Only Summer with the Marine
Only Summer with the Marine
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He’s a marine who receives a sudden inheritance. She’s down on her luck and out of a job. When the childhood best friends reunite, he can give her anything she wants. But can she offer him forgiveness?
Includes a town map and a story-inspired recipe!
- Small beach town
- Dating dare
- Old friends
- Girl next door
- Single dad
- Ice cream!
He’s a marine figuring out how to be a dad. She’s out of work and moves in with her mom. A surprise reunion brings the old friends together. Will a dare turn them into something more?
Eisley Higgins is laid off and needs a fresh start. Her mother offers her the loft space at her new beach cottage. The last thing she wants to do is move to a retirement community in coastal Florida. She gets a job at a local restaurant and her coworkers insist she follow through with the new-employee ritual to go on a date with her first customer. She’s shocked when it turns out to be her childhood best friend.
Ford Armstrong spent over ten years in the military serving his country. During that time, he married, but the relationship and his hope for a family quickly fizzled. After what felt like a failure, he fully turned his focus to the Marine Corps, but then received two life-changing pieces of news. While figuring out his future, he runs into the girl from his past. Only, the first thing out of her mouth is the last thing he expects to hear.
Over a decade of friendship. Then over a decade apart. Can they overcome their hardships, get past secrets, and come together to create a future?
This is book 1 in the Blue Bay Beach Romance series. Each book stands alone but reading them in order provides a deeper, richer experience. It is a sweet, Hallmark style, “clean and wholesome” romance, is faith-friendly, and contains a happily ever after.
Chapter 1 Look Inside
Chapter 1 Look Inside
Chapter 1: Eisley
Eisley Higgins hoped that moving to Retirement-Ville USA wouldn’t be that bad. No, that wasn’t entirely true. She didn’t just hope, she begged, wished, crossed her fingers, and prayed that she’d survive moving in with her mother in the small, coastal Florida town.
When she’d left the apartment that she shared in Baltimore with three other women and a ferret—it was Lacey’s, not hers—they all warned her. She’d never been to Florida but was told it was the land of senior citizens and snowbirds (not to mention alligators and giant palmetto bugs). Her mother had retired after working in the admissions office at Rutgers University-Camden for thirty years and soon became one of the many retirees to flee cold northern winters to the Sunshine State.
Regardless, Eisley had experienced a series of setbacks recently, well, for the last ten years. Despite moving in with Mom, she’d deemed it the summer of finding herself. She needed to get her life on track—and quickly because bills and debt didn’t pay themselves.
It wasn’t that she was irresponsible with money or couldn’t keep a job, but for various reasons, both slipped through her fingers like fine grains of sand. She didn’t mind getting her hands dirty or sticky. She was a hard worker and honest but had bad luck in life and love.
Eisley exited the highway and followed a long flat road that led to the Gulf Coast. She sang along with an oldies station—the only one the radio in her 1992 Honda Civic picked up without too much static. After the chorus, she wasn’t sure of the words, so with the windows down and the wind whipping her hair into a tangle, she belted out, “It’s only temporary. Just for the summer. I can do this! This is my summer!” She was a little off-key but didn’t plan a career in the music business.
The virtual assistant on her phone somehow butted in and said, “That doesn’t sound good.”
Eisley startled, glanced at her phone, which had the GPS running. Had she tapped it or was it listening to her?
Moreover, she was offended. Her singing voice wasn’t that bad, was it? “Robot lady, keep your opinions to yourself. I’d like to hear you sing.”
That silenced any further comment from the phone as Eisley continued to drive.
Nonetheless, she stopped singing along.
Eisley and her mother got along—as well as a proud woman of Greek descent from New Jersey and her daughter could. Although Eisley’s current status didn’t help matters: single, recently laid off, and moving back in with Mom.
Diana Higgins could be a bit pushy and sometimes meddlesome, but they didn’t drive each other too crazy—although every time they spoke on the phone, Diana asked when Eisley was going to hurry up and get married.
“It’s only temporary. Just for the summer. I can do this! This is my summer,” she repeated as she rolled past a sign that welcomed her to Blue Bay Beach. She turned down the radio, pulled to the side of the road, and consulted the GPS.
She blinked a few times. “I must’ve taken a wrong turn.”
The phone repeatedly told her, “Arrived.”
Only, she wasn’t sure if the mansions set back from the road with big gates and tall palms on one side and the crystal blue ocean on the other was the right place. Had she somehow gone off the map and ended up in paradise? Had her mother given her the wrong address? Actually, her mother didn’t give her home address specifically because she said it wouldn’t show up on the navigation system.
Apparently, the mapping service hadn’t recorded it. Her mother, Diana, insisted that the town was small, and she’d find number four Pelican Lane without any trouble.
Catching sight of herself in the car mirror, Eisley combed her fingers through her dirty blond shoulder-length hair. Her mother was going to tell her she needed a haircut. She wasn’t wrong, but money was tight and she saved where she could. She also needed a tan, a job, and numerous other things, but first things first, find her mother’s retirement community. She envisioned block-like buildings with a pool and a multi-purpose building in the middle. Clearly, she was in the wrong place.
Eisley maneuvered back onto the sandy road, passing a few more mansions with Spanish tile roofs, fountains, and impeccable landscaping along with lush, exotic plants and flowers growing wild.
As she rolled onto the main street of the town, her jaw dropped. It had to be a movie set. The shops were stucco or wood and painted pastel colors, lights and flags hung from the trees lining the sidewalk. The beachy vibe was all around picture-perfect.
She continued and reached beach houses then cottages. The streets were named after sea birds: Tern, Skimmer, Plover, Gull. And then she reached Pelican Lane.
Apparently, she hadn’t made a wrong turn. There were only four cottages on the street covered in a canopy of trees. She stopped the car at the end of the driveway of number four.
How had her mother managed it?
It wasn’t the duplex she’d grown up in back in New Jersey, and it certainly wasn’t the building in Baltimore that probably should’ve been condemned. The cottage’s exterior shingles were painted a soft aqua shade of blue and the trim was white.
The American flag flew proudly from the eave over the roof. Eisley never knew her father because he’d been missing in action toward the end of the war. He’d never met his daughter, but Diana named her after her father’s middle name, which had been Eisele. When she’d told Eisley the story, she’d joked, “Bob wouldn’t have worked” so she modified his middle name to suit the cheerful baby she’d had and in hopes that her husband would be found and return to them.
At that twinge of a sad memory, Eisley drew a deep breath and got out of the car.
Her shorts stuck to her legs after the long drive in the humidity. She welcomed the fresh breeze that came from the nearby sea.
The screen door to the house opened and her mother emerged with arms outstretched, ready for what was sure to be a mama bear hug.
Eisley sank into her mother’s arms. For the first time in ages, she felt like she could take a deep breath.
“Oh, you’re far too thin, Eisley. We have to do something about that. I made dolmades, moussaka, souvlaki, fasolada, and spanakopita just like Yia Yia used to make. I also got your favorite olives from the deli in Jersey. Do you remember Joan from down the street back in the neighborhood? She brought a cooler full of items from the deli for me when she and her husband went to Tampa. I recently met them for lunch,” Diana said, always excited when she had company.
“Was Joan the one with the cats?”
Diana nodded, then patted her daughter on the arm and squeezed her hand. “I’m so glad my little girl is home.”
“It looks like you have a really nice home, Mom.” Eisley had to admit she was impressed.
The space was light and airy. Geraniums and an assortment of other flowers hung from the front porch and a pair of rocking chairs were against one wall. There was also a hammock in the yard. She imagined it came with the house because she couldn’t picture her mother climbing in it with ease due to her arthritis.
“And it looks like you need a haircut. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you,” Diana said.
“I’m fine, Mom.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re always fine.” Diana’s New Jersey accent was getting thicker with each word spoken—something that tended to happen when she got worked up or excited. Somehow, Eisley didn’t have an accent but hearing her mother’s brought on nostalgia.
“Let me go grab my things from the car.” Eisley moved toward the driveway.
“No, first, let’s eat,” Diana insisted.
“It’s not much.” Eisley darted to the Honda and grabbed two suitcases. There were a few other odds and ends, but she’d get them later.
Her mother helped. “I’ll show you around quickly. Because of my knees, it’s all on one floor except for the loft. That’s yours. My room is down there near the bathroom where you’ll find a closet containing the washer and dryer. But don’t worry, I can take care of your laundry. Okay, here we are in the living room.” She pointed to the far right. “That’s the dinette and of course the kitchen.”
The space was modest but perfect for Diana and at least for a few months, Eisley too.
The décor was only a mild throwback to her mother’s gaudy kitsch in New Jersey. She’d upgraded her ocean-themed decorations. Diana moved from Greece to New Jersey with her parents when she was an infant and had always said she felt called to return to the ocean. So in central New Jersey, she’d decorated their home with as many seashells, hand-painted signs with beachy-sayings, metal wall hangings with sea horses, flipflops, and other items, and even had a flock of flamingos in the front yard—at Christmastime, they lit up.
“You did a great job, Mom, and it smells delicious.”
“Of course it does. Today we celebrate. I’m so happy you’re home.”
Even though Eisley wouldn’t expect or even let her mother wash her laundry, she was happy she didn’t have to lug her bags of dirty clothes and linens to the laundromat then leave with them damp because she wanted to save her quarters for the parking meter.
She also duct-taped the monitor of her laptop to the keyboard and scrimped in countless other ways like using cinderblocks and a wooden plank for her bookshelf—but she sold her books when her landlord raised the rent. The job market was tough, and Eisley did her best.
“You didn’t bring much,” Diana noted.
“I left a lot of my belongings behind. I’m ready for a fresh start.” She took a deep breath and was also happy because the house already felt like home. She gave her mom another hug.
“I know the last few years have been tough on you. You tried hard, honey. You really did.”
Eisley struggled to smile and then dashed for the kitchen.
“I’m ready to eat.”
As they plated up lunch, which was more like a meal fit for a holiday or at least a crowd of six or more, Diana talked a bit about the house and town.
“Blue Bay Beach is the best-kept secret on the Florida coast.”
“How d'you find out about it?” Eisley asked.
“Kismet?” Eisley repeated.
“Fate,” Diana said. She got up from the table and then pulled an envelope from a basket next to what was clearly her spot on the couch. “About fifteen years ago, I got this letter.” She passed it to Eisley.
The paper was yellowed and it had the classic blue and red airmail stripes around the edge.
“Go ahead. Open it. I guess it got lost in transit. But it eventually found me and I found Blue Bay Beach.”
Eisley read the letter, written to her mother in a man’s blocky handwriting. It told how much he missed her and outlined a fantasy life he promised her in Blue Bay Beach. We’ll have a little cottage on the beach with a hammock. The baby can run around with bare feet. We’ll watch the sunset every night.
Tears filled Eisley’s eyes. Her father Bob aka Robert Eisele Higgins had signed it.
“They never found him, but somehow he found me.” Diana clapped her hands.
“And you found Blue Bay Beach.” Unnamed emotions flowed through Eisley which felt like a strange mixture of sadness and happiness.
Eisley’s mother nodded. “It’s not on the map. I actually drove around for four days before I found it.” Diana chuckled. “But it was worth it and a very good thing I saved every penny I ever earned because it’s not cheap, but I own this house. It’s also yours. Part of your father’s brave legacy. He’d be so proud of you, Eisley.”
The tears dissolved and she squished up her face. “Mom, I’m barely getting by.” The confession, the truth, made her squirm inside.
The women squeezed hands.
“Good thing I got you a job.”