Seabreeze Honeymoon Book Excerpt | Author Jan Moran
Owned & Operated by Sunny Palms Press, LLC.
Owned & Operated by Sunny Palms Press, LLC.
Owned & Operated by Sunny Palms Press, LLC.
Owned & Operated by Sunny Palms Press, LLC.

Seabreeze Honeymoon Book Excerpt

“You shouldn’t wait any longer to go on your honeymoon,” Carlotta said, lifting an eyebrow at Ivy in reproach. “It’s been delayed enough as it is.”

“Between the inn and City Hall, Bennett and I have been swamped with work,” Ivy said. Still, coming from her mother, that comment stung. She lifted her face to the fresh breeze cooling the patio of the Seabreeze Inn, where she was gathered this afternoon with her family. They were having a barbecue to send off their parents after the large family reunion they’d had. 

“Which is why you must get away,” Carlotta replied, framing Ivy’s face in her hands. “You and Bennett hide it well, but I can see the signs of fatigue in both of you.”

“I didn’t want to leave while you were visiting,” Ivy said. “Or with Shelly and the new baby, or during our busy summer season.”

Carlotta sighed. “I’ll grant you that, but you must promise to take time off. You’ve been working relentlessly since you arrived in Summer Beach.”

“That’s what it took to get the inn to this point, Mom.” Ivy’s face burned with the memory of that difficult time. Learning of her late husband’s adultery and intention of hiding this asset from her had fueled her determination. “I stood to lose everything after Jeremy’s death.”

“And you did an incredible job. But your health and your marriage are far more important. Shelly is feeling better now. She and Poppy can look after the inn. And Sunny will pitch in. I’ve had a talk with her.”

“We’ll think about it,” Ivy promised, although she didn’t know how they could manage it. As for Sunny, Ivy couldn’t count on her youngest daughter, not while she was finishing her last year of university study. It was important that Sunny complete her degree. She had changed her major, and as a result, the projected cost had escalated.

Every time Ivy got a little ahead financially, something unexpected arose, like an expensive plumbing or electrical failure at the inn that couldn’t wait. As much as Ivy loved the old house, sometimes she wished she’d been able to sell it right after Jeremy’s death. She had tried. Still, she wanted Sunny to find her path.

Her mother had always been astute; the stress was wearing on Ivy, much as she tried to hide it. The next day will be better, she told herself every evening when she fell into bed, utterly exhausted.

Her sister Shelly loped across the patio toward them with Daisy bouncing on her hip. “Hey, why the glum looks?” She elbowed her sister. “Come on, Ives, this is supposed to be a party.”

Carlotta and Sterling had stayed a little longer than they’d planned. They were booked on a flight to Australia that evening, so this was the last time the family would be together for a while. Her parents had left their boat in Sydney. In just a few days, they would depart for the next leg of their round-the-world voyage.

Carlotta hugged her youngest daughter. “We were just talking about making time to get away.” She kissed Daisy’s silky-soft forehead. “How’s my precious little one?”

Waving her hands, Daisy cooed and laughed.

“Look at her,” Carlotta said. “Not a care in the world. We could all learn a lesson from her.”

“Until she’s hungry, wet, or tired, that is. Then, watch out.” Shelly pantomimed a scream, and Carlotta laughed.

“Are you ready to continue your journey?” Ivy asked her mother, trying to keep her voice from cracking. Her parents were adventurers, and they led by example. Yet, she would worry about them alone on the open seas. 

Detecting Ivy’s emotion, Carlotta put her arm around her and drew her in, the familiar sound of her silver bangles tinkling as she did. “We love the freedom, the wind on our faces, and fresh discoveries every morning. At our age, we won’t have many more chances like this. But it’s always difficult to leave you and the family. And the grandchildren.”

Shelly leaned in for a group hug. “Especially Daisy, right?”

Her eyes sparkling, Carlotta tilted her head. “She might be the newest addition to the Bay family, but you’re all my favorites.”

Shelly laughed as she shifted her daughter, who was nearing her fifth-month birthday.  “That’s what you always said, Mom.”

“And it’s still true.” 

A deep voice boomed behind them, and Ivy’s lean, silver-haired father joined them. “Can’t stay away from my latest favorite grandchild for too long,” Sterling said, bending to tickle Daisy’s chin.

Daisy gurgled with laughter, and they all joined in.

“That’s a promise, mi amor.” Carlotta kissed her husband’s cheek. “We plan to fly back occasionally to break up the trip. And check on all of you.” She stepped aside, the breeze sweeping her dark, silver-threaded hair from her shoulders. 

Wide-eyed, Daisy reached for Carlotta’s turquoise necklace and gnawed on the beads. 

“Watch out, you’d break your teeth if you had any,” Shelly said, gently removing the polished stones from Daisy’s mouth. “I should feed her, or she won’t be your golden child anymore. Her scream is so shrill, dogs run for cover.”

“You both need to eat,” Sterling replied. “I’ll bring you a plate from the grill when you’re finished.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Shelly said, beaming at the offer. “We sure will miss you.” She started toward an outdoor sofa so she could nurse Daisy.

Ivy sensed that Shelly would miss their parents the most. Carlotta had returned the day Daisy was born and helped Shelly through a rocky adjustment to motherhood. With proper treatment, Shelly’s stormy clouds of post-partum depression had lifted, and her usual irreverent attitude was returning. Her patience had also increased, especially around Daisy. Shelly and Mitch could manage on their own now.

Ivy’s brothers and their children were chatting and exclaiming over the buffet that Shelly’s husband, Mitch, had prepped in his kitchen at Java Beach. He had fired up the grill on the patio and drafted Bennett to help. The aroma of grilled pineapple, pulled pork, garlic shrimp, and roasted vegetables permeated the air. 

It was still warm at the beginning of October, though the inn had few guests. Two women were out exploring Summer Beach. A third one in their party had stayed in.

Mitch’s favorite Hawaiian playlist rose against the sound of the ocean waves. Izzy’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was playing, and it was all Ivy could do to contain her emotion. When she and her siblings were young, Carlotta sang that to all of them at bedtime. 

Ivy gulped back her feelings. She treasured these precious minutes with her mother.

Ivy’s twin brothers were here with their families, and it struck her that, except for Daisy, all the grandchildren were in their twenties. 

How was it that she was closer to fifty than forty? Blink your eyes, and a decade whizzes by.  She was beginning to feel her years, yet her parents still moved with incredible vitality despite their struggles. 

Carlotta turned back to her. “Before I leave, promise me you’ll take that honeymoon with Bennett. You’ve already celebrated your first anniversary.”

“Neither of us has much time.” Even as the words left her mouth, Ivy knew she was only making excuses to cover up brewing issues.

Her mother shook her head in dismay. “We’re all granted the same number of hours in our days, though the number of days remains a mystery. You must live without regrets.”

“I don’t regret anything I’ve done,” Ivy said. Even her first marriage, as challenging as it had been—rest his soul. She had been young, inexperienced, and with stars in her eyes—perhaps they both had been—yet she had two beautiful daughters. 

“That’s not what I meant.” Carlotta smoothed a hand over Ivy’s. “You will regret a trip you missed, a friend you meant to call, a path not taken. At your age, you must seize every day, now more than ever. Don’t put off your sweet celebration too long.”

Her mother’s advice hit a nerve. “Mom, a honeymoon at our age seems a little indulgent, don’t you think?” That was another excuse, Ivy knew. 

Once enthusiastic about taking a romantic trip, Bennett had become oddly reticent. When Ivy asked, he would only say that it was city business.

“You two are always there for everyone else,” Carlotta said softly. “Take your trip, darling.”

Ivy drew in her lip. Her mother had always been perceptive. “We’ve tried before, but that’s when Shelly went into labor.” 

That was several months ago now. Their mini-holiday to Palm Springs had been cut short. Shelly needed her, so they rushed back. Then, there was the busy summer season. Maybe they had missed their chance. Ivy sighed. A honeymoon almost seemed silly now. Still, she longed to get away with her husband.

Even when the inn wasn’t fully booked, she still worked. Something always needed repairing or repainting.

As if reading her mind, Carlotta shook her head. “You’ve performed an amazing feat with Shelly and Poppy in turning this old home into an inn, but it’s your turn for a break. Do it now, during the slow season.”

“We don’t have too many of those weeks anymore, thank goodness.” 

The theme weeks they’d added—cooking classes, spa weeks, writer retreats, holiday shopping—were booking up fast, thanks to Poppy’s ads and Shelly’s video posts. Guests who’d stayed with them before were returning, too.

Carlotta pressed a hand to Ivy’s shoulder. “You might ask yourself why you think you can’t break away, mija.” 

Ivy glanced away, and as she did, she caught Bennett’s gaze across the patio. Could he tell what they were talking about? She rolled her shoulders with unease. “It’s not that I don’t want to take a trip—”

“A honeymoon,” Carlotta interjected. “Your marriage needs this. Promise me you won’t miss the opportunity. A couple we know did, and to this day, it’s a sore topic between them. They put everyone but themselves first, and now they can’t seem to break the cycle.”

Ivy winced. She didn’t want to be that woman. 

“I love being an innkeeper,” she said with reflection. “Although it seems like I’m on an endless treadmill.” 

“Then step off.” Carlotta kissed her cheek. “Cherish each other, mija. Between family and work, being alone together is rare. Having raised five of you, I should know.”

“And now I’ve traded up to a houseful of perpetual guests.” Ivy lifted a corner of her mouth in a wry grin.

She glanced at Bennett again. They rarely had time alone. Usually, it was a guest who needed a toilet unclogged or a party that was a little too loud. But now, Bennett was dealing with an outsider who was petitioning the city of Summer Beach for a nightclub in the village. Though the zoning variance had been declined, Bennett told her the guy wasn’t giving up. 

“Go before the spring rush arrives,” Carlotta said, lightly pressing her fingers on Ivy’s forearm. “Regrets are a sour swill from this cocktail of life.” 

Ivy relented. “I’ll visit the travel agent this week.”

“Hey, Mom. Got a moment?” Ivy’s brother Flint swooped in to pull their mother into another conversation about sailing.

Carlotta left her with a satisfied look of approval.

Ivy slowly exhaled; now it was up to her. She watched Bennett cooking with Mitch. Outwardly, her husband looked happy enough, manning the grill and chatting with her family. But lately, his usual positivity seemed slightly forced. 

Once, he had talked about needing more adventure in their lives, and she had joked about taking ballroom dancing lessons.

They hadn’t done that either. 

Ivy crossed her arms. Dancing on the beach shouldn’t be a once-in-a-lifetime event. She’d told him that, too.

She recalled how her life with Jeremy had turned into a predictable existence that revolved around their children. For her, at least. Her husband had traveled regularly for his work. But then, he had dallied with another woman. 

Not that she was concerned about Bennett in that way. She trusted him, and there were no red flags. Yet, she wondered—and not for the first time—if he thought their life had become mundane? He had also turned down a lucrative position in another city to stay in Summer Beach. Could that be weighing on his mind?

Her mother was right. Somehow, they would make this trip—this honeymoon—happen this time.

Poppy dashed toward her. “Aunt Ivy, you have a phone call inside. It’s that strange man again. The one that sounds like he’s from New York.”

“Would you take a reservation or a message, please? I don’t want to leave the party.”

“I tried, but this guy is awfully insistent and won’t leave a message. He wants to speak to you personally.”

It was late afternoon, so technically, it was still office hours. Although at the inn, it seemed every waking hour was a working hour—and even some in the middle of the night.

“He might be calling about booking an event,” Poppy said. “Some people just want to talk to the boss lady.”

Ivy smiled at Poppy’s term for her. “We could use that business. But come get me if he turns out to be a talker.”

She started for the door. As she passed Shelly, her sister reached out and grabbed her skirt.

“Hey, what’s up with you, Ives? You look like you need some of my happy therapy.”

Ivy paused. “I’m glad you’re doing better, but I have a lot on my mind. Mom and Dad are leaving, and I have a call waiting.”

Shelly scrunched her nose. “Ivy?”

“What now?”

She pulled Ivy closer by her skirt. “You haven’t called me Shells in a long time. If you need to talk, I’m here.”

Ivy mussed her sister’s hair, touched that she cared. “I’ll remember that, Shells. Thanks.”

After making her way inside, Ivy picked up the landline. She leaned against the reception desk, said, “Hello, this is Ivy. Who’s calling, please?”

A man’s slightly rough voice came onto the line. “This is Milo Rivers.”

Ivy wanted to make this quick, yet she was courteous. “I’m glad you called. Are you planning an event, or would you like a reservation?” 

“Neither. I’m the head of Redstone Investments.” He paused. “Have you ever thought of selling the Seabreeze Inn?”

“If you’re calling about a listing, my husband is a real estate agent, and I have no intention of selling—”

Ignoring her comment, Milo cut in. “My investment group and I are interested in acquiring the property at much more than it was listed before.”

Surprised, Ivy was momentarily at a loss for words. She’d tried to sell the house right after Jeremy died, but it was so run-down there were no offers. Compounding that was its historic designation, which limited what owners could do. Her only option had been to move in and rent rooms. After a family painting-and-repair party, the old grand dame now had a shabby chic style that worked at the beach. 

The property wasn’t just an old house; it was a profitable business.

Still, it couldn’t hurt to hear his proposal. Ivy shifted the receiver and turned away from the party commotion. As she listened, she focused on the medallion on one side of the stairway’s newel post at the bottom. She traced a finger over the intricately carved wood design, which had always fascinated her. A matching finial crowned the sturdy base. At a hundred years old, the finely crafted mahogany staircase was still solid, if a little creaky.

“Do you realize there is a historic designation that limits use and appearance?” she asked. The city won’t let you tear this down for a new resort if that’s what you had in mind.” 

“Not at all. We think it has great potential as it is.”

“It would need some updating.” He should know that upfront.

“We have plans to do that.”

Ivy glanced around the entryway that she had spackled, painted, and polished. She was emotionally invested in this property. “I don’t know. This is more than an inn; it’s also our home. I’m afraid I’m not interested—”

“With what we’re prepared to offer, you could live anywhere you wanted—and very well.” 

Ivy pinched the bridge of her nose. She should hang up right now, but she was curious. Focusing on the medallion to quell her nerves, she asked, “What are your plans for it?”

Milo cleared his throat. “While that’s confidential, I can assure you it would be a luxury destination that would elevate surrounding property values.” He paused before quoting a price.

Ivy’s heart leapt at the figure, though she remained noncommittal. “I’d have to think about it.”

“First, we would need to see inside.”

“That can be arranged. But not this week. Or next. We’re awfully busy.” The truth was, she needed time to consider this.

“Then I will mark my calendar to call back in two weeks. In the meantime, I’ll send a letter of intent.” 

Before Ivy could get his number, he hung up. Milo Rivers of Redstone Investments. That’s all she knew. A shiver raced along Ivy’s spine. Was this a coincidence or providence? Maybe it was a little of both. She touched the medallion for good luck.

As Ivy walked back to the party, she tried not to think about the call. This wasn’t the time to tell anyone, and who knew if the guy would be back in touch.

When she stepped onto the patio, her brother Flint stopped her. “How are you holding up?”

“Seems like Mom and Dad just arrived, and now they’re taking off again.”

“Yeah, I know.” Flint rocked on his feet. “If you’d told me as a teenager that I’d be so attached to them now, I would’ve laughed.”

“I hope our kids feel that way someday.”

Flint chuckled. “I won’t make any bets on that, but they’re all good kids. We’re lucky.” He paused and tapped his watch. “We should leave for Los Angeles soon. Mom and Dad need to be at the airport in plenty of time, and I don’t trust city traffic.”

“Are you still picking up Honey and Gabe from Elena’s?” 

“It’s not much out of the way,” he replied. “None of them have much luggage, so I can fit them all into the SUV.”

Their sister and her husband had also flown from Sydney for the reunion. They’d stayed on in Los Angeles to see their daughter, who was making a name for herself as a jeweler to the stars. 

Ivy watched her parents with a stab of longing for more time. As much as she would miss them, she was happy for them, too. 

Flint watched their parents as they regaled the grandchildren with stories. “When I’m in my early seventies, I hope I’m still active enough to pursue my dreams like they do.”

Ivy prayed they were still up to it. Carlotta and Sterling had planned this round-the-world trip as their last major voyage on their boat. Not that they were slowing down, but as her mother said, they were simply being realistic. They couldn’t foresee accidents or illnesses, and the sheer physicality of such a long, arduous journey might be beyond their reach in a few years. 

Ivy turned to her brother. “I’m glad they’re doing this now, just the two of them.” Even after fifty years of marriage, Carlotta and Sterling still enjoyed being with each other. 

“It’s very cool.” Flint nodded. “Honey told me she and Gabe will crew for them if they want to sail again later. I wish I could get more time off. But maybe some of the kids could go. Rocky and Reed are good sailors.”

“Think we’ll be like our folks someday?” Ivy asked.

“I’ll hold you to it,” he replied, slinging his arm around her. 

A little while later, after everyone had eaten their fill and had their last conversations with Carlotta and Sterling, it was time to say goodbye. The family gathered in the car court behind the inn. 

“My darlings,” Carlotta said as she and Sterling hugged each child and grandchild: Ivy and her daughter Sunny, then Bennett, Shelly, Mitch, and little Daisy. Forrest and his wife and their grown children, and Flint, along with his wife and their brood. Ivy’s other daughter, Misty, would see them off in Los Angeles with her cousin Elena. A chorus of laughter, tears, and promises to stay in touch rang out.

At last, Carlotta smiled and held her arms out to Ivy. “My beautiful, brave daughter. Be well and keep your spirit. What we discussed—promise me again?”

“I will, Mama,” she said, reverting to her childhood name for her mother as she fell into her embrace. She swallowed against the lump in her throat and fought back the tears that stung her eyes.

Sterling hugged her next, and Ivy smiled up at him. “Be careful, Dad.” 

“Chin up, kiddo. We’re all on a voyage,” her father replied, tapping her nose as he used to do when she was young. 

Sterling embraced Bennett and held up a finger. “Remember,” he said, and Bennett nodded. And then, with a last wink at Ivy, he helped Carlotta into the SUV and closed the door.

“Oh, Mom,” Sunny said, leaning against Ivy. “I’m going to miss Nana so much.” 

As Flint turned the SUV onto the street, Ivy put an arm around her daughter, who was sniffing back tears. “We all will, but just imagine the stories they’ll have to tell when we see them again.”

Bennett stood next to them with his hand lifted in farewell. “I wish that were us taking off,” he said softly.

“Someday soon,” Ivy said, squeezing his hand. 

Bennett’s expression held sadness and regret. “It seems someday never comes.” 

His words were barely audible and spoken more to himself than to her, but they sliced through her. After his first wife died, he’d lost her and their child. Ivy knew Bennett had been devastated. Her husband had missed out on the opportunity to be a father. 

Though Ivy couldn’t give him that, this was his second chance at marriage. She would not put off their life. Not anymore. 

She slid her arm around him, feeling the beating of his heart. He needed this as much as she did. Maybe more. “Let’s take that trip we’ve been talking about.”

“I don’t know,” Bennett began, sounding tired. “I’ll believe it when we’re actually in the air.”

Sunny leaned forward. “You two shouldn’t let anything stop you this time.”

“You sound like Nana.” Ivy smiled at her daughter. “Are you trying to get rid of us so you can throw a party here?”

Sunny’s face flushed. “It wouldn’t be a huge party, Mom. Nothing that would bother the guests.”

“We still have that zoning issue, I’m afraid,” Bennett said, putting his arm around Ivy. “Now isn’t a very good time.”

“Isn’t that Boz’s department?” she asked gently.

“It’s liable to get touchy with residents over that request for the zoning change.”

“Last time I checked, most resorts have telephones and internet.” Ivy stroked Bennett’s hand. This undercurrent of malaise and hesitancy wasn’t like him, and it worried her. She wondered if he was telling her everything. “Let’s talk about it this evening in the treehouse. I have some ideas.” 

They had built a large balcony onto the rear of the chauffeurs’ quarters above the garage where they lived behind the main house. Surrounded by palm trees and overlooking the ocean, they could be alone and watch the sunset. It was their magical retreat.

Bennett still looked doubtful. “Remember what happened in Palm Springs? Between the city, the inn, and our families, it’s nearly impossible for us to get away.”

Ivy bit her lip. This wasn’t like Bennett, her perennially optimistic husband. Last year, Ivy had been the one complaining that she was too busy to leave. She recalled her mother’s admonition as she tilted her chin…and something else. “What did Dad mean when he told you to remember?”

Bennett drew a breath to reply, but just then, her niece Poppy interrupted them. “We have so much yummy food left over. Should I see who wants some?” 

“I can always use a good meal,” Reed replied, and his brother Rocky was right behind him. 

Poppy motioned to them. “Then you’ll help me. Let’s go.” 

“I should clean up, too,” Bennett said, turning toward the grill.

Ivy pushed her curiosity aside; they could speak later.  She caught her daughter’s hand. “Come on, Sunny. Help me in the kitchen. Call some of your cousins, too.”

Ivy opened the rear door to the kitchen, and before she realized it, she stepped into a soggy mess. 

The entire kitchen was flooded with dirty brown water. Read More…

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