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It Happens in the Hamptons

By´╝ÜHolly Peterson

Chapter One

One Small Step onto Planet Hamptons



Memorial Day weekend, Saturday morning, May 27



“Sorry, lady,” the taxi driver said to the woman in the backseat. “I don’t see number thirty-seven marked on a porch or mailbox. Sometimes they nail the numbers on trees, but I can’t find the house.”

The woody station wagon taxi rounded a corner and slowed alongside one stretch of Willow Lane, then turned around and back again. The midmorning sunlight burst through the tree canopy and heated the wet street, burning the fog so it swirled off the pavement.

“I know that’s the right number,” Katie Doyle said. “I’m positive. My friend said it was a little hidden.”

“You’ve been there before?”

“We’re from Oregon. I’ve never even been to the East Coast.”

“Um-hum,” answered the driver, knowing this out-of-towner was in for a few shock waves this summer.

“Let me get out of the car and investigate,” said Katie. “Maybe the number is blocked.”

Katie longed to breathe in the curative salty breeze instead of the stale, fruity air freshener in the car. Her eight-year-old son, Huck, was asleep next to her, his white-blond hair mashed against the clumpy pillow he’d fashioned out of his knapsack and jacket. She would let Huck nap in the house before exploring the new town, though he’d slept well on the six-hour red-eye flight from Portland, two and a half hours jolting on the Long Island Railroad to Southampton, and then fifteen more minutes encased in the stench of this taxi.

She yelled back to the driver, “This is it for sure!”

Katie never found a number, but she did spot a metal pail on the crumbling porch that looked like it was last painted around the era her taxi came off the production line. She walked up to the old steps and found the pail bore a welcome offering: summery bing cherries inside—the same type she and George Porter had picked with her son at a Hood River farm back home.

Looking down at the cherries, she thought back to that early May afternoon. Huck had sat in the grass under the shade of a tree making a pyramid of cherry pits, his lips turning a darker crimson as his pile grew. On a blanket warmed by the sun, Katie laid her head back on George’s outstretched arm. He traced his finger down her profile and neck to the top button of her blouse. She took a deep breath to disperse the arousal from his touch, and wondered if they’d fall into bed again before his flight back home that night.

He blurted out from the calm silence between them, “Come east to Long Island for the summer.”

“Yeah, sure.” Katie smiled softly, keeping her eyes closed.

“Be sure.”

She pushed her chin out resolutely toward the sun. “No problem. Huck and I will just pick up and move to the opposite coast, just like that.” She elbowed George to quit it with the silly talk, and placed her finger on her mouth to get him to be quieter so Huck didn’t hear.

He kissed her forehead gently and then whispered in her ear. “I want you. I want us together all summer.”

“Huck and I are staying put. You can come visit anytime.” She jutted her jaw to the side to suppress a smile.

“No strings. Just come. The family cottage is yours. I never stay there. I’ve got my own a few miles away.”

Katie turned to him and propped on her elbow, looking back to make sure Huck was consumed with his cherry pit project. “Are you serious?”

“Very. And you’d love it.”

“It’s already May,” she answered, squinting her eyes at him to gauge his resolve.

“It is, thank God,” George said, upping the challenge. “And your teaching seminars are completed and you’ve got the summer off. Perfect timing. In the Hamptons, you’d find plenty of students to tutor and time to write your studies. Hood River may be the windsurfing capital of the country, but you haven’t tried the prevailing winds off the Atlantic. Ever.”

Katie wrapped strings of grass around her fingers, tighter now that she felt he meant this. “Using wind and water to entice me is pretty clever. But, are you serious?”

“Very.”

“Aren’t the Hamptons just a rich playground where a bunch of people spend too much money?” Katie asked. “We’ve discussed this, that’s not my thing, all the snobby . . .”

“I’m not going to lie and say some of the summer people aren’t a little over the top, but you make the Hamptons what you want. There are perfectly normal families that have lived out there full-time for generations. You can hold the August tomatoes and bite into them like an apple, the shellfish is amazing, and the Atlantic is so much warmer than the Pacific.”

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