Summer Beach, California
Fresh spring breezes tinged with salty ocean air swept through the old beach house. As Ivy descended the stairway, she drank in the soul-cleansing air that held the aromas of sun-warmed sand and fresh flowers. They’d had a marine layer for several days that kept the beach pinned under a blanket of gloomy gray and cool days, so this was a welcome change.
As she cleared the last step, she imagined the day ahead. On such a perfect spring day such as this, anything seemed possible. Yet with each passing day, it was one day fewer until her parents departed on their around-the-world sail. Although Ivy was thankful that they were fit and healthy enough for this adventure they’d longed for, she would miss them.
At a table in the foyer, her younger sister Shelly was arranging a bouquet of yellow and white blossoms she’d clipped from the garden. “What do you think of this arrangement?”
“You’ve brought the sunshine indoors,” Ivy said, pausing near the reception desk they’d placed near the entrance to welcome guests.
With an expert motion, Shelly stripped leaves from a creamy white rose before inserting it among a cluster of yellow roses and white daisies. “The morning sun flooded my room, so I woke up feeling this yellow-and-white theme.” Sweet scents were already permeating the fresh ocean air flowing through open windows.
Shelly grew most of the flowers and herbs they used on the property, and she was happily putting her horticulture degree to work. She nodded toward Ivy’s lemon-yellow sundress. “Looks like you’re channeling the sunshine, too.”
“I suppose I am. This is another dress Mom sent over.” Ivy touched the cotton seersucker fabric, soft from frequent washings.
Their mother had given them some of the clothes she couldn’t fit onto their new boat. Although Carlotta and Sterling Bay were in their seventies, they were still vibrant and adventurous. They had been planning this trip for more than a year, and their excitement was palpable.
Ivy couldn’t help but worry about their safety, and now she knew how her parents must have felt when each of their children set off on adventures. While Carlotta and Sterling were experienced sailors, unexpected winds could transform a calm sea into a hungry, treacherous creature.
“I’m going to miss Mom and Dad,” Shelly said, continuing to strip leaves from roses.
“We all will,” Ivy said. “But we’re adults, and this is might be their last chance for a long trip like this.”
Seeking to change the subject, Ivy picked up a glossy fern frond and idly twirled it. “How’s your new vegetable garden coming along?”
Shelly brushed back strands of chestnut hair that had escaped her messy topknot. “Thanks to the seeds I started in the hothouse, the cherry tomatoes should be ready next week, along with several types of lettuce. My big heirloom tomatoes still need a few more weeks.”
“I can hardly wait for those,” Ivy said.
Shelly drew her lower lip in and frowned. “Do you think we should be worried about Mom and Dad at their age?”
“They’re in better shape than I am,” Ivy replied as she stuffed the fern frond into the vase. She hated to think about anything that could happen to them.
Shelly curved her lips into a knowing half-smile. “You didn’t answer my question, so that’s a definite yes.”
“This journey is their dream,” Ivy said. “They’ve always supported ours. And they’re not leaving until after you and Mitch get married. Which we’re all guessing will be pretty soon, right?” Shelly and Mitch liked spontaneity, but Ivy wished they’d decide on a firm date. They had already pushed back one date Shelly had wanted. Ivy wondered if anything had changed between them.
Shelly cast her gaze to one side and drew in her lip. “This trip is different,” she said, avoiding Ivy’s question. “It’s such a long one. What if they—”
“Here you are,” Poppy called out, bounding around the corner. With her long blond hair swinging around her shoulders, she waved a message slip in her hand. “I’ve been looking for you, Aunt Ivy.”
Ivy turned toward her niece, an energetic young woman who worked at the inn between her marketing jobs in Los Angeles. “What’s up?”
Poppy grinned. “I just spoke to a woman who wants to talk to you about having a wedding here at the inn. And I also want you to review the story I wrote for my blogger friend—the one about the Seabreeze Inn being the perfect small wedding venue. Looks like we’re diving into the wedding business.”
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