After her ex runs up her credit card, clears her bank account, and gets her fired, Seanna Perry makes her escape to the quaint beach town of Seaside, Florida. The houses are pastel, the ocean air heaven, and the men hot as the Gulf Coast sun … one in particular. But while paying the price, literally, for the last man she trusted with her heart, she’s not interested in any sort of beach romance, or so she keeps reminding herself.
Living in the idyllic coastal paradise of the 30A area hasn’t eased Blake Evans’ guilt over what went down three years ago. He can’t stop blaming himself, and certainly none of his wonderful friends can ever find out what happened. Blake’s done a good job of keeping romantic feelings toward any woman at bay, and he needs to keep it that way. But when Seanna begins to show him how to live again, he finds himself struggling to keep his guard up.
Seanna wasn’t exactly running away, but the opportunity to hide at her favorite aunt’s beachside bungalow was way more appealing than spending another second in the same house as her piece of crap ex-fiancé. When Seanna had rung Cassidy just yesterday, thankfully her aunt only focused on the logistics of getting Seanna from Nashville to the dream world of Seaside, Florida and not on asking why she needed to get away.
As she cruised through town on her way to Cassidy’s place, the community around her popped in pastels, mod art galleries, and artisanal eateries with the Gulf of Mexico roaring to the shore in the background, causing her to question why she hadn’t escaped from her ridiculous life sooner. Cassidy’s street, Seagull Lane, showcased houses colored in mint green, lavender, and peach, all trimmed in white featuring picket fences and palm trees. As she connected Cassidy’s street address with a baby blue cottage, she smiled as she wheeled into the drive. She popped the trunk to her Honda Civic, shouldered a couple of bags, and then headed up the cobblestone walk.
She needed a hug from Cassidy like a supermodel needed a hamburger. Seanna had yet to explain to her aunt or anyone else not only why her engagement was over, but that it had ended at all. She’d been holding this secret for nine months. The lie should have gotten easier by now, but it hadn’t, and Cassidy was no fool.
Seanna rang the bell, and then held her arms out wide to give Cassidy a smile at first sight. But when the door opened, a man about a head taller than her stood there in a pair of shorts and no shirt, shaggy hair dripping wet. Mimicking her, he held his hands out to his sides. “I thought a handshake was more appropriate, but I’m good with a hug if you are.”
Stupefied by his lean body with just enough muscle to make her sweat and crystal blue eyes that sucked her in like a tornado, she took a step backward almost teetering off the porch. Holy crap he was hot. Wait. She hated men now.
She righted herself and peered around him. “I’m sorry. I must have the wrong house. I’m looking for—”
“Cassidy Anderson?” he asked.
She lowered her chin. “Yeah.”
“You’re in the right place. Come in.”
He reached for her bag and she retracted instinctively, causing a frown to form on his face. She had to remind herself that all men were not thieves and scoundrels.
“Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to answer the door without a shirt. I was actually just getting ready to grab one, but I wasn’t sure how long you’d been standing there. I just got out of the shower. That bell doesn’t work.”
She relaxed and relinquished the bag to him. “Thank you.”
He pointed to a room. “This one’s yours. Cassidy had me paint it a few months back. I hope you like blue.” A phone buzzed in the man’s pocket, and he pulled it out. “It’s your aunt. She wants to know if you’re here. Says she’s been calling and texting but can’t reach you.”
Seanna had turned the stupid thing off. Jason had started texting her somewhere around Birmingham with his whiny crap. Could they talk? He needed to explain. He’d just slipped up this one time. It wasn’t what she thought. Blah, blah, blah.
She pulled her phone out of her purse and powered it back on. She rolled her eyes as the notifications filled her screen. A few from Cassidy, but a million from Jason. She tossed the phone back down inside her purse with a little more gusto than she meant to.
He tilted his head to the side. “Should I ask?” His piercing blue eyes beamed through her, and a little spark ignited in her chest.
She blew it out, resting her hands on her hips. “Bad day. So who are you?”
He closed the distance between them, offering a hand. “Blake Evans. I’m a friend of your aunt.”
The light bulb went off above Seanna’s head. Go, Aunt Cassidy. She was turning forty-eight this year, and this guy was, what, thirty? Thirty-five, tops. Not that Cassidy wasn’t gorgeous. Regal but rugged, she could have easily strutted down a runway in her day rather than volunteering in the Peace Corps. She’d never known Cassidy to date younger men. In fact, she’d usually liked them a little older. But geez, a guy who looked like that could change most girls’ tastes.
Seanna shook his hand. “All right.” She walked around, taking in the shabby chic, beach decor. Cassidy had been renting a condo when Seanna had visited last. What was that, four years ago? It was before she’d gotten the job she’d just been booted from. She didn’t realize it’d been that long since she’d been here for a visit. Cassidy usually came to Nashville for a little while in January when she closed the shop for the season.
“So did you two buy this place together?” she asked.
He gave her a quizzical glance. “No. It’s all your aunt’s.”
“I take it I’ll be seeing you quite a bit around here.”
He walked into the bathroom and grabbed a shirt from a bag on the sink. “Actually, you will. I work for your aunt. Not full-time, but I’m in and out a lot.”
An employee. How scandalous of her aunt. “At the bakery?” She could imagine him hauling around hundred-pound bags of flour, muscles bulging through his white T-shirt. There was something about a man in a plain, white T-shirt and jeans that made Seanna’s insides turn into hot molten fudge sauce.
“Mostly. I’m a handyman,” he said. “I work for a lot of businesses in the area.” He pointed toward her car. “Do you have anything else out there?”
She had to look away. She couldn’t believe how attractive this guy was, and he belonged to her aunt. Even if he didn’t, it wasn’t like she was in any sort of position to be dating. She didn’t plan on doing that until sometime around mid-century, and even that timeline was iffy.
“No, I’m not staying long. But thanks for the help,” she said.
“Sure.” He walked through the doorway and down the steps toward a pickup truck parked on the street. He turned around. “I hope your bad day gets better.”
She leaned against the doorframe. “It’s actually more like a bad year.”
“Well, in that case, I hope your year gets better. Anything I can do?” He slipped her a sideways smile that was likely to have caused a few thousand pairs of panties to drop to the ground.
“Oh, no. Let’s just say I won’t be dating another man until the cows come home.”
He took a few steps backward. “The cows? Wow. That’s pretty serious.”
She rested a hand on her hip. “Men suck.”
“Sometimes that’s not a bad thing.” He widened his smile as he turned around and headed for his truck.
Man alive. Seanna’s luck with men may be sketchy, but her aunt was doing just fine.
Blake tossed his keys on the kitchen table as Sadie mowed him down. He really needed to train her not to jump on him, but he was a sucker for her hugs. He pulled a bottle of beer out of the refrigerator and peered around for something to eat. It wasn’t like he was bound to find anything. He hadn’t cooked in a week. He plopped down on the couch, and Sadie followed, resting her head in his lap as he stroked her fur. He started flipping channels, but he couldn’t focus on television.
The picture Cassidy had shown him of her niece had not done her justice. Seanna was cute in the close-up shot—shoulder-length hair, a wavy mix of brunette and blond highlights, hazel eyes, no make-up…not that she needed it. But standing in front of Blake in Cassidy’s house she had come to life.
Something else had been missing from the picture. He was trying not to stare, but holy shit. He was only a human man. She wore a V-neck T-shirt with the tip of her cleavage peeking out. Curves in all the right places, even in jeans and a T-shirt her body looked like it belonged to a sixties pinup model.
He snapped out of it, reality swarming in. This woman was off limits for more reasons than he could count. He’d known it before she arrived, and certainly nothing had changed. Apparently her engagement was off—not that a fiancé was the only reason he couldn’t move in on this girl. Blake had happened to be there when Seanna made the call to Cassidy about coming to Seaside for an immediate visit. Cassidy had been confused and not just a little worried.
Blake walked over to his computer and checked his email—a message from Dr. Kevin Jacobs, the Emergency Department Director at the hospital in Atlanta. As much as he liked and appreciated Kevin, he couldn’t help the churn in his gut at the sight of his name and of the reminder of the life Blake had worked so hard to put behind him the past three years. He double-clicked on it.
What’s up, man? Been a few months since I’ve talked to you. It’s been a year since I moved to Kansas City, but I swear it feels like a month.
I assume you’re still hammering nails and walking people’s dogs down there at the beach, huh? I think it’s time we changed that. Don’t you?
Let’s talk. Call me when you get a minute. I’m off a full twenty-four hours on Sunday. Call me then.
A change. That meant Kevin wanted to get Blake back to practicing medicine. He wasn’t ready for that change…not now, and maybe not ever.
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