In Shelter Cove (Angel's Bay)

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9781439173251: In Shelter Cove (Angel's Bay)


A long-ago shipwreck off the California coast led the survivors to the haven they named Angel’s Bay. Their shared adversity brought fellowship and  joy . . . but also unsuspected secrets. Acclaimed  author Barbara Freethy returns to the town  where angels still keep watch, with a compelling  story of a young widow trying to find the truth  and bring closure for her son and herself.


The theft of three priceless paintings sent Derek Kane to prison and destroyed the dreams of his wife, Brianna. When Derek unexpectedly dies just weeks before his release, Brianna returns to Angel’s Bay with her young son, determined to prove her husband’s innocence and find the missing paintings. Her efforts are stymied by Jason Marlow, the police officer who sent Derek to jail— betraying his former friend. And when unexpected passion flares between Brianna and Jason, she must choose between the past and the present, the guilty and the innocent, the truth and the lies. For nothing is what it seems. . . .

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About the Author:

Barbara Freethy is the hugely successful author of many romances, a #1 New York Times bestseller, and a native Californian.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ONE

Present day, late October

Brianna Kane shivered as the ocean breeze sliced through her black dress. The hillside cemetery in Angel’s Bay overlooked a restless sea, whitecaps crashing against the boulders below, dark clouds blotting out the sun. The ocean was angry, and so was she. This should have been just another Monday morning. Lucas should have been in preschool. She should have been in her own classroom, teaching French to middle-schoolers. And Derek—Derek should not have been dead. Everything about this moment was wrong.

Five years ago, she’d come to Angel’s Bay to marry Derek Kane. They’d planned to wed by the edge of the sea. She’d pictured the moment a thousand times. She’d wear an off-the-shoulder white satin dress with a lacy train that went on forever. The wind would blow through her long blond hair, and the sun sparkling off the ocean would light up Derek’s face, his hazel eyes always so beautiful and eager for her.

But she hadn’t married Derek on a windswept bluff. She’d said her “I do’s” in a cold, sterile room at a prison a hundred miles away, and her husband hadn’t been wearing a tuxedo but an orange jumpsuit.

Despite the bad start, she’d believed that one day their lives would get back on track—that Derek’s innocence would be proven, his appeal would be granted. He’d be released, and they’d have the life they were supposed to have.

That dream had died five weeks ago, along with Derek, leaving her with nothing but frustration, anger, and a lot of questions.

As the minister prayed for Derek’s soul, she glanced around the small group of mourners. They’d waited to have the memorial service until she could pack up her apartment and move to Angel’s Bay, where Derek’s parents lived. Over the past month, she’d kept herself too busy to think beyond immediate plans. Now she was here and forced to confront what she’d been avoiding—Derek’s death and the end of all her dreams.

Her mother-in-law, Nancy, a short, plump brunette, sobbed in her husband’s arms. Her father-in-law, Rick, so tall and lean, had lost even more weight in recent weeks and was now almost gaunt as he tried to comfort his wife. Nancy’s sister, Margaret, stood across from them, surreptitiously wiping tears from the corners of her eyes with a delicate handkerchief. Wyatt Kane, Derek’s grandfather, stood next to her, a grim, forbidding man with fierce brown eyes and shocking white hair that was long and wild. Wyatt, an internationally acclaimed artist, had once been Derek’s biggest supporter, but their relationship had been shattered by Derek’s conviction. Brianna was surprised he’d come to the funeral. He’d certainly never visited the prison.

Neighbors and friends of the Kanes filled out the group. Most of the mourners were of Derek’s parents’ generation, with only a few former friends in attendance. The rest had vanished long ago.

“Mommy,” Lucas whispered loudly as he tugged on her hand. “How can Daddy fit in that box? Won’t he be scared to go into the hole?”

Her stomach turned over at the earnest, worried question. Derek’s ashes were enclosed in a small wooden box that would be buried in the family plot. She squatted down, putting her arm around Lucas’s shoulders as she tried to think of an answer that wouldn’t scare him. How did one explain death to a four-year-old?

“Mommy?” Lucas’s curious light eyes were so like his father’s it made her heart hurt.

“Daddy’s in heaven,” she said gently. “He’s with the angels now. He’s not scared, and you don’t have to worry about him.”

“Then what’s in the box?”

“It’s just a symbol, something to remember him by.” She hoped the answer would be enough for him.

“Do you think Daddy is looking at us right now?”

“He’ll be watching over us wherever we go,” she assured him.

Lucas lifted his gaze to the sky, his eyes searching. She’d seen the expression on his face before, and not just since Derek had died. Lucas had always been looking for his father. He’d never understood why Derek didn’t live with them like the other daddies did. He couldn’t understand why his father stayed in the big ugly house with the bars.

She’d hoped that when Derek got out of prison, he could explain what had happened in a way that Lucas would understand and that after a while the prison years would be forgotten, replaced by happier memories. But Derek had died just before he was due to be released.

When the minister ended his prayer, the mourners filed by, each placing a white rose on the box of ashes. The Kanes took Lucas back to the car to give Brianna a moment of privacy, but Derek’s grandfather lingered behind.

“Derek was a damn fool,” Wyatt said abruptly. “He could have had everything, but he threw it all away for greed and ambition. He didn’t want to work for success. He just wanted to take it.”

His harsh words caught her by surprise. “That’s not true. Derek was innocent. He didn’t steal those paintings from the museum, nor did he assault the security guard. He was set up to take the fall for someone else.”

Wyatt gave her a scornful look. “If you still believe that, you’re a damn fool. Derek was the best liar I ever met. It might have been his best talent—his only talent. You should forget about Derek, concentrate on your son, and make sure he doesn’t turn out like his father did.” Wyatt tossed his rose onto the grass and left.

Brianna drew in a shaky breath and slowly let it out, rattled by his harsh words. Her fingers began to sting, and she realized she was gripping the thorny stem of her rose. A drop of blood appeared, bright red against her pale skin, and she stared at it in fascination.

Derek had brought her a lot of pain in recent years, but she still remembered the man she’d fallen in love with, the one who had been outgoing, charming, and handsome, with blond hair and eyes that changed with the colors of the season. Derek had made her feel special and important, as if she were the only one who mattered. He’d swept her off her feet with his big dreams—the places he wanted to go, the life he wanted to lead. And that was the man she mourned now, the one with so much unrealized potential.

Stepping forward, she laid her rose on top of the others. “I guess this is it, Derek,” she whispered. “It’s hard to believe you’re really gone. We should have had more time—a lot more time.” She swallowed hard, a knot growing in her throat. “But we have a beautiful son. I’ll make sure that Lucas knows who his father was. He’ll see where you grew up, and he’ll walk in your memories—at least for a while.” Tears blurred her eyes. “I’m going to keep fighting for you, too. I won’t stop until we get to the truth.”

The wind brushed against her face like the caress of a man’s hand. She touched her fingers to her suddenly warm cheek and raised her face to the sky. There was a small break in the clouds, a whisper of blue sky . . . then the wind blew, and the dark clouds returned.

As two men began to bury the box of ashes, she stepped back, unable to watch. She turned to move toward Nancy and Rick and caught a glimpse of a man standing just beyond the trees.

Her heart jumped into her throat. He wasn’t wearing a police uniform today, but she recognized him all the same—Jason Marlow.

He was the one who’d built the case against Derek and sent him to jail. And he had the nerve to come to his funeral? She was halfway across the grass before she even realized she was moving. She’d kept a tight rein on her emotions for years, but now she couldn’t hold them in for one more second.

Jason straightened when he saw her coming. He wore jeans and a black sweater that emphasized his broad shoulders. His hair was sandy brown, his eyes dark and wary. He stood by a dusty Jeep, and judging by his stance, the way he held his keys, he was considering making a run for it. Too late. If he didn’t want to talk to her, he shouldn’t have come.

“What the hell are you doing here?” she demanded.

“I came to pay my respects.”

“To the man you sent to prison? Why?”

She didn’t bother to fake politeness. She’d wanted to yell at someone for a long time, and he was the perfect target.

“I grew up with Derek,” he said. “You know that.”

“Your friendship didn’t matter when Derek begged you to help him. Do you really think he’d care that you were here now, after what you did to him?”

Anger flashed in his eyes. “I did my job.”

“You sent an innocent man to jail. Now he’s dead.”

Jason swallowed hard, a battle going on in his eyes. She willed him to try to refute her statement, because she wanted a fight. She needed to release the unbearable tension in her body. Her hands clenched into fists, and it took all of her willpower not to take a swing at him. She’d never hit anyone in her life, but damn if she didn’t want to punch him.

Before Jason could speak, Lucas ran over, interrupting them. He threw his little arms around her hips and gave Jason a curious look. “Who are you?”

Jason’s face paled; her son was the mirror image of his father.

“He’s no one, Lucas,” Brianna answered. “Go back to the car.”

“Grandma Nancy says to come,” Lucas told her. “People are waiting at the house.”

“I’ll be right there. Go on.”

Lucas gave Jason another look and then ran back to his grandparents.

Jason’s lips tightened as his gaze met hers. “This must be rough on him.”

“Don’t pretend to care.” She refused to soften at the pain in his eyes. “I can’t believe you’re here. Did you really think you’d be welcome?”

His gaze burned into hers. “It was probably a mistake. But I couldn’t stop thinking about Derek—and about you.”

She stiffened. “I’m not interested in what you think about.”

“Then why are you still talking to me?”

“I’m not.” She turned, then glanced back at him. “I’m not leaving town. I intend to find out what really happened five years ago.”

“You know what happened.”

“Derek swore he was set up.”

“Not by me,” Jason said flatly. “You need to let it go, Brianna.”

“That would certainly make things easier for you.”

“And for you. Be realistic. Your private investigator couldn’t come up with any new information because there’s none to be found.”

She shook her head. “No. You were wrong about Derek, and I’ll prove it.”

She walked quickly back to the car, feeling Jason’s gaze follow her every step.

“What was Jason doing here?” Rick asked, concern etched across the deep lines of his face.

“He said he wanted to pay his respects.”

“Maybe after all these years, he’s finally sorry for not believing in Derek,” Nancy suggested.

Brianna watched Jason drive away. He wasn’t sorry at all, but she would find a way to change that.

Brianna’s words echoed through Jason’s head as he sped through the black iron gates of the cemetery. No way in hell had he sent an innocent man to jail, and there was no possibility that Brianna would be able to prove otherwise. Derek was guilty, and Brianna was blinded by love. He’d thought after all this time she might have come to accept the truth about her husband, but it was clear she was still living in denial—and in pain.

He blew out a breath, thinking about how much she’d changed in the past five years. Her stunning blue eyes were now haunted and weary. Her curves had thinned, and she’d cut at least six inches off what had once been a glorious mane of thick blond hair. She wasn’t a girl anymore but a woman, a wife, a mother . . . and a widow.

His gut clenched with anger and sadness, not just for her and her son. Derek had once been his friend, and he missed that happy, carefree, do-anything-once guy who had died at the age of thirty-two, which was a tragedy no matter what he’d done. Contrary to what Brianna thought, he’d never wanted to send Derek to jail. He had looked hard for other suspects. There hadn’t been any.

In the eyes of Brianna and the Kanes, he was the enemy, the one to blame for the destruction of their family. He’d always believed that putting the guilty behind bars was a noble cause, but even the bad guys had people who loved them.

Too restless to go home, he headed across town to Kara and Colin’s house. The Lynches had been his best friends since elementary school. If there were two people he could count on in life, it was them.

As he pulled up in front of their home, he smiled at the pumpkins lining the porch rail and the cobwebs strewn across the hedges. Halloween was one of Kara and Colin’s favorite holidays. Last year, he’d helped Colin turn the garage into a haunted house. This year, he suspected things would be a little tamer. Colin was only five weeks into his recovery from a head injury that had left him in a coma for three months. And Kara was busy taking care of her husband and their newborn, Faith, who’d made her arrival just a day before Colin had woken up.

He got out of his car and was halfway to the porch steps when Kara came through the front door carrying a skeleton door decoration. She wore blue jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt, and her dark red hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She didn’t have on a speck of makeup, but she didn’t need any. She still had that baby glow.

“Jason, how are you?” she asked, setting down the skeleton to give him a big hug. “I didn’t know you were coming by.”

“It was a spur-of-the-moment decision.”

“Your timing is perfect. Colin just got back from physical therapy, and he’s in a bear of a mood. Maybe you can get him out of it.” She cast a quick look back at the house to make sure they were still alone. “I don’t know what’s going on with him. He’s extremely irritable, and no matter what I do, I constantly annoy him. I wasn’t expecting this, Jason. I thought once he woke up, he’d be ecstatically happy.”

Colin’s fuse did seem shorter, but wasn’t that to be expected? “He just needs time to adjust. He’s confused, Kara. Three months passed for us while he was frozen in time. He doesn’t even remember being shot. Nor does he realize how close he came to dying. He expects to be able to do everything he did before, but he can’t, and it’s frustrating him.”

“You’re right. I need to be more patient. It’s just not one of my strengths.”

“No kidding.” He looked past Kara as the door opened and Colin stepped onto the porch, wearing navy sweatpants and a white T-shirt with the Angel’s Bay Police Department insignia.

Colin gave Jason a quick nod, then told Kara, “The baby is crying. She’s probably hungry, and I can’t do anything about that.”

“I’ll get her. Thanks.”

As Colin moved toward the porch bench, Kara gave Jason a pointed look and then disappeared into the house.

Colin let out a sigh as he sat down and stretched his legs out in front of him. He’d regained some color in his face the past few weeks, but his clothes still hung loosely on his big frame.

“How are you feeling?” Jason leaned against the porch railing. “I have to tell you that you look like shit.”

“I had a workout this morning. I’m a little tired.”

“Maybe you should take it slower.”

“Did Kara tell you to say that?” Colin demanded, a fire in his usually calm green eyes.

“I can speak for myself,” Jason replied, unintimidated by Colin’s bad mood. They’d been friends since the third grade. Neither of them had siblings, and in each other they’d found a brother. They’d grown up together, joined the force, and worked side by side. They’d shared good times and bad. He’d hoped the bad was over, but it looked as if there were still some issues to work through. At least Colin wa...

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