all he managed to mumble as he started to tilt forward.
"Whoa." Maggie placed her hands on his shoulders to brace him against the cottage wall. "Why don't you let me have your key, and I'll see if it opens the other door?"
The drunken man slumped against the gray siding and held out the key, dangling it from the end of his index finger. "Feel free." He leered. "I could use some pretty little company."
Knowing from experience how drunks could turn belligerent at the drop of a hat, Maggie kept her mouth shut, snatched the key from him, and inserted it into the locked door next to hers. Darn. The key worked, and the door opened under her hand. Just my luck. She turned to step out of the stranger's way but bumped into him as he lurched forward and almost fell on her. She let out a deep sigh, cursing the swear words she heard Jimmy use often enough, but usually refrained from doing so herself. She latched on to the man and managed to steer him toward the small couch in the living room where she dropped him sprawled face down.
"Not that you will remember, but I'm Maggie Frank, your neighbor," she said.
"Hank Jones," he muttered then promptly threw up at her feet.
. . .
The sound of the waves had a calming effect on Hank's precarious mental state as he sipped his strong brew and pondered his neighbors next door. Finally, curiosity got the better of him, and he knocked on the screen door which opened shortly after the first couple of raps.
Wearing his cockiest smirk, he greeted the slight woman whose head was covered by a large-brimmed sunhat. "Hi, I'm your neighbor, Hank Jones. I just wanted to introduce myself and possibly beg a couple of aspirin from you if you don't mind?"
The woman paused at the sound of his voice as if she were surprised to find him standing there. Then slowly she lifted the brim of her had so he could see the face that had been hidden underneath and he almost swallowed his tongue. Shit, I should have shaved. She's one fine-looking dame. He must have caught her on her way out to the beach for she was wearing a blue, rather prim swimsuit and had a book tucked beneath one arm with a folded blanket under the other.
She glared at him as if he were something slimy that slithered out from underneath a rock.
He turned on his well-practiced charm. "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. I'm your neighbor. I just wanted to introduce myself and possibly beg a couple of aspirin from you," he repeated again.
She peered at him through a pair of unforgiving indigo-blue eyes that pierced his soul. "Your head hurt?" I'm not surprised after the bender you've been on."
He frowned. How does she know I got drunk yesterday and the day before? The shadowy female image from earlier crossed his mind again. God, did we meet yesterday, and I don't remember? Did anything else happen I'm not aware of that might be responsible for the nasty glower she's giving me? Geez, I hope not.
"Excuse me," he said. "Did we perhaps meet yesterday evening?"
"Not properly, you were a bit under the weather to put it nicely and quite frankly you don't look a great deal better now, except perhaps, you're managing to stand up without support," she said, her tone frosty.
Damn. He rubbed his hand back and forth over his chin, the stubble reminding him that he looked far from his best. What could he say? He couldn't very well ask what happened last night. By his neighbor's tone, whatever he did, it clearly wasn't good. Perhaps, he should begin again. "How about we start over?" He extended his calloused hand. "I'm Hank Jones. Please let me apologize if I said or did anything yesterday to offend you."
She glared at him and turned her pert little nose up. "Name's Margaret Frank." she ignored his outstretched hand. "I think it's best we try and stay out of each other's hair while we're here. I'm not fond of drunkards."
"I'm not a dr . . ." he started to say, but floundered when she knowingly raised a brow in disbelief. Was he? No, he could stop anytime he chose to. That is, if he wanted to which he damn well didn't want to do, so Ms. Teetotaler could kiss his ever-loving behind.
"Now," she said, stepping out of her door, "if you will excuse me, I'm planning to catch some sun before the clouds come out."
"About those aspirin?"
She ignored him and pulled her sunglasses down over her cool yet still magnificent eyes. "I suggest you go into town and buy a new bottle. At the rate you're going, you'll need it."
There was something about Miss Margaret Frank that both irked him and interested him at the same time. "That's not very neighborly of you," he called after her as she walked toward the beach.
"Neither was tossing up your guts on my feet," she called over her shoulder.
"Aw, shit. Did I really go and do that? His all-time low just hit rock bottom.