Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂
Series: Tiernet Bay #2
Publication Date: August 18, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance
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A passionate first love. A deep betrayal. One last chance to make it right.
Jax Walker left Chiara Campbell behind without a word, but he’s never forgotten how it felt to love that fiercely. Not that it matters—he can never go back to Tierney Bay, because the secret he’s keeping would tear them both apart.
Chiara has written Jax out of her life and her memory—until he shows up at the shop where she works. All the hurt she thought she’d buried is still there, and so is her fiery attraction to him. The more Chiara and Jax work together to save the shop, the more she wants things she can’t have.
She knows she’s going to get her heart broken again. She knows it’s going to hurt like hell.
And she’s pretty sure that when he kisses her, she’ll kiss him right back.
Excerpt from So True by Serena Bell:
Jax Walker took the Tierney Bay exit off U.S. 101 a little too sharply, testament to how damn long it had been since he’d been here. The ramp curled around and deposited him at the head of town. He passed several hotels and a few restaurants that had definitely not been here ten years ago. There were plenty of new shop fronts, and many of the old ones had been spruced up. It looked like Tierney Bay had come into some good luck recently.
Which was more than he could say for himself.
If he did this right, he could be in and out of town in a few hours and there was zero chance he would run into anyone he didn’t want to see. Which included any member of the Campbell family.
He shouldn’t be here at all—his plans had not called for ever coming back, or not, at least, as long as he knew Chiara Campbell was still here. But his plans had been upended.
Two days ago, he’d driven up the west coast to visit his little brother Evan at his Portland-based community college.
Only, surprise! Evan was not actually enrolled.
At first Jax thought he’d made a really dumbass mistake, and texted Evan to confirm. Not sure why I don’t know this for sure, but it’s Portland Community College Yamhill, right?
Yup! Evan texted back.
He’d turned back to the young woman perched behind the reception desk and asked her to check one more time to confirm that there was no one enrolled there by the name of Evan Walker. And there was, indeed, not.
That was when Jax got it. He’d been had. Lied to.
The woman gave him a long look that was equal parts pity and curiosity, with maybe a tiny bit of I’ll soothe your sorrows thrown in for good measure.
Well, fuck. His brother had taken the tuition money Jax had given him and done a runner.
Regretfully, he ignored the woman’s interest. She definitely wasn’t more than a year out of college herself, and smoking hot, but he had an asshole brother to chase down.
He could have had it out with his brother by text or phone right then and there, but now he was pissed. His brother had taken thousands of dollars of his hard-earned money and done what-the-fuck with it, and Jax wanted to ask him to his face. So he holed up in his truck and made a bunch of phone calls, sent a bunch of texts. He finally tracked down a friend of Evan’s who knew what was going on and was willing to spill the beans. And it turned out that Evan was, of all places, in Tierney Fucking Bay.
Of course. Because it wasn’t enough that Evan had stolen Jax’s money and ditched his own education—no, he’d gone back to the one place that you couldn’t have paid Jax to set foot in.
Maybe it was punishment. Because the last time Jax had been in Tierney Bay, he’d done the thing he regretted most in his life. And maybe he’d always known he’d have to face up to it at some point. You could only keep the piper at bay for so long before you had to pay.
He put the truck in drive and drove from Portland out to Tierney Bay in under an hour and half, keeping an eye out for speed traps. And here he was, pulling into town, still raging hot under the collar at his brother. Because Jax had done everything he could to make sure Evan got a good life and didn’t end up like their parents. Including at least one thing he’d still redo if he could. Unfortunately, it was the kind of thing you couldn’t redo.
And what had Evan done? He’d taken his tuition money and opened a board game shop.
Jax turned onto the street that Evan’s friend had directed him to and pulled into a parking space in front of the park. Like the town, the park had gotten quite a facelift, but its bones were the same, as were the distinctive smells of cool, green grass and dirty metal. He remembered walking across the woodchips, Chiara’s warm hand in his, her voice drifting to him as she told him about her day—
He shut down the memories; replaced them with his anger at Evan.
He turned and walked toward the shop. There was a sign, hung at a slight angle, just a cheap printed fabric banner. Oh, Evan, he thought. You pissed away your college education and you couldn’t even make it look classy.
He pulled open the front door of the shop, mouth already open to tell Evan what a dumbass he was. But it wasn’t Evan behind the desk. It was someone smaller, slimmer, dark-haired.
She looked up, and God, it was like having someone slide a knife between two of his ribs. That deep and that sharp. How pretty she was, those blue eyes, and the way they made him feel like she could see into him. After what he’d done, it wasn’t fair that she still made him feel anything.
She, on the other hand, looked pretty much like he’d just punched her. Which he deserved. He’d never had to look her in the face, tell her he was leaving, see the hurt. So this was as close as he’d get. And it sucked.
He opened his mouth to say something that made sense, but the only thing that came out was, “Evan.”
She shook her head. “He’s not here.”
She hesitated. “If he wanted you to know that, don’t you think he would’ve told you?”
“Look. I didn’t come here to fight with you. I didn’t even know you’d be here.”
“If you had, you wouldn’t have come,” she challenged.
It was true, and he deserved it. He deserved whatever she wanted to dish out. It felt good in a way, like finally letting out a breath. He almost hoped she would yell at him. Maybe then he could set down the guilt.
“Did you know he was supposed to be at college?”
He could tell from the way her big blue eyes got bigger that she hadn’t known.
“Yeah,” he said. “Portland Community Yamhill. Summer session. I showed up today for a surprise visit. Thought I’d, you know, take him out to dinner, see his place. He’d sent me photos of his place. In fucking Portland. And photos of the campus.” He pulled out his phone, pushed it across the counter to her.
She took it, looked. “That’s his apartment here. I don’t know where he got the campus photos, but anyone could pull them from online.”
“So I tracked him here. His friend Asher told me where to find him.”
Chiara nodded at that. She apparently knew Asher.
“Where is he?”
She shook her head. “I can’t—”
“Where is he?”
“It’s not my place to tell you that.”
“He’s my brother.”
Against his better judgment, his voice had risen, and her eyes narrowed. “You can’t just show up here and talk to me like that—after what you did—” She stopped. “Did it occur to you that maybe he doesn’t want to see you?”
The anger in her voice cut through the thickness of his own frustration, shut him right down. He took a deep breath. There were freckles across the bridge of her nose that he didn’t remember. A smattering on her cheeks, the fair skin underneath bright pink with the heat of her emotion. Her eyes flashed with it.
And suddenly he was so ashamed of himself that he could barely stand it. She was right, of course. After what he’d done to her, he had no right to speak to her at all, let alone demand anything of her.
“He doesn’t want to see me?” he asked. “Or you don’t?”
She stood very still. Only her fingers moved, fidgeting with something on the counter. A game piece, he thought. She turned it over in her hand, moved it between her fingers, set it down again.
“Both,” she said. The heat had gone out of her voice. Which made him feel worse. She said it calmly, like it was something she’d had ten years to get used to the idea of. Like she didn’t much care anymore. Which he deserved, but still.
He almost told her right that second, just blurted it all out. He’d always been a little bit afraid that the first time he laid eyes on her it would all come spilling out. The whole story—why he’d left, why he’d never gotten in touch. Right after he’d left, he’d fantasized that he’d be able to tell her someday. He’d pictured her listening—angry at first, but then, somehow, willing to forgive.
That had been ten years ago, and he still couldn’t tell her.
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