Wet

By: Cathryn Fox

Chapter One


Katy Wilson shifted restlessly in the spacious leather seat of her rental and stifled a yawn as she peered into the night. The bright headlights on the SUV sliced though the dark and illuminated the quiet, seaside streets. Towering oak trees lined the deserted sidewalks like Coast Guard Cadets, protecting the inhabitants who slumbered inside the quaint fishing village. Her heart lurched with longing as her gaze panned the neighborhood, noting that very little had changed since she moved away some ten years ago, turning her back on everyone and everything she loved.

The invitation requesting her presence had arrived by email, but she hadn’t made any summer plans to return home to Whispering Cove, Maine, to attend her high-school reunion  . At least not until her granddaddy had sent a rather lengthy letter explaining how business was down at the Seafarer, the famous East coast lobster house owned by her folks—a restaurant where Katy had learned her way around a kitchen.

“Damn economy,” he’d explained. “Tourists ain’t coming like they used to.” Oddly enough, Granddaddy Errol had insisted she keep her folks’ financial woes to herself and had sworn her to secrecy. “They’re too proud to ask for help, lassie,” he’d warned.

Maybe so, but if her parents needed help, then she’d do whatever it took to help them, even if that meant braving her past and spending the summer in Maine. So here she was, back on the very street she used to cruise as a teen and hadn’t spent much time on since. She’d returned home over the years, of course, but those visits had always been brief. Travelling during off hours, and cruising like a wind-propelled vessel, she’d sailed out of town as quietly as she’d sailed in, never hanging around long enough to see him.

Him, as in Trent Parker.

The boy she’d grown up with, climbed trees and scraped knees with, and more importantly, the boy she’d shared her first kiss with. The same boy who’d grown into a respectable firefighter and had every right to hate her.

God, what would it be like to face him after all these years?

As Katy thought about him, and the reason for their premature break-up, need prowled through her veins and a lump pushed into her throat. The last ten years hadn’t been all they were cracked up to be. She’d left the quiet, unhurried streets of Whispering Cove behind and made her way to Chicago where her exceptional culinary skills had landed her a much coveted spot on daytime TV hosting her very own cooking show. Fame and fortune found her, but the hordes of fans who hustled along the bloated streets and stopped her didn’t know the real Katy Wilson, the girl who played with fire trucks instead of dolls, and preferred sneakers to heels. No, those people only know her TV persona, Kathleen Wilson, celebrity chef extraordinaire.

The empty feeling in the pit of her stomach mushroomed like a soufflé. The sobering reality of it all was that even in a big city like Chicago, Katy had found herself alone in the crowd more times than not. And she hated to admit to the people she turned her back on that her life wasn’t all glitz and glamour. Deep down she longed to be home.

Now, with her contract up for renewal and her show on hiatus for eight long weeks, she had one hell of a big decision to make, because when it came right down to it, she knew life in the fast lane wasn’t for her. Then again, with waning viewership, she wasn’t even sure the network would want to renew her for next season. Despite all that, she yearned to be surrounded by caring, down-home folk—the kind only found in Whispering Cove. Behind her, Katy heard the roar of the ocean, the sound wrapping around her like an old familiar sweater, cocooning her in a blanket of warmth and safety.

Why had it taken her so long to appreciate the beauty and comfort in her own backyard?

She fiddled with the radio station and smiled when she came upon an old favorite. Taking the turn down her parents’ private lane, she took note of the colorful flowers and trimmed hedges. She smiled. If Martha Stewart had a green thumb, her mother had a green hand. As Katy rolled her window down to inhale the sweet summer fragrances, it occurred to her just how much she ached to be back, to have things return to the way they were.

But if there was one thing Katy’s gut kept telling her, it was that the past was the past and things could never go back to the way they were. Specifically when it came to Trent, the sweet, kind boy she’d walked away from. The boy who’d kissed her goodbye, but couldn’t hide the sadness in his eyes. Never looking back, she’d tossed him away like an undersized catch, all for a chance to experience life in the big city. He’d let her go because all he’d ever wanted was what was best for her. She didn’t deserve him, and the reason she’d never faced him over the last ten years was because she hated to see melancholy haunting his gaze, hated that she’d put it there.

She inched into her folks’ driveway and watched the light in the upstairs room flick on. As Katy glanced up at the widow’s peak, the glass turret overlooking the bountiful Atlantic Ocean lit up in the dark night, and she knew she’d awoken her parents. She knew how fast word of her arrival would spread, and in no time at all she’d be bombarded with questions about her future—mainly ones concerning her marital status. She also knew how complicated those answers would be. She couldn’t tell anyone what her future held when she herself didn’t know.

As she thought about the uncertainty of things to come, of how Trent would receive her after all this time, her heart crashed harder than the waves at Dresden Bluff. The rocky cliff was a place she and Trent had visited often, the same place she’d eagerly given up her virginity to him.

She patted the brakes, and as she tried to quiet her erratic heartbeat, wondered, for the hundredth time since she boarding the plane in Chicago, if she was making a big mistake by returning to her childhood home and facing her past, especially since her body and heart still ached to be back in the arms of the man who undoubtedly would rather run into a blazing building than rekindle their relationship’s fiery embers.

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