A/N: I'm purging my PC with stuff I've written since the dawn of COVID-19 to see what sticks. Most of the stuff is currently NOT in progress, but if anyone decides that they'd like to read more...well, I'm happy to oblige. This is meant to be a cozy-mystery and there are a few plots weaving themselves in my mind where I could take this.
The air smelled like sea salt. It was refreshing. It was homey. There were always boats docked in the marina of various names, but her favorite one that she always spotted was "Sea Breeze". Not because this boat was bigger or more spectacular than the other ones, but because it was a literal representation of what she loved about Coastal Pines.
To Charlotte Haynsworth, the smell of Coastal Pines was one that should be bottled and sold in every candle across the world. Yes, you could pick up a candle roistering the term sea breeze or ocean air on most store shelves, but they didn't quite do the scent of Coastal Pines justice. Unlike those candles, the smell of Coastal Pines somehow encompassed a salty gust of wind, the smell of fresh-cut grass, and warmth—with a dash of enigma thrown in for good measure.
And freshly baked cookies.
When Charlie strolled in to Coastal Confections with her box of glass jarred candles, that was the overwhelming smell that teased her nostrils. The sugar, butter, and chocolate overwhelmed the young woman to the point where all she could do upon entering was release a deep sigh, placing the cardboard box on the counter.
"Please tell me you made those for me, Seth," Charlotte told the man behind the counter. He was tall, tan, and toned, looking more like an athlete than what you would expect from a baker. The blonde gentleman smiled at her arrival, placing a paper bag on the counter. She grinned, opening the white bag quickly. Her grin quickly faded when she pulled out an apple. "Seriously?"
He shrugged nonchalantly back at her, "I can't keep enabling your habit. How you still have teeth is beyond me."
Charlotte huffed, biting into the apple with a chomp backed by the force of her annoyance. "You heard your mom before she left. I believe it was something along the lines of 'Give Charlie whatever she wants. She's an angel and you're lucky to have her.'"
"She also told me to water her plants," he said. "And now her flowers are dead."
Charlotte couldn't argue with that. Since he came home to help Fiona with Coastal Confections, Seth Vonacelli hadn't taken her directions at any turn. He'd completely overhauled her menu, cut new agreements with venders, and launched a website for pre-orders. Not only did he bake a mean cookie, but he had a knack for business that his mother didn't, and while her goal was not to expand when she asked for his help, expansion was on the horizon whether she liked it or not at this point.
Seth opened the cardboard box, picking up a glass jar to survey. "You brought the lavender!" he exclaimed. "We ran out last week—I started selling them on the website and somebody ordered a bulk shipment of them."
"Good to hear," she said. "I have some Fall scents in there as well. I know that September isn't for another month, but I've got a couple of other projects I'm working on. The library is gearing up for the school year and I'm trying to get all the schedules finalized. Then there's the Harvest Festival committee—"
"—and you're painting your kitchen."
"—and I'm painting my kitchen—" she stopped suddenly. "How did you know I was painting my kitchen?"
He shrugged, "Saw you at the hardware store getting paint. You're really going with yellow?" He laughed when she huffed at his response. "Tell you what. You promise to come back with a dozen of rose and vanilla, and I'll paint your kitchen foryou."
Normally Charlotte wouldn't accept an offer like that, but as she watched the gentleman's eyes pleading with her, she decided to bite. His black t-shirt was covered by the charcoal Coastal Confectionsapron, and the light blue font on it matched his eyes perfectly. Fiona had her staff usually wear a required uniform, though Seth was exempt from the pastel polo shirts. He assured her that if he ever asked her to wear pink, she would be on her own again.
Charlotte paused, holding her hand out to the man she'd known since grade school. He took it from her, giving it a firm shake. "Deal," she told him. "Yes, I'm certain I want yellow, too. The walls in my house are just too dark for me. When I bought the place from Ms. Jenkins, I didn't realize that it was going to be so much to brighten up. I just spent last weekend painting the stairs."
Seth nodded back at the redhead before him, "Mom will be back next Monday, so I'll do it once she takes back over for this place. I'm not going to lie, I'm not going to miss being in charge." He turned his back to her, going in to a cabinet full of packaged baked goods. Once opened, he pulled out a plastic bag to bring over to Charlotte. With a swift motion, he pulled the apple out of her hand to set down on the glass countertop. "Shut your eyes."
She did so without hesitation, and within seconds another aroma was hitting her senses.
"Butter," she said. "Lavender? Is that butter and lavender?"
"And…?" he pressed. She frowned, shaking her head. "Lemon. There's lemon in there." He sighed, dropping the package in front of her. She opened her eyes, reaching in to the bag to grab a purple iced shortbread cookie. She popped it into her mouth, chewing delicately .
"They're good," she said. "It's a very delicate balance. Fiona would be proud of this." She reached for a second cookie, but was greeted with her apple once again.
A crash from the kitchen alerted Charlotte to someone else's presence, as a teenage girl came running out. Her apron was covered in flour, as was her hair and hands. Seth ran without a word through the kitchen door, with such force that it swung back and forth behind him. The young girl smiled shyly, holding a hand up at Charlotte in greeting.
"Is—" Charlotte hesitated to continue, sniffing the air slightly. "Is something burning?" The girls scratched the back of her neck, face flushing slightly as she did so. Charlotte was going to take that as a yes, and before proceeding, she grabbed a candle from her box, lighting it for to hopefully offset the smell of burnt bread. A light floral and citrus aroma wafted out within moments of lighting, and she instinctively held it up, inhaling deeply.
The girl came over behind the counter, smacking her hands on her jeans as she did to get some of the flour off. "I'm just working here for the summer," she admitted. "I'm not very good at baking, so Miss Fi usually has me front of the house. Was Seth helping you with something?"
Charlotte smiled in response to the bashful girl, "I'm fine, thank you. I was just finishing up here. Hannah, right?" The girl nodded quickly, and Charlotte couldn't help but feel bad for the kid. "I'm the librarian over at Coastal Pines Library. I haven't seen you over there before."
Hannah nodded in response, "I just moved here last year," she clarified. "My dad bought the house over on Kettering that was for sale. He's usually working, so he doesn't like me biking off the designated trail of work, school, and home."
Charlotte pulled a card out of her wallet, handing it to the teenage girl.
"If you ever want to drop by and you need a ride, and you have your dad's permission, don't hesitate to ask," she told her. "I swing by this area about eighty times a week."
Hannah grinned at the offer, excusing herself when Seth yelled for her from back in the kitchen. Charlotte took this moment to take a glance around the rest of the shop. The bistro tables along the windows were empty, except for the floral arrangements on them, and the OPEN sign was facing inward, signaling that they weren't quite ready for business. Fiona's touch was all over this place, except for this one small corner.
That was all Charlotte's.
A small area for her candles was set up on an old bookshelf, with her logo BREATH OF FRESH AIR adorning each glass jar. The name had changed about four times over since she started candle making in college roughly ten years ago. She did it as a hobby, never making any real money out of it, but she found the process cathartic and a nice way to wind down from the daily monotony.
Amongst the glass jars, though, were smaller tea lights and a container for her business cards, almost empty. Reaching into her bag again, she grabbed a handful of business cards to put into the cardholder.
When Charlotte exited Coastal Confections, she was greeted with people strolling the street, locals riding their bikes, and the shops in the historic district unshuttering their doors. August was busy here, full of tourists from the local beaches stopping by for a taste of small-town charm. Most of the shops on Main were old townhomes—the downstairs full of homemade goods, fresh food, and antiques, with the upstairs converted to living quarters for the owners. The shops on this stretch were really the only place in Coastal Pines for shopping, with the exception of the farmer's markets up north and the fish markets down south.
Main Street sat on an incline, and you could see the docks and boats in the harbor from the top of it, complete with a small seafood restaurant where the chef sourced directly from the fishermen who would dock there. They closed in the off season, a summer spot to bring in money off tourists in the tight knit community, and business once again directed towards Benny's Diner.
Benny's had prime real estate in Coastal Pines, sitting not directly on Main Street, but at the head of it, —complete with off street parking— closer to the residential side of town than to the line of specialty shops. The best part was that it was blocks away from Charlotte's home away from home and she could swing by for dinner frequently on her way to her actual home.
Her home away from home: Coastal Pines Community Library.
Charlotte relocated to Westport, the city about an hour outside of Coastal Pines for college and graduate school and hadn't thought about moving back until last year when the former librarian, Denise Jenkins put away her story-time cart and retired.
Not only did she retire, but she completely relocated, leaving her small but charming townhouse on the market. The stars had aligned, and Charlotte had made her way back home.
Yes, Charlotte loved to craft and create aromas for people to fill their homes with, but that did not pay the bills. Being a librarian was always her first dream though. The adventures on every shelf, the suspense, the romance. Books were an escape from reality, where each turn introduced you to a place you may have never been with a person you may have never met.
As much as she loved Coastal Pines and was happy to be living there again, she couldn't help but miss the occasional sirens in Westport, alerting her to some danger or rush of excitement. There was never much excitement here, which is where her books came into play. Coastal Pines was a sleepy town full of interesting characters, but not so much the interesting events. It was nice to live in a crime free community, though, so she counted her blessings. The only crimes she read about now that she was no longer in Westport came straight from the fiction shelves.
Charlotte maneuvered down the red bricks of Main Street, watching cars come in for an early morning on the shore and had almost made it to her small silver sedan when something caught her eye. On the corner stood Keira Langley, her neighbor, handing out colorful flyers to anyone who would take them.
"What've you got there?" Charlotte asked her, accepting a sheet of paper from the middle-aged woman brunette. SAVE THE POND was written in bold letters at the top of the page, with a photo of a small residential attraction underneath of it. Charlotte tilted her head, skimming through the information quickly.
"They're trying to build new homes on the north side of town," Keira said. "The developers want the land over by the park. You know where that old bridge and the duck pond is?"
"Yeah," Charlotte answered. "Mr. Kirkpatrick's granddad built that back in the day. I used to go there all the time as a kid."
"Well, if the construction crew gets their okay, they're tearing down the doghouse he built over on the island in the middle of the pond. Pond View is what they want to call the place. Can you believe the gall of them? That building has been there for at least sixty years."
"Who owns the property?" Charlotte asked. "I always assumed it was part of the park, but if it is town property, there's no way the mayor would sell it."
"Not part of the park, it turns out," Keira told her. "Save the pond!" she yelled to a passing by gentleman on the street. He took a flyer from her and kept walking. "Mr. Kirkpatrick's granddad used to own it, but it's always essentially been treated as public property."
Charlotte paused, putting the flyer in her purse, "I'll book a space at the library for you for a town hall meeting. Just e-mail me the day and time. In the meantime, I'll do some digging and see what I can find out about the deed to that land. I've got some friends at city hall who might be able to pull the records for me."
Keira sighed a sigh of relief, "You're the best, Charlie."
Charlotte smiled, "If you ever want to return the favor, though, I'm going to need some help with the Harvest Festival. It's Coastal Pine's big fundraiser for the year in the off season, and I need all the help I can get. I helped out a few years ago, but with Denise gone, I'm in charge of it now."
"You need flyers? I'm your girl." Keira said with a smile.
"Flyers would work," Charlotte answered and continued on her way.
When she arrived at her, the twenty-eight-year-old paused with her hand on the door handle, inhaling deeply. The air smelled like sea salt.
But the dash of enigma was particularly strong that day.