On Hart's Boardwalk
One of New York Times bestselling author Samantha Young's most beloved couples returns for the first time in a brand new novella set ten years after her blockbuster bestseller Before Jamaica Lane...
Nate and Liv have a great life together but they miss the spontaneity and freedom they enjoyed early on in their romance. Careers and their children have inevitably kept them busy, so when Nate discovers Liv is feeling disconnected from him, he plans an anniversary trip to the idyllic seaside town of Hartwell, Delaware. There he hopes they will have the opportunity they've been craving—a chance to reinvent themselves and fall in love all over again.
With each new day comes a new adventure, from wedding crashing at the five-star boardwalk hotel to pretending they are two strangers having a chance encounter at the boardwalk bar. In the midst of this daring, sexually-charged game of romantic rediscovery, Nate and Liv discover the only constant they need is each other.
Release date: March 20, 2018
Print pages: 127
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On Hart's Boardwalk
This scene wasn’t me. If it had ever been me, it had been the me of yesteryear.
The trendy bar. The low lighting. The sexy dress.
Maybe six months ago I would have felt uncomfortable at Germaine’s, a bar I was visiting for the first time, because most people around me were in their twenties and early thirties. But, at that moment, it was difficult to feel anything but hot and needy.
The man across the bar was currently eye-fucking me.
Yes, eye-fucking me.
I could be ladylike and come up with a far sweeter descriptor, but really no other word could describe the heat in the stranger’s eyes as he looked at me.
I felt more than a pang of guilt that this stranger was the one making me feel this way: like the dress I was wearing was too tight, too everything, and I couldn’t wait to be naked. Naked and slick with sweat as my body writhed under the scrutiny of the man who was staring at me like I was the very embodiment of sex.
Staring at me in a way Nate hadn’t looked at me in so long.
At the reminder of the disconnect between me and my husband, I threw away my guilt and finally gave the stranger the small smile of encouragement he’d been waiting on.
He crossed the room with his drink in hand and gave me the sexiest smile as he settled on the stool next to me. Our fingers grazed as he put his glass on the little round table, and I felt the hair at the nape of my neck stand on end.
Our eyes met and locked.
Suddenly it felt difficult to breathe. There was so much tension coiling around my body. The only man who had ever made me feel this needy was my husband, and this stranger had the same magnetic, sexual ability.
“I haven’t seen you around here before,” the stranger said, his eyes dipping to my mouth and then to my chest, visible in my low-cut dress.
When his gaze came back to mine, I raised an eyebrow as if to say, Are you done?
The stranger laughed softly, and the husky sound elicited tingles between my legs.
“I’m not from around here,” I replied.
He cocked his head to study me. “Your accent . . . it’s hard to place. East coast, though, right?”
What he was hearing was the little Scottish inflection I’d picked up in my American accent over the years. I’d always had it because my dad was Scottish, but living in Edinburgh for years had made the inflection more pronounced.
“I would never have guessed that.”
I gave a little insouciant shrug and he grinned, his eyes roaming my face.
Years ago I would have squirmed under his perusal, geeking out and stumbling over my words. Nate had changed me.
Doubt stopped me from returning the man’s smile.
My husband had done a lot for me. No, he wasn’t perfect, and he’d hurt my feelings deeply of late . . . but I knew I should be giving my come-hither smiles to him and not to this guy. Pretending might not be what was best for me right now.
“God, you’re sexy as fuck,” the stranger said. “I’ve been fantasizing about you since the moment you walked into Germaine’s.”
And as shallow as that was, the hoarse sincerity in his words gave me pause. Nate wasn’t here. It wasn’t Nate who wanted me like this. It was this stranger.
Stop thinking so much. I actually heard Nate’s voice in my head. Play a little, Liv.
At the perverse imaginary encouragement of my husband, I leaned farther over the table, giving the stranger a better look down my dress. “Tell me.”
“About this fantasy of yours.”
And so he did.
Until my hands were trembling with want, until my nipples were tight and my breasts swollen, and I was seconds away from tearing off my dress and throwing myself at this potent man.
“What do you think?” the stranger said. “Sound like something you might want to make a reality?”
The part that was warring within me, full of guilt and worry, I shoved to the back of my mind. “Yes.”
The stranger’s eyes darkened with pleasure and he slowly, gracefully stood up from the stool and held his hand out to me.
All the reasons I shouldn’t do this swirled in my head.
I was married, for one.
I had two kids depending on my acting sensibly.
And I was in another country, far from home, where no one knew me.
This was irresponsible.
I should feel guilty as hell.
And yet somehow I still slid off that stool, put my hand in the stranger’s, and let him lead me out of the bar . . .
One month earlier
You would think that after almost ten years of marriage and fourteen years together I might have lost those magical tingles in my lady places when I looked at my husband.
But you would be wrong.
Watching my sleeping husband beside me in bed, I still felt a surge of desire, but now the sensation was overshadowed by longing, worry, and hurt.
Nate Sawyer was still a handsome bastard.
In sleep, he looked younger than his years—his features smooth and relaxed—despite the peppering of gray in the hair at his temples. He still had a head of thick hair and I suspected he always would. Dark with sprinkles of gray, salt and pepper, or full-on gray, it wouldn’t matter. With his naturally tan skin and movie-star good looks, my husband would always be attractive. Even when he was awake and you could see the rugged, sexy smile lines that crinkled the corners of his eyes, he was hotter than he ever had been as far as I was concerned.
There was something completely unfair about the fact that men seemed to grow more appealing with age while women had to work at that shit.
Tracing his features with my eyes, I just stopped myself from reaching out and touching him. Nate was tired a lot lately and I didn’t want to wake him up for Saturday-morning nookie when I suspected he wouldn’t thank me for it.
And wasn’t that just the most depressing thought ever.
There had been a time when Nate Sawyer wanted nothing more in this life than to be woken up with his wife’s mouth.
Don’t get me wrong, we were still having regular sex . . . but it wasn’t like it used to be. We had had sex last night. We both came, but there was something almost perfunctory about it. Like it was part of our routine or something. Nate just finished, rolled off me, leaned over to switch off the bedside light, said good night, and bam, he was asleep. No kissing, no cuddling, no whispering about our day.
And I fell asleep with tears on my pillow.
Not for the first time.
Feeling those tears prick my eyes anew, I huffed at my sentimentality and blinked the stinging wetness away. I was being so ungrateful. Look at my life. I had a great life!
Nate and I had made two beautiful kids. And God, did I mean beautiful. Lily was eleven and January was eight, and the two of them had gotten the best of the both of us. They were the spitting image of each other with their gorgeous olive skin and tumbles of dark hair. The only differences between them were that Lily had my golden-hazel eyes and Nate’s mouth, while January had Nate’s dark chocolate eyes and my mouth. But thankfully they both got Nate’s dimples. On my husband, those dimples were hot as hell.
On my girls, they were the sweetest dimples in the world, upping their cute factor by ten zillion.
They were adorable kids. Lily was our sweet little angel with a quiet, quirky sense of humor like her momma, whereas Jan was louder, outgoing, and full of mischief. Although they could fight like cats and dogs—something most sisters were known for, I’d been informed—Jan was super protective of her big sister. Adorably, bossily protective of her sister. It was as though, despite her young years, she understood that Lily had a sensitive soul that needed to be protected from those who wouldn’t treat her with care.
Yes, I had the best kids.
I had a great job as head librarian at the University of Edinburgh.
A nice house in Kirkliston, just a thirty-five-minute commute from the city center. We’d moved out there because it was more affordable and we could get a four-bedroom house for a fraction of what it would cost us in the city.
Since Nate had gone into business for himself and his photography company was doing well and had been for the last few years, we were financially comfortable.
So my husband worked a lot, and our weekly date nights that we’d promised to each other to keep our relationship fresh were a thing of the past.
However, it was really the last year or so that had taken a toll on our relationship.
The older the kids got, the more extracurricular activities they got involved in, the bigger their friendship circles grew, and I felt like I spent half my life splitting chauffeuring services with my husband, driving our kids all over the city. Plus, we both were busy with our careers.
We were busy.
Busy, busy, busy.
Somehow, though, we made it work.
Until about a year ago when we got so busy we stopped making it work so well.
And then it got worse six months ago. When Peetie—
Nate’s alarm suddenly blared into the air and I jolted my head around, staring up at the ceiling. I heard my husband groan beside me and felt the duvet shift across my body as he twisted around to switch off his alarm.
Then the duvet was shoved toward me and the mattress depressed as he sat up and swung his legs out of bed.
“Morning,” he mumbled sleepily and got up, scratching his bare chest as he wandered toward our en suite bathroom. His pajama bottoms hung low, showing off the top half of his muscular backside, and I flushed at the streak of arousal that coursed through my body.
Nate was a martial artist and he ran a judo club with our friend Cam MacCabe and their friend Josh McPhee. They were all 5th dan graded, meaning they were senior member black belt holders in the British Judo Association and extremely skillful. They also had their qualifications to coach. Nate had tried to coax me and Cam’s wife, Jo, into taking classes, but it was never really something I was all that into. But our girls were into it, and I liked that not only were they learning to defend themselves, they were learning it from their dad. So I was into that. I was also into the fact that my husband liked to keep in shape, and at forty-two years old, he had a better physique than most men half his age.
So why, then, as I watched him close the bathroom door behind him, did I feel that achy longing in my chest whenever I got turned on just looking at him? Honestly, I didn’t even want to analyze it because the fear of what it all meant was paralyzing.
I got up out of bed instead and had just pulled on my robe and was about to leave the room when I heard the toilet flush, the tap run, and then Nate appeared. “Don’t,” he said, sauntering over to his dresser to pull out a T-shirt. “I’ll get breakfast this morning.”
As he pulled the T-shirt over his head, I thought again how lucky I was. Nate and I shared all of our parental responsibilities. I never felt like I was alone in parenting Lily and Jan. For anything.
So why I was unhappy?
“Okay. I’ll grab a quick shower then.”
He nodded, and passed me by.
No kiss good morning.
And it wasn’t until I was in the shower that I let myself cry, where no one could see or hear me.
By the time I wandered into the kitchen there was no trace of my tears. I hadn’t done my makeup yet and my hair was only semi dry, but the hot water had brought a flush to my cheeks and that, with my bright, cheery smile, was all it took to make my kids believe everything was right in their world.
That was what mattered most to me. That my kids thought everything was good and right in their world.
The girls were sitting on high stools at the island in our kitchen, eating chocolate chip pancakes and watching their dad as he made them on the stove. He glanced up at me as I wandered in and smiled. Correction: Sometimes his dimples were adorable, too. “Want some?”
He was wearing his glasses and I couldn’t help but smile back, sure my tenderness and love was written all over my face. Nate didn’t seem to notice, turning back to watch his pancakes.
A few years ago, he had to get reading glasses and he hated them, but I loved them. They made him geeky hot, like Clark Kent, when normally he was Superman. Truth was, while growing up, waiting for my perfect guy to show up, I’d always wanted a Clark Kent, preferring him over the too-perfect Superman. I got Nate instead.
Glasses or no, it didn’t matter. I loved my husband beyond all reasoning, so I used to think I would take him any way I could get him.
“Morning, Mummy!” Jan shouted, bringing my attention back to my sweet girls. There was rarely a time when Jan didn’t shout in greeting, and I envied my kid her boundless enthusiasm and energy. I swooped over to them, standing in between them and wrapping my arms around their little shoulders, drawing Lily’s head to me first so I could kiss her cheek, and then Jan’s.
“Morning, Mum.” Lily smiled sweetly up at me over her shoulder.
They were both still in their pajamas, Lily in purple with stars and Jan in blue with a Pixar Nemo pattern. Their long tangles of dark hair tumbled around their shoulders and down their backs in adorable bedhead style.
“So what is on the agenda today, kiddos?” Nate asked, turning around to put three chocolate chip pancakes on a plate. He shoved the plate toward me and then turned to his daughters expectantly.
“I’m going swimming with my friends,” Lily said after swallowing a bite of pancake. “I need someone to drop me off at Lucy’s house. Her mum is taking us.”
“I want to come!” Jan shouted around a mouthful of pancake.
I grabbed some cutlery Nate had put out and poured myself a glass of orange juice.
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