The House on Firefly Beach
“ Wow!!! I couldn’t have enjoyed it more! Such a page-turner for me and I couldn’t put it down… Great job, Jenny!!! Can’t wait to read more from you!” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Goodreads Reviewer
Nothing beats falling in love under the sun, with the sand beneath your feet. This gorgeous, feel-good, and heartwarming summer escape from the bestselling author of The Summer House is perfect for fans of Mary Alice Monroe, Susan Mallery and Nancy Thayer.
For Sydney Flynn, her treasured family home, Starlight Cottage, is her sanctuary. The house on the white sands of Firefly Beach, surrounded by glittering turquoise waters, is the perfect place for her fresh start. That’s until her knees almost buckle at the sight of Nate Henderson.
As teenagers, Sydney and Nate whispered sweet nothings and promised “forever” to each other. Sydney thought they were perfect. She never imagined that her childhood sweetheart was going to end things out of the blue and with no explanation, ruthlessly driving away from her and never looking back. She has spent the last decade piecing herself back together, and trying to figure out exactly what went wrong.
And now the man who ripped apart her heart is back. The down-to-earth son of a fisherman she used to know, forever in beach t-shirts and flip flops, is well and truly gone – in his place is a successful songwriter in a swanky designer suit who’s totally out of place in the small town she calls home.
All of a sudden, Nate wants to make it up to Sydney, yet how can she find it in her heart to forgive him? But when a new development threatens her beloved Starlight Cottage, Sydney needs all the help she can get, and her plan of avoiding Nate is suddenly impossible. Can they overcome their past to save Firefly Beach and the house that holds so many memories for them? Or will the town they adore, and the love they had for one another, be lost forever?
Release date: June 5, 2020
Print pages: 280
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The House on Firefly Beach
Sydney Flynn skipped along the beach road toward Nate’s house, her auburn curls pulled into a ponytail to combat the swell of afternoon pre-summer heat. It was their senior year in college, and they were both graduating in a week, the clear, humid days of summer quickly approaching. Having spent four glorious years together, much of their winters separated by a lengthy drive between their two universities, Sydney couldn’t help but feel the excitement of their uninterrupted future together bubbling up.
She fiddled with the purple stone of the toy ring Nate had given her as a placeholder for the real diamond he promised once they graduated—she wore the ring every day. Nate had called her this morning before she’d awakened and left a message to come see him right away. He’d sounded oddly breathless and nervous, and she wondered what the surprise could be. He wasn’t usually this mysterious.
The sun was already beaming in a gloriously blue sky, birds flying overhead, the waters of the gulf that rippled by her side shushing relentlessly onto the Florida shore as she walked the familiar path toward the one person in this world that she adored the most—it was the perfect day to start the rest of their lives. She didn’t want to jinx it, but she did wonder: Would he propose today? Could that be it?
Of course, she wanted it to happen in his time, but she was so in love with him that she was ready to start their lives together right now. Last night they’d celebrated her incredible news that she’d been invited to travel around the U.S. for three months, as a writer, documenting the work of a famous humanitarian. She didn’t even want to go if she could start planning her wedding right now, but Nate had convinced her to follow her passion to be a professional journalist, so she’d decided to take the trip. If they had a year before wedding, she could still get all the planning done if she started after she returned. Her excitement made her laugh because she knew she was getting ahead of herself.
Sydney came up the drive, bounding with the thrill of seeing Nate and hearing what he had to tell her, but she paused, the sight in front of her baffling. “What’s going on?” she asked, as Nate hurried out, locked the door behind him, and stopped cold, his arms fumbling with a pile of boxes as he picked them up off the drive. He lumped them into the back of his truck that was completely full of his things.
Were they going somewhere?
“I’m leaving,” he said, his gaze fluttering up to her, but only briefly.
“Where are you going?” Her heart was beating uncontrollably, as if her body had caught up to the situation before her mind could process it.
“I don’t know,” he nearly snapped. “New York? LA? Somewhere I can write my songs and make something of myself.” He shifted a box in the back and secured it with a bungee cord, his movement swift and focused. “I’m getting out of here. There’s more to life than Firefly Beach,” he said. “I just wanted to say goodbye.”
A cloud drifted in front of the sun, casting a gray shade on everything, but she barely noticed through the tears that were forming in her eyes.
“I’m not coming with you?” She already knew the answer, but she was pleading with the heavens above to help her by casting some kind of reconsideration onto his heart before he broke hers into pieces.
“Why not?” she asked, her body beginning to shake all over, her world crumbling in front of her.
He swallowed, not answering or meeting her eyes. “I wanted to say goodbye, but… There’s no good way to do this.”
“Nate, what are you doing?” Why was he hurting her like this? “Explain to me what is going on,” she cried, unable to keep her emotions from coming through.
He pushed another box into his truck and lifted the tailgate, shutting his belongings into the back.
“Talk to me!” When he didn’t respond, she tried to push herself in front of him, but he darted out of her way. “I deserve an explanation! You can’t just leave like this after four years. What happened between last night and now?”
He didn’t answer, leaving her to wonder if he, too, had given thought to forever with her, and suddenly realized that it wasn’t at all what he wanted.
“Sorry,” he said quickly without even a look in her direction.
He paused in front of her and stared into her eyes, the hint of something in them, as if he wanted one last chance to make sure this was the right decision. Then before she could say anything, he got in his truck, starting the engine and shutting the door. She stepped back instinctively when he put the truck into gear, his face like stone. He pulled away, leaving her standing there, struggling to clear the tears from her vision enough to see him look back at her in his rearview mirror, but he never did. Sydney stood in the driveway of his dark, locked house, and watched his truck pull further away from her until it disappeared. Nate was gone, taking her happiness with him.
In her conch-shell-pink chiffon bridesmaid’s dress, Sydney stood with the rest of the wedding party, at the end of their beloved family’s pier, and locked eyes with Nate Henderson. She barely noticed the unseasonably perfect weather or the lapping of the sparkling Gulf of Mexico behind them, all of it fading away at the sight of Nate. Nate was the man whom Sydney had always considered to be the true love of her life. And now, with his Valentino suit and over-priced haircut, he was someone she barely recognized.
His cell went off. He quickly left his seat and bowed his way down the aisle, stepping off to the side to answer a call right in the middle of the service. Mr. Hollywood can’t even shut it off for a wedding? she thought, irritated already. He had seemed slightly mortified, but it hadn’t stopped him from answering. He slid back into his seat.
Knowing every rocky detail of their break-up and the scar it had left on Sydney’s heart, Sydney’s sister Hallie and Hallie’s fiancé Ben Murray had warned her that Nate would be invited to their wedding. Ben had tried to convince Sydney that she’d misunderstood Nate all these years and that she should give him a chance to explain himself, that it would help her get through the wedding at the very least. Sydney had assured the couple she’d be just fine with him there whether she spoke to him or not. She was completely over it. Not until this very moment, under strands of summer twinkle lights and festive bouquets of hydrangea, had she felt like her knees were going to buckle.
Nate smiled at her guardedly from his aisle seat, while tucked in to the row next to him were the two women in his life: the plus one that had been written on his wedding RSVP card—an international supermodel and reported girlfriend named Juliana Vargas—and his sister Malory. If Nate was expressing his happiness to celebrate Hallie and Ben’s wedding, that was one thing, but if that smile had been his feeble attempt to bury the hatchet with Sydney, given their history, he was completely delusional. She pushed herself to focus on someone else, her gaze landing on her friend Mary Alice, who gave her a tiny wave. Sydney smiled back at her before breaking eye contact. But her thoughts remained with Nate, her stomach in knots.
It had been years since she’d gotten her heart broken by Nate, and both of them had moved on with their lives. But two things had lingered, spiking her emotions when it came to him: the first was the fact that all those years ago, his leaving had made her feel like she wasn’t good enough; the second was the overwhelming loss of the person he’d been and the gaping hole it had caused in her life. The four years she’d dated him, he’d been amazing, perfect for her, actually—he’d been her best friend.
Now, no longer Nate Henderson, he was known to the world as Nathan Carr, most eligible bachelor and songwriting superstar, not even his name recognizable to Sydney anymore. And he’d had the audacity to smile at her like everything had been mended between them. Wouldn’t “I’m sorry” come first, at the very least?
“Benjamin,” the preacher said, pulling Sydney back into the present where she should be: her sister’s wedding at their gorgeous family beachside retreat, Starlight Cottage.
Sydney gripped her bouquet to steady herself and tore her eyes from Nate to focus on her sister and her soon-to-be brother-in-law. This was their moment, and it couldn’t be more perfect. Hallie gazed up at the love of her life while Sydney looked on, under the cedar-shingled roof of the enormous gazebo, the southernmost point of the dwelling. The gazebo sat at the end of a pier that reached up to the shoreline where it met the boardwalk leading to the house Sydney and Hallie had spent their entire season renovating.
Growing up, Sydney had spent every summer at Firefly Beach, and when her divorce was finalized, she’d moved back for a few months to recharge, but returned to where she’d grown up in Nashville, since Hallie and her mother lived there. Then last summer, when Uncle Hank had been struggling with Aunt Clara’s death, and Sydney had been given Aunt Clara’s dying wishes to follow her heart, she’d moved back to Firefly Beach full time. Her mother divided her time between Starlight Cottage and her home in Nashville, but this summer she’d been there full time to help with renovations.
The gazebo where Sydney stood had been remodeled especially for the evening, widened to accommodate the throng of wedding guests in their rows of white chairs. The wedding had given them a timeframe, but their love of this place had been their motivation for restoring it.
Starlight Cottage was the home that had seen them through all their ups and downs. It had been revived originally with love and magazine-worthy décor by their great aunt Clara, designer extraordinaire, and when she’d passed it had fallen into disrepair. Now Sydney, Hallie, and their mother, Jacqueline Flynn took care of it. With the grief that had been filling the hallways, her sister’s wedding was like a warm coastal breeze flushing through the whole property, breathing life back into it again. The family’s energy buzzed through the entire place, laughter filled the empty rooms, footsteps and banter tickled the hardwoods, and it was becoming the retreat that it had always been for them.
The ever-present salty air blew Hallie’s veil despite the fact that they were all sheltered from the wind and the setting sun in an orange and pink sky. Ben’s Labrador-spaniel mix, Beau, sat at his master’s side, sporting a coral-colored bow tie. The dog tilted his head, his ears perking with interest as the preacher spoke.
“Will you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife? And whatever the future may hold, will you love her and stand by her, as long as you both shall live?”
“I will,” Ben said, Hallie’s hands in his as he peered down at her adoringly. Ben leaned toward her, clearly lost in the moment and ready to press his lips to his soon-to-be wife’s.
“Wait,” the preacher said, gently placing his hand on Ben’s shoulder to stop him. “I have to get the rest of my lines out before you kiss her… That’s my job.”
The crowd chuckled and Ben looked back at the preacher, playfully impatient.
“Hey, I didn’t write the rules for the wedding,” the preacher added. “You two did.”
Everyone laughed again, and in her amusement, Sydney let her eyes roam the front row of the guests, searching for her mother, to share in the moment of humor, but her attention was pulled toward Nate once more. This time, he was whispering something to the supermodel, the woman’s eyes hidden behind her enormous designer sunglasses. She nodded at whatever he’d said and then fanned her perfectly smooth and professionally made-up face with one of the programs that Sydney had picked up from the printers herself yesterday to allow Hallie time to attend a final meeting with the wedding design team before the big night.
As if he could feel her gaze upon him, Nate looked back at Sydney, and his interpretation of her mood was obvious. This time, there were silent words in his stare. He had something to say, and the minute the ceremony was finished, she knew, by that look, that he’d find her to tell her whatever it was. Her mind wandered to places she could go to avoid him. She wasn’t going to let Nate derail this evening. Sydney turned back toward her sister, basking in the happiness on Hallie’s face as she and Ben continued their vows.
Sydney’s eight-year-old son Robby, dressed adorably in his little tuxedo, his light brown hair combed perfectly to one side, held up the lace ring-pillow made from a swatch of Aunt Clara’s vintage honeymoon gown that had been meticulously preserved over the years, in the back of her great-aunt’s closet. Their Uncle Hank had offered the dress to Hallie as a wedding gift, telling her that Aunt Clara would’ve wanted her to have it, and that he knew she could do something amazing with it. The soft blue satin had floated like the waves of the gulf over Hallie’s arm when she held it out that night, deciding right then and there that it would be her “something blue” at the wedding.
Robby held the pillow above his head, just like he and Sydney had practiced all week, as the preacher untied the rings.
While Ben’s friend from college sang the couple’s song, “Marry Me” by Train, about knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that The One is right there in front of him, Sydney tried to sort out the best way to avoid Nate at the reception while still being able to enjoy her family. She had planned to spend the entire night celebrating with her loved ones, rather than reliving old wounds. But what alarmed her was the pattering of her heart, just knowing Nate was out there. It was an involuntary response that she used to have every time he met her on the front porch of his parents’ small beach cottage, bare feet, sun-kissed hair, those stormy blue eyes that used to swallow her like he couldn’t get enough of her…
She looked back at the bride in an attempt to refocus, but her racing mind wouldn’t allow her to. Life seemed to move along neatly for her sister Hallie. Sure, she’d had her moments of uncertainty, but she was a successful designer, and she’d found the love of her life. Sydney’s path wasn’t quite so obvious. She had wanted to be in a better place before she’d come face-to-face with Nate again, but as fate would have it, she was still at her aunt and uncle’s estate, Starlight Cottage, in Firefly Beach where he’d left her, the dreams of writing that they used to share now a distant memory for her, just like those long-ago days with Nate.
Memories floated into her consciousness, one in particular lingering: she and Nate were on a blanket in the sand one night. She was tired from too much sun and the rum-and-pineapple cocktails they’d been drinking. With their writing notebooks strewn out around them, he sat cross-legged on the blanket and she lay down and propped her head up on his knee, the fireflies swirling around them like restless stars. Laughter floated over the dune from Starlight Cottage behind them, both of them twisting around to see Uncle Hank and Aunt Clara in rocking chairs together on the porch.
“That will be us someday,” Nate said, pushing a rogue piece of hair behind her ear adoringly.
Sydney rolled onto her belly and propped her chin on her hands. “You sure you want to spend every single day of your life with me?” she asked.
His smile fell into a serious affection, his eyes devouring her. “Yes,” he said with a quiet determination. “When you find the right person, it feels like you’ve found the rest of yourself. And that’s how I feel about you. Without you, I’m not really me—just some half-empty version of myself.”
He leaned down and kissed her, and even now, Sydney could still drum up the mix of fruity cocktails and the unique scent of him as his lips touched hers.
“I now pronounce you man and wife,” the preacher announced.
Sydney blinked away the distraction, frustrated that Nate could still have that affect on her. She breathed in the briny air to steady her nerves.
“You may now kiss your bride.”
Ben dipped Hallie, her arm dropping by her side, the bouquet dangling in her hand against the satin fabric of her vintage French couture wedding dress as the train fanned out along the boards of the gazebo. Their silhouettes were a picture of perfection in front of the glorious sunset that had materialized as if on cue over the water behind them. The crowd cheered. Beau barked. When Ben righted Hallie, the couple turned toward the onlookers, and Hallie was positively glowing.
The preacher stepped behind them, calling over the couple, “I now present to you Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Murray.”
Ben, a top Nashville music producer, had organized one of his new bands to play their jazzed-up version of a wedding march. He took Hallie’s hand and gave her a spin, Hallie’s train fluttering out around her ballet-slipper-style shoes. Then he dipped her one more time and kissed her again, the whole crowd whooping and clapping. While the music filled the air around them, mixing with the rustle of the palm trees in the ocean breeze and gentle lapping of the gulf, the wedding party made their way out of the gazebo and down the pier toward the reception.
Sydney took Robby’s hand, grabbed Beau’s leash, and walked in the procession, behind her sister and Ben. She kept her eyes straight ahead and tried to avoid the loaded look from Nate as she passed him. But walking across the lawn, her flats treading lightly down the path of rose petals, she knew just by his stare, that no matter how hard she tried, there would be no avoiding whatever it was that Nate had to say.
“I just saw the food table,” Hallie said to Sydney, swishing over to her in the incredible chiffon vintage gown with an open back and lace-edged empire waist that she’d picked out only a week after her engagement, when the two of them had gone out shopping.
Sydney smirked deviously.
Chewing on a grin, Hallie teasingly shook her sister by the shoulders. “Why do I have bowls of Doritos snack chips on the table between the dishes of lamb and rosemary appetizers and the prosciutto wrapped persimmons? Is this a football game?” Hallie broke her mock-seriousness and bent over laughing.
“That’s what you said you wanted,” Sydney said, unable to hide her own laughter. “There are also crystal dishes of pink bubble gum—did you see them? Dubble Bubble,” she added as if that upped the status of the gum.
“Wait till your next wedding,” Hallie said. “You’re getting a Jell-O mold, a big, wiggly bride and groom in wild cherry.”
Sydney burst into laughter.
When Sydney and Hallie were in elementary school, they’d planned out their weddings. Sydney had wanted Jell-O for her reception, while Hallie had drawn a map of the table she’d wanted to see at her nuptials, which included Doritos and Dubble Bubble, both of which Sydney had managed to hide from her sister until this moment.
“You deserved the wedding of your dreams,” Sydney said, still giggling. “Think of me as the magic maker.”
Hallie rolled her eyes, still smiling from ear to ear before being pulled away to accept congratulations from a group of Ben’s relatives.
Sydney waved at Robby from across the makeshift dance floor that had been built with old wood from original planks in the cottage. Aunt Clara had ripped them out in her previous renovation and saved pieces of them that were stored in the guesthouse basement. Hallie had decided they would be perfect at the reception. Together, Ben had sanded the edges, and Sydney and Hallie had oiled the boards, encasing the whole thing in an oak frame. It now sat in the center of the lush green grass, dotted by lanterns and hanging lights.
While couples filtered onto the dance floor, the band kicking up to a slightly more festive beat, Robby was at the dessert table, helping himself to the wedding-bell cookies and sneaking some to Beau. His light brown hair was disheveled, the sleeves of his tuxedo shirt were rolled to the elbow, and his jacket, shoes, and socks were long gone.
Robby was Sydney’s whole world, the last remnant of the life she’d worked so hard for, which had come crashing down around her a few years ago when Robby’s father Christian had left her for another woman. Sydney had known Christian since his family had moved down the road when he was fifteen but growing up, they’d never been anything more than friends. In her late twenties, he and Sydney reunited, falling in love quickly. They’d started dating seriously and soon after Sydney found herself swept up in a romantic whirlwind, everything moving in a flash. Not long after they started dating, they both admitted they had fallen head-over-heels. Christian rushed over one night, breathless, telling her he couldn’t live without her, and before she knew it, she was planning her wedding. He’d ended up finding someone else, their relationship falling apart after only five years. She should’ve known it wouldn’t last by the lackluster romance they had once they’d settled into their daily routine. It seemed he was more interested in the chase than the actual happily ever after.
As her sister began the wedding planning, Sydney feared he’d be invited, but Hallie had told her that even though they’d all known him forever, and he was Robby’s father, she’d never put her sister in that position.
However Nate was a different story entirely. He most certainly got an invite.
A darling of the music industry, Nate Henderson had left Firefly Beach after college to pursue a career as a songwriter, and Sydney wasn’t sure even he had been prepared back then for the future that lay ahead of him.. . .
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