Icy-blue sea, rugged mountains, eagle drifting in an endless Alaskan sky, brown bear just emerging, lumbering toward the shore, body hidden by a boulder deposited some long ago day by a retreating glacier. Studying the play of light and shadow, I could almost feel myself standing on the shoreline, as much a part of the landscape as the rocks and the trees.
“It’s a little plain, don’t you think?” The woman’s nasal tone snapped me back to reality. I was standing a respectful step behind my customers, ready to answer questions but never pressing. I’d shown them four paintings, but one was too big, another too small. A collage of native totems was pronounced too colorful, and this nature scene was too plain. A wild thought danced through my mind about how I’d like to respond to her, but I maintained a practiced, neutral appearance. I’d been running The Broken Antler Gallery for three seasons, and I knew buyers sometimes disparaged a work as a ploy to negotiate a lower price.
“I like it,” said her husband. I felt a rush of fondness for him but kept my expression reserved. Had he come in alone, he would have bought the first painting he saw and tomorrow morning I’d be crating it up for shipment to their home in Hoboken, New Jersey. Instead, we’d spent the past twenty minutes trudging from painting to painting, looking for the elusive one that might satisfy his wife. I’d begun to despair that they would buy anything at all. I let my eyes wander to the other couples who were milling around the exhibit space, debating whether it was time to extricate myself from New Jersey and seek a more promising state.
“It’s more than we wanted to spend,” said the wife, drawing my attention back to her. She was more formally dressed than most of the visitors we had in Coho Bay. While her husband was wearing jeans and a brown leather bomber jacket, she was dressed in delicate fawn-colored slacks with a vibrant green and gold silk blouse and matching jacket. She was perhaps a bit older and a tad rounder than the designer had in mind for the outfit, but she wore it well, and I felt a twinge of envy.
The shift in tone caught me by surprise. Apparently her husband’s opinion carried more sway than I’d supposed. I was happy they were going to buy, but I kicked myself for misjudging them. When you make your living selling big-ticket items, it pays to recognize the signals that separate buyers from bystanders. I had artists who were counting on me for their livelihood, and I took that responsibility seriously.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said, my pulse picking up a beat. “What were you hoping to spend?” The price of art is negotiable, and I made it comfortable for buyers to make an offer if they liked an artist’s work but not the price tag. Between what the artist hoped to get and what I knew they would accept for a work was a sweet spot where all parties would feel they got a fair deal.
“I was thinking five hundred.”
I hid my irritation. I know that some people feel the need to start with a low-ball offer because it’s the only way they feel they’ve gotten the best price. If they started higher and I accepted, they’d feel like they left money on the table. Still, there’s low and then there’s insultingly low, and her bid was insulting. “This is an original work by a well-known and respected artist. I couldn’t accept less than three thousand.”
“What about the first one?” asked the husband before his wife could make a counteroffer.
“The one with the view of Denali? I could accept eight hundred for that one. It’s the first year I’ve exhibited that artist, so she’s just starting to make a name for herself. Her work has been so well received I doubt you’ll find such a low price by next year.”
“We’ll take it,” he said, pulling out his wallet. “Does your price include shipping?”
“I’m sorry to say it doesn’t. As you can imagine, shipping anything to and from Alaska is quite expensive, but I only charge you what the shipping company charges me. I’d be happy to e-mail you a copy of their invoice for your records.”
“That will be fine,” he said.
I rang up the sale, and they left the gallery happy. I knew the artist would be thrilled when she saw the price we’d settled on for the painting. She’d had a wonderful debut, and I was looking forward to a long and mutually beneficial partnership. After the couple left, I took down the painting and tucked it into my back room. I selected another painting from my shrinking stock and hurried back out to hang it, greeting a pair of women who were carrying telltale shopping bags from several of the shops that lined the harbor.
“Do you have any jewelry?” asked the younger of the two women.
“Yes, I have a charming line of jewelry handmade by a certified tribal artist who lives just outside town.” I escorted them to the display case and left them admiring necklaces, rings, and broaches while I hung the painting and welcomed more customers into the gallery. Customers come in waves, flooding the shops as each new tender docks at the pier.
In Coho Bay, there were only two seasons that mattered—cruise ship and winter. Securing a spot on the cruising calendar had been the town’s equivalent of winning the lottery. Each cruise line pays a fee to anchor offshore and ferry passengers to the town’s refurbished dock. Shops like mine do enough business from May to September to carry us through the winter. I showcase the work of local artists, most of whom are native to southern Alaska. Since the ships started coming, a growing number of artists have been drawn here in search of backwoods inspiration. Many of them abandon Coho Bay when snow flies, but those who stay grow to cherish this coastline almost as much as those of us who were born here.
Cruise ship season is insanely busy. The first passengers arrive at the dock at eight in the morning and there is a steady flow of cruisers coming and going until the last tender leaves. We are one of the smallest ports on the Alaska tour, but one ship a day, six days a week, is more than enough business to satisfy us. Whether you own a shop or take cruisers on excursions in and around the bay, you’re running all day long. On Thursdays, instead of relaxing, we all race to do the personal business that accumulates during the week. Nobody sleeps during cruise ship season, but we’re not complaining. We get to meet people from all over the world who are always happy, because how can you not be happy on a cruise, and we all benefit from the economic windfall.
I was ringing up another sale and keeping an eye on the dozen or so customers who were drifting around the sales floor when I saw Taylor walk through the door. I dropped the credit card in my hand and had to duck under the sales counter to retrieve it. I swiped it three times before the reassuring message popped up on the screen to let me know the charge was processing. Thankfully my customer looked more amused than annoyed. “I’m so sorry. Sometimes the reader has a mind of its own.”
That’s right Cara, I thought. Throw the reader under the bus. It won’t mind. Somehow, I managed to complete the sale. I might even have remembered to thank her, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Taylor was standing a few steps in from the entryway, looking at me with a bemused expression. I had only taken a few steps toward her when a customer called me over with a question about a watercolor. I smiled and shrugged at Taylor, who waved her hand at me. Customers came first, and she understood that. As I answered questions with half my brain, the other half buzzed with questions of my own, but there was no time to ask. It was late in the season, and my two assistants had gone back to school in Anchorage, leaving me swimming in a sea of customers. I knew she’d answer my questions eventually, but having to wait was sheer torture.
I sold the watercolor, then a small bronze casting of the enormous grizzly bear sculpture that graced the town square. The casting was my best-selling piece, with the proceeds going to Out of the Darkness, a charitable foundation which funded mental health services to help residents get through the long, dark Alaskan winters. The artist who created the sculpture had lost his own battle with depression, and his family had established the foundation in his memory.
By the time the bell on my door finally stopped ringing, Taylor had gone, but I knew where she’d be. I shoved the day’s deposit into a bank bag and rushed out, locking the gallery behind me. I stopped dead when I caught sight of the sun sinking over the bay, deepening the shadows around me. My sister tells me that I should have a bumper sticker that says I brake for nature. She’s run me over more than a few times because I stopped suddenly to look at a flower or a tree or the way the mist rises from the water in the winter. I don’t know why she gets mad. I’m the one with the bruises.
I breathed in the intoxicating mixture of sea salt, pine, and fresh-caught fish. Coho Bay was named for the salmon that had provided the majority of the town’s income before the cruise ships. My parents had come here in the 1980s, craving a simple life close to nature. Bored by nature, as only a teenager can be, I had badgered them until they agreed to send me to college “outside,” as Alaskans refer to the unfortunate other states. After one lonely year in Seattle, I had come home and finished my degree in Anchorage.
My urgency forgotten, I strolled along the wooden sidewalks that cruisers found so quaint. The old-timers had shaken their heads at the downtown merchants when we tore out the old cement sidewalks to install them, but they turned out to be surprisingly practical, standing up well to both the salt spray and wide swings in temperature. I passed the shuttered stores and outfitter shops, and stopped to drop my deposit into the night box at the bank. I crossed the road to Melody’s Place, Coho Bay’s only restaurant, smiling in anticipation of good food and lively conversation.
I pushed open the door and was engulfed in silence. Where there should have been a confused din of voices all trying to talk at once, each man and woman striving to tell a story funnier than the last, there was a deafening void. The tables were full, but the faces were grim. They stared up at me, some eyes questioning, some accusing. In classic Hollywood fashion, I spun around to see what they were looking at, but there was only me.
Snapping out of my shock, I walked into the crowded dining room and looked for Mel, who should have been bustling back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room. I found her, but there was no bustle. She was leaning against the back counter, as silent as her customers, surveying the room. Her face was stormy, but it relaxed when she saw me. She nodded toward the barstool that was my customary spot. Tonight it was occupied. Taylor. At least now I understood the silence.
Crossing the room, I greeted friends at every table I passed, bantering gently, nudging them back to life. My gesture had the desired effect, and by the time I reached the counter, there was a murmur of quiet conversation throughout the room. “Hey, Mel,” I said with a cheer I didn’t quite feel.
“Bent and I figured you’d want your dinner to go tonight.” She handed me a plate wrapped in aluminum foil. Around that was a clean dish towel to keep the hot plate from burning me on the way home. I heard the room grow quiet again. I pictured a hundred eyes focused on me, a hundred ears attuned to the one conversation they were itching to hear.
“Yeah, thanks. Tay, you ready?” I took the plate, and as I did, Mel squeezed my hand.
“Thanks, Cara,” she whispered.
Taylor slid off the stool, and I led her through the gauntlet. As we passed, fifty heads dropped and forks worked noisily. I knew the room would explode as soon as we were out of earshot, but let them get it out of their system. A little gossip added spice to life in a small town.
Taylor and I walked in silence until we reached the gallery. We turned to walk around the side of the rustic log building, and in spite of the million questions I was dying to ask her, my mind took a detour. Dad, Johnny, and I, with a little help from assorted friends and relatives, had built the gallery out of wood harvested from our own land and cut into beams and floorboards and cabinets at Lennon Millworks. It took months of backbreaking effort, a lot of laughter and a broken finger—Dad’s, not mine—to turn the trees into a roomy gallery with an apartment upstairs. We weren’t always sure we’d finish, but we’d roughed it in before snow flew, and by the time the first ship anchored offshore the following May, we had been ready. We weren’t the most skillful builders on the bay, but every inch of that building carried pride of workmanship.
We’d made a great team, the three of us. Then Taylor had flown in from Seattle to help me get the gallery stocked for the first season and… well, that was three years ago. No sense in crying over spilt milk. I opened the door and promptly crashed into two oversized suitcases that were sitting in the entryway. “Cripes, Tay!” I grabbed one foot and hopped around on the other.
“Sorry. I didn’t want to bother you, so I just popped these in on my way to Mel’s.”
“You could have taken them upstairs,” I said, still hopping, which was quite a feat considering how small my entryway was and the fact that Taylor’s suitcases were taking up most of it. “I think I broke my toe.”
“Don’t be so dramatic.” She stepped gracefully over the small mountain of suitcases and started up the steps. “I’ll bring them up later, that is, if you’ll let me stay.”
“Tay, you know you’re always welcome here.” I stopped hopping and gingerly put weight on my offending foot. It was sore, but it held, and I followed her a little less gracefully over the suitcases and up the steps. These steps had been unexpectedly hard to build. Dad had put them in, torn them out, and put them in again twice before he declared that the uneven rise gave the place character. “I wish you’d let me know you were coming. I would have moved your renter into one of Dad’s cabins.”
“Who’s at the house?”
“Mr. Peterson. You remember him.”
“The banker. He’s the only one who thinks he’s a writer.” Mr. Peterson had been coming to Coho Bay for fifteen years, working on the novel he never seemed to finish. Sometimes he stayed in one of Dad’s cabins, but he preferred the houses on the far side of the bay. “I knew you wouldn’t want strangers living there, so when he asked about taking the house for the summer, I jumped. I’m heading out Thursday to get him. We can move you in at the same time.”
Taylor nodded and wandered over to the tiny kitchen. “It’s my own fault. I didn’t know I was coming until I was here.”
That was typical Taylor. “I don’t have a guest room, but the couch is all yours. Unless you’d rather stay in one of the cabins. I have a couple empty right now.”
Taylor made a face. “Running water?”
“When the catchment tank’s full. Dad and I put composting toilets in over the winter though. Renters were complaining about having to use an outhouse, can you imagine?” I laughed at the look of horror on her face. Impulsively, I put my plate on the table and wrapped my arms around her. “I’ve missed you, Tay! I’m so glad you’re back.”
Taylor pulled away and walked across the room and stood looking out at the bay, where the sun was sending up flares of orange and red and gold. My father and I had put in a full wall of windows to take advantage of that view, and it was breathtaking. I only lived in the apartment during the season, but that view always tempted me to make it my home year-round. “I had no place else to go.”
Her distress disturbed me, but I knew she’d only tell me what was bothering her when she was ready. The aroma of moose burger and onion rings made my mouth water, so I sat down to eat my dinner. Bent makes the absolute best burgers in town, and that’s saying something in a town where most people make their own burgers from whatever meat they happen to have in the freezer. I’ve had burgers made from moose, deer, bear (don’t try it), and even my namesake, caribou, but moose beats the others hands down. I love to hunt, and I love to eat, but there’s no way even I could eat four or five hundred pounds of meat by myself. I give whatever I get to Bent, who expertly butchers it and keeps it in his home freezer. Hunting regulations prohibit him from serving wild game in the restaurant, but since I’m Mel’s baby sister and he never charges me for my meals, he can feed me without breaking any rules.
I washed the plate in my tiny sink, even though I knew Bent would run it through the commercial dishwasher when I took it back, and put it on the counter with the towel folded neatly on top. I hadn’t put much of a kitchen in the apartment since I hadn’t expected to be cooking. I had a two-burner cooktop and a miniature refrigerator that matched the one I had in the back room of the gallery. A microwave oven and floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinet that held cereal, snacks and a few dishes, gave me everything I needed.
Taylor was sitting in a chair by the window, staring absently at the book in her hands, which she’d pulled off one of the bookcases that lined the apartment. Wherever there wasn’t a window, there was a bookcase. I hadn’t lived there long enough to have filled up more than a handful of the shelves, but everyone has a goal in life, and filling those shelves was one of mine.
“What’d you find?” I asked, switching on the light since the sun had set. She blinked, startled, and held up the book for me to see. “Oh, that’s a good one. You’ll enjoy it.”
She nodded and went back to pretending to read the book. I sighed and picked up the one I was reading from where I’d left it the night before, face down on the coffee table. I hate to mistreat books that way, but I had been too tired to look for something to use as a bookmark. I get lost in books, especially when the days go on and on, and I don’t realize how late it is until the light finally fades around midnight. It’s September and the days are shorter, but now I read to kill time after dinner, and I still end up getting too little sleep. Mel keeps telling me I should get a boyfriend so I wouldn’t have to spend my evenings buried in a book, but I’d never met a man who could live up to the ones in my complete set of Jane Austin novels.
Last Christmas Mom got me one of those electronic gizmos that people use to read books. She told me it was wasteful to kill trees for books, and I have to admit there was real appeal to being able to decide what I wanted to read, and after three seconds of downloading, be able to dive right in. Having books shipped to Coho Bay was prohibitively expensive, so I usually loaded up at the local bookstore whenever I took a trip into Juneau. Sometimes if there was a book I was dying to read, I’d ask Kenny, our mailman, to pick it up for me on one of his daily runs. I still have the reader, somewhere, but after the initial rush, I found I missed the sensory aspect of reading—the feel and the smell of the book and the sound of the pages turning. It’s a funny thing, I know, and someday I’m sure the printed page will go the way of VHS tapes, but for me there’s just nothing like holding a book in my hands.
Except that I couldn’t concentrate tonight, any better than Taylor could, so she and I sat there in silence, both pretending to read, but both lost in our own thoughts. It took every bit of my admittedly small reserve of self-control to hold back the flood of questions that threatened whenever I looked up at her. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I stood up abruptly. “You must be exhausted, and here I am sitting on your bed. Why don’t you get your suitcases, and I’ll get out the spare bedding?”
“Are you sure? I don’t want to put you out.” A yawn almost split her face, and we both laughed.
“Go while you’re still awake enough to make it back up the stairs.” Taylor clomped down to the entryway, and I went to the bedroom to get the spare sheet and pillow I kept for the times when my parents came to visit. “The couch is comfortable,” I said when she came back with one of her suitcases. “I sleep on it myself whenever my folks come over. I have a blanket too if you want one.”
“No thanks,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “I’m always hot.”
“Well, I’ll put it on the chair in case you get cold in the middle of the night. You probably remember that I’m up and out early, but I’ll try not to wake you. Sleep as late as you want, then come downstairs and keep me company.”
“I could run the register for you.”
“That would be amazing. You saw how crazy it gets, but go ahead and sleep in. The hoards won’t show up before noon.” That wasn’t quite true, but Taylor had dark circles under her eyes that had never been there before. Whatever was troubling her, it would take more than one good night’s rest to erase them.
“I…” Her face flushed. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Tay. You’re always welcome here.” She turned away, and I thought it best not to press. I closed the door of my bedroom behind me and changed into an old flannel shirt. After brushing my hair and my teeth, I turned off the lights and crawled into bed. I expected to lay awake, wondering what had happened to Taylor and why she thought she had no place else to go, but I was asleep almost before my head hit the pillow.
“It’s four thirty, Cara.”
“I know. I’m late. I’m sorry.” I put the plate and dish towel on the stainless steel drainboard and pulled an apron from the hooks where they hung by the door. Tying it on, I went to see what my sister was making this morning. Mel was rolling out dough at the worktable. One industrial baking pan was already full and had been set aside.
“Reading?” Mel asked as she deftly covered the dough with cinnamon, sugar, raisins and chopped nuts, then rolled it into one long cinnamon log. She handed me a knife, and I sliced the dough into two-inch rolls and filled the second pan while Mel gathered up the dirty dishes and tossed them into the sink. “Or were you and Taylor up half the night gabbing?”
“I wish. She hasn’t said a word.”
“No! Seriously?” Mel went into the refrigerated storage room and brought out a flat of eggs, which she gently laid on the counter. “Did you know she was coming?”
“I would have told you.”
Mel piled ingredients on the worktable and started making piecrust. “Why didn’t she tell you she was coming? Didn’t she know Mr. Peterson isn’t leaving until the season ends? Where did she think she was going to stay?”
I slid the baking pan onto the rack so the rolls could rise and walked over to the sink. I washed my hands and let the water run until it was hot, then pushed down the stopper and let the water cascade over the dirty mixing dishes. I squeezed a generous dab of soap out and watched the suds rise. “All good questions but I don’t have any answers.”
“You didn’t ask her? Hey, could you turn the oven on? Three seventy-five.”
“I know. I wanted to ask, but you know how she gets.”
“Yeah. Stubborn as a mule.”
“And silent as the grave.”
“Until she decides to talk and then—look out.”
We both laughed, then went back to work. There was no time for small talk during the season. We had to make sure everything was ready before the first hungry local walked through the door. Mel was making quiche, and I started washing her baking dishes, our joint efforts giving Bent a chance to sleep for an extra hour. I could hear movement in their apartment, so I knew he’d be down soon. We’d all have breakfast in the kitchen, then I’d head to the gallery and they’d feed the horde of locals, rushing to eat before the first tender landed. It had been our routine for three seasons, and we had it down to a science.
“People sure seemed freaked out to see her,” I said as I scrubbed.
Mel slid the quiche into the oven and set the timer before answering. “What’d you expect?” She dumped her dirty mixing bowl into the sink.
I sighed and fished it out of the water. “Always another bowl.” I washed it and set it on the drying rack. “Tay must’ve hated everyone staring at her like that.”
Mel snorted. “She had to have known how people would react. She didn’t have to sit out in the dining room. She could have come around to the kitchen if she didn’t want people staring at her.”
“She’s got too much pride to slink around. You know that, Mel, and I don’t blame her. She doesn’t have anything to apologize for.”
“I agree, but that isn’t gonna stop people from talking.”
“It’ll die down.”
“Why would she want to come back here, Cara? I thought for sure she’d stay in Seattle.”
“Who are we gossiping about today?” Mel and I exchanged guilty looks as Bent lumbered into the kitchen. I shrugged and started rinsing out the sink.
“You know perfectly well who.” Mel’s voice softened, her face flushed, and she couldn’t keep from smiling. The way they carried on, you’d have thought they were newlyweds instead of closing in on their sixth anniversary.
“Why isn’t she here for breakfast?” Bent laid his hand on my shoulder. “Hope she’s not letting last night scare her away?”
“A few cold shoulders aren’t gonna keep Tay away from your cooking. She’s still asleep.”
“City folk,” said Bent, shaking his head in mock disgust. “Sleeping half the day away.”
“I hope she does,” I countered, matching his playful tone. “She was dead on her feet last night. I get the feeling she hasn’t been sleeping much lately.”
“Something did seem to be bothering her when she came in,” agreed Mel. “Didn’t seem like herself at all. I had to look twice to make sure it was her.”
“Whatever it is, it must be pretty bad to drive her back here after everything that happened.”
“Feels like a sausage day, don’t you think, ladies?” asked Bent, cutting off our speculations and drawing us back to the work at hand.
“You goof,” said Mel, swatting mildly at him. He ducked away, his laughter filling the kitchen as he lumbered off to the storage room.
He returned, his arms full of supplies, singing a bawdy bar song in a slightly off-key baritone. When there were customers in the dining area, Bent resigned himself to whistling along with the radio, but when it was just family, he would cut loose with songs he’d picked up in the Navy. At first I’d found his lyrics quite shocking, but as I’d gotten to know him better, I’d started to sing along with him, inserting nonsense words for the ones that made me blush. Bent found this highly amusing and sometimes sang my lyrics instead of his. The sight of this bear of a man belting out G-rated bar songs sent Mel into fits of laughter.
After breakfast I headed off with a promise of leftover quiche for lunch. I hurried along the boardwalk that ran along the harbor, enjoying the predawn quiet. The lights of today’s cruise ship, which was anchored in deep water, reminded me that this boardwalk wouldn’t be quiet long and I still had a lot of work to do. Reaching city hall, I looked up at the gallery and treated myself to a moment of proprietary pride. The Broken Antler Gallery was my own brainchild, a way to put my business education to good use while giving local artists an outlet for their work. The log cabin construction reflected the carefully cultivated rustic style chosen by the merchants to appeal to the tourists. I unlocked the front door and slipped in, locking it behind me. I threaded my way through the dark gallery, moving from memory since it was too dark to see. I had two hours before dawn broke and another hour before the first tender would arrive. That should be plenty of time to get caught up on the paperwork I never had time to do while the gallery was open.
I flipped on the light in the back room and started coffee. Steaming mug in hand, I fired up my computer and started going through yesterday’s sales. Methodically I went through each transaction, making sure that every sale was credited to the correct artist and printing out labels for the pieces that needed to be shipped. I keep thirty-five percent of each sale as my commission, making my gallery wildly popular with artists all over the region. Most art dealers take a substantially bigger cut, some as much as sixty percent of the sale. Because my family owned the land outright and my father and I had harvested the materials and contributed most of the labor, my overhead was very low. I could afford to operate on less commission and still earn a profit. This enabled me to attract artists even during my first season in business. The Broken Antler Gallery quickly developed a reputation for carrying the best work by the best artists in southern Alaska, earning both my artists and me a good living.
One by one I carefully packaged the previous day’s artwork. Art is fragile and needs careful crating to safely make the journey from Coho Bay to buyers around the world. When Coho Bay won our contract with the first cruise ship line, it took two years before the initial ship sailed into the bay. I’d bartered with a gallery in Juneau, providing them free labor for a season in exchange for being able to learn the nuts and bolts of the business. It saved me years of trial and error. I was just putting the label on the last box when the doorbell rang. I switched on the lights in the gallery and went to open the door. “Morning, Kenny.”
Kenny had been running the mail between Juneau and Coho Bay as long as anyone could remember. He’d been old when I was a girl, but even though I had aged, he never seemed to change. He wore an old leather bomber jacket and had a collection of baseball caps, some advertising local businesses and some with pithy sayings. Today’s read Wishin’ I was Fishin’ and had a small picture of a man fishing out of the back of a rowboat.
“Mornin’, Cara. Whatcha got for me?”
We spent the next few minutes shuttling crates and cartons through the store and out to his truck. Every morning Kenny went all over town gathering the mail and packages. He loaded them onto his boat and ran them up to Juneau. There he’d exchange the outgoing for the incoming and make the return trip to Coho Bay. He’d make his delivery rounds in the afternoon, providing daily service during the season and twice a week, weather permitting, through the winter. The whole town shared a single address—Rural Route One—but Kenny knew where everyone lived.
After he left, I stood in the doorway, looking out at the bay. The sun was rising over the mountains behind me, bathing the cruise ship in soft golden light. The season always passes in a blur, and it was hard to believe it was nearly over. Two ships after this one, and it would be time to shift into winter mode. I watched the sky lighten, soaking in the quiet beauty of early morning and waving to the trickle of locals who passed by, heading for their stores or excursion boats. Watching the sunrise over the bay never left me feeling anything but awe even after twenty-six years of sunrises. This simple but staggering beauty was what anchored me to Alaska. I was as much a part of the alchemy of the state as the trees and the rivers and the bears.
A long, low horn sounded from the cruise ship, cutting through my reverie and reminding me I had to restock before the first tender docked. I could see it pulling alongside the ship to take on the first wave of passengers. In half an hour, the first fifty passengers would pour out of the tender onto the dock and into the town. I tore myself away from the sunrise and started pulling artwork from the storage room to fill empty spaces. By the time the bell jingled on the gallery door, I was ready.
I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek of my new book, “The Deadly Art of Deception.” If you’d like to be one of the first to read it, pre-order on Amazon for the September 30 release.