Widow Tess Archer, a 55 year-old mother of three who is not willing to abandon her flower-child roots has decided she wants to be a grandmother. After all, all her lady friends are! She calls a family meeting and declares that her children need to find their perfect mates using their Grandmother’s rings. Sommer Archer is the first to fall in Amethyst, a romantic comedy sure to have you recognizing members of your own family in the storyline.
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An Amethyst promotes calmness and given to the oldest, Sommer. Sommer, a newspaper reporter, must tackle her disconnected side in order to have the career she always wanted. Little does she know that in order to do that, she first has to tackle the problem of Nick Daultry, a New York police officer who has come to New Jersey as part of a Homeland Security initiative that allows rural police officers to train in the city while the city officer trains in a rural setting to more fully understand the issues of rural life. While cops and reporters are natural enemies, Sommer and Nick find out that they can’t solve the problem of local home invasions without each other; she has the local knowledge, he has the resources. And along the way, they also discover that they need to solve the problem of their growing attraction and admit that they just might be made for each other.
GRANDMOTHER’S RINGS SERIES
APPROX. 52,000 WORDS
A call for a family meeting.
Was there anything more rooted in tradition?
Anything more important?
Anything more frightening?
As Somer Archer made the right turn onto Main Street, she turned up the music on the jazz station and did everything she could from making up words to the song to imitating a clarinet in order to try to banish the feeling of dread from her mind. She tried not to think about why her mother had called this summit, but from experience, how could she not help but wonder?
Since their father died five years ago, her mom had been going through some changes. In the beginning all three siblings encouraged her to let go of the past and experience new things. After some prodding and poking, Tess Archer had finally agreed. But in taking the plunge back to an active life, Tess had jumped right into the deep end of the pool.
A few months ago, at a family meeting, she announced she was flying to Iceland to soak in a glacier pool and wanted her children to know in case she drowned. Before that she was considering spending time with the Dali Lama and wanted to know if they had any questions that needed answers. And that was after she announced she had joined a speed-dating group and was seeing a man fifteen years her junior. Before that it was. . .
Well, it didn’t matter. What mattered was that it had been their suggestion that turned Tess into a cougar and started this roller coaster ride. So even at the ripe old age of thirty -three, despite the feeling you get when the heroine in a horror movie is about to enter the empty house, fear, curiosity and a sense of responsibility always made Somer answer the family call.
She glanced in the rear-view mirror. “It’s your fault, you know,” she chided the blond-haired, blue eyed reflection. “The next time you want mom to do something to occupy her time, suggest knitting.”
A right turn later, she pulled into a ten-minute parking spot at the curb of the Hillsborough PD. The whine of the electric window going down sounded a lot like the ringing in her ears. “Get in,” she said to the tall, sandy-haired officer waiting there. “You didn’t change out of your uniform,” she added as he adjusted the seat belt and settled in.
“I’m hoping that mom thinks I’m on second shift and on my lunch hour. Maybe she’ll let me leave early and you can deal with her latest exploit.” Trenton Archer, Somer’s younger brother and the middle child of three, had the same look on his face that she imagined she had.
“You’re a detective, Trent. Whose uniform did you borrow this time?”
Trent adjusted his dark blue tie. “It’s mine from my beat days. I keep it in my locker now for emergencies.”
“I figured.” He took off the tie and opened the top shirt button. “What do you think she wants this time?”
“Dunno, but how about we take the long way and let Ali get there first.”
“She’s going to kill you,” Trent replied. “You’ve done that to our little sister the last three times.”
Somer shifted the car into gear and eased it into the line of traffic. “Then she should be used to it by now.”
Little sister Ali’s Mini-Cooper was already in the driveway when Somer pulled up. She pressed her hand to the hood as she and Trent passed it. “Cold,” she said. “She must have gotten here a while ago.”
Trent shrugged. “You go in first.”
“Coward,” Somer chided opening the front door. “Mom, we’re here,” she called out just as Ali rounded the corner with a tray holding a pitcher of what had to be their mom’s famous iced tea and a couple of glasses.
“You did this on purpose again,” Ali said from between clenched teeth.
“Mooch, how could you say that?” Trent asked, closing the door behind him.
Ali’s brown eyes shot daggers at her brother. “I will never forgive you for tagging me with that nickname.” Trent laughed, but corralled his accompanying snicker when Ali shot him another glare. “It’s not my fault that I was the ‘lucky’ one,” she returned, emphasizing the word.
Somer suppressed the grin that always broke across her face when she thought of how they had all gotten their names. Their mom, a bonafide flower child from the 70’s also fancied herself the zen-master of organization and planning. After marrying her high-school sweetheart, when it was time to have children, Tess carefully planned each addition, celebrating the happy event by naming the child after the place of their birth. So she was Somerville, Somer for short, born in Somerville, New Jersey, when their father worked for county government. Trenton joined the family after an anti-war protest in the state’s capital.
But Ali. Poor Ali. Somer choked down the laugh that was starting in her belly. Mom and dad had accepted an invitation for an informal class reunion of friends. It was held at a campground in one of their favorite places in New Jersey’s Northwest Skylands. Tess had enjoyed watching the children playing in the parks and frolicking in the lake so much that she and their father carefully planned their third child while dangling their feet from a wooden bridge in Allamuchy State Park. Hence the nicknames Ali and Mooch.
In those days, it was just like their mother to give order and logic to everything she did. But now, Somer, grimaced, Tess seemed to be enjoying life on impulse probably thinking she had done enough planning for one lifetime. It could be a good thing, Somer tried to reason.
Ali slid the tray onto the table in the hallway and pointed at Somer. “You’re doing it again. I swear someday I’m going to change my name.”
“What and break mom’s heart?” Somer replied through a laugh that came out more like a snort.
“Break my what, dear?”
Somer turned. “Hi ma…”
Suddenly struck speechless, Somer could only stare. Her mother, arms out ready to hug, looked like, well, not like her mother. Tess’ multi-highlighted red hair was pulled back into a low ponytail, giving her a tiger striped look. Her usual denim capris and tank top tee shirt that allowed the dream catcher tattoo she had on her shoulder to show, were replaced with a modest house dress and apron reminiscent of June Cleaver from the show of the early 50’s. A pair of sensible brown shoes completed the bizarre outfit. The only thing remaining of the mother Somer was used to having around were the bright blue eyes that sparkled with a touch of mischief.
Tess spun in a circle. “What do you think?”
“I think there might be a pod under your bed,” Somer replied. “What’s with the get-up?”
“Don’t be disrespectful, dear,” Tess replied. “I’m practicing.”
“No, for grandchildren.”
“Grandchildren!” all three siblings said in unison.
“All of my friends are grandmothers and I’m not getting any younger.”
“None of us are even in a serious relationship,” Somer reminded.
Tess threw her arms around the two her children closest to her. “That’s why I called you all here today.”
As she steered them toward the living room, Trent, held captive by his mother’s embrace, cast a wary glance first at Ali who was imprisoned opposite him on Tess’ right and then over his shoulder at Somer.
Somer put her hands up in a defense pose and tried to smother the look of shock she knew had to be breaking out on her face. She shook her head. Her mother was indeed planning something. This was not good.
Once everyone was seated, Tess handed Somer an iced tea. “Now, let’s straighten out the details.”
Somer sniffed the glass. “This isn’t a Long Island Iced Tea, is it?”
“Lord, I hope so.” Trent said reaching for a full glass and gulping it down. A look of almost disappointment crossed his face after he did.
Somer looked at her brother and sister. They sat silent, seemingly content to let her take the lead. She sighed and complied with their unspoken pleas. “Okay mom, what’s going on?”
Tess smoothed back a curl that had escaped from the rubber band at the back of her head. “I just think it’s time I had some grandchildren. That’s all.”
“But having grandchildren involves two people who are married, preferably in my case, married for a few years before children come along.” Somer set her glass on the tray and leaned forward. “Trent hasn’t even dated a woman seriously in years.”
Somer waved off Trent’s protest. “Have you actually looked at your condo? It’s a man-cave, all wired with the latest electronics completed with a TV that’s more like a wall, and I won’t even go into the kitchen or the bathrooms and we’re related! No wonder you haven’t had a steady relationship since college. No self-respecting woman without all her shots would ever set foot in there for any length of time. And Ali,” she continued before Trent could try to refute her assessment, “She’s been going to school for seven years and she’s still not a doctor.”
“I’m not trying to be a doctor. I’m working on my Bachelor’s,” Ali cut in.
“Precisely,” Somer said. “And when you’re not protesting for Greenpeace, you’re sewing the wild oats that should have been harvested three years ago.”
“What about you?” Ali said, indignation in her voice. “You’re not exactly trolling for a husband. You’re still trying to break the perfect story to win you a Pulitzer Prize and a spot on the Evening News.”
Tess stood. “Stop bickering, all of you. If one of you is going to give me a grandchild, you’re all going to have to cooperate.” She walked to a wooden box set on top of the fireplace mantle and opened the lid. “I have given this a lot of thought so don’t argue with me.” She reached inside, pulled out three rings and handed one to each of her children. “The rings belonged to my mother, your grandmother. Somer, you have her Amethyst. Amethyst is said to promote calmness, something you need.”
“Calmness? I’m normally a very calm person. It’s these family meetings that get me all worked up.”
Tess ignored Somer’s protests and moved on. “Trent, yours is a Sapphire. Sapphires promote harmony and loyalty. It will help you with consistency and reliability to the woman you ultimately choose to share your life.”
Trent only sighed and put the ring in his shirt pocket.
“And Ali, you have the Citrine. Your grandmother gave it to me on my twenty-first birthday and now I give it to you.”
“I’m twenty-seven, mom.”
Tess put her finger under Ali’s chin. “Better late than never, dear. It will help you get your heart’s desire. Oh, and an extra added perk, it also is said to cool excess anger.”
Ali’s face clouded. “Why would you think I have excess anger?”
Tess reached out and touched Ali’s cheek. “I know you aren’t too happy about the name thing, dear. But I wanted to be consistent.”
Tess gave Trent an annoyed look as he snorted trying to inhale a laugh. “It’s a beautiful place, Ali,” she defended. “How many people have such a heartwarming story behind their given name? It would be so boring to have named you something like Mary.”
“But I’d have a lot less explaining to do.”
Tess patted her daughter’s cheek and motioned everyone back to the hallway. “So there you have it. Your new mission.” She pulled open the front door. “Don’t just stand there. My daughter and sons-in-law aren’t about to come knocking on my door. The end of the year is coming and time’s a-wasting!”
The last thing Somer heard before she realized her mother had even set a deadline was the sound of the front door closing behind her. She looked down at the purple gemstone set in gold in her hand. Though it looked harmless enough, Somer decided she wasn’t going to take any chances.
Somewhere in New Jersey there had to be someone who could check it for curses. That’s what Google was for.