Whiskey Beach - By Nora Roberts
THROUGH THE CHILLY CURTAIN OF SLEET, IN THE INTERMITTENT wash of the great light on the jutting cliff to the south, the massive silhouette of Bluff House loomed over Whiskey Beach. It faced the cold, turbulent Atlantic like a challenge.
I will last as long as you.
Standing three sturdy and indulgent stories above the rough and rugged coast, it watched the roll and slap of waves through the dark eyes of windows, as it had—in one incarnation or another—for more than three centuries.
The little stone cottage now housing tools and garden supplies spoke to its humble beginnings, to those who’d braved the fierce and fickle Atlantic to forge a life on the stony ground of a new world. Dwarfing those beginnings, the spread and rise of golden sand walls and curving gables, the generous terraces of weathered local stone sang to its heyday.
It survived storm, neglect, careless indulgence, dubious taste, the booms and the busts, scandal and righteousness.
Within its walls, generations of Landons had lived and died, celebrated and mourned, schemed, thrived, triumphed and languished.
It had shone as bright as the great light that swept the water off Massachusetts’ rocky and glorious north shore. And it had huddled, shuttered in the dark.
It had stood long, so long now it simply was Bluff House, reigning above the sea, the sand, the village of Whiskey Beach.
For Eli Landon it was the only place left to go. Not a refuge as much as an escape from everything his life had become over the past eleven horrible months.
He barely recognized himself.
The two-and-a-half-hour drive up from Boston over slick roads left him exhausted. But then, he admitted, fatigue cozied up to him like a lover most days. So he sat outside the house, in the dark, sleet splatting off his windshield, his roof, while he debated the choices of gathering enough energy to go inside or just staying put, maybe sliding into sleep in the car.
Stupid, he thought. Of course he wouldn’t just sit there and sleep in the car when the house, with perfectly good beds to choose from, stood only a few feet away.
But neither could he drum up the enthusiasm for hauling his suitcases out of the trunk. Instead he grabbed the two small bags on the seat beside him, ones holding his laptop and a few essentials.
Sleet slapped at him when he climbed out of the car, but the cold, that whistling Atlantic wind, cut through the outer layers of lethargy. Waves boomed against the rock, slapped against the sand, combining into a constant hissing roar. Eli dragged the house keys out of his jacket pocket, stepped onto the shelter of the wide stone portico to the massive double entrance doors hewn more than a century before from teak imported from Burma.
Two years, he thought—closer to three—since he’d been here. Too busy with his life, with work, with the disaster of his marriage to drive up for a weekend, a short vacation, a holiday visit with his grandmother.
He’d spent time with her, of course, the indomitable Hester Hawkin Landon, whenever she’d come to Boston. He’d called her regularly, e-mailed, Facebooked and Skyped. Hester might have been cruising toward eighty but she’d always embraced technology and innovation with curiosity and enthusiasm.
He’d taken her to dinner, to drinks, remembered flowers and cards, gifts, gathered with her and his family for Christmas, important birthdays.
And that, he thought as he unlocked the door, was all just rationalization for not taking the time, making the time, to come to Whiskey Beach, to the place she loved most, and giving her real time, real attention.
He found the right key, unlocked the door. Stepping inside, he flicked on the lights.
She’d changed some things, he noted, but Gran embraced change even as she managed to embrace traditions—that suited her.
Some new art—seascapes, gardenscapes—splashing soft color against rich brown walls. He dumped his bags just inside the door, took a moment to just look around the glossy spill of the entrance hall.
He scanned the stairs—the grinning gargoyle newel posts some whimsical Landon had commissioned—and up where they curved gracefully right and left for the north and south wings.
Plenty of bedrooms, he thought. He just had to climb the stairs and pick one.
But not yet.
Instead he walked through to what they called the main parlor with its high, arching windows facing the front garden—or what would be once winter opened its claws.
His grandmother hadn’t been home for over two months, but he didn’t see a speck of dust. Logs lay in the hearth framed