Excerpt: Rocky Point Hero

Rocky Point Hero by Barbara McMahon

Book Four: Rocky Point Series

Allie Turner settled in to wait, braced in the crevasse, the rocks on either side steadying her arms. The surface was cold, uneven and uncomfortable. She’d risked a fall scrambling down the cliff in the dark with only a flashlight, but the timing had to be perfect. She shivered as the sea swirled below her, imagining some of the spray drifted up in the breezy predawn sky. It was cold enough without any more dampness to add to the chill.

Slowly the sky lightened. The stars faded first, and the darkness was gradually replaced by daylight. She could almost feel the sun about to rise above the horizon. She took aim. Waited. Patience, she thought, feeling her leg going to sleep. This was her third try. She wanted to make sure it was her last. Getting up in the dark, picking her way down the rocky cliff wasn’t something she made a habit of. Today was the day; she just knew it.

Peering at the horizon, she hoped she timed it right: the first rays were beginning to shoot over. Slowly her finger pressed the trigger, shot after shot as the sky lightened, hoping for the illusive green flash. There. The camera took another picture, another, and another. She’d fill her entire card if she had to. Slowly the sun began rising as if from the dark sea itself. She quickly swapped a filter and began shooting again. The sea was like glass in the distance, reflecting the rising orb perfectly as it began the day.

At last she lowered the camera, a feeling of satisfaction sweeping through her. She couldn’t wait to see the picture and make sure she’d captured the exact images she hoped for. It would be a spectacular finish to the annual report for SeaRovers Inc. Optimistic, forward thinking. The dawning of the new year for a growing company. Just the images they wanted to project.

Stiff from sitting on the hard granite, she slowly eased around, trying to get comfortable as she returned her lenses and camera to the sturdy case, slipping the flashlight inside as well. Slipping the bag over her shoulder, she stretched out her leg and shook her foot, getting pins and needles for her efforts. With a grimace she rose to her feet, found her balance and looked up toward the top of the cliff thirty feet away. Taking a breath against the familiar pain in her hip, she began climbing back to the top. It was easier on the way up, with the light to help her find her way.

Cresting the rim a few moments later, she breathed a sigh of relief. She’d done that descent several times but the danger still scared her. A wrong step and she could end up smashed at the bottom, washed away to sea, never found again. She shivered. Her parents would be horrified to know what she was doing. Which is why she rarely talked about the ways she obtained some of her photographs.

“Thank you, Lord, for being with me. And for giving me the perfect picture. I hope at least one turns out perfect.”

Looking around, she spotted her cane a few feet to the left. Scooping it up, she leaned on it for a moment, massaging her hip and thigh. She’d probably feel the ache all day with the strain of the climb. A smile lit her face, however. It’d been worth it.

Walking carefully across the weeds and grass on the uneven ground, she reached the end of the gravel road and turned to walk along the edge to her car. She wished for the firmness of asphalt, but that wasn’t going to happen here at the end of Water Street. She just had to watch where she was walking. Which was hard when the morning was so fresh and clear, with not a cloud anywhere. She wanted to look around her, at the sea gradually turning a deep blue. At the town in the distance hugging the cove. It was going to be a beautiful Indian summer day.

As she approached the edge of the pavement, she glanced beyond her car at the last house on the old road. When she’d passed it earlier, there’d been lights on inside. Another early riser. Now she could just make out a man standing on the porch, cup in hand. He wasn’t close enough for her to see clearly, but he appeared to be watching her. Probably wondering what in the world she was doing out at the crack of dawn.

She knew someone was staying at the Stafford house, as she’d seen lights on when she’d driven by on her way to the cliff the last couple of mornings. Usually tapped into the town’s gossip mill, she hadn’t heard it’d been rented. It wasn’t an easy house to let. The dwelling itself had seen better days. A large, two story wooden home, the wood siding was weathered and scoured clean of paint on the windward side. The yard was practically non-existent; the proximity to the salt from the sea air made grass almost impossible to grow. And with it being vacant for long stretches, no one kept up flowers or shrubs.

Still, it had been built over a hundred years ago. Sturdy and dependable, it had stood the test of time. Who had the Staffords’ estate rented it to this time, she wondered? The summer season had ended at Labor Day. Pretty much the only people around now were the year-round residents.

Before she got into her SUV, she impulsively gave a wave.

The man appeared to hesitate, then lifted his cup in silent salute.

He looked tall. Beyond that she couldn’t tell if he was young or old, with dark hair or light.

She put her camera on the seat beside her, wondering why anyone would choose to rent that place. It was at the very end of Water Street, only a few hundred yards from where the cliff met the sea. No beach access. Not that Rocky Point had a lot of beaches. The reason for its name had come from the cliffs meeting the Atlantic. Carlisle Beach was the closest one of any size and it was down the coast by a couple of miles.

She’d ask around. Maybe someone knew who he was.

Allie was tired by the time she reached home, the small converted garage behind a large house that stood vacant more months than it was occupied. The Saverinson family had owned the dwelling for generations. The current family lived in Boston and only came up for the summer months. Since Labor Day had passed a few weeks ago, it would remain empty until next May.

In exchange for living in the converted garage, Allie kept an eye on the house, and made sure the place was cleaned once a month during the winter months. The arrangement suited her to a tee. Her family had hesitated when she’d insisted on moving out eight years ago. They’d wanted to cosset her and keep her safe.

***

She’d insisted. Life was an adventure and she wanted to enjoy every moment. She wasn’t on the path she once thought she’d take, but she was more than satisfied with the life she now had. Much as she loved her mom and dad, they would have stifled her beyond belief if she lived with them. They still saw her as their precious little girl. Emphasis on little.

After the car crash that had so drastically changed everything, they were loath to let her out of their sight. She had not died as the others had. Granted, the long months of recuperation and physical therapy had taken their toll, but she had wanted freedom and independence as she’d grown into her twenties.

She’d made the concession of calling almost every day. In the end, her parents had eased up on some of their obsessive need to watch over her all the time.

She didn’t believe they blamed themselves for the church van’s being hit by that drunk driver. But they did rehash if they should have let her go on the outing. But who would have suspected a tragedy when the youth leader was taking the church group on a field trip to Portland?

Taking the stairs was never easy, but she wouldn’t change a thing about her home. At least she could get up and down without too much discomfort. Ten years was plenty long enough to get used to the limitations the accident had imposed. And find ways around them. Entering her home, she shed her camera and jacket, flexing her fingers to loosen them up. It would be pleasantly warm later in the day, but at dawn the fall air was decidedly cool. She grabbed a quick cup of coffee warming in the kitchen, then, grabbing the camera case, she headed for the room where she did most of her work. She couldn’t wait to see the pictures she’d taken. She hoped at least one shot came out just as she wanted it.

Without hesitation, she plunged into the day’s work.

***

Jack Donner watched as Allie Turner’s car headed toward town. What in the world had she been doing on the cliffs at dawn? Or at all? She had a bit of a lopsided gait, using her cane to steady herself as she walked. He’d seen her the last three mornings and still didn’t know what compelled her to venture over the edge. Maybe one day, he’d ask.

He leaned against the post and turned his gaze to the sea. He should have done more than acknowledge her presence. He could have called hello. Asked what she was doing this morning. Offered her a cup of hot coffee.

He frowned. Small talk was a skill he’d never mastered. And hadn’t needed during the tours of duty in far off Iraq and Afghanistan. It came easy to some. For a moment he tried to imagine himself chatting with other people. He shook his head. It was beyond him.

He was a dedicated soldier, not one for sitting around shooting the breeze. Unless it was with other soldiers. Men he could relate to, learn from.

Scratch that.

He had been a dedicated soldier.

Until the unexpected IED.

Until irreversible injuries had rendered him unfit for duty.

Now he had another day to get through. Another fifty years or so to wonder what to do with the rest of his life.

He hadn’t ever talked directly with Allie Turner. But he’d seen her every week when she’d arrived at the VA hospital, bringing sunshine and light into the routine that threatened to drive everyone crazy. She had several favorite soldiers she always visited. After she’d left, the men would talk about her visit and the latest stories from the town of Rocky Point, Maine.

While feigning indifference, he’d listened as attentively as the next guy. She’d spoken of a world as foreign to him as Iraq had been. Small town America. Of families who had lived and worked in the area for generations. People who knew their neighbors, banded together in tough times. Celebrated the holidays with traditions that had been handed down for decades.

He shook his head slowly.

Yet here he was, lured to Rocky Point from the stories she’d told. What would she think if she ever found out he’d come here because of her? He’d wanted to see the town that sounded like it should be in a movie. He wanted to find out if there was a place for him in the too-good-to-be-true town of Rocky Point, Maine.

So far it wasn’t looking good. He’d been here a week and, except for one venture to the grocery store and a visit to the local clinic to hand over his records, he hadn’t left the place. He knew he should make an effort to meet someone beside the doctor and nurse, but the solitude suited him. And small talk was never his thing.

Maybe tomorrow, he’d ask her what she was doing going down the cliff each morning. Acknowledge her with more than a casual nod. Start with Allie Turner. She was the reason he was here.