Excerpt: Herons Landing

Book 1 : Honeymoon Harbor

Seth Harper was spending a Sunday spring afternoon detailing his wife’s Rallye Red Honda Civic when he learned that she’d been killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.

Despite the Pacific Northwest’s reputation for unrelenting rain, the sun was shining so brightly that the army notification officers—a man and a woman in dark blue uniforms and black shoes spit-shined to a mirror gloss—had been wearing shades. Or maybe, Seth considered, as they’d approached the driveway in what appeared to be slow motion, they would’ve worn them anyway. Like armor, providing emotional distance from the poor bastard whose life they were about to blow to smithereens.

At the one survivor grief meeting he’d later attended (only to get his fretting mother off his back), he’d heard stories from other spouses who’d experienced a sudden, painful jolt of loss before their official notice. Seth hadn’t received any advance warning. Which was why, at first, the officers’ words had been an incomprehensible buzz in his ears. Like distant radio static.

Zoe couldn’t be dead. His wife wasn’t a combat soldier. She was an army surgical nurse, working in a heavily protected military base hospital, who’d be returning to civilian life in two weeks. Seth still had a bunch of stuff on his homecoming punch list to do. After buffing the wax off the Civic’s hood and shining up the chrome wheels, his next project was to paint the walls white in the nursery he’d added on to their Folk Victorian cottage for the baby they’d be making.

She’d begun talking a lot about baby stuff early in her deployment. Although Seth was as clueless as the average guy about a woman’s mind, it didn’t take Dr. Phil to realize that she was using the plan to start a family as a touchstone. Something to hang on to during their separation.

In hours of Skype calls between Honeymoon Harbor and Kabul, they’d discussed the pros and cons of the various names on a list that had grown longer each time they’d talked. While the names remained up in the air, she had decided that whatever their baby’s gender, the nursery should be a bright white to counter the Olympic Peninsula’s gray skies.

She’d also sent him links that he’d dutifully followed to Pinterest pages showing bright crib bedding, mobiles, and wooden name letters in primary crayon shades of blue, green, yellow and red. Even as Seth had lobbied for Seattle Seahawk navy and action green, he’d known that he’d end up giving his wife whatever she wanted. The same as he’d been doing since the day he fell head over heels in love with her back in middle school.

Meanwhile, planning to get started on that baby making as soon as she got back to Honeymoon Harbor, he’d built the nursery as a welcome home surprise.

Then Zoe had arrived at Sea-Tac airport in a flag-draped casket.

And two years after the worst day of his life, the room remained unpainted behind a closed door Seth never opened since.