Julia & Deacon
The last place in the world he wants to be is on Gansett Island…
Deacon Taylor stepped up for a friend and got himself thrown in jail, and when he’s given a choice of felony charges or leaving town with his police chief brother Blaine, he chooses the latter, consigning himself to a summer under his annoying older brother’s supervision.
Julia Lawry used the last of her resources to come to Gansett for her sister Katie’s wedding and has no idea how she’s going to get back to Texas to clean up the mess she left behind. Another relationship has ended in dramatic fashion, and she’s put herself on a “dick diet,” swearing off men who use and discard her.
When Deacon talks Julia into taking off with him during her sister’s wedding, neither of them can know how that wild ride on his motorcycle will be the start of the most important journey either of them will ever take.
Another summer on Gansett Island is heating up, and love is in the air!
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Trouble After Dark
Julia & Deacon
(Gansett Island Series, Book 21)
Deacon didn’t wake up that morning planning to crash a wedding and steal a bridesmaid. In fact, he didn’t wake up expecting much of anything on his fourth day on the boring remote island where his older brother was holding him hostage for the summer. What the hell was he even doing on Gansett, the island he’d grown up on, where his brother was now the freaking police chief?
Deacon was a grown-ass man and could do whatever the hell he wanted. Why was it that Blaine had such power over him, even now? It was infuriating, but he didn’t need to think about that while he had a hot babe holding on tight to him as he drove his motorcycle toward the bluffs on the island’s north side.
Since she was wearing his only helmet, he could hear the ends of her sexy red dress whipping in the wind as he accelerated around a curve, dodging a family of four on bicycles who were smack in the middle of the road. He, who didn’t have much trouble attracting female companionship, could honestly say it’d been years—perhaps a lifetime—since he’d met a woman as stunningly gorgeous as the one wrapped around him at this moment.
He’d first seen her the other night at the island’s clinic after one of the craziest nights in recent memory—when Finn McCarthy’s ex had stabbed Finn and his new girlfriend, Chloe Dennis. Half the island had ended up at the clinic, along with the cowboy strippers who’d been performing at Katie Lawry’s bachelorette party when the stabbings took place.
Deacon didn’t recall Gansett Island being that interesting when he’d lived there as a kid.
His bridesmaid had long, silky dark hair that fell nearly to her spectacular ass, flawless, lightly tanned skin, bluish-gray eyes fringed with extravagant lashes, large breasts that were barely contained by the halter-style dress and lips made for kissing.
The last thing Deacon needed, especially right now, was any more female complications. However, he’d dare any red-blooded man to take one look at the sexy bridesmaid on the back of his bike and not want her riding shotgun. Downshifting, he turned into the lot at the bluffs, pulled into a parking spot and killed the engine on the vintage Harley he’d bought off a buddy on Cape Cod, where he used to live before being banished to freaking Gansett by his goddamned brother.
Despite his displeasure at being back on the island, Deacon had to admit that Gansett had a kind of wild, untamed beauty that he’d forgotten about during his years away. He wanted to hate everything about being there and how Blaine had issued the ultimatum to Deacon, as if he were a recalcitrant teenager—come home with me or face major charges. Hell of a choice.
He got off the bike and helped his stolen bridesmaid remove the helmet. First order of business would be finding out the name of the goddess he’d run away with. Wait till Blaine figured out that she’d left with him. He’d pop a nut. Deacon choked back a laugh at the thought of Blaine’s nuts popping because of him. It had given him great pleasure all his life to irritate his brother and vice versa. Why? He couldn’t say. That’s just how it was between them.
With his passenger free of the helmet, Deacon took another long look at one of the most exquisite female faces he’d ever beheld. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that while she was stunning, she was also troubled, and he’d had more than his share of troubled females. The most recent one had landed him in jail, which had led to his ex-communication to Gansett, the last place on earth he wanted to be. Although, the godforsaken island was looking pretty damned good to him at the moment.
She ran her fingers through her hair, attempting to straighten the damage done by the helmet. A light breeze ran through it, and he was struck dumb by the sight of her standing on the cliff like a goddess in red.
Deacon Taylor didn’t stare at women.
They stared at him.
His unprecedented reaction to her should’ve been cause for concern in light of his recent troubles, but he wasn’t going there today. He opened the compartment on the bike where he’d stashed a six-pack of beer and some ice before leaving the apartment Blaine had assigned him, located behind the house Blaine shared with his wife, Tiffany, and their daughters. Getting to know his nieces was one of the only goals he had for his summer in exile.
After twisting off the cap on one of the beers, he handed it to the goddess.
“What’s your name?”
He touched his bottle to hers. “Nice to meet you, Julia. I’m Deacon.”
“I’ve never met anyone named Deacon before.”
“It was my grandmother’s maiden name.”
“Thanks. I like it.” He took a deep drink from the bottle. Blaine would pop the other nut if he knew Deacon was riding around with a makeshift cooler on the bike. Deacon took pleasure in thinking up new ways to aggravate his brother. “Are you sure it’s okay that you left the wedding?”
“It’s fine. Katie is so wrapped up in Shane that I doubt she’s even noticed I’m gone.”
He wondered if she felt as sad as she looked and sounded. “Are you okay?”
“Never better.” She forced a smile and then chugged half the beer in one long gulp.
“Do you not like him?”
“Your sister’s husband?”
“Oh God, I love him. He’s great. He saved Katie’s life when she got caught in a rip current outside the Surf.”
“Trust me, our whole family will love him forever for saving her. Not to mention, his sister, Laura, is married to our brother Owen.”
Deacon took a minute to do that math in his head.
“A brother and sister married a brother and sister,” Julia said. “Nothing illegal about it.”
He laughed. “If you say so.”
“Laura and Shane are awesome. Owen and Katie got lucky. They married into an amazing family. Do you know the McCarthys?”
“Sure. I grew up with them. My sister-in-law’s sister is married to Mac McCarthy.”
“My family loves your brother. He was good to my mom during a very difficult time in her life.”
“That sounds like him. He’s a saint.”
“You don’t like him?”
“He’s okay, if you like the holier-than-thou type.”
“I take it you’re not holier than thou?”
He laughed. “Ah, no, not exactly.” Deacon wondered what she’d think of him if she’d known he spent a night in jail five days ago or that his saintly brother had gone to the mainland to bail him out. His alleged “crime” had been for a good cause, but when a woman like Julia heard the word jail, she wouldn’t stick around to hear the story. She’d be long gone, and he wouldn’t blame her. “How about you?”
“I try to do the right thing, for all the good that does me.”
“What do you mean?”
“All people, or certain people?”
“Most people, especially the male variety. Present company excluded, of course.”
He laughed again. “Of course. What happened?”
They wandered over to a massive log that acted as a curb to keep cars from driving off the cliff and sat next to each other.
“It would be easier to tell you what hasn’t happened.”
She didn’t say anything for a long time as she stared out at the ocean.
Deacon thought she wasn’t going to tell him, but then she began to speak.
Why was she about to air out her problems with a total stranger? Not to mention another guy who was so hot, he probably had women throwing their panties at him to get his attention? What was the point of talking about it? How would that fix anything? It wouldn’t, but she found herself telling him anyway.
“People take advantage of me.”
His brow furrowed, possibly with a touch of outrage that she appreciated. “How so?”
“Guys… They take one look at me and think they have me figured out. I must be easy. I must be a slut. I must be gullible. I attract all the wrong guys, especially the most recent one.” Her heart was like a cement block in her chest when she thought about Mike, the promises he made, the things he said to her, the hopes she’d pinned on him, only to find out he was far worse than the others.
“What did he do?”
“He played me for a total fool. Made me fall in love with him. Promised me everything. We were going to have a life together and have babies and a house.” To her fierce annoyance, a tear slid down her cheek. She brushed it away angrily. The last thing she wanted was to spend any more tears on him. “Then his mom got sick with breast cancer. He was freaking out because she didn’t have insurance and needed treatment. I loaned him money.”
Deacon winced. “How much?”
“Fifteen thousand. Almost everything I had.”
“Let me guess—his mom’s not sick?”
“Ding-ding-ding. You win the grand prize. His mom is fine, but his girlfriend is pregnant, and he needed the money to get prenatal care for her because she’s the one who doesn’t have insurance.”
“What a scumbag.”
“So now she has my money, my man and a bouncing new baby. I heard they’re buying a house together. They probably used my money for the down payment.” She couldn’t help but laugh at the sheer madness of it all. “Ridiculous, right?”
“I’m sorry that happened to you.”
“I am, too, because now I’m flat broke and stuck here for God knows how long until I can make some money to get home to Texas and get the stuff I had to move into storage after I got evicted from my apartment. If the storage place doesn’t sell it since I missed a payment.”
“What’s in Texas?”
“A job I used to love until I got a new boss who called me Sugar and asked me to do personal errands for him.”
“Yep. It was awful, and after I loaned Mike the money and then figured out what he was really about, I called out sick for a few days because I was too upset to leave my house. The boss from hell told me not to bother coming back. That led to me losing my apartment when I couldn’t afford to renew the lease.”
“I’m sorry. That sucks.”
She shrugged. “I brought it on myself by being stupid with Mike and then handing my boss a reason to get rid of me. I tried to find another job, but nothing materialized that would pay me enough to cover my expenses.”
“So there’s no reason to go rushing back, then?”
“No.” Julia kicked at a rock with one toe of the sandals she’d bought with the last of her credit card limit. She’d been sleeping on a coworker’s sofa since she got evicted from the apartment she used to share with Katie. She’d been unsuccessful in landing a roommate, thus her basically homeless status. That word homeless struck fear in her heart the way few things ever had since she left her violent childhood behind. “Not anymore.”
“I’m stuck here for the summer, too.”
“Doing a favor for my brother.”
“What kind of favor?”
“He needed a harbor master. I’m certified, so he asked me to come do it.”
“What about your regular job?”
“I’m between jobs at the moment, so the timing worked out for both of us.” The Cape Cod town he’d worked for last year as the harbor master had invited him not to return after he spent a night in their jail.
“What’ll you do after the summer?”
“Find something else, I suppose. How about you?”
“Same, I guess. Although the thought of starting over, again, is exhausting.”
“You’ve done it before?”
“Too many times to count. My father was in the military. We moved a lot.”
“We grew up here on Gansett. I hated it.”
“My siblings and I spent summers here with our grandparents, who owned the Sand & Surf. It was our favorite place on earth.” It was also the only break they got from their abusive father. They’d lived for those blissful summer days on Gansett, where they were safe and loved and away from the monster, as they’d called General Mark Lawry.
“Really? You loved it?”
“We loved everything about it.”
“Huh. I couldn’t believe when my brother moved back here willingly to become the police chief. He hated it as much as I did when we were kids. But then he met Tiffany, who’s now his wife, and he’s happier than a pig in shit with her, their kids and a job he loves.”
“Do you like his wife?”
“I barely know her, but he sure as hell likes her.”
“Some people get lucky. Like my brother and sister.” Julia, Katie and Owen had been a team for so long that she wasn’t sure how she was supposed to function now that they’d found new lives for themselves. Julia was lost without them, not that she’d ever say as much to them. She’d never do anything to undermine their hard-won happiness.
But God, she missed them. Especially Katie, who’d lived with Julia until Katie had come to Gansett for Owen and Laura’s wedding, met Laura’s brother, Shane, and decided to stay for a while that turned into forever.
Julia glanced at Deacon, wishing he wasn’t hotter than the sun. He had messy dirty-blond hair the color of honey, golden-brown eyes, a muscular body and the perfect amount of scruff on his jaw. But whatever. Who cared if he was hot? She’d had more than enough of good-looking guys who were beautiful on the outside and assholes on the inside. “How old are you?” she asked, to make conversation more than anything.
“I wonder if we ever crossed paths as kids. Although, I’m sure I’d remember you.”
Another line from another pretty mouth. Julia had heard such things so many times, they barely registered anymore. Just once, she wished a man would see her for who she was on the inside, but they never got past her packaging to discover what she was really made of.
She looked out at the gorgeous scenery, wishing Gansett could have the usual effect on her. As a kid, she’d come alive the minute she stepped off the ferry. This time, she was just dead inside. “Did you think you’d have it all figured out by now?”
“Have what figured out?”
He shrugged. “I never had a timeline for figuring things out. Maybe that’s why my brother finds me so annoying. He’s a police chief at thirty-seven. Not that he didn’t have his rocky times, but he’s married with two kids and a dream job. He’s got his shit together.”
“I thought I’d be married with kids in school by now. I had a definite timeline. But nothing has worked out the way I hoped it would, and now…”
“Nothing. It doesn’t matter.”
“Sure it does. What were you going to say?”
She crossed her arms against her knees and rested her head on her forearms while continuing to look at him. “Maybe it’s time to give up on the dream.”
“Don’t say that. You never know what’s coming right around the next corner. Anything can still happen.”
She shrugged. “Doesn’t matter.”
“You know what I’m thinking?”
“You’re stuck here for a while. I’m stuck here for a while. Maybe we can hang out and make it more fun than it would be otherwise.”
Sitting upright, she eyed him with skepticism that was hardwired into her DNA after so many disappointments. “Is ‘hang out’ a metaphor for sex?”
He laughed. “You don’t pull any punches, do you?”
“What’s the point of pulling punches? I’ve had enough of the bullshit. If you’re asking me to have sex with you, the answer is no. I’m on a man diet, which also means a dick diet. If you’re looking for someone to hang out with and have some fun this summer that doesn’t in any way include sex, then sure, why not?”
Deacon sputtered with laughter. “A dick diet?”
“Yes, as in no dick.”
He shook his head as his gorgeous eyes danced with amusement. “How long have you been on this so-called diet?”
“Four months now.”
“Gotcha. Just to be clear—I wasn’t coming on to you. I was legitimately looking for a friend to make my summer in exile more bearable.”
Julia didn’t believe him, but she kept that to herself.
“What’s your number?”
She recited it and watched him tap the numbers into his phone and add her name to the contact.
“I’ll hit you up.”
“Cool.” She couldn’t care less if she ever heard from him. “I should probably go back to the wedding.”
“I’m the maid of honor. I have to give a toast after dinner.”
“You want a plus-one?”
“It’s kind of late for that at this point since you already crashed.”
His wolfish grin revealed a sexy dimple in his left cheek and did wondrous things to his gorgeous face—and she had no doubt he knew that. “I won’t eat.”
Julia had to admit that soldiering through the rest of this night would be more fun with a companion than it would’ve been on her own. Besides, Katie was so in love with her new husband that she wouldn’t even notice if Julia brought a last-minute guest. “Sure. Let’s go.”
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Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
~ Calvin Coolidge
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