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The Sisters of Kestrel Cay

The Sisters of Kestrel Cay

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A terrible accident, a sister's betrayal, and the bonds that keep families together against all odds.

The last time Margot Callaway saw her sister, Lottie, the girl was twelve and clinging to their blood-covered mother over the asphalt in a gas station parking lot.

Reeling and in shock, Margot fled her home state of Florida, choosing a path that would take her far away from the pain. She left everything behind, including Lottie. Now, seven years later, mysterious happenings on the island lead Margot to the realization that she must return home and face the ghosts of their shared past.

Will Margot and Lottie have what it takes to protect each other? Can Lottie forgive Margot for running away?

The Sisters of Kestrel Cay is a gorgeously gripping, deep and suspense-filled novel that explores the bonds of sisterhood, the bounds of duty, and the power of forgiveness. It’s the first book in the Hideaway Isle series and the perfect beach read.

Publication date: June 30, 2020.

About the Hideaway Isle Series:

It’s paradise on the sparkling tropical shores of Hideaway Isle, Florida. A place where vacationers go to get away and residents enjoy year-round luxury.

Despite postcard-worthy appearances, there’s trouble in paradise. Lurking just beyond the sun, sand, and sea are threats that promise to wreak havoc in this seemingly idyllic utopia.

With riveting turns that will leave you breathless, each Hideaway Isle novel features a deep dive into the ongoing story, told from a different islander’s point of view. Books are best read in order.

Look Inside

Chapter One
Family Ties

MARGOT

I’m sitting at my desk, sipping my morning coffee from an insulated paper cup when the phone rings. It’s summertime, but the weather here in Washington State is cool and dreary. A far cry from the hot Florida summers of my youth, that’s for sure.

On the plus side, the views are stunning. My office has a large window that looks out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I haven’t spotted any yet, but I’ve been told that humpback whales and orcas frequent these parts. I intend to keep an eye to the water so I might see the majestic creatures for myself.

I don’t get many calls at work. When I do, I automatically suspect that it’s Grandpa Vern. He likes talking on a landline for some old-fashioned reason. He rarely uses a mobile phone or contacts me on mine. It’s one of his countless quirks. The man is in his late eighties now. I suppose by the time you get to that age, you’ve earned the right to do things the way you want.

I turn, straighten my back, and glance out into the row of cubicles in the distance to gauge whether I’ll be able to have a personal conversation without being disturbed. No one is moving around out there, so I stand and close my door. Then I pick up the receiver, careful not to displace any strands of hair that have been neatly tied at the back of my head. Regulations say women's hair has to be off the collar, and with my thick, wavy locks, the bun takes forever to get right.

“Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Ensign Callaway speaking,” I say as I touch the phone to my ear.
Pride buoys me as I announce my post and rank.

“Margot?” his voice is scratchy on the other end of the line, but it’s him.

“Grandpa Vern?” I reply, my voice rising.

“I’m here!” he says. “It’s me, all the way from sunny Hideaway Isle, Florida. How are you, Little M?”

Little M is a nickname Grandpa has called me for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure why he started, or more importantly, why it lasted beyond my preschool years. I haven’t been a little girl for a long time. A rush of embarrassment washes over me and I feel my cheeks fill with color. I take another glance out my office window to see if anyone is watching. Thankfully, they’re not.

Deep down, it feels good when Grandpa uses the special name. It’s one of the few remaining connections to a time in my life when I still believed that the world was a friendly and safe place. Hearing his familiar voice makes me cry, though. And I can’t do that here.

“I’m good. I think the new assignment will suit me,” I reply. “Even though I’m in the Pacific Northwest, being on an island makes it feel a little more like home.”

Tears sting the edges of my eyes. I hide my head and wipe them away, glad to have chosen waterproof mascara during my last trip to the drug store makeup aisle.

“Our girl, the Naval Officer,” he says affectionately.

I love Grandpa Vern. The fact that he continues to love me when I’m not so easy to love only makes me feel more strongly for him. He’s a good man. The kind that doesn’t let you down, no matter what. I feel badly for pushing him away, especially after all he’s done.

“Who would have thought?” I ask. “It’s a far cry from where I started. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe this is real.”

“Nah,” he replies, and I can almost see him wrinkling up his face, his bald head adjusting in sync. “You can do anything you set your mind to, Margot Callaway. You know that. You’ve always known that.”

I nod because he’s right. I’m a fighter. A survivor. Many others would have crumpled under the pressure. Not me.

I’m a bonafide Naval Flight Officer now. I’ve just been assigned to a squadron after eighteen months of flight training in Pensacola. I’m charged with leading a group of enlisted personnel and overseeing the squadron’s operations. That includes things like administration, personnel management, and aircraft maintenance. I’m still getting my feet wet, but I’m proud of what I’ve made of myself.

I think Grandpa Vern is proud, too, that I graduated from the Naval Academy and have made a career in the military. He’s said as much, although I tend to deflect praise instead of letting his words sink in. It’s as if I’m still punishing myself for what happened, all these years later. Isn’t that the way for a hard ass to handle things?

Annapolis, Maryland, where the Academy is located, was quite a distance from our home on Hideaway Isle in South Florida, yet Grandpa probably would have made the trip north to attend my graduation ceremony. I didn’t want that to happen, so I didn’t mention it until after the fact. Maybe once I get settled into my new position, I’ll allow him a visit. Only my current station in Washington State is an even farther trip from South Florida than Annapolis was.

“Thanks, Grandpa,” I say. “How’s the weather down there?”

Small talk is important. It steers the exchange away from more sensitive matters.

“It’s bright and gorgeous,” he replies. “Warm, but not too warm to suit me. The water is sparkling and the birds are singing, just like every other day. There’s no place else like our little slice of paradise. I’ll stand by that claim until the day that I die.”

“I’m glad you’re happy there,” I reply.

Every topic of conversation seems to volley past small talk and turn against me. I read into Grandpa’s words, taking in the subtle digs, whether he intends them that way or not. It’s as if he and I can’t speak to each other without stirring old hurts. They’re what bind us. I know he wishes I’d come back home, even just for a visit. I simply won’t do that. I have to stay away. My sanity depends on it. I know he also wishes I’d talk to my sister.

“Little M,” Grandpa Vern says slowly and deliberately, probably for dramatic effect. “Your mom and dad would be so proud of you.”

His words hit me like a punch to the gut. I can’t stop the tears now, despite my efforts to suck it up and hold them in. I reach for the paper towel I have wrapped around an apple and stashed in a drawer. Carefully, I loosen the absorbent fabric and blot my eyes with it, then I set the fruit on the top of my desk. I make a mental note to bring in a box of tissues. Or to stop taking calls from Grandpa Vern while I’m at work. Maybe if I get a landline phone connected at my new apartment in Oak Harbor, he’ll call me there instead.

“I… I know,” I reply, sputtering. “Thanks for saying so.”

Mention of my parents brings it all rushing back, pain as fresh as ever.

My dad’s been gone since I was in grade school, killed in a boating accident. It was horrible to lose him, but it happened out on the water and away from my uninitiated eyes. Mom’s accident, on the other hand, was witnessed up close and personal. The scene plays like a movie in my mind, always queued up and ready for me to relive in vivid color.

I was nineteen and Lottie was twelve when Mom was hit. Her body didn’t look like a body when I saw it just minutes after the impact. The image is burned into my memory like a tattoo, painful and permanent. I wish I could have been literally anywhere else in the world at that moment. It changed me, and not for the better.

We lived on the mainland then. I was a freshman at the University of Miami studying music performance. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with the degree had I finished it, but I’d been offered a full scholarship to play the oboe, and so, took a chance. Grandpa Vern had made it easy by graciously allowing me to occupy a three-bedroom condo he owned in Coral Gables. Mom and Lottie had needed a place to stay, too, so my first college experience became a family affair. I didn’t mind, most of the time. Mom wasn’t the overbearing type. I had plenty of freedom to do my own thing. I spent the majority of my time on campus, anyway, practicing in the music building or performing in one of the countless ensembles required of me as a scholarship recipient.

The smell of handsy frat boys who hadn’t quite figured out how to reapply deodorant comes rushing back as I glance at my diploma on the wall. I finished my degree, but not at the University of Miami, and not in music performance. The Naval Academy was an unexpected detour.

I’m a sensitive type by nature. As such, oboe suited me. I felt at home on stage, wearing one of my many long, elegant black dresses and sitting on the edge of a firm chair with my instrument to my lips. If I close my eyes, I can still hear the orchestra plodding away around me as the downbeat reverberates throughout my chest. I enjoyed being part of something bigger than my singular voice. Music was my respite.

Bach was my favorite. I’ll never forget the solo I played in “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” at Christmas with both the chorale and orchestra accompanying. My entire being came alive that evening as the group of us slowly and reverently performed the piece together. The auditorium was packed. Everyone in attendance was mesmerized by the glorious sounds filling the room. I can still feel the warmth of the spotlight on my skin, the tiny particles of dust visible as they floated through the air. I was born to be in that spotlight. I soaked it up like a sapling in the sun.

Seeing my mom’s accident changed all of that. I was forced to toughen up. Life is a bitch who left me no choice in the matter.

“Keep it together, Margot Callaway,” Life breathed in my ear as I lay in bed at night, unable to sleep. “No use dwelling on things after the fact. What’s done is done.”

Some details of Mom’s accident are fuzzy. Others are crystal clear. Mom had been riding her bicycle on Patcher Road that bright April afternoon. She was in the bicycle lane, dutifully wearing her Consumer Product Safety Commission-approved helmet. She had reflectors in all the right places. She knew how to share the road and signal her turns.

None of that mattered when a dump truck driver decided to make a sudden left into a gas station. He ran Mom down, apparently, without even noticing. He dragged her body— what was left of it, anyway— more than thirty feet.

I’ll never forget the wet mark she left on the pavement. Until then, I hadn’t realized a human body had so much liquid in it. Or maybe what I hadn’t realized was what all that liquid would look like once a body was burst wide open.

It’s gruesome, I know. As strange as it sounds, something about the mechanics of it all provides me comfort. The rote details help me remain distanced. If I go over Mom’s death in the coldest, most rudimentary terms, I can keep moving forward. Otherwise, I might fall apart. It’s been almost seven years. In many ways, it feels like yesterday. Isn’t that the way it always goes with trauma?

Lottie still cries for her. I’m privy to this fact not because my little sister shares her personal life with me or because I’m around to hear her sobs in person. No, I’m too far away for either-- physically and emotionally. I know it because Grandpa Vern tells me during our telephone conversations. He would love to see me and for us to talk more often. I’m the one who keeps him at arm’s length, close enough to feel connected yet far enough to become ensnared by the hurts of the past.

Sometimes I miss Grandpa and Lottie, something fierce. They don’t realize it, but I often cry for them, too, when I cry for Mom. I’d love nothing more than to eat fried ham and cheese sandwiches-- our favorite!-- with Grandpa. Or to discuss with my sister the latest J.K. Rowling novel and what’s happening in Stan Lee’s Marvel universe. The two of us used to be more than just sisters. We were friends. Close friends, despite our seven-year age difference. But to do any of those things would mean going back to the place where my trauma happened. The only way I know how to deal with the pain is to keep moving, and to stay away.

“Margot, doll,” Grandpa says after I’ve been quiet on the line for too long. “Are you still there?”

“Yes, I’m here,” I say, collecting myself.

“Good. Because there’s something important I need to talk to you about. Something has... well, something has happened...”

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