Ingonish Dilemma Book I
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by D.C. Clark
Description: At her fiancé's urging, Laura Parker, drives to Ingonish, on Canada's east coast, to sell the ancestral homestead she has inherited. Her fiancé owns a successful construction business in Ottawa, and he has no time to come with her to some backwater fishing village. Sandy Campbell is in Ingonish to carry out a large land surveying contract for the provincial government. Sandy is unattached and available for a good time. After surveying for 10 years in Canada's far north, he envisions himself making up for lost time in the pursuit of the fun and excitement of the modern social scene. A few kilometers short of her arrival at Ingonish, Laura experiences car problems on the steep climb over Smokey Mountain. As she peers under the hood, standing on a desolate section of the highway, a strange man appears at her shoulder. By chance, Sandy is working on his survey at this particular location when Laura's car pulls off the highway. This attractive, willowy blond is a perfect model for the woman of his fantasies. Tired from her two day drive and stressed at her car's behavior, Laura has no patience for this handsome guy who has just frightened the life out of her, even though he offers to help get the car on its way again. This chance encounter with his dream woman doesn't work out according to Sandy's hopes. When he introduces himself he finds she is engaged and that large, ice blue diamond ring quickly cools his intentions. Laura's car problem is solved. She and her yellow Lab, Dakota, finally arrive at the old family farm in Ingonish, Nova Scotia. She intends to spend a month of her elementary school summer break in this picturesque village at the entrance to Canada's Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It may be her last chance. The property is a thousand miles from Ottawa, and her soon-to-be husband is too busy with his work and his fast-paced urban lifestyle to spend any time "off in the boonies". He wants her to sell the place. Sandy buries himself in his work, surveying government land on the slopes of Smokey Mountain. His young survey crew members don't let him forget that his current love life is nonexistent. With her long, honey blond tresses and azure blue eyes, Laura Parker has made a huge first impression on him, awakening emotional urges that have been latent for years. But being engaged to be married, she can never be more than another figment of his imagination. Laura believes she is in love with her fiancé. At thirty-six years of age and endowed with the independent spirit of her Scottish ancestors, she does not always agree with him. But to convince him to change his mind is an overwhelming challenge. Laura wishes to have children. Teaching first grade is rewarding, but falls far short of satisfying her mothering instincts. Her biological clock is ticking. Her fiancé is adamant children would interfere with his busy lifestyle and career aspirations. Laura believes that once they are married she can change his mind. As Laura reenters the old homestead, she is assailed by wonderful memories of vacations spent with her grandparents. In a nostalgic mood she compares the solid cultural values of their old-fashioned way of life to her own modern lifestyle in the city. This place, she reflects, would be ideal to raise a family. Laura begins to realize she and her fiancé have opposing attitudes toward a number of important issues. Sandy, in his search for land boundary information, drops in at the homestead not knowing it now belongs to Laura. As a conscious environmentalist Laura becomes incensed when Sandy mentions that new industrial development is needed in the area. He tries to calm her concerns but leaves with the feeling she thinks he may have just slithered out from under a rock. In the first days of her visit Laura has a joyful reunion with a cousin who was her "kindred spirit" during her childhood vacations in Ingonish. Now her cousin is happily married in a model relationship. Laura learns that her cousin's husband and Sandy are best friends going back to university days and that Sandy is boarding with the family during his work contract. Laura and Sandy are thrown together at several social events in the village. Laura is concerned when rumors abound of a mining development which could ruin her scenic property. Sparks fly when she thinks Sandy may be involved. Laura is committed to her fiancé, but she cannot help noticing Sandy's expressive hazel eyes and mane of wavy auburn hair, trimmed to brush his collar. It is a time of conflicting emotions. Dancing with Sandy at a Scottish Ceilidh in the village, she is disturbed when she feels more than just a friendly attraction to him. Moving beyond his first physical infatuation, Sandy re-examines his desire to become immersed in the local nightlife when he discovers Laura's nurturing temperament and lifestyle values. Even without his own moral constraint against dating an engaged woman, Sandy convinces himself Laura would never become interested in him. He is angry and frustrated at the way he is so awkward and tongue-tied when he is around her. Laura receives a telephone call from her fiancé back in Ottawa. He has decided to come to Nova Scotia after all. There is a national business conference at the Keltic Lodge resort in the national park, and he is a delegate. Laura is thrilled that he will now be able to see the old homestead and property. Perhaps he will change his opinion of it. The visit becomes a disaster. Her fiancé is so impressed with a business colleague he meets, that he has little spare time to spend with Laura. She does get him to visit the farm for a tour and dinner, but the smell of the hayfield is too much and he has to rush back to the air-conditioned resort to relieve his allergy attack. When Laura is invited to the closing banquet at the resort she ends up seated beside the obnoxious friend and must maneuver to stay out of hands' reach. Her fiancé returns to Ottawa the next morning without Laura having spent any quality time with him. Sandy comes to visit Laura again to fulfill a promise to show her the newly surveyed property boundaries of her farm. Tramping through the forest Sandy shows Laura a scenic waterfall, and engrossed in the scene she slips on a wet rock and falls into Sandy's arms. The magic of the moment leads to a kiss; a kiss which leaves both Laura and Sandy disconcerted. Then Sandy receives a work transfer to Baddeck, a town an hour's drive from Ingonish. He is miserable in the belief he will not get to see Laura again. Laura's life is thrown into turmoil when her fiancé calls from Ottawa, announcing he has decided to change career paths. He has been offered a fabulous position by his newfound buddy, the president of a multinational corporation. The job is in Montreal and he wants Laura to move there with him before the wedding. Laura is forced to confront the moral values she has grown up with, and the necessity to give up her own career with the school children she loves. She is caught in a horrible dilemma. Sandy writes a letter to Laura on the excuse of sending her photos he took on their afternoon at the beach with her cousin's children. In the letter he confesses his newfound feelings for her and his wish that they might somehow see one another again. Laura is touched by Sandy baring his feelings to her, but his message has created another dilemma for her. She admits to herself her own attraction to Sandy, but knows it is futile to even think that way. She is engaged to be married. She must find a way to gently tell Sandy to back off.
eBook Publisher: Club Lighthouse Publishing USA LLC/Club Lighthouse Publishing, 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: August 2011
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [247 KB]
Reading time: 151-212 min.
Tuesday, July 2
LAURA HAD DREADED THE CLIMB up Smokey Mountain ever since she'd first sighted it, hazy blue in the distance, on her drive northward along the Cabot Trail. Down now into second gear, the overloaded Volkswagen struggled up the fifth switchback. At the harsh squeal of an alarm, her eyes darted to the instrument panel to discover the engine temperature indicator buried deeply into the red.
"Oh, no! Please not now!" She groaned, as she tore her eyes from the dashboard tell-tale to search the road ahead. How much further before it levelled out again? Surely she must be close to the summit. But the grey asphalt continued steeply upward as it disappeared around the next curve.
To her right, there was barely enough space for the yellow guardrail posts that stood between the pavement and the edge of the sheer cliff that plunged to the angry Atlantic waves far below. There was no room to pull over. Both hands glued to the steering wheel, she stuck out her bottom lip and blew hard at a strand of blond hair that wavered in her view.
Hunched forward, she resisted an urge to push on the steering wheel to help move the car forward. But the little car kept going and dragged itself up the final few hundred metres to reach the crest and a spot where the road shoulder widened enough for her to stop.
Swiping a hand across her damp forehead, Laura slumped back in the car seat and wished Ray had agreed to come. Ray was good at fixing mechanical things and would know what to do next.
Pity he wasn't as good at understanding her emotions, or being more in tune with what she was thinking. If only he'd open up and talk more. It would be so much easier to sort out the little concerns that popped up -- or the one big one she was finding so worrisome.
All Ray seemed to think about was his work. That was his excuse for not coming -- almost his last words as he hugged her goodbye: "Sweetheart, I'm sorry. The plant is just too busy in July."
Yeah, right, the plant again. It was always the all-important plant.
So here she was, Laura Parker -- all by herself with Dakota, stranded on the side of the road in the Nova Scotia wilderness, while her fiance was managing his plant back in Ottawa.
The last house she remembered seeing was at least five kilometres back along the highway. But it was here that her dumb car had decided to act up -- here in what Grampa would have described as "the last end of nowhere." With a groan she reached for the door handle.
She yanked the release lever as she got out; then hurried to the front of the car and gingerly lifted the hood. Peering in, she was hit by a wave of intense heat and the pungent smell of the diesel engine. What should she look for? She recognized the radiator and the black hoses leading away from it. At least there wasn't any steam spurting out, and the fan was humming away busily. She sighed and wiped a spot of grime off her fingertips as she stared at the maze of mechanical stuff.
"Is everything okay?"
At the first sound of the husky male voice, Laura spun sideways, the small hairs on the back of her neck already bristling. "Who...?"
The voice had come from a man not ten metres from her at the edge of the roadside trees. He stood, hands on his hips, watching her from behind some type of instrument on a yellow tripod.
Why hadn't she noticed him before? Had she been so preoccupied with the car? Careless or what? He was even wearing an orange safety vest with florescent yellow stripes. Then she noticed two more orange-jacketed workers further along the ditch.
"Sorry," he called over, "I didn't mean to frighten you." He shook his head and grinned. "But I figured if you didn't see me here when you stopped, I had to catch your attention somehow."
Edging sideways, Laura glanced toward the car door. Should she make a dash for it? She stared at the man again. He hadn't moved and didn't look menacing. She held her ground.
"You scared the life out of me," she told him in a weak imitation of her stern teacher voice. "My mind was focused on the car. What are you doing out here anyway? I didn't expect someone lurking in the bushes in this wilderness." The words came easier as she calmed her initial panic. It appeared the guy was legitimate and part of a highway work crew.
"Oh, in this job we find ourselves in some out-of-the-way places." He laughed as he made his way up out of the ditch that separated them. "I'm Sandy Campbell. I'm a land surveyor with the Department of Natural Resources. Is there anything we can do to help?"
Help? Did she need help? She tensed again and edged toward the car door. Why hadn't she at least let the dog out when she stopped? Who knows what kind of an unsavory character the guy might be, and here she was, vulnerable and far from help.
But he looked harmless enough up close. Beneath the mane of wavy golden-brown hair, his suntanned face had an appealing grin, and the devilish twinkle in those hazel eyes might have been a heart stopper under different circumstances.
Never mind the smiling eyes, she mentally rebuked herself, thinking again of Ray back in Ottawa. But this guy did have an easy-going openness about him that helped sooth her rattled nerves. In his friendly voice she detected the accent of a native born Nova Scotian. With some inner sense she found that reassuring.
"No, the car's okay I think, thank you. The engine was overheating coming up the mountain, so I pulled off to let it cool down. It seems fine now." She noticed his eyebrows twitch as he glanced at the car's Ontario license plate.
"That's a hefty load for the steep grade you've just climbed." He gave the packed Volkswagen a cursory once over, pausing to smile at the yellow Lab watching him from the passenger seat. "There's a difference of three hundred metres in elevation coming up Smokey. With that grade it's a hard pull for any car."
"Yes, but we made it." She gave the car a mental thank you.
"Well, it's pretty much all down hill from here to Ingonish. If you have a problem the car can probably coast most of the way."
"Really?" She snapped the hood shut. Hidden behind dark sunglasses, her gaze traveled the length of the lean muscular male body standing on the highway shoulder. Rough and sturdy, the body matched his face, which also displayed a rugged strength of character. But what was it with the guy? Why did he seem so nervous? The way he acted it was almost like he thought she was a movie star or some famous person. She stifled a grin; maybe the guy had been out here in the woods too long.
He gestured at the car, his voice sounding more confident. "The engine seems to be running okay now. To be on the safe side though, I'd have the radiator coolant checked at a service station in Ingonish."
"Thanks, I will." She forced herself to smile, and then made a move to retreat. She didn't want to be rude, but now that the car was fine, why didn't he just get on with his work? She didn't feel in the mood to chat, even with a good-looking guy.
"I hope you'll spend some time in the Ingonish area," the surveyor stated, making no effort to move. "This is such a scenic part of the Province, with lots of neat things for visitors to see and do."
"Yes, I know. I've been here a number of times." Her right index finger rubbed the diamond ring Ray had given her last Christmas. She shook her head. It was time to get out of here, away from this character. He looked like he was all set for a long conversation.
"Well, I'd better be on my way again," she said, as she got into the car. "Thank you for the offer to help."
"No problem. Glad everything's okay." His hand came up in salute. "Enjoy your vacation here in Cape Breton."
She let out the clutch carefully, so as not to spin gravel and dust in his direction.