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In the book A Hope’s Ridge Secret, we met Kristen Winters. Kristen helped to make the Secret a reality. However, she’s never been to Hope’s Ridge…until now. What happens in her life that has her change her mind and consider visiting the lakeside town? Enjoy this bonus scene from book five in the series, The Lake House at Hope’s Ridge.

Bonus Scene #8

Kristen Winters stared at the cursor blinking on her computer screen, her fingers resting on the keyboard. She’d been sure that once Christmas had passed and the new year began that her writer’s block would have left her, but it hadn’t. She glanced at the calendar hanging next to her over-stuffed bookcase and groaned. Her deadline for submission was in two months. Two months. There was no way she’d be able to make it.

She walked out of the studio and into the large garden that separated her working world from her beautiful home. It was hard to believe she’d done well enough as K. D. Winters to be able to afford everything that she had.

Her gorgeous Maine coon, Dexter, came bounding across the lawn as soon as he saw her. He threw himself at her legs, almost causing her to stumble. She laughed and crouched down to stroke him. She’d inherited Dexter from her next-door neighbor when she’d first moved in seven years ago. He’d practically given her a heart attack when he’d first appeared at her window late one night. His enormous black face filled the window, and with the hair under his chin being gray and quite long, she’d assumed he was some kind of wolf. She’d taken a photo of him and shared it on Facebook, asking her friends if anyone could identify this creature. She’d had all sorts of answers, majestic werewolf being the most accurate, she’d thought, but Maine coon being the more likely and, as it turned out the correct identification. The next morning she’d knocked on each neighbor's door to find out if the cat belonged to any of them, only to discover the neighbor on her left was an older man about to leave his home and go into assisted living. She’d immediately agreed to keep the cat when she’d heard the man’s story and seen his distress at having to leave his companion, and she’d never regretted it. He was the most affectionate animal she’d ever known, even if his size and name suggested he might not be.

She continued stroking him, grateful for his calming purr.

“I don’t know what to do, Dex,” she said. “I’ve got two months to send this manuscript to the publisher, and I’ve got nothing good. Nothing bad either, actually, but that’s because I’ve got nothing at all.”

Writer’s block. Not an issue she’d ever experienced before. She’d googled every possible suggestion for overcoming it, but nothing so far had helped. The only writing she was doing was answering questions for her friend, Lucinda, who was having trouble with her own manuscript and was messaging Kristen almost daily, asking for help. It gave her something to do, at least. She’d noticed another email from Lu this morning but hadn’t had a chance to reply as yet. She’d get herself a coffee and then come back and do that. Writing sample paragraphs for Lu’s story might get the word juices flowing for her own. She’d told herself that every day for weeks now, but so far, it hadn’t worked.

Ten minutes later, with a coffee in hand and Dex lying on her desk beside her, she opened Lu’s email.

Sorry to keep asking for help, but your example paragraphs are helping me so much. I have another bit I’m stuck on and am wondering what you’d do in this situation. The message outlined a scenario not unlike the one Kristen had written into her synopsis for her current book. It’s a turning point in the story, Lucinda’s message said, and I want to make sure the tension is ramped right up.

Easy, thought Kristen, and she spent the next hour writing a sample scene of what she would suggest in this situation. She sent it back to Lucinda and reopened her own manuscript file. Chapter One stared back at her, taunting her.

She shook her head. She’d just written nine hundred words for Lucinda and couldn’t manage one for herself. Her phone rang, offering a welcome distraction. She picked it up off the desk, stroking Dex’s head as she did. Lucinda’s details were flashing on the screen.

“Hey, hon,” Kristen said. “How are you?”

“Fabulous,” Lucinda said. “Because of you and your brilliant manuscript critiquing or direction or whatever you want to call it. That scene you sent through was perfect.”

“I just need to be able to do that for my own story,” Kristen said with a sigh. “Still stuck.”

“I think I know how to unstick you,” Lucinda said. “Can you meet me at the Cliff House at one? I want to take you out to lunch to thank you and hopefully unstick you.”

Kristen hesitated. She really should be writing three to four thousand words today and not going out for lunch. But the reality was that she would get no words written on her own manuscript, so she might as well give up and go. If Lu really had something to help fix her, then she was all ears.

“Kris? Come on, say you’ll come. I’m pretty sure I have the cure to your problem.”

Kristen smiled as she ended the call, promising to meet Lucinda at their favorite restaurant overlooking the ocean at one.

It was a little before one when she pulled her deep-blue Tesla Model X into a parking space across from San Francisco’s famous Cliff House restaurant. She climbed out of the car and instantly relaxed as the smell of salt and sea permeated her nostrils. She hadn’t been to the beach in months which was crazy, considering she used to have a house right on the beachfront and walked daily along the sand. She’d loved that lifestyle, but part of that was Rob. She’d loved Rob, and he was tied up in that memory. A memory she had to shake off as she crossed the parking lot to the entrance of the grand building. She’d heard a rumor that the Cliff House might be closing, which she could only hope wasn’t true.

Lucinda was waiting for her in the foyer area and immediately flung her arms around Kristen. “It’s so good to see you. Let’s grab a seat and order a drink. I think we need to celebrate.”

“Celebrate?” Kristen gave a wry laugh. “There’s not a lot to celebrate in my world right now.”

“There will be,” Lucinda said. “You wait and see.”

Five minutes later, they were seated across from each other with a spectacular view of the waves crashing against the huge rocky cliffs that sat beneath the Cliff House. There were lots of people dotting the beach, and Kristen was about to suggest they took a walk after lunch when the server placed two mojitos in front of them.

“I’m not sure a mojito on a Tuesday afternoon is really going to get my words flowing,” Kristen said, “but it’s certainly a nicer option than staring at my screen for another few hours.”

Lucinda laughed and raised her glass. “To you, the brilliant writer, and all the help you’ve given me the past few weeks.”

Kristen smiled and clinked glasses with her friend. “It’s been a relief, to be honest. The words aren’t flowing for my manuscript, but at least I can give you some direction in yours.”

A smug smile formed on Lucinda’s lips.

“What?”

Lucinda didn’t answer but slipped a document out of her bag. “Have a look at this. It’s an outline of the story I’ve been working on with some bits filled in. There’s still lots to do, but it’s given me something to work with. I’d be interested in your thoughts on the structure and what I’ve got so far. No need to read it all now, of course, but just have a quick look.” Lucinda leaned back in her chair, the smug smile still playing on her lips.

Kristen was surprised at her friend’s self-satisfied demeanor as she handed over the document. Most writers she knew, including herself, were hesitant to share their work, particularly first drafts, in case the feedback matched their worst fear—that the story was rubbish. She took the document and quickly glanced over each page. She flicked through a second time, wondering if this was some kind of joke. She passed it back to Lucinda when she’d finished.

“Well, what do you think? It’s brilliant, isn’t it?”

Kristen stared at her friend. She hated conflict of any kind, but she couldn’t let this slide. “Lu, are you sure that’s everything? That this is the right file?”

Lucinda nodded. “It is. I think the opening scene still needs some work and hoped we could discuss the impact of the inciting incident and whether the tension can be ramped up a little at that point.”

Kristen picked up her drink and took a long sip. This wasn’t a joke? Her friend had just handed her pages containing a mismatch of scenes that appeared at various places in the story. All scenes that she, Kristen, had written. Each day when Lucinda had asked for writing advice and an example of setting or dialogue, she’d used it as a warm-up exercise for her own writing. Only, her own writing hadn’t gone anywhere, and neither had Lucinda’s, as it turned out.

“You look kind of surprised,” Lucinda said. “Didn’t you like it?”

Kristen couldn’t help but laugh, a strangled kind of yelp. “Lu, this isn’t your work. These are just the sample scenes I wrote for you to give you inspiration. Did you write anything at all in this manuscript?”

Lucinda grinned. “Nope. It’s all your work.”

Kristen stared at her. “Okay. I’m glad you’re not trying to pass it off as yours, but I don’t get it. What are you doing? Do you have something you’re actually writing?”

Lucinda nodded and pulled another file from her bag, and handed it to Kristen. “I’d love for you to read it when you get a chance. I finished it last night, which is part of the reason for our celebration.”

Kristen flicked through the manuscript. “This is paranormal romance, not a domestic thriller. Has it got any of that…” she pointed to the other pages, the ones she’d written, “in it?”

Lucinda shook her head. “Of course not. This is my work.” She held up the other document. “This is yours. Kris, you’ve written outlines and scenes for the key turning points in your book. You said how much you were struggling, so I thought I’d help you in a roundabout kind of way. It’s actually really good. Even though it’s not complete and only snippets, I’ve already fallen in love with Brit. I’ll be heartbroken if you kill her off. I worked from your synopsis—the one you showed me before you sent it to your publisher—to put this together. I hope it helps show you you’re not blocked. You’re a New York Times bestselling author multiple times over. This book will be no different.”

Kristen’s mouth dropped open, and she picked up the pages again and looked through them. Lucinda was right. With some fleshing out and a few more secondary storylines, she had a solid outline ready to write. Ironically, even though she’d thought she was writing about Lucinda’s characters, she’d found herself thinking about them nonstop and wanting to make suggestions for their stories, but she was conscious of not overstepping the mark with Lu’s book. She shook her head, a smile forming on her lips. “You’re very devious. You know that?”

Lucinda smiled. “And you’re a brilliant writer and should remember that. Your block’s about Rob. You realize that, don’t you? You’re living in that house you bought with him. Half of the stuff in it reminds you of him. No wonder you can’t immerse yourself in a story. You’re immersed in your heartbreak for a guy who was never worthy of you. You should move. Start fresh.”

“Move? But I love San Francisco. I’ve lived here forever.”

“So, take a break and come back when you’re completely clear of him. Travel, rent a house in New York or somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Do something you’ve always wanted to do. You can work from anywhere as far as your publisher’s concerned, and being somewhere other than here will be a lot more productive.”

“But if I moved away, I’d miss you and my other friends.”

“I’m not saying go forever or that you can’t come back for a visit, or we visit you. I’m just saying you need to rip the Rob bandage off and make a fresh start. What about that house your uncle left you? That one on the lake. The one you’ve never even visited because you’re sure it’s a dump.”

“The lake house in Hope’s Ridge?” Kristen’s thoughts immediately went to the Christmas Secret she’d helped to make happen the previous month. She’d had a message from the organizer, who she still knew as Anon, immediately after Christmas telling her what a wonderful day it had been, capped off with the firework display she’d gifted to the event. “It’s not a dump. I told you about the Christmas celebration they had, didn’t I?”

Lucinda nodded. “You should have gone. A friend of mine spent the summer there last year. Said it’s beautiful. A lovely town, lots of outdoor activities, and some pretty hot guys. Anyway, why don’t you go and check it out at least.” She held up the partially written manuscript. “How about this for a challenge. Take this manuscript to the Lake House and finish it. You can return as soon as it’s done but not before. That way, if you hate the place, you’ll have an incentive to get it done quickly, and if you like being there, it will provide the change of scenery I really think you need.”

Kristen sipped her drink as the waiter placed their meals down on the table. The seafood risotto had her mouth watering, and a flutter of excitement flitted through her. Lucinda was right. She was in a slump and had been for the last twelve months, ever since Rob announced he needed space and was going traveling. He’d made his announcement late one night, packed a bag, and left the next day. She’d had one email from him two weeks after he left saying he had no idea when he’d be back, and he’d appreciate her looking after his possessions until he came back to collect them, but if that was an issue to call his father and he’d collect them and move them into storage. Kristen had responded that it was fine to leave them with her, and she’d wait to hear from him.

Every day since then, the first thing she’d done each morning was check her email to see if he’d contacted her. Every morning the same feeling of disappointment and despair washed over her. Lucinda, her mother, and her therapist had all advised her to contact Rob’s father and have his belongings moved. “Kristen,” Gina, her therapist, had said, “how can you move on when you’re wallowing among your ex's belongings? His energy is in your space every day. You need to get to a point where you can move on.”

But she hadn’t. She wasn’t even sure if he was her ex. He said he needed some space but hadn’t actually said their relationship was over.

“Well?” Lucinda said. “What are you going to do?”

Kristen picked up her fork, smiling at her friend as she did. “First, I’m going to thank you for showing me that I can still write, and second, I’m going to seriously think about going to the Lake House. Maybe only for a few weeks, but I’ll go.” She frowned suddenly, replacing her fork on the table. “What about Dex? I’d be lost without him. I couldn’t leave him for more than a few days.”

“Then don’t,” Lucinda said. “Take him with you. Assume it’s going to be a great success, and he’ll enjoy a change of scenery too.”

“It’s a long way to Hope’s Ridge from here. I’m not sure Dex will enjoy a road trip of that length.”

“He’ll be fine,” Lucinda said. “And so will you.” She lifted her glass in another toast. “To you, my beautiful friend and brilliant author, and to a big adventure and moving on.”