Welcome to Hartwell, a quiet seaside escape where uncovering old secrets could lead one woman to discover the meaning of a love that lasts…While Doctor Jessica Huntington engages with the inmates at the women’s correctional facility where she works, she’s always careful to avoid emotional attachments in her personal life. Loss and betrayal taught her that lesson long ago. But when she comes across a set of old love letters in the prison’s library and visits the picturesque town of Hartwell to deliver them to their intended recipient, she finds herself unable to resist the town’s charm—and her attraction to the sexy owner of a local bar proves equally hard to deny.Since his divorce from his unfaithful ex-wife, Cooper Lawson has focused on what really matters: his family and the boardwalk pub they’ve owned for generations. But the first time Jessica steps into his bar, Cooper is beyond tempted to risk his heart on her. Yet as their attraction grows hotter and Jessica remains stubbornly closed off, he begins to realize it will take more than just passion to convince her there’s only one real thing in life worth fighting for...
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“You’re not walking back to the inn alone at night, Doc. We’ve been over that.” He grinned as she flushed at the reminder of their make-out session on the beach.
She huffed. “I’m perfectly capable of doing so.”
“Not arguing about it.”
“What happened to the enlightened gentleman who let me pay for dinner the other day?”
“Splitting the cost of a date is different from seeing to your safety.”
“Date?” Bailey’s ears perked up.
“Fine, you can walk me home,” Jessica said abruptly, cutting off Bailey’s curiosity. “’Bye, all!” She hurried out of the house.
Cooper was met by four amused stares. He smiled back at them and Bailey looked ready to burst with delight. She thought they were a tag team.
Cooper still wanted the doc to make up her own mind.
Didn’t mean teasing her wasn’t fun as hell.
He hurried to catch up with her outside. “Hold your horses, Doc.”
She turned to wait for him. The sadness he caught on her face kicked the amusement right out of him.
They walked together toward the inn in silence until Cooper couldn’t take it anymore. It needed to be talked about. “You happy back in Wilmington, Doc?”
He felt her tense beside him. She suddenly threw her hands up in seeming frustration. “I don’t know, okay? I don’t know. But I do know that my life is back in Wilmington, Cooper. My job is there. And I’m good at my job. Those women need someone like me. I made a commitment to my job that I can’t just break.”
“And what about you?” he argued. “What about what you need?”
Her only answer was this pained expression he didn’t quite understand.
It was full of so much hurt he decided to drop it.
Silence fell between them, but the usual camaraderie he enjoyed so much between them was gone. As the moments passed, he was aware of everything about her. The heat of her body close to his, the quick rise and fall of her chest that told him she was just as affected by his closeness, the little tremble in her full bottom lip he didn’t think she was even aware of.
The previous night, he’d dreamed about her.
She was in his bar like the day they’d met. No one else around but them.
He’d fucked her on top of one of the tables.
Cooper had woken up only to jump into the shower. He’d closed his eyes and remembered the dream as he took care of himself.
It was empty, so fucking empty, in comparison to what reality could be.
His dick tightened in his jeans thinking about it, his gaze shooting to Jessica’s mouth. It was time to remind her what was possible between them.
Cooper grabbed her wrist and pushed her up against the side of Dahlia’s gift shop. The alley between it and George’s place was dark and silent except for their heavy breathing. He pinned her in, his hands braced on the wall at either side of her head.
Jessica stared up at him with those big, dark eyes. “Coop—”
He cut off her coming question with his mouth just like last time.
She tasted of the mint ice cream they’d had for dessert and something else. Something all Jess.
She whimpered against his kiss a second before he felt her tongue touch his and that was it.
He was lost.
His kiss turned hungry as a feeling of desperation came over him and he pressed his body down the length of hers. The lush feel of her mouth mingled with the weight of her breasts pressed to him was enough on its own to fire him up, but when she wrapped her arms around his neck and tightened her fingers in his hair to draw him closer, he was done for.
He gripped her ass in his hand, urging her closer, his dick straining against her belly. His hand slid down to the back of her thigh and he hiked one of her legs up against his hip so he could be where he needed to be, fitting snugly between her thighs.
Fuck, he wished she were wearing a skirt.
“Cooper.” She breathed out his name, breaking the kiss. Her head fell back and her eyes fluttered with the sensation of him rubbing against her, mimicking sex. Her cheeks were flushed as she moaned and dug her hands into his shoulders to hold on. She flexed her hips against his and he felt his nerve endings catch fire.
He needed to be inside her.
The soft skin of her throat called to him and, as she gyrated against him, he tasted her, pressing kisses down her neck and across her collarbones. He moved his other hand down her back as his mouth reached the rise of her breasts. He brushed his thumb over the thin shirt and bra that hid them from him and groaned as her nipple visibly pebbled through the material.
If they didn’t stop soon he was going to take her right there.
“Fuck.” He pulled away from her abruptly and she stumbled back against the wall, looking as dazed as he felt.
All he’d wanted was a taste of her.
Now he knew for certain that just a taste would never be enough with this woman. “Tell me,” he said, a little breathless, “tell me you’ve got this back in Wilmington, Doc.”
He watched the muscle in her jaw twitch as she clenched her teeth.
She couldn’t tell him.
He knew that. Because what they had between them didn’t come around very often.
“Doc?” he persisted, and he learned in that moment that Jessica Huntington was not only smart and sassy but stubborn as hell.
“I can’t do this”—she gestured between them—“not with you.”
And she walked away.
He was just asking her to think about making room in her life for him. The fact that she wouldn’t even contemplate it for a second, when his blood was on fire with need for her and his mind was on her most hours of the day, was like a gaping wound.
Strangely, the pain fired his determination. Jessica Huntington was lying to herself. Cooper didn’t know why, but he was going to find out.
By then the doc would be in his bed.
Right where they both knew she belonged.
Samantha Young is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the On Dublin Street series, including Moonlight on Nightingale Way, Echoes of Scotland Street, and Fall from India Place, as well as the standalone novel Hero. She resides in Scotland.
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