Lori Ryan

Rachel Thompson

Aicha Zoubair

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Will North Shares an #Excerpt from “Seasons’ End” @WillNorthAuthor #Women #Fiction

At first he thought it was a deer.
It was not quite morning on what promised to be yet another brilliant end-of-summer day. The pre-dawn fog was just beginning to lift. Not that it actually “lifted.” Not that it was fog, either, come to that. That’s just what islanders called the queer maritime phenomenon because “marine layer” was too fussy a phrase for an everyday event. In the wee hours it lay like a lid a hundred feet or so above the ground in late summer, and as the upper air warmed, plumes of mist descended and rose, twisting wraithlike through the feathered branches of the firs that cloaked the island.
Then, at a certain but highly uncertain point later in the morning—the regulars at the Burton coffee stand sometimes bet on the precise moment—it simply disappeared, like steam from the manholes in Manhattan streets he remembered from his childhood. The fog didn’t move off, the way clouds do. Instead, in a sort of meteorological sleight of hand, it just vanished. You missed it entirely if you didn’t pay attention.
Colin Ryan paid attention. Though it was only the first Monday of September, 2012, and the night had been warm, on this morning’s bike ride Colin could already sense the coming autumn chill. It was there in the sharper tang of the air that swept in from the Pacific and in the subtle shift in the quality of the light as the transit of the sun took a lower, more southerly route across the sky. It was there in the way the echoing honks of migrating geese began to replace the shrieks of laughter of the children who summered on the beach. It was there in the way the leaves of the alders and broad-leafed maples on this mostly evergreen island would, in a matter of a few weeks, not so much change color as slowly lighten as they died, reverting to the pale greens of spring, as if the movie of the seasons were playing backward. Summer didn’t flame out in the Pacific Northwest as it did in Colin’s native northeast, it slipped gracefully offstage. And here in the middle of Puget Sound, surrounded by the perpetually snowcapped Olympic Mountains to the west and the Cascades to the east, Colin thought this perfectly appropriate. Flash was unnecessary when grandeur was everywhere. But in the thin half-light of dawn he could tell the end was approaching, the gathering autumn already sucking the marrow from the fat bones of summer.
There were still warm days, though, and he was taking full advantage. He was nearing the end of his pre-dawn ride, an eight­­–mile circumnavigation of the southern half of the island, something he did every morning before opening the clinic as long as the weather held. It had been nearly two decades since he’d moved to the island to take over the local veterinary practice.
Colin was hunched over his handlebars and speeding down the steep, sinuous stretch of the Vashon Highway just south of the little hamlet called Burton, the tires of his touring bike hissing over the dew-damped asphalt like tape being ripped from a dispenser, when he saw the dark mass ahead in the middle of the road.
Deer were a year-round menace on Vashon Island, but the danger worsened as fall approached, as if in their frenzy to pack on as much weight as possible to carry them through the winter, the beasts became senseless to danger whenever they saw an irresistible patch of grass. Given the dark canopy of the conifer forest, many of these irresistible patches were along the sunny margins of the island’s narrow roads.
The “highway” was nothing more than a two-lane blacktop that stretched from the ferry dock at the north end of the island to its opposite number on the south end, some thirteen miles away. The rather grand title of “highway” dated from the time, not so long ago, when the south and north end ferries were finally joined by a continuous paved road, a measure of progress and a point of local pride requiring a suitably proud name. Whenever Colin looked at a road map of the island, which he did a lot when making farm calls, the pattern of perpendicular side roads branching off the Highway reminded him of the spine and ribs of a deboned salmon.
Colin squeezed his brake levers hard, slid to a stop on the slick pavement at a point where the road leveled out along the north shore of Outer Quartermaster Harbor. In the dim light just pearling the sky in the east, he noticed a Great Blue Heron hunched on an arm of driftwood at the water’s edge, motionless as an undertaker. He unclipped from the pedals, leaned his bike against the guard rail, and crossed the road, his cycling shoes clicking on the pavement like a metronome.
In another half hour, traffic for the morning’s first Tacoma-bound ferry at the south end of the island would pick up and, even though it was Labor Day, the now-deserted road would get busy. Colin knew he’d have to drag the deer to the side of the road so there wouldn’t be another accident. It wasn’t the first time he’d done it. He wondered what had happened to the car that hit the beast. At this hour, it would have been an old beater of a pickup belonging to an island laborer, the kind of fellow least likely to be able to afford repairs, the most economically vulnerable to any accident, whether personal or vehicular. They often had a well-loved old dog who rode with them; Colin took care of their animals when they were sick, often for nothing.
As he came closer to the carcass on the asphalt, though, he realized, even in the dim pre-dawn light, that there was a problem with this particular deer. Instead of the usual flea-bitten russet coat, this one was wearing a short black cocktail dress. And silver high-heeled sandals. And wasn’t a deer.
The body lay on its back but the head was turned away, the face curtained behind a swirl of sun-streaked ash blonde hair.
The slender tanned limbs lay splayed like a child’s pick-up sticks.
He didn’t need to see the face. He recognized the dress. He’d admired it, and the woman who wore it, only hours earlier at the annual beachside party the old summer families always held the night before Labor Day, the day before they all left the island for the winter.
The body belonged to Martha Petersen Strong, known to everyone on the beach as “Pete.” He’d known her and loved her for more than twenty years.

Every summer for generations, three families intertwined by history, marriage, and career have spent “the season” at their beach cottage compounds on an island in Puget Sound. Today, Martha “Pete” Petersen, married to Tyler Strong, is the lynchpin of the “summer people.” In childhood, she was the tomboy every girl wanted to emulate and is now the mother everyone admires.
Colin Ryan, family friend and the island’s veterinarian, met Pete first in London, years earlier, when she visited his roommate, Tyler. He’s loved her, privately, ever since. Born in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, son of a bar owner, he’s always been dazzled by what he sees of the sun-kissed lives of the summer people.
But this summer, currents strong as the tides roil: jealousies grow, tempers flare, passions clash. Then, on the last day of the season, a series of betrayals alters the combined histories of these families forever.
As in previous novels, The Long Walk Home and Water, Stone, Heart, with Seasons’ End, Will North weaves vivid settings and memorable characters into a compelling tale of romance and suspense.
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Genre – Women’s Contemporary Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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