When his father’s sudden death puts his family’s construction business in serious debt, architect Gavin McAlister is forced to put his dream career in New York on hold. Making matters worse, his fiancée calls it quits. Desperate to return to his big-city life, he discovers an opportunity to save his family, one that has him reluctantly starring in a home restoration TV show.
Former soap star Ginger Walsh hopes this job as a TV makeup artist will lead to better things. So far it’s only brought her to a hamlet full of people who don’t like her—except Gavin. After a wild night out leads to Ginger waking up in Gavin’s loft—and the rest of town talking—the two of them soon wonder if getting back to before is what they want. Because being in each other’s arms certainly feels like what they need…
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Like a recovering addict counting the days of sobriety, Ginger Walsh calculated the amount of time remaining until her triumphant return to financial independence: eighty-four days. If she were more like the woman she’d been before she was cast as an evil teenager on a television soap opera, she’d optimistically mark the time as only twelve weeks or just three short months. But Ginger had become as jaded as her alter ego. Real life had toughened her up. It was eighty-four days any way she looked at it.
Every morning, she gave herself a pep talk to mark the passing of another day. She blamed the economy, the industry, and her own stupid decisions for her current situation. But she always told herself she’d find her way out. Her way back. If that didn’t work, she blasted Kelly Clarkson on her iPod and went for a run.
Presently, Ginger’s road to career redemption passed through a greasy diner in Chances Inlet, North Carolina: a small, historic coastal town situated at the junction of the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean. It might as well have been a million miles from Broadway.
“Is it possible to get turkey bacon on my BLT?” Ginger asked, her fingertips sticking to the laminated menu. She tried to infuse just the right amount of deference to her tone while pasting a gracious smile on her face. The tactic never failed her when requesting special orders.
The waitress glanced up from her pad, a pained expression on her face. “This isn’t the Carnegie Deli in New York, Destiny. You’re in North Carolina and this is swine country.” Her tone implied Ginger was either an idiot or a traitor for requesting anything else.
Ginger tried not to cringe at the waitress’ use of her soap opera character’s name. Giving up on getting something a little healthier to eat, she let out an anguished sigh. “Well, is the mayonnaise at least fat free—ow!”
Diesel Gold, her companion at the small window table, kicked her in the shin. Hard. He raised his tattooed arms along with his eyebrows in either impatience or contempt; she wasn’t exactly sure which. Clearly, his blood sugar had dropped substantially because he was normally pretty laid-back.
The waitress shifted from one sneaker-clad foot to the other. Next to them, gaffers and grips, boom operators, and the cameramen who completed their production crew sat in silence, their faces shifting expectantly between the waitress and Ginger. Apparently their order wouldn’t be filled until she had Ginger’s.
“Just bring me wheat toast and put the mayo, the bacon, the lettuce, and tomato on the side.” She handed over her menu in defeat.
“Do you want fries with that?”
“Ugh!” Diesel dropped his head in his hands.
Ginger shot him a withering look before pasting a polite smile on her face for the waitress. “No, thank you.” It was always best to be kind to the waitstaff, her mother had taught her. Being nice ensured excellent service. In this case, Ginger figured it might ensure the woman didn’t spit into her food. “You can give him my fries.” She gestured at Diesel. The crew nearly broke out in applause as the waitress headed for the kitchen.
“I liked you better when you weren’t such a food weenie,” Diesel said.
“For your information, I’ve been a food weenie all my life. It’s the cornerstone of a dancer’s existence. And I liked you better when you were Elliot Goldman and not some tattooed, spike-haired, wannabe music video producer who took his name from a Chippendale dancer.”
“Shh!” Diesel quickly glanced around to see whether any of the crew were listening, but the opposite table had gone back to discussing the logistics of the go-karting expedition they had planned for the evening.
“Oh, please.” Ginger carefully inspected a lemon slice before squeezing it into her water glass. “They all know your dad owns the network. You’re twenty-six years old. You look like the lead singer for Maroon Five—aside from your glasses, of course—and suddenly you’re the producer of a network home improvement show when your only experience is creating a small indie film that never made it off YouTube. Face it. You’ve got nepotism written all over you. Maybe you should get it in a tattoo.”
Her friend of nearly a decade wasn’t amused. The two had met as teenagers when both were freshmen at Juilliard. He was the awkward but musically gifted son of a television mogul, and she was the scholarship dance phenom living out her mother’s dream. Partnered up on a literature project—Plato’s Allegory of the Cave—they’d been best friends ever since. Their friendship survived not only the class, but also the destruction of each of their dreams.
“This isn’t funny, Ginger.” Diesel leaned across the table, his gravelly voice a near whisper. “The crew has to respect me. I need this gig. My dad won’t give me another chance if I screw it up.” He gestured to the tables around to them. “So far these guys have been pretty tolerant letting me call the shots, but we still have a few months to go.”
Eighty-four days to be precise, Ginger thought. She contemplated Diesel, taking in the stress lines bracketing his mouth and the weariness of his eyes. Marvin Goldman, Diesel’s narcissistic jerk of a father, took great pleasure in bending his son to fit his own ideal. He was dangling a carrot on a string and would likely yank it away instead of giving it to his son. It was a frequent pattern between the two. But Diesel continued to hold out hope his father would reward his hard work by allowing him to produce the network’s new music reality show. Ginger wanted to tell her friend not to count on his father, but it was difficult not to hope along with him. Because if Diesel got the job, he’d promised she’d get the position of choreographer.
“Hey.” Reaching for his hand, she gave it a squeeze. “It’s gonna work out. These guys are really good at what they do. They won’t let you down.”
“You’ve been here one day and you already know the crew is made up of Emmy winners?” At least his face had begun to relax.
“What can I say? I know my way around a television production.”
“It must be those seven months you spent on the soap opera set. I guess you noticed a lot during the ten weeks your character was in a coma.”
“Very funny.” She sat back as the waitress plunked down a bowl filled with what looked like fried egg rolls. Ginger picked one up between her thumb and forefinger and looked at it quizzically.
“They’re called hush puppies and, no, I’m not going to tell you what’s in them. Just eat one and enjoy.” He popped two of them in his mouth.
Ginger pulled out her iPhone and searched for “hush puppies.” She really hoped the bowl didn’t contain diced-up shoes.
“Fried batter, yuck!” She placed the hush puppy on the paper place mat, wiping her hands on her napkin.
“Food weenie,” Diesel mumbled with a shake of his head.
Ginger sighed. No matter what she did or said, people always seemed to mistake her motives about her diet. Sure, she was diligent about what foods she put in her body, taking great pains to ensure that whatever she ate was clean and healthy. Years of her mother micromanaging her diet so that Ginger could perform at her peak made her picky eating habits hard to break. Not if she wanted to work as a dancer again. For the millionth time in her life, Ginger marveled at the unjustness of her body’s metabolism as Diesel devoured the bowl of deep-fried calories.
“So, what exactly are my responsibilities here?” she asked. “I’ve done a lot of research on Dresden House and it’s fascinating. Imagine if those walls could talk. What sorts of stories could they tell about the last two hundred years the building has been standing? And the woman it was originally built for never lived to see it—such a tragic love story.” Ginger looked over at Diesel, who had a finger to his head as he feigned shooting himself. “Okay, clearly you don’t see the romance in the project at all. So let’s talk about me. What else besides research do I do as your production assistant?”
“Anything I ask you to do.” He gave her a wolfish wink just as the waitress set a plate of barbecue in front of him.
“We’ve already been there and we both know it wasn’t a success.” She carefully assembled her BLT with mostly lettuce and tomato, one slice of bacon, and a small smear of mayonnaise.
“Okay, if you’re not willing to sleep with me, my second choice is for you to handle makeup.”
Ginger nearly choked on her sandwich. “Excuse me? Did you say ‘makeup’? I thought this was a show about restoring a nineteenth-century mansion. What do you need makeup for?”
“The hot contractor doing the renovations. And, lest you think I play for the other team, ‘hot’ is the network’s term, not mine.”
Ginger rolled her eyes. “Why is it men always have to reinforce their masculinity?”
“Testosterone,” he said between bites of his sandwich. “Anyway, the suits in L.A. are hoping the hottie contractor will be a hit with the ladies and increase network viewership. Apparently, he was once Cosmo’s Bachelor of the Month, back in his days as a New York architect.”
“But doesn’t the network have a staff of makeup people?”
“Yes, but the one assigned to the show is having a problem with her pregnancy and just when I was about to hire another one”—he pointed a fry at her—“you called and said you were down to your last five hundred bucks. Now you have a job—with all your expenses paid for the next three months, I might add.”
“But you said I was your assistant!”
“You are my assistant, Ginger. But you’re also gonna have to be the makeup artist. I can’t afford both. It’ll look good to my dad if I come in under budget, so before you ask, I’m not paying you both salaries. I’ve already earmarked that money for a couple of other upgrades to the show.”
“I don’t want both salaries, Diesel. And I’m very grateful for the job, but what makes you think I’m qualified to be a makeup artist?”
Diesel swallowed another bite of his sandwich. “You took two years of stage production at Juilliard. And you did your own makeup all those years when you were in your mom’s ballet company. I’ve seen your work. It’s magical.”
Magical, yeah, if they were filming Beauty and the Beast, she thought to herself. Somehow Ginger didn’t think that was what the network had in mind. She stared at Diesel. His enthusiasm—like his confidence—was so fragile right now. She didn’t dare let him down. Not when she owed him so much. She forced her lips into a tight smile meant to reassure him. At the same time, her mind whirled with fear. And possibilities. Her dad often said she was like a cat, graceful and fluid and always landing on her feet. Which, in a way, was true. Ginger Walsh did always land on her feet. Of course, at the rate she was going, she’d blow through the nine lives before she hit thirty.
“Okay.” She pushed her half-eaten sandwich to the side. “The B and B has Internet access, right?”
“Sure.” Diesel dragged a fry through some ketchup before putting it in his mouth.
“Great.” She was still friends with several of the makeup artists from the soap. If she was lucky, she could Skype with one or two of them later that night to pick up some pointers. “I’m going to head back, then.” Ginger hoisted her messenger bag off the floor and stood up from the table.
“Give me a minute to finish my lunch and I’ll drive you,” Diesel said. “It’s clear across town.”
He was right; the inn was clear across town. But since Chances Inlet boasted only one stoplight, “clear across town” barely equaled three New York City blocks. Obviously, Diesel had gone soft in the six weeks he’d been in North Carolina for the show’s preproduction.
“I think I can manage. Besides, it’s a beautiful day for a walk.” It was early March, and while slush still lingered on the ground in Manhattan, a warm breeze blew along the Carolina coast, with trees and flowers blooming in the bright spring sunshine. “I’ll see you back there later.” Ginger gave him a cheeky grin as she headed for the door.
“Don’t forget we have a full production meeting at the B and B this afternoon during teatime. They serve these awesome cupcakes with their tea.” Diesel’s voice took on a reverential tone as he mentioned the cupcakes.
The man hadn’t even finished his heart-attack-on-a-plate sandwich and he was thinking about dessert. Life was seriously unfair, she thought as she set a brisk pace toward the bed and breakfast.
* * *
“I don’t think it’s the plumbing. I think it’s the dang dishwasher that’s gone all catawampus on ya.”
Gavin McAlister propped his hip against the large granite island anchoring the kitchen of the Tide Me Over Inn, staring at a pair of ancient work boots stretching out from under the sink.
“I told ya when we put the second dishwasher in, the lines were solid. It’s not my plumbin’.” The voice underneath the sink was a bit defensive, but Gavin was used to the old man’s blustering. Morgan Balch had been working for McAlister construction since Gavin was in kindergarten, and he was the same cantankerous character today he’d been twenty-five years ago. Gavin put up with the old coot because Morgan was the best plumber south of Wilmington and because he knew that behind all the complaining, the man was loyal and honest as the day was long.
“Are you saying I need a new dishwasher?” Patricia McAlister, Gavin’s mother, passed through the kitchen on her way to the inn’s industrial laundry room, her arms filled with used towels. In her mid-fifties, his mom still looked ready to take on the world. Her shoulder-length red hair had faded to a champagne color years ago. Gavin was surprised it wasn’t gray after raising five children, three of them boys born barely four years apart. Soft laugh lines fanned out beside her hazel eyes and a few more wrinkles showed up each passing year, but she still turned heads wherever she went, even dressed as she was this morning in a pair of worn jeans and a gray cashmere cardigan.
“I’ll call in the morning,” Gavin said, reaching down to help Morgan to his feet. “It’s still under warranty.”
“No, I’ll call.” Patricia dumped the towels in the laundry room and returned to the kitchen. “It’s my inn. I’ve been running it alone for over two years. I certainly know how to call a repairman.” She stopped in front of Gavin, waiting for him to disagree, but she was right. She had been running the B and B on her own since it opened, and quite successfully, too. In fact, the Tide Me Over Inn had received a four-diamond rating each year it had been in operation.
“Okay.” Gavin leaned down to kiss her on the forehead. “You win. But don’t let them try to sell you a new one. This one’s not even six months old.”
His mother patted him on the chest; she hadn’t been able to reach the top of his head since he was fourteen. “I may not have all the advanced degrees my children have, but give me a little credit for having street sense.”
“Don’t know why you need two dishwashers, anyhow,” Morgan mumbled.
“Because,” Patricia said patiently, as if it were the first time she and Morgan had had this discussion, “on days when the inn is full and we have a large crowd for tea, we need the extra machine. With two dishwashers, I don’t have to stand at the sink all night hand washing. I have other things to do with my time.”
Morgan let out an indignant snort. He’d been a close friend of Donald McAlister, Gavin’s late father, and he wasn’t afraid to voice his disapproval of Patricia’s active social life, especially since it included dating. Gavin’s older brother, Miles, was pretty vocal in that area as well. But his mother had been a widow for more than two years. She was young, attractive, and vibrant, and Gavin didn’t begrudge her a little happiness.
Gavin cut off Morgan’s mumblings before Patricia could take offense. “You’ve only got the couple of crew from the Historical Restorations show staying here tonight. With the rest of them staying in the chain hotel in town where they can smoke, you shouldn’t need both dishwashers.”
Patricia eyed Morgan as he loaded up his toolbox before turning to her son. “Yes, but the whole crew usually comes for tea. And the little soap opera star they brought along apparently has food issues. She asked if she could prepare her own meals here while the show is in production.”
“Soap opera star?” Gavin grabbed a bottle of water out of the two-door Sub-Zero fridge.
Patricia began arranging cookies on a platter. “Destiny Upchurch, from Saints and Sinners.”
“You’re lettin’ that gal stay here?” Morgan asked.
“Why is there a soap opera actress here?” Gavin asked at the same time.
“She’s just the actress who played Destiny, Morgan. I’m sure she’s nothing like the little witch she played on the show. Except for being a bit of a diva about her food, of course.”
Morgan snatched a cookie from the plate. “I didn’t like that girl when she was on the show.”
“Nobody did.” Patricia covered the platter in plastic wrap so Morgan couldn’t pilfer the rest of them. “She was a nasty teenager, always pretending to be sweet and innocent. Then, wham, she was causing trouble for Savannah Rich.”
“Ahh,” Morgan said wistfully. “Now, that Savannah is one sweet gal. Pretty, too.”
“Hey!” Gavin raised his voice in an attempt to regain control of the conversation. “Enough about the soap opera, already.” Morgan and his mother were talking about these people as if they really knew them. He turned to the plumber. “I can’t believe you actually watch that crap. And you, Mom . . .”
“What? I fold a lot of laundry each afternoon, not that I should have to explain myself to my son.” Patricia snapped a dish towel at him. “I like something mindless on the TV while I work and, really, since Bob Barker left, The Price Is Right just isn’t the same.”
“Yeah, I don’t care for that Drew Carey fella, either,” Morgan added.
Gavin rubbed the back of his neck, trying in vain to rein in his annoyance. “Can we fast-forward to the actress here at the inn?”
“She’s a teenager,” Morgan said. “Too young for the likes of you. Anyway, everyone in town knows you’ve got some little chippy up in Wilmington.”
Gavin groaned. Nothing was sacred in a small town, his dating life in particular, which seemed to be the focus of everyone living in Chances Inlet.
Patricia laughed. “I’m pretty sure she’s older than her character on TV.” Still smiling at Gavin, she filled the two kettles. “She’s probably mid-twenties. Kind of cute, if you like girls who are leggy, waiflike, and all angles around the face. She probably got that way by analyzing every morsel she’s ever eaten.”
“Mom . . .” Everyone in the family—and in town, for that matter—said Gavin was the McAlister with the most patience, but it began to fray as his mother continued to evade his question.
“She does have pretty eyes.” Patricia turned from the sink. “They’re very unique.”
“But. What. Is. She. Doing. Here?” Gavin demanded.
His mother had a habit of taking in strays—mostly women who needed a safe place to land. Occasionally, these women came with a crazy husband/boyfriend/father in pursuit. He didn’t want the soap opera diva to be another one of those women. Gavin wouldn’t interfere in his mother’s social life or her efforts to run the inn, but he’d damn sure protect her from herself when necessary.
“Oh, well, her name is Ginger and she’s working with Diesel.”
As if that said it all.
It was Morgan’s turn to groan at the mention of the heavily tattooed managing producer of Historical Restorations. “That guy looks like a little punk.”
“Don’t judge, Morgan.” Not surprising, Patricia stuck up for the producer. “I get the sense there’s a lot more to Diesel than he wants us to see. Maybe even more than he knows. I don’t think he had a very loving upbringing.”
Which was his mom’s way of saying Diesel was another one of her strays. Gavin’s mother was all about the power of family. She bought into the whole story of the founding of Chances Inlet. As the lore had it, it was the town of second chances and Patricia McAlister believed everyone who wandered into town deserved one.
Morgan let out another snort before waving his way out the back door.
“It’s like I always say: God puts these people in front of us for a reason. We need to help them,” Patricia said softly.
Gavin glanced out of the large box-bay window above the sink. Out in the yard, Lori Hunt, the current maid/kitchen helper at the B and B, who was another of his mother’s strays, played with a pair of dogs.
Patricia followed his gaze. “She may tell me her story one day. But for now, she needs a safe place to stay. And you have to admit, she makes a wonderful cupcake.”
“I just don’t want to see anyone get hurt. Especially you, Mom.”
“She won’t hurt me.”
No, but what kind of trouble would she bring to your doorstep? he wondered.
“Are you excited about the project?” his mother asked, deftly changing the subject. “You’ve been fascinated with Dresden House since you were a little boy. Daddy always said it was the reason you became an architect.”
Gavin took a drink of water as his mother pulled out china teacups, placing them on a silver serving dish. She was right; he’d loved that old house. But what was once a place to play pirates or, later, study classic architecture, now held the key to his escape from this small town. But his mother didn’t need to know that.
“It’s a great opportunity, but it isn’t going to be easy. I’m glad McAlister Construction is doing the renovation, but I’m not looking forward to being followed around by a television crew.”
“Well, you couldn’t afford to do the renovation without those TV cameras and Marvin Goldman footing the bill. And the women will be beating down your door after the first episode.”
Gavin leaned against the island again and rubbed his hand over the back of his neck. “That’s hardly the purpose of doing the show.” He had enough notoriety in his hometown. He still hadn’t lived down his Bachelor of the Month in Cosmo and that was years ago. Then there was the whole mess with Amanda. He didn’t want any more attention from women trying to fix his love life. It was one of the reasons he couldn’t wait to leave again.
But first, he had to get out from beneath the mountain of debt his father had left the firm buried under. Thankfully, his younger brother, Ryan, played for the major league baseball team owned by America Cable. A few select words by their star second baseman in the appropriate ears, and McAlister Construction had a reality TV show. It felt a little like Gavin had pimped himself out, but the ends would justify the means.
Patricia nudged Gavin’s hip so he’d slide away from the utensil drawer. Humming happily, she pulled out spoons and set them on the silver tray. His mother could easily relate to his obsession with restoring Dresden House. She’d been equally as obsessed about renovating and operating the inn. And his father had, against all odds, made it happen for his wife. Gavin just couldn’t let his mother know what it had cost Donald McAlister.
He bent to kiss her on the head. “I’m out of here. Call me tomorrow and let me know what the repairman says.”
“Don’t you want to stay for tea? It’s Sunday. Or have you got something better planned? Maybe in Wilmington?” she teased.
“I stay out of your personal life, Mom. You stay out of mine.”
“Thank you for that,” she said. “And thank you for stopping by and replacing the screen in Ida Kosten’s screen porch this afternoon. You are a sweet man, Gavin. Just like your father. I don’t know what everyone in this town would do if you weren’t around.”
Guilt licked at him as he walked out the screen door onto the large veranda that wrapped around three sides of the inn, but he refused to let it consume him. His mother and the rest of this town would be making do without him sooner than they thought.
Putting on his Ray-Bans, he headed for his Jeep Cherokee. “Midas!” He whistled for his dog as he punched the unlock button on his key fob.
The big golden retriever bounded around the corner of the inn just as a woman entered the driveway. She was too far off for Gavin to make out her face, but she strode purposefully toward the B and B as if she belonged there. It had to be the soap star. Dressed in black yoga pants that accentuated a pair of long, shapely legs and a hot-pink zippered hoodie that hid everything else, she didn’t exactly fit his mother’s description of “waiflike.” He couldn’t make out her eyes—his mother said something about them being unique—because they were hidden behind a pair of aviator sunglasses. Her blond hair was pulled up in a messy knot that was probably meant to look artless, but it had likely taken her an hour to complete.
Midas skidded to a halt, eyeing both the open Jeep door and the woman obliviously walking up to the veranda. Gavin tensed as he realized the potential for disaster.
“Come!” he commanded. He was calculating the distance to the dog just as Midas bolted for the unsuspecting woman. “Ah, shit!” He raced after his dog.
There was no time for Ginger to prepare. One minute, she was contemplating the amount of face pancake needed for high-definition television cameras, and the next minute, she was the pancake, flattened to the gravel driveway by a slobbering mass of flying fur.
“Ow!” Ginger gasped as her sunglasses flew in one direction and the contents of her messenger bag flew in the other. She put her hands to her face to keep the dog’s tongue away. Before it could get close enough, however, a large hand reached down and grabbed it by the collar.
“Off!” The command came from the voice at the other end of the tanned arm. Its deep timbre sent a shiver through Ginger’s body. Too bad it wasn’t having any effect on the dog, who seemed to be settling in for a snuggle. Or perhaps a nibble.
“Midas! Treat, treat! Come, Midas!” The dog lifted its head in response to the innkeeper’s voice. Whoever was holding the dog took advantage of its inattentiveness and shoved the animal off. Scrambling to its feet, the dog jogged up the veranda steps in search of the promised treat.
Still flat on her back, Ginger carefully opened her eyes. Crouched next to her was a man dressed in khakis and a black golf shirt. Sunglasses dangled from a cord around his neck. She gazed up into his face and nearly lost her breath for a second time in as many minutes. He had the most amazing mouth. Sensuous lips that looked as if they smiled easily and often sat atop a broad chin with the hint of a dimple. Thick, brown hair, just days past the date of needing a trim, waved in the breeze. Hazel eyes, full of concern, gazed down at her.
“You okay?” Mr. Amazing Mouth asked.
Ginger nodded slightly, but before she could speak, the innkeeper called out.
“Don’t move her until you check her for injuries!”
Sitting up so quickly that she had to groan, Ginger tried to scoot away. Mr. Amazing Mouth’s close proximity was already doing crazy things to her body; she didn’t want to find out what would happen if he touched her.
Too late. He braced a hand on her shoulder to steady her and she felt the heat clear down to her fingertips.
“Whoa, there,” he said. “Take it slow.”
“Should I call the EMTs? Or maybe the sheriff?” The innkeeper stood on the veranda, a cell phone in her hand.
“Oh God,” Ginger mumbled. “That woman already doesn’t like me. Now she thinks I’ll break at the slightest fall.”
“She doesn’t dislike you.” His hand moved to her elbow as he helped her up. “She just thinks you’re a bit obsessed with food.”
Ginger’s head shot up as she gaped at him. Her cheeks grew warm with mortification at the thought of the innkeeper gossiping about her with the handsome stranger. He grinned back at her and another dimple appeared at the side of his now-even-more amazing mouth. The effect of his smile caused her to sway a little and his grip on her arm tightened.
“And she calls the sheriff about every little thing. They’re . . . involved.” He winked at her. Something about his expression gave Ginger the sense he was uncomfortable about the relationship, though. “You okay?” he asked again.
“Yeah.” Her voice wavered slightly. Stepping back, she pulled out of his grasp before reflexively rubbing the spot where his hand had been. Ginger bent down to retrieve the odds and ends that had spilled out of her bag as he reached over to pick up her sunglasses.
“Huh,” he said, handing them to her. “She was right about your eyes, though. They are unique.”
The comment wasn’t unfamiliar to her; her almond-shaped green eyes garnered many compliments through the years. But somehow, the way he’d said it felt almost . . . intimate. The dog suddenly reappeared, shattering the moment, which, technically, wasn’t a moment. Put a man with a sexy mouth in front of her and Ginger’s imagination tended to run wild. He was just a handsome stranger with an ill-behaved dog. The wife and two-point-five kids were probably waiting in the car.
“Midas.” He pointed toward the open door of his Jeep. “Car.” The dog looked at him solemnly before dropping its head and slowly padding over to the Jeep. An empty Jeep. Ginger surreptitiously glanced at his hands for a wedding ring. Her stomach did a happy dance when she didn’t see one. Not that an empty ring finger meant anything, but she did have eighty-four days to kill and a girl could dream.
“I’m really sorry about that,” he said. “He’s usually better behaved.”
“Well, maybe you shouldn’t reward him with a treat every time he knocks someone down.” She was amazed she was able to play it so cool in spite of her screaming pheromones.
One corner of the amazing mouth twitched. “He only gets a reward when he takes down a beautiful woman.”
Ginger kept the smile off her face, but it was hard to keep it out of her voice. “Ah, so you’re just using the dog as a tool to pick up women. Maybe I should alert the folks at PETA.”
He was grinning now, sexy laugh lines fanning out from his eyes. “There’s nothing unethical about his treatment. In fact, he’s rewarded like a king for his efforts.”
“Ahh,” Ginger teased. “Hence the name Midas.”
“Gorgeous and smart.” He folded his arms across his chest and took a half step closer. “He gets extra treats for such a rare find.”
Ginger was so captivated by their flirtatious exchange that she didn’t hear the innkeeper approach until the woman spoke beside her.
“Well, Gavin, did Miss Walsh break anything?” The innkeeper’s hand was still poised and ready to dial the cell phone.
“Nah, she’s just dusted up a bit.” He pointed to Ginger’s backside, which was covered in a layer of gravel dust. Ginger jumped back a step, swatting at the area he’d obviously been checking out.
“You can call off the cavalry, Mom. She isn’t going to sue.”
Mom?! Ginger looked from the innkeeper to Mr. Amazing Mouth, taking in the insignia on his golf shirt: McAlister Construction and Engineering. Cheese and crackers! He was the innkeeper’s son. She and Patricia McAlister hadn’t hit it off too well earlier that day. What had she told her son? That Ginger was “obsessed” with food?
Cheese and crackers with crap on top!
Making matters worse, McAlister Construction and Engineering was the firm handling the renovations, which would make Mr. Amazing Mouth the “hot contractor.” The hottie who wasn’t really flirting with her, but more likely buttering her up so she wouldn’t sue his mother. Fate was never kind enough to Ginger to actually put a handsome stranger in her path and make him attainable.
She pulled in a deep breath, shifting her messenger bag under her arm while she regrouped. Eighty-four more days, she silently reminded herself. It was better that she muscle through her stay in Chances Inlet without the complication of a small-town fling, anyway. If she and Diesel managed to pull this show off, she’d be on her way to restarting her career and avoiding the walk of shame back to her mother’s ballet company. Until then, she could put up with persnickety innkeepers who wanted to judge her and handsome strangers who weren’t above flirting for sport. The trick was to keep reminding herself their actions couldn’t hurt her. Even when they did.
Sliding her sunglasses up her nose, Ginger pasted on her sunniest soap opera smile. “No harm done, Mrs. McAlister. If you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do before the production meeting.” She moved to walk between them and up the inn steps, but Mr. Amazing Mouth, aka “the hottie,” aka Gavin McAlister blocked her way.
“Hey, don’t run off.” He took a tentative step toward Ginger. The concern was back in his eyes, but she was no longer mistaking it as concern for her. “Let me get you a cup of tea or something.”
“I thought you had a date in Wilmington?” His mother’s tone clearly indicated she’d rather her son go to Wilmington than spend time with Ginger.
Of course he has a date. Ginger silently chastised herself for her traitorous reaction to the guy.
Gavin shot the innkeeper a look as Ginger slipped past.
“Thank you anyway, but some other time,” Ginger said, climbing the veranda stairs. Judging by her body’s reaction to his touch just now, there couldn’t be another time, not if she wanted to maintain her composure while working around him every day. “Besides, you shouldn’t leave your dog in the car,” she teased, trying her best to sound indifferent. “Those PETA people tend to get really nasty about that.”
She left him standing at the bottom of the steps, his hands on his hips, as she entered the inn.
* * *
Patricia McAlister dried off the last of the dessert plates used at the afternoon’s tea and placed it on top of the stack at her elbow. She glanced out the window as the last shards of sunlight danced above the Atlantic Ocean churning across the street from the inn, but she wasn’t seeing the spectacular display. Instead, she was rehashing the encounter between Gavin and the soap opera actress earlier that day. The middle of her five children, Gavin was always levelheaded and hard to rile up. But he’d been angry today. Angry that Patricia had interrupted them. And that worried her.
“I’m not sure I understand why you’re so upset. He’s a single guy. She’s a pretty girl. So they were flirting. What’s the problem?”
She turned to the man standing beside her at the sink, her head barely reaching his chin, he was so tall. The dish towel draped over his shoulder in no way detracted from the virile picture he presented dressed in his sheriff’s uniform.
Lamar Hollister had been elected sheriff of Chances Inlet the previous year, nearly six months after he’d arrived in town. A retired military policeman fresh from two tours in Iraq and another two in Afghanistan, he’d been able to ride the wave of the throw-the-incumbents-out sentiment sweeping the country and get elected in a town where he was a virtual stranger.
It was the stranger part that had attracted Patricia. She’d been married to her husband, Donald, for thirty-three years, twenty-eight of those years living in this very town. When she found herself widowed suddenly at fifty-three, the loneliness had at times seemed unbearable. She’d been a part of a couple for so long that she wasn’t able to get her bearings as a single woman. Making matters worse, no one in town saw her as anything other than Donald’s widow. The situation infuriated her. Sure, she was an independent woman with her own business to run, but she had needs, too. When the loneliness started to eat a hole in her, she’d decided to look for companionship. Not an easy task considering most of the men within a two-hundred-mile radius knew her husband, and therefore expected her to remain loyal to him.
The arrival of Lamar Hollister was a godsend. He hadn’t known Donald. Best of all, he hadn’t known her as Mrs. Donald McAlister. And then there was the attraction between the two. It was immediate and powerful. So intense that Patricia didn’t feel like a grandmother. Instead, she was a successful businesswoman enjoying a hot relationship in the autumn of her life—with a man five years her junior.
“The problem,” she said, leaning into him, “is that Gavin doesn’t flirt. At least, not since Amanda.”
Lamar wrapped the dish towel around the back of her neck to pull her in closer. “Nonsense. He flirts all the time. Hell, Jolene down at Pier Pressure will ignore a bar full of customers just to chat him up. And he’s constantly buttering up Lois Carter every morning to get a free muffin. Not only that, but some days she gives him a kiss with his coffee.”
Patricia let out a delicate snort. “Lois doesn’t give anything away for free.”
Lamar’s normally stoic mouth lifted in a half smile. “That right? She gives me a free doughnut every day.”
The woman in question was an octogenarian with little to no hearing, but Patricia still felt a twinge of jealousy. She reached up to thread her fingers through the sheriff’s thick, sandy brown hair, pausing to trace the gray at his temples. “Well, I guess I’ll just have to stop by the Java Jolt tomorrow and give her what for.” She stretched up on her toes to kiss him.
“Anyway,” she said, returning to their discussion of a few minutes earlier. “That’s not Gavin flirting. That’s just him being charming. He’s a natural. It’s in the McAlister genes.”
“You’re not going to let this drop, are you?” The sheriff let out a long-suffering groan. “Gavin showed an interest in a pretty woman. Alert the media. Trust me, the whole town will be elated since every female age four and older has been trying to fix him up for as long as I’ve lived here. It’s about damn time, I say.” He reached a finger under her chin, lifting her eyes to his. “Unless you’ve become attached to whomever he’s seeing in Wilmington?”
Patricia pulled out of his embrace, crossing her arms over her stomach. “There’s no one in Wilmington. At least, I don’t think so.” She sighed. “Sure, he probably goes there to meet women, out of the prying eyes of everyone in town. Who could blame him? But if there was someone he was serious about, he’d have let me know. Or one of his brothers or sisters at least.”
“I’m still not seeing the problem, Tricia,” he said softly.
A spasm of awareness fluttered in her belly as Lamar called her by the name only he’d ever used. It was followed quickly by a churning of fear for her son. “The problem is she won’t stick around, either.” A single tear rolled down her cheek. “He’ll be left behind as she goes back to La-La Land to pursue her career. And I don’t want to ever see him hurt that way again.”
“Come here.” Patricia didn’t resist as Lamar gathered her into his arms. “He was just flirting with her, not marrying her. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.”
“But you didn’t see the way he was looking at her,” she said, her face buried against his strong chest.
Lamar laughed, its sensual sound reverberating through his body to hers. “Was it something like this?” he teased.
Patricia met his eyes. The heat and lust reflected there was very much like what she’d seen in her son’s eyes earlier in the day. But whatever fears she had for Gavin quickly evaporated as her mind and her body succumbed to the passion. Lamar bent down to brush his lips below her ear.
“Let’s go to the carriage house,” he whispered, the breath against her skin causing her to shiver. “And I’ll see what I can do to distract you from worrying about Gavin.”
Patricia turned off the lights and followed him out of the inn, knowing he’d show her exactly what happens when a man looks at a woman like Lamar had just gazed at her. She’d worry about Gavin tomorrow.
The Piggly Wiggly was deserted at nine o’clock on a Sunday night. Just the way Gavin liked it. Mr. Henderson, the produce manager, had been stalking him for weeks, trying to fix Gavin up with his granddaughter, who’d just graduated first in her class at cosmetology school. Brittney of the Magenta Hair sported a few too many piercings and tattoos for Gavin to be interested right now, if ever. Unfortunately, Mr. Henderson had been difficult to shake when Gavin stopped in for some bananas earlier in the week.
“Thanks, Ryan, for holding Miles off.” Gavin spoke into his cell phone as he strode into the store.
“Hey, what’s a hundred thousand dollars between brothers? Besides, I’ve always wanted my own political action committee.”
Gavin grabbed a cart and pushed it toward the far side of the store. “I know money’s tight for you right now with the lawsuit and everything. The contribution to Miles’ campaign fund should have come from McAlister C and E. Hopefully, there’ll be some cash left after the show to pay you back.”
“For crying out loud, Gavin, I’m not destitute. I let my agent talk me into a ridiculous investment. Once the dust settles, I’ll be flush with cash again. And I don’t want to be paid back. I would have given him the money anyway,” Ryan insisted. “You don’t have to fix all of this on your own. I only wish it was six months from now when I’ll be in a position to help out more. You could tell Miles the truth, you know.”
“It’s too late now.” Gavin dropped a bag of dog treats into his cart. “Besides, he’s got enough on his plate launching his campaign for Congress. He doesn’t need to be worrying about the family legacy and the debt Dad left behind. Dad wouldn’t have wanted any of this to tarnish Miles’ image.”
Ryan blew out a disgusted snort. “Yeah, well, everyone thinks you’re doing the home restoration show to promote McAlister Construction, not to pay off Dad’s debts so you can sell the family business.”
“It would break their hearts. You were pretty shocked when I told you the plan.” Of course, he’d left out the fact that if the business went under, so, too, would their mother’s beloved inn. The relationship between Gavin’s younger brother and their father could only be described as strained at best. The pair hadn’t spoken for several months before the man’s death, for reasons even Gavin didn’t know. But Gavin didn’t want to add to Ryan’s already tarnished memory of their father, so he kept his own counsel with regard to the looming balloon payment for his mother’s inn.
“Only because you waited two years to let me in on the big secret, which, by the way, shouldn’t be a secret. It’s not your responsibility to clean up Dad’s mess. Trust me, it won’t break our hearts if the business closes. We’ve all made our own lives—Mom included. You had a life of your own in New York that you gave up.”
“I didn’t give it up.” Gavin threw a couple of cans of Pringles into his cart. “It’s just on hold.”
“And your marriage? That on hold, too?”
Gavin paused in front of the frozen pizzas. He hadn’t thought of Amanda in months. For some reason, his family, not to mention everyone in Chances Inlet, thought he was still broken up about his fiancée calling off the wedding the week before they were supposed to walk down the aisle. She’d told him it was life in a small town, away from New York, that scared her off. He’d felt the same way, so he really couldn’t fault her too much. Besides, he’d believed his time in Chances Inlet would be short, figuring they’d pick up where they’d left off when he got back to New York.
Amanda marrying his former roommate six months later, though—that still stung.
“Mom is on to you, you know.” Ryan’s voice in his ear brought him back to the conversation at hand. “She knows you’re not dating anyone in Wilmington.”
“Who says I didn’t have a date tonight?”
“Dude, it’s only nine o’clock and you’re in the Piggly Wiggly.”
“She’s a flight attendant with an early call in the morning.”
“So, you weren’t the layover?” his brother teased.
“Funny.” Gavin steered his cart behind a mountain of paper towels to avoid Sylvia Rodrick, the town cougar, who relentlessly pursued him despite having been his Sunday-school teacher when he was ten, a technicality that obviously didn’t creep her out as much as it did Gavin.
“She wasn’t my type.” Which was a bald-faced lie. The flight attendant was exactly his type: not looking for anything permanent and perfectly willing for a one-night stand. Hell, she’d even suggested they skip dinner and go straight to her hotel room. Unfortunately, Gavin just couldn’t get into her. Now, if she’d had moss-colored almond eyes . . .
“According to Mom,” his brother was saying, “you and the actress who plays Destiny Upchurch were flirting up a storm with one another this afternoon.”
“Mom talks too much.”
Ryan laughed. “I’ll admit Ginger What’s-Her-Name is cute for a chick who’s bad to the bone, but the actress who plays Savannah Rich”—he gave a little whistle—“now, she’s hot.”
Gavin held his phone out at arm’s length, baffled. “What is it with you people and this soap opera? You’re a professional baseball player. Don’t you have better things to do with your time than watch that crap?”
“There’s lots of downtime in the clubhouse. And SportsCenter tends to drone on after a while.”
Gavin shook his head in disbelief as he carefully scanned past the bins of fresh fruits and vegetables for any sign of Mr. Henderson. The produce manager was nowhere in sight, but the object of his phone conversation, Ginger Walsh, stood before him holding a tomato, critically analyzing it as if it held the secret to the universe.
“Gotta go, bro. Thanks for heading Miles off before he asked me for his profit share of the company.”
The rest was lost as Gavin quickly ended the call, nonchalantly steering his cart behind Ginger. He caught a whiff of her perfume. She smelled sweet, like the mint shampoo his mother left for the guests at the inn. But there was another scent, too, something not quite so innocent. Tendrils of hair had escaped her haphazard knot, dangling against her long neck. Gavin’s cock twitched at the sight of bare skin peeking out from underneath her shirt.
Seriously? You couldn’t have been more alert two hours ago when I was wasting ninety bucks on dinner for what would have been a sure thing?
Frustrated, he picked up a bag of salad that likely would spoil before he ever ate it and tossed it into his cart. Ginger didn’t flinch.
“It’s a tomato,” he finally said. “You generally eat it.”
Startled, she turned to face him. Awareness flashed in those incredible eyes before she reined it in. Gavin bit back a smile as he realized she wasn’t immune to whatever attraction was pulling at them, either. His mother had described Ginger’s face as all angles, but what Gavin saw was a delicately sculpted chin, a lush mouth and high cheekbones. Even her ears were cute.
“I’m trying to figure out if it’s organic,” she said. “There’s no sticker.”
Gavin wasn’t sure someone could determine whether a tomato was organic just by looking at it. Hell, he wasn’t even sure whether a tomato was a fruit or a vegetable.
“Does it matter?” He realized the insensitivity of the question too late to stop himself from asking it. Maybe she had a valid reason for being cautious about her food. Or she was just like most women, concerned about her appearance. He’d known women with more obnoxious idiosyncrasies. Hell, she was an actress, wasn’t she? Her compulsion about her diet could definitely be justified as job-related.
Ginger blinked her long lashes twice before shaking her head. She put the tomato in a bag along with two others and placed them in her cart.
“I have to be careful what I eat.” There was nothing delicate about her tone. Clearly, underneath that slight body was a spine of steel.
Gavin shifted slightly, rubbing his hand behind his neck. “Hey, I can see if Mr. Henderson, the produce manager, is here tonight. He’d know.” It’d be worth the risk, he told himself.
“It’s fine. I’ll just be sure to wash them thoroughly.”
She looked over at his cart. Aside from the token bag of salad greens, it contained a smorgasbord of processed foods. Feeling a bit embarrassed, Gavin braced himself for the inevitable comment, but she reached down and pulled out the bag of dog treats instead.
“Midas must have been quite successful with the ladies in Wilmington.” Her comment surprised the hell out of him. Was that a hint of jealousy in her voice?
Gavin relaxed a little, leaning a hip against the vegetable bin and crossing his arms over his chest. Maybe his aborted date wasn’t such a bad decision after all.
“Midas didn’t go to Wilmington. You’re the only pretty woman he managed to take down today.”
She gave him another one of those slight head shakes, trying to hide the blush in her cheeks by reading the package.
“Yuck!” She tossed the bag back into the cart. “You don’t really care too much about your dog if you feed him that.”
“What do you suggest? Real pepperoni?”
She laughed at that, a pretty, tinkling sound that did strange things to Gavin’s body.
“They have organic dog treats.”
“You don’t say?” He silently prayed she’d take a step closer. Whatever magic had been brewing between them outside the inn earlier had rekindled itself in front of the cauliflower, and Gavin didn’t want it to end.
“They didn’t have the brown-sugar ones so I just got a box of the frosted cherry.” Diesel Gold’s raspy voice sliced through the air as he walked up to Ginger’s cart and dropped a box of Pop-Tarts in. Horror flickered over Ginger’s face as the box narrowly missed the tomatoes.
“Hey.” Diesel stopped short as he noticed Gavin. “Have you two met?”
There was a moment of awkward silence before Ginger answered. “Yes, earlier today.”
“Cool.” The producer shifted his glance between Ginger and Gavin. “That will save me from having to make a special trip to introduce her when she comes to do your makeup tomorrow.”
“Huh?” It was Gavin’s turn to look from one to the other. “You’re a soap star and a makeup artist?”
“No!” Ginger said.
“Yes,” Diesel said at the same time. “Well, not exactly a soap star like Marissa Ryder’s Savannah Rich character. But she is great with makeup.”
Gavin was still confused and a little leery of the chagrin on Ginger’s face. “Huh,” was all he could add.
“In fact, there’s not much my Ginger can’t do.” Diesel wrapped an arm around her shoulder and pulled her in to kiss her check. “She’s pretty awesome. That’s why she’s my assistant. Right, babe?”
Gavin was having a little problem with the possessiveness of Diesel’s statement. The producer was giving every indication Ginger was more than just his assistant, and she hadn’t refuted it. Was Gavin really that off his game tonight that he’d totally misread her signals?
“We should be headed out. It’s a long day tomorrow.” Ginger’s face paled as Diesel dropped a bag of Snickers bars into the cart. “Before you hyperventilate, they’re bribes for the crew. See you in the morning, McAlister.” Diesel pulled the cart and Ginger toward the checkout.
“You’re keeping those in your room,” Ginger hissed as the pair walked away.
Not that it was any real comfort to the parts of his body protesting Ginger’s departure, but Gavin was glad that at least she and Diesel were sleeping in separate rooms.
* * *
The driving rain sounded like popcorn as it bounced off the leaded windows of the inn. The springtime weather of the day before was long gone as a nor’easter battered the Carolina coast. Fortunately, most of the filming for that week was to take place indoors as the construction crew began the interior renovations in earnest.
Ginger sat on the plush carpet of the music room with her legs crossed and her laptop perched on top of her knees. A cozy fire crackled behind her as Diesel plucked away at the keys of the grand piano.
“Everything looks good on the billing side, Diesel,” she said. “I don’t know what you were worried about. Your father’s minions will be happy you’re still well within budget. Not to mention you keep impeccable records.”
“Yeah, well, I’m handing bookkeeping off to you now, Madame Assistant.” He tapped out the tune to “Rain, Rain, Go Away.” “I can’t afford to make any mistakes and you’re much more detail-oriented.”
“Stop selling yourself short. You’ve got mad business management skills. What makes you think I can keep the books any better than you?”
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Tracy Solheim
“Solheim will have you laughing and cheering and crying.”—Rendezvous Books
“The sexual tension was off the charts.”—The Book Pushers
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If you like Romance novels, you've got to read Tracy Solheim! I loved this book too! The sexual tension from Ginger Walsh's and Gavin McAlister's first encounters and all their steamy sexual exploits keeps your reading faster and faster. And all Tracy Solheim's charters have depth and complexity, while also weathering various emotional highs and lows as they go about their lives - family secrets, crises, and sibling rivalry, friends who stand by you and those that disappoint or seem to let you down, unexpected hurt, pain, joy and happiness. Can't wait to learn who gets their second chance next. This book will not disappoint!
I received an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Tracy Solheim does such a wonderful job of bringing her characters to life. I loved the chemistry that was between Gavin and Ginger. Once you start reading this book you don't want to put it down. This book is all about second chances and finding love in unexpected places. I can't wait to read the next book in the series.
Really loved the characters in this book. They were easy to relate to and very likeable. The plot, while predictable, was a fun read thanks to an endearing cast of secondary characters. I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for a fair and honest review. This is my first book I've read by this author and I can't wait to explore her backlist.
Loved! Loved! Loved this book and its flawed but lovable characters. Can't wait to see more Chance Inlet characters and it was great seeing characters from Tracy's "Out of Bounds " series! Never get tired of reading her books!!!
I loved this book! Chances Inlet is such a charming locale and Ginger and Gavin are such a cute couple! Every time I finish one of Ms. Solheim's books I am so bummed to have to wit for the next one! This story will surely leave a smile on your face!
I got a copy a little early of " Back TO Before" by Tracy Solheim and be leave me once you start reading that book you can't put it down. It's like all the rest of her books you just can't find a stop once you start readind one of her books.. Ruby Norwood !!
can't wait to read more of this series
I have enjoyed all Tracy's Books. The Characters are very real. Tracy is a great writer.
Tracy Solheim takes you on a journey of finding love when you are in the center of a personal life crisis. Gavin and Grace are a pair that many would not feel would work, yet they are perfect for one another. I love Midas, Gavin’s dog!! When your couple meets due to the dog, you know you are in for a great story. Solheim builds a wonderful world in Chances Inlet that draws the reader in with great secondary characters. If you have read any other of Solheim books you get to see a few characters revisited which is a fabulous bonus.
Back to Before by Tracy Solheim is the first book in her new Second Chances series. This was a sweet romance that takes place in a small town in Chances Inlet, North Carolina. Gavin McAlister is our hero, who has put his career as an architect on hold to help save his late father’s construction business. After the death of his father, Gavin found the business was deeply in debt, which would also cause the possible loss of his mother’s dream B&B. For two years, Gavin has been secretly working to fix things, and do a TV restoration show to bring in money to pay off the debt. His family does not know that when things are fixed, he will sell the construction business, save his mother’s B&B and go back to New York. But before he can do that, he must force himself to work on the TV show. It is here he meets Ginger Walsh, our heroine, a former soap actress, who is helping the producer of the show. Ginger is hoping to rebuild her career to work as a choreographer, but she has to survive the small town’s dislike of her, based on the character she played on the soap opera. It doesn’t take long for both Gavin and Ginger to become intimately involved, with the promise it will end when the show is over. This was really a very sweet story about second chances, and a wonderful romance between Gavin and Ginger. When Ginger first arrived with the television troupe, the whole town treated her badly, thinking of her as Destiny, the character she played on the soap opera. What made this such a nice story were the wonderful characters Solheim created. Gavin’s family, which includes his mom, who is having a secret affair with the town’s sheriff; his politician brother, who was bit obnoxious; a teenage girl, who is an outcast at school; Diesel, Ginger’s best friend, and producer of the television show, plus so many more, who play an integral part in this story. Slowly, as she begins to help with many townsfolk, while staying at the B&B, Ginger will win them over. She also begins to fall hard for Gavin, as he has become irresistible, but Ginger knows she will move on soon. Gavin also cares for Ginger, and enjoys watching the town change toward her. Gavin figures they can keep their secret no commitment relationship going, as soon as he closes the deal and goes back to New York, where Ginger will be working. The wild ending with anything and everything going wrong, will bring things to a head, with all secrets revealed, and best laid plans that do not always work out. You will need to read this fun enjoyable book to find out what happens to many of these wonderful characters, as well as to Gavin and Ginger. Back to Before is a perfect read if you love romance, small towns, great characters, and a great couple.
Back to Before drew me in from the start. Gavin is back home in Chances Inlet to deal with the family business after his dad's unexpected passing. Ginger is there with a film crew, doing a show on a mansion restoration Gavin is working on. The chemistry between the 2 is immediate. Loved how Gavin seemed to see who Ginger truly was, and didn't judge her by a character she played in the past. Ginger just wants to be able to get one part of her life back that she has always loved, but everyone in Chances seems convinced she is evil. This story had me laughing, and sometimes close to tears, with how close everyone seemed to be (or my heart ached for how the "small town" crowd treated Ginger). The secondary characters added so much spunk to the story, and can't wait to see what Tracy has in store for us next (oh, and there's a little mystery I haven't quite figured out yet about the Inn's cook, but I know it's gonna be good :) ) I highly suggest this to anyone who loves small town contemporary novels
Such a great book. Personally I think it is Tracy's best book yet. I love it when a book makes you feel like you are right there in the book taking part. A must read in my humble opinion.
I loved this book so much I couldn't put it down. It was just the right combination of humor and romance with strong character development. Ginger Walsh comes to Chances Inlet with her best friend Diesel to help him with production of a Historic Restoration show. With it's success, they will get their own show, and Ginger feels that she can return to New York a success. Gavin McAlister's family has always played a large role in Chance's Inlet. When his father died unexpectedly, Gavin returned home to sort things out. Unfortunately, there was much more to work through, and Gavin was forced to stay longer than planned, losing his fiancee in the process. Agreeing to the Historic Restoration show will unravel the mess his father left, and give Gavin the chance to get back to his life in New York. Both Gavin and Ginger are counting the days until they can get back to where they want to be. When they meet, there is instant chemistry and connection, though Ginger really tries to fight it. Gavin is the town's Golden Boy and everyone in town confuses her with the not-so-nice character she played on tv. As the days pass, Ginger finally stands up for herself and she finds that the town's nickname of Second Chances is true. She finds the town to be everything she wished for growing up. For Gavin, everything Ginger starts to love about the town is every reason he can't wait to leave. As these two come together, can they keep their relationship a secret in a town where everyone knows everything? Will they get back to the lives they dream about? The book is well-written with not only the main characters' story, but secondary storylines that work together to create a novel that is much richer. The way the story is woven together kept me hooked and made me feel like I was a part of the town of Chances Inlet. This is the first full-length novel I have read by Tracy Solheim, but I can't wait to double back and read her other novels, as well as wait anxiously for the second novel in the Second Chances
Loved it! You will be immersed in the lives of the characters living in Chances Inlet and those working there for a short time from the moment you start reading. Lots of interesting characters. I hope to revisit this town soon.
Is there anything more fitting than finding love in a place called Chances Inlet? Having fallen in love with Tracy Solheim's characters from her Out of Bounds series starring some fabulous football players, I was very excited to hear she was starting a new series in a town I'd already visited and featuring men I'd met only in passing. For those of you are worried you can't read this book without reading the other books in the series, rest assured, that's not a problem. My favorite part of this book is the characters. It's not just Ginger and Gavin, but the rest of Gavin's family, the townspeople of Chances Inlet, and Diesel, Ginger's friend too. I REALLY liked Ginger. She's sincere and her beauty is more than skin deep. She's worried about others around her and conscious of the fact she doesn't have the best image because of the role she's portrayed on a soap opera. I felt her hurt as she tried to handle the scorn of the townspeople who weren't able to differentiate between her and her character's persona. I adored Gavin as well. Here was a man who had put his own dreams and goals on hold so he could help his family. I felt and understood his frustration but wished he'd been more open with his family about what he was dealing with. Another part of the book that really impressed me was the other tracks that were woven into Ginger and Gavin's story. It wasn't just one other story arc, there were multiple and they were all seamlessly integrated in together. I felt like I reading a story of Chances Inlet as much as I was reading about a single couple. And can I say how happy I was to see Will and Julianne make an appearance? I'm hoping to see them again and maybe others from the Blaze in the future. I can't wait to read Miles McAlister's story. Tracy Solheim has written a moving and captivating story. It's hard to fully describe what I felt as I was reading it. I truly feel like it'll be best if you give this book a try so you can see for yourself what I'm not being able to completely convey. I loved visiting Chances Inlet and can't wait to visit it again and see what second chance magic it will bring!
I loved the storyline of two people stuck doing something they really don't want to do so that they can get back to the lives they once knew and then finding each other. The book is filled with well-developed characters and great romance, making it a book you'll find impossible to put down.
I fell in love with Ginger and Gavin immediately. Gavin returns home to Chances Inlet, to help his family financially. Ginger comes to Chances Inlet for a job, that she really does not want, to be a make up artist. There is an immediate chemistry between these two, I so love it. The only problem Ginger does not fit in with this small town and Gavin is here only temporarily. I so enjoyed the small town coastal atmosphere. Love how everyone knows everyone business. The characters of Gavin and Ginger are so perfect for each other, loved tier sexual hotness. This book should be on everyone's must read books of 2015. A great start to a new series. I received this book form the author for an honest review.
Tracy Solheim has started a new series--Second Changes. It is so nice to get Gavin's story, we met him in Will's story. The town of Chance Inlet is the place for second chances. Gavin and Ginger both need this second chance. We met the fine folks of the town and I look forward to more stories of the fun Second Chances to be written by Tracy. Give this story a try. Thanks Tracy Solheim & Good Writing I was given this book for a fair review
While this is a new series, Solheim doesn't leave her Out of Bounds characters behind. Really loved this one. It reminds me of a Jill Shalvis or Sussn Mallory book.
I couldn't wait to read this book! I loved Gavin and the town of Chances Inlet in FOOLISH GAMES and it was wonderful to return there. Ginger and Gavin were a fun couple. I loved how the townspeople kept interfering in there relationship. There's also a steamy secondary story with a May-December romance. Love this book! Fingers crossed that Miles will get his story next.