A little over two weeks to go till THIS CAN’T BE LOVE comes out! I’m so excited! I feel like this book has taken forever to get out (it has) and I can’t wait to see how you like it! Below is an exclusive look at Chapter 2 of the book (You can read Chapter 1 right here.) This is not the copyedited version of the book, so any please overlook any typos or punctuation mishaps. The real book will have all that fixed. Enjoy! And have a great Monday!
THIS CAN’T BE LOVE Chapter 2 copyright 2017 Maria Geraci
Luke Powers was hungry, tired, and horny. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs the list was in the correct order. He hadn’t eaten since breakfast nineteen hours ago and he hadn’t gotten laid in forever. But he hadn’t slept in two days, so right now, tired was winning out. He couldn’t fall into his bed fast enough.
He tried to pull his truck into the driveway to his beach house but a beat up Honda Civic was blocking the way. Three other cars, all with Indiana license plates, haphazardly took up the rest of the grassy strip between his place and the house next door making it impossible to park anywhere near his own home.
Damn tourists. They thought renting a house for a week meant you could do whatever you liked and the hell with everyone else.
He drove his truck around the block until he found a place to park, which, on second thought, was probably for the best. Whispering Bay, Florida was a town of about ten thousand people. Ten thousand people who watched your every move, that is. If anyone saw his black truck with the distinctive Georgia license plates parked in front of the beach house he hadn’t visited in over a year it would only be a matter of minutes before Ann Powers knew that her only son was back in town.
Not that Luke didn’t plan to visit his family. Eventually. But for right now all he wanted was a couple of days sleep with a little fishing thrown in. A couple of quiet sunsets sitting on his back patio with a cold brewski in his hand. He’d spent the last three months working his ass off. A little R and R before his next project wasn’t too much to ask.
He yanked an overnight bag from the back seat of the truck, ignoring his remaining gear. No need for anything more than a toothbrush and a clean change of underwear right now. He’d get the rest out tomorrow.
He trekked down the deserted road, past the dark quiet houses weaving his way around the parked cars with the out-of-state-license plates. Whispering Bay wasn’t the tourist Mecca that nearby Panama City Beach or Destin were, but it was July, and most of the homes on this block were owned by snow birds. Retirees who lived here during the brutal northern winter months, but who rented their places out in the equally brutal Florida summers.
Currently, the houses on this block were filled with families on vacation. They’d spend a week on the pristine beaches of the Florida panhandle, another week in Orlando visiting Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter, then spend the rest of the year paying off their credit cards.
He stood in front of the lime green clapboard beach house his grandfather had bequeathed to him three years ago. The motion detector lights came on to reveal a freshly mown lawn and trimmed hibiscus bushes. His mother did a good job of supervising the upkeep with a joint bank account he’d established for the home’s maintenance.
Luke loved this old house. As a kid if he wasn’t in school or playing sports, he was here with Gramps—taking the Martha Sue, Gramp’s old boat, out on the Gulf of Mexico to fish. The place wasn’t fancy. It was more like a two bedroom fishing shack, really, but it sat on prime beachfront real estate, which made it worth even more than the upscale condo he owned in downtown Atlanta.
He could easily rent the house out, but he preferred not to. He kept all the stuff he didn’t want in his Atlanta condo stored here and he didn’t want a bunch of strangers pawing through his things. One day, he’d retire and come live in this house. He’d buy a new boat and spend his days out on the water, fishing and enjoying small town life again. Hell, maybe he’d even get a dog.
He unlocked the front door, pleasantly relieved to be walking into a semi-cool house. The Florida summer was too hot to not have the air conditioner on even with the place empty. He turned on a light in the living room and found the wall thermostat set to seventy-eight, flipped it down a couple more degrees, and took a look around.
He blinked. Shook his head. And blinked again.
Someone had rearranged his furniture.
That would be his mother, of course. Or Mimi. Not that he minded. He was grateful they took the time to watch the place for him. There were other changes too. His brown leather couch had some kind of frilly blanket draped across it and there were at least a dozen candles everywhere. The slightly sweet vanilla aroma lingering in the air betrayed their recent use.
He picked up a discarded towel that had been carelessly tossed on the wooden floor, then, what the—? He tripped over something, nearly losing his balance in the process. He bent over to retrieve the offending item—a bucket filled with seashells.
Huh. Now that was weird. His mother wasn’t the collecting seashells by the seashore type. More like the sitting in her lounge chair sipping on a cold martini type.
The place wasn’t exactly messy, but neither his mother or his sister would leave a damp towel lying on the floor. Maybe Mimi had let the kids use the house. Or maybe they were using it without her knowledge. His niece, Claire, was almost eighteen and had just graduated from high school, and his nephew Cameron was…what? Thirteen? Could they be using the place without anyone knowing?
On the upside, if they were using the beach house, then maybe they’d left some grub behind. His stomach let out an angry growl. He flung open the refrigerator door. There was a carton of milk, a few sticks of butter, some suspicious looking Chinese takeout and half a pepperoni pizza. Not exactly the healthiest food on the planet, but under the circumstances, he couldn’t complain.
He reached in for the pizza, then noticed a plastic container with some macaroni and cheese and opted for that instead. Add in a neat inch of the Glenlivet he kept in the cupboard above the stove and he’d have himself a semi-proper meal. But when he checked the cupboard, his bottle of scotch was gone. He knew for certain that neither his mother or Mimi would have touched it. Which meant…
The idea of Claire sneaking in here and drinking his liquor brought out the protective uncle in him. He hoped to hell she wasn’t using this house to throw any wild teenage parties.
He zapped up the mac and cheese, grabbed a fork and plopped himself down on the sofa. Steinbeck’s novel, Travels With Charley, sat spine up on the arm rest and according to the back cover it was the property of the Whispering Bay Public library. Definitely pre-college summer reading material. Good to know his niece wasn’t spending her entire summer partying before heading off to Duke.
He put the book aside and found the remote, then hit his favorites button expecting ESPN. The Hallmark channel popped up instead.
The messy towel, the seashell bucket, hell, even his missing scotch he could forgive. But reprogramming his remote? Whatever happened to a man’s home being his castle?
He switched over to the Golf channel, and took his first bite of the mac and cheese. Damn, but this was good. And homemade. Not any of that boxed crap he’d lived on in college. Had his mother made this? Nah. Mac and cheese was more Mimi’s style. His sister was a good cook but her culinary skills had definitely gone up a notch since he’d last eaten her food.
He wolfed down the rest of the macaroni, then toed off his sneakers and propped his feet on the coffee table, too tired to move. Maybe he’d fall asleep right here on the couch. He was thinking about how great it was to finally be doing absolutely nothing, when his gaze wandered over to the side table to a collection of framed photographs that made him immediately sit up.
There was at least a dozen photos of him and Torie at various stages in their relationship, as well as a couple of him by himself, all arranged carefully, like some kind of shrine.
This was definitely his mother’s handiwork.
Two photos were laid face down, as if on purpose. He flipped them over. One was a picture of Torie and him taken in New Mexico last year during a ski trip. The other was a photo of them taken at a wedding a couple of years before that. They’d only been together a few weeks at that point, but he was the best man and he’d needed a date and she’d completely wowed all his friends. He put down the framed photo and thought about the email he’d received from her a few weeks ago.
I’m getting married, Luke! I know it sounds crazy, because Jeff and I have only known each other a few months, but it just feels right. It’s a lot to ask, but in a lot of ways, you’re my closest friend and I’d really love it if you could be at the wedding (invitation to follow!). I hope life is treating you well. Hugs!!
PS Could you tell your mother that I’m getting married? I’d like to invite your parents to the wedding, but the last time we spoke it seemed like she thought you and I were still together (ha ha!).
And then there was yesterday’s text.
Luke, your mother just emailed me and asked if we could come down for Labor Day weekend. WTF!? Doesn’t she know we’re broken up and that I’m getting married to someone else????
Before he could respond, she’d texted again a few minutes later.
Sorry if I sounded a little hysterical. It’s this wedding! There’s so much to do and so little time. But I promise I haven’t turned into a bridezilla. By the way, I still haven’t gotten your rsvp. You did get an invitation, right? Please let me know if you can come (I won’t take no for an answer) and feel free to bring a date!
PS Please tell your mom about the wedding ASAP. I can’t keep avoiding her calls forever. Hugs!!
So he’d texted her back: Going home to WB tomorrow. Will tell her then.
He’d told his family about his break up with Torie six months ago. His father had seemed resigned but his mother had immediately predicted they’d get back together. This latest bit of news about Torie’s upcoming marriage, however, was something he’d have to tell his mother in person. She wouldn’t take it well, but there wasn’t much he could do about it.
And as for Torie’s wedding invitation? No way in hell was he going to her wedding. He was happy she’d found someone. He really was, but despite what she’d written in her email, it didn’t seem right for him to go to the ceremony. Besides, if all went as planned, in a few weeks he’d be on his way to Alaska to work on a new project. He made a mental note to call Ethan in the morning for an update on the job.
He placed the empty bowl in the dishwasher and padded his way to the lone bathroom, where several girlie products cluttered the area around the sink. There was also a small plastic container with both an upper and a lower retainer still inside. Claire had worn braces. At least, he thought she had, so these must be hers. But why would his niece leave them here?
Then he noticed the two tiny scraps of damp red material hung over the towel rack. He picked up what must be the bottom to the smallest bikini in the world and frowned. No wonder Claire was sneaking in to use his beach house. No way would her father, Zeke Grant, Whispering Bay’s chief of police, let his teenage daughter wear anything this skimpy.
Luke finished up in the bathroom, pulled off his T-shirt and shorts and headed for bed. He’d call Mimi in the morning. He didn’t want to get his niece in trouble, but it was his responsibility to let her parents know what he’d found.
He opened the door to his bedroom, switched on the light and froze. His bed was mussed and there was a lump huddled beneath his comforter. The lump flipped over to change position giving him a glimpse of slender tan legs and a head full of blonde hair.
Definitely not his niece.
Someone had snuck in here and rearranged his furniture.
She’d drank all his scotch.
And she was now sleeping in his bed.
“Hey! Whoever you are, wake up.”
A woman sat straight up in his bed causing the comforter to fall off to the side. “What?” A pair of big green eyes blinked hard, then rounded in shock. “Oh my God!” The shriek nearly pierced his eardrums. She grabbed the sheets and pulled them up to her chin, but it was too late. He’d already gotten more than an eyeful.
There was a naked woman in his bed.
Correction: A naked blonde.
A very attractive naked blonde.