Maui isn’t always the safe paradise it’s made out to be and when ancient island superstitions threaten to rob the Monroe family yet again, they must all find a way to turn fate toward a favorable direction. Into the Blue, the third book in the By the Sea series, takes you on an emotional journey filled with hope for a happily ever after.
Jules is the matriarch and center of the Monroe family, having led a healthy and fulfilling life, and made something of herself from nothing. Now in her late fifties, she juggles her charity mission, the work she does for the family business, provides childcare for her grandchildren, and continues being the best wife she can be to Noah. But everything comes to an abrupt stop when her body says enough and her mind would rather retreat to a safer place than the one she has carved out, in her lifelong attempt to keep her own needs and emotions under lock and key.
Jonah Monroe is Jules’ and Noah’s eldest child and only son. Despite his not-so-long-ago tour of duty with the service that should’ve changed his outlook, a childhood tragedy molded him into a reserved man with low self-esteem and a reluctance to rely on others. His past included things he wasn’t proud of and might never shed. When he has another chance to be the hero he’s always wanted to be, will he accept the kindness of strangers to get him there or will his demons force him to retreat and lose confidence in his own gut feeling and abilities?
It was a gorgeous day on Maui, and just perfect for grabbing a chair and parking it next to the water. Many people had done just that, sitting with toes in the sand and sun on their faces, enjoying the soft breeze that crept across the waves, just strong enough to tickle and tease.
But the weather was deceiving. This was not a good day for Jules Monroe.
Jules pushed the sweaty strands of hair out of her eyes before dipping the sand bucket back into the ocean. The foamy water swirled and filled, and she lifted it up again, pouring it over the beached whale. Her arms were getting weak and her shoulder was throbbing, right along with the muscles that ran down her lower back. Her calves burned from straining against the current, trying to stay upright in one spot, despite the crashing waves and the ocean’s pull.
Yes, everything hurt, but she couldn’t stop. Each time she thought she couldn’t possibly lift another bucket of water, she gazed into that big, intelligent eye and somehow found the strength to do it again.
At times, the murmurs and clicks of photos being taken by onlookers caught her attention. She wanted to scream at them to go away. To take their voyeuristic curiosity elsewhere. To shove their selfies where the sun didn’t shine. But she needed all her reserves.
Her emotions couldn’t get in the way of her work.
The melon-headed whale—or blackfish, as she’d grown up calling them—were her favorites, though technically they were part of the dolphin family. She’d rarely seen them close to shore in her lifetime, as they tended to stay in deep waters.
That was how she’d known how serious the situation was when she’d gotten the call. Of the ten stranded whales, four had already been guided back out to sea, but six were still being examined and helped, with the one under her ministrations having been guided out only to linger there with no motivation to go deeper, until slowly returning to the beach. It was clear there was something terribly wrong with the cow.
Julies cringed when a spasm hit her just below her left shoulder blade. It was moments like this that reminded her she was no longer a young, vibrant beach girl.
At least she’d gotten some relief by switching from helping hold the whale up to keeping her top wet.
She focused. Filling and pouring another bucket.
Don’t think of the pain, she coaxed herself.
She reached up and caressed the bulge on the whale’s forehead, the physical attribute that they were named for. The cow was only about seven feet long and probably three hundred pounds, but she was beautiful.
She was one of ten melon-headed whales found stranded on Sugar Beach in Kihei. No one knew why they’d stranded, but Jules suspected it was the recent increase in the Navy’s sonar being used in the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands. The rescue team had been trying to save them for going on fifteen hours now.
“Jules.” The sound of her husband Noah’s soft voice momentarily broke her focus, as he put his hand on her shoulder.
“No,” she insisted, refusing to give up.
Jonah sighed loudly. His father had called him to come help, and Jules had found his calmness a balm as they worked together. But now he was taking Noah’s side.
“Mom, you can’t do this all day and all night. We’ve helped enough. Let the team do their job,” he urged.
“I’m not leaving her,” Jules said. “She’s so afraid.”
Noah pulled the bucket from her hands, dropping it into the water before he took her by the shoulders and gently forced her to turn around.
“Jules, look at me. You have to let her go. Kealoha is ready to perform her death rite.”
Jules swallowed hard. She felt like a failure.
Kealoha was a leader in the small community of cultural practitioners on Maui. Her mere presence there made the officials explore every possibility before even contemplating euthanizing any sea life. However, it was clear that from every side—cultural leaders, tourists, veterinarians, and the officials—that they all wanted the same thing.
Jules joined voices with Kealoha when she’d begged for more time to hold the whales up so they could get stronger and try to save themselves, or at least swim away and die their own dignified deaths, but the officials had set a deadline and they were now a little past it. The veterinarians had already sedated two of the whales to make them comfortable so they could humanely euthanize them.
Kealoha came into view and embraced Jules.
“Jules, they found a calf half a mile down the beach. They’re already saying its body shows signs of infection and sickness. I think the pod was guiding it in for us to help it, but they never meant to come all the way to the beach.”
This cow was the mother of the calf.
There was no way to prove it, but Jules just knew it was true. She felt it. That was why she felt such a connection with this particular old girl. They were kindred spirits. Two mothers who would sacrifice their lives for their children.
And the rest of them? Easy answer—whales created a close-knit community. They would’ve decided it was safer to guide the calf in with a few protectors.
“I am so sorry,” Kealoha whispered. “But we can at least do this for her. We will ask their ancestors and the gods to take her gently and quickly. You have shown her such courage and compassion. You’ve done all you can do, and now we have to let her go.”
Jules knew the older woman was just as devastated about the outcome—and that they couldn’t save them all. They tried, though. Every single time. It wasn’t simply human kindness. For Hawaiians, the whales were deeply revered, believed to be a manifestation of Kanaloa, a famous sea god.
A few other cultural practitioners stepped into view, quiet and waiting. Jules knew them all by name. She respected their commitment.
Behind her, the others continued to hold the whale up in the water. That group was younger; a generation removed from tradition, but still taking on their role quietly, without questions. Jules remember the first time she’d seen such a practice on the beach. She’d only been five or six years old and her father had explained to her that whales’ bodies were meant to stay afloat in waters, the buoyancy keeping it weightless. When they were sick and unable to hold themselves up, they could easily crush their own organs if not assisted.
She’d given her first daughter that same lesson one early morning on a beach more than thirty years ago. Her little Nama—a sprite of a girl that she’d only had for a few years before the sea had seemingly swallowed her up too, before giving her back as an adult woman.
So many years ago, Jules would’ve gone into the blue herself, following her daughter into an endless sea. But Noah had grounded her. As had Jonah.
They’d needed her too.
Jules hoped this cow didn’t have more calves waiting out there, braying for their mother to return. It took everything in her, but she stepped back and nodded.
The whale was probably dehydrated, and possibly sun-burned even through the wet towels they kept over her.
“We must let them end her suffering,” Noah said.
Jules approached the whale again, resting her forehead on hers and wrapping her arms around the massive wet body. She felt a shudder ripple through the animal.
“You are magnificent,” she whispered. “Be at peace.”
With that, she turned, her sobs erupting as Noah opened his arms and welcomed her in. She couldn’t bear to watch the last minutes, so he guided her out of the water. Her son took her other arm and together, they quietly left the whale behind so that she could let go and drift into the blue.