He needed to drive by Nancy’s cottage one more time. Maybe sit out on the deck and remember the times they had shared lasagna after he’d been painting all day or refinishing her wood floors. That was the only payment he accepted, her home-cooked meals and her friendship.
He pulled down the gravel road that housed five cottages built in the sixties. One of them was in the process of being torn down, no doubt to be replaced by something shiny and new. The small Panhandle town didn’t boast wide, sugar-sand beaches. The scrubland in this area, with its sea-grass-covered dunes, hadn’t been developed as it had farther west. But, with the economy recovering, Chambliss was now seeing the results of the dredging project begun years ago.
As he neared Nancy’s home, his heartbeat spiked at the sight of two cars parked out front, lights blazing inside. Mia and her parents, he bet. They’d probably just arrived, given the luggage in the open trunk. He paused, even though he knew that he should back up and leave.
Except he couldn’t, because the front door opened and a woman stepped out. His heart tripped and coughed and gasped like a gunked-up carburetor. Mia. Her dark-brown hair was piled up on her head, loose strands framing her face. She stepped off the front porch and out of the light, but in that brief glimpse he could see her tired, sad expression as she headed toward the open trunk. Which would put her only a few yards away from his car.
He still couldn’t lift his foot from the brake pedal. His windows were tinted, so she wouldn’t see him. He couldn’t see her as well, either, but he saw enough as she hefted out the black suitcase. Now his heart was racing, seventy, eighty, a hundred miles an hour. She wore a red top, one sleeve drooping off her shoulder, and shorts. Still trim and long in the torso. Still about five- five. It was her face, what he could see of it in the distant lighting, that gripped him. In this light, as beautiful as ever. Memories flashed through his mind like a slide show: her laughing; smiling shyly; closing her eyes and arching as she came beneath him. Whispering his name, her fingers digging into his back.
She looked up then, her gaze zeroing in on his car. Her eyebrows furrowed, and she tilted her head in the way he’d seen a hundred times. Something inside him screamed to lower the window and say something. Hello. How are you? I’m so sorry . . .
She turned to glance behind her, where her father was coming down the steps. Raleigh hit the gas and shot forward to the end of the lane, where he had to pry his fingers from the steering wheel to put the car into park. He was shaking.
Dammit, he’d almost screwed up. Talking to her would only dredge up a painful past for Mia. Maybe her anger, too. Her father would have blown a gasket. Mia didn’t deserve to suffer anymore over him.
He forced himself to breathe normally and pull around the small cul-de-sac. As he passed Nancy’s cottage, he vowed that he wouldn’t look. But he couldn’t help it. Everyone was inside, the cars closed up. He told himself it was for the better. That maybe he shouldn’t attend the funeral after all. How the hell was he going to handle seeing her without a tinted window and the night between them?
Fans of Jasinda Wilder and Colleen Hoover will adore this emotional new small-town romance—a smoldering tale of first love and long-awaited redemption from USA Today bestselling author Tina Wainscott.
Raleigh West works in an auto shop day and night, trying to put his broken past out of mind. It’s been seven years since the fiery crash that landed his teenage sweetheart in the hospital . . . and him in jail. In an instant, he lost everything: his passion for racing, his hope of escaping his father’s shameful legacy, and the only girl he ever loved. Raleigh hasn’t seen her since that awful night. Never got a chance to apologize. And never forgave himself, either.
When brave, beautiful Mia Wentworth returns to the Florida coast for the first time in what seems like forever, it’s not to see Raleigh. Even so, the moment she arrives she can feel his presence like a gust of wind that gives her goose bumps. Opening her heart to him again seems impossible. But staying away? That might be harder still. Lucky for them both, Mia’s never been the kind of woman to take the easy way out.
About the Author:
USA Today bestselling author Tina Wainscott has always loved the combination of romance and suspense, because nothing complements falling in love better than being hunted down. The author of more than thirty novels and novellas, Wainscott creates characters with baggage, past hurts, and vulnerabilities. They go through hell, find love, and, at the end, find peace in who they are and everything they’ve gone through. And isn’t that what everyone wants?