While renovating an old beach house, Ivy and her sister, Shelly, suddenly have full occupancy after fire forces Summer Beach residents from their homes. Even the mayor, Bennett Dylan, who was Ivy’s high school crush, moves in. As the summer heats up, attractions simmer and feuds erupt.
Living in the house Bennett had hoped could be a community center, he finds himself at odds with Ivy’s campaign for a bed-and-breakfast zoning change. And when valuable items disappear from the inn, Bennett’s friend Mitch, who owns the popular Java Beach coffee shop, is the prime suspect.
Shelly's romance with Mitch cools when his old criminal record emerges, which leads her to question if Summer Beach is the right place for her.
Despite the chaos, Ivy has just one summer to save the house from an impending tax sale. And when a documentary filmmaker arrives to reconstruct the history of the old house and its secretive former owner, yet another secret emerges from an unlikely place.
Seabreeze Summer is a sweet summer beach read and the second novel in the Summer Beach series after the Seabreeze Inn. Book your reservation in this small beachside town of intriguing characters now.
Release date: October 10, 2019
Publisher: Sunny Palms Press
Print pages: 404
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Summer Beach, California
IVY COULD SMELL SMOKE EVEN before she opened her eyes. Though it wasn’t yet dawn, she rose and padded downstairs in the grand old beach house, which was still silent. In the quiet of the morning, she could hear the constant, low roar of waves crashing onto the shores of Summer Beach just steps from where the sprawling property ended.
In the parlor, Ivy glanced outside through a glass, arched palladium door that opened onto the terrace. Swinging the door open, she stepped outside and scanned the skyline over the ridgetop. Had the fire reignited during the night?
A thin layer of moisture coated the smooth stone, but the knitted wool slippers her mother had brought back from a buying trip to Peru kept her feet warm and dry. Through dim morning light, she saw thin, leftover smudges above the ridgeline, but no active plumes of smoke. Not like last night. She shivered as she thought about it. Turning back to the ocean, she saw a few early surfers bobbing on boards in the distance waiting for sunrise.
Yesterday’s oven-hot, offshore wind blasts had mercifully given way to cool onshore flows. Ivy lifted her face to the fresh breeze, though smoke still edged the air. In her soft, clingy cotton sleep tee and shorts, her bare arms and legs quickly chilled with goosebumps, but it felt good after the dry, scorching Santa Ana winds that had roared in from the parched inland deserts. Infrequent yet dangerous, the winds had sparked the fire and whipped it into a frenzy on the hilltops above them.
She left the door open to cool the house and went back inside. She and her sister Shelly had only just opened their doors to guests, and now, due to last night’s fire on the ridgetop above them, they had gone from a single occupied guestroom to full occupancy overnight. And these new guests weren’t vacationers, but evacuees who’d lost their homes or couldn’t return due to fire and smoke damage.
The thought of the Summer Beach mayor quickened her pulse. Also evacuated, he’d slept in the room next to hers, and she’d tossed all night thinking about him.
Ivy wove through the grand ballroom, where her industrious niece Poppy had stayed up late tending to new guests and clearing glasses and dishware after the open house earlier in the day. As newcomers to Summer Beach, Ivy and Shelly had welcomed close to a hundred of their new neighbors for an open house—before the fire had broken up the party and sent guests scattering to check on neighbors, loved ones, and pets.
At the open house, Ivy and Shelly had spoken at length, attempting to persuade their fellow Summer Beach residents to support their quest for a zoning change—from residential to neighborhood commercial zoning—for the old beach house so that they could operate as an inn. While they could rent rooms online through iBnB for a while, Ivy needed the status to expand operations and secure future income.
Since Ivy’s late husband Jeremy had spent all their retirement savings on the old beach house—without her knowledge—she had to hustle to avoid foreclosure for back property taxes.
And she had just one summer to do it.
Ivy glanced around, taking in the lingering disarray from last night. There was only so much that even Poppy could do after the electricity had been knocked out by the raging Santa Ana winds.
Ivy and Shelly, along with their father and brothers, had kept vigil outside, hosing down the trees and rafters and roof to keep windswept embers from sparking fires. Once the winds died after midnight, her parents and brothers had left for their homes. She’d been grateful for their help, and fortunately, she’d heard the electricity hum to life during the night. Her phone charger beside her bed had blinked on, recharging her phone.
A soft snore rose from one of the antique divans they had found stored on the lower level, along with other antique furniture. Ivy peered past a palm tree that Shelly had arranged in a marine blue clay pot on a weathered stand. Poppy was asleep, nestled into the silk brocade, her head cradled in one of the new, sky blue pillows they had bought.
Ivy tiptoed past her.
As the first one awake, Ivy needed to start brewing coffee for their guests. She wondered how many people there were. Entire families forced to evacuate had crowded into the bedrooms on the second floor. They hadn’t turned anyone away. Already she had a long to -do list in her mind, including shopping for supplies of every sort for their guests.
With a great yawn, Ivy pushed through the door to the kitchen.
“Morning,” Bennett said, glancing over his shoulder.
“Oh,” Ivy cried out, pressing her hand to her gaping mouth. “You’re up.” Instantly, she felt a flush creep up her neck. Aside from his role as mayor of Summer Beach, Bennett had also been her summer crush before college. That was more than twenty-five years ago, and now here she was, acting like a teenager again.
All because of that kiss last night. Oh, that kiss. The flush raced to her cheeks.
“Couldn’t sleep.” Bennett motioned to the coffee maker. “I foraged around and found the coffee. Figured I should get a pot going. Care for a cup?”
“Sure,” Ivy said, hastily trying to recover her equilibrium. Bennett’s hair was damp, as though he’d just showered, but he still wore his sooty clothes from the night before, when he and Mitch, the owner of Java Beach, had bolted from the meeting to assist in firefighting efforts. It didn’t help that Bennett’s shirt hung open, revealing his lean torso. She tried not to stare.
“A lot to do today,” Bennett said, pouring coffee. “I’ve got to meet with Chief Hildegard. Start sorting out the mess up on the ridge and figure out how we can help our displaced residents.”
He handed her the cup, his fingers brushing hers when she reached for it. Catching her gaze after she pulled away, he curved up a corner of his mouth and began buttoning his shirt.
“Ivy, about last night,” he began, his deep voice sounding even more gravelly than usual.
And downright sexy. Ivy felt another flush whip through her chest, no doubt reddening her face even more. She’d lain awake half the night, replaying what had transpired between them. A mere forty-eight hours ago, this was a man she’d never wanted to see again after their disagreement over her sister.
“There’s cream in Gertie. Need some?” Feeling flustered, she opened one of the twin vintage turquoise refrigerators—circa the 1960s—that Shelly had nicknamed Gert and Gertie. The sizeable, well-appointed kitchen had been designed to accommodate a large staff and caterers, but it hadn’t been updated in decades.
“Don’t need it.” Bennett’s eyes crinkled at the corners. “With all these folks here, it might be time for Gert to start pulling his weight.”
“We have to plug him in first.” She poured the cream into her mug. As she stirred her coffee, she thought about how right it had felt to hold him in her arms late last night. And yet, had they merely been seeking solace, overwhelmed by their efforts to keep the fire at bay, or had their protective emotional layers been peeled back enough for them to finally share their feelings? If the latter were true, then why did she feel so self-conscious now?
She was too old to second-guess her emotional decisions, and yet, here she was. But she’d long forgotten how to act in the new throes of a relationship.
Watching Bennett move around the kitchen, she remembered what it was like to have a man around. There was companionship, and she liked that. But in a relationship, there had to be more. Love and trust, of course, but also a commonality of purpose.
Ivy opened the old refrigerator and wrinkled her nose. “Needs a good cleaning.”
“Let’s see if it works first.” He set his cup on the counter.
What did she and Bennett really have in common? She and Jeremy had their children—the glue that binds most married couples, even after the fireworks wane. But what about this man? Did she dare waver her focus on earning a living to appease her heart? And yet, going through life with another person by your side was satisfying. She hadn’t expected to be on her own again quite so soon.
She pressed a hand to her forehead. Too much thinking, too early. This is what Bennett did to her. Exactly what she didn’t need.
“Should be a plug behind it.” Bennett shoved the refrigerator from the wall and tore away the cobwebs, then knelt and inserted the appliance’s plug into the wall. The motor growled to life, surging before leveling out to a low hum.
“Sounds alive,” Ivy said, taking a broom and dustpan from a narrow broom closet. “These old appliances were real workhorses.” Ivy wedged behind the refrigerator to sweep out dust and cobwebs, taking care to keep her hair clear this time.
Bennett brushed off his hands. “We’ll see how the old boy goes.”
Re-emerging, she emptied the dustpan before shoving that and the broom back into the closet.
Bennett took a step toward her and ran his fingers along her bare arm. “You okay this morning?”
Still feeling self-conscious, Ivy swept her tangled hair from her face. Why hadn’t she taken a moment to brush her hair? She ran her tongue over her teeth. That, too. She wasn’t used to facing people this early, and especially not Bennett Dylan, who was disrupting her heart, her mind, and her carefully made plans.
“I’m alright,” she replied, realizing her clingy, pale pink sleep tee and shorts revealed more than she’d planned, which he seemed to be appreciating, although, to his credit, he was at least trying to keep his eyes focused on her face.
“You seem flustered.”
“You have to understand, Bennett, I don’t usually do that. I mean, I haven’t, not in a long time.” Right. That made her sound ancient. Or prudish.
“Relax, it was just a kiss,” he said in a soothing voice. “Although it meant an awful lot to me.”
His touch was warm and reassuring. “Me, too,” she said, giving him a shy smile.
Jeremy was the only man she’d ever been with, which now seemed hopelessly old-fashioned to her. But he’d been the first guy she’d dated in college, and they’d stuck. And it had barely been a year since his brain aneurysm. Was it too soon for her to be looking at another man like this?
And yet, the man who stood before her now had been her first love, her summer crush right before she’d left for school in Boston, though she hadn’t really known him or exchanged more than a few shy words. What were the chances that he would have come back into her life, especially like this?
“I’m just not sure,” Ivy began. Sure of what? Of him, or herself? Bennett’s wife had died ten years ago, which was plenty of time for him to come to terms with her death.
Ivy thought about her daughters, Sunny and Misty. What will they think? Especially Sunny, her mercurial daughter, who was backpacking in Europe. When Ivy told her that she had moved to Summer Beach, Sunny had taken it as a personal affront. The thought of her mother dating would be more than Sunny could handle.
Bennett took another step toward her and drew her closer with a hand on her waist. “I meant everything I said last night.” He hesitated as though searching for confirmation in her eyes. “Could you sleep?”
She paused and then shook her head. No.
“I’m usually not that forward,” he said. “And I’m not here to take advantage of you. I mean, I am the mayor, so I have to be careful.”
“Why? Do you think I’m going to file a complaint against you?” Ivy stepped back and sipped her coffee, meeting his gaze over the rim of her cup—and grateful for the caffeine effect that was beginning to flood her system.
Bennett chuckled. “No, but—”
Just then, Shelly pushed the kitchen door open. “Why would you file a complaint against Bennett?”
Ivy sputtered in her coffee. “You shouldn’t be eavesdropping,” she said, reaching for a napkin to dab her top. She shot a sideways glance at Bennett, acutely embarrassed.
A slight grin played on Bennett’s lips, those lips she’d kissed and tasted last night. He raised his cup.
“Well, you don’t have to get so salty about it.” Shelly stared at them for a moment before tossing her hair over her shoulder. “I sure hope there’s more coffee.” Wearing charcoal gray and violet yoga gear, she looked like she’d been up for a while—except for her slightly puffy eyes.
Ivy put her cup down. “There is,” she said, reaching for another cup. She frowned as the dark liquid swirled in a cup. “We have to figure out how to take care of our guests today.”
“Wasn’t that the plan?” Shelly asked, stretching her arms overhead.
“It’s just so many, so suddenly,” Ivy said.
“At least we have the room.” Shelly turned to Bennett. “You’re staying for a while, right?”
“If that’s not a problem,” he replied, darting a look toward Ivy.
“Why would it be?” Ivy shot her words back, perhaps a little too sharply, as the feelings she had for him surged through her again.
Just a kiss, that’s all it was. Yet that kiss had sparked feelings in Ivy that she hadn’t known in years. Even with Jeremy—they’d been married so long that they’d developed a comfortable routine. He’d been physically attentive, of course, but they’d never been swinging-from-the-chandeliers people in that department. Her husband had been an intellectual, who was often more passionate about ideas and technology than people.
After handing the cup to Shelly, Ivy shoved back her tousled hair. Why hadn’t she at least glanced in the mirror before coming downstairs? Her face was so hot it was probably as red as the tomatoes in the bowl on the counter. She gave it a spin.
Bennett and Shelly were staring at her. Bennett’s lips curved up slightly at the edges, while Shelly’s mouth opened in confusion.
Ivy stopped the spinning bowl and scooped up her coffee mug. “I’ll make a list of supplies we’ll need. Laundry detergent, tissues, toilet paper, soap…”
Bennett pushed back from the counter. “I’ve got to get to the office right away. And see if any more of my house has burned down.”
“Then I’ll see you later,” Ivy said, hurrying from the kitchen.
As Bennett followed her, Ivy saw Poppy’s head emerge around the edge of the divan.
“Hey,” Bennett called out, catching up to her in the foyer. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were running away from me. Talk to me, will you? This is new territory for me, too.”
Stalling for a moment to sort out her feelings, Ivy drew a breath. On a round table in the foyer, the calming aroma from the roses and ginger flowers she’d picked from Shelly’s garden filled the air.
Yet facing Bennett—and his dark-lashed hazel eyes—brought forth another torrent of emotions. Where did they fit in each other’s lives? She’d have to manage these strange new sensations if she expected to rise to the task of tending to their new guests. Flushing and fumbling for words like a teenager in front of townspeople would be a disaster. With the zoning status pending, the last thing she needed was a public relationship with the mayor. Her crotchety neighbor Darla would surely seize on that, too.
“Bennett, I have so much work to do here,” Ivy said, shifting from him as she clung to her familiar plan. An organized life was a safe life. A mature life. Falling into a new relationship right after arriving in the small town of Summer Beach? Sheer craziness. Like something Shelly would do—not Ivy, the sane sister.
Steeling herself against her emotional draw to him, she said, “You have no idea how dire my situation is.”
“Actually, I do. The city has been considering this property for a community center.”
Ivy was taken aback. “Is that what you want to see here?”
Bennett rubbed the back of his neck. “I want what’s best for Summer Beach. If you can run this successfully, make it pay its way…”
“You don’t think I can?”
“I didn’t say that. But you need a zoning change.”
“And I’m applying for that.” She paused. “Can’t you help?”
“As I said before, that decision is up to Summer Beach residents.” He jerked a thumb in the direction of her neighbor. “Including Darla. You need to make nice on her.”
She stared at him with an incredulous look. “We saved her house last night. If we hadn’t hosed down the giant eucalyptus trees in her yard, any ember would have sent those up like flaming torches—and her house along with them. She can’t complain about that.”
Bennett glanced out the window. “Then why is she storming across the lawn right now?”
Ivy closed her eyes. The sun had just risen, and already the day was going sideways.
Seconds later, Darla pounded on the front door.
“Want me to handle this?” Bennett asked.
Ivy caught a glimpse of herself in an ornate mirror by the door. Skimpy sleepwear, tangled hair. She sighed. “I’ll deal with her.” She started for the door, but Bennett touched her shoulder, and she paused.
“I don’t know where we stand with each other,” he said. “But I do know that what we shared last night was special. Things like that don’t happen every day, at least, not in my life. We both have a lot to deal with right now, but please promise you won’t shut me out?”
She gazed up at him, knowing how hard it would be to deny her feelings. “We’ll talk later. But go—you have a full day ahead of you. You don’t need Darla to slow you down.”
“Thanks,” Bennett said. He kissed her on the cheek before hurrying up the staircase.
Darla banged on the door again.
Fortifying herself with a large gulp of coffee, Ivy reached for the doorknob. She braced herself and swung open the door.
“Good morning, Darla.” Ivy blinked. The woman’s blazing, multi-color rhinestone sun-visor and her shocking, ultramarine blue hair were even brighter in the morning light.
“My lawn is a soggy mess this morning,” Darla said, huffing. “And those two you sent over trampled the flowers I’d just planted. They were so rude. They refused to leave when I told them to.”
“No ma’am,” Ivy said, folding her arms. “That young couple stayed there to make sure your house or trees didn’t ignite from blowing embers. You should be thankful we cared enough to help you.”
Darla scowled. “My house has stood for years. It’s not going anywhere.”
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