Rosemary Cottage (Hope Beach Series #2)by Colleen Coble, Devon O'Day
Enjoy another action-packed mystery from USA Today bestselling author Colleen Coble. Amy came to Rosemary Cottage to grieve, heal, maybe even find love. But there’s a deadly undertow of secrets around Hope Island . . .See more details below
Enjoy another action-packed mystery from USA Today bestselling author Colleen Coble. Amy came to Rosemary Cottage to grieve, heal, maybe even find love. But there’s a deadly undertow of secrets around Hope Island . . .
Read an Excerpt
A Hope Beach Novel
By Colleen Coble
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Colleen Coble
All rights reserved.
The distant sound of the sea blended with the hum of bees seeking the spring flowers. The clumps of blue-green vegetation gave off a spicy fragrance Amy lang recognized as rosemary. Rosemary for remembrance. She stood on the stone walk beside her friend Libby and stared at the house with memories washing over her.
The old Hope beach cottage in north Carolina's outer banks was just as beautiful as she remembered but sad somehow. As if the cottage knew Ben was gone and mourned with her. The two-story's soft gray siding blended with the slate roof, but the red door and shutters added a punch of welcoming color. The flower boxes at the windows held the dry remains of last year's annuals. The detached garage, in a carriage-house style, sat behind the house and off to one side.
Libby Bourne rested her hand on the belly that swelled her sundress. Her baby was due in two weeks. She wore her long brown hair in a ponytail, and her amber eyes smiled when she stared at the house. "I've always loved Rosemary Cottage. That circular porch is so unique. I did some research and discovered it was built in 1883, but I suppose you know that."
Libby was an architectural historian, and she knew more about old buildings than most architects. The two had become acquainted last summer when Amy and Ben met for their annual vacation at the cottage. Both in their early thirties, the women became instant friends when Amy saw Libby trying to learn to surf and had shown her a few tips.
Libby shifted her purse to the other shoulder. "Earth to Amy. Where did you go?"
"Sorry, I was woolgathering." Amy recovered her composure. "Our ancestor, Oscar Lang, was a sea captain." The gray metal roof was new.
"It has so much character and detail," Libby said, pointing. "Look at the scrollwork under the eaves and the fretwork on the porch. No house has as much charm as a Victorian."
Rosemary Cottage had been passed down through the Lang family for generations, usually jointly owned by siblings. Now it was Amy's alone since her brother's death four months ago. She didn't know if she could open that door and step into the echoing silence of the house where she and Ben had spent so many happy summers. Her eyes stung, but she tipped her chin up.
Libby touched Amy's arm. "Is this all too upsetting? You can come back to Tidewater Inn if you'd rather ease into this whole thing."
Amy shook her head. She didn't want Libby, of all people, to see any weakness in her. "No, I'm going in. I'm just checking out what needs to be done. I really appreciate you coming with me."
Libby frowned at the yard. "It's a little overgrown. I should have gotten a gardener over here."
"Overgrown is an understatement." Amy forced levity into her voice. "The plants all need to be cut back, but I like doing it myself."
Roses rambled up the wall that surrounded the home, and wildflowers covered most of the front yard. Flyspecks marred the windows, and the clapboard siding needed to be spray washed, but the house called to her. If she opened the door, would she hear Ben's laughter, smell his cologne?
Amy pulled the key from her purse and marched up the three steps to the expansive porch. She stepped to the red door, then quickly inserted the key and twisted it. The door resisted her effort for a moment as if giving her time to change her mind. But she was determined to get past this, to get to the truth.
The stale scent of disuse rushed past her on its way to escape into the sea air. Inside the house, the sound of the waves faded and became a pleasant murmur. She shut the door behind them and glanced around. A layer of dust covered the hardwood floors in the entry. The pale yellow walls gave a sense of welcome. This was home. Just as much as it had ever been.
Libby followed her as she wandered through the living room, its furniture draped in sheets. "I wish I'd had a key. I would have made sure it was cleaned and ready. You should stay with me until we can get it spiffed up."
"It's only ten. I have all day to get it ready."
A photo arrested Amy's attention, and she picked it up. It was of her and Ben last summer. Surfboards in hand, they were coming up from a dip in the sea. Both looked immensely pleased with themselves. Amy put the photo back down. She had many more pictures of her brother that she'd brought with her, from babyhood to the last week of his life.
Amy moved toward the door. "Let's get the cleaning supplies."
Libby shook her head. "let's hire it done."
"I want to do it myself. It will be part of the remembering." Libby's expression was troubled. "Amy, don't get me wrong. I love having you here, but you said something on the phone about needing to know the truth. The truth about what?"
Amy held Libby's stare. "I need to find out what happened to Ben."
"I—I don't understand." Libby touched her arm. "He died surfing. The Coast Guard said the rip current dragged him out to sea."
"I don't believe it. Ben knew these waters, knew how to deal with currents. There has to be more." She turned away from the pity in Libby's face. Libby would understand when Amy let her read the e-mail that had come last week, but she wasn't ready to talk about it yet. Something had happened here four months ago, just offshore in those clear blue waters. And she intended to find out what it was. No matter what it took.
Amy moved toward the kitchen. "Let's get the bucket and cleaning supplies."
Libby gasped and pressed her belly. "Oh no."
Amy tensed. "The baby? Are you having contractions?"
"I think that's what it was." Libby's eyes widened, and she stared at the floor where a pool of water began to spread.
"I think your water just broke, lib." Amy took her arm and led her to the sofa. She whisked the sheet off of it and sat Libby down on the leather. "let me get my bag from the car."
Libby's amber eyes were panicked. "It's too soon!"
"Only a couple of weeks, and your baby will be fine. Relax, breathe. I'll be right back." Amy dashed out to the car and grabbed the suitcase that held her midwife instruments. Back inside, she unzipped the case and found her Pinard stethoscope, a trumpet-shaped device.
She hurried back to the living room and knelt beside Libby. "Doing okay?"
"I—I think so. Should I call Alec?"
"Hang on a minute. The baby is going to arrive today, but I want to see if we can safely transport you to the hospital or if I need to ready a bed here."
"Alec is going to freak! He wanted me to go to the mainland and stay until the baby was born, and I told him I was sure we had another week at least. I'd read that first babies are usually late."
Amy nodded. "It's common, but babies are unpredictable." She lifted Libby's top and pressed the stethoscope to her belly, then listened. The reassuring thump, thump made her smile. "The baby's heartbeat is strong." The skin of Libby's belly contracted, and Libby inhaled sharply. Amy patted her. "That was a strong one."
Libby bit her lip. "What should we do?"
"Without checking your cervix, I don't know how much time we have." She watched Libby's face contort again. "It's only been a minute. That was another contraction."
"I didn't want to say anything, but I've been feeling pressure in my back since about two this morning. Could it be labor?"
Amy didn't answer. She cupped Libby's stomach and waited for the next contraction. It showed up right on time about a minute after the last one. A small moan escaped Libby's lips.
Amy reached for her cell phone. "I think we'd better get Alec here."
* * *
It was Curtis Ireland's first day off in weeks, but he laid his Coast Guard pager on the beach towel beside his one-year-old niece, Raine. He prayed it wouldn't summon him to his duties. With any kind of luck, no boats would be in distress and no swimmers would need to be rescued. They would have a perfect day to themselves.
Raine had transferred enough sand to the towel to bury herself. He picked her up and tucked her under one arm, then snagged the towel with the other and shook it out.
She wiggled. "Down!"
"You're bossy." He deposited her by her bucket and shovel. "Do you want to get in the water?" The Atlantic waves were gentle swells. His aunt was out surfing those swells with his friend and coworker Sara Kavanagh. He itched to plunge into the refreshing water himself.
"Ga," Raine said.
He took that for agreement, so he shook the blanket more thoroughly, then spread it out. She lifted her arms, and he picked her up and carried her to the blue ocean. They wouldn't be able to go out too far, but a dip would feel great. He waded into the sea foam with Raine in his arms. She shrieked with delight and batted at the water. She'd been born a sea nymph and had never shown any fear of the ocean.
Edith waved at them, then let the surf carry her toward the shore. His mother's sister was a widow and had been quick to offer to move in with him to help care for Raine when Gina died four and a half months ago. Curtis didn't know what he would have done without her. Edith was fifty with merry hazel eyes and a constant smile. All children loved her on sight.
Raine saw her and squealed. She kicked her feet and reached for Edith. "Ede."
Her hair plastered down and her face pink from the cold water, Edith smiled as she came up out of the water. She scooped Raine out of his arms. "There's my little pint-sized general. I missed you." She gestured toward the water. "Go have some fun, Curtis. I'll watch her. There are some pretty girls on the beach."
Curtis grinned. His aunt was always trying to get him married. She thought Raine needed a mother, but he'd never met a woman who intrigued him enough to pursue. He wasn't into casual relationships either. He was an all-or-nothing sort of guy. "You're the prettiest girl here, Ede. I'd rather spend time with you."
She patted his arm with her free hand. "Save your flattery for one of those pretty girls on the pier."
Sara reached them too. She was about twenty-eight with honey-colored hair and eyes as gray as the sea in November. She was the medic with Curtis's helicopter team. They'd always been friends but nothing more. Sara only had eyes for Josh Holman, the team commander, though the idiot never seemed ready to make his move.
Sara shaded her eyes from the glaring sun and smiled. "I didn't think you'd be able to stay out of the water for long." She glanced at Edith. "Did you tell him?"
Edith shook her head. "not yet."
"Tell me what?" Curtis didn't like the serious expressions on both women's faces.
"Amy Lang is living at Rosemary Cottage."
His stomach clenched. "So?"
"So she should know. Raine deserves some of that estate."
He set his jaw and looked away from Edith's pleading gaze. "Raine wants for nothing. I'll take care of her."
"What about Amy? Doesn't she deserve to know she has a niece? And her parents would love to know they have a grand-daughter. you should have contacted them when Gina died. It's not right."
It was a familiar argument, one he'd won only because it would take so much effort to find the phone number he needed. Edith had pushed him but hadn't insisted. Her entreaties were going to get fiercer with Amy on the island.
His aunt's eyes narrowed, and she pointed her finger at him. "I know that expression. You're mustering all the reasons why you should stay silent, but think, Curtis. What if the shoe were on the other foot and you didn't know Raine existed? Wouldn't you want to know?"
He couldn't deny it. Ben might be scum, but his family was one of the wealthiest on the eastern Seaboard. They had a mansion in Newport, an expansive "cottage" on Cape Cod, and a family jet. Rosemary Cottage, cute as it was, was nothing to them. They could provide more for Raine than he could, but what if they tried to take her away from him? Curtis would never survive losing her. Her smile was the first thing he looked for every morning, and reading her a bedtime story was the nighttime ritual he most enjoyed.
"Curtis?" his aunt persisted.
"I'll think about it. That's all I can promise you." like he would think of anything else.
He remembered Amy so well. The first time he'd seen her she'd been coming up out of the water with Ben. Curtis had come to the beach that day to confront Ben and tell him to leave his sister alone. Instead, Amy had asked him to take a picture of the two of them. She looked like a mermaid with her dark hair streaming down her back to her waist. Her eyes were an unusual color—part green and part golden—and they were full of love and laughter as she looked toward the camera.
It was because of her that he hadn't had the nerve to confront Ben. He didn't want to be the one to cause that expression of sisterly adoration to vanish. So he'd taken the picture, then gotten in his Jeep without a word.
A year later, when Gina was dead, he often thought about that moment and whether his sister would still be alive if he'd put an end to it then and there.
When she got off the ferry at Hope beach, Hope Island's only town, Heather felt as though she'd stepped into another land. The sooner she accomplished her mission and got out of here, the better.
The sun beat down on her head as she walked along the pier to the quaint little town. Heather's first order of business was to find a job so she could fit in. A measly $532 nestled in the large Juicy Couture handbag slung over her shoulder, and it wouldn't last long—a few days at most. Grant could have been a little more generous, but he was a stickler for the little details being right in order to blend in.
Heather held up her head and ignored the friendly stares of the people she passed. There were several restaurants in town. Oyster Café was the first place she saw. Leaving her luggage on the porch, she tucked her long blond hair behind her ears, then pinned on a smile and approached the door.
The building was old outside with wooden siding that had been battered by the wind, rain, and sea. It was all Heather could do to keep her smile in place when she stepped inside. The floor was wooden with the finish worn off. Old tables and mismatched chairs crowded the three small dining rooms. Red-and-white-checkered tablecloths covered the tables, and the owner evidently thought the measly sprigs of flowers in jelly jars made up for the lacking decor.
It would be so humiliating to work here, and she nearly turned around. But no, she had no choice. Grant had tossed her out to sink or swim.
"By yourself today?" the server asked. She was in her forties with faded blond hair and tired brown eyes. She wore jeans and a red T-shirt with a huge oyster emblazoned across the chest.
"I was wondering if you're looking for any help?"
The woman looked her over. "How old are you, honey? Twelve?"
Heather tipped her chin up. "eighteen." The lie was only six months off.
The woman smiled. "Sorry if I offended you. You look young. Can you prove your age?"
"Yes." She pulled out the ID, knowing it would take a person far more trained than someone in this backwater to realize it was fake.
The server stared at it, then back at Heather. "You ever worked before? That purse probably cost more than I make in a week." Her gaze swept over Heather's legs. "And you're wearing Joe's jeans. Though I don't recognize shoe brands, I can tell they were as expensive as your purse."
Heather tipped up her chin and stared her down. "You're judging me on my clothes? Would I be applying for this job if I had no experience?"
"You tell me."
She looked away from the woman's penetrating stare, then forced herself to look back and hold the woman's gaze. "I need the job. I'm a hard worker. Let me prove myself."
It took all her strength to humble herself with this woman. But she could do it.
Her smile seemed to sway the woman. "All right. There's an oyster festival going on all month, and I just lost my best server. I'll give you a try. Follow me to my office to fill out your paperwork. you can start tomorrow."
Heather bit back a jubilant giggle. "You're the owner?"
The woman nodded and thrust out a calloused hand. "Imogene Castor. And your name is?"
"Heather Granger." Just in time she changed the last name to match her ID.
Back in the office, she filled out the paperwork. She had to consult the fake Social Security card in her wallet, but she managed to hide the fact that it was the first time she'd ever seen employment paperwork. At least she had a job. She'd be able to melt into the residents and do what Grant wanted.
She tucked her pen away. "How do I get out to Tidewater Inn? I've heard that's a good place to stay. They have long-term rates."
"Oh, honey, if you don't have a reservation, forget it. Everything is booked for the festival. I guess you could ask though. The owner is a softie, and she might let you bed down on the sofa until a room opens up."
Excerpted from Rosemary Cottage by Colleen Coble. Copyright © 2013 by Colleen Coble. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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