Aaron Paul Lazar

award-winning, addictive fiction

          "If Mark Twain and Mary Higgins Clark got married, their author-child would be Aaron Paul Lazar.” 
Joan Hall Hovey, best-selling author

The Seacrest



The Seacrest - A Love Story (for adults only)


2015 Semi-finalist in Kindle Book Review Awards

2014 Best Beach Book Festival WINNER, Romance category

2013 ForeWord Book Awards, Romance, FINALIST 

  

About The Seacrest: "The abiding power of a first love resonates throughout this compelling story of loss and redemption.” Warren Adler, author of War of the Roses


They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. 

Finn McGraw disagrees.


He was just seventeen when he had a torrid summer affair with the girl who stole his heart—and then inexplicably turned on him, just before being sent to boarding school. Finn may have moved on with his life, but he’s never forgotten her.


Now, ten years later, he’s got more than his lost love to worry about. A horrific accident turns his life upside down, resurrecting the ghosts of his long-dead family at the same time it takes the lives of the few people he has left.


Finn always believed his estranged brother was responsible for the fire that killed their family—but an unexpected inheritance with a mystery attached throws everything he knows into doubt.


And on top of that, the beguiling daughter of his wealthy employer has secrets of her own. But the closer he gets, the harder she pushes him away.

The Seacrest is a story of intrigue and betrayal, of secrets and second chances—and above all, of a love that never dies.


What They're Saying: 


"The Seacrest is a poignant love story that will have you reaching for the tissues. Every woman needs a Finn McGraw!" - Victoria Howard, bestselling romantic suspense author of RING OF LIES.


"At a time when many authors seem to crank out fiction by the numbers, Aaron Paul Lazar invests his whole heart in every book he writes. His stories shine with sensitivity, compassion, and the richness of deeply personal experience." - Michael Prescott, bestselling thriller author of GRAVE OF ANGELS  


"Aaron Paul Lazar takes his reader on a ride that moves between wildly intense and slowly sensuous. It is a gripping love story that transports readers to a land of sea and lovers and life." -Maria B., reviewer


"Beautifully drawn, The Seacrest explores twin mysteries of past and present tragedies that combine into a fascinating tale in which a young couple overcomes life's misunderstandings, while reaching for the truth."  - Sheila Deeth, author of Divide by Zero


"This book is about love - first love, young love, unrequited love, lost love, and rediscovered love. Simply put, it's a good old-fashioned love story with an ending that will make your heart swell with joy."  - Cindy Guest Taylor, acclaimed book reviewer

PART I

Love and Loss


Chapter 1

July 2, 2013

 

Life can change in the blink of an eye. This blink came when a cop car cruised up The Seacrest’s white shell driveway on a hot Saturday in July.


I’ll never forget the moment. You know how folks remember where they were when John Lennon died? Or when President Kennedy was assassinated? It was like that, every detail stamped into my brain, forever. 


A fresh breeze laden with the scent of the sea rustled blue flowers in a nearby hydrangea hedge. Hot and sweaty, I stood in the blazing sun feeling like a fool. I’d just finished weed wacking around the paddock fence posts. Unfortunately, said weed wacker had spooked Libby Vanderhorn’s favorite mare, Serendipity, who I secretly called Dippy, because she was such a loose cannon. She’d bucked and twisted like a bronco in a Wild West show, knocking down several fence boards and unseating Libby, the boss’s daughter.


Libby ran The Seacrest’s dressage school and was an experienced rider, but this time she’d been caught by surprise and landed in a sprawling heap on the soft dirt, swearing at me. 


At thirty-two years old, she stood tall and willowy, and quite lovely if you didn’t count the personality. When she came at me, she didn’t mince words. We were about the same age, but I worked for her family, and she never let me forget it. The sting of her accusations still sounded in my head. How stupid can you be, Finn? What’s wrong with you?


Libby’s father held great power on Cape Cod. Rudolph Vanderhorn sat on so many boards, I’d lost count. His father’s fish canning company made a fortune back in the eighties, and he and his daughter had enjoyed the spoils ever since. 


I stooped to pick up a hammer from my toolbox, planning to reattach the fence boards before any of the horses got hurt on the protruding nails. Curious now, I watched the Brewster Police car circle the long drive, heading toward the mansion. The local authorities stopped by every few days to discuss town matters with my boss. But today the blue light was flashing, which didn’t look like a casual visit. 


A shudder went through me, and I turned cold. Something bad had happened. I sensed it.


The front door opened, and Rudy watched them approach, one hand shading the sun from his eyes. Like a majestic lion, he stood broad-shouldered and strong, his longish white hair lifting in the sea breeze. 


Libby stopped hosing down her big white mare, who thankfully hadn’t hurt herself in the fit she’d thrown earlier. The horse snorted and rubbed her big head against her owner’s arm as if to scratch an itch. Long, dark hair blew around Libby’s face, and she stared with open curiosity at the cruiser, rhythmically combing her fingers through the mare’s curly mane.


Time froze. 


I stood still, gripping the hammer, studying the patrol car as it drove past the front porch with its impressive columns and portico. It didn’t stop for Rudy, but passed the six-car garage, followed the driveway to the barn, and rolled to a stop ten feet from me, lights still flashing.


Police Chief Kramer and Deputy Lowell stepped out and ambled toward me, their eyes somber.


I dropped the hammer; it thudded to the grass near my feet. 


“Finn?” Kramer said, approaching slowly. “I’m afraid we have bad news.”


There is nothing worse than hearing that bad news is about to be delivered. My brain went wild, imagining the worst scenarios. But somehow I didn’t quite picture what he was about to tell me.


“There’s been an accident,” Kramer said. 


Lowell, a high school football star in his day, kicked the dirt at the edge of the path. “Car went over the cliffs,” he said, avoiding my eyes. 


“For God’s sake, guys.” I looked from Kramer to Lowell. “Who was in the car?”


Kramer pulled out a piece of paper. “I regret to inform you that your wife, Cora Mae McGraw, and your brother, Jaxson Robert McGraw, have been killed in a vehicular accident.”


Deputy Lowell touched my sleeve, then awkwardly stepped back. “We’re real sorry, Finn.” 


“Car went into the ocean,” Kramer said. “We believe they were dead on impact.”


I stared at them, numbness creeping up my spine. “What the hell?”


“Er, look, if there’s anything we can do...” Lowell seemed remorseful, and he offered a hand when I lost my balance and grabbed for the fence.


Libby and her father appeared at my side in seconds, but in the dreamlike state of denial and shock, I caught only brief snatches of their words, as if the wind had grabbed them, teasing me with the bits and pieces.


“What happened?” 


“Bad accident.”


“She died?”


Who was with her?”


And so on. 


Libby guided me across the lawn and around back to the mansion’s cavernous kitchen. I leaned woodenly against the refrigerator while the family’s beloved cook, Fritzi, bustled her big, ample self about the kitchen making coffee and pushing fresh corn muffins at the officers. 


Someone helped me into a chair. I sat, dazed and unmoving. The voices warbled around me and now my brain began to pick through the new knowledge, still not comprehending.


Cora’s dead?


It wasn’t real. Couldn’t be real.


Jax is dead?


I hadn’t seen my brother in ten years. 


Ten years since I’d even talked to him. I sometimes almost drove past the blueberry farm, thinking of my old life. But I never actually stopped there.


Ten years since my parents died in that fire. Since I lost my little sister, Eva. Ten years since my family burned because of that cigarette smoldering in the couch.


Ten freaking years.


I didn’t even know what Jax looked like anymore. Had he lost hair? Gained weight? Turned prematurely gray like our father did in his thirties?


Ten years.


A shudder passed through me. A great gulping sound sputtered from my throat. I think I started to hyperventilate. 


I locked eyes with Libby, whose mouth was moving. I couldn’t hear her. 


Cora is dead.


Jax is dead.


Laying my head on my arms, I silently convulsed.


One thought wandered around the edges of my brain, refusing to go away, in spite of the enormity of what had happened.


What the hell was Jax doing with Cora?

 

Chapter 2

July 2, 1997

 

I’ll never forget the day I fell in love with her. 


There she stood, all tall and lanky, dark hair blowing in the breeze as if it loved caressing her face. 


She held a beach ball and faced the sea. 


She was sixteen.


That’s all it took. That one salty, sandy, sunshiny day—forever staked in my memory. 


Her father had claimed a spot on Paines Creek Beach, right next to ours. They laid out a red-and-white striped blanket and matching umbrella with beach chairs, a cooler filled with watermelon and soda, and white paper bags that smelled of fries and burgers. 


I’d settled on a beach towel next to my grandfather, Dex McGraw, surreptitiously watching them.  


Gramps sat beside me, drinking from a cold thermos of gin and ice, his favorite. He sat with his shirt off and long legs stretched out, his head back and shaggy silver-blond hair glinting in the sun. He always told me his time was “before the hippies,” but I had a feeling he would have made a good one. He was one helluva rebel. And he always stood up for what was right, no matter what. 

He saw me watching the girl and casually appraised her, gray eyes slit and his head nodding in approval. With a low whisper, he turned to me. “Pretty girl.”


I know I blushed, because at sixteen that’s all I seemed to do when girls were involved. “Yeah. I guess.” I traced circles in the sand with my forefinger. The sun burned the skin on my back and shoulders, although I’d slathered plenty of sunscreen on earlier at my mother’s insistence.


He didn’t say anything for a few minutes, but closed his eyes, soaking in the sun and soft breeze. I wondered what he was thinking about. Adventures at sea? Lost loves? I knew he had many, and that some of them had died awful deaths. Once in a while he talked about it. But it seemed I never got enough of his stories. I always wanted more.


“Finn?”


“Yes, Gramps?” 


“I want to tell you something.” He opened his eyes, and caught me watching her again. She’d dropped into a chair while her father dutifully rubbed white suntan lotion on her shoulders. 


 “I’m listening.” I stared up at his leathery skin, his eyes so full of wisdom. He didn’t look like my friends’ grandfathers. Lean, muscled, and strong, he didn’t use a cane, or bend over when he walked. His body boasted scars earned from long-ago adventures. I bragged about those badges of courage to my friends. 


He leaned in close to me. “Grab life with both hands. If you love someone, put your whole heart into it. Give it your all. Your everything.” He glanced sideways at the girl, and a wistful expression crossed his face. “Nothing is forever, my boy. So enjoy every single second.”


“Okay,” I said. 


He locked eyes with me. “I’m serious.”


I nodded. “I got it.”


“Why don’t you go say hello? I think she’s looking for someone to toss that ball with.”


I nearly froze, but he gently urged me with his eyes. Summoning my courage, I stood up, brushing sand from my legs and arms.

“Go on. You’ll have fun,” he said.


I glanced at her. 


Now her father rubbed lotion on her back. Creamy skin. Soft skin. Touchable skin. 


She held her hair aloft with one delicate hand. 


Piano playing fingers, I thought.


Be strong. 


Be brave.


You can do this.


As if reading my mind, Gramps nodded in her direction again. “You’ve got this, Finn.” 


“Right.” With heart thumping, I took a deep breath and headed toward her.