It’s party time!!!
I’m thrilled that my sixth book, Seaside Proposal, officially releases today (May 5) in North America! To celebrate, I’m giving away a print copy (worldwide, wherever The Book Depository delivers) on my blog today.
Seaside Proposal, Zach and Billie’s story, is the third book in my Sydney series.
BILLIE RADCLIFFE HAS A SECRET
And she isn’t sharing it with anyone, including Zach Montford. Even though she feels an instant connection with the good-looking banker and youth leader, she’s wary of rejection. Besides she’s only in the close-knit beach community until she meets the one man who can fill in the blanks about her history.
Zach hopes his temporary stint with the church will help him decide whether to go into full-time ministry. Though his career plans are uncertain, he’s sure about his growing feelings for Billie. When a shocking revelation throws everything into question, Zach and Billie have a chance to put the past to rest…and walk into the future together.
CHAPTER ONE Excerpt:
Billie Radcliffe walked barefoot on her timber deck and placed a glass of ice water on the large wooden outdoor table. She inhaled the salty sea breeze, propped her sunglasses on her nose and stared out at the vast expanse of ocean and the golden sand dunes of Sapphire Bay Beach.
The steady pounding of the pristine waves on the shore calmed her overactive mind. She lifted her long dark ponytail off her neck, perspiration clinging to her skin. It was hot enough to swim this afternoon after her sister, Julia, and her new brother-in-law, Sean, returned from their walk in the small township of Sapphire Bay.
During the three weeks since she’d moved into the beach house, Billie felt like she was living in a different universe. A world with a slower pace of life than Sydney. A place where she could relax and ponder the life-changing events of the past few months.
The doorbell chimed and she glanced at the time on her phone. Julia had a key, and her parents weren’t due to arrive for a few hours. They had left later this morning than planned and Billie hoped the Christmas Eve traffic on the Princes Highway wouldn’t slow their progress on the long drive south from Sydney.
Billie strolled through the spacious living room into the hall and front entrance, the cream floor tiles cool under her feet. She opened the door and her welcoming smile faltered on her lips.
A good-looking guy wearing shorts and a T-shirt stood on her doorstep. His brown hair was cropped short, military style, and he held a small suitcase. A backpack was slung over his broad shoulders, and a late model SUV sat on her drive.
Zach. Julia and Sean’s church friend. He didn’t look anything like the guy she had imagined.
He held out his hand. “I’m Zach, and you must be Billie.” His smile lit up his eyes, an intriguing dark blue with a hint of green reminiscent of the ocean behind her house.
She shook his hand, a tingle of awareness radiating up her bare arm. “Yes, I’m Billie. Please come in.” She let go of his hand and stepped back, realizing she’d held on longer than necessary. A smile tugged at her lips and she smoothed down the skirt of her cotton sundress, recovering her composure. “We weren’t expecting you until tonight.”
“My boss sent us home early.” Zach followed her into the living room, leaving his suitcase and bag beside the staircase next to the open plan kitchen.
She grinned and held his warm gaze. “Sounds like my kind of boss.”
His eyes sparkled. “He’s a good guy.”
Billie nodded and headed into the kitchen. “I’ve made pasta sauce for dinner. Julia and Sean will be back soon, and my parents should be here for dinner.” She opened the fridge. “Would you like a drink?”
“Water is fine, thanks.” He sat on a stool at the granite-topped island in the center of the modern kitchen.
“No problem.” She poured two glasses of water and added ice. Air-conditioning purred in the background, cooling the interior of the house. “Please make yourself at home, and I’ll show you to your room upstairs.”
“Thanks.” He sipped his water. “Have I interrupted your plans for the afternoon?”
“Not at all. The clinic where I work is closed until the New Year. I just finished wrapping all my Christmas presents, and I was going to read out on the deck.” A Christmas tree strung with fairy lights and ornaments stood tall in the far corner of the living room. Colorful presents were positioned around the base of the tree.
“Sounds like a nice afternoon.” He glanced around the kitchen. “Julia mentioned you’re a podiatrist.”
“Yes, I’m the feet lady.”
He raised an eyebrow. “That’s an interesting way to describe your job.”
She chuckled. “I’m used to being teased about my job, so now I tell everyone up front and get the awkwardness out of the way.”
“I like your attitude.”
She gave him a dazzling smile. “I think you can stay this week, now that you’ve passed the feet test.”
“I’m glad to hear it. And you have a great house.” He walked over to the sliding glass door, his gaze taking in the beach and ocean. “The view is magnificent.”
I know. I fell in love with this house the first time I saw it, when I visited for my job interview.” She sighed. “I’m going to miss living right next to the beach when I move back to Sydney.”
“Are you staying long?”
“Two more months. I need to return to my usual job in March when my new apartment is ready.”
“I’m only here until February, myself.”
“Are you staying in Riverwood?”
He nodded. “In a holiday apartment.”
“I commute into Riverwood for work. It’s a nice town—much bigger than Sapphire Bay.”
“But it doesn’t have a beach.”
“True.” She tipped her head to the side. “Do you work in Riverwood, too?” Julia had mentioned that Zach was a youth worker, and she hadn’t asked for further details. As a rule, Billie tried to avoid church people.
“Yes, at Riverwood Community Church.”
She nodded, her stomach tightening into a hard ball. At least he didn’t appear to recognize her. She didn’t want Julia to learn about her visits to Riverwood’s church.
Footsteps sounded at the front of the house. Julia and Sean appeared in the living room, holding hands and beaming like they were still on their honeymoon.
“Hey, Zach.” Julia gave Zach a brief hug. “Billie, I bought lettuce, although it has probably wilted in the heat.” She stowed the bag of lettuce in the fridge and wiped beads of perspiration off her brow. “It looks like it’s going to be hot tomorrow for Christmas Day.”
Billie smiled. “That’s why I live by the beach.”
Sean greeted Zach and followed his wife into the kitchen. “I’m going out for a surf soon. Anyone else coming?”
Julia planted a kiss on her husband’s cheek. “I’ll get changed, and join you on the beach.”
“Okay.” Sean kissed his wife, embracing her in a gentle hug. “I’ll get ready now.” He stepped away from Julia, his fingers entwined with hers for a moment before heading upstairs.
Billie rolled her eyes. Were her sister and Sean going to be like this for their entire week-long holiday? They had married less than a month ago, and recently returned from a ten-day honeymoon in Hawaii.
Zach drained his glass. “Well, I probably should get settled. I’m singing carols in Riverwood with the youth group before the Christmas Eve service later this evening.”
“Sounds great.” Julia turned to Billie. “Mom and Dad are coming with us to church tonight. What are you planning to do?”
Zach drew his brows together. “Isn’t Billie going, too?”
She cleared the lump in her throat. He had seen her at church. “Um, I don’t know—”
“Billie hasn’t been to church in years, except for weddings and special occasions,” Julia said.
Zach met her gaze, his eyes brimming with questions. “Okay, maybe I was mistaken and Billie has a twin—”
“No, Zach is right.” Billie squared her shoulders, preparing for the inevitable interrogation from her sister. “I started going to the morning service at Riverwood a few weeks ago.”
Julia’s mouth gaped open. “You’re kidding. What brought about your change of heart? Are you bored living here by yourself?”
She stood taller, determined to deflect Julia’s questions. “No big deal, Jules. It was time, that’s all. I thought you’d be happy.” She kept her wide smile in place and held her secret close to her heart, not ready to share with her sister the inspiration behind her decision to return to church.
Contest terms and conditions:
Please complete the form below to enter the drawing to win a print copy of Seaside Proposal.
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