Love Redone in Hidden Harbor
Love Redone in Hidden Harbor
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Natalie Jennings loves nothing more than waking up and going into work at the florist shop she owns in the heart of Fireweed Island. Every morning is pleasant and filled with sunshine and rainbows.
That is until she sees an email for a wedding consult slide right into her inbox with the sender’s name of Cole Hill. Her hands get clammy and the cold winter’s day suddenly feels like it’s ninety degrees and climbing. It couldn’t be the same Cole Hill from high school. Cole broke her heart, but not in the normal fashion.
He ensured the process was a long one filled with plenty of ups and downs. It all started in first grade and didn’t finally end until the second year of college. And now he is coming back to get married on Fireweed Island. The perks of being the only florist in town! It’s a good thing she got over him years ago...
- Childhood Sweethearts
- Second Chance
- Small Town
Emilia Hudson has never been one to consider arranged marriages, especially if it meant her fifty-five year old parents would have a say, but with her dismal love life, she’s almost reconsidering.
After her latest dating disaster, Emilia writes a simple blog post that goes viral. Worse yet, people start considering her a relationship expert, and all she feels like is a fraud.
As the emails and speaking engagements start rolling in, she realizes her only option is to take the bull by the horns and run with the unexpected fame.
What she doesn’t want to do is talk about the real reason why she won’t ever fall in love again.
However, when she gets an offer she can’t refuse from a major publisher, that’s all they want her to write about, but It isn’t until she meets the man behind the proposal that she realizes why…
Intro to Chapter One
Intro to Chapter One
“Sophie, you’re not going to believe who infiltrated my bubble.” I stared at my laptop screen, hoping the email taunting me from my inbox wasn’t from the same person who’d ripped my heart out and forgotten to ever apologize about it. I’d done an amazing job of tucking that ordeal away. I placed a bucket of white roses on the floor and adjusted my phone as I waited impatiently for my best friend on the other end to reply.
“What in the world are you talking about?” I heard the slam of a car door and realized she was on the way to her second job as a hostess at Island Bluff, one of the island’s upscale restaurants.
I hovered my cursor over the infamous name and dared myself to open the message. The subject kind of gave away what morsels were packed inside, but I didn’t want to believe the words. I’d created a world that worked in my favor, and this email dared to obliterate my peaceful existence. I’d heard about people’s luck changing for the worse, but I never thought that would happen to me.
I groaned and did a double tap of the mouse while the message popped up on the big screen.
“Come on, Natty. It can’t be that big of a deal.”
I took in a deep breath and scanned the first sentence of the message. Oh, yes. It was that big of a deal. Cole Hill, the boy I’d had a crush on since first grade, was coming back to town.
My town. Not his. He’d left a long time ago.
“Cole Hill is getting married,” I breathed into the phone.
Did I happen to mention that not only did I have a crush on him since the first grade, we’d dated all throughout junior high?
“You’re supposed to offer support…tell me it’s no big deal,” I chuckled, but she was my best friend, and she’d never lie to me—at least not over the phone. She might bend the truth if she had to look into my brown eyes and see the inner turmoil twisting my insides into knots, but not over the phone. She’d shoot it to me straight.
“Are you sure it’s the same Cole?” she finally asked.
“Yeah. I’m sure.”
“Yes. I’m one hundred percent positive.”
“And he’s getting married?” she repeated.
I suddenly wished I hadn’t made her my first call.
“Yes. Cole Hill has found the love of his life and is getting married on Fireweed Island. It says so right here. And the happy couple would like to make an appointment to come in and discuss flowers for their wedding.” I gritted my teeth and glanced at Pickles, the shop cat. She was probably thrilled with the news.
Did I happen to mention Cole and I also dated all through high school?
“I bet he doesn’t know you own the florist shop,” Sophie assured me.
“Why in the world would he want to come back and get married on Fireweed Island? He didn’t want anything to do with this place.”
“His family still has that house he grew up in, but now I think they use it as a vacation home. I mean why not? It’s a great location on the bluff overlooking Oyster Bay. Maybe that’s where they want to get married. It would be a nice spot,” she offered.
I bristled at the notion. Cole and I were supposed to get married at Oyster Bay. At least that was what he told me when he proposed.
Yeah. Did I forget to mention that part too? I’d been engaged to Cole Hill.
“You’ve got this. You’re a professional and the only florist on the island.”
“I could always send them to a florist on a different island,” I sighed.
“You’re better than that. Besides, aren’t you a little bit curious?” she asked.
This was the problem with best friends. They knew you too well.
“Maybe a little.” Okay, I was dying to see what the future Mrs. Cole Hill looked like.
“You know what I say?” she asked, but she didn’t wait for my answer. “I say, don’t sign your name to the reply and surprise him when he and his fiancée show up for the appointment. I’d love to be your assistant on that day.”
Pickles yowled and eyed me suspiciously.
“What the heck was that?” Sophie asked.
“Pickles. I think she’s about to attack me. She’s got that funny look in her eyes again.”
“Put down the phone and back away slowly,” she whispered. “It sounds like Pickles is still Team Cole.”
The cinnamon and cream fluff ball shot me an icy stare and licked her lips before yawning and flashing her tiny, glistening fangs in my direction. As if I needed a reminder of what those things could do.
“I don’t know how you’ve put up with Pickles for so long,” Sophie laughed into the phone.
“Not now. I’m sure she knows what you’re saying.” I took a couple steps back and watched Pickle’s tail twitch.
“How long have you had Pickles?” Sophie ignored me and kept going. “What was it? Ninth or tenth grade?”
“Cole got her for me the summer before tenth grade,” I responded, bumping into a bucket of red tulips. I knew not to take my eyes off Pickles. That’s how she’d gotten me the last time. I’d turned my back on her and she’d pounced.
Two rounds of antibiotics and one stitch later, I knew she held the upper hand and so did she.
Pickles jumped off the counter and slowly wound her way over to me. She slinked in between my ankles and stretched before walking away. Clearly, she’d made her point. This was her flower shop. I just owned it.
I made my way back to the computer and glanced at my schedule. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any other weddings planned for the weekend they’d picked to get married.
“Well, I had to tell someone. It appears my luck has started to change.”
“Don’t start thinking that way,” Sophie commanded. “Years from now, you’ll be able to laugh about this little meet up. It just might sting a little right now.”
“Do you think he ever thought about me after he left?” I mused.
“I’d imagine so.”
My mind flashed back to Cole and me…our last time together. We’d just finished up sophomore year in college, and I’d finished packing everything in my dorm. I sat on my naked bed and waited for him to pick me up in his truck.
Once he was an hour late, I knew something wasn’t right. When he finally arrived, and I looked in his eyes, I realized I’d need to find my own way back to Fireweed Island for the summer.
It was a confusing end to a dream relationship. The news he’d shared had been a complete surprise. He gave me some excuse about changing schools in the fall and not being able to get the major he truly wanted at this school. Everything he relayed had been in bits and pieces. His parents were upset with him, and he wasn’t going back to Fireweed Island for the summer. He’d already made arrangements for a place in Georgia, and he wanted me to come visit—blah, blah, blah.
But once I came to my senses, I quickly realized that his offer was for a pity visit, and I never took him up on it. In fact, I lost his number and never looked back.
Okay, that last part wasn’t how it went, but that was exactly how I wanted to deal with the breakup. I wanted him to be nothing more than a blip on my radar, but that wasn’t what he’d become. He’d become my everything and losing him hurt in a way I didn’t know possible. I couldn’t just dust him off and move on like he didn’t matter. Cole and I had shared dreams together. We shared our lives in the most formative of years and losing him hurt. He wasn’t only my boyfriend, he’d been my best friend. I wanted to imagine myself as the woman who would never allow herself to be put in a position to get hurt, but that wasn’t what happened.
What actually happened was I came back to Fireweed Island that summer, and in between working long hours at Norma’s Corner Café and helping out at the flower shop, I cried my heart out and cried some more. And that was my last summer on Fireweed Island until long after I graduated. I was embarrassed I’d let a guy torment me that much and have that much control over my emotions. Never would I fall for that twice. Fool me five times, shame on the world and all that.
“You’ve gone silent. You doing okay?” Sophie asked, her voice softening.
“I think so. I don’t know. This just sucks. How can I suddenly feel like I’m back in college wondering what I did wrong?”
“You were in love,” Sophie sighed. “Time is a funny thing. It’s supposed to heal all wounds, but I don’t think time does that at all, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.”
“I am over him,” I promised her. “I’m just in a little shock. Time has done wonders to heal my wounds.”
“I think time likes to hide in the dark making you think you’re over it, and then when the moment is right, time rips open old wounds like it was yesterday,” she cautioned.
I glanced at Pickles, who was licking her paw in the front window display. I’d traded out Christmas for Valentine’s Day and the entire window was drenched in white tulle and red roses.
“I suppose. Anyway, I’d like to think I’m the bigger person. I’ll do the best job I can on his flowers. I’ll even give him a discount and I won’t even poison her flowers.”
“How very considerate,” Sophie laughed, but then went silent for a few seconds. “What if Pickles likes his fiancée more than you.”
“Then I’ll know what to give them for their wedding gift,” I laughed, feeling slightly better about making the call to my best friend.
“Even though he wrote the email, Cole must not have looked closely at your website or he would have noticed Pickles,” Sophie added.
It was true. I had a shot of Pickles tackling a delphinium on the front page of my website, and she was a distinctive looking cat. Cole would’ve remembered her, and to the rest of the world, it looked like Pickles was happily playing with the delphinium, but I knew better. That poor flower never had a chance in Pickle’s clutches.
“What did I do to deserve this?” I let out a groan.
“You were the one who decided to come back to Fireweed Island. You’re bound to run into people you grew up with.” She fell silent for a few seconds too long. “What if he did go to the website, recognized Pickles and decided this was his way to reach you?”
My heart rate climbed.
“Doubtful. Besides what would that say about him?” I clicked reply on the message and took a deep breath in. I glanced at my calendar and typed in the times I had available for the week they wanted to meet.
“I just sent the email with my availability.” I blew out the breath I’d held in. My stomach knotted, and I felt dizzy at the thought of seeing the guy who broke my heart and chose someone else.
But why did I care? It had been eight years. A lot can change in eight years. I moved on with my life and he’d obviously moved on with his.
Did I mention I hadn’t had a serious relationship since we’d broken up?
I thought I might have left that part out too…