Losing her sight turns Lanie's world upside down, bringing danger, mystery...and unexpected romance.
A seemingly random shooting at her aunt's coffee farm has left Lani Tagama blind. Now she must learn to navigate in a world of darkness. With the help of an ex-cop named Ben and a half-trained guide dog, Lani begins to regain her former independence.
Then Lani and Ben discover that her injury wasn’t caused by a random shooting. It was a botched murder attempt. They must work together to discover the identity of the would-be murderer before he strikes again.
The novels in Colleen Coble's popular Aloha Reef Series combine mystery and suspense with tender romance in an irresistible island setting.
About the Author
USA Today best-selling authorColleen Coble has writtenseveral romantic suspense novels including Tidewater Inn, Rosemary Cottage,and theMercy Falls, Lonestar, and Rock Harbor series. Visit her website at www.colleencoble.com Twitter: @colleencoble Facebook: colleencoblebooks
Read an Excerpt
By COLLEEN COBLE
WestBow PressCopyright © 2007 Colleen Coble
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLife had a way of offering up morsels of pleasure when she least expected it. Leilani Tagama held on to the rail of the old truck as it bounced along the perimeter of the coffee grove. The neat rows of trees resembled laurel with their glossy leaves. The sun shone as usual from a blue bowl overhead, with light rain expected this afternoon, again the usual. The slope of Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawai'i boasted a perfect climate for the sweet coffee cherries ripening on the trees.
Her aunt Rina stopped the truck and hopped out. Josie Oliver got out on the other side. Both women still wore the trappings of their glory days-long hair, sandals, and an attitude that could stop an attacking shark. Strands of white streaked Rina's black hair, plaited into a braid that reached her waist. She wore a wild shirt in hot pink and green with a long, flowing pink skirt. Well-worn Birkenstocks let her toes, covered with hot-pink polish, peek out. A beaded headband stretched around her head.
"You get the Sonic Bloom started, Lani. I want to beat feet today and take the afternoon off." Rina opened the back of the truck.
Josie stepped in front of Rina. A big-boned woman with hair more gray than blond, she wore a red aloha shirt and matching bottoms that made her look as if she still had on pajamas. The Birks she wore were the same style as Rina's.
"Let me getthat, Rina," she scolded. "That thing will squash you like a gecko."
"I'm a big girl," Rina protested. She moved out of the way. "You spoil me, Josie."
Lani smiled as she watched the two women. They put her in mind of Laverne and Shirley from the old TV show. Josie hauled out the equipment, then Lani went to flip it on. A high-pitched sound similar to birds chirping began to broadcast. Her aunt strapped a tank to her back and began to spray fertilizer on the coffee trees.
"If I didn't see this with my own eyes, I wouldn't believe it," Lani said. The sound made by the Sonic Bloom caused the stomata in the leaves to open up and take in more nutrients. The coffee beans coming off these trees were huge, fancy grade with a wonderful sweet flavor. In the year Lani had been here, she'd seen the growth first-hand. The yield since Rina had started using the system had doubled.
"We hate pesticides," Rina said. "We were willing to look at any- thing organic." She gave Lani a glance. "I don't know what I would have done without you, Lani."
"I'm thankful for the job." Lani grabbed another tank and joined her aunt and Josie.
"You've got a righteous green thumb. The coffee trees love your touch as much as your orchids do."
This kind of praise soothed Lani's soul like cool aloe vera on a burn. She'd done so few things right in the last few years. "Thanks, Aunt Rina. I made a big sale yesterday. I've been commissioned to design an orchid display for the Home and Garden Show in Kona next year."
Josie clapped her hands. "That's wonderful, Lani! You deserve the recognition that will bring." Her warm glance of approval washed over Lani's face before Josie turned and went back to mixing more natural fertilizer.
"Do you need to cut back on your hours?" Rina asked. A worried frown crouched between her eyes.
Lani's smile faded. Her aunt needed her. "I'll be fine." She clutched her arms. "I'll work on the design in the evenings."
Josie shot a quick glance at Rina. "You'll do no such thing. We can spare you in the mornings. Work on your designs while you're fresh."
Rina nodded, but the frown remained. "Josie is right. We'll manage. You've always wanted to get into landscape design. We won't stand in your way."
Lani shuffled her feet and looked down. Their reassurances only made her feel worse.
Her aunt gave a slow smile. "Joey asked me about you yesterday."
Lani's cheeks flooded with heat. "You don't have to get me wrapped up in an entanglement. I'm not going anywhere."
Rina's frown returned. "Lani, you're being stupid. God doesn't expect you to swear off men."
"Men have been my weakness in the past. I'm trying to start a new life." Her hand crept to her stomach. Men were the least of her sins.
"Such silliness," her aunt huffed. "I believe in God, but your ideas are extreme. You can still have fun."
"Fun is what got me into trouble a year ago," Lani said.
She saw a car approaching fast, dust billowing from the tires. "Looks like Willie."
"I was expecting him," her aunt said in a grim tone. She straightened and put one hand on the small of her back.
The car stopped, and a man with graying hair got out. The grass stains on his khakis matched his green aloha shirt. Lani always thought he looked a bit like a grizzled monk seal-all hanging jowls and wrinkled skin. He strode with purpose across the green lawn.
His scowl darkened when he saw Rina. "You've done it now, Rina. What right do you think you have to keep me from growing what I want on my own property?"
"Maybe I should get the gun," Josie whispered.
Gun? Lani grabbed Josie's arm, latching onto it with tight fingers. "Call the police if he's dangerous," she said softly. "Don't get a gun."
Though the man towered over her tiny form, Rina didn't back down. "If you had your way, there would be no natural coffee trees left on the island. Only those freaks of nature you want to plant."
Willie's sigh eased out, almost too soft to hear, and his gravelly voice softened. So did his gaze. "It's progress, Rina. Look, I don't want to be your enemy. You know how I feel about you-how I've always felt about you. I've tried to explain it to you. I'd think you'd be in favor of trees that produce decaffeinated beans. No chemicals will be needed for that process anymore."
"And how are you going to stop them from cross-pollinating with my trees?" Rina asked. "Look, Willie, I don't have time to argue over this. I'm not pulling the injunction, if that's why you're here. All you care about is making the most bread. You don't care about what's right for the island."
"Bread," he scoffed. "Grow up, Rina, and use today's language. We're not in Taylor Camp anymore."
"You sold out, Willie. You're just like our parents used to be-all hep on seeing how much you can hook from the other guy. No regard for the environment, the natural order of things. I'm disappointed in you."
He flicked a finger toward her feet. "At least I'm not still wearing psychedelic clothing and sandals. I get my water from the tap and not from a distillery."
The curl of his lip didn't seem to bother Rina. She stared him down until his face reddened and he looked away. "Why did I even bother trying to talk with you?" he muttered. "You've always been pigheaded." He stomped back to his car and drove away, gunning the engine hard enough to spit gravel.
"Do you think we can stop him?" Lani asked. "I assume you filed the injunction against him?"
Her aunt nodded. "My lawyer filed it yesterday afternoon. No way is Willie going to plant genetically altered coffee. Ten percent of coffee trees cross-pollinate. In no time, there would be no true Kona coffee left on the island-just some watered-down version without the full flavor of the bean."
"Is there really such a thing as growing beans that don't have caffeine in them?" Lani folded her arms over her chest.
"Unnatural, isn't it? Coffee is meant to have caffeine. I've worked too hard on Kona Kai's reputation as the best organic coffee in the world to let him ruin it."
"There seems to be history between you two, but you've never talked about it."
Rina nodded. "We were at Taylor Camp in the early seventies. He used to be my best friend." Her mouth drooped. "He parted ways with us a few years after the camp burned down."
"He's not good enough for you." Josie's voice pulsed with loyalty. "And he doesn't know you very well if he thought corrupting the natural order of things would be copacetic with you."
The "us" her aunt mentioned must be the others who had helped Rina get the coffee plantation going after her trees started bearing fruit. She and her Taylor Camp friends had reconnected at a reunion a little over a year ago, and Rina hired several of them. The rest were due to come for a vacation and to help with the harvest. It would be a time for them all to get to know each other again, and Lani looked forward to getting to know the people who knew her aunt when she was young.
"Your best friend?" Lani murmured. "Is that all?"
Rina looked away. "I thought he might ask me out when we found one another again. He's not married either. Divorced."
Lani studied her aunt's downcast face. She always seemed so self- sufficient. It had never occurred to Lani that Rina might be lonely. "Can he get around the injunction?" she asked.
"I doubt it. There's an uproar on the entire island about it. Most of the coffee growers are opposed to any kind of genetically engineered coffee trees. Some altered plants are said to be nematode resistant; others are supposed to ripen at the same time. It all sounds fab, but no one knows what the alterations will do to the taste. Kona coffee is the best coffee in the world. The changes may make it funky."
Josie smiled and patted Rina's hand. "Don't worry about it. It will all come together. Let's boogie and get this done."
Clouds obscured the blue sky by the time they finished and put away their equipment. The scent of rain freshened the air, and Lani felt the first drops begin to fall as she settled into the back of the truck for the ride back. Her aunt dropped her off at the Kona Kai Coffee Company building. She waved to the older women and went inside. A large shipment of extra-fancy beans needed to go out today. When she finished, she could call her sister, Annie.
The back room held the heavenly aroma of roasting coffee. Lani sniffed the heavy note. It smelled like one of the darker roasts, double French or espresso. Small bags of roasted coffee lined the shelves. Fallen beans crunched underfoot, releasing even more aroma as she walked through the roasting room.
Pam Aberstrom waved at her from over near the coffee roaster. Lani stepped to the big roaster, a metal contraption that stretched an inch or two taller than her own height of five foot two. Pam moved out of the way, and Lani stopped at the drum. Glancing at the temperature gauges, she pulled on the small round cylinder to examine a sample of the roast. She smiled at the dark, rich brown color. "Double French?" she guessed. A typical roast took about twelve minutes, and the darker ones went a little longer and had to be watched. Inattention could ruin a batch in seconds.
Pam nodded. "It's almost done. I was getting ready to dump it." About fifty-five, she'd been with Rina since the beginning-another Taylor Camp friend. A bandana kept her curly red hair off her face, and she wore shorts and a T-shirt to stay cool in the hot roasting room.
Lani didn't know her well. Pam kept to herself, did her job, and went home. Lani thought the other woman resented her being hired as a supervisor when Pam had been there longer, though Pam had never been insubordinate. "Good job," Lani said, moving on to the packing room.
Several Filipinos filled burlap bags with the dark roast that had to go out today. Looking at the sacks piled by the shipping bay, Lani smiled. The order would be shipped out on time.
Joey, the shipping room supervisor, wiped his broad face with a bandana, then stuffed it back in his pocket. "It's finished," he said. "We're cutting out now."
Thanks to her aunt's remarks, Lani found it impossible to even look him in the face. "That was fast," she said. "I didn't think you'd be done till midday."
"Um, I was wondering if you'd want to go see a movie sometime," he asked.
What defect in her character made her flush with pleasure that he found her attractive? Something inside made her feel better about herself when men fell all over her. Maybe she would always have to fight the urge to seek male admiration.
"Sorry, Joey, I'm not ready for a relationship."
He sniffed. "I'm not talking about a relationship. From what I hear, you just like to have a good time."
Heat scorched her cheeks, but she felt cold inside. She could blame no one but herself for her poor reputation. "I'm a different person now. I'm a Christian."
He stiffened, giving her a long look before turning away. "Yeah, right."
She was sure her face was beet red. Would the shame never leave her? Maybe she should move away, go where people didn't know her. Her eyes burned, and she turned away from him and walked toward the shelves of coffee. As she left him behind, she gave a slow shake of her head. No, she wouldn't run. Someday everyone would see that she'd changed. She wasn't the good-time girl anymore. And she had a new future, one spent with the beauty of flowers.
Stepping to the stack of burlap sacks, she lifted a bag and inspected it. Fancy-grade beans, large and perfectly formed, were inside. Though she normally didn't inspect further than that, she couldn't resist digging her fingers into the rich, dark beans. The handful of beans she brought to the surface were complete perfection-
Blue? Intermingled with the perfect coffee beans lay a blue object larger than her hand. She glanced behind her, but the workers had dispersed. She walked to the window and examined the odd item. When the sun hit it, she realized she held a piece of blue coral, a richer color than she'd ever seen. Exquisitely beautiful-and illegal. Blue coral was rare, and trading it was forbidden.
Who would hide illegal coral in the beans? And why? Someone was taking advantage of Rina's trust. Maybe Pam or Joey.
"What are you doing?"
Lani whirled to see Pam standing in the doorway. "Do you know anything about this?" Lani asked, holding up the coral.
Pam moved to Lani's side and stared down at the coral in her hands. "Where did you find it?"
"In this bag of coffee. It's coral." Pam bit her lip and avoided Lani's gaze. "Who's behind this, Pam?"
Pam backed away. "Don't ask me. I need to get to work."
Lani's stomach muscles tightened. Pam knew something. "How could you betray my aunt like this?"
Pam opened her mouth, then her gaze shot over Lani's head, and her eyes widened. "No!" she shouted.
Lani jumped at the sound of a car backfiring. At least that's what she thought she heard until she saw Pam slump to the ground, a red stain flowering on her T-shirt. Something whizzed by Lani's head, and she realized bullets flew around her. She ducked and scrabbled for cover behind the stack of coffee bags. Peering over a bag, she saw a face over the top of a rifle. The eyes mesmerized her. They locked gazes, then something stung her head, and she fell into the pool of the eyes' darkness.
Blackness pressed in on Lani, pushing against her head, her throat. Why didn't someone turn on the light? A vicious pain pounded at her temple, and the back of her head ached. A scream built in her throat, filling her mouth and nearly suffocating her with the need to let it out. In spite of every attempt to hold it back, a whimper escaped her lips.
A whisper of movement, the light breeze of someone nearby impressed itself on her senses. The voice seemed familiar. Lani touched her eyes and found them unbandaged. "Can you turn on the light?" She heard the squeak of shoes on the tile floor and the rattle of a tray. She rolled onto her side.
"You're awake. Good morning, Lani. I'm Dr. Cooper."
The man's deep voice penetrated the cocoon around her. "Where am I? Please turn on the light."
His cool hands, smelling faintly of antiseptic and soap, touched her face. "Can you tell me how many fingers I have up?"
She batted at his hand. "Turn on the light! No one can see any- thing. What time is it?" She tried to remember what had happened. Pam. She'd been there. "Where's Pam?"
"Calm down, Lani." Her aunt's voice came through the darkness. "You're going to be okay."
"Aunt Rina?" The scent of coffee blossoms-her aunt's signature perfume, a sweet fragrance that smelled much like jasmine-floated up her nose.
"Do you want to sit up?" Her aunt slipped a small hand behind Lani's back.
Lani struggled to a sitting position. "Why won't you turn on the lights?" Her questing hand touched her aunt's face. Rina caught it and pressed it to her cheek.
The doctor cleared his throat. "The lights are on, Lani. What happened?"
A blanket as suffocating as the darkness covered her memory. How did she end up here? The last thing she remembered was heading into the coffee building to check the shipment. "I don't remember," she said. She felt her aunt inhale sharply. And why were they lying to her? Did they think she couldn't tell the lights were off? What was going on? "What happened?"
"Someone shot Pam, I'm afraid."
"She's going to be all right, isn't she?" The silence echoed around her. "She's okay, right? Aunt Rina?"
Excerpted from Midnight Sea by COLLEEN COBLE Copyright © 2007 by Colleen Coble. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Colleen Coble in her new book “Midnight Sea” Book Four in the Aloha Reef series published by Thomas Nelson takes us into the life of Lani Tagama. From the back cover: Losing her sight turns Lanie’s world upside down, bringing danger, mystery…and unexpected romance. A seemingly random shooting at her aunt’s coffee farm has left Lani Tagama blind. Now she must learn to navigate in a world of darkness. With the help of an ex-cop named Ben and a half-trained guide dog, Lani begins to regain her former independence. Then Lani and Ben discover that her injury wasn’t caused by a random shooting. It was a botched murder attempt. They must work together to discover the identity of the would-be murderer before he strikes again. The novels in Colleen Coble’s popular Aloha Reef Series combine mystery and suspense with tender romance in an irresistible island setting. “Dangerous Depths” has a random shooting which may be a botched murder attempt. Lani is more than a handicapped victim she is a determined young woman who not only seeks justice but wants to make sure he cannot kill again. Ben is an ex-cop who helps in her investigation and is her romantic interest. Both Ben and Lani have issues that need to be resolved not only with each other but with God. The wonderful thing is God will forgive them and will help them heal from their past hurts. This is a fast-paced read that will keep you guessing as to what is really going on. Whenever you pick up anything by Ms. Coble you can be sure you will be reading a top-notch exciting story and a wonderful romance. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Another great addition to a great series. Gripping plot full of mystery, suspense and romance. Great read full of action and adventure. Good character development and such rich description I feel like I've been to Hawaii.
Colleen Coble does it again! I cannot say enough good things about this writer. From the first page, I was hooked. The mystery, suspense, and romance were expertly weaved into a story of deception and trust. The plot was interesting and kept me guessing the entire time. Lani Tagama was my favorite character. After her ordeal in Black Sands, she becomes a Christian. It's nice to see the human side of someone who is a new Christian. She struggles to put her trust in someone she can't see, and that makes her more real. Ben Mahoney is struggling to cope with the accident that claimed his friend's sight. He is also struggling with trusting the One who controls all things in our lives. The author did a very good job of portraying their development in this area. The message, as I've stated before, is trust. Learning to trust that God has everything under control, especially when you feel your life is spinning out of control, is hard. Colleen Coble does a great job of weaving that message throughout the story. Overall, this was a very enjoyable story and I'm sad the series has come to an end. Go read it, today!
I had read another book, Alaska Twilight, written by this author. I doubted that ¿Midnight Sea¿ could be as terrific a book as the former. I was wrong! Colleen¿s way of telling a story couldn¿t be any better in keeping a reader glued to the pages. The story locale is Hawaii in the midst of the many coffee plantations. Leilani Tagama, known as Lani, is the featured girl in the book. Lani has a terrible accident that leaves her blind and prevents her memory from seeing who she had seen murder a good friend. Lani had always been a very active person and she could not imagine how she could live a decent life without her sight. In her previous years Lani had been very loose in her many romances with men. She had recently turned to God to get her life in gear and now could not understand why God allowed this blindness to occur. Ben Mahoney had taken on training guide dogs to assist those that had lost their sight to live a much better life. At this time he was training a two-year old golden retriever and ¿Fisher¿ was doing quite well. He was almost ready to help those in need of his services. While in training, Ben and Fisher had run into Ben¿s former police partner, Yoshi Tagama, a cousin of Lani¿s. Yoshi requested the help of Ben and a guide dog for Lani. Ben wasn¿t sure that Fisher was ready for active work yet but finally gave in and told Yoshi he would take Fisher to Lani to see how it would work out. His hesitation was further enhanced knowing Lani¿s past reputation as being too free with the men but realized Lani needed help with her total blindness. Ben¿s brother, Ethan and wife, Natalie, are almost always spaced out on alcohol, leaving their adorable daughter, Meg, without caring parents. A boating accident takes the lives of Ethan and Natalie but somehow Meg survived in her life vest. The accident also exposed criminal activity taking place in the area. Ben and Lani then cared for Meg. The story continues as it brings Ben and Lani closer together through Meg and their feelings for each other even though they did not express those feelings to each other. Lani¿s life was at risk because the killer felt Lani had seen him before her sight was lost and would someday remember who he was. Lani and Fisher made a great team as they adjusted to life together and Lani grew so attached to him that she told Ben she could never give up Fisher even if she regained her sight, which she felt she would some day. Yoshi stayed as close to Lani and Meg as he could but he had other police work to do and could not spend every hour protecting them. Lani had several attempts on her life and her senses had saved her along with her friends being on the alert constantly. She even got to the point where she could distinguish by feel the ripe coffee beans and helped in the picking with Meg sometimes at her side and other times with friends and family watching Meg. Meg loved gum and everyone knew that fact as she insisted loudly that she wanted some gum! The Christian atmosphere all through the book stand out especially well as Lani sometimes wonders why God let all these thing happen but then realized that God had done so many good things for her too. Midnight Tea is a page-turner that is extremely hard to put down. The reading is easy but pleasant and certainly not boring. There are no slow sections to bog you down. I highly recommend it.
In this book, Colleen Coble crafts another tight suspense plot filled with twists and turns and rich characters. She transports readers back to Hawaii, the setting for her Aloha Reef series. While this book stands completely on its own, if you read and enjoyed the Aloha Reef series, you will enjoy the reappearance of characters from that series. Lani is faced with something I think most of us fear ¿ she wakes up one morning unable to see anything. In the midnight sea of darkness, she must learn to cope and strive for some independence. Ben reluctantly agrees to help her learn how to use a guide dog and adjust to her new world. However, he¿s heard too much about her to be drawn in by her beauty. The characters struggle with real questions about how their faith can sustain the circumstances of life. And they are brave enough to ask the questions many of us would love to scream to the heavens. As they wrestle with the mystery and their doubts, they also develop a relationship that could extend beyond friendship if they could let go of their pasts. The book is rich with layers of characters and plots. And Coble does a fantastic job bringing all the layers together into a cohesive and compelling book. And if you¿re looking for a book to transport you to the beaches of Hawaii on a cold afternoon, this book is the one for you. Coble again creates a vivid setting and a story that could only be set in Hawaii.
With the help of a handsome ex-cop, a blind woman searches to find the man who did this to her before he comes back again. Like all of Coble¿s books, Midnight Sea has an endearing animal (a golden retriever who makes me want to hug my dog!) and is filled with fascinating characters, unexpected twists and a pace that leaves you breathless from start to finish. You'll want this one on your shelves!