Series: Sweetbriar Cove #6
Release Date: March 12, 2018
For journalist Eliza Bennett, summers in Sweetbriar Cove were her happiest childhood memories. Now that she’s been unceremoniously fired, evicted, and dumped (all in the same week), she hopes the small town will work its magic again and help get her life back on track. She definitely isn’t looking for a distraction like the handsome stranger she meets on her way into town… especially when she discovers he might be the man behind her recent misfortunes.
Cal Prescott is in Sweetbriar Cove adjusting to (or escaping from) his new role as head of the family company. He’s always prided himself on his cool logic, but reckoning with the outspoken spitfire, Eliza, is making him forget his responsibilities – and why falling in love would be such a bad idea.
The sparks between them are red-hot, and soon, their passion is heating up the summer nights. But can Eliza and Cal find a way through their differences – or will this opposites-attract romance burn out before it even begins?
Find out in the latest swoon-worthy Sweetbriar Cove romance from New York Times bestselling author, Melody Grace!
COMING 2018 – ORDER NOW!
Ever since she was a kid, summers for Eliza began with the drive out to Cape Cod.
The moment school was over, they loaded up the car: her and her older sister, Paige, crammed in the back of their faded Honda, squeezed between beach toys and books, and a cooler full of tuna-fish sandwiches. Their mom would complain about the traffic, and their dad would commandeer the radio with his old country mixtapes, but as the clogged freeway made way for the sandy two-lane highway, and that first glint of ocean glittered on the horizon, all the stress and arguments faded away.
Summer had arrived.
Even now, at twenty-seven, driving the familiar road alone with the brisk chill of Spring still in the air, Eliza could taste it. Melting ice cream, and saltwater taffy, evenings by the firepit, and mornings combing the rock-pools for new adventures. She crossed the Sagamore Bridge, the unofficial gateway to the Cape, and suddenly felt a well of sadness in her chest so sharp, she had to call Paige.
“Tell me you’re nearly here.” Her sister sounded harried.
“Another hour away.”
Paige groaned. “Mom’s driving me crazy. I swear, she’s drawn up a list of every single man on the entire Cape, ranked by eligibility. Anyone would think we’re in a Jane Austen novel!”
“She’s got one for you, too,” Paige warned.
“I took a peek. How do you feel about Tommy McAllister?”
“Tommy? I used to babysit for him!” Eliza exclaimed. “He would run around with no pants on, mooning everyone on the beach.”
“And now he’s legal.” Paige giggled. “Hey, just be glad you get the toy-boys. I’ve got a couple of widowed bachelors on mine.”
Eliza sighed. “That woman is impossible. Someone needs to stage an intervention.”
“She’s just looking out for us.” Paige’s voice softened. “She’s probably just trying to distract herself. It can’t be easy, coming back here.”
Eliza’s heart ached again. It was just over a year since their father had passed away, a year of painful firsts that made the loss feel fresh, every time. She’d thrown herself into work and making new friends out in Sweetbriar Cove, moving on as best she could, but this was the first time the family was venturing back to the beach house—without him.
“Do you know why she asked us both to be out there?” Eliza asked, focusing on the road.
“You mean besides securing us good marriages?” Paige teased. “No, she hasn’t said what the big deal is. She probably wants us both there for moral support. You know she hasn’t even packed away his things yet.”
“How long can you stay?”
“Just a week.” Paige sounded reluctant. “Things are crazy at work right now, we have a big order due.” Paige was a designer for a kids’ clothing line. “But I figure we can both pop back on weekends if she needs. Will the newspaper give you any more time off?”
“About that . . .” Eliza eyed the backseat in her rearview mirror, currently piled with boxes containing all her worldly possessions. “It turns out, they’re giving me all the time I need.” She sighed. “They fired me.”
“Eliza! What did you do?”
“Nothing!” Eliza protested. “It’s this new boss. He laid off half the staff, he’s turning the paper into some crappy website.” A revolutionary, forward-facing news vertical, the memo had said, whatever that meant. “He put us all on probation, to prove we could ‘evolve’ with the company. And, well . . .” Eliza trailed off.
“I knew you did something.”
Eliza exhaled. “It doesn’t matter. I’ve got plenty of time to help Mom with whatever project she’s got going now.”
“I’m sorry,” Paige said, comforting. “Who knows? Maybe Tommy will sweep you off your feet.”
Eliza managed a smile. “I won’t hold my breath. Listen, my cellphone’s about to cut out. See you soon.”
She hung up and took a deep breath, trying to inhale that summertime feeling again. But thanks to a passing truck, all she got was a lungful of exhaust fumes.
This year wasn’t exactly going according to plan.
It was all Cal Prescott’s fault. Or rather, Callahan Archibald Prescott IV, heir to the Prescott media empire, and her new boss. Not that Eliza had ever met the man. All his new rules had been handed down by memo—dozens of them, addressed to the staff in crisp, impersonal business-talk as he set about dismantling the most prestigious newspaper left in Boston. Probation was bad enough—they’d all been walking on eggshells since news of the takeover hit—but then the not-so-helpful suggestions started arriving too. More fluffy human-interest stories, more celebrity coverage. More advertisements, less investigative journalism. Eliza should have been pleased. Features was her beat, she loved profiling oddball people and writing up local events, but even she chafed at her list of assignments, nothing but ritzy society parties and puff pieces . . . until one of those puff pieces landed her in hot water—and out of a job.
It wasn’t fair. How was she supposed to know that the mayor’s wife was a Prescott cousin, and the paragraph about her screaming at the kids’ nanny wasn’t what Cal had in mind for a “behind the scenes” look at her new charity launch?
OK, Eliza had known. And maybe she’d written the story as a way to thumb her nose at the Prescotts. But wasn’t journalism supposed to be about the facts—speaking truth to power? It was what her father had always said. He’d been her biggest supporter, from the time she’d decided, aged eight, she was going to be an intrepid reporter, all the way through school newspaper assignments and those nerve-wracking years out of college, pitching freelance articles and interviewing all over town. The day the Boston Herald had published her first byline, her father had gone out and had it framed. He kept it hanging in his office at the college where he taught, proudly telling anyone who’d listen about his daughter, the journalist.
It was a good thing he wasn’t around to see her now.
Eliza swallowed back the pain and focused on the road ahead. She wasn’t far now, just another few miles of highway before the turn-off to the house. Already, the light seemed brighter, the midday sun glinting off the ocean through the dense, green trees. Eliza felt her tension ease. Maybe some time on the Cape was what she needed right now. She could regroup, catch up with her friends, and try to figure out what she could do next to get her career back on track.
If Cal Prescott hadn’t blacklisted her for good.
The radio switched to an upbeat song, and she was just reaching to turn the volume up and sing away her stress, when she saw a car pulled over on the side of the road. The trunk was open, and a man was waving a cellphone in the air, looking frustrated. Eliza was so close to the beach, she could almost taste the soft-serve ice cream, but her father had always taught her to help out where she could. You never know when you’ll be the one needing a hand.
Eliza pulled over. “Having problems?” she called, getting out of the car.
“I can’t get a cell signal.” The man turned. He was dressed immaculately in navy pinstripe pants and a crisp white shirt, a jacket slung on the roof of his car. As Eliza came closer, she could see it was an expensive sedan, gleaming and spotless despite the sand on the road.
Rich people problems.
“This is a dead spot,” she explained. “There’s no signal for a couple more miles. Let me take a look.” She bent over and examined the wheel. It was totally deflated, with . . . Ah. A rusty nail was embedded near the rim. “Here’s your problem,” she said, working the nail out of the rubber and holding it up.
She found herself looking straight into the man’s eyes. His piercing, midnight-blue eyes.
Eliza blinked. He had a chiseled jaw, and tanned skin, and dark hair that fell in a perfect rumpled wave over his forehead like something out of a fashion shoot. It was movie-star hair, McDreamy hair, the kind of hair that came from $200 salons that valeted your car and gave you a special scalp massage.
The man took the nail from her and sighed. “Just perfect. Sorry,” he added, with a rueful look. “It’s been one of those days. Make it, one of those months. So, what now?”
“Now?” Eliza arched an eyebrow. “Don’t tell me you don’t know how to change a flat?”
“Sure I can,” the man replied, looking amused. “But it’s a little hard without a jack. It looks like my guy forgot to put it back after the detailing.”
Make that, really rich people problems.
“No worries, I’ve got one,” she said reluctantly. “Your spare should be enough to get you to the nearest garage. Save waiting on triple-A all afternoon, at least.”
“Thank you.” The man’s face finally relaxed into a smile that lit up his handsome face and left Eliza breathless.
She quickly turned on her heel, and went to fetch the jack from her trunk—and quickly smooth down her hair. She was wearing jeans and a sweater, picked for comfort on the drive down, but this guy made her feel like she was roaming around in her slouchiest pajamas.
You’re doing him the favor, she reminded herself.
“And thank you for stopping,” the man added, when she returned. “I swear, half a dozen cars sped right by. So much for small-town hospitality.”
“Don’t take it personally,” Eliza told him, bending over to fit the jack in place. “It’s just the summer people thing.”
The man looked confused.
“You know, rich city people buying up houses and stopping by for Fourth of July,” Eliza explained, starting to crack the handle. “You jack up the property prices, leave them empty, then come swanning around once a year demanding non-fat almond milk and gluten-free fries.”
“Tell me how you really feel, why don’t you?” The man grinned, looking amused.
Eliza smiled back. “You’re a grown man, I figure you can take it.”
He laughed. “You’ve got me. Well, almost. I haven’t bought my place yet, I’m visiting a friend here, taking a look around. And I had almond milk by accident once, in my coffee. It was sacrilege.”
“Amen,” Eliza agreed.
“Here, let me.” The man suddenly seemed to realize what she was doing. He rolled up his shirt-sleeves—revealing tanned, elegant forearms—and took over, expertly jacking the car up and then loosening the wheel nuts with a few turns of the spanner.
Eliza admired the line of his muscles rippling under his shirt. For a preppy summer guy, he was toned.
“So, you live around here?” he asked, pausing to wipe his brow.
“No. But my family has been coming here for years,” she added quickly. Still, the man gave her a teasing look.
“Hmm. Every summer? Like . . . a summer person?”
She laughed. “It’s not like that. My grandpa built our place himself, back in the Fifties. He and my grandma retired out here, so we’ve been coming my whole life.”
“An honorary local.”
“Pretty much. You should watch out,” she added lightly. “You think you’ll just stay a week or two, but the place has a way of growing on you.”
“It’s off to a good start.”
The man held her gaze for a long moment, and Eliza’s pulse skipped. She flushed and looked away, but the man didn’t seem ruffled at all.
“So, do you have any tips for me, to blend in around here?” he asked, effortlessly moving the spare wheel into place.
“You could lose the suit, for starters.”
He glanced up, looking amused.
She flushed. Why did that come out sounding so dirty? “I just meant, people dress pretty casually around here. It’s a good place to switch off and leave your stress behind.”
“Hence the lack of cellphone signal.”
“That’s just along this stretch of highway,” she reassured him. “It’s just Cape Cod, not the back of beyond.”
“I don’t know, maybe a forced detox would be a good thing,” he said, with that rueful, tired look again, and out of nowhere, Eliza was struck with the sudden urge to push that stray dark lock off of his forehead . . . and run her fingers through that perfect hair.
This was what happened when she spent her whole life working; she had inappropriate thoughts about the first vaguely attractive man to cross her path. OK, very attractive. But still, that was no excuse. He wasn’t her type at all, with that knowing smirk, and clean-shaven jaw, driving a car that was probably worth more than her student loan.
And that was really saying something.
Still, that didn’t mean she couldn’t be friendly. “You should check out Sweetbriar Cove while you’re here,” she found herself suggesting. “It’s a cute town, just a few miles farther. There’s a great pub, and the bakery is world-class. The sticky buns aren’t to be missed.”
“Really?” He gave her that wicked smirk. “What man could resist an invitation like that?”
Eliza blinked. “I didn’t mean . . .” She trailed off, flushing again, but luckily, she was saved by the buzz of his cellphone.
He snatched it up, and pressed it to his ear. “Philip, can you hear me? How about now?” He moved away, trying to get a clear connection.
Eliza finished up with the wheel, and went to stow his tools in the trunk of his car, still feeling flustered. She looked around for a rag to wipe her dirty hands on, but of course, the car was empty and spotless, save a leather overnight bag on the backseat, beside a stack of papers.
Eliza couldn’t help but lean in to sneak a look, curious about the man who could rattle her so effortlessly—and look good while doing so.
Expansion proposal . . . Revenue projections . . . Prescott Foundation Agenda . . .
Eliza reached in the open window and moved his briefcase aside to get a clearer look at the papers below.
The envelopes were all addressed to Callahan Prescott IV.
She paused in disbelief. Seriously?
The handsome stranger was her boss.
Correction: her ex-boss. The reason she’d been fired from her dream job, perp-marched out of the building, and was currently broke, homeless, and unemployed.
Eliza quickly stepped away from the car, checking Cal hadn’t noticed her snooping. He was still pacing by the roadside, bellowing into his phone to be heard.
Typical. She should have known it the minute she clocked his fancy suit and expensive watch. Men like him thought they could just bulldoze their way through life, never mind who got crushed underfoot. And to think she’d actually helped him!
Well, maybe it was time karma paid a little visit.
Eliza glanced around again, and then paused by the spare wheel. She reached down and felt her way to the tire valve, then quickly unscrewed the cap and slipped it in her pocket. She could hear the faint hiss of air escaping as she stepped away. It would take a little while to deflate completely, so he had a chance of making it to the next town. Or maybe not, and he’d have a chance to break in those leather shoes of his.
Either way, it would give him plenty of time to take stock of his life.
“I’m heading out,” she called over to Cal.
He paused and lowered his phone. “Oh. Well, thanks . . . ?” He waited for her to fill in her name, but Eliza just gave him an innocent smile and got back behind the wheel of her car.
“Welcome to the Cape,” she called. “I hope you have an . . . interesting trip!”
TO BE CONTINUED…
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