Sweet Romance Sale & News

13266099_10209262898633453_7235774304878746676_nHi! Just taking a moment to let you know about a multi-author sweet romance sale, which includes Driven to Date: http://sweetreadbooks.com/may2016sale

Hope this helps you have a fun weekend filled with wonderful reading!!

Have you seen the new Kissed by the Bay covers? If not, here they are and feel free to post and let me know what you think!!

EveryLittleKiss 200x300  ThePerfectKiss2016LG 200x300  JustOneKiss2016LG 200x300 The cover for Megan’s story, The Sweetest Kiss, is in the works and I will be sharing it very soon!!

If you’ve pre-ordered The Crush Dilemma, thank you for your patience while I pushed back the release date to make sure the story is the best it can be.  I can’t wait to share Poppy’s story with you.

Sending cyber hugs to all of you and hope you have a fabulous weekend.

:-) Susan

If you’d like to receive Susan Hatler’s news updates directly to your email, just enter your email address into the feed on the right column of my website and be sure to confirm with the email you receive.

 

Autographed Paperback Giveaway

GiveawayELKENTER TO WIN an autographed paperback of EVERY LITTLE KISS*. As you may have heard, EVERY LITTLE KISS hit the #1 Clean & Wholesome Romance bestseller list on Amazon this month. Woot! To enter to this giveaway just leave a comment here on my blog telling me your favorite beach you’ve ever been to, or a beach you would love to visit.

Entries for the EVERY LITTLE KISS giveaway will be accepted through Sunday April 3rd and the winner will be announced here on this post. Be sure to check back to see if you won. Good luck!!

Thank you for all of your support with my books. Every fabulous review, kind word, and email I receive from readers about my books is much appreciated. Hope you have a lovely week filled with fun reading!!

:-) Susan

* Will ship to U.S. address only.

If you’d like to receive Susan Hatler’s news updates directly to your email, just enter your email address into the feed on the right column of my website and be sure to confirm with the email you receive.

Treasured Dreams & Giveaway

Treasured Dreams - New Release! copyDear Wonderful Readers,

As you may know, I lived in Whitefish, Montana for almost six years. This beautiful mountain resort town is dear to my heart, and the location that soothe’s Holly’s soul in the Treasured Dreams series.

Throughout these seven short stories in this inspirational collection, it’s those unexpected moments in Holly’s life that make her treasured dreams come true. I hope you enjoy Holly’s adventures in Treasured Dreams, A Short Story Collection, which is now available on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, and Nook.

DearAubrey 200x300-2I’m finishing up revisions on my contemporary young adult novel, The Crush Dilemma, which will release on April 15, 2016 and is now available for pre-order on Amazon and iBooks.

I’m super excited to let you know that Every Little Kiss (Kissed by the Bay series #1) hit #17 on Barnes & Noble’s bestseller list this past week; #1 on Amazon’s Clean & Wholesome Romance bestseller list; #2 on Amazon’s Inspirational Romance bestseller list; #13 on Amazon’s Romantic Comedy bestseller list; and #38 on iBooks’s Romance bestseller list. Thank you, readers, for making Wendy’s story a bestseller. Woot!

JustOneKiss 200x300

In other good news, The Perfect Kiss (Kissed by the Bay series #2) hit #74 on Amazon’s Clean & Wholesome Romance bestseller list this past week. On March 6, 2016, Just One Kiss (Kissed by the Bay series #3) hit #95 on Amazon’s Clean & Wholesome Romance bestseller list while on pre-order! I’ve almost finished the first draft of Charlie’s story, Just One Kiss, which is available for pre-order on Amazon and iBooks.

Love at First Date - GIVEAWAYNow, for fun… ENTER TO WIN an autographed paperback of Love at First Date*. To enter to this giveaway, just leave a comment below telling me your favorite location you’ve ever been to, or a dream location you long to travel to.

Entries for the Love at First Date giveaway will be accepted through Sunday March 20, 2016 and the winner will be announced here on my blog. Good luck!!

Thanks again, dear reader, for all of your support with my books. I wish you a fabulous week filled with fun reading.

:-) Susan

* Will ship to U.S. address only.

If you’d like to receive Susan Hatler’s news updates directly to your email, just enter your email address into the feed on the right column of my website and be sure to confirm with the email you receive.

New Release & Giveaway

AUB - New Release smallDear Readers,

I’m thrilled to let you know that Holly’s final story, AN UNEXPECTED BABY (Treasured Dreams series #7), is now available on AmazoniBooksNookKobo, and Google Play!!

Holly has one last adventure to tackle before she can get her HEA. As you know, it’s those unexpected moments in Holly’s life that make her most treasured dreams come true. Thank you for joining Holly on her journey in the beautiful small mountain town of Whitefish, Montana. The entire series set will be available soon in paperback and e-book, titled Treasured Dreams, A Short Story Collection.

JustOneKiss 200x300Now I’m working on Charlie Rockwell’s story, Just One Kiss (Kissed by the Bay series #3), which is available for pre-order on Amazon and iBooks.

Charlie Rockwell’s divorce from her rock star ex left her with a broken heart, a mansion on the bluffs in her hometown of Blue Moon Bay, and an empty back account. Now, Charlie has to generate enough income to keep the house she loves.

When producers of the soap opera, Just One Love, offer to rent Charlie’s house for a sizable fee, Charlie’s tempted. Only she wants nothing to do with the spotlight or dating someone famous again, and the show’s sexy star, Luke Montgomery, has her in his sights. Reluctantly, Charlie agrees to rent her home and vows to stay out of Luke’s way.

Unexpectedly, as filming progresses, Charlie witnesses Luke’s sweet side. She also remembers her college theater days and love of acting. During an on-set emergency, she’s asked to stand-in during a scene, and her undeniable chemistry with Luke impresses the producers enough that they want Charlie full-time.

Can Charlie finally have the career she’s dreamed about? And will Luke break her heart, or will he be everything he seems and what she always wanted?

DearAubrey 200x300-2I’m also working on revisions for my contemporary young adult novel, The Crush Dilemma, which will release on April 15, 2016 and is now available for pre-order on Amazon and iBooks.

Teen geek, Poppy Pinkleton, is adding some spice to her senior year of high school: A year of psychological experiments that will 1) Earn her three units of college credit; 2) Give her an outlet to say what she wants, when she wants; and 3) Will NOT include her parents telling her to be the “bigger person.”

How, you ask? Poppy’s gotten the green light from Mrs. Peterson, the newspaper head, to write an online advice column for the school. She’s found the perfect name for her alter ego: Aubrey. It means someone who rules with “magical wisdom.” She’ll be in control of her online experiment, online identity, and divvy her wisdom to the masses while tracking the results for her mini-thesis.

Now, protected by a secret identity, she’s got the popular crowd clambering to know what she thinks about fashion, homework, and eek . . . even sex! And the best part is, her parents and best friends don’t know anything about it. Finally, she can let loose a wild side and speak her mind—right or wrong, without having to meet anyone’s expectations.

LoveatFirstDateB 200x300ENTER TO WIN an autographed paperback of Love at First Date*. To enter to this giveaway, just leave a comment below telling me your favorite character from the Better Date than Never series and which side-character you’d like to see get her/his own story.

I wish you a happy Valentine’s Day filled with fun reading. Entries for the Love at First Date giveaway will be accepted through Sunday February 14, 2016. Thanks for participating in my giveaway and good luck!!

* Will ship to U.S. address only.

:-) Susan

If you’d like to receive Susan Hatler’s news updates directly to your email, just enter your email address into the feed on the right column of my website and be sure to confirm with the email you receive.

New Release & More

AUJ - New ReleaseDear Awesome Readers,

Holly is struggling with some of life’s greatest challenges, but hiking in Montana’s rocky mountains gives her much needed peace she hopes to share with Dave.

Hope you enjoy Holly’s latest adventure in her small mountain town!!

An Unexpected Joy (Treasured Dreams #6) is available on: Amazon, iBooksNookKobo, and Google Play.

 

DearAubrey 200x300-2

Have you been waiting for another Young Adult release from me? Well, The Crush Dilemma will release on April 15, 2016 and is now available for pre-order on Amazon (pre-order coming soon to iBooks).

Teen geek, Poppy Pinkleton, is adding some spice to her senior year of high school: A year of psychological experiments that will 1) Earn her three units of college credit; 2) Give her an outlet to say what she wants, when she wants; and 3) Will NOT include her parents telling her to be the “bigger person.”

How, you ask? Poppy’s gotten the green light from Mrs. Peterson, the newspaper head, to write an online advice column for the school. She’s found the perfect name for her alter ego: Aubrey. It means someone who rules with “magical wisdom.” She’ll be in control of her online experiment, online identity, and divvy her wisdom to the masses while tracking the results for her mini-thesis.
Now, protected by a secret identity, she’s got the popular crowd clambering to know what she thinks about fashion, homework, and eek . . . even sex! And the best part is, her parents and best friends don’t know anything about it. Finally, she can let loose a wild side and speak her mind—right or wrong, without having to meet anyone’s expectations.

Soon, however, dishing out advice leads to more than Poppy can handle on her own and she must make a choice. Hide behind her alter ego or take the chance that everyone, including the new boy at school, will like her for everything she is.

TreasuredDreamsCollection 200x300

I’m excited to let you know that Treasured Dreams, A Short Story Collection is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

This book bundle includes seven short stories and an epilogue from the bestselling Treasured Dreams series.

Holly adores living in her small mountain town of Whitefish, Montana, treasures her beading business, but longs to fall in love. When she meets a handsome stranger at the Falling Leaves Festival, she starts to wonder if dreams do come true. . . .

“An Unexpected Date is a wonderful and perfect release to a stressful or crazy day.” — Cafè of Dreams Book Reviews

“It’s super short and super sweet. ” — Getting Your Read On on An Unexpected Kiss

“It’s different from most romance series, it’s certainly entertaining and it’s a slice of life that most of us can relate to on some level with a memory or two of our own.” — Romance is Ageless on An Unexpected Love

AN UNEXPECTED DATE (6 pages, 1700 words).

Holly loves living in her cozy mountain town and all the surrounding beauty soothes her soul. She treasures beading jewelry for her own small business while watching nature and its amazing creatures outside her window. But, her mom begs her to move back to the city so she can find a man to marry.

Holly doesn’t want to give up on her dreams, but does that mean she’ll have to give up on love?

AN UNEXPECTED KISS (25 pages, 5200 words).

Holly is beyond excited about her first date with Dave. They share a love for her beloved small mountain resort town, plus she’s never felt such sparks for a guy before. But when her mom warns her to proceed with caution so she won’t get disappointed, Holly pulls back—until an unexpected surprise entices her to risk her heart completely.

AN UNEXPECTED LOVE (20 pages, 4500 words).

Holly receives an unexpected offer to expand her jewelry business, Treasured Creations, and she doesn’t know whether to accept the contract or not. Selling beaded jewelry at festivals in her small town is one thing, but a painful experience from her past has made her gun-shy about taking risks.

She wants to discuss her fears with Dave, her boyfriend of two months, but she’s falling in love with him and feels ashamed of her past failures.

Will opening up to Dave jeopardize their developing romance? Or will it lead them to a place more beautiful than she could’ve ever imagined?

AN UNEXPECTED PROPOSAL (24 pages, 5200 words).

When Holly’s boyfriend is offered the job of his dreams in Africa, Holly must choose between the love of her life and the small mountain town that soothes her soul.

AN UNEXPECTED WEDDING (24 pages, 5300 words).

Instead of being an excited bride-to-be, Holly’s frazzled beyond belief as she tries to plan her wedding. Her fiancé, Dave, says whatever she wants works for him, but she can’t get her mom and soon-to-be mother-in-law to so much as agree on a date.

The worst part is that her dad passed away four years ago, and she’s heartbroken he won’t be walking her down the aisle.

Holly begins to accept the wedding is doomed, but then an unexpected surprise reminds her why she’s getting married in the first place.

AN UNEXPECTED JOY (22 pages, 4900 words).

Holly is struggling with some of life’s greatest challenges, but hiking in Montana’s rocky mountains gives her much needed peace she hopes to share with Dave.

AN UNEXPECTED BABY (12 pages, 3200 words).

Holly’s already in over her head when she receives an unexpected surprise, which is beyond her wildest dreams.

Happy reading!!

:-) Susan

New Release & Giveaway

The Perfect Kiss - New Release SMALLDear Readers,

A luxury women’s retreat to avoid men. A mansion full of sexy firefighters next door. Event planner Olivia Lane has her hands full—and sexy Brody Mitchell intends to keep it that way. Ready to find out how Olivia deals with this “hot” temptation? Good news. . . The Perfect Kiss is now available on AmazoniBooks, Nook (processing!), KoboGoogle Play, and All Romance. Happy reading!!

GiveawayELKENTER TO WIN an autographed paperback of Every Little Kiss*. To enter to this giveaway, just leave a comment below telling me your favorite character from the Better Date than Never series and why.

Here’s a teaser from Every Little Kiss:

Max’s blue eyes peered down at me. “Do you believe in legends, Wendy?”

I lifted my lashes. “I used to.”

His gaze went upward. “It’s a full moon tonight. Do you know if it’s a blue moon?”

“It’s the second full moon this month, which means it is a blue moon.” My throat went dry. I wanted him to kiss me, but this was crazy. I barely knew him.

“But I don’t believe in the legend anymore.”

He caressed my cheek. “Are you willing to risk it, though? One kiss, right here, under a blue moon?”

Every ounce of me knew I should run back inside the inn for safety—not from violent danger, but from the perils of opening my heart. Instead of running, though, I found myself whispering, “Yes . . .”

I lifted up on my toes as he moved toward me, then his mouth captured mine. For a moment, panic rolled through me, but I smacked it down. My heart was not at risk, because there was no way we would fall in love. Max was leaving Blue Moon Bay in the morning, so my feelings were completely safe. With that settled, I let myself get lost in the kiss.

His lips were warm, soft, and firm. I leaned into him, breathing in the light and faded cologne—obviously expensive—that wafted up from his neck. His shirt was dry while mine was still damp, and our bodies pressed together as he slanted his head and deepened the kiss.

A small breathy sound escaped me as his tongue stroked along my bottom lip. I should not be doing this. Despite my mental reservations, I opened my mouth and tasted him. Oh, yum. Double yum. All of the pain and heartache from today fell away as I focused on Max’s delicious kisses that were making my legs turn all soft and noodle-like.

His fingers skimmed lightly down my neck, making me shiver. Our tongues met and parted, then met again. I couldn’t believe I was kissing a total stranger right here on the beach but a little voice in my head told me to stop worrying about it. I happily obeyed. The rush of heat flowing through me felt way too good to care about anything else.

The fact that I might never see Max again made my passion grow, and our kisses became hungry as his tongue explored mine. We stood for the longest time, kissing, and finally embracing in a body hug that threatened to unhinge me. I wanted this man, with every fiber of my being, and I didn’t know hardly anything about him.

I suddenly wanted the legend to be true, that kissing him at this spot, under a blue moon would make him mine—if only for tonight.

iBooks: http://tinyurl.com/mehm2yx
Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/nxzgcqf
Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/no89yjt
Google Play: http://tinyurl.com/nhjekkw
All Romance: http://tinyurl.com/q9ytnvq
Nook: http://tinyurl.com/obhls84

Entries will be accepted through Sunday January 3, 2016. Thanks for participating in my giveaway and good luck!!

* Will ship to U.S. address only.

:-) Susan

NEW RELEASE: An Unexpected Wedding

AUW - New Release

Today is release day for An Unexpected Wedding on Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and Google PlayAn Unexpected Wedding is already an Amazon Bestseller in 30-Minute Romance Short Reads. Yay!!

As Holly’s journey unfolds in the Treasured Dreams short story series we experience her milestones, surprises, and her deep passion for her dreams. In the inescapable beauty of her special mountain town, she’s always had to go after her dreams by herself . . . until now. Hope you enjoy An Unexpected Wedding.

AnUnexpectedJoy 200x300The Treasured Dreams series releases as “Sweet Treats on the 12th” of each month, with two more stories to look forward to in this series. An Unexpected Joy is available for pre-order on Amazon.
AnUnexpectedBaby 200x300An Unexpected Baby is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Hope you’re having a wonderful month filled with lots of happy reading.

Hugs,
Susan

NEW RELEASE: An Unexpected Proposal

Sweet Treats on the 12th

Dear Awesome Reader,

I’m thrilled it’s release day for Holly’s latest adventure, An Unexpected Proposal (Treasured Dreams, #4), which is now available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, Google Play, and All Romance.

Each short story in the Treasured Dreams series delves deeper into the relationship between Holly and Dave, which began with a chance meeting at a fall festival in the charming mountain resort town of Whitefish, Montana.

You may already know there will be seven stories in the Treasured Dreams series, each set to release as “Sweet Treats on the 12th” of each month. I’m considering another short story series and would love to hear from YOU as to what YOU would most love to read.

Would YOU like to read another short story series set in Montana? Perhaps a tropical short story series set in Hawaii? Contact me through my website, Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads, and let me know what YOU think.

I wanted to let you know that The Perfect Kiss (Kissed by the Bay, #2), available for pre-order on Amazon and iBooks, has been pushed back a month and will now release on December 27, 2015. Also in December,  An Unexpected Wedding (Treasured Dreams, #5) will release on December 12, 2015. An Unexpected Wedding is available for pre-order on Amazon, iBooks, Nook, and Kobo, and is already a BESTSELLER having hit #22 on Amazon’s bestseller list in 30-Minute Romance Short Reads. Woot!

Thanks for your support and happy reading!!

Hugs,

Susan

NEW RELEASE: An Unexpected Love

An Unexpected Love Release

Hello, Fabulous Readers!! I wanted to let you know that An Unexpected Love (Treasured Dreams, #3) just released today on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, and All Romance – woot! Coming soon to Nook.

The Treasured Dreams short stories are sweet treats, which are perfect to read during your break at work, while waiting for an appointment, or if you just want a quick pick-me-up at the end of your day. Look for Sweet Treats on the 12th of every month!

AnUnexpectedProposal 200x300An Unexpected Proposal (Treasured Dreams, #4) will release on November 12, 2015 and is available for pre-order on Amazon, iBooks, Nook, and Kobo.

Description:

When Holly’s boyfriend is offered the job of his dreams in Africa, Holly must choose between the love of her life and the small mountain town that soothes her soul.

AnUnexpectedWedding 200x300

 An Unexpected Wedding (Treasured Dreams, #5) will release on December 12, 2015 and is available for pre-order on Amazon, iBooks, Nook, and Kobo.

Description:

Instead of being an excited bride-to-be, Holly’s frazzled beyond belief as she tries to plan her wedding. Her fiancé, Dave, says whatever she wants works for him, but she can’t get her mom and soon-to-be mother-in-law to so much as agree on a date.

The worst part is that her dad passed away four years ago, and she’s heartbroken he won’t be walking her down the aisle.

Holly begins to accept the wedding is doomed, but then an unexpected surprise reminds her why she’s getting married in the first place.

Big hugs to everyone who takes the time to review my book on Amazon, Goodreads, or your retailer of choice. Reviews are much appreciated. Hope you have a wonderful week. Happy reading!!

:) Susan

If you’d like to receive Susan Hatler’s news updates directly to your email, just enter your email address into the feed on the right column of my website and be sure to confirm with the email you receive.

SNEAK PEEK – Every Little Kiss

KissMeme7I’m beyond thrilled that my new contemporary romance series, Kissed by the Bay, launches this Thursday, with EVERY LITTLE KISS. Woot!!

As a thanks to you, fabulous readers, for all of your support through my Better Date than Never series, I decided to post a sneak peek from EVERY LITTLE KISS right here on my blog. Hope you enjoy Wendy’s story:

Every Little Kiss

by

Susan Hatler

Copyright © 2015 by Susan Hatler

All Rights Reserved

CHAPTER ONE

As I drove down California’s scenic coastal Highway 1, a sign indicated I would hit my hometown of Blue Moon Bay in two miles and I had to fight the urge not to slam on the brakes, do a fast U-turn, and head back home to Sacramento. Although Blue Moon Bay used to be my home, I hadn’t been there since the day I’d left after high school graduation, and I hadn’t planned to come back now. I’d tucked that part of my life away and didn’t like to think about it—ever.

But my grandma’s lawyer had called yesterday, informing me that she’d passed away and had left me controlling interest in her quaint and quirky Inn at Blue Moon Bay. The shocking news of her death had sucked the air out of my chest and left me shaky and weak, reaching out to grab hold of the kitchen counter to keep from spilling to the floor.

How could my grandma be gone? I’d just seen her in Napa last month when we’d celebrated her seventy-second birthday and she’d seemed fine. There hadn’t been one sign that she’d soon drop dead from a heart attack in the middle of her weekly pinochle game.

As I was reeling in my grief, the lawyer proceeded to tell me that the will stated my brother, Brian, and I couldn’t keep the inn. Grandma had apparently added an odd requirement to her will: I had to sell the inn “in person” after running it with my brother for one last month. If I failed to follow those conditions then the inn would be donated to charity and both Brian and I would get nothing.

Even if I’d been willing to give up my inheritance—I wasn’t a millionaire or anything but my real estate business was booming—I certainly wouldn’t mess things up for my brother, and my grandma would’ve known that. She obviously had some kind of plan up her sleeve, by forcing my return. Not fair, Grandma. Not fair.

She should’ve just left the inn to Brian, since he was the one who’d stayed with her after I left nine years ago. Last night, I’d talked on the phone with my brother, whose voice sounded hoarse with grief. He’d also sounded upset about grandma’s decision but mostly the explanation she’d left for him in a letter: she wanted us to sell the inn because I’d have no interest in running it (true enough), and while Brian would, she felt it was time he found his own path (he disagreed). Grandma seemed as pushy from the grave as she had been in life.

I gripped the steering wheel, and my eyes watered. This was the last time my grandma would be bossing us around. She’d believed in hard work and doing your chores, and hadn’t been an emotional person in the slightest. But I’d always known she loved us, even if she hadn’t shown it in an outwardly way. It was hard to believe I’d never see her again.

As I continued down the highway toward the inn and my brother, hot tears slipped down my cheeks and I swiped them away. To help clear my emotions, I cracked the window of my white Mercedes SUV and breathed in the salty sea air—a hint of blooming flowers wafting in as well.

Along with the familiar scent, painful memories from my past overtook me and I shuddered. I’d been enjoying the city life in Sacramento, purposely not looking back to my time in Blue Moon Bay. Grandma hadn’t wanted a memorial service and she’d known I never wanted to come back here again. But she’d mandated that I sell the inn “in person” anyway. Stubborn woman.

My lips twitched as I imagined the crinkle that would be between my grandma’s brows and the stern look she’d be giving me if she were here right now. She’d tell me to stop complaining and do what must be done. End of story. Then I’d do what I wanted, anyway. Like grandma, like granddaughter. I’d apparently inherited her “stubborn” gene. Wow, I really missed her.

I cruised down the gray ribbon of highway by the coastline, and spotted the cheery sign welcoming me to Blue Moon Bay. My throat tightened. Nine years. Had it really been that long? I was barely eighteen when I’d left to start a new life in Sacramento, working as a receptionist in a real estate office to support myself through college. I’d worked hard, too, just like my grandma had taught me, and moved my way up the real estate ladder in record time.

Pushing everything else aside, I’d focused on work and it had paid off big time.

Now, at twenty-seven, I was known by everyone in Sacramento as Wendy Watts the Queen of Realtors. I had a great income and my Realtor photo was plastered on billboards across the city. In the photo, I’d pasted on a smile and worked to communicate confidence and intelligence in my emerald green eyes . . . a confidence I didn’t always feel. But I needed people to know I was serious about getting them the home of their dreams, which I did—time after time. And I would continue to do so.

Just as soon as I got back from Blue Moon Bay, anyway. . . .

The inn was on the southern most tip of the bay, so I would have to cross through the entire town to get there. I wasn’t sure I was ready to drive through my past just yet, but that’s where the road was taking me. I drove around a bend and the scattering of trees broke apart, revealing dazzling blue waves rolling onto a sandy shore that stretched away from tufts of grass and waving wildflowers whose colorful faces turned up toward the sun.

Seeing the ocean took my breath away and little spangles of sunlight bounced off the water in coin-shaped flashes of gold. The sand glimmered from the shore. I knew from experience that sand would be chilly and crumbly under my bare feet.

As I approached the northern edge of town the white lighthouse came into view, jetting up against the hazy blue sky, black granite rocks strewn around its large base.

A smile played on my lips as I remembered my first kiss right there at the lighthouse one cool summer evening in seventh grade. Benny Lee, a local boy who I’d liked for all of a week. I wondered how life had turned out for him. He was all freckly and big toothed back then, but he’d shared his bag of homemade popcorn with me before he’d made his move. I smiled as that kiss flashed through my head—he’d pressed his mouth against mine and made an adult moaning noise that had me fighting to hold in laughter.

I’d been the first of my group to be kissed by a boy and my best friends had giggled profusely as I gave them every last detail. Where were Olivia, Megan, and Charlie now? I had no idea. I’d lost touch with everyone except my brother and my grandma.

With a sigh, I tore my eyes away from the lighthouse as my car entered the beginning of town, heading toward the inn and my brother. I passed Over the Moon, the ancient local diner—that building was still standing?—and a rush of images flooded my brain, breaking through the wall I’d spent my life building.

My stomach roiled and my hands went a little shaky at the sight of the diner, so I pulled over to the side of the road, staring back at the diner’s peeling paint. I’d eaten my last breakfast with my parents right there at that diner before they’d left—for good. I was eight years old and Brian was ten.

Brian and I had been excited about eating out . . . until Mom and Dad sprung their decision on us. They were leaving and we were to stay with Grandma.

When Brian and I had been growing up, my parents were always nomadic. No place could hold their interest long. They would go wherever the wind blew them . . . Guatemala, Peru, and we’d even lived in a hut in Bolivia for a year. We moved around a lot but when Brian and I became school-aged—my parents had home-schooled us—we’d started complaining about having to leave our friends. So my parents moved to Blue Moon Bay in order to “settle down for the kids,” living with my dad’s mom at the inn.

For a few months our lives seemed perfect. Brian and I enrolled in the public elementary school, made friends we knew we could keep, and played on the beach at the inn until dusk every day. Then my parents made the decision to move on and leave us behind, crushing our short sense of stability.

Sitting here now, I could still recall how my heart had broken in two by my parents’ news. I’d loved them dearly and I was devastated—utterly destroyed—that they were abandoning us. I crumpled, tears flowing, and begged them not to leave. But Mom and Dad didn’t comfort me. They just tried to assure me that we’d be happier living a stable life with Grandma.

Since my brother and I had always been close, I turned to him for comfort, trying to wiggle under his arm. But he kept a distance from me from that moment on. When Mom and Dad started talking about where they were going next, he’d whispered to me, “People can’t count on anyone but themselves. You should learn that now.”

Those were the words I’d tried to live by.

Taking a deep breath, I pushed that awful morning out of my mind and merged back onto the highway as my thoughts merged to my grandma. After our parents left, she’d become my role model. Brian and I pretty much gave each other the same standoff-ish tough love that she gave us.

I pulled into town. Houses lined either side of the highway. Many were summerhouses, places where people came and stayed for the season before heading back to their regular lives. I once dreamed of owning one of those homes, coming back summer after summer with my own children, but now? Viewing the houses as a Realtor, I saw them for their coastal value only. Cha-ching.

On the ocean side, most houses were two-story and sometimes three-story affairs with large porches and sweeping balconies. Every window brought a view of the water or the lighthouse or the small fingers of land that jutted out into the ocean on the north and the south, making the semi-circular shape of Blue Moon Bay (population 20,000). The views alone were worth plenty of cash in California’s hot real estate market.

I stopped at a red light downtown, admiring the familiar little streets that trailed off the highway, fancifully paved in cobblestones. Much about Blue Moon Bay remained the same: the familiar seafood restaurants, pretty architecture, and usual coastal decorations. I always loved the mix of colors—blues, greens, yellows, and more—throughout the town, all of them bright and cheery and very Spanish Colonial.

The light turned green and I passed paved streets now, leading to more businesses and the schools. Then the highway took a sharp turn before rolling out on that southern most finger of land. I had deliberately not looked that way on the drive. The inn sat out there on the bluff, overlooking the ocean and as I turned south, I couldn’t avoid seeing it any longer.

The Inn at Blue Moon Bay.

My heart skipped a beat and conflicting feelings washed over me as I stared at the impressive building of this quaint coastal inn, its white exterior tinted the colors of the setting sun and the refracted colors of the ocean. The best and worst times of my life had been here.

I zoomed through the gates—which had never once been closed in all the time I’d lived there—and down the swooping cobblestone drive toward the grand circular entrance. I parked next to several other luxury cars and turned off the motor.

Looking at the inn, it appeared as if nothing had changed—like Grandma would be on the other side of those doors, sweeping the lobby, or bringing out freshly baked cookies for the guests. But she’d never do those things again.

The back of my eyes burned. Feeling like I was eight years old again, I wanted to cling to my brother for comfort. He’d sounded gruff on the phone, though. Maybe he blamed me as much as Grandma that we had to sell the inn. If so, this was going to be a very awkward month.

Either way, I was back.

****

I stepped out of the SUV and the cool ocean breeze swished through my clothes, whipping my hair back away from my face. I needed to go inside my former home and face my brother. Not easy, given that our grandma had died and left me in charge of selling the inn even though I was the one who had left nine years ago. Yeah, this wouldn’t be too uncomfortable or anything.

Taking a deep breath, I strode through the front doors and stopped short when I spotted my brother standing behind the welcome desk. He wore a brown short-sleeved button-up shirt that matched his dark hair, which fell across his forehead into his emerald green eyes. I fought the instinctive urge to tell him to get a haircut. But that was my brother. His hair always looked messy, like he’d just gone for a run on the beach. Maybe he had.

Obviously he was deep in thought about something since he didn’t seem to notice I’d come in. He wiped at the dark wood, a thoughtful frown on his handsome face, making me wonder if he was thinking about Grandma. A box sat next to him, filled with official-looking papers. Perhaps something to do with the estate?

My stomach knotted. Brian and I had both lost our grandma. We were the only ones in the world who knew what the other was going through. We’d both lost the woman who’d basically raised us. Maybe the pain of our shared loss would be enough to make us close again. Since I’d received the call last night that was all I wanted. We only had each other now.

As if Brian sensed me, he suddenly lifted his head and met my gaze. His eyes immediately lit up, then his emotion faded as quickly as it had come. He cleared his throat. “Hey, sis.” He pushed papers around on the counter, as if trying to appear busy. Then his brows came together. “Or should I say, Wendy Watts, star Realtor to the rich, who is here to sell my home out from under me?”

I flinched at his harsh tone. I’d been about to give him a hug, but so much for thinking we’d comfort and console each other. “Brian, I’m here to see you.”

“No.” He shook his head dismissively, then patted the top of the small stack of papers. “You’re only here because Grandma’s will forced you to come. This is our ancestral estate, but you probably don’t even care that we have to sell the inn. Do you?”

“Selling the inn was Grandma’s choice. Not mine.” I snapped, feeling immediately defensive. I knew he was hurting, but still. It wasn’t fair to blame me when I’d done nothing wrong. Talk about misplaced anger. I leaned back against the counter, and blew out a breath. “Grandma’s lawyer told me she didn’t want a service. Is that what you heard, too?”

“Yeah.” His voice thickened and he ducked his head, avoiding my gaze. He kicked his foot lightly against the counter in a boyish way. “Didn’t surprise me.”

“Like Grandma told us, right? Stop fussing and get on with it.” I thought my gruff tone was a pretty good impression of her, but my chest tightened and the back of my eyes burned. I swallowed, blinking rapidly. “Oh, Brian. What are we going to do without her?”

“I don’t know.” He flicked his gaze at me, then turned away and disappeared into the back room.

Had I upset him? I hadn’t meant to. Sigh. Guess it was going to be harder than I thought to get us close again. As I set my purse behind the front desk, I heard a door shut in the other room. A moment later Brian returned with two cold bottles of beer and handed one to me. Was he raising a white flag with those drinks?

He lifted his bottle toward mine. “To Grandma.”

“I’m sure she’d love us drinking beer to her name.” The sarcasm leaked from my voice and I clinked the neck of my bottle to his then took a long, refreshing sip of the hoppy liquid.

Brian leaned back against the counter next to me, his shoulder brushing against mine as he gave me a side-glance. “Why did you never come back here? Really?”

My stomach clenched. This time, instead of remembering my parents abandoning us, my thoughts zeroed in on what cinched my expedient departure after graduation: my high school boyfriend, Ian McBride. He’d been the one person I’d opened up to, and for two years I’d felt safe with him. I never imagined he would hurt me. He graduated a year earlier than me and went off to college. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder. For Ian, distance made him fall for someone else and dump me. I’d been devastated, to say the least.

I’d let him get too close. I never made that mistake with a man again.

Not like I’d tell my brother that though, so I nudged his elbow. “I have a thriving career in the city and it’s hard to get away. My life is in Sacramento. There’s even a townhome I want to buy that’s going on the market soon.”

His features tightened. “I see. You’ve always had your priorities.”

Ouch. Direct hit. “Look, you don’t have to stay in Blue Moon Bay once the inn sells. Grandma felt like you needed to follow your own path, and maybe she was right. We’ll split the proceeds from the sale and you’ll have the money to do whatever you want with your life.” I paused a moment. “Maybe you can come to the city with me.”

He took a swing of beer. “No. I’m not a city guy. Blue Moon Bay is my home.”

The fact that he’d rejected me without a second’s pause hurt. I sipped my beer, and sighed. I’d had enough pain for one day. “I’ll go to the car and get my bags. Tomorrow we can evaluate what needs to be done with the inn so we can put it on the market.”

His eyes became dark and unreadable. “What needs to be done?”

“Well, sure . . .” I cringed under the weight of his gaze. I drained the rest of my drink and set in on the counter with a clank. With my brother’s bad attitude, I was definitely going to need another beer. Probably several. “We’ll need to do a walk-through, determine the condition of the inn, and if it needs any repairs. Plus, we should see if there are any short-term projects we can do to increase the sales price.”

“Nothing around here needs changing.” He grabbed my empty bottle, left the room again, and came back with fresh beers. “But if you want to knock your socks off going from room to room, then there’s no time like the present.”

I was bone-tired from the last twenty-four hours, but I could see the challenge in my brother’s eyes. He was not going to let this go. Stubborn, just like Grandma. And like me, for that matter. So I would rise to his challenge. “Fine. Let’s do it.”

I moved from room to room, checking things out, with my brother trailing behind me. The smells and sounds made me feel like I was eight again. I fought to keep the memories of my parents at bay, but it turned out replacing them with memories of Grandma made me sad in an entirely different way—like a punch in the gut that hit me hard.

We strolled through the kitchen, lounge area, and exercise room. “The hardwood floors need to be stripped and redone. The windows need to be cleaned. Fresh paint for the walls,” I said, making a mental checklist. “We’re also going to have to do something about the closed restaurant on the property. I know Grandma had planned to reopen it at some point, but right now it’s an empty building. So, we’ll have to stage it or something.”

“Apparently you’re the boss, since Grandma left you controlling interest over the sale,” he said, with a sharp edge to his tone.

“Not my choice,” I reminded him. Tears stung my eyes but I blinked them back. Get a grip, girl. I would not break down now. I cleared my throat and told myself to handle this process as I would with any other cranky client—simply evaluating real estate for a sale. Nothing emotional about that. “Why don’t we take a look at the library next?”

He made a noncommittal noise, but at least he’d stopped giving me the evil eye. Then he strode in ahead of me and gestured around the library. “As you can see, we turned this room into a business center as well.”

I gazed around the large room, taking everything in. The library was a shared area with three long sofas and a love seat gathered around a big fireplace. There was a large flat screen TV above the fireplace—a new addition—and a few small desks on the far wall, each with a computer on them. A drop leaf table sat against one wall with a stack of puzzles and board games on it. The opposite wall held massive bookshelves with volumes of books, old and new alike. The detailed carvings on the wood were exquisite.

“The bookshelves are amazing.” I stared at them, taking in the unique detailed beauty. “They’re obviously custom. Who did Grandma hire to make those?”

“I did them.” His tone was casual, humbly dismissing the time and care he must’ve put into the ornate design, as if his work was no big deal.

“When did you get interested in woodworking?” I turned to him, but he just shrugged in answer. Hmm. I wondered if Grandma had declined to leave Brian the inn because she’d seen his woodworking talent. Maybe this was what she felt he was supposed to be pursuing.

“Had to talk Grandma into the big screen,” he said, interrupting my thoughts. He raised his beer toward the giant flat-screen TV. “Told her it was time to come into the twenty-first century. We watched some really entertaining shows on that screen. Speaking of . . . are you still dating that guy, Chase?”

“You watched the show?” I placed a hand over my heart, touched that he even know the name of the bachelor I’d dated on Sacramento’s reality TV special, Romance Revealed. I’d purchased a starring role on the reality special through a charity auction, but another couple won the grand prize. I had to admit they seemed more well-suited together than Chase and I did.

He chuckled. “We watched every single episode. Grandma and I were rooting for you to win the grand prize money even though we thought you were faking interest in that poor shmuck.”

“I wasn’t faking interest in Chase.” I rolled my eyes and took a sip of beer, which was finally starting to hit me a little. Chase was a decent guy and we’d dated a few more times after the show ended a few weeks ago. But there had been no sparks between us. Not even half a spark. “He was nice, but it didn’t work out.”

“That’s too bad,” he said, actually sounding like he meant it.

“Thanks.” I trudged up the grand staircase, wondering if my brother might be softening a little toward me. Or maybe I was just starting to feel a little woozy from the alcohol. “Are you dating anyone special?”

He shook his head. “Nah. Megan and I still hang out sometimes, though.”

I shot him a look, nerves creeping up my spine. Did he mean my Megan? As in, my old friend from high school? “How, uh, is she?”

He gave me a lopsided grin. “I see what you’re thinking. There’s nothing going on between us. She’s dating some tool from the yacht club. Just make sure to see her while you’re in town or I’m the one who will have to hear about it later.” He laughed, a soft, musical sound that made this feel almost like old times.

“We’ll see,” I said, studying him. He seemed so hot and cold told her that I wasn’t sure how to take him. It would be nice to see Megan again, but in addition to putting the inn on the market, I had to stay on top of my business, which meant keeping in constant communication with my assistant who was holding down the fort for me. I glanced up at the ceiling above the staircase and jerked to a halt. “Is that water damage?”

“Minor leak.” His tone was casual but his face tightened up, which told me the leak concerned him more than he was going to say. “I’ve got a tarp over the problem until there’s more money in the budget for roof repairs.”

“We need to fix that.” I pressed a hand to my forehead, hoping that really was a minor problem. Water damage was nothing to mess around with. Throughout the upstairs hallway, I opened doors to peek into the six guest rooms on this wing’s floor. Each room had its own tiny bathroom and a view of the beach. “So far, we need the roof repaired, floors refinished, painting, and a deep cleaning. We’re going to have a quite a busy month.”

His forehead creased as he turned for the stairs. “Yeah, then you’ll be outta here. Back to your fancy life in the city.” He blew out a breath. “Just like after you graduated, I’m sure you’ll fly out of here like we all have the plague.”

“That’s what people do after graduating, Brian. They grow up and leave and make their own way.” At the bottom of the stairs, I hurried down the winding hall toward the front counter where I’d left my purse. “It’s called becoming independent.”

“Yeah, because you can’t count on anyone else to take care of you,” he quipped, throwing his words from long ago in my face like they were venom.

I turned and faced him. “Aren’t you the one who taught me that?”

He didn’t answer, but his eyes darkened as he stopped in front of the welcome desk. Man, oh, man. What was up with Brian? He and I weren’t super close, but he was a nice guy and never lashed out like this. I glanced up at him, but he turned away from me and took a long drink of his beer, finishing it off.

The back of my eyes stung as I waited, unsure if I should get my bags from my car, or wait for him to say something else to hurt me. Then I realized what I should’ve guessed sooner. He was grieving over our grandma. Our parents hadn’t visited much after they moved on, and I’d only heard about them coming to the inn once since I moved to Sacramento. Now that Grandma was gone, all he had was me, and I’d be leaving soon.

Swallowing my pride, I took a small step toward him. “I’m sorry, Brian.”

He lifted his head, a confused look on his face. “For what?”

“About Grandma,” I said, softly. I watched him turn away from me, press his hands against the counter then drop his chin to his chest. I longed to reach forward and put my arms around him, but I feared he’d brush me off. My feet stayed planted where they were and that tight spot in my chest turn in on itself. “I’m truly sorry.”

A minute passed in silence. “Me, too,” he finally said. Then he lifted his head, turned, and faced me. “Now we’re selling my home,” he said, his voice raw with emotion.

He sounded so vulnerable that it ripped at my heart. Couldn’t he see how much we needed each other?

“Selling the inn was Grandma’s doing, not mine. I’d give you it to you if I could, but I can’t.” My eyes watered and I stepped toward him. “But what’s most important is family. You and me. We only have each other now. I . . . I need you.”

Suddenly, time froze, and I felt transported back to that awful day at the diner when I’d turned to my brother for comfort. I held my breath, aching for him to put his arms around me like I’d wanted so much when I was little.

He straightened, any emotion wiping from his expression. “You don’t need me, Wendy. Or you wouldn’t require relationships on your terms only. Holidays in Sacramento. Birthday celebrations in Napa or San Francisco. What about our home in Blue Moon Bay? I’ll bet Grandma only decided to sell the inn because you never came around. That showed you didn’t care about the inn at all.”

My stomach roiled and I felt like I was going to hurl. “I-I’m here now.”

“Yeah, to sell my home out from under me and then be gone in thirty days.” His green eyes flashed with emotion, then glazed slightly. “Thanks a lot, sis. Thanks for nothing.”

My vision blurred. “Brian—”

“I’m not trying to be a jerk, but I’m wiped and I need this day to end.” He ran his hands over his face then moved toward the front doors. “We can talk more some other time. Right now, I need to be by myself. I’ll get your bags from the car and put them in your old room.”

“Okay . . .” My voice trailed off but I was staring at his backside anyway as he hurried out the double front doors. I closed my eyes and could almost see my grandma in front of me. She would have made things right between Brian and me. But I opened my eyes and saw only the swinging of the door as Brian exited the building. The back of my throat went raw, my eyes burned. Suddenly I gasped, fighting to hold in the ache in my chest that kept expanding despite my efforts. “Air. I need fresh air.”

I raced through the lounge and kicked off my heels outside the French doors. Then I ran across the veranda and over the soft grass that stretched out to the bluff. It was dark now. The last of the sun had set but I kept running, trying to get away from all of Brian’s angry words. Had he meant what he said? That I only wanted family on my terms? Didn’t he understand why I stayed away? No, of course he didn’t. I’d never told him everything that had happened to me here in Blue Moon Bay.

The pebbled steps were lighted on either side but I flew down them so fast I tripped over my own feet and pitched forward. I rocketed face-first toward the ground and grasped the railing just in time to keep me from falling against one of the Adirondack chairs at the base of the stairway. Close call.

Balanced once more, I took off again, flying toward the edge of the water, the ocean calling for me to throw myself in. I already felt like I was drowning. Why not make it official? But when my bare foot hit the water, the bone-chilling temperature pierced every pore. Yowzers! Freaking cold Pacific Ocean. Brrr.

I jumped back too quickly though, and fell right on my behind. I watched the water pull back away from my now-turning-numb feet, then the wave rolled in, rushing over my legs and soaking me to the waist.

All of the air left my chest as the icy water braced my legs. That’s when I lost it.

My chest convulsed in a last attempt hold everything in then the first sob escaped, followed by another and another. Tears poured down my face and I dropped my chin to my chest. Now that I’d started, I couldn’t stop. I wanted my grandma. The pain of losing her flooded me, and I wailed in a loud way that resembled the sea lions that lived in this coastal town.

Finally, somehow, my outbursts faded to whimpers. My throat had gone raw.

I felt drained, empty, like there was nothing else in me of substance. I might’ve curled into a ball if I hadn’t started shivering so badly. On shaky legs, I stood up and started to brush the wet sand off my rear. It was stuck there, embedded into my slacks.

Slowly, the intense anguish I felt over losing my grandma loosened its hold on me as I brushed sand off my butt. Great, I looked like a freaking mess. At least I was no longer bawling my eyes out, though. But I needed to get cleaned up before Brian saw me. Before anybody saw me, really. I hadn’t come this unglued since the day I left Blue Moon Bay. Ugh.

Feeling like I’d been run over by a cruise ship, I headed for the steps at the bottom of the bluffs, glancing over at the Adirondack chairs. My heart stopped. A man sat in one of the wooden chairs. Any chance that he hadn’t seen me was shot when he stood up.

The yellow glare of the sodium vapor bulbs positioned near the end of the inn’s property outlined the man’s entire body, which looked like a living, breathing Greek statue. He was tall, six-foot two if I had to guess. He had a broad chest, muscular arms, and his dark hair gleamed under the light of the moon. He didn’t look dangerous—probably a guest, staying at the inn since he’d been sitting on one of our chairs.

He was hot—smoking hot—and he started walking toward me. I considered tossing myself into the ocean just to hide myself. But it was too late. The damage had been done. I lifted my chin, trying to pull together the tattered remnants of my dignity. For nine years I’ve been poised and put together and the one time I acted like a raging lunatic, the hottest man on earth decided to show up. Yeah, that cinched my day.

EveryLittleKiss 200x300

EVERY LITTLE KISS (Kissed by the Bay, #1)

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ThePerfectKiss 200x300THE PERFECT KISS (Kissed by the Bay, #2)

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