The Promise (Thunder Point #5)


by Robyn Carr

One

Peyton Lacoumette drove slowly down the main street of Thunder Point, past all the small businesses, including the medical clinic. She drove all the way to the far end of the point where she was stopped by the ornate gates to what could only be a mansion. She could barely make out the structure behind overgrown hedges and untrimmed trees. She got out of the car to peer through the bars, but couldn’t see much. If she had been with a couple of her brothers they might have wanted to scale the wall for a closer look, but that wouldn’t do in a sundress and sandals.

She turned the car around and went back through the town. It looked pretty well-lived-in, but it was clean, and it was obvious from the small groups of people who had stopped to chat here and there that people were neighborly. A lot of them paused to stare at her car. It was a shiny new black Lexus and had been ridiculously expensive.

People stopping to talk happened a little less often in cities like Portland and San Francisco and hardly ever in New York City, though she’d liked living in those cities. In Bayonne, France, it was more common, almost required that you were never in a hurry. This place appealed to her immediately, probably because it was similar to the town closest to her family’s farm. Or Bayonne, for that matter. Peyton saw a woman putting buckets of long-stemmed colorful flowers in front of her shop; a man was sweeping the sidewalk in front of his store; two dogs were leashed to a lamppost at the diner’s door—a spotted Great Dane and a Yorkie, sharing a pan of water. The main street appeared well scrubbed and friendly.

She parked in front of the clinic and went inside. It was noon; there were no patients waiting, and the young woman behind the counter stood up to greet her with a smile. “Hi. How can I help you today?”

“I was just passing through, wondering where the best access to the beach was?”

“Probably the marina. Or, Cooper has a beach bar on the far side of the beach, up on the hillside. There’s a road to his place from Highway 101, and he has stairs down to the beach and tables on his deck. Cooper’s place is the best spot in town to watch the sunset. When the sun sinks behind those big rocks in the bay, it’s really beautiful. I think he gets the best part of his business from people who stop by there for something to drink or eat when they’re out walking on the beach or waiting for the sunset.”

“I saw the beach access from the road, but I didn’t stop. There’s some building going on out there....”

“That’s Cooper’s, too. He’s building a house, and next door we’re building one, too. Me and my fiancé.”

“Oh, congratulations,” Peyton said. “On the engagement, not the building.”

The young woman laughed. “You can congratulate me on that, too. I didn’t think I’d ever live in an oceanfront house.”

Peyton looked around the small office. “People must be feeling pretty healthy around here today.”

“This is an unusually quiet day.”

“Are you the doctor or nurse?”

“Just the office manager. Dr. Grant stepped out, since there weren’t any patients. Do you need to see the doctor?”

“No,” Peyton said with a laugh. “It just seemed like a good place to ask about the town.”

“I’m Devon McAllister.” She extended a hand across the counter.

“Peyton Lacoumette, nice to meet you,” she said. “I grew up on a farm up north, not too far from Portland in the Mount Hood area. I didn’t even know this town existed.”

“We’re a little off the beaten track, and everyone seems to like it that way. There are only two ways into town—across the beach from Cooper’s place or a winding road north of here from 101. That’s probably how you found us—there’s an exit sign. Folks around here keep threatening to take down the sign,” she added with a laugh. “They won’t, but some tend to like the hidden quality.”

“What do most people do around here?” Peyton asked.

“Lots of fishermen, obviously. Then there are small business owners and people who work in those businesses, like me. My fiancé is the athletic director at the high school. A lot of the local population works out of town—Bandon, Coquille, North Bend.”

“I drove out to the point and saw a big house or building out there. Huge.”

“It’s a vacant house. The stuff of legends around here—the old Morrison place. It’s before my time here, but I guess the family was rich once, went bust, declared bankruptcy, and the son killed someone and went to prison. He was just a teenager. The only murder this town has ever seen, I’m told.”

“Why doesn’t someone do something with that place?” Peyton asked.

“I guess because it’s so big—no one can afford to live in it.”

“What’s big?”

Devon shrugged. “Country Club big. Huge rooms, a lot of bedrooms and bathrooms, a restaurant-size kitchen, thousands of square feet on hundreds of acres right on the point. The only other building out there is the lighthouse, because that point and its twin across the bay are very rocky.”

“Hmm. Sounds like a clever person could turn it into a library or boarding school or nursing home. It would be fun to see the inside,” she said.

“It would. I never thought about it, but a lot of people in town have been inside that house.”

“Have you lived here your whole life?” Peyton asked.

“Oh, God, no!” Devon laughed. “Only a year. I’m originally from Seattle—a city girl, really. But there’s something about this town.... I like the people, but more than that, it’s the feeling of the town in general. It’s safe, like it hugs you. Maybe because you have to come here on purpose, it’s not something you’d see from the highway and it’s not a thoroughfare. I’ve never lived in a little town before. And then I met my fiancé and found this job, and here I am,” she said, and smiled prettily.

“But who runs the office? Is there just the one doctor?”

“Just me and Dr. Grant at the moment, but he’s been looking for an associate or nurse practitioner. He doesn’t want a big practice, but more than one person capable of writing scripts or putting in stitches would help a lot. It’s becoming a busy clinic. He’s hoping to expand—we have that many patients. This town could use a twenty-four-hour urgent care, but that takes much more room and staff. He says that’s something for down the road.”