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Book 3: The Cliffside Inn (Five Island Cove)

Book 3: The Cliffside Inn (Five Island Cove)

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Take a vacation any time of year in the seaside town of Five Island Cove!

Meet five best friends as they reunite after years apart and rekindle their strong bond with one another, weather storms, and uncover secrets that have been lying dormant for decades...

About THE CLIFFSIDE: Spend another month in Five Island Cove and experience an amazing adventure between five best friends, the challenges they face, the secrets threatening to come between them, and their undying support of each other. With their different personalities and in their different states of mind, none of these best friends are prepared for the secret contained within the walls of The Cliffside Inn. They've survived tough situations before, but this might be the thing that tears them apart for good...

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Eloise Hall stood and shook the dean’s hand. “Thank you, Donald.” She wasn’t sure what she’d just done, but as she left his office, she knew she’d left her keys behind.

She wouldn’t be able to get in her office again. It wasn’t her office anymore. 

Eloise walked down the hall, a path she’d tread many times over the past twenty years. She remembered the first time she’d made the trek from the human resources office on campus to Dr. Donald Travis’s office. He’d been Dean of Life Sciences for two years before Eloise had started, and he’d hired her, fresh out of Harvard, no other teaching experience.

They’d always worked well together, and Eloise’s mouth turned down into a frown as the bright rectangle of light up ahead signaled the exit from the building. Once she left…she wouldn’t be coming back.

Her steps slowed as her mind sped. What had she been thinking? She’d just quit her job. 

She’d made a terrible mistake. 

She slowed further, refusing to let herself stop. She looked over her shoulder, as if everyone she’d come in contact with over the past two decades would be there, suddenly lining the halls and applauding as she walked out of the biology building for the last time.

There was no one there. No one clapping.

Eloise did stop then, and she turned back fully, her heart taking on a new brand of courage. She began a slow clap for herself, a smile filling her soul as it took over her face. 

She’d done it. 

She’d quit her job to move to Five Island Cove, date her serious boyfriend full-time, and restore the Cliffside Inn, a building she’d owned for about as long as she’d been a professor here at Boston University.

Her self-applause sounded loud in the summer silence of the building, and Eloise knew that in just two weeks, these halls would be full of students and teachers, aides and secretaries. She always called these last couple weeks of August the calm before the storm, and she took one last moment to envision this building, her office, her classroom, the way she always wanted to think of them—full of life, chattering students excited to learn, and the energy only a college campus could possess.

Then she turned and walked out the doors.

The heat of the season hit her straight in the chest, but she took a deep breath of the too-hot and too-muggy air anyway. As she blew it out, she heard the voices she’d spent every day talking to over the phone or video chat since she’d left Five Island Cove in June. 

“She’s probably not done,” Aaron said. “She said it could—”

“Eloise!” Grace said, catching sight of her first. She skipped toward Eloise, who grinned down at the girl. She laced her fingers through Eloise’s when she arrived and said, “I knew you wouldn’t take long.”

“How could I?” Eloise asked her. “It’s your birthday, and we have some very important celebrating to do.” She smiled at Grace and lifted her eyes to Aaron as she approached. He swept one arm around her waist and pressed a kiss to the soft, delicate spot on her throat just below her jaw and ear. 

“Hey, sweetheart,” he said, his voice already throaty to go with the deep quality. 

Eloise giggled at the way his hand moved up her back, and she stepped sideways to greet Billie too. “Wow, Billie,” she said, taking her all in. “You talked your father into the mascara.”

“I told you she’d notice,” Aaron said.

“Is it too much?” Billie asked, shooting her dad a dirty look.

“I don’t think so,” Eloise said, bending down to peer at the girl closer. She was a stunning child—and Eloise knew she wouldn’t be a child for much longer. Billie started seventh grade this year, and that meant junior high. No single teacher in charge of her, and multiple classes, and all those boys…

No wonder Aaron didn’t want her to wear makeup. The mascara made her eyelashes look a league long, and since Billie was somewhat of a sober child, she had the starving model look down pat. 

“You look very pretty,” Eloise added.

“I told you it wasn’t too much,” Billie said to Aaron, who seriously looked like he might stick his tongue out at her. She’d certainly used that sassy tone of voice with him.

“Billie,” he warned. “Watch your attitude.” 

Eloise looked back and forth between them, the battle silent but raging. “Am I going to have to separate you two?” She did step between them, taking Aaron’s hand in her free one and releasing Grace’s so she could hold Billie’s. “Come on. Let’s make a pact that we won’t fight today. It’s Grace’s birthday, and she’s turning eleven. I have eleven of the most fun things to do in Boston planned for us, and eleven movies to choose from for tonight, and eleven different kinds of ice cream bars.”

She first looked at Aaron, who she could count on to be the most mature. He still wore a storm on his face, but he nodded. “I can commit to that,” he said.

Eloise looked at Billie, who stood nearly as tall as Eloise now. “Bills?”

“Yes,” she said, though plenty of surliness rode in her tone.

Eloise smiled at her and drew her into a hug. The girl relaxed then, and Eloise whispered, “Hey, he let you wear it.” 

“I know.” Billie sighed and stepped back. “Do you really think it looks pretty?”

“Yes,” Eloise said. “You did just what I said too. Not too clumpy on the bottom.” She looked over her shoulder for Grace, who’d wandered off after a butterfly during the battle of the wills. “Come on, Grace. If we don’t get going, we won’t be able to do everything for your birthday.”

She’d shown Billie how to apply the mascara over a video chat several days ago. She’d bought Billie the mascara, along with an excellent makeup remover wipe, and had them both shipped to Aaron’s house the next day. Billie had called her when she’d opened the package, and Eloise swore it was one of the only times she’d heard Billie laugh.

“What’s the first thing?” Aaron asked as they strolled toward the parking lot. “And are we taking my car or yours?”

“Yours won’t be full of residual cat hair,” she said. “And it’s an SUV.” She knew the red vehicle parked next to her car in the lot was his, because the only other one belonged to Dr. Travis. “Let’s take yours.”

Aaron clicked the button on the fob to unlock it, and everyone piled in. “All right,” Eloise said. “I have a few ground rules for today.” She surveyed the group, twisting as far as her spine would allow to meet Grace’s eyes. “Okay?”

“Okay,” they all said. 

“First, not everything we do will be everyone’s favorite. I know that, but I still expect everyone to have a good attitude and not to complain. I went to a lot of effort to find the things we’re doing, and I expect you to be kind and thoughtful of my feelings.”

She glanced at Aaron, who simply looked at her with wide eyes. She wondered if anyone had ever spoken to him like that—or to his girls. “Of everyone’s feelings.” 

“Yes, ma’am,” Aaron said, reaching for and taking her hand in his.

“Second, you have to eat some real food today, or you can’t have any of the birthday cake and ice cream I have at my house.” Eloise smiled, raising her eyebrows at Grace, who giggled. Billie nodded, taking everything super seriously. 

“Third, let’s have fun today,” she said. “You’ve never been to Boston, and it’s a fabulous city.” She nodded and looked at Aaron. “We’re ready, Captain.”

“I don’t know where we’re going,” he said.

“Oh, right.” Eloise sprang from the SUV and opened her car’s back door. She pulled out her giant bag that she took everywhere with her and turned back to knock on the window. “Pop the back,” she said, through the glass.

Aaron got the message, and she began to move the eleven gifts she’d bought for Grace from her trunk to the back of the SUV. 

“El,” Aaron said, his voice halfway between disapproval and awe.

“Can I open one now?” Grace asked, as she’d knelt up on the seat and had seen what Eloise was doing.

“That’s going to be rule number four,” Eloise said. “You don’t get to ask for the presents. I will give them to you when you should have them.” 

Grace’s face fell, and Eloise’s heart rebounded too. She picked up the gift she’d wrapped in pale pink paper and took it to Grace’s side of the car. “You get this one right now.”

“Thank you, Eloise,” Grace said, and she opened the present with the light of joy in her eyes. She took out the stuffed terrier and looked up at Eloise.

“That’s Rhett the Boston Terrier,” she said. “He’s my school’s mascot.” The stuffed animal wore a BU jersey, but he was snarling like he might rip someone’s face off if he came to life. “You have all those stuffed animals in your room, and I thought you might like one to remember your trip here.”

“I do.” Grace reached for her and wrapped her skinny arms around Eloise’s neck. “Thank you, Eloise.”

“Of course, Gracie-Lou.” Eloise squeezed her tight, closing her eyes the same way as she hugged the girl, and then stepped back. With the door closed, she took a moment to clear her throat and shake off the emotion. When she got in the front seat again, she said, “New England Aquarium, here we come.”

* * *

Several days later, the high from a grand adventure for Grace’s birthday had worn way off. Eloise had been working like a dog, getting everything she owned packed, thrown away, or donated to the Salvation Army.

Aaron, Billie, and Grace had helped every single day, and then she’d take them to one of her favorite restaurants in town. 

She stretched the tape over another box and took it into the front entry of the brownstone. She seemed to have come miles already, and yet, she still had many more to go. She put the thought out of her mind, because if she focused too hard on what she had left to do, she’d give up right now.

Aaron came through the front door and picked up the box she’d just set down. “Morning, El.” He grinned at her, switched the box to the side and leaned in to kiss her. 

“Hey.” She kissed him back, glad to see him here so early. “Just you?” Usually, Billie and Grace crowded into the house behind him, and she didn’t hear their footsteps or their voices. 

“I told the girls they could sleep in and stay at the hotel if they promised not to leave the room or call me until noon.” He grinned at her. “I’ll get this loaded and come help you keep packing. Getting close?”

“I think so,” she said, turning to survey the hall that led into the living area and kitchen. She had to be getting close, because they were all leaving Massachusetts tomorrow morning, on the same flight. Alice had been a great help to her in arranging to have the things she’d accumulated in the first forty-five years of her life moved across the water to the cove.

Eloise owned way too much to keep in the caretaker’s apartment at the inn, and she’d already arranged for a storage unit on Sanctuary Island. She’d be staying with her mother just down the cliff until she cleaned up the apartment enough for her to live in, and Eloise knew she wouldn’t have a day off of packing—or unpacking—and cleaning for a while.

For a brief moment, she couldn’t believe she’d traded her gorgeous brownstone and her prestigious job at BU for a moldy, one-bedroom apartment at an inn that likely wouldn’t open for many months. 

By then, it would be the off-season, and Eloise didn’t expect a lot of business to come pouring through the doors of the Cliffside Inn. 

She turned when Aaron set the box down, surprise flowing through her veins when he took her into his arms and kissed her like he meant it. “I just realized we’re alone for the whole morning,” he said, his lips sliding down the curve of her neck.

“Mm.” She melted into his touch and didn’t protest when he took her upstairs to her bedroom. 

* * *

The next morning, Eloise did indeed have the brownstone ready to be vacated. She, Aaron, and the girls had worked until just after ten last night, and all she had to do this morning was shower, get dressed, and take her suitcase downstairs to her car. With that done, she sat on the steps and waited. She needed to drive her car to the dock, where she’d actually park it in a shipping container. That, and the one she’d filled with boxes and furniture, would arrive in the cove on a boat in ten to fourteen days.

She’d fly to Five Island Cove with Aaron and the girls, and she’d live out of her suitcase and use RideShare until her vehicle arrived. 

Her stomach knotted, because Eloise Hall didn’t do things like this. She stood as a couple came down the sidewalk. The man, Jacob, lifted his hand, his face already set in a permanent smile. 

“Eloise,” he said as he passed the gate and turned down her sidewalk. 

“Hey.” She embraced him and then Millie. “All right.” She exhaled heavily and took the key out of her pocket. “Here’s the key. She’s cleaned out and ready for you.”

She hadn’t sold the brownstone, because they were extremely valuable, and she hadn’t wanted to. She practically owned it, and she’d found a research assistant and his wife who were willing to sublet it from her.

“Thank you, Eloise,” Millie said, and she hugged Eloise again. “This has been such an answer to our prayers.”

“Mine too,” Eloise said, nodding. She had to cling to that, otherwise, she might not be able to get herself to walk away. 

Aaron rolled up to the curb in his red SUV, and Eloise felt like the sunshine broke through the clouds in her whole life. “Let me know if there’s anything you need,” she said. “Or if something breaks down or anything like that.” She lifted her hand to let Aaron know she needed another moment. He did the same, and she focused on Jacob and Millie again. “Really. It’s a good place, though.”

“We’re very excited,” Jacob said.

“The shipping container will be gone on Saturday,” she said. “Maybe sooner.”

“No problem.”

“Okay.” Eloise turned and looked back at the thick, black door, and then faced Aaron, Billie, and Grace. “Okay.” She nodded, tucked her hair behind her ears, and went down the sidewalk. 

Aaron rolled down his window and said, “All good?”

“All good,” she repeated. “So you’ll follow me to the dock?”

“Yep.” He chin-nodded to his phone in his cupholder. “I have it on the maps, and Billie is my navigator.” He smiled at his daughter in the passenger seat, and Eloise couldn’t wait to be in this car with them.

“Perfect,” she said, and she went to her car, got behind the wheel, and drove away from the house she’d lived in for twenty years.

What Readers are Saying

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Really loved the first two books in this series and have really enjoyed this book as well. Started it the other night and finished it this morning. So hard to put down. All I can say about this book is you certainly don't want to miss it. A great cast of characters and you will laugh, smile, cry and sometimes get angry. You go through the feels with it. A must for the romantic.” ~Phylis C.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “After reading the first book in the series, I couldn't wait to follow the stories of these fascinating ladies. While the five main characters at first were hard to keep track of, by this third book I feel like I know each of them personally and even their families. What resonates most with me is that these ladies are middle age, like me. And have teenage children. Like me. They experience real problems and real joys and most of all, an enduring friendship which makes their ongoing adventures a delight to follow.” ~Patricia S.

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Take a vacation any time of year in the seaside town of Five Island Cove!

Meet five best friends as they reunite after years apart and rekindle their strong bond with one another, weather storms, and uncover secrets that have been lying dormant for decades...

This series is best read IN ORDER, as each book builds on the other and there are open storylines throughout. Each book features these amazing friends as they reunite and bring others into their fold, addresses the woman's journey later in life, and shows sweet, closed-door romance!

  • Book 1: The Lighthouse

    After the death of a childhood loved one, 5 best friends reunite in the small coastal town of Five Island Cove. One doesn't expect to find love with a high school crush. Another isn't prepared to find the strength she needs to take control of her life. And none of them are ready for the secrets they'll uncover at the lighthouse...

  • Book 2: The Summer Sand Pact

    Get ready for more secrets to come to light in Five Island Cove, and for these five women to show each other what it means to love and support someone through thick and thin.

  • Book 3: The Cliffside Inn

    With their different personalities and in their different states of mind, none of these best friends are prepared for the secret contained within the walls of The Cliffside Inn. They've survived tough situations before, but this might be the thing that tears them apart for good...

  • Book 4: Christmas at the Cove

    Secrets are never discovered during the holidays, right? That's what these five best friends are banking on as they gather once again to Five Island Cove for what they hope will be a Christmas to remember.

  • Book 5: The House on Seabreeze Shore

    Join best friends, old and new, Robin, Alice, Eloise, Kelli, Laurel, and AJ as they learn about themselves, strengthen their bonds of friendship, and learn what it truly means to thrive.

  • Book 6: Four Weddings and a Baby

    Four weddings and a baby are on their way to Five Island Cove! Join Alice, AJ, Kelli, Robin, Kristen, Eloise, and Laurel as they learn how strong they really are, and the great power they hold as women, and as friends, in any circumstance.

  • Book 7: The Seafaring Girls

    When someone returns to the Cove no one ever expected to see again, old wounds open just as they'd started to heal. This group of women will be tested again, both on land and at sea, just as they once were as teens.

  • Book 8: Rebuilding Friendship Inn

    A single phone call changes everything.

    Will these women in Five Island Cove rally around one another as they've been doing? Or will this finally be the thing that breaks them?

  • Book 9: The Glass Dolphin

    With fresh challenges and ever-deepening bonds, these incredible women remind each other, and themselves, of the enduring power of friendship, love, and the resilience of the human spirit. As the truth unravels, the limits of their courage and the strength of their sisterhood will be tested in ways they never imagined.

  • Book 10: The Bicycle Book Club

    When Tessa decides to look into the past to help shape the future, what she finds in the Five Island Cove library archives could bring them closer together…or splinter them forever.

Get more romance & women's fiction in Getaway Bay!

Join the wedding planners, billionaires, and hometown heroes that live in small-town Getaway Bay! It's the perfect blend of sun, sand, beaches, and sweet romance.

Read this series if you like:

✔ Beach reads

✔ Forced proximity

✔ Billionaires

✔ Military heroes

✔ Fake dating tropes

✔ Friends to lovers

✔ Rockstar romance

✔ Single dads

✔ Perfect small town beach settings

✔ Sweet & Steamy kisses