Secrets Between Them
Book Three of the Return to Summer Island Series
A mystery... and she holds the key
In preparation for his new book, author Nick Lancaster has spent years researching the life of murdered jazz singer Simone DeRosier. But one mystery still haunts Nick–who was Simone’s “one true friend”? Nick travels to Summer Island, convinced the answer lies with Jennifer March, a lovely and elusive figure in Simone’s past. But in order to find the truth, Nick must hide his real purpose from Jennifer–earning her trust even as he betrays it. Now Nick is caught between his work and reputation–and the woman he’s fast coming to love… Return to Summer Island Where the past refuses to stay buried
- Welcome to the final book in the Return To Summer Island trilogy where the remaining questions about murdered jazz singer, Simone, will finally be answered.
- Research for this trip included a visit to a lavender farm in the hills above Okanagan Lake in British Columbia--it was such a lovely place and smelled fabulous too. What surprised me were the vast numbers of bumblebees hovering over the lavender flowers. You could actually hear the humming in the air.
- Meet the main characters in this series in the character guide on my Extras page.
The Forget-Me-Not Friends:
Simone DeRosier: renowned jazz singer and pianist, she coined the phrase “forget-me-not friends” in one of her hit songs. She was Harrison’s wife until her apparent suicide before the story opens.
Harrison Kincaid: hero of Book 1, during his childhood, Harrison came from a weathly family who spent holidays on Summer Island. Entralled by Simone, he finally married her and was devastated by her apparent suicide.
Aidan Wythe: Raised by his mother in Seattle, Aidan has been Harrison’s best friend for as long as he can remember. Aidan is the hero of Book 2. Emerson Cotley—a local on Summer Island, he took over the family landscaping business after his parents were killed in a car accident.
Jennifer March: heroine of Book 3, her family owns the Lavender Farm Bed and Breakfast on Summer Island. She and Simone were best friends.
Gabe Brooke: Gabe owns a real estate business on Summer Island, as well as the local newspaper. He married Harrison’s sister, but also had a suspicious relationship with Simone.
Enjoy an Excerpt
Nick Lancaster is on Summer Island to write a biography about a famous jazz singer, the late Simone DeRosier. Nick is hoping to get some information from Simone's best friend, Jennifer March, whose family owns the Lavender Farm Bed and Breakfast, where he has just checked in...
Nick slipped behind the island that separated the kitchen from the seating area. Guests didn't usually stray into her territory, and Jennifer felt her shoulders tighten with the awareness that he was watching her.
"Can I get you something?" she asked, hoping he would take the hint and sit down.
Instead, he gravitated to the collage of photographs and postcards on the near side of the fridge. After studying them for about a minute he asked, "When were you in Europe?"
"Who's your traveling companion? You know, she looks a little like--"
"Simone DeRosier? Yes, that's her. She used to spend her summers on Summer Island." Mentioning her friend, Jennifer grew cautious. She was used to visitors being curious about the famous jazz superstar, who'd died so tragically only three years ago. Jennifer had learned long ago to be discreet.
"Really. You knew Simone DeRosier?"
"We were friends, yes."
"And what's this?"
Nick pointed out another photograph, a group shot of the forget-me-not gang the summer before high school graduation.
"Just my friends." Again, she felt a shot of nostalgic warmth. They'd had so much fun in those days. In many ways, those summers together had been the best days of her life.
"I recognize Simone. And this man next to her. I remember him from the papers. Isn't he the guy that--"
"Yes," Jennifer said, before he could put the rest of his thoughts into words.
"It's kind of spooky to see them standing next to each other like that."
When she'd found out the truth about Emerson, Jennifer had felt the same way. She'd put that photograph aside for a while. But after a period of time had passed, she'd realized that she didn't want to wipe out her memories of the past.
The kettle began to whistle and Jennifer turned from the mementoes of her former life to pour the water into the pot. "This needs to steep for five minutes. If you'd like, I could show you your room now."
Nick's eyes were on her, again, and the magic she'd felt earlier began to build again. Attraction. Interest. Sexual awareness.
Then his gaze drifted back to the corkboard. "I'm in no hurry. I'd like to hear more about your trip. And your friends. Do you have more photographs?"
She laughed. Did she have more? There was a whole box of her pictures in the attic. "I was always the one lugging the camera around. But you need to get settled after your long trip. I'm sorry things were so chaotic on your arrival. My family can be a little much at times."
Nick smiled at her and she was suddenly experiencing that breathless thing again. He had to stop looking at her this way. It was...unnerving.
"Your suitcase?" she asked, breaking the moment.
Nick's smile turned rueful. "In the back of the Rover. I'll go get it."
She led him back to the entrance then waited while he retrieved his luggage--one very large suitcase and a briefcase that looked like it contained a laptop computer.
"Up these stairs... Are you okay with that suitcase?"
"Sure. Michele did tell you I was planning to stay for a month?"
She couldn't meet his eyes as she replied, "That won't be a problem."
At the landing she turned left, away from the other two doors, then opened the door to the suite, which had been added a few years ago. "I hope you'll be comfortable. It's very private up here and you have your own bathroom and a desk."
Nick stepped over the threshold, but instead of inspecting the solid wood furnishings or admiring the good-quality cotton bedding, he focused on her.
"Don't apologize for your family. I like them. And I didn't mind about the toilet. Really, I'm glad to help."
He sounded sincere and kind. Considering his looks and his fantastic build, it seemed too good to be true.
There had to be a catch. He probably had a girlfriend--or several--waiting for him at home.
"Let me know if you need anything. And if you'd like some tea, you know where to find it.
Nick hadn't counted on the fact that Jennifer might have photographs. Pictures from Simone's formative years on Summer Island would really complete the middle section of his book. Nick decided that priority number one would be getting her permission to use some of them. It shouldn't be difficult. She was clearly taken with him. And it wasn't at all difficult for him to simulate a similar interest in her.
She was a pretty girl. Easy natured. Naturally kind. Once they'd had a chance to get to know one another, he'd let her know what he was writing about. The sort of person Jennifer was, she'd probably offer to help before he even needed to ask.
After a quick wash-up, Nick trooped back down for tea, as he'd promised. It wasn't difficult to charm the aunt. All he had to do was listen to several of her dramatic stories of birthing babies in the remote areas of northern British Columbia. He didn't even need to fake his interest. The stories were actually fascinating.
Jennifer's father was just as easy to connect with. Philip March was a history buff and he was impressed that an American like Nick actually knew a bit about affairs north of the border.
Nick's eyes followed Jennifer as he listened to her father talk. She moved gracefully, light and fast on her feet like someone who squeezed a lot into a day. She'd been so reticent, earlier, when he'd asked questions about Simone and the other forget-me-not friends. He wondered how long it would take to get her to relax around him.
To trust him.
As she lifted a dainty tea cup to her mouth, he felt a little stab of guilt. He had a feeling the woman was as innocent and naïve as she appeared. Which must be why he suddenly felt like the big, bad wolf.
Jennifer poured tea and refilled the jars of cream and jelly several times, as Nick and her father rehashed the political motivations behind the War of 1812--the only time in history that Canadians and Americans had taken up arms against each other.
Tea stretched out so long, it became dinner, but eventually conversation slowed around the round, oak table. Annie announced it was her bedtime. Jennifer's father reluctantly pulled himself out of his chair and said his goodnight, too.
At last Jennifer and Nick were alone.
The house was dark except for the dimmed light from over the table. The only sounds were the groans of old plumbing, the creaking of a house settling for the night.
Jennifer seemed a little uptight as she tapped her fingernails on the scarred wood table. He wondered what would relax her.
"Do you have any music?"
She looked relieved as she got up to turn on the stereo. "What do you like? Rock, country, classical, jazz? We have it all."
"Do you have any of your friend's cds?" He cursed himself as her shoulders tightened. "But anything jazz would be good," he amended.
She slipped on a disk from another Vancouver artist he recognized: Diana Krall.
"Good choice," he said.
"Simone used to complain that this cd was too bland."
Nick couldn't have asked for a better opening. "I can see why she would say that. Your friend built her career on tackling the avante guard."
When Jennifer didn't say anything to that, Nick decided to push a little harder. " Forget-me-not Old Friend , for instance. That was a real ground breaker."
The song had catapulted Simone to instant fame. Many critics still considered it the best piece of music she'd ever produced.
Of course one of the reasons the song was so unforgettable was because of the question it posed. You see a comet cross the sky--You make a wish, it passes by; but will you remember me at the brilliant end?
Forget me not--my one true friend.
Who was the one true friend Simone had been singing about? After years of research, Nick was almost certain it had to be one of the gang from Summer Island.
But which one? Harrison, the ex-husband? Emerson, the man who had been so obsessed with Simone he'd been driven to murder? Gabe, the spurned lover? Aidan, the loyal friend of the husband?
Or Jennifer, Simone's closest--and perhaps only--girlfriend?
Nick knew he couldn't finish his book until he had the answer. But it didn't seem he'd get any clues from Jennifer. At least not tonight. She still hadn't replied to his comment about the forget-me-not song and he worried that he'd get her suspicious if he raised the subject again.
Be patient, Lancaster, he counseled himself. After all, he had a month to get what he needed.
End of Excerpt
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