© 2018 PAMELA FORD. All rights reserved.

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FRESH BREWED excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

I was just one hour and eight minutes away from meeting the man of my dreams.

Okay, fine. Technically I was one hour and eight minutes of flying, plus two hours of driving, plus the rest of our three-hour layover in Atlanta away from meeting the man of my dreams.

No, he wasn't expecting me.

No, he didn't know I existed.

No, the phrase man of my dreams did not describe someone already on my radar. It was simply an all-encompassing description of the man I intended to meet while on vacation that week.

Please, let's not quibble.

The point is, as soon as our layover ended, we were going to fly to Norfolk where Megan, Allie, and I would pick up our rental car and drive to Hatteras Island for nine sun-drenched days at a charming beachfront inn, Sunrise Shores.

Anticipation rippled through me and I flipped open my guidebook to read a little more about our destination: Hatteras Island is one of a string of barrier islands that make up the Outer Banks along the North Carolina coast. Miles of unspoiled white sand beaches, crystal blue water, and a temperate year-round climate make the islands a favorite for vacation getaways and destination weddings.

It sounded like the perfect environment for romance. Sun, sand, sea . . . to say nothing of shirtless men in swim trunks, shimmering sunscreened skin, summery drinks with swizzle sticks, and—

What was that? Something had come over the public address system. I twisted toward Allie and Megan. “What did that announcement just say?”

“Shush.” Megan waved a hand at me as she tilted her head to better hear.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” an announcer said over the public address system, this time louder than before. “We apologize for the inconvenience, but Tropical Storm Drake has taken an unexpected turn toward the coast and has been upgraded to a hurricane. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for the Outer Banks. For your safety, all flights to Norfolk have been cancelled at this time. We will be offering hotel accommodations to all affected passengers, and rescheduling flights once any danger is past. Thank you for your understanding. Again, we apologize and hope to have you on your way as soon as possible.”

Stunned silence settled over the concourse and I looked around, desperately hoping to hear raucous laughter and, “Just kidding!” come blasting over the public address system next. I squeezed the guidebook between both hands, vaguely remembering the section about weather that described the Outer Banks as the highest risk area for tropical storms and hurricanes on the eastern seaboard.

We'd known there was a risk—had heard that Tropical Storm Drake was brewing in the Caribbean and moving north. But when all the experts confidently asserted Drake would pose no threat to land, that it would probably spin out onto the Atlantic where it would dissipate, we hadn't even given it a second thought.

So much for experts.

I'd been dreaming about this vacation since we booked it six months ago, how I would dash across the white sand beach the moment we arrived, skip through the surf, and twirl in the sun. Sunrise Shores, where we were staying, was renowned for its delectable continental breakfast and so, yes, I'd also let my daydreams slip into fantasies about meeting a fabulous man over omelets and fresh brewed coffee one morning, and how we'd spend a glorious week together. But now—

“Bree?”

I looked at Allie.

“Are you going to cry?”

“No, of course not.” I blinked back the tears stinging my eyes. “It's just—I just want to be there, on the island. I really need this vacation.” I could have gone into some protracted explanation about how teaching high school math leaves me burned out by the end of the school year, but we both knew it was more than that, so why bother?

The truth is, my boyfriend dumped me two months ago and it's been rough. So I just wanted to meet someone. Even if it ended up being nothing more than a shipboard romance—or, more appropriately, a beachside fling—that was okay. You know what they say: the best way to get over one man is to get under another one. Okay, fine, maybe I wouldn't take it that far, but it was vacation and I was determined to keep an open mind.

“Let's see what's going on.” Megan swiped her phone and tapped the screen a couple of times to bring up a weather map showing swirling swaths of green, red, orange, and yellow out on the ocean and headed straight for the North Carolina. “Wow, if this actually hits land, we could be stuck here for—”

“God knows what will happen to Hatteras Island,” Allie said.

That's when I really wanted to cry.

“We'd better get in line or we'll be sleeping in the airport.” Megan slung her purse over her shoulder and headed toward the long line of people stretching out from the check-in counter.

A couple of hours later we were on a shuttle, packed shoulder-to-shoulder with other grounded passengers, all of us headed to a nearby Holiday Inn, restaurant coupons in hand. The airline employee had been very sympathetic. “We're so sorry. As soon as we get the all clear,” she'd said, “we'll contact you by text and email with new flight arrangements and get you on your way as soon as possible. Meanwhile, enjoy dinner on us.”

Nothing like dinner in some over-air-conditioned fast food joint in Atlanta when you were expecting to be bathed in balmy sea breezes while feasting on fresh lobster in a café overlooking the ocean.

“At least we get continental breakfast in the morning,” Allie said as though she'd completely forgotten Sunrise Shores offered not just continental breakfast, but gourmet continental breakfast. “Never know who you'll meet.”

Oh right. Like I was really going to meet someone at a continental breakfast at an airport hotel packed with people stranded in Atlanta who would all rather be somewhere else. Come on.