Each year Red Door Reads tries to lessen the sting of Tax Day by giving readers something special. This year we asked our readers what they’d like to read. We received many suggestions for character traits and story settings, then selected winners in a random drawing. Now, the authors of Red Door Reads, have taken those elements and crafted one amazing story from the winning suggestions.
The Road Home is truly a group effort. Each chapter was written by a different Red Door author. It is vibrant, unpredictable, and full of twists and turns. On release day—that’s today—each author will post their chapter–completely FREE! This is our treat to you, so just sit back and enjoy.
Matthew Chadwick just inherited an island off the coast of Maine. The last time he was here he left Anne Bartlett in tears. Anne has spent her adult life trying to forget this blue-eyed Marine. Matthew’s return stirs up old feelings–and something more. Someone doesn’t want him back on the island. As Matthew digs into the past, it becomes clear more than just Anne’s heart is in danger…
My contributions to the story are Parts 9 & 10, which are below. To start at the beginning, visit the Red Door Reads website.
To think Matt had almost forgotten the sensation of being pulled in opposite directions, caught between what he wanted to do and what he knew he should do. It was always worse in Old Derby than anywhere else in the world.
No wonder he knew he couldn’t stay. No one could live like this, tempted to do more than was sensible every damn day of his life.
He’d gone back to town with Anne. That had been the only decent thing to do. He’d done it on impulse, taking her back , then planned to help get Libby to the doctor. Of course, she hadn’t wanted to go anywhere for help so Doc Madison had come to the house.
Because Matt had called him and told him to come and come quick.
It wasn’t a break, just a scare. The sight of Anne’s relief had reminded Matt that he had no business being there. It would be irresponsible to teach her to rely upon him. She was right. He would be gone by the winter. There was no reason to create false expectations.
He’d left then, feeling as if he were running for it. The knowing gleam in Doc Madison’s eyes hadn’t helped. The quick narrowing of Anne’s eyes had been enough to put him right back in the past, back when he’d walked away from her the last time.
How could it feel worse all these years later?
It was already getting dark when he trudged back to the docks, and Matt halfway thought he’d have to find somewhere in town to sleep. To his relief, Samuel was nursing a coffee in the little hut he kept at the end of the dock.
“Hey, Samuel, any chance of making one last run for me?”
“Sure enough. I thought you’d be a little later, but there you go.”
Matt was startled. “You were waiting for me?”
The older man nodded. “Had a little bet with Mary,” he supplied, referring to his sister. “She said you’d stay with Anne and Libby tonight.” Samuel shook his head. “Women and their romantic notions. I knew better.”
“What does that mean?”
“Only the island will do for you, just like your uncle.”
“I’ll have my thanks on Sunday.”
“What did you get with Mary?”
“Blueberry pie at Sunday dinner if I was right.” The older man winked at Matt. “Dinner at Pete’s Friday night if she was right.”
“Doesn’t sound like a loss either way.”
“No. That’s how it is when you’ve been living with your sister for most of your life, boy. You understand how to make everything win-win.” Samuel got up and drained his coffee, then left the hut. “Cast off the stern there, for me, will you, boy?” He stepped onto the board and started the engine.
Matt did as instructed and jumped onto the boat. He hadn’t forgotten the rhythm of boats. They pulled away from the dock and he took a deep breath of the cold evening air. It was really cold, though the sky was clear.
“Going to be a frost tonight,” Samuel said. “Hope you got your firewood cut.”
“Some.” Matt grinned. “I’ll chop some more before turning in.”
Samuel took a deep breath. “Do that, son. I smell a storm rolling in.”
They left the harbor, the town lights fading behind them, and Matt felt a welcome sense of freedom. He did love the isolation of the island, and the fact that no one could make demands on him there. For the first time, he acknowledged that it wasn’t all bad to be anticipated either. He appreciated that Samuel had waited for him and thanked him again.
“The island suits you,” Samuel said and he realized the older man had been watching him. “Dan said it would. I’ve got to tell you that there are those who don’t believe it. They say you’ll be gone before the first snow flies.”
“That could be tonight. It looks like they’re wrong.”
Samuel laughed. “Spoken like a Chadwick. Don’t you worry about the gossip, boy. Do what you know is right.” He pursed his lips as if debating whether to continue, and Matt remembered that his uncle had counted Samuel among his friends.
When Samuel spoke, his tone was cautious. “I suppose that John Turner from Boston has been to see you.”
“Come on, Samuel. You watch this harbor like a hawk. You know he came out yesterday. Did you bring him?”
Samuel scowled. “Not me. He’s got a boat of his own. Back and forth all the time. Here, there and everywhere.”
“You don’t approve.”
“Not up to me what he does and where he goes. He could stay out of my damn way, though.”
“He’s running tours.”
“And that’s not half of it, from what I hear.” Samuel wagged a finger at Matt. “Yesterday wasn’t the first time he set foot on Chadwick Island, either.”
Matt was surprised. “He went to see Uncle Dan?”
Matt leaned forward. “Wait a minute. He went to the island after Uncle Dan died?”
Matt didn’t doubt him for a moment. “But why? If there was nobody there, why go to Chadwick Island?”
“Maybe because there was nobody there.” Samuel’s gaze was shrewd. “You notice anything missing?”
“How would I? I haven’t been here in years!”
“I didn’t say it.” The older man fell silent then, but the quiet between them seemed portentous. It reminded Matt of Uncle Dan’s silences, when the older man waited for Matt to reach what he saw to be an obvious conclusion.
“Maybe he was checking out the cemetery,” Matt speculated. “He said he wanted to start offering tours with a historical flavor, and mentioned that there had been a skirmish during the Revolutionary war on the island.”
Samuel said nothing.
“He wants to offer SCUBA tours.”
The older man harrumphed. “And I know where. Good luck to him and his kind getting insurance to take tourists diving around an unstable wreck.”
“There’s a shipwreck here?”
“Couple of them. They’re federal property, you know, as is everything on them. There’s no good reason to risk people’s lives for trinkets they can’t keep. The shoals aren’t deep enough for those old wrecks to be stable.”
“So why dive it then? What does he really want?”
Samuel gave Matt a fierce look. “You never did bother with local history much, did you?” Matt shook his head. “Or your own family’s history?” He shook his head again. “How much do you know about the Chadwick’s history on that island?”
“Not much.” It was embarrassing to admit it, but true all the same. “It’s been in the family since 1695, and always passes from oldest son to oldest son.”
“You’re right, boy. That’s not much.”
They shared a smile.
“Let me tell you a little more then,” Samuel continued. “You’re not the first of your family to prefer to be left alone, nor are you the first to be prepared to fight for your beliefs.” Matt started to protest but the older man waved him to silence. “Dan told me you joined the Marines. He was proud of you for that service. Said it showed your blood. Chadwick blood.” He left the channel then, steering toward the light on the dock on the island. “I suppose you remember what the Revolutionary War was about, at least?”
“No taxation without representation.”
“And what did people in places like this do to protest that?”
Matt shrugged. “They became pirates.”
“Don’t be so harsh. Depends which side you’re on. From the Yankee side, they were privateers, taking from the rich to give to the poor.” Samuel pointed. “There’s an old story of a privateer ship, the Princess Sofia, being wrecked out there on Matinicus, smashed on the shoals in a storm. It was loaded with bounty and returning home with all her spoils.”
Was that the wreck that John meant to dive?
“But if they were from here, wouldn’t they have known the waters?”
“In a fierce storm, it might not matter. In this case, though, there had been trouble on the ship. The captain, one Henry Osgoode, was accused of intending to cheat the rest of the men. There was a fight the night before the storm, and a number of men injured. A few were killed. The captain was imprisoned by the men but not trusted. By agreement, one man was entrusted with a trunk of gold coins and made for shore, alone in a small boat. The notion was that he would hold the trunk as guarantee until the other men were all paid their share.”
“Sounds like a reasonable plan.”
“It would have been, but they didn’t count on the storm. They certainly didn’t plan on dying.” Samuel shook his head. “But they did. One man escaped the wreckage and survived, my ancestor, Ebenezer Cartwright. He made it back to Old Derby, wrote down his account of events, then died of a fever. That letter is in our family records, safe and sound.”
“What happened to the trunk of gold coins?”
“That would be the question, boy. One thing’s for sure: John Turner isn’t the first to dive that wreck, hoping to find sunken treasure.” Samuel gestured as he pulled alongside the dock and Matt jumped out to knot the rope. The older man’s gaze was steady. “But I’ll guess he’s one of the first to know, outside of my family, that the man entrusted with the trunk was named Joseph Chadwick.”
Matt caught his breath. “My ancestor.”
Samuel was amused. “You didn’t think there were privateers in your family tree?”
Matt looked at the island with new eyes. “You think it’s here?”
“Doesn’t matter what I think. Matters what John Turner thinks.” Samuel rubbed his hands, then spat into the water, evidently choosing to speak his mind. “I’ll tell you now, though, that he and Dan had a helluva fight before Dan died. Dan didn’t like him at all. Kicked his sorry butt off this island and told him never to come back. I was watching out for it.”
“And did he come back?”
“Not until Dan died, and then there was no one I could tell.”
Because Matt had stalled over coming back. And what had happened while he was gone? He bristled that anyone had invaded the island without his permission.
Especially if that person wanted to steal from him.
It made him want to defend his home.
Home. Was that what this island had become?
“You’re right,” he said, because Samuel was waiting on him, watching for his reaction. “I should have come sooner.”
“Can’t change the past, boy, only the future.”
That had been one of Dan’s sayings.
Samuel waved a command and Matt tossed the rope back onto the boat. “Now you can think about what you’re going to do about that before John Turner comes back.”
“Maybe land mines would be too much,” he said, not entirely joking. He did feel protective of the island and resented Turner’s intrusions.
Could it be that this place was becoming the home he’d never had?
Or maybe it was his home and he’d just never admitted it.
“Maybe,” Samuel said, then waved as he left the dock. Matt stood and watched the boat’s lights move back toward the harbor, then noticed the clouds gathering overhead. The wind was colder, too, and he guessed that Samuel was right about the weather.
He should use the phone while it was still working, and check that Libby was all right. Matt hesitated, but then he found a justification for making the call.
Anne might know more of Turner’s plans. She did watch his kids, after all.
Continue reading The Road Home with Part 11 by Lori Handeland.