We are so excited to bring you this exclusive excerpt from Bookshop by the Sea by Denise Hunter!
About Bookshop by the Sea:
Sophie Lawson should be enjoying her sister’s wedding day. But nothing could have prepared her to see the best man again.
After her mother became bedridden and her father bailed on the family, Sophie found herself serving as a second mother to her twin brother, Seth, and younger sister, Jenna. Sophie supported her siblings through their college years, putting aside her own dream of opening a bookshop in Piper’s Cove—the quaint North Carolina beach town they frequented as children.
Now it’s finally time for Sophie to follow her own pursuits. Seth has a new job, and Jenna is set to marry her college beau in Piper’s Cove. But the destination wedding reunites Sophie with best man Aiden Maddox, her high school sweetheart who left her without a backward glance.
When an advancing hurricane strands Aiden in Piper’s Cove after the wedding, he finds the hotels booked to capacity and has to ask Sophie to put him up until the storm passes. As the two ride out the weather, old feelings rise to the surface. The delay also leaves Sophie with mere days to get her bookshop up and running. Can she trust Aiden to stick around? And will he find the courage to risk his heart?
Eleven months had not been long enough to prepare Sophie Lawson for the sight of him. Presently, Aiden Maddox sauntered into the Dock House like he owned the place, the din in the restaurant rising at his arrival. One at a time the grooms-men grasped his hand and pulled him in for a shoulder bump.
Seven minutes late.
Aiden swept Sophie’s sister into a hug, giving her a peck on the cheek. His masculine frame dwarfed Jenna’s slight build. The bride-to-be accepted his affection with apparent warmth that tweaked a thread of betrayal in Sophie’s frayed heart.
Since she hadn’t seen him in seven years— and since he was otherwise occupied— she allowed herself a quick assessment. He’d dressed up a pair of jeans with a blue sports coat that she knew, even from across the room, matched his eyes perfectly. At the moment he was talking to Grant, his best friend and Jenna’s fiancé, smiling that same crooked smile that used to set her pulse thrumming. Aiden tossed his head back, laughing with abandon.
He looked much the same, just a little less boy and a little more man. His shoulders were broader, and he sported a five o’clock shadow. He still had those sensual lips, the top one curving like a heart, dipping low in the middle. But she didn’t have to stalk him on social media to know what he looked like now when they knew so many of the same—
His eyes locked on hers.
Sophie’s fingers tightened on the chair she stood behind. Her quick peek had turned into a prolonged stare.
She jerked her gaze away, pushed in the chair, and sought escape. Open French doors led onto the deck where the party would soon dine. The May breeze skittered over her skin as she slipped outside. Twilight’s rosy hue lit the landscape, the marina with all its boats, and the shimmering harbor. Water rippled against the pilings, and somewhere nearby hardware pinged on a sailboat mast.
Sophie straightened the name cards she’d placed earlier on the long rectangular table. She had put herself to the right of the bride, Grant to the left, and Aiden just beyond him, a safe three chairs from her own. Her father would be on Sophie’s other side, but that couldn’t be helped. She had to keep him away from her twin brother, Seth, and their maternal grandmother.
Sophie glanced at her watch. Their dad was now ten minutes late. She sent him a text. It was her job to run interference tonight, which included overseeing her dad’s movements and keeping Grant’s grandfather from the booze.
She ignored the erratic thumping of her heart— which had little to do with her assignments— and instead focused on positive things. The flickering votives, the white twinkle lights, the jazz music flowing through the speakers, and the savory scents of grilled steak and fresh garlic.
In the eleven months they’d been engaged, Jenna and Grant had gone back and forth a dozen times on the menu, requiring Sophie to call the restaurant as many times. But all that was behind them now. The stage was perfectly set for a beautiful rehearsal dinner.
As she reached for a votive, the hair on her arms lifted. The oxygen was suddenly too thick to breathe. She didn’t have to turn around— Aiden had followed her outside.
“Hello, Sophie.” The sound of her name on his lips made something twist hard and tight inside. Anger, that’s what it was.
She stared into eyes that gazed at her with fondness. Fondness. As though he had any right to look at her that way. At least he wasn’t presuming to hug her as he had the others. Surely he knew she wouldn’t welcome an embrace.
“Aiden.” She crossed her arms. “I see you made it.”
“Were you counting down the minutes?”
“Somebody has to keep things on schedule. Your seat is there, beside Grant. Dinner will be served soon.” She turned to go.
“Wait, Sophie. I haven’t had a chance to tell you . . . I’m sorry about your mom. She was a wonderful lady. Closest thing I ever had to a mother.”
His words triggered that soft spot she’d always had for the motherless boy.
Do not feel sorry for him.
“You were good to her. And she was so proud of you.”
About the Author:
Denise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than 35 novels, three of which have been adapted into Hallmark movies. She has appeared on the The 700 Club and won awards such as The Holt Medallion Award, The Carol Award, The Reader’s Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and is a RITA finalist.