The fifth book in the Lilac Bay series is available now! I always enjoy visiting the gang on Lilac Bay and this one was particularly fun. The books that are usually the most fun for me to write are the ones with a lot of character growth, and I just love the journey that Jenny takes in The One You Want. And Grant, the hot florist who steps in to help her get her life back on track, is totally crush-worthy!
Scroll down to check out an exclusive look at the first chapter. You can pick up The One You Want at all the major ebook vendors now.
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Special Sneak Peek!
Sitting on that bench in the middle of Town Square, I knew my life was going to change. I, Jenny Hillman, was about to get everything I had ever wanted.
At least, that’s what I kept telling myself. I had just finished reading a book about mantras and the power of positive thought, so I was trying to stay hopeful. Apparently if I said it in my head enough, the universe would manifest my desires for me.
Or something like that. I’m pretty sure.
Okay, so I didn’t actually read the entire book, more like skimmed the first chapter, but still. I was sure I had the gist of it down.
Be positive,I reminded myself. You can do this. You are the new and improved Jenny Hillman.
Well, somewhatnew and improved. In all honesty, my attempts to change my lifelong shy and awkward-as-all-hell personality hadn’t really worked out the way I wanted them to. But the important thing was that I was trying, right?
I attempted the whole positive thinking crap one more time, with a few adjustments for the sake of honesty. You can do this. You are the kind of new and almost certainly on your way to being improved Jenny Hillman.
God, I couldn’t even give myself a pep talk properly.
The truth was, self-confidence had never quitebeen my thing. I had spent the first twenty-eight years of my life feeling just a little bit out of step with my peers.
Take my best friend Riley, for instance. That girl never met a challenge she couldn’t face. She was one of the best players on our island’s co-ed baseball team, outshining all the boys almost every time they played. She had a really cool, high-pressured job in TV news over on the mainland. And when she realized she was in love with her lifelong friend Andrew, she had the lady-balls to go after him.
Unlike some people. People who, for instance, had been crushing on the same totally out-of-her-league guy for months on end, without so much as a kiss on the cheek to show for it.
By some people, I meant me, if that wasn’t painfully obvious.
In my defense, I didn’t have a whole lot of experience in dating. There had been a few guys in college, but nothing long term. And they had all approached me. Not because I was some great beautiful catch they just couldn’t live without. No, any guy I attracted was more than likely just interested in my family connections. Or our money. Or both.
That’s the kind of thing that makes a girl doubt herself. When your dates are more likely to spend the whole night talking about your father or your grandparents than about you, it kind of messes with your head.
With that pathetic romantic history, it should come as no surprise that I had never asked a guy out in my life. So when I fell head over heels for Cal Miller, the island’s beloved veterinarian, I didn’t really have any idea what in the hell I was supposed to do about it.
Giving up fifteen hours of my life every week to volunteer at his animal shelter had definitely not been the answer. All that had gotten me was a burning desire to never clean out a litter box again.
Adopting three cats from said animal shelter also hadn’t done much to make him notice me. And now I got to clean out litter boxes at home, too.
Definitely not my brightest idea.
But even though my efforts hadn’t yielded any positive results thus far, I had been trying. I was determined that I wouldn’t remain the same hapless wallflower that I had always been. So what if confidence didn’t come naturally to me? That didn’t mean that I couldn’t learn, right?
So for the last several months I’d been on a personal quest to get control of my previously pathetic life. I signed up for online dating—not because I wanted to meet someone online, but because I figured I could use a little practice before attempting things with Mr. Perfect. The dates…hadn’t gone well. But we can learn from failure as much as success, right?
Then there was the makeover I’d attempted. Probably wasn’t a good idea to go for a new haircut at Sherry’s Hair Barn here on the island. I came out of that looking like an electrocuted poodle. The new wardrobe I’d tried hadn’t helped much either—who knew that it would be so difficult to walk in wedge heels?
Hell, I’d even signed up for a dance class. But I couldn’t even let myself thinkabout what a disaster that had turned out to be. Let’s just say there was blood involved.
So, yeah. My life was still pretty pathetic. But all of that was changing today. Just as soon as I could move my scaredy-cat ass off this bench and go into the shelter to talk to Cal.
Focus on what you can control,I reminded myself. I had read that in one of my many mostly-skimmed self-help books as well. What could I control in that moment? Well, my hair looked pretty decent. I’d spent an hour struggling with a hot curling iron, and for once, my stubbornly straight hair actually seemed like it might just stay wavy. I was wearing my favorite sundress, the blue one that made me feel slightly less immature than most of my wardrobe. My yellow ballet flats, though not as sexy as the scary wedge-heels, felt pretty and feminine.
Plus, I was pretty sure they wouldn’t cause me to fall flat on my face, so, bonus.
And then there was the final touch. I’d stayed up late making a batch of Rose Powell’s famous cherry fudge cookies. Rose herself had taught me her top-secret recipe last year. And though they weren’t half as good as hers, they were still pretty damn tasty.
A fact I knew for certain because I had stress eaten half a dozen before leaving my condo.
Rose Powell’s cookies were legendary on this island. Who would turn those down?
But what if it seemed like I was trying too hard? Oh God. That’s what he would think, right? He would take one look at my outfit and my cherry fudge cookies and be able to see the desperation rolling off of me in waves. Maybe this whole thing had been a big mistake.
Going home right now didn’t mean I was giving up. I could always try again tomorrow—maybe without the cookies next time.
“Hey, girl,” a familiar voice said, and I looked over to see Libby Johnson heading my way through the park. “How’s it going?”
Immediately, all of my confidence in my outfit went out the window. Out of anyone on this island, Libby knew how to dress. She always looked cool and stylish and put-together—three things I had never been able to get the hang of.
Today was no exception. Libby was dressed in a jersey wrap-dress that was doing amazing things for her figure, her shiny blond hair falling in those perfect beach waves I’d spent an hour trying to achieve. She made it all look so effortless—the clothes, her hair, the flawless makeup.
And it wasn’t just superficial stuff. Libby oozed confidence and competence. She owned her own store here on the island, had been elected treasurer of the commerce committee, and had more friends than anyone I knew.
“Sweetie, you look great today,” she said, eyes scanning me as she approached my bench.
Did I mention that she was also really, really nice?
“Thanks, Libs,” I told her, trying not to fiddle with the edges of my cookie box.
“Seriously.” She perched on the bench next to me, bumping my hip with hers to get me to move over. “You should wear your hair like that more often. And I love this dress.”
“The hair took longer than I’d like to admit,” I told her, and she smiled.
“The things we do for beauty. Did I tell you that I agreed to be Sherry’s guinea pig last week? She’s considering adding a new service to the salon. Waxing.”
From the way Libby’s lip was twitching, I had a feeling she wasn’t talking about her eyebrows.
“Oh, Libbs,” I said, horrified. “You didn’t.”
“Girl, you will never know fear until you have Sherry Mercer squinting at you through her bifocals while she approaches your lady-bits with a bucket of hot wax.”
I snorted in laughter and Libby joined me. I loved this about her—the way she viewed everything as an adventure, an opportunity to gather a new story to tell.
“Hey, Libby,” someone called from the walking path.
“How’s it going Hank?” she called back to the man, before turning to me like there’d been no interruption. “Speaking of Sherry, I think she’s leading the meeting tonight. You’re coming, right?”
Again, I fought the urge to fidget. Libby hosted a woman’s club—aptly named after her— on the island. The Libbies was meant to be a book club slash baking type of thing but the meetings usually devolved into lots of drinking and gossip without much concern for whatever books or baked goods were on the agenda.
I enjoyed attending the Libbies meetings, I really did. But those women had a tendency to be…well, let’s just call them wild. It could be a little intimidating.
But I was supposed to be the new and improved Jenny Hillman, right? And the new and improved Jenny Hillman didn’t get intimidated by a bunch of drunk and bawdy women.
Before I could respond, someone else passed by—Jerry Brooks, a local farmer—shouting out a greeting to Libby. Then, as an afterthought, he added “And Jenny. Nice to see you, too.”
I was used to this. Lilac Bay Island was small. In the summer we got crowded with tourists, people pouring in from downstate and all over the country to enjoy our small town vibe and abundant nature offerings. Our population more than quadrupled over the summer months. But those of us who stuck around all year, even through the harsh winter, made up a pretty small and tight-knit club.
Well, most of us did.
It wasn’t at all surprising to me that Libby had been greeted by our neighbors twice since sitting down. Meanwhile, I’d been on this bench for nearly twenty minutes and hadn’t received so much as a wave.
We both called our hellos to Jerry and Libby turned back to me. “The meeting?” she prompted.
I squared my shoulders. “Of course I’m coming. I just hope Sherry doesn’t try to do a waxing demonstration for her activity.”
Libby snorted. “Right? It was bad enough the time she tried to give out free perms. I mean, I love that crazy old woman, but seriously—who wants to look like Sherry?”
I clamped my mouth shut so I wouldn’t be tempted to admit that I had only recently voluntarily let Sherry at my hair. Luckily the really rough parts had grown out now. Mostly.
“Well, I’m glad you’re coming,” Libby said, patting my knee. “It makes me happy to see you getting out more.”
I ducked my head, knowing I was blushing.
“Seriously, Jenny,” she pressed—Libby was never one to leave well enough alone. “I can tell you’ve been trying to get out of that shell of yours lately. I think that’s great.”
I looked up at her, more than a little surprised that she had noticed. Most people didn’t really notice me much at all. “Yeah?”
She nods, grinning. “Definitely. It’s time you showed this whole island how awesome you are.”
To my surprise, her praise didn’t have me blushing. Instead, I felt something rising up inside me, some foreign boldness I wasn’t at all used to. Could this be what confidence felt like?
Just a few minutes ago, I’d been contemplating going home and giving up on my plan for Cal Miller. And then the universe dropped Libby in my lap with her sincere compliments and her encouragement. Was that a sign, or what?
“You know something, Libbs?” I said, tightening my grip on the cookie box as I stood. “I think you’re right.”
She grinned up at me. “Of course I’m right. Haven’t you heard? I’m always right.”
“See you around,” I said, turning on the spot, determined not to let this unexpected burst of confidence go to waste.
I marched across Town Square, heading straight for the animal shelter on Maple, ready to change my life.
The front room of the animal shelter was empty when I walked in. I frowned, looking around. I was sure the manager, Robin, was supposed to be on the schedule. Plus, I was sure Dr. Miller was supposed to be in today.
Not like I had his schedule memorized or anything.
Okay, I totally did. But anyone who saw the guy would never blame me. The man was fine. We’re talking Eric from the Little Mermaid looks—I was kind of a Disney fanatic. But the man had that same thick dark hair and the piercing blue eyes. It was a wonder every woman on this island wasn’t breaking down down his door.
It wasn’t just his looks, either—I’m not that shallow. No, the main appeal of Cal Miller was how kindhe was. He never had a harsh word for anyone, even though pet-owners sometimes had a habit of getting stressed when their fur babies weren’t feeling well. Dr. Miller treated them all the same—the perfect balance of charming and professional.
But it was when he got to interacting with the animals that he really made my heart swell. He always got right down on their level, talking to them like they could understand every word. He cradled grumpy kitties to his broad chest, got down on the floor to rub dog bellies, and always kept a pocket full of little treats to lavish on them all.
And the day he had to put Debbie Franklin’s Pomeranian, Buttercup, to sleep, I had accidentally walked into the break room to find him crying. He wasn’t making a big deal out of it, no noisy sobs. Just a few quiet tears rolling down his cheeks. He hadn’t acted embarrassed at all to be caught, just gave me a sad smile and said, “these are always the hardest days.”
Buttercup wasn’t even a nice dog. But Dr. Miller had morned her all the same.
I think that was the moment I fell completely in love with him.
But today, there was no sign of his disarming smile. No sign of anyone, which was odd—we never left the desk unmanned. Maybe Dr. Miller had been called to his office next door for some kind of emergency? Just when I was thinking I would go over to check, I heard a giggle from behind the desk.
That seemed odd. Robin wasn’t exactly the warmest woman. I didn’t think I had ever heard her giggle.
I ducked around the counter, thinking I’d check the break room before trying Cal’s office next door—and stopped short as the hallway to the back came into view. It wasn’t empty.
Oh. Oh shit.
Apparently Dr. Miller had a rather large birthmark on his ass. Who knew?
Well, I knew, now, because I was currently staring at his very naked backside in the break room hallway. And Robin knew about the birthmark, too, obviously, because she was the one currently pushing his pants down to the floor.
I stood there, frozen, my mind trying to make sense of what I was seeing. Robin was shirtless, her leopard print bar on full display, one jean-clad leg (thank God she was still wearing pants) hitched up around Cal’s waist while she tugged on his slacks. His face was buried in her neck and they were both laughing, clearly having a grand old time.
In the middle of the hallway. Which opened up to the front room. And would be clearly visible by anyone out on the sidewalk who happened to be walking from the other direction and looked in at the right angle.
“Oh my God,” I gasped, slapping a hand over my eyes and spinning around. I tried to dart around the front desk, desperate to escape, but I couldn’t actually see with my hand over my eyes, and I wound up running straight into the corner of the desk. I yelped in pain, pretty sure I was bleeding and then, for good measure, dropped the box of cookies on the floor.
“Shit,” I heard Dr. Miller mutter from the hallway. “I’m sorry, hang on!”
“Oh, don’t get all panicky,” Robin replied easily, as if she hadn’t just been caught dry-humping her boss at work. “It’s just little Jenny Hillman. She’s nothing to worry about.”
Little Jenny Hillman. Nothing to worry about.
Yeah. That pretty much summed it all up, didn’t it?