Sanctuary Cove (Cavanaugh Island Series #1) [NOOK Book]

Overview

Sometimes love is the simplest choice of all.

Still reeling from her husband's untimely death, Deborah Robinson needs a fresh start. So she decides to pack up her family, box up her bookstore, and return to her grandmother's ancestral home on Cavanaugh Island. The charming town of Sanctuary Cove holds happy memories for Deborah. And, after she spies a gorgeous stranger in ...
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Sanctuary Cove (Cavanaugh Island Series #1)

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Overview

Sometimes love is the simplest choice of all.

Still reeling from her husband's untimely death, Deborah Robinson needs a fresh start. So she decides to pack up her family, box up her bookstore, and return to her grandmother's ancestral home on Cavanaugh Island. The charming town of Sanctuary Cove holds happy memories for Deborah. And, after she spies a gorgeous stranger in the local bakery, it promises the possibility for a bright, new future.

Dr. Asa Monroe is at a crossroads. Ever since the loss of his family, he has been on a quest for faith and meaning, traveling from one town to another. When he meets Deborah, the beautiful bookstore owner with the warm eyes and sunny smile, Asa believes he has finally found a reason to stay in one place.

As friendship blossoms into romance, Deborah and Asa discover they may have a second chance at love. But small towns have big secrets. Before they can begin their new life together, the couple must confront a challenge they never expected . . .

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Alers (Butterfly), the Forever line’s first African-American author, launches a new series set off the South Carolina coast with a gentle romance focused on second chances. Widow Deborah Robinson moves herself, her two teens, and her bookstore to her grandmother’s island hometown, where Dr. Asa Monroe waits to begin a new chapter of his life overseas following the recent death of his wife and son. Despite their immense grief, Asa and Deborah can’t keep their eyes off each other when they meet. Their attraction inevitably builds to friendship and love. With a straightforward plot and Deborah’s uncommonly quick discarding of her mourning, the only tension is how the couple will be reunited after they part. Soaked in an old-fashioned feel, Alers’s hyper-realistic style highlights the mundane details and conversations of daily life and will appeal to readers looking for gentle, inexplicit romance. Agent: Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation. (Jan.)
Jill Shalvis
"I truly and thoroughly enjoyed the book. I found it a wonderful, warm, intriguing romance and was happy to find a new author to read."
RT Book Reviews on SANCTUARY COVE
" With this introduction to the Cavanaugh Island series, Alers returns to the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Readers will enjoy the ambiance, the delicious-sounding food and the richly described characters falling in love after tragedy. This is an excellent series starter."
Hope Ramsay
"Carolina Lowcountry comfort food, a community of people who care, and a wonderfully emotional love story. Who could ask for more? Sanctuary Cove is the kind of place you visit and never want to leave."
The Romance Readers Connection on SANCTUARY COVE
"SANCTUARY COVE is a beautiful romantic story about second chances."
Night Owl Reviews on SANCTUARY COVE
"Sanctuary Cove is a gripping, second chance at love romance...[it's] real and truly inspiring. I highly recommend it!"
Library Journal
Recently widowed and needing a new direction, Deborah Robinson takes her teenaged children, her resolve, and her bookstore and returns to the scene of her childhood summers, her grandparents' house on South Carolina's Cavanaugh Island. Deborah expects to find a sense of belonging and peace, but soon an attractive snowbird, Dr. Asa Monroe, catches her eye. Asa takes a job at her bookstore, and Deborah's life takes a surprising turn as they are both caught off guard by their growing feelings and are forced to rethink their separate, well-laid plans. Richly detailed descriptions and likable, well-developed characters, including mature protagonists and a pair of teens you'd actually be proud to call your own, are highlights of this engaging read. VERDICT Joining the popular trend toward community-oriented romances, Alers brings the South Carolina Lowcountry to vivid life as she infuses a gentle, satisfying romance with sultry Southern charm and Gullah-infused lore and creates an appealing sea island community that readers are sure to want to revisit. Alers (Capital Wives) lives in South Floral Park, NY.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781455506385
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/1/2012
  • Series: Cavanaugh Island Series , #1
  • Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 45,943
  • File size: 923 KB

Meet the Author

With nearly two million copies of her novels in print, Rochelle Alers is a regular on the Waldenbooks, Borders and Essence bestseller lists, and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Gold Pen Award, the Emma Award, Vivian Stephens Award for Excellence in Romance Writing, the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award and the Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award.

You can learn more at:
www.rochellealers.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Rochelle-Alers/109475799070368
Twitter: @rochellealers

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Read an Excerpt

Sanctuary Cove


By Rochelle Alers

Forever

Copyright © 2012 Rochelle Alers
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781455501403

Chapter One

Barbara, are you sure you don’t mind looking after Whitney and Crystal for the week? You know I can always take them with me.”

“Deborah Robinson! Do you realize how many times you’ve asked the same question and I’ve given you the same answer? No, I don’t mind at all. Now go before you miss your ferry. And no cell phone calls from the car.”

“Thanks for everything,” Deborah whispered, hugging her friend. “I’ll call you from the island.”

Deborah ran across the front lawn, jumped into her car, fastened the seatbelt and pulled away from the curb. Smiling at years of happy memories as she drove through the back streets of Charleston, Deborah made it to the pier before sailing time. She drove onto the ferry, turned off the car, and got out to stand at the rail, instantly refreshed by the cool breeze. This time her return to the small community of Sanctuary Cove wouldn’t be for a weekend or mini-vacation, but to air out the house she’d inherited from her grandparents in order to make it her home and to look at a vacant store she’d rented where she’d open her bookstore.

Two blasts from the ferry’s horn echoed it was time to sail; a man on the pier tossed the thick coil of hemp to another worker on the ferry, freeing it; below deck engines belched, coughed, and rumbled. There came another horn blast and the ferryman deftly steered the boat through the narrow inlet until he reached open water.

Resting her elbows on the rail, Deborah watched as steeples and spires of the many churches rising above the landscape disappeared from view. As the boat headed in a southeast direction she stared at the island shorelines of Kiawah, Seabrook and Edisto Islands before the ferryboat slowed, chugging slowly and docking at Cavanaugh Island. She was the last one off the boat, and waved to the captain as he tipped his hat.

Driving off the ferry, she felt herself blinking back tears, remembering the last time she’d come here. It had been Thanksgiving and she, Louis and their kids had decided to celebrate the holiday at the Cove rather than in Charleston. Louis never could have imagined as he’d carved turkey that a week later he would become embroiled in a scandal. That he would be seen in a compromising position with one of his female students.

Despite declaring that he was simply comforting her, and there was nothing improper going on between him and the student, Louis Robinson was suspended pending a school board hearing. Tensions and emotions were fever-pitched as Charlestonians formed opposing factions while Louis awaited his fate. Deborah blamed those who were quick to judge her husband for his death, and all of their condolences fell on deaf ears when the truth was finally revealed. The truth had come too late. She’d lost her husband of eighteen years and Whitney and Crystal their father.

Slowing and coming to a complete stop, she reached for a tissue and blotted the tears, praying for a time when the tears wouldn’t come without warning, or so easily. It took several minutes, but after taking a few deep breaths, she was back in control.

Stepping on the accelerator, Deborah drove slowly along the paved road, bordered on both sides by palmetto trees and ancient oaks draped with Spanish moss.

She maneuvered onto the quaint Main Street and suddenly felt another rush of sadness, but this one was not personal. Like so many small towns across the United States she realized the Cove was slowly dying. She noticed more boarded-up storefronts; the sidewalks were cracked and even the Cove Inn, a boardinghouse and one of the grandest houses on the island, needed a new coat of white paint.

Deborah drove into the small parking lot behind Jack’s Fish House. After only a cup of coffee earlier that morning she needed to eat before throwing herself into the chore of cleaning the house. There were more than a dozen cars in the lot; some she recognized as belonging to local fishermen.

The winter temperature on Cavanaugh was at least ten degrees warmer than in Charleston, so she left her wool jacket in the car. Reaching for her purse she walked up from the lot to the entrance of the restaurant, an establishment that was known for serving some of the best seafood in the Lowcountry.

The familiar interior of Jack’s Fish House hadn’t changed in decades. Tables hewn from tree trunks bore the names and initials of countless lovers, ex-lovers, and those who wanted to achieve immortality by carving their names into a piece of wood. Only the light fixtures had changed, from bulbs covered by frosted globes to hanging lamps with Tiffany-style shades. A trio of ceiling fans turned at the lowest speed to offset the buildup of heat coming from the kitchen each time the café doors swung open. The year before the Jacksons had added a quartet of flat screen televisions, primarily for the fishermen who went out at dawn and returned midday with their nets laden with crabs, oysters, and shrimp.

Deborah walked past restaurant regulars and a few strange faces to sit at a round table for two in a far corner. The mouthwatering aromas coming from dishes carried by the waitstaff triggered a hunger she hadn’t felt in weeks. She knew she’d lost too much weight, and although she had cooked for Whitney and Crystal, she would take only a few forkfuls of food before feeling full.

Suddenly, a shadow fell over the table and her head popped up. Luvina Jackson, wearing a pair of overalls and a bibbed apron, arms crossed under her ample bosom, gave Deborah a sad smile. Her gray hair was covered with a hairnet. “Stand up, baby, and let Vina hold you. I’m so sorry about Louis.”

Deborah couldn’t hold back tears as she sank into the comforting softness of Luvina’s well-rounded figure. The smell of yeast and lily of the valley wafted in her nostrils, a fragrance Luvina had worn for as long as Deborah remembered.

“Thank you, Miss Vina.”

Luvina rocked her back and forth. “You know the Cove would have turned out for you if you hadn’t had a private service.”

“I know that, Miss Vina. But I would’ve lost it if the hypocrites who were so quick to judge Louis would’ve shown up to pay their so-called respects.”

“All you had to do was say the word and we would’ve been there for you with bells on. Ain’t no way we gonna let dem two-face, egg-suckin’ vultures hurt one of our own. We would have turned it out.”

“Then we all would’ve been on the front page of The State or The Post and Courier, not to mention footage on the local television news,” Deborah murmured.

“I just want you to know we would have been there for you, baby. How are your kids doing?”

Easing out of her embrace, Deborah met Luvina’s eyes. “They’re coping as well as they can. But kids are kids and they are much more resilient than grown folks. They’re spending the week with friends until school begins again.”

“Thank goodness for that. Enough talk. I know you came in here to git somethin’ to eat. Whatcha want?”

Deborah smiled. Even though she’d been born and raised in Charleston, coming back to the Cove and listening to the different inflections interspersed with the Gullah dialect made her feel as if she had come home. “Do you have any okra gumbo?”

Luvina’s broad dark face, with features that bore her Gullah ancestry, softened as she smiled. “I jest put up a long pot earlier dis mornin’.”

Deborah returned Luvina’s smile. She liked Jack’s okra gumbo because they fried the okra with oil to reduce the slime and added corn to the savory dish. “I’ll have a bowl with a couple of buttered biscuits.”

“Do you want rice?”

“No, thank you. But I’m going to order something to take home for dinner.”

“Whatcha want fo’ dinner?”

“Anything that’s good, Miss Vina.”

Eyes wide, Luvina stared at Deborah. “Now you got to know that everything we makes at Jack’s is good. Have you been gone so long that you forgot that?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Let me put somethin’ together for you. You like oxtails?”

“I love them.”

“Good. Then I’ll fix you some oxtails with ham hocks. I’ll also give you some rice, because you need some meat on your bones. Collards and a slice of my coconut cake should fill you right up.”

“That sounds good, Miss Vina.”

“Rest yourself and I’ll be right back.”

When Deborah sat down, closed her eyes and pressed the back of her head to the wall behind her, she realized she was hungry and unbelievably tired. Tired from stress that had worn her down like a steady rush of water over a pile of rocks.

Her parents had come up from Florida for the funeral and had all but begged her to move down there, but Deborah told them she couldn’t uproot Whitney and Crystal. Whitney was in his last year of high school, and fifteen-year-old Crystal would have problems adjusting and making friends at a new school. Crystal had taken her father’s death much harder than Whitney, who’d grieved in private.

Her musings were interrupted when Luvina’s granddaughter walked over to the table with a large glass of sweet tea and a plate with two biscuits. “Sorry about Mr. Robinson, Miss Deborah. All the kids cried for days when we heard he’d drowned. He was the best math teacher in the whole high school.”

Deborah smiled at the girl, who lived on the island but went to high school with her children. “Thank you, Johnetta. How are you?”

“I’m good, Miss Deborah. Right now I’m applying to nursing schools up north, but my momma and daddy don’t want me to leave the state, so I have to apply to one here.”

“Charleston Southern University has a school of nursing. You can live here while you’re taking classes. That would save you a lot of money.”

Johnetta smiled, displaying the braces on her teeth. “You’re right. I could take the ferry or get my father to drop me off when he goes to work.”

“That sounds like a plan.”

“Thank you, Miss Deborah. I’m going to go and bring out your food.”

Deborah stared at the tall girl, who’d at one time admitted she liked Whitney, but he’d acted as if she didn’t exist. She’d wanted to tell Johnetta that Whitney was more interested in sports than he was in a relationship with a girl. It wasn’t as if he didn’t like girls, but sports and academics were his priority.

Johnetta returned with a bowl of okra gumbo and after the first spoonful Deborah felt as if she’d been revived. The soup was delicious, the biscuits light and buttery and the sweet tea brewed to perfection. She’d tried over and over, but whenever she brewed tea it was either too strong or too weak. Too strong meant adding copious amounts of sugar and too weak made it taste like sugar water.

She finished her lunch and paid the check, reminding Johnetta she’d come back to pick up her takeout order. Leaving Jack’s, Deborah strolled along Main Street, stopping to stare through the windows of stores and shops. Grass had sprouted up through the cracks in the sidewalk. There had been a time when there were no cracks and the only thing that had littered the sidewalks or curbs was sand and palmetto leaves. The sand-littered streets added to the charm of the town, but dead leaves and debris were swept away by shopkeepers every morning.

She continued her stroll, turning onto Moss Alley, and then came to a complete stop. Moss Alley was appropriately named because of the large oak draped in Spanish moss on the corner. Shading her eyes, Deborah peered through the glass window of a store that had once been a gift shop. The space wasn’t particularly wide, but deep enough for her bookstore. And what made it even more attractive was it had a second floor—space where she could store her inventory.

A flutter of excitement raced through her. It was perfect for The Parlor. It was off the main street, but on the corner where anyone walking or driving by would notice it. With hand-painted letters on the plate-glass, a colorful awning, and furniture resembling a parlor, it would generate enough curiosity to draw in customers.

She walked down the street, stopping at the opposite end of the block. Smiling, she waved through the window of the Muffin Corner at the woman behind the counter, who beckoned her.

She opened the screen door and was met with tantalizing aromas of fruit and freshly made cakes, pies, and donuts. Lester and Mabel Kelly had opened the shop the year before. Both had worked as pastry chefs for a hotel chain, but had tired of the frantic pace of baking for catered parties and returned to the Cove to open the Muffin Corner.

Mabel Kelly flashed a gap-tooth smile when Deborah walked in. Coming from behind the counter, she hugged her. “How’s it going, girl?”

Deborah returned the hug. “I’m good.”

Pulling back, Mabel narrowed her eyes. She and Deborah were the same age, thirty-eight, but there was sadness in Deborah’s eyes that made her appear older. “I’m sorry about Louis, Debs. It’s a damn shame folks accused him of something he didn’t do, and would never think of doing. I can tell you that folks here were ready to get in their cars and start some mess Charleston hasn’t seen in a while.”

“I know that, Mabel.”

“Is that why you decided to have a private funeral?”

“It was one of the reasons.”

“You know I called your house but some woman named Barbara answered. Damn, you thought I was trying to set up a lunch date with President Obama the way she interrogated me. In the end, I told her to let you know I’d called.”

“She did, Mabel. And, I do appreciate you calling.”

“Can I get you something?”

“No thanks. I just came from Jack’s.”

Physically Deborah and Mabel were complete opposites. Mabel was barely five foot and had what people call birthing hips, yet she’d never had any children. She said she didn’t want any because she’d helped her father raise six younger siblings after her mother got hooked on drugs. The year she’d turned fourteen her mother had taken the ferry to Charleston to score and never came back. There were reports that someone had seen her in Savannah, strung-out, but it was never confirmed.

The wind chime over the door tinkled musically. “Excuse me, Debs,” Mabel whispered. “Let me take care of this customer, then we’ll sit and talk.” Her smile grew wider. “Afternoon, Asa. Can I get you to sample today’s special along with your black coffee with a shot of espresso?”

“No thank you, Mabel. I’ll just have coffee,” she heard the man reply.

Deborah sat, enjoying the aromas of the shop before her gaze lingered on Mabel’s customer. He was a tall, slender, middle-aged black man. Though he was dressed casually in khakis, long-sleeved light-blue button-down shirt, and black leather slip-ons, Deborah couldn’t take her eyes off the handsome stranger. He didn’t look familiar, so either he was a newcomer, visitor, or tourist. Cavanaugh Island didn’t get many tourists during the winter months, but the balmy seventy-degree temperatures attracted a few snowbirds from the northeast and Midwest.

Without warning, he turned and caught her staring. Their gazes met and fused, and they shared a smile. He continued to stare and Deborah couldn’t control the rush of heat in her face; she lowered her eyes and didn’t glance up again until the wind chime tinkled when the door closed behind the very attractive man.

“I like what you’ve done with the shop,” Deborah said to Mabel when she joined her at the table.

“We don’t have a Starbucks here in the Cove, so Lester and I decided to offer something other than regular coffee to go along with the muffins. Business has really picked up since we put in the tables. We mostly get retirees who order their favorite muffin, coffee, and read the newspaper whenever it gets too hot to sit in the square, or during rainy weather. It’s a big hit, especially with the snowbirds.” Mabel bit her lip. “If it wasn’t for the snowbirds businesses in the Cove would really have a hard time staying open.”

“It’s that bad?” Deborah asked.

“Just say it could be better. Most of us are hanging on by the skin of our teeth, waiting for the summer season. Take Asa Monroe, the man who just left.”

“What about him?” she asked. For a reason she couldn’t fathom, Deborah wanted to know more about the stranger who unknowingly intrigued her.

“He rents a suite at the Cove Inn, been here about six weeks. He eats lunch at Jack’s, sends his laundry out and comes in every day for his black coffee with a shot of espresso. Multiply that by twenty or thirty snowbirds and it’s enough revenue to keep small shopkeepers afloat until the summer season.”

Deborah nodded. “I noticed a few more vacant stores since the last time I was here.”

“The gift shop closed up last month.”

“I just rented it.”

A beat passed before Mabel said, “You’re kidding?”

“No I’m not. I’m moving to the Cove and—”

“Permanently?”

Deborah nodded again. “Yes. I’m also moving my bookstore. I called the chamber and they gave me a listing of the vacant stores. Once I found out the gift shop had closed, I realized it would be perfect. It has more square footage than my Charleston store and having a second floor is a bonus.”

Mabel leaned closer. “What about your kids?”

“Nothing’s going to change, Mabel, except that they’ll live here instead of in Charleston. They’ll still go to the same high school and hang out with their same friends.”

“What are you going to do with your house on the mainland?”

“I’m putting it up for sale. I know the real estate market is soft,” Deborah said quickly when Mabel opened her mouth, “but I’m willing to accept a reasonable offer because I don’t want to rent it.” She glanced at her watch, then stood up, Mabel rising with her. “I have to get back to the house. I’ll drop by again in a couple of days.”

“How long are you staying?”

“I’m leaving New Year’s Eve. I promised the kids I’d be back in time to bring in the new year with them.” Extending her arms, Deborah hugged Mabel.

She left the Muffin Corner, stopping again at the vacant store on Moss Alley that was soon to be the new home of The Parlor bookstore.

Chapter Two

Asa Monroe was sitting at a bistro table outside of the Muffin Corner sipping his coffee when he saw the woman with the infectious smile walk out and head in the opposite direction. Her smile was like a ray of sunshine, spreading over her face and lighting up her eyes. And that body… Asa couldn’t take his gaze off of her. She was the first woman to intrigue him since his arrival in Sanctuary Cove. As soon as she disappeared from his line of vision, he got up and walked back into the pastry shop, curiosity getting the best of him.

“Can I help you with something else?” Mabel Kelly asked when he dropped the empty cup into a plastic-lined wastebasket, a puzzled expression on her face.

“The lady that was just in here… I—”

“You must be talking about Mrs. Robinson?”

Asa nodded. Mabel referring to her as Mrs. Robinson meant that she was married, even though he’d noticed she hadn’t worn a ring. “This is the first time I’ve seen her. I was wondering if she lives here.”

“Deborah,” she paused, amusement crossing her features, “just told me that she’s moving to the Cove permanently come the first of the year. She and I were what kids nowadays call BFFs. I used to count down the days when school was out for her to come from Charleston to stay on the Cove with her grandmother. And once the summer was over and school started we would cry like we were never going to see each other again.”

“Did you ever stop crying?” Asa joked.

Throwing back her head, Mabel laughed. “The year we turned twelve we decided we were too old to cry and stopped.”

“Did you stay in touch after summer vacation ended?” Asa didn’t know why he continued to question Mabel about Deborah Robinson, because after all she was a married woman.

Mabel nodded. “We designed our own greeting cards with peel-off stickers and mailed them to each other.”

“Why didn’t you call?”

“I’m one of seven, so with six other kids in the house the phone was always busy, unlike today when kids have their own cell phones.”

The tinkling of the wind chime preempted Asa from asking another question. He smiled at Mabel. “Thanks, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Turning on his heel, he nodded to Eddie Wilkes, editor of the Sanctuary Chronicle, the island’s biweekly newspaper.

Rather than return to the bench outside, he headed in the direction of the beach. His routine since his arrival on the island had become predictable. After lunch he came to the Muffin Corner for coffee, then spent the next hour strolling along the beach. This was nothing like his demanding lifestyle in Dover, Delaware. Sanctuary Cove had no fast food restaurants, malls, department stores, traffic jams, or even street lights. Life was slow, laid-back and stress-free.

When he’d come to Cavanaugh Island nearly two months ago, Asa wasn’t certain what he’d been looking for until he’d checked into the Cove Inn. What he needed was peace. Staring out the window of his suite he saw palmetto trees, a stretch of beach, and the ocean—a landscape so different from the one in the Dover suburb where he’d lived and practiced medicine. Even the air smelled different.

The hardest thing for Asa to get used to was the quiet. As soon as the sun set it was as if Sanctuary Cove went to sleep. Even those who sat on the benches at the town square talked quietly to each other, as if they didn’t want disturb the stillness of the evening. He’d heard sounds that were completely foreign to his ears, and when he’d asked someone about roaring noises he was told they came from the alligators in a nearby swamp.

A friend had accused him of running away when he’d closed his medical practice and sold his house. What his friend didn’t understand was that he couldn’t stay there any longer, not with the memories of his family haunting him relentlessly. It was as if he could still hear his son’s childish laughter through the halls, or his wife’s knocking on his home office door to tell him dinner was ready. The only time they hadn’t sat down to eat as a family was the one night a week when he offered evening hours. A shudder worked its way through Asa, and he shook his head trying to cleanse his mind of the past.

November made it a year since he’d lost his wife and son in a horrific automobile accident, when the car she’d been driving skidded off an icy road. A year in which he’d become a widower and a nomad, traveling from state to state, city to city while awaiting approval of his application to Doctors Without Borders.

Sanctuary Cove had become just that—a sanctuary—because it was here that he’d discovered the peace that had eluded him since that fateful day when he’d lost the two people he loved most.

Reaching into her handbag, Deborah took out the key to the vacant storefront that had been mailed to her along with the executed lease. She unlocked the front door, leaving it open, and flipped a wall switch. Track lighting cast a warm glow over the empty space with walls painted a soft, calming pistachio green.

She had lost track of the number of times she’d been inside the gift shop, and when she’d spoken to the agent handling the property she knew unequivocally that she wanted to rent the store. She’d met with the agent in Charleston, signed the necessary documents, and written checks to cover the rent for the first and last month of a two-year lease. She figured she’d know within two years if the bookstore would be a success. If not, she would go out of business and apply for a teaching position at the local school.

Deborah felt a shiver of excitement as she envisioned shelves stacked with books, tables, chairs, loveseats, and floor and table lamps that would reflect the bookstore’s name. There was enough space for the concert piano that had once belonged to her maternal grandmother, and for cozy reading corners.

A door at the back led to a staircase. Deborah counted nine steps before she stood on a landing that opened out to a studio-type apartment. An antique iron bed, sans mattress, occupied one corner, a sofa and matching chair filled another; there was an efficiency kitchen with a refrigerator, stove, and sink. A table with two chairs made up the dining area, and when she opened a door she discovered a small bathroom. She touched a wall switch and light from a floor lamp cast a soft glow over the dust-covered floor. Two grimy windows faced Main Street and another two overlooked Moss Alley. The walls were off-white and like those on the first floor appeared as if they had been recently painted.

She opened one more door to a flight of stairs that led down to the rear of the store. The apartment needed a good cleaning, but with a new mattress for the bed and a wardrobe to store clothes it would be in move-in condition should she decide to rent out the space. Closing that door, she walked to the other entrance, leaving the imprint of her shoes in the dust as she descended the staircase to the first floor. Stepping outside, she locked her new bookstore and walked back to Jack’s Fish House.

About twenty minutes later, Deborah unlocked the door to her house, shouldering it open as she cradled a large paper sack to her chest. Something told her that Luvina had added to her takeout order. The buildup of heat inside the two-story, three-bedroom house was overwhelming. Placing the bags on a table in the narrow entryway, she began opening the windows on the first floor. One window in the dining room resisted her efforts before she remembered it was the one Louis had promised to repair.

She raced up the staircase and opened windows in the bedrooms. An ocean breeze filtered through the screens, gently lifting the sheers; within minutes the scent of salt water had dispelled the slightly musty smell. Five weeks. It’d been five weeks since she’d prepared a meal in the kitchen or slept in the queen-sized bed, but so much had changed in that time that it could have been five years.

Blowing out her breath, she retraced her steps to put away the food she’d ordered from Jack’s. She was right. Luvina had added containers of shrimp, nut and apple, and potato salads.

There was also a Styrofoam container with fried chicken and Jack’s celebrated poppin’ fried shrimp.

“Thank you, Miss Vina,” she whispered. It was obvious Luvina wasn’t going to let her go hungry.

Deborah opened the refrigerator, storing the containers. Boxes of baking soda had kept it fresh smelling, although she’d also emptied it of all foodstuffs before leaving after the Thanksgiving weekend. The refrigerator had been left running because they’d planned to return to spend Christmas and the school recess on the island.

She mentally outlined what she needed to do, but first things first. She called Barbara to check on her children, and was told they had gone bowling with Barbara’s son and daughter. Deborah hung up, not wanting to appear an anxious, clinging mother.

As soon as she ended the call, her cell phone rang. Deborah smiled when she recognized the number on the display. It was the real-estate broker handling the sale of her home. “Hi, Sherilee. Please give me some good news.”

“I have very good news. A young couple with twin boys met your asking price. Believe it or not, I’m sitting here staring at a bank check for the full amount.”

“What!”

“You heard me.”

“What did they do? Rob a bank?”

“Close,” Sherilee crooned. “Her father owns a bank. He wanted her to buy some monstrosity with double-digit rooms, but she’d grown up in what amounts to a mansion and she didn’t want that for her children.”

Deborah’s smile was dazzling. “Good for her and good for me.” Her house hadn’t been on the market two weeks and she had a buyer. That also meant she had to pack up eighteen years of memories. She also had to pack up her store and make arrangements to have the books and shelves transported to Sanctuary Cove. “When do you think we’ll close?”

“I’m hoping it will happen within two weeks.”

“Whether it happens or not, I’m still moving.”

“I understand why you’re doing it, Deborah,” Sherilee said sadly before continuing. “On a happier note, I also have some more good news. I just handled the sale of a house that belonged to an eighty-eight-year-old woman. Her great-grandchildren found a couple of boxes of old books in a closet, some dating back to the thirties and forties. I immediately thought of you. They were going to throw them out, but I managed to salvage them. They’re here in my cubicle if you want them.”

Deborah could hardly contain her excitement. “Sherilee, I love you for looking out for me.”

“Come on, Deborah. We go way back, and I know you’d do the same for me.”

“You know I would,” she said with complete sincerity. Deborah and Sherilee had been roommates at Bennington College. Both were southern girls away from home for the first time, and during their second year they began a friendship that had lasted two decades.

“When are you coming back to Charleston?”

“I’d planned to return New Year’s Eve, but it looks like I’m coming back sooner. I have to arrange to have the house and bookstore packed up.”

“What are you going to do with your furniture?” Sherilee asked.

“I’m going to take mostly personal items like china, silver, crystal, and a few chairs for the bookstore, and donate the rest. I’ll red tag everything I’m taking to the Cove, so if there is something you want feel free to take it.”

“I have a former client who lost practically everything in a house fire. Would you mind if I picked up some things for her?” Sherilee asked. “What makes things so difficult is that she just went through a very nasty divorce and her ex won’t give her one penny above what he pays for child support.”

The house on the Cove was fully furnished; she’d had the plumbing and wiring updated and had replaced all the floors two years ago. The refrigerator, washer, and dryer were less than a year old and only one window in the dining room needed repair.

“As soon as I get back and inventory the house she can come over and pick out what she needs.”

“God bless you, Deborah.”

Again a rush of tears filled her eyes. She wiped them away with the back of her hand. “He has, Sherilee. I’ll call you when I get back to Charleston.” She ended the call before breaking down completely.

During the moments when she didn’t wallow in self-pity, Deborah realized although she’d lost her husband she was grateful she still had her children. Her own mother had miscarried three times before she was able to carry to term, resulting in Deborah’s birth. Pearl Williams had tried again to have another child, but when she miscarried a fourth time she opted for a hysterectomy.

Bringing her legs up, Deborah rested her feet on the edge of the chair, buried her head on her knees, and cried. She cried for what was and would never be again. She cried until she was spent, then got up and went into the half-bath off the kitchen to splash cold water on her face. No more crying, no more self-pity. She had to be strong for herself and her children. They were depending on her to take care of them and she would. It was something she’d promised the first time she’d held her son and daughter in her arms.

Later, lying in bed, Deborah’s mind continued to wander, making her restless. Rolling over onto her belly she closed her eyes, willing sleep to claim her tired mind and exhausted body. She counted slowly, reaching one hundred sixty-three, and she was still wide awake. After tossing and turning restlessly, she got out of bed and went downstairs to make a cup of hot chocolate. The warm liquid managed to relax her enough that when she got back into bed she fell asleep within minutes of her head touching the pillow.

“What are you doing, Barbara?” Deborah asked when she was practically pushed out the door. She’d gotten up early to make the trip to Charleston and pick up the kids from Barbara’s house, but barely had a chance to ring the bell before Barbara’s front door flew open.

“Keep your voice down. We have to talk—at your house. Please.”

She’d never known her friend to plead for anything, and there was a look in her eyes that indicated something was wrong. “Okay.”

Moments later, Deborah sat opposite Barbara on matching loveseats in her family room. “You want me to tell your husband that I’m inviting you and your children to Sanctuary Cove for New Year’s Eve?”

Barbara nodded, a wealth of salt-and-pepper twists moving around her round face with the motion. The registered nurse had begun graying at nineteen and now at forty was almost completely gray. “My numbskull of a husband is talking about hosting an open house get-together at our place. And, you know who he wants to invite?”

Deborah rolled her eyes upward. “Don’t tell me some of the high school teachers?”

“Exactly. I don’t know what Terrell was thinking about. He knows I’d invited you to spend the holiday with us.”

Clasping her hands between her denim-covered knees, Deborah leaned forward. Terrell Nash was a guidance counselor and assistant football coach at the same school where Louis had taught math. “It’s not the end of the world, Barbara. I can stay home.”

“No!”

“Yes!”

“I’m not going to let you stay home by yourself. It’s too soon.”

“Too soon for what? And what are you afraid of, Barbara? That I’m going to become unhinged and harm myself because this will be the first New Year’s Eve in twenty years that I’ll spend alone?” Biting her lip, Barbara nodded. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be all right.”

“There’s no way I’m going to suck up to a bunch of fake-ass people because they just happen to work with my husband. I’ve been trying to change his mind. The only consolation is he still hasn’t called anyone to invite them to drop in for drinks and hors d’oeuvres.”

“Not dealing with Louis’s former colleagues is my choice. It shouldn’t be yours.”

“I made it mine, Deborah, when some of them got in my face because I’d defended Louis. And now my husband wants to invite these hypocrites into my home. What the hell is he thinking?” Barbara enunciated each word. “And you know how my kids love going to Sanctuary Cove.”

Deborah stared at her friend. If she’d had a sister she would’ve wanted her to be Barbara Nash. She didn’t know what she would’ve done if her neighbor hadn’t run interference for her when members of the press camped outside her door, seeking photographs of her and her children once the girl whom Louis was allegedly involved with had revealed she was pregnant. Barbara had called her police officer brother, who had threatened the media with trespassing if they didn’t leave Deborah’s property. And it was Barbara who fed Whitney and Crystal when Deborah couldn’t get out of bed, and Barbara who had been with her when she went to the morgue to identify Louis’s body.

“Okay. I’m officially inviting you and your family to Sanctuary Cove for the New Year’s weekend. We’ll take my car and Whitney’s. That way you won’t have to pay the outrageous parking permit fee.”

Barbara’s light brown eyes sparkled like newly minted copper pennies, and a smile spread across her tawny brown face. “I’ve already shopped for food, so I’ll pack up everything in cooler chests and bring it along.”

“Do you think Terrell will go along with this?”

“All he has to hear is ‘Sanctuary Cove’ and he’s in the car ready to go.”

Deborah nodded. It was Wednesday and it’d been two days since she’d spoken to Sherilee. She would’ve spent the week on the Cove, but had decided to come back to Charleston earlier than Friday to start packing up the house. “We’ll leave Friday morning after noon.”

Deborah sat staring at the photos on the fireplace mantle after she heard the door close behind her neighbor. The house was eerily silent without Crystal and Whitney. Whenever they were home the refrigerator door opened and closed like an accordion, music spilled out from ear buds and clatter filled the kitchen, since they preferred doing their homework at the dining table instead of at the desks in their bedrooms. The instant Deborah announced dinner was ready the books would disappear and together they’d wash up and set the table.

She stood up when she heard a door slam, then Whitney’s voice, deep and resonant. When had it changed? “Whitney. I’m in the family room.”

“Aunt Barbara told me you were back. I thought you weren’t coming home until Friday.” Tall and broad shouldered, seventeen-year-old Whitney had grown into a fine young man. He’d inherited his mother’s fine features and hair texture. Leaning down, he kissed his mother’s cheek, then folded his long frame down opposite her.

“Um, Whitney, did you actually buy jeans with ripped knees?”

“Yep. They’re awesome.”

“Oh… well.”

“Is it true we’re going to the Cove for New Year’s?”

“Yes, Whitney. I thought it would be nice to bring in the New Year there.”

He smiled and an elusive dimple shown in his right cheek. “I think it would be nice if we moved there now.”

“I’m shocked you don’t want to wait until the house is sold.”

“Why are you so surprised, Mom? It’s not as if we have to sell this house before we can move into Grandma’s.”

“Go get Crystal and tell her to pack enough clothes to last the weekend and all of next week. You do the same. When we drive Aunt Barbara and her family back you can bring anything you want to use on the Cove.”

Whitney stood and gave his mom a firm hug and kiss. “Thanks, Mom.”

Deborah pounded his hard back. “You’re very welcome, Whit. Now, go and tell Crystal to come home and pack,” she repeated when he finally released her.

Pushing to her feet, she walked over to the window overlooking the flower garden she’d begun the year Crystal was born. Each year for the past fourteen she had added another variety of flowers on Crystal’s birthday. She sighed, realizing the ritual would end when they moved.

Celebrations would continue, but not in Charleston.

Chapter Three

Welcome to the new Parlor Bookstore!”

Deborah opened the door, flipped the light switch, and stood aside to allow Barbara, Crystal, and thirteen-year-old Janelle Nash to enter the space that was to become her bookstore. Terrell, his son Nate, and Whitney were on their way to Jack’s to reserve a table for their pre–New Year’s Eve dinner. She had decided not to head over to the Abundant Life Church for the night watch service.

“What do you think?” Deborah could barely hide her excitement.

“It smells nice, Mom,” Crystal said, hugging Deborah.

Deborah gave her daughter a tender smile. “Thank you.”

“Can we look around, Mom?” Crystal asked.

Deborah shared a glance with Barbara, who nodded. “Yes. But be careful when you go upstairs. There’s a light switch on the right wall. Make certain you turn it on before you go up.”

“So, it’s real,” Barbara stated in a quiet tone.

Deborah nodded. “It’s very real. I didn’t tell you, but I have a buyer for the house. A young married couple with twin boys and they’re paying cash.”

“Damn! What are they into? Drugs?”

“Be nice, though I have to admit I thought they robbed a bank at first,” she chided. “Her father just happens to own one.”

Looping her arm through her soon-to-be ex-neighbor’s arm, Deborah steered Barbara to the door that led to the upstairs apartment. Crystal and Janelle were already there peering through the windows she’d spent time cleaning.

“Oh, how charming,” Barbara intoned. “Once the kids are off to college, you could certainly live up here.”

“Or it could be my first apartment if I decide to go to college in Charleston,” Crystal announced.

Janelle gave Crystal an incredulous stare. “Why would you need your own apartment if you already live in a house?”

Crystal returned the stare. “Once you go to college you need your own place.”

“Hello!” shouted a man from the first floor.

“Wait here,” Deborah told the others as she headed for the stairs. “Who is it?” she called out, walking down the staircase as quickly as she could without falling.

“Is that you, Deborah?”

Standing in the middle of the store was Jeffrey Hamilton, sheriff of Cavanaugh Island. Tall, dark, and handsome, the ex-Marine captain had managed to evade the advances of every single woman on the island since he’d returned to the Cove. He’d moved in with his grandmother, assuming the duties of sheriff after his predecessor retired.

Resting her hands at her waist, Deborah gave him a warm smile. “Hey, Jeff.”

Taking a step and extending his arms, he pulled her close. “Hey yourself, beautiful.” He sobered and kissed her forehead. “I’m sorry to hear about Louis. He was an incredible human being.”

Deborah kissed Jeffrey’s smooth cheek. “Thanks.”

“How are your kids doing?”

“Coping.” The single word spoke volumes.

Jeffrey released her, his dark eyes meeting hers. “I was just patrolling the area when I saw the light and open door. I thought some kids who couldn’t get off the island decided to raise a little hell and break in and leave their tags.”

Her eyebrows lifted a fraction. “We have a graffiti problem?”

“No. Not yet. What we’re trying to do is stop it before it becomes a problem. A few of the fisherman have found tags scrawled on their boats. As soon as they paint over them the vandals strike again, then move to another location. I had the town council install cameras here on the Cove, but the folks in Angels Landing and Haven Creek claim they don’t want the law monitoring their every move.”

“They’ve always been a strange lot.”

Jeffrey smiled, lines fanning out around his large, deep-set eyes. “Don’t you mean breed?”

“Don’t even go there, Jeff,” Deborah admonished. “My grandmother used to give me the look whenever I mentioned wanting to visit the other parts of the island to see if they were the same as the Cove. I guess she got tired of me asking when she told me that some of the people who lived there had tails and cloven hooves like goats. I had nightmares for years until I saw someone from Angels Landing and the only thing I found strange was the contrast of his light-gray eyes and his very dark skin.”

“What are you doing in here?” Jeffrey asked, deftly changing the topic.

“I’m renting this space. It’s going to be the new location for my bookstore. And before you ask I’m going to tell you that I’m moving to the Cove!”

Jeffrey’s expression was sincere as he gently patted Deborah on the back. “Good for you. How about your son and daughter? How do they feel about leaving Charleston?”

“Let’s just say they’re not crying about leaving.”

“Good for them. I’ll leave…” His words trailed off as a woman followed by two giggling teenage girls joined them. Deborah made the introductions, Jeffrey shaking each hand and wishing them health, peace, and happiness for the coming year. He touched the bill of his baseball cap, turned on his heel, and continued his patrol of the downtown district.

“We’ll meet you at Jack’s!” Crystal called as she and Janelle took off running.

Barbara raised her hand. “Don’t—”

“It’s all right,” Deborah interrupted, turning off the lights and locking the front door. “Nothing’s going to happen. Jeff’s going that way, so I’m certain he’ll keep an eye on them.”

As they headed toward Jack’s, Deborah nodded to longtime residents as they strolled leisurely along Main Street. They’d reached the town square with its huge fountain and statue of patriot militia General Francis Marion atop a stallion, standing more than thirty feet high. It was the tallest structure on the island. The fountain was empty, but during the summer months people threw coins into the flowing water with the hope their wishes would come true. Stone and wrought-iron benches were crowded with revelers and those taking advantage of the comfortable nighttime temperatures. There was enough space on one of the wrought-iron benches for them to sit together.

Deborah stared at the line outside of Jack’s, waving to Crystal and Janelle when they turned in their direction. Janelle tugged on her father’s arm, pointing. It appeared as if half of the Cove had turned out to eat at Jack’s before attending the night watch service.

Barbara also waved to the girls and her husband when he raised his arm. “How long will it be before we can get a table?”

“Probably about twenty minutes, judging from the length of the line.”

Deborah saw the man who had been in the Muffin Corner the first day she’d returned to the Cove. He sat a short distance away on a stone bench. Their eyes met and again they shared a smile. “Happy New Year, Mr. Monroe.”

He nodded. “Happy New Year to you, too.”

“Who is that?” Barbara asked sotto voce.

Deborah leaned closer to Barbara, while shifting her gaze to an elderly couple. “His name is Asa Monroe, and he’s a snowbird.”

“He’s delicious,” Barbara whispered again.

Deborah chanced a surreptitious glance at the man, who was sitting with one leg crossed gracefully over the other. He appeared totally relaxed, his right arm stretched out over the back of the bench he shared with a trio of teenagers.

“He is handsome,” she agreed. And he was. Asa’s smooth skin, even features, salt-and-pepper cropped hair made him strikingly handsome, while he possessed an elegant sophistication some men spent their entire lives striving to perfect.

“When did you meet him?” Barbara asked, continuing with her questioning.

“We were never formally introduced.” Deborah told Barbara about seeing Asa when he’d walked into the Muffin Corner.

“Don’t look now, but he’s staring at you.”

“Stop it, Babs.”

Barbara smiled. “It’s been a while since you’ve called me that.”

Deborah exhaled audibly. “It’s been a while since I’ve felt this relaxed.”

“Are you relaxed enough to start over again?” Barbara asked.

“What are you talking about?”

Barbara covered Deborah’s hand with hers, gently squeezing her fingers. “I know you just lost your husband, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop living and loving. You’re only thirty-eight and your son is seventeen. In eight months he’ll be off to college. And in another three years it will be Crystal. You’ll be what—forty-one or two—still a young woman who has the other half of her life in front of her. Do you plan to live it alone?”

“How can you talk about me hooking up with a man when I buried my husband exactly four weeks ago today?”

“I’m not talking about you hooking up with a man, Debs. I just want you to keep your options open. If a man shows an interest in you, I don’t want you to give him a screw face. Be nice,” she continued, her voice lower, softer. “There’s nothing wrong with going to dinner with him or even inviting him over for coffee.”

Deborah knew Barbara was right. In another three years she would be in her early forties and alone. Both her children would be in college and she would encounter the empty-nest syndrome for the first time. “I’ll think about it. But there is something I need to tell you about myself, but that will have to wait until we’re alone.”

Barbara nodded, then stood up. “Terrell is signaling us it’s time to go in.”

She also rose to her feet, and when she turned she saw that Asa was no longer there. They were ushered inside Jack’s Fish House. To say the place was humming and jumping was an understatement. Every table was occupied and the noise level was ear-shattering. The muted televisions were turned to different stations, showing pre-holiday entertainment, and the platters of fried catfish, buttery, sweet cornbread, black-eyed peas, and rice made her mouth water.

Deborah did get to see Asa again, this time inside Jack’s when he was seated at a table for six. She didn’t recognize any of the other four men or the one woman at his table. The Cove was only three square miles with a permanent resident population of eight hundred, and that translated into everyone knew everyone—if not by name then by sight.

She thought about Mabel’s statement about the monies snowbirds spent that helped to sustain the mom-and-pop businesses throughout the winter season until the horde of tourists swelled the population to more than two thousand throughout the summer. Deborah knew it was risky opening a business in the Cove when so many were closing, but she had a slight advantage. The Parlor would be the only bookstore on Cavanaugh Island.

What she didn’t want to think about was not making a go of her bookstore, and also of Asa Monroe—a stranger who had managed to intrigue her. She knew nothing about him other than his name, but there was something in the way he stared that made Deborah feel slightly off-balance. The last time that had happened was twenty years ago when she’d met Louis Robinson.

Asa Monroe half-listened to the conversations floating around the table as he pretended to concentrate on the food on his plate. He sat with guests who were also living at the Cove Inn for the winter. He hadn’t wanted to join them, but it was either share their table or wait hours until a table for one was available.

As the diners chattered around him, Asa stole surreptitious glances at the woman he’d first seen at the Muffin Corner, now seated a few tables away. He didn’t know anything else about her other than what Mabel had told him, but there was something about this mystery woman he mentally referred to as Sunshine that drew him to her like a powerful magnet. Her smile was mesmerizing, her sultry drawl hypnotic. Deborah Robinson was also the first woman in the two months since he’d come to Cavanaugh Island that piqued his interest. And in a town as small as Sanctuary Cove, Asa loathed asking too many questions about her. After all, he was a snowbird, a transient, and although he’d been warmly welcomed by everyone he didn’t want to raise a red flag when he made it known he was interested in a woman who could be married. The first thing Asa had noticed was she wasn’t wearing a ring, but neither had he when he’d been married.

Asa speared another forkful of seafood rice, enjoying the piquant blend of bacon, onion, pepper, garlic, crabmeat, oysters, and shrimp. His expression softened noticeably when Sunshine draped an arm over a teenage girl’s shoulders and then pressed a kiss to her hair.

She has to be her daughter, he mused. Asa knew the boy sitting opposite Sunshine was her son, because of their striking resemblance. He’d inherited her golden-brown coloring, the expressive black arching eyebrows, and even the shape of her eyes. He had usually never been one to engage in people-watching. But observing Sunshine was something Asa enjoyed and looked forward to doing again and again.

Reaching for his mug of beer, he held it aloft when Sunshine glanced in his direction. Holding her gaze, he winked at her then took a deep swallow. A smile crinkled the skin around Asa’s eyes when Sunshine’s jaw dropped. He was hard-pressed not to laugh when he noticed she had raised her glass of tea in a silent toast. He mouthed Happy New Year, and he wasn’t disappointed when Sunshine inclined her head in acknowledgment.

Chapter Four

Why aren’t you asleep, Mom?”

“Why aren’t you asleep, Whit?” Deborah asked, answering her son’s question with one of her own. “It’s after three.”

Whitney stood by the doorway to the screened-in back porch in a tank top and pajama pants, staring at the flickering black-and-white images on the television. She’d muted the sound and closed captions appeared on the large flat-screen that sat on a stand on an oaken pedestal table.

Deborah had continued a tradition begun after her parents had introduced her to the fantasy/science fiction television show made popular in the late fifties; she’d watched six half-hour episodes of the New Year’s all-day marathon of The Twilight Zone.

“I got up to get some water and saw that Janelle and Crystal weren’t in their room.”

Deborah had given Terrell and Barbara her bedroom, while Janelle shared Crystal’s bedroom and she’d paired Nate with Whitney. She’d bedded down on the queen-size convertible sofa on the back porch.

“They’re under the covers.” She smiled, gesturing to the bumps on the far side of the sofa bed. “They claim this episode is too scary to watch.”

When Whitney entered the porch he saw what his mother was talking about. “Oh, this is the one with the talking doll.” He flopped down on a cushioned rocker. One of the bumps moved under the quilt. “I loved this one, especially when Talky Tina tells the little girl’s stepfather, ‘My name is Talky Tina and I don’t think I like you.’ ”

“Hush, Whit. The girls can hear you,” Deborah chastised. “Why do you think I muted the sound?”

“I can’t understand why they’re freaking over a silly looking doll. Now, if they were afraid of the seed of Chucky I’d see why they would hide under the covers.”

“That’s enough talk about demonic dolls,” Deborah whispered even though she’d unmuted the sound as the episode ended. “The girls don’t play with dolls anymore, but they still have their collections.” Placing a finger over her lips, she winked at Whitney. “Girls, it’s over.” Their heads emerged from under the pile of quilts. “I think it’s time you go back to your bedroom.”

Crystal gave her mother a sorrowful look. “Mom, please. Just until six o’clock.”

“No, Crystal. You have to get enough rest because I want you and your brother to clean out the trunks in the crawl space. Something the two of you were supposed to have done over the Thanksgiving weekend.”

“Can’t it wait until next weekend?”

Deborah didn’t want to get into a debate with her daughter. Each and every time she asked Crystal to do something there was always a squabble because Crystal’s mantra was what you don’t want to do today can be done tomorrow. “No, it can’t. You know this house is smaller than the one in Charleston, and if there is something you want and it doesn’t fit in your bedroom, then it can be stored in the crawl space. If you don’t clean it out and there’s no room then I will donate your things to charity. Now, please get up, go to your bedroom, and go to sleep.”

Crystal went still, her gaze shifting from her mother to Janelle. “Okay, Mom.”

Deborah extended her arms, kissing her daughter’s cheek, then Janelle’s. “Sleep tight—”

“And don’t let the bedbugs bite,” the two girls chorused.

“I’m going back to bed, too.” Whitney pushed off the rocker. Closing the distance between them, he leaned down and dropped a kiss on Deborah’s hair. “Good night. Or, should I say, good morning.”

“Good morning, Whit.”

Waiting until she was alone, Deborah stared at the television, thinking about her new life ahead. As a widow and a single mother she would have to balance running her business with taking care of her home, because now she wouldn’t have Louis to pick up the slack. He had always left home at six-thirty to work with students who needed extra help and usually returned before the bus dropped Crystal and Whitney off from school. Her Charleston-based bookstore was open Tuesday through Saturday from ten to six. Thursday was the late night when she stayed open until eight. Most days Deborah prepared dinner, set aside in oven-proof dishes with cooking instructions, and when she didn’t Louis and Crystal had concocted gourmet dinners that rivaled those served in upscale restaurants.

When she opened the bookstore on Sanctuary Cove, Deborah realized she would have to hire an assistant. She was certain she would be able to get a retiree or a college student to cover the store when she had to take care of things at home. Her children didn’t need a babysitter, but they did require supervision. Although she hadn’t had a problem with Whitney and Crystal becoming involved with drug use or underage drinking, she didn’t want to present them with the opportunity to experiment if they were left unsupervised. Deborah was a firm believer in little children, little problems. Big children, big problems. And she was firm and uncompromising when it came to no kids in the house without a parent present, and no entertaining in their bedrooms.

Her children weren’t perfect, but at least she hadn’t had to bail them out of jail or send them to rehab. What they hadn’t known was she’d worn out her knees praying they would reach adulthood without making mistakes that would impact negatively on their futures.

She had not known when she recorded Whitney’s birth in her journal that seventeen years later she and Louis would not attend his high school graduation together, or see him off to college. Over the years Deborah had recorded entries in her journal: chronicling births, deaths, earning her graduate degree, opening the bookstore, Whitney getting his driver’s license, and Crystal making the cheerleading squad.

When Barbara had suggested she join her children in their grief counseling sessions, Deborah’s response was she didn’t need a counselor when she had her journals in which to record her innermost thoughts. However, she’d told her friend a half-truth. The last entry she’d written was on the day Louis died.

December 4th—The police came to the house today to tell me Louis had drowned. They haven’t recovered his body, so there is still hope that he will be found alive.

Her journal was in the drawer of the bedside table at the house in Charleston. She made a mental note to bring it to Sanctuary Cove to record all that had happened since that tragic day in early December. She watched two more episodes of the marathon, then turned off the television and settled down on the pile of pillows cradling her shoulders. It was a new year and she’d made only one resolution, and that was to make the transition of relocating from Charleston to Sanctuary Cove as uneventful as humanly possible.

“Mom, look what we found in the last trunk!”

Crystal’s strident tone shattered the quiet in the kitchen. Deborah, who’d spent the past half hour sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee, and flipping through the pages of magazines, stared at her daughter. The household hadn’t begun to stir until noontime. Deborah had awakened as slivers of sunlight pierced the fabric of the woven blinds that covered the porch’s windows and French door. Somehow she forced herself to remain in bed until ten, then showered in the half-bath off the kitchen. As she was cleaning up the family room Barbara came to tell her she was planning to prepare brunch.



Continues...

Excerpted from Sanctuary Cove by Rochelle Alers Copyright © 2012 by Rochelle Alers. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Do life changes always have to be so difficult?

    Deborah Robinson is dealing with a new business, going back home with her children, and living life as a widow. Her husband died a hero but the road to recovery is not easy when you have to say goodbye to old hurts. Moving forward is a challenge as well for Asa Monroe who has found some healing to his broken heart in this quaint, Southern town and its easygoing manner.

    Small towns come with their own set of rules and a lack of privacy is the least of the worries that Deborah is dealing with. As she tries to release the past and move forward she, stumbles over guilt and too many memories from the life she had preventing her from building the life new now wants. The new bookstore she opens helps and finding Asa working for her exciting. He does not say much but there is a world of experiences he has also lived that she wants him to share. Every day they grow closer and discovering all his secrets is a healing balm for both of their hearts as they allow themselves to move toward a future.

    Reading about two tattered souls finding each other and moving on with their lives is romance at its finest. This is a story of two people dealing with real life issues and making the difficult adult decisions everyone has to accomplish. My only question about this book is did Crystal get a dog or not?

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2012

    awesome as usual!!

    This was a great read and i cant wait for the other books in the series. Mrs. Alers takes you for a visit to the lowcountry and you just want to stay there!!! Can't wait for the next story in the series and revisit the lowcountry.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2012

    Not bad

    This book started out slow. I put it down than pick it back up weeks later. It turn out not to be a bad read, however I believe the author could dealt with a little less details and got the same effect.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2012

    Great read!

    When I started reading this book, I thought it was very slow. I put the book down and picked it up again a week later to start again. I found this book very interesting and relaxing. While reading this book I could invision myself sitting on my front porch in Sanctuary Cove. I looking forward to reading book two.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A must read.

    Never having read anything of Rochelle Alers, I wasn't quite sure if I was going to like it. It has turned out to be a great read. I will read another book by her next. I loved it and would highly recommend it. You won't be sorry.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2012

    Sanctuary Cove- Rochelle Alers

    Love this book! Loved the charcters, the setting, and the story line.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 4, 2014

    GREAT SERIES

    LOVE THIS SERIES. CAN'T WAIT FOR ANOTHER BOOK IN THE SERIES TO COME OUT. EVERY ONE SHOULD READ THESE.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2014

    Anonymous

    I really liked the way the relationship developed between the main characters. Very nice love story & there were some funny parts as well. Overall it was a nice book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2014

    Great!

    I love the storyline!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2013

    This is a great read!

    I enjoyed reading this book. It has a feel good flavor and the author tells the story brillantly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2012

    Not typical Rochelle

    This felt more like Christian fiction than romance. Was not pleased with the editor on this one. They also made the 15 yr old daughter sound 8 yrs old. Try her other publishing company as they have better books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2012

    Slow and not quite exciting

    I was hoping for this to be like much of her other books, but this one is a bit too slow for me. I have stopped reading it and have moved on to another book. I'll get back to it, but I can't recommend it.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 25, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Quaint Deborah Robinson is a young widow after her husband drow

    Quaint

    Deborah Robinson is a young widow after her husband drowns. Wanting a fresh new start, she and her children move from Charleston, South Carolina, to her family home on Cavanaugh Island. There she meets widower Asa Monroe. He recently lost his wife and son in a car accident. Also looking for a new start has landed him in Sanctuary Cove on Cavanaugh Island. Will the two find a second chance at love?

    Anyone that has read books of the romance genre knows exactly what they are going to get. Boy meets girl, yada, yada, yada, boy and girl live happily ever after. Predictable, I know, right? What separates one book from the next is the yada, yada, yada. Though predictable, that yada, yada, yada can still be an enjoyable experience. I can’t say I found that to be the case with Rochelle Alers’ “Sanctuary Cove.” While by no means a bad read, it was just okay. The premise was decent, two widows finding love again after the pain, but the foundation was not a strong one for me as I couldn’t get past how quickly the main female character was willing to consider another relationship. She had been married in what was described as a pretty good marriage for almost 20 years and four weeks after burying her best friend and lover, she’s looking for love. That nagged me throughout the entire novel and affected my overall feel for the novel. Add to that the book being slow at times and I didn’t find myself in love with this read.

    I’ve read several Rochelle Alers novels; this just wasn’t one of my favorites. With Cavanaugh Island and the community she created in Sanctuary Cove, the possibilities with subsequent novels is great.

    Reviewed by: Toni

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 19, 2012

    Enjoyable read!

    Rochelle Alers is my favorite author. I have read every single book she has written. She makes me feel like I am right there with her engaging characters and splendid settings. Her style is fluid and personal. Anxiously awaiting her next book in this new series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 7, 2012

    A must read

    Rochelle Alers fan will not be disappointed with this first book in her new Cavanaugh Island Series. The history and culture of Sanctuary Cove and its residents come alive on the page. And as always, Ms. Alers weaves a beautiful love story beteewn the main characters Deborah Robinson and Dr. Asa Monroe. Am eagerly awaiting the next novel in the series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 31, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended

    Great read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2012

    Prettstar-wise leader and loving cat, Fernpaw-daughter of Prettystar and is playful and funloving, Moonfrost-mother of Prettystar and Coral and is wise and guides Revengeclan as a "spirited" med. cat and wondeful mother, Coral-a calm shapeshifter who is Prettystar's sister and usually takes the form of a human, Becca-a teenage girl who wnats to have a fun, Ariana-happy and helpful who is confused about her place in things, Glint-quiet and is the daughter of Coral and is also a shapeshifter

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews

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