A fresh start. A sunny beach town. One summer to rediscover her life. **NOW A USA TODAY (August 6, 2020) BESTSELLER!** A new beach read series set in the beloved village of Summer Beach. When Marina Moore’s life blows up on national television, she seeks refuge at her grandmother’s beach house called the Coral Cottage. Now in her mid-forties with children in college, Marina is in dire need of her grandmother's gutsy advice to a well-lived life. Marina meets an old friend, Ivy Bay, proprietor of the Seabreeze Inn, who encourages her to share her love of food at the local farmer’s market. Soon Marina’s sister Kai arrives on a summer break from her musical theater troupe. Together, the sisters discover new paths bound to change them forever. If only those changes didn’t require such long leaps of faith. Jack Ventana, a newspaper writer and confirmed bachelor nomad, is on a six-month sabbatical to write his first book. The only company he wants is his inquisitive Labrador Retriever puppy, but when he receives a call from an old colleague, he finds his life altered in ways he never imagined—including the prospect of romance. What began as a short, reclusive holiday is destined to change Marina’s life, especially when Jack’s research uncovers her grandmother Ginger’s hidden past. Join the fun in Summer Beach, where the bonds of friendship and love prove unbreakable. From the author of the bestselling Seabreeze Inn at Summer Beach book series, the Coral Cottage is a new chapter on the sunny coastline. Get it now in ebook, hardcover, paperback, and large print. Audiobook coming soon--mark it on your wish list. For women's fiction readers of Mary Kay Andrews, Elin Hilderbrand, and Mary Alice Monroe. “I love how the women in Jan’s stories are always intelligent and strong business women. At the core of all her books is a strong, close-knit family.” - Reviewer B.J.T. “Jan Moran is the new queen of the epic romance.” - USA Today Bestselling Author Rebecca Forster “[Jan Moran is] is a compelling voice to follow.” - Booklist “Each of Jan Moran's books is captivating and reflects her love of the written word, as well as her insatiable curiosity.” - Reviewer Andrea S.
Release date: July 28, 2020
Publisher: Sunny Palms Press
Print pages: 292
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Summer Beach, California
With only a midnight moon to light her way, Marina ducked under a wrought iron archway covered in honeysuckle and wound her way along a pathway lined with tropical vegetation toward the old beach cottage. Breathing in the fresh sea air helped settle her tattered nerves.
When Marina reached the covered porch, she brushed sand from the high-heeled shoes she couldn’t wait to kick off and rang the doorbell. While she waited, she glanced around. Next to her, a wooden swing creaked in the brisk wind that carried the scent of early spring. Beyond the house, moonlight illuminated the sleepy, beachside village that hugged the Pacific Ocean in Southern California.
No answer. She tapped on the beveled-glass window of the sun-bleached door and called out. “Ginger, it’s me. Marina.”
To one side of the wide front porch, pink bougainvillea bracts fluttered in the wind, petals scattering like confetti across the lawn. She brushed one from her silk blouse.
Marina rolled her aching shoulders. Her slim skirt felt restrictive, and she wished she’d taken time to change before fleeing the city. The drive from San Francisco had been arduous, not only because of the molasses-paced traffic through Los Angeles but also due to the wounds inflicted on her heart this morning.
Not to mention her professional reputation. Marina winced at the thought.
Marina ached to nestle into her grandmother’s calming embrace—just as she and her sisters had always done—and lose herself in Ginger’s spacious old kitchen. When Marina was younger, cooking with her grandmother usually soothed her teenage angst. Ginger would pour a glass of wine and tune in her old friend Julia Child’s cooking show, insisting they cook along with Julia. Usually, they were successful, though sometimes they had a major flop. Through it all, Marina thrived in the glow of Ginger’s unflappable approach to life.
Thinking back to those halcyon days, Marina wished she’d made a different choice and spent the last twenty years pursuing another career. Could she have made a living doing what she loved?
“Hello? Ginger, are you there?” Marina banged on the door again and then peered into a window. Inside the sprawling cottage splashed in a sunny shade of coral, comfortable, artsy furnishings were in their proper place, but there was no sign of Ginger.
Their proper places.
Marina’s sisters knew their place in the world. And to the outsiders, so did Marina. Only on the inside did she often feel like she’d been forced into a fancy designer shoe two sizes too small.
Of the three sisters, Marina had always been the pragmatic, driven one who forged ahead and stayed the course—often to her detriment. Kai, the youngest, was the free-spirited dancer who was now on tour with a musical theater company. Their middle sister, Brooke, was the homebody of the family with three rambunctious boys and a husband who was a captain in the fire department. She spent her days refereeing arguments and tending to her thriving vegetable garden.
Unfortunately, Marina’s life had imploded in a spectacular fashion this morning on channel KSFB—a San Francisco Bay area television station—where she’d been delivering morning news for almost two decades. Only this time, Marina had been part of the story.
She’d arrived on set before dawn as she always did, ready to deliver the morning news to the early risers of San Francisco. As she passed Babe Barstow, who covered entertainment and local news, the younger woman had a strange, smug expression on her face, but Marina had become accustomed to that.
Even though Marina knew Babe was angling for Marina’s job, when the cameras were rolling, they were professional and friendly. At fifteen years younger than Marina, Babe still had a lot to learn. For starters, why did she insist on using her cutesy nickname when she wanted to be taken seriously as a news anchor?
While Marina was reviewing her notes, Babe was covering the lighter news. “Lulu Godiva, whose recent song, Love Me in the Afternoon, hit the top of the charts, recently revealed the story behind the tune, saying a San Francisco man inspired it.” Babe paused dramatically. “And it’s none other than our local architect to the stars, Grady Ashworth, who designed Lulu’s getaway in Napa Valley. The singer spilled the story when questioned about her dazzling engagement ring this weekend.”
Babe swung back to Marina with a smirk of satisfaction. “What do you think about that, Marina?”
As Babe delivered the coup de grace, the camera shifted back to Marina.
“Well, I don’t think Grady…could mean that…” Marina blurted out a mishmash of intelligible words, adding, “This isn’t a gossip show, Babe, and I don’t think our viewers are interested in who Grady Ashworth is dating.”
“You’re missing the point,” Babe said coolly. “Lulu Godiva is a gorgeous, successful star. Lucky Grady, right?”
Frantically, Marina tried to blink away the hot, angry tears welling in her eyes. She waved the camera away, though the operator kept rolling, seemingly oblivious to her distress. Her skin felt hot and prickly, and her face was probably turning bright red. She swiveled her chair back with force to finish the news, trying to conceal a quick brush of tears, but somehow her heel snagged on a cord and jerked her from her chair. A cry escaped her lips.
“Back to you, Marina, for the rest of the morning’s news,” Babe said. “Marina?”
While Marina was gripping the desk to haul herself up, the floor director was barking orders and insults through her earpiece.
By then, Babe was smoothly taking over. “While Marina is out of commission, let’s go on to other entertainment news.”
When they cut to commercial, their boss burst out. “What just happened?” Hal demanded. “Moore, you—of all people—know better than to fall apart on the air.”
“Babe set me up,” Marina said, though she knew that was a thin excuse. “She could have come to me any time before the show with that information to prepare me.”
“You’re a pro, Moore,” Hal shot back. “Or you were. The fact is, ratings are down, and it’s time we had a fresh face.”
Marina gaped at him, slowly comprehending what he was saying. “It won’t happen again,” she said, reining in her anger. She’d always had the support of her old boss, but when the station was acquired three years ago, Hal Reilly, son of the billionaire media conglomerate owner, was brought in.
Hal was in his late twenties and dangerously hip. His father had charged him with changing the format from news to anything that drove ratings. That meant more controversy and charged opinions on the air.
Marina wasn’t comfortable with this approach—or with Hal. She’d managed to ignore his disgusting double entendre remarks and dodge his wandering hands, but she wasn’t so sure about Babe.
A knowing look passed between Hal and Babe.
With an exasperated huff, Hal slid a hand over his shaved head and removed his designer glasses. “Look, Moore, I hate to do this to you, but—”
Marina knew Hal was relishing this. She quickly cut in. “I’m giving my official notice.” Marina wasn’t going to plead for her job in front of Babe and the entire crew. “I’ll gather my belongings and leave.”
And bang, just like that, at forty-five she’d lost her job and fiancé in less than five minutes. Probably some sort of record, she thought ruefully. She’d call her agent tomorrow, but for now, all she wanted to do was sleep and forget today had ever happened.
As for Grady, maybe he’d done her a favor. She’d waited years to date until her children were older, although the first time she’d dipped her toe into that choppy sea of dating, a shark had bitten. She didn’t need a man who would choose a twenty-something pop star over her. Still, she was hurt and humiliated. Not to mention unemployed.
If only she hadn’t let Hal and Babe get to her.
Marina blew wisps of hair from her face. At least she felt a measure of relief here at the beach. Away from that hectic world. Here, she could hide out and recuperate. But only for a short while, because her children’s college tuition wasn’t cheap. Heather and Ethan were in their first year of college on the east coast. This past year, Marina had gone from having boisterous twins underfoot to sudden silence. And Grady had seized on her loneliness.
No answer. Marina turned the doorknob of her grandmother’s beach cottage. Locked.
Car lights flashed on the street. Could that be her grandmother? Or a neighbor who lived on this stretch of sand?
The car passed the cottage and turned.
Marina paced the front porch before flopping onto the swing. Despair crashed over her like a furious high tide. If Ginger were here, she’d crush her in a hug and tell her how Grady wasn’t good enough. Marina knew that now, but it didn’t lessen her pain.
Blinking back useless tears of self-pity, Marina sprang from the swing, eager to get inside. Perhaps Ginger had left a window open.
As Marina circled the house, trying every door and window, she considered her options. Brooke lived an hour south of San Diego, near the Mexican border. It was far too late to wake her. Besides, with a house full of teenagers, Marina would be sleeping on the couch and listening to silly adolescent jokes.
Though she loved her nephews, that was not what she needed right now.
Shivering against the cool ocean breeze, Marina tugged at her old bedroom window until she heard a pop. “Whoa, ouchy mama!” she cried out in pain, reverting to the creative cuss words she’d used when the kids were young that had somehow stuck.
The window didn’t budge, but one of her artificial red nails had snapped off, taking part of her natural nail with it. She held up her throbbing forefinger, assessing the damage. “That’s it. You’re all coming off.” One more vestige of her former life she could get rid of for a while. She shook her hand. “Yowzer roo,” she muttered through clenched teeth.
At the studio, Babe had once heard her, arched a finely tattooed eyebrow, and walked away, shaking her head as if Marina were an old dinosaur.
“Where are you, Ginger?” Marina peeked in another window. When she had fled the disaster of her life in San Francisco this morning, it hadn’t occurred to her that Ginger might not be here. Besides, her grandmother was often a night owl, a habit honed from her time spent in Europe with her husband Bertrand Delavie, a career diplomat.
The fashionable people often dined until after midnight, dear child.
That memory earned a fleeting smile, despite her pulsating injury.
Marina marched toward the front porch. Get creative, Ginger would always say. She could sleep on the porch until Ginger returned, but that could be days if her grandmother had gone on a trip. Or she could find a motel or inn.
As she ducked under a set of low-hanging wind chimes she hadn’t recalled, her spiky high heel caught between two pavers and snapped, jerking her ankle at an awkward angle. Flailing and cursing under her breath again, she regained her balance, though her ankle protested.
“These are going, too,” she muttered in disgust. She tore off her shoes—two-hundred dollars on sale at Nordstrom down the drain. For that price, she could’ve bought several pairs of comfortable walking shoes or great massages—which would have made her feel so much better.
She was tired of nosebleed heel heights, though that was the style expected of her at work. Hal had called her stylish kitten-heels and flats old-lady shoes and asked if she were getting ready for retirement.
The nerve of that brat. Women didn’t need to all look like Babe-the-Barbie. Son of a billionaire or not, Marina had told Hal precisely what she thought of him on the way out the door this morning.
Marina hobbled along the side of the house toward the swing to nurse her injuries.
How many times had she sat on that swing, kicking sand from her bare feet and listening to her grandmother? No one could tell a story like Ginger, so nicknamed because of her ginger colored hair at birth, which she still kept stylishly tinted. But Marina preferred to think it was because of her grandmother’s spicy personality.
Ginger’s stories, even the ones that were supposedly true, were forever morphing in her nimble mind. Some might think it was because Ginger was nearly eighty now, but no, Marina had been listening to stories that shifted like the tides for as long as she could remember.
Ginger seemed to have lived as many lives as a cat. Maybe Ginger did that to entertain them, sort of like Pippi Longstocking. When called out on details that didn’t jibe with an earlier version of the story, Ginger would simply arch an eyebrow with a Mona Lisa smile and say, “That’s how I remember it today.”
Now, every time Marina put pressure on her foot, sharp pains ripped through her ankle. Only a few more steps.
As she turned the corner, a powerful flashlight cut through the darkness, blinding her.
A man’s voice rang out. “Who’s there?”
Marina screamed and stumbled back, her ankle collapsing on her. Waving her arms in slow motion, she crashed to the ground. Pepper spray, she thought frantically, but it was safely tucked in her purse. In the car. Would she become a lead story—if it bleeds, it leads—like the ones she had delivered for years? The self-defense training Ginger had insisted all the girls take kicked in. She couldn’t run, but she could kick.
“Ma’am, I am not going to hurt you,” came a firm, reassuring voice. “I’m Chief Clarkson of the Summer Beach Police Department. Are you hurt?”
Shielding her eyes, Marina gazed up at the towering, barrel-chested man who loomed above her. With cropped, curly black hair and clad in a Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts, he looked like a Marine on vacation. “How do I know that?” she demanded. “Why aren’t you in uniform? And what are you doing creeping around my grandmother’s house?”
He swung the flashlight toward his car, illuminating a door emblazoned with Summer Beach Police Department. “Here in Summer Beach, we look after residents’ homes. Now, what’s your name, ma’am?”
“I’m Marina Moore. Ginger Delavie’s granddaughter from San Francisco. She’s not home, or she’s not answering. I’m worried about her.”
“You must be the anchor lady from the big news show.” Chief Clarkson broke into a grin and extended his hand to help her up. “Well, why didn’t you say so?”
She’d forgotten how small Summer Beach was. The locals knew each other and looked after their own. Marina knew some of them, too, from childhood summers she spent here. But that was a long time ago.
Gripping Chief Clarkson’s broad hand, Marina tried to stand. “Ouch,” she cried out, hopping on one foot. “I think I sprained my ankle.”
While supporting her at a respectful distance, the chief said, “You needn’t worry about Miss Ginger. She’s gone for a few days. Took a cruise to Catalina and Ensenada. Was she expecting you?”
“No, I just decided to drive down.”
Marina had tried to call along the way, but her cell phone had died, and Grady—she winced at the memory—had taken her car charger several weeks ago. She usually took BART—the San Francisco rail system—to work, and she’d forgotten to replace the charger. As she thought about it, she realized Grady had been a taker all along—who’d hidden behind a veneer of romance.
Ethan hadn’t liked him from the beginning. Marina thought her son was overly protective, but now she understood he’d seen through Grady. Ethan had gone golfing with Grady once—her son was a consistent scratch golfer—and he’d come back incensed that Grady had cheated at golf.
Marina gestured toward the house. “Wish I had a key to the cottage.” She did—in San Francisco. But since she’d driven straight from the television studio, she hadn’t thought to get it. In her anguished mind, she’d thought Ginger would be here.
“Can’t help you there,” Chief Clarkson said. “Do you have a place to stay tonight?”
“I’ll find a motel,” she said. “Do you know of any nearby?”
“We have a couple of inns here in town,” the chief replied. “There’s a big wedding party at one, but you might try the Seabreeze Inn down the road.”
“Do you have an address?”
The chief grinned. “Hard to miss. It’s the largest structure on the beach. You might remember it. Although, as I understand, it was usually closed back then.”
A memory clicked in Marina’s mind. “You mean, the haunted mansion on the beach?”
“I don’t think it’s very haunted anymore.” His deep baritone laugh rumbled in his chest.
“That’s not a joke,” Marina said, shivering. “Even a little haunted is disturbing.”
“You’ll be fine there. Two women, who are very much alive, run it now.” The chief glanced at her car and added, “You can follow me there.”
She started to say something snarky about his making sure she was actually going there and not staying behind to rob Ginger’s house, but she held back her comment. This wasn’t the big city. Life was different here in Summer Beach. Even celebrities, such as the popular singer Carol Reston, who had an estate on the ridgetop, could stroll around without being bothered.
“That would be nice, thanks,” Marina said. She tested her foot again, but as soon as she put pressure on it, pain shot through her ankle. Reluctantly, she asked, “Could you help me to the car?” She wasn’t accustomed to relying on people—especially strangers.
“You should have that ankle looked at tomorrow,” Chief Clarkson said, frowning at the swelling. “The sisters who run the Seabreeze Inn—Ivy and Shelly—can probably arrange a doctor for you tomorrow.” He jerked his chin toward her small vehicle. “Hope that car is an automatic. I’m afraid your clutch foot is out of commission.”
“It is.” Marina managed a polite chuckle. She’d carted kids and gear to matches around the bay area in an SUV, but after they left for college, she’d downsized to a turquoise Mini Cooper convertible. She could squeeze into the smallest parking space in the city and drop the top on sunny days. Besides, it was fun. Heather had been trying to get her to affix eyelashes over the headlights. When it’s yours, you can do that, she’d told her.
The police chief helped Marina to her car, and she followed him a short distance to the inn. He waved her around to the rear of the grand old house and got out. Marina stayed in her car and rolled down her window. Overhead, palm trees rustled in the wind.
The chief pressed a yellow doorbell button that had a cheerful, painted bumblebee above it. A hand-painted sign read, Give us a buzz after hours.
Instantly, a light flicked on above them in what Marina imagined was a bedroom. A couple of minutes later, an attractive woman with shoulder-length brown hair opened the door. They had probably woken her. “Hi, Chief. What’s going on?”
Leaning over the steering wheel, Marina stared at the woman. She seemed vaguely familiar.
Chief Clarkson jerked a finger over his shoulder. “We’ve got a local’s granddaughter who needs a room. Ginger Delavie is away on a cruise. And this one has a bad ankle.”
“We have room in the back on the downstairs level,” came the reply. The woman motioned past an enormous pool with statues and columns that looked like it belonged at the Hearst Castle.
Marina leaned out the window and waved a credit card. “I’ll take it.” She was mentally and physically exhausted. Right now, she could sleep anywhere.
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