Mermaid moon, p.1
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       Mermaid Moon, p.1

           Colleen Coble
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Mermaid Moon


  ACCLAIM FOR COLLEEN COBLE

  “Second chances, old flames, and startling new revelations combine to form a story filled with faith, trial, forgiveness, and redemption. Crack the cover and step in, but beware—Mermaid Point is harboring secrets that will keep you guessing.”

  —LISA WINGATE, NATIONAL BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE SEA KEEPER’S DAUGHTERS ON MERMAID MOON

  “I burned through The Inn at Ocean’s Edge in one sitting. An intricate plot by a master storyteller. Colleen Coble has done it again with this gripping opening to a new series. I can’t wait to spend more time at Sunset Cove.”

  —HEATHER BURCH, BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF ONE LAVENDER RIBBON

  “Coble doesn’t disappoint with her custom blend of suspense and romance.”

  —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY FOR THE INN AT OCEAN’S EDGE

  “Veteran author Coble has penned another winner. Filled with mystery and romance that are unpredictable until the last page, this novel will grip readers long past when they should put their books down. Recommended to readers of contemporary mysteries.”

  —CBA RETAILERS + RESOURCES

  “Coble truly shines when she’s penning a mystery, and this tale will really keep the reader guessing . . . Mystery lovers will definitely want to put this book on their purchase list.”

  —ROMANTIC TIMES BOOK REVIEWS

  “Master storyteller Colleen Coble has done it again. The Inn at Ocean’s Edge is an intricately woven, well-crafted story of romance, suspense, family secrets, and a decades old mystery. Needless to say, it had me hooked from page one. I simply couldn’t stop turning the pages. This one’s going on my keeper shelf.”

  —LYNETTE EASON, AWARD-WINNING, BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE HIDDEN IDENTITY SERIES

  “Evocative and gripping, The Inn at Ocean’s Edge will keep you flipping pages long into the night.”

  —DANI PETTREY, BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE ALASKAN COURAGE SERIES

  “Coble’s atmospheric and suspenseful series launch should appeal to fans of Tracie Peterson and other authors of Christian romantic suspense.”

  —LIBRARY JOURNAL REVIEW OF TIDEWATER INN

  “Romantically tense, but with just the right touch of danger, this cowboy love story is surprisingly clever—and pleasingly sweet.”

  —USATODAY.COM REVIEW OF BLUE MOON PROMISE

  “Colleen Coble will keep you glued to each page as she shows you the beauty of God’s most primitive land and the dangers it hides.”

  —WWW.ROMANCEJUNKIES.COM

  “[An] outstanding, completely engaging tale that will have you on the edge of your seat . . . A must-have for all fans of romantic suspense!”

  —THEROMANCEREADERSCONNECTION.COM REVIEW OF ANATHEMA

  “Colleen Coble lays an intricate trail in Without a Trace and draws the reader on like a hound with a scent.”

  —ROMANTIC TIMES, 4½ STARS

  “Coble’s historical series just keeps getting better with each entry.”

  —LIBRARY JOURNAL STARRED REVIEW OF THE LIGHTKEEPER’S BALL

  “Don’t ever mistake [Coble’s] for the fluffy romances with a little bit of suspense. She writes solid suspense, and she ties it all together beautifully with a wonderful message.”

  —LIFEINREVIEWBLOG.COM REVIEW OF LONESTAR ANGEL

  “This book has everything I enjoy: mystery, romance, and suspense. The characters are likable, understandable, and I can relate to them.”

  —THEFRIENDLYBOOKNOOK.COM

  “[M]ystery, danger, and intrigue as well as romance, love, and subtle inspiration. The Lightkeeper’s Daughter is a ‘keeper.’ ”

  —ONCEUPONAROMANCE.COM

  “Colleen is a master storyteller.”

  —KAREN KINGSBURY, BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF UNLOCKED AND LEARNING

  ALSO BY COLLEEN COBLE

  SUNSET COVE NOVELS

  The Inn at Ocean’s Edge

  Mermaid Moon

  Twilight at Blueberry Barrens

  (Available September 2016)

  HOPE BEACH NOVELS

  Tidewater Inn

  Rosemary Cottage

  Seagrass Pier

  All Is Bright: A Hope Beach

  Christmas Novella (e-book only)

  UNDER TEXAS STARS NOVELS

  Blue Moon Promise

  Safe in His Arms

  THE MERCY FALLS SERIES

  The Lightkeeper’s Daughter

  The Lightkeeper’s Bride

  The Lightkeeper’s Ball

  LONESTAR NOVELS

  Lonestar Sanctuary

  Lonestar Secrets

  Lonestar Homecoming

  Lonestar Angel

  All Is Calm: A Lonestar

  Christmas Novella (e-book only)

  THE ROCK HARBOR SERIES

  Without a Trace

  Beyond a Doubt

  Into the Deep

  Cry in the Night

  Silent Night: A Rock Harbor

  Christmas Novella (e-book only)

  THE ALOHA REEF SERIES

  Distant Echoes

  Black Sands

  Dangerous Depths

  Midnight Sea

  Holy Night: An Aloha Reef

  Christmas Novella (e-book only)

  Alaska Twilight

  Fire Dancer

  Abomination

  Anathema

  Butterfly Palace

  NOVELLAS INCLUDED IN:

  Smitten

  Secretly Smitten

  Smitten Book Club

  OTHER NOVELLAS

  Bluebonnet Bride

  © 2016 by Colleen Coble

  All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other—except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

  Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc.

  Thomas Nelson titles may be purchased in bulk for educational, business, fund-raising, or sales promotional use. For information, please e-mail SpecialMarkets@ThomasNelson.com.

  Publisher’s Note: This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. All characters are fictional, and any similarity to people living or dead is purely coincidental.

  ISBN 978-1-4016-9029-8 (eBook)

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Coble, Colleen.

  Mermaid moon : a Sunset Cove novel / Colleen Coble.

  pages ; cm. -- (A Sunset Cove novel ; 2)

  ISBN 978-1-4016-9028-1 (trade paper)

  1. Family secrets--Fiction. 2. Murder--Investigation--Fiction. I. Title.

  PS3553.O2285M47 2016

  813'.54--dc23

  2015029201

  16 17 18 19 20 RRD 6 5 4 3 2 1

  For my family who gave me wings. Love you!

  CONTENTS

  ONE

  TWO

  THREE

  FOUR

  FIVE

  SIX

  SEVEN

  EIGHT

  NINE

  TEN

  ELEVEN

  TWELVE

  THIRTEEN

  FOURTEEN

  FIFTEEN

  SIXTEEN

  SEVENTEEN

  EIGHTEEN

  NINETEEN

  TWENTY

  TWENTY-ONE

  TWENTY-TWO

  TWENTY-THREE

  TWENTY-FOUR

  TWENTY-FIVE

  TWENTY-SIX

  TWENTY-SEVEN

  TWENTY-EIGHT

  TWENTY-NINE

  THIRTY

  THIRTY-
ONE

  THIRTY-TWO

  THIRTY-THREE

  THIRTY-FOUR

  THIRTY-FIVE

  THIRTY-SIX

  THIRTY-SEVEN

  THIRTY-EIGHT

  THIRTY-NINE

  FORTY

  FORTY-ONE

  FORTY-TWO

  DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  ONE

  The Silver Pelican jewelry store in Bangor, Maine, was Mallory Davis’s final stop, and she put on a bright smile. The place smelled of money—expensive perfume from the last customer and the rich scent of new carpet. Every other jewelry shop in town had only been willing to take her pieces on consignment, but she needed the cash now. She’d been a bit hesitant to come here because this was the most expensive store in town, and she was sure the owner would take one look at her suit, stylish ten years ago, and send her packing.

  The sun glittered on her twenty pieces of sea-glass jewelry spread across the top of the glass display case. The presentation under it sparkled with diamonds and sapphires on black velvet.

  Mallory nudged her favorite bracelet with one finger. “This one is white gold instead of the usual sterling silver. I mixed pink tourmaline with darker pink sea glass to create the piece.”

  The owner, in his forties with a paunch and bald head, picked up the bracelet and looked it over. “Very nice craftsmanship, Mrs. Davis. The quality is exceptional. The pink and green moon from the tourmaline is quite unique. And I really like the mermaid on it. How much do you want for these?”

  She tipped up her chin and forced a confidence that was at odds with the fluttery sensation in her stomach. “I need five hundred dollars for it. I have five of them ready here in my briefcase. And did you see these earrings?” She pointed out another offering. “The tourmaline makes them so distinctively Maine. These are two hundred dollars.”

  He nodded. “My customers are always asking for quality tourmaline pieces, and I find it hard to keep up with the demand when they want jewelry created in Maine.” He pursed his flat lips. “I’ll take everything you have here, plus all the mermaid-moon bracelets. Write me up an invoice and I’ll give you a check right now. I think I can take most everything you make off your hands.”

  Hiding her elation, she took a surreptitious glance at her watch. Haylie would be out of school in half an hour. “Of course.” She pulled the jewelry pieces out of her case along with an invoice pad.

  She wanted to do a fist pump in the air. Her mortgage was a week late, but she could pay it electronically as soon as the check cleared.

  The back of her neck prickled, and she resisted the urge to turn around. For the past week she’d had the uneasy feeling that someone was watching her, but try as she might to convince herself it was from the stress of her finances, she couldn’t help swinging her head around to look. And saw nothing out of the ordinary.

  She was letting her imagination run wild again.

  But her joy bubbled to the surface when she remembered she’d done it. This was the beginning of good things for them.

  Fifteen minutes later she thanked the proprietor and exited into the dreary gloom of an early-spring day. Tugging her jacket higher at the neck, her smile widened as she hurried to her blue Toyota. She pulled out her phone and dialed her best friend, Carol Decker.

  Carol had been Mallory’s rock when Brian died in a small plane accident two years ago. She lived in the house next door and ran Haylie around when Mallory had errands to run or needed to work on her jewelry designs. At fifty-five, she was twenty years older than Mallory and had never been married, but she was warm and cuddly as a new kitten.

  Carol answered on the first ring. “How’d it go?”

  “He bought everything I’ve got!” She turned the key and started the engine. “I need to pick up Haylie. It took him forever to write out the check.” Before she pulled into traffic, she stared at the check for $3,500. “We can eat this month. And I can get the mortgage caught up.”

  Carol laughed. “I’d say you just shot the wolf at the door full of buckshot, then had him stuffed and mounted.”

  “Good riddance. I never want to see that mangy monster again.” Mallory stopped at the light and noticed the engine running a little rough. “I need to get this clunker looked at. It’s going to die on me before too long.”

  “I think it needs the spark plugs changed.”

  And she had the money to do just that. Mallory saw the time. “Holy cow, is it really two thirty? I’m going to be late.”

  She gunned the Toyota as soon as the light changed and drove as fast as she dared. The school was a good fifteen minutes away if traffic was moving.

  “Haylie will be fine if you’re five minutes late. Don’t stress.”

  Easy enough for Carol to say. She didn’t have children. “I’ve got to run. Talk to you when I get home.”

  She dropped her phone back into her purse, then drummed her fingers on the steering wheel as traffic stopped at another light. The clock on the dash flipped another minute closer to two fifty. The light changed to green and she shot through it.

  Kids milled around the schoolyard as she pulled to the curb. She scanned the area for Haylie’s red jacket.

  Her breath caught in her throat when she saw her fourteen-year-old daughter talking to someone in a gray van. Wasn’t that the same gray van she’d seen parked outside the house last week? That definitely had not been her imagination.

  She threw open her door and ran toward her daughter. “Haylie!”

  Her daughter looked up, her dark-brown eyes wide. The van’s tires squealed as it peeled away from the curb. Mallory tried to see the driver as it sped past, but the windows were tinted, and she couldn’t see more than a shape inside.

  She reached Haylie and grabbed her arm. “I’ve told you never to talk to strangers.”

  Haylie rolled her eyes. “He was only asking if I knew someone. I told him I didn’t. Chill out, Mom.”

  Mallory gritted her teeth and swallowed the rebuke wanting to burst out. “He could have grabbed you and taken off.”

  Haylie shifted her khaki backpack to her shoulder. “Why do you have to make such a big deal out of everything?” She took off toward the car in an angry stride.

  Mallory sighed and followed. Her daughter had no idea just how unsafe the world could be, how quickly life could go from perfect to shattered beyond repair. One mistake and the world could change. She knew that only too well.

  She turned and stared after the van. Something bad could have happened because she’d been late. She had to be extra vigilant.

  Her purse vibrated and she dug around for her silenced phone. Dad flashed on the screen and her smile vanished. Things had been tense between them for so many years, and she wished for the umpteenth time that she could find a way to turn back the clock.

  Haylie waved to her from the passenger seat, and Mallory turned her back to her daughter’s impatient face. “Hi, Dad.” She forced a light note into her voice.

  Only silence answered her. Was that the distant sound of a boat engine? “Dad, are you there? I hear gulls, but I can’t hear you.” She detected a faint gasp, and her fingers tightened around the phone. “Dad?” Was he having a heart attack? He’d put on twenty pounds this year, all around the middle. He was a heart attack waiting to happen.

  Pulling the phone from her ear, she saw full bars. The problem wasn’t on her end. “Dad?”

  A choking sound vibrated in her ear, then his shaky voice whispered across the miles. “Love you . . . always. Find . . . Mother.” A rattle sounded as though he needed to clear his throat and couldn’t. “Tell . . . Haylie. Love her.”

  “Dad!” Her chest squeezed as the import of his words hit. He must be delusional. Her mother had been dead for fifteen years. “Where are you? I’ll come right now.”

  “Should have . . . known better.” The words were barely a whisper. A long sigh eased through the phone, and something clunked.

  P
ressing the phone tighter to her ear, she heard only the sound of the gulls, the lap of waves, and the putt-putt of the boat motor. “Dad, talk to me!”

  He was on his boat, but where? She spoke his name again and waited. Nothing. Had he fallen? Maybe the clunk was the phone dropping to the deck. She didn’t want to hang up, not while the connection held. How could she find him?

  Wait, she had a family tracker app on her phone. Just for fun, she’d connected her dad’s phone with hers. Still maintaining the connection with her father, she flipped over to the app and located his phone. It was near Folly Shoals. He must have been delivering the mail.

  She went back to the phone call. “Dad?”

  She got the wa-wa sound of a disconnected call in her ear.

  A number popped into Mallory’s head and she punched it in, then walked farther away so Haylie couldn’t hear what was going on.

  A deep male voice answered on the second ring. “Game Warden O’Connor.”

  Her chest tightened at the familiar voice. Had she really called Kevin O’Connor? “Kevin, it’s Mallory. Dad’s in trouble. Can you go check on him?”

  There was a slight hesitation. “Mallory?”

  His cautious tone told her all she needed to know about his feelings. “Hurry, Kevin. I-it sounded like he was dying.” She gave him the coordinates.

  “I’ll call you.”

  “Give me two hours. On my way.” She hung up and called her dad back again.

  Only the gulls answered.

  Claire Dellamare lifted her face to the wind and let it toss her hair as she inhaled the briny scent of the sea. Luke Rocco turned off the boat’s engine, then threw the anchor overboard. The rocky crags of Mermaid Point, a westward promontory of Folly Shoals Island, rose to their left and blocked a bit of the sun glaring in her eyes. She could just make out the metal roof of Breakwater Cottage where Edmund Blanchard lived. He was a familiar sight around the Downeast as he delivered the mail by boat.

  She turned to smile at Luke. “Why are we stopping here? I thought we were going to check out the orca pod.”

  Luke’s good looks never failed to thrill her. With his nearly black hair and dark-brown eyes, he could have been a pirate in the old days. Finding him at the beach six months ago had been her lucky day, and knowing he loved her was a little bit of God’s grace given to her.

 

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