Blue Lake, Time After Time
When widowed Nicole decided to step back into life in beautiful Albuquerque, New Mexico with Richard. a young handsome British actor who professed his undying love and devotion to her on a daily basis, she mistook his boundless enthusiasm for her as little more than youthful impetuousness. She had no idea where their relationship would take her physically or emotionally. She would find herself in many dazzling international locations, putting her own life on hold, simply to be with him. She had no concept how strong her commitment to him would grow and to what extent she would go to protect him and ensure his safety and wellbeing. And she certainly had no idea the depth of his devotion to her, an unlikely but undeniable love that
would span continents and a decade of their lives, entwining them closer and closer, while his career, their families, and other relationships pulled them farther and farther apart. BLUE LAKE is a story of the power of love.
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Read an excerpt here:
Ohioan Nicole Minnotti came to New Mexico for a fresh start. In the wake of her husband’s death, she needed a new place to re-energize her business and her life. Never did it seem more perfect than when she sat in her favorite wireless café, The Happy Habanera, with paperwork piled high in front of her.
Richard, a British actor, was filming at an Albuquerque studio and enjoying the anonymity he found in the American Southwest, where he could walk without being hounded by fans or photographers. He embraced the freedom, as well as the beauty the Land of Enchantment provided.
He was exploring the quaint community when he happened upon a small café, its awning lit by red and green peppers. It was the perfect stop for afternoon tea.
A lovely blonde, sitting alone and lost in a mountain of paperwork, was the only other customer in the cozy diner. She seemed so familiar but was not distracted by his entrance. So, he took a seat at a table directly across from her and stared.
She appeared pleasantly absorbed in her paperwork. She didn’t look his way, but he warmed to her classic features, high cheekbones, luscious lips and high arched eyebrows. She had long, wavy hair and smiled as she attended to her tasks.
Nicole felt the tiny hairs on her arm stand up and a flutter in her stomach. Sensing someone was watching her, she looked around. And there he was.
Richard smiled as a tiny voice in his brain whispered:“Hello, My Love. How I’ve missed you! I am here now. I’ve finally found you.”
She smiled back, nodded, and returned to her paperwork.
Suddenly, her neck felt warm; she was blushing. When she looked up, he was standing over her and smiling.
“Hello. May I join you?” Richard asked politely, her soft blue eyes sparkling.
“No, thank you,” she said pleasantly and returned to the correspondence and receipts in front of her.
The actor was speechless.
“Tammy?” called Nicole.
“Yeah, Nic?” answered the waitress/owner and sometimes cook.
“Could you please find someone for this poor gentleman to talk to, so I can get some work done?”
Tammy escorted Richard to the counter.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bother you,” he said softly as he was led away.
“She’s lovely. I feel like I know her,” he said to the café owner. “Does she come here often?”
“Yes, Nicole is one of my regulars. Don’t scare her off.”
“Ah, her name is Nicole,” he smiled and nodded.
“Sound familiar?” Tammy asked.
“So, tell me, Tall Creepy British Guy, are you new to these parts?”
“I’m working on a film at the studio. It’s my day off, my first one. I thought I’d explore a little. I stopped for tea, but when I saw her something overcame me. She’s so familiar. But it’s more than that. She’s… She’s… I’d really like to talk to her. Can’t you help me out, Tammy?”
“Listen, mister, we have stalking laws in this country. She’s working and doesn’t want to be disturbed.”
“I only want to talk to her. Maybe I could buy her lunch? Come on, Tammy, help a new guy in town. What do I need to do to get her attention?”
“Well, first of all, leave her alone until she’s done with her work. She runs her own business. She hires the locals, who just love her. My boyfriend, Charlie, is one of her copter pilots. She’s been a widow for the last two years. She stays at the Wagon Wheel Motel next door when she’s in town. My place here is her unofficial business office.
“Now, wait here. Let me see if I can put a good word in for you.”
Tammy filled Nicole’s coffee cup and said: “Okay, here’s the scoop. The cutie pie at the counter wants to buy you lunch. He seems harmless enough, but I did inform him of our stalking laws. He’s British. He’s working on a film at the local studio. When you’re ready, I’ll introduce you. What do you say?”
“Since when is matchmaking on the menu, Tammy?” Nicole giggled.
“It wasn’t my idea. It was his. Just think about it, Nic.”
Nicole thought about it. It was just lunch. She finished up and returned her paperwork to her briefcase. She was hungry. He was attractive. It was daylight. She was in familiar surroundings. So, she walked to the counter where Richard waited.
“Well, hello, again,” Nicole said.
“Nicole, I’d like you to meet Tall British Guy. He’s working on a movie here at the studio,” Tammy said.
Richard smiled, glancing sideways at Tammy, silently thanking her for omitting “Creepy.”
“Richard. Richard MacKenzie,” he said, reaching for her hand. He had great hands, large and well proportioned. And a very sweet smile.
“Nicole Minnotti. And you are a young director who’s going to be famous one day?” she said teasingly.
“No. Actually I’m an actor, and I’m rather well-known,” he replied. “Well, not here. Most my fans live in Great Britain.”
She took a closer look at him. He seemed charmingly familiar, almost irresistible with incredible eyes and a velvet voice.
“Well then, tell me about this film you’re working on, Mr. MacKenzie,” she smiled and asked.
“Call me Richard, please,” he pleaded.
“Well, it’s the story of a married couple, both private investigators, who are helping Scotland Yard with a murder investigation. I play the role of the Scotland Yard Inspector assigned to work with them. I become romantically entangled with the wife. When the case is solved, though, she returns to her husband for a happy American ending.”
“You know, the back patio is open and there’s a nice breeze,” said Tammy, handing them lunch menus. “Would you like a table back there?”
“Yes, that will be fine,” he said.
Tammy led the way.
Assisting Nicole to her seat, Richard said. “I’m sorry I bothered you earlier. I didn’t realize you were working. Did you finish?”
“Yes. It’s okay, Richard. Normal people don’t use the local café as their office. However, the motel where I stay doesn’t have a wireless connection. This café does, and Tammy is a peach. Once I find a house, I’ll be able to work from home.”
“So, what do you do?”
“I’m in the cold storage business. I’m moving out here from Ohio to handle the Albuquerque operation. The weather here is gorgeous. I’m not used to all this happy sunshine.”
“I agree. I love London, but it’s rainy most of the time.”
“And what do you do when you aren’t making movies?”
“I like to do live theater. I like the excitement of a real audience. It brings out the best in me. I like to hear the laughter and the sighs.
“I also had a series on BBC, ‘Dr. Angus Hunt, Heart Surgeon’ for three years. What do you like to do when you aren’t solving cold storage problems?”
“Well, I don’t know. I’ve been working non-stop for the last two years. Let’s see. I like to travel,” she admitted.
“Favorite place in the whole wide world?”
“Italy” she said. “You?”
“I’m not sure but I like Italy. Where in Italy could we visit together? Venice? Rome?” he whispered seductively.
“Mmmm,” she said, imagining it. “I love both Venice and Rome, but I’ve never been to the Isle of Capri. Have you?”
“No, not yet.”
“I hear it’s gorgeous. They say it has a Greek island flair, and the scenery is spectacular.”
“It sounds wonderful. When shall we go?”
He winked at her while mentally planning the trip.
“I think that’ll depend on the currency exchange. What is the euro right now? Do you know?”
“I know only the pound and the dollar!” he said proudly.
“Well, we’ll have to keep an eye on the euro,” Nicole said.
“What else do you enjoy doing while we wait for the euro to cooperate?” Richard asked.
“I like to golf, but I am terrible at it. As I struggle to hit the ball, I provide comic relief.”
“I bet you just need a little instruction. I’ll help you,” he laughed. “We probably only need to tweak your backswing a little and make sure you’re lined up right.”
They talked about global warming, conservation, and moving the auto industry away from gasoline. They laughed at the antics of world leaders and shared opinions of celebrities whose behavior they found appalling.
“So, tell me more about Nicole Minnotti who works in cold storage. Were you born in Ohio?” Richard asked.
“Yes, Collingswood, in northeast Ohio. You?”
“Duncan, Ireland. On a barley farm.”
“Favorite car you ever owned,” he asked.
“A teal green 1995 Chevy Blazer for its four-wheel drive maneuverability. It could go anywhere in any weather. How about you?”
“My favorite is the one I own at the moment, a 2009 Jaguar XKR convertible. It’s a gleaming, red beauty. I keep it in Ireland. It’s not a car to drive in London. Too much traffic and parking is horrible. I drive a Fiat when I’m in London. Favorite food?”
“Italian. Anything I cook myself. I like my own cooking. I make it just the way I like it. Yours?”
“I don’t have a favorite.”
“Oh my! I’ll have to work on that one. I guarantee you soon will.”
He smiled. Her response implied they would be spending time together.
“Are you married?”
“No. My husband died two years ago.”
“I’m sorry. Was it sudden?”
“He had a heart attack and died in my arms while we waited for an ambulance in the middle of the night.”
Nicole’s thoughts momentarily wandered back to an Ohio bedroom, where she begged Craig to hold on until help came.
“Oh, God! Nicole, that must have been horrible. I’m sorry I asked.”
“It’s okay. I just had a little flashback,” she said, shrugging off the memory. “How about you? Married, engaged, mobbed by adoring young women?”
“No, no, and not really” he lied. He really did get mobbed by throngs of screaming fans at home.
“I’ve been too busy with my career to allow time for any relationships.”
“Or, maybe, I was waiting for you,” his subconscious whispered.
“You know, perhaps it’s time we both smelled the roses. And what better place to step back into the sunshine than here and now.”
She mentally agreed it was time to bury the past. And what better place than here? She loved the Southwest.
“What are your plans for tomorrow?” Richard asked Nicole.
“I’m going to look at a house in the high desert country, an adobe ranch-style home. I like the accommodations at the Wagon Wheel, but I’m tired of living out of my suitcase. A home office would be nice, too.”
Richard’s disappointment showed.
“I was rather hoping you would have time to come by the studio for a little tour and see where I spend the bulk of my time”.
“No, Richard, I can’t. I’m committed to Sunshine Realty tomorrow. There aren’t many single-floor, adobe houses in my price range.”
“Okay, we’ll do the studio tour thing some other time. Could I call you when I am done working? If you’re done with your house-hunting, we could meet for tea? Here? Say yes. I’d really like to see you tomorrow. You could tell me all about the house.
“Say yes. Say maybe. Say something.”
“Oh, all right,” she laughed.
Richard smiled and gave her hand a gentle squeeze.
“Thank you for a truly lovely afternoon, Nicole.”
He reached into his pocket and handed her a small notebook and a pen on which to jot her phone number. For a split second, Nicole considered giving him a false number. He saw her hesitate. She took a deep breath and wrote something.
The next day, Nicole met Teresa from Sunshine Realty at the same coffee shop. They rode out to the house together. The weather was gorgeous, and Nicole was filled with hope and optimism. As they turned up into the long driveway, her heart skipped a beat. The property was amazing.
The Sandia Mountains rose on three sides and the view was incredible. The adobe-style design fit perfectly with the high desert locale.
Again, she was filled with a flood of emotions, similar to those she felt when she met Richard. She was home. She knew it. She fell in love with the place before she even looked inside.
The home’s interior did not disappoint. There were three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a home office, and giant walls of windows that soaked in the breathtaking landscape. She couldn’t wait to see a sunset through those Great Room windows while sipping a glass of wine, maybe with Richard.
Without hesitation, Nicole decided to make an offer on the house. She could hardly contain her excitement.
Richard’s day dragged at a slower pace. He kept looking at his watch, his mind drifting to Nicole. He called her as soon as he was finished but got no answer. He left a message. An hour later, he tried again. She answered and agreed to meet him.
He arrived at the Happy Habanera first.
“Hi, Tammy. How are you today?” he asked cheerfully.
“Hi! Good. Yourself?”
“Very well, thank you. I’m meeting Nicole for tea. Do you have a private table somewhere?”
“Go easy on her, Mr. Smooth Operator. Or you’ll have her whole team down on your head in minutes,” Tammy warned.
“I promise, I’ll behave myself.”
“You’ll need pink sweetheart roses.”
“Nicole’s favorite flower.”
“Got it. Pink sweetheart roses. Thank you, Tammy.”
Nicole walked in and stopped suddenly when she didn’t see Richard.
Tammy interceded, “Richard’s waiting for you on the back patio.”
“Thank you, Tammy. I just got off the phone with Bobby. He and Charlie are on their way back home with the new scissor jacks.”
“Thanks, Nic. I’ve missed him.”
Richard lit up when he saw Nicole but tried not to appear over-zealous. He inhaled her delicious scent as he helped her to her seat.
“Glad you could make it, Nicole. How was your day?”
“Fine, thank you, Richard. Been waiting long?”
“Oh, I’ve been waiting my whole life for you,” a little voice said.
“No, I just got here.”
“So, how was work at the studio today?”
“It was a slow day with very little filming. I’m excited to hear about the house,” said Richard, reaching for her hand.
“Oh, Richard, it is absolutely fabulous. I just love it.”
Nicole described every detail and bubbled with optimism. Her joy pulled at his heart like nothing he had felt for a long time.
“I’d love to see it. Can you call Teresa and see if another tour is possible?”
Nicole was stunned. She hadn’t expected him to show anything more than casual, polite interest. She thought he was just pretending to listen, just nodding and smiling at her.
“Richard, are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m positive.”
Nicole called Teresa.
“Teresa, I was telling a friend about the house and he would like to see it. What are the chances?”
“I am with another client, but you are welcome to come by and pick up the key. Do you remember how to get there? I’ll print you out a map. When you’re done, just drop the key in the lockbox. I hope your friend likes the house.”
NICOLE DROVE. IT was the perfect time of day. The sky was awash with peaches and lavenders. They walked around the outside, marveling at the breathtaking scenery. Nicole explained most of the furniture and the larger artwork was included.
Richard was very quiet as she led him through the house, excitedly babbling about bedrooms, bathrooms, office, kitchen, and a dining room that opened onto a stone terrace. They paused on a sofa in the Great Room, facing the wall of windows and the setting sun.
“Well, what do you think?”
“It’s perfect,” said Richard, smiling and moving closer to her.
“It isreally special, isn’t it?”
He edged closer and whispered, “Oh, yes.”
Without asking, he leaned in and kissed her softly.
She didn’t reject him. So, he pulled her closer and kissed her again, this time with an electricity she hadn’t felt before.
His kisses matched the persistence of the sun, slowly marching across the sky in an endless journey to the horizon. His words were soft and poetic, his voice warm and compelling, his rhythmic movements slow and deliberate.
And those hands! They were gentle and magnificent.
Everything blurred for Nicole. She became lost in his eyes, lips and incredible touch. She felt his tenderness and need. Her own longing reached a crescendo when she realized it was Richard she had been waiting so very long to meet.
It was an emotional and spiritual blending of two souls, soothing, swirling, and replenishing. Their connection was deep and meaningful, gentle but intense. She felt she knew him and had loved him before. It was a joyous reunion.
Richard came alive in the throes of their passion. They shared more than their bodies. Their souls were enjoined, a bond too deep and exhilarating to understand. With Nicole by his side, he could do anything, be anything. When they separated, Richard was compelled to wipe a tear from his eye. He hoped she didn’t notice.
“Nicole, you’re fabulous,” he said. “The house is really great, too.”
“I’m glad the sofa is staying,” joked Nicole. “This is one happy couch.”
As they drove back to town, Richard confessed, “Nicole, where have you been all my life? I feel I have been searching and searching for you. I’m so happy I finally found you.”
Nicole didn’t answer. Her mind was catching up with the rest of her body. She realized he had triggered a response for which she had no defense. Nor did she want any. Thoughts raced through her mind. There were so many things she wanted to tell him before they became too involved.
“I have to tell you something in the spirit of full disclosure,” she proclaimed.
“Well, I know you’re not married.”
“No, but I have been married twice.”
“That’s okay with me. And I don’t think you’ve turned lesbian since Craig died. But, if you have, give me a chance to turn you back.” he teased, winking at her. “Tell me, Nicole, we’ll deal with it.”
“Richard, how old are you, honey? Thirty? Thirty-two?”
“I’m twenty-seven. Would you like to see my International Driver’s License? Isn’t it a little late to check if I’m over twenty-one?”
Nicole’s mouth dropped open and she gave him an odd look.
“Nicole, what’s this about? Tell me. We’ll deal with it together.”
“Oh, God! Twenty-seven?”
Nicole knew she had to tell him. He didn’t have a clue?
“This what-ever-just-happened-between-us can go no farther,” she confessed.
“Why?” Richard asked, trying to read her face. “Nicole, is there someone else? Do you already have someone special in your life?”
Nicole suddenly realized this was not the conversation to have while driving down an unfamiliar, mountain road at night. Richard shook his head and groaned. He mistook her silence for agreement.
“Thereissomeone else. I should have known. You are fabulous. Some lucky man surely would have snapped you up. Let me think, you aren’t married. You aren’t engaged. So, he has really screwed up!
“Call him up and tell him he now has competition. I’ll fight for you, Nicole. And I’ll do anything to make you mine. I’m young, I’m strong, and I am in love with you. I loved you before you ever said one word to me. I knew it when I saw you in the coffee shop. I knew it when you looked up at me and smiled. It was as if you said to me, ‘Here I am. You’ve finally found me.’
“I won’t back down. I won’t give up. I want this. I want you, I want us. Nicole, don’t you?”
“Wow, Richard, that was some speech. We only met yesterday.”
“Too much, too soon?” he asked.
She nodded. Suddenly, he appeared so young and impetuous, so optimistic about love.
“Do you mean I should slow down?” he asked.
“Yes and no. There’s more to this,” she said.
“Then please tell me,” he begged, still smiling, still hoping. “You will be pleasantly surprised as to what I can handle.
“Are you a fugitive? No problem. The studio has a plethora of attorneys on call. Or I can hire a British lawyer. They are outstanding.”
“If you’re an alien, I understand. I’m a science fiction geek! If you are running from Klingons, my family will hide you at our home in rural Ireland. Nicole, please, just tell me. Together, we’ll deal with it, whatever it is.”
They rode the rest of the way in silence. Nicole never took her eyes off the road. Time dragged and tension mounted until the neon blue wagon wheel of her motel flashed on the horizon.
Nicole was shaking when they exited the car. Richard took off his jacket and gently wrapped her in it.
“Come in. We need to talk,” she said and led the way.
When she filled two glasses with wine, Richard assumed it was a prelude to bad news and a great idea.
She handed him a glass.
“Drink,” she said.
He half-wished it were poison. Suddenly, he didn’t want to hear why their relationship was doomed.
She drank hers, smoothed her skirt and said. “I am forty-seven years old, Richard. I’m old enough to be your mother. You are a young man with your whole life ahead of you. You ought to be out with girls in their twenties. You need to think about having a family. There are no children coming from my body.”
“Forty-seven? Really? You don’t look or act it. And I’m glad there are no secret agents, aliens, or thugs chasing you. Age? Is that all? Age is a number. I don’t care how old you are. Age has nothing to do with love. And may I say, you have fantastic muscles, regardless of age.
“I also would’ve been okay with the alien-thing. It certainly would’ve explained the out-of-this-world lovemaking and why I’m so mesmerized by you. Nicole, I don’t care how old or young you are. You are exactly who I have been looking for all my life. More, actually. You’re beautiful, and warm, and funny. You’re sweet and smart. Ah, that must be because you’re forty-seven!”
Nicole laughed and said, “No, I’ve always been smart.”
Again, they laughed. It was warm, comfortable, and intimate.
“Nicole, have you ever experienced that jolt of sheer electricity we shared? Did you feel it with Craig? Do you feel it every time you make love?”
“Hey, watch it, buddy! I don’t sleep around,” she mocked.
“I did not mean to imply you did. Neither do I. Back to the question. Do you? Did you? Have you?”
“No,” she said softly.
“Me, either. I think it means something significant.”
“Oh, Richard, I’ve heard of it before. Cupid’s arrows create lightning bolts, honey, that feel wonderful but never last. I haven’t made love in two years. Maybe it was just static electricity caused by sexual attraction. We may never feel it again.”
“No, it’s more than that; it’s special. I know it, and you know it. You’re afraid.”
“I am not!”
“Yes, you are. You became frightened the moment you heard my age. You’re afraid of this bond between us, of being with a man twenty years your junior. That’s it! Do you think I am too young to adore an older, sophisticated woman?”
She giggled, never thinking of herself as sophisticated.
“No, Richard, I’m not afraid of you or this bond. I don’t know what it is. Why would I fear it? It’s amazing, and you’re wonderful.”
Richard refilled their glasses, happy to hear her words.
“Well then, may I propose a toast? To the beautiful, smart, warm, funny, sweet Miss Nicole, who has given me the thrill and the scare of my life, all within the same hour.”
He motioned toward the sofa.
“Let’s make another ‘happy couch’ and test your theory of static electricity. Shall we, Love?”
He led her to the sofa and pulled her close, kissing her repeatedly.
“Don’t worry about the difference in our ages, Nicole. Rejoice with me in the fact we are alive at the same time, in the same place and on the same planet. We are incredibly lucky to have found each other!”
Again, they were engulfed in the blissful energy that bound them. This time, the electricity was filled with flashing lights, wild colors, and the soft sounds of cherubs strumming harps in a distant place.
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