|Paul, Me, Eloise, Alan, Anya and Joe|
During one of our long frigid winters my writing partners and I longed to escape to some place warm, the Virgin Islands. Soft warm trade winds, the sweet smell of tropical flowers, the pungent taste of island cocktails. Ah... if only we could. But wait! There was.
If we couldn't actually escape to the islands we could take a virtually trip and that's exactly what we did. We created Star Island, a fictional place off the coast of St. Thomas. The small island became the setting for our short story romances.
I decided to take my story from real life. My brother and sister-in-law, Alan and Eloise, were married in 2004 in Atlanta. It was a beautiful wedding. Eloise's brother, Joe and I were witnesses. It was not the first marriage for either of them but this is truly a love match.
Alan was retired and Eloise was a Vice President of an all girls college in California responsible for student affairs. In getting their paperwork together for the California benefits program they found that their Atlanta marriage was never registered!
Alan, always the jokester called to ask me to reprise my role. What? You have to know Alan to understand that if this was going to happen to anyone it would be him. Of course I said yes.
So in October of 2014, the Sunday after the NJ conference, I flew to California for their second wedding. I spent a week with them and had a great time.
When Lita, Emma, Nicole, Julie, and I started to brainstorm our summer read, Timeless Escapes, I knew Alan and Eloise's story had to be part of my story. I used their situation but that was all. Their story is one of true love and devotion and a very happily ever after.
By the way, I made sure their wedding was registered!
Second Chance by the Sea
Alan and Eloise Stuart are a power couple. Alan’s company, Stuart Associates, is on the brink of releasing new software that will make his company the pre-eminent financial software provider.
Eloise has worked hard for the North Star Project, the not-for-profit agency against human trafficking. She’s their executive director and is responsible for the agency’s outstanding growth in both public recognition and financial contributions.
Over the course of their ten year marriage, Alan and Eloise have been focused on their careers and have grown a part.
Life takes a drastic turn when they travel to the Virgin Islands, the venue of their destination wedding, for Aunt Lil’s funeral. While going through Aunt Lil’s papers they find that their marriage was never registered. Will an impending natural disaster be the final straw that breaks them up or will it rekindle their love and send them back to the altar for a second chance?
Here is an excerpt from Second Chance by the Sea from Timeless Escapes.
She put on her bathing cap, her goggles perched on her head, and waded into the shallows. The familiar gentle lapping eased her mind. She pulled the bright pink goggles down from her forehead and put them in place. She dove into the water. Her arms reached out and she settled into her pace. The strong current and consistent rhythm of her stroke propelled her across the water. The buoy, the halfway marker and the point of no return, loomed in front of her. She glanced at her watch. Fifteen minutes ahead of schedule—but time wasn’t a factor. Completing the challenge was her goal.
She estimated another ninety minutes, give or take, to get to the other side. She filled her lungs, pushed off the buoy, and kept on swimming.
After an hour her pace began to slow. Her kicks got sloppy and her arms were like lead weights. The shore must be close. A time check indicated she’d be on the beach in ten minutes but a glance toward land told her a different story. The shore was not as close as she’d expected. She checked off her options. There weren’t many. She could stop and float but her muscles would tighten and she’d be in bigger trouble. She treaded water to get her bearings. Her anxiety built to a full-blown panic but she swapped it for determination. She focused her energy and continued swimming.
“Stroke,” someone yelled alongside her. “Stroke. You’re close. Keep up the tempo and you’ll be home free.” Doing the back stroke, the swimmer stayed next to her, maintaining the cadence until they reached the shore.
She stood in the shallows, the water up to her knees. The muscles in her arms and legs screamed from overexertion. Her adrenaline plummeted and left her exhausted. Through her large gulps of air she smiled the type of smile that would last a week. She swam the channel. She met the challenge.
“That was quite impressive.” He stood next to her and sluiced the water off his body.
She leaned over, her hands on her thighs, and held up one hand. One gulp of air, then another.
“Has anyone ever told you that you have a terrific smile?”
Still bent over, she turned her head and squinted at the lean, muscular physique planted next to her. Her eyes traveled from his powerful legs, up to his ripped abs and came to a screeching halt at his Paul Newman–blue eyes.
Her breath under control—well, at least from the swim—she straightened.