The third book in Susan Donovan’s magical Bayberry Island series, Moondance Beach hits shelves this week! We’ve got an intriguing excerpt for you, here we go!
It was a recent June evening on Bayberry Island. Shop lights flickered. The old-fashioned gas streetlamps cast a warm glow over the bricks of Fountain Square. A crescent moon peeked over the horizon. And right on schedule, the last passenger ferry of the day made its unhurried approach toward the public dock.
Suddenly, the front door of the tavern flew open, spilling light, music, and laughter onto the boardwalk. A voice carried on the breeze.
“Get outta here, you bunch of good-for-nothings, or I’ll call the police! I’ll call the mayor, too!”
The mayor of Bayberry Island ignored the empty threat and lurched toward the door of the Rusty Scupper Tavern. At his elbow was his son, the off-duty police chief.
“Go right ahead!” Frasier Flynn made eye contact with most of the crowded barroom. “This place is a dive, anyway! You’ll be hard-pressed to ever find me here again!” When the mayor tried to swat at a piece of party streamer snagged in his thick white hair, he managed only to smack himself in the eye. The regulars roared with laughter. “All right, then. See you tomorrow.”
“Thanks for putting up with us, Rusty.” Police Chief Clancy Flynn looked over his shoulder while attempting to stuff his father’s large body through the exit.
“It was an honor.” The bartender smiled at Clancy while he wiped confetti off the bar. “It’s not every year the big kahuna turns seventy. Am I right?”
“I told you no one’s allowed to use that word!” Frasier’s head might have been out the door, but his ears were keen, and his bellow carried back into the noisy establishment. “And that includes any variation of ‘seven’ or ‘tee.’ I don’t even want to hear that you’ve got a seven a.m. tee time!’”
“’Night, Rusty.” Ashton Louis Wallace III smiled politely and placed a large tip on the bar. It was no mystery why he looked rumpled that evening. Not only had Rusty poured him half a dozen Sam Adams Summer Ales in the span of two hours, but Ash was a proud papa of a baby not yet sleeping through the night and was long overdue for a boys’ night out. His wife, Rowan, had no complaints—in fact, she’d helped arrange the outing, as Frasier was her father and Clancy her brother.
Nat Ravelle was the last of the four-man entourage to head toward the door. The California ex-pat and husband of Rowan’s best friend, Annie, gulped down what was left of his fourth martini before he passed through the door with his good friends. “Later, dudes!”
The group began a slow stroll along the waterfront, heading south toward Main Street. Frasier held his face into the sea breeze and gazed out over the boat slips.
“Nothing better than a night out with the finest young men on Bayberry Island.”
“Thank you, Frasier.” Even alcohol couldn’t dull Ash’s finely tuned manners. As Clancy had learned the last couple of years, his brother-in-law might have come from Boston Brahmin money, but he was as down-to-earth as anyone he’d ever known.
“However, we’re short one man. And that’s just not right.”
Clancy braced himself, aware that his father was preparing to orate about his prodigal son, Clancy’s older brother, Duncan. Before Frasier got started, he nearly tripped stepping onto the boardwalk. Clancy grabbed him. “How about we get you home in one piece, Da?”
His father grumbled, throwing an arm over his boy’s shoulder as they strolled. “Now, let me tell you how things were back in the days of ol’ Rutherford Flynn, my great-grandfather, the brilliant immigrant entrepreneur who first tamed this wild and stormy island . . .” Frasier gestured grandly at the bistros, Internet cafés, and lobster-roll stands that surrounded the public dock. “Now, mind you, this was way before there were planes and diesel ferry boats and frozen custard on a damn stick! Did you know that the men of Bayberry Island lived and worked as a single unit? By God, they were together on the fishing boats all day and in the pub together at night. It was a sacred brotherhood!”
“Wouldn’t want to be downwind from that bunch,” Nat said.
Ash chuckled. “That’s an awful lot of fishin’ ’n’ drinkin’. Bet their wives weren’t thrilled.”
Frasier raised a cautionary finger and scowled at his companions. “Bayberry men were rough around the edges, I’ll give you that, but they were civilized. There was always a hot bath waitin’ for ’em when they got home . . .” Frasier’s voice had grown progressively louder, and he now pointed skyward, a sure sign that he was reaching a rhetorical climax of some sort. “And after a good scrub, they made certain their women thanked the Lord for being born!”
The wild pontificating had caused Frasier to list to port. Nat propped him up from the other side, and Clancy nodded his thanks to his friend.
“Let’s keep moving, Da. We’re almost there.”
“No. I need to say something.” Frasier planted his tree-trunk legs on the boardwalk and refused to budge. “We need to get together more often. I miss this. All of us together—it’s how it should be.”
Ash patted his father-in-law on the back. “We see you nearly every day, Frasier. And since your official birthday party isn’t for another week, there’s plenty more celebrating to come.”
“Oh, hell, Ash! You know what I mean.” Frasier sniffed as his gaze followed the movement of wispy night clouds. “Duncan should be here. He might be a Navy SEAL, but he is also one of us, a son of this island—my son.”
The group remained quiet for a moment, the younger men exchanging glances. Eventually, Clancy cleared his throat. “Duncan’s not ready for a pub crawl, Da. He’ll be home as soon as he’s discharged for outpatient therapy.”
“Nonsense.” Frasier leveled his gaze, his cheeks red from the alcohol and the oncoming rush of sentiment. “That boy is strong as a bull shark, and one day real soon he’ll be healthy enough to get himself shipped out to some far corner of the world, the way he always does. Dammit, we all know why Duncan didn’t come home in time for my birthday. For the last sixteen years that boy’s only come home a few days each year, always during festival week, and never a day more. His absence tonight has nothing to do with his injuries!”
Though the annual Mermaid Festival was still two months away, a fair number of tourists strolled along the boardwalk on this breezy June night, and they had all noticed a rather tipsy mayor holding court in front of Talbot’s Nautical Antiques Shoppe.
“Why don’t we talk about it at your place, Da?”
“This needs to be said right here, right now.” Frasier lowered his chin and scowled. “Duncan isn’t here tonight because this would be too messy for him. He doesn’t want anything holding him to Bayberry—no entanglements, no celebrations, not even his own damn family. He never has. And that’s the God’s truth.”
Since that was an accurate description of his big brother, Clancy didn’t disagree. He gently nudged his father forward.
“What makes a man put down roots?” Frasier stopped again, this time shaking off the assistance of both Clancy and Nat. It took him a moment to stabilize. “Come on now, boys. You know the answer to this one, so let’s hear it!”
“Family,” Clancy said.
“Ha!” Frasier slapped his son on the back. “For you, yes, because you are loyal to the bone. And it sure helped that your woman came to Bayberry to claim you, which was awfully nice of Evelyn, I must say, and I’ll have to remember to thank her when I see her tomorrow.”
Frasier directed his gaze to Ash, then Nat. “Come on, fellas. What’s the one thing that can make a man stay put no matter how determined he is to leave?”
When neither answered, Frasier let go with a belly laugh. “By God, you two are the poster boys for this particular affliction, so spit it out!”
They glanced at each other, then said in tandem, “Love.”
“Aha! You got it! Love makes a man stay. Love makes a man do all kinds of stuff he wouldn’t otherwise have half a mind to do.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Susan Donovan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of dozens of novels, including The Sweetest Summer and Sea of Love, and a novella in Christmas on Main Street. Find Susan on her Website, on Facebook, on Twitter, or on Goodreads.