A Penny Saved, the second book in the Pretty Penny Series, comes out this summer, so I thought I would share a bit from In for a Pound, the first book in the series.
Where was Colin?
Sidney Walker snapped her life jacket and double-‐‑checked
the paddles in her canoe. The race would start any minute, and her
partner was missing in action.
She’d left her phone with her gear bag away from the lake’s
edge, but she debated whether she had enough time to retrieve it.
Around her, other teams lined up their canoes and stowed
their gear. She snatched Colin’s life vest from the rear of the canoe
and unhooked the buckles, readying it for him to slip on as soon as
he appeared on the beach.
Missy, the woman who made an art of getting under
Sidney’s skin, sauntered past. “Aren’t you missing someone?” she
tossed toward Sidney, a smirk contorting her mouth.
“Colin will be here any minute,” Sidney gritted, refusing to
let Missy rattle her. She twitched the rope handle on the canoe as if
she had all the time in the world. Revenge would be best served on
Missy snorted as she sashayed down the beach to her own
canoe. “Good luck.”
Half of Pine Bottom had hauled lawn chairs to the edge of
the beach to watch the race. Colin probably couldn’t find a parking
spot. A band played on the far side of the park, but the referee’s
bullhorn drowned out their song with preparation announcements.
Several boats rolled on the waves outside the swimming area as
they prepared to monitor the competition.
She’d already placed Colin’s paddle along the canoe bottom
with his handle away from his seat, ready for him to grab after
pushing off from the beach.
“The race will start in five minutes, ladies and gentlemen!”
the announcer bellowed through a staticky bullhorn.
Sidney gasped, “Crap!” She jammed her fists on her hips
and scrutinized the crowd. He had to stumble onto the beach any
minute. Colin’s white safari hat should be easily visible among the
Excitement buzzed around her as her anxiety level rose. She
ventured a few steps up the beach toward the sidewalk. Where was
Colin? It wasn’t like him to be late. He knew they needed the prize
money from this series of races to pay for their wedding and
honeymoon. If he didn’t arrive soon, he wouldn’t get into his race
rhythm, and Missy and her brother, Zach, would beat them with
their paddles dragging behind their boat.
Could he have been in a car accident on the way here? They were
close enough to the hospital that she’d have heard the sirens if that
were the case. She rubbed her forehead, but would they have been
audible above the ruckus here? She’d better check her phone.
She clicked and re-‐‑clicked her vest, then raised her hand to
her eyes to scan the milling spectators again. Nope, she had to
check her phone.
Sidney dashed up the beach to her rucksack. If Colin were in
trouble, she needed to know. As important as the race was to her,
his safety out-‐‑weighed it. She untangled her phone from the twist
of socks and swimsuits and unlocked the display, hoping to see
anything but the normal home screen. There wouldn’t be a text
message. Colin refused to pay extra for a texting plan. She admired
Colin’s practicality, but at times it was annoyingly inconvenient.
The picture of her and Colin hugging after their last victory
filled the tiny screen. A flicker of happiness cheered her. She
supposed the matching life vests were a bit dorky, but they were on
special at the sporting goods store. She and Colin were so close to
realizing her dream — if he would just show up.
By winning this race, they would be in excellent position for
the final race in the Triple Crown. The bonus for winning all three
races was a trip to the San Juan Islands. Sidney had dreamt about
going there since she’d heard about the whale watching tours in a
high school biology class documentary. The whales slipped
through the water so effortlessly. Paddling a canoe was the closest
she could get to the experience in Pine Bottom. If Colin didn’t show
up, she didn’t know how they would afford any honeymoon, let
alone the one she had her heart set on.
Out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of the other
teams, stretching their arms and jumping up and down as part of
their warm up routines. Missy and Zach were about three-‐‑quarters
of the way down the beach. Neither of them were stretching; they
worked on stowing their gear. Could Missy have done something
to Colin—locked him in her basement or tied him up in the parking
lot, so she would have the advantage? The more Sidney thought
about it, the more likely it seemed.
Missy tried to get her and Colin disqualified after the last
race, claiming Sidney and Colin couldn’t possibly paddle that fast
and must have cheated. Missy thought she was the best at anything
and everything she tried. Penny, Sidney’s adopted aunt and
landlord, had explained to the judges how Sidney rowed every
night in preparation for the race and was more than adequately
trained. What Colin lacked in skill, he made up in gusto. The
judges accepted the explanation, but Sidney hoped for vindication
with another victory. After this race, Missy would have no doubts
about Sidney’s paddling skills.
She held the phone to her lips. “Call Colin cell.” It rang, then
rolled over to his voicemail. She pressed the button to leave a call
back number, then switched to her email. Nothing but three
advertisements for the bridal expo in two weeks.
“Two minutes” came from the bullhorn, and she fumbled to
the messaging app in a last ditch effort to see if Colin had used that
method to contact her.
She scanned the crowd again, expecting to see his floppy hat
bobbing through from their ranks like a super hero saving the day.
He’d dash to her canoe, his knee socks and water shoes kicking up
sand behind him. Instead Penny barreled down the beach, her
pinkish curls billowing in the wind gusts and her blue and white
cover-‐‑up rippling over her apple-‐‑shaped figure.
Sidney lived in the upstairs apartment of Penny’s house, but
Penny treated her like the niece she never had.
“Sidney!” She waved her arms as if scaring numerous
seagulls away from a hot dog in the sand. The few birds braving
the throng of racers scattered before Penny’s charge.
“Have you seen Colin?” Sidney shouted. What other reason
would Penny have to storm the beach?
“He’s not here?” Penny braced her hands on her hips as she
gasped for breath. “I haven’t seen him. I figured he was in the
bathroom, applying another layer of sunscreen.”
“He hasn’t called. It’s not like him to be late.” Sidney raised
her eyebrows and waited, striving for patience as her agitation
“I wanted to wish you good luck. If he’s been in an accident,
we would have heard. Someone here would have seen him. Maybe
he can’t find a place to park. Both lots are filled, and there are cars
along the road halfway to town,” Penny said, puffing as if she’d
completed a hundred-‐‑yard dash. “I’ll see if I can delay the race.”
She wobbled over to the man with the bullhorn, waved her arms as
she talked, then they both approached Sidney.
“How long do you think he’ll be?” the announcer asked,
rubbing the beads of sweat from his forehead.
“I don’t know. I haven’t been able to get a hold of him.” She
couldn’t figure it out. He’d always had his phone on him, and he
never ignored her calls. Never.
The announcer pursed his lips and consulted his clipboard.
“I can move you to the second wave. You’ll have an extra five
minutes before they start. It doesn’t matter who is in your canoe.
But if you don’t have a partner by then, you’ll be disqualified.”
“Okay,” Sidney responded, not hearing more than the five
minute reprieve. Was he hurt? No, she would have heard the ambulance
sirens. Overslept? Her call would have wakened him. She plodded
down the sand and tugged her canoe away from the water’s edge.
She dug her heels in and heaved backward, succeeding in moving
the boat out of the way of the first wave of racers and landing on
her butt as the announcer set the other contestants on their marks.
What would she do if Colin didn’t appear? Her chances of
seeing whales were diminishing rapidly.