THE PATH releases next week, August 25th~but you get a sneak preview today!
Abby Donavan came to the small beach community of Crystal Cove to start over. After a painful affair broke her heart and derailed her burgeoning career, taking over management for the just-opened bed-and-breakfast was the safe choice. In this sleepy town, Abby figured she could bury her memories and forget the pain.
When the chance to have her own hotel falls into her lap, though, she can’t resist the temptation. Making the old Riverside Inn into the showplace she’s always dreamed of running offers the second chance she never expected.
Abby didn’t expect another kind of second chance to land on her doorstep at the same time. Ryland Kent wants to help her bring the Riverside back to life, and his passion for restoration is irresistible. But as much as she wants to ignore it, she can’t help seeing another spark in his eyes . . . one that offers to reignite her own flame.
Sometimes the path to a happily-ever-after is anything but smooth.
“Hmmm.” Jude nodded. “Cooper told me there was some kind of mix-up with the spa plans. He said you handled it, though.”
Mentally I rolled my eyes. I should’ve known that Cooper would tell Logan and Jude about anything that might affect their property. “Oh, it was just a misunderstanding. I took care of it, and everything’s set now.”
“Wonderful.” She retied her apron, making the knot at the back of her neck a little more secure. “You know, Ab, Logan and I did a lot of research before we hired Ryland Kent. We wanted him because he’s the best in the business. He’s young, sure, but his talent and reputation are better than contractors twice his age. He’s got vision.”
I tried not to cringe. Had Cooper said something else? Did Ryland complain about me, either to Coop or directly to Logan?
“That being said . . . he’s a man. And I’ve been a work- ing woman long enough to know that no matter how en-
lightened a man can be, there’re times when he might try to bully a woman. He might not even realize it; some men just think their plans and ideas make more sense, so they believe they’re doing us a favor by pushing for their own way. I’m not saying Ryland’s doing that.” Jude held up one hand as I opened my mouth. “And I’m not asking you to rat him out, or gripe about him. I know you, Abby. That’s not your style. You’d grit your teeth and get through it until you’d have nothing left but bleeding gums, rather than ask for help or say someone’s giving you trouble. But I want you to keep in mind that I’ve got your back. Logan and I believe in you. We trust you. And in our book, you are the final word on anything that happens at the Riverside.”
It was mortifying to realize my eyes were filled with tears. I never cried. I hadn’t in years, and most certainly not in any work-related situation. I was a Donavan, and Donavans were tough. I could almost hear my father’s voice.
But Jude’s support was more important than I’d known. Hearing her affirm that she and Logan would back me in a show-down with Ryland took a weight off my shoulders that I hadn’t realized I was carrying. I swallowed hard and raised my eyes to meet Jude’s.
“Thank you. Really, you have no idea how much that means to me. You and Logan have been my lifesavers these past few years, and I don’t know what I would’ve done without you.” I let a moment of silence pass as I collected myself. “But everything’s fine with the contractor. I can hold my own. And I think he gets that now.”
“I’m sure he does.” Jude’s voice held more than a trace of amusement. “I can’t see anyone getting the better of you,
Abby. Ryland’s a good guy, I think. Cooper likes him, and that speaks volumes, since Coop doesn’t really like anyone outside the posse.”
I smiled. It was a long-playing joke among the group of friends that Cooper Davis didn’t play well with others. He could be gruff, sure, and he didn’t suffer fools. I knew that. But then, neither did I. The difference was that while Cooper was seen as being an eccentric artist, the same traits in me apparently made me a bitch. Oh, well.
“He’s pretty cute, too.” Jude added those last words with a sly glance my way. “His arms . . . wow. Well, I’ve got a thing for arms. And those dark eyes? Mmmmm.”
I gave her wide eyes and shook my head. “Jude, you’re a married woman. Really. What would Logan say?”
“He’d say I can look as long as I know whose bed I’m in every night. And I might be married, but I’m far from dead. I also happen to have some single friends, so I keep my eyes open. Ryland Kent looks like he could be a lot of fun.”
I slid off the barstool. This conversation was taking a turn down a road that I’d blocked off a long time ago. There were dangerous potholes there, and I wasn’t in the state of mind to navigate them this morning. “Well, good luck with that. I hope you can find the right single friend for Mr. Kent.”
“I think I already did. Abby, you haven’t had even one date since you moved to the Cove. At least, not as far as I know, which means you’d have to be playing it pretty close to the chest, since nothing happens in Crystal Cove without someone finding out. Why not take a second look at Ryland? Sounds like the sparks are there already.”
I rolled my shoulders, trying to release the tension that had suddenly seized them. “First of all, I’m not looking for a man. Or a relationship. Or even a one-night hookup, if you want to sound like Emmy. Second, if I were looking, it wouldn’t be with anyone from work. Been there, done that, still have the scars. And third, Ryland Kent is younger than me. Considerably younger. He’s not interested in someone like me. Trust me on that.”
Jude sighed. “Abby, you’re hardly ancient. Hell, I’m over ten years older than you and I’m not ancient. Ryland would be stupid not to think you’re incredibly hot. As for the fact that you’re not looking . . . trust me, sweetie. It happens whether you’re looking or not, and more often than not, the guy you fall for isn’t the one your logical brain would choose.”
“And on that note, I need to get to work.” I pulled out my phone to check the time. “My boss is a real stickler for punctuality, and I don’t want to be late. Thanks for the coffee, Jude. See you later on.”
“Don’t forget to send me that info on the winery.” She called the words after me, and I paused to look back, waving to show I’d heard her.
“And don’t forget to check out Ryland’s arms, either. His chest is pretty smokin’, too. Oh and his ass—”
I clapped my hands over my ears and hummed loudly as I pushed through the swinging screen door that led to the parking lot. I probably looked ridiculous, but desperate times and all that. I didn’t need the mental image of the res-toration specialist’s finer points haunting me all day long.
Find out what happens next . . . and follow The Path to happily-ever-after! Preorder today.