A seaside christmas, p.8
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       A Seaside Christmas, p.8

           Susan Donovan
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  “Hi, honey! Everything going smoothly? How many more are due on the last ferry?”

  Rowan gave Mona the once-over and smiled. Like the car, her mother was in her festival finery, in her case the formal costume of the president of the Bayberry Island Mermaid Society. Mona’s flowing blond wig was parted in the center and fell down her back. She wore shells on her boobs, sea glass drop earrings, and a spandex skirt of mother-of-pearl scales that hugged her hips, thighs, and legs. The skirt’s hem just fanned out into a mermaid flipper that provided just enough ankle room for her to walk around like Morticia Addams. Unlike Morticia, however, Rowan’s mother wore a pair of coral-embellished flip-flops.

  “Hi, Ma.” Rowan checked the B and B reservation list. “Two doubles and a quad—parents and two kids.”

  “Will you put the family in the Seahorse Suite?”

  “No. I’ve already got a family in there. I’m putting the new arrivals in the Dolphin Suite.”

  Her mother approached the front desk, leaned in close, and whispered, “What’s the status of the commode?”

  “I’m hoping it’ll get fixed before they check in.”

  One of Mona’s eyebrows arched high, and she tapped a finger on the front desk. “You’d better do more than hope, my dear. The Safe Haven Bed-and-Breakfast has a reputation to uphold.”

  Rowan held her tongue. Some might argue the establishment’s only reputation was that it had seen better days and was owned by the island’s first family of cray-cray.

  “But why worry?” Mona waved an arm around dramatically, a move that caused one of her shells to shift slightly north of decent. “The evening ferry might not even make it here. Did you hear the forecast?”

  This was a rhetorical question, Rowan suspected, but she could tell by the tone of her mother’s voice that the news wasn’t good. “Last I heard, it was just some rain.”

  Mona shook her head, her blond tresses swinging. “Ten-foot swells. Wind gusts up to forth-five knots. Lightning. The coast guard’s already issued a small-craft advisory. And the island council is meeting with Clancy right now to decide if they should take down the outdoor festival decorations—a public safety concern, you know. We wouldn’t want that giant starfish flying around the boardwalk like back in 1995. Nearly killed that poor man from Arkansas.”

  “Absolutely.” Rowan pretended to tidy some papers on the desk as she forced her chuckle into submission. They both knew the real public safety risk was that council members could come to blows deciding whether to undecorated for what might be just a quick-moving summer squall. She didn’t pity her older brother Clancy. Tempers were known to flare up during festival week, a make-or-break seven days for anyone trying to eke out a living on this island, which was nearly everyone. And that didn’t count the latest twist. A Boston developer’s plans to build a swanky marina, golf course, and casino hotel had split the locals into two warring factions. About half of the island’s residents preferred to keep Bayberry’s quaint New England vibe. The other half wanted increased tourism revenue, even if it meant crowds, traffic, noise, and pollution. And the Flynns were at the center of the dispute, since their land sat smack dab in the center of the dispute, since their land sat smack dab in the middle of the mile-long cove and was essential to the development plans. Much to the dismay of every other property owner on the cove, both Mona and Frasier were listed as owners, and Mona forbade Rowan’s father to sell the land. This meant that one little, middle-aged, spandex-clad mermaid was holding a major real estate developer, every other cove landowner, and half the population of the island hostage.

  Rowan had come to view the conflict as a kind of civil war, and like the more historically significant one, the conflict had pitted family member against family member, neighbor against neighbor. The weapon of choice around here wasn’t canon or musket, though. It was endless squabbling, ruthless name-calling, and an occasional episode of hair pulling or tire slashing.

  Rowan might not be thrilled about running from Manhattan with her life in shambles, but one thing could be said for her place of birth. It wasn’t dull.

  Susan Donovan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Bayberry Island series as well as other novels.

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  Susan Donovan, A Seaside Christmas



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