Authors: Mindy Hayes
“It seems to be the natural progression.”
“You think you know enough to make a challenge out of it?” She dares me with her eyebrow raised.
“Will I seem like less of a man if I do?”
“Only if you can’t beat me.”
“You’re on,” I say.
“Shut up and kiss me,” she says.
And so I do.
WE DON’T SPEND
the summers in Hatteras as a family anymore, but we take turns. Peyton and I get the beach house for a few weeks, and today is the first of our stay.
She stands at the railing overlooking the boardwalk and ocean. I brush her hair away from her neck and plant a kiss on her skin. Her hair is back to the way it used to be. Long and no longer white, but sun-kissed, as it was made to be. I loop my arms around her waist and rest my chin on her bare shoulder. She exhales and settles into my arms. Her freckles are featured under the sunlight. I want to kiss each and every one. And I can, because we have the rest of our lives together. So, I make that my new pact. To build Peyton up and help her love every flaw and imperfection that makes her who she is, that makes the woman I love.
“You know, my dad used to tell me something whenever life wouldn’t go the way I planned.”
“Oh yeah?” I tighten my arms around her and listen intently.
“He’d say, ‘Peyton Jane, there’s beauty in a new beginning. It brings the opportunity to create something more, something better.’ And you know what?” I feel a contented smile brighten her face. “He was right.”
FIRST AND FOREMOST
, I need to thank Michele G. Miller. She is the reason this book is in your hands right now. When my brain no longer wanted to give me words, she helped to drag me from the darkness.
Thank you, Madison Seidler and Samantha Eaton-Roberts, my editors, for cleaning up my messes and giving invaluable advice.
My sisters in fierceness, I think it goes without saying, but thank you for your awesomeness. Every day and always. Especially, Starla, for enduring the endless cover changes.
To Jessica, my alabaster doll, stay classy.
My work family who might as well be blood: Shawnna, Lisabeth, Laura, JJ, Stephanie, Cabell, and Lima, who put up with me daily at my “real” job and encourage me to pursue my dreams, even if it means not being “mentally” present every day. I love you guys so much.
As always, my family––both blood and through marriage––deserve the most thanks for your patience, consideration, support and all around love. And, of course, Ryan, the inspiration behind all my leading men. I love you. Thank you.
To my readers, it’s a blessing to be able to begin an acknowledgment like that. I’m so grateful for each of you.
is the youngest of six children and grew up in San Diego, California. After attending Brigham Young University-Idaho, she discovered her passion for reading and writing. Mindy and her husband have been married for eight years and live in Summerville, South Carolina.