Well, it’s Monday! Maybe we should take an excerpt break? Today for you we’ve got a peek at Lily Everett‘s Heartbreak Cove, the latest in her Sanctuary Island contemporary romance series. This story stars Sheriff Andie, who’s looking for help dealing with her shy, wary 10-year-old niece. Enter Sam, who rehabilitates abused horses. Together can they heal — and grow to love? Shall we read chapter 10 to find out? Let’s!
The Firefly Café was jumping when Andie pulled into the parking lot. She cruised around slowly, looking for an empty spot and listening as Caitlin recounted—for the hundredth time—every moment she’d spent on Peony’s back. Even two weeks later, it was as fresh in Caitlin’s memory as if it had just happened, and the kid seemed to spend every waking moment either reliving her experience riding Peony or asking when she could do it again.
Andie grinned when Caitlin got to the part about stepping over the rails. Even though Andie had been there to personally witness the triumphant moment, she still liked to hear Caitlin’s bright, happy chatter.
Of course, she’d like it even better if Caitlin would chatter that way to her, but they were working on it. And in the meantime . . .
Andie’s gaze flicked up to the rearview mirror automatically to catch the gleam of Sam’s mysterious eyes. He noticed her looking and his lips curled up in a grin, sensual and dark with shared secrets.
She shivered, enjoying the tingling anticipation and the jump of her nerves. They’d spent a bit of time together over the last few weeks, training as volunteers and working with their first few clients at Windy Corner, but she hadn’t yet accustomed her- self to the way he made her feel. Maybe she never would—maybe Sam Brennan would always be the one man who made those butterflies in her stomach start zooming around.
The thought was strangely appealing.
Tearing her attention away from the huge, muscular man in her backseat, Andie spied a car leaving one row over and hurried to slide the SUV into the vacant space.
“Tight fit,” Sam commented, eyeing the tan convertible mere inches from the right passenger-side window. “Am I gonna have to climb out through the trunk?”
“Yeah!” Caitlin popped up in the front seat to peer over the headrest as if contemplating making a break for it.
Andie narrowed her eyes at Sam’s reflection only to see his grin morph into a smirk. “No need. We’ll fit just fine.”
“You could’ve parked on the grass over there.” The helpful tone was at odds with the teasing glint in Sam’s eye.
Andie frowned repressively. “That’s not a real spot.”
“Who’s going to ticket the sheriff’s car?” Sam laid one brawny arm along the back of the bench seat, for all the world like a king surveying his domain. “It’s not a crime if you don’t get caught.”
“Actually, that’s not true.” Andie threw the SUV into park and turned to make sure Caitlin was listening. “That’s the exact opposite of true. Whether or not you get caught, it’s important to follow the rules.”
“Why?” Caitlin asked, looking skeptical. Maybe instead of silently cursing Sam and his mocking smile for getting her into this conversation, she should be thanking him. This was a perfect opportunity to explain to Caitlin—and, incidentally, to Sam—why Andie cared so much about being sheriff.
It didn’t escape her that so far she and Sam were doing quite a bit of communicating through other people. If they ever found themselves alone in a room together, they might have a hard time making conversation.
Although, Andie admitted to herself, if she had Sam Brennan alone somewhere private, polite chit- chat would be the last thing on her mind.
Wrenching herself out of that tempting fantasy, she focused on Caitlin’s expectant face. “We follow the rules because they help us live with other people. The rules are there to remind us that we—our own thoughts and desires and needs—are not the only thoughts and desires and needs in the whole world. Other people matter, and what we do can either hurt them or help them. Do you see what I mean?”
There was a long pause while Caitlin thought this through. She frowned like she didn’t like it much, but her voice was small and serious when she said, “I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
A little taken aback by Caitlin’s intensity, Andie exchanged a lightning-fast glance with Sam . . . who looked sad, but not shocked. Interesting. “That’s good,” Andie finally told her. “That’s a good way to be. So then, what if I parked over there, where it’s not really a spot and I’d be blocking that gray minivan from getting out easily? What would happen if the person who owned that van needed to leave the restaurant suddenly—”
“Why?” Caitlin demanded. “Er, why what?”
“Why are they leaving the restaurant? Are they in trouble? Did they steal something?”
Andie blinked. “I was thinking more like, what if the man who owns the van found out his wife is sick and needs his help at home.”
“Oh, okay.” Caitlin relaxed back into her seat as if her strings had been cut. The vibrating tension of a few seconds before dissipated in the air like smoke. “So if we blocked that spot,” Andie finished lamely, wondering where this conversation took a wrong turn, “that man and his wife would be hurt by it. But if we follow the rules and do the right
thing, no one gets hurt.”
“Stealing is wrong,” Caitlin announced, her gaze directed out the passenger window. “It gets you in trouble and people get mad.”
Was this what it was always like with kids? You thought you were having one conversation, but they were on their own plane, doing their own thing. Andie decided to trust that she’d laid the ground- work for the whole right versus wrong lesson. “That’s exactly right. People shouldn’t take things that don’t belong to them. It’s wrong, and it hurts both people—the victim and the thief.”
The back door of the SUV closed with a clap, and Andie glanced over the console to see Sam standing at the rear of the vehicle. His wide, muscular back was turned but it looked as though he was staring up at the sky. Probably starving and wondering how long he was going to have to wait for the fried chicken Andie had promised him weeks ago as thanks for his help with Caitlin.
Andie hurried to get Caitlin zipped into her hoodie and out of the truck. Beckoned by the warm glowing lights strung around the seaside patio, Caitlin ran down to the low fieldstone wall at the far edge to get a look at the beach. Sam and Andie fol- lowed more slowly, and he didn’t seem impatient, after all. In the dusky twilight, his strong face looked thoughtful, as if he were processing what she’d said.
“Nice sermon back there, Sheriff.”
The words stung all the more because Andie had hoped for a few seconds that she might have gotten through to him. “I don’t mean to sermonize, but it’s important to me that Caitlin understand how the world works.”
He tilted his head back again, his fathomless gaze searching for answers among the stars. “And you truly believe that’s how the world works.”
“Even the part about how if you never break the rules, you’ll never get hurt? If that’s truly been your experience of the world—well, you and I must live on different planets.”
The rueful twist to his handsome mouth tangled Andie’s tongue. “I guess . . . no, you’re right, I can’t claim that my rule-following lifestyle means I’ve never been hurt. But the worst things that have happened to me have all been a direct result of breaking some rule or other. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence.”
Sam’s eyebrows slashed down. “I don’t like the idea of bad things happening to you.”
“Bad things happen to everyone,” Andie said, her lungs so tight she barely gasped it out. “The trick is learning something from it and moving forward.”
A darkness deeper than the gathering night pooled in his eyes, and for a moment, the light laughter and clinking silverware of the few couples at the patio tables faded away. All Andie could hear was the rhythmic wash of the surf—or maybe that was the tidal rush of her own blood in her ears. Either way, the moment narrowed in until Andie forgot they weren’t alone.
“Damn it, Andie.” He lowered his forehead until it brushed hers. “You deserve better.”
Seduced by the intimacy and intensity of Sam’s bent head, his steady gaze, his granite jaw, Andie drifted closer to the muscular heat of his big body. “Better than what?” she demanded, her fingers taking over for her brain and stretching to clasp the body-warm flannel of his shirt.
“Better than me.” Sam punctuated the raw confession by seizing her mouth with his in a hungry kiss that jolted through Andie’s body with pure, perfect pleasure.
She filled Sam’s arms, and when she moaned, open- mouthed, into the kiss, Sam squeezed his eyes shut tightly enough to see bursts of colored light explode behind his closed lids.
Desire rode him unmercifully, galloping through his system, impossible to halt. Any thoughts about how wrong this was, how stupid and reckless and unfair it was of him to kiss Sheriff Andie Shepard— all of that was trampled beneath the rampaging lust coursing through his blood. Sam’s body went heavy and tight, harder than iron and hotter than sin.
He’d never known anyone like Andie. No woman had ever impressed him so much, so fast, with her strength and purpose. There was a bright, unwavering light at Andie’s core, and Sam wanted to warm himself at that fire more than he wanted his next breath.
This kiss was inevitable. Maybe it had been un- avoidable since the first time he met her—but it was the way Andie was with her niece, the vulnerability she couldn’t hide combined with the guts it took to keep trying, that sealed the deal. He had to have her.
Even if it meant losing her.
Because Sam knew he’d never be able to live with himself if he went down this road with Andie blind and deaf to the truth about him. His poor, over- worked conscience couldn’t carry another burden.
He’d have to tell Andie the truth about why he was on Sanctuary Island, and hope that she understood.
A shaft of despair slid between his ribs like the tip of a knife, piercing the heat of their embrace. Sam lifted his head, his chest clenching at the way Andie followed his lips with hers, chasing his kiss. It took everything he had to grip her shoulders and put cool night air between their overheated bodies.
“Andie,” he forced out, before he could second-guess it and come to his senses. “There’s something I have to tell you.”
She blinked away the haze of passion. Sam saw the exact moment she realized where they were and who she’d just kissed. Awareness flushed over her cheeks, but if she felt embarrassed or regretful, she didn’t let it show. Andie tilted her chin up and met his gaze without flinching. “Yes?”
The words wilted in Sam’s suddenly parched throat. He swallowed with a dry click, searching for the words to admit to an officer of the law that he was everything she stood against. But before he could come up with anything that seemed liable to keep him out of handcuffs, Caitlin’s voice broke them apart.
“Are you her boyfriend?”
Sam jerked and stared down at the kid. The outraged betrayal on her pale, thin face was like a head- butt to the diaphragm. “Hey, Caitlin—look, your aunt and I . . .”
He ran out of steam but Andie saved him, with a sideways look that said she wasn’t going to forget the conversation that had been interrupted. “We’re friends, sweetie. Friends who are interested in finding out if they can be something more. But whatever we decide about that, it won’t change anything for you.” There it was again, that weary, knowing expres- sion that seemed way too adult for such a young girl. “That’s dumb. Boyfriends change everything. They move in and . . .” Caitlin buttoned her lips tight, refusing to finish.
“Did your mom have a lot of boyfriends?” Sam asked gently.
Caitlin shrugged as Andie caught his gaze, a big question mark swimming in the blue depths of her eyes.
Sam wanted to tell her his suspicions. The way Caitlin avoided being around adult women but had trusted him immediately, the way she’d wolfed down half the granola bar he’d given her at lunch then hid- den the other half in her sleeve when she thought he wasn’t looking, that slip about stealing, back in the car.
But these weren’t Sam’s secrets to tell.
Read the full excerpt
Heartbreak Cove is out this week, so you won’t have to wait to find out what happens! And for more love stories, be sure to visit our Everything Romance page.