Haven Creek


By Rochelle Alers

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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 May 28, 2013. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Fans of Jill Shalvis and Debbie Macomber will love this sweet small-town romance where a man returning to his hometown on the coastal island of South Carolina just may find love with his childhood friend.

Home is where the heart is.

Architect Morgan Dane has always lived according to a plan, crossing off her achievements one by one. But when she's offered her dream job-the restoration of historic Angels Landing Plantation on beautiful Cavanaugh Island-Morgan's life takes an unexpected turn.

Carpenter Nathaniel Shaw once took a big chance on commitment-and lost. Needing the healing comforts of home, he returns to Haven Creek to join the family business. Nothing in the small town has changed-except for Morgan Dane. The wallflower he knew in high school has grown into a beautiful woman . . . and stirs feelings Nate isn't sure he's ready for.

Together Nate and Morgan find a happiness neither could have predicted. But when secrets from the past come to light, their budding relationship is threatened. Will they play it safe, or risk their hearts to build a life together?


Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not.

—Isaiah 43:18

Chapter One


Didn't you tell me you were trying to get in touch with Nate Shaw?"

Morgan Dane stared at Francine Tanner, who looked as if she'd been running. She was breathing heavily, and blotches of red dotted her freckled cheeks. Morgan was one of only a few residents on Cavanaugh Island who didn't call Francine by her nickname, Red. She'd been born with bright, straight, orange-red hair. Over the years her tresses had darkened to auburn and softened into curls, but the nickname stuck. Today, Francine had ironed her hair flat, its blunt-cut strands brushing her lightly tanned, bared shoulders. Her floral-print sleeveless sundress, nipped at the waist, flared around her long legs. Morgan and the redhead had befriended each other in high school, when they found themselves in the same classes. Whenever they had an exam, they alternated between studying at Morgan's house, in the Creek, and Francine's, in the Cove. Even after leaving the island to attend college, they'd managed to stay in touch.

"Yes, I did. Why?" Morgan asked.

"I just saw him."

"Where is he?"

Francine leaned closer. "He's sitting five rows behind you."

Morgan stood up. "Would you mind holding my seat? And don't let anyone sit in the chair with my hat. I'm holding it for David Sullivan."

Once Francine agreed, Morgan turned, scanning the crowd that had gathered under the large white tent for the man whom she'd called not once but twice, asking that he call her back. She spotted him sitting next to his younger brother. Taking determined steps, she approached Nathaniel Shaw, watching his impassive expression as she closed the distance between them. Twenty years had passed since Morgan had last come face-to-face with Nate, but time had been exceptionally kind to him.

His shoulders were broader, muscled, and there was a liberal sprinkling of premature gray in his cropped black hair. Nate wore the customary Cavanaugh Island wedding attire: slacks, shirt open at the collar, and lightweight jacket.

He rose to his feet when she stood less than a foot away. He was taller than she'd remembered, too. She extended her hand. "I don't know if you remember me, but—"

He took her hand, holding it for several seconds. "Of course I remember you, Mo."

Morgan wanted to scream at him. If he remembered her, then why hadn't he returned her calls? "Is it possible for you to put aside some time for us to talk about a project I'm involved with?" She lowered her voice, then took several steps away from the crowd. He followed her so they wouldn't be overheard by those staring at them.

"What type of project?"

"If you'd returned my calls, then you'd know." The retort came out sharper than she'd wanted, and she watched his eyebrows lift a fraction. Morgan had been a month shy of her fourteenth birthday when Nate left Haven Creek to attend college on the West Coast. No one, not even Francine, knew she'd had a crush on the tall, good-looking honor student. At the end of each school year she'd expected him to return to the Creek, but to her disappointment he'd opted to live in California. She'd heard that his father wanted him to come back after he'd graduated to help with the family's furniture-making business, and Nate's decision not to return had caused a rift between father and son lasting almost two decades.

"Did you leave a message?" he asked.

She stared up into clear brown eyes, wondering what was going on behind them. "Yes. I left a message on your voice mail at the shop. In fact, I left two messages."

A slight smile lifted the corners of Nate's mouth. "I'm sorry, but I didn't get the messages. Either my father erased them or there's something wrong with the phone. When do you want to talk?"

"Anytime that's convenient for you, Nate."

"Are you going to the reception?"

She smiled, exhibiting a matched set of dimples in her cheeks. "Yes."

"We can meet there and talk."

"Are you familiar with the layout of Angels Landing?"

He returned her smile with a mysterious one of his own. "I've been there a few times."

"If that's the case, then meet me at the duck pond at three. Are you wearing a watch?"

"No watch, but I have this." Reaching into the breast pocket of his jacket, Nate palmed a cell phone. "I'll program you in on my cell for three."

Morgan nodded. "Thank you, Nate."

"You're welcome, Mo."

She walked back to where she'd left Francine. "Thanks."

Francine gave her a wide-eyed stare. "Well? Aren't you going to tell me what happened?"

"I'll tell you after I talk to him."

Resting her hands at her waist, Francine narrowed her emerald-green eyes. "Now I know you didn't just dis your favorite girl."

"I don't want to say anything, because I might jinx myself."

Francine leaned close enough for their shoulders to touch. "Remember I'm the one who has visions."

Morgan felt a chill wash over her body despite the warm temperatures. "Stop it, Francine. You know talk about spirits scares me."

"One of these days I'm going to tell you your future." She hugged Morgan. "Let me hurry and get back before my mama sends out a hunting party. After all, we were contracted to do the hair and makeup for the wedding party."

Morgan watched Francine until she disappeared from her line of vision. Her friend's mother owned the Beauty Box, and it was Mrs. Tanner who'd suggested that Morgan cut off her braids in favor of a short, natural style. She'd worn the braids for more than three years. Although both styles were low-maintenance, Morgan realized the shorter style was nearly maintenance-free. Her new look was in keeping with the other change going on in her life. She'd recently opened her own architecture and design company.

When the awning over the small shop, bearing the legend M. DANE ARCHITECTURE AND INTERIOR DESIGN, was unfurled, people began buzzing about why she'd resigned her position with Ellison and Murphy. One of the partners at the Haven Creek firm had referred to Morgan as a young upstart. When her interview with the editor of the Sanctuary Chronicle revealed that she'd been commissioned by Kara Newell to oversee the restoration of Angels Landing Plantation, a property that had been designated a National Historic Landmark, a few of her former coworkers had called her disloyal, a traitor, and much too inexperienced to take on any restoration project, whether large or small. Their words had hurt her beyond belief.

At thirty-two, Morgan felt as if her life were perfect, as perfect as the day's weather was for a Lowcountry beachfront wedding: brilliant sunshine, fluffy white clouds, and a cool breeze blowing off the Atlantic. It also appeared as if all of Cavanaugh Island had turned out to witness the marriage of their sheriff to a young woman with ties to the island's most prominent family. As she looked around, she noticed there were very few empty chairs set up under the enormous white tent.

Morgan wasn't the only one who'd decided to arrive early to get a seat close enough to see and hear the ceremony. Most of the island's permanent residents did not want to believe Taylor Patton had fathered a child, but that conclusion was inevitable once it became known that he'd left his entire estate to Kara Newell, his daughter. The gossip escalated once Kara had managed to snag Sheriff Jeffrey Hamilton, who happened to be one of Cavanaugh Island's most eligible bachelors. Morgan knew some folks had come to the wedding because of curiosity, but most were there to celebrate the joining of two families whose roots were intertwined with the history of the island.

"I figured none of dem Pattons would show up, but they be here in droves."

She smiled when she recognized the voice of her parents' neighbor sitting behind her. Hester Owens was an incurable gossip, known to repeat things she'd overheard while managing to put a spin on the news, making it her own.

Hester's sister, also sitting behind Morgan, spoke up. "Well, Hester, they cain't stay mad at that young gal. After all, she is one of dem. She so much like Teddy that it's downright scary, and that's why I don't know why Harlan fix he mout to claim she ain't one of dem."

Morgan liked eavesdropping on the older folks, not so much to listen to their conversations as to listen to their occasional lapses into the language spoken for centuries by Sea Island Gullahs.

Gertie, Hester's sister, continued, "She may look like Teddy, but folks say she ain't mean like her grandmomma."

"You right 'bout dat," Hester agreed.

Morgan wanted to turn around and agree with Hester's sister, too. Her grandfather had taken photographs of Theodora Patton, and the resemblance between Kara and her paternal grandmother was uncanny.

A shadow fell over Morgan, and she glanced up to find David Sullivan. She smiled at the impeccably dressed attorney. He fit aptly into the category of tall, dark, and handsome, and there was no doubt that he and Jeff were related. Both had the same warm brown eyes and cleft chin. "You made it."

David sat, leaned over, and pressed a light kiss on her cheek. "Finally. There was a fender bender on the causeway." He turned around when someone tapped his shoulder, then smiled and nodded at the elderly woman. "How are you, Miss Hester?"

Hester squinted behind the lenses of her rimless glasses. "How come you not in the wedding? After all, you and Corrine's grandbaby boy are cousins." Corrine Hamilton was the groom's grandmother and David's great-aunt.

Morgan shook her head when David mumbled something about Jeff wanting a military-themed wedding, and even though she wasn't a gambler she was willing to bet that, before the sun set that evening, there would be talk that she and David were seeing each other.

Once the Newell-Hamilton nuptials were announced, David had called to ask her if she was attending the wedding with a date. She hadn't hesitated when she said no, quickly informing him that she would meet him there. David had asked her out before, but Morgan had no intention of becoming a substitute for the woman who'd ended a long-term relationship with him because he hadn't been able to commit. It wasn't that Morgan didn't find the attorney attractive, because he was; however, she wasn't about to become David's Miss Right Now.

"You cut your hair," he said in her ear. "I like it."

She flashed a gentle smile. "Thank you."

Settling back, David crossed one leg over the opposite knee. "I asked you a question last week, and you said you'd wait until you saw me to give me an answer."

Morgan gave him a sidelong glance. Many women her age were looking for a single, attractive, intelligent, and professional man to go out with, and here she was ready to turn him down. "I can't go out with you, David, and you know it. We're friends. Besides, I know you still love Petra; you've even called me by her name a couple of times."

David met her eyes. "I guess it's going to take time for me to get over her."

She patted his hand. "Five years is a long time to see someone exclusively, so I understand what you're going through."

Reversing their hands, he squeezed her fingers. "You're a good friend, Morgan. If you need anything, I want you to call me. And that includes legal advice."

Morgan nodded. She liked David, but not in a romantic way. "It looks as if everyone on the island is here," she said, shifting the topic of conversation away from them.

David glanced around the tent. "You're right. There's hardly an empty seat."

Two minutes later, prerecorded music flowed from the speakers attached to the poles in the tent, and those standing around talking to one another craned their necks looking for empty seats.


It'd been a little more than six months since Nathaniel returned to Haven Creek, but sitting under the tent brought back memories of his childhood, when he'd accompany his parents to Cavanaugh Island weddings. He didn't have to know who was getting married. It was just the excitement of seeing everyone dressed in their Sunday best for the beachfront ceremony and then going to the reception that would follow, where he'd eat until his belly felt as if it would explode. That was before his mother took sick, complaining of pains in her stomach. She grew thinner with each passing day, until she barely weighed eighty pounds when she finally passed away.

There had been an open invitation to everyone from Jeff and Kara for their wedding, but Kara had broken tradition when she invited the entire island to come to the reception, which was to be held at Angels Landing. Nate had come because of Jeff. After his shift ended, the sheriff would stop by and they would share a cold beer while reminiscing about the old days. No one was more surprised than Nate when Jeff announced he was getting married. Times had changed and Nate had changed. Twenty years was a long time to be away from his family, friends, and all that was familiar.

"Hey, Nate, where have you been hiding yourself? I was expecting you to come by the club."

Rising slightly, he gave one of the partners in the Happy Hour, a local nightclub, a rough embrace. "I've been busy putting up a barn." The building that Shaw Woodworking had occupied for decades was not only too small for Nate and his father, especially when they were working on large pieces, but also needed major repairs.

Jesse Grant landed a soft punch on Nate's shoulder. "Tell your old man to give you time off for good behavior. Look, man, I'd love to stay and talk, but I have to give my cousin a message from her mother. Come by either Friday or Saturday. That's when we have live music."

"I'll think about it," Nate said, smiling.

"I'll be looking for you, bro," Jesse said over his shoulder as he made his way toward the front of the tent.

Nate had no intention of going to a club. Not even one as innocuous as the Happy Hour. The past four years of his life had been a merry-go-round of clubs, and he'd had his fill of ear-shattering music, flashing lights, and people with plastic smiles and surgically enhanced bodies who were either too high or too drunk to remember what they'd said or done the night before.

He retook his seat, watching Jesse as he said hello to Morgan. Nate's eyebrows lifted slightly. When he'd left the Creek to attend college, she had been a shy, long-legged, wide-eyed, awkward girl. Not only had she grown up, she'd also filled out. She laughed at something Jesse said, dimples winking in her flawless dark brown face.

Nate found himself transfixed with the fluidity of her hands when she gestured and the graceful lines of her body, outlined in the fitted tangerine sheath she was wearing. He couldn't imagine why she'd called him or what she wanted to talk to him about. However, he would find out in another three hours.

"Are you really going to the Happy Hour?" Bryce asked his brother.

Nate looked at Bryce, noticing a shimmer of excitement in his large hazel eyes. "No."

"Come on, Nate. You have to go at least once."

Resting an arm over the back of his brother's chair, he shook his head. "If I've seen one club, I've seen them all. And even if I did go, I'm not taking you with me. You have a curfew, remember?"

Bryce sat up straight. "We could get there around eight and leave in time for me to get home by midnight."

Nate shook his head. "Sorry. I'm not biting."

His twenty-two-year-old brother couldn't seem to stay out of trouble. It'd begun when Bryce went to high school on the mainland. He dabbled in drugs, got arrested for drunk driving, and the year before was arrested for disorderly conduct. In lieu of jail, he was placed on probation for two years. Bryce was required to call the Department of Probation in Charleston every night from his home phone before midnight. He was prohibited from leaving the island, and was subject to unannounced home visits from his probation officer. Nate blamed himself for not being there for his brother when he needed him most, but now that he was back to stay he knew things would be different. Their father's hypertension had put him at high risk for a stroke, and he had asked Nate to look after Bryce.

Bryce folded his arms over his chest, stretched out his legs, and crossed his feet at the ankles. "Don't you know how to have fun? You get up before dawn and work on that damn barn all day and half the night. You're not Noah building an ark because the Lord told you that he's going to send a flood to destroy—" His words were choked off when Nate's fingers tightened around his hand.

"Watch your mouth, Bryce," Nate whispered hoarsely. "You've been giving Dad a rough time, but it stops now." He increased the pressure on his brother's hand. "Since I've been back I've turned a blind eye to your smart-ass mouth. The barn will be finished in a couple of weeks, and that's when you'll start getting up at dawn to work with me. No more sleeping late and sitting around all day watching television. And when you speak to your mother and father, it will be with respect or I'll call your probation officer and have him violate you." Nate released Bryce's hand. "What's it going to be, bro? Are you willing to work with me, or would you prefer the accommodations at the county jail?"

Bryce gritted his teeth. "Do I have a choice?"

"Sure you do. Some guys prefer three hots and a cot to an honest day's work. Now, are you going to pick door number one or door number two?"

A beat passed, then Bryce mumbled, "I'll work with you."

Smiling, he patted the younger man's cheek. "See, that was easy."

Nate didn't like playing the bully when he'd always been Bryce's hero. Three thousand miles and twenty years made maintaining the bond with his sister and brother difficult. He called, wrote, and never forgot their birthdays, or his niece's and nephew's, and yet, despite his efforts, he had still grown distant from them. His relationship with his father and stepmother took longer to resolve, and it was the first time since Lucas married Odessa that Nate felt they were truly a family unit. It had taken time, space, and maturity to realize he couldn't change the past. His father's affair with his wife's nurse as Nate's mother lay dying had haunted him for years. Rumors and gossip were as intrinsic to the people who lived on Cavanaugh Island as their Lowcountry cuisine. He'd believed it was simply talk until he saw his father and Odessa in bed together once his mother was admitted to a mainland hospice.

Fifteen-year-old Nate took Manda Shaw's death hard; he intensely resented the woman who, three months later, had taken her place when she married Lucas. He rejected her and her claim that she was now his stepmother.

After a lengthy stint in California, he'd returned to Haven Creek a week before Thanksgiving, channeling all his nervous energy into his work. Bryce was right when he said Nate spent all his waking hours building the barn. Not only was it therapeutic, but when it was completed it would provide a place for him to live without depending on the generosity of his sister and brother-in-law, who'd permitted him to stay in their guest room.

Nate was snapped out of his thoughts when the wedding planner and her staff began motioning for everyone to take their seats. Nate checked his cell phone. It was eleven fifty-five. The ceremony was slated for twelve noon, followed by a cocktail hour at one and a buffet dinner at two.

The chamber music changed to a processional, and everyone turned to watch as two marines in their dress blues escorted Kara's mother and Jeff's grandmother to their assigned seats. The best man wore his dress blue uniform, and Kara's maid of honor was resplendent in a cornflower-blue halter-style A-line gown. She walked with the best man down the white carpet to the place where Reverend Malcolm Crawford stood next to Jeff, who was also wearing dress blues. The music changed again, this time to the familiar strains of Mendelssohn's "Wedding March." The assembly stood, turned, and stared when Kara appeared on the arm of her father.

Nate's eyes met Morgan's when she turned in his direction. A smile played at the corners of her mouth before it grew wider, her dimples deepening until they were the size of thumbprints. Unconsciously, he returned her smile, then shifted his attention to what was touted as the wedding of the season.

Chapter Two

As he was driving to the reception, Nate followed the signs pointing the way to valet parking. Within minutes of the exchange of vows and rings, he and Bryce had left the beachfront wedding ceremony to avoid a traffic jam. There were more posted signs, these to indicate the location of comfort stations.

When Morgan had asked Nate if he was familiar with the layout of the property that had given the town its name, he hadn't lied to her. Today the historic house was surrounded by yellow tape to keep out intruders and the curious. Nate was ten when he came to the rose-colored Greek Revival–style antebellum limestone mansion with his father for the very first time. It'd been Theodora Patton who'd asked Lucas Shaw to replace the worn rosewood-and-mahogany decorative inlaid border on the living and dining room parquet floors. At that age Nate had been awestruck by the sheer size and furnishings of the largest house on Cavanaugh Island. He'd stood there gawking until his father instructed him to sit and watch what he was about to do.

He spent that summer and the next eight as an apprentice to the man who had a reputation as the most skilled furniture maker in the Lowcountry. When he'd graduated high school it had been Nate's intention, like that of so many other young men on the island wishing to escape its mundane, small-town existence, to enlist in the military. However, he'd promised his mother that he would attend college, and her deathbed plea superseded his most fervent yearning. He'd been offered a full scholarship, and despite his father's adamant protests he left South Carolina for California.

Coming to a stop, he got out of the Sequoia, leaving his jacket on the second row of seats. Bryce did the same. The valet gave him a ticket, which Nate pocketed. Shielding his eyes with one hand, he gazed out at the expanse of landscaped property, his gaze taking in a carpet of green dotted with trees and well-tended shrubs. More vehicles were maneuvering into the parking area as he and Bryce walked along a stone path leading to a trio of tents.

They encountered a quartet of elderly men belonging to the local American Legion, each holding handfuls of bright red poppies and asking for donations to assist disabled and hospitalized veterans. "Good afternoon, son. Are you or have you been in the military?"

"No, sir, but I'll definitely give you a contribution for me and my brother." Reaching into his pocket, he gave the man a bill.

"Damn!" Bryce drawled as he looked around. "This reminds me of your wedding reception."

He looked at Bryce and shook his head. He knew it hadn't been easy for the twenty-two-year-old to find himself alienated from his friends as well as cut off from Charleston's nightlife. It was the first time in nearly seven months that Bryce had been given permission from his probation officer to attend a social function.

"Everything does look nice," Nate said noncommittally.

He didn't want to agree with Bryce, because that would conjure up memories of his own wedding, which resembled an epic movie with a cast of thousands. Unfortunately, that day he hadn't been so much a participant as a spectator at an event destined for failure. His gaze shifted to an enormous red-, white-, and blue-striped tent about the size of a traveling circus's big top. Row upon row of tufted blue chairs were pushed up under round tables covered with alternating red and white tablecloths. It was Memorial Day weekend, and in keeping with the patriotic theme, vases of blue delphiniums and red and white sweet peas adorned the center of each table. There was a smaller tent from which wafted the most delicious aromas as the waitstaff circulated with trays of hors d'oeuvres and flutes of Champagne. A third tent was set up for the DJs, who played an upbeat tune that currently topped Billboard


  • "Haven Creek is a lovely, warm-hearted romance sure to please those who love a happily-ever-after style ending! Nicely done, Rochelle Alers!"—Crystal Book Reviews on HAVEN CREEK
  • "4/5 stars! Enticing and a pleasure to read, HAVEN CREEK invites the reader in and entertains so well one doesn't want to leave ... It is a gentle moving story that lets love find its way through the tangles and troubles of life and the flaws of characters."Long and Short Reviews on HAVEN CREEK
  • "Rochelle Alers is the rock star of romance and proves it with each new book in this series."—The Reading Reviewer on HAVEN CREEK
  • "4 out of 5 roses! I loved how Morgan was a strong individual who wouldn't compromise about things that were important to her."—Seduced By a Book on HAVEN CREEK
  • "... even though I hadn't read the first two books in this series I had no problem falling right into Morgan and Nate's story."—Love to Read for Fun on HAVEN CREEK
  • "You can't help but fall in love with the small town these characters live in, and their southern charm is so adorable ... It was a quick, cute read that I just couldn't get enough of."—Reading With Style on HAVEN CREEK
  • "HAVEN CREEK is a gentle, moving romance ... Alers' voice is tender, different from what I've been seeing on the romance market recently. She revives the romance of forty years ago and keeps the sexiness for modern readers."—Jandy's Books on HAVEN CREEK
  • "... highly recommend this nice, enjoyable and relaxing romance novel."—The Avid Reader on HAVEN CREEK
  • "Cavanaugh Island has an appealing population who show all of humanity's virtues and vices, some very humorous, some wrenching. Readers will enjoy returning to this setting and Nate and Morgan's love story."—Romance Reviews Today on HAVEN CREEK
  • "4 ½ stars! Realistic and well done."—RT Book Reviews on HAVEN CREEK
  • "Alers does not disappoint the romantics among us: Haven Creek is powerfully uplifting for the soul."—http://www.usatoday.com/ on HAVEN CREEK
  • "4 Hearts! A charming love story."—http://harlequinjunkie.com/ on HAVEN CREEK
  • 4 1/2 STAR REVIEW! "It's always a pleasure to discover little-known facts about racial history in America. Even better, the slow build to the love affair between the leads is believable and satisfying, on all levels. Sit back and enjoy!"—RT Book Reviews on ANGELS LANDING
  • "An excellent love story...huge messages throughout this book made for a very loving and interesting summer read."—Publishers Weekly on ANGELS LANDING
  • "Appealing, mature protagonists, a colorful cast of islanders, and a rewarding romance that realistically unfolds add to this fascinating, gently paced story that gradually reveals its secrets as it draws readers back to idyllic Cavanaugh Island."—Library Journal on ANGELS LANDING
  • "These are strong character-driven books that always contain interesting twists, and a strong sense of place."—Romance Reviews Today on ANGELS LANDING
  • "Angels Landing is a heartwarming novel...I thoroughly enjoyed [it] and recommend it to all romantics."—Fresh Fiction on ANGELS LANDING

On Sale
May 28, 2013
Page Count
448 pages

Rochelle Alers

About the Author

Bestselling author Rochelle Alers has nearly two million copies of her novels in print. She is also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Gold Pen Award, the Emma Award, Vivian Stephens Award for Excellence in Romance Writing, the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award and the Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award. 

Learn more about this author