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When August Ends
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From New York Times bestselling author Penelope Ward, comes a new standalone novel.
What do you do when a sexy, older man moves into your family’s summer rental?
Well, apparently, you make a fool of yourself—over and over. Things didn’t exactly get off on the right foot with Noah Cavallari. Our first encounter was embarrassing, to say the least.
But despite that, I found myself waking up every day with a newfound energy. Nothing exciting ever happened on the lake—not until Noah moved into the small boathouse on our property. He’d booked it for the entire summer…and I was still trying to figure out why.
When my mother became ill, I inherited the responsibility of making sure our guests were well taken care of. I should have been in college. Instead, I was living my best life…as a maid.
Dark, handsome, and mysterious, everything about Noah screamed forbidden.
I knew he was just passing through town for the summer.
I knew he was probably too old for me.
Yet, I was drawn to him.
Not to mention, he tried to save my life when he mistakenly thought I was drowning.
I wanted him and made no secret of it.
His own attempts to warn me away soon gave way to late-night moonlight chats by the lake. We were slowly easing into a friendship that was gearing up to explode into something I might not recover from.
Because he’s leaving at the end of the summer.
And I have no idea what I’ll do when August ends.
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“Have you met the guy who moved into the boathouse yet?”
I’d just returned home to our lakehouse after accompanying my mother to a doctor’s appointment this morning. My friend Chrissy had done me the favor of meeting our new tenant to give him the keys while I was out.
I shook my head. “No.”
Chrissy was grinning from ear to ear.
“What’s that look for?” I asked.
I lifted my brow. “In what way?”
She snickered. “I think you should discover it for yourself.”
That could only mean one of two things: either he was extremely good-looking, or maybe we had a psycho living among us.
For the past several years, my family had rented out our converted boathouse on Lake Winnipesaukee—New Hampshire’s largest body of water. Located at the foothills of the White Mountains, it’s a popular destination for tourists looking to escape the city. As the locals say, “When you’re here, you’re on ‘lake time’.”
It was just my mother and me at home now, and Mom didn’t work, so the income from the boathouse was a necessity to keep up with our bills. While it sometimes remained vacant in the winter, it was booked pretty consistently in the warmer months and even into the early fall. Sometimes people would rent it for a week and other times longer. It wasn’t really that big, so it was usually single people who stayed there, rather than families. This latest guy had booked it for nearly three months, until the end of August—the entire summer. That had never happened before.
“So everything is all set with him?” I asked.
“Yup. Seems like a decent guy overall. Didn’t say much, but he was polite. He was wearing sunglasses, so I couldn’t get a feel for his eyes. They usually tell a lot about a person, you know?”
I knew his name was Noah, since I’d taken down his credit card information and run a quick background check. But otherwise, I didn’t know much about him—Noah Cavallari from Pennsylvania with a Visa card and a clear record.
I never really mingled with our guests. When I was younger, my mother had strictly forbidden me from interacting with anyone staying in the boathouse—you know, just in case they weren’t good people. So even as an adult, I tended to keep my distance out of habit.
As part of the deal in renting the boathouse, tenants got housekeeping services—courtesy of me. I’d go in, usually in the afternoons, make the bed and provide fresh towels, much like in a hotel. Guests also got access to the washing machine and dryer in the basement of the main house, which they could access with a key to the laundry room’s external door. So they never had to come inside our place at all.
The inside of the boathouse featured a small kitchenette, allowing tenants to cook their own meals. The space was one room, plus the bathroom. There were several windows on all sides, though, which let in lots of light and a view of the surrounding lake.
“How’s Alice doing today?” Chrissy asked.
“The doctor is going to adjust her meds again. Overall, not her best, not her worst day.”
That was as good as could be expected when it came to my mother, who’d been in and out of mental hospitals for years, depending on the severity of her episodes.
Mom suffered from clinical depression. She’d struggled with it throughout her life, but it had been particularly bad since my older sister’s death more than five years ago. Opal had been a decade older than me. She was mentally unstable and had run away from home. During the years we’d been out of touch with her, she’d gotten deeper into her own mind and eventually took her own life.
Losing my sister was by far the hardest thing I had ever experienced. Mom was never the same after that. Until Opal’s death, my mother had been able to keep her depression in check enough to be functional. Not anymore.
Chrissy left for her nursing shift, leaving me alone in my bedroom. I looked out the window over at the boathouse. While the structure was on our property, it was set back from the main residence, closer to the lake. You had to walk down a gravel driveway to get there.
Aside from his shiny, black truck parked outside in the distance, I hadn’t seen evidence of our new guest at all. And that was fine by me. I would wait until tomorrow afternoon to venture over there for housekeeping. Usually occupants left in the afternoons.
During the day, I took care of everything around here. Then, five nights a week, I waitressed at a local pub called Jack Foley’s. That was the extent of my mundane life as it had existed since my mother’s depression got really bad. Someone had to run things, and I was the winner of that responsibility by default.