Also by this author: One Hundred Proposals, One Hundred Christmas Proposals, The Sentinel, Tied Up with Love
Series: White Cliff Bay #3
Also in this series: Christmas at Lilac Cottage, Snowflakes on Silver Cove, Summer at Rose Island
Published by Bookouture on 13th May 2016
Genres: Chicklit, Love & Romance
Fall in love with the gorgeous seaside town of White Cliff Bay this summer and enjoy long sunny days, beautiful beaches and… a little romance.
Darcy Davenport is ready for a fresh start. Determined to leave a string of disastrous jobs and relationships behind her, she can’t wait to explore White Cliff Bay and meet the locals.
When Darcy swims in the crystal clear waters of the bay, she discovers the charming Rose Island Lighthouse. But it’s not just the beautiful building that she finds so intriguing…
Riley Eddison doesn’t want change. Desperate to escape the memories of his past, he lives a life of solitude in the lighthouse. Yet he can’t help but notice the gorgeous woman who swims out to his island one day.
Darcy is drawn to the mysterious and sexy Riley, but when it seems the town is trying to demolish his home, she soon finds herself having to pick sides.
She’s fallen in love with White Cliff Bay. But is that all Darcy’s fallen for?
Pull up a deck chair, sink back with a bowl of strawberry ice cream and pick up the summer read you won’t be able to put down.
An endless world of blue stretched out below Darcy. The sandy seabed lay about ten metres beneath her and she smiled as she saw fish of every colour and size swimming lazily between the rocks and seaweed. Starfish and sunstars littered the seabed, and with the sun’s rays penetrating the water and gently caressing their outstretched arms, it was as if they were sunbathing on a tourist-filled beach. Giant stalks of seaweed moved and swayed gently as if they were trees caught in a breeze rather than the constant roll of the waves and the tide. There was something so tranquil and serene about this underwater vista, she could look at it for hours and never get bored.
The fish didn’t have jobs to worry about or bills to pay and she was pretty sure that the starfish didn’t have parents to try to please – or, as in her case, constantly disappoint. Life continued here as it always did, an almost worry-free existence where the only dark cloud was when something bigger than you was looking for something to eat.
As she bobbed on top of the waves, her head face down in the water, Darcy could pretend, just for a minute or two, that she was part of this world. A tiny fish in a big pond.
She rolled onto her back and took a deep breath of salty, tangy sea air. The sun shone down on her, glinting off the droplets on her goggles. As the waves lapped over her fingers, she felt a sense of contentment fill her almost like a great sigh of relief. Although she had been in the town only a few hours, she knew that moving from London to White Cliff Bay was the best decision she had ever made.
Her love for the sea had been with her as far back as she could remember, but it was here in White Cliff Bay on many childhood holidays staying with her aunt that her love had blossomed. Swimming in the sea every day, she spent her evenings reading every non-fiction book about the water and its wildlife she could get her hands on. Her aunt had taken her scuba diving when she was twelve, opening up a whole other world she had never known before. The sea was in her blood. Coming back here felt like coming home.
A bark nearby disturbed her tranquil reverie and she moved so she was treading water, rather than floating, and looked around.
Her beautiful black Labrador, Ben, had come back for her, clearly wondering why she was just floating there, staring at the sky rather than swimming. He shoved his wet nose in her face and, happy that she was OK, he turned and swam off in the direction of the island. Darcy laughed and swam after him.
As Darcy reached the rocks surrounding Rose Island Lighthouse, Ben swam on ahead. He pulled himself out of the water, turned round and started barking at Darcy to hurry up. The sea birds nestled on the rocks took off in a grey cloud, squawking their annoyance at the evil, black dog. Ben clambered over the rocks, wagging his tail as he chased the last few birds away.
‘Leave them be,’ Darcy laughed as she climbed out onto the rocks beside him; she pulled him towards her and tugged playfully on his silky ears. He sat down on her so she could continue her stroking more thoroughly.
‘Oof! Ben, you are not a lap-sized dog. You do not fit on my lap. Do you think you’re a Chihuahua or something? You’re a Labrador and a fat one at that, get off,’ Darcy moaned, half-heartedly trying to push Ben off her. He continued to sit on her lap, wagging his tail in her face.
Darcy pulled her goggles onto her forehead and looked over the golden-crested waves at the tiny town of White Cliff Bay. The late afternoon sun was just starting to make its descent, painting the sky a candyfloss pink. From her position on Rose Island, about three hundred yards out into the bay, she could see almost the whole town in all its glory. The quieter part of Silver Cove, where she now lived, the main shops and the hodgepodge of cute little houses that cascaded down the steep hills of the main town centre. She smiled. She knew she was going to be happy here. Despite her parents’ misgivings and looks of disapproval when she told them she was packing up all her worldly goods and travelling hundreds of miles from her home to take up a new job, she knew she had made the right decision. It didn’t matter that she didn’t completely know what her new job entailed or that she knew no one down here, this gorgeous little town was going to be a great new chapter in her life.
Everything seemed slower here, more laid-back and relaxed; it felt cleaner, safer, but despite this her parents couldn’t understand why Darcy had wanted to leave London, with its high-powered jobs, multi-billion-pound companies, and the prestige of living and working in the capital. She didn’t want restaurants that stayed open until after midnight or the constant hum of traffic and voices that never seemed to stop, no matter what time of day it was. Since she had lost her perfect job a few years before, and moved back to London with her dreams in tatters, she had felt almost claustrophobic, as if the buildings were too close. She had been a face in the crowd that no one cared about. The city had slowly chipped away at her soul until she was no more than another suited drone heading off to work every day. Here it felt like she could finally breathe again.
Part of the problem with her relocation had been her choice of White Cliff Bay itself. A place that was entirely to blame, at least as far as her parents were concerned, for her aunt’s spectacular drop-out from society. Aunt Ginny had been a highly paid solicitor in the City until she had sold her house, bought an old-fashioned horse-drawn gypsy caravan to live in, and spent the rest of her life living off the sale of the odd painting and homemade jars of jam and apple sauce. She had always been spoken about in hushed tones, if she was spoken about at all, and Darcy strongly suspected she was going to end up that way too. She couldn’t help smiling at the thought.
She leaned back to look at the lighthouse, the sun glinting off the glass at the top. It was a beautiful, old building, painted in traditional red and white colours, with the multi-faceted lantern at the top. She had always enjoyed swimming in the sea, but this had to be the most picturesque swim she had done in a long time. The lighthouse had been deserted for many years; certainly when she had swum round the island as a child no one had ever lived there. New-fangled technology meant the days of the lighthouse keeper were a thing of the past. So her heart leapt from shock when her eyes cast down the tall tower and she saw a man standing at one of the windows watching her and Ben.
He was wearing a faded blue crumpled shirt hanging loose over dark jeans. His black hair was equally messy in an unkempt just-got-out-bed look. The man’s tanned arms were folded angrily over his chest. Easily reaching the top of the leaded windows that were flung open either side, the man’s height seemed to add to the anger he was projecting. She supposed he was quite good looking, if you liked the tall, dark, mean and moody type.
Darcy suddenly became aware of the first impression she was making on him. In her skin-tight, show-every-lump-and-bump wetsuit, with her long red hair matted against her head and today’s make-up smeared across her face like a Picasso painting gone wrong, she was a sight to behold. She stood up, tipping Ben off her lap as she did so, then belatedly realised she was showing her body in its full glory; at least sitting down Ben had been covering her modesty.
‘Great. What a brilliant view of my wobbly bits he’s getting right now,’ Darcy muttered, sucking in her belly and wringing out her hair.
The man started shouting at her. Gesturing with his hands, he pointed at the sea, then her and then Ben. Whatever he was yelling – furiously, it would seem – was lost in the sound of the wind and the waves crashing against the rocks.
‘Hi, nice to meet you, would you like to come in for a cup of hot chocolate and some great sex?’ Darcy mumbled under her breath. ‘I’m sure that’s what he’s saying. That and: Great body, by the way. No one looks good in a wetsuit but somehow you manage to pull it off. How about that great sex?’
Mystery Man continued to shout and then, getting frustrated at not being heard, he left the window, no doubt on his way downstairs to yell at her face to face.
‘Time to go, Ben,’ Darcy said, climbing down the rocks. She turned to make sure Ben got down OK. As Ben drew level with her, she took one last look at the lighthouse to see that Mystery Man had arrived at the door, still shouting. She pulled her goggles over her eyes and dived into the sea. The water closed in over her head and seconds later she felt Ben beside her. Darcy surfaced about ten metres from the rocks and looked back at Mystery Man, who was continuing to yell at her from the shore.
‘Sorry, can’t hear you,’ Darcy shouted and then, confident he couldn’t possibly hear her, she added, ‘But I’ll be back soon for that great sex.’
Mystery Man looked momentarily confused and stopped shouting for a second before continuing his tirade. Darcy turned and swam back to the shore.
As she clambered out onto the beach, she looked back across the bay to the lighthouse. He was still standing there watching her. She grabbed the bag she had left by some rocks, pulled out a towel, patted herself dry. Dragging her T-shirt over her wetsuit, she then pulled another towel out to dry Ben. As she flipped Ben over onto his back to dry his belly, Ben’s favourite bit to have dried, she could still feel Mystery Man’s eyes on her. She stood up and, sure enough, he was still standing there, as the waves crashed theatrically onto the rocks around him.
She turned away and looked down at her wetsuit and sighed. It wasn’t the greatest first impression. She had inadvertently done something to upset him too, and that certainly hadn’t been her intention.
She walked back to Sea View Court, the old house at the end of the beach that had been converted into four flats.
She let herself in and Ben ran on ahead of her, but she stopped suddenly when she heard a noise from the flat opposite hers.
She had briefly seen her new neighbours when she’d been unpacking the last of her belongings from her car earlier that day. A young married couple, they had introduced themselves as Libby and George, but Libby had seemed so tearful that George had quickly ushered her into their flat and closed the door behind them.
She listened now and heard a crash, as if something had been thrown and smashed. It was quickly followed by a loud thud and a cry of pain. She heard George shout something and then another thud, and another moan from Libby that made Darcy’s heart crash into her stomach.
God, he was beating her up. She felt sick. As another wail of pain resounded from the flat, she marched straight up to the door and banged on it with her fist. The door flew open under her weight and she stormed in.
She froze at what she saw. Libby and George were stark naked and she was clinging to him, her arms and legs wrapped around him as he made love to her against the wall of their flat. Her head was thrown back in obvious ecstasy as he kissed her breasts.
Shit. She couldn’t have got it more wrong.
They hadn’t noticed her yet, too wrapped up in each other to be aware of anything else. She could just sneak out and they would be none the wiser. But, as she took a step back towards the door, Ben burst in and before she could grab him he launched himself at George’s bare backside, shoving his wet, cold nose up where the sun didn’t shine.
George let out a scream of shock and looked around to see what it was that had attacked him so inappropriately. If Darcy had thought she could get away without being seen, she’d been sorely mistaken, as first George’s eyes then Libby’s found hers.
For the longest moment, nobody moved or said anything, George still pinning Libby to the wall with his weight. There was only one way to get out of this with any shred of dignity left intact. Darcy was going to have to brazen this out.
‘I just came round to borrow some sugar. I probably have some somewhere in one of the many boxes but I thought you might have some . . . I can see this isn’t the best time.’ This was a terrible excuse and they all knew it. Libby stifled a giggle as she buried her face in her husband’s neck. ‘The door just came open when I knocked on it. I’m not a pervert or anything.’ Her feet frozen to the ground seemed to contradict that statement, as she continued to stare at them in horror. Oh God, what was she doing? She should have just apologised and left, grabbing her perverted dog on the way out.
George didn’t say anything. Probably wondering why she was still standing there. She was wondering that herself.
‘Erm . . . There’s sugar in the kitchen if you want to help yourself. I, erm . . . have my hands full or I’d get it for you myself,’ George said, as Libby’s giggling went up an octave.
‘Right, well. Maybe I’ll pop by later and get it if I don’t find my own before then. Carry on. I mean . . .’ She gestured lamely to the door and George nodded numbly.
She grabbed Ben by the collar and walked out, quickly closing the door on Libby’s laughter a moment later.
Wow. She was really going all out to make a good impression on the residents of White Cliff Bay today.
She scurried back to her own flat, to see she had a text from her best friend Carmel.
How’s it going? You unpacked yet? Have you found the kettle? Are there any hot single men?
Darcy smiled. Carmel had married her childhood sweetheart and though she was blissfully happy she always said she’d missed out on the dating scene and had to live her life vicariously through Darcy.
She considered carefully how to answer. Was Mystery Man hot? Of course he was, anyone could see that, but he certainly wasn’t worth mentioning when he was obviously a grumpy hermit.
She opened up a new text to reply.
Haven’t found the kettle, though I haven’t looked. Just been for a swim. It’s so pretty here. No hot single men. Though I did just see a man naked.
The reply was instant.
WHAT?? Was he fit? Did you see his willy? Why was he naked? Have you moved to a nudist beach? I want pictures!!
Sadly it’s not a nudist beach. I just walked in on my neighbours having sex. Very embarrassing.
The phone beeped back at her almost immediately.
Hahahaha, only you Darcy, only you.
She smiled and put the phone down. She had some unpacking to do.
There was a knock on her door a while later, just as Darcy was hanging a large photo of a beautiful hammerhead shark on her wall.
She went to answer it, only to find Libby standing on her doorstep with a bunch of flowers in one hand and a bag of sugar in the other.
Darcy blushed and laughed, stepping back to let her in. ‘Can I get you a . . . tea?’ She looked around hopelessly at all the boxes, one of which housed the kettle and another that probably held the coffee and teabags. ‘Or a glass of juice?’
Libby smiled. ‘Juice would be great.’
Darcy moved to the kitchen and Libby followed her. Darcy really did owe her an explanation for earlier.
‘I’m so sorry about before. I thought George was beating you up. I heard thuds and groans and, coupled with seeing you so upset earlier, I jumped to the wrong conclusion.’
Libby’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. ‘Is that why you came bursting in? Ha. George hasn’t got a mean bone in his body. I was upset before because . . . Well, I’m pregnant and everything is making me cry lately. Yesterday George bought some fresh bread from the shops because I wanted beans on toast and I wailed for over half an hour because he’d brought the wrong type of bread.’
Darcy laughed. ‘Oh no. How does George cope with all the tears?’
‘He’s amazing. I married my best friend and when I cry he just holds me until the tears pass. I’m sure the tears must be so frustrating for him, but he seems to have endless patience for it all. I really am incredibly lucky. Do you have a boyfriend, Darcy?’
Darcy shook her head. ‘No, the last few men I dated were from work, and when the jobs came to an end, the relationships seemed to as well.’
‘Well, there are lots of lovely men who live in White Cliff Bay. Are you staying here long?’
Darcy noticed Libby looking hungrily at a packet of doughnuts she had bought from the shops that morning. She offered her the packet and Libby gratefully took one.
‘I have a new job down here, so I hope I’ll be staying for a long time.’
‘Oh how lovely, what is it you’ll be doing?’ Libby asked, through a mouthful of doughnut.
‘I’ll be working for the local council. The office is in Apple Hill but it covers the areas of White Cliff Bay and Port Cardinal too. You’re looking at the new Community Development Liaison Manager,’ Darcy said, proudly.
‘Ooh, that sounds like a fancy title, what does that involve?’
Darcy hesitated for a moment. ‘Honestly, I have no idea. The job description was very woolly. I somehow bluffed my way through the whole interview and miraculously got offered the job. I know it’s something about working with the community on new local projects. I’m very excited. I love meeting new people, so it sounded right up my street.’
She’d told anyone who would listen how excited she was about her new job. It wasn’t true, but if she kept repeating it then she hoped she would start to believe it.
‘Sounds fab. When do you start?’
‘Ten days. A week on Monday.’ Darcy poured out two glasses of juice.
‘And was it just the job that brought you to White Cliff Bay or do you have friends down here?’
Darcy paused as she thought about how to answer that. She could at least partly tell the truth.
‘It was the sea, mainly. I love it. I used to be a marine biologist and though that chapter of my life is over, I still want to be by the sea. I used to holiday in White Cliff Bay as a child and I always wanted to live down here. Life seems to have held me back from fulfilling my dreams, but I’m here now.’
Libby cocked her head slightly as if she knew Darcy wasn’t telling the whole story.
Darcy sighed. ‘My parents are . . . difficult. When I lost my last job, I ended up living with them while I was searching for a new job. It was hell. The looks of disappointment, the little comments about how I’d let them down. I couldn’t bear it. They’ve been like it all my life but I’ve always put up with it before. My aunt Ginny died recently and I came down here to sort out her stuff.’ She paused, not sure why she was telling Libby all of this when they’d only just met, but the story was half out now. She pulled the locket she was wearing over her head. It was antique silver and the front was decorated with beads of sea glass. ‘This was in a box with my name on it.’
She passed it to Libby and watched as she opened it and read the inscription that she knew off by heart:
Don’t let anyone tell you your dreams aren’t good enough.
Libby smiled and passed it back.
‘I don’t know whether she had it specially made for me or just found it and thought of me, but I knew she was right. I’d been letting my parents dictate my life for far too long. Living down here had always been a dream that I’d convinced myself would never happen. So I made sure it did. I found a job and . . . here I am.’
‘Well, the people of the town are very friendly, I’m sure they will make you very welcome,’ Libby said, finishing off the doughnut and licking her fingers. ‘We’ll take you to the pub tonight, introduce you to some of the locals.’
‘That would be great, thank you. I’ve only met a few people so far and I didn’t exactly make the greatest impression on the lighthouse keeper.’
‘Riley Eddison? You met him?’ Libby took the proffered juice and followed Darcy into the lounge. Darcy threw herself down on the sofa and tiny motes of dust flew up and sparkled in the light of the late evening sun.
‘I swam out to Rose Island. I had no idea anyone lived in the lighthouse. Let’s say the welcome was not a warm one.’
Libby sat next to her, resting her hand protectively over her tiny bump. ‘Riley’s a funny one. He’s been here about six months, moved into the lighthouse just after Christmas. He’s American and the women seem to love his accent. Whenever Riley comes into town he’s like the Pied Piper with the women that follow him around, though none of them get anywhere with him. He’s terribly polite, has gorgeous manners, but keeps himself to himself. He comes to the Bubble and Froth sometimes, sits in the corner with his dog and doesn’t really talk to anyone. He’s never rude but not exactly friendly either. George rescued Riley earlier this year when he slipped on the rocks around the lighthouse, knocked himself unconscious and fell into the sea.’
‘Oh God,’ Darcy gasped.
‘He was fine. Luckily the lifeboat crew were nearby on a training exercise and George saw the whole thing happen and they were able to get to him in record time. He gave a hefty donation to the lifeboat station after that. He is Suzanna’s grandson, the lady from the chemist. She’s fab but she tells it like it is, no beating around the bush, though she keeps her cards very close to her chest about Riley. He was in the local paper a month or so ago after he rescued a stray puppy from the sea, who he then adopted. You could tell from the photo that the last thing he wanted was the attention, whereas Suzanna couldn’t have been prouder.’
‘So he has a soft side?’
Libby pulled a face as she sipped her juice. ‘I wouldn’t say soft, but some of his edges are perhaps not as hard as he would like people to believe. So you two didn’t hit it off?’
‘Well, he came out of his lighthouse and started shouting at me, so . . .’
‘I’ve never seen him lose his temper before. He may be very quiet, but he’s definitely not the angry, nasty type. What on earth did you do?’
That didn’t fill Darcy with a good feeling. Five minutes in the town and she had pissed off a man who never got angry. ‘I don’t know. I just swam out to the lighthouse, climbed up on the rocks for a rest and the next thing he appears, waving his arms in the air like a madman.’
‘Oh, I wonder if he was scared you might hurt yourself on the rocks. After his fall, he had steps built into the rocks round the back where he keeps his boat so it’s safer for him and any visitors to traverse the rocks to the door.’
Had that been it? He was concerned for her safety?
‘I feel really sorry for him, actually. He must have spent thousands doing up the inside of the lighthouse with all the new furniture I’ve seen being delivered over there. There were builders and decorators coming and going for months when he first moved in. Anyway rumour has it, two days after the final lick of paint had dried, he was served with some kind of compulsory eviction notice. Rose Island Lighthouse is to be pulled down – a new, more modern lighthouse has just been built a few hundred yards up the coast on Dagger’s Point. At the moment he is refusing to leave, but he has very little choice.’
‘That’s terrible, they can’t kick him out of his home.’
‘Apparently, they can. I don’t know all the ins and outs of it, but he has been told he has to leave. Oh, maybe he thought you were one of the people trying to evict him.’
‘Unlikely when I turned up in a wetsuit and with a fat dog in tow.’
Libby nodded to concede this, as she glanced over at Ben lying upside down and snoring loudly on the opposite sofa.
‘Well, you’ll just have to go back and ask him,’ Libby smiled, mischievously.
‘Maybe I should just leave him be. If me being there upsets him so much, then maybe I should just find somewhere else to swim.’
‘Maybe you should go back and show him that he can’t boss you around.’
Darcy laughed. ‘Are you trying to set me up with him?’
Libby shrugged as she stood up. ‘I’m a romance writer. I want everyone to find their happy-ever-afters, just like me and George. Anyway, I’ll leave you to unpack. We’ll pick you up at seven and take you to the pub then.’
As the door closed behind Libby, Darcy glanced over Silver Cove to Rose Island Lighthouse.
Maybe she would go back and apologise for any misunderstanding. Then she shook her head. Maybe she really should just leave well alone.