Will coming home be a mistake or a new beginning for both of them?
RETURN OF THE RUNAWAY BRIDE
Five years earlier, Emily Bennett ran out on Chase Michaels on the eve of their wedding. At twenty-two, she wanted more than the island of Last Chance Beach could offer. Intent on making a name for herself as a world-class journalist, she left to take a job with a big city newspaper.
Heartbroken, Chase left Last Chance Beach and joined the Coast Guard in an effort to rebuild his life. Returning four years later for a family emergency, he decided to stay and go into business with his best friend.
Emily’s returning as well. Not as the journalist she’d hoped to be but as a bestselling romance author. One of her books is about to be made into a movie, and filming will take place on Last Chance Beach and in the nearby town of Summerville.
Will Emily’s return give them a second chance at the love they once shared? Or, will her ‘other’ reason for leaving put a wedge between three best friends that can’t be healed by time or intention?
Five Years Earlier
Chase Michaels stood at the front of the non-denominational chapel, in muted conversation with the justice of the peace. He turned slowly, surveying the half-dozen guests who’d been invited to the wedding rehearsal.
The only persons missing were his best friend Jared, Mr. and Mrs. Bennett and Emily, his bride-to-be.
Carly and Becca, Emily’s bridesmaids, hovered nearby.
“I’ve heard of a bride being late for the wedding before,” Carly whispered, “but the rehearsal?”
“You know Emily,” Becca responded, shaking her head in teasing resignation. “She does like to make an entrance.”
When the back door of the chapel opened, everyone raised their gazes in anticipation. Rather than the blushing bride, it was Jared Wilson, Chase’s best man, who entered the sanctuary and made his way down the narrow aisle.
Stopping just short of the flower-covered altar, he pulled Chase aside.
“She’s gone,” Jared said, his words falling like a lead brick on Chase ’s ears.
“What do you mean ‘gone’? Gone where?”
“Mrs. Bennett said Emily packed her suitcase, gassed up her car, and left. She’s on her way to Boston for a job interview.” Jared stuck his hand in the pocket of his jeans and withdrew a velvet pouch. “She left this for you.”
Chase didn’t need to look to know what was in the bag. After all, he’d been the one to give the modest ring to Emily in the first place. Drawing a deep breath, he spun around and faced his friends and family.
“Thank you all for being here for the wedding rehearsal.” Blinking back the threat of tears, he met his mother’s worried gaze. “However, there will be no need to practice. The wedding’s been called off.”
“Called off?” Carly asked. She and Becca exchanged glances and then closed the distance between themselves and where he stood. “If Emily’s got cold feet, we’ll straighten her out.”
Chase gave a quick shake of his head and bit back the string of curses welling up from within. “Emily’s gone. She sent back the ring and, as we speak, she’s on her way to Boston, eager it seems to put both me and Last Chance Beach in her rearview mirror.”
One-by-one, the guests slowly filtered out of the chapel, Carly and Becca giving Chase a hug of support. His mom wrapped her arms around his middle and squeezed, nearly drawing the tears he was fighting so hard to contain. Within minutes, he was left standing at the altar alone, but for the best friend he’d known since kindergarten.
“Are you okay, Chase?” Jared asked.
“No, but I will be. Just not anytime soon.”
Emily Bennett took a seat behind the cloth-covered table and waited for her publicist and good friend Mary to give her standard introduction. No matter how many of these events she’d done, to Emily they were never routine. Nervously, she adjusted and readjusted the angle of the ink pens and candy dish and fanned the bookmarks and other swag out across the tabletop.
Mary tapped the microphone, waited for the echo to stop, and then began, “Thank you all for coming to today’s book promotion event. Author E.M. Stephens will be here for the next two-and-a-half hours, and happy to sign copies of her New York Times bestseller, Love in the Surf, as well as early copies of her newest release, A Bad Boy for Willa.” Mary paused, then added, “For those who haven’t yet heard, Love in the Surf has been optioned for a movie and will begin filming within the next month.” Beaming proudly, Mary turned in her direction. “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the romantically gifted, E.M. Stephens.”
The queue of fans bent around the front of the bookstore and out into the mall, with tables set up inside the entryway and books stacked in piles of twelve. One-by-one, the towers of both books diminished quickly.
Two hours in, less than a dozen people remained in line. Emily’s hand was beginning to cramp, but she forced a renewed smile to her lips and raised her gaze to the young man who stood in front of her.
“Is there a name for an inscription?”
“Eileen, please.” He flashed her a smile. “It’s for my mom. She’s a big fan.”
Emily wrote a short note and signed her name. “Tell your mother ‘thank you’ for me.”
“I will,” he assured her before moving on.
Emily repeated the smile and sign process over and over again until—finally—the line was gone.
Mary gathered up the remaining bookmarks, empty candy dish, and a half dozen pens before leading the way to the back of the bookstore and into a small private room. The moment the door closed behind them, Emily released a long sigh and reached for the mid-length blonde wig that had been driving her crazy for the past hour, releasing her long brown hair to hang freely across her shoulders.
A quick change out of her bright red blouse, tight black leggings, and fancy rhinestone hoop earrings, and back into her faded jeans and vintage T-shirt had her feeling more like Emily, and less like her alter ego, E.M. Stephens.
“I don’t know about you, sweetie,” Mary said, a long sigh escaping, “But I could use a greasy burger, with an onion ring and frosty beer chaser. Why don’t we get out of here and go someplace dark and inconspicuous and kick back for a while?”
“As much as the idea appeals to me, I’ve got to finish packing and then load the car. I’m hoping to be on the road by six in the morning, if possible.”
“I don’t understand why you’re driving all the way to Last Chance Beach. Why not fly into the closest airport and rent a car?”
She gave a quick shake of her head. “I’ve got too much stuff to drag with me. Besides, the drive will give me two days and a night to get my story straight and figure out how to explain everything to my parents.”
“I still can’t believe you never told your parents about your books. With all the success you’ve had, you’d think bragging rights alone would have prompted the discussion.”
“I grew up on Last Chance Beach before it became a tourist magnet. I went to high school on the mainland where they still do farmer’s markets and county fairs. It was bad enough I left under less than stellar circumstances. I’ve never been ready to explain why I gave up on a career as a serious journalist to write romance novels.”
Mary’s grin was followed by a very unladylike snort. “For the money, sweetie. The glitz, the glamor and the chance for a huge movie deal.”
Emily flexed her sore hand. Opening the door, she stepped back out into the store, totally unrecognizable to her adoring fans. “Glitz and glamor? Not according to my impending carpal tunnel.”
NANCY FRASER--Jumping Across Romance Genres with Gleeful Abandon--is an Amazon Top 100 and Award-Winning author who can’t seem to decide which romance genre suits her best. So, she writes them all.
Nancy has published over forty books in full-length, novella, and short format. When not writing (which is almost never), Nancy dotes on her five wonderful grandchildren and looks forward to traveling and reading when time permits. Nancy lives in Atlantic Canada where she enjoys the relaxed pace and colorful people.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/nfraserauthor @nfraserauthor
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Fraser/e/B004AOL61Y/
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