Glass Beach

Glass Beach

Jill Marie Landis

April 2014 $16.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-4-778

Even paradise demands a price for love and happiness...

Our PriceUS$16.95
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Widowed Elizabeth Bennett believes her troubles are over. Her loveless marriage is at an end. The death of her husband leaves her free to raise their daughter alone on her beautiful Hawaiian ranch . . . until the arrival of handsome Spence Laamea, her husband’s heir and illegitimate son from a liaison with a native woman. Spence puts the estate—and Elizabeth’s fate—under his control.

Despite her distrust, and against a backdrop of disapproval among the island’s strict nineteenth-century white society, passions erupt between them. Elizabeth and Spence struggle to build a life for themselves and her daughter. When a deadly hurricane bears down on the island, it tests the bonds of love and loyalty they’ve tried to deny.

A seven-time Romance Writers of America finalist for the RITA Award in both the historical and contemporary categories, Jill Marie Landis has also penned five inspirational historical romances and is now writing The Tiki Goddess Mysteries (set on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, where she lives with her husband, actor Steve Landis.) Her next mystery novel is TOO HOT FOUR HULA. Her books are not only known for their intense emotion, but for characters you’ll remember long after you turn the last page. Visit her at


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Mauna Noe Ranch

Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i, 1888

A YOUNG BLOND woman with haunted blue eyes stood alone at the edge of the cliff, staring at the waves that battered the black rocks below with nightmarish force. Trade winds buffeted her from behind, coaxing her long fair hair free of the tight knot at the nape of her neck, teasing the hem of her worn and outmoded burgundy gown until it rose and tangled about her ankles and calves. Behind her, open pastureland rose gently, caressed the foothills that bordered lush green mountains etched with silver ribbons of falling water and crowns of mist.

Situated between the mountains and the sea, a rambling ranch house stood surrounded by lush tropical gardens. A whitewashed fence protected the profusion of blooms and greenery from the cattle scattered across the land. The house had been designed to face both the sea and the mountains. A wide, shaded veranda, called a lanai by the natives, wrapped all the way around the structure. Anyone inside the house or on the lanai could see her, could watch what she was about to do.

If anyone was watching, she did not care.

Elizabeth Rodrick Bennett took a deep breath, inhaling the humid air tinged with the smell of salt and sea and the underlying musty scent that invariably comes from dampness lodged in shadowed corners. She captured a wayward strand of hair, tried to tuck it back into her chignon, but when the wind only loosed more, she let it go.

She had learned the hard way that one did not fight that which was stronger. She had learned to disappear behind doors and walls and prudent silence. To wait, to be patient, to bide her time.

Stacks of cobalt-blue-and-white Staffordshire were piled beside her in the grass. Depicting scenes that glorified America’s independence, the pottery’s artwork sang of heroes and battles, landscapes and architecture, all surrounded by flowers, ribbons, stars, banners. There were dinner plates, bread and butter plates, salad and dessert dishes, tea cups and saucers, covered serving bowls. A platter. Even a gravy boat. Enough pieces to serve twenty. In style.

When she had directed the young Mauna Noe foreman, Duke Makakani, to load all the blue-and-white pottery into a wagon and cart it out to the cliff, his dark Polynesian eyes had peered out from beneath the brim of his woven hat, shouting all that he did not say. Even as he carefully stacked the pieces on the grass with his square, work-calloused hands, even when he finished with a shrug and a smile, he lingered, waiting for her to change her mind and have him load it up again.

When she told him to go back to work, he did not comment on her odd behavior. How could he? With her husband dead, she was finally in charge—not only of Mauna Noe but, more important, of her own life.

Elation over her new freedom and independence rushed through her, stirred her heartbeat, almost, but not quite, coaxing a smile to her lips. She closed her eyes and tamped down the unfamiliar lightness in her soul, afraid she might never recover from such a heady surge of joy.

It was time to let her dreams soar, time to take them out of the darkness and give them new life.

The billowing white sails of a clipper ship on the far horizon caught her eye. Trapped between the white-capped azure sea and a pale-blue sky patched with scudding clouds, the freedom of the sailing vessel paralleled her new status. She watched the ship make progress, moving unimpeded under full sail. Soon she would be like that ship, sailing unfettered, able to carve out a place for herself here in the islands. A real home. A wonderful legacy for her precious child.

No more would she wear a mantle of shame. She would never have to depend on a man or be betrayed by one again. At long last sanity and a new beginning were within her grasp.

Right now, she would content herself with this symbolic task. Her hands itching to begin, she reached down and picked up a dinner plate, ran her fingertip around its decorative, scalloped edge. The heat of the sun, playing hide-and-seek behind drifting clouds, had seeped into the pottery until it was warm to the touch.

She gripped the edge of the plate and drew her arm across her midriff. With a swift outward arc and a flick of the wrist, she released the disk and watched it sail through the air and then plummet over the edge of the cliff.

The roar of the waves overwhelmed the sound of shattering Staffordshire, but the thrill that shivered through her was no less grand.

She grabbed another plate and then another, tossed them high and away, sent them sailing through the air to crash onto the rocks below. She began to move faster. Her body stretched and swayed with the rhythm of the task as she bent, straightened, and then hurled the fragile pieces into the sea.

The rapid pace kept her mind from wandering back to the beginning, to the time and circumstances that had brought her here, to this island in the middle of the ocean. She refused to let herself dwell on the past. Not with the future unfurled so bright and promising at long last.

Another platter sailed over the cliff. Then a pitcher decorated with a scene commemorating the opening of the Grand Erie Canal. Then the domed lid of a vegetable dish. Finally the stacks dwindled to one last piece. Slowly, as carefully as if it were the greatest treasure on earth, Elizabeth lifted the broken teacup. She stared at the jagged ends that had once anchored a handle and noticed that her hand was trembling as she reached up and touched a pale scar that slashed through her left eyebrow.

She had not been married even a full day before she was treated to her first encounter with her husband’s cruelty.

She shook off the lurking threat of all the dark memories closeted in the secret corners of her mind. How long would it be before the things of this place stopped reminding her of Franklin? How long before her breath stopped catching whenever she thought she heard the sound of his voice? The tread of his feet upon the wooden floors? How long would it be before she realized that Franklin Bennett was no longer a threat to her or her child?

Praise God, the man was dead. Dead and buried and finally burning in hell.

As she tightened her grip on the last piece of Staffordshire, Elizabeth searched the horizon. The ship had sailed out of sight. As she hurled the broken teacup over the cliff, saw it disappear forever, she vowed that from this day forward, she would never let lust lead her astray, nor would she find herself in such dire circumstances that she would be forced to surrender her independence to any man.

When her private celebration of freedom was over, she turned to go back to the house. Walking across the bluff, she realized she had expected a more buoyant sense of elation. But, for now, it was enough to know that she had destroyed something Franklin had valued so highly.



Mauna Noe

A few days later...

BENEATH THE wide roof of the lanai, Elizabeth sat in a high-backed rocker, amid an eclectic gathering of wicker furniture, watching the road. Milton Clifford, Franklin’s lawyer, had notified her that he hoped to arrive before one o’clock to carry out the reading of her late husband’s will. The tall standing clock in the foyer had already chimed half past. Over the years she had come to believe a clock was a ridiculous thing to own on an island, where time was better marked by the tides, the sunrise, sunset, and the moon’s many phases.

Anxious to have this last formality behind her, she tried to follow her normal routine all morning, first reading to Hadley, her daughter, then working in the garden. Finally, after the midday meal, Elizabeth wandered out onto the lanai to escape the close, still air inside and to wait.

She contemplated the lush garden surrounding the house, a garden that she had created and nurtured with her own hands and the help of an old Japanese paniolo named Toshi. The garden had become her place of refuge, a tranquil haven. There, in the fertile, moist earth, she had buried her hopes and dreams each time she turned her trowel. And then the unexpected had happened.

One evening during supper, without sign or warning, Franklin Bennett had collapsed and fallen facedown into a plateful of rice, sweet potatoes, and beef. Once again her life had taken an unforeseen turn. Fate had freed her to reclaim her buried dreams, to coax them into bloom.

As she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, Elizabeth thought about all the things she planned to accomplish when Mauna Noe was legally hers. There was much to do and much to learn.

The house needed paint. The whitewashed fence was faded in some spots, peeling in others, and in need of repair. Cattle would be wandering into the garden if the gate were not rehung soon. She scanned the gathering of outbuildings and deserted workers’ houses that lined the lane, an offshoot of the main road. An office and store were housed in one. There were a stable and the men’s barracks. The tin roofs of one-room workers’ houses blended into the backdrop of pastoral hillsides dotted with cattle.

Uilani, the housekeeper newly appointed by Elizabeth, was helping her sort through her duties as mistress of the vast holdings—duties her husband had forbidden her to carry out while he was alive. The responsibilities seemed endless, but independence, like everything else, came with a price.

Looking back toward the road, she spotted a lone rider crossing the open pasture. An imposing figure, the man sat tall and easy in the saddle.

Hidden in the deep recesses of the lanai, Elizabeth squinted out into the sunlight and watched as the magnificent black horse carried the rider closer. She knew at a glance that the man riding so swiftly and confidently across her land was not Franklin’s lawyer, for it was his custom to arrive in a dilapidated, mud-spattered phaeton that had seen better days. She had met Milton Clifford when he came to the ranch to do Franklin’s bidding. He was middle-aged and slight of build, a man who spent most of his waking hours at a desk. Not only was he stoop-shouldered andnearsighted, but from the infrequent occasions she had had to speak with him, she sensed he was too cowardly to stand up to Franklin.

The stranger on horseback looked like a paniolo. She hoped he had come looking for work and that he might agree to stay on until her finances were secured. But as he drew closer, her breath caught in her throat. From this distance, something about him—the way he sat his horse, the tilt of his head, was eerily reminiscent of her late husband.

She had watched Franklin on horseback countless times from behind the lace curtain at the window in her room upstairs. Whenever he was away from the house, she had vigilantly awaited his return so she would never be caught unaware. The very sight of her husband riding toward this house at the end of the day had always filled her with dread.

The similarity between the approaching stranger’s erect posture and Franklin’s was disconcerting, enough to send a shaft of fear stabbing through her.

As the rider progressed to within a few hundred yards of the fence surrounding the house, Elizabeth’s heartbeat echoed the cadence of the horse’s pounding hooves. Her thoughts flew to little Hadley, upstairs playing with Uilani’s thirteen-year-old daughter, Maile.

Elizabeth stood up and walked to the edge of the lanai, gripped the railing, and waited with her heart in her throat as the rider drew closer. His wide-brimmed hat cast his features in shadow, but there was no concealing his broad shoulders, long legs, and strong bronze hands.

He was dressed in paniolo gear. A dried flower lei wreathed the crown of his hat. Paninileggings, leather gaiters, protected his white trousers from the thick, thorny brush and upland cactus. An open five-button linen vest topped a long-sleeved striped shirt. His feet were hidden behind leather taps, long, pointed flaps that covered his stirrups, but she knew his shoes would be caked with the iron-rich red earth of Kaua‘i.

The closer he came, the more he reminded her of her husband—the way Franklin held his shoulders so rigid, always on the offensive, at attention, ready to command. This man was heavier than Franklin, even taller.

Franklin is dead. As she watched the stranger ride in, she had to keep reminding herself of that.

Squelching the urge to dart inside, to the safety of the house, she made herself recall the day she had watched, dry-eyed, as her husband’s wooden coffin was lowered into the ground on a hillside not far from the house.

Franklin is dead.

Then how could it be that this distorted image of him was riding toward her?

She remained on the porch, a reluctant sentry, reasoning with herself, trying to reassure herself, trying not to be ridiculous. This unknown rider could not bode ill for her and Hadley.

But life had been disappointing her for more years than she liked to count. God had demanded a high price for her transgressions. So even as she tried to convince herself that nothing could stand in her way now, a shadow of dread hovered over her soul.

FOR A LIFETIME Spence Laamea had wondered about Mauna Noe, what this land might look like, how it smelled, how the air tasted. Two hours ago he had left the main road and ridden across miles of land without seeing any sign of human life, no paniolo on the hills, only grazing cattle and horses. From the top of the last rise, the ranch proper came into view, the stables, the corrals, and bunkhouse. The workers’ houses, remnants from plantation days, appeared to be deserted, but a vegetable garden flourished behind one of them, and a fishnet was spread out on a small square of lawn.

As he drew close enough to see the two-story wood-frame main structure, he carefully studied the odd additions that protruded from each side like mismatched wings. He assessed them in the same way he had observed the rich grazing land and the green hills, the clear, cold streams that ran from the mountain peaks, as he rode across Mauna Noe. More than the ‘āina—the land—and the house, he wondered about Franklin Bennett.

Although he had never seen Bennett in the flesh, Spence had once owned a miniature portrait of him.

"Keep it,” his mother, Penelope Laamea, had whispered to him as she pressed it into his hand the night she died. He was only seven at the time, so the power of the memory should have faded by now, but he still got chicken skin when he recalled the way her sad, dark eyes had glowed with a strange, faraway look, as if she truly could see what might one day come to pass. "Someday he will want you, Spencer. Someday Franklin will need you and call you to his side.”

Spence had closely studied the portrait of the man who had fathered him and then walked out of his life, memorizing every detail, confused and fascinated by the pale haoleface in the small oval frame, wondering how the man could be connected to him by blood when his entire ‘ohana, everyone around him, aunties, uncles, cousins—were all Hawaiian.

They called Spence hapa haole—half white—even though he took after his mother. He recognized Franklin Bennett’s image in the arch of his brow, the slight narrowing of his nose, and his stance. Haole blood ran in his veins, even though his skin was tawny brown, and still darker where it had been exposed to the sun. Like his Hawaiian kin, his eyes were as dark as lava rock, his hair glossy black and wavy. He wore it long, past his shoulders, sometimes braided, most often tied at the nape of his neck.

When his mother died, neighbors put him on the steamer to O‘ahu and shipped him, like excess baggage, over to his mother’s family. Eventually he learned from his uncle the real reason his father had refused to acknowledge him. He was mixed breed, not white but half Hawaiian. Franklin’s Southern background kept him from acknowledging Spence as his son.

But for years, deep down in his young heart, where secret hope hides from truth, Spence clung to the dream that somehow, someday, what his mother had predicted would come to pass, that Franklin Bennett would call him back to Kaua‘i and grant him his name and birthright. He would finally hear his father call him son. One day he would become heir to Mauna Noe, one of the largest landholdings in the islands.

At fourteen, against his uncle’s wishes, he left the Laamea house in Honolulu and went off to a ranch on the north shore of O‘ahu to become a paniolo, stubbornly clinging to the notion that when his father finally recognized him, he wanted to be ready. He would not further shame the man he never knew but idolized. He would learn everything about ranching that there was to know.

Since that day he had worked from before sunup to well past sundown, spent many hard hours in the saddle driving other men’s cattle for little more than room and board. Thinking back on his life now and the choices he had made long ago, he knew what a foolish child he had been to dream such dreams.

Years had gone by, and with every passing season as he waited for a summons that never came, Spence experienced a deeper sense of bitterness and betrayal. His mother had died of a broken heart rather than live without the only man she had ever loved. Over the years as he came to realize Franklin would never want him, he grew to hate the very idea of his haole father, the man his mother had loved more than life itself.

When Bennett’s lawyer could not trace him on O‘ahu, a letter had come to him through his Uncle Robert, who was one of King Kalakaua’s closest confidants.

Spence had held the summons in his hands, stared at the thin, wavering script, and felt nothing. Word of his father had sifted down to him over the years, bits and pieces of gossip and rumors that passed from Kaua‘i to O‘ahu, from the lips of sailors, to merchants on the wharf, on to someone who knew someone in the Laamea family. To Uncle Robert. To Spence.

Five years ago, they had heard his father finally got what he wanted, a haole heir.

It did not come as a shock, for long before that day Spence realized nothing could ever have made Franklin Bennett recognize him, for nothing would ever make him pure haole.

His heart had grown as hard as stone, so that the very name Franklin Bennett left nothing but a bitter taste in his mouth. Even now, as he shifted the reins to guide the big thoroughbred, Kāhili, toward the house, all Spence could muster were feelings of bitterness, of betrayal.

He was twenty-six years old. He was keiki manuahi, a bastard. He had squandered years that should have been filled only with carefree innocence, waiting to be recognized by a man who never even cared that he existed.

He had answered Milton Clifford with a curt note sent on the steamer. He informed the lawyer that he would attend the reading of the will. What he did not say in the note was that the greatest satisfaction he would ever know would come at the moment he stood in Franklin Bennett’s home, looked the man’s lawyer in the eye, and refused whatever paltry handout Bennett had bequeathed him.

SPENCE HAD ALMOST reached the fence that surrounded the house when he felt the twinge in his gut that always came from dwelling too long on the past, on things lost forever—a father’s name, his mother’s love, a lifetime with Kaala, his beautiful, doomed young bride who had taken her own life. Just then, a large, yellow-eyed owl, pueo, with streaked brown feathers and a flat face, soared overhead, then swooped low, diving toward him before it swung skyward and flew on.

He stared after the bird in awe, felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck. Pueo was his ‘aumakua, the god of his family, his ancestral protector. To be visited here, now, was surely an auspicious sign. Was it a warning? Or was good luck in the offing?

When he rode up to the gate, he noticed that it hung forlornly from one hinge. Spence grabbed the maku‘u, the pommel of his saddle, and dismounted, then tied his horse to the picket fence. He nudged the gate open with the toe of his boot and stared up at the two-story frame house. Like the fence, the house was in need of repair.

It gave him a dark satisfaction to know that his father’s home was not as perfect as he had always imagined. Franklin Bennett had let the place go to ruin. The shiplap wooden siding was bleached bare in spots turned ghostly gray. Dilapidated shutters hung unevenly outside some of the windows, while others were missing shutters entirely.

He walked up a wide path through a maze of low tropical foliage—ti with deep green and red leaves, aloalo, or hibiscus, heavy heliconia, red ginger, angel’s-trumpets bent toward the ground. White plumeria with delicate yellow centers infused the air with a heady, pungent scent. Finally, he neared the lanai with its commanding view of the vegetation-covered knob of the ancient volcanic crater Kilauea. The open coastline fanned out beyond the crater.

It was a moment or two before he noticed a haole woman standing in the shadows. He knew there would surely be others at the reading of Franklin Bennett’s will. Most certainly the man’s widow would be present—but this woman was not dressed in the black garb of widows that haole liked to wear. She wore a faded blue dress banded by a worn collar and frayed cuffs. The gown was too big for her, the fabric too heavy for such a warm day. She looked uncomfortable.

She also looked too young to have been married to a fifty-five-year-old man. A tired wariness marred her delicate features and reflected itself in her eyes. Of medium height, she had golden hair and perfectly etched haole featuresset in moonlight-pale skin. She was altogether beautiful. Haunting.

She looked as fragile as a newly hatched bird.

Spence looked up into the perfect oval of her face and searched for some sign that she, like himself, might carry Franklin Bennett’s blood in her veins, but in her features he recognized none of what his cloudy memory retained of his father’s portrait.

A cloud drifted across the face of the sun. The trade winds blew half-heartedly. The barest hint of a breeze roused the fronds of the nearby pandanus trees from a quiescent lull. A stand of eucalyptus planted as a windbreak began to rustle, filling the air with a cloying scent.

The breeze lifted a lock of the young woman’s hair and blew it across her face. He watched her reach up and draw a blond tendril behind her ear before she tilted her chin up, exposing the pale skin of her throat.

From her position at the top of the stairs the woman continued to watch him closely. She offered not a word in greeting but simply stared at him as if she were seeing a ghost.

Once again she reached up to smooth her fine, sun-gilded hair. Her hand trembled.

"Aloha.” He nodded as he spoke the greeting. Allowing no flicker of the jumbled emotions he was feeling to cross his face, he met her intense stare, reminding himself that he had been invited. He had every right to be here.

"Aloha.” Somehow she managed to reduce a word rich with many meanings to a salutation devoid of any emotion at all.

"May I help you?” She took one step away from the wall of the house.

"I’m Spencer Laamea. Milton Clifford wrote and asked that I attend the reading of Franklin Bennett’s will.”

He hadn’t thought it possible, but she grew even more pale.

"Thewill...” she said softly, letting her words trail away as if she were contemplating the meaning of the word.

"This is Mauna Noe? The Bennett ranch?”

He knew damn well he was on the right piece of land. Spence watched her swallow, saw the pink tip of her tongue flick out between her lips. She was staring down at him through clear blue eyes edged with a hint of panic that she could not disguise, even as her gaze shifted away from him.

"Yes. This is Mauna Noe.” She swallowed nervously again and scanned the horizon where the Pacific met the sky, then looked back at him. "How did you know Franklin?”

She made him uncomfortable.

Spence cleared his throat. "Isn’t Mr. Clifford here yet?”

Her hand went to the high collar of her dress as if it were choking her.

"He’s late. I wasn’t aware that anyone else would be coming today. He didn’t tell me.” She appeared more and more distracted with each passing moment.

Somewhere in the house, upstairs perhaps, he heard a child’s laughter.

He watched her lower her hand and then hide her fists in the folds of her skirt. Her full lips might have been set in a determined line, but she looked as though she was prepared to dash into the house if he took one step closer.

"Is Mrs. Bennett here, then?” He loathed the idea of finally meeting his father’s widow face-to-face, but there was no getting around it. He would have to meet the woman sooner or later.

"I’m... Elizabeth Rodrick Bennett... Franklin’s widow.”

Spence could only stare as the realization of who she was sank in. This pitifully frail, absurdly young haole with skin the color of moonbeams had married his father. Had slept with him.

This woman had given Franklin Bennett a legitimate heir—a white legitimate heir.

Spence thought of the pueo, the owl that flew over him moments ago, and wondered if his ‘aumakua might not have been warning him to leave before it was too late.



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