Authors: Sarah King
by Sarah King
Published by TouchPoint Romance
an imprint of TouchPoint Press
Cover Art by Colbie Myles
Edited by Amanda Wimer
First and foremost, to my husband of 10 years. Your encouragement is what kept this dream of mine alive. Words alone could never express my love for you. To my two children and nephew, I hope this shows you to never give up on your dreams. You are all capable of anything you set your minds to. I love you three to infinity and beyond! To my parents and sister, thank you for listening to and reading all of my “silly stories” growing up. Your love and support mean the world to me. And last, but by no means least, my friends. I’ve met some wonderful people over the years and I doubt I would have made it this far without your friendship! Becky Schenck and Amanda Wimer, you ladies are awesome and I can’t thank you enough for all your help! And to my ladies in “therapy” with me…Ann, Chris, Christie, Cindy, Dianne, Kate, Kiley, Laura, Libby, Lisa, and Misty…
you are the best and I love you all!
The moon painted an eerie glow in the sky over the ocean. Cool, salty wind rolled off the waves as Lisa pulled her knees to her chest, trying to keep warm. Sipping her tea, she stared out at the horizon. She had come to the beach to escape her thoughts, but everything she saw just reminded her of him. His voice ringing in her ears, pleading with her not to go, his warm hand slipping through hers as she drove away… Lisa shook her head, trying to rid herself of the image, but it was burned into her memory. A shudder rippled through her. Perhaps it was time to go inside.
As she closed the balcony door, the phone rang “Hello?”
“Lisa, it’s me. Please don’t hang—”
Placing the phone back into its cradle, she sank down onto the bed. When the phone rang again, she pulled the cord out of the wall and threw the phone on the floor. She fought the tears that threatened to consume her. “No,” she willed herself “I will not cry anymore.” Crossing into the bathroom, she splashed some water on her face. Lisa hardly recognized the pale, drawn reflection staring back at her. Blue eyes which usually sparkled were now surrounded by dark rings, and long, brown hair hung limply around her shoulders. She couldn’t even remember if she’d taken a shower that morning. With a deep breath, Lisa realized that she had to get her life in order. Pacing around the room, she tried to figure out what to do first. The hotel walls quickly closed in on her, making her feel claustrophobic. Maybe a change of scenery would help. Grabbing her jacket, Lisa pocketed the room key as she pulled the door shut behind her. Still fighting her claustrophobia, she bypassed the elevator and took the stairs down three flights to the lobby. Almost to the exit, a voice called out to her.
“Excuse me, Miss? Are you Lisa James?”
She approached the night manager warily. “Yes…why?”
“I have a message for you.” He held out a piece of paper.
Swallowing hard, she reached out with shaking hands and pocketed the note. “Thank you,” she whispered before walking toward the exit.
“The gentleman who called said it was urgent,” the manager called after her as she pushed open the door.
Nodding once, Lisa pushed open the doors and let the cool night air greet her.
Lisa tried to ignore the cold as she spotted a bench situated under a light and made her way toward it to sit down. The note felt like it weighed a ton as she pulled it from her pocket. Only one sentence was scrawled across the paper, but it was enough to shatter her heart all over again. “Blue Twilight is finished.”
Luck had to be her middle name. Lisa opened her car door and stared at the house she could now call her own. Taking a quick glance up and down the street, she did a little victory dance. Still smiling, she raced up the front steps and unlocked the door. Her smile faltered a bit as she took in the condition of the interior. The house had sat empty for over a year, and it showed. Nothing a little elbow grease couldn’t take care of, she decided, as she ran her finger through a particularly thick coating of dust.
Wiping her hands on her jeans, she quickly walked through the house, opening windows to help air things out even as she turned the air conditioning on. Her mother would have a heart attack, she thought snorting quietly. She was glad she’d thought to have the electricity turned on before she arrived. A slight breeze started to blow through the house, circulating some of the stale air out. Lisa stared longingly at the couch in the living room, but her things wouldn’t unload themselves. With a sigh, she walked back to her car to begin bringing stuff inside.
A year ago, a messenger had delivered documents stating Lisa was left the house on Sycamore Avenue by her Great Aunt Layla. To say Lisa had been shocked would be an understatement.
Lisa had been nine the first time her father brought her to Layla’s. He’d dropped her off with a promise to return soon, and even at that young age, she knew better. The only reason her father spent time with her at all was because of a court order. But Layla had done her best to make Lisa feel welcome. She would pull out her old guitar and teach Lisa how to play a few chords. It helped soothe some of the sting from her father’s rejection.
Once Lisa had turned twelve, she had put her foot down and insisted she no longer wanted to spend time with her father. When Lisa’s mother informed him of her decision, he’d said he was “glad to be done with it”, and Lisa had not heard from him again. Of course, that also meant she hadn’t been back to Tennessee. Over the years, she’d exchanged Christmas cards with Layla, but that was about it. Anything else would have just reminded her of a past she’d rather forget.
When she heard about Layla’s passing, it had been too late for her to make it to the funeral. She knew her aunt had no children of her own and no surviving siblings. By all accounts, the house should have been left to Lisa’s father. After having the house officially signed over to her six months later, Lisa gave serious thought to just selling the property. She had held the papers in her hand and on impulse had driven to Tennessee to see the house one more time. Pulling into the driveway, she felt like she had come home and knew she couldn’t just sell the house. So, a few months later, she packed her belongings, hugged her mom goodbye, and made her way south.
A little over three hours later, Lisa felt she had finally earned a break. She grabbed a bottled iced tea from the refrigerator and took a long sip before pressing the cold glass to her forehead. Opening the back door, she stepped out on the deck. Humid air scented with magnolia met her, and she smiled as she enjoyed her brief rest. The sun was just beginning its descent and cast the sky in various, beautiful shades of blue. “Blue twilight,” she whispered to the evening. It had a nice ring to it.
Setting her tea down, Lisa raced to the front hallway. Quickly spotting the box she needed, she ripped the tape off and grabbed her most treasured possession: her notebook. She scribbled down
and pressed the book to her chest. Shutting her eyes, she imagined that this could be it
could launch her career from obscure to platinum-song-writing star.
The growling of her stomach brought Lisa back to reality. Having lived off of fast food for the past couple of weeks, she could not stomach the thought of another french fry. Real food was definitely in order…or at the very least, a store-bought salad. Grabbing her purse, she locked up and headed into town.
When she’d come down a few months ago, she’d driven through town and while not big, it seemed to have everything Lisa could want. She’d passed
which seemed to be the big draw in town, a waterfront restaurant, and her current goal, the Piggly Wiggly.
Grabbing a cart on her way inside, she quickly navigated her way to the produce section. As she passed some blueberries, her mind sidetracked to her latest idea.
really was a good title, and she hummed a few bars quietly as she selected a pint of blueberries for her cart. As she turned to head toward the salads, she crashed into someone.
“OhmygodI’msosorry!” Lisa exclaimed without taking a breath. “I wasn’t watching where I was going and…”She trailed off as she looked up into the face of her would-be victim.
Of course he’d be gorgeous
. She felt the warmth of her blush creep up her neck and over her face. He was tall—easily passing her meager 5’3” self by at least eight inches. He had dark hair that hung down a little too long and bright green eyes that reminded her of spring. While ogling the stranger, it took her a moment to realize he’d spoken. “I’m sorry, what?”
The man smiled—
Dammit, even his teeth are perfect
—and tilted his head to the side as if trying to figure her out. “I said no harm, no foul. I think my groceries and I survived.”
Lisa’s heart skipped a beat over his deep, Southern drawl. “Oh…okay. Well, sorry…again.” She started to steer her cart away before she embarrassed herself any further.
“Wait. I didn’t get a chance to introduce myself. My name’s Jake. Jake Rhodes.”
Lisa stared at his outstretched hand for a second before reluctantly placing hers in it. “Lisa James.” She tried to ignore the current coursing through her body and the way her hand seemed to fit perfectly in his.
“You must be new in town.” Jake smiled again as he continued to hold her hand. He cocked his head to the side. “Which means you could only be Layla’s niece. You moved into her house, right?”
Lisa froze. How did this guy know that? She generally kept to herself and preferred it that way. What was he, some kind of stalker?
“So, how do you like Sycamore Avenue so far?”
Shit! He was a stalker
! So, why was she still shaking this psycho’s hand?
, she shrieked to herself. Lisa pulled her hand back and quickly maneuvered around Jake. “I…uh…have to go.” She pushed her cart away as fast as she could walk.
“Hey, wait up!” Jake pushed his cart alongside hers. “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to pry. I live on Sycamore myself and knew your aunt. Plus, you know how small towns are. We’ve known you were coming for a while now.” He smiled that perfect smile at her again.
Lisa actually had no clue how small towns worked. She had bounced around so much as a child that she had never lived anywhere for very long until she was eleven and finally settled down in Annapolis, and Annapolis could hardly be considered a small town. But realizing Jake was not a stalker helped her relax minutely. Smiling, she shook her head. “Sorry, I’m not used to small-town hospitality, I guess. The house is great.” She leaned over to select a salad, hoping to put an end to their conversation.
“So, did you need any help unpacking?”
No such luck.
“No thanks. I think I’ve got it.” She started paying extra attention to her salad dressing choices. Ranch would be good, but her waistline wouldn’t thank her very much… Right around the time Balsamic Vinaigrette came into the equation, Lisa realized Jake had asked her another question.
. She said the first thing to come to mind, but it came out sounding more like a question. “O-kay?”
“Great. Well, the party starts around five, but show up anytime. I’m the house at the end of the block. It’ll be hard to miss with all the people and noise. I’ll introduce you around and get you better acquainted with our little town.”
Straightening quickly, Lisa felt all the blood rush to her head. “Wait—what?” As she felt herself sway, she grabbed onto the first thing her hand caught a hold on, which just happened to be Jake’s very firm chest.
“Whoa there, angel, I’ve got you,” said Jake, holding her steady. “You alright?”
“No. Umm, yes. I mean…I think so?”
Chuckling, Jake asked, “You faint often?”
“I did not faint!” Fighting the urge to stomp her foot like a child, she continued, “I just stood up too fast, and I haven’t eaten in a little while.” Glancing at her watch, she grimaced. “Make that a long while, but I’m fine. Really.” When she realized that she was still clutching Jake’s chest, she quickly disentangled herself and took a step back.
“Well, I can help with one of those things, anyway. How about we grab a bite to eat after I finish up here?”
“Umm…thanks, but no. I’ve really got to be going. It was great bumping into you…ha…literally, but, umm, I’ve got to run.” As she turned to flee down the next aisle, she heard Jake’s laughter and his last words.
“See you tomorrow, Lisa.”
As Jake walked to his truck to unload his groceries, he couldn’t help smiling. His first meeting with Lisa couldn’t have gone worse, and yet there was something about her that intrigued him. The girl scared easier than a newborn filly, and he wondered briefly why that was. After spotting her in the checkout lane next to his, he’d waved. She’d barely raised her hand in response before fleeing so fast she’d forgotten one of her bags and had to come back in. He chuckled to himself. It had been a long time since he’d felt an instant attraction like this. Leaning against the tailgate, he contemplated what it was about her that had him so interested. Lisa had the classic girl-next-door look down with her long, brown hair and sky-blue eyes. But it wasn’t just her looks that had him taking notice. She didn’t seem interested in him at all, and why was that so refreshing? One thing was for certain. He was not done with Miss Lisa James, not by a long shot. After returning his cart, his phone ringing broke his train of thought. A quick glance at the caller ID had his body tensing, and all thoughts of his attractive new neighbor fled.