Aug 14 2017 8:30am

Robyn Carr Excerpt: The Summer That Made Us

Robyn Carr

The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr

That was then…

For the Hempsteads, two sisters who married two brothers and had three daughters each, summers were idyllic. The women would escape the city the moment school was out to gather at the family house on Lake Waseka. The lake was a magical place, a haven where they were happy and carefree. All of their problems drifted away as the days passed in sun-dappled contentment. Until the summer that changed everything.

This is now…

After an accidental drowning turned the lake house into a site of tragedy and grief, it was closed up. For good. Torn apart, none of the Hempstead women speak of what happened that summer, and relationships between them are uneasy at best to hurtful at worst. But in the face of new challenges, one woman is determined to draw her family together again, and the only way that can happen is to return to the lake and face the truth.

Get a sneak peek at Robyn Carr's The Summer That Made Us (available September 5, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

Krista was not surprised to see her boss, Jake McAllister, waiting near the lot with the swing. He walked her most of the way around the lake every day. Sometimes he held her hand for a few seconds. He smiled when he saw her coming. She smiled back, knowing it was a little crooked.

He reached for her hand. “Want to talk about it?”

She laughed a little. “You really don’t have time.”

“Long story?”

“About three generations. Listen, why do you hold my hand? Are you coming on to me or something?”

“I know you’ve been locked up for twenty-five years but you said you had television. Don’t you get it? I like you. I like your determination. Your boldness.”

“Boldness,” she said with a laugh. “I’m hard, that’s what I am. Didn’t your mama tell you not to get mixed up with hoods?”

“You’re no hood,” he said. “Are you having some kind of PTSD about jail or something? Anything wrong with work?”

“The work is great,” she said. “My family is a wreck, that’s all. And I’m sure I’m part of the problem. A large part of the problem. Can you imagine what it must be like to have your sister or your auntie be an ex con? And you know me—I don’t soft peddle it. They get squeamish and I have to shove it right in their faces.”

“Really on a roll, aren’t you,” he said with a laugh. “What happened?”

“You really want to hear this? My sister came with her daughters and was acting so crazy that her girls borrowed her car in the middle of the night, got in an accident and everyone’s in the hospital. They’re okay but it turns out Hope isn’t just an uppity bitch—they put her in the psych ward because she’s delusional. Maybe bipolar or something. And man, I was so hard on her. She’s crazy and in need of help and what did I do? I came down on her.”

“But they’re okay now?” he asked.

“They’re going to be fine. Except Hope. Hope’s going to need help and who knows if she can get better.”

“I’m sorry, Krista. You must have so many adjustments to make. And families, by their very nature, get messy regularly. I can relate. My own family has had similar ups and downs. We had some messes to clean up…”

“What kind of—Oh, I’m sorry. That’s none of my business…”

“I brought it up, you didn’t. No one went to jail or anything, but not for lack of trying. I got into trouble when I was a kid—I didn’t want to be a poor farm kid. I wanted to be a rich, city kid, one whose way was paved with money. So I tried to hang with the rich guys, tried pretending to be one, then took it out on my family when dishonesty didn’t work out for me. I drank too much, drove too fast, partied with the best of them and once I finally made my way to college, I got tossed out for not only failing but getting into trouble.”

“What kind of trouble—I’d love to know.”

He took her hand and they walked a bit. “Well, let’s see—on a drunken dare, I streaked through a Gopher’s football game. A couple of friends of mine and I put a skunk in the dean’s office. And there were multiple instances of disorderly conduct. It just took me a longer than average length of time to figure out the world didn’t owe me anything. Meanwhile, my parents were furious and confused, my sister was ashamed of me—she didn’t invite me to her wedding. I married the first girl who would have me, had a couple of kids I couldn’t support, stumbled from job to job and messed up every one until my wife did the smart thing and divorced me. That’s the condensed version.”

She stopped walking for a minute and looked up at him. She was fascinated. He was such a stellar boss, such a supportive and understanding man, it was hard to picture him that stupid. That irresponsible. She smiled at him. “Kid’s stuff,” she said.

He laughed.

“What turned you around?”

“Well, busted, a broke failure in all the ways I thought I knew better, I just went home to the farm. And of course I didn’t make that easy on anyone. There was an adolescent piece of me that tried to make it all their fault, but they’re old school country people and didn’t take the bait. Instead they put me to work. Little by little, year by year, I guess I built myself up morally, got an education. My wife remarried and took the kids out of state and I wanted to be close to them so I got the only job I could find in Arizona—at a resort. And that began the resort trade for me. Many disappointments and failures led to me finally landing on my feet, after being bounced on my head many times.”

“How old are you, Jake?”

“Me? Forty-six.”

“Where will you go from here? Another resort?”

“I might have one or two more in me,” he said. “But I kind of like it here. I bought a lot on this lake. Someday I’ll put a house on it. This is where I’m from—I grew up around here. My mom and dad are gone now but my sister and brother are here and my kids are pretty much raised.”

“What happened to the farm?”

“My sister’s husband farms. Sometimes I help, like around planting and the harvest, but they bought us out. I always thought it was a poor farm, that we were poor. We weren’t poor but my folks didn’t indulge—you never know when a bad year is going to just about wipe you out so you don’t go buying your kids fancy things when you need a new combine.”

“What’s that?”

He laughed and dropped an arm around her shoulders. “A harvester. Would you like to see the farm some time?”

“I would,” she said somewhat excitedly. “But… Well, I don’t have a lot of extra time. There’s my cousins at the house, my mom coming on days off or sometimes I go to St. Paul on my day off. And…you know… But I’d like to.”

“One afternoon when your house is kind of stable and your cousins can part with your company, after you get off work, we’ll drive over. I’ll introduce you to the combine.” He gave her shoulders a squeeze. “Feeling any better about your family issues?”

“I am, now that you mention it. But I’m not sure why.”

“You talked about it, for one thing. You’re not alone, you know. I’m really glad you decided to give Lake Waseka a chance.”

“Listen, have you dated a lot since your divorce? I mean, are you collecting women or something? Because I’m pretty awkward when it comes to this boy-girl stuff and I don’t want to be stupid.”

“Nothing will make you stupid, Krista, but that’s a fair question. I’ve been single fifteen years and I’ve had a few girlfriends. I was with one for a couple of years and I guess everyone thought we’d end up married but we didn’t. I was transferred and we talked about her coming with me, but it ended up we spent too much time thinking about it. I guess it wasn’t quite right or it would’ve worked out. Right?”

“Did she work for you?” Krista asked.

“She’s a high school teacher. Listen, there’s no policy forbidding employees from dating each other. But there is a stern policy against sexual harassment so if you ever get the feeling your job is at stake because I like you, all you have to do is say something. I understand. It has to be mutual, right? I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”

“Oh, now that’s a first for me,” she said.


“You don’t watch prison movies for fun, do you?”

He seemed unable to help himself. He laughed at her. “No.”

“Not even Orange Is The New Black?”

“What’s that?”

She put her hands on her hips. “What do you watch on TV?”

“Um…news. Golf tournaments. I don’t watch a lot of TV. Do I make you nervous?”

“No,” she said. “I’ve just never had anyone like me before.”

Copyright © 2017 by Robyn Carr.
Learn more about or order a copy of The Summer That Made Us by KJ Charles, available September 5, 2017:

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Robyn Carr is a RITA® Award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than forty novels, including the critically acclaimed Virgin River series. Robyn and her husband live in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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