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Indigo Bay Sweet Romance Series Book 8
BY MELISSA McCLONE
A little hope changes everything…
Artist Hope Ryan dreams of seeing her artwork displayed in top galleries again, but a devastating betrayal left her unable to paint as she once did. Instead, she settles for creating unique items for tourists and wedding couples in her hometown. Although Hope longs for more, she refuses to venture outside her comfort zone, fearing the heartbreak and disappointment of failing again.
Highly paid sportscaster Josh Cooper never overcame his bitterness after an injury on the football field sidelined him for good. Finding his solace in alcohol and women only made matters worse until he finally hit rock bottom. Now, he’s looking for redemption. When he’s asked to fly a wedding gown across the country for one of the victims of his wrongs, he doesn’t hesitate.
Arriving in Indigo Bay, Josh finds himself captivated by the artist creating the wedding favors. He knows exactly what he wants—Hope—even though she deserves someone better. Can Josh prove he’s more than a broken has-been? Or will he not only lose Hope but also lose himself?
He headed outside, and then through a pair of double glass doors. Large vertical painted panels hung on the wall facing him. The landscapes with dunes, grass, and the ocean in the background made him feel as if he were standing on the sand, not inside on a hardwood floor. Incredible artwork.
To his left, a blonde stood near the top rung on a ladder. Jean shorts showed off long, lean legs. Her pink t-shirt inched up at the back, giving a glimpse of smooth, honey-colored skin. She stretched on her tiptoes to attach the top of a panel to a clip.
That looked sketchy.
The ladder shifted.
Josh ran toward her. “Be careful.”
She swayed, arms sticking out as if trying to balance herself, but the ladder tipped over. The woman fell, limbs flailing.
He stepped forward to break her fall. Somehow, she landed in his arms. The breath he’d been holding rushed out.
“I’ve got you.” He stayed upright without dropping the gift bag, folder, or keys. Then again, he’d spent over half his life making sure he held onto the football no matter who was about to tackle him.
Catching her was unexpected. Not unenjoyable. She didn’t weigh much, was soft in the right places, and smelled like strawberries.
His pulse quickened. Something that hadn’t happened with a woman in months. He wasn’t in any hurry to let go of her. At least until she shifted positions, wiggling as if she wanted down.
Yeah, this was more awkward for her than him.
Josh placed her on her feet but kept his hands on her waist to make sure she was steady. She was tall. Around five-nine to his six-three.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Her cheeks a bright pink, she nodded.
She was thin, not the healthy kind. If his mom were here, she’d make the woman eat a meal and two desserts. “You sure?”
The woman, who he assumed to be the artist, raised her chin, letting him see her hazel-colored eyes—more green than brown with gold flecks. Her pretty face was makeup free, but her clear skin, high cheekbones, and full lower lip didn’t need anything extra.
“Thanks for catching me,” she said, almost breathless.
“Glad I was around.” She was attractive in a girl-next-door kind of way. He’d always preferred women with perfect makeup and designer clothes… camera ready was the term he used. “The floor might have hurt.”
Her gaze dropped to the hardwood before returning to his. “I hope I didn’t hurt you.”
“You didn’t.” Linemen hit harder. Josh was standing too close for strangers, so he stepped back. “Are you Hope, the one making Jenny’s wedding favors?”
“I am. “Hope’s cheeks turned redder. “Are you the groom? I mean, Dare?”
“No, I’m Josh Cooper, a friend of Jenny’s from her hometown.” He felt comfortable calling himself a friend after the times they’d spent together over the past month. Holding up the gift bag, he said, “She wanted you to have this.”
“That’s so thoughtful.” Hope sounded touched, a shy smile gracing her lips as she took the gift. “Jenny sounded so sweet when we spoke on the phone.”
As Hope peeked inside the bag, a lock of hair fell across her face. Josh fought the urge to push the strands behind her ear to see her face better.
What was going on? He wasn’t interested in a vacation romance. Even if he were, he was in recovery. No dating for twelve months. He’d heard that during his stay in rehab, at the sober house, and in therapy.
His interest, if he wanted to call it that, had to be due to holding her so closely, intimately. He was male, and he was missing physical contact. Something he’d had plenty of before rehab. When he’d been drinking—okay, while he’d been playing football, too—there’d been a revolving door of women coming in and out of his life. For months, there’d been none.
“Thanks for delivering this.”
Hope’s words jolted him back to reality. “Did you paint the panels?”
Her satisfied smile zinged through him like a pinball, bouncing off parts and lighting up his insides. Not pretty—beautiful. He gulped.
His reaction was unexpected and unwelcome. Maybe he should call Rudy or Dr. Kettering to see what they had to say about his attraction to Hope. Granted, looking was different than touching. On purpose touching. Catching her didn’t count, but Josh didn’t want to make any mistakes. Not when he’d come so far.
Hope studied the opposite wall where more panels hung. “My boss, Zoe, wants the room to look less multipurpose-ish for social events, starting with this weekend’s wedding.”
“You succeeded.” Thankful to have something else to look at other than Hope, he took in the various panels. Each fit together as if part of a panorama. “You’ve brought the outside in.”
“That was the plan.”
“It’s perfect.” Josh was far from an art expert, but he’d been to galleries and recognized talent, even if the panels weren’t typical canvases or tapestries. “You’re good at what you do.”
She kept her gaze lowered. “Thanks.”
He waited for her to say more—the creative types he’d met might be introverts, but once their art was mentioned they lit up and wanted to talk. Hope, however, didn’t. That intrigued him. Was she shy or embarrassed about winding up in his arms?
“You’re welcome,” he said finally.
She wiped her palms over her shorts. “I better get back to work.”
No way was she hanging that panel by herself. If he hadn’t caught her, she could have broken a bone or hit her head. He didn’t mind putting off his shower.
Josh picked up the ladder. “Want help?”
With a degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, Melissa McClone worked for a major airline where she traveled the globe and met her husband. But analyzing jet engine performance couldn’t compete with her love of writing happily ever afters. Her first full-time writing endeavor was her first sale when she was pregnant with her first child! Since then, she has published over forty romance novels with Harlequin and Tule Publishing Group. She’s a USA Today Bestselling author and has also been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s RITA® award. When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her driving her minivan to/from her children’s swim practices and other activities. Melissa lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children, two spoiled Norwegian Elkhounds and cats who think they rule the house. They do!
Links to Melissa’s website, blog, books, etc.
Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CTFB7QN
**SPECIAL GIVEAWAY**: Melissa is giving away a beach-themed prize pack: Autographed copy of Jenny (hero from Sweet Beginnings is introduced in this book.), Thirty-One Gifts Keepsake Tray, Thirty-One Gifts mini journal, Thirty-One Gifts nail file, Two kitchen towels, Oven Mitt, Hot pad, Beach Sign, and Flip flop tea lights to one lucky reader who comments on her Karen’s Killer Book Bench blog.
Thanks, Melissa, for sharing your book with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!