She's back to right her wrongs
When Tanya Todd returns to Templeton Cove, she knows better than to expect a warm welcome. She burned a few bridges on her way out of town, and making amends won't be easy. First on her list is the man whose heart she carelessly shattered, Liam Browne.
Seeing the successful criminal lawyer after all these years, Tanya is interested in more than just Liam's forgiveness. As they work together to bring the man who hurt her sister to justice, the attraction between them sizzles. Suddenly Tanya's second chance could include a future with Liam…if she can prove she's changed.
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Far too quickly for Tanya Todd's liking, the view from the deck of the ferry filled with Templeton Cove's shoreline. The beach glimmered beneath the ripples of heat rising from its sands, causing specks to sparkle like diamonds
yet Tanya had no idea if Templeton would offer her riches or rejection. At least, she wouldn't until she stepped from the boat and waited for the residents' reaction to her return. Exhaling a shaky breath, she raised her hand to the crown of her wide-brimmed straw hat, closed her eyes and lifted her face to the heat of the midday sun.
Her heart pounded with each crash of the water against the boat, her nerves hitching higher with every jerk and dip. There was no use in denying why she was aboard the ferry, or even why she'd decided to return to the place she once fled; she was running home with more than one job to do. The days ahead would be tough, and even though weakness threatened inside her, she would triumph for both her and her sister.
She dropped her chin and opened her eyes.
The deep blue sea stretched far ahead, white froth rising on the waves as the ferry's bow sliced through the ocean. Templeton was beautiful. A place where many found salvation and security. A homeland where the residents gathered in solidarity, in celebration or crisis. A place Tanya once found suffocating, limiting downright nauseating.
Now, in her failure and shame, the Cove was the place she hoped would offer peace to her heart and mind. She would start over from the mess she'd made of her lifeand see justice served to a man who had run free for far too long.
Anger and determination rose and Tanya pushed away from the railing. Sliding on her oversize sunglasses, she strode along the wooden planks. The sidelong glances of men and women alike didn't go unnoticed, reminding her once again how difficult the road ahead might be once the ferry sailed into port.
Sliding off her sunglasses, Tanya carefully climbed down the steel steps onto the lower deck. The space was dense with men, women and children clamoring toward the locker area, eager to reclaim their luggage and start their vacation, or return to their families. Lowering her eyes, Tanya shouldered her way through the crowd to her locker.
Her fingers trembled around the key as she pushed it into the lock and opened the door. She pulled on the sports bag that contained the remaining things that hadn't been shipped to Tem-pleton a month before.
"Damn it. Come on." She heaved and tugged some more, but the bag refused to budge. Exasperation broke out in cold perspiration on her brow. "For goodness' sake"
"Excuse me, do you need some help with that?"
Tanya snapped her head around and met the dark brown stare of Templeton's token millionaire and all-round good guy, Jay Garrett.
His eyes widened. "Tanya. My God."
Heat warmed her cheeks and Tanya forced a laugh. "Jay, fancy seeing you here."
As Templeton's premier entrepreneur, Jay's travel to and from the Cove had always been frequent, but why did he have to be aboard the ferry today of all days?
He gave her a hesitant smile. "Is it really that much of a surprise?"
She dropped her hands from the bag, fondness for him replacing her previous shock. "No, that was my pathetic attempt at ironic wit. Clearly, I need more practice." She tilted her head toward her bag and grimaced. "Could you."
"Of course." He gave the bag a sharp tug and it came free. "There you go."
He pulled it from her reach and winked. "Allow me. Shall we go up? The boat's about to dock."
Nerves rippled through Tanya's stomach but she forced a smile. "Sure."
His eyes flickered with a flash of concern before he nodded toward the stairwell. "After you."
Pushing up the fallen strap of her sundress, Tanya took a deep breath and stepped ahead of him. With Jay's curiosity burning into her back, the line of people in front of her was a welcome distraction. Sooner or later, he would ask her why she'd returned and then the lies would begin. She wasn't ready to share her reasons with anyone. At least, not yet.
Tanya stepped forward as the line shuffled toward the exit, and sent up a silent prayer for God to forgive her secrecy and, at the same time, grant her the strength to persuade Templeton's people to welcome her home.
Gripping the banister, she climbed the stairs. Nowhere other than Templeton could give her the grounding she needed or be a better place to start her investigations into the whereabouts of her sister's molester.
When Tanya stepped onto the upper deck, the sun was fierce after the shadow of the lower deck and she slipped her sunglasses back on before turning to Jay. "Thanks for the help with my bag."
He stared at her, his brow creased. "How long are you staying?"
Tanya faced the ferry terminal that approached at a terrifying speed. "A while."
"A while? As in weeks?"
Tanya took a breath and turned. "What?"
He hooked a finger over the nosepiece of her glasses and eased them down her nose slightly. "Does Liam know you're back?"
Surprise jolted through her. "No. Why?"
He dropped his finger from her glasses and lifted an eyebrow. "You haven't told him haven't warned him?"
"Warned him?" She jabbed her glasses back onto her face, huffing out a laugh. "You make me sound like the Creature from the Black Lagoon."
He didn't return her laugh. "Liam's quite the man around town now. One of the county's top criminal lawyers, in fact."
Pride washed through her and she smiled. "I know."
His gaze softened. "Been keeping tabs on him, huh?"
Yes, but I'm not about to admit that to anyone, including you. "I'm happy for him. I'm sure my coming back won't immediately fill him with happiness, but in time"
"He'll get used to the idea?"
She frowned. "I hope we'll be friends."
Jay glanced toward the terminal. "He pretty much keeps to himself these days. Much to the annoyance of more than a few women in town."
She followed his gaze, fighting her nerves as her stomach lurched. "Well, Liam's personal and professional lives are none of my concern. It's a free country, Jay. If I want to come back here, no one can stop me."
If the protectiveness in Jay's eyes was anything to go by, his friendship with Liam had grown since she'd last been at the Cove. She swallowed. What else had changed? Had Liam?
Jay studied her a moment longer before lifting his shoulders. "Fair enough, but if you've come back to the place that never seemed good enough for you, I hope you're going to at least try to build some bridges."
Tanya's heart picked up speed as she struggled to keep her nerves under wraps. "Meaning?"
"Meaning, you left Liam high and dry when the guy thought things were going well between you. Meaning, you and I had our fair share of arguments in the past, too. I'd rather not go down that path with you again."
She pulled back her shoulders. "You weren't always the man you are today, Jay. You've messed up, too. Isn't anyone else allowed to do the same?" His gaze darkened and Tanya resisted the urge to step back. She squeezed her eyes shut. "Give me a chance, okay?" She opened her eyes. "I've changed. I just need people to give me the opportunity to prove it."
"You broke Liam's heart, Tanya. Badly. Who's to say you won't again?" A muscle in his jaw clenched and released. "You should've let him know you were coming back."
"I wasn't the only one in that relationship, you know. Things had been building up between us for a while." Irritation rose behind her rib cage in a hot rush of indignation. "Besides, I don't have to do anything. I'm back and I plan to stay for a long time. This isn't just about Liam. It's about me and what I need."
The boat shuddered and groaned, its sides knocking against the marina boundaries as it eased into port. Tanya stumbled forward and Jay gripped her elbow to steady her. She regained her footing, but Jay didn't release her.
Instead, his gaze bored intently into hers. "If I see him, I'll have to tell him you're back. It's only fair."
Tanya snatched her arm from his grip. "Fine. You do that." She took her bag from his hand. "Thanks for your help."
She marched away and joined the throng of people heading toward the exit. Her heart beat with trepidation at what would happen next, but she kept her chin high and her resolve firmly in place. She was back because Templeton was where she needed to be; the only place she wanted to be after the mess she'd gotten herself into since leaving.
Whether Liam Browne wanted her there was none of her concern. Sooner or later, he would know the woman who took his love and tossed it away like trash was back for good she only hoped he didn't look at her with the same derision Jay had.
Tanya stepped onto the boardwalk. Hurrying through the terminal, she kept her gaze cast downward until she emerged through the sliding doors and out into the sun-baked courtyard. The long line of taxis was as welcome a sight as an oasis in the Sahara. She rushed forward, opened the back door of the nearest cab and climbed inside.
"Hi. The Beachcomber Apartments, please."
"No problem, love. You here for pleasure or business?"
Tanya looked through the side window. "Both, I hope."
The jury foreman stood and the usual burst of adrenaline rushed into Liam Browne's blood. Tension radiated from his client beside him, but Liam didn't as much as glance at Philip Turner, fully focusing on the foreman instead.
Judge Susanna Burnside cleared her throat. "Have you and the other members of the jury reached a verdict?"
"We have, Your Honor."
She nodded. "What say you?"
"We, the jury, find the plaintiff innocent of all charges."
Liam released his held breath and grinned as the cry of success rippled through the gallery and all around the courtroom. He turned to Philip and gripped his hand, slapping his shoulder. "Congratulations."
Philip vehemently shook his hand. "Thanks, Liam. Thanks so much."
Liam laughed. "You're welcome. Nothing better than justice being served."
"I'll see you soon, okay?"
He brushed past Liam toward the aisle. Philip was lost in a mass of hugging arms and teary kisses from his wife and two teenage daughters. The man accused of fraud and negligence could now go on with his life.
Liam gathered his papers and tossed them into his briefcase. He pulled it closed and locked it with a satisfying click. Another case won. His professional life continued to go from strength to strength, even if his personal life remained a lonely, failing mess. Glancing toward Philip and his family a second time, Liam pushed his self-pity into submission.
It was time for his usual celebration at the Seascape. Dinner for one and a couple of glasses of cabernet sauvignon were just what the doctor ordered.
As he strode past Philip, Liam gave another slap to his shoulder before marching from the courtroom and out into the marbled lobby. Suited lawyers and clients milled around, waiting to be called into court, while security guards stood sentry at the exit. Nodding to one of them, Liam walked through the security arch and out into the bright, smoldering heat currently frying the Cove.
It was the middle of July and just a week before schools let out for the summer. Templeton would soon be overrun with kidsyoung and not so younglooking for some good vacation time. He walked through the court parking lot and along the street. His gaze fell on a young woman with long dark hair, her eyes tipped upward and staring into the eyes of the guy holding her waist. She looked far too much like someone he'd tried so hard to forget, and his gut clenched.
Time and again, Tanya Todd, the woman he'd had every intention of marrying, sporadically leaped into his mind uninvited. It was sad, pathetic and annoyed the hell out of him, but no matter how hard Liam tried to date and make things work with someone new, his mind always came back to the woman who'd so abruptly walked away.
He scowled and picked up his pace. He had to do something, had to make some changes, or what the hell was the point of it all? He had a nice home and a healthy bank balance, and people liked to tell him he wasn't bad to look at. Yet still he searched for that special someone.
Well, from now on, he'd make a concerted effort to cut back on work and start focusing on his personal life. At the grand old age of thirty-two, Liam was sick and tired of being single. The next woman who caught his eye, he would ask out on a date this coming weekend.
Cowden Beach promenade was busy with people finished with work for the day. Smiling men and women relaxed with drinks outside one of the bars, or chatted with friends at the promenade amid a fantastic view of the glittering blue ocean in the distance. Templeton was a place few residents left once they moved there, and Liam thanked his lucky stars every day that when his mother divorced his asshole of a father, she found them a new home at the Cove.
The double doors of the Seascape were wide-open as Liam walked along the short pathway into the restaurant. His vision adjusted to the dark interior after the glare of the sun. Almost every table was occupied, and he inwardly cursed that he might have to forgo his tradition and eat somewhere else after his win in court.
"Oh, don't look so peeved. You know I'd never let you go without a table."
Smiling, he turned and met the happy, shining eyes of the female counterpart of the husbandand-wife team who owned the Seascape. "Hey, Caroline. You're busy this evening."
"Aren't we always?" She tilted her head toward the open doors of the restaurant. "Follow me. I have the perfect table for one."
Ignoring her unwittingly poured salt as it stung his wound, Liam followed Caroline back toward the entrance.
She waved toward the table in front of them. "Here you go."
The minuscule table might have had a seat on either side, but Liam imagined two plates would have to be touching to fit on its surface. He forced a smile. "Thanks, this is great."
"You're welcome. Have a look at the menu and I'll grab you a glass of wine. Usual?"
He nodded. "Perfect."
She walked away and Liam put his jacket on the back of the chair and sat. He scanned the room and lifted a hand to Marian and George Cohen sitting a few tables away, steadfastly ignoring the way Marian looked pointedly at the vacant chair opposite him. Damn if the woman didn't have a knack for saying something about everything without uttering a single word.