Book Title: Tea and Primroses Author: Tess Thompson Genre: Romantic Suspense Release Date: February 2014 Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
When the doorbell rang, Sutton Mansfield at first thought it was part of the music on the radio. She hummed to her favorite country station, set loud as she moved about her bungalow, sipping hot, black tea and unpacking from her overseas trip. She was looking forward to lunch with her mother, who had used her contacts in the publishing industry to arrange the dream trip for Sutton’s thirtieth birthday. Sutton had studied for two months with a master baker in Paris.
She pushed open her front window; the familiar scent of the seaside entered the room. It was an ordinary morning in Legley Bay: the sound of seagulls in the distance; the familiar view of her street, lined with modest houses built mostly in the 1940s; and, just beyond, the Pacific Ocean a paler blue than the August sky. Legley Bay was a one-stoplight kind of town, the unwanted stepchild of the northern Oregon coast. There were no tourist temptations here, no stretch of beach with famed rocks like Cannon Beach or Manzanita or Arch Cape. No one opened shops or restaurants to tempt wealthy city dwellers. It was nothing more than the ordinary here, buildings sagging and faded from damp, salty air, and small businesses struggling to survive against Wal-Mart and Costco thirty or so miles in every direction but west.
Opening the window a little farther, she took in a deep breath through her nose and felt grateful for the familiar. Home is home. It was good to return. She turned away from the view and back to her cozy bungalow, decorated with eclectic pieces she’d gathered over the years, antiques and shabby chic, all very French countryside, like the artisan and rustic baked goods she made: crusty breads, buttery pastries, soft cookies.
She’d conquered the croissant while in Paris. She smiled, thinking of it, but instantly sobered. There was nowhere to debut her new skills but her own kitchen. She had no job. Six months ago she’d left her assistant baker position at a well-known bakery in Portland, where she’d apprenticed for the better part of five years, to move home to Legley Bay. It was her dream to open her own shop, but so far the courage to do so had been as elusive as the perfect croissant.
The sound of the doorbell came again. Yes, it was the door, not a note in the music. Who could it be? No one but her mother knew she was back in town. She turned down the radio; her mobile phone was buzzing—Roger. She tossed the phone on the couch; it bounced on a cushion and fell onto the soft rug. Voicemail. Just go to voicemail, she thought. I need time to think. Not yet. She needed to speak with her mother first. Her mother would help her sort it through. Mom, I’m having doubts about the wedding. That’s all she would need to say. Then they would hash it out over a glass of wine or a walk on the beach. Is it just that I’m afraid or do I not love him enough? Her mother would know the answer.
The doorbell rang again just as she reached for the doorknob. Opening it, she saw Tim Ball, the town’s Chief of Police. He was the same age as her mother, in his mid-to-late fifties, and his lined face was still handsome, hinting at the town’s football star he once was. But today his skin was gray and his features pinched. She backed away from the door, as if he were going to hurt her. What was the matter?
“Sutton, can I come in?”
She nodded, backing into the room. Don’t say it.
He guided her toward the couch. “Please sit, sweetheart.”
She did so, clasping her hands together on her lap. “Is it my mom?”
“I’m so sorry.” He stopped; his eyes reddened. “She was killed this morning.”
Book Title: Blue Midnight Author: Tess Thompson Genre: Romantic Suspense Release Date: July 2014 Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
I found it at the very back of my bedside table drawer, next to a forgotten bottle of nail polish. I’d forgotten to empty the drawers in preparation for the movers that morning and was doing so now, shoving most of the neglected or forsaken contents into trash bags. But this scrap of paper, it stopped me. Shaped like a duck’s beak and wedged between the bottom of the drawer and the back panel, with just its tip exposed, it wasn’t enough, really, to indicate something of any significance. But I knew. I knew in an instant. I stood motionless, taking in every jagged detail. Then, I tugged; it came loose easily. This small slip of paper with a man’s name and number scrawled in blue ink seemed benign enough. Finn Lanigan 208-555-2004. And yet, the pulse at my neck quickened. Heat traveled from my center to every limb. I sank on molten legs to the stripped mattress. I held this scrap of paper, torn from a bar receipt, between damp fingers and stared at it like the ghost it was.
I’d tossed it years before, hadn’t I? Surely I had, in one of my moments that first year of marriage when my loyalty was resolute. Hadn’t I disposed of it when I embraced my choice? Apparently not. Here it lived. My temptation. My road not taken.
My daughters’ voices floated up the winding staircase from where they chased one another like wanton puppies in the now nearly empty 4,500 square feet of custom floors, intricate finish work, and marble countertops. I went to the window that faced the street and looked out onto our neighborhood park, empty this morning of children. Today was the first day of summer vacation and children and their mothers were sleeping late. How many hours of my life had I spent in that park, pushing my babies in swings, chasing after them as toddlers, and, when they were old enough to climb the play structures by themselves, chatting with other mothers about this milestone or that? The hours could not be calculated, of course, nor the wages lost by choosing to stay at home with my children instead of continuing my career.
The windows were open to let the fresh June air cleanse away all remnants of the scents of my family before the new owners claimed it with their own smells. Outside, the movers shouted to one another as they loaded the family room couch into the moving truck. My neighbor from two doors down walked by the truck, her eyes averted. Her manicured hands grasped the leash of her Labradoodle. She couldn’t look. It was easier to pretend the collective nightmare for almost every woman in our affluent Seattle neighborhood had not happened to someone in their circle, someone with whom they exercised, had dinner parties, and volunteered at private school. Someone they liked. A stay-at-home mom, almost forty-five, left by her husband for another woman and forced to leave her beautiful home and sought-after neighborhood. I was everyone’s worst-case scenario.
My eyes went back to the slip of paper in my hand.
If you change your mind, here’s this. Then he’d kissed me one last time under an Idaho star-scattered sky larger than any other. After the kiss I wished would last forever ended, as all good things must, I turned away, back to the life I’d agreed to, the wedding I’d committed to. It was the last kiss that ever weakened my knees, the last sky I noticed for thirteen years.
Now, Clementine, my seven-year-old, pounded up the stairs, followed by the tip-tap of her older sister Lola in her flip-flops. I shoved the slip of paper in the pocket of my shorts. I couldn’t know then why I didn’t just toss it in the garbage like I had so many memories and possessions in the weeks preceding. I know now. It was my destiny, and destinies cannot be denied.Tess Thompson is a novelist and playwright with a BFA in Drama from the University of Southern California. In 2011 she released her first novel, Riversong, which subsequently became a best seller. Like her main character in the Legley Bay collection, Tess is from a small town in Oregon. She currently lives in a suburb of Seattle, Washington with her two young daughters, Emerson and Ella, and their puppy Patches. She is inspired daily by the view of the Cascade Mountains from her home office window. Tess is working on her next novel and regularly blogs about her journey as a mother, author and friend at www.tesswrites.com.
Tea and Primroses
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