Last week, the box of books arrived on my doorstep. It was the first time getting to see the physical copy of this book — the first time getting to hold my own work in print — and there were no words to accurately describe the moment. The book is beautiful. Ann McMan designed the gorgeous cover that so perfectly captures the feel and setting of the book.
I am so excited to finally be able to share this book. It took me over seven years to write, and the project has been a labour of love. I’ve enjoyed spending those seven years writing about Lisa, Rachel, and Declan, and I hope that readers enjoy spending some time with these characters as well.
Lisa Whelan wasn’t planning on falling in love.
The ocean has always been a place of comfort for Lisa Whelan, so after her newborn son passes away, she returns to her family home to seek solace in the song of the sea. She’s not expecting to meet anyone, and is caught off guard by the attraction she feels for Rachel, the co-owner of a local restaurant. That initial spark is dampened, however, when Lisa learns that Rachel has a young son.
Rachel Murray has worked to build a good life, but raising Declan hasn’t been without its challenges. Each day when Rachel picks him up from school, she says a silent prayer that he will be waiting for her in his classroom, and not in the principal’s office because of his disruptive behavior.
Despite her grief, Lisa finds herself drawn to both Rachel and Declan. She believes she can keep her emotions at bay—keep from drowning in grief and keep from falling in love—but she finds both to be a tidal wave washing over her and sweeping her off her feet.
For Lisa, tears may be the silent language of her grief, but the love she feels for Rachel and Declan has the power to become the resounding song of hope—if she allows herself to hear it.
The first time Lisa Whelan had ever listened to the singing of the ocean she was seven years old, sitting with her grandfather on the rocks along the shoreline, trying to make sense of her grandmother’s death.
“Do you hear that?” her grandfather had asked as they stared out at the rolling waves. “Do you hear the water?”
She had nodded, listening to the soft rush of the surf as it rolled toward shore, then back out to sea.
“It reminds me of music.”
She remembered seeing her grandfather, his face tilted up toward the sun, eyes closed, head swaying as though he heard an entire symphony.
Lisa had mimicked him, trying hard to hear the song. At first, she heard nothing more than the steady back and forth of the water, but eventually she began to pick out the melody laced above the rocking rhythm of the waves. She heard the gulls and the boats and the distant voices—sounds blending with one another to create harmonies and accents.
“It’s the song of freedom,” her grandfather had said. “Don’t you think?”
She hadn’t known what to say, so again she nodded.
“Your grandmother’s not in there.” Her grandfather had motioned back toward the grief-filled house. “She’s out here. You can hear it.”
As a child, she had been too young to attach much significance to her grandfather’s words, but twenty-six years later, that moment occupied her every thought, as she found herself desperate to hear the song.
Lisa drew the paintbrush across the page, a curving shoreline stretching out toward the horizon. She gave herself over to the smooth brush strokes of the blue, curling waves. Along the shore, she outlined the water with a line of white, creating the foam of the breakers, which she also speckled above the crests of the waves. Lines of gray formed the jagged boulders that stacked upon each other, until they reached the grassy field above the cliff.
She set her brush down and closed her eyes, visualizing that moment. She wanted to capture the soothing rolling of the waves, the gentle swirling of the clouds, the calming sun that shone in fat, distinct rays down onto the water like lights from Heaven.
A bird circled over the water in search of fish, and she opened her eyes, dipping her brush in dark brown paint and painting the small line of its wingspan in the distant sky.
She closed her eyes and remembered the briny scent of salt water and seaweed, the comfort of her grandfather’s solid figure settled in beside her, the feel of the cliff rising up to support her.
She didn’t hear the music.
She did hear the ring of her phone, jarring her from her thoughts. It was the third call that morning, and she frowned at the cell phone that lit up and vibrated along with the tinny ring tone from her kitchen counter. She should have turned it off. Her agent had been calling all week, inquiring about the frames she was supposed to have sketched for the new book. The deadline was fast approaching and she had yet to start.
She exhaled slowly and then got up and crossed the room to silence the phone. She could answer and ask for an extension, but she didn’t have the energy. Her brother’s name lit up across her phone instead, so she hit “talk” and placed the phone to her ear.
“Hey, little brother.” She leaned against the counter with the phone to her ear.
“Hey, Lise,” Andrew Whelan answered. “How’s everything?”
Lisa straightened the stack of unopened mail piled next to her coffeemaker and moved the dishes on her counter onto the pile of dishes building in her kitchen sink. “Good. You?”
“I’m good,” he said, but the intonation to the words suggested otherwise.
“You need help hiding the body?” Lisa asked.
He didn’t laugh.
“What’s the matter?” she pressed.
“Nothing’s the matter. I’m good. Really good, actually. I just, well, I have some news. I wanted to call you first so you don’t hear this from anyone else.”
“Okay?” She waited, unsure if she should brace herself for whatever Andrew was about to say.
At those two words, everything stopped, Lisa’s breathing included. The air was knocked from her chest as though she’d been punched. She could feel the walls of her apartment tighten around her.
“I needed you to know first before we tell anyone else,” he continued. The words only barely registered. They were distant, hollow background noise.
“Are you okay?”
She shook her head, and reminded herself to breathe. Somehow she managed to form words. She could hear herself answer, as though she was an outside observer. Her own voice was as distant and muffled as her brother’s. “Of course. Congratulations. Kara and Susie will be such great big sisters.”
“They will be.” Andrew’s voice lifted, his excitement breaking through. “Susie, she carries around her little baby dolls, feeding them bottles, and wrapping them in blankets, and I can see her with the baby, you know? She’ll be so gentle. And Kara, she’s such a goofball and an entertainer. I’ll bet you ten bucks now that she gets baby’s first giggles.”
“I’m happy for you,” she said. “I mean it.”
“Listen, I’ve got to go, though. I would love to talk more, but I’m waiting on a call from my agent about the new book. Say hi to Sarah and the girls for me.”
“Bye, Lisa. Love you.”
“Love you, too,” she said, already pulling the phone away from her ear to end the call. Her chest was tight, her breathing shallow, and she didn’t trust that she could get another word out without her voice breaking. There was only so much she could fake.
She turned off her phone and set it on the counter. She stood in her kitchen, not sure what to do with herself. Her hands itched to hurl something or hit something, but there was nothing. The anxious energy pulsed through her with nowhere to go. She bit back the tears that stung at her eyes. It was so easy for Andrew. He and Sarah had the twins, and now a baby on the way. Four years ago, when Sarah was first pregnant, he had come over to see Lisa in a panic and had gotten drunk off his ass at the thought of being a dad.
God, he’s your brother. She hated the jealousy that burned in her chest. She wished she could be happy for him, but the pain swelled up within her until a sob choked out.
She had wanted to be a mom for as long as she could remember. She’d wanted to be a mom so desperately she’d been willing to do it all single. She’d decorated the nursery, bought the onesies, and even chosen schools for Mitchell. She’d conceived him in her heart years before she’d ever gotten pregnant.
But she never got to lay him in his carefully curated nursery. She never got to dress him in the onesie she’d selected as his “going home” outfit. She had had only a few short hours with him, just long enough to hold him against her chest and feel his little heartbeat.
She took in the painting through the blurry threat of tears. That solace she’d felt as a child she needed to feel again. There had to be some comfort somewhere. She couldn’t bear to stay in the pain.
She went to the bedroom, careful not to look at the closed door to Mitchell’s nursery on her way past. The door was a painful enough reminder on a good day. Seeing it now would crush her.
She didn’t know what she was going to do until she had already pulled her suitcase out of her closet and begun filling it with clothes.
This place was suffocating her. She needed to breathe. She couldn’t ever move forward staying in this apartment with its closed doors and closed dreams.
Lisa packed her necessary belongings, then pulled open her laptop to check for flights.