"“I chose the path less traveled, but only because I was lost. Carry a map.” Phoebe Traeger
Maddie drove the narrow, curvy highway with her past still nipping at her heels after fourteen hundred miles. Not even her dependable Honda had been able to outrun her demons.
Or her own failings.
Good thing then that she was done with failing. Please, be done with failing, she thought.
“Come on, listeners,” the disk jockey said jovially on the radio. “Call in with your Christmas hopes and dreams. We’ll be picking a random winner and making a wish come true.”
“You’re kidding me.” Maddie briefly took her eyes off the mountainous road and flicked a glance at the dash. “It’s one day after Thanksgiving. It’s not time for Christmas.”
“Any wish,” the DJ said. “Name it, and it could be yours.”
As if. But she let out a breath and tried for whimsy. Once upon a time, she’d been good at such things. “Fine. I’ll wish for …” What? That she could’ve had a do-over with her mother before Phoebe Traeger had gone to the ultimate Grateful Dead concert in the sky? That Maddie had dumped her ex before he’d dumped her? That her boss — may he choke on his leftover turkey — had waited until after year-end bonuses to fire her?
“The lines are lit up,” the DJ announced. “Best of luck to all of you out there waiting.”
Hey, maybe that’s what she’d wish for — luck. She’d wish for better luck than she’d had: with family, with a job, with men—
Well, maybe not men. Men, she was giving up entirely. Pausing from that thought, she squinted through the fog to read the first road sign she’d seen in awhile.
Welcome to Lucky Harbor!
Home to 2,100 lucky people
And 10,100 shellfish.
"Ford raised a brow in Tara’s direction. She pretended not to notice as she walked her date out. When she came back into the kitchen, Ford was waiting for her, clearly amused. “You used me to dump your date.”
“Dumped is … harsh.”
“It’s accurate,” she agreed, and sighed. “He had bad breath.”
“This isn’t funny, Ford. I needed a damn date.”
“That’s not what I would have guessed.”
She narrowed her eyes. “What does that mean?”
“It means,” he said with a faint smile. “That I remember how you get when you’re uptight and anxious. I also remember the only that would relax you.”
She had a flash to a long ago night, on the docks after a fight with her mother that had left her shaky and alone. Ford had found her, and in shocking little time had her forgetting both her troubles.
Naked therapy, Ford style.
It’d worked, and at the memory, she felt heat flood her face. “Yes, well, sex isn’t on the table at the moment.”
Now he flashed her his bad boy grin. “I was talking about how we used to lie on the marina dock and count stars, but your idea has merits too. Come here, Tara.”
Said the spider to the fly. “I don’t think so.”
He smiled again and poured her some wine, looking comfortable in his own skin as he leaned back against the counter, his own glass dwarfed in his big hand."
"“If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.” Chloe Traeger
It wasn’t often that Chloe Traeger beat her sisters into the kitchen in the morning, but with Tara and Maddie currently sleeping with the town’s two hottest hotties, it’d been only a matter of time.
And in the name of fairness, Chloe hadn’t actually gotten to bed yet, but that was just a technicality. With a wide yawn, she started the coffee. Then gathering what she needed, she hopped up onto the counter – hissing in pain from her throbbing legs. The quiet in the kitchen soothed her as she mixed ingredients together for her natural antibacterial cream. Given how loudly she lived her life, the silence was a nice start to the day.
Especially today, which promised to get crazy quickly, though not much could out-crazy last night. Later in the afternoon, she’d be doing her esthetician thing at a high-end spa in Seattle, but first she had to put in some time here in Lucky Harbor at the B&B that she ran with her sisters.
The fact that her days were centering around work instead of play had her shaking her head with a rueful smile. Oh, how things change. Only a year ago, she’d been free as a bird, roaming happily from spa to spa at will, with no real ties. Then she and the half-sisters she’d never really known had inherited a dilapidated, falling-down-on-its-axis beach inn. With absolutely no knowledge of what to do with it.
Hard to believe how far they’d come. They’d renovated, turned the place into a thriving B&B, and now Chloe, Tara, and Maddie were real sisters instead of strangers. Friends, even."
"Lightning sent a jagged bolt across Ty Garrison’s closed lids. Thunder boomed and the earth shuddered, and he jerked straight up in bed, gasping as if he’d just run a marathon.
A dream, just the same goddamn four-year-old dream.
Sweating and trembling like a leaf, he scrubbed his hands over his face. Why couldn’t he dream about something good, like sex with triplets?
Shoving free of the covers, he limped naked to the window and yanked it open. The cool mist of the spring storm brushed his heated skin, and he fought the urge to close his eyes. If he did, he’d be back there.
But the memories came anyway.
“Landing in ten,” the pilot announced as the plane skimmed just beneath the storm raging through the night.
In eight, the plane began to vibrate.
In six, lightning cracked.
And then an explosion, one so violent it nearly blew out his eardrums."
"“I should kiss you, that would shut you up.”
“Yeah,” Matt said. “You should kiss me.”
“Fine.” Amy shoved him up against a tree with one hell of a kiss. She found herself melting into him, like maybe there was no line drawn in the sand between him and her, nothing but this incredible pleasure, pleasure she couldn’t remember ever getting out of a simple kiss before. Matt’s arms held her close, and the scent of him, clean, warm male, was making her heart pound. Her head was overrun with wicked thoughts involving her tongue and every inch of his body.
“So,” she said. “It worked. You’re quiet now.”
“Amy.” His voice was thrillingly quiet and gruff, running his lips along her jaw. “Don’t promise what you don’t want to deliver.”
Turning her head, she cupped his face and pulled it closer. Matt let out a sound and sucked hungrily on her bottom lip, like he was a starving man and she was his next meal. And while his mouth and tongue were very busy, so were his hands, gripping her hips, grinding her into him.
“I rarely make a promise,” Amy whispered. “But when I do, I deliver . . . ”"
"Holding onto her hat, Mia ran along the streets on her killer four-inch red heels, her matching red skirt ruffling in the breeze. Late. She was late.
It was the story of her life.
“Hey, Mrs. Claus!” a construction worker yelled. “I need some holiday spirit! Come on, mama, bring it over here!”
This was accompanied by the hoots and hollers of the guy’s co-workers.
Mia flipped them off and kept running in tune to their raucous laughter. She might not be New York born or bred, but she’d learned to fit in just fine.
“Wow, are you real?” a little kid asked in marvel a block later, taking in her costume. “Is Santa real?”
“Yes!” she told him, and kept running.
Except if there’d really been a Santa Claus, she’d happily crawl onto his lap and whisper her greatest wish – to be picked. For her softball team, for her internship, for a relationship, it didn’t matter. Getting picked meant everything to her, but somehow, she always ended up doing the picking."
LOVE CAN HAPPEN IN A HEARTBEAT
Grace never thought she’d be starting her life over from scratch. Losing everything has landed her in Lucky Harbor, working as a dog walker for overwhelmed ER doctor Josh Scott. But the day his nanny fails to show up, Grace goes from caring for Josh’s lovable mutt to caring for his rambunctious son. Soon Grace is playing house with the sexy single dad…
With so many people depending on him, Josh has no time for anything outside of his clinic and family-until Grace arrives in town. Now this brainy blonde is turning his life inside out and giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “good bedside manner.” Josh and Grace don’t know if what they have can last. But in a town like Lucky Harbor, a lifetime of love starts with just one day…More info →
"She did her best to appear as though she hadn’t just been sitting in an interrogation room for hours being questioned about a crime she hadn’t committed. But as it turned out, the pretense was far too much for her overloaded emotions, and she closed her eyes, trying to disappear into the seat. If she disappeared, then he couldn’t see her fall apart.
“You okay?” he asked.
Her throat tightened further, and she shook her head. Nope. Not okay. Not even close. “Don’t,” she said.
“Don’t be nice to me right now. I’ll lose it.”
With surprising gentleness, he pushed the hair from her face, then clicked open her seatbelt.
It was all the invitation she was going to get, and all the invitation she needed. Turning to him, she burrowed in as steady, strong arms closed around her. He stroked a hand down her back, and she pressed her face into the crook of his neck, soaking in the warm comfort he offered.
It was the safest and most secure she’d felt in far too long and she wasn’t sure she was going to be able to let go.
Afraid he was going to pull away before she was done soaking him in, she squirmed a little closer. “Please not yet.”
He tightened his grip. “It’s okay. I’ve got you.”
Thank God. For just this one second, someone had her."
"Another firefighter stepped up to the griddle to relieve Jack who loaded a plate for himself and stepped over to Kevin. He flipped the dog a sausage, which Kevin caught in midair with one snap of his huge jaws. The sausage instantly vanished, and Kevin licked his lips, staring intently at Jack’s plate as if he could make more sausage fly into his mouth by wish alone.
Jack laughed and crouched down to talk to the dog, a movement that had his shirt riding up, revealing low-riding BDUs – his uniform pants – a strip of taut, tantalizing male skin, and just the hint of a perfect ass.
On either side of Leah, both Ali and Aubrey gave lusty sighs. Leah completely understood. She could feel her own lusty sigh catching in her throat but she squelched it. They were in the F-zone, she and Jack. Friends. Friends didn’t do lust, or if they did, they also did the smart, logical thing and ignored it. Still, she felt a smile escape her at the contagious sound of Jack’s laughter. Truth was, he’d been making her smile since the sixth grade, when she’d first moved to Lucky Harbor.
As if sensing her appraisal, Jack lifted his head. His dark mirrored sunglasses hid his eyes, but she knew he was looking right at her because he arched a dark brow.
And on either side of her, Ali and Aubrey sighed again.
“Really?” Leah asked them.
“Well look at him,” Aubrey said unapologetically. “He’s hot, he’s got rhythm, and not just the fake white-boy kind either. He’s also funny as hell. And for a bonus, he’s gainfully employed. It’s just too bad I’m off men forever.”
“Forever’s a long time,” Ali said, and Leah’s gut cramped at the thought of the beautiful, blonde Aubrey going after Jack."
"It was dark outside when she got back to the Book & Bean, and she stopped short just outside the door. She’d locked up when she left and turned off the lights.
But the door was unlocked now, and the lights on. She went still, then pulled out her phone and dialed 9-1-1. She didn’t hit send but kept her thumb hovered over call. Taking a step inside, she paused. “Hello?”
The low, slightly rough voice wasn’t what had her heart pumping. That honor went to the fact that there was a man on a ladder in the back of her store.
He was in jeans with a tool belt slung low on his hips, his t-shirt clinging to him. He seemed a little irritated, a little sweaty, and just looking at him Aubrey got a whole lot hot and bothered in places that had no business being hot and bothered by this man at all. “What are you doing in here?” she asked.
“I work here.”
“What are you talking about? Get out.”
“Sorry, Sunshine.” He wasn’t even looking at her, but using some sort of long, claw-like tool to pull down a ceiling tile above the wall she’d been working on. And his tool worked way better than hers."
"“Oh, yeah,” Becca Thorpe murmured with a sigh of pleasure as she wriggled her toes in the wet sand. The sensation was better than splurging on a rare pedicure. Better than finding the perfect dress on sale. Better than…well, she’d say orgasms, but it’d been a while and she couldn’t remember for sure.
“You’re perfect,” she said to the Pacific Ocean, munching on the ranch-flavored popcorn she’d bought from the pier. “So perfect that I’d marry you and have your babies, if I hadn’t just promised myself to this popcorn.”
“Not even going to ask.”
At the sound of the deep male voice behind her, Becca squeaked and whipped around.
She’d thought she was alone on the rocky beach. Alone with her thoughts, her hopes, her fears, and all her worldly possessions stuffed into her car parked in the lot behind her.
But she wasn’t alone at all, because not ten feet away, between her and the pier, stood a man. He wore a rash-guard T-shirt and loose board shorts, both dripping wet and clinging to his very hot bod. He had a surfboard tucked under a biceps, and just looking at him had her pulse doing a little tap dance.
Maybe it was his unruly sun-kissed brown hair, the strands more than a little wild and blowing in his face. Maybe it was the face itself, which was striking for the features carved in granite and a set of mossy-green eyes that held her prisoner. Or maybe it was that he carried himself like he knew he was at the top of the food chain."
"For a guy balancing his weight between the fly bridge of his boat and the dock, thinking about sex instead of what he was doing was a real bonehead move. Cole Donovan was precariously perched on the balls of his feet above some seriously choppy, icy water. So concentrating would’ve been the smart move.
But he had no smarts left, which was what happened when you hadn’t had a good night sleep in far too long — your brain wandered into areas it shouldn’t.
Sex being one of those areas.
He shook his head to clear it. It was way too early for those kind of thoughts. Not quite dawn, the sky was a brilliant kaleidoscope of purples and blues and reds. Cole worked with a flashlight between his teeth, his fingers threading new electrical wire through the running lights on the stern. He only had a couple hours before a group of eight was coming through for a tour of the area.
That’s what he and his two partners and best friends did — they hired out themselves and their fifty foot Wright Sport boat, chartering deep sea fishing, whale watching, scuba diving … if it could be done, they did it. Sam was their financial guy and boat builder. Tanner was their scuba diving instructor and communications expert. Cole was the captain, chief navigator, mechanic, and – lucky him — the face of Lucky Harbor Charters, mostly because neither Sam nor Tanner were exactly service-oriented people."
"“I’m off men, you know.”
“Yeah. I know.” Tanner pulled Callie in, hard against his body.
She took two handfuls of his shirt. For balance, she told herself. But the truth was, she wanted to put her hands on him. He looked down on her face for another second, his brown eyes soft but full of intent as he slowly lowered his head.
He paused, eyes on hers.
She had her hands over his heart and could feel the beating beneath her palms. Slow. Steady.
The opposite of hers, of course.
“I…can’t remember what I was going to say.”
His eyes were smiling into hers. “So I can continue?”
She cleared her throat and nodded. “Carry on,” she whispered.
He started with a brush of his lips against one corner of her mouth, a butterfly touch. And then the other corner.
She heard a soft sound, an almost whimper, and realized it was her. He slowly sank his fingers into her hair, and she melted. No other word for it, her bones just melted clean away. And then he proceeded to kiss the living daylights out of her…"
"Chloe came awake aware of two things: one, she was alone in the bed, and two, she didn’t like being alone in the bed. She sat up and blearily blinked into focus a sight that immediately had her brain clearing.
And her body humming.
“Officer Hottie,” she murmured, and had the pleasure of seeing the big, badass, steely man grimace at the nickname he hated.
Five years and she still loved to poke the bear. And right now the bear stopped shoving things into a duffel bag and looked at her, quiet and assessing, taking her temperature from across the room. “You’re awake.”
“Seems like,” she answered, hearing the exhaustion in her voice.
Evidently Sawyer did as well. His mouth tightened slightly as his eyes scanned her from head to toe. Whatever he saw had him moving from his duffel bag to the side of the bed, where he stood looking down at her. His dark brown eyes could be cool and unreadable—his cop eyes—or soft, melting chocolate, like when he was feeling frisky, though she hadn’t seen that side of him lately.
Yeah, she had brain freeze, and not just from the ice cream. “Back up,” she wheezed. “Give me space.”"