Seaside Manor Bed and Breakfast
The heartwarming second installment in the Emerald Cove saga from a USA Today Bestselling Author.
The Seaside Manor Bed & Breakfast has been an institution in Emerald Cove for as long as anyone can remember. But things are changing and Diana is nervous about what the future might hold for her and her husband, not to mention the historic business.
With no experience to back him up, Ethan Flannigan moves back home to the Cove and takes on the bed and breakfast as a part-owner. Diana’s niece, Emily, agrees to help her aunt and uncle, but the charming man they sold half of the business to does nothing but get under her skin, even if the spark between them is hard to ignore.
Rebecca Mair is the new cop in town but she’s got a secret she hasn’t shared with anyone else, including her boss, and that secret is about to catch up with her.
Sarah Flannigan finally has the man of her dreams, but her career is spiraling out of control. With a difficult choice set before her, will she stay in the Cove with Mick and her family, or head back to the city to save her job?
Release date: June 16, 2020
Publisher: Black Lab Press
Print pages: 296
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Seaside Manor Bed and Breakfast
A seagull landed on a half-empty plate abandoned with chips on one side and eyed the remains of a milkshake in a tall glass cup. The bird flapped its wings as it lost its balance, knocking the milkshake over. The glass fell to the concrete tiles below and smashed even as Emily Jones leapt to catch it. She grimaced as milkshake sprayed across her feet and up her black leggings.
Customers glanced up, attentions attracted by the noise, then looked away again, engaging in conversation over coffee and brunch. Emily wiped the sweat from her brow with the back of her sleeve, then squatted to retrieve the pieces of glass with careful fingers, piling each shard onto the black serving tray she’d set on the ground beside the spill.
More seagulls hovered close by, landing on the fence, empty tables, wherever they could find a perch. She waved a hand in their direction.
They scattered for a few moments, but quickly returned. She’d have to clear up this mess before they’d leave. She hurried the broken shards of glass to the rubbish bin, then returned for the plates of half-eaten food. Birds were fighting over the scraps and she had to flap her hands at them a few times before they moved.
By the time she’d mopped up the spilled milkshake and wiped the tables clean, there were more customers anxious to be seated. With only two of them waiting tables, she had more than enough to do without having to clean up after a bunch of birds.
She led the customers to their seats and took orders, then disappeared into the bathroom for a few minutes of peace. She locked the stall door and sat fully clothed on the toilet lid, her face in her hands. How had she gotten here? She’d spent three years in culinary school, had worked in countless kitchens to pay her way, and yet still had thousands of dollars of debt from tuition. She’d landed a job as a sous chef in one of Sydney’s up and coming restaurants and thought finally everything was about to change. Then, she’d met Callum.
Everything did change after that. And not in the way she’d hoped.
He was charming, handsome, and swept her away with his declarations of love and commitment. He’d had weekly gigs at the restaurant where she worked. A singer and guitarist in a small band, his tight jeans and messy hair had women swooning every time he looked their way—and he’d chosen her.
After losing Mum, and having never known her father, he came along at exactly the right moment. She was lonely, vulnerable, and afraid of a future on her own—Callum offered her everything she was looking for. He promised her forever, he was there for her and he loved her in a way she had never known before. He partied more than she liked. She was never one to drink much, didn’t touch drugs, liked to go to bed as soon as her shift at the restaurant was done. But he stayed up for hours, drinking, experimenting, joking with his friends. She was sure he’d change if she gave him a chance. He couldn’t live that way forever—he was young and in a band, so it was part of the lifestyle and she could accept it, for a while.
When his band landed a job in the tourist beach town of Coffs Harbour, it hadn’t taken much convincing for him to get her to leave her restaurant job to follow him there.
There’ll be plenty of cooking jobs, he’d assured her. She hadn’t bothered to correct him—she wasn’t a cook; she was a chef. There was a big difference. Still, she imagined there must be plenty of opportunities for someone with her skills in a place filled with hotels, resorts, and restaurants.
“You okay in there?” asked a voice. It was Helen, the other waitress working the same shift. She was no doubt feeling the push with Emily hiding away in the bathroom.
“Yeah, fine. I’ll be right there.”
She left the stall, washed her hands, splashed water on her face and stared at her reflection in the mirror. She’d never felt so lonely in all her life before. When Callum left for a new gig in Airlie Beach two months earlier, he hadn’t seemed to feel the need to ask her to go with him. She wouldn’t have gone anyway. Not after what she’d found. Not after every‐ thing that’d happened between them. They’d dated for a year, and he didn’t even talk to her about his plans to move to another state. Irritation stirred in her chest.
Still, she missed having someone around who cared whether she came home from her shift at the cafe. Tonight, she’d walk down the boardwalk, up the street, and over the hill to a single bedroom apartment where she lived — it’d be dark when she got there, no one home waiting for her. For the life of her she couldn’t remember why she’d ever decided to move there, away from everyone she knew — her friends, her colleagues, a good job. And now, she had no idea what to do with her life.
Her eyes peeled open, shut, then blinked opened again. It was difficult, the opening part. And
when they were open her vision was blurred. She couldn’t figure out where she was. Not at home. Not at the station. Why was she lying on her back? Rebecca Mair squeezed her eyes shut for a few moments, then flung aching eyelids open again, widening her eyes in an attempt to focus.
Where was she?
Moving. She was moving. But on her back. The ground beneath her lurched, then turned. She was in a vehicle. Her eyes focused on a face—a paramedic. She’d worked with them often enough to know each of them by name.
“Steven?” she croaked, then coughed to clear her throat. “What…?”
He nodded, a smile brightening his tanned face. “Wel‐ come back, Constable. Now stay with me, all right?”
“What happened? Where am I?”
“You were stabbed, that’s all I know. You’re on your way to Tweed Hospital. Okay? Do you understand?” His brown eyes fixed on hers, studying her, monitoring her responses. She knew that look on his face. He was worried about her, checking her vitals even as he spoke.
She attempted a nod but found that her head was secured in place by tight straps. With both hands she reached up and tried to pluck them away.
Steven gently lifted her hands away and put them at her sides. “Leave it alone, Bec. We have to make sure you don’t have a neck injury.”
“I don’t,” she replied.
He chuckled. “Let us be the judge of that.” “Where’s Franklin… I mean the Sarge?”
“He’s fine, he’s got to take the fella into the station, from what I understand. He said he’d meet us at the hospital when he could.”
She inhaled a slow breath, let her eyes drift shut. He was fine. She hadn’t let him down, not this time. Memories lurched into her mind, one by one. Not a complete picture, but like a stop-motion animation—one moment at a time that her mind had to piece together to make a scene.
They’d gotten an anonymous tip about Thad Borseth, the creep who’d been stealing money from the Emerald Cafe for months. He was staying in a run-down cabin outside of town, near the beach. The sarge went in the front, Thad came out the back where she was waiting, and they’d fought. She flinched inwardly, remembering the feel of his fist connecting with her cheek, then the pummelling of her torso.
With tender fingers she reached for the place, and again Steven redirected her hands.
“Like I said, you’ve been stabbed. You’ll be sore there for a while. I’ve patched you up as best I could for the ride to the hospital, but you’ll need surgery. We’ll have to wait and see what the doc says.”
The hits to her chest must’ve been the knife connecting with her vest, but he’d found the tender place beneath the vest and connected with flesh.
She inhaled a sharp breath as a flutter of nerves flashed through her. What if he hit an organ? Her head felt light, her vision fading in and out. She could die.
She didn’t want to die, not yet. Not this way. She wanted a chance to live first, not to spend her only days of freedom in hiding then have her life snatched away from her by a thug, a thief. That wasn’t how things would end for her. Not if she could do anything about it.
With a defiant grunt, she forced her eyes open and met Steven’s gaze.
He grinned. “There’s my fighter. Good to see that spark in your eyes again, Constable. You’re gonna be just fine.”
They were taking her in for surgery. She lay on her back in the sterile hospital room, prepped, ready to go, but with tears in her eyes.
“Are you sure I can’t call someone for you?” asked a nurse, pausing beside Rebecca’s bed.
She shook her head, not wanting to make eye contact with the nurse in case the tears showed. She never wanted anyone to see her weakness, her vulnerability. She was strong, confident, private. That was all they needed to know.
The nurse gave a brief nod of the head, then wheeled a silver cart lined with medical supplies out into the hall, leaving Rebecca on her own.
There was no one to call. No one to tell. She was heading into surgery, might not make it through, and not a single soul in the world cared. How had her life come to this?
She’d been raised in a loving family home, had plenty of friends, a good life. And now she was all alone, without anyone to say goodbye as they wheeled her into surgery. Loneliness swamped her like plunging into frigid waters that closed over her head. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak, couldn’t see a way ahead.
If she died in surgery, whose life would be impacted? Apart from the fact that she wouldn’t show up to work tomorrow, how would anyone even be inconvenienced by the loss? Would there be a funeral, or would she be lowered into the ground by strangers?
Self-pity formed a lump in her throat and tears blurred her vision.
“There you are, Proby,” said Franklin as he burst into the room, relief tinging his voice.
Startled, she wiped the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand. “Sarge?”
He stopped beside the bed, clenched his hands into fists, then relaxed them again. Finally, he reached for one of hers and held it. “I’ve been looking for you. They said you were in emergency, then I looked in the cardiac wing…anyway, I found you. That’s all that matters. How’re you feeling?”
Relief overwhelmed her and she couldn’t speak. She shook her head slowly, desperately trying to keep the tears at bay. She knew Franklin well enough to understand that her crying would send him running from the room and she wanted him there. More than she’d thought possible. Having someone with her, even a boss who clearly disliked her, was better than no one at all.
His eyes found hers, softened and he pulled a chair up close to the bed to sit down, without releasing his grip on her hand. “Don’t worry, Proby, you’re gonna be okay. The doc wouldn’t say much since I’m not family, but I can tell. I’ve seen enough people on death’s door to know it when I see it, and you don’t have that look. You’ll pull through, I guarantee it.”
She nodded, pushing down a sob. “Thanks for coming.” “Of course, where else would I be but with my partner?” “I know I’m a disappointment, but I try…” Her voice broke.
He shook his head. “No, it’s not you, I’m just an ass. Don’t listen to me. I’m old and grumpy, and sometimes I say things I shouldn’t.”
She chuckled, then winced as pain shot through her gut. “Old? Really, boss? You’re only a few years older than I am.”
“I feel as old as time,” he replied with a wink. “Anyway, I appreciate you being here.”
“Anyone I can call for you? Someone on their way?” he asked.
She looked at the ceiling, shook her head, lips clenched into a straight line.
He sighed. “Okay, but you let me know if you change your mind. Because there’s one thing I know about you, Constable, and it’s that out there somewhere are people who care about you. I don’t know why you’ve walked away from them, why you don’t want them here by your side right now, but I know they’re out there.”
She met his gaze, her throat aching. “How do you know that?”
He smiled. “Because as much as it pains me to admit, you’re pretty darned likeable, Proby. It’s inevitable that there’d be people who care.”
TWO WEEKS LATER
The caw of a crow outside her bedroom window woke Diana Jones at five a.m. The bird continued
its monotone call like a metronome that couldn’t be silenced; it grated on her nerves. Usually crows stayed away, since she had a large number of kookaburras who liked to perch in the gum tree at the end of the garden overnight. Still, it was there, and it had woken her before her alarm. She rubbed her eyes and swung her feet to the floor with a grunt, then pressed the button on her old clock radio to switch off the alarm. She’d let Rupert sleep this morning. Lately he’d looked more tired than ever, dark smudges beneath each eye. The doctor had told them he had to take things easy, but no one had talked about what that really meant—either she had to bear the load of running the business all alone or they’d have to sell up and move.
One glance revealed Rupert was still sound asleep and her movements hadn’t roused him. He snored softly beside her. Her husband had never been a morning person, unlike her. She was grateful for her preference for the early hours, since as the owner and manager of the Seaside Manor Bed and Breakfast for the past twenty-five years she’d barely had a chance to sleep late more than a dozen times.
Her morning was filled with routines. Shower, dress, hair, makeup. She took an envelope from the drawer where her makeup lived, stared at it a moment, ran a finger over the handwriting that spelled out her name and address, and shoved it into her cardigan pocket with a quick glance over her shoulder. Rupert hadn’t moved; he lay on his side, the covers rising and falling gently with his breath. Then, she donned a pair of comfortable walking shoes and headed downstairs to begin making breakfast.
It was the only meal of the day they served at the Seaside Manor and she took pride in making sure guests would not only enjoy it but hopefully talk about it with their friends. Word of mouth had been her best marketing tool for more than two decades, and her breakfasts were a big part of that. Of course, the pristine beaches and azure waters of Emerald Cove helped as well. They’d never had a problem booking guests, but lately she’d begun turning some away, saying the rooms were fully booked even when they weren’t. She knew she couldn’t manage more than two rooms at a time anymore, especially now that Rupert wasn’t as much help with any of the things he used to do around the place.
The kitchen was her happy place, and Seaside Manor had a spacious, if somewhat old-fashioned kitchen that let in light through a set of large windows that looked out over the back garden. Dark timber cupboards, a large kitchen island with pots and pans hanging above, and every surface gleam‐ ing. She was a stickler for cleanliness.
Diana flicked the switch on the kettle and stood waiting for it to boil while she gazed out over the lovingly main‐ tained rows of shrubbery, flowers and climbing vines. She spent most afternoons in her garden once the guests had been taken care of and everything was done inside. At that time of day, shade from the large gum tree, a macadamia tree, and a sprawling poinciana drew long, cool shadows across the garden and gave it a pleasant, cozy feel. But now the entire garden hung in darkness, the sun wouldn’t rise for hours yet and a sleepy stillness clung to the landscape. She shivered, tugged her cardigan more tightly around her plump frame, and poured herself the first cup of tea of the day from the steaming kettle.
By the time the sun had begun to warm the roof of the Manor, the four guests who’d spent the night there had eaten breakfast and retreated to their rooms. Both couples would be checked out before nine a.m., and while she waited, Diana stayed busy cleaning up in the kitchen and planning her menu for the following day. There were a few things she needed from the shops, and she also wanted to visit the Cove’s new police officer. The poor woman was in hospital after she’d been stabbed by one of Cindy’s cafe workers — the scandal was the talk of the town. Now he was in prison, awaiting a trial, and the officer was in the local hospital recovering from her wounds.
It had all been very dramatic, when two weeks earlier, the police had chased him down after a tip and video evidence from Cindy that Thad was stealing money from her and charging tourists for room keys from Diana’s very own bed and breakfast to get them cheap food and drinks from the Emerald Cafe. It had been very vexing for Diana to discover that the Manor was involved in some sort of scam, and then for the poor police officer, a young woman who’d only been in the Cove for a few months, to be stabbed because of it— well, Diana felt the responsibility to visit, at the very least, since she wasn’t sure Constable Mair had any friends or family in the area and she hated to think of her lying there, all alone, on those scratchy sheets.
Done with her cleaning, she carried a tray with a cup of tea and an English muffin with jam to the master suite on the ground floor. Anyone unfamiliar with the layout of the Manor would never guess that such a spacious suite was hidden beyond the grand staircase at the back of the struc‐ ture. It was her refuge, the place she and Rupert had called home since the early years of their marriage. They had a large bedroom with sitting area, a small kitchenette that could be used for making the basics and a spacious bath‐ room. She set the tray on the small round table in the kitchenette, then strode to tug open the heavy, slate grey curtains that hung from the low ceiling to the thick char‐ coal carpeting. Once they were pulled back, a set of tall glass doors were revealed that opened onto a private veran‐ dah, hidden from the rest of the garden by large, manicured lilly pillies.
“Good morning, my love,” she chimed.
Rupert struggled into a sitting position, rubbing his reddened eyes. “Good morning. It looks like I overslept. I’m sorry about that, my dear. I hope you didn’t have any trouble with the guests.”
She shushed him with a wave of her hand. “Never mind that, you needed your sleep. Besides, there were only four of them, and they’re about to check out. I brought you some breakfast, then I’m heading into town for a few supplies. I thought I might visit the injured policewoman at the hospital as well.”
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