Recap of Chapter 19: Chloe goes out on a date with Penny’s dad, Martin. They set out to get to know each other over coffee at the Bread Lounge. They were having a great time, when the subject of the online troll came into the conversation. Chloe had been dreading that moment.

“I mean, what if we showed up there and they screamed and slammed the door in our faces?”

Things were moving with Penny’s dad, Martin. Chloe had enjoyed several dates and shared a hot and heavy make-out session that left them both wanting more. Unfortunately, that budding romance was overshadowed by Penny’s troubles. And addressing the problem could wait no longer. Chloe attempted to head off the instigator by contacting him privately, but it seemed that anything she said was mocked in his next post. He was itching for a confrontation and seemed hell bent on doing it publicly. The whole situation was becoming problematic.

Chloe made the decision to take down the article, but it wasn’t without a lot of consideration and some unladylike language. At the base of her resistance was the feeling that she’d been bullied, and that made Chloe’s blood boil. She’d been described as tenacious—more than once— and not because she hadn’t earned it. After the article had been unpublished, Chloe did some research on the so-called justice reform group, hoping to find someone who was legally responsible for what they say. It took some doing, but finally she contacted someone who didn’t like the sound of the word slander and the underlying threat of legal consequences that went with it. Within 24 hours, on the group’s home page, a retraction was published. It was obviously coached by someone who knew how to avoid getting into a legal tangle. Chloe couldn’t wait to tell Penny that she’d prevailed, and that was exactly what she intended to celebrate when she popped into the Lucky Penny, a bottle of champagne tucked under her arm.

Jesse greeted her at the door. It was slightly before opening hours, but that wasn’t a problem for Penny’s friends. She did keep an apartment upstairs, after all, so a simple knock was all they needed, especially if staff had arrived to start the day. However, Chloe’s elation was quickly dashed when Jesse told her that Penny and Martin had had enough and left town. Chloe was incredulous. And, just as she was stammering for the right words, her phone buzzed. It was a text from Martin. “Penny is in bad shape, so I convinced her to come to my cabin for a while. We charmed the airline to let Barney ride in the cabin of the plane, so we’re on our way. Gotta run. I’ll keep in touch.”

“Well, isn’t that a kick in the teeth!” she said,

not even trying to hide her disappointment. Jesse shook his head. “I promised to hold down the fort. I’m staying in her place and watching the cat. It’s no trouble for me, and she could really use the break. I gotta tell you, Penny’s been a nervous wreck and I think it will do her good to just get away from it all.”

“Yeah, I hear you,” Chloe agreed. “I just wish they’d talked with me first.” She thanked Jesse and left. She texted Martin in the car, letting him know that the threat had been neutralized. He didn’t answer. Then she remembered that he said his service was spotty at the cabin. That is, if they even arrived yet. They could still be traveling. Frustrated, Chloe decided to drop in for a workout. Pilates or Yoga wasn’t going to cut it today. She wanted spin and weights—sweat and sore muscles.

She went to the Rec Center and claimed a cycle. She was a few miles in and starting to sweat when Matthew walked by. “Hey,” he said, stopping at her station. “Chloe, right—the writer? I thought I recognized you.” Chloe stopped spinning and picked up her towel. “Matthew, Penny’s guy.” Introductions behind them, they began talking about Penny’s sudden decision to go to Maine.

“I think it was more of a need than a choice,” Matthew said. “She didn’t tell me until she was on the way to the airport.”

“So you’re here working out your frustration, like me?”

“Could be some of that, but actually I got into a bad accident a few months back and working out is part of my recovery.” After a bit more general chit chat, Chloe revealed how she’d threatened the obnoxious troll to back down and how she never got a chance to share the good news. And that she was ‘kind of’ dating Martin.

Matthew rubbed his chin and smiled mischievously. “Chloe, are you the type of person who others describe as spontaneous?” That piqued her interest. “It’s happened—more than once,” she admitted with a smirk. “Are you going somewhere with this?”

And that was how later that day, Chloe and Matthew found themselves sitting next to each other on a plane. Destination: Presque Isle, Maine. They toasted their spontaneity with wine for her and gin and tonic for him. “What are the chances they aren’t happy to see us?” he said. He was two drinks in and feeling the buzz. “I mean, what if we showed up there and they screamed and slammed the door in our faces?”

“Oh my God! I hadn’t even thought about that. That would be super embarrassing, I have to admit.”

“I’m not worried. No way that’s gonna happen. Penny’s into me.” He wriggled his eyebrows.

She mocked him, then said, “I would agree. I saw you two at New Year’s Eve. Definitely into you.”

“And is Martin into you?” he asked.

“I think so,” she said coyly.

He mocked her then. “Give me a break. You know when a guy is into you.”

“Okay,” she conceded, “if I trust my instincts, I’d have to say yes, he’s into me.”

“Then this surprise should be good for both of us.”

Penny and her dad had just finished dinner and were enjoying some whiskey by the fire. Their phones were forgotten, which was the whole point. They fled to unplug and rejuvenate their spirits, and she had to admit that so far, the tranquility of the lake and being out in nature had lifted her mood greatly. She was lucky to have Jesse who was willing and capable of stepping into her shoes so she could leave. She was also lucky in that her dad’s presence brought her peace. Not every father and daughter had that relationship. It was his suggestion that they get themselves out of town and into seclusion right that very minute. And they did. Now, with the fire crackling, casting a warm glow into the room, and moon the only light outside, the atmosphere promoted a peaceful feeling.

“Have I thanked you for… well, for everything?” she asked, swilling the whiskey in the glass.

“You know no thanks is necessary,” he said. “That’s what family does, my girl. That’s what family does.”

They were both startled by a knock at the door.