Authors: Tess Oliver
Copyright© 2012 by Tess Oliver
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All Rights are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quatoations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
“Mimi, the line is around the corner. Is breakfast ready? I’m starved.” I poured the last drops of sugary white glaze over the steaming cinnamon rolls and put the spoon down. I headed to the tiny kitchen at the back of the shop and poked my head inside. Sunlight was just starting to seep through the windows. “Mimi, they’ll be knocking the door down if we don’t open soon.” My grandmother stared down at the frying pan on the stove.
“Mimi? What’s the matter?” I walked over to her.
Mimi pointed to the frying pan. “Double yolks,” she said quietly.
I looked at the pan where three egg yolks sizzled on the hot, black surface. “Maybe you just forgot that you broke three eggs instead of two.” I opened the trash can and looked inside. There were only two broken shells. I looked back at my grandmother. She was sucking on her bottom lip, a habit of hers whenever she was worried about something. I placed my hand on her shoulder. “Don’t fret over it, Mimi. Besides, we’ve got customers waiting.”
“Two yolks mean trouble.” She shook her head. “The last time I cracked an egg and saw two yolks was that horrible storm of eighty-five. The whole shoreline was wiped away, and the waves rushed over the highway. Everything was flooded and poor old Charles Finch was washed away into the sea. We never saw him again.”
I’d heard the story of the storm of eight-five about eighty-five times, but I always let Mimi repeat it. And I always listened raptly as if it was the first time I’d heard it. I guess some memories, whether good or bad, were like that. You never let them go and they resurfaced constantly. And if you didn’t think about them or tell someone about them, they might be lost forever. But even if you wanted them to go away, they wouldn’t because they were too much a part of you. Like my memory of the day my mom signed over custody of me to Mimi. I was only six but I remember everything about the day. Mom had on blue eye shadow and a yellow dress, and she kept fidgeting with the clasp on her purse. The judge’s tie had little red diamonds, and he constantly cleared his throat. Mimi was wearing her favorite white boots and hoop earrings, and she had hummed all the way to the courtroom. I wasn’t sad that day because Mimi had always been more of a mom than my real mom. But the memory of that day had never left me and always surfaced when I least expected it.
Voices outside the shop grew louder. “Mimi, we’ve got to open up.”
Mimi’s shop and cinnamon rolls were so well-known people stood in line every morning waiting for the shop to open. Some were just visitors to Angel Beach and others were regulars from the surrounding towns. Rumors swirled that it was the mouth-watering fragrance of the buns that lured people from all around.
I unlocked the door and the customers streamed in. Some would buy just one bun, others a dozen or more. Some preferred their rolls with pecans and some without. But everyone left Mimi’s shop a bit happier.
By the end of the morning rush, the baking shelves were empty and Mimi and I were sticky from cinnamon sugar and glaze. Mimi wiped the counter and hummed to herself. She seemed to have forgotten the egg incident and I was relieved.
I finished cutting the blocks of butter for that afternoon’s batches of yeast dough, and I hung my apron on the hook. “I’m going to the beach, Mimi. I’ll be back in a few hours.”
A knock sounded on the back door as I headed up the narrow stairway to the top floor of the shop where Mimi and I lived. I stuck my head around the stairwell and glanced through the kitchen. “Gertie is at the back door, Mimi.” She knocked again forcefully. “You’d better hurry. It looks like she’s about to burst open from gossip.”
Gertie ran the tea shop down the road, and she was Mimi’s best friend. She knew everything that happened or was about to happen at Angel Beach. And when she had something juicy to share, she’d scurry over in her sandals and Hawaiian print dress to tell my grandmother.
I could hear Gertie’s excited ramblings as I changed into my swimsuit. She was still standing in the kitchen with Mimi when I walked back downstairs. Worry had returned to Mimi’s expression. Gertie was practically breathless from relaying her tale.
“What’s happened? Did Mrs. Jenkins run away with the mailman after all?”
Gertie waved her hand. “No, it’s nothing like that. This is much bigger.” She shook her head. “It’s just terrible, just terrible.”
“I knew that egg with two yolks was an omen.” Mimi walked over to the kitchen window and looked down the beach.
I came up behind her and she startled when I touched her arm. “What’s this terrible thing that has happened? Another storm forecasted?”
Mimi turned to me. She looked truly troubled, and I felt a pang of guilt for making such light of her worry. “That man has purchased the Saunders’s beach house.”
“Mimi, you’re both talking in cryptic pieces. What man?”
“Mr. Freely, the millionaire who has his sights set on making Angel Beach a posh resort,” Gertie said.
“So let him buy it. He’s not going to budge us from our home, so there’s nothing to worry about. He can build his resort somewhere else,” I said.
Gertie grabbed my arm. “A big truck pulled up this morning with furniture. He’s here to stay all right and he intends on driving us all out of here. I just know it.”
I took hold of Gertie’s hand. “Gert, let him try. He’ll soon find that he’s set his sights on the wrong beach town.”
Gertie squeezed my hand. “I hope you’re right, Echo.”
“I am. Now if you two will excuse me, I’m off to the beach.” I walked out the back door and grabbed up my wetsuit, my swim fins and my towel from the rack where I’d left them to dry. I whistled and our German shepherd, Riley, followed. His rubber bone was clenched in his jaw as he trotted out the gate behind me.
The morning sun was starting to heat the chalky cement sidewalk lining Angel Beach. A few beach towels dotted the sand and several surfboards stuck out like brightly colored fiberglass trees, but for the most part the beach was still quiet. Angel Beach was situated between two sheer cliffs. Waves coming into Angel Beach rolled over a smooth and virtually rock free bottom, so it was perfect for swimming and surfing. My favorite spot to swim was a good quarter mile down the beach where the curve of the ocean floor made the waves form perfectly. And if I caught the tide just right, I could glide all the way in on a single wave.
The Saunders’s house, the topic of Gertie’s conversation, was directly adjacent to my favorite swim spot. The owner had died last year, and his wife decided to move inland near her children. At one time it had been one of the prettiest cottages on the beach with its lavender trim and neatly kept flower garden. When Mr. Saunders got sick his wife had to put all of her energy into taking care of her husband, so the house fell into disrepair. Last week some men had come to paint the outside. They’d scraped off the lavender and painted the entire house a drab yellow. They had also made certain to crush every inch of the garden with their ladders and steel-toed boots.
There was no moving truck like Gertie had mentioned, but there was a jeep and a truck parked next to the house. Loud male voices and music rumbled through the open windows. Three surfboards were propped against the wall of the cottage.
I headed down to the water, and Riley followed closely at my heels until a group of unsuspecting gulls caught his eye. He ran and pounced into them like a little kid jumping into a pile of leaves. The birds scattered and Riley returned to me grinning with pride at his accomplishment.
The air temperature was hot enough to warm skin but not hot enough to turn the sand into hot coals under bare feet. Small crests of white foam rolled on to the shore inviting me to put on my wetsuit and join them.
Reeve plowed his duffle bag into the bedroom door and it nearly flew off the hinges. “This is my room. It’s got a view of the beach, which means it has a view of any worthwhile bikinis that happen by.” His nostrils flared as he mentioned the possibility of bikinis. Girls were near the top of his priority list just under spending all of Dad’s money and getting people to hate him. And most of the girls ended up hating him too once they’d discovered what an ass he was under the mass of blond hair and muscles.
“I’m not sleeping on the couch,” Matthew called from the kitchen where he was chugging down a soda.
“Too bad. You’re the youngest so you’re stuck with it,” I yelled back.
Matthew walked out of the kitchen and crushed the empty soda can before chucking it into the fireplace. He’d been born with Reeve’s blue eyes, my black hair, and his own brand of cockiness that made him even more annoying than Reeve and even more popular with the girls. “That is a load of crap, Jamison. You’ve only got fifteen months on me.”
I sat forward and rested my arms on my thighs. “I’ve also got four inches on you, and I can squash you like that soda can you just tossed. And do you have to turn this place into your personal trash heap already? We’ve only been here ten minutes.”
Matt plunked into the chair and laughed. “I’ve only just begun to trash this place. But I can’t believe Dad bought this miniature dump. What the hell was he thinking?”
“It’s prime beach property, you idiot,” Reeve came out of the bedroom he’d just claimed. “By next summer, once all these old hippies move out of here, we’ll be living in style.” Reeve pulled his phone out of his pocket and read the text. “Sweet! Kiley’s coming out with her friends later.”
“Tell her to leave the ugly ones at home,” Matt said.
I picked up a pillow from the couch and heaved it at him. “No discrimination. We let you come, didn’t we?”
Reeve burped and scratched his stomach. “Well, I don’t know about you two weenies but I’m taking out my board.”
I jumped up at his suggestion. “That’s the only smart thing you’ve said all day.”
“What? You mean the part about you two being weenies?”
“Yeah, you blow out every red light on the coast highway and then try to race the guy with the Camaro right in front of the CHP and I’m the weenie.”
“Hell, I knew the guy would never race me. He was just a wuss wrapped in a fast car.”
Matt stretched out on the couch I’d just left.
“That’s right, get a feel for it because you’re not bunking with me,” I said.
Matt groaned. “Maybe I can meet some sweet young thing on the beach, and she’ll invite me to stay with her.”
“Maybe,” Reeve said. “Dad said that old lady with the cinnamon rolls lives just down the boardwalk. Rumor is she’s a witch of some kind. Perfect for you, little bro.”
Matt flopped onto his stomach. “Get out of here. I’m bored of listening to you.”
“You’re not going out?” I asked.
“No, I’m sleeping. Need my energy for the girls when they get here.”
I yanked on my wetsuit, waxed my board, and carried it down to the water. It was still early in summer and the beach was pretty deserted. No doubt the water was unbearably cold.
A dog sat like a sentry watching a figure out in the water. I sat to watch the waves and saw the body surfer take in a good, smooth ride then stand and head back out. It was a girl. Her long, light brown hair stuck to the slick black rubber of her wetsuit as she lifted her finned feet high and tromped back toward the waves.
“Well, it’s not a great swell but I’m going for it,” Reeve said. He plucked up his board and plowed into the foamy tide.
I followed. I was stuck with my two brothers for the summer on this beach, so I figured I might as well make the best of it. Dad’s evil scheme started the night he’d gotten the call from Reeve in Hawaii. He’d gotten into some trouble with his friends, and Dad had to pay the hotel they were staying in ten thousand in damages. That was when Dad decided to send his out-of-control offspring to Angel Beach. He was having an impossible time convincing some of the long time citizens to sell their homes, even way above market price. He decided to let us wreak havoc on the town in hopes that they would get sick of us and leave voluntarily.
I’d told him what I thought of his plan, and he’d given me his pat response. “Well, Jamison, as usual you’re a disappointment to me.” He’d said the exact same thing to me when I told him I planned to become an architect rather than enter the family business. But I was fine with his harsh words. If he was proud of me then I’d be worried. I decided to go along with the plan not so much to be a part of the chaos but to keep Matt from killing himself in some ridiculous way. And I knew Reeve was too self-absorbed to keep an eye on his reckless little brother.
We had to paddle out far to catch any decent waves. The wait between sets was long. I could see why Dad had set his sights on Angel Beach. The tall cliffs and gnarled cypress trees jutting out from the sheer sides of rock were right out of a painting. The cottages lining the white sand were like something out of a medieval village. It would suck to see them get torn down, but this time next year they’d be gone. Dad always got what he wanted.
The dog was still sitting on the shore. A couple of umbrellas popped up on the beach, and some kids were playing in the wet sand. It was still too early in summer for the lifeguards so the towers were empty. I glanced around but couldn’t see the girl who’d been body surfing.
Reeve whistled and I turned back. A decent swell was forming. I paddled to catch it and pushed to my feet. The nose of my board headed down the glassy surface and that’s when I saw the girl. She was directly below me. Her as widened as she saw me heading right for her. I bailed off my board and got tossed around before finding the surface.
I grabbed hold of my board. I hadn’t felt it hit anything but that seemed impossible. My board had been right above her. I searched around frantically. “Hey! Where are you?”
Then her head popped through the surface right next to me. Her long, wet lashes opened, and I was staring into a pair of huge hazel eyes.
“That was my wave,” she said angrily. The only thing more amazing than her eyes was her full pouty mouth.
“Uh, sorry but surfers always have the right of way.”
She laughed. “Says who?”
“Says the surfer whose wave you just jacked.”
“Well, in my rule book, locals have the right of way whether they are on a board or not.”
I pulled myself up onto my board and looked at her over the side. “Well, I’m a local now, so you better stay out of my way, little girl.”
She glanced at the house and turned back to me. I don’t usually like to tease girls like I had with her but deep down I knew I’d done it just to see that pout of hers.
“So, you’re one of those spoiled Freely boys. Well, you won’t be locals for long. My grandmother will never sell her house, so you and your greedy father will have to go looking elsewhere for a resort.”
She kept pouting and suddenly I had a terrible urge to kiss it away. I stared at her for a long moment. She stared back angrily then dove under the water and swam off, resurfacing twenty feet away.
Reeve paddled over to me. “I thought you nailed her for sure.”
The girl’s head was bobbing in the waves. “Yeah, I thought so too. Glad I didn’t.”
“Would have served her right, wave-stealing wench.” Reeve dropped onto his stomach and plowed his arms through the water.
A few more sets of waves rolled under me then I realized I just wasn’t in the mood to surf. I rode a small one in, shoved my board into the sand, and yanked down the top of my wetsuit.
Reeve came in a few minutes later. He sat down on the sand. “That sucked. I’m hungry.”
“So what else is new?”
The dog ran to the water barking and wagging its tail as the girl swam to shore. She was taller than I’d expected. She glared in my direction for a second then headed to her towel.
She’d caught Reeve’s eye too. “Hmm-- cute but too skinny.”
“Doesn’t matter anyhow. She hates us already. She’s the granddaughter of the cinnamon roll lady.”
“Is she?” Reeve laughed. “Dad didn’t mention the old witch had a granddaughter.”
I scowled at Reeve. “Stop calling her witch.”
“You’re such an ass.” I kicked sand at him and stood.
“Whoa,” Reeve said suddenly, “did not expect that body to be under that wetsuit.”
I looked at her. That was my first mistake. I could not pull my gaze away. Every inch of her was amazing.
Reeve slapped me hard on the back. “Put your eyes back in Jay. She’s not for us. We’re suited to more worldly girls.”
We walked back to the house, and I found myself glancing back at the girl several times. She’d gotten dressed and was throwing the bone for the dog. We reached the house and I looked back once more. She was looking back at me this time, and even though she was a good distance away, I could see scathing hatred in her expression.
Reeve came up behind me. “Damn, she covered up.” He dropped his board against the house. “Dude, I just came up with a brilliant plan. Why the hell didn’t I think of this before? It’s perfect.”
“First of all, none of your plans are brilliant. And secondly, none of them are perfect.”
“This one is both. I flirt with the chick, nail her, and break her heart into a million pieces. Her grandmother will leave town in disgust.”
There was no one on this planet who could provoke rage in me faster than my brother, Reeve. And at this moment, I found myself wanting to throw my fist into his face, and I wasn’t completely sure why. Reeve had been treating girls like shit since I could remember, and while I had always thought he was an ass for it, I’d never felt this pissed about it.
“Think of a different plan,” I said quietly.
Reeve looked puzzled. He was definitely slow but he finally seemed to sense the anger that was radiating from every inch of me. He glanced back to the girl on the beach then looked back at me. A mean smile crept onto his face then he turned and walked inside.