Christina Skye

A Home by the Sea


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      Author’s Note

      Thank you for joining Grace and Noah on their journey. I hope that Summer Island’s magic has touched you as it has touched me. In its fog-swept coves and quiet streets friendship runs deep, and the love of a good yarn runs even deeper.

      For a detailed look at the inspiration for Jilly’s amazing desserts, try Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets: Great Desserts from the City’s Best Pastry Shops. Even if you don’t cook, the book will seduce you. You can almost taste the macaroons and madeleines melting on your tongue. Grace would definitely approve.

      To learn more about the arduous responsibilities of a bomb disposal expert, look for Bomb Squad: A Year Inside the Nation’s Most Exclusive Police Unit. Richard Esposito and Ted Gerstein offer an unforgettable glimpse into this small, select world.

      I hope you will watch for more Summer Island books coming soon. One by one old friends will be pulled back home. And, as seasons change, each one will face secrets and betrayals—along with the healing gift of love.

      With warmest wishes,

       Christina

      Also available from

      Christina Skye

      Summer Island

      THE KNITTING DIARIES

      Code Name

      CODE NAME: BIKINI CODE NAME: BLONDIE CODE NAME: BABY

      Draycott Abbey

      TO CATCH A THIEF DRAYCOTT ETERNAL DRAYCOTT EVERLASTING BOUND BY DREAMS

      And coming soon

      THE ACCIDENTAL BRIDE

       A Home by the Sea

       Christina Skye

       www.mirabooks.co.uk

      To my wonderful editors,

      Tara Parsons and Tracy Martin. Thank you for helping me bring Summer Island to life.

      And to Debbie Macomber.

      Thank you for all your suggestions, wit, kindness and generosity.

       CHAPTER ONE

      NOAH MCLEOD TOOK A DEEP BREATH. Wind gusted up the street, stabbing at his face. He hunched his shoulders, facing the icy gale. The cold air was actually a relief after the horrible day he’d just had.

      It always took time to shrug off the work. You didn’t forget, but at least you managed to move on. If bad dreams and explosions haunted your sleep, then you shrugged those off, too.

      Slowly Noah flipped up the collar of his leather coat. He focused on the cold, slipping into the moment and letting the hard edge of duty and responsibility fade, repeating the rule he had learned years before.

       You have to move on. If you can’t leave the work behind, it will drive you over the edge and one day you’ll snap.

      Noah had seen it happen too often. In a job where you fought mayhem and horror on a daily basis, balance was everything. He tried to remember that rule now.

      After the savage day he’d just finished, he was entitled to bury his work deep and forget about responsibility. He’d been fielding emergency calls every night for a month now, and emergency calls came to his department for just one reason.

      Because everyone else had failed.

      His department was the place you called when you could smell the bitter edge of your own fear. You called Noah’s unit when you had an improvised explosive device or a nasty set of wires shoved into what could be a brick of Semtex. Noah was the man who always knew which wires to pull and when to back away.

      Far, far away.

      But tonight had been too close. He had nearly become a splatter on a concrete wall, thanks to a close encounter with a new device no one in D.C. had ever seen before. For thirty mind-blurring seconds he had looked death right between the eyes. Then he’d remembered seeing something similar in Afghanistan seven months earlier. Once Noah had seen the interior wiring, he’d made the connection. But it had been a close call.

      He closed his eyes, feeling the wind pick up, rattling the windows behind him. The building where he worked was surrounded by high fences and concrete walls. For security reasons, there was no sign or business name posted. The black trucks parked outside didn’t have government plates. As far as outsiders could tell, they belonged to a civilian waste-disposal company.

      But the disposal Noah did was far more dangerous.

      A weight dug into his shoulders as he looked up at the top window of his lab. Inside that secure room, computers were updated nightly with data about every new model of explosive device made anywhere in the world. Each morning his team pored over that data and integrated the knowledge into their disposal procedures. No detail was ignored. His team trained hard, and Noah was proud that they were the best—and that they still had their lives to prove it.

      His brother hadn’t been so lucky.

      Frowning, Noah ran a hand through his dark hair.

       You can’t go back. Matt is gone. The remote car bomb that took him is a footnote in your government training manuals now, and you all learned from it. But Matt didn’t have the resources you have.

       So he’s gone. Pack it up and move on.

      It was the same conversation Noah always had about this time of night after a long, demanding shift. But how did you forget a beloved brother whose generosity and laughter had touched everyone around him? The cold sense of loss had become Noah’s old friend, as familiar as his guilt. He hadn’t been able to reach his brother in time to help. There had been next to nothing left of the body after the explosion.

      And Noah knew he should have been the one who died in that explosion.

      He blew out an angry breath. A big storm was headed in that night. According to the weather reports, there could be a foot of snow. Maybe more. Good thing he didn’t have far to drive.

      As he walked down the quiet street, Noah saw the brightly lit windows of the big townhouse on the opposite corner. He heard muted music and saw people moving inside, all diamonds and furs, dressed for a big night out. It felt odd and disconnected, like watching a movie.

      Then Noah saw her.

      She appeared within the frame of the window, calm and beautiful amid a throng of beautiful women. Her dark hair swung around her face and even at this distance Noah swore he could see the shimmer of her eyes. She stood right by the glass, and when she looked out light fell on the black dress she wore, brushing her high cheekbones and full mouth.

      She wasn’t beautiful, Noah thought. Her nose was a little short and her chin a little too long. No, not beautiful. Yet he couldn’t look away.

      Something about her touched him, made him feel as if his world was perfect and intact. Safe and stable, as if there was still decency and honor to be found if you looked for it.

      He bit back a harsh laugh. His chosen work had stripped him of any such illusions. Any breath could be your last. Any friendly face could hold murderous deceit. He knew that cold truth from personal experience.

      He felt something brush his neck. Snowflakes spiraled down in the dark.

      He should be going.

      But he couldn’t pull his gaze from that big window.

      She smiled at a man in a dark suit that looked hand tailored.