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Authors: Victoria Howard

Three Weeks Last Spring

BOOK: Three Weeks Last Spring
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Three Weeks Last Spring

 

 

 

 

 

By
Victoria Howard

 

First Published as a Kindle e-book in 2011

 

 

 

 

 

©
Copyright 2009 Victoria Howard

 

 

 

 

 

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

 

 

 

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to places, events, or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

 

 

 

 

 

eBook cover design by Mae Phillips at:

 

www.Babyfreshdesigns.com

 

 

 

 

 

For more information about Victoria Howard’s books, please visit:

 

www.victoriahoward.co.uk

 

 

Dedication

 

 

 

 

 

For my Goddaughter Suzanne,

 

who for one so young,

 

has faced
so much and always with a smile

 

Acknowledgements

 

 

 

 

 

To Daphne Rose, Lesley Dennison,
and
Dorothy Roughley for their encouragement,
support
and tolerance, in reading every page as it came off the printer.
I couldn’t have done this without you, and I’m honored to call you my friends.

 

 

 

George Bennett, a published author in his own right, deserves my thanks for his guidance, and generosity in showing ‘the new kid on the block’ the way.
Without your help, this book would never have been completed.

 

 

 

And finally, to Stephen, my thanks for his patience, support and belief that I
really could write this novel.

 

 

Chapter One
 

 

 

 

 

England April 1999

 

 

 

Skye Dunbar stood by the window
and looked out across the meadow, and waited for the transatlantic phone call to connect.
It had been a miserable weekend—dull, wet and cold, cold as the heart that beat inside her breast.
She glanced at her watch, and calculated the time difference
between London and
San Francisco
.

 

After a few rings, a sleepy American voice answered.

 

"Hello?"

 

"Debbie?
It's Skye.
Did I wake you?"

 

"Not really, I was lying here thinking about getting up.
Talk to me, you sound anxious."

 

Skye took a deep breath.
"I
’ve
decided to take a month

s sabbatical.
I've contacted American Airlines and have an option on a flight leaving in a week
’s time
.
They're holding it for the next twenty-four hours."

 

"Why, that's great.
You need to get away and you know San Francisco loves you."

 

"Actually, Debbie, that's why I’m calling, I'm not flying to San Francisco.
I'm going to Seattle and—"

 

"Skye, you can't possibly want to spend a month there, not after all that happened last year."

 

"I can't explain why, but I need to go back."
Skye twisted a strand of her hair between her fingers while she waited
f
or Debbie's response.

 

"I don't understand, and if you want my advice, you’ll come here and stay with me.
After all that lying bastard put you through, I’m amazed that you can even contemplate being within one thousand mile
s
of Washington State.
Please, come here and stay with me.
We can visit all our old haunts—Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown.
We can go for a drink in the
John Barleycorn
and listen to that folk singer you liked so much.
I
f that doesn’t appeal, then we could hire a car and drive along the coast.
You haven't seen the Marin Headlands or Monterey yet.
And if you wait until I get to the office on Monday I'll see if I can beg for some vacation time.
Perhaps we could meet somewhere else.
How about Vermont?"

 

"That's a lovely thought, Debbie, and I do want to see Vermont, but in the Fall.
Please, save your
vacation
time.
This is just something I have to do on my own.
I can't explain why.
I go to bed at night and in my dreams I see this figure on a beach.
I know it's me.
It sounds crazy, I know, and I really don't expect you to understand.
Just give me your blessing and tell me that if I need you, you’ll be there for me, okay?"

 

"I guess you know what is in your heart, although I really do worry about you, Skye.
You have to put what happened behind you and move on.
So, tell me, just where are you going?"

 

"I've
rented a cabin o
n the San Juan islands
."

 

"You've done what?
No
one goes to the San Juan Islands in the middle of April.
It’s too cold for one thing and Friday Harbor will be deserted.
What will you do there for a whole month on your own?"

 

"I thought I would catch up on some reading, go walking an
d generally enjoy the scenery."

 

"Hmm, I don't know.
If you ask me, the last thing you need is to be by yourself.
However, now that you've made your mind up I don't suppose there's much I can say to dissuade you.
But promise me, if you become too upset or lonely up there, you’ll get on the first available plane to me, here in San Francisco.
Deal?"

 

"Deal.
And, Debbie," Skye hesitated before continuing, "thanks for understanding.
You’re the best friend anyone could ask for.
As soon as I
finaliz
e
my plans I'll let you know."

 

Skye replaced the receiver and turned once more to look out of the window.
Was she
being stupid wanting to go back to the Pacific Northwest?
What would
it achieve?
Would
it even put
her
mind at rest?
They were questions she couldn't answer, yet in her heart she knew
she was doing the right thing.

 

She’d met Michael while on a visit to Debbie the year before.
He
’d
knocked her to the ground while roller skating in Golden Gate Park.
He
’d
helped her up, and ins
isted on buying her a coffee.
Coffee had somehow turned into lunch and before they
reali
z
e
d it
they
ha
d spent the whole
afternoon
together.
Skye was due to fly home the following day and Michael insisted she give him her address.
She had agreed, but hadn’t really expected him to keep in touch.
Six weeks later, returning home after a particularly fractious day at work, she
ha
d found his
letter waiting on her doormat.

 

That initial letter, like those that followed, had been read and re-read time and time again, the words feeling as if they were almost engraved on her heart.
Finally, in January Michael had written asking her to visit.

 

Skye quickly pushed the thought of him out of her mind.
She had so much to accomplish in the coming days that daydreaming wasn't a luxury she could afford.
Her flight confirmed, and the cabin booked, she needed to concentrate on clearing her diary.
Then all she had to do was pack
a
suitcase and
get
on that plane.

 

The following week passed in a blur.
She arrived at the office early and brought all her files up to date for John, her business partne
r, to take over in her absence.

 

They’d met at university shortly after Skye's mother's death, and been good friends ever since.
John had been a Graduate Teaching Assistant when Skye had started her degree course.
At thirty-nine, he was five years Skye's senior.
Six feet tall, and of
muscular build, with brown eyes and
unruly curly hair, he had a smile that could melt the iciest of hearts.

 

When Skye graduated, she and John set up business together.
Years of long hours and neglected
vacations
had finally begun to pay off and their services were in demand by major corporations all over the world.
But despite the success they experienced, their relationship never passed beyond friendship.

 

None of Skye’s closest friends knew what she did for a living, apart from the fact that she was a high-level executive, and whatever it was, she didn’t like to talk about it.
In another few months, she and John would be making a presentation to Government officials in the hope of securing an exclusive contract—top secret, and most the most demandi
ng of their respective careers.

 

The day before Skye was due to leave she scheduled a meeting with him.

 

"Skye, what are you going to do with an entire month's leave?
You'll be bored by the end of the second week, and you know how busy things can get here.
There is still a lot of testing to do."

 

"I
realize
that, but you
said
you could handle it.
The code is complete, so you really don't need me."

 

"This has to do with what happened between you and that navy guy last year, hasn't it?
I wish you'd tell me what brought you scuttling back two weeks earlier than planned.
I told you not to trust a guy in uniform and in particular a sailor, but you didn’t listen.
What you need is a real man, not one of these military types who still play with the action man they got as a child."

 

"And just who did you have in mind—yourself?"

 

John ignored her comment.
"You've been like a scared rabbit ever since you
returned
.
You never go out; you're slowly becoming a recluse.
You spend every waking hour here at the office.
Just w
hat did the bastard do to you?"

 

"I don't wish to discuss my love life, or lack of one with you.
And what if I do spend all my time here
?
At least the work gets done and we are ahead of schedule on one or two projects."

 

"Look, love, I know something happened and whatever it was, it must have been something major to have affected you this way.
But you have to pick up your social life.
You can't continue to bury yourself in your work or it will make you ill.
You'll meet someone else and I promise you if he really loves you he won't hurt you.
Besides if you’re frightened of being left on the sh
elf you could always marry me."

 

"I appreciate your concern
, John
.
But, you and I both know that while our business relationship works, a more personal one wouldn't.
You're not the type to settle down, so just leave it there before one of us says something we'll regret.
Now about the Jones account—"

 

"Before we get back to business hear me out.
Professionally you're one of the most logical people I know.
You've an eidetic memory and know instinctively when a project is about to go pear-shaped.
You're a shrewd and ruthless businesswoman when necessary.
You've even got a temper to go with the color of your hair, but then nobody's perfect.
But having said all that, you're just a big softie at heart."
John reached across the table and gave Skye’s hand
a reassuring squeeze.

 

"What I can't understand is why you couldn't see that guy was trouble."
Skye’s expression told him he’d over-stepped the mark.
"If you must go on this idiotic trip, will you at least let me take you to the airport on Sunday?"

 

Skye smiled.
Only her voice betrayed mild annoyance.
"Thank you for that character analysis.
Remind me to return the
favor
one day.
I am quite capable of
organizing
a taxi.
But if you feel you must, then I'll accept yo
ur offer.
Check-in is at noon.
"

 

"
In that case,
I’ll pick you up at nine-thirty."

 

Sunday dawned warm and sunny, and although early April the daffodils were already in bloom.
As she showered and dressed, Skye couldn't help wondering if this was the new beginning she was seeking or whether she was just being plain
stupid.

 

A short time later, she heard John's BMW pull into the drive.
She took one last look around the house, picked up her suitcase and opened the door.

 

"Ready, Sweet Pea?" John asked.
"Have you got your tickets, passport and packed everything you need?"

 

"I think so."
Skye
snatched
her purse
off the hall table
.

 

"It’s not too late to change your mind you know.
Even Debbie thinks you're slightly crazy for wanting to do this," John said, making one last attempt at getting her to stay.

 

Skye stopped in her tracks.
"You've been talk
ing to Debbie, behind my back?"

 

"Actually she called me.
Now, don't be annoyed with her, she's just concerned about you.
Besides, Seattle wasn't exactly the happiest of places for you, now was it?"

 

"I wish you two would accept that this is something I need to do, instead of hounding me to change my mind.
I don't want to argue with you.
I have to go through with this.
I don't expect you or Debbie to understand.
You're both good friends and I know you have my interest at heart, but please allow me to do this and don't tell me I told you so, if I come home in tears."

 

John put his arms round her diminutive frame and gave her a hug.
"I just don't want to see you hurt again, that's all."

 

"I know.
But i
f you don't put that suitcase in the car, I’ll miss my flight."

 

They hardly spoke during the journey to the airport, John sensing that Skye needed to be alone with her thoughts.
He repeatedly glanced across at the figure beside him.
She seemed so small, so vulnerable and yet beneath that very feminine exterior he knew there was a strength and stamina that defied her appearance.
Still, she had taken such an emotional beating over the last year that he couldn't help wanting
to protect her from more hurt.

 

Forty minutes later
he drove
into the car park in front of Terminal four at Heathrow Airport.
John collected Skye's luggage from the boot.
He walked round to the passenger side
of the car and opened the door.

 

They walked into the terminal where
Skye completed the check-in formalities for her flight
.
John
accompani
ed
her as far as Passport Control.
He took her into his arms, gave her a hug,
and kissed the top of her head.

 

"Have a good
journey
, Sweet Pea.
Get some rest and lay that ghost.
Then come back and be prepared to do some work
," h
e grinned.

 

Skye wiped away a stray tear at his use of her nickname, and tried hard to smile.
"I'll do my best."
Without a backward glance, she
showed her passport to the official and
walked
through to departures
.

 

S
h
e found a seat close to the gate, and took out her book.
But she couldn't concentrate on the words and gave up
reading
, amusing herself by watching people in the terminal, wondering where they were all going to and
the reasons for their journey.

 

T
ime passed quickly, and soon her flight was called.
She took her seat in business class, and settled down for the
long
journey
, fervently hoping that the seat beside her would remain unoccupied.
The last thing she wanted was to spend twelve hours next to someone who wished to talk all the way to Seattle.
Luckily, her wish was granted, for within fifteen minutes of boarding, the flight attendant closed the door and the aircraft pushed back from the ramp.
As the plane taxied towards the runway, Skye suffered one last moment of self-doubt, but she knew it was too late to turn back.
Seconds later, she felt the increased tempo of the Boeing 747's engines as it thundered down the runway.
After what seemed like an eternity the huge plane lifted gracefully into the air.

 
BOOK: Three Weeks Last Spring
11.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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