Here's an excerpt from the first novel of my new series based on the northern coast of Maine that I've been thinking about for several years now and am so excited to finally put words to paper (digitally, that is)!   Enjoy!

Hold You in My Heart

A Crescent Bay Romance by Claire Hadleigh


CHAPTER ONE
 

Amanda Gallagher sat on the edge of the bathtub, her bare feet pressing against the cool floor tiles, about the only part of her body not squeezed into satin, lace and yards of tulle veiling, not to mention the spandex undergarments to keep all her curves under control. 

Today was her wedding day.

But it was also one of those days -- nothing was going right.  So nervous and preoccupied with what-ifs, she'd gotten out of the hotel shower and started to dry off when she realized she hadn't rinsed the shampoo out of her hair.  Duh.  She couldn't find her toothpaste and had to get Lindsay, her maid-of-honor, to share hers.  She had a raging headache and was that a zit popping up on her forehead?  Ack! 

She grasped for the only solution available to her.  Bubble gum.  Yup, good ‘ole bubble gum always calmed her down, her mouth filling with the sweet, fruity juice, her jaw working the tight little wad until she could blow bubbles.  And not just puny little puffs.  She was a master at mega-bubbles the size of New Jersey.  Someday she’d get Lindsay to measure and record, maybe enter the Guinness World Book of Records or something.  But not now.  She continued to stare down at her bare feet and ponder the meaning of life, the fact that she was in no mood to get married.  Period.  Single vs. married.  Living with Todd.  Forever.  How did she let herself get to this point?  What had she been thinking since he’d proposed. 

Or had he proposed?  More like assuming she'd go along with his master plan of total conquest.  And she had gone along with it all.  That was the problem.  She hadn’t been thinking.  He’d mesmerized her with his money and his sophisticated ways, their whirlwind trips to Paris, London, Rome and Barcelona. There was a quick tap on the door and Lindsay poked her head in. 

"What's up?" Amanda asked, popping another bubble.

Lindsay passed her cell phone to her.  "Call just came in.  A lawyer from Maine asking for you.  Something about your Aunt Tess?"

Amanda took the phone and stared at the screen.  She didn't recognize the number, but she did the area code.  Northern Maine where her father's sister lived.  The back of beyond, as far as she was concerned.

“Hello?” she muttered, holding her forehead with her free hand.

“Ms. Gallagher?  Amanda Gallagher?”

“Guilty.  And you are?”

She could hear a shuffle of papers, a muttered oath.  “Yes, sorry.  I’m Jeff Quinlan, Tess Gallagher’s lawyer.  I’m sorry to tell you, but Tess passed away last week.”  He paused and waited.

Amanda closed her eyes and shook her head.  Yup, one of those days.  Poor Aunt Tess.  “Why didn’t anyone contact me?  Did I miss the funeral?”

“Well, we couldn’t find a contact number, but I did send a certified letter to your home address.  You didn’t get it?” 

“Hell, I’m getting married today.  Do you know what my life has been like these past few weeks?  I’m sure your letter is sitting back at home in Queens, but I’ve been out here in the Hamptons since last weekend, entertaining, last minute details, fittings.  Blah, blah, blah.  Hell, just plain hell on wheels.”  Silence on the other end.  “Did you hear me?  Still there?”

“Uh, you may not want to hear this, seeing as it’s your wedding day, but . . . .”

“Can’t get worse, I assure you.  Just tell me.”  She heard the bathroom door open and Lindsay handed in a water bottle and two aspirin, then whispered.  “Limo’s here.”

Amanda stood up, clutched the water bottle and took a long drag, then downed the aspirin, feeling her stomach roll over.  Yuck.  She glanced in the large mirror and adjusted her tiara, wincing when one of the gazillion pins pierced her skull.  “Mr. Quinlan?  I’ve got about eight minutes to spare.”

“Right.  Here goes.  You are the sole beneficiary of your aunt’s estate, including the house and property and other various properties scattered around Crescent Bay.  Your Aunt Tess amassed quite a little kingdom up here in the past twenty years.”

Amanda sat back down on the tub’s edge and took several deep breaths.  She suddenly realized that Aunt Tess, that crazy old lady who smoked like a steam engine, ate salty pretzels by the bagful and read romance novels, had just handed her the keys to freedom.  Freedom.  No marriage into high society.  No more ornamental plaything attached to Todd’s side.  It was bad enough her company, small but profitable, had been taken over by a larger international corporation a few months ago, leaving her and Lindsay and a few others holding pink slips. 

“Ms. Gallagher?  Can you make it up here by month’s end, perhaps?  I don’t want to interrupt your honeymoon or anything, but there's quite a bit of paperwork to wade through.” 

Do or die.  This was it.  “Hold on, Quinlan.  I’ll be right back.”  She put the phone on the counter and threw open the bathroom door.  “Lindsay!  Giana!”  She barreled into the small sitting room that connected her room with theirs, finding Lindsay pacing the space while her cousin sat watching a cooking show.  “We’ve got to move fast.  Start packing a few things.  We’re heading up to Maine.”  She started to turn back to the bathroom and the patient Mr. Quinlan before Lindsay grabbed her arm.

“Are you crazy?  The limo’s here and everyone’s already at the chapel.”  Her eyes were popping out of her head.  “Todd will kill you,” she whispered. 

Amanda stopped and caught her breath.  Odd, but the headache was receding and she felt somehow lighter.  “That’s why you’re going to tell the limo driver that I’m sick – make up something – my period hit big time.  Cramps, blood, all the gory details.  Hammer him until he gags.”  She turned to Giana and pointed at her.  “Get your car ready and bring it around to the back entrance.  Keep the engine running.  And Linds?  Call your uncle with the private jet and see if he can meet us at MacArthur Airport, take us as far north as he can, right?”

Giana was grinning.  “Wow, this is gonna be some wicked ass adventure!”  She’d already grabbed her large satchel bag and was stuffing it with the necessities – chocolate, aspirin, water bottles, underwear, the last of the champagne bottles.

Damn, the girl knew how to pack, Amanda thought.  Lindsay finally caught on and ran to her overnight bag, stuffing it with whatever.  She turned.  “Where’s your stuff?  I’ll pack some things for you while you get more information from the lawyer.”

Amanda stepped back into the bathroom and grabbed her phone.  “Quinlan, you still there?”

“Yup.  What’d you decide?”

She laughed.  “Bless Aunt Tess.  We’re on our way, catching a private flight here on Long Island and heading as far north as Uncle Jerry can take us,” she explained as she thrust all the hotel guest toiletries into her cosmetic bag.

“Try to get up to Bangor Airport, which is about two hours from here.  From there you can rent a car.  Otherwise, Portland would be your next best bet.  Keep in touch, Ms. Gallagher.  Safe trip and again, I’m sorry I interrupted your wedding day.”

“Well, I’m not.  See you soon!”  She hung up and looked in the mirror and stuck her tongue out.  Sayonara, Todd. 

*   *   *

Hold You in My Heart

anticipated release date on 5/1/2021 (ebook)