Authors: JoAnn Durgin
A woman torn apart by secrets.
A man held prisoner by the truth.
Can the greatest love of all
set them both free?
Serenity McClaren had it all before her life crumbled around her like the sand castles on her beloved beach, causing her to flee Croisette Shores and the only home she
’d ever known. Nearly five years later and living in Atlanta, she receives a mysterious, unsigned note:
Come home, Serenity. Things aren’t as they seem. Time to find your answers.
Returning to South Carolina, she prepares to face her demons and the ailing father she left behind, hoping to make peace with both.
Child psychologist Jackson Ross is a man with a surprising past. He
’s ready for the quiet life and eager to establish his practice in the quaint, coastal village. After he hires Serenity to decorate his new office, he’s drawn to the beautiful and enigmatic woman yet sees she’s haunted by a past she can’t escape. Wanting to help her, he begins to suspect one of his young patients may hold the key to unlocking Serenity’s secrets. Jackson follows his instincts and discovers the shocking truth, but how can he tell the woman he’s grown to love what he knows—and set her free—without compromising his professional ethics and losing her forever?
, a poignant story of faith, hope, love, and discovering the everyday miracles from an all-powerful God.
Note to Readers
The book description and first two chapters
JoAnn Durgin’s bestselling debut novel,
Book #1 in
The Lewis Legacy Series
, can be
found at the back of this copy of
is always available for a
special low price on Amazon Kindle.
The following titles
now available in
both paperback and eBook
The Lewis Legacy Series
Second Time Around
Coming in 2014:
The Lewis Legacy Series
Meet Me Under the Mistletoe
Starlight, Star Bright
Coming in 2014:
Echoes of Edinburgh
EBook Version Copyright © 2013 by JoAnn Durgin.
All rights reserved.
Visit JoAnn Durgin’s website at
Cover Design and Cover Image by Dino Piccinini; WEBSITE
All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express wr
itten permission of the author.
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author
’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
ISBN-13: 978-1-940727-00-4 (ebook)
For my precio
A vacationing businessman was walking along a beach when he saw a young boy.
Along the shore were many starfish that had been washed up by the tide and were sure to die before the tide returned.
The boy walked slowly along the shore and occasionally reached down and tossed the beached starfish back into the ocean.
The businessman, hoping to teach the boy a little lesson in common sense, walked up to the boy and said,
“I have been watching what you are doing, son. You have a good heart, and I know you mean well, but do you realize how many beaches there are around here and how many starfish are dying on every beach every day? Surely such an industrious and kindhearted boy such as yourself could find something better to do with your time. Do you really think that what you are doing is going to make a difference?”
The boy looked up at the man, and then he looked down at the starfish by his feet. He picked up the starfish, and as he gently tossed it back into the ocean, he said,
“It makes a difference to that one.”
, Serenity. Things aren’t as they seem. Time to find your answers.
she’d received that unsigned, cryptic note in Atlanta six weeks ago—scrawled in loopy, cursive letters with no clue as to its sender except the postmark from Croisette Shores—the words lingered in Serenity’s mind, never far from her conscious thought. Lifting her face to the early May sun, she dug her toes in the sand, luxuriating in the sensation as the warm grains filtered between her toes. How she’d missed her lovely little South Carolina town.
The slight breeze lifted strands of her hair in an airy dance and
a happy squeal caught her attention. A pregnant woman held the hand of a toddler girl who skipped beside her, giggling when the gentle waves kissed her toes. Uninhibited and joyful, the sound of the child’s laughter transported Serenity back in time to the carefree days when she’d played alongside her parents on this same stretch of beach. Days when it seemed the world was ripe with possibility and opportunity. Days when making a sand castle and discovering a beautiful seashell, simple yet intricate in its complexity, thrilled her like nothing else.
Shielding her eyes with one hand, Serenity scanned
A gorgeous gray and white Siberian husky skirted the shoreline, dodging the seaweed and marine life deposited by the receding waves. A magnificent creature, grace in motion, but who would name a dog Freud? In its own way, though, it was rather cute. She couldn’t remember ever seeing this particular breed of dog in Croisette Shores before. His coat was well-groomed and short, and thank goodness she sat far enough removed to avoid the sand he sprayed in his wake.
Come here, boy!” The man jogging behind the dog captured her attention as he slowed to a walk, a red Frisbee tucked under one arm. The last time she’d given any man more than a passing glance seemed like a lifetime ago. In some ways, it was. This one definitely stood out in the small crowd of beachgoers. Tall, broad-shouldered and muscular, his wavy dark hair was long enough in back to curl over the collar of his light blue polo. She guessed he must be late twenties or early thirties. Barefoot with the bottom of his khakis rolled on his calves, he looked the part of a well-to-do tourist renting a luxury cottage on one of the private beaches. Cheeks flushed with color, he hadn’t yet developed the sun-kissed tan of the locals.
he tossed the Frisbee and laughed as the dog darted after it, venturing into the tide. Amazing a dog that size could jump so high. Serenity sat up straighter, fascinated, as the two repeated their game. The man moved a bit slower, appearing to favor one leg, and a slight grimace creased his attractive features. Was he in pain? She startled a few seconds later when the Frisbee skidded to a stop at her feet, showering her with sand. Freud lunged in her direction—quickening her heart rate tenfold—and scooped the plastic disc in his mouth before bounding off again. Willing her pulse to slow, Serenity brushed sand from her shorts and tugged down on her pink cotton tee.
Sorry!” the man called to her with a friendly wave. “He’s harmless. Hope he didn’t scare you. Are you okay?”
She waved back.
“I’m fine, thanks.” She wasn’t worried about the canine so much as her reaction to Freud’s companion, but how nice of him to consider her feelings. The guy had a killer smile and strands of dark hair whipped over his forehead. Couldn’t he at least have a high-pitched or nasal voice? No, it had to be deep, smooth and rich as melting chocolate. Good thing she generally avoided chocolate.
about twenty yards away as though debating whether to come closer. Well, she’d make the decision easier for him.
Have a nice life, handsome stranger
. Lowering onto the towel, flat on her back, Serenity closed her eyes, mentally dismissing him. She had enough on her mind with the command visit to her dad in an hour before heading to Martha’s Cup & Such for her three o’clock meeting.
very first client. Dr. Jackson Ross.
She’d studied hard, spent a lot of sleepless nights and lived like a miser to earn the right to even
a client. Thanks to Charlie Mathias, her lifelong family friend, the initial meeting had been arranged a couple of days ago. Dr. Ross was a psychologist newly transplanted from Chicago who needed help decorating his new office. That thought triggered a nervous—but good—flutter in Serenity’s stomach. She envisioned Dr. Ross to be a bit younger than Doc Rasmussen, the town’s retiring psychologist. More likely than not, the new shrink was a middle-aged man or older, married with a child or two and maybe grandkids, wire-rimmed glasses and some type of facial hair. Not many young people moved to their beach community these days. Even with the tourist trade, there simply wasn’t enough year-round commerce or opportunity. On the other end of the longevity scale, those on the short path to retirement adored the slower pace in Croisette Shores.
Wait a minute
and clasping her arms around her knees, Serenity scanned the wide expanse of beach. The Siberian husky and his owner played further down the beach.
Now it made perfect sense
. The flutter in her stomach resurged with a vengeance.
What kind of man
might name a dog Freud?
outside top step of her childhood home, Serenity opened the creaky front door and found it unlocked, as usual. She wouldn’t make an issue of it. Given normal circumstances, Croisette Shores was a safe enough community. Making a mental note to oil the door’s hinges, she’d focus first on the easy fixes and then tackle the larger ones. For now, she’d get through life day-by-day, the same as she’d done for almost five years on her own. She’d gotten pretty good at it. The first order of business was to get her father out of this stale house and his self-imposed exile from life. Then she’d work on reviving and updating both the house
Dad? You here?” No answer. Of course, he’d be here. From what she knew, he didn’t venture out much these days. A quick glance at the sofa confirmed the sage-colored chintz throw pillows were positioned the same way Mama always preferred. As a test—subconscious or not, she wasn’t quite sure—she’d changed them around when she’d dusted during her last visit. Ditto the arrangement of periodicals on the coffee table. Ten to one those magazines dated back to the spring of five years ago, as if time within the walls of the small house had been suspended. Closing the front door, Serenity moved through the living room on her way to the narrow, cracker box kitchen.
he suppressed a sigh and dropped her purse on the table. Unwashed dishes were stacked in the sink and crumbs littered the table and linoleum floor. The broom propped against the back corner, neglected, disgruntled her. Opening the refrigerator door, she wrinkled her nose at the stench of cooked broccoli from last night’s dinner. How could such a healthy vegetable smell so foul? She pushed aside a jar of olives and a tub of margarine and placed the box of Chinese takeout on the shelf. Cashew chicken had always been one of his favorites, and she doubted his food preferences had changed much. Although it might not be the healthiest choice, the key to changing his bad habits was to slowly introduce healthier foods into his diet. She made another mental note for the growing list: make a few well-balanced meals and put them in the freezer.
As she rounded the
corner of the family room, Serenity spied her father in his usual position—stretched out in the recliner, remote balanced on his undershirt-covered stomach, eyes half-closed. She carefully extracted the remote from his loose grip. After turning off the television, she carried his empty plate and glass into the kitchen. Digging out a clean dishtowel from the drawer, she dropped the stopper into the sink and glanced at the ancient wall clock. Shaped like a pear, another one of her mother’s eccentricities. She’d once counted all the things with a pear motif in the kitchen but finally stopped at thirty. Any more seemed a ridiculous excess. When Mama loved something, she went above and beyond.
Dad used to
say he was surprised they hadn’t named her Pearl since at least it’d have the word “pear” in it. She’d been teased about her unique moniker by a few kids early on in school. When she was six, she’d looked up the word “serenity” in the dictionary and found synonyms like
. At thirteen, Danny told her he loved her for the first time. The way he’d whispered her name—and followed it with their first “grown-up” kiss—made her rethink a few things. From that point on, she’d embraced her name and learned to appreciate it.
everything in her life suddenly crumbled like the sand castles on her beloved beach. Much like the crushed chips—the “dregs” as she called them—left in the bottom of the bag of potato chips on the kitchen table. With a frown, she tossed the bag in the garbage can under the sink. Time to clean up this mess.
ranslucent bubbles danced around her head when she squeezed the liquid soap—environmentally safe, nontoxic and pear-scented—into the warm dishwater. Blowing a bubble toward the ceiling, Serenity followed its bouncy path, higher and higher. A wistful smile tipped her lips. When the bubble landed on the clock and popped, she snapped to attention. If she kept moving, she’d have enough time to clean up the kitchen and throw in a load of laundry before her client appointment.
scrubbed a plate with crusted-on food—processed cheese from the looks of it— Serenity darted a glance at the end of the counter. Sure enough, the green glass bowl sat in its usual spot, filled with fresh pears. Dad never ate them but kept that bowl filled in case Mama ever decided to return. Like she’d just waltz in the door one day as though nothing had ever happened and pick up the shattered pieces of their lives. This was starting to get borderline creepy, like a shrine to the...well, that was the problem. According to the police, Mama’s case was “cold.” She hated the term and everything it implied, and the thought made her shudder as it always did. Of all the available options—kidnapped, missing, in hiding or deceased—the one option she refused to contemplate was that Mama
Leave the dishes, Serenity,” her father called from the other room. “Come on out here. I need to talk to you.”
the knob to stop the water, she dried her hands and swallowed her apprehension. When he’d called earlier that morning and asked her to stop by the house, she could tell something important was on his mind. Squaring her shoulders, she prepared for what might become another battle of wills. As he lowered the footrest on his chair, Clinton McClaren narrowed his eyes and beckoned to her as she lingered in the doorway. Based on the deep lines etched around his eyes, and the faint circles beneath them, he hadn’t been sleeping well.
I knew the answer to that last question, you know.” He waved his hand toward the television. “It tickles me when they mention Newport.” Newport, Rhode Island, playground of the rich and famous, and her father’s hometown. The city where a young senator from Massachusetts named John Kennedy married elegant Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953. The birthplace of America’s Cup racing and home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.