by: Kim Law
Series: Turtle Island
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: January 12, 2016
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Sassy tomboy Ginger Atkinson would rather be captaining a deep-sea fishing boat than baking pies, yet she still wishes she had a man to bake for. Sure, the pretty redhead is happy running her late father’s Turtle Island ferry business, but everyone in the world is finding love except her. Stuck on the wrong side of thirty, she’s trying to accept singlehood by building a dream home—for one.
In high school, Carter Ridley loved to sneak off with his good friend Ginger to watch the sun rise over the ocean. But after graduation, his path took a different route. One that, unlike Ginger’s, did get him the spouse and house of his dreams. At least, until a scandal shattered everything.
Running from his heartbreak, Carter returns to Turtle Island, where he discovers that Ginger is all grown up. His teenage friend has become the woman he’s always wanted. But will Carter’s pain scare him away from a chance at happiness? Or can he be the loving partner Ginger’s been looking for?
“With this ring, I thee wed.”
Ginger Atkinson sniffed, managing to hold back her tears, but she couldn’t contain the sigh. She loved weddings. “It’s so beautiful,” she whispered.
Sean Cagle, her date for the Labor Day weekend wedding, murmured in agreement at her side.
No doubt Sean assumed she meant the bride’s dress, or the couple as a whole. Or maybe he thought she was swooning over the entire setup on the bow of the ship.
Sprays of gardenias and lilies were mixed in with little white party lights and hanging crystal accents, all surrounded by a backdrop of sparkling ocean and clear blue sky. The ceremony was breathtaking. A vision created by Kayla Morgan, the event director for Seaglass Celebrations.
But none of that was what Ginger was talking about.
What she found so beautiful . . . what she couldn’t force herself to avert her gaze from, even for a second . . . was the sheer love shining between the two people standing in front of them. A love that—if she were to be honest—had become as tiresome to see as it was romantic.
Over the last eighteen months, Ginger had watched both of her best friends get married—and move away from Turtle Island—as well as witnessed numerous other nuptials, either on one of her ships or on the island itself. Though Ginger didn’t personally know everyone whose maritime wedding she attended, she tried to be on board during the festivities as often as possible. As owner of the boating company, she felt it an important personal touch to be in attendance.
Today’s lucky bride was Angie Townsend, who’d come to the small Georgia town for a one-month contract earlier in the year to teach ballroom dancing at the senior center. It hadn’t taken her long to fall in love, though. Both with the island and the bartender at Gin’s.
She and her new husband would make their home on the island, and Ginger was happy for her. Love was a very special thing.
Even when it seemed that every person in the world could find it but her.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife.” The minister turned to the groom. “Kevin, you may kiss your bride.”
The tears did well up then, and Ginger didn’t try to hide them.
As the small crowd stood and clapped, the newly married Kevin cupped his bride’s face as if she were the only important thing in his life. It was honest and heartfelt. It was beautiful.
And it made Ginger’s tears trickle faster.
She’d turned thirty this year. She had wanted to be married by now, too. It had been the plan. Love, marriage, dream home, kids. Happily ever after. Only, the right man had yet to show up. And she was now building her dream home by herself.
She kept a smile on her face through her depressing thoughts, and tucked her hand inside Sean’s elbow as he led them from their seats. Maybe Sean would be the one. She had high hopes.
They followed the happy couple inside to the main cabin, where Kayla already had the champagne flowing and the DJ warmed up. It had been a beautiful wedding, and the reception was the icing on the cake. All that was left to do now was dance. And thanks to the seniors allowing Ginger to intrude on their spring classes with Angie, she could finally do just that.
She turned to Sean, determined to show him what a great catch she was, and gave him the best smile she owned. The lace edging of the azure-blue dress she’d borrowed from her mother itched at the base of her throat, but she refrained from tugging at it. She had a man to win over. And her much more feminine mother had proven time and again that cute dresses provided a leg up in that department.
“Please tell me you’re a dancer?” she asked, adding a hint of sauciness to her voice.
It wasn’t the ideal first date—a wedding—but when Sean had asked her out last weekend, she’d jumped at the chance not to show up alone.
“I can hold my own,” he answered. He held out a hand, added in a hot smile, and Ginger’s heart knocked hard against her ribs. He really was cute. And totally her type. Dark hair and a great disposition, he was perfectly nice and gentlemanly. No bad habits that she’d picked up on, nice to people and children, and he even had a good job as head of the island’s tourism department.
And his voice was like heated body oil spreading slowly over her limbs.
Or maybe you’re just hard up since you haven’t been naked with a man in over two years.
She ignored the taunting in her head, and with firm determination to make this date turn into a second one, she closed her hand over his . . . and silently groaned at the quick look of repulsion that crossed his face.
His gaze had landed on her fingernails.
Dang. She’d forgotten to clean up her nails after working on the engine of one of her boats that morning. She had a small sunrise cruise scheduled for first thing tomorrow morning, and her mechanic had been called away for a family emergency. And, of course, today was the day the boat had given them problems.
She’d fixed it. Then she’d made it home in time to shower and change for the wedding. She’d just overlooked cleaning the grease from the cuticles of her nails.
Unable to do anything about it now, she did her best to shield the sight from Sean’s eyes, and laughed and flirted as he twirled her around the floor. At the first opportunity, she excused herself and hurried from the room.
As soon as she was out of sight, she dashed to the lower level to rummage through the compact office. There had to be something there she could use. Hand sanitizer, maybe.
She took a peek at her fingernails and groaned out loud. It wasn’t only that they were dirty, but two on her right hand had the appearance of being chewed on by a ravenous mouse. She needed an emery board. Badly.
“What are you doing down here?”
Ginger looked up from her frantic search to find Kayla standing in the doorway of the confined space. Her eyes darted to the drawer Ginger was rummaging through before coming back. Worry tightened the skin around her mouth.
“I saw you run out as if there was a problem,” Kayla said. “Is something wr—”
“My fingernails,” Ginger interrupted. “I had to work on an engine this morning.”
That sent Kayla into action. “Your purse?” she asked, moving into the small room and grasping Ginger’s hands in hers.
“No purse,” Ginger admitted. She rarely carried one.
Kayla shot her a look. “You’re on a date, Ginger Atkinson. What about lipstick? A mirror? Money in case your date forgets his wallet. Mace in case your date isn’t very nice.”
“I forgot,” Ginger whispered frantically. “I have one, I swear. But I was running late.”
Kayla clucked and disappeared from the room. Like a true event director, or maybe a Boy Scout, she was back within seconds, carrying an unrivaled assortment of items—hand cleaner, tissues, a four-sided nail file, a cuticle stick, and even clear polish. Within minutes, Ginger’s nails were cleaned and buffed, and Kayla had the bottle of polish open.
“No time for that.” Ginger curled her fingers inward. “I need to get back to my date.”
“But it’ll help.”
“You’ve already performed magic.” Ginger shook her head. “This will do. Thank you.” And hopefully, it wasn’t already too late. The island was lacking in the available-young-men department, and every single female in the area knew it. Some of those females were on that very boat today. It wouldn’t do to spend too much time away from her date.
Kayla’s mouth pinched as she looked at Ginger. Kayla was only a year older, but her frequent state of agitation aged her. “Next time, carry a purse,” she instructed.
Ginger took a moment, forcing a deep breath and a smile. “A purse. Got it. With Mace.”
“Yes. You never know what—”
“With Mace,” Ginger repeated gently. “I promise.” As far as she knew, there had been no reported needs for Mace on the island in at least the last decade, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t happen. Or so Kayla would inform her if asked.
She blew Kayla a kiss and hurried back up the stairs, glancing at herself in the mirrored backsplash of the bar as she passed, hopeful she hadn’t managed to mess up anything else about herself. She tried, really she did. She dressed in cute clothes when she went out on dates, and she took the time to curl her hair and paid special attention to her makeup. And her body was popping, even if she did say so herself. Larger-than-average breasts, curvy behind. She could attract a man. But regardless, on the inside she remained her father’s daughter.
The man had died while she was in her sophomore year of college, which had brought her home to take over the business. Staying hadn’t been the plan—she was supposed to be a kindergarten teacher by now. But what she’d discovered was that she was adaptable. And that she had a real knack for running the company.
Since taking over, she’d grown the business from ferries only to dinner cruises, dolphin and nature tours, and fishing expeditions. Basically, if it could be done on the waters off the coast of Georgia— and there were people willing to pay for the adventure—Ginger made it happen.
She was happy, her mother was doing great, and business was thriving. Her dad would be proud.
But she was lonely.
She sucked at dating, at being a girly-girl specifically, and that interfered with the one thing she wanted the most. To be a wife and mom.
Pulling up short as she made her way through the crowd, her gaze landed on Sean dancing with a blonde. Her heart sank. Was that what he preferred? Ginger had recently gone back to her natural copper red after being blonde for the last several years. She supposed she could—
She cut her thoughts off midstream. No. She wouldn’t dye her hair. Not to win a man.
And Sean shouldn’t have asked her out if he preferred blondes.
Of course, it might not be the hair color that had attracted him to the other woman. Ginger eased to the side of the crowd and watched the two of them dance. Sean seemed to have forgotten that he’d come to the wedding with someone else.
The blonde was the complete opposite of Ginger. She had a total Southern-belle type of charm going for her with her flirty off-the-shoulder dress and the bold orange necklace dipping to her breasts. The sleeves of her dress ballooned just above the wrists, ending in lace—giving it a vintage look—and the overall image was one of a sorority girl. The type of person everyone loved and whom Daddy bought a convertible for just because she was so darned perfect.
Her hair was slick and shiny, her makeup only enhanced her beauty, and her fingernails were polished and long. She even looked like she was comfortable in the heels she wore.
Exhaustion suddenly pulled at Ginger. She was so tired of trying to date “right.” Of laughing and flirting, and wearing the appropriate clothes. And all for what? More often than not it didn’t go the way she’d hoped. Either the guy lost interest, she had no interest, or the occasional relationship that went longer than a couple of weeks quickly sank.
Sean’s hand slipped lower on the blonde, continuing its path until it landed on her butt, and Ginger closed her eyes. Clearly, the date was over. At least it was for her.
She returned to the office below. There was always paperwork to be done. The computer on the lower level was hooked into the server at her office, so she might as well take care of some business until they returned to port.
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As a child, award-winning author Kim Law cultivated a love for chocolate, anything purple, and creative writing. She penned her debut work, “The Gigantic Talking Raisin,” in the sixth grade and got hooked on the delights of creating stories. Before settling into the writing life, however, she earned a college degree in mathematics and worked for years as a computer programmer. Now she’s living out her lifelong dream of writing romance novels. She’s won the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Award, been a finalist for the prestigious RWA RITA Award, and served in varied positions for her local RWA chapter. A native of Kentucky, Kim lives with her husband and an assortment of animals in Middle Tennessee.
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