Summer by the Sea is a beautiful, heart-warming summer read about sisters, first love and not always getting what we want – but sometimes ending up with exactly what we need. They say there’s always one summer that changes you. For Faith the one summer she can’t forget is when she fell in love as a teenager – only for her sister, Casey, to steal her man. Now, at the request of her beloved ninety-year-old Grandmother, Faith has agreed to a family holiday – at their childhood beach house, where it all began. Faith hasn’t seen her sister in years but is finally ready to forgive and forget, enjoy the sunshine and relive happy memories. What she’s not ready for is meeting Jake Buchanan – the owner of the beach house – or the long-forgotten feelings he ignites in her. Can Faith overcome the hurt of the past, rekindle the close bond she had with Casey and make this summer THE ONE to remember? What readers are saying about Jenny Hale… ‘ Jenny Hale has done it again –written a great story about second chances at love with characters you really care about.’ Kim the Bookworm ‘ A gorgeous novel with wonderful characters and such a meaningful plot, one which I think everyone can learn from.’ Reviewed the Book ‘ a delightful read with a wonderful setting and cast of characters at its core; definitely recommended to chick lit fans!’ Spoonful of Happy Endings ‘This book is the epitome of everything I love about reading, about fiction and about romance. It was heart-warming, touching, upsetting, endearing, beautiful and one hundred other adjectives I could reel off… It’s an absolute must-read for any romance fan.’ Paris Baker’s Book Nook ‘ A perfect romance read. Full of tension and heart wrenching feelings that have you biting your lower lip in either frustration or sadness. Have a lump in your throat, a tear in your eye or giggling like a schoolgirl.’ The Book Geek Wears Pajamas
Release date: June 12, 2015
Print pages: 342
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Summer by the Sea
“What would you like to order?” A woman greeted Faith from behind the counter, bringing her back to the present.
“I’ll have a cheeseburger with ketchup and mustard, please,” she said to the woman before rummaging in her handbag for her change purse.
Faith was early, so she’d decided to stop and have a little lunch before heading to the cottage. As she waited for her burger, she noticed a small crowd of people standing around one of the windows at the other end. They were surrounding a tall, dark-haired man, clapping him on the back, chuckling, and making jokes.
When her burger was ready, she took it over to a red picnic table that was painted to match the building. It had an equally bright, red umbrella, but, even tilted toward where she was standing, the sun overpowered its shade, and she got no relief from the heat when underneath it except for the sea breeze coming from the shore. She slipped her sunglasses on, sat down, and spun herself under the table.
The sky was a perfect, cloudless blue, and the sound of the waves crashing just over the dunes was the only sound apart from a passing car here and there. It had been a long time since she’d been here, but this spot had hardly changed.
Before she met her family today, Faith had promised herself that she’d drive a few blocks down from Dune Burger and see the area of beach where their family cottage had stood. It had been leveled by a hurricane when she was a teenager, and, ever since then, they hadn’t been back to the Outer Banks as a family. Not until today. She remembered the cottage as if she’d just been there. She could almost smell the earthy scent of it. The exterior had been the same brown color as driftwood—like most of the older cottages that sat on Beach Road. It was tall, on stilts to protect it from the high tides during storms; it had a small porch that went around the outside, and a driveway that led through the stilts and under the house.
On the porch, there had been two rocking chairs and a bench swing. If she closed her eyes, she could almost feel the sand on her feet as she hugged her knees on that swing, her cheeks throbbing from too much sun, her hair so golden from the summer spent outside that it looked yellow against her tan skin. Her sister, Casey, was taller than she was, and she could push against the floor hard enough to make the swing sail backward and then forward, the rocking motion tickling Faith’s tummy, but her favorite times on that swing were when it was still, the breeze pushing her hair around her shoulders and cooling her skin. She liked the quiet moments on that porch, the serenity of it. She’d always been that way.
The sound of a car parking pulled her from her memories. The crowd by the window had gone now, the man with dark hair still there. Getting out of his car, the driver called, “Jake! How are ya?” and walked over to shake the man’s hand. When he did, Faith got a good look at the man named Jake. He certainly seemed popular. He greeted the other man, and Faith noticed the sincerity in his smile and how striking his features were as he got a little closer. He had a strong jawline, but there was something gentle about the way his expressions moved around his face. He was wearing some sort of work clothes—painter, maybe?
His dark hair was windblown, his shoes spotted from whatever it was he did for a living, but there was something about him that seemed juxtaposed to what she could see. He had an authoritative presence—squared shoulders, a strong, intense look in his eyes, but at the same time, he seemed genuinely friendly. He had a firm-looking handshake, and appeared so at ease with himself; just watching how he interacted with people made Faith want to see what he’d do next. She looked down at her burger to avoid staring at him.
The two men talked for a while—she couldn’t make out their conversation, and she didn’t want to eavesdrop, so she just ate her burger and enjoyed the solitude. It may be the last moment of quiet she’d get for a while. Soon, she’d be with her entire family. They were coming together this week to celebrate her grandmother’s ninetieth birthday. She hadn’t been with them all together in quite a while. She just couldn’t face Casey. Faith had been able to make excuses up until now—parent-teacher conferences at school, report cards to be completed, field trips—and it was time she faced her. She’d seen Nan and her mother, but she’d always avoided Casey. Seeing her sister had been too complicated, with too many feelings surrounding the two of them. Just thinking about Casey had been painful, but staying away from her was painful too. She missed her sister terribly, but she couldn’t deny what Casey had done, and it was enough to make her want to stay away. Now, she knew she was finally ready to see her. Faith worried that seeing her might bring back the sting of Casey’s betrayal, but she finally felt like she was strong enough to face it head-on. She couldn’t have done that earlier, but now she could, and there was no way she would’ve missed her Nan’s birthday.
Faith couldn’t wait to see her grandmother. Nan had been her rock growing up. It was Nan who had planned their childhood visits to the beach, who had watched them when their mother was working, who had picked them up from school and had taken care of them at home when they were sick. While she was eager to be back here and with her family, it was Nan who she was the most excited to see.
Faith’s thoughts were as wild as the sea wind as she came back to the present. The man—Jake—began walking toward her, carrying his burger. He seemed to be heading straight for her table. Was he planning to sit with her? He paused a few steps from her table for just a moment, just a breath, and smiled. It was a polite smile, the kind one would offer to a stranger, but yet there was something so approachable about him. As he started to walk toward her again, his blue eyes on her, that intensity she’d witnessed now directed at her, she was taken with how attractive he was, and she wondered what her hair looked like—she’d driven there with the windows down the whole way. Did she have any makeup left on her face? Just when she was thinking he was actually going to ask to sit with her, he continued past her and sat at the table next to hers. Silly, she thought. Why would he sit with a complete stranger?
Faith ate the last bite of her burger and balled up the paper. Then, walking past Jake’s table, she threw her trash away and got back into her car. She pulled onto Beach Road, and with the man in her rearview mirror, she headed toward the lot that had held the cottage from her childhood. As she drove, she thought about that moment she’d had when the man named Jake had smiled at her. She could’ve easily mentioned the beautiful weather or asked him about the best shopping spots in the area. She could’ve said anything, but she hadn’t. Her sister, Casey, would’ve. Casey had an easy way about her. She could talk to anyone. Faith often felt that opportunities came Casey’s way just because she was so easy to talk to. Faith was the quiet one. She had just as much to offer as her sister, but she had a harder time getting that across to people. She knew what she wanted to say; she just didn’t feel comfortable blurting it out. Just like now. If there had been any chance to have a conversation with a friendly, handsome man, she’d missed it. She shouldn’t have missed it. In her adult life, she was very confident.
Faith’s confidence had grown through her work. She’d been a kindergarten teacher for the last five years, and she’d loved it. She’d learned so much about personalities from the children she taught, and she realized, as she taught them, how being quiet could also mean being strong. She threw herself into her job and gave it everything she had, and her strength grew as she made friends with other teachers in her school. The children inspired her, and she finally felt in control of things. She loved the idea of keeping her own time, preparing instructional lessons the way she wanted to, and seeing the results when the children learned the concepts easily as a result of her preparation.
The kids looked up to her, they listened to her. She had to know how to be with the kids, and they were brutally honest. What Faith had found was that, in her quiet way, she taught them how to trust her. She’d found that they liked her—she made them giggle. And, crucially, they learned.
Last month, she’d received the best news—she was Teacher of the Year for her school. She’d had a big party with all her friends, and the school had recognized her accomplishments with a banquet. So many of the parents of her students came out for it that it touched her. This was her year. She was finally the person she was meant to be. And, for the first time in her life, she was happy. So, when Nan called about this beach trip, knowing Casey would be there, Faith felt strong enough to see her sister.
The one thing that was still niggling at her was the fact that, while both sisters were very successful in their own right, Casey still had something that Faith didn’t: a family. Faith had spent so many years building her self-confidence and working to make her life what she wanted that now she was worried she’d waited too long. Dating people had always come second to her job, and at the time, she felt she couldn’t help that. Now, looking back on it, she wondered if she’d been right. She’d had two long-term relationships that had ended because of her constant working. When her first relationship ended on that note, she’d just considered it a difference of opinion, that perhaps they just weren’t right for each other. But then, when her last relationship with a man named Patrick had ended for the same reason she started to take a look at her priorities.
Patrick had been a great guy. He knew how to treat her, and she enjoyed being with him. But when he wanted to take things further, and he mentioned her pulling back a little on her work, she’d dug in her heels. She felt at the time like he was trying to take away her control. But now, she wondered if perhaps she should’ve given a little. Because, in the end, the children in her classroom would go home to their parents, but she would go home to an empty house, with no children of her own. Unlike Casey who had a wonderful husband and a beautiful daughter named Isabella. She couldn’t help but feel sad at the thought. But she wouldn’t let that spoil this vacation.
Faith’s long, brown hair chased the air as it rushed in and out of the open car window. It felt good to be out of her usual skirts and button-up shirts. Her sunglasses and dangly earrings were casual like the shorts she had on and the flip-flops on her feet. She’d painted her toenails a beachy pink, and she was ready to have a little fun. Teaching children was hard work, and she needed the break. She wondered if Casey would welcome the slower pace. Her sister was a lawyer for a firm in Boston and from all she’d heard, it seemed that she worked all the time these days too.
Apart from her sister’s job, which Faith would never want, Casey had everything. She had an amazing family, and a house full of photos and reminders of the travels and adventures they’d had. As a kid, when Faith had thought about what her life would be like when she grew up, she’d imagined a house full of children, a loving husband, and a job that she loved. She was too young to grasp at the time that those things weren’t guaranteed. Faith’s personal life was a little like the empty lot she was going to see: a blank spot just waiting for something to be built on it.
As she drove towards the empty lot where the family cottage once stood, the sun warm on her face, she thought about why her life had ended up different than her sister’s. Faith wanted to know what it was like to hear the patter of feet around the house, and look into the eyes of her child, to see the perfect mixture of her and the man she loved. She wanted to spend her days passing on her family traditions and making new ones. She’d wanted to begin that chapter of her own life, but, once again, Casey had taken the lead, marrying her husband, Scott, and having a baby together.
When Scott’s job had taken them to Boston, Faith was actually relieved. She could finally see Nan and her mother. Seeing Casey and Scott together reminded her of the family that she still didn’t have, the happiness that she knew had to be out there waiting for her that she still hadn’t found. And it reminded her of the sister who had betrayed her. Who didn’t care enough for her and could hurt her terribly without even a second thought.
When Faith had left to go to college, she felt her life was a clean slate, and she was optimistic that she’d fill it up at some point. She wasn’t upset anymore, but she was still carrying around the hurt that Casey had caused. She’d been away from Casey for so long now, and she’d made something of herself, so she was ready to see her.
Faith pulled the car up into the drive to the empty lot, and she had to close her gaping mouth. Right there in front of her was a blast from the past. Like a ghost, sending waves of laughter and memories through her mind. She blinked to be sure she wasn’t hallucinating. Without warning, a lump formed in her throat as she got out to look at what was in front of her. The rush of coastal wind pushed against her as she made her way through the sea grass and over the dune. With a hand over her eyes to shield the sunlight that was too bright for even her sunglasses to manage, she let her eyes roam the new structure in front of her. It was tall, sitting on stilts like the old cottage had been, brown, shingled siding, with a porch going all the way around. It was magnificent.
Every cottage was given a name, and that name was displayed on the front of it to assist renters in finding their vacation home. This one had a wooden sign centered below the roofline of the house that said, “Better Together.” She blinked away the tears that were clouding her vision as she thought about how much better life had been when they were all together here. The new cottage—looking so much like Nan’s had looked—stood, looming like a ghost of happier times.
There was nothing to indicate that someone was living in the cottage—no cars, no beach towels on a clothesline or hanging over the railings like they’d done when she was a kid—so she walked closer to have a better look. There were manufacturer stickers on the windows and a pile of lumber and flooring propped against one of the posts. This was a brand new cottage. She knew she probably shouldn’t, but, since no one was there, she decided to climb the steps to get a look from the porch.
With every step she took she felt like she was going back in time to her childhood cottage. Her heart pounded as she anticipated the view that she’d spent so many years seeing from that old porch swing. The cottage had been in her family for generations. It had belonged to Nan. She’d only found out as an adult that just before it was destroyed Nan had told Faith’s mom she could no longer physically manage the upkeep on the cottage or make the journey to board it up every hurricane season. Martha, a single mother, couldn’t take it on, so, sadly, when the house was leveled, Martha suggested they sell the lot, and, given its location, they’d make a ton of money. Martha had confided in Faith once that she’d cried when Nan told her the cottage was gone. But, given the burden it placed on Nan, it had been for the best.
Faith walked across the brand new wooden porch floor and leaned against the railing on her elbows, the tide relentless like her memories. She remembered the sandcastles she’d built in that sand, the hours swimming in the ocean with Casey, the way the salt tasted on her lips. This had been a place of nothing but happiness for her, and standing there, the ocean view was a reminder of the time in her life before the burdens of adulthood had settled in, before Casey had torn them apart. Faith’s life was split into two distinct parts, and this place represented that first part. Just seeing it again, pulled her toward that happiness she’d had as a child and made her want to feel that again. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she brushed one away as it escaped down her cheek.
She could see the thin, gray line of the horizon, where the two shades of blue met, and the silhouette of a sailboat. As a child, she’d watch the sailboats out at sea and wished she could have had a ride on one. She’d never been on a boat before. She closed her eyes to remember happier times and take in the briny air. This beach was perfection, and, if she tried hard enough, she could almost go back to that time before her sister had hurt her. Almost.
“Hello,” she heard from behind her and nearly jumped out of her skin. She’d been so taken with the view and the memories of her childhood that she hadn’t heard the sound of the truck as it had pulled in or the footsteps of the man behind her. She was glad for her sunglasses to hide the tears that had filled her eyes. As she tried to clear them, she turned around and was startled yet again to see the man from Dune Burger standing there. For a second, she worried about being there but he was smiling, those blue eyes as warm as the midday sun. “It’s a good view,” he said, walking toward her. He held out his hand in greeting. “I’m Jake Buchanan.”
“Faith Summers.” She shook his hand, the feel of it as commanding as she imagined it to be, yet gentle, as if he were holding back because she was a lady. He was even more attractive up close, his smile reaching his eyes, making her feel as if she were the only person in the world at that moment. It looked as though he was drinking her up, like he’d been waiting all day just to see her, yet it was clear by the slight distance he’d created between them that he was a perfect gentleman. He made her feel totally at ease and safe.
“Are you all right?” he asked, and she felt a pinch of worry in her chest. Apparently, her sunglasses hadn’t hidden as much as she thought they had. His question—the fact that someone else was aware of her pain when no one had ever been there to share it with her before—caused more tears to surface against her will. She sniffled. It was all so complex.
“I have a lot of memories here. Good ones from my childhood. But I’m not a kid anymore, and life changes doesn’t it?” she said, realizing then that her statements probably made no sense to him. She smiled through her tears. They were subsiding now. Talking out loud to someone was helping. It was nice just having someone there to listen. “Sometimes I still feel like I have to prove myself to people. I know I don’t, but it still feels that way.” She’d never admitted that to anyone, so she didn’t know why she just had to Jake. Perhaps it was the fact that he was a neutral party, or that he seemed kind. Maybe it was his understanding eyes—she didn’t know, but she felt as if she could talk to him.
“What do you have to prove?”
By his question, it was clear that he was paying attention. This man she’d only just met was listening to her, and she really liked that. “That I’m happy.”
“It’s funny that you say that. I know exactly how you feel.”
How could he know? Had he had someone hurt him like Casey had hurt her? Did he go home alone every night and wonder if he’d made the right choices? “You do?”
“Yeah. I don’t need someone to show me how to be happy; I can do it by myself. I’m finally doing that.” He smiled.
Faith stood there for a moment, taking in what had just transpired. Here they were—two complete strangers—sharing thoughts that she knew were not the kinds of things that strangers shared. Why? It made her feel that, perhaps, he was a lot like her, and he felt, for whatever reason, able to share things with her in that moment, just like she had. They hadn’t said much, but she felt as though they could keep going if she pulled up a chair and settled in, as if they could just bounce thoughts off each other all night.
“I didn’t mean to pry,” he said. “I just saw you standing up here alone…”
“I’m so sorry,” she said, with a jolt of worry, suddenly realizing that she was trespassing. “I didn’t think anyone lived here.”
“No one does live here,” he smiled again, and she felt a flutter at the sight of it. It put her back at ease. It was the way he was looking at her. He certainly had a charming quality about him. She’d already said more to him than she’d said to her own family. “I was just doing some woodwork inside. Would you like to see it?”
“Are you sure it isn’t any trouble?” She’d love to go inside, to see how this cottage compared to the old one, but also to pass more time with Jake.
“None at all.” Jake unlocked the door and let her enter first. When she did, the smell of new paint and sawdust overwhelmed her. The room was an enormous open space with a vaulted, cedar ceiling, a paddle fan dangling from its center. The white walls were like blank canvases, the only color coming from the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean. A few pieces of blue furniture and a cream-colored area rug gave a pop of color against the bare interior. He came in, and she followed him across the highly lacquered hardwoods to the bar that separated the kitchen from the living room. The kitchen cabinets were custom, slats built to hold wine bottles, others for housing plates. They were stained the color of the driftwood siding that she remembered as a kid, and she cleared her throat to keep the emotion from coming back.
“This is beautiful,” she said, running her hand along the beveled edge of one of the cabinet doors. She opened it to peer into the empty cabinet and a stab of loss sliced her chest as she remembered that it was this spot that used to house all their board and card games. As a child, it had been a little too high for her, and she’d had to hop up on the counter whenever she needed one. Sometimes the cards would fall as she got them down, scattering along the kitchen floor. Why they hadn’t put the games lower, she didn’t know, but now, she wished they were still there, that things could still be as simple as they had been then. Faith closed the door and surveyed the cabinets again. They were nothing like the boxy ones that had been in her childhood cottage, but it didn’t matter. This place still felt like home.
“Thank you. It’s been hard work, but I’m pleased with how it’s all turning out.” He walked around the bar to join her in the kitchen. “I saw you at Dune Burger, right?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said with a smile. She couldn’t help but smile at him. He remembered her. She felt so comfortable around him.
“I thought so.” He broke eye contact as if he were deciding whether or not to say something, but before she could add anything, he looked up. “I wanted to ask if I could eat with you.”
Her smile widened. What an honest admission. She would have been too timid to admit first that she’d wanted him to sit with her. “You did? Then why didn’t you ask?”
“I worried you might be in a hurry or something. I didn’t want to bother you. You being by yourself made me curious. Are you here on vacation?” he asked.
She wondered what he thought about her. She was eating alone and now wandering around empty cottages all by herself. She must look like a whole heap of fun. “Yes,” she answered. “I’m meeting my family, but I’m early. We’re celebrating my grandmother’s ninetieth birthday.”
When she said that, his eyebrows shot up in surprise but then he ironed his expression back out. It was a strange reaction, but the more she thought about it, the more she realized that it did sound odd. Who brings their ninety year-old grandmother to the beach? What he didn’t know was that Nan had the will of an ox, and it had been her idea. She’d been the one who’d pressed everyone, called relentlessly, saying that they’d better come because this was the only time she was going to organize such an event, and, given her age, they’d all feel terrible if they didn’t come and she “went to find John.” Nan never talked about death. She always described it as finding their grandfather instead. It had always struck Faith as a lovely idea.
Faith had never known her grandfather. He’d died before she was born. Nan had told her stories about him, and she’d seen the black and white photos, but she didn’t feel like she really knew him. She often wondered about the man that Nan had loved so much.
“Speaking of which, I’d better get going,” she said. “Thank you for showing me this. It’s beautiful.”
“You’re welcome,” he said, a tiny wrinkle of confusion showing between his eyes.
She wondered what he could be thinking. “It was nice to meet you.”
“Likewise.” He smiled again, his expression changing. He looked as though he knew something she didn’t know. She’d never met this man before but his honesty made her feel as comfortable as coming home after a long trip. She could just feel it. He commanded her attention, but in the most wonderful way. She was only concerned with the here and now, just like in a dream. It made pulling away from him to meet her family quite difficult. She wanted to get to know this stranger better, but she knew she had to go. Real life was waiting for her.
But here was her chance to be brave, to take the first step and find out about Jake. To do what she should have done earlier, instead of letting him walk by. She should ask him his opinion for places to get a nice dinner or directions to the real estate office where she was meeting her family to get their cottage keys at the very least. She should say something. She could ask him why he’d decided to come to Dune Burger alone. Did he always eat alone? Was he perfectly fine with it like she was?
“Well, I guess I’ll be going. Have a great day,” she said, turning toward the door. She bit her lip to keep from screaming at herself for not saying more. She knew why she didn’t want to remain silent. She was attracted to Jake, and the thought of it scared her to death. She hadn’t been interested in anyone since Patrick, and letting someone in could possibly shatter the little world she’d created for herself. A world that she could control, that would never be as painful as what she’d experienced with Casey. While her head told her that one day she would ha. . .
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