Alyssa Morgan thought she’d never set foot on her family’s vineyard again. Fifteen years was a long time to be away, but not nearly long enough when she has nothing to show for her time. Unless you’d count three failed marriages, two parents she barely spoke to, one disastrous attempt at a college degree, and zero friends to count on.
Jake Monroe thought about leaving Amavita Estates many times after Alyssa left him. Over the years, her family became his family. They accepted him. Loved him. Healed him. Her family was the family he never had, and without her around to remind him otherwise, he could pretend he was one of them.
Until she walked back into his world looking nothing like the girl he used to know.
Alyssa knows she needs to stay away from Jake. Jake wants nothing to do with her. But the chemistry that drew them together fifteen years ago is stronger than they are.
Especially when Jake glimpses the vulnerability she’s trying to hide. His old protective instincts kick in. He wants to soothe her old hurts, and maybe her new ones, too. But Jake doesn’t know if he can move beyond their past to be friends, let alone what he thought they would become. And Alyssa doesn’t know if she can lean on him again when there’s still another woman in his life.
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Excerpt from Never A Bridesmaid, Always A Bride
Could her life get any worse?
Alyssa knew better than to ask that question. Of course as soon as the thought slipped into her mind she heard his voice. It was smooth, deep, and brought tingles to her entire body. She’d dreamt of that voice more times than she’d cared to admit, and fantasized about the man attached to it so often she was sure she’d just conjured him up when he said, “Can I help you?”
A simple question, something so ordinary and common. She was sure he didn’t recognize her or his tone wouldn’t have been so cordial. His voice was like balm on all her old wounds. He still had a slight accent, faint, but it was there. She found herself thinking maybe this trip home wouldn’t be so bad.
When she turned toward his voice Alyssa saw the man who matched the voice in every way. His dark hair was cut short, though not as short as he used to wear it, but looked like he could use a trim. His hazel eyes made a quick scan of her body and she could see the appreciation in them. His broad shoulders stretched his white Amavita Estates t-shirt tight and fought to contain his biceps and chest before dipping to his narrow waist. Well worn jeans hung low on his hips and hugged his thighs. On his feet were boots that had clearly gotten their share of use.
If Alyssa would allow herself, she would definitely get wrapped up in the gorgeous man before her again. It wouldn’t happen though. She was there to see what her mom wanted and she would be gone once more, off to find another place to run, another place to pretend could be home. Another place to be a bride to some undeserving man.
“I’m fine,” Alyssa finally answered his question, hoping he wouldn’t recognize her. She gave him what she thought was a polite smile and turned toward the house again. Before she could take two steps, her suitcase was pulled free of her hand and she whirled on him. “I said I was fine.”
He gave her a slanted grin that said he was both amused by her and pacifying her. “I’m sorry, but guests aren’t supposed to carry their own stuff. Are you checking in?”
Jake nodded toward the main house which was also a Bed & Breakfast. Alyssa’s grandparents, Tina and Carmelo Richliano, had just started the inn when her grandfather was killed in a car accident. Tina pulled in her four daughters to help run Amavita Estates. Alyssa’s mom, Marie, being the oldest, had taken the lead on running the place and thrived with the inn.
It was just another thing Alyssa had run from. All the strangers in her home made her feel even more alone. The other families had their own homes throughout the vineyard, but Alyssa couldn’t get away from everyone.
Except when she went to her favorite tree by the lake. Or when Jake arrived.
“No, I’m not checking in. I’m just here to see my mom, Jake. Then I’ll be out of your life again. This time forever.”