The House on the Beach

The House on the Beach

A Pilgrim Cove novel - Book 1 is FREE!
In the coastal town of Pilgrim Cove, strangers are welcomed, and everyone else takes a front row seat to watch a love story unfold.

Laura McCloud has a bright future but needs a place to pick up the pieces of her life and career after losing her mom, her boyfriend and surviving a battle with breast cancer. A script that doesn’t play well for a single woman. Happy childhood summers in Pilgrim Cove pull her back to town and a stay in Sea View House.

Matthew Parker, his two young sons and his dad have shared a home since both men were widowed several years ago. And now, no women are needed in the Parker domain. But when Matt meets Laura, he discovers that his home might be missing something vital—a woman’s love.

Can these two determined people figure out what’s important and take a chance on a new beginning?

***** 5 Stars: CataRomance Reviews 

"Linda Barrett’s House on the Beach is unforgettable. I was not ready for this page turning story to end nor ready to leave Pilgrim Cove…"

Reviewed by Donna Zapf

***** 5 Stars: HUNTRESS REVIEWS 

"I love Pilgrim Cove! Author Linda Barrett brings this town to life as only she could possibly do! This is an awesome ‘feel good’ story!"

Reviewed by Detra Fitch

**** 4 STARS: Romantic Times Book Club 

"Linda Barrett peoples Pilgrim Cove with zesty, vibrant characters as she examines the effects that breast cancer can have on relationships."

Reviewed by Donna Carter

Chapter One

“I’m sorry, Ali, but I’m not ready to make such a big decision.” Laura McCloud sat at the kitchen table across from her sister the morning after their mother’s funeral sipping coffee and nibbling a piece of dry toast. Her Boston home had overflowed with visitors the evening before, but she and Ali were alone now. The house was almost back in order. Leftovers filled the refrigerator shelves--not that she had much of an appetite.

“But you know how much we’d love for you to join us in Atlanta,” continued Alison. “Charles especially wants you to know that the invitation comes from him, too. And the kids would adore having their Aunt Laura close by.”

“I do know it, and I love you all for it, but...

“And we have fabulous medical centers, too,” interrupted Alison. “As good as here. Not that you have anything to worry about anymore,” she added quickly.

Right. Nothing except the knowledge that there were no guarantees. “I’m not concerned about finding medical care. It’s just that I have another idea.”

“You do? What?”

“Remember Pilgrim Cove? Remember the beautiful beach?” Laura watched her sister’s eyes widen and a grin light up her face. 

“Do I remember? Of course I remember. What great summers we had. So, what’s your idea? A summer vacation at the beach?”

“Not exactly,” replied Laura. “I’m not going to wait that long.”

“You’re going to the beach in the middle of winter?” Alison asked in disbelief as she hugged herself. “Brr. Not me.”

Laura laughed at her sister’s antics. They’d always gotten along well, and Laura had really missed Alison when she’d left Boston. Suddenly, Laura had to blink back tears. Alison was now her only family. 

“I’ll think about what you said regarding Atlanta, but I’ve got a career here and...I need some time. Time for myself.”

Alison’s hand reached for hers. “I’ll support any decision you make, sis, but are you sure you really want to be alone?”

“With the sand and the ocean and my work...don’t worry, Ali. I’ll be very busy.”

“Yeah, yeah. The sand will blow in your eyes, the ocean will crash against the seawall and the ferry won’t run. So much for winter at the beach!”

Laura smiled. “I’ll wait until next month. March should be somewhat better. I wonder what Pilgrim Cove is like during the off-season. At least the rent should be cheaper.”

“Wait a minute. Why are you concerned about rent? A few dollars one way or another for a week’s vacation shouldn’t make a difference.”

“I’m thinking about more than a week,” Laura said in a slow, deliberate tone. “I’m thinking about a three month lease, maybe through Memorial Day. A small house might not be too expensive, not too hard to keep up, but I’d want it right on the beach.”

She stood as the image crystallized in her mind. “I need a change, a complete change of scene. And I need it now. Fighting with the weather will be much easier than fighting for mom’s life and my own.”

She reached up and tousled her short blonde curls. “Look at me, Alison. Look at these ringlets. I’m delighted to have hair again, but I don’t recognize myself when I pass a mirror. Where’s the sleek blunt cut that was so easy to manage?”

“You’re adorable in those curls! In fact, you look wonderful, Laura, just wonderful.” Laura could hear the passion in her sister’s voice. 

“Donald didn’t think so,” she responded.

“Donald Crawford was a jerk!”

Laura shook her head. “No, Alison. Don wasn’t a jerk. He was just human. He had a girlfriend with a huge responsibility to an ill mother--and he handled that--but my getting sick was just too much. He wasn’t prepared for all the emotional turmoil. Who can blame him?”

“I can,” replied Alison. 

“Be fair,” said Laura. “We weren’t engaged. He didn’t owe me anything.”

“He wasn’t worthy of you!” Alison insisted. “You’re the most outstanding person, the most beautiful, wonderful woman...

“You’re hardly objective,” laughed Laura. “But can you really blame Don for wanting a normal life? What man wouldn’t have second thoughts when he heard the words ‘breast cancer?’”

“A man who loves you,” came the quick reply.

“Well, I’m not going to count on that happening,” said Laura in an even tone. “So I’ll have lots of time and energy to rebuild my interrupted career.” She leaned across the table. “I’m thirty-three. It’s now or never. And you heard my agent last night. ‘Work is therapy, Laura,’ she mimicked Norman Cohen’s low voice. She relaxed in her chair. “Norman is a dear friend as well as a business man. And he’s got some radio ads lined up for me.” 

Alison would have protested again, but Laura held up her hand. “I’m not discussing men anymore, Ali. I’m not sure there’s a man in the world who could look past this. Anyway, it’s too soon. All I can do is take one day at a time. Capice?

“Sure,” replied Alison. “I understand, but I don’t have to like it. I love you, and I want you to have...

“I know,” Laura said in a hoarse voice. “You want me to have everything you have...loving husband, healthy children...but that’s probably not going to happen for me. What is going to happen, however, is a nice long stay in Pilgrim Cove.”

Alison remained quiet for a long moment. “I recognize that expression and that tone,” she finally said. “You’ve made up your mind. But my invitation remains open--will always remain open.”

Laura looked at her sister’s face, at the sincerity clearly written there. “Thanks, Ali, thanks a lot. But I’ve got to figure it out my own way.”

She reached for the phone. “I’m calling Bartholomew Quinn, the man who arranged the summer rentals when we were kids. I remember going with Daddy to Mr. Quinn’s real estate office. And I remember him. A head of thick white hair.”

“White? And that was how many years ago? Sixteen? Seventeen? He might be dead by now!”

“Nope. He has a website.”

#

Bartholomew Quinn stood at the large front window of his Main Street office in Pilgrim Cove, his hand cupping the bowl of the empty pipe in his mouth. A comfortable habit he hadn’t bothered to break even though he’d given up the pleasure of filling the beauty with fine tobacco.

Promises. He’d made promises. A promise to his daughters and to his beloved granddaughter and to her precious daughter. Four generations of Quinns, three of whom had said, “No more smoking, Dad, Granddad, Papa Bart!” He shook his head remembering how they’d ganged up on him. Foolish girls to worry so much. He was as strong as ever and as sharp as ever, and maybe just as hard-headed, too. He sighed. Except these days he chomped an empty pipe.

His eyes focused on the late model blue Honda Accord pulling into a visitor’s spot in front of his building, then he glanced at his watch. If this was Laura McCloud, she was right on time. He’d been astonished to hear from her last week. Astonished that she remembered him. But then again, he grinned to himself, he was a pretty memorable guy. Just ask his kids. Or anyone in Pilgrim Cove. Everyone knew Bartholomew Quinn!  

The car door opened and a woman emerged, golden hair tossing in the wind. Bart tsked. She should have worn a hat. Wasn’t she aware that February was the worst of the winter months in New England? He straightened his silk bow tie and adjusted the comfortable woolen cardigan he wore. Bart Quinn knew how to adapt to weather and to life. After seventy-five years on the planet, he’d had plenty of practice.

He watched the young woman check the sign--Quinn Real Estate and Property Management--and walk to the front door. He went to greet her.

“Well, as I live and breathe,” he said, shaking Laura’s hand. “The young McCloud girl. All grown up.”

She had a delightful laugh, but it didn’t quite hide the sadness in her dark blue eyes. Strain showed in the too-thin face. 

“Come in and have a hot cup of Earl Grey.” He ushered her to a small round table. After calling to an assistant for the tea, he took a seat opposite Laura. 

“You’ve had a hard time of it, haven’t you?” Bart began. “A fine woman was Bridget McCloud, and your dad, too. I remember Connor well. Two good people, and now their daughter’s come to see me.” He sat back in his chair and waited.

Laura nodded. “Yes, I’ve come to you, Mr. Quinn, with a request.” She moved her chair a fraction closer. “My question is, can you help me find a house to rent immediately? A house right on the beach. I want to be able to open my eyes and see the ocean.”

Her voice had the clarity of a bell. A musical quality, Bart thought. She was so lovely despite her distress. He cocked his head as he listened.

“I-I need to get away for awhile,” Laura continued. “I need to be here, near the water. Can’t wait for summer. I need to...to...”

“Lick your wounds? Heal a little?” suggested Bart.

Her eyes widened. “That’s part of it. Mom’s illness...she was in remission for so long, and then three years ago, the nightmare began again. Her nerve cells deteriorated. In the end, she couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk... I need some time to recover and to adjust.” She paused in thought. “Long walks on the beach, fresh air, time to read, and to cook simple meals. And with some basic recording equipment, I can work here as well as in Boston.”

“And what exactly does Laura McCloud do to earn her keep?”

A dimple appeared as she shot him a small grin. “Laura McCloud earns her keep on the radio and telly with her commercial announcements.”

Her language and Irish lilt matched his, and he roared with laughter. “Oh, you’ve got it down, girl.” Bart was pure American, but his parents had emigrated from County Cork at the turn of the last century and a bit of their flavorful speech had taken hold in him. 

She nodded. “I’ve always been good at languages. I seem to have the ear and the voice. In college, I majored in Speech and Theater and found my work in narration and voice-overs. But,” she turned away from him then and stared through the window, “my career has fallen apart in the last few years. I’ve been...distracted. And now I’ve got to rebuild.”

Her eyes glowed as she turned to him again, and Bart saw the strength behind them. This girl would make it somehow, with or without his help. But he wanted very much to help her. He thought about a property he managed--a unique beachfront property--with a sliding scale rental fee for people in difficult circumstances. His gut told him Laura qualified, and his gut was rarely wrong. He nodded his head. “Sea View House.”

“Excuse me?”

“You’ll be wanting Sea View House.” Bart stood up and walked to his big old-fashioned roll-top desk, selected a key from among many on his ring, and opened a small drawer. He reached for one set of duplicate keys and relocked the drawer. Picking up the phone, he pressed the intercom. “Lila, come in and meet a special friend of mine.” He winked at Laura and opened his office door just as Lila rushed through.

Bart chuckled. Lila never walked. 

“Laura McCloud,” he said, “I’d like you to meet my partner, Lila Quinn Sullivan, who also happens to be my granddaughter.

#

Bart’s granddaughter was lovely, thought Laura, as she extended her hand. Twenty-something. Bright blue eyes, with an intelligence behind them.

“I’m looking for a place to rent,” Laura said. “Your grandfather suggested Sea View House.”

The girl looked startled before a wistful expression replaced her surprise. “Sea View House.” Her soft-spoken words were followed by a sweet smile. “It’s a special place.”

“Yes,” Bart confirmed. “And Laura’s a special guest. Used to spend summers here as a child.” He looked at Laura. “About ten consecutive years, was it?”

She nodded. “What’s so special about this particular house on the beach?” She needed a quiet routine, nothing out of the ordinary.

Lila stared over Laura’s shoulder, her eyes unfocused and dreamy. “Sea View House has this reputation,” she began. “Good things happen to everyone who stays there...” She paused, then shook her head, a flash of pain visible for barely a second. “Well, no. I guess not everyone...but, I know you’ll be happy there, with the ocean right at your door. Welcome back to Pilgrim Cove.”

And she was gone. 

“Moves at the speed of light, my Lila does,” said Bart, as he led Laura to his car. “She’s the joy of my life, she and her little Katie. But...well, there’s a sorrow on her heart, too.” He sighed. “Everybody’s got troubles, but I can’t think of a better place to be than Sea View House while you figure them out.”

Laura murmured noncommittally. She scanned the town as they drove, excitement mounting as she recognized some of the businesses. From Bart’s office on Main Street, they passed a bank, then a barber shop called The Cove Clippers. She’d gone there with her dad each year for his “summer cut.” And there was The Diner on the Dunes! Happy times and delicious meals with her family.

“There’s Parker Plumbing and Hardware,” Bart pointed out. “They carry everything. I’ll call Matt to turn your water on. My friend, Sam Parker, started the business, but now his son, Matthew, runs it. Good family. Not without their share of heartaches, too. But they carry on.”

Laura sighed. If Bart thought he was giving her a lesson in life, he was wasting his time. She was already an expert. But she didn’t interrupt him, instead continued to look at the town, trying to recognize landmarks from her childhood.

“Is Neptune’s Park still here?” she asked.

Bart grinned around his pipe. “Sure it is. Can’t imagine Pilgrim Cove without it, but it’s only open in the summertime, mind you.”

She nodded. Carousels and Ferris wheels were the stuff of sunshine and warm nights. Too bad she wouldn’t be in town long enough to enjoy them. She refocused on the route Bart was taking and memorized it. He made a left from Main onto Outlook Drive.

“The whole peninsula is six miles long and less than two miles across, so we’ll be at Sea View House in just a couple of minutes. Main Street divides the town. We have a beach side and a bay side. There’s always a breeze when you’re a finger in the ocean.”

“That’s why you have so many summer people every year,” Laura said. “The news is out. Pilgrim Cove is the place to be during the season.”

“For me, it’s the place to be every season,” said Bart. “Look ahead now. You’ll see the front and side of the house.

Laura complied and felt herself grinning. Sea View House. Weathered wood, a big sloping roof, two stories with a third window above--maybe an attic--and a big brick chimney in the center. A white picket fence surrounded the front yard on Beach Street. 

“Wow! What a wonderful house. And only a vague memory to me. I didn’t know anyone living here when I was a kid.”

Bart pulled the car into the driveway. “It’s a Saltbox, the kind built in the 1700's. John Adams, our second president, was born in a Saltbox. And William Adams, a shirt-tail cousin of John, founded our town in 1690. A hundred years later his great-great grandchild, also named William, built this house. Of course, it’s been remodeled several times, and now it’s been converted to two apartments. There’s a lot of history here, but for a later time.”

Laura nodded and got out of the car. “Let’s walk around the house first,” she said. 

“You go. I’ll open her up,” replied Bart. “The sun is bright enough, but that ocean breeze is whipping big today.”

True, but Laura reveled in it as she followed the paved driveway to the back of the property, past a deep covered porch leading to a backyard bordered by a low cement wall at the sand line. Inserted into the cement wall were tall boards standing upright. Laura studied the strange arrangement and saw loose sand blowing against the boards. Sand that would otherwise be hitting the house. She smiled, appreciating the simplicity of some solutions.

And then she was on the beach, the powerful Atlantic in front of her, surging and ebbing as far as her eye could see. The heels of her boots hardly dented the hard packed sand as she walked closer to the water. She could have stood for hours mesmerized by the rhythmic motion of the waves. She turned, eventually, to look back at Sea View House. 

For the first time in too long, a frisson of excitement flowed through her. A sense of anticipation. Suddenly she knew exactly what she was going to do. 

She hurried to the front door, ran down the center hallway and found Bart Quinn in the kitchen. “Where do I sign?”

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