The Secret to Letting Go ONLY
One summer can change everything…
Haunted with guilt after his girlfriend’s death, Daniel Hudson has no interest in committing to anyone. At the end of the summer, he’ll be leaving Florida for a new start in college. If only he could avoid the mysterious new girl in town, who seems every bit as naive and eccentric as she looks. Trouble is, she’s hard to ignore, with her beautiful piercing eyes, pitiful-looking dog, and unsettling tendency of finding trouble.
Clover Scott lived her whole life off the grid and arrives on the Gulf coast in search of her grandparents. She never expected to nearly drown, or get caught in a hurricane, or fall in love with the boy who rescues her. Now, she has a chance to rewrite her life’s story, to finally fit in somewhere, but Daniel wants answers about her past. When the police start asking questions about the disappearance of her parents, she must make a choice: go to jail or confess her secrets—even if they might destroy her chance at a happily-ever-after.
Title: The Secret to Letting Go
Author: Katherine Fleet
Genre: Young Adult
Length: 367 pages
Release Date: February 2016
Price listed is for the U.S. digital format. Please confirm pricing and availability with the retailer before downloading.
An Excerpt from:
The Secret to Letting Go
by Katherine Fleet
Copyright © 2016 by Katherine Fleet. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
She walked into my family’s sporting goods store on Main Street fifteen minutes before closing. Her old-fashioned flowered dress belonged in my grandmother’s closet, and her faded jean jacket was worn through in spots.
“Can I help you?” Jocelyn, our front clerk, asked.
She shook her head, sending white-blond strands of hair flying around her face.
“Just let us know if you need anything.” Jocelyn went back to flipping through a magazine.
The girl headed down the center aisle, her red canvas sneakers squeaking on the linoleum. She stopped to study a bin of sleeping bags, recently marked down, and stared up at the Fourth of July display I’d made from a pyramid of stacked camp chairs and an American flag.
Eventually, she wandered toward my corner, where I managed the golf inventory. In the fall, I was headed to Georgia Tech on a full golf scholarship. My dad dreamed of seeing me in the PGA, but for me, college was my ticket out of Canna Point.
I adjusted the collar of my Hudson’s Sporting Goods polo shirt and watched the girl check out a rack of discounted sweatshirts. Threads jutted from her jacket where a button used to live. She reached the putting practice area.
Pulling a putter from the closest display, she glanced at me, like she worried about getting in trouble. When I didn’t say anything, she held it backward with her left hand and tapped a ball toward a hole. It went wide. She frowned and lined up a second ball. It stopped short.
I stepped from behind my display case. “Are you left-handed?”
Her head jerked up, and I paused. Her eyes were the same crystal blue as the waters off the Keys on a clear day. I knew every person my age living in Canna Point, but this girl was a stranger. Odds were against her being a tourist. Our town sat too far north of Clearwater and St. Pete to attract the crowds that flocked to other areas of Florida. Maybe she was visiting a relative.
“If you’re left-handed, you’ll need a different putter.”
She frowned, and her fingers tightened on the grip. I found the correct club and stepped up on the platform, feeling gigantic next to her. I offered her the putter, and she reluctantly exchanged with me.
“You grip it with two hands…like this.”
I demonstrated the correct position with the putter she’d surrendered, the grip still warm in my hand. She copied my stance, the hem of her dress brushing the floor.
“Now, swing it like this.” I putted the closest ball into the farthest hole and pumped my fist a little when the ball dropped in with a satisfying plunk. I looked over at the girl, but she just stared until heat flooded my cheeks. I cleared my throat. “Your turn.”
Ducking her head, she adjusted her grip, sucked in a deep breath, and hit a two-foot putt toward the nearest hole. The ball teetered on the edge. Fall in. Come on, fall in.
Strange that I cared so much, but then the ball obeyed, and she beamed up at me. Her grin changed her quiet presence into something altogether different, something that made it hard to look away. There were lots of pretty girls in my hometown, including my on-again, off-again girlfriend, but no one who looked like this odd girl with her sprinkle of freckles and ragged haircut. Had someone attacked her head with a pair of scissors?
Realizing I’d stared way too long, I set the putter back in the rack and hid behind my best sales pitch. “Would you like to see some prices? We have some great specials on right now.”
Her smile evaporated, and her brows knitted together. “Prices on what?”
“On golf clubs.”
Her head tilted to one side. “Golf clubs?”
I looked away so she wouldn’t see me roll my eyes. Who didn’t know about golf? “That’s a putter you’re holding, and we have some great prices on ladies’ sets. They include everything you need to get started.”
She brushed a strand of hair from her cheek and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “Sorry. I don’t know much about sports.”
I huffed, wanting to point out that she’d walked into a sporting goods store, but her shoulders hunched inside her jacket. The top of her head only came to my shoulder.
She handed me back the putter. “I wasn’t planning on playing any golf, but you seem good at it.”
I shrugged. Life without sports was as foreign to me as life without the sun, sand, and ocean. When my dad was younger, he played minor league baseball, with dreams of the majors. After a knee injury crushed his plans, he’d come to Canna Point, married my mother, opened his first store, and poured his dreams into me. I played Little League in grade school, spent four afternoons a week in middle school practicing basketball, and then in my freshman year, I’d swung my first golf club and been hooked ever since.
The girl looked away, playing with a braided bracelet tied around her wrist. I glanced at my watch. The store closed in five minutes. Around us, coworkers busied themselves with the mundane tasks of closing up—sweeping floors and counting cash.
“So, if golf is not your thing, is there something else I can help you with?”
She peeked up at me and nodded. “A camp stove.”
“Ah…” So, a legit reason existed for her intrusion into my world. I slipped back into the familiar role of salesman. “They’re over here.” She followed me to the opposite side of the store. “We have single and double burners. Do you know what you’re looking for?”
She shook her head. “They look expensive.”
I glanced at the tags on the shelves, picking up the closest stove and inspecting it. “Looks like they start at thirty-five dollars.”
She pulled some wrinkled bills from her pocket and flipped through them. “I only have nineteen.” She stared over at the shiny green stove. “Maybe I could trade some homemade preserves to cover the rest?”
I returned the stove to the shelf and rubbed the back of my neck, hoping she’d miss the embarrassment heating my face. “We only accept cash or credit card.”
She gave the stove another long look. “Oh…well, thanks for your help with everything. Playing golf was fun.” Her sneakers squeaked when she turned toward the front of the store.
Watching her retreat, an unexpected guilt squeezed my lungs.
“Wait…” The second the word escaped, I regretted it. I should have just let her go, but then she stopped and looked back at me. Her hopeful expression hijacked my intentions. “We have two stoves at home, and we don’t use the older one anymore. Maybe you could have that.”
“Really? I can pay you.” She pulled the small wad of money from her pocket and held it out to me.
For some reason, taking money from this girl felt like stealing from the offering plate at church. I sighed and shook my head. “What type of preserves do you have?”
Her eyebrows rose in surprise, but then she grinned. “Raspberry and strawberry. I picked the berries myself.”
“Sounds good.” I loved anything strawberry, so how bad could it be?
“Are you sure?”
“Absolutely. Who doesn’t need more preserves?” I wasn’t even sure what preserves were. Was she talking about some type of jam? “Just give me your name and number, and we can arrange a time to meet.”
I pulled out my phone, ready to add her as a contact, but she frowned, chewing on her lip. “I don’t have a phone. Can we just arrange it now?”
“Um…sure.” How did a person survive without a phone? “I’m not working tomorrow. We could meet around noon. I’m Daniel, by the way, Daniel Hudson.”
I offered my hand, but she just stared at it. Her fingers clenched into fists at her sides. For a second, I thought she’d refuse to shake, leaving me there with my hand stuck out in the air like an idiot, but she uncurled her fingers, wiped her hand along the side of her dress, and reached out. My fingers surrounded hers, and our hands pumped up and down. She smelled like lemons. Her hand slipped back to her side, and I rubbed mine against the sudden tight spot in my chest. Maybe the second chili dog at lunch hadn’t been such a great idea.
“Hudson… Isn’t that the name of the store?”
“Yeah, it belongs to my dad.”
She looked around, her eyes wide. “He must have worked really hard.”
“So he tells me at every opportunity. We actually own seven more throughout the state.”
Her blue eyes widened further. “People must have a lot of money to spend on sports.”
“I guess, but less now than they used to.”
Dad wanted me to show more interest in the business, but I didn’t plan on managing a store for a living. My father worried about the future of the sporting store empire he’d built, especially with the recession and expansion of the bigger chain stores, but I’d already been accepted into first-year engineering, and my twin sister, Amelia, planned to study art and design.
“You never told me your name,” I pointed out.
“It’s Clover. Clover Scott.”
“Huh…unique name.” But it suited her. Then again, unique was a polite term for her peculiarity. The lights at the back of the store dimmed, and we both glanced up. The other customers had already left, and the manager stood by the front door, waiting to let Clover out. “So, I’ll see you tomorrow at noon?”
She nodded so hard, her teeth probably rattled. “I’d like that.”
It wasn’t like we were arranging a date, so why did her enthusiasm make me straighten up and puff out my chest? “We can meet at the beach next to the pier. My friends and I’ll be surfing. You bring the preserves, and I’ll bring the stove.”
Uncertainty flickered across her face, and her mouth opened and closed, like a fish out of water.
I should have used her reluctance to back out, but instead I reassured her. “We won’t be hard to find. We’re just north of the pier, and this way we can meet on neutral territory.”
Her expression turned blank.
“You know…in case I’m secretly a serial killer. There’s always safety in numbers.”
Her lips twitched upward, and she laughed. The sound tinkled through the air like wind chimes on a breezy day. “I already know you’re not a bad person.”
She nodded. Her unwavering stare made me want to squirm in my shoes. “True evil can never be hidden. It’s always there, if you know where to look. When I look at you, I see only good things.”
I snatched my gaze away from hers and tugged at the collar of my shirt. I wanted to know how she could talk with such authority on the subject. I wanted to know what evil she’d seen, but I wanted even more to escape the narrow store aisle. Warning bells pealed in my brain. She’s crazy. Don’t get involved.
Only politeness kept me from running. Leastwise, that’s what I told myself. Instead, I cleared my throat. “So, noon tomorrow?”
She blinked at my abrupt change in topic, and her cheeks turned bright pink. “Sure. Tomorrow…I’ll be the one with the jars.”
I gave a small wave and forced my attention to tidying merchandise while she headed toward the entrance. The manager wished her a good evening, the door chimed, and then she was gone. Ignoring my better judgment, I followed her path to the storefront and stared out the window.
Clover stopped just outside, stooping to pet a dog lying in the shade. She straightened, and the mutt followed at her heels. So the scraggly dog must be hers. It needed grooming and was missing part of its ear, but its tail wagged when she scratched the top of his head.
She crossed Main Street and headed for the spot where Jaywalking Pete sat leaning against a brick building. He was Canna Point’s only homeless person and most people avoided him. He’d served in the first Gulf War and had never been right since. He mumbled to himself, scaring little kids. His smell offended most. In an attempt to get him off Main Street, the police once arrested him for jaywalking, which is where he got his nickname, but he was back on his favorite street corner the next day.
I had a soft spot for old Jaywalking Pete ever since Amelia and I were ten. My sister had left the store on a Saturday to walk the short distance to the town library, when a group of older kids decided to pick on her. Jaywalking Pete appeared and scared them off. So sometimes, when Mom made two sandwiches for my lunch, I’d walk over and give him the extra.
Through the window pane, I watched Clover smile at him. She stooped to say something, then reached in her pocket and dropped some bills in his cup. She glanced back at the store, and I ducked, feeling stupid for spying. Who was this girl who couldn’t afford a stove but gave her money away to a stranger?
Still, when I got home, I immediately dug through the shelves in the garage to find the promised stove. With a curious jolt of anticipation, I stowed it in my Jeep, knowing I’d see Clover Scott again tomorrow.
It was only when I was slouched on the sofa, watching television, I realized… For the first time in two years, I’d taken the most direct route home. For the first time in all those months, I’d driven home without passing by Grace’s house…without remembering.