The Sea Star Bakery - Nicole Ellis



Cassie pulled up to the Inn at Willa Bay, the brakes on her ten-year-old minivan squealing as she brought it to a stop. Better add that to the list, she thought. Since the divorce, it seemed like something broke every time she turned around. At this rate, her bank account would soon be depleted.

She stepped outside and shut the car door slowly, taking in the view. The sun was already high in the sky on this beautiful June morning, its rays bouncing off the glittery blue waters of Willa Bay. A soft breeze fluttered the skirt of the sleeveless lavender dress she’d chosen to wear to church that day.

The front door of the Inn opened about six inches. “I’ll be out in a minute, dear,” Celia James called out. “I just need to feed the dog.” Celia’s little white terrier, Pebbles, flashed in and out of view as he jumped around behind his mistress.

Cassie grinned. Her ex-husband, Kyle, had wanted a golden retriever, but she’d vetoed that long ago knowing she’d have ninety-nine percent of the responsibility for a pet. She’d never been a dog person, but there was something about Pebbles’s antics that always brought a smile to her face. “Take your time,” she shouted back at Celia. There were definitely worse places to be stuck waiting for someone.

Cassie regarded the Inn. Her good friends, Zoe and Meg, along with Shawn – Celia’s grandson and Zoe’s new boyfriend – had recently purchased a half-interest in the dilapidated old resort from Celia and had grandiose plans for renovating it. While Meg had chosen to keep her job for a while longer at the Willa Bay Lodge where she, Cassie, and Zoe had all worked, Zoe had quit her job as the Lodge’s event coordinator soon after purchasing the property.

They had only been working on it for about six weeks, but their efforts had already made a difference. With the help of Shawn’s experience in carpentry and remodeling old houses, they’d replaced all of the rotten siding and repainted the exterior a charming shade of blue that matched the waters of the bay. The lawn had recently been clipped short, and roses bloomed below the wraparound porch, perfuming the air with their scent. When Cassie had been here last week with her ex-husband, their son, Jace, and daughter, Amanda, to celebrate Jace’s birthday at the beach, it looked like some work had been done on the old gazebo as well. Things were really coming along.

The front door swung open and Celia’s walker peeked out, drawing Cassie’s attention away from the renovations – just in time to see a streak of white dart past Celia and down the stairs. “Pebbles! Get back here!” Celia slowly rolled the walker out onto the porch.

Pebbles stopped on the bottom step and turned around to eye his mistress, his tongue lolling from his mouth. He yipped at Celia once, then turned back to the yard, his eyes lighting up as he sensed freedom. Celia sighed. “Pebbles, get back here. I’ll have Shawn take you for another walk this afternoon, I promise.”

Cassie jogged forward as fast as she could go in her one-inch heels and grabbed Pebbles’s collar before he could get any further. Celia had assured her before that he didn’t usually venture very far away when he did get out, but Cassie wasn’t taking any chances.

“Gotcha,” she said to the little dog as she picked him up. He wriggled in her arms, but didn’t fight too hard to escape.

Celia waited on the porch, wearing a calf-length floral dress with cap sleeves. Her snow-white hair was wound into a bun on the back of her head and chunky clip-on earrings adorned her earlobes. She stepped aside to let Cassie take Pebbles back in. “I swear that dog thinks he’s a greyhound or something.”

Cassie laughed and set Pebbles well inside the entry hall, hurrying to close the door securely behind her before he could follow. Celia locked the door and then made her way to the side of the porch, where Shawn had installed a long ramp for her and future guests with mobility issues.

Cassie got Celia settled into the car, then sat down in the driver’s seat, tucking her flouncy skirt under her legs. She drove away from the Inn and down the long gravel driveway, which used to be littered with potholes that made her worry about her minivan’s suspension, but had been one of the first things Zoe and Shawn had repaired when they’d taken