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On a wind-swept summer day, as the fog rolls across the San Francisco coastline, a solitary figure walks down the beach, a dog at her side. At eleven, Pip Mackenzie's young life has already been touched by tragedy; nine months before, a terrible accident plunged her mother Ophelie into inconsolable grief. But on this chilly July afternoon, Pip meets artist Matt Bowles, who offers to teach the girl to draw - and can't help but notice her beautiful, lonely mother.
Matt Bowles senses something magical about Pip, who reminds him of his own daughter at that age, before a bitter divorce tore his family apart and swept his children halfway across the world. At first, Ophelie is thrown off-balance by her daughter's new companion - until she realizes how much joy he is bringing into their lives, so that mother and daughter can slowly begin to heal, to laugh again, to rediscover what they have lost.
Then fate strikes another blow, and Matt must confront unfinished business from his past. Days later, Ophelie is struck by a stunning betrayal by someone she trusts. And as these events reverberate in two already wounded hearts, something extraordinary happens that offers hope. Out of the darkness that has shadowed them both comes an unexpected gift of hope.
A story of triumph and a moving elegy to those who suffer and survive, Safe Harbour is Danielle Steel's most powerful and life-affirming novel to date.
"[A] quiet, poignant romance... easy to like." - Kirkus Reviews
"[A] sweet but slow-moving romance." - Publishers Weekly
"Steel, who lost her own son to suicide a few years ago, here tells the story of a lonely woman reeling from the untimely deaths of her son and husband who have both recently perished in a small-plane accident." - Booklist
It was one of those chilly, foggy days that masquerade as summer in
northern California, as the wind whipped across the long crescent of
beach, and whisk-broomed a cloud of fine sand into the air. A little
girl in red shorts and a white sweatshirt walked slowly down the beach,
with her head turned against the wind, as her dog sniffed at seaweed at
the water's edge.
The little girl had short curly red hair, amber-flecked honey-colored
eyes, and a dusting of freckles across her face, and those who knew
children would have guessed her to be somewhere between ten and twelve.
She was graceful and small, with skinny little legs. And the dog was a
chocolate Lab. They walked slowly down from the gated community toward
the public beach at the far end. There was almost no one on the beach
that day, it was too cold. But she didn't mind, and the dog barked from
time to time at the little swirls of sand raised by the wind, and then
bounded back to the water's edge. He leaped backward, barking
furiously, when he saw a crab, and the little girl laughed. It was
obvious that the child and the dog were good friends. Something about
the way they walked along together suggested a solitary life, as though
one could sense that they had walked along this way often before. They
walked side by side for a long time.
Some days it was hot and sunny on the beach, as one would expect in
July, but not always. When the fog came in, it always seemed wintry and
cold. You could see the fog roll in across the waves, and straight
through the spires of the Golden Gate. At times you could see the
bridge from the beach. Safe Harbour was thirty-five minutes north of
San Francisco, and more than half of it was a gated community, with
houses sitting just behind the dune, all along the beach. A security
booth with a guard kept out the unwelcome. There was no access to the
beach itself save from the houses that bordered it. At the other end,
there was a public beach, and a row of simpler, almost shacklike
houses, which had access to the beach as well. On hot sunny days, the
public beach was crowded and populated inch by inch. But most of the
time, even the public beach was sparsely visited, and at the private
end, it was rare to see anyone on the beach at all.
The child had just reached the stretch of beach where the simpler
houses were, when she saw a man sitting on a folding stool, painting a
watercolor propped against an easel. She stopped and watched him from a
considerable distance, as the Lab loped up the dune to pursue an
intriguing scent he seemed to have discovered on the wind. The little
girl sat down on the sand far from the artist, watching him work. And
she was far enough away that he was not aware of her at all. She just
liked watching him, there was something solid and familiar about him as
the wind brushed through his short dark hair. She liked observing
people, and did the same thing with fishermen sometimes, staying well
away from them, but taking in all they did. She sat there for a long
time, as the artist worked. And she noticed that there were boats in
his painting that didn't exist. It was quite a while before the dog
came back and sat down next to her on the sand. She stroked him,
without looking at him, she was looking out to sea, and then from time
to time at the man.
After a while, she stood up and approached a little bit, standing
behind him and to the side, so he remained unaware of her presence, but
she had a clear view of his work in progress. She liked the colors he
was working with, and there was a sunset in the painting that she liked
as well. The dog was tired by then, and stood by, seeming to wait for a
command. And it was yet another little while before she approached
again, and stood near enough for the artist to notice her at last. He
looked up, startled, as the dog bounded past him, sending up a spray of
sand. It was only then that the man glanced up and saw the child. He
said nothing, and went on working, and was surprised to notice that she
hadn't moved, and was still watching him, when he turned his head
again, and mixed some water in his paints.
They said nothing to each other, but she continued to watch, and
finally sat down on the sand. It was warmer, keeping low in the wind.
Like her, the artist was wearing a sweatshirt, and in his case jeans,
and an old pair of deck shoes that were well worn. He had a gently
weathered face and a deep tan, and she noticed as he worked that he had
nice hands. He was roughly the same age as her father, in his forties
somewhere. And as he turned to see if she was still there, their eyes
met, but neither smiled. He hadn't talked to a child in a long time.
'Do you like to draw?' He couldn't imagine any other reason why she'd
still be there, except if she were an aspiring artist. She would have
been bored otherwise. In truth, she just liked the silent companionship
of being close to someone, even a stranger. It seemed friendly somehow.
'Sometimes.' She was cautious with him. He was, after all, a stranger,
and she knew the rules about that.
'What do you like to draw?' he asked, cleaning a brush, and looking
down at it as he talked. He had a handsome, chiseled face, and a cleft
chin. There was something quiet and powerful about him, with broad
shoulders and long legs. And in spite of sitting on the artist's stool,
you could see he was a tall man.
'I like to draw my dog. How do you draw the boats if they aren't there?'
He smiled this time as he turned toward her, and their eyes met again.
'I imagine them. Would you like to try?' He held out a small sketch pad
and a pencil, it was obvious that she wasn't going anywhere. She
hesitated, and then stood up, walked toward him, and took the pencil
'Can I draw my dog?' Her delicate face was serious as she inquired. She
felt honored that he had offered her the pad.
'Sure. You can draw anything you like.' They didn't exchange names, but
just sat near each other for a time, as each worked. She looked intent
as she labored on the drawing. 'What's his name?' the artist inquired
as the Lab sailed past them, chasing birds.
'Mousse,' she said, without raising her eyes from her drawing.
'He doesn't look much like a moose. But it's a good name,' he said,
correcting something on his own work, and momentarily scowling at his
'It's a dessert. It's French, and it's chocolate.'
'I guess that'll work,' he said, looking satisfied again. He was almost
through for the day. It was after four o'clock and he'd been there
since lunchtime. 'Do you speak French?' he said, more for something to
say than out of any real interest, and was surprised when she nodded.
It had been years since he'd spoken to a child her age, and he wasn't
sure what he should say to her. But she had been so tenacious in her
silent presence. And he noticed, as he glanced at her, that aside from
the red hair, she looked a little like his daughter. Vanessa had had
long straight blond hair at that age, but there was something similar
about the demeanor and the posture. If he squinted, he could almost see
'My mom's French,' she added, as she sat, observing her own work. She
had encountered the same difficulty she always did when she drew
Mousse—the back legs didn't come out right.
'Let's take a look,' he said, holding a hand out for the sketch pad,
aware of her consternation.
'I can never do the back part,' she said, handing it to him. They were
like master and student, the drawing creating an instant bond between
them. And she seemed strangely comfortable with him.
'I'll show you. . . . May I?' he asked her permission before adding to
her efforts, and she nodded. And with careful strokes of the pencil, he
corrected the problem. It was actually a very creditable portrait of
the dog, even before he improved it. 'You did a good job,' he observed,
as he handed the page back to her and put away his sketch pad and
'Thank you for fixing it. I never know how to do that part.'
'You'll know next time,' he said, and started putting his paints away.
It was getting colder, but neither of them seemed to notice.
'Are you going home now?' She looked disappointed, and it struck him as
he looked into the cognac-colored eyes that she was lonely, and it
touched him. Something about her haunted him.
'It's getting late.' And the fog on the waves was getting thicker. 'Do
you live here, or are you just visiting?' Neither knew the other's
name, but it didn't seem to matter.
'I'm here for the summer.' There was no excitement in her voice, and
she smiled seldom. He couldn't help wondering about her. She had crept
into his afternoon, and now there was an odd, undefinable link between
'At the gated end?' He assumed she had come from the north end of the
beach, and she nodded.
'Do you live here?' she asked, and he gestured with his head in the
direction of one of the bungalows just behind them in answer. 'Are you
'I guess so. So are you,' he smiled, glancing at the portrait of Mousse
she was holding tightly. Neither of them seemed to want to leave, but
they knew they had to. She had to get home before her mother did, or
she'd get in trouble. She had escaped the baby-sitter who'd been
talking for hours on the phone with her boyfriend. The child knew that
the teenaged baby-sitter never cared if she went wandering off. Most of
the time she didn't even notice, until the child's mother came home and
asked about her.
'My father used to draw too.' He noticed the 'used to,' but wasn't sure
if it meant that her father no longer drew, or had left them. He
suspected the latter. She was probably a child from a broken home,
hungry for male attention. None of that was unfamiliar to him.
'Is he an artist?'
'No, an engineer. And he invented some things.' And then, with a sigh,
she looked at him sadly. 'I guess I'd better go home now.' And as
though on cue, Mousse reappeared and stood beside her.
'Maybe I'll see you again sometime.' It was early July, and there was
still a lot of life left in the summer. But he had never seen her
before, and suspected she didn't come down this way very often. It was
a good distance for her.
'Thank you for letting me draw with you,' she said politely, a smile
dancing in her eyes this time, and the wistfulness he saw there touched
'I liked it,' he said honestly, and then stuck a hand out to her,
feeling somewhat awkward. 'My name is Matthew Bowles, by the way.'
She shook his hand solemnly, and he was impressed by her poise and good
manners. She was a remarkable little soul, and he was glad to have met
her. 'I'm Pip Mackenzie.'
'That's an interesting name. Pip? Is that short for something?'
'Yes. I hate it,' she giggled, seeming more her own age again.
'Phillippa. I was named after my grandfather. Isn't it awful?' She
screwed up her face in disdain for her own name, and it elicited a
smile from him. She was irresistible, particularly with the curly red
hair and the freckles, all of which delighted him. He wasn't even sure
anymore if he liked children. He generally avoided them. But this one
was different. There was something magical about her.
'Actually, I like it. Phillippa. Maybe one day you'll like it.'
'I don't think so. It's a stupid name. I like Pip better.'
'I'll remember that when I see you next time,' he said, smiling at her.
They seemed to be lingering, reluctant to leave each other.
'I'll come back again, when my mom goes to the city. Maybe Thursday.'
He had the distinct impression, given what she said, that she had
either sneaked out or slipped away unnoticed, but at least she had the
dog with her. Suddenly, for no reason he could think of, he felt
responsible for her.
He folded his stool then, and picked up the worn, battered box he kept
his paints in. He put the folded easel under one arm, and they stood
looking at each other for a long moment.
'Thank you again, Mr. Bowles.'
'Matt. Thank you for the visit. Good-bye, Pip,' he said almost sadly.
'Bye,' she said with a wave, and then danced away like a leaf on the
wind, as she waved again, and ran up the beach with Mousse behind her.
He stood watching her for a long time, wondering if he'd ever see her
again, or if it mattered. She was only a child after all. He put his
head down then against the wind, and walked up the dune to his small
weather-beaten cottage. He never locked the door, and when he walked
inside and set his things down in the kitchen, he felt an ache he
hadn't felt in years and didn't welcome. That was the trouble with
children, he told himself, as he poured himself a glass of wine. They
crept right into your soul, like a splinter under a fingernail, and
then it hurt like hell when you removed them. But maybe it was worth
it. There was something exceptional about her, and as he thought of the
little girl on the beach, his eyes drifted to the portrait he had
painted years before of a girl who looked remarkably like her. It was
his daughter Vanessa when she was roughly the same age. And with that,
he walked into his living room, and sank heavily into an old battered
leather chair, and looked out at the fog rolling in over the ocean. And
as he stared at it, all he could see in his mind's eye was the little
girl with bright red curly hair and freckles, and the haunting
Ophelie Mackenzie took the last winding turn in the road, and drove the
station wagon slowly through the tiny town of Safe Harbour. The town
consisted of two restaurants, a bookstore, a surf shop, a grocery
store, and an art gallery. It had been an arduous afternoon in the city
for her. She hated going to the group twice a week, but she had to
admit that it helped her. She had been going to it since June, and had
another three months ahead of her. She had even agreed to attend
meetings over the summer, which was why she had left Pip with their
neighbor's daughter. Amy was sixteen, liked to baby-sit, or so she
claimed, and needed the money to supplement her allowance. Ophelie
needed the help, and Pip seemed to like her. It was a comfortable
arrangement for all concerned, although Ophelie hated driving into town
twice a week, even though it only took her half an hour, forty minutes
at most. As commutes went, aside from the ten-mile stretch of hairpin
turns between the freeway and the beach, it was easy. And driving along
the cliffs, on the winding road, looking out over the ocean relaxed
her. But this afternoon she was tired. It was exhausting sometimes
listening to the others, and her own problems hadn't improved much
since October. If anything, it seemed to be getting harder. But at
least she had the support of the group, it was someone to talk to. And
when she needed to, she could let her hair down with them, and admit
how rotten she was feeling. She didn't like burdening Pip with her
troubles. It didn't seem fair to do that to a child of eleven.
ISBN: 9780552149914 ISBN-10: 0552149918 Audience:
Number Of Pages: 431 Published: 1st November 2004 Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd Country of Publication: GB Dimensions (cm): 17.9 x 10.7
Weight (kg): 0.252
Edition Number: 1
About the Author
Danielle Steel is an internationally best-selling author of over fifty romance novels. Since publishing her first book in 1973, Steel has acquired an enormous following of loyal, avid readers.
Steel was born on August 14, 1947, in New York City, the only child of John Schuelein-Steel, a member of Munich's wealthy Lowenbrau beer family, and Norma Schuelein-Steel, an international beauty from Portugal. Steel's parents divorced when she was seven or eight years old. Afterwards, she was raised by relatives and servants in Paris and New York. She graduated from the Lycee Francais when she was not quite fifteen and in 1963 entered New York's Parsons School of Design. However, she soon abandoned her dream of becoming "the new Chanel" when the pressure to succeed caused her to develop a stomach ulcer. She then enrolled at New York University, where she studied until 1967. When she was eighteen, Steel married her first husband, a French banker with homes in New York, San Francisco, and Paris.