Read London Tides: A Novel (The MacDonald Family Trilogy Book 2) Online

Authors: Carla Laureano

Tags: #Christian Fiction, #Inspirational Romance, #Inspirational Fiction, #Christian Romance

London Tides: A Novel (The MacDonald Family Trilogy Book 2)

BOOK: London Tides: A Novel (The MacDonald Family Trilogy Book 2)
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To all my sisters who feel unseen and insignificant—

You are loved. Your stories matter.

Acknowledgments

The David C Cook team, current and former—thank you for giving me the chance to tell this story. I love what you all stand for.

My agent, Steve Laube—I’m going to start calling you the Author Whisperer, because you somehow always know just what I need to hear.
Thank you.

My editor, Rachelle Gardner—thank you for pushing me to take the right way even when it was hard. This would not have been the same story without you.

Superpublicist Jeane Wynn—girl, we’re getting the band back together. So blessed to have you work on this book.

Lucille Zimmerman—thank you for helping me with the psychology of Grace and providing information on the treatments available to PTSD sufferers. Your insight is always greatly appreciated. Any mistakes are clearly mine!

My “usual suspects”—seriously, though, you guys are the only thing keeping me focused and somewhat sane (please stop laughing)—my family, Laurie Tomlinson, Elizabeth Younts, Brandy Vallance, Evangeline Denmark, Serena Chase, Beth Vogt, Jen Turano, and Halee Matthews.

My beta readers, Evangeline Denmark, Elizabeth Olmedo, Laurie Tomlinson, Brandy Vallance, and Sarah Varland. You might not recognize this book when you read it again, but I
so
appreciate your taking time out of your lives and writing to give me your honest feedback.

I couldn’t end without naming the photojournalists whose work and lives inspired me while writing Grace, particularly Lynsey Addario, Deborah Copaken Kogen, and Camille Lepage. Their risks give a look into a world the rest of us might never imagine. I owe their photographs great thanks for opening my eyes and heart to people and places I’ve never considered. I’m sure I got some details wrong, but in the end I hope my admiration and respect for the discipline shines through.

Chapter One

She shouldn’t be here.

Grace Brennan snapped several pictures of the fog-shrouded river, forcing down the tide of anxiety that threatened to rise up and engulf her. Chances were he wouldn’t be here either. People changed in ten years. She certainly had. What kind of man stuck to such a rigid schedule for over a decade?

She ambled down the cement embankment to where the muddy waters of the Thames lapped the bank and raised her camera once more. Even in the dim morning light, her telephoto lens captured every detail of the boats rowing against the ebb tide, from the markings on the shells to the club crests on the rowers’ kit. Grace had photographed enough regattas in her career to recognize the different clubs and schools by their colors, to distinguish the casuals from the competitive rowers. To know from a distance she hadn’t seen him yet.

It was a mad impulse that brought her here anyhow. Her regrets should have stayed in the past where they belonged, with the rest of her mistakes. Back then her fears had clouded her judgment, skewed her perspective. And no matter how far she’d come, there might always be parts of her that were broken. What would coming back here do but remind her of what she’d given up?

She was about ready to move on to some street-level shots when a sleek, red eight glided with precision toward the bank on which she stood. Again the camera came up to focus on the crew, and her heart rose into her throat when her gaze landed on the man in the stroke seat nearest the stern.

His dark hair was short now, thick waves cropped into submission, but she would have recognized him anywhere. He radiated capability and confidence with an oar in hand, and even his rowing waterproofs couldn’t hide a physique that was as lean and muscular as a decade before. Clearly she’d had good reason to believe things hadn’t changed.

Grace’s hand tightened convulsively around the column of the thick lens as she let the neck strap take the camera’s weight. Her muscles tensed, her heart pounding. Should she call to him? Would he even speak to her?

Then he turned her way and stopped, the oar frozen in midair. He saw her, no mistake. She held her breath, waiting to see what he would do.

Just as quickly he turned away, his movements brusque and businesslike as he removed his oar from the lock. Her hopes rushed away as quickly as the tide.

Ten years wondering how she’d feel if she saw him again. Ten years convincing herself that time and distance would change things. Pure rubbish, all of it.

She still loved him. And he still hadn’t forgiven her.

 

Grace wound her way into the Regency Café, ignoring the irritated looks from waiting patrons. Even at eight in the morning, the greasy spoon was packed with diners, the queue stretching out the door, voices raised in a hum just short of deafening. She scanned the crowded room until her gaze landed on a beautiful Indian woman staking out a corner table.

Asha held up her arm and pointed to her wristwatch with raised eyebrows.

“I know, I know, I’m late.” Grace grimaced as she approached the table, but Asha squeezed her into a bone-crushing hug before she could get out the rest of her apology.

“Only by about two years! When did you arrive in London? Before you called this morning, I didn’t even know you were coming.”

“Landed last night.” The tightness in Grace’s chest eased as she slid into a chair and placed her gear bag between her feet. “It was a last-minute decision. Did you order for us?”

“Of course. I didn’t queue for an hour for tea. I got your usual. It
is
your usual, right? You didn’t go vegan on me or anything …”

Grace laughed. “Absolutely not. I live on bacon. Besides, Paris hasn’t been as much fun since they stopped sautéing everything in a kilo of butter. You know you’re in trouble when even the French turn health conscious.”

Asha laughed too, her expression radiating happiness. Since they’d met on a medical mission in Jaipur twelve years ago, Dr. Asha Issar had become her close friend and confidante. Grace had no doubt that her joy was genuine.

“So tell me, why
are
you back in London?”

“To see you, of course.” At Asha’s disbelieving look, Grace laughed again and amended, “It was time, Ash. I couldn’t avoid an entire country forever. I’m considering moving back.”

“I’d love that. But you said you’d never leave the field. What happened?” Asha’s attention settled on Grace’s right arm, where it rested on the table. “Does it have something to do with the new tattoo?”

Grace touched the tiny green dragon that curled around her wrist like a bracelet, melding seamlessly into the design of colored flowers and wrought iron above it. It was good work—artistic work—but she should have known Asha would understand this was no more a whim than the other tattoos that covered her right arm to the shoulder.

“Brian is dead.”

“Oh, Grace, I’m so sorry. What happened?”

Grace swallowed hard while she brought her voice under control. “You hear about the incident in Syria?”

“That was him?” Understanding dawned on Asha’s face. “That was you. You were the other photographer who survived the blast. Grace, why didn’t you tell me?”

Because she hadn’t told anyone. Because the grief was too fresh. And deep down she felt responsible.

Sure, she’d not been the one to fire the grenade. She’d warned Brian that their position was too exposed, had been trying to get them out. But he was so young and eager to get the shot, and it had been her responsibility to rein in that reckless enthusiasm, just as her own mentor Jean-Auguste had done for her.

She’d failed miserably.

“So that’s why I’m here,” Grace said at last. “I’m supposed to be in Aleppo, but I couldn’t get on the plane.”

Asha reached for her hand across the table and squeezed it hard. “I understand; I really do. But you love the work. Surely you don’t want to quit.”

“Come on, Ash. You know shooting conflicts was supposed to be a short-term plan, not the past ten years of my life. Everyone with half a brain is out, onto something safer.”

“But you’ve worked for this since you were nineteen!”

“And look where it’s gotten me.”

“Achieving a level of success most people never imagine.
Newsweek
and
National Geographic
have you on speed dial. You were listed as one of the most influential photographers of the decade, for heaven’s sake.”

“One of the most influential photographers of the decade.” Grace gave a short, humorless laugh. “Had I died along with Brian, would anyone have missed me besides you and Jean-Auguste? I’m thirty-four, Ash. I can pack up my entire life in three cases and a duffel bag. My parents don’t talk to me anymore, and the only person to send me a birthday card was the president of my photo agency.”

Asha’s gaze drilled into her. “You’re back for Ian.”

“When you say it that way, I sound completely pathetic.”

“Not
completely
pathetic. Just a little bit.”

“It was daft,” Grace said. “If you could have seen the look on his face—”

“You saw him? What did you do? What did he say?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t stick around to find out.”

“Grace—”

“I know, I know. But what do you say in that situation? ‘Hi, I’m sorry I ran out on you six months before our wedding. How have you been?’ Besides, for all I know, he’s married and has half a dozen kids now.”

“He’s not married.”

The pronouncement stunned Grace into momentary silence. “You’ve seen him?”

“He and Jake go out for a pint on occasion. He dates, but as far as I can tell, nothing serious. It leads one to believe he’s waiting for something. Or someone.”

Grace’s heart jolted at the words, but she shook her head. However much she might want to put things right, what she had done to him was unforgivable. What kind of woman left the man she loved without a proper good-bye? What kind of man forgave that kind of betrayal?

“You should talk to him, Grace. Even if it’s just to put him behind you.”

As Grace opened her mouth to reply, the woman behind the counter shouted a familiar order. “That us?”

“Yeah. I’ll get it.” Asha pushed back the chair.

“Bacon, egg, mushrooms, tomatoes, two toasts! You comin’ to get it, or you want me to fax it to ya?”

Grace chuckled. “Let me. Least I can do after you saved me the hour wait.”

She pushed her way to the counter, relieved to escape her friend’s scrutiny. Maybe Asha was right, but she’d been trying to put Ian behind her for ten years. What made either of them think she’d be any more successful now?

By the time Grace returned with their breakfasts, she’d steeled herself for more analysis, but Asha didn’t bring up the subject again. Instead she asked, “Where are you staying?”

“Hotel.”

Asha reached into her handbag and slid a key across the table to her. “You know the address.”

“Ash, I couldn’t—”

“Nonsense. Of course you could. How long will you be here?”

“At least through the end of August. A friend is putting together a showing of my portraits at his gallery in Putney. After that, I’m not sure.”

“You just got here, and you’re already looking for an excuse to leave.” A smile softened Asha’s words, though, and she reached out to squeeze Grace’s hand. “I’m glad you’re back.”

“Me too.” To stave off further discussion, Grace dug into her breakfast and barely stifled a groan of pleasure. Paris might be the culinary center of Europe, but nothing beat an old-fashioned fry-up from this landmark diner. She allowed herself to savor a few more bites before she shot a stern look at Asha. “So. Jake. Don’t think you’re going to slip that one by me. Did you finally say yes?”

Asha shrugged. “After five years of asking me out, it seemed only fair to give the bloke a chance.”

“It’s about time. I’ve always thought you two would make a great couple.”

She laughed. “It had crossed my mind over the years. But one or both of us were always seeing someone else. He was busy with work; I was splitting my time between here and India … It wasn’t the right time for a relationship.”

If anyone understood that, it was Grace. Still, after Asha had broken off a tumultuous romance with a fellow physician, Grace had wondered if she would ever take a chance on another man. “We should have dinner, then, the three of us. I haven’t seen him in ages.”

“You haven’t seen anyone in ages,” Asha countered, but it was without heat. She glanced at her watch and grimaced. “I have to go or I’ll be late for my shift. Move your things to the flat, yeah? I’ll be back later tonight.”

“Thanks, Ash. It means a lot to me.” Grace gave her a quick hug, then watched her stride from the restaurant. Of all her friends, Asha was the most dependable, the most understanding. But then she had a better perspective on what Grace did for a living, having spent much of her early career in conflict zones herself. It took firsthand experience to understand how it felt to live day to day in varying degrees of danger.

She turned back to her plate, but her mind returned to Ian. She should have stuck around and talked to him, told him the conclusions she’d reached in the three months since Brian’s death. After all these years, he deserved to know why she had run away. Deserved to know it hadn’t been because she’d stopped loving him.

And maybe he deserved to know that leaving him had been the biggest mistake of her life.

BOOK: London Tides: A Novel (The MacDonald Family Trilogy Book 2)
4.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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