Harper could very well imagine. The collection of furniture was not only rare but had taken her grandmother a lifetime to amass. “Don’t be taken over a barrel. Some of your pieces are priceless.”
Granny James delivered a withering look. “Really, Harper. Do you think I don’t know my business?”
Harper smiled, her eyes filled with amusement. Imogene James was never one to be swindled. Harper suddenly felt pity for the sheikh.
“What about Papa Jeffrey?”
Granny James scoffed. “He doesn’t remember me, much less the house.”
Harper faltered at the raw emotion in her words. “Is . . . is he settling into the new home?”
Granny James grew pensive, the sad look in her eyes returning. “Yes, dear, as well as can be expected. He is not the same person he once was. The home has become his new world. The people who care for him. He doesn’t need me anymore.”
Harper was alert to the catch in Granny James’s voice. “You’ve done all you could. For such a long time. No one could have been more attentive. More loving.”
“I did try my best.”
Harper steered the conversation back to the estate, wanting to distract Granny James. “What will you do now that the house is sold? Where will you go?”
It was Granny’s turn to falter. “Well, I was rather hoping I could spend some of my time here.”
“At Sea Breeze?”
“Yes, at Sea Breeze. You’re my family. And now with a baby coming, I’d like to be closer. Oh, don’t look alarmed,” Granny said with a nervous laugh. “I’d only be here for a few months at a time. I will still spend summers in the Hamptons with Georgiana. And I can stay at her condominium in New York, as well. We get along well enough. She works all day and spends evenings out, after all. And, she is my daughter. Plus I want to travel. So I wouldn’t be underfoot.”
Granny James paused and let her gaze float about the room. “But I’d like for this to be my base. I’ve become quite fond of the lowcountry. Sea Breeze in particular. There’s an aura about this place that’s quite seductive. And of course, you’re here.”
Harper listened, processing Granny James’s response but not quite ready to offer up an answer. She needed to mull it over and consult with Taylor first. Sea Breeze was a big old bear of a house—there had to be a space for Granny James that would satisfy them all.
Granny James grew aware of Harper’s hesitation, and suddenly her tone became more urgent. “You understand now why I was so disappointed to find Marietta in my cottage. I’d thought it would be the perfect arrangement. Me in the cottage, giving you and Taylor your space, out of the way and all that.”
“Mamaw had the same idea.”
“Right,” Granny James said with annoyance. “And she beat me to the punch, as they say.”
Harper sighed and leaned back on her arms.
Granny James adjusted the ribbons of her bed jacket. “We don’t need to decide anything now. Don’t give it another thought. We’ve a wedding to plan, after all. Lists to make.”
“Granny James . . .”
“Don’t we have an appointment at the bridal shop this afternoon? I must get up and dressed.”
“No!” She put her hand up. Tears flashed in her eyes. “No more talk.”
The tears in her grandmother’s eyes frightened Harper more than anything she’d said. Granny James was the bulwark never faltering in the family. The rock upon which every ship rested upon for safe harbor. To see her crumbling now shook Harper to her very foundation.
“Off you go, dearest. But do have that conversation with Taylor about the prenup. Now you understand why time is of the essence. I’ll take care of the legalities, don’t you worry. You have enough to think about now.”
Harper left to go to her own room. She was grateful that Taylor was at work and she was alone. There she closed the door, curled up on the bed, and had a good cry.
Isn’t that what a wedding is all about? The gathering of family. The sharing of stories. The linking of arms. For better or for worse.
Carson was sitting at the kitchen table, her laptop open, an empty bowl of cereal beside it and a half-finished cup of coffee at her fingertips. She was doing her usual morning routine of reading the Charleston Post and Courier and checking e-mails. The sky was gray and heavy with thin, dark clouds so she’d decided not to go to the ocean and had instead lingered over a second cup of coffee. She jumped when her cell phone rang.
She checked the time: 6:46 a.m. Who would be calling her so early? she wondered as she answered.
“Hello, this is the Isle of Palms police station. Is this Carson Muir?”
Carson stiffened. “Yes.”
“We had a report of a dead dolphin on Isle of Palms. Or at least they think it’s dead. Between Third and Fourth Avenues. Can you take that?”
She climbed to her feet, her blood racing. “Yes, of course. Right away. Thanks.”
Carson put the phone in her pocket and took a second to collect her thoughts. She had only just completed the one-day workshop. This was her first call. Without delay she hurried to her room, tugged a T-shirt on, and slipped into cutoff jeans, buttoning them as she scoured the floor for her sandals. Slipping into them, she grabbed the backpack that she’d prepared and headed for the door. Carson had spent a lifetime racing to the ocean to catch the dawn. Mamaw used to tell her she dressed faster than a nun late for mass.
Outside, she caught her first whiff of the new day. The air was moist and cool, with a hint of the warmth that would come later. A good omen, she thought as she hurried to her car. Another positive sign was that no car was blocking her in this morning. The Blue Bomber was a baby-blue convertible with sexy tail fins. She was a beauty, old but in good condition, and the best gift Mamaw had ever given her. Sliding into the white leather seat, Carson fired the powerful engine and was on her way.
Carson breathed in the ocean’s breeze when she stepped out onto the beach. The sea was gray like the sky, and just a few people were on the beach, most no doubt kept away by the weather as Carson had been. One woman walked her small dog on a leash. Carson’s eye was drawn to where two other women stood shoulder to shoulder near the shoreline, looking down at something on the beach. One bent and reached out to touch something. Cursing under her breath, Carson took off on a trot. Part of her job was to keep the public from touching the carcass. As she drew close to the women, her gaze shifted to the sand. There lay a small, pristine dolphin. Her heart lurched at seeing it.