Five Beach Vacations by Lee Kilraine

For five years after the death of my mom I waited for a sign. Silly, right? Except two of my siblings said they’d received a sign almost right away. (A shooting star and a flashing light.)

I wasn’t getting my sign in everyday life, and since my mom loved the beach I got it in my head she’d give me my sign there. No pressure, mom, but now you have a one week time frame for this sign that feels so all-important…

The first summer I stood in the hot August sun, the heat penetrating through all the layers of me until even my bones felt warm. I searched the ocean out beyond where the waves started their roll, scanning my eyes left to right and back again.

“Mama, what are you doing?” my daughter Dani asked.

“I’m looking for my sign from Nana. Aunt Alice got a sign. Uncle Dan got a sign. I’m looking for mine. I think it will be dramatic like a whale breaching out of the water,” I said, my throat tight with pain.

“I miss her bigger than a whale, too,” Dani said.

No whale threw itself into the air for me.

Later in the day I heard Dani call, “Mama! Look! Your sign!”

I looked up in time to see three dolphins arc out of the water.

“I don’t think so, Dani, because dolphins jump out of the water all the time.” We ended our week at the beach with no sign from my mom.

The second year a blue plastic watch washed up at my feet. It had water and sand floating inside the face like a snow globe and it was still running. Was this my sign? Was mom trying to tell me it was time to move on past the sadness? The sadness was still there sticking pins in me every day. Not my sign.

The third year a twenty dollar bill washed up at my feet. If this was my sign what was she saying…? This was the cost of loving? You can’t put a price on love? This was too confusing and I decided this wasn’t my sign either.

The fourth year, a starfish washed up at my feet. A perfect sign? It was the softest pink and so small that it didn’t cover the palm of my hand, except I realized it wasn’t dead. Maybe it was sick, and that’s why it washed up on shore.

I filled a plastic cup with seawater, placing the starfish inside. If it was still alive the next day, I’d put it back in the ocean. If not… I’d keep it and it would finally be my sign.

It wasn’t my sign. Dani said some baby starfish was very happy.

The next year I’d finally arrived at a place of healing. The knife-sharp pain of sadness had passed and though I missed my mom, I appreciated how lucky I was to have had her in my life. I was at a stage where I could count my blessings, and as I walked along the water’s edge shell after shell arrived at my feet. A new one with each step, all within thirty seconds of each other, and each one shaped like a heart.

After five long years was this my sign? The funny thing was I could almost hear my mom laughingly say, “Lee, you always were high maintenance; I should’ve gone with the whale the first year.

True story. I still have the watch although I bought our kids ice cream cones with the twenty dollars. And I’ve got the five heart-shaped shells that I treasure to this day.

Beckett. Asher. Gray. Eli. Ryker. Wyatt. Five out of six very different brothers reunited—and working to make their construction firm a success. But oldest brother Beckett just found their major new project becoming one hard and sexy challenge . . .

A rough childhood tore Beckett and his brothers apart. It took everything he had to track them down and establish Six Brothers Construction. He only trusts them—and his drive to win. Now if SBC can build a billionaire team owner’s much-hyped new mansion, it will put them on the map—and finally fulfill Beckett’s promise to take care of his siblings. Too bad he’ll have to collaborate with hot new rival Samantha Devine, who’s throwing him curves on-site, out-the-box . . . and between the sheets.

Sam knows from experience that arrogant good-ole-boy Beckett is long, strong, and built to go the distance. But this is her only shot to prove she and her fledgling design company can succeed on her own terms. She’ll match Beckett’s expertise by day—and reignite the explosive heat between them by night. But when passion threatens to become real love, will this competition separate them for good . . . or make the sizzling collaboration of a lifetime?