Rainy days and river views fill Beth's summer as she makes a new start in small town Washington, North Carolina. After the loss of her husband in a tragic accident, simple seems better. It's time to renovate her life, starting with a future art gallery on the river. Sam, her contractor, has everything under control, but the stress of the construction project and new business is beginning to make her crazy. Nightmares and visions of ghosts become the nightly norm. She doesn't have time for this. She doesn't have time for her heart to make room for him.
Sam is happy filling his days and nights with work. His two jobs as a teacher and contractor are his passions and do not leave room for much else. This new project has possibilities: a beautiful owner, the history of the house, and an 19th century diary. Beth's dream is becoming a timely reality until she disappears.
Mystery and intrigue fill the haunting river bank of the Pamlico as Sam and Beth find the truth behind the Water Street house and each other.
Author's Warning: *** This is part 1 in a 3 part story. If you do not like cliffhangers, please consider your purchase carefully. For those who love them, this is a great one.
Read an Excerpt
* * *
When I promised my family, I would work forever to free them, I didn't know it would be true. When I promised you that I would wait forever for your return, I didn't know it would be an eternity. A person's existence is supposed to cease when they die. Mine, well, let's just say, it didn't.
Selah Brown (1839-1861), Washington, North Carolina.
* * *
Water Street, Washington, NC, September 9, 2014
Plaster crumbled down onto Selah's head as she struggled to wake. Brushing the large pieces off her face, her fingers felt butter bean size welts on her cheeks and forehead.
"What is going on upstairs?" She rolled over on her bedroll. "It has been peaceful for years and ..." A bang echoed in the space of her safe haven. She bolted upright and looked around. Beams of light shone through the dark room. "Maybe it's Abram trying to break me free? Perhaps he has returned?" A tear escaped as the reality of how long she waited for him came to mind. She promised him so many years ago, she would be ready no matter how long. Too much time had passed. She knew it.
Another impact shook the floor above her. Someone is trying to come this way for sure. She scrambled to her feet and pulled her bed linens back. The pop of her quilt sent dust and plaster flying breaking the silence again. Selah grabbed her sewing tools, packed them in a handy pouch and hid it behind the tool crates on the large shelves on the wall. The footsteps above her head became louder as she hurried to hide all the evidence of her squatting.
"Where will I go? I have to stay in case Abram comes." She looked around making sure she didn't miss anything as another cloud of plaster rained down, turning her into a ghostly gray figure. "I will never get this out of my braids," she ran her fingers over her hair trying to pick the small bits out of her coarse hair without success. She strained to listen to the voices upstairs, but the hammering muffled the words that would give her a clue to the happenings.
The whole building started to shake, dust grew thicker in the air, and she cowered in the corner. She was convinced the ceiling was going to fall on her and kill her dead, maybe permanently this time. She saw a bar slide between the timbers, straining against the floorboards. More light appeared on the floor beside her. Selah tried to avoid it and pressed closer to the wall, daring the light to touch her she pulled her skirt tight around her legs. Her hands began to shake. Wood splintered allowing more light to invade the space. She watched the bright spot grow. What will I do, if he comes and I am not here? Suddenly, Selah disappeared.
* * *
Beth awoke coughing to a loud banging noise. Her chest hurt from labored breathing, and her eyes tried to focus. Then she heard her name.
"Miss Beth, wake up! Wake up! You need to see this!" Jose was knocking on the car window.
She blinked her eyes, nodded her head, and held up her finger to acknowledge him. She turned off the car and stepped out. Oh God, how long had she been out? She checked her watch. Two hours. No way, that medicine must have hit me hard. What did Jose need? He was usually pretty self-reliant. Hopefully, the men were more productive while she was asleep. She couldn't read his face and her imagination went crazy inventing the worse. Had there been an accident? Maybe someone had razed something they weren't supposed to. "Oh, Jose I am so sorry. I didn't mean to sleep that long."
"It's okay. You didn't feel well. I wouldn't have woken you, but you need to see what we found."
"Okay. Show me what it is."
Jose took her hand and led her through the rubble of the day. Wow, they had made a mess today. There was plaster and wood all over the lawn. They were going to have to get this straight before they finished for the day. "It looks like a bomb went off. You better get this cleaned up."
"We got this." Jose reassured her.
"Okay, but you are better than what I have seen today. Letting the guys run things; that's not like you."
"You weren't yourself today either. Watch your step," Jose warned. He took her hand again as she slipped on some wood when she jumped a hole in the pitted yard.
"Thanks." She knew he didn't approve of her being here and only put up with it because Sam said it was okay, even though she was the one paying them.
The two-story Federal-style house Beth bought last month was exactly what she needed to make the changes she promised herself when she lost her husband. Brad would have loved it, and it was all hers. The history of the building peaked her interest, and she could imagine a thriving art gallery here. Every day she worked with her contractor, Sam, her vision grew closer to reality. He made sure she stuck to the original aesthetics of the house. When she hired him, she didn't know what a pain his Tuesdays off would be, or the paperwork swamp a historical project produced. She made a mental note to visit with him about it later.
Jose led her through the front door into what used to be the foyer. The only thing still standing was the staircase leading to the second floor. All the plaster and slats were removed exposing the wires and plumbing weaving in and out of the studs. A group of men stared at the floor. Why are they always just standing around? She glanced over at Jose with frustration. He pulled her toward the group. Sweaty construction workers was not the smell she wanted after her morning migraine. The men looked up when they heard her footsteps echo through the empty building. She realized they were waiting on her and picked up her pace only to stop and stare down into an open hole in her floor.
"Look, Miss Beth. We took up the floor and there it was."
What in the world? "Hand me a flashlight." One of the guys placed one in her outstretched hand. She stepped onto old cobblestone stairs leading her down into a newly discovered cellar. She was thankful she wasn't tall. Ducking her head, she stepped onto a dirt floor and back in time; the cold, damp air raised goosebumps on her skin. Shelves containing stoneware, wooden crates, old tools and other household items lined the walls. The spider webs hung thick between the timbers supporting the floorboards above. It was a good thing she didn't startle easily. She brushed them off her face so she could see more clearly. Scanning the room, she decided they needed to be careful with this section of the house. It didn't require a historian to tell these items were antiques. There was no knowing how long this cellar had remained sealed. I need to call Sam. Wonder if he will pick up his phone today? Carefully, she headed back up the stairs to the kitchen area before turning to Jose. "Tell the men to stop work inside for the day. We need to finish the roof and clean up the yard. I know Sam will not be happy when he gets here. Get them going."
Jose looked at her with anxious eyes. "Shit, the boss is coming. Gotta get cleaned up fast. He didn't say he was stopping by when I talked to him earlier."
"No, Jose. The boss is here," she reminded with a glare. "Sam is also coming." She added in frustration.
"Sorry." He quickly turned and started barking orders to the crew. The men reacted right away as if a fire blazed under their feet.
She pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and dialed Sam's number. "Please pick up, please pick up. Damn it." She disconnected when it went to voicemail and instead typed a text.
Beth: Found something of significance under subfloor. Call me ASAP.CHAPTER 2
Peeling Back The Sheathing
* * *
Sam's iPhone vibrated against the wood grain of his office desk under layers of papers waiting to be graded. He didn't take phone calls during his office hours here at the local community college but the name on the screen distracted him, instantly pulling him from his work. Beth was at the project house today and the men were not happy about it. Jose called him earlier to vent about her giving directions. The weather was clearing this week getting them back on schedule by Saturday. But no, she had to push without him there.
His crew didn't like a woman supervising them, and it didn't help that she was so attractive. He looked at the pic on the screen as the cell continued to shake. A brunette in her mid-thirties, she'd had a rough life and wasn't afraid of hard work. The day he took the photo she shot him that stubborn look, her green eyes bright with determination during an argument about a detail on the house. End the end she listened to his long-winded explanations and made the right decision. Her commitment to this project was even sexier than her curves. Damn it. Not right now. He was busy. She would just have to wait until he had a free moment.
He slammed the phone in the desk drawer, closed it, and went back to work. The paperwork on his desk required his full attention, and he promised himself that he would not check his phone until he was available.
At one o'clock he left his office for the rest of the afternoon, stepping into a lecture hall full of half-interested college students.
It wasn't until late evening when he made it back to his desk to recover his phone. The evening sunset painted with swirls of orange and purple pulled him to the window looking out into the parking lot. Man, he loved the sky here. He glanced at the notifications on the phone. While she had called three times, the messages didn't interest him. It was the single text that made him anxious. What had they uncovered? Shit. Now he wanted to kick himself for ignoring the first call.
Gathering his papers from the desk, he wished he didn't have to take work home with him tonight and stuffed them into his briefcase. He made it out to the truck in record time and the heat of the day flushed his face when it escaped from the open driver's side door. He tossed his briefcase on the floor board and pulled out his phone to call her back while it aired out.
The phone rang, and Beth picked up. "Hi. I've been waiting for you to call back. Can you come by the site, please? I have something fantastic to show you."
"Okay, fine. I need to change first, but I will be over in about thirty minutes." Adjusting the rearview mirror, he ran his fingers through his hair.
"Better hurry, it's getting dark fast, and the guys have totally stripped the house. We will only have flashlights."
"Get Jose to see if he can put some lights up for you. Should I bring something to eat?"
"Nah. I'm not hungry. Besides, I'm not sure Jose will do anything for me. He's been pretty stubborn today."
"Really? I'll talk to him. See you in a while."
He started the old truck and took off out of the lot. As he pulled onto Highway 264 and headed east, he noticed a traffic jam ahead. He laughed to himself. Well, a traffic jam by Beaufort County standards was twenty cars lined up both ways. Sam sighed, how his perspective had changed over the years. It appeared to only be a license check, but what a pain. Slowly, the cars pulled up to the sheriff's car. As he pulled through the checkpoint, he recognized the officer. "How are you doing tonight, Bill?"
Â "Okay. It's been pretty quiet here lately, and everyone's behaving themselves as well as can be expected. License and registration please. How are things up at the college, Professor Howard?"
"Pretty good. That beard is looking pretty healthy," he said, handing the Deputy his paperwork and laughing at his formal tone. Bill and he had known each other since they were in junior high.
"Yeah, I'm growing it for the next play down at the theater. I'll have some tickets to sell in a couple of weeks. Can I put you down for a couple?"
He handed back the paperwork with a smile. "Thanks. Have a good night."
"See you later."
Â "I hope not." Bill replied with a big toothy grin that mimicked Grizzly Adams.
Sam waved as he drove through to turn off the main road to his house. As he pulled up to the house, he threw the truck in park and jogged into the house. He changed into blue jeans and a white button-up shirt. He traded his dress shoes for work boots and headed back out to the truck. Hopefully, I don't need anything special. What in the world did they find today? Now he wished he had asked her some more questions. But he had been frustrated and didn't want to chat at the time. It wasn't her fault. She didn't know about his real job; that teaching was his priority. He started his truck and headed up the road back into town. He really wasn't planning on this tonight. He had things to do. This side job had turned out to be more than he had bargained for. This was not a simple remodel. After seeing the house, he fell in love with it. He knew it was going to be a big job, but he didn't care. The privilege was all his.
A blaring horn brought him back to the now green stoplight. Damn it, you're driving he reminded himself. He waved to the driver behind him, hoping he didn't piss someone off. He turned down the street and pulled into Beth's drive. The dumpster overflowed, but the new roof looked good in the twilight. Wow, the guys got a lot done today. Maybe it wasn't a bad thing for them to work without him. He would inspect it more thoroughly in the morning. He could see spotlights blazing through the windows. Jose must have hooked her up so Beth could stay after dark. The days were getting shorter now, and they would need the lights anyway to get a good day's work in. He knocked loudly on the door and yelled, "Beth!"
"Down here!" He heard from the kitchen floor. She poked her head up through a new opening. She was absolutely filthy.
"Hahaha. You should see yourself." She was beaming with excitement. God, she looked good right now. No woman has the right to look that good covered with cobwebs and dirt. Sam reminded himself that he was mad at her but realized no one could stay mad at her long.
"Shut up! Stop laughing at me. Will you get down here?!" It was a demand, not a request. "Wait till you see. I can't believe it." She disappeared back down into the hole.
Sam looked at the construction of the opening. The nails in the molding were eighteenth century. He stepped down the worn stone stairs into the cellar. He could see from the coloration they were local stone. The ceiling was low, but there was enough room for Beth to walk around. He had to bend down to move around in the space. She had placed the lights, so the space was well lit. As he started a mental inventory of the items throughout the room, he understood her excitement. Oh man, this is fantastic.
"Have you moved anything?" He asked.
"No. I was waiting for you. It was hard to be patient, but you said we should document things as we went through the process. I took pictures before it got too dark, but I think the lights help a lot. I'm going to take another set."
"Good thinking. Looks like most everything is from the nineteenth century or older. We will want to be careful. This is awesome. I'm glad you called."
"You took your sweet time getting back to me. What was so important today anyway?" She jabbed at him, wrinkling her nose.
"I was busy. This is supposed to be just a side gig. Of course, this one has required more work than usual, which I don't mind. You must give me my Tuesdays. Okay?" He looked at her.
* * *
She shrugged. "You still should have called me back. I had a lot of trouble with the guys today. Jose said you took his call." She went back to snapping pictures. Her mind was too occupied to care at the moment. She forgot the anger she had felt toward him earlier in the day for not being there. For a moment, the camera's focus centered on Sam. He looked different today. His short brown hair peppered with cobwebs and bits of dust. He studied a crock and its contents like he had found the crown jewels. Look at that amazing sexy grin. The lines around his mouth gave him a rugged outdoorsy look. He glanced up from his treasure in her direction.
Their eyes met, and heat ran through her body. She quickly turned and pulled a crate from the shelf. Hoping he didn't notice her staring, she sat it on the floor next to a light. Gently she pulled out a set of awls, setting them off to the left. Then a set of hand planers, an old hammer, and a hand drill. In the bottom were newspapers the original owner had used to line the crate.
Dated October 24, 1862
Yellow Fever Outbreak Kills Hundreds
Beth felt Sam reading over her shoulder. As she looked up at him, he said, "It devastated Wilmington. The cemeteries are full of graves from that period."
She glanced over the brittle yellowing paper, carefully turning the pages. There were so many ads for runaway slaves. "Why would they advertise here for a slave from Alabama?"
"Because of the port, Washington was a main stop on the Underground Railroad."
Sweat started to bead on Beth's forehead. The lights were heating up the room at a rapid pace.
Sam wiped his face with the back of his hand. "We should turn off the lights. The heat might damage some of our finds. Did you get all the pictures you needed?"
"I think I documented everything. What time is it?"
"Holy shit. I've been down here for five hours." She smiled. "I love this house. I better head to the apartment. Thanks for letting me be at the site today."
Sam started turning off the lights one by one. "You're welcome. Looks like you got a lot done today. Jose isn't going to want you back. You must have pushed them hard. Did you yell at them?" He offered her a hand as they went upstairs to the kitchen.
"No, I just reminded them that you were coming and wouldn't like the mess they left. Well, maybe I yelled a few times. Why do they push back so much? I can tell they are dedicated to you."
"You have to give them a little slack. They work really hard at getting it right. Sometimes that takes a little longer. You'll get a feel for the way they work eventually."
"Hopefully before the project is over." She laughed.
He joined in, their laughter echoed through the empty building as they walked toward the front door "Hope so. I'll see you later in the week."
Excerpted from "Drenched Sunflowers"
Copyright © 2018 Tammera L Cooper.
Excerpted by permission of Tammera Cooper.
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.
Table of Contents
2. Peeling Back The Sheathing,
3. Permits and Paperwork,
4. Money and The Pass,
6. Historical Accuracy,
7. Tripping The Breaker,
8. Unexpected Current,
9. Running Water,
10. A Case of Metal Fatigue,
11. Wrapping the Thread,
12. Dripping Eaves,
13. Inevitable Delays,
14. Official Warning,
15. Building Additions,
16. Exposed Clapboards,
17. Covering the Fanlight,
18. Single Glazing,
19. Salvaged Beauty,
20. Dropping a Stringer,
21. Block Plan,
22. Hand Planed,
23. Cracked Foundations,
24. Tuck Pointing,
25. Red-lined Plans,
28. Wrought Iron Staggered Pickets,
30. Gun Consistency,
31. Z-bar Flashing,
32. Above Grade,
33. Adhesive Failure,
34. Angel Light,
36. Building Line,
37. Blistering Paint,
38. Flemish Bond,
40. Transom Light,
41. Miter Joint,
42. Lath and Plaster,
43. Is It Plumb?,
44. Splayed Lintel,
45. Modified Triglyphs,
46. Truss Clip,
47. Rough Frame,
48. Existing Elements,
49. Back Nailing,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Drenched Sunflowers by Tammy Cooper is a romatic thriller. This story has a ghost in it but its the friendliest and nicest ghost I’ve ever come across so far. Beth is a widow who comes to a small town to get away from his dead husband memories. She hires Sam to renovate the old building and convert it into an art gallery. They discover a basement from 18th century during the process. Beth starts seeing nightmares and a ghost. The ghost keeps warning Beth about danger from someone but Beth ignores. Beth starts liking Sam and they both go on a couple of dates. Beth feels very overwhelmed by the opening of the art gallery, nightmares and Sam. She gets kidnapped one day. The story has a wonderful twist about the kidnapper. The author maitains the suspense in an even tone all through the story and manages to keep a hold on the reader. I very much enjoyed this book and in fact started believing the existence of friendly ghosts after reading this novel. I found the romance and suspense in equal parts in the book. The details about the small town Washington, NC are beauifully described. The characters are also very well built. This book is a complete entertainment. I recommend this book to all my friends.