In this USA TODAY bestselling romantic suspense, Claire’s visit to a luxury hotel in Maine awakens repressed memories that undermine all she holds dear.
In 1989, Claire Dellamare disappeared from her own fourth birthday party at the Hotel Tourmaline on the island of Folly Shoals, Maine. She showed up a year later at the same hotel, with a note pinned to her dress but no explanation. Nobody knows where Claire spent that year—and until now, Claire didn’t even know she had ever been missing.
But when Claire returns to the Hotel Tourmaline for a business meeting with her CEO father, disturbing memories begin to surface . . . despite her parents’ best efforts to keep them forgotten.
Luke Rocco lost his mother under equally mysterious circumstances—at the same time Claire disappeared. After a chance encounter reveals the unlikely link between them, Claire and Luke set out together to uncover the truth about what happened that fateful year.
With flashbacks swimming just beneath her consciousness and a murderer threatening her safety, Claire’s very life depends on unscrambling her past . . . even if her family refuses to acknowledge it. Someone—maybe everyone—is hiding something from Claire Dellamare, and it will cost her everything to drag the truth out into the light.
“Evocative and gripping, The Inn at Ocean’s Edge will keep you flipping pages long into the night.” – Dani Pettrey, bestselling author of the Alaskan Courage series
“I burned through The Inn at Ocean’s Edge in one sitting. An intricate plot by a master storyteller. Colleen Coble has done it again with this gripping opening to a new series. I can’t wait to spend more time at sunset cove.” – Heather Burch, bestselling author of One Lavender Ribbon
About the Author
Colleen Coble is a USA TODAY bestselling author and RITA finalist best known for her coastal romantic suspense novels, including The Inn at Ocean’s Edge, Twilight at Blueberry Barrens, and the Lavender Tides, Sunset Cove, Hope Beach, and Rock Harbor series. Connect with Colleen online at colleencoble.com; Instagram: colleencoble; Facebook: colleencoblebooks; Twitter: @colleencoble.
Read an Excerpt
The Inn at Ocean's Edge
A Shadow Bay Novel
By Colleen Coble
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2015 Colleen Coble
All rights reserved.
Like the masthead of a great ship, the stone walls and mullioned windows of Hotel Tourmaline surveyed its island location of wind-tossed waves and rocks. Off the shore and to the southeast of the Schoodic Peninsula, the hotel dominated the island of Folly Shoals atop its pink-granite cliffs.
It had not been easy getting to this remote location. It had taken Claire five and a half hours plus an hour ferry ride from Summer Harbor to reach this rocky shore. She lifted her foot from the accelerator and let her car slow as she took in the imposing hotel, then pulled into the big circle driveway.
A valet, dressed in black slacks and a white shirt, stepped forward to open Claire's car door after she parked her convertible in front of the grand entrance decked out in gleaming brass and glass. She'd kept the top up since the mid-May wind was cool with the temperatures hovering around fifty-five.
Smiling her thanks at the young man, Claire emerged from her white Mercedes and looked up at the five-story structure. Though she'd never been here before, an uneasy shiver went down her spine. She couldn't take her gaze from the parapets with their insets of watermelon tourmaline in the stone around the entry door.
It was like the sea king's castle in The Little Mermaid, only on land instead of at the sea bottom. Which was a weird thought to hit her out of the blue. She hadn't seen that old Disney movie since she was a kid.
She recovered her composure and handed the car keys to the valet. "Claire Dellamare, checking in." Reaching over the door of the Mercedes, she grabbed her oiled leather satchel.
"Of course, Ms. Dellamare. Do you have bags?"
The man's voice faded into the distance. Pressure built in her chest as she continued to stare at the hotel. A flagstone walk wound through manicured lawns and disappeared into the shadow of thick forest. She suppressed a shiver at the gloom there. Through the big glass windows, she saw her father standing at the front desk. Seeing him grounded her, and she exhaled.
He would probably not be happy at her unexpected arrival, but she intended to make sure the merger landed them a bigger piece of the aviation pie.
Squaring her shoulders, she forced herself to smile again at the young man awaiting instructions. "There are three bags in the trunk." Without waiting for a response, she hurried past the doorman holding open the entry.
The pink-granite tile floor was unlike anything she'd ever seen. Black veins ran through various shades of pink granite and gave the floor both depth and light. She homed in on her father standing with his back to her and headed his direction, her heels clacking against the stone tiles as she approached the front desk.
The wood surfaces gleamed with polish, and a gilt ceiling arched over the entry area. She'd been in fine hotels all her life, but this one had something special. Just beyond the registration desk, several overstuffed sofas gathered near the floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out onto the forest behind the hotel. She stopped and peered out the window at the trees arching into the sky.
At the sight of the thick pines, Claire thought she might vomit right there on the granite floor. Her breath hitched in her chest, and she tried to ignore the rising panic.
She managed to whisper, "Dad," before her throat totally closed.
It's just the woods. Breathe, breathe.
Her father turned at the sound of her voice. A scowl gathered between his eyes. "Claire, what are you doing here?" His voice bounced off the granite floors.
Her mother had always said he had the voice to charm hummingbirds to his hand, and at the sound of his deep voice, a bit of calmness descended. She forced a smile and brushed her lips across his smooth-shaven cheek, inhaling the scent of his cologne, Giorgio Armani. Her fingers sank into the arm of his expensive suit, and she leaned her face against his chest.
He held her a minute, then released her. "Are you ill, Claire?" He looked at the woman standing to one side of the desk. "Please get my key at once."
"Yes, Mr. Dellamare. I have them ready. Yours and your daughter's." The clerk, an attractive blonde in her thirties, handed over two key card sleeves. "You're in a penthouse suite, next to the one by your parents." She smiled at Claire. "I'm Jenny Bennett, Ms. Dellamare. If there's anything you need, please contact me personally. I'm about to get off work, but my cell number is on my card." She pressed a business card into Claire's hand.
Claire managed a brief nod. "You've been very helpful, Jenny." The woman had quickly arranged a suite this morning when Claire had made the decision to come here.
"You're staying?" Her father's gaze went to the satchel in her hand.
"I came to help you with the merger." The door behind them swooshed open, bringing the scent of pine to her nose. Her chest tightened again.
"I'm perfectly competent to handle it." Her father took Claire's arm and turned her toward the brass doors of the elevator.
As he led her away from the entryway, her lungs compressed and there was no air. She had to get oxygen. She jerked away from him and yanked her blouse away from her neck. Her purse dropped to the floor, scattering pens, art pencils, lipstick, and a compact across the floor. Her face and neck felt on fire as she bent to pick up her things and stuff them back in her purse.
When she stood, the panic swept over her again. "Can't breathe!"
"Claire, lower your voice." Her father glanced around at the interested guests staring their way.
Her hands and arms tingled, and she couldn't feel her feet. Her father reached toward her, and she batted his hand away. "Don't touch me!" Her scream bounced off the ceiling.
A gray-haired gentleman in a navy suit approached. "Might I offer assistance, miss?"
She backed away, then whirled and rushed toward the entrance. Her feet seemed to be moving in slow motion, and her vision narrowed to a pinpoint centered on the door. Escape. She had to get out of here. Dimly aware of voices calling after her, the door grew closer and closer until she pushed it open and drew in a lungful of salt-laden air.
She leaned her face against the cool stone and prayed for the panic to go away. What was going on? Her left arm hurt.
Her father exited the hotel and hurried to her side. When he started to touch her, Claire flinched. "Don't."
"What is wrong with you? It's not like you to make a scene, to be out of control. This is something your mother would do, not you."
She flinched at the condemnation in his voice. She was not like her mother. She inhaled and tried to force her hands not to shake. "My chest is tight and my left arm feels on fire. I'm having trouble breathing. My face is hot. Maybe it's a heart attack."
"You're twenty-nine years old, Claire. It's unlikely it's a heart attack. I think you're having a panic attack. Maybe because this merger is so important. Go for a walk along the beach, and come back inside when you've gotten control of yourself. People will think you're having a nervous breakdown or something."
Though he didn't say it, she heard the implied comparison to her mother again. Control, I need control. "You're right. I'll be fine. It was a long drive up from Boston. I just need a walk." The tightness in her chest eased a bit. "Is Ric here yet?"
"Not yet. He's due to arrive tomorrow." His eyes narrowed as he looked her over. "He does like you. Maybe it's a good thing you've shown up."
Her breathing grew easier. "I'm sure of it, Dad. I'll be back in half an hour."
The doorman pulled open the door, and her father disappeared into the bowels of the hotel. The salt-laden air cleared the panic, and she turned to walk down the cliff steps to the waiting sand. The sea would calm her.
* * *
Seagulls squawked overhead in a blue sky dotted with puffs of clouds. The wind tugged Luke Rocco's hair and threatened to rip the ball cap from his head as he guided his boat toward Sunset Cove on the south side of the island. He never tired of this view. Though Folly Shoals was just one of about three thousand islands off the coast of Maine, it was a place apart from any other. The grandeur of the sea cliffs, soaring to just under a hundred feet in all their pink-granite glory, always made him feel small and insignificant. Magnificent pines and slender aspen vied for purchase in the rich soil, and wildflowers bloomed in the thin soil.
The engine belched oil and gas fumes that mingled with the scent of the sea, and his boat rose and fell on the waves. His breath plumed out in the chilly air as the sun began its descent over the peninsula. He should have worn jeans instead of shorts today, but the jacket helped. He squinted at his sister. Dressed in white shorts covered with a red sweatshirt, Megan huddled under the Bimini top, which did little to protect her from the cold wind.
He grinned at her. "Smile. At least we got enough fish for supper."
"It's not that." Her thoughtful gaze met his. "I have something to tell you, and I don't know how."
"You're getting married."
She rolled her eyes. "Get real. You've been home three days and haven't seen a boyfriend hanging around, have you? "
Her tone wiped the grin from his face. "You look scared, Meg. You can tell me anything. I won't bite your head off. Does the farm need money? We're about to go broke?" Part of him almost wanted it to happen. Maybe it would wake up the drunken old man back at the house. He'd never been the same since Mom disappeared.
She shook her head. "I think we're turning a profit this year. The cranberry yield looks to be stellar."
"Then what is it?"
The wind tore a strand of hair loose from her ponytail and whipped it into her face. She pushed it out of her eyes. "I got another job offer. It's in Oregon." She rushed on as if she had to spill it all before he interrupted her. "There's a new research facility that's just opened. They're studying viruses and mutations."
His gut tightened, but he managed to smile and nod. "You loved that in college."
Her dark eyes studied him as if to gauge his reaction. "And I'd finally be using that expensive Vassar education."
"It wasn't expensive. You went on scholarship."
She shrugged as she huddled in her red sweatshirt. "You know what I mean. The diploma is worth a lot, and I haven't used it."
"You've used your study of cranberry farming to help the cranberry bogs. That's why we're turning a profit this year." Shut up, Luke. She wasn't fishing for a compliment. She wanted to leave Folly Shoals. And how could he blame her for doing what he'd done three years ago? He'd gone to school in Ellsworth and helped with the cranberries, but when she'd come home from Vassar, he'd been only too ready to let her shoulder the full burden while he joined the Coast Guard.
She fell silent a moment, and he took the opportunity to analyze the objections rising to his lips. Pop's recent stroke would prevent him from helping out much. If Megan left, someone would have to pick up the slack. That someone could only be Luke. The thought of dealing with his father soured his mood. Meg had done it, though. It wasn't fair to expect her to do it forever.
"I see the wheels turning," Megan said. "I know what this means if I leave. I should turn it down."
Her woebegone face made him sit up straighter. "You've buried yourself on this island all your life, Meg. It's your turn to fly. I'm not going to stand in your way. Maybe I can plead hardship to the Coast Guard and get a transfer up here. There's a facility out on Southwest Harbor."
Her brown eyes widened. "But could you do both the bogs and your job? At harvest, it's downright crazy."
"I can try, and maybe we can afford to hire some extra help." He put more confidence into his voice than he felt, but he couldn't let her sacrifice what she really wanted. "If I'd known you weren't happy here, I would have pushed you out of the nest sooner. I thought you loved the bogs and wanted to stay here."
She looked down at her hands, the knuckles reddened from the cold. "I used to. But Pop's gotten even more ... difficult."
Something in her tone brought him up short. "He hasn't hit you again, has he? I thought he stopped that after I threatened him when I was eighteen."
He'd gotten in their father's face and threatened to call the sheriff if he ever lifted a hand to Meg again. Their dad had taken one look at Luke's face and stepped back. As far as Luke knew, he hadn't dared to raise his hand to her since then.
"It's just been since his stroke. He doesn't mean anything by it. The stroke has left him with a short fuse. He's always sorry after. And he's never even left a bruise."
Luke's fingers curled into his palms. If his dad were here, he wasn't sure he could hold himself back. "I'll talk with him."
Pop had always been difficult, especially when he drank too much. Luke had many memories of nights when he and Megan hid in the closet while Pop raged around the house looking for them.
"There's no need." Meg's eyes held an appeal for understanding. "That's not the real reason I want to go. I can handle a grumpy old man. It's just I'm stagnating here. I'm twenty-eight, and I've never been anywhere except to college. If I stay here any longer, I'll never leave."
He nodded and steered the boat toward the slip. "When would you start?"
"In a month. You'll really help me do this?"
"I want you to be happy. I'll figure it out. That's what big brothers are for."
Her hand swept over the rocky coastline in the direction of their house. "You don't even like cranberries. You were made for the Coast Guard. You thrive on the challenge. And I know perfectly well what's going to happen. You won't reenlist, will you? Even though it's what you've wanted to do your whole life."
"Don't worry about it. I'll do whatever has to be done. I can't let the business just dissolve. It's been in our family for seventy-five years."
She rose on long, tanned legs and leaned against the side of the boat. "And what if he dies? He's been so weak since the stroke. What if you give up your entire life for something that only matters to him?"
His pulse stuttered. "Are you saying you want us to sell the bogs?"
She raked her hand through her short hair, as thick, straight, and black as his. "I want both of us to think long and hard about what's best. Maybe it's time we quit catering to Pop and do what we really want to do."
How had he missed her discontent? And the thought of selling the family cranberry farm didn't settle well with him.
"Let me see what I can do about a transfer, then we'll talk. But no matter what, let them know you're taking the job."
She thrust her hands in the pockets of her sweatshirt. "So now you want to get rid of me and I'm useless, is that it?"
Her voice held no rancor so he just grinned. "Something like that. Your son may love working the land. Or my daughter." Not that he was likely to get married. But the thought of working the bogs unsettled him. He still believed their mom was buried somewhere out there.
Megan reached for the thermos of coffee. "You're thinking about Mom's disappearance, aren't you? Her body's not out there, and believe me, I've looked."
She always could read him. "She has to be somewhere, Meg."
"She's been gone twenty-five years! We'll never find her remains, not up here. It's too remote. Whatever happened to her will remain a mystery."
"Yeah, you're right. But I sure wish we knew what happened." He took a swig of hot coffee. "Ready to head in?"
"Take the helm a minute. I'll get the ropes ready."
She moved to take his place, and he went toward the starboard side. Something floated in the water about eight feet away, and he squinted, trying to make out the markings. "That's a baby orca. Cut the engine."
When Megan complied, he grabbed a paddle and maneuvered closer to the killer whale. The calf lolled listlessly in the water, turning an eye toward him as if asking for help. "It's sick. Skinny too." He scanned the water. "But where's its mother?"
They both studied the horizon and saw nothing. No pod, no mother.
"What if its mother died?" Megan joined him. "We have to help it. We can't just leave it out here to suffer."
"We could put up a sea pen until we can contact an orca rescue organization. I've got some extra netting in the hold."
"But how will you get it to shore? Netting it might kill it."
He shucked off his jacket and shoes. "I'll tow it in."
She grabbed his arm. "Are you kidding? We're five hundred yards from shore, and the water is freezing!"
Excerpted from The Inn at Ocean's Edge by Colleen Coble. Copyright © 2015 Colleen Coble. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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