A mysterious man with no past, a troubled young woman running from hers…and a powerful love that may heal them both.
Scout Vanderhorn has lost her mother, her home, and all hope of security. In a desperate bid to escape her abusive stepfather, she travels to a seaside mansion on Cape Cod in search of the real father she never knew—and finds a secret sister who welcomes her into the family, troubles and all. But it’s not long before trouble comes looking for Scout.
Unaware of his past, or even his own name, Jack Remington is lost. He spends his days scavenging for survival and compulsively searching the seas in his battered old kayak. At night, alone in his beach cave, he’s haunted by nightmares. But from the moment he glimpses Scout, a powerful connection is forged that begins to bring him back from the brink.
Neither expects to fall for the other, but Scout and Jack can’t deny their explosive mutual attraction. Can this love remake a broken man and save a woman with nothing to lose…before the past drowns them in the oncoming storm?
Set on beautiful Cape Cod, The Seadog is a story of trauma and redemption, of mysteries and revelations -- and above all, the incredible power of love.
Scout slumped in her old Honda Civic, staring at the grand mansion at the end of the white oyster shell driveway. Biting her lip, she peered toward the front window where a shadowy figure passed back and forth behind the sheer curtains.
Was someone watching her? Would they call the cops on her?
She knew her fifteen-year-old rust bucket didn’t look like it belonged to this place. The house probably expected Mercedes and Jaguars, not the beater she’d bought off her ex-boyfriend for three hundred bucks.
Heart thumping wildly, she rolled down her window to catch the breeze coming off the sea. Instantly, fresh air filled the car with a salty tang.
Did she have the courage to go right up to the front door and knock on it? Could she? And what would she say? “Hi, there. I’m the daughter you never knew you had.”
She adjusted the sling on her arm, wincing. It still throbbed. Mind racing now, she considered her options.
Go back, and face Monty’s anger? No, his wrath?
Or…she could walk boldly up to The Seacrest mansion and demand that her father recognize her, insist that he help her.
She’d never met the guy, but she’d hated him her whole life. For the past twenty-three years, she’d pictured a leonine bastard, with a stone cold heart and miserly soul. Her mother had painted a pretty dreadful picture of Rudy Vanderhorn. And yet, here she was, about to face him down.
Shaking her mane of fiery hair, she let out a shivery sigh. “I can’t go back. I can’t.” She eased the car forward and made her way along the driveway, coming closer to the home where she’d been conceived. Her mother—her dear, sweet mother—had run from this place years ago. Pregnant. Betrayed. And oh-so-scared.
And that bastard Rudy Vanderhorn hadn’t even come after her. He just let her go. Never chased her. Never tried to find her. What was wrong with such a man?
Well, she’d soon find out.
Now anger replaced fear, and she felt courage swelling in her heart. “I have to do this. For Mom.”
She pulled up in the parking area and turned off the engine. The beast choked, shuddered, and finally sputtered to a stop.
With her purse on her shoulder, she slid out into the heat of the day. Her white sundress was already wrinkled. She smoothed its skirt and headed for the entrance, but before she could press her finger on the ringer, the massive door swung open.
A heavy-set woman wearing a white apron glanced quizzically at her. “Ja? Can I help you?”
Scout thought she sounded Swedish. Or maybe German? “Is Mr. Vanderhorn home?” Scout asked, nervously twisting her leather purse strap. “I need to see him.”
The housemaid—if that’s what she was—turned as white as her apron. “Neon.”
“I’m sorry. Do I have the right house? This is The Seacrest, isn’t it?”
The woman drew in a quivery sigh, then seemed to collect herself. “Ja. I’m sorry. But the Mister…he…”
“He what?” Scout asked, feeling queasy now.
“He is gone. It was a heart attack. In the hurricane, last summer.” The woman’s voice wobbled and she seemed ready to burst into tears.
“Fritzi?” A voice called from inside. “Who is it?”
The distraught woman turned to answer. “It’s a lady, Miss. She wants to see the Mister.”
“Hi. I’m Libby.” A dark-haired woman ambled forward with a baby on her hip. She shook hands with Scout. “You were asking about my father?” Suspicion grew in her eyes.
But Scout could only stare at the baby girl. About five months old, the baby grinned at her with moss green eyes, peering under an unruly mop of flaming red hair.
It was like looking at one of her own baby pictures.
“I—” Scout’s legs turn to rubber. “I mean—”
Now it was Libby’s turn to gawk. “Wait a minute. Do I know you?”
Scout laughed, but she knew at any second it could swing into tears. Her father was dead. She was too late. “I doubt it,” she said, sagging against the door. “I’m sorry. I should go.”
Libby put a hand on her arm. “No. Wait. Come inside. Let’s sort this out.”
If she hadn’t been so hot, so tired, and if her arm hadn’t throbbed so badly, Scout would have run away. Anywhere but here, where she had to face such disappointment.
“Come inside,” Libby urged. “Fritzi will get you a cold drink. Is lemonade okay?”
Scout mumbled her assent and followed Libby into a room carpeted with a thick Oriental rug, and strewn with polished mahogany antiques. A vacuum stood on the floor by a grand piano.
That’s what I saw from the road. Fritzi, if I heard the name right, was pushing that vacuum back and forth in this room.
Fritzi made apologies and whisked the machine away, rolling it toward the hall. “I will be right back with refreshments,” she said.
Definitely a German accent, Scout thought.
“Please. Sit,” Libby said, openly staring again.
“I’m sorry to barge in on you like this. I’m sure you’re busy with—”
Libby sank beside Scout on the couch and settled the little girl on the floor. “This is Sidney. She’s my youngest.”
“You have more?”
“Oh, yes. We have triplets, too. They’re four years old. Girls. Ramona, Sylvia, and Olivia.”
“Pretty names.” Scout gave a trembling smile. “But four girls. Oh my.”
Libby laughed. “It’s a bit of a challenge.”
Scout nodded. “I’ll bet.” She folder her hands on her lap and lowered her eyes. This is too weird. I have to get out of here.
Libby waited a beat, then burst out with her question. “I’m sorry. But you must have noticed. You have the same eye and hair color as my little one, here.”
Scout squirmed in her seat. “Yes.”
Libby glanced back and forth between them again. “Your hair is a unique coppery shade. I’ve not seen it very often.”
“Um, there’s a reason for that. I think.”
Libby looked up. “There is?”
“Um. My name’s Scout, and I’m…I’m actually related to you. We have…we had…the same father. Rudy Vanderhorn was my father. My mother said he had my exact hair color when he was a boy.”
Libby stared at the redheaded woman who sat beside her with tears welling in her eyes. She glanced between Sydney and Scout. She was right about the hair color. “Wait a minute. I don’t understand. How—”
The girl leaned forward, covering her face with her hands. Her shoulders shook. “I’m too late.”
“Wait,” Libby repeated. “Rudy was your father? How’s that possible? When were you born?”
The girl hiccupped a few times, then sat up, wiping furiously at her wet cheeks. “I’ll be thirty-three in a few weeks.”
The blood drained from Libby’s face. “That’s not possible. I’ll be thirty-three in August. How—”
Scout stuttered the words. “My mother was Iris. She was married to Rudy.”
Libby stiffened. “But Iris was my mother. She left us when I was three, and we never saw her again. There’s no way she could be your mother.”
Scout glanced up at Libby. “My mother, Iris, left when your father had an affair with someone else. She was pregnant with me when she ran. Iris isn’t your mother. It’s not possible. Not if we’re both turning thirty-three. And we’re sure as hell not twins.”
Libby felt the blood drain from her face. She was about to ask Scout what in the world she was talking about, but Fritzi entered, bearing a tray of clinking glasses.
Fritzi laid the tray on the glass-covered coffee table. “Here you go, ladies. You can add your own sugar, if you want to. There is a bottle for Sydney, too.”
Fritzi’s hands trembled, and Libby wondered if she was still upset about having been asked about Rudy. She’d been with the family for as long as Libby could remember, and had taken his death very hard.
When Fritzi left the room, Libby picked up her daughter and took a deep breath. How could this woman accuse her father of such a terrible thing? “I don’t understand what you’re saying. It’s not possible. Like I said, my mother—Iris—didn’t leave until I was three years old.” She stopped and thought about it. “I mean, that’s what my father always said. I don’t actually remember her.”
Scout didn’t answer.
“You’d better tell me what you know,” Libby said. “Just start from the beginning.”
The man rubbed his eyes and stared at the sea, leaning back against the wall of the cave.
Where am I?
He scratched the long stubble on his chin and felt his stomach growl. He couldn’t remember when he last ate.
He rose and steadied himself. Horrifying images swirled in his brain but he pushed them away.
No. Just ignore them.
He glanced down at his clothes. A ratty tee-shirt. Cut off jeans. No shoes.
His right hand throbbed from a scabbed over cut. He wondered if it was infected because it hurt like hell.
The cave opened to the green swelling waves of Paines Creek Beach. That much he remembered. The fishing was good here.
Glancing down at the floor of the cave, he saw a net, a fire pit, and an old blanket. A filet knife rested on the rocks around the fire, next to a sheet of blackened aluminum that had probably been used for cooking over the fire. A plastic jug caught rainwater dripping down the wall on the opposite side, and a covered barrel stood close by.
Is this my stuff?
Thirsty, he grabbed the jug and upended it, draining the contents.
His bladder urged him outside, and in the far away mist he saw one or two fisherman dotting the distant horizon where the sea met sand.
It’s low tide.
He found a private nook and took care of business, then turned to note a beat up old sea kayak upended against some driftwood.
Is it mine?
With a start, he recognized it.
Yes! Yes, I need to go out on the water. I need to hurry.
He grabbed the old green craft and unearthed a paddle beneath it. Dragging it behind him, he picked up his net and headed for an open spot where the tidewater streamed toward land. If he positioned himself into this little saltwater river and paddled hard, he could end up on the open sea, and he would start searching again.
Ten minutes later, he broke free of the stream and glided into the open water. His heart pounded with fear, but he didn’t know why.
An insistent voice sounded in his head.
Scout dried her eyes and met Libby’s angry gaze. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t sure how much you knew about…what happened.”
Libby crossed her arms. “What did happen?”
Shifting uncomfortably, Scout whispered. “Your mother wasn’t Iris. She’s the lady with whom our father had an affair.”
“Who is she?” Libby cried. “And why would my father lie? He said…” Her words trailed off. “Oh. I see.”
“I don’t know who she was. Neither did my mother. She only knew there was another woman, and she was pregnant, too.” She gave a rueful smile to Libby. “Rudy lied to protect you, most likely. To make it sound respectable. He was married to Iris, right? And if he said she was your mother, you wouldn’t be upset. And maybe nobody would know he had the affair.”
“I guess,” Libby said, pushing off the couch and facing the window with her arms crossed. “I need time to process this. My God.” She stood for a while watching the sea, then turned to Scout with an angry expression. “Who was this mystery woman, anyway? Where is she? And why did she desert me?” Her volume rose with each question.
Scout pulled back, uneasy. “Um, listen. I don’t know who she was. I’m sorry. Maybe I’d better go.” She jumped up and started to walk toward the door.
Libby followed her, touching her arm. “No. Please. I need to know more.”
“Why did you come here, anyway?” Libby said, her voice dangerously close to hysteria. “Why did you want to see my father?”
“He was my father, too.” Scout felt her anger rise. “But he never acknowledged me. And I’m in trouble now.” Her voice wobbled and she felt tears stinging her eyes again.
Libby’s expression softened and the words spilled from her lips in a rush. “I’m sorry. Come back and sit down. Are you okay? What happened to your arm?”
Scout followed her to the couch and gingerly settled on the flowered cushion. “My mother’s boyfriend happened.”
Libby suddenly called out. “Fritzy! Can you come here, please?’
She bustled into the room so fast; Scout thought she must’ve been lingering in the hall.
“Can you take Sydney into the kitchen?” Libby said. “I need to talk to Scout.”
“Ja, of course, Miss. I will take our little one.”
“Great.” Libby handed the baby to Fritzi. When she was sure the woman was out of earshot, she faced Scout. “Listen. I’m sorry. It’s just a shock. I mean—”
“I know,” Scout said. “I’m sorry, too. I didn’t come here to hurt you.”
“So, what happened with Iris’s boyfriend?”
Scout sank deeper into the couch. “Like I said, years ago my mother ran away from The Seacrest with nowhere to go. She was three months pregnant with me at the time. She didn’t tell him she was pregnant until later.”
“What?” Libby’s eyes filled with empathy. “When did she tell him?”
“I’m not really sure.”
“What did he say? Did he want to meet you? And why the hell didn’t he tell me about you? For God’s sake, you’re my sister.”
“I don’t know. She was really secretive about the whole thing. I only found out because Monty mentioned it earlier this week.”
“He’s the boyfriend?”
“Yes.” Scout snorted. “Argh. He’s horrible. Monty took my mother in when she was destitute. He wasn’t so awful when I was little. But he started drinking when I was a teenager. And he never stopped.”
Libby touched Scout’s arm. “Did he do this?”
Scout took a deep breath. “Uh huh.”
“He’s convinced my mother was hiding money. He thought Rudy sent her some. He tried to make me tell him where it was.”
“Did he send her money?”
“Hell, no. I don’t think there was any money. My mother would have told me before she died.” Her voice hitched a sob. “Except…well…I guess that’s not true, either. She didn’t even tell me she contacted our father. I had to find out through Monty.”
“Wait.” Libby blanched, blinked, and slumped back. “Iris is dead?”
Scout felt her heart squeeze, felt the edges of her world going black. “Um. Yes. I’m sorry, I should have told you earlier. Mum had breast cancer. I lost her back in March.” The room went fuzzy. She couldn’t breathe. A dark curtain pulled across her vision. “I’m sorry. I—”
Libby caught her as she slumped sideways. “Hey. Are you okay?”
She forced herself to come back. “Just hungry, I think. Low blood sugar.”
“Drink this,” Libby said, holding up the glass of lemonade.
With a concentrated effort, Scout took a few sips. She leaned forward, holding the still-cold glass against her forehead. “Better.”
“Want a sandwich or something?” Libby asked.
Scout heaved a sigh. “I hate to be a burden.”
“Don’t be silly.” Libby pulled her to her feet. “Come on. Let’s go into the kitchen and fix you up. And you can tell me more about all these secrets our father kept from me.”
He woke in the kayak, sprawled forward, head lolling on his knees. With a start, he jerked up and took stock of his surroundings. He floated on a calm sea with only a few gulls crying and gliding overhead.
His skin burned and his throat felt parched. He steadied himself, leaning down to bring cool seawater up to his arms. He trickled the water over the scorched skin and over his face. The heat was oppressive today, even on the open ocean.
He stretched his sore back muscles and gazed around at the blue world. Blue water, blue sky, broken only by a few cottony clouds sitting motionless overhead.
A flounder lay in his net. He didn’t remember catching it.
Thirst stirred him to look for the shore. He turned and searched the horizon in all directions. Nothing but blue.
Oh, God. Where is it? How far out did I drift?
He squinted into the distance and saw the rainbow mainsail of a sloop heading away from him. It couldn’t be that far out. If he followed the little craft, he’d probably hit shore in no time.
Picking up the paddle, he began to stroke toward the sailboat. In a brutal flash, the visions came again, darkening the sky and tearing up his soul. Arms flailing in the water. A child crying. Water churning with black clouds whipping overhead.
He stroked harder, sweating and moaning, trying to push the pictures out of his head. Aloud, he yelled, “NO!” Faster now, he zoomed across the flat sea, until in the distance a thin black smudge limned the horizon.
Weakness swam inside him. He needed water. Badly.
In the distance, a dark cloud brewed, moving swiftly toward him.
He couldn’t let it find him, and pushed harder for shore. Now the dunes and houses on the coast came into sight. He oriented himself, saw his dark cave opening to the left, and redirected the kayak toward it.
This was home, that much he knew. He needed to get home.
In fifteen minutes he pulled the little boat up the shore, dragging it over wet sand toward his cave. But something wasn’t right. He sensed it.
He flipped the kayak over and approached the cave slowly. Someone was in there. More than one person.
Laughter brayed from inside. “Hell, Sammy. Do it!”
The sound of a wet crash met the man’s ears. He reached the opening, heart pounding and fists clenched.
Three teens cavorted inside, kicking his few possessions around and snickering. The water barrel lay on its side, empty.
One of the boys, the taller of the group with a mop of dyed green hair, held up the plastic jug. “There he is, boys. Think he’s thirsty?”
Hollow laughter filled the cave.
He stepped forward. “Please. Go.”
The green-haired boy—apparently named Sammy—smirked and emptied the jug. “There you go. Lick it up.”
With a roar, the man felt his temper flare. He walked toward the boys, who now stumbled backwards in fear.
Sammy threw up both hands. “Hey, Mister Hobo, or whoever you are. We were just funning with ya.”
One of the younger boys pulled at his sleeve. “Sammy. Come on. We gotta get outta here. He looks crazy.”
The man drew himself up taller. “I am crazy. And you little bastards better run.” He wasn’t sure where the words came from, but they flowed from his lips unbidden.
The boys scattered like frightened rabbits.
He stared at his empty water jug, his thirst now searing his throat. He grabbed it and tipped it upward, savoring the few drops that trickled onto his tongue.
Not enough. I need more.
With the jug in hand, he walked outside. The sun blazed overhead, and his body suddenly went slack.
He staggered up the dunes and glanced toward a mansion set back on its perfectly manicured grounds. There was a big barn near the house.
Horses in the pasture. That meant water. If he could make it to the barn, he’d surely find water.
He trudged up the hill and headed for salvation.