To celebrate the release of Moon Pool by Jane and myself here's the first chapter of Blue Moon, the first novella.
Janet Lane Walters
The full moon dappled the shadows beneath the massive oak with patches of light. Thea caught Luke’s hand. He spun her to face him. Their gazes locked. His dark eyes mirrored her eagerness to be together, to make love. Thea wanted to laugh at the joy flooding her spirits.
His lips found hers. He pulled her into a tight embrace. She felt the hardness of his erection and opened her mouth to his questing tongue. His touch, his taste, the aroma of his skin made her desire blossom. There wasn’t time for what they craved. With a sigh she broke the kiss.
Luke slid his hands to her waist. She sighed. “I want to be like this with you forever.”
He kissed the corner of her mouth. “I’d rather be skin to skin.”
He groaned. “I’d better head back. My turn to set the tables for tomorrow.”
“And I’ve beds to turn down.”
“Meet me at the reflecting pool in an hour.”
“I’ll be there.”
He tugged her closer. Their mouths met in a searing kiss. “You’re driving me crazy.”
She nodded. “An hour will seem like forever.”
He released her and dashed toward the kitchen entrance of the sprawling inn.
Thea leaned against the tree. What a wonderful summer. Until now she’d never thought she would find love. Luke was wonderful and he was hers. For longer than the summer, she prayed.
She glanced at her watch. The luminous dial showed she had a few minutes before she needed to be at her duties. The moon gleamed like a golden coin. She had time to test the legend of the reflecting pool. The words the hostess had said to each group of arriving guests flowed into Thea’s thoughts.
Should a man or a woman come to the pool on a night when the moon is full, the face of their true love will be revealed. Should they reject the vision, a life of lonely sadness will follow. There is a second chance to find this love. If the seeker returns to the pool when the moon is full and blue, true love will be recovered.
Thea ran to the garden. She paused beneath the trellis entrance and listened for voices. When she heard none, a wave of relief made her smile. She stepped into the boxwood maze and quickly made her way along the gravel path to the pool. She knelt and stared at the water. Dancing beams of moonlight coalesced. Thea stared at the unfolding pattern. When Luke’s face appeared, her laughter pierced the silent night.
Holding the promise close, she hurried to the Lodge. Wait until she saw Luke and told him. Happiness threatened to erupt. Thea, grind, nerd and all those other names her peers called her, had found her true love. Thea who had never had a date until this summer had found her perfect mate.
Luke was the best-looking of the Lodge’s summer employees. Tall, dark-haired Luke was hers. They had so many common interests. When they weren’t making love, they talked and seldom disagreed.
She thought of the way the other female employees and some of the younger guests had flirted with him. Thea laughed. From the moment their eyes met, they had been a couple.
Thea hurried back to the inn. She arrived on the second floor and began her evening routine. She opened the first of her assigned rooms, folded down the covers and placed a chocolate on each pillow. She entered the bathroom to make sure there was a good supply of fluffy towels.
She walked to the door. Her friend leaned against the wall. “You finished already?”
“Just. You’re running late and I know why.” Sue giggled. “Saw you and Luke sneak off.”
“For ten minutes. No big deal.”
Sue cocked her head. “I wanted to catch you before you two disappeared to make-out.”
The knowing look in Sue’s eyes caused Thea to stiffen. They had been friends since grade school. Thea had often wondered why the friendship had continued through high school and into college. Sue was pretty and popular. Her attention was flattering and brought Thea into the center of events. Thea still helped Sue with her studies. She’d even written papers for her friend. Sometimes Thea wondered if being on the fringes of the in-crowd was worth the effort. If she dropped Sue, where would another friend be found? Thea smiled. There was Luke.
Thea closed the door and walked to her next room. “Luke and I do more than make-out. We talk about serious matters.”
“Sure you do.” Sue grinned. “Just wanted to let you know there’s a party in the guest lounge to celebrate Luke’s birthday.”
“He never mentioned one to me.”
Sue’s smile turned sly. “For good reason. Guess he didn’t want you to know today he turns seventeen. Surprised me when I learned. He looks and acts our age.”
Thea swallowed. Luke was only seventeen. She’d be twenty-two in November. “But he’s a junior in college. He’s pre-med.”
“Heard he’s a genius. Double major, too.” Sue stepped back. “You two are quite the topic in the staff lounge. Some of the girls call you a cradle-snatcher. I told them if you’d known his age you would have cut him cold.”
Thea felt her face flame. How could she have made such a fool of herself? Luke was seventeen. She could be in real trouble. Everyone knew and laughed at her. “Look, we’re just friends. We talk about medicine and surgery.”
Sue arched a brow. “With a few anatomy lessons thrown in. Don’t blame you one bit. I wouldn’t mind a night or two exploring his body. He is one gorgeous hunk. See you.”
Thea waited until Sue vanished down the rear stairs. She quickly finished her rooms and fled to the staff sleeping quarters. Tears stung her eyes. Why hadn’t he told her before she’d become the staff’s joke of the summer?
She splashed water on her face. Luke would be at the reflecting pool. She intended to let him know how she felt about his deception.
* * *
Thea removed the diplomas from the wall of her office. This was her last day as Nurse Manager of the cardiac unit. Yesterday her divorce had become final. Every piece of her life had ended. She had no idea what she would do now, but the divorce settlement and her savings would keep her solvent until she decided.
She slumped on the chair behind the desk that had been hers for five years. Leaving City Hospital was the right move. She couldn’t remain here and allow her ex, a staff cardiologist, to chip away her self-esteem the way he had during their two years of marriage and one of separation.
Why had she married Tom? The answer shamed her. She’d been afraid she’d run out of time to have a family. After the wedding she’d learned he didn’t want children, just a second income.
A rap on the door interrupted her thoughts. She looked up. “Sue, come to say goodbye? Ten minutes later and you would have missed me.”
“The day’s been hectic with one problem after another.” Sue lounged against the door. “I’m glad I caught you before you left.”
Thea recalled another time when she’d seen Sue take the same casual position and the heartache that had followed. That incident had turned a close friendship into a distant and wary one.
“Have you heard the news?”
“I must be out of the loop.”
She arched an eyebrow. “I don’t mean about the hospital. Remember Quinnesec Lodge?”
“How could I forget? Working summers there kept me solvent during college.” She forced away memories of the last summer she’d worked there.
“The place is closing at the end of the summer. Some company plans to build a conference center. Wouldn’t it be a hoot to stay there as a guest instead of as one of the help?”
Would it, Thea wondered. She wasn’t sure she wanted to be in a place where the memories would bring sorrow and shame. “Are you going?”
Sue laughed. “Wouldn’t miss it? Most of the old gang will be there. Why don’t you join us? You have the time and the money.”
Thea wrinkled her nose. She had been thinking of a trip somewhere, anywhere. To regroup. “Why not? We had some good times.” Until the last summer. Surely Luke wouldn’t come. What if he did? She drew a deep breath. She still cared but she could avoid him the way she had before.
Sue eased away from the door. “I happen to know there are still a couple of rooms left for the time we chose.”
“I’ll get the number and call.”
Sue dropped a piece of paper on the desk. “The dates and the Lodge’s number.”
“I’ll call for reservations as soon as I get home.”
Sue turned to leave. “And like old times can I ride up with you? Living in the city I don’t have a car.”
Thea nodded. “The company will be great.” Years ago, Sue hadn’t had a car either.
“Talk to you tonight to make sure you can get a room and make our travel arrangements.”
After Sue left, Thea hoisted the box containing the diplomas and few odds and ends she had collected. Did she really want to return to the Lodge? Why had Sue encouraged her to go? These days they hardly spoke. Had the other nurse learned there had been no recommendation for the nurse manager’s position? Thea had been asked by the director for a name but Thea had refrained from making a suggestion. Did Sue think she could wheedle a recommendation the way she had begged Thea to write her papers?
Stop seeing problems where none exist, she told herself. Thea left the hospital and drove to her apartment.
There she set the box on the coffee table. Rather than visiting old and painful times, she should be making decisions. Should she stay in the city or seek a new place? Would she return to school or find a new job? She felt unsettled. At the Lodge she would have time to think.
With this decision made, she reached for the phone. Before she had a chance to back out she dialed the number Sue had given her and asked for a room for the dates Sue had given her.
“That’s a busy week,” the reservation clerk said. “There’s one room with a hold on it, Ms. Carr. Wait a minute. The room is yours. Imagine you’ve heard about the prophecy. There’s a full moon that week, the second in the month.”
“A blue moon.”
“That’s what it’s called.” The clerk took the credit card information and gave Thea a confirmation number.
Thea hung up and sank on the couch. A blue moon. The reflecting pool. She had seen Luke’s face and run away from him. But beneath a blue moon she could look for love again. Though she had no reason to believe the past could be undone, hope blossomed.
* * *
Thea parked the car in the circular driveway at Quinnesec Lodge. She stared at the sprawling building. Shows its age, she thought. The porch and window trim needed paint. One of the railings had been patched. Even the chairs on the porch seemed tired.
Sue opened the passenger’s door. “Come on. I want to see if any of the old gang has arrived.”
Thea stepped from the car. “What about our luggage?”
A young man approached. “I’ll take the bags and park the car. The keys will be at the front desk.”
‘Thank you.” Thea slipped him a bill. She crossed the grass and caught up with Sue at the steps.
The front door opened. A tall, dark-haired man stepped onto the porch. Thea’s heart skipped a beat and her breath caught. Luke. The years had honed his features and broadened his shoulders.
Sue jabbed Thea’s ribs. “Don’t blame you for staring. The man is still prime.”
Thea couldn’t move. “Wonder why he came?”
“To show us how successful he’s become. He’s a surgeon at University Hospital and he’s loaded.” Sue charged up the steps. “Luke, Luke Sewell, remember me. Sue Gray. And I’m sure you haven’t forgotten Thea.”
Thea fought to hide a grimace of distaste. A note of a taunt rang in Sue’s voice.
He nodded. “Nice to see you again.” His hands remained in his trouser pockets.
To Thea he sounded anything but glad. She grasped the railing. An urge to return to the car and drive away rose.
Sue latched onto Luke’s arm. “You look fantastic.”
Thea walked past them. “We need to register.”
Sue smiled at Luke. “I’m so glad you decided to join us. I often think of the summer we met and worked together. The next year Thea was in England.” She stroked his forearm. “Won’t it be great to be guests? Still, I’ll miss the old days. Won’t you?”
“Not particularly.” He stepped away. “Don’t let me keep you. I’m sure we’ll see each other during the week.” He turned to Thea.
A nervous smile curved her lips. The sound of his deep voice had brought memories to the surface. His icy glare made her swallow. She wanted to tell him she’d made a mistake years ago. She wanted to say she’d allowed the opinions of others to overrule her heart.
Sue laughed. “I’ll make sure we have time together. How long are you staying?”
“I’m here for a week. Thea might stay longer. Lucky her. She doesn’t have to work. Her … husband has money.” She sauntered to the door.
Thea sucked in a breath. Why had Sue been so nasty? Regret filled Thea’s thoughts. Why had she come and why had Sue wanted her here? Was this another attempt by Sue to show her superiority with men?
Thea strode to the reservation desk. She glared at Sue. “Why did you say I have a husband?”
“Did I? I’m sure I said ex-husband. Luke really studied you. Why did you stand there like a statue?”
“Didn’t you notice he didn’t seem happy to see us?”
“He was surprised.” Sue laughed. “Surely you don’t still think he’s angry with you. He sure didn’t miss you the last summer we were here. He must have had a dozen flings including one with yours truly.”
“You don’t know what happened between us.”
Sue’s smug smile irritated Thea. “Don’t be so sure. You were hoping to see him again. Why else did you come?”
Thea’s hands clenched. Admit the truth, she told herself. Hope had brought her to the Lodge. Luke’s coldness had iced her dreams.
* * *
Luke shook his head. Thea was even lovelier than he remembered. She had cut her brown hair into a more sophisticated style. She had remained slim. And he still wanted her.
So she had married a man with money, but she didn’t look happy with her choice. Luke grinned. Her happiness or the state of her marriage wasn’t his business. Why should he care? Thea had been a summer fling. He thought of Sue and grimaced. He’d spend a summer fending off her advances. Was he in for a repeat of a situation he didn’t want instead of the one that held his hope?
He needed distance so he could think. Luke strode toward the tennis court. Not that he intended to play. He rubbed his right hand. The injury that had ended his career as a surgeon kept him from taking part in most sports.
Why had Thea come? When he’d read the clipping about the Lodge’s final season and the invitation to former staff members to meet here this week he had wondered if she would show. She had and he wished he had stayed away. His life was in shambles. He had hoped the serene surroundings would give him a new purpose. He feared he faced a complication he didn’t need. He wanted Thea with the same desire as before.
Luke slumped on a bench. He’d never forgotten the way she had denied their love. She’d blamed him for not warning her about his age but her friend had told him the real reason. Thea’s actions during the remainder of that summer had confirmed Sue’s story.
Not that he’d wasted his life yearning for her. Liar. There had been other women but none of his affairs had lasted long. His thoughts returned to that summer and Sue’s avid pursuit. He’d been lucky to escape her.
* * *
Moonlight shimmered on the reflecting pool. Luke had arrived early to test the power of the legend. Not that he wasn’t sure of his feelings for Thea he was curious. He knelt at the edge.
A soft breeze rippled the surface of the water. He saw Thea’s face, but not the Thea he knew. She appeared older and the eyes were haunted by sadness. What did it mean?
Luke heard footsteps on the gravel. He rose and walked toward the opening to the maze’s center. “Thea.”
Sue stepped into view. “She isn’t coming.”
Sue sauntered toward him and grasped his arms. “I told her about your birthday. When she learned your age she was mortified.” She stepped closer and pressed against him. “Your age doesn’t matter to me.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“To prove you picked the wrong woman.” She laughed. “You should have seen her face when she learned everyone was laughing about her. She turned so red her skin was almost purple. Other people’s opinions have always mattered to Thea.”
Luke tried to move back. “Go away.” He had to find Thea and explain.
Sue pressed her mouth to his. “Show me the things you showed her. I’ll add a move or two you’ll enjoy.” She rubbed against him. “You want me. I can feel you.”
As he tried to extract himself from her embrace he grasped her shoulders. “Not interested.”
Thea’s cry startled Luke. Sue broke away and ducked into the maze.
“Thea, let me explain,” Luke said.
“Don’t bother. Did making me look like a fool give you some amusement? Leave me alone. I don’t want to talk to you every again.”