Authors: Jessa Gabrielle
Tags: #mystery, #young adult, #teen, #summer, #young adult romance, #beach read, #teen romance, #beach house
by Jessa Gabrielle
Copyright © 2016 Jessa Gabrielle.
All rights reserved.
First edition: June 13
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This book is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places, and incidents either are products of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or
locales is entirely coincidental.
The low battery of death flashes at me. We’re
ten minutes from the Calloway Cottage, but I still dig for my car
charger. This summer is already off to a terrible start. Actually,
it’s more than just the season. It’s my entire life – as of now,
is my life.
I stab the car charger into the power outlet
and hook it into my phone. The lightning bolt appears in the
battery image. This was all Mom’s stupid idea. Aunt Carrie took
over Grandma’s old beauty shop years ago, but Mom inherited
Grandma’s house, which she sold in order to start her own business
in her hometown. My mom’s never had an eye for design, or even a
love for it, but as soon as Grandma got sick, Mom got
Pinterest-happy and is convinced she’s the next Martha Stewart,
We literally spread Grandma’s ashes into the
ocean three days ago, and Mom’s already lugging everything we own
in the U-haul trailer behind us. I doubt Grandma has even sunk to
ocean floor yet. That isn’t any of Mom’s concern, though. She’s too
busy trying to make the impossible decision between Iceberg Blue
and Cloudless Blue for the shutters.
Moving to the Florida coast should be an
ideal situation for a sixteen-year-old girl, but moving away from
my entire life so Mom can decorate beach houses for the wealthy
doesn’t classify as an ideal situation. It’ll take one day of
sweat, sunburn, and lizard sightings to make her realize how stupid
“Piper, are you even listening to me?” Mom
asks, tapping her newly-manicured plum-colored nails against the
steering wheel. She looks over at me when we catch a red light.
“I’m sorry, Mom, but you just sold your
childhood home to purchase some cozy little beach cottage that’s
all for show,” I say. I look down at my phone instead of waiting
for her reaction.
She sighs, a bit too dramatically. I’m pretty
sure the dramatic eye rolls and huffy sighs are supposed to be on
my end of this conversation, not hers.
“This is for our future,” Mom says through
her teeth. She readjusts her sunglasses and stares ahead at the
street. “Selling that property was the only way I could better
myself and take care of you. I did this for us.”
Or you know, we could’ve just sold it, kept
the money for college, and stayed in Tennessee. I don’t dare say
it. I know Mom has wanted to move back for so many years, and since
the divorce from my former stepdad, she’s daydreamed about life in
Coral Sands more than she ever did before. She swears it’s true
what they say about coming home, so maybe that means I’ll end up
back in Tennessee someday.
The Calloway Cottage has been empty for
years, but it was only recently placed on the market. Mom thought
it was the perfect home for us, so she put in an offer before
Grandma even passed away. No one else had a chance to look at the
place. The family accepted Mom’s offer immediately.
She mumbles something else about Iceberg Blue
and then her voice cracks. She dabs at her eyes under her
sunglasses, but I don’t say a word. I don’t even know why she’s
crying. She wasn’t close to Grandma at all. We rarely ever visited,
and Mom might as well have rejoiced upon the news of Grandma’s
illness because it meant she had an inheritance on the way.
I mean, Mom’s not a bad person or anything.
Grandma never made an effort to see us either. She never bothered
to come to Tennessee, and Mom couldn’t afford to take off work very
often to visit Florida. Our vacations weren’t spent visiting
relatives. Still, it’s hard watching my mom conduct as if this were
a business transaction. Aunt Carrie sobbed on the boat at sea,
barely able to read the poem she’d brought for the seaside
ceremony. Mom checked her phone during the prayer. It wasn’t the
typical family movie kind of funeral. But we’re not really a
“That’s it,” Mom says, pointing through the
windshield. Her voice perks up, almost a bit squeaky with
excitement. “That’s our new home.”
I lean forward, bracing myself against the
dashboard. The seatbelt digs into my chest, but I don’t even care.
The Calloway Cottage is nothing like I imagined. When I hear ‘beach
cottage,’ I think of a little wooden shack with old-timey shutters
and a strip of sand for a driveway.
But this house – with a second floor and
small balcony – sits right in the middle of suburbia USA. The
shutters are weather-beaten, and the stony walkway needs some
patching, but this definitely isn’t what I expected when Mom said
she bought a beach cottage.
“Tell me again why the Calloways sold this
place,” I say, my eyes still leaping toward the windshield.
“It was a steal,” Mom says. She pulls into
the wrap-around driveway, parking the U-haul directly in front of
the steps. “It was a family home, and I don’t think the recent
generations cared for it. They live up north and wanted it off
their hands, so I gladly offered to do just that. It’s been here as
long as I can remember, and now
It may not be Tennessee, but at least I have
a house I don’t mind taking photos of and sending to my friends
back home. Well, after Mom fixes it up anyway.
“C’mon,” Mom says. “I want to show you the
inside. It’s gorgeous.”
I leave my phone and everything else behind
and race up the front steps behind Mom. The porch is huge. Mom says
something about getting a porch swing or something to liven the
place up. I wonder if people sit on their front porches on the
coast as much as they do in the country. For some reason, I imagine
everyone here lounging by the pool with strawberry daiquiris more
than I imagine them on a porch swing with sweet tea.
“This is what they call an open-concept floor
plan,” Mom says, although there’s no need to explain. She’s watched
enough HGTV lately that
even caught on to some of the
terminology. “Isn’t the kitchen amazing?”
It’s actually a bit empty, as is every other
room in the house. A thin layer of dust blankets the hardwood
floors, and every room is painted with an asylum shade of white.
Iceberg Blue doesn’t sound so bad now. Forget the shutters – we
need it in here.
There’s a massive bay window with a sitting
area in the living room with a view of the street and the palm
trees in the yard. I bet it lets in a lot of natural light. Oh God,
I sound like Mom.
“So, where’s my room?” I ask, getting to the
“Upstairs but first I want you to see down
here,” Mom says, motioning me along with her hand.
We explore her master bedroom and insanely
large bathroom, the laundry room because obviously I’ve never seen
one of those, Mom’s soon-to-be office across from her bedroom, a
smaller guest bedroom, and then she finally motions me
“There are two full-sized rooms up here, so
you can have your pick,” Mom explains. “There’s a smaller room, I
think maybe a nursery, that I’ll probably use for storage.”
I glance into the first bedroom and walk down
the hall to see the second, just for comparison’s sake. The second
one leads out onto the balcony. I don’t remember seeing an exit to
the balcony in the first bedroom.
The view is pretty nice, just like the bay
window. I walk up to the railing to soak in the morning’s sunshine,
but the roar of a muffler steals my moment of vitamin D. I look in
the direction of the noise – our neighbor’s house. A guy in a
muscle shirt and ripped blue jeans steps out of an older black
truck. He may not be the cowboy boots and scruffy-faced kind of guy
I’m used to from back home, but he’s not bad on the eyes.
“I’m guessing you’ve picked a room. Isn’t the
view amazing?” Mom gushes from behind me.
I turn back and look at her standing in the
doorway to the balcony. The view is
Mom unhitches the U-haul from her car,
leaving it sitting awkwardly in our driveway. I’m not sure leaving
it unattended with all of our personal belongings is the smartest
idea Mom’s had.
“Maybe we should take the boxes and stuff in
before we go buy more,” I suggest.
Mom brushes me off with a wave of her hand.
“I don’t even have a broom to sweep those dusty floors, Piper,” she
says, as if I should already know this. Who throws away their broom
just because they’re moving?
“Then maybe we should buy some cleaning
supplies before you purchase furniture,” I say. I lean against the
hood of her car. “You can’t have stuff delivered here when you have
nowhere for the furniture dudes to put it.”
At least Mom took the time to have electric,
water, and wifi all up and running before we got here. I think I
would’ve just gotten back in the car and headed to Tennessee on my
own if we hadn’t had at least that much.
“Okay. We’re just going to grab a few
cleaning supplies, get some lunch and minor groceries, and we’ll
come back and unload things. Deal?” Mom asks.
I groan. I hate that I actually like this
idea. Any kind of food sounds good after the freaking seven-hour
drive we made before the crack of dawn. It should be lunch time at
all fast food joints by now.
“Fine,” I say through my teeth. “Cleaning
supplies. Taco Bell. Unpack.”
“Deal,” Mom says. “Let me go grab my keys. I
promise. We won’t be gone too long.”
I don’t bother getting in the car yet.
Instead, I analyze the front of the cottage. It’s a beautiful
place, but it needs a lot of work. Like real work, carpentry kind
of work. I don’t care how much HGTV my mom watches – there’s no way
she can fix some of this. And she knows that painting over the
problem isn’t going to fix it.
“Morning! Moving in?” a man’s voice calls
I glance over at the house with the loud
truck. An older man – okay, not too old, maybe Mom’s age – waves
from his driveway. He wears khaki shorts and a stained T-shirt,
like he got into a boxing ring with a can of paint. He has that
salt-and-pepper hair that Mom thinks is sexy.
I nod. “My mom just bought it,” I tell
On cue, Mom rushes down the steps, keys in
hand, and waves to the neighbor like the businesswoman she plans to
“Hi, I’m Charlotte Davenport,” she says,
extending a hand toward him even though she’s six feet away. “I see
you’ve met my daughter Piper already.”
He nods. “She said you just bought the
Calloway Cottage. Nice to finally have some neighbors,” he says.
“Blake Carter, by the way.”
Mom exchanges the adult ‘nice to meet you’
remarks, jokes about the change in climate, and then has the nerve
to ask him if he’d mind keeping an eye on the place while we run
into town for a few things. Gosh, Mom. Really?
“I’ve been watching after this place for
years,” Mr. Carter says. “It’s just another day for me. No one
should mess with it, but I’ll step in if they do.”
An hour and a half later, hot sauce gushes
from my soft taco, and I savor every bit of it as it latches onto
my tongue with an incredible burn. I don’t care if we have
broomsticks poking through Mom’s cracked car window in the parking
lot. I don’t care that my makeup looks like it’s on its third day
after that long drive this morning. I don’t even care that I’m
eating like a savage wolf in front of all these people in Coral
Sands because starvation is a serious thing, and this taco is
Mom scoops up another chip from her nachos
and pops it in her mouth just as a woman about Mom’s age stops in
front of our table.
“Charlotte Davenport? Is that you?” she asks
in one of those twangy voices that I swore were only used in bad
That nacho takes a dive down Mom’s throat
before she throws on that classic Davenport smile and gushes back
in an equally fake voice.
“Meet my daughter, Piper,” Mom says,
motioning toward me as I quickly work to swallow that bite of taco
that was still lingering between my taste buds and the great