Living on a gently rocking houseboat, sexy Adam Hamilton-Shaw is a magnet to the women of Worcestershire. No commitment, just good times. Once, his dream was to just sail away—preferably with a conquest in every port. But lately Adam has been feeling adrift—his wild ways more cautionary than idyllic.
Writer Sienna Meadows is new to this picturesque corner of England. Looking for local color to inspire her latest work, she’s rented a cottage near the marina. There’s no more stimulating view than Adam. Despite his reputation, he’s making Sienna feel a little unmoored . . .
To Adam, Sienna seems perfect at first. She’s beautiful, attainable, and temporary. To Sienna, Adam is more than a distraction. He’s a vulnerable man with a damaged past and broken heart. And Sienna is determined to mend if—if only he’ll let her.
“Adorable, sweet . . . [and] sassy.” —Whispering Stories
“Sometimes a story sticks with you long after the final word is read. The Rest Of My Life is that kind of story.” —Keeper Bookshelf
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He'd seen her again. He'd slept fitfully, woken with a start, and she was there, yet not quite there: ethereal, indistinct. He could never make out her features, but it was her: Emily, her sadness so intense he could feel it. Adam was glad he hadn't been alone last night.
Shaking off the haunting remnants of his dreams, he hitched his legs over the berth and ran his hands vigorously through his hair. 'Are you sure you don't need me to give you a lift?' he called, looking up as the bathroom door opened and a shapely female leg appeared.
'No need,' the reassuring flesh and blood owner of the leg replied. 'It's only a short walk into town. You stay and catch up on your beauty sleep.'
Adam smiled as she squeezed past him in the small confines of his cabin. 'You're a stunning woman, Lisa, do you know that?' he said, catching hold of her hand to pull her towards him.
'And you're a flatterer.' Lisa laughed, twisting out of his grasp to tug on her jeans and top. 'I have to go. I'll be late for work,' she said, plucking up her bag. 'We'll have another night out again soon, yes?'
Adam's smile widened. 'I prefer the night in bit,' he said, his eyes roving over her. He was glad she'd rung him. He'd really needed the company. Since Emily, he preferred a solo existence — life was less complicated that way, but there were times when he craved a warm body up close, someone to talk to. Not about the dreams. He never talked about those or the remorse that came with them. He couldn't, not to anyone, male or female. But then, thanks to the reputation he'd earned, deservedly, over the two years he'd been moored at Severn Valley Marina, there weren't that many local blokes who cared to pass the time of day with him anyway, which suited Adam. With Lisa though, at least he could talk, act naturally. Lisa was intuitive, understanding — and married, ergo wasn't looking for complications. As friendships went, theirs was a mutually satisfying one. At least Adam hoped it was.
Grazing a hand across his chin, Lisa turned for the door. 'I'll ring you,' she promised.
'Anytime,' Adam assured her, reaching past her to push the boat doors open and check the coast was clear. His own dubious reputation he wasn't much bothered about. Lisa, though, would probably prefer the village drums didn't convey she'd been associating with him. Noting there were no early risers on the other live-aboard boats, in particular the guy moored on the pontoon next door who wasn't keen to have him as a neighbour, he turned back to her, his eyes coming to rest on her soft, infinitely kissable lips.
Far too tempting, he decided, quashing a pang of guilt and leaning in to close his mouth gently over hers. 'Thanks, Lisa,' he murmured huskily. 'I, er ...' He trailed off. Appreciate it, he fancied, might sound contemptuous.
'My pleasure.' Lisa snaked a hand around him to clutch a handful of his backside. 'Speak soon,' she said, waggling her eyebrows then nipping deftly up the steps to the deck.
Watching her slip off the boat and head quickly towards the marina exit, Adam smiled to himself and then turned in search of caffeine to kick-start his brain. Lisa was nice, a good friend, his only friend, apart from Nathaniel. He'd hate her to think he might be using her, though he supposed he actually was.
'Yes, Dad, the plumbing's fine now, honestly.' Sienna reassured her father all was well at the cottage she was renting as she headed from the lounge to the kitchen, wondering where on earth Tobias was. A great lolloping black Labrador was hardly difficult to miss, after all. 'No, honestly, it's all in working order, everything flushing and clunking as it should be. Nathaniel, the marina manager, recommended a plumber.'
'You're sure you don't need me to check it over?' her father asked her, hinting at coming visiting with his toolbox.
'Dad, honestly, it's fine. I'm not going to get flooded out or freeze to death, I promise.' Sienna tried to reassure him again, and then mentally tuned out as her overprotective father took up the opportunity to warn her about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, again. She'd already told him she'd got an alarm. Granted, when she and her best friend Lauren had moved into the renovated property it had been a typical spring bank holiday, wet and blustery, and the central heating boiler had been suspect, to say the least. However, as it was now mid-June and twenty-four degrees plus outside, she doubted they'd be putting the heating on anytime soon.
'Yes, Dad,' she said dutifully, in all the right places, nodding her head accordingly and trying to concentrate on the conversation. Her attention, however, kept straying to the marina fronting her kitchen window, from where the view had been rather spectacular yesterday.
She and Lauren had caught a glimpse of the well-sculpted torso of the owner of the little white river cruiser moored at the quayside directly opposite — the man they'd christened Lothario, having noted certain nocturnal activities on board. Due to his late comings and goings, Sienna hadn't really spoken to him, other than a passing hello — and then he barely acknowledged her, but she could see what his obvious attraction to women was, on the surface anyway. Tall, toned, tousled dark hair, bronzed skin the colour of caramel mocha latte, the man was definitely eye candy. They'd spotted him again last night. Living up to his reputation, he'd been sneaking a woman onto his boat, amidst much shushing from him and giggling from her. They'd both been tipsy and, judging by the need for secrecy, they were obviously having an affair.
'Yes, Dad, I am eating properly. Stop worrying. I'm a big girl now.' Disappointed that Lothario hadn't made an appearance yet — fancying himself as a super-stud the man was clearly shallow, but he was fascinating in terms of fodder for her flagging screenplay — Sienna turned her attention back to her father. She loved her dad to bits and she understood why he worried about her. It had been so hard for him after her mum died, wondering what he could have done differently. He couldn't have done anything, in reality. Sienna had watched over the years. Even through her confused child's eyes, she'd known. Hyper-mummy was a happy, fun mummy, but in her down times there'd been no way to reach her.
Her dad's mission since had been ensuring Sienna was happy, and she was, largely, though, she wasn't as confident as she pretended to be. Her self-esteem sloshing about somewhere near shoe-level after her last horribly humiliating relationship, what she needed, she'd decided, was space to just be herself, unencumbered emotionally. So here she was, in a picturesque little honey-coloured cottage with its own al fresco dining area, offering breathtaking views over the River Severn.
Her eyes strayed hopefully towards the boat opposite once again. On a needs must basis she'd secured a part-time job in the local pub, where Lothario made an occasional appearance to flirt with women, notably not her, and she had bags of space and time to herself to concentrate on her scriptwriting. She still couldn't believe she'd been shortlisted in the TV Romance Script competition. After struggling with her degree it was a dream come true. The only snag being: she now had re-writes to do and no clue how to do them. The editor she'd hired had suggested she needed to include an actual sex scene, rather than the 'closed bedroom door' scene she had; and to make her ending more upbeat, as in boy-meets-girl, boy-gets-girl, despite all obstacles. But how do you write about sex and romance when your experience of it has been unfulfilling, to say the least? She couldn't. Unlike Lothario, who obviously had sexual magnetism in abundance, Sienna's characters were about as alluring as copulating camels. If she was going to write about some steely-eyed Adonis bringing his heroine to the roller coaster heights of orgasmic passion; about love conquering all, she needed to believe in the fairy tale. Sienna wasn't sure she did anymore.
I bet Lothario could supply a steamy 'open door' bedroom scene, she thought, her cheeks heating up and her gaze straying to the window, yet again, as her dad got onto the subject of the security of the property.
'Yes, Dad, we do make sure the cottage is well secured at night,' Sienna assured him, dragging her unmanageable strawberry-frizz tresses from her face and glancing around again for her only male admirer, Tobias. 'No, Dad, I haven't "met" anyone yet.' She smiled wryly, wondering at the irony of her thoughts around the 'man' subject and her father's concerns clashing.
'No, not even a prospective someone,' she answered the next question with a roll of her eyes. It wasn't likely she'd be meeting anyone even remotely prospective in the tiny Worcestershire village of Little Crookley anyway. And nor did she want to. Sienna swallowed back a fresh wave of humiliation as she recalled the last awful 'date' with her ex-boyfriend, the dreadful names he'd called her as she'd scrambled from his car.
And still he kept texting her. He'd even rung her, intimating again that it was her who had a problem, which was obviously his way of denying his own. Attempting to consign that cold night to history, Sienna blew out a shuddery sigh and with her phone still clamped to her ear, she headed upstairs to check out the beds. Despite his dodgy hips, Tobias was very likely to have snuck up there and tucked himself under a duvet. Lauren's possibly, which would have Lauren plucking dog hairs from her face for a week.
'Well, don't take any nonsense when you do. Any man who messes you around will have me to answer to. Make sure to tell them that, Sienna,' her dad said as, seeing no suspicious dog-shaped lumps under duvets, Sienna started to panic.
'I will,' she dutifully replied. She wouldn't, though, nor had she. A psychiatrist by day and a marathon runner and keen keep fit fanatic in his spare time, Sienna had no doubt her father might be driven to flex his muscles and try to fight her battles for her. She didn't want him to do that. 'Got to go, Dad,' she said over him as he veered the conversation back to his paying her a visit. 'Running late. Speak soon. Love you. Byee!'
Ending the call on a cheery note, lest her father decide to drive from Gloucestershire to Worcestershire to check on her welfare anyway, Sienna dashed to the front door which was slightly ajar, and which opened directly onto the quayside. Oh, no ... 'Tobias!' she yelled, skidding out and shielding her eyes against the morning sun to scan the marina. 'Tobias!'
Coffee made, Adam had barely taken a sip when the boat dipped heavily to one side. Damn. He squeezed his eyes closed, guessing it was Nathaniel, who'd obviously seen Lisa slip ashore and was about to give him one of his lectures, attempting to steer him away from his 'self-destructive behaviour' as was Nathaniel's tendency lately. But then Nathaniel — his best friend and who was supposed to have been best man at his wedding — had always tried to look out for him, even in their schooldays, Adam reminded himself and tried not to mind.
Nathaniel didn't disappoint. 'So, it's Lisa who's getting the dubious pleasure now, is it?' he asked, rapping on the doors and clumping down the cabin steps.
Realising there wasn't much point in denying it, Adam smiled sheepishly and wandered back towards the berth to get dressed in something other than his boxers.
'How long has that being going on, then?' Nathaniel followed him.
'A while,' Adam said evasively, and then, lack of sleep catching up with him, he yawned and parked his coffee on the bedside table.
'You're unbelievable, do you know that?' Nathaniel imparted, obviously not impressed with his behaviour, again.
Glancing back, Adam caught the despairing look. 'What?' he asked. 'Can I help it if she's lonely? If he cared a damn about her, her old man would stop slinking off on his so-called business trips, wouldn't he? Stay at home instead, and give her a —'
'Pack it in, Adam.' Nathaniel's already overripe cheeks flushed furiously.
'I was going to say, a bit of attention, Nate.' Aware of his friend's propensity to embarrassment on the subject of, and around, women, Adam went on less flippantly. Nathaniel was okay, one of the good guys as far as women were concerned. He'd often said he wished he could be more like Adam, confident in female company. In truth, Adam sometimes wished he could be more like Nathaniel, living in hope that one day he'd meet his soulmate, every day thereafter bathed in a rosy glow of perpetual sunsets. Adam tugged on his cut-offs. She didn't exist. He knew it. He'd been there, done it; nurtured the hope. And then viewed the world from the bottom of a very dark pit he'd had to claw his way out of. Still felt as if he was trying to sometimes, when the dreams came to haunt him.
Picking up his mobile, Adam checked his messages. Despondently noting no new ones, he scrolled to his photos, finding the one he wanted: Lily-Grace, aged three months. How would she look now, he wondered, just turned two years old? She'd be talking, walking ... Why the hell hadn't he found the courage to just go and see her?
'And that's where you come in, is it?' Nathaniel's tone was scathing. 'You can't run away from commitment forever, you know, Adam.'
Here we go. Adam steeled himself for another one of Nate's save-Adam-from-himself pep-talks. 'I'm not running.' He shrugged a denial, dearly wishing Nathaniel wouldn't insist on dragging him back down bad-memory lane. A familiar feeling of panic knotting his stomach, Adam closed his eyes against the inevitable flashback of Emily's shocked face, Darren's c'est la vie shrug. Two years his senior, Adam had looked up to his brother, wanted to be just like him. That day he'd wanted to kill him. Might have done, if not for his so-called father's intervention. Trailing his fingers over the deep scar he wore on his cheek as a constant reminder, Adam wasted no energy dwelling on that.
As for Emily ... Adam's supposedly hardened heart cracked all over again as he recalled the last time he saw her. She'd looked so fragile, her face so pale against the stark sterile white of the bathroom. She must have felt so lonely. He had loved her, utterly. Why had he back-pedalled then? But Adam knew the answer: because he'd felt trapped, not by the prospect of marriage, but by the prospect of being financially controlled by his old man, working in the business owned by his father, living in a property ditto, being indebted to a man he simply didn't like, becoming him. Instead of finding the courage to talk to her, suggest they ditch the whole white wedding thing and just take off somewhere, he'd pulled away. Driven Emily away. Clamping his eyes closed, Adam swallowed hard. Why hadn't he tried to contact her sooner? When he'd found her ... that had been his defining moment, when he'd decided to relinquish love over sex.
'In any case, her husband's not about to find out,' Adam finally replied, pulling in a calming breath, and seating himself on the bed to pull on his trainers. 'Is he?' he asked, glancing worriedly up.
Nathaniel paused before answering, disconcertingly. 'Not from me, no,' he said finally, saving Adam from imminent minor apoplexy. 'Look, Adam, I don't like what you're doing, but —' 'Odd jobbing, that's what I'm doing, Nate.' Adam went back to flippant, in hopes of cutting the conversation short. 'Can I help it if women are so impressed with my gardening skills they throw in a bonus? Got to go.' He grabbed up a vest from the permanent pile of clothes on the floor, which was crumpled but at least clean, and headed for the door. 'I have three lawns to mow, six Leylandii to prune and the fence up at Hawthorn Farm Stables to mend. The more money I make, the sooner I can get my boat fixed and then sail off into the sunset.' A not-so-perfect sunset maybe, he'd be lonely sometimes, bound to be, but Adam could live without the romance.
'And shag a girl in every port,' Nathaniel muttered behind him.
Adam turned back. 'Hopefully,' he said, eyeing Nathaniel curiously. 'And your problem is?'
Nathaniel did it again, that awkward pause that meant he was going to go all holier-than-thou on him. 'I drink with her husband, Adam,' he said, blowing out a disgruntled breath.
'Whose? Sally's? Rebekah's?' Adam couldn't resist, though he'd never actually met anyone called Sally.
'Lisa's,' Nathaniel clarified tightly. 'I socialise with the man. I like him. He's buying one of my boats. They've just commissioned the fit of the interior, him and Lisa, together. I like her!' 'You do? Well, why didn't you say something? I would have backed off if I'd thought you —'
'Not like that. And you very well know it.' Nathaniel scowled, his fair-skinned cheeks flushing again.
Better not provoke him further, Adam decided, their friendship and the two months' mooring fee he owed him in mind.
Excerpted from "The Rest of My Life"
Copyright © 2015 Sheryl Browne.
Excerpted by permission of Choc Lit Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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