Here's a little peek inside the book:
Emmett Deal stood there, listening to her argument with the trustees. Sunlight glinted off the pristine windshield of an unfamiliar work truck. Stenciled on the side were the words Deal Construction. Here was Emmett and here was his truck. She blinked and he was still standing at a table near the front door. She wasn’t imagining him.
His eyes were bluer than she remembered. More of a cerulean than the baby blues that invaded her dreams when she was overly tired. He was taller, too. Not by much, maybe an inch. His shoulders more broad and his hips— Jaime gave herself a mental shake and brought her gaze back to Emmett’s beautiful face. Chiseled jaw…hint of stubble.
Before he’d left Emmett had hated that he couldn’t grow a proper mustache. It didn’t look as though that was a problem any longer. Black, black hair flirted with the collar of his tight tee.
He seemed to look straight past her, though. Jaime swallowed and tried to ignore her rapidly beating heart.
Okay, so looking at his face wasn’t the right thing to do, either. She turned back to the men at the table.
“An alarm.” She swallowed, hating that her voice slid up an octave. “An alarm system is a good start, and better than razing a building that is important to Gulliver,” she said, this time keeping her voice steady. “We can hire another reno crew.” Somewhere in the state of Ohio there had to be a construction crew available. There had to be. “With so much activity, the kids will stay away.”
“Even during overnights and weekends?” Her father shook his head and folded his beefy arms over his chest. He sat back in his chair. “We don’t have the staff to run over to the school every time a squirrel sets off the system. We should re-allocate the budget into tear-down and creating a city park on the land.”
Jaime cleared her throat but her mind was blank. “A memorial park isn’t better than a building that has stood watch over this town, this island, for two hundred years.”
Emmett refilled his to-go coffee cup at the counter. “A good system will know the difference between a squirrel and a person. Parks are great things but there is plenty of undeveloped land on the island that could be used for a new park. Not that it’s any of my business.” He paid Anna and faced the table while he sipped his drink.
Jaime wasn’t sure if she should hug Emmett for taking her side or demand that he let her handle this on her own.
“No, it’s not.” Her father’s words were curt. “This is a township decision.”
Demand he leave. Definitely, definitely demand he leave. Mason was about to go ballistic about outsiders versus islanders. “Thank you—”
Emmett cut her off. “I may not live on Gulliver any longer, but my father does. He came close to having the school declared a historic landmark a few years back.” He sipped his coffee, looking at the men at the table and studiously avoiding the section of the diner where Jaime now stood. That annoyed the bejesus out of her.
“As I said, this is a township decision. Before we spend more money on another crew that will leave us high and dry, I think we should seriously consider demolition. And as you said yourself, you’re not part of the township. Haven’t been for ten years.”
“Seems like it wouldn’t take much work to fill in the gaps in that old application. Renovating is never cheap but a lot of times it is cheaper than tearing down.”
“Maybe you should stick to what you know.” Mason’s voice was low in the quiet diner.
“As it happens, I know old buildings. I could take a look at it.”
“And then leave when things get tougher than you imagined?”
Color flooded Jaime’s cheeks. This wasn’t about the school building; not any longer. Her father was being his usual bull-headed self. Blaming Emmett for something that wasn’t his fault.
Before her father could say something he didn’t mean Jaime pushed back into the conversation. “Then the township should decide, not just the board of trustees. During the island’s bicentennial last summer every Gulliver business benefited from the increased tourist traffic. If the school is renovated, we would have that kind of draw all the time. A few artists stop every summer to paint the old building. Renovation will give them more of a reason to come back than a park.”
From the hand in his pockets to the hunched shoulders, Emmett looked anything but comfortable. As if this conversation was not going the way he’d thought.
Well, then, he should have butted out from the beginning.
“Are you willing to take a look? So we know exactly what to talk to demolition or renovation experts about.” Tom Gulliver practically preened as he said the words.
“I’ll be on the island for a few weeks. Whatever you decide, I can offer my opinion.”
The bell over the door tinkled as Emmett pushed through it. He got into his truck without looking back and drove away.
Jaime realized she was staring—again—and looked back at her father.
“I still say we should vote on demolition at the meeting tonight,” he said from his side of the table.
“The Deal boy might have the right idea. Could be cheaper to restore the building, I’ve said that from the beginning. It’s part of island history.” Rick Meter picked his teeth with a toothpick and Jaime shivered. Of all the times for her to agree with Rick Meter. “We hired Luther’s crew after a light appraisal from Troy Turner at the real-estate office. Emmett will know better what exactly the building needs and we can go from there.”
Jaime clenched her hands. Emmett will know better, indeed. He knew all about running away, but staying? Fixing what was broken?
“Restoring the building will bring more tourists to Gulliver, and not just during the summer months. Tourists already visit the islands to see Perry’s Monument—” she mentioned the memorial at Put-in-Bay “—and the Marblehead Lighthouse. Gulliver School could become one of those draws.”
“Getting a true estimate before we start the hiring process, for demo or reno, is smart.” Rick leaned back in his seat and plucked another toothpick from the table dispenser. He stuck it between his teeth and then put his hands behind his head. “Even if we voted tonight we wouldn’t have the permits or contracts for demolition before the summer is over. We’ve already got permits for renovation.”
Tom nodded. “Mason?”
“We should just vote. That building is a menace.” Her father tapped his fingers against his biceps as if his opinion settled everything. Probably he thought it did.
Jaime held her breath.
Finally, Tom said, “Okay, we’ll get that estimate. I’ll call over to the Deal house this afternoon.”
“I’ll do it. You asked me to head the project, which includes estimates and new hires.” Jaime kept her voice steady and looked from Rick to Tom and then to her father.
Mason’s expression remained impassive but his eyes studied her as if she had two heads. Maybe she did. She hadn’t left her father’s house for weeks after the senior trip. Then Emmett had stood her up on prom night. She hadn’t mentioned his name in years. Now she was suggesting the town hire him for a job that would keep him around for an extended amount of time.
Well, she wasn’t the same girl she’d been when he’d left.
Emmett being back didn’t change that.
Some loves deserve a second chance…
Coming back to Gulliver Island after a ten-year absence to take care of his father should have been simple. Emmett Deal would fix and sell the family home, and return to Cincinnati with his ailing father in tow. Yet something compels him to stay a little longer. The beautiful, bright eyes of Jaime Brown.
Ten years ago, traumatic events changed the course of Jaime's life forever, catching her in a small-town life she can't escape. Emmett's return stirs up the memories she wanted to ignore…and dreams she had forgotten. Now she finds herself with a rare opportunity—a second chance. Only this time, it's not just for love…
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