Oh, how I love this time of year! These pictures are from my dad's house in Washington state, where I grew up. This is also the setting of my Rose Arbor novels. For the next few days, my novel A Ghost of a Second Chance is free. This will be the first time I've ever run a promotion on Ghost. I think I've never had the heart to make it free before because I was afraid of poor reviews.
Books are a lot like children--we're supposed to love them all equally--but if I'm honest, I love this book more than most. And I get that most people won't love it the way I do. It's not genre specfic, meaning that when someone wants to put it on a shelf in the bookstore, it's hard to decide where it goes. There's ghost, but I wouldn't call it horror. There's romance, but the couple are already married.
But one thing it does have is apple fritters. So here's a recipe and an excerpt from A Ghost of a Second Chance, which is free for the next three days.
35 m 24 servings 118 cals
1 quart vegetable oil for deep-frying
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cups apples - peeled, cored and chopped
1 cup cinnamon sugar
Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or electric skillet to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pour in the milk, eggs and oil and stir until well blended. Mix in apples until they are evenly distributed.
Drop spoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil and fry until golden on both sides, about 5 minutes depending on the size. Fry in smaller batches so they are not crowded. Remove from the hot oil using a slotted spoon and drain briefly on paper towels. Toss with cinnamon sugar while still warm.
A Ghost of a Second Chance
From Chapter 10
Laine walked down Olympic Hill to the town green. She hugged her books against chest, her arm covering the Ghost Guru’s intense face. All around her the townspeople bustled in and out of shops. Most of the store fronts had preserved a turn of the century feel and according to the marker in front of the large white gazebo in the middle of the green, Rose Arbor had been incorporated in 1903. A number of the people on the street looked nearly as old as the town, but not Bette. She emerged from Bernadette’s Bakery holding a small white bag. Even from here, despite the blowing mower and the swirl of cut grass, Laine thought she could smell apple fritters. The scent took her back to her days at the university. She loved Bette and she loved apple fritters. At that moment, she couldn’t say which she loved more.
Bette adjusted her sunglasses, looked across the green, spotted Laine and waved. Laine sat down on a park bench and waited for her friend. Other than the silver streaks in her fly away hair, Bette looked remarkably like the college co-ed in constant search of a pencil. Laine had at first found Bette annoying and then had grown to love her. Personality wise, they were as different as a pair of comfy well-worn jeans and a pair of Prada shoes. Laine’s prim and tidy dorm room had curtains that matched pillows on the bed that coordinated with the rug on the floor that were the same color as her bath towels that matched the bedspread. Bette’s pillow often had chocolate on it because there were candy wrappers on her bed. Laine had a calendar on the wall with all of her upcoming school assignments marked in red, tests marked in yellow and social events marked in blue. Bette had a calendar, but she often didn’t know where it was, and her meager budget couldn’t keep up with her frequent loss of pens and pencils. Back then their relationship had been symbiotic—Bette needed pencils and Laine needed friends. Bette had a plethora of friends and Laine learned how to share her writing utensils. Now, Laine hoped that Bette had brought apple fritters to share.
Bette dropped onto the bench and opened the bag. The pastries warm smell wafted out. Laine looked in the bag. Two fritters. Bette smiled as she lifted one out.
“This,” she said, “is a bribe.”
“I’ll give it to you, if you’ll answer all my questions.” Bette bit into her fritter, and Laine scowled. “Oh, there’s one for you. No worries.”
“How did you know I was here?”
Bette laughed. “This is a small town, remember? Lots of people know you’re here.”
“But no one knows me.”
“They know you’re the new owner of the Leon mansion.” Bette nodded at the grocery bags at Laine’s feet holding bottles of cleansers, lemon oil, rubber gloves and a bundle of cleaning clothes. “And that you’ve offered to build Missy Clements a butterfly garden if she’ll help you clean it up. But it was the broken finger that cinched it.” Bette took another bite and smiled like she’d tasted manna. “How many rich, clean freaky, broken fingered tall, dark curly haired women can there be in Rose Arbor?” Bette licked her fingers. “I’ve answered two of your questions and you’ve answered none of mine.”
“But other people must have answered some of them,” Laine said. “You know about the cottage.”
Bette lifted her eyebrow.
“Although, it’s more mansion than cottage.” Laine corrected herself.
“What are you doing here, Laine?”
“Remember—I told you about my grandmother’s photos and journals. I’m going to try to write her personal history.” Laine paused. “Can I have my fritter now?”
Bette shifted the bag to the other side of the bench. “Have you left Ian?”
“How can I leave him when he left me six weeks ago?”
“Does he know you’re here?”
“I don’t know—does it matter?” Laine held out her hand for the fritter.
Bette narrowed her eyes.
“He left me! Six weeks ago!”
Bette scowled. “There’s something you’re not telling me. Is there someone else?”
“Not for me, no.”
“And Ian?” Bette’s voice turned soft.
Laine’s shoulders slumped. “I don’t know.”
Bette’s gaze held Laine’s for a moment, and then she relinquished the fritter.
“Thank you,” Laine said.
“You’re welcome.” Bette took a breath. “You know, I left Greg once.”
Laine choked on her fritter and fumbled for a napkin. Bette pressed one into her hands. Laine used it to wipe up the crumbs that had escaped her mouth.
“You never told me that.”
Bette shrugged. “It was only for five days. Now that he’s gone, I’d do anything to recapture that lost time.” She folded the now empty bag into a square. “It was this time of year, early autumn. Central Park was gorgeous—the changing leaves, the cold, crisp air.”
“You went to New York?” That must have been expensive. Bette and Greg had always lived very modestly on Greg’s school salary. Laine found it hard to believe Bette would pay for a trip to New York as a lark.
Bette nodded. “To Julliard. I just hung around campus, snuck into the practice rooms. I found a harpsichord in one….” Her voice drifted off. “I think of that week whenever I hear Bach.”
“What made you go?”
“What made you kick Ian out?”
“Oh, please Laine. Don’t lie.”
“Why did you go to New York?” Laine pressed.
Bette sighed. “Because I was young and stupid and I thought I was old and world-wise. Greg and I grew up together.” She looked around. “We grew up, here together, and it became clear to me that we were going to grow old, here, together. Same guy. Same town. If I didn’t do something, anything, this was going to be all I’d ever know.” She took a deep breath. “I thought I wanted something else.”
Laine put her arm around Bette’s shoulder and squeezed her tight. They shared this commonality, the love of boys they’d known most of their lives. Laine knew that Bette still loved Greg, and yet, here she was, in the middle of her life with a new man. The knowledge fluttered in Laine’s stomach.
Bette leaned her head on Laine’s shoulder. “I miss him. I miss him every morning and every night. It’s football season, you know?”
“Do you go to the games?”
Bette shook her head no. “Errol likes plays. He takes me to restaurants and tiny community theaters on Friday nights.” She paused. “I love it, but it’s different.” She looked sharply at Laine. “Are you sure you want something different?”
“I don’t want someone different, if that’s what you mean.” Laine answered quickly, thinking of Sean Marks and his lingering touch on her skin.
Laine shrugged. “Carly,” she burst out, “this woman Ian works with. She’s always at his elbow. Everyone at the office talks about them—treats them like they’re a couple. They work together—eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and probably snacks in between. Carly maneuvers herself into ready and willing position whenever Ian entered the room. She laughs the longest and loudest at his jokes and he acts differently around her—more confident, wittier, smarter.” And that was what hurt the most.
“Do you think he’s—”
Laine shook her head. “I don’t know. Maybe not, but he certainly hasn’t been sleeping with me.”
“That’s hard to do when you’re not speaking to him.” Bette laughed. “Although you could try some cave woman pantomime.”
Laine tried to smile. “The infertility—”
Bette nodded and squeezed her hand. Bette knew. She understood the horrors of hormones and infertility treatments. She also understood and sympathized with Ian’s reluctance to adopt, much better than Laine did. It was something Bette and Laine had discussed relentlessly. Laine turned her thoughts away from babies. Those thoughts only led to dark, unhappy places.
“Don’t you think an emotional affair can be just as painful as a physical one?” Laine asked. “Isn’t it just as much of a betrayal? Back to the cave man—that whole pounding on-chest- me-man-and-must-have-woman thing—isn’t that more forgivable and understandable than an affair of the heart and mind?”
“No.” Bette snorted.
“Sex is more elemental—it’s easier to control than your mind.”
“Says you,” Bette said, licking her fingers. “I really don’t think you would make this argument if you thought for even one tiny moment that Ian had slept with Carly.”
“Maybe he has. You don’t know.”
“Do you?” Bette asked.
“Have you asked him?”
Laine gave her head a small shake. “I can’t. We’re not—”
“You’re avoiding him.” Bette made it sound like she was bludgeoning dogs and skinning cats.
“I can’t talk to him. Every time I see him I clam up. I literally start to shake. My heart beats fast and then it’s like the real me disappears and a phantom witchy me takes over.” She took a long breath. “I wish I could disappear. Just fade away like I don’t exist…right now the cottage seems like the perfect way to make that happen.” She took another deep breath, desperate to change the subject. “Your trip to New York—it was just five days.”
“I knew in three I wanted to go to home. Home, for me, was Greg.”
And now he’s gone, Laine thought.
“Yes, now he’s gone,” Bette said, as if she’d read Laine’s thoughts. “And I’m still here. But unfortunately, the fritters are gone too.” She glanced at her watch, a pretty silver and sea shell thing that sparkled in the sun. It looked expensive and fragile, the sort of thing that practical Bette would love but would never buy. Laine wondered if it had been a gift from Mr. Prompt.
Laine used the napkin to wipe her sticky fingers. “Do you want to come see the cottage?”
“I’d love to, Lainey, but Errol is picking me up.” She looked at her watch again. “Oh, I’ve got to go. I’ll come out tomorrow.” She cocked her head at Laine. “Do you think you’ll still be there?”
Laine nodded. She wasn’t very sure of most things, but she was quite sure she’d be at the cottage tomorrow. I’ll stay as long as I have Madeleine with me, she told herself. Together, they’d look for Sid, work on her grandparent’s life stories, and try to restore the cottage to its former glory.
With those decisions made, Laine pulled out her phone. She needed someone to take care of her cat.