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       The Sweetest Summer: A Bayberry Island Novel, p.1

           Susan Donovan
 
The Sweetest Summer: A Bayberry Island Novel


  PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS

  OF SUSAN DONOVAN

  “Ms. Donovan knows how to tell a story that will make your heart melt.”

  —Night Owl Reviews

  “Impossible to put down. . . . Susan Donovan is an absolute riot.”

  —Romance Junkies

  “Goofy comedy, white-hot sex, and ticking-bomb pacing.” —Publishers Weekly

  “Donovan proves that she will have serious star power in the years to come.”

  —Romance Reader at Heart

  Also by Susan Donovan

  Sea of Love

  SIGNET SELECT

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 375 Hudson Street,

  New York, New York 10014

  USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China

  penguin.com

  A Penguin Random House Company

  First published by Signet Select, an imprint of New American Library,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

  Copyright © Susan Donovan, 2014

  Excerpt from Sea of Love © Susan Donovan, 2013

  Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

  SIGNET SELECT and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

  ISBN 978-1-101-61844-8

  PUBLISHER’S NOTE

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Version_1

  Contents

  Praise

  Also by Susan Donovan

  Title page

  Copyright page

  Dedication

  Epigraph

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Epilogue

  Excerpt from SEA OF LOVE

  In loving memory of my mother, Beverly J. Flick Lewis, 1928–2013.

  All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.

  —J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

  Eighteen years ago . . .

  “How’s it comin’, boys?”

  Clancy Flynn ignored the police chief and pretended to focus on his cruel and unusual punishment. Old Pollard didn’t really care how much bird shit they’d scraped off the mermaid statue since sunrise. He came to Fountain Square only to snicker and make sure they had suffered enough to “learn their lesson.”

  Pollard didn’t have much else to do. Being a small-town police chief must be kind of lame. It probably got old walking around thinking you’re such a badass, protecting the mean streets of Bayberry Island, Massachusetts, from the evil of spray-painted cuss words.

  When Clancy grew up, he was going to have a wicked awesome job. A real job. The kind you could get on the mainland.

  “It’s going great, Chief!” Chip Bradford was Clancy’s best friend, even though he could be a brown-noser sometimes. “I got dibs on the neck up, including all her hair!”

  “We’re making progress, sir.” Mickey Flaherty put his head down and scrubbed the statue’s barely covered boobage, like it was the most fascinating thing in the world.

  “Looks like you got the good stuff, Flaherty.” Pollard chuckled.

  “Yep, I did—everything from the neck to the sweet spot.”

  “And how about you, Clancy? Did you know there are two thousand, four hundred and twenty-four individual scales in that mermaid tail?”

  I do now.

  “The mayor asked how you’re doing this fine morning.”

  I just bet he did.

  “What should I tell him?”

  Clancy held his toothbrush thoughtfully in midair. “You can tell my father that I believe this experience has already made me a better human being.”

  Pollard let go with a laugh so loud it scared the birds from the bushes. That was the worst part of the situation. All the adults thought it was hilarious. His dad had laughed his ass off when he heard that the three of them were arrested for spray painting the back of Wilbury Drug & Dime and sentenced to a week of prefestival community service. He especially enjoyed hearing that the slave labor would include scrubbing every inch of the mermaid fountain with toothbrushes and a bucket of Ivory soap bubbles.

  “Keep up the good work, gentlemen.”

  They waited until Pollard was beyond hearing range. Mickey was the first to say something. “I hate this island. I can’t wait to graduate and get off this stupid fuckin’ rock and never come back.”

  “It’s not that bad.” Chip always saw the best in everything, which sometimes annoyed the hell out of Clancy. “Besides, you haven’t even started tenth grade yet, so you should probably chill out and make the most of the time you have here.”

  Mickey didn’t appreciate the positive crap either. “Yeah, well, this week has totally sucked balls, in case you weren’t paying attention, Chipper Chippity-Chip-Chip.”

  “Don’t call me that or I’ll crack you upside your dome.”

  “I’d like to see you try.”

  Clancy rolled his eyes. “Cut it out, assholes. The truth is we broke the law and we should pay the consequences.”

  Mickey laughed. “Oh, yeah? Who are you, the Prince of Bayberry Island?”

  “We spray painted Wilbury’s back wall, so we had to paint over it. That part makes sense. But you’re right. The rest of this has been complete bullshit.”

  “I guess,” Mickey said.

  “At least all the stuff we did made the island look nice,” Chip said.

  “What are you, Martha-Chippin-Stewart?”

  “Shut up, Mickey.” Chip wasn’t giving up on his quest to put a positive spin on their week from hell. “Think about it. All the flower beds are mulched and grass is mowed. The boardwalk is scrubbed and the tourist center is painted and the dune fences are repaired. And this is our last job, right? After we clean the mermaid statue, we’ll be done.”

  “God, I hate this stupid mermaid.”

  Mickey’s and Chip’s toothbrushes went quiet. Clancy felt his friends staring at him, so he looked up. “What’s the problem?”

  “You shouldn’t say that.”

  “Why not?”

  “Because!” Chip’s eyeballs bugged out. “That could be bad luck. She might hear you.”

  Clancy cracked up. “You’re kidding, right? Because there’s no way you actually believe this statue has magic powers to grant true love.”

  “I just don’t think you should risk it,” Chip mu
ttered.

  “Please tell us you’re joking around, dude.” Mickey pointed his toothbrush toward Chip’s face. “’Cause if you’re being serious, that means you are more of a pussy than I thought you were. You’re a pussy who believes in fairy tales.”

  “Stop it!” Chip looked like he was about to cry. “I don’t know what I believe, okay, but the legend is important and it means a lot to a lot of people on this island, and we’re, like, climbing all over her right now. I don’t think this is the time to piss her off. She could put a curse on us or something.”

  Clancy laughed so hard he almost knocked the soap bucket off the scaffolding. “You can’t piss off a pile of metal, okay?”

  “She’s made of bronze.”

  Mickey smacked himself in the forehead. “Bronze is a metal, you doof.”

  Chip’s face was turning really red, and it wasn’t because the morning sun was heating up. “Actually, Einstein, bronze is an alloy of several metals—most commonly brass, tin, and zinc. What I am saying is that everyone should just stop bad-mouthing her. Please.”

  Not much cleaning was getting done by that point, so Clancy decided to have some serious fun with this.

  “Oh, great mermaid!” He dropped his toothbrush into the calm water of the fountain basin and put a hand over his heart. “I come to you, dear magic maiden, with an open, honest heart. I seek something true and special.” Clancy took the mermaid’s slippery, smooth hand in both of his, and touched his lips to her cool knuckles.

  “If you’re not serious, you’d better stop right now.”

  “Ignore Chip.” Mickey smiled. “Go for it.”

  “Great mermaid, I come to you to ask for my first piece of ass. Please make sure her ta-tas are as nice as yours.” Clancy tweaked a strand of the mermaid’s long hair in the general nipple area.

  “Oh, man. This isn’t good.” Chip began to climb off the ladder.

  Clancy raised his voice and made it even more singsongy and dramatic. “But you can forget the love part, oh beautiful one! I don’t believe in love. But I sure would appreciate that piece of ass if you can fit it into your busy schedule!”

  Thunder rumbled off in the distance, which was weird because the sky had been clear.

  “Uh, hey, dude.” Mickey frowned and glanced around nervously. “Maybe Chip is right and you should, you know, shut the fuck up now.”

  Clancy just laughed, spurred on to greater heights of rudeness. “Oh, chick of the sea, babe of the waves! We can be real with each other, right? You and I know you’re a total made-up lie—just a way for people to make a buck around here. You’ve got nothing to do with love, and all these freaks in costumes who come to celebrate you every summer with their open hearts and open wallets are complete dumbasses!”

  A gasp rose from where Chip stood on the brick walkway below. “How can you even say stuff like that? You’re a Flynn!”

  “I am. So that means you can trust me when I tell you—the whole mermaid legend is a complete load of crap.”

  “You’re on your own, dude.” Mickey began climbing down, too. “Later.”

  “What’s the matter?” Clancy howled with laughter. “Oh come on! You guys can’t be for real! The mermaid legend has both of you whipped? Are you kidding?”

  Thunder growled again, closer this time. Clancy’s buddies tossed their toothbrushes onto the brick and bolted. Clancy busted out laughing again. “Gee, was it something I said?”

  Since raging against the machine wasn’t much fun without an audience, he decided to get down, go home, and grab some breakfast. He noticed that the mermaid’s cool and smooth hand was still clutched in his own.

  That’s when it got weird.

  A faint female laugh rose up around him, like a wispy fog. He definitely heard it, but he also felt it. The sound tickled his skin and moved through his muscle and bone like a shiver, which was totally insane, because it was already above eighty.

  Clancy raised his eyes to the mermaid’s face. She was gazing out to sea, as she’d been doing since 1888 when his nutso great-great-grandfather built the fountain in honor of his wife, who he swore was a mermaid. But if her eyes hadn’t moved, then why did it feel like she was staring right through him?

  Suddenly, the wind picked up and rain began to pour. Clancy hauled ass down the ladder, got the hell out of there, and promised himself he’d never go back.

  Chapter One

  The insanity didn’t officially begin for another twenty-four hours, but Police Chief Clancy Flynn knew the tourists didn’t give a damn about the particulars. The half-dressed throng was already in full-on party mode. There was no avoiding it. This was Bayberry Island on the third Friday of August, and that meant that tomorrow would kick off the annual Mermaid Festival, the Mardi Gras of New England.

  For Clancy, it was going to be the longest week of the year.

  “Excuse me, Officer.”

  And here we go. “How can I help you, ma’am?”

  “Ooooh, aren’t you adorable? I love your little navy blue shorts! Why don’t more policemen wear shorts? You have such nice legs from all that walking and frisking you have to do.” She wagged an eyebrow. “You can call me Florence.”

  Clancy glanced down at the bejeweled and age-spotted hand now stroking his bare forearm. After four years as a Boston cop and thirty-two Mermaid Festivals—one for each year of his life—nothing along the spectrum of human behavior shocked him anymore. Not even Florence was particularly disturbing, even with her bottle red hair, neon cat’s-eye sunglasses, sequined jumpsuit, and the fairy wings glued to the back of her sneakers.

  “Sure, Florence. What can I do for you?”

  “We were just wondering where the fountain is. You know, the mermaid statue. The legend. You see”—she gazed over the tops of her cat’s-eye shades and fluttered her fake lashes—“we’re here to find luuuuuuv.” Florence and her entourage of similarly dressed older women giggled and hooted. “So do you know where she is?”

  Yeah. He knew. Clancy was a Flynn, and his family would be forever linked to the bronze bimbo in Fountain Square, no matter how much he wished it weren’t so.

  “Of course, ladies.” Clancy pointed down Main Street. “Two blocks that way is Fountain Square. You can’t miss it.”

  Florence popped up on her tippy toes to look down the street and lost her balance, falling against Clancy. He returned her to an upright position.

  “Where did you say it was, Officer?”

  Clancy closed his eyes for an instant, imagining his happy place, that sweet spot of September, when the weather was still delightful and the pace of life returned to near normal. He smiled politely at the women. “Two blocks thataway. You’ll see a big mermaid fountain right smack in the middle of the square, water spraying all over the place. The area is surrounded by banners and balloons. And lots of people. Plus, there’s a real big sign.”

  Florence patted Clancy’s chest with the flat of her palm. “You know, hearing you put it like that I feel kinda silly. Would you like to come with us?”

  “Thank you, but I’ll have to pass.”

  Florence shrugged. “Let’s go, girls!” And off they went.

  As Clancy watched the ladies walk arm in arm down the crowded street, he wondered what all these tourists would think if they knew the truth—that for nearly two decades, Police Chief Clancy Flynn hadn’t been within twenty feet of the mermaid, which took some effort, since she was the island’s only claim to fame, the engine of its entire economy, and the reason he had a twice-monthly paycheck. But his peace of mind was worth it.

  Clancy’s police radio crackled to life. It was Chip, his second-in-command.

  “Flynn, here.”

  “Chief, we got about a dozen juveniles swimming past the rocks off Moondance Beach, a possible 10-51. Deon and I are taking the boat out. Over.”

  “Copy,” Clancy said. “Any inju
ries?”

  “Unknown. Lena called it in as a trespassing.”

  “10-4. Keep me posted. Flynn Out.”

  Underage drinking was always a problem throughout the tourist season, but during festival week it became a crisis. As police chief, Clancy felt personally responsible for the safety of every visitor to his island, especially kids. But sometimes it felt like festival-week tourists were trying awfully hard to get themselves killed. Not only were those kids probably drinking, they’d picked an area designated a no-swim zone because of its wicked riptide. To make matters worse, they were on Adelena Silva’s private property, and nobody had to remind Clancy how much Bayberry’s only celebrity despised trespassers.

  Right on schedule, the long, monotone horn of the Nantucket passenger ferry announced its approach. For Clancy, the sound of the arriving boat was just background noise, part of life on Bayberry Island, like the roar of the sea, the rush of wind, and the cry of seabirds. But the rumble of the engine and bellow of the horn were enough to scare some of the tourists, who clasped hands over their ears as the boardwalk began to vibrate. Clancy made his way through the crowds toward the public dock, where he would perform a duty he’d done three times already that day and would do twice more before nightfall. Clancy made a point of greeting every passenger ferry that arrived during festival week, unless a dire emergency kept him away and his father, Mayor Frasier Flynn, stood in for him. Clancy wanted visitors to know they were welcome, but also that the Bayberry Island Police Department took its duty seriously. As he’d learned walking the beat in Boston, a little eye contact and a firm handshake were the most effective tools in crime prevention.

  Clancy leaned his back against the public dock railing, hooking the heel of his shoe on the bottom metal rung. As always, he returned the friendly salute from Old John, the Nantucket Ferry conductor, who stood his post at the aluminum gangway. It took a good five minutes for the captain to complete his docking procedure and for Old John to open the gate for passengers.

 
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