Ellie Blackmore is making a name for herself as a house flipper. But when her sister Mackenzie disappears, Ellie can’t focus on anything but uncovering what happened. Her only clue is the bloodstain on the deck of Mackenzie’s boat. Ellie knows her sister isn’t on the best of terms with her ex-husband, Jason, but he wouldn’t kill her—would he?
Coast Guard intelligence officer Grayson Bradshaw believes Mackenzie faked her own death after stealing a seized cocaine shipment. The problem is convincing Ellie, who seems to view him as the true enemy.
Both Ellie and Grayson want truth, but truth—and family—is often more complex than it first appears. And they’ll quickly find that the dangerous beauty of Lavender Tides is harboring secrets that reach around the world.
- Full-length romantic suspense
- USA TODAY and ECPA bestseller
- Includes discussion questions for book clubs
- Part of the Lavender Tides series
- Book 1: The View from Rainshadow Bay
- Book 1.5: Leaving Lavender Tides
- Book 2: The House at Saltwater Point
- Book 3: Secrets at Cedar Cabin
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Neutral paint colors allow the prospective buyer to imagine their own furnishings in the space.
— Excerpt from Ellie Blackmore's
Hammer Girl Blog
Two construction workers carried in the orange ladder splatted with dried paint blotches and old drywall mud. The top of it nearly crashed into the new chandelier dangling twelve feet overhead in the foyer.
Ellie Blackmore darted forward to prevent disaster. "Careful!"
She moved under the glittering crystal light fixture so the workers couldn't come closer. Paint fumes stung her nose and mixed with the salty sea breeze blowing through the open door. This home was nearly complete. She'd start staging it as soon as it was cleaned and the ladders, scaffolding, scraps of hardwood, and cans of paint were gone. If luck was with them, she and Jason would make over fifty thousand dollars' profit on this project. They already had three interested buyers, so she hoped a bidding war would drive the price even higher.
The dark hardwood floors complemented the soothing gray walls in the open floor plan. She walked through the kitchen and touched the marble countertops, then snapped several pictures for her blog, Hammer Girl. Their clients tended to like genuine marble, high-end cabinets, and solid wood floors — and she was happy to deliver. She went to the first of the boxes the workers had hauled in and lifted out decor items. Though she'd have to wait for the cleaning crew, she could put the boxes in the rooms where she wanted them.
Mackenzie, Ellie's younger sister, came down the hall into the kitchen. She looked like she was still in high school, but she'd graduated college with a degree in Asian languages at twenty-one, plowing through the rigorous studies in three years. She'd been offered prestigious positions at several major universities across the country, but she'd chosen to teach at a local college, mostly because she didn't want to leave Ellie.
A dark stain marred her white shorts, and her royal-blue tee held a smear of gray paint. "The master bedroom is ready for staging." She ran her fingers through her curly brown hair.
"Thanks so much, Mac. You didn't need to work like this on your day off, but I really appreciate it."
Mac's blue eyes softened when they lit on Ellie. "The two of us have always been a team."
Jason Yarwood strode into the kitchen and lifted his thatch of sun-streaked brown hair to wipe his damp forehead with the tail of his T-shirt. He and Ellie had co-owned Lavender Farm Homes for five years, and last year they'd turned a good profit for the first time. They'd become known for the highest-quality f lips in the entire Olympic Peninsula area, and they had more business than they could handle with kitchen and bath remodels making up the bulk of their jobs.
Jason was twenty-eight and handsome, though his mouth often held a sardonic twist that had appeared after his divorce from Mackenzie. "I wouldn't mind testing the air-conditioning. This is crazy hot for Washington. It has to be ninety out there." He didn't look at Mac, whose smile had vanished when he entered.
Ellie stepped to the thermostat and kicked on the air. "This heat wave could break anytime." She shut the door behind the workers carrying out the last of the construction debris.
Lavender Tides rested in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains. While the area was no stranger to high humidity, the hot temperatures they'd had this week were out of the normal seventies they usually enjoyed for October.
Mac went to the door. "I'm so excited about the tall ship regatta. They get here in two weeks. I want to have Lavender Lady ready to join in."
Ellie took off her glasses and polished away the condensation. "That's wonderful!"
Mac had been fascinated with tall ships since she and Ellie had seen their first one in California during a Disneyland vacation when they were five and seven. Mac had bought an old tall ship five years ago and had worked hard to restore it. Ellie suspected her obsession with the boat had contributed to the failure of her marriage.
Mac still hadn't looked at Jason. "I'm ecstatic! I just need to find more crew. Want to be part of it?"
The strain between Mac and Jason set Ellie's nerves on edge. "I don't think you want me vomiting on your new paint." She'd tried to like sailing, but her stomach never cooperated, and she wasn't the strongest swimmer in the world.
"I know, but I had to ask. Want to grab lunch at the Crabby Pot? I can show you what I've gotten done on the ship."
Ellie slid her glasses up on her nose, then glanced at her watch. Nearly eleven already. "I wish I could, but I'm going to that moving sale at the Robb house in half an hour. I just have time to get there. How about I come out to the ship and see it before your birthday dinner tonight?"
"Okay, that will work."
Jason began to pick up pieces of scrap wood. "I really want that Robb house when it goes to auction. I don't think it will go higher than we can afford."
She hadn't told him, but Ellie was tempted to keep the house for herself. She'd fallen in love with the f loor plan and the view of the bay from the backyard. "It's a huge project, but it's going to be beautiful when we're done."
"We can handle the size of the reno." Jason glowered at Mac, who still hadn't looked at him. "Am I invisible, Mac? Maybe I'd like lunch. You didn't even say hello."
Mac's eyes narrowed. "You can get your own lunch."
Jason glared back, then walked out and slammed the door without another word.
Ellie sighed. "Why do you have to antagonize him all the time? He still loves you, you know."
"I don't understand why you're still partners with him. You're the genius behind Lavender Farms. You can hire anyone to do the brute labor. You don't need him. It infuriates me to constantly run into him."
"And I can't understand why you can't muster a little courtesy! You were married to the man for two years. There has to be some kind of feeling left."
"There is — it's called hatred." Mac brushed at the stain on her shorts. "If you loved me, you'd cut him loose. He's gone so much anyway, kayaking in that inflatable he keeps in his truck. You do most of the work."
"That's not true. Jason works hard." Ellie took a step back. "Our partnership goes back to before you knew him. Jason is like a brother to me. He brings a lot of business savvy to Lavender Farms. Don't pull me into your feud."
"You don't understand anything about relationships, Ellie. You've never even had a serious boyfriend. You're so afraid of letting someone down like you did Alicia, you never take a chance on loving anyone. You don't know what it's like when someone breaks your heart."
Ellie gasped and pressed her hand against her chest. They never spoke of their little sister's death, and to have it thrown in her face now was like a knife to the heart. "You blame me for her death too? You always said it wasn't my fault."
Tears flooded Mac's blue eyes and she rushed for the door. Ellie thought for half a second about going after her, but her pain was too raw. They both needed to cool down.
* * *
Even as she wandered the rooms in the estate sale, Ellie mentally ticked off all she wanted to do in this house. In her mind she already owned it, and the more she saw of the room sizes and high ceilings, the more she liked it. The superb view from the big windows at the back of the house looked out on Rainshadow Bay, and she caught sight of Mac's ship docked there.
The Robbs had owned this house for fifteen years, and Ellie used to babysit for their son. Terrance Robb had grown up in town and had gone on to work for the CIA. He'd recently been transferred to an upper-level position at Langley, and Ellie suspected half the people perusing the contents were hoping to see him or his wife, Candace. Everyone in town had been curious about what he'd be doing in Virginia and hoped to ferret out some spy details. The truth was much more mundane since he worked in the accounting department. Spies worked in other countries, and Terrance's job was simply one of support.
She paused at a large cabinet with various items inside. She spied a vintage mah-jongg set in a blue vinyl case and grabbed it. Mac would love this. Ellie had already gotten her a bracelet for her birthday, but this would be a nice bonus gift. She tucked it under her arm and tried to sidle past a petite, dark-haired woman who was frowning at her.
"I was about to buy that." The woman looked to be in her twenties and of Asian descent. She held out her hand. "May I have it, please?" She had a slight Asian accent. Her high heels and slim-fitting dress had to have cost a fortune.
"Sorry, it's a gift for my sister." Ellie started past her, but the woman made a grab for the box. "Hey!" Ellie clamped her other hand on the game before the woman could snatch it out of her arms. "What's wrong with you?"
The woman's face contorted, and she stepped closer to Ellie. "Give me the box!"
"Is something wrong?" Jermaine Diskin got between her and the woman. Jermaine was an African American flight paramedic who worked for Zach Bannister. He and his wife, Michelle, owned a lavender farm on the outskirts of town.
The woman glared at him. "She has my mah-jongg box."
Jermaine's pale-green eyes narrowed. "I saw her pick it up first. Get lost, lady, or I'll call the cops. I saw Deputy Rosa Seymour in the other room."
The woman clenched her fists, then spun on her three-inch heels and brushed past Ellie.
Jermaine stared after her. "That was weird. I hope you don't mind that I interfered."
"I was thankful you did. I've never had to fight for an estate-sale purchase before." She looked down at the box. "I've heard some vintage games are worth a lot of money. Maybe this one is, but I wasn't going to resell it. It's for Mac's birthday."
"Glad it all worked out then. You'd better buy it and get out of here before she comes back."
Ellie thanked him again, then paid five dollars for the game. When she neared her old blue pickup, she frowned. Both tires on the passenger side were f lat. Who would slash her tires? Would the woman have been so angry about losing out on the mah-jongg tiles that she would have done something like this? It seemed extreme.
A black Taurus with tinted windows drove by slowly as she called for roadside service. Roy's Service Station had a truck there in fifteen minutes. She kept her eye out for the vandal as she waited for new tires to be put on her truck, but she saw no one suspicious. She stuck the mah-jongg tiles in her toolbox for safekeeping.
She paid Roy's employee, then climbed behind the wheel to go pick up Mac for their dinner out. The marina parking lot was nearly empty, and she pulled into the spot beside Mac's BMW. Mac's clipper, Lavender Lady, was gorgeous in the sunlight. Her sails were down, and her masts soared toward the clouds. Ellie often wished she could share her sister's passion for sailing. She loved the water and the scent of the sea, but all the sailing terms confused her.
She parked her truck, then walked out onto the dock. Seagulls landed near her feet, and their black eyes looked up for a snack. "Sorry, guys, I didn't bring any bread." Where was Mac? Ellie thought she'd be on the dock or near her car waiting. Maybe she'd lost track of time.
She cupped her hands around her mouth. "Mac!"
No one answered her but the squawk of the closest seagull and a toot from a ferry out in the bay.
Mac's skiff bobbed in the water next to the ship, but there was an inflatable raft bumping against the dock Ellie could take out. She stepped into it and steadied herself as it rocked in the waves. She sat down and rowed out to board the boat. She tied off next to the skiff, then climbed the ladder to the deck.
She looked down and bile rose in her throat.
A pool of red congealed on the tile floor about four feet from the railing on the starboard side. A lot of blood.
She tried to swallow, but all the moisture evaporated from her tongue. "Mac?" Her voice came out as a whisper. She rushed along the deck and followed the blood to the railing. There was no sign of Mac in the blue waves lapping at the hull.
She fumbled her phone out of her purse and dialed 911. Mac couldn't be dead, not on her birthday.CHAPTER 2
You've heard to trust your instincts. That piece of advice never fails.
— Hammer Girl Blog
Shauna Bannister stood on the bow of the ferry and watched the island of Hope Beach draw nearer. The sea air had curled her black hair into something that resembled Frankenstein's monster's bride, but she made a vain attempt to smooth it back into place. The scent of salt and sea wrapped around her in a caress. They were finally here after an eventful honeymoon, and she couldn't quite believe she was about to see her brother again after all these years.
Zach dropped his arm around her, and she welcomed his warmth. "Traipsing all over North Carolina in search of my brother isn't much of a honeymoon for you, Zach."
"We had a great honeymoon. This is just an extension." His lips brushed her temple. "I'm with my beautiful bride, and that's all I want." He pointed out two dolphins jumping beside the boat. "This is going to be an exciting week."
While they couldn't really label their honeymoon "great" after barely escaping with their lives, it had only made them stronger. And more in love.
She tipped her head back to stare into his deep-blue eyes. "You're sure it's him?"
"As positive as we can be without a DNA test. From what I can tell, he doesn't know he's adopted, honey. You have to be prepared for some initial disbelief that you're really his sister and he's who you say he is."
Disbelief. Would he reject her? He'd been old enough when he disappeared that he should still have some memory of her, shouldn't he? She'd looked it up, and some people remembered bits of their childhood from age two. They'd spent a lot of time together, and she clearly remembered his adorable freckles and the cowlick in his blond hair. He'd been a cute toddler and was probably a handsome man now.
She pressed her hand against her stomach. "The butterflies are trying to escape."
He tucked a long strand of her dark hair behind her ear. "We'll weigh them down with something sweet once we hit the island. I hear there's a great place for lunch and ice cream in town."
Taking time to eat would give her a chance to calm down. They'd landed in Norfolk last night and stayed at a hotel, then f lown on a charter f light to the Dare County Airport this morning where they'd caught the ferry.
"Sounds good." She leaned her head against his shoulder. "I'm so nervous. In my daydreams he recognizes me immediately and we hug until we're breathless."
A troubled frown wrinkled his forehead. "It's not going to be like that, babe. I think deep down you know that. A lot of time has passed. He spent most of his life in Japan. There's no guarantee he even remembers Washington."
"I remember lots of things from when I was two and three."
His embrace tightened. "And he went through a lot of trauma when he was ripped from his family after watching his mother die. He might have blocked out most of it."
She knew Zach was trying to make sure her expectations were realistic, but the thought of a negative reaction from her brother was disconcerting to her. She pulled away and watched a seagull regard her with inquisitive eyes from a nearby railing. "Maybe this was a bad idea. I probably should have called first and talked to his parents."
"No, we're doing it right. I could be wrong, you know. He might recognize that black hair." He twirled a lock of hair around his finger.
She smiled and leaned against his chest. Being married to Zach was wonderful. He'd found her brother, Connor, all by himself as a surprise. How many men would do that? "We should probably call and check on our boy."
"I talked to Alex while you were in the bathroom, and he was heading to the beach with Marilyn to go tide pooling. I'm sure she has her phone with her if you want to call."
"Of course you called. You're a good dad."
His eyes crinkled in a smile. "I try. He's easy to love. And so is his mother." As the wind ruff led his dark hair, he wrapped his arm around her waist and they turned to watch the ferry dock at Hope Beach. "I hear we can rent bicycles in town. That would be a fun way to tour the island."
"We're booked at Tidewater Inn, right?"
"Yes, they have a van picking us up. Looks like a nice place.
It's a few miles out of town, and the van runs back and forth every two hours."
Zach had planned all this down to the last detail. "Let's drop off our stuff, then head into town. I'd like to at least get a glimpse of Grayson before we approach him." It would be hard to remember her brother's new name, Grayson Bradshaw.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The House at Saltwater Point"
Copyright © 2018 Colleen Coble.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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