Home > Coral Cafe (The Coral Cottage at Summer Beach #2)

Coral Cafe (The Coral Cottage at Summer Beach #2)
Author: Jan Moran

 

1

 

 

Summer Beach, California

 

The sea breeze was crisp, though the morning sun warmed Marina’s shoulders as she arranged fresh-baked bread on a table in her specialty food stall. She waved at a retired couple threading their way through the busy farmers market toward her. Anne and Charles had been her first customers—thanks to her sister Kai, who had insisted on handing out samples that day.

While the initial decision to transform herself from San Francisco television news anchor to entrepreneur might have been forced upon her, Marina couldn’t imagine going back to the stress-filled job she’d held for years.

“I have the rosemary-garlic focaccia bread you ordered,” Marina said, greeting the pair. With their stylish silver hair, deck shoes, and navy cotton sweaters draped around their necks, Anne and Charles looked as if they’d just stepped out of a commercial for high-end wealth management. Almost too perfectly cast.

Marina had once called them the yacht couple—and she’d been correct. Their gleaming white yacht—far too large for most of Summer Beach’s boat slips—loomed at the end of the marina beyond Mayor Bennett’s modest craft. They’d told her they were friends of local celebrity Carol Reston, and they’d docked there to visit Carol and other friends visiting from Los Angeles for the summer.

Marina had worked late last night on the large order, making sure she served nothing short of perfection to her best customers.

This summer, she had to succeed, not only for herself but also for her children. The twins were turning nineteen this summer. Heather was finishing college, and Ethan was trying to figure out his life. Young adults perhaps, but still kids in so many ways. And she was the only parent they had.

But Marina had a plan. This wasn’t the first time she’d faced a tough challenge.

“I can always count on you,” Anne said. Diamond studs twinkled at the older woman’s earlobes as she inspected her order. “Smells marvelous, my dear. Our chef thought it perfect for our party.”

Kai lifted a plate of samples. “Marina is adding Quiche Lorraine to the menu this summer. I call it sophisticated comfort food. Try a bite.”

Marina and Kai had argued over the quiche. In a world of kale and quinoa and avocado toast, a savory egg custard seemed almost quaint. “I disagree,” her sister said. “Martinis made a comeback, and so will quiche.”

And so, quiche was the specialty of the day.

Anne sampled one. “Marina, darling, this is divine. You’ve done it again.” The older woman motioned to her husband. “Charles, you must try Marina’s quiche. It reminds me of that little cafe on the Croisette, overlooking the Mediterranean.”

“Save me a bite,” Charles said as his phone rang. Answering it, he stepped to one side in the aisle.

Kai nudged Marina and whispered, “Told you the quiche would be a hit. People indulge on vacation.”

“These are selling fast,” Marina said, stretching the truth just a little. “I created this based on another one of Julia Child’s classic recipes—though I lightened it a little. Still just as tasty, though.” As she handed Anne a paper napkin, she recalled how she’d learned to make this recipe.

When their grandmother, Ginger Delavie, lived in Boston as a young woman, she had become friends with Julia Child, the renowned chef and cookbook author, through their mutual government work. Some of Marina’s fondest memories were of Ginger gathering her and her sisters in the kitchen to teach them how to make her friend’s recipes.

This was one of Julia’s favorites, Ginger would say. Or, this was Julia’s special omelet—the first one she made on television. After their parents died, these kitchen gatherings became even more important to Marina, Kai, and Brooke. Always brilliant in math, Ginger taught Marina and her sisters measurements and fractions in the kitchen before they started first grade.

Anne’s husband joined her, and she handed him a sample of Marina’s quiche. “As delicious as I’ve ever had,” he said, nodding.

“Don’t forget the cookies,” Charles said, though his smile didn’t reach his eyes.

“We should both forget the cookies,” Anne shot back. “But we simply can’t. We’ll take a dozen. Half oatmeal and half chocolate chip.” She paused, shifting her gaze to her husband, who was uncharacteristically quiet. “Who was that on the phone?”

“Jean-Luc,” Charles said. “His mother was in an accident. He’s leaving immediately.”

“Oh, no.” Anne furrowed her brow. “Is it quite serious?”

“I’m afraid so.”

Anne nodded. “Of course, he must go at once. Well, there goes the party we’d planned. I’ll call our guests to cancel. Without a chef, it’s all that we can do. Unless we serve cocktails and focaccia,” she added, her gaze resting on the bread that Marina had prepared for the party. Anne brightened. “We have plenty of caviar, though.”

“No reason to cancel,” Charles said. “We can take everyone out to a restaurant.”

“That’s not the point of this dinner party. Besides, I doubt if we can find reservations for that many people tonight.” Anne sighed. “What a shame. It was such a lot of work finding a date that worked for everyone. I hate to disappoint people.”

Marina didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but the couple was standing an arm’s length from her. A party tonight. She shot a look at Kai, who angled her head in the couple’s direction and arched a brow. Marina shook her head. She wouldn’t have much time to prepare, and it could be a disaster. “Kai, would you help Anne and Charles with the cookies while I wrap their quiche?”

“I’m so glad you came early this morning,” Kai said to Anne and Charles, springing into her role. “We often sell out, but we try to accommodate everyone. Even on very short notice.”

Early this morning, Kai had left their grandmother’s beach cottage to meet Shelly at the Seabreeze Inn for yoga. Kai still wore leopard-patterned yoga gear under a loose top, and her thick strawberry blond hair was caught in a ponytail. Whether on stage with her musical theater troupe or at the farmers market, Kai always stood out.

“We’ve learned to beat the rush here,” Anne said. “Last week, Marina had sold out of our favorites. So we called in our order ahead of time.”

Kai scooped up the cookies that Anne pointed out. “It won’t be long before you can visit Marina’s new cafe on the beach.” She threw another pointed look at Marina.

“I’ve heard about that from Mitch at Java Beach,” Charles said, nodding at the logo on her new apron. “The Coral Cafe, I take it. Good name.”

Marina smiled as she slid their order into a bag. “My grandparents bought their cottage on the beach decades ago, not long after they married. They called it the Coral Cottage. You’ve probably seen it from the beach.”

“Can’t miss the place,” Kai said. “It has a fresh coat of coral paint on it.”

“We’ve been serving casual suppers on a new deck with a view of the ocean,” Marina added. She did a quick calculation of the time. Maybe she could put together something simple for them on the patio. A salad and pasta wouldn’t take long, even for a crowd.

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