Happy Thursday, Friends!
I hope you’re having a good week. Terri Wangard has stopped by to share an excerpt from the TBT novella, Where My Heart Resides.
About the Book
Valerie Scholl accompanies her grandmother to visit her recently widowed penpal in New Zealand. While the two elderly ladies visit, Valerie heads for a beach. There, she meets the perfect man. Californian Luke Landry inherited his grandparents’ winter home, and decided to stay to Wellington, New Zealand permanently. The young woman who stumbled so suddenly into his life intrigues him. He sees a future with her, but can Valerie give up life in the United States for him?
Luke Landry strummed a few chords and winced. No one would ever accuse him of being a guitarist. Somehow, the idea of playing a guitar on the beach had seemed like a fun idea. Like one of those old beach party movies. In the movies, though, the guy knew how to play the silly thing, and a girl was ready to cuddle up with him. Alas, he had no talent and no girl.
With a sigh, he set the guitar aside, leaning it against a turret of the sandcastle he’d sat beside. Someone had been ambitious. The castle sported turrets on all four corners with a taller tower in the middle. A moat surrounded the whole.
Pulling up his knees, he wrapped his arms around his legs and watched the people. A young couple with eyes only for each other strolled by. An older man stood near the shore, hands behind his back, contemplating life, or maybe what he’d have for dinner. A young woman frolicked in the water, her sandals clutched in her hands. Luke searched the beach. She seemed to be alone.
The woman paused and gazed up and down the beach. She started walking, still in the water. Two large dogs bound ahead of their owner and stopped to make her acquaintance. Hmm. She must prefer small dogs. After a gingerly pat on one’s head, she angled away from the water, trying to avoid the dogs. They pursued her, despite a shrill whistle calling them back.
As she neared the sandcastle, one beast lunged to lick her hand. Keeping her eyes on the beast, she hurriedly stepped back. Her left foot dropped into the moat. Arms flailing and sandals flying, she lost her balance.
Luke watched her fall as though in slow motion. His breath caught in his throat. The guitar slid down, beneath her. She landed on it with a thud and jolted into stillness, the old guitar splintered into smithereens. One piece sliced the side of her knee, just below her russet plaid shorts. A drop of crimson blood welled up and slid into the sand.
Stunned by the sudden mishap, he jerked his gaze to her face. Chocolate brown locks of hair lay swirled across her face. With her wrist, she pushed it aside, her hand being coated with sand. Cornflower blue eyes blinked at him.
The dogs nosed in, ready to play. Their owner rushed up and pulled on their collars. “I apologize for Orion and Zeus. They’re quite friendly and mean no harm.”
“S’okay.” She appeared to be in shock.
Luke finally scrambled to his feet. Pushing aside guitar fragments, he helped her sit up.
“Are you hurt anywhere else?”
About to deny any injury, she spotted the trickle of blood and her face paled. She raised her other hand, tangled in the guitar strings and bridge. “Oh, dear.”
Luke retrieved his Swiss army knife from his pocket. She shrank back, and he held up his hand. “Not to worry. I’ll just cut away this mess and free you.”
She shifted and tugged the guitar’s broken neck out from under her. “I’ve smashed your guitar.” Her voice held wonder. “I’m so sorry.” “Don’t be. It was my grandfather’s. He could make it sing. Me? I made it beg to be put out of its misery. I should thank you for obliging it.”
A tremulous smile lit her face, although her brows arced, like she didn’t quite believe him. She retrieved a tissue from her shorts pocket and blotted at the blood. Taking a deep breath, she held it for a moment before releasing it. “You’re an American.”
“Guilty as charged.” Luke smiled. “So are you.”
She nodded. “Just arrived today. We left home yesterday.” She frowned. “Or the day before. No, we lost a day in there.”
“Crossing the international date line, yes.
You’ll gain it back if you return.” If? Why had he said if? He hurried on, hoping she hadn’t noticed his gaffe. “Where is home?”
“Wisconsin. And you?”
“I grew up in California, but I live here now.” He helped her stand. “Are you sure you’re all right? You didn’t turn your ankle in the moat?”
For the first time, she noticed the castle.
“Oh, and I’ve smashed your castle, too.”
Luke chuckled. “I’m not the builder. Only an admirer who sat down beside it.”
She brushed sand from her clothes. “You’re really not planning on going home?”
“My grandparents used to winter here.” Her eyes widened and he nodded. “Yes, going to Arizona for winter was too mundane for them. They came here. Granddad said it was like going back to the fifties. Anyway, they’ve both passed on now, and I inherited their house. I came with the intention of selling it, but found I like it here. I even found a job. I intend to stay.”
“What about your family?” Her color flared. She must think him married. “They came with you.”
“No, I’m here alone. My parents and siblings live in Southern California, but we’re not close. And I grew up in Riverside, which is too smoggy, too dry, and too crowded, the opposite of New Zealand.”
“Being by the ocean means smog is blown away.”
“You got it. Perfect place for a fresh start.” He studied her eyes. She still seemed dazed or, more likely, jet lagged. “Are you staying in a motel nearby?”
“No.” She pivoted and pointed, her finger wavering until she nodded. “Right up there. My grandmother and I are staying with her pen pal.
Grandma’s likely resting now.”
“You didn’t want to?”
“I wanted to visit the beach.” She offered a delicate shrug. “Someone told me to jump right into the local time. Not to give in to jet lag. Her exact word was she doesn’t subscribe to it.”
“Well, good for her.” Luke gave his words a kick of sarcasm. “Resting for an hour isn’t a bad idea. It would sharpen your senses. After all, if you stay up until, say, ten o’clock, you’ve still got seven hours to go.”
As if on cue, she yawned. “Oh, excuse me. And if my senses were sharp, I wouldn’t be tripping over sandcastles and smashing guitars.”
Luke looked up and down the beach.
“Considering these are the only castle and guitar out here, I’d say you show a particular talent for finding them.”
She laughed. “Thank you, I think. I really am sorry about your guitar.”
“Don’t be. The blame belongs to Zeus, Orion, and their owner. Those dogs should have been on leashes. Besides, I planned on giving it to a friend’s son. He might have gotten a kick out of it. Of course, his parents would probably thank you for destroying it.”
Blood continued to trickle. “Looks like it’s time for me to head back and rest. Or at least patch up my leg.”
After she headed for the nearest steps up the retaining wall, Luke picked up all the guitar pieces and dumped them in the trash. His head snapped up and he searched the surrounding streets. She was nowhere in sight. He sighed and kicked his foot in the sand. “Why didn’t I ask for her name?”
About the Author
Terri Wangard grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, during the Lombardi Glory Years. Her first Girl Scout badge was the Writer. These days she is writing historical fiction, and won the 2013 Writers on the Storm contest and 2013 First Impressions, as well as being a 2012 Genesis finalist. Holder of a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in library science, she lives in Wisconsin. Her research included going for a ride in a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. Classic BoatingMagazine, a family business since 1984, keeps her busy as an associate editor.