Everything she needs for a hot summer!
At sixteen, New York society princess Avery Shaw had the perfect holiday...right before her parents divorced. Ten years on and desperate to recapture that lazy, carefree feeling, she's returning to tropical Australia's Palm Cove to see her friend Claudia…
Palm Cove might be just as beautiful – but everything else is different! Claudia's busy working, there are creepy crawlies everywhere…and deliciously ripped surfer Jonah North always seems to be right there at the wrong time. He's every kind of wrong – the lust is uncontrollable, and in her experience that always ends badly. But she's leaving in two weeks – can she really turn down a tough, sexy, Aussie man?
About the Author
Australian author Ally Blake loves reading and strong coffee, porch swings and dappled sunshine, beautiful notebooks and soft, dark
pencils. And she adores writing love stories so much she'd write them even if nobody else read them. No wonder then, having sold
over four million copies of her romance novels worldwide, Ally is living her bliss.
Find out more about Ally's books on her website.
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Read an Excerpt
Avery Shaw barely noticed the salty breeze whipping pale blonde hair across her face and fluttering the diaphanous layers of her dress against her legs. She was blissfully deep in a whirlpool of warm, hazy, happy memories as she stood on the sandy footpath and beamed up at the facade of the Tropicana Nights Resort.
She lifted a hand to shield her eyes from the shimmering Australian summer sun, and breathed the place in. It was bigger than she remembered, and more striking. Like some great white colonial palace, uprooted out of another era and transplanted to the pretty beach strip that was Crescent Cove. The garden now teetered on the wild side, and its facade was more than a little shabby around the edges. But ten years did that to a place.
Things changed. She was hardly the naive sixteen-year-old with the knobbly knees she'd been the summer she was last there. Back when all that mattered was friends, and fun, and
A loud whoosh and rattle behind her tugged Avery back to the present. She glanced down the curving sidewalk to see a group of skinny brown-skinned boys in board shorts hurtling across the road on their skateboards before running down the beach and straight into the sparkling blue water of the Pacific.
And sometimes, she thought with a pleasant tightening in her lungs, things don't change much at all.
Lungs full to bursting with the taste of salt and sea and expectation, Avery and her Vuitton luggage set bumped merrily up the wide front steps and into the lobby. Huge faux marble columns held up the two-storey ceiling. Below sat cushy lounge chairs, colossal rugs, and potted palms dotted a floor made of the most beautiful swirling mosaic tiles in a million sandy tones. And by the archway leading to the restaurant beyond sat an old-fashioned noticeboard shouting out: Two-For-One Main Courses at the Capricorn Cafe For Any Guests Sporting an Eye Patch!
She laughed, the sound bouncing about in the empty space. For the lobby was empty, which for a beach resort at the height of summer seemed odd. But everyone was probably at the pool. Or having siestas in their rooms. And considering the hustle and bustle Avery had left behind in Manhattan, it was a relief.
Deeper inside the colossal entrance, reception loomed by way of a long sandstone desk with waves carved into the side. Behind said desk stood a young woman with deep red hair pulled back into a long sleek ponytail, her name tag sporting the Tropicana Nights logo slightly askew on the jacket of the faded yellow and blue Hawaiian print dress, which might well have been worn in the seventies.
"Ahoy, there!" sing-songed the womanwhose name tag read Isisfront teeth overlapping endearingly. Then, seeing Avery's gaze light upon the stuffed parrot wiggling on her shoulder, Isis gave the thing a scratch under the chin. "It's Pirates and Parrots theme at the resort this week."
"Of course it is," Avery said, the eye patch now making more sense. "I'm Avery Shaw. Claudia Davis is expecting me."
"Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum The American!"
"That I am!" The girl's pep was infectious, jet lag or no.
"Claude has been beside herself all morning, making me check the Qantas website hourly to make sure you arrived safe and sound."
"That's my girl," Avery said, feeling better and better about her last-minute decision to fly across the world, to the only person in her world who'd understand why.
Tap-tap-tap went Isis's long aqua fingernails on the keyboard. "Now, Claude could be anywhere. Things have been slightly crazy around here since her parents choofed off."
Choofed off? Maybe that was Aussie for retired. Crazy or not, when Avery had first called Claude to say she was coming, Claude had sounded giddy that the management of the resort her family had owned for the past twenty years was finally up to her. She had ideas! Brilliant ones! People were going to flock as they hadn't flocked in years!
Glancing back at the still-empty lobby, Avery figured the flocking was still in the planning. "Shall I wait?"
"No ho ho," said Isis, back to tapping at the keyboard, "you'll be waiting till next millennium. Get thee to thy room. Goodies await. I'll get one of the crew to show you the way."
Avery glanced over her shoulder, her mind going instantly to the stream of messages her friends had sent when they'd heard she was heading to Australia, most of which were vividly imagined snippets of advice on how best to lure a hot, musclebound young porter "down under."
The kid ambling her way was youngcouldn't have been a day over seventeen. But with his bright red hair and galaxy of freckles, hunching over his lurid yellow and blue shirt and wearing a floppy black pirate hat that had seen better days, he probably wasn't what they'd had in mind.
"Cyrus," Isis said, an impressive warning note creeping into her voice.
Cyrus looked up, his flapping sandshoes coming to a slow halt. Then he grinned, the overlapping teeth putting it beyond doubt that he and Isis were related.
"This is Miss Shaw," warned Isis. "Claudia's friend."
"Thanks, Cyrus," Avery said, heaving her luggage onto the golden trolley by the desk since Cyrus was too busy staring to seem to remember how.
"Impshi," Isis growled. "Kindly escort Miss Shaw to the Tiki Suite."
Avery's bags wobbled precariously as Cyrus finally grabbed the high bar of the trolley and began loping off towards the rear of the lobby.
"You're the New Yorker," he said.
Jogging to catch up, Avery said, "I'm the New Yorker."
"So how do you know Claude anyway? She never goes anywhere," said Cyrus, stopping short and throwing out an arm that nearly got her around the neck. She realised belatedly he was letting a couple of women with matching silver hair and eye-popping orange sarongs squeeze past.
Avery ducked under Cyrus's arm. "Claude has been all over the place, and I know because I went with her. The best trips were Italy Morocco One particular night in the Maldives was particularly memorable. We first met when my family holidayed here about ten years back."
Not about ten years. Exactly. Nearly to the day. There'd be no forgetting that these next few weeks. No matter how far from home she was.
"Now, come on Cyrus," Avery said, shaking off the sudden weight upon her chest. She looped a hand through the crook of Cyrus's bony elbow and dragged him in the direction of her suite. "Take me to my room."
Kid nearly tripped over his size thirteens.
One wrong turn and a generous tip later the Tiki Suite was all hers, and Avery was alone in the blissful cool of the soft, worn, white-on-white decor where indeed goodies did await: a basket of warm-skinned peaches, plums and nectarines, a box of divine chocolate, and a huge bottle of pink bubbly.
But first Avery kicked off her shoes and moved to the French doors, where the scent of sea air and the lemon trees that bordered the wall of her private courtyard filled her senses. She lifted her face to the sun to find it hotter than back home, crisper somehow.
It was the same suite in which her family had stayed a decade before. Her mother had kicked up a fuss when they'd discovered the place was less glamorous than she'd envisaged, but by that stage Avery had already met Claude and begged to stay. For once her dear dad had put his foot down, and Avery had gone on to have a magical, memorable, lazy, hazy summer.
The last simple, wonderful, innocent summer of her life.
The last before her parents' divorce.
The divorce her mother was about to celebrate with a Divorced a Decade party, in fact; capitals intended.
Avery glanced over her shoulder at the tote she'd left on the bed, and tickles of perspiration burst over her skin.
She had to call home, let her mother know she'd arrived. Even though she knew she'd barely get in a hello before she was force fed every new detail of the big bash colour themeblood-redguest listsexclusive yet extensiveand all-male live entertainmentno, no, NO!
Avery sent a text.
I'm here! Sun is shining. Beach looks splendiferous. I'll call once jet lag wears off. Prepare yourself for stories of backyard tattoos, pub crawls, killer spiders the size of a studio apartment, and naked midnight beach sprints. Happy to hear the same from you. Ave xXx
Then, switching off her phone, she threw it to the bed. Then shoved a pillow over the top.
Knowing she couldn't be trusted to sit in the room and wait for Claude without turning her phone back on, Avery changed into a swimsuit, lathered suncreen over every exposed inch, grabbed a beach towel, and headed out to marvel at the Pacific.
As she padded through the resort, smiling at each and every one of Claude'syes, Claude's!pink-faced guests, Avery thought about how her decision to come back had been purely reactive, a panic-driven emotional hiccup when her mother had broached the idea of the Divorced a Decade party for the very first time.
But now she was here, the swirl of warm memories seeping under her skin, she wondered why it had never occurred to her sooner to come back. To come full circle.
Because that's how it felt. Like over the next few weeks she'd not only hang with her bestieor nab herself a willing cabana boy to help get the kinks outbut maybe even be able to work her way back to how things had been here before her family had flown back to Manhattan and everything had fallen apart. To find the hopeful girl she'd once been before her life had become an endless series of gymnastic spins from one parent to the other and back again. Cartwheels to get her absent father's attention.
Cheerleading her way through her mother's wild moods.
She'd never felt quite as safe, as secure, as content since that summer.
The summer of her first beer.
Her first beach bonfire.
Her first crush
Avery's feet came to a squeaking halt.
In fact, wasn't hethe object of said crushin Crescent Cove, right now?
Claude had mentioned him. Okay, so she'd bitched and moaned; that he was only in the cove till he and Claudia sorted out what they were going to do with the resort now that their respective parents had retired and left the two of them in charge. But that was about Claude's history with the guy, not Avery's.
Her history was nice. And at that moment he was there. And she was there. It would be nice to look him up. And compared to the supercharged emotional tornado that was her family life in New York, this summer Avery could really do with some nice.
Jonah North pushed his arms through the rippling water, the ocean cool sliding over the heat-baked skin of his back and shoulders, his feet trailing lazily through the water behind him.
Once he hit a sweet spotcalm, warm, a good distance from the sandhe pressed himself to sitting, legs either side of his board. He ran two hands over his face, shook the water from his hair, and took in the view.
The town of Crescent Cove was nestled behind a double row of palm trees that fringed the curved beach that gave the place its name. Through the gaps were flashes of pastelhuge resorts, holiday accommodation, locally run shops, as well as scattered homes of locals yet to sell out. Above him only sky, behind and below the endless blue of the Pacific. Paradise.
It was late in the morning for a paddlethere'd been no question of carving out enough time to head down the coast where coral didn't hamper actual surf. Who was he kidding? There was never any time. Which, for a lobsterman's son, whose sea legs had come in before his land legs, was near sacrilege.
But he was here now.
Jonah closed his eyes, tilted his face to the sun, soaked in its life force. No sound to be heard bar the heave of his slowing breaths, the gentle lap of water against his thighs, a scream
His eyes snapped open, his last breath trapped in his lungs. His ears strained. His gaze sweeping the gentle rolling water between himself and the sand, searching for
There. A keening. Not a gull. Not music drifting on the breeze from one of the resort hotels. Distress. Human distress.
Muscles seized, every sense on red alert, he waited. His vision now locked into an arc from where he'd heard the cry. Imagining the reason. Stinger? No, the beach was protected by a stinger net this time of year so it'd be tough luck if they'd been hit.
And then he saw it.
His rare moment of quietude at a fast and furious end, Jonah was flat on his belly, arms heaving the ocean out of his way before he took his next breath.
With each swell he glanced up the beach to see if anyone else was about. But the yellow and red flags marking out the patch of beach patrolled by lifesavers were farther away, this part cleared of life bar a furry blot of brown and white dog patiently awaiting his return.
Jonah kept his eyes on the spot, recalculating distance and tidal currents with every stroke. He'd practically been born on the water, reading her as natural to him as breathing. But the ocean was as cruel as she was restorative, and if she decided not to give up, there wasn't much even the most sea-savvy person could do. He knew.
As for the owner of the hand? Tourist. Not a single doubt in his mind.
The adrenalin thundering through him spiked when sunlight glinted off skin close enough to grab. Within seconds he was dragging a woman from the water.
Her hair was so long it trailed behind her like a curtain of silk, so pale it blended with the sandy backdrop behind. Her skin so fair he found himself squinting at the sun reflecting off her long limbs. And she was lathered in so much damn sunscreen she was as slippery as a fish and he could barely get a grip.
And that was before she began to fight back. "No!" she spluttered.
"Hell, woman," Jonah gritted out. "I'm trying to rescue you, which will not be possible unless you stop struggling."
The woman stopped wriggling long enough to shoot him a flat stare. "I'm an excellent swimmer," she croaked. "I swam conference for Bryn Mawr."
Not just a tourist, Jonah thought, her cultured American accent clipping him about the ears. From the whole other side of the world.
"Could have fooled me," he muttered. "Unless that's what passes for the Australian Crawl stateside these days."
The stare became a glare. And her eyes. A wicked green, they were, only one was marred with a whopping great splotch of brown.