Summer in Eclipse Bay (Eclipse Bay #3)

Summer in Eclipse Bay (Eclipse Bay #3) Page 1
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Summer in Eclipse Bay (Eclipse Bay #3) Page 1

Chapter 1

Rejected again.

Sixth time in five weeks.

Not that he was counting.

Nick Harte put down the phone very deliberately, got to his feet, and went to stand at the living room window of the cottage.

Six rejections in a row.

A man could get a complex at this rate. Why was he doing this to himself, anyway?

He looked out into the wall of gray mist that shrouded the landscape. Summer had arrived, just barely, in Eclipse Bay, and with it the familiar pattern of cool, damp, fog-bound mornings and long, sunny afternoons. He knew the season well. Growing up he had spent every summer as well as school vacations and long weekends here. His parents and grandparents maintained permanent homes elsewhere and he and his son lived in Portland most of the time, but that did not change the fact that for three generations the Hartes had been a part of Eclipse Bay. The threads of their lives were woven into the fabric of this community.

Summers in Eclipse Bay meant that on the weekends the town swarmed with tourists who came to walk the breezy beach and browse the handful of shops and galleries. Summers meant the age-old ritual of teenagers cruising in their cars along Bayview Drive on Friday and Saturday nights.

Summers meant the summer people, outsiders who rented the weathered cottages along the bluffs for a few weeks or a month at a time. They shopped at Fulton's and bought gas at the Eclipse Bay Gas & Go. A few of them would even venture into the Total Eclipse to buy a beer or play some pool. Their offspring would flirt with some of the local kids on warm nights near the pier, maybe get invited to a few parties. But no matter how familiar they became, they would remain forever summer people. Outsiders. No one in town would ever consider them to be real members of the community with roots here. Eclipse Bay had its own private rules. Around here you knew who belonged and who did not.

The Hartes, like the Madisons, belonged.

But as much at home as he was here, Nick thought, he had long ago given up spending entire summers in Eclipse Bay. Probably because his wife, Amelia, had never really liked the town. After her death nearly four years ago, he had never gotten back into the habit of spending a lot of time in Eclipse Bay.

Until this summer. Things were different this year.

"Hey, Dad, I'm ready for you to look at my pictures now."

Nick turned to see his almost-six-going-on-thirty-year-old son standing in the doorway. With his lean build, dark hair, and serious dark-blue eyes, Carson was a miniature version of himself and all the other males in the Harte family. But Nick was well aware that it wasn't just his physical appearance that marked him a true member of the clan. It was his precocious, frighteningly organized, agenda-driven nature. Carson's ability to focus on an objective with the unwavering precision and intensity of a battlefield commander told you he was a Harte to his toes.

At the moment he had two clearly defined goals. The first was to get a dog. The second was to exhibit a picture in the upcoming Children's Art Show scheduled to take place during the annual Eclipse Bay Summer Celebration festivities.

"I'm no art critic," Nick warned.

"All you gotta do is tell me which one you think Miss Brightwell would like best."

"Got news for you, kid. I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that I'm the last person on earth who knows what Miss Brightwell likes."

Carson's small face tightened with sudden alarm. "Was that her on the phone just now?"


"She turned you down again?"

"Afraid so."

"Geez, Dad, you gotta stop calling her up all the time and bothering her." Carson thrust out his hands, exasperated. "You're gonna ruin everything for me if you make her mad. She might not pick any of my pictures."

"I don't call her all the time." Damn. Now he was on the defensive with his own son. "I've only called her half a dozen times since Lillian's show."

He had been so sure that things had clicked between himself and Octavia that evening. The proprietor of Bright Visions, an art gallery business with two stores, one in Portland and one here in Eclipse Bay, Octavia had staged a gala reception to display his sister's work. The entire town had been invited and most of the locals had turned out for the show. The crowd had included everyone, from Virgil Nash, owner of Virgil's Adult Books & Video Arcade, to the professors and instructors of nearby Chamberlain College. Several members of the staff at the Eclipse Bay Policy Studies Institute had also deigned to appear.

They had all crowded into Bright Visions to drink good champagne, nibble on expensive hors d'oeuvres, and pretend to be art connoisseurs for a night. Nick had walked into the crowded room, taken one look at Octavia, and immediately forgotten that he was there to view Lillian's paintings.

The image he carried in his head of Octavia from that night was still crystal clear. She had worn a pale, fluttery dress that fell to her ankles and a pair of dainty, strappy little heels that had emphasized her elegantly arched feet. Her dark red hair had been brushed back behind her ears in a style that had framed her interesting, delicately molded features and mysterious sea-green eyes.

His first impression was that, although she was in this world, she was not completely anchored to it. There had been an ethereal, almost fey quality about her; perhaps she was a fairy queen visiting from some other, magical dimension where the rules were a little different.

He had stayed as close to her as possible that evening, aware of a visceral need to lure her to him and secure her by whatever means required. He did not want to allow her to float back to wherever it was she had come from.

The unfamiliar sense of possessiveness had made him want to bare his teeth and show some fang whenever another man had hovered too long in her vicinity. It was a completely over-the-top reaction, coming, as it did, after nearly four years of practicing what his sisters annoyingly described as commitment-free, serial monogamy. Okay, so he'd had a few discreet affairs. If anything that should have made him all the more immune.

The truth was, he had been stunned and bemused by his own reaction to Octavia. The only saving grace was that he had gotten the distinct impression that she was just as attracted to him as he was to her. Something in her big sea-colored eyes had registered her interest in him.

It had come as a shock at the end of the evening when she had politely turned down his invitation to dinner. He'd convinced himself that he'd heard regret in her voice, so he'd tried again a few days later when they were both back in Portland.

She had declined a second time with the explanation that she had to rush back to Eclipse Bay. It seemed the assistant she had left in charge of the gallery there, Noreen Perkins, had resigned without notice in order to run off with one of the artists whose work was exhibited in Bright Visions.

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