Wading Through Shallow Water
Bookstore owner, Dee Dee Montgomery, was born with a gift. Not only does she possess magical powers, she is able to tell the history of an object by touching it. Fiercely independent, the last thing Dee Dee is looking for is love.
When author, Alex Winter, loses his wife to cancer shortly after the birth of their son, writing becomes his therapy. His book, Moving Past the Hurt, spurs a book signing tour, which leads him to Dee Dee’s bookstore.
Just when Dee Dee’s world is about to turn into a fairy tale, a tragic accident rips it all away.
Kate Waterhouse, Alex’s ex-sister-in-law, pops into town as things are falling apart, bringing her handsome, arrogant brother, Blake.
Determined to claim what she believes is rightfully hers, Kate must locate her family’s Book of Shadows. As Kate's evil plot unfolds, leaving lives on the line, Dee Dee must face the Waterhouse siblings or risk losing everyone she loves.
Release Date: February 6, 2018
Genre: Fantasy | Contemporary | Romance
~ A White Satin Romance ~
The flames of twelve tallow candles impaled on wrought iron candelabras sputtered as a dark figure chanted.
“Book of Shadows harken to me. Book of my family make yourself known.”
The vision of the Waterhouse family symbol encrusted on the cover of an ancient tome shimmered blood red. Sharpening focus, the figure dug nails into palms causing droplets of blood to spray the wooden floor. Unable to recognize the book’s exact location, the figure, in a rush of fury, tore around the circle knocking the candles to the ground, each snuffing out upon impact.
Stopping to catch a breath, a smile started at the corner of smirking red lips. “With the death of my sister, I am the rightful heir. I may not know the exact location, but I know it’s in that house. Mark my words, before the year is out, I will claim what is mine. And, make no mistake, I will stop at nothing.”
* * *
Snuggling into a feathery comforter, Dee Dee Montgomery wanted nothing more than to sleep for a week. Nagging obligations nudged her eyes open. Owning a bookstore meant early hours. She had to be there for Sofie, her store’s personal barista. Together, they would unload the day’s delicacies.
When the alarm sounded at six, a moan came from deep inside her cozy cocoon. Pulling the covers back, she flicked her fingers in the direction of the blaring beep, magically turning the alarm into the greetings of a local DJ.
“Wake up, San Antonio. It’s Monday,” the voice bellowed.
“Say it isn’t so,” Dee Dee grumbled.
Sitting up, she dangled her feet over the edge of the four-poster Victorian bed. She had found it at an estate sale last month and had fallen in love with it at first sight. Four tall mahogany posts with a beautiful lace canopy made her feel as if she were a princess tucked away in a castle. It had taken four men to carry it up the stairs and over an hour for them to assemble it. Running her hand over one of the carved posts, she smiled as the past life of the bed played out in vivid images in her mind. This was one of the best perks about having her gift, being able to know the history of an object by simply touching it.
This bed, for instance, had belonged to a couple who had lived during Victorian times. Closing her eyes, Dee Dee could see the girl running through tall, waving grass in an effort to rendezvous with the man she loved. He was a poor carpenter, and her father didn’t approve. Their favorite meeting place was under the protective arms of a giant oak tree. Its sprawling branches towered up to the sky, enticing them to climb up and away from the unfair world in which they lived. Their romance was brief, but intense. When the girl’s father heard of their relationship, he sent her abroad. Having no resources to find her, the carpenter had built this bed out of his love for her, using the very boughs that had hidden the lovers from prying eyes. When Dee Dee lay under its canopy, it was as if the embrace of his loving arms held her safe. The passion of the carpenter coursed through every timber and carving.
The only thing the bed lacked was a stepping stool. She loved spending her weekends browsing for the right one, which when found, would help her climb up onto the lofty mattress. So far, her search had been unsuccessful. She wouldn’t give up. She knew it was out there, and she would find it.
Shimmying to the floor, she hopped around scattered books and magazines looking for her slippers. Finding them tucked under yesterday’s blouse, she wiggled her feet into their white fluffy softness and made her way to the shower. Although it would take only a twitch of her nose to clean her apartment to a sparkling shine, that kind of cleanliness made her feel uncomfortable. She had grown accustomed to her life being messy.
She brushed her teeth as steam filled the bathroom. Her mind ticked off a mental to-do list. A new shipment arriving today meant inventory, cataloging, and shelving—the usual. Mid-gargle, she remembered the book signing scheduled for Wednesday. Lowering her head, she looked at herself in the mirror and spit the mouthwash into the sink. It dribbled off her chin.
“I can’t believe I forgot.”
While in the shower, she squeezed the shampoo bottle too hard, and it squirted into her eye. Yowling like a wounded cat, she fumbled around for a washcloth, but nicked her finger on a razor instead.
“So, this is what it’s going to be like today. Okay, I get it. I’ll try to stay away from pointy objects and sharp-edged paper.”
She stuck a piece of toilet paper to the dot of blood on her finger and finished getting ready. Going to her closet, she chose a cotton print dress and a pair of slip on flats. Luckily, her commute to work consisted of simply walking down a flight of stairs. Maybe, just maybe, she wouldn’t mess that up. But today, she wasn’t about to risk wearing heels.
She switched on the store lights when she reached the bottom step. Right on time, she heard Sofie’s key turn in the back door lock.
“Morning,” Sofie said, muffled. Bags dangled from her hands, and a third one was clinched between her teeth.
“Need a hand?”
Sofie nodded, and Dee Dee took the sack from her mouth.
“Blah, thanks. The taste of paper bag in the morning isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”
“Whatever’s inside smells heavenly.” Dee Dee led the way over to the coffee bar.
“Ginger had gorgeous blueberry muffins this morning. I couldn’t resist getting us some samples. Plus, it’s Monday, so I knew you wouldn’t take the time to eat if I didn’t force you. There’s more stuff in the back of my van, but before we unload it, let’s sit down and have a cup of coffee and some of these while they’re still warm.”
“You know the way to my heart, Sof.”
Sofie started the coffee and put napkins on the counter. She pulled out two blueberry muffins, each roughly the size of a person’s head.
“Samples? How many people will one of these feed?” Dee Dee asked.
“I think we’re about to find out.” Sofie pinched off a bite and put it into her mouth.
Dee Dee peeled back the paper and nibbled around the edge. Her eyes rolled in ecstasy.
“One. These will each feed one. Next time you see Ginger, tell her I love her,” she said, taking another bite, this one much bigger than the last.
“I will. Hey, I put in an order for Wednesday’s book signing.”
“Sofie, you’re a lifesaver. I completely forgot about it until this morning. I don’t know where my head’s been lately.”
“No worries. I’ve got your back.”
Sofie put various cookies, cupcakes, muffins, and treats into the display cases while Dee Dee finished her muffin and wiped her mouth. The familiar jingle of the bell over the back door rang.
“Yoo Hoo, delivery here.”
Dee Dee spun on the stool and hopped off. She walked over to where Marvin, her regular deliveryman, stood holding boxes up to his eyebrows. Going up on tiptoes, she took down the highest box.
“Is that you under there, Marvin?”
“Sure is, Miss Montgomery. I’ve got a few more boxes to bring in for you. Where would you like me to put these?”
“My office. I’ll open the door. Just stack them anywhere you can find a clear spot.”
He followed behind as she swung open the door to her cluttered workspace. She set down the box she was holding on her desk and rushed to clear some space for the rest.
When Marvin came in with the last of the shipment, she thanked him and sat down in her chair with a loud sigh.
“I guess you’re going to be busy today,” he said, surveying the mess.
“You can say that again.”
“Well, you have a good one. I’ll see you again soon.”
“You too, Marvin. I appreciate it.”
He tipped his hat and left. The bell over the back door jangled. Sofie appeared in her doorway with a steaming cup of cappuccino.
“Whoa, what can I do to help?”
“You’ve got plenty to do already. There’s nothing here I can’t handle,” Dee Dee said, rummaging around the edges of the box on her desk, looking for a sheet of paper with the author’s information for the book signing.
Sofie set the cup on top of a filing cabinet and picked up the box for her. She placed it on top of the others and paused as it swayed to the side, and then settled a bit cockeyed.
“Thanks,” Dee Dee said. “Ah ha, here it is.”
“Here what is?”
“The information about the author coming on Wednesday. His name is Alex Winter. His book is called, Moving Past the Hurt. Hmm, can you open up one of those boxes and see if you can pull out a copy?”
Sofie grabbed the keys off Dee Dee’s desk and sliced open the packing tape. She pulled out a book and flipped to the back cover.
“Take a look at him. Not bad,” she said, handing the book to Dee Dee.
Dee Dee looked at the picture and read his bio.
“Alex Winter is a widowed father. He left his flourishing practice as a corporate lawyer when his wife succumbed to cancer shortly after the birth of their child. He now devotes his time to raising his son while running a profitable consulting service. He lives just outside of San Antonio, Texas, in the small town of Boerne.”
“What a story. Apparently, there are still some good ones out there, and this one happens to live nearby. Interesting,” Sofie said, raising her eyebrows.
Dee Dee took in the photo of Alex again. His face was blank with no trace of a smile. He wore a comfortable looking casual sweater. His brown hair curled slightly as it brushed against the top of his collar. She couldn’t make out whether his eyes were a light blue or green, but what she did see, was the sadness of past events reflected back at her. The pain gave them a depth she recognized. She had seen it in her own mirror many times. Absently, she stroked the side of his face with her thumb.
Shaking the memories from her head, she looked up at Sofie.
“Uh oh, what just happened?”
“Nothing. Why?” Dee Dee said, putting the book on her desk.
“It looked as if you were about to climb into that picture with him. Are you okay?”
“Sure. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“You tell me. Seems as if Mr. Winter has a fan.”
Avoiding eye contact, Dee Dee got up from her chair and came around the desk to start opening more boxes. Sofie took it as her clue to leave. Just before disappearing around the corner, she caught Dee Dee’s eye and winked. As her footsteps receded, Dee Dee picked up the book, opening it to look at the picture once more.
“I recognize that hurt, Alex Winter. More than you will ever know.”
* * *
Alex Winter buttered toast while his son Billy sang him a song about bugs. A consistent morning routine saved a lot of trouble. Mary would have been proud of them, or so he liked to think. The hole she had left in their lives could never be filled, but they did the best they could. She had been gone for five years. During the first three, there were times Alex didn’t know how they would ever get past the pain. He found writing about his experiences as a widowed father helped more than therapy ever could.
Recently, he had been getting letters from the readers of his book. Some were from women looking for something he wasn’t ready to give. Others were from single parents in the same situation. The latter meant more to him than he had ever thought possible. Going on his upcoming book tour would test everything he had written. He had one local book signing on Wednesday, his first, and then he was scheduled for Houston. If all went well, he would travel the country. The decision to take Billy had been a no brainer. However, the logistics of taking him were a bit more complicated than he had envisioned.
After Mary died, he had gathered the names of nannies from his friends with children. He had spent months interviewing candidates within an inch of their lives, leaving nothing unasked. Finally, he had settled on an older woman named Ada Nelson. Mrs. Nelson was also widowed, and her children were grown. Each had moved off with their families to various parts of the country. She saw them around the holidays, but not much more. Her credentials were impeccable. She had accepted the position with only one request—Fluffy, her cat, must come along. She had moved into a spare bedroom, and soon, she and Fluffy had become happy members of the Winter family. The way she ran the household and took care of Billy was nothing less than magical in Alex’s opinion. He hadn’t dreamed he would find such a perfect match.
“Why does the toast always have black on it?” Billy asked, turning up his nose.
“Because Daddy doesn’t know how to operate a toaster.”
“That’s a good question. Would you like some cereal?”
“Yes, please. Daddy, are you going to have some cereal?”
“Not this morning. I need to finish some last minute things. Guess what we’re going to do this week?” Alex asked as he put a bowl of cereal filled with too much milk in front of his son.
“We’re going to go shopping for new clothes and new shoes for our trip.”
“Where are we going again?” Billy asked, milk ran down his chin and dripped onto his pajama shirt.
“We’re going to a big city called Houston. Do you remember me showing it to you on the map?”
Billy nodded, crunching and trying to swallow.
Both turned as Mrs. Nelson came in the back door carrying two sacks of groceries. Alex took them from her and set them on the island.
“It’s a beautiful morning out there, boys,” she said, putting her handbag on the counter. She began putting away the shopping and pulled a newspaper out of one of the bags.
“Did you remember to get some chocolate milk?” Billy asked.
“Of course, how could I forget? We put it number one on the list. Would you like me to pour you some?”
“Yes, please. Can I play with Fluffy after breakfast?”
“Not today. She’s at the beauty parlor getting her fur done for our big trip next week.”
She set the frothy milk next to Billy’s cereal bowl.
“Sure. She takes great pride in her fur. That’s why I named her Fluffy.”
“Are you finished with your cereal?” she asked.
“Finish your chocolate milk, hop on down, and go wash up. I’ll set out your clothes. Don’t forget to brush your teeth. I think today would be a good day to go to the park.”
“Yippee,” he yelled, running down the hall toward the bathroom.
She smiled at Alex. “He’s a good boy.”
“He’s great. I can’t imagine my life without him.” He took some canned goods out of a sack and put them on a high shelf.
“I thought maybe you would need some alone time so you can get things done for your book signing and our trip. After the park, I thought I’d take Billy with me to pick up Fluffy from her day at the spa.”
“I do have some loose ends to tie up before we leave. Thanks, Ada. If you need me for any reason, you can reach me on my cell phone. I need to run some errands, go to the bank, and drop some stuff off at the post office, but it shouldn’t take long. I’ll be here most of the afternoon.”
He picked up the newspaper and took his coffee into his home office.
Once he was out of sight, Mrs. Nelson pointed at a sponge next to the sink. Soaring through the air, it landed on the island. The cereal bowl and empty glass of milk rose and floated to the sink as the sponge wiped the area clean. With one swoop of her arm, the rest of the groceries found their proper homes, and the kitchen was as tidy as she had left it before leaving that morning.
Sitting at his desk, Alex flipped through the pages of the newspaper. He stopped when he came to an advertisement for his upcoming book signing.
Come meet Alex Winter, author of ‘Moving Past the Hurt,’ this Wednesday at Montgomery’s Bookstore in downtown San Antonio, just one block from the Alamo.
He picked up a pen and drew a circle around the ad. On his desk calendar, he made a notation for the next day: Drive into San Antonio and check out Montgomery’s Bookstore.