And now here is the second installment of the Truly Inn Love sneak peeks. As a reminder, if you order before the release date of August 26, 2021, Truly Inn Love is available at an exclusive preorder price of 99 cents. Keep scrolling for a sample of this second chance contemporary romance as well as all the links to snag your copy at the discounted price before the release.
Thirteen years. It had been thirteen years since my pissy, eighteen-year-old ass first stumbled upon Gavynn Alden hiding away from the world down on the dock. She’d disappeared from the inn not long after arriving for a much more permanent than normal stay following the loss of her parents. My own had dragged me with them as they scoured the property for Gavynn. A task I had pretended to participate in when all I actually did was break away to head to the lake.
Matti and Gary had been insistent she’d have run down one of the rocky paths that led to the ocean below. It had never dawned on them to take the trail through the woods that led to the small body of water with a dock jutting out into it that was the perfect escape. I thought I was clever, hiding half a mile in the opposite direction of their mini search party.
Only to be the one to find her.
Brown hair kissed with blonde highlights from the sun was all tied up in a high ponytail still long enough to brush her shoulders when she lifted her head to look up at me as I approached. After sending a text to my parents to let them know she was safe and I’d bring her back when she was ready, I took a seat beside her, one I held for nearly half an hour, mostly punctuated by a few sniffles from her.
That was, until floodgates I hadn’t realized existed broke and she unloaded buckets of tears along with hiccupped words, relaying her confusion and heartbreak. Lost and unable to do much more than listen, I stayed still next to her until she finally said she was ready to go back as the sun was beginning to fade in the distance.
The memory was a distant one, but was brought into laser-sharp focus when I saw her sitting on the couch, completely drenched and looking like someone just kicked her puppy.
And still as damned beautiful as she’d always been.
My boot squished in a sopping sheet as soon as I crossed the threshold. I raised my brows at Blake. “So you three weren’t kidding.” As she moved to walk past me, I grabbed her forearm reflexively. “Be careful, you could fall.”
With a light chuckle, she brushed off my concern, literally and figuratively, and confidently sauntered across the room. She rested her hip against the counter beside the offending sink that created the insanity I’d walked into and folded her arms across her chest. “Gavynn has no sense of humor, especially not when it comes to this place.”
The smile that teased my lips broke through despite my best efforts to contain it. “Your sister has a sense of humor.”
Blatant mischief danced in the emerald-green eyes all three Alden sisters shared. “You remember us? Gav?”
I crossed the floor, dropped to one knee, and buried my burning face in the cabinet below the sink. Remember? Was she kidding with that question? Of course I remembered the girl who spent a full year as my entire world. And promptly fell off the face of the planet with only a note and a very apologetic aunt.
“Yeah,” I confirmed as I inspected the split pipe, “I remember.”
The list of all the things I could easily recall about Gavynn Alden was long and detailed. And definitely not something I would share with her sister. But every single one of those memories I’d banished to the far corners of my mind in order to give my bruised heart time to recover had never really vanished. They were there waiting for that exact moment in time to jump to the forefront of my brain.
Each recollection was so vivid and real I could practically feel her soft skin beneath my fingers instead of the cold metal as I traced the crack.
“She’s single, you know.”
Blake’s voice sounded from much closer than she’d been when I hid. Much closer. Like right beside me. Shocked at her close proximity, I jumped and hit my head on the base of the sink.
Water oozed out from beneath the linoleum tile and soaked the backside of my jeans when I fell backward, rubbing my skull. “And why would I care about that?”
She turned down the corners of her mouth and shrugged before crossing her legs and sitting on the floor beside me, seemingly oblivious to being wet from head to toe. “Maybe because you don’t have a ring on the third finger of your left hand. Maybe because even though you haven’t seen my sister since you were both teenagers, she still blushed when you walked in.”
Tucking my feet beneath me, I pushed on the floor with one hand and my knee with the other until I was standing. “This might sound crazy, but bear with me here, what if I go get my power fans and dehumidifiers to run in here and dry this place out so I can better assess how much damage there is while you and your sisters concentrate on the rest of the house?” I held out a hand to help her up. “And maybe, just maybe, we leave the past where it belongs.”
Her cocky-ass grin was annoying as hell, and was only made worse by the accuracy of her words. “History has a way of repeating itself.” She made the statement as she swaggered her way through the swinging door that led from the kitchen to the rest of the main living areas.
I shook my head and propped my hands on my hips to do exactly as I’d suggested and surveyed the kitchen. The flooring was old, dated, and due for replacement anyway, but I wasn’t sure if the sisters had plans to do that before they reopened or not.
My stomach seized, and I drew my brows together. I traced the inlay of the rustic oak cabinets in the kitchen. I couldn’t imagine this place belonging to anyone else, but it was a pretty large assumption to believe they were going to reopen. They all had careers and lives in other cities—ones Matti had bragged about endlessly when I would stop over—that were much more attractive and alluring than the small sleepy town of Willow Falls.
I forcibly pushed the maybes and what-ifs from my mind, gingerly wedging my nails under one of the faux wood tiles and frowning when it separated easily from the subfloor.
By the time I finished inspecting the rest of the kitchen, I walked out into an empty inn. Not a trace of any of the Alden sisters in sight, except for the wet spots that remained on the couch where they’d been sitting. I peeked behind the desk and called up the stairs, but was only met with silence in response.
Definitely for the better. Despite my protests to Blake, sharing the same breathing space as Gavynn was suffocating, thrilling, and terrifying all at once and stirred wants and desires best left in the lockbox of my memories, where they belonged. The years between her departure and now—especially the most recent one—had given me more to guard than just my heart.
I descended the wide porch steps of the old Victorian, sliding my sunglasses on as I walked, and nearly collided with Gavynn herself. “Whoa, sorry about that.”
She tucked a strand of now-dry hair behind her ear and ducked her head. “No, I’m sorry. I was preoccupied with getting back to check in with you on how things were.” She looked up at me and squinted. “So… how bad is it?”
Apprehension and fear drew lines in her face that my fingers itched to smooth out. I clamped my teeth together and took a moment to navigate my words. One which I shamelessly exploited to stare at her while my tinted lenses hid my blatantly appraising gaze.
“I told your sister that I’m going to grab some equipment to help dry this out, and then I’ll know better.” A short but still terrifying list of safety issues ticked through my mind. “Please, stay out of the kitchen. It’s not safe right now. Just let me handle it.” I mustered a smile I didn’t at all feel, trying to hide the fear clawing at my gut as my brain conjured images of slips, falls, and broken limbs. “Lucky for you that Matti and Gary made the carriage house separate so you can still eat and shower.”
A moment of pain—and damn did I understand that—flashed in her green gaze before her long lashes fluttered and rested on her freckled cheeks. “Also lucky I happen to have an award-winning chef for a sister, who is currently making some comfort food to help us all recover from today.” She tossed her light chestnut hair and smiled. “You can stop over if you want. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Oh, and your parents too. I actually expected to see your dad instead of you.”
The sting hadn’t lost its power, not even in nearly a year. I blinked rapidly, not really able to find the words and choosing to change the subject instead. “What? You’re disappointed?”
Crimson crept up the creamy skin of her neck. “Surprised. The right word is surprised.”
I stepped down the single riser separating us and tilted my head slightly. “A good surprise?”
Her chest expanded and contracted rapidly under the thin material of her tank top. Small goose bumps popped up on her skin as the spring air blew lightly. She parted her lips, and I could practically feel them on mine, the memories so vivid and real in that moment. “Yes.”
The single word created far more excitement in me than it should have. I stepped down the last two stairs and walked backward toward my truck. “It was good seeing you again.”
I swallowed down the nickname I used to call her that teased the tip of my tongue and practically begged to be spoken. She wasn’t pretending like I was a stranger and sure as hell wasn’t acting like she wasn’t interested. But even so, saying it was a risk that she wouldn’t remember or, worse, it wouldn’t hold the same meaning to her that it still did for me.
Gavynn nodded as I pulled on the handle to open the driver’s door of my truck. “Y-yeah. Yeah, it was good seeing you again. Great. Really great.”
I stood on the running board for a moment. “Save me some of that meatloaf and mashed potatoes for lunch tomorrow. I don’t want to hold up your dinner. I’ll be back in a couple of hours to set up the fans and dehumidifiers so they can work their magic overnight. Then we’ll figure out the next steps in the morning.”
Barely banking the urge to thump my head off the steering wheel like I deserved for winking like some over-the-hill lech in a bar who didn’t know when to call it a night, I revved the engine and drove down the long driveway at a slightly faster than necessary speed. Gavynn Alden was back in my life after a dozen years, and it only took her sixty minutes to turn me into a heartsick teenager all over again.