Excerpt: Rocky Point Reunion
Book Two: Rocky Point Series
The wind blew from the sea, keeping the early summer temperature comfortable. Marcie Winter had her arms full, boxes of hot dog buns stacked precariously beneath her chin, plastic bags of hotdogs ready to cook dangling from her fingers. The sand gave way as she walked, causing her to slip and slide. She paused for breath at the top of the small dune and smiled when she saw the crowd on the beach. It was a good turnout. Yet how could it not be? The first church picnic of the summer and with gorgeous weather. Carlisle Beach was several miles south of the coastal town of Rocky Point, Maine. In contrast to the cliffs and rocky shoreline near the town, it was a wide sandy preserve that was perfect for group gatherings. She’d been coming to the annual beginning-of-summer picnic on Memorial Day since she was a child.
Two portable barbecues had already been set up. Trestle tables had been erected nearby– already laden with the pot-luck fare. Children swarmed around, laughing and shouting and chasing each other in makeshift games of tag. An impromptu game of volley ball was in play and younger children were piling damp sand for castles, watched over by mothers and older siblings.
It was the annual Trinity Church picnic and everyone was expected.
The weather had more than cooperated. Instead of the rain that had been forecast earlier in the week, the sun shone in a cloudless sky. She’d tied her hair back to keep it off her face in the breeze that seemed to perpetually blow from the sea. Her shorts and sleeveless top were comfortable. While she didn’t often burn, she’d slathered on sun screen to make sure today’s events didn’t have lasting effects.
Slowly she half walked, half slid down the four-foot dune, arriving on the flat sand without mishap.
In only moments she relinquished her packages to willing hands.
“I have more,” she said after greeting several friends.
“Need any help?” One of the mothers asked as she stacked the boxes of rolls near the barbecue.
“I’m good. One more trip will do it,” Marcie said already hurrying across the sand. It was easier going without balancing things. She couldn’t wait to kick off her sandals and walk barefoot on the sand. But not until she’d finished with the gravel parking lot.
She reached her car as a familiar truck turned into the space three down from her. Recognition sparked instantly. Catching her breath, for a moment Marcie couldn’t move. She felt as if time stood still. It was Joe Kincaid’s truck. But he wasn’t driving. He was out of town. It had to be Zack. After all these years.
She knew he was in town, how could she not with owning the only cafe in town. No one needed a newspaper in Rocky Point, Maine. They only had to tap into the network at the cafe.
The passenger door of the pickup opened and Jenny jumped out, calling a greeting to Marcie. Her young voice broke the spell. Marcie called back and opened the trunk of her car for the condiments and plastic cups she was also contributing. She hoped fervently that Zack was only dropping Jenny off for the picnic. Please, Lord, she prayed. Don’t let him stay.
“Auntie Marcie we’re here for the picnic!” Jenny called out and ran over to her, hugging her around the waist. “It didn’t rain!”
“No, it’s a beautiful day,” Marcie said, giving her a quick hug, keeping her back to the truck. She smiled at the young girl who she’d known from birth. Jenny was seven years old and so full of life she brought a lot of joy to Marcie’s life. The child’s mother had died when she was two. Now her dad was engaged to a new friend of Marcie’s and she wished they were the ones bringing Jenny to the picnic. But they were in Las Vegas, closing Gillian’s apartment, preparing for her move to Rocky Point, Maine.
She heard the footsteps on the gravel and with each one, her heart seemed to beat faster. She’d tried for years to figure out what she’d do when and if she ever saw him again. That moment had arrived and she still didn’t have a clue.
“Need some help?”
She focused on Jenny, shocked at the wave of longing that swept through her at the sound of his voice. She hadn’t heard it in ten years. If asked before this moment, she’d have said she’d be immune.
“I can manage,” she said, refusing to look at him, instead turning to pick up the last box which held the industrial size condiments containers, and stacks of plastic cups.
“I’m gonna see if Sally Anne’s here,” Jenny said as she turned and began racing toward the low dunes that separated the beach from the parking lot.
“What are you doing here?” she asked, picking up the box and finally turning to look at him. Zack Kincaid. Six feet tall and filled out more since she’d last seen him. Dark hair and dark eyes that had once held her enthralled. Her mind jumbled with images. He looked older, harder, different. He was not the same young man she’d known. But then–neither was she the same woman he’d once professed to love.
“I brought Jenny,” he said.
His dark eyes held her gaze. Her heart beat erratically. She wished she could look away, but she was mesmerized–fascinated to see what the years had wrought. His brother Joe had kept her up to date on his career, even when she’d told him she wasn’t interested. But hearsay wasn’t the same. Zack looked fantastic. She almost groaned with the realization.
“I’ll bring her home, you don’t need to stay,” she said, wishing he’d vanish as he had before. Only this time her heart wouldn’t be broken.
“Hey the Trinity picnic’s an annual event not to be missed.”
“By those of us who go to Trinity. You’ve missed quite a few picnic, I wouldn’t think one more would matter. This isn’t Europe, what do we have to offer?”
“Marcie, I’m sorry. Truly. If I could change things, I would. I should have handled it differently–better.” He looked contrite, but she dare not let herself forget for an instant the heartache his departure had cause.
“Please don’t say anything. You’re years too late, Zack.” She turned and began walking toward the beach. Without warning, he lifted the box out of her arms.
“I’ll carry this,” he said.
“I can manage,” she said through gritted teeth. She didn’t want to be around this man. He’d broken her heart a decade ago. Where she had once thought they’d attend Trinity picnics together for years, this was his first time since he’d left her at the altar and taken off for France.
For a moment she considered wrestling the box from him. Or dashing to her car and leaving. But too many people had already seen her and the last thing she wanted was to give rise to speculation and gossip that had plagued her so much in the past. Raising her head, she silently vowed to brazen it out. She just hoped Zack would stay as far from her as possible.
“I’m home for a while,” he said.
“How nice for you,” she replied. Where was a friend when she needed one? If only someone would beckon her over. Or let her phone ring signaling an emergency at the cafe that she’d have to attend to personally.
“You’re looking good,” he said easily keeping pace with her on the shifting sand.
She stopped at the top of the dune and turned, glaring at him. “Let’s get one thing clear, Zack. You left. You made your choice so don’t come back here and try to make nice. Stay out of my way and I’ll stay out of yours.”
With that she stomped down the incline and headed straight for the water. Let him deliver the condiments. She was almost shaking in reaction. Tears blurred her vision as she stared at the sea. She’d loved him to bits and he’d shattered her heart when he’d left with no warning, nothing but a phone call the night before the wedding. She’d spent the last ten years moving on. She had a nice life now. She did! She did not need Zack Kincaid cluttering it up or causing complications.
Zack watched her move across the sand unable to take his eyes off her. She’d always been the most graceful thing he’d ever seen. She hadn’t grown any taller than their last year together, she was petite, but a bundle of energy. Her long brown hair was pulled back, showing off her dark eyes and pretty complexion. Clearly highlighting the anger in her gaze.
One time she’d looked at him as if he hung the moon. Now she wanted nothing to do with him. He’d caught a glimpse of the hurt in her eyes. He’d done that. To someone he’d loved. He felt lower than whale dung. He needed to make things better between them.
What did he expect? He’d caused the breach. Deliberately and without thinking things through. It had haunted him all the years. In the early days he’d fantasized that he’d return home and she’d be waiting. That he’d sweep her off her feet and take her with him, despite her avowal when they were growing up that she never wanted to live any place but Rocky Point.
He’d dreamed that she had accepted his apology and forgiven him. That dream evaporated. She was still angry. She had every right to be. But he had hoped-
He carried the box to the food area, conscious of the stares and whispers as people recognized him. It had been a mistake coming today. He’d resisted, but his niece wanted to come so badly, he’d acquiesced. Now he wished he’d made other arrangements for her.
“Hey, Zack, good to see you.” Pete Marin came over and took the box. “I heard you were back in town. We missed you in church this morning. You’ll have to come next Sunday.” Pete’s easy manner helped Zack get his bearings. There were others in town beside Marcie Winters. And he’d been avoiding them all since he’d been back. That had to change if he was serious about moving back home.
“Good to see you, Pete. What have you been up to?” Zack asked.
He listened as Pete talked about his accounting business, but his mind was on Marcie. Shifting slightly, he could see her standing at the water’s edge. She looked so alone.
Zack nodded where appropriate, impatient to leave and go to the water’s edge. A couple of others called a greeting. He smiled and gave a short wave. Plenty of time to catch up on what others were doing. If he stayed. Which was the plan.
“Need any help here?” If he could keep busy, he could stop thinking.
“Naw, we’re good. Go enjoy yourself.”
As if that were possible. He took the cola someone offered, chatted a moment with two other men he’d know as a teenager, then headed where he’d wanted to go since he chased her away. Marcie stood a dozen yards or so to his left. Should he try again?
Suddenly Jenny and several of her friends ran over to Marcie and soon all the little girls were talking a mile a minute. He’d wait.
Marcie looked up and straight at him. She frowned and turned back to the girls.
It was no more than he deserved, but it hurt. He wanted to make things right. Barring that, he at least wanted peace between them. He’d messed up big time. There wasn’t much excuse for it, either. He’d seen a chance and taken it. Never looked back.
Who was he kidding? He’d looked back plenty of times and never seen the way to regain her trust. Now he was home. He’d missed her for ten solid years. Never found another person he related to as he and Marcie had when they’d been teenagers, planning their lives together. He had not come back with the hope of regaining her trust or her love. He figured he’d shattered that for all time.
But that was before he saw her today. Now the yearning was overwhelming.
Taking a breath, he started walking toward her. If anything was to change, he’d have to start it. He hoped he’d find the right words. And that she was still the same forgiving girl he remembered.