(The copy in this email is used by permission, from an uncorrected advanced proof. In quoting from this book for reviews or any other purpose, it is essential that the final printed book be referred to, since the author may make changes on these proofs before the book goes to press. This book will be available in bookstores March 2021.)
If not for all the emotional baggage cluttering up her Airstream, this wouldn't be a bad place to park for a few days. As Jess Clayton drove through the quiet streets of Cape Sanctuary on a beautiful May afternoon, she couldn't help being charmed anew by the Northern California beach town vibes.
She had been here before, of course. Several times. Her sister lived just down that street there, in a large two-story cottage with gables, a bay window and a lush flower garden. Rachel loved it here. Every time Jess came to town, she was reminded why. What was not to love? Cape Sanctuary was a town defined by whimsical houses, overflowing gardens, wind chimes and Japanese fishing balls.
And, of course, the gorgeous coastline, marked by redwoods, rock formations, cliffs.
She drove past Juniper Way, her sister's street, but didn't turn down. Not yet. She would see Rachel, Cody and the kids soon, after she was settled.
They were the whole reason she was here, after all. She didn't see her nieces and nephew enough, only on the rare holidays and birthdays that she could arrange a visit. When a prospective client reached out from the same town as Rachel and her family, Jess saw it as a golden opportunity to spend more time with the kids.
And her sister, of course.
She sighed as she made her way to her destination, Sunshine Cove, still a mile away, according to her navigation system.
Rachel was the reason for all that baggage she was towing along. Jess loved her younger sister dearly but their relationship was like a messy tangle of electric wires, some of them live and still parking.
She would be in Cape Sanctuary for two weeks on this job. Maybe she would finally have the chance to sort things out with Rachel and achieve some kind of peace.
The road rose, climbing through a stand of redwoods and coastal pine, with houses tucked in here and there before the view to the ocean opened up again.
In five hundred feet, your destination is on the right: 2135 Seaview Road.
She couldn't argue with Siri on this one. That was a spectacular view. The Pacific glistened in the afternoon sunlight, with only a few feathery clouds above the horizon line.
She turned at the orca-shaped mailbox Eleanor Whitaker had told her to seek. Through more coastal pine, she could see the house. She recognized it from the pictures her client had sent. One level, made of stone and cedar, the house looked as if it had grown out of the landscape fully formed.
She knew the house was more than five thousand square feet, built at the turn of the century by a wealthy ranching and logging family in the area. It featured seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms, all of which she would come to know well over the next two weeks.
From the picture Eleanor had sent, Jess knew Whitaker House was beautiful. Elegant. Comfortable. Warm.
The kind of place where Jess had once dreamed of living, free of shouting, chaos, pain.
She could see, tucked into the trees overlooking the ocean, a smaller house on the property that was almost a miniature of the big house, with the same cedar and stone exterior as well as windows that gleamed in the afternoon sun.
A big dark blue pickup truck was parked there but she couldn't see anyone around.
Jess pulled her own rig over to the side of the driveway in case anyone needed to come in and out, then scouted around for a place she could unhitch.
From their phone call earlier that morning as she was driving, she knew Eleanor wouldn't be here, that she had taken her teenage granddaughter into a nearby town to an orthodontist appointment and then to catch a movie they had both been wanting to see.
Make yourself at home and set up anywhere that works, Eleanor had said.