Torn from her hometown and her father as a child, Paige Waters' last memory of both is fraught with mystery and confusion. Now, sixteen years later, with both her parents gone, Paige returns to Alcina Cove, certain there is more to the painful story than she's been led to believe. The answers must lie within the community, buffered from the larger world by the sea; but when she finds the townspeople more reticent than ever, her only hope is the intriguing man who lives in her childhood home--if she can break down his reserve…
A fisherman turned writer, Liam Gray is haunted by secrets of his own, some of which are deeply entangled with the closure Paige seeks. But as he and Paige grow intimate, their attraction building, Liam finds himself torn between truth and betrayal. Whichever he chooses will risk his future with Paige and cause someone pain--until an even greater danger leaves him no choice…
Praise for Celia Ashley's Dark Tides
"A darkly seductive tale filled with unpredictable twists and turns. . .A smoothly written and creatively detailed thrill ride." –Affaire de Coeur, 4 Stars and Reviewer's Pick
"A top-notch tale filled with danger and mystery, all wrapped around a spicy romance." –Romance Reviews Today
"An incredible riveting story, Dark Tides takes the reader on a turbulent ride of intense emotions blended with suspenseful mystery." –Romance at Heart
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
A Dark Tides Romance
By Celia Ashley
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Celia Ashley
All rights reserved.
"Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange."
William Shakespeare – The Tempest
She'd forgotten how callous and greedy gulls' cries could be, and yet how evocative of place. Sixteen years of exile vanished in the sound.
Mom, what is that?
Sweetheart, don't. It's nothing.
Paige considered her friends' warnings about coming home, how they had cautioned her regarding sounds and smells splitting open the aged cask of memory. In the past, fragments had occasionally risen from the murky recesses, but they always slipped back into the dark without being fully realized. She didn't know what she feared more — the memory itself or the darkness holding it at bay.
Keeping her distance from the shoreline, Paige studied the seabirds' flashing ghostly wings through the gloom, unable to see what incited their frenzy. Beyond, waves crested in thunderous approach. Paige shoved her hands into her pockets. Out on the water, a ship appeared to barely move, the lights lining its hull burning like pinprick holes. Sunrise was not yet a glimmer where sea met sky. She turned away.
To the west, the sky possessed a dull radiance. Traffic lights and street lights burned through the wee hours in Alcina Cove, a pervasive smoky glow in comparison to the bright lighthouse signal rotating in the distance, warning sailors of the rocky coast, guiding them home. Alcina Cove had grown in the years since Paige had been gone. She'd barely recognized the meandering road that led to her old home, bordered now by the sprawl from the town's center.
The night she and her mother fled with nothing but a suitcase between them, the sky had been black except for the lighthouse beacon, the stars above blocked by heavy clouds. She remembered how the sedan's headlights had created a stark, white tunnel, remembered her mother hunched forward over the steering wheel, peering ahead through the eye not swollen shut. Rust discolored her blouse, more blood dripping from her mouth. Paige had attempted to staunch the flow with a cloth, but had given up. At thirteen, she'd understood only one thing with clarity. They were never coming back.
Mom, who did this to you? Was it Dad?
Hush, darling, it doesn't matter now.
Paige heard a noise and turned to scan the dark beach. She found nothing and started walking again away from the raucous, opportunistic gulls and their meal. The breeze wrenched at her curly hair, tumbling sections free from her ponytail. She attempted to tuck the trailing strands behind her ears, only to discover them tangled and damp from the sea air.
Her eyes burned, but back at the rental cottage, an uncomfortable bed awaited her. High threadcount sheets covering a lumpy mattress didn't make the bed any more restful. And the freshly laundered pillow case was tainted by the tang of seaborne dampness. She'd tossed and turned, disturbed by the combination of clamminess and lavender scent. It reminded her of the sheets on her childhood bed.
Eventually a desire to flee the cottage had prevailed, forcing her from bed and into the night wearing sneakers and a sweatshirt jacket over her nightclothes — a T-shirt and ratty cut-off sweatpants. Sand sliding beneath the shoes' smooth soles had, until then, been all but forgotten. It had only taken five minutes wandering the beach to get her rhythm back.
Paige turned toward the structural silhouette on the rise above the beach. A narrow chimney rose above the angled roof against the backdrop of the town's lights. For some reason she'd always pictured the chimney succumbing to gravity, broken brick and mortar scattered on the ground, as if representative of what had happened to her family. But there it stood, maintaining its crazy tilt against Newton's laws. So much for symbolism.
With her father's passing, she wondered if the house might be empty, abandoned. She saw no lights in any of the windows, some of which lacked reflection, possibly missing panes. The cedar shakes on the walls had weathered to a color like tarnished silver in the darkness, and beneath the porch overhang a shutter on a lower casement hung canted by a broken hinge.
Paige's stomach twisted in a spasm beneath her diaphragm. She pressed the heel of her palm against her belly.
"Are you aware there's a penalty for trespass?"
Paige jumped, a solitary expletive flying from her lips. Heart in her throat, she hastened several steps away before turning to face the speaker. "Sorry," she said, breathing hard. She squinted in an effort to make out a visible face in the shadows, but was unable to determine anything but gender.
"For what? The fact you're trespassing? Or using a word that would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap as a kid?" Paige couldn't believe this guy was chastising her for swearing after he'd practically jumped out at her in the dark. What the hell? "You startled me."
"You're not from around here, are you?" the man said. Not like a question. More like an accusation. Paige bristled despite standing in the dark five feet from an unseen stranger on an empty stretch of beach before dawn. Even the ravenous gulls had abandoned their midnight repast. The waterfront was deserted.
"And what makes you so sure I'm not?"
"First, you're trespassing. Second? The accent."
Paige clamped her lips together. More than half a lifetime in Tennessee had altered her speech's cadence but hadn't fully erased the characteristics of an early New England dialect, which made for a strange accent indeed. If the man hadn't been so antagonistic, she would have admitted as much.
"Nothing to say to that?" he nudged.
"What would you like me to say?"
"'Goodnight' would work."
Her mouth dropped. "You're right. With that attitude, I probably should say goodnight."
"The next time you decide to take a stroll on this beach, seek permission, day or night."
"Understood." Paige started to turn away, but irritation got the better of her. She spun back. "I didn't realize I needed an invitation." Who did this guy think he was? There was only one man who could claim proprietary rights to this stretch of beach, and he was dead. Yanking her fist from her pocket, she jerked a thumb at her former home over her shoulder. "Do you live there?"
"I own 'there,'" he said. "Bought the place from Edwin Waters just before he died."
"Oh." One of the things she was planning to check was the allocation of the house and land before her father's death. The knowledge her father had sold her old home outright to someone hit her harder than if he'd walked away from it. Not that she would have expected him to leave it to her, but by selling it, he'd made it pretty clear he hadn't even considered that option. Tears stung her tired eyes, nausea sweeping through her stomach. "Well, doesn't look like you have much pride of ownership, I'll tell you that."
As soon as she spoke, she realized she should have taken a moment to gather her emotions under a tighter rein.
"You can tell that in the pitch black, can you?" His voice traveled like rumbling thunder.
Paige loosened unconsciously curled fists. "Look, I'm sorry. Again. That was out of line."
Paige attempted to tame her annoyance. If this man had bought her old home, he might be in possession of information she could use. The predawn gloom had lightened, revealing a hulking shadow well over six feet tall. Paige slid her left foot behind her and shifted her weight over it, hoping he wouldn't notice the movement away. She didn't want anything in her actions to indicate fear. She had learned the tactic in a self-defense course she'd taken several years past. The course had been fairly useless except the one stratagem. Never. Act. Afraid.
"What are you doing out here?" he asked after she'd taken another step back.
She paused, not quite balanced. "I needed some air."
"You don't smell like you've been drinking."
"I haven't been."
"How far did you walk?"
Paige's nails dug into her palms, fingers curled tightly once more. "Why are you asking me these questions?"
"Just trying to determine where the hell you've come from and what you're doing here," he said. "My major issue is with the patrons of Cappy's. They like to wander down to the beach to walk it off before heading home. Is that where you've come from?"
"What on earth is Cappy's?"
"Answers that question. You really aren't from around here." His tone was dismissive.
Paige's brow wrinkled. Could this guy be any ruder? "At the moment, I am from around here. I'm renting the cottage next door."
He made an abrupt movement in her direction and Paige stumbled backward.
"How long?" he demanded.
"Am I staying? Not that it's any of your business, but —"
"No. How long have you been in the cottage?"
Good Lord, was that any of his concern, either? "What does it matter?" Paige continued backing away, keeping the man in her line of sight. What had been a shadow had begun to fill in with muted color: faded blue jeans, the indistinct hue of his T-shirt, disheveled coal black hair. He possessed a handsome arrangement to his features, though the particulars remained veiled by darkness. Not what she wanted to find — the guy pissing her off in the middle of the night was good-looking. She'd rather he resemble the discarded leftovers from the vanished gulls.
"Sorry to have disturbed you," she said with mock sweetness. "As we're to be temporary neighbors, I'm sure we'll run into each other again at a more reasonable time of day."
A soft red glow appeared on the man's face, highlighting a scar running down his jaw. Paige glanced toward the ocean. The horizon had lit up like a thin line of embers.
"Red sky at morning," she whispered.
"Sailors take warning," he finished.
She snapped her attention back to him. "So the saying goes."
"That it does."
"Are you a sailor?"
His jaw worked, dark eyes narrowing beneath lowered brows. Surely he wasn't that much older than she, but something in his life had aged him, weathered him a bit — and not unattractively — by exposure to the elements. The sun lifted higher, sunlight dancing across the waves that washed over the rocky beach. His shadow lengthened along the sand, conjoining with hers. "I was. Why?"
"No longer spending your days on the sea?"
"I'm not out here for small talk. I have work to do."
"At this hour? What are you, a smuggler?"
He said nothing, but something in him stilled. Crap. Maybe she had struck on the truth. Paige renewed her retreat, surprised when the man offered an abrupt, if not quite willing, introduction.
"My name's Liam Gray. I apologize for giving you a hard time."
"No apology necessary." Paige spun on her heel and strode up the slope toward the rental.
"And who are you?" Gray called after her.
She stopped short, sneakers sliding in the sand. "I used to live in your house," she said, pointing toward what was little more than a two-storey cottage, tall, limited in width, and looking not quite so decrepit in the daylight. "And my name is Paige. Paige Waters. Edwin's daughter. I've come back for answers, and I plan to get them."CHAPTER 2
Edwin Waters' daughter didn't even reach his collarbone, yet her stride on the slope would put a person twice her height to shame. Liam watched her disappear over the hill. The ponytail flying behind her looked as if she'd whipped it with an eggbeater. And her clothes, well, they resembled something pulled from a trash bin. He refused to be intrigued.
Liam crossed the porch and yanked open the door, stomping sand from his shoes before stepping into the shadowed kitchen. A kitchen once inhabited by Paige and her family. And, after all these years, she'd parked herself next door. Seemed to him she had more of an agenda than she was letting on. Seemed to him trouble had come in the form of a five-foot-tall whirlwind. The balance in his life was already fantastically out of whack. He had no desire to wage another battle.
Not bothering with light switches, Liam climbed the stairs, heading for his office. He paused in the hallway, listening to the boards creaking across the attic floor overhead. He had given up checking. Whatever lurked up there didn't want to be seen. There'd been a time when he thought he knew what resided in this house with him, but lately he hadn't been so sure. Ironic, a man who wrote ghost stories for a living unable to uncover any history about the one in his own home. Paige Waters might know a thing or two about that, but he wasn't about to ask her.
The groaning timbers silent, Liam continued past the attic door into his office. Instead of turning the laptop back on, he went to the window, staring through a scraggly pine at the cottage roof eighty feet away. The timing of her return couldn't be worse.
"What are you really up to, Paige Waters?" he whispered. After a moment, he picked up the cell phone from the desk and dialed. He suspected she planned to storm the town with questions. Certain people needed a heads up.
* * *
Paige parked her car in a space on the blacktop circle that surrounded the stone cross bearing the names of all the sailors Alcina Cove had lost at sea. She climbed from the vehicle, swung the door shut, and approached the etched names. Reading them, the sheer number of men and women who had died in pursuit of a living on the vast ocean in the past one hundred years dismayed her. The death notification she'd received regarding her father had only informed her that his ship had gone down, and his fate was not marked here.
Around the cross, flowers bobbed in the manicured beds, planted lovingly by a local society, according to the small plaque set on a post in the middle of them. Red, white, and blue blossoms of geraniums, petunias, and some tiny flower Paige didn't recognize reminded her that the Fourth of July was around the corner. Tiny flags on wooden dowel posts spray-painted gold lined the edge of the garden.
Paige tarried a few minutes longer to study the most recent names. Some sparked a vague memory, the surnames familiar to her. Had she known a Donald Sweetwater as a kid? Or an Albert Dunwiddy? Probably. Despite its growth, the town wasn't all that large. Many families remained in Alcina Cove generation after generation. Or so she'd been informed by both her mother, when alive, and web articles Paige had studied prior to heading north.
The ocean pounded the jetty rocks behind her. The processing plant she had passed in her car yesterday filled the air with a distant thrum. Beyond the memorial, Alcina Cove's main thoroughfare lay straight as an arrow pointing inland, the residential side streets angled out irregularly from the business center. Paige decided to leave her car parked by the cross and head into town on foot. Most addresses on the small spiral pad in her purse should be located on the narrow side roads.
She stopped first at Cora Showalter's home, a woman whose name she had found in her mother's battered address book with Cora's birthday noted. Even though Paige had never heard her mother talk about the woman, the fact that Debra Waters knew the woman's birthday held some significance. Paige had sent Cora a note informing her of Debra's passing and that she'd be coming north — she couldn't quite bring herself to use the word "home" — in a few months and would like to stop and see her. Paige had never heard back, but that didn't mean anything. For all Paige knew, there'd been little or no contact between this woman and her mother since that night long ago. Cora should still be able to provide her with information.
Striding up a slate and crushed stone walkway, Paige practiced the few lines she'd prepared for introduction. She pressed the bell at the front door. Receiving no response, Paige opened the screen door and knocked on the wooden one for good measure.
"Who are you looking for?"
Paige glanced over her shoulder. A woman with unnatural crimson hair glared at her from the sidewalk. "Cora Showalter?" Paige said. "This is the last address I have for her. Does she still live here?"
The woman wrinkled her nose. "Nope."
"Do you know where I can find her?"
"Try the Episcopalian cemetery."
Paige's fingers tightened around the notepad, spiraled wire digging into her palm. "When did she die?"
"A few months back. Her daughter lives here now, but you won't find her at home at this hour of the day. She works. And she won't like an out-of-towner lurking on her sidewalk," the woman added.
Paige sighed. "The accent, of course."
"And the fact you didn't know about Cora. Any long-time resident knew about Cora the moment she passed."
"Was she that well-loved?"
The woman's mouth twitched. "No."
Excerpted from Storm Surge by Celia Ashley. Copyright © 2015 Celia Ashley. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book! This was the first book I've read by Celia Ashley and I couldn't wait to dive in. Paige Waters was torn from her hometown and her father as a child. Sixteen years later, Paige returns to Alcina Cove (love that name) to get some answers to the stories she's been fed about this town. She hopes to get these answers from the man who lives in her childhood home. Yea, well...best laid plans and all that. Liam is a fisherman who turned into a writer. He has secrets in his life and some are deep within the stories/answers that Paige is looking for. Will he risk his future with Paige when he learns there's an even greater danger? There was lots of mystery in this book! It was very well written and had me on the edge of my seat!
Named after a goddess who turns her lovers to stone, an insular New England coastal town holds more secrets than it can keep… Torn from her hometown and her father as a child, Paige Waters' last memory of both is fraught with mystery and confusion. Now, sixteen years later, with both her parents gone, Paige returns to Alcina Cove, certain there is more to the painful story than she's been led to believe. The answers must lie within the community, buffered from the larger world by the sea; but when she finds the townspeople more reticent than ever, her only hope is the intriguing man who lives in her childhood home--if she can break down his reserve… A fisherman turned writer, Liam Gray is haunted by secrets of his own, some of which are deeply entangled with the closure Paige seeks. But as he and Paige grow intimate, their attraction building, Liam finds himself torn between truth and betrayal. Whichever he chooses will risk his future with Paige and cause someone pain--until an even greater danger leaves him no choice… Review: I have to say this one kept me guessing as to what was going on for quite awhile. At first I was not sure what this book was a supernatural tale, a romance or a suspense, but as I read on it became clearer. I thought the Author did a great job of misdirecting me as a reader to keep the mystery going. I did not know who Paige should be trusting or who the person was stalking her. I knew Liam had some agenda and even though I liked him I did not want to for Paige's sake. Paige was great, I really liked that she was strong and did not let others push her around or tell her what to do, sometimes to her own determent...lol All the secondary characters were great too and added to the mystery and weird feeling the town gave off. The ghosts in the story added a spooky element to an already weird feeling the town and the people were giving off. I liked the romance between these two, they both need comfort, but they both don't want to need the other also. This is part of a series, though from what I can tell they really don't seem to connect. I have not read the first book, but this is a stand alone title. I would definitely like to pick the other book in this series and read it. 4Stars *Received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.*