HARPER GARNER STARED at the blank page on her laptop screen, waiting for inspiration to hit. She’d thought she would be able to focus once she left Los Angeles, but if this flight home was any indication of her mental abilities, she was never going to write again. If only the guy sitting next to her would shut up. They were an hour into an almost-six-hour flight, and if he hit on her the whole way, she might end up stabbing him with her pen. Sure, Trey was hot, articulate, and well dressed in a dark designer suit, but if she’d learned one thing while working in Hollywood to help bring the pilot she’d written and sold to life, it was that guys could not be trusted. Neither could she apparently, but not trusting one’s instincts was different from not being trustworthy.
“Are you heading to Boston for business or pleasure?” he asked.
He’d already told her he was on the tail end of a round of business trips, which she assumed was supposed to mean he was important. She was so sick of egotistical people, she could scream.
“You blocked?” He glanced at her laptop and said, “You know what I do when I hit a bump in the road?”
Her fingers curled around her laptop. Everything she’d written since her show was canceled a few weeks ago was crap. She had a month’s work of rambling pages that weren’t funny, sexy, or interesting. She tried not to snap, but months of pent-up frustrations poured out in sarcastic sass. “Let me guess. Make another notch in your Mile High Club belt? Or maybe you have a friend back home and you want to invite me to be the middle of your manwich? Listen, I’m sure many other women on this flight might take you up on a no-strings-attached fling, but I’m not that kind of girl.” She couldn’t stop the words from flying. “I’ve tried flings. One fling, exactly, and it was amazing, but then it was over, and over sucks. I think that’s what left me vulnerable to the pretty-boy LA vultures, of which you are obviously one. And trust me, the others have already shown me that my taste in men sucks. I don’t need to test that theory.” She huffed out a breath, feeling immensely better.
His face went from confused to amused, and he belted out a laugh. “I’m not a talent agent, but if I were, that would have sold me.”
Her jaw dropped open.
“Oh…” His eyes turned serious, and he rubbed his jaw. “You weren’t acting? Well, shit. That sucks.”
“I am not an actress. I’m a screenwriter. Or at least I was, before Los Angeles chewed me up and spit me out. Now I have to go home with my tail between my legs and tell everyone how much of a loser I am. So can we please not talk? I obviously can’t be trusted not to sound like a bitch. I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve to get the brunt of my bad mood.”
He shrugged and said, “Or maybe I did.” He flashed a warm smile. “I’ll leave you to your staring.”
He gazed out the window like her riot hadn’t even ruffled his feathers.
Harper spent the rest of the flight feeling like an idiot, writing exactly three words—I am done—and trying to figure out how to apologize to Trey. It wasn’t his fault her life had fallen apart.
But by the time she figured out how to apologize, they were touching down and he was chatting on his phone. As she stepped into the aisle to leave, he tapped her shoulder, lowered his phone from his ear, and said, “Hey, Heartbreak, take this. I ran out of business cards.” He shoved a piece of paper in her hand. “For when you get your mojo back. Not all people in the entertainment industry are assholes.”
Before she could reply, he started talking into his phone again, and then she was swept into the line of people exiting the plane like rats from a sinking ship.
Harper rushed to the Cape Air gate so she wouldn’t miss her connecting flight. When she was safely settled on the puddle jumper to Provincetown, she looked at the paper he’d given her, on which he’d written his phone number and I run a TV streaming service. Call me when you turn all that energy into a screenplay. Trey
She scoffed and shoved the paper into her purse. Being turned down by a guy she’d chewed out was one more level of embarrassment she didn’t need to experience.
As the plane took off, she closed her eyes, wondering how she was going to face her friends.
THE HEAT OF the bonfire took away the sting of the cool bay breeze sweeping over Gavin Wheeler’s skin as he sat with his feet in the sand and a cold beer in his hand, listening to his friend Drake Savage play the guitar. A few weeks ago Drake married Gavin’s business partner and friend, Serena, in a small evening ceremony on the same beach where he had proposed. Gavin looked at Serena, who was chatting with their friends Chloe and Justin a few feet away. A year ago he never would have imagined giving up his high-powered interior design job at one of the nation’s leading firms in Boston for a small partnership on Cape Cod, but it was the best move he’d ever made. He and Serena were both business-minded and put clients above greed for a bigger bottom line, which was just one thing that made them perfect partners. They were also down-to-earth and at the point in their lives where work simply wasn’t enough for either of them. When Gavin had lived in Boston, he’d missed the camaraderie of close-knit friends like the ones he’d grown up with in Oak Falls, Virginia. Since he’d partnered with Serena and moved to the slower-paced Cape, the friends he’d made had already become like family, only better. No one here knew about all the crazy shit he’d done when he was younger.
“You guys should have seen the wife of one of our clients hitting on Gavin earlier today,” Serena said as she tried to wrangle her long hair into a ponytail to keep it from blowing across her face. “I swear, the voluptuous Mrs. Cachelle had brass ones, didn’t she, Gav?”
“What can I say? Babes dig me.” Gavin took a swig of his beer.
Serena and Chloe rolled their eyes.
“Always the woman whisperer,” Chloe said, sarcasm dripping from her every word. She was a blond smart-ass and a close friend.
“Thank God,” Justin said with a laugh. “Best wingman ever.”
Gavin high-fived him.
He’d met Justin Wicked last fall, and they’d immediately hit it off. Justin was a leather-wearing, tattooed, bearded biker and a member of the Dark Knights motorcycle club. At face value, he was the complete opposite of Gavin’s clean-cut athletic self. Justin was a sculptor, and they’d recently celebrated the opening of his show at a local gallery. In addition to being a successful artist, he and one of his brothers owned Cape Stone, a masonry and stone distribution company. Beneath that rough exterior, Justin was a smart, business-minded man who worked hard and played harder, just like Gavin. Gavin trusted Justin as much as he trusted his own brother. In fact, Justin was the only person who knew about Parker, the gorgeous, intelligent, down-to-earth blonde he’d hooked up with for one incredible night at a music festival in Romance, Virginia, last summer and couldn’t get out of his mind. Like a teenager, he’d kept the matchbook from the inn where they’d stayed and had looked at it a million times over the past ten months, remembering the way they’d explored each other’s bodies and how right she’d felt in his arms. Gavin had been a bit more careful with what he’d told Serena, leaving out Parker’s name and where they’d met. She didn’t need to know the sordid details of their incredible night together. When Serena had given him grief for not dating more often, he’d simply told her that there had been a woman he’d had a brief affair with and would have liked to have gotten to know better.
The one who got away.
Chloe looked at Gavin and said, “I’ve seen you in action, and I admit you can connect with most women, so why are you still single? I mean, I get why Justin is such a player. He has a rep to live up to.”
“Damn right.” Justin winked.
“Zip it, biker,” Chloe said with a hint of a smile.
Justin held her gaze, leaning in so close it looked like he might kiss her as he said, “I’m happy to unzip it if you want to see what all the ladies are talking about.”
Chloe rolled her eyes. “Pig. It’s a wonder you get any women at all with lines like that. Maybe Gavin can give you lessons in being a gentleman.”
Drake strummed his guitar louder and sang, “Chloe has a crush on Gavin.”
In addition to owning a chain of music stores, Drake co-owned Bayside Resort with his brother, Rick, and their buddy Dean Masters. The resort sat atop the dunes behind them, overlooking Cape Cod Bay.
“Get in the crush line, darlin’,” Gavin said arrogantly. He got hit on by plenty of women, but in the ten months since he’d been with Parker, he hadn’t met a single woman who could hold a candle to her.
Chloe sat back and crossed her arms, annoyance written all over her face. “Y’all are ridiculous. I’m being serious.”
“Serious or curious?” Gavin waggled his brows.
Justin and Drake chuckled.
“Ugh. Never mind.” Chloe grabbed Justin’s beer and sucked it down.
Justin yanked on the ends of Chloe’s hair. She’d grown her hair out from the pixie cut she’d had last summer, and Justin seemed to dig it.
“Babe, who else are we expecting?” Drake said to Serena, motioning toward the dunes, where a woman was coming off the path from Bayside Resort, heading in their direction. The breeze lifted her long hair from her shoulders, and her dress billowed around her legs.
“It’s Harper!” Serena hollered. “I told you she’d come! Come on, Chloe.”
Chloe sprang to her feet, and they sprinted toward the dunes.
Serena had been raving about her friend Harper, a screenwriter who had recently gotten her big break and had been in Los Angeles for the past several months. The way Serena went on about her, Gavin thought she had to be too good to be true.
“The fictional wonder babe has finally arrived?” Gavin scoffed. “We’ll see if she lives up to the hype.”
Justin stood up and said, “Oh man. She will. Harper’s got it all going on.”
“Care to wager on that? Fifty bucks says I won’t think she’s all that.” Gavin took another drink of his beer.
“I’ll take that bet,” Drake said as he rose to his feet. He raked a hand through his dark hair and said, “Harper’s cool.”
“You’re on.” Gavin heard the girls giggling and stood to greet the infamous Harper.
The three girls were hugging as they stumbled through the sand, their hands moving animatedly, their voices carrying in the wind. His heart nearly stopped as the willowy blonde came into focus, the one who had haunted his dreams since last summer. Heat seared through his body, just as it had the first time he’d seen her, and that rainy afternoon came rushing back to him. It felt like only yesterday that he was standing on the slick, muddy ground, his heart hammering against his ribs, his eyes locked on Parker. She stood out from the crowd, looking a little lost and insanely beautiful in a bohemian-style cream dress with lace accents and an uneven hem, shorter in the front and back and longer on the sides, giving her an ethereal look, as if she’d been dropped from the heavens above just for him. Her hair had been tangled and damp from the rain. She’d worn about a dozen necklaces and just as many bangles on her wrists. Her brown boots had colorful dragonflies and stars all over them. She’d looked so freaking hot, he hadn’t been able to look away then, just as he was unable to now.
“Parker,” Gavin said absently as she embraced Drake.
“Harper,” Serena corrected him. “Geez, Gavin, what’s wrong with you?”
Harper? Unless the woman whose body he remembered more intimately than any other had a twin, his Parker was Serena’s Harper. She’d left to catch a flight before the sun had risen the morning after they’d been together, and she hadn’t woken him up to say goodbye. He’d been so into her, into them, he’d never gotten around to asking for her phone number, or even her last name. Hell, he didn’t even know what she did for a living.
Now he did. She was a screenwriter, and apparently a good one, a beloved friend to the people he’d gotten close to, and best of all, she lived on the Cape, and hopefully she was back to stay.
Harper spotted him. Their eyes connected, and for a moment he was thrown back to that night, his hands and mouth traveling over her hot flesh, her sinful noises filling the room.
Her brows knitted, and a smile stretched across her beautiful face, and just as quickly, that stunning smile faded. “Gavin? What are you doing here?”
“I live here,” he said.
Shock rose in her eyes, as tangible as the surprise gripping his chest.
Chloe’s eyes moved between him and Harper. “You two know each other? But you said you didn’t think Harper was real.”
Gavin couldn’t take his eyes off her. “Because she’s Parker, not Harper.”
“Dude, she’s your Parker?” Justin said with shock.
“Parker? Who’s Parker?” Chloe asked. “I’m so confused.”
“I think I am,” Harper said.
“You told me your name was Parker.” Sweet Jesus, she was even more gorgeous than he’d remembered, but her powder-blue eyes narrowed angrily, and she stepped back, holding her hands up between them. What the hell?
“No. You misheard me, and I didn’t correct you.” She looked accusatorily at him. “You said you were from Virginia.”
She swallowed hard, worry suddenly shadowing her eyes. His mind raced through the night they’d spent together, looking for a reason she’d be short with him, and as the things she’d said came rushing back, his gut clenched. She’d said a one-night stand was totally out of character for her. He hadn’t believed her at first, but the longer they’d talked, the clearer it had become that she was telling the truth. Was that why she was worried?
Her gaze shot nervously toward the girls. “How do you know him?”
“He’s my business partner,” Serena said. “I told you I opened my own business. Gavin was a senior designer at the firm in Boston where I went to work.”
Harper stole glances at him as Serena reminded her about how their partnership came to be. He wanted to pull her aside and tell her they didn’t know about their night together, but Serena and Chloe were peppering her with questions.
“How do you know Gavin?” Chloe asked. “Did you know him before you went to LA?”
“We met at a music festival,” Harper said, eyeing him nervously.
“Where? When?” Serena shot a confused look at Gavin. “You’ve been in LA and Gavin has been here except over the holidays.”
“It was before I moved to the Cape,” Gavin explained. “Now, how about you guys give Harper room to breathe. She looks like she could use a beer.”
“Yes!” Chloe exclaimed, and they headed for the cooler.
Gavin grabbed Harper’s arm and lowered his voice as he said, “Don’t worry. Your friends don’t know about our night together. Justin knows we hooked up, but he won’t say anything.”
Her jaw clenched, her eyes trained on the others as they pulled drinks from the cooler. She didn’t look at him as she said, “There’s nothing to tell, right?”
“Don’t be like that,” he said, shocked at her coldness. Had he fabricated their connection? Turned it into something that wasn’t real? “It’s good to see you again.”
She turned those stunning eyes on him and wrenched her arm free. “You never even called, so it’s not that good.”
Harper stalked across the beach to the girls, leaving Gavin to wonder how the hell he was supposed to have called a woman whose real name he hadn’t even known.
“You okay, man?” Justin asked as Gavin sat beside him. “You look shell-shocked, which I totally get now that I know Harper’s the girl you’ve been comparing all others to. But, man, she doesn’t appear happy to see you.”
No, she didn’t, and Gavin was going to find out why if it was the last thing he did.
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