A charming opposites-attract, small town romance is coming next week from Sophie Sullivan, perfect for anyone who ever stepped outside their comfort zone and found that all the best things can happen when you take a chance, and I have a little sneak peek for you.
Presley hadn’t spent a lot of time outdoors in places other than the city, but she couldn’t deny the beauty of what lay before her as she stepped—nearly stumbled—off the dock. Or maybe she just liked solid ground more than she realized. It was like a painting worthy of a high-end art gallery, with trees of every variety, ones she couldn’t put a name to even for money, creating walkways and paths in all directions. Two guys in ball caps and plaid jackets fished from the edge of the sand. She didn’t know much about the whole process, but she wondered if they could catch anything in the shallows. If so, she definitely wasn’t swimming. Sand in her toes was one thing. Fish kisses were an absolute no. In the distance past the guys were a couple of cabins with decks that looked out onto the water.
She followed the others as the captain led them along the aging cobbled walkway, being careful of the missing and cracked stones. Past a few trees taller than La Chambre Hotel, the grounds opened up to reveal a massive log lodge that no picture in a brochure could accurately depict. Some Paul Bunyan had chopped down actual trees, plunked them together, and built a monstrous structure. A real-life Lincoln Log house.
“This is the lodge. To the left are more cabins. They’re nestled into the trees, but all of them have a spot where you can see the water, whether it’s from the front or back porches or a side window. We hope when you visit us again, they’ll be open for business,” Captain Grayson said.
The lodge looked like it had been carved into the base of the mountains, even though they had to be far away. She felt like she’d been dropped into another world.
I’m in Jumanji. I might not make it out. She giggled, earning a look from the big-hatted woman who held her husband’s hand.
“You all right, dear?”
She’d planned a trip, ignored her nagging instincts, and was now here alone. “All right” wasn’t the best description, but she nodded, not trusting her voice. Too bad she’d trusted her stupid heart. Something between pain and irritation bounced around in her chest like a rubber ball. Those hard ones that kids whipped at brick walls.
The captain talked about trails, hiking, and not venturing out alone as they continued toward the main house. She looked up for a split second, just to see the way the clouds played with the peaks of the mountains, where the sun was dipping low, and caught her foot on one of the broken cobblestone pieces.
She was on her way down when strong hands gripped her hips from behind. Heat and delicious pressure shot through her clothing, along her skin, chasing away a chill that had been with her all day.
“Careful,” Brown Paper Bag Guy’s gruff voice murmured.
Swallowing the sudden moisture in her mouth, Presley looked over her shoulder. “Thanks.”
His eyes were not tea colored. They were a brown so dark they almost looked black. A ring of hazel around the edges made them seem even darker.
The captain’s voice pulled her back. He stood on the steps of the lodge looking at them all. He was a handsome man. Dark hair, strong jaw, dressed in a blue button-down and khaki pants, he definitely looked the part of an outdoor guide. While the guy behind her looked like a poster model for being sexy in the great outdoors, the captain was more polished.
“My sister will get you all settled in your rooms. Her adorable helper is my niece. Our chef should have snacks set up in the dining room. We’ll let you settle into your rooms, but if anyone would like a tour of the lodge and grounds, I’ll be leading that at eight p.m. Until then, thank you for joining us here at Get Lost Lodge.”
As they shuffled in, Presley couldn’t help but wonder if Emmett would have loved this place as much as she’d thought. Sure, he’d have dropped his bag and hit the beach, maybe even with a fishing rod. Rylee’s words echoed in her head: I’ve never seen him do any of those things. He’d canceled several weekend plans for fishing time with the guys over the course of their relationship. You see what you want to see. Even if he didn’t love fishing with the guys as much as she’d believed, he would have enjoyed this. The image of his face when he’d realized he wouldn’t be going on the trip at all curled her lips upward. That in itself was worth the boat ride.
Presley smiled at the little girl who stood behind a woman’s hip. Her red hair fell forward even with the little butterfly barrette she wore. Her mom—who had to be the captain’s sister—had her own auburn hair tucked into two braids. Makeup free, wearing camo shorts and a shirt that read welcome to the jungle, she looked like she could model outdoor wear with Mr. Hot Hands who’d kept her from falling.
“Welcome,” she said. “I’m Jillian, but you can call me that, Jilly, or Jill. This is my daughter, Olivia. Welcome to the lodge.”
The little girl tugged on her mom’s shorts until Jilly bent at the waist, listened, then stood again. Her lips quirked. “My apologies. This summer, Olivia would like to be called Ollie. Please let us know if we can get you anything.”
Half the little girl’s face beamed. The rest stayed hidden behind her mom. Presley met Jillian’s gaze and found it, like her tone, friendly. If things had gone as planned, maybe she would have befriended this woman while Emmett kept himself busy with all of his favorite things. Instead, Presley decided she was going to consider this a self-care trip and do only the things she felt like. She’d share on her socials, promo the airline that gave her the tickets, and talk about the benefit of low-key lounging. Maybe even take a hike. Hell, she might even try fishing. After she slept for twelve hours straight.
Copyright © 2024 by Sophie Sullivan. Reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Publishing Group.