New Release + A Sneak Peek
Passing Through is now LIVE! I'm thrilled to finally be sharing my sixteenth (!!!) novel with the world. Passing Through is a steamy sapphic small town romance about a soul-searching tourist and an uptight campground manager reluctantly falling in love.
The book has already hit the top ten in Amazon's lesbian romance chart! It means the world to me to know so many people are getting to meet the Three Rivers crew, who will all be back for more in the next two installments of this series of standalones following three sisters.
Grab your tent, grab a copy of the story here, and get ready for an adventure!
I've got lots coming your way this week to celebrate release week! Check out the schedule below and then keep scrolling for a look at the entire first chapter of Passing Through.
Chapter One: Emily
The toilet makes a gurgling sound. I freeze, the wrench going still in my hands as the pipes in front of me start to rattle.
The gurgling gets louder.
I give up on the pipes and rush over to the stall housing the broken toilet I’ve spent the past two hours trying to fix. The relief that washes over me when I see the bowl is finally refilling swells into panic when the water climbs higher and higher up the sides of the bowl with no sign of slowing down. If anything, the water is speeding up. A few more gurgles ripple the surface of the rising tide before the pipes let out a keening groan.
That’s the only warning I get before the whole toilet erupts like Old Faithful—with me standing right in the splash zone.
I shriek as cold—but mercifully clear—toilet water douses the front of my leggings and chambray button-up. A cascade of droplets splatters against the floor tiles. I lunge for the toilet’s handle and jam it down a few times, but water continues to gush over the edge of the bowl to form a rapidly expanding puddle on the washroom floor.
The swear words I’ve been muttering under my breath turn into a full-out bellow of “FUCK!” when the pipes give another rattle just before the toilet in the next stall over erupts too.
The chain reaction continues all the way down the line of stalls like some kind of fancy fountain show at a resort, only instead of being synchronized to classical music, the jets of water shooting out of the toilets are timed to my curses and screams.
I race back over to the pipes and start yanking on every bolt I can reach with the wrench, twisting and turning in the vain hope that I can do something to stop this entire block of the campground’s toilets from turning into a water-logged wasteland we absolutely do not have the money to fix.
We barely had the money to get one toilet fixed—hence me going the DIY route armed only with my dad’s tool bag and a few YouTube videos.
I’m still flailing the wrench around and screeching in despair when my sister Trish comes careening into the room with her eyes wide and a jagged rock brandished above her head like she’s prepared to fight off an attacker.
“What the hell?” she demands, still holding the rock up with one hand as she scans the washroom. Her eyes get even wider as she takes in the chaos.
“They won’t shut off!” I wail. “I don’t know what to do.”
Her head whips back and forth between me and the row of stalls before she takes a few tottering steps back towards the door.
“I’ll get Dad.”
I shake my head and shift the wrench back over to a bolt I’ve already tightened. With the washroom just minutes away from turning into a lake, I don’t have many options besides trying the same bolts all over again.
“He’s out in the boat,” I tell Trish while I crank the wrench. “He’s been out there all damn day. Again. Goddammit.”
My wrist twinges in protest of my particularly vicious crank, and I hiss at the pain.
“We’ve got to shut the water supply off,” Trish says.
“That would be great if I actually knew where the thing to do that is.”
I know pretty much everything there is to know about running this campground. I can file taxes, balance a budget, and troubleshoot the online booking system. I can also split firewood, jump start a truck, and use a chainsaw.
I might as well be known as a renaissance woman of the woods, but one of the very few things I cannot do is plumbing.
Dad was always the one who handled that—back when he actually handled things.
My groan of frustration is tinged with guilt. It hasn’t even been two years. I should be more patient. I know grief works differently for everyone, but in moments like this, I can’t help wondering when the grief is going to clear enough for him to see he still has three daughters who need him.
“I think it’s coming out of here.”
I blink and realize Trish has come to stand beside me in front of the white cinderblock wall lined with exposed pipes that have all been painted white too. She squats down in front of a valve and tries to twist it, but the thing doesn’t budge.
I have no idea how or why she thinks that valve is the problem, and I don’t get a chance to ask her before she hoists up her anti-assailant rock and starts smashing it against the side of the valve.
“Trish!” I scream. “What the hell? Stop it! You’re going to break something and make it worse!”
“We. Need. To. Shut. It. Off.”
She emphasizes each word with a strike of the rock. The clanging sound rings out over the splashing and gurgling still filling the room as the pooling toilet water creeps further and further towards the edges of the floor.
I hover over her and try to grab her arm. She swats me away with her free hand and keeps bludgeoning the valve. After a couple more strikes, the valve creaks and shifts a fraction of an inch.
“AHA!” Trish crows.
I shout for her to stop again and make another lunge for her arm. Just when I’ve finally got her incapacitated, the pipes make a weird sucking sound before they go totally silent.
“Oh my god,” I say, my fingers still wrapped tight around her wrist. “Did that work?”
We stay frozen in place, blinking at each other as we strain our ears to catch any hint of an incoming toilet explosion.
Nothing happens. I can still hear the drip-drop of the remaining overflow trickling over the edges of the toilets, but the relentless gushing has stopped.
Trish pries my hand off her before straightening up and making a show out of tossing her hair over her shoulder.
“I think a ‘thank you’ is in order.”
I walk over to pace the length of the stalls and ensure the water really has shut off. The metal sides of the stalls are all coated in droplets and the floor looks more like a pond, but there’s nothing else pumping through the pipes.
“Thank you for not smashing the pipes up like a maniac,” I say as I do one more round of pacing to double-check. “Oh wait, that’s exactly what you did.”
She lets out a humph. “That’s no way to be grateful to your savior.”
I’d never give my second-youngest sister the satisfaction of calling her a savior; she’d probably end up recording my voice and then blasting the sound through a megaphone while parading around the whole campground. Still, I give up on my pacing and lean against one of the sinks before I thank her for real.
“I don’t know how the hell you figured that out,” I say, “but thanks. I probably would have flooded the entire washroom block if you hadn’t shown up.”
She shrugs. “Probably.”
I turn to face the mirror over the sink. The harsh fluorescent lighting makes me look even more sleep-deprived than I already am. My haphazard bun can’t hide how greasy the roots of my hair are, and my face somehow looks both puffy and gaunt at the same time.
I lean forward to squint at the space between my eyebrows and then work my features through a few different expressions as I observe the shifts in my skin.
“Ugh,” I say after leaning back. “That’s definitely a wrinkle.”
Trish scoffs. “Right. Yeah. You’re an ancient hag at the age of twenty-eight.”
“Just because you’ve got that whole smooth as a baby’s bottom thing going on doesn’t mean the rest of us aren’t suffering,” I tell her.
She makes a face as she comes over to stand beside me, leaving her trusty rock on the floor.
“Ew. Don’t compare my face to a baby’s butt, you weirdo. Also, you spend like seven thousand dollars a year on all those hippie skincare products. Your face probably has the same genetic makeup as, like, tree sap by now. I think you’re fine.”
That gets me to crack a smile. “I do not spend seven thousand dollars on skincare.”
Trish gives me some side-eye.
“It’s more like…two thousand,” I admit.
I could blame it on wanting to support all the small businesses I get most of my products from, but really, I am kind of a skincare fanatic.
“So…” Trish says as she crosses her arms over her chest and looks over the absolute disaster that is the toilet stalls. “I guess we should clean this up?”
I sigh and tug out my hair elastic so I can redo my bun, but I end up leaving the strands down so I can rub my fingers along my scalp in an attempt to ward off an oncoming headache.
“I guess that’s all we can do. I just hope hearing about this is enough to get Dad out here to work on it tomorrow. I don’t want to call in a plumber unless I’ve got absolutely no other choice. They always rip us off like crazy and charge a fortune to come all the way out here.”
I sigh again as I start doing the financial calculations in my head. We pushed off a lot of repairs last year to recoup from having to shut the whole campground down in the middle of high season the year before that. I’m already paying more than I’d like to have a company come in to do some updates to our septic system, and it’s too late to push that off another year. Even a few hundred bucks spent on a plumbing emergency would hit us hard.
“I guess I could call that old contractor guy over in Port Alberni,” I say, my eyes unfocused as I stare down at the floor with numbers whirring around in my vision. “He’s not really a plumber, but he installed all those pumps with Dad a few years ago, and he’d probably give us a better deal than someone we don’t know. Oh, or maybe Scooter knows somebody. They must have to get stuff fixed at the bar. Then again, they might just be getting ripped off as bad as us. Maybe I could call—”
I only realize I’ve been speaking so fast I’m out of breath when Trish steps in front of me to grip both my shoulders. I pull in a deep gasp of air as she gives me a squeeze.
“There we go,” she says. “Breathe.”
She spins me around so she can start rubbing my back. I’m about to tell her I’m fine, but the pressure of her hands on my stress-tightened muscles cuts off all my protests.
Trish gives some of the best back rubs in the world. I think she gets her skills from spending pretty much every morning of her life kneading countless batches of dough in her bakery.
“Dad is going to come back soon, and once he realizes how much we need him, he’s going to get the plumbing sorted out,” she says in a firm but reassuring tone. “We’re not going to have to spend a bunch of money on it. Everything is going to be fine.”
My shoulders slump forward, and I groan as she works out a particularly vicious knot just under my neck.
“I hope so,” I say. “There’s just so much to do. We have a month until the start of the season, and the septic system guys are nowhere near done. They didn’t even show up at all today. Plus, I’ve got that whole thing with the garbage collection to sort out, and—”
The warning note in her tone is paired with a sharp dig of her thumbs.
“Okay, okay,” I say so she’ll continue with the massage. “I’ll stop.”
“It’s always a crazy time of year, and we always get it all done. Clover will be here soon, and we’ll get all our usual student workers for the summer too. It’s all going to come together.”
Our youngest sister, Clover, is doing her bachelor’s degree down at the University of Victoria, but she comes home to work at the campground every summer. Even at twenty-one, she’s way better at wrangling the college students we take on for seasonal positions than I am. She doesn’t arrive for another few weeks, though, and most of the students don’t get here until late April.
I have about half a million things to figure out before then. This season has to be our most profitable yet if we’re going to recover from the shutdown two years ago.
I don’t mention that part to Trish. She already knows we’ve only been scraping by, and after the day I’ve had, the last thing I want to do is get into a conversation that reminds us both we’re just a couple months away from the two year anniversary of losing our mom.
“I just wish I had some kind of full-time, all-purpose handyman,” I say instead, “like a jack of all trades who could reliably take on all the little things Dad usually does. I wonder if there’s anyone local who could do that for a few weeks, just until we open. Maybe Scooter knows if—”
Trish gives me a whack to the back and then whirls me around to face her.
“I bet you haven’t even eaten dinner. You’ve been running around this place all day. You’re not gonna solve all our problems tonight, so just relax, okay?”
She stares me down with her warm brown eyes narrowed in challenge.
She has Dad’s brown eyes and brown hair. So does Clover. I’m the only one who’s blonde like Mom.
“Ha,” I bark. “Relaxing. You’re funny.”
She plants her hands on her hips. “I’m serious. It’s Friday night, and we’ve both been working like crazy all week. Let’s have some fun. We’ll get this mess mopped up, and I’ll heat up some of that big batch of stew I made, and after we eat, we can drive up to the bar. I bet Scooter will give us free shots if we look sad enough.”
She wags her eyebrows like she’s just presented me with an offer I can’t refuse, but I scoff and shake my head.
“Yes to the stew. No to the bar. Look at me, Trish. I am not fit to be in public this evening.”
She waves my excuse off as we both head to the door so we can hunt around for mops in the cleaning supply room.
“The bar doesn’t count as public. It’s just going to be local old dudes there at this time of year. They’ll call us dolls no matter what we look like. They’ll probably even buy us beers. It’ll be great.”
I shake my head. “Yeah, no thanks. I think I’ll stay in and enjoy my seven thousand dollars’ worth of skincare products instead.”
* * *
Trish has a way of getting what she wants. After guilt-tripping me about slaving over the stew we ate for dinner as well as her ‘heroic efforts’ with the toilet pipes, she convinced me to take a shower and reconsider her proposal about going to the bar.
I reminded her that she got paid to make that stew for the bakery, cafe, and pre-made meal shop she runs year-round at the campground, but I still got in the shower.
I finish wrapping my hair in a towel and then slip into my well-loved terrycloth robe before dabbing on some moisturizer and eye cream. My bathroom is on the smaller side, but I’ve maximized the storage space as much as I can to fit my extensive collection of bottles, jars, and canisters.
The huge picture window that is the bathroom’s crowning jewel gives me a view of the last traces of soft evening light filtering through the thick fir tree forest that spans the property of Three Rivers Campground. I’ve always thought the window would be the perfect backdrop for a decadent soaker tub, but despite moving into the tiny A-frame next to the main house way back when I moved home after college, I still haven’t gotten around to that particular renovation.
Once my face is hydrated and I’ve given myself a couple seconds to glare at the faint wrinkle I spotted earlier, I head out to the main room and find Trish sprawled on her stomach on my couch with one of my thick coffee table books about interior design propped in front of her face.
“There’s some weird stuff in here,” she says without looking up from the page. “I’m really glad you didn’t come back from Vancouver and try to turn the whole campground into some ultra-modern alien house thing.”
I chuckle at the admittedly apt description of the book she’s looking at and then head up the stairs to my lofted bedroom.
After high school, I did an interior design program in Vancouver and then worked in the city for a bit before making the move back out to the island. I still take design clients during the off-season, and my skills were put to good use turning what was once an outdated guest house into my little dream home here in the A-frame.
The wood panels of the walls are blended with the soothing beige and moss green tones of my bedroom decor. I wanted the whole A-frame to feel like the perfect midpoint between the cozy country charm I grew up with and the clean contemporary look I fell in love with at design school.
I toss my robe onto the bed and pull on a pair of underwear and my comfiest bra before I start hunting around for some loungewear. I may have said I’d consider going out, but after the soothing warmth of the shower, there’s no way I’m leaving my nest tonight.
Trish comes stomping up the stairs before I have a chance to make my clothing selection.
“Knock much?” I ask as she heads over to my bed and flops onto her back.
“Your loft doesn’t have a door,” she shoots back. “Plus, I had to make sure you didn’t sneak into pajamas. We are going to the bar tonight, whether you like it or not.”
I glance between her and the fluffy pajama bottoms I was halfway to pulling out of my dresser drawer.
“But I’m all cozy,” I whine.
She shakes her head. “No excuses. It’s Friday, woman. The least you can do is have a beer with your poor sister so she doesn’t have to face the sadness of being a twenty-six year-old woman alone at a bar.”
She springs to her feet and heads for my closet. I watch her spend a few seconds flipping through the hangers before she pulls a light grey sweater out and tosses it at my head.
“Wear that,” she orders, “and some jeans, and then we’re good to go.”
She sits back down on the edge of my bed with her arms crossed, and the look in her eye tells me I won’t get any peace tonight unless I submit to her will.
“Fine, but I’m only getting one drink.”
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