By Jill Shalvis
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 14, 2014. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
Tanner is a deep-sea diver with a wild, adrenaline-junkie past-and now his teenage son is back in his life. How can Tanner be a role model when he’s still paying for his own mistakes? It’s hard enough that gorgeous Callie has appeared in town like a beautiful dream, challenging his best-laid plans to keep his heart on lockdown. Though there’s something about being around her again that makes him feel like he can be the man she-and his son-deserve. Little Lucky Harbor holds their past; can it hold a beautiful new future?
I want a hoedown wedding.”
Callie Sharpe, wedding site designer and planner, was professional enough to not blink at this news. “A hoedown wedding.”
“Yes,” her client said via Skype. “The bridesmaids want to wear cowboy boots and Jimmy wants to eat pigs in a blanket at the reception. You okay with that?”
“Sure,” Callie said to her laptop. After all, she loved pigs in a blanket so who was she to judge? “It’s your day, whatever you want.”
Her bride-to-be smiled. “You really know your wedding stuff. And you always look so wonderful. I love your clothes. Can I see what shoes you’re wearing? I bet they’re fab too.”
Callie didn’t let her easy smile slip. “Oh, but this is about your wedding, not my shoes. Let’s talk about your invitations—”
Callie sighed. For the camera, she wore a silky cami and blazer. Out of camera range, she wore capri yoga pants that doubled as PJs and… bunny slippers. “Whoops,” she said. “I’ve got another call. I’ll get back to you.”
She disconnected and grimaced. “Sorry,” she said to the client who could no longer hear her. She went back to work, clicking through page after page of the season’s new wedding dresses, uploading the ones she liked best. She switched to the latest invitation designs next. And then unique party favors and stylish accessories.
You really know your wedding stuff.
Unfortunately this was true. She’d been a bride once, the most silly, hopeful, eager bride ever. Well, an almost bride. She’d gotten all the way to the church before getting stood up, and since that memory still stung, she shoved it aside. She’d married something else instead—she’d united her strong IT skills with her secret, deeply buried love of all things romantic—and had created TyingTheKnot.com. On a daily basis, she dealt with demanding, temperamental, and in lots of cases, batshit-crazy brides, all looking for their happily-ever-after. She’d made it her job to give them the dream.
It was exhausting. Standing, Callie stretched and moved to the wall of windows. Her apartment was one of three in a battered old warehouse that had once been a cannery, then a salt water taffy manufacturer, and then, in the fifties, a carnival boardinghouse. The building wasn’t much to write home about, but the view made the lack of insulation and insufficient heat worth it.
Today the waters of Lucky Harbor were a gorgeous azure blue, dotted with whitecaps thanks to a brutal mid-November wind that was whistling through the tangle of steel rafters, metal joists, and worthless heating ducts above her.
Callie had grown up in this small, quirky Washington coastal town sandwiched between the Pacific and the Olympic Mountains, and once upon a time, she hadn’t been able to get out of here fast enough. There’d been more than one reason for that but she was back now, and not exactly because she wanted to be.
There was a man in the water swimming parallel to the shore. Passing the pier, he moved toward the north end and the row of warehouses, including the one she stood in.
Transfixed, she watched the steady strokes and marveled at his speed. He might as well have been a machine given how efficiently and effectively he cut through the water.
Callie had been in those waters, although only in the summertime. She couldn’t even swim to the end of the pier and back without needing life support.
But the man kept going.
After a long time, he finally turned and headed in, standing up in the water when he got close enough. After the incredible strength he’d shown swimming in the choppy surf, she was surprised when he limped to the sand. Especially since she couldn’t see anything wrong with him, at least from this distance.
He was in a full wetsuit, including something covering his head and most of his face. He peeled this off as he dropped to his knees, and she gasped.
Military-short, dark hair and dark eyes. And a hardness to his jaw that said he’d had the dark life to go with.
He looked just like… oh God, it was.
While she was standing there staring, her cell phone started ringing with the I Love Lucy theme song, signaling her grandma was calling. Eyes still glued to the beach—and the very hot man now unzipping his wetsuit—she reached for her phone. “Did you know Tanner Riggs was home?” she asked in lieu of a greeting.
“Well, hello to you too, my favorite nerd-techie granddaughter.”
“I’m your only granddaughter,” Callie said.
“Well, you’re still my favorite,” Lucille said. “And yes, of course I know Tanner’s in town. He lives here now. Honey, you’re not reading my Instagram or you’d already know this and much, much more.”
She didn’t touch that one. The sole reason she was back in Lucky Harbor and not in San Francisco was because of her grandma.
Callie’s dad—Lucille’s only son—had been an attorney. Actually both of her parents had been, and even retired, they still liked things neat and logical.
Grandma Lucille was neither, and Callie’s parents were pretty sure her grandma was no longer playing with a full set of marbles. Callie had drawn the short stick to come back and find out what needed to be done. She’d been here two weeks, staying in the rental because she needed to be able to work in peace. Her grandma had loaned her the car since she’d been soundly rejected by the DMV for a license renewal. The two of them had daily meals—mostly lunches, as Lucille’s social calendar made the queen of England look like a slacker. But there’d been no sign of crazy yet.
Not that Callie could give this any thought at the moment because Tanner shoved the wetsuit down to his hips.
Back in her high school days, a quiet brainiac like Callie had been invisible to him. Which had never gotten in the way of her fantasies, as the teenage Tanner Riggs had been rangy, tough, and as wild as they came.
He’d filled in and out, going from lanky teen to a man who looked like every inch of him was solid muscle, not a spare ounce of fat in sight.
Was he still tough and wild and a whole lot of trouble?
Oblivious to both her musings and the fact she was drooling over him, Tanner moved to the fifty-foot sport boat moored at the dock where he came face to face with a teenager who looked just like him down to his dark hair, dark eyes, and that air of wildness. Callie actually blinked in shock. Unless time travel was involved and Tanner had come back as his fifteen-year-old self, she was looking at his son.
The two males spoke for a moment, the teen’s body language sullen and tense, Tanner’s calm, stoic, and unreadable. Then still shirtless, his wetsuit low on his hips, Tanner hopped lithely onto the boat and shimmied his way up the mast, moving seemingly effortlessly on the strength of his arms and legs. He had something between his teeth, a rope, she saw, and damn if her heart didn’t sigh just a little bit at watching him climb with heart-stopping, badass grace.
“He’s certainly romance hero worthy,” her grandma said in her ear, nearly making Callie jump. She’d forgotten she was on the phone.
“Tall, dark, and a bit attitude ridden on the outside,” her grandma went on, “but on the inside, he’s really just a big softie.”
Callie couldn’t help it, she laughed. From her view, there was nothing soft about Tanner Riggs.
Not his body, not his mind, and certainly not his heart. “I remember him,” she said softly. And what she remembered was getting her teenage heart crushed. “I need to go, Grandma. But I’ll come by for lunch.”
“Good. I want to introduce you to the guy I think I’m going to take on as my new boyfriend.”
Callie tore her gaze off Tanner and looked at her phone. “Wait—what? I’ve been here two weeks, and you haven’t mentioned this.”
“Yes, well, sometimes you can be a little prudish about these things.”
“I’m not prudish.”
“And you think I’m losing it,” Lucille said. “That one might be true.”
“I mean, just the other night I lost my glasses. And they were right on my head. Someone told me I needed to eat more blueberries to boost my memory. Which reminds me to ask, why couldn’t it be drink vodka, or something good, to regain some memory?”
Callie rubbed the headache brewing between her eyes. “Back to the taking on a boyfriend thing…”
“Well, I’ll need your definition of boyfriend first,” her grandma said.
Callie stared at the phone. “Maybe we should forget the blueberries and have your hormone levels checked.”
Lucille laughed. “I didn’t tell you about the boyfriend because my sweetie and I like to keep things on the down-low. And plus it was a test. A test to see if you’ve got skills to sniff out the dirt like I do. You failed, by the way.”
“You mean because I’m not a snoop?” Callie asked, trying not to picture her eighty-plus grandma having a “sweetie.” “And you do realize you have a reputation as the town’s unofficial media relations director, right?”
“Yep. Although I’m lobbying to make it official—as in a paid position.” She laughed when Callie snorted. “I swear, honey, it’s like you’re not even related to me. And anyway, how is it that you’re the one who taught me how to work a computer and what social media was, and yet you don’t utilize them to your favor?”
“You mean manipulate them?” Callie asked. “And I taught you all that because I thought you were getting elderly and bored and your mind would go to rot. I didn’t know you were going to terrorize people with it!”
Lucille laughed. “I’ve got a bunch of good years left before I’ll even consider getting elderly and bored. And no worries, my elevator still goes to the top floor. Come on over, honey. I’ve got to put the new registration sticker on the car; it just came in the mail. Nice that the state allows me to pay them for the car they won’t license me to drive, huh? To sweeten the deal, I’ve got dessert from Leah at the bakery. She makes the best stuff on the planet.”
Callie blew out a breath. “Okay, I’ll bring the main course, something from the diner.”
“I could make my famous fried chicken.”
Last week, Lucille had set her fried chicken on fire and had nearly burned her house to the ground. Hence the “famous.” Which was really more like infamous. “I’m on a diet,” Callie fibbed.
“That’s ridiculous,” Lucille said, obviously outraged. “You don’t need to go on a diet to catch a man. You look fantastic! I mean, you’re a little short but your curves are all the rage right now. And sure, you can come off as a little standoffish, but I blame your parents and their inability to love anyone other than themselves for that, not you.”
Callie choked back her laugh. It was true; she was the product of two college sweethearts who’d been so crazy in love with each other that nothing had ever really penetrated their inner circle—including their own child. They’d raised her kindly and warmly enough, but her quiet upbringing had left her introverted and preferring the company of a computer rather than people. “I’m not trying to catch a man,” she said.
“Well, that’s a shame. And not to add any pressure but you do know Eric’s around too, right?”
Eric. Damn. Just the sound of her ex’s name made her stomach cramp. “Eric who?” she asked casually.
Lucille cackled. “Atta girl. Perfectly normal tone. But next time, no hesitation. That was a dead giveaway. Just be forewarned that your ex-fiancé—may his soul turn black—has married and has a kid on the way.”
Callie told herself she didn’t care that the man who’d left her at the altar due to a sudden severe allergy to commitment had apparently managed to overcome said allergy.
“And I’m not sure how long you’re planning on staying in Lucky Harbor,” her grandma went on, “but I doubt you’ll be fortunate enough to avoid him. He’s the only dentist in town. So the question is, how are your teeth? In good condition? You flossing daily? You might want to make sure you are.”
Callie thunked her head against the window, and when she looked up again, she was startled to realize that Tanner was back on the dock and looking right at her.
For a minute, her heart stopped. “I’ve got to go, Grandma.” She needed to be alone to process things. Like the fact that Eric was in town. And also that her very first, very painful, very humiliating crush was as well, and he’d grown into the poster child for Hottest Guy Ever.
“Wait,” Lucille said. “Bring salads because you might be right about a diet. The one of us who is going to get lucky needs to stay hot and all that.”
Oh boy. “Salads it is.” Still on the phone, Callie forced herself away from the window, heading directly to her refrigerator. More accurately, her freezer, where she had two choices. “Ice cream or vodka?”
“Tough decision,” her grandma said. “But I’d go with vodka.”
It was a tough decision, but as it was still early and she wasn’t the one trying to look hot, she passed over the vodka and reached for the ice cream. Breakfast of champions, right? She had a wooden spoon out of the drawer and the lid off the ice cream when she remembered. Ice cream was sugar. Sugar was bad for her teeth. And bad teeth required a dentist. “Crap.”
“What?” Lucille asked.
Screw it, she needed this ice cream. “Nothing.”
“Did you hear what I said about Eric?”
“Yeah.” Callie took her first bite. “I’ll floss.” She was older and wiser now. No big deal. And plus her hefty armor of indifference and cynicism toward romance and happily-ever-after would help. “I’ll be fine.”
“Do you want me to set you up with another hottie? ’Cause no offense, honey, but you could do a lot better than Eric anyway. Listen, I’ll start a poll for you on my Tumblr asking who people want to see you with—”
“No!” Callie nearly went back to the freezer. “No,” she said again, firmly. “No men.”
“A woman then?” Lucille asked. “Being a bisexual is in style.”
Forget the vodka. She needed a new life. Maybe on Mars. “Grandma, I love you,” Callie said. “I love you madly, but I don’t want to discuss my love life with you.”
“You mean your lack of?”
She sighed. “Or that.”
“Fair enough,” Lucille said. “But for the record, we can discuss mine anytime you want.”
“I mean, it’s amazing what those little blue pills can do to a man, let me tell you. He can just keep going and going like the Energizer Bunny—”
“Really gotta go,” Callie said quickly. “I’ll see you later.” She disconnected, and she and the ice cream made her way back to the window.
Tanner was gone.
The ice cream didn’t cut it. Needing caffeine, Callie went back to her kitchen before remembering her coffeemaker had died and gone to heaven the day before.
Damn. This was going to require a trip into town. And possibly seeing people. Which in turn meant kicking off her slippers and shoving her feet into her fake Uggs. Quite the look, but she wasn’t planning on socializing. This was purely a medicinal trip.
In light of that, she skipped the diner and hit the bakery, thinking she’d get in and out faster. What she hadn’t planned on was the amazing, mouthwatering scent of the place and the way it drew her straight to the doughnut display. A pretty brunette was serving behind the counter. “How can I help you?”
“You Leah?” Callie asked.
“Perfect. It’s rumored you make the best desserts on the planet.”
“True story,” Leah said.
“I’ll take a small coffee and two of those powdered sugar doughnuts then,” Callie said, pointing to the display.
“Excellent choice. They solve all problems.”
“Yeah?” Callie asked.
“Well, no. But they taste amazing.”
“Good enough,” Callie said.
Two minutes later, lost in a doughnut-lust haze, she’d forgotten her resolve to get in and get out. Instead, in a hurry to ingest the sugar, she looked for a seat in the crowded place. She finally snagged the last table and tried to look busy so that no one would ask to share it. But given the long line, the odds were against her. Which in turn meant she was going to have to be social.
That should be in her game plan, she decided. Help out her grandma and also learn to be social with something other than her laptop and vibrator while she was at it. Shaking her head at herself, she dug in, taking a huge first bite and maybe, possibly moaning as the delicious goodness burst onto her tongue. Oh yeah. Definitely the best powdered sugar doughnuts on the planet.
She took another bite, eyeballed the place, and then nearly did a spit-take across the room when she caught sight of the man at the front of the line. His back was to her, but there was no mistaking those broad shoulders.
Tanner had changed from his wetsuit and now wore dark, sexy guy jeans and a light windbreaker that said LUCKY HARBOR CHARTERS across his back. He was talking to Leah but he was also scanning the place as if by old military habit.
Don’t look at me, she thought. Don’t look—
He looked. In fact, those dark eyes lasered in and locked unerringly right on hers.
Her first reaction was a rush of heat. Odd, as she hadn’t had one of those in relation to a man in a while—but not completely surprising as Tanner was hotter than sin. An ice cube would’ve had a reaction to him.
Self-awareness hit her, and reality. She looked down at herself. Yep, still wearing capri yoga pants and fake Uggs. Perfect. She was dressed like she didn’t own a mirror. Even worse, she wore no makeup and her hair… well, mostly the long, strawberry blond waves had a serious mind of their own. The best that could be said this morning was that she’d piled them up on top of her head and they’d stayed. Thank God the messy topknot was in this year.
Not that this knowledge helped, because when a woman faced her first crush, that woman wanted to look hot—not like a hot mess.
“Is this chair taken?” Tanner asked.
Callie promptly swallowed wrong. Sugar went down the wrong pipe and closed off her air passage. When had he left the line and moved to her side? And damn it, why couldn’t she breathe? Hiding this fact, she desperately went for a cool, unaffected look—difficult to pull off while suffocating.
His dark eyes were warm and filled with amusement. “Yes?” he asked. “No chance in hell?”
That’s when she realized there was something worse than asphyxiation in public—he didn’t recognize her.
Damn. In a single heartbeat, she was reduced to that shy, quiet, socially inept girl she’d once been. Talk, she ordered herself. Say something. But when she opened her mouth, the only thing that came out was a squeak.
And a puff of powdered sugar.
“It’s okay,” he said, and started to turn away.
This surprised her. The cocky, wild-man teenager she’d once known would’ve sent her a lazy smile and talked her into whatever he needed.
But it’d been over ten years and she supposed people changed. She’d certainly changed. For one thing, she was no longer that quiet, studious dork with the foolishly romantic heart. Nope, now she was a suave, immaculately dressed professional… She kept her legs hidden and decided this could be a good thing. His not recognizing her meant that she could make a new first impression. She didn’t have to be a nerd. She could be whatever she wanted. Or more correctly, whatever she could manage to pull off. “Wait!” she called out to him. Maybe a little too loudly.
Or a lot too loudly.
Half the bakery startled and stared at her. And then in the next beat, everyone seemed to find their manners and scurried to look busy. Lowering her voice, Callie gestured to the free chair. “Sit,” she told Tanner. “It’s all yours.”
He kicked the chair out for himself and sprawled into it. Sipping his coffee, he eyed her over the steam rising out of his cup, all cool, easy, masculine grace.
She tried to look half as cool but she wasn’t. Not even close. And she had a problem. A twofold problem.
One, the table was tiny. Or maybe it was just that Tanner’s legs were long, but no matter how she shifted, she kept bumping into a warm, powerful thigh beneath the table.
And two, his eyes. They were the color of rich, dark, melted chocolate.
God, she loved dark, melted chocolate.
But he had no recollection of her. A definite blow to her already fragile, powder-sugar-coated self-esteem. She wished she didn’t care.
But it was the damn high school crush.
How did one get over a crush anyway? Surely the statute of limitations was up by now. After all, he’d devastated her and hadn’t even noticed.
To be fair, he’d had other things on his mind back then. She’d been a quiet, odd freshman, and he’d been a senior and the town’s football star. She’d loved him from afar until he’d graduated and left town. She knew his story was far more complicated than that but her poor, romantic heart had remained devastated by his absence for nearly two years. Then in her last year of high school, Eric had moved in across the street. He and Callie had become a thing. They’d stuck, and by their last year of college, she’d had their wedding completely planned out—and she did mean completely, from the exact color of the bridesmaids’ dresses, to the secluded beach where they’d say their vows, to the doves that would be released after they did…
Yeah, there was a reason she understood her client brides as well as she did. She’d once been a batshit-crazy bride too. But she’d honestly believed that Eric would be the perfect groom and the perfect husband. After all, he’d spent years making her happy.
Until the moment he’d stood her up at the altar.
“You okay?” Tanner asked.
“Sure.” Just lost in the past. But she was done with the past and took a bite to prove just how okay she really was. Bad move. Turns out it was hard to swallow correctly once you’ve already choked. She then promptly compounded her error by gulping down some hot coffee on top of the sore throat and lump of doughnut that wouldn’t go down and commenced nearly coughing up a lung.
She felt the doughnut being removed from her hand and then the coffee. Tanner had stood up and was at her side, patting her back as she coughed.
Yep, she was going to die right here, in yoga capris and fake Uggs.
“Hang on,” Tanner said, and strode to the front counter of the bakery.
From the dim recesses of her mind, she saw that he didn’t bother with the line, just spoke directly to Leah behind the counter, who quickly handed him a cup of water.
Then he was back, pushing it into Callie’s hands.
Nice and mortified, she took a sip of water, wiped her nose and streaming eyes with a napkin, and finally sat back. “I’m okay.”
Tanner eyed her for a long moment, as if making sure she wasn’t about to stroke out on him, before finally dropping back in his chair.
She opened her mouth but he shook his head. “Don’t try to talk,” he said. “Every time you do, you nearly die.”
He raised an eyebrow and pointed at her, and she obediently shut her mouth. And sighed. She wanted to ask him about his limp but he was right; she probably couldn’t manage talking without choking again.
Way to wow him with a new first impression.
A woman came into the bakery, eyed Tanner with interest and intent, and unbelievably he leaned in closer to Callie, as if they were in the midst of the most fascinating of conversations.
“You settling into town okay at your new place?” he asked.
“My new place?”
“I see you watching me from your window.”
Damn if she didn’t choke again.
Seriously? She lifted a hand when he started to rise out of his chair, chased down the crumbs stuck in her throat with some more water, and signaled she was okay. “Sorry, rough morning.”
“Let’s go back to the not-talking thing,” he said.
Yeah, she thought. Good idea.
A few minutes went by, during which Callie was incredibly aware of his leg still casually brushing hers. And also a new panic. Because now she realized she was trapped, forced to wait until he left first so that he wouldn’t catch sight of her wardrobe.
But he looked pretty damn comfortable and didn’t appear to be in a rush to go anywhere.
She drew out her coffee as long as she dared and eyed her second doughnut. She wanted it more than she wanted her next breath but she didn’t trust herself. And what did he mean, he’d seen her watching him? She didn’t watch him. At least not all the time. “I don’t watch you,” she said.
He slid her a look.
- "Fall in love with Jill Shalvis! She's my go-to read for humor and heart."—Susan Mallery, New York Times bestselling author
- "Clever, steamy, and fun! Jill Shalvis will make you laugh and fall in love."—Rachel Gibson, New York Times bestselling author
- "[S]cores big with a delicate love story and red-hot passion. Fans of smalltown contemporaries will savor this delicious and heartwarming story, a refreshingly realistic romance between two great characters."—Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Once in a Lifetime
- "Charming and engaging... Shalvis's fans will devour the two friends' introspective and passionate journey to love."—Publishers Weekly on Always on My Mind
- "Engaging writing, characters that walk straight into your heart, and a town you can't wait to revisit make this touching, hilarious tale another heart-warmer worthy of Shalvis' popular series."—Library Journal on It Had to Be You
- "Shalvis makes me laugh, makes me cry, makes me sigh with pure pleasure."—Susan Andersen, New York Times bestselling author of Playing Dirty
- "Count on Jill Shalvis for a witty, steamy, unputdownable love story."—Robyn Carr, New York Times bestselling author of Harvest Moon
- "Shalvis writes with humor, heart, and sizzling heat!"—Carly Phillips, New York Times Bestselling Author
- On Sale
- Oct 14, 2014
- Page Count
- 352 pages
- Grand Central Publishing