Scene 1

If bad things really did come in threes, then a flat tire in a chilly October rainstorm rounded out the trifecta. Though a failed marriage and the death of her beloved grandmother certainly put this particular crimp in perspective. Quinn eased her BMW to the shoulder and prayed that she wasn’t inviting more trouble by getting the wheels stuck in gooey, back roads mud. She leaned her head against the backrest and closed her eyes.

The engine was idling, the wipers barely able to keep up with the sheet of rain pouring steadily from the sky. Daylight was giving up its last gasp and Quinn was stranded on a road that didn’t see much traffic at the best of times. This move back to Scallop Shores, Maine, was not starting off well.

She rooted through the usual plethora of junk in her purse, searching for her elusive cell phone. Of course it hid at the very bottom. Quinn grimaced when her fingers came in contact with something sticky—she didn’t want to know. Seconds later, she fished the phone out of her bag. “Yes!”

The battery was dead. “No, no, no!” She threw the phone to the floor, startling the cat in the kennel beside her, still sleepy from kitty-downers. “I just charged this last night.” The day officially could not get any worse.

Distracted, she didn’t realize she was no longer alone on the quiet rural road until a tall silhouette suddenly loomed at the driver’s side window. Grizzabella, the cat, hissed. Quinn screamed. Her heart thudded in time with the thumping on her window as the larger-than-life man tried to get her attention. How had he snuck up on her like that?

She twisted in her seat to look behind her. Sure enough, a large white pickup truck had pulled to the edge of the road, its light color still discernable against the bright autumn wardrobe that dressed the trees lining the road. Squinting, Quinn could make out someone else in the truck.

The city girl in her balked at the idea of opening her window, even an inch, to talk to this man. But the small-town girl, the one raised right here, remembered that folks in Scallop Shores helped each other out. Even if it meant getting a thorough dousing while waiting to do a good deed. She lowered the window.

“Got yourself into a bind, huh? Pop the trunk, I’ll get the spare out.” He grinned, showing dazzling teeth, and Quinn thought it unfair that one man could have been gifted with so many gorgeous features.

“I can get out. Do you want me to get out? Maybe I could help.” Quinn shoved a knuckle into her mouth to stop the blathering.

Raking a large hand through his soggy dark hair, the stranger tossed her an amused stare and shook his head. When she just sat there, he nodded toward the button that would release the trunk. Oh yeah.

Quinn sunk low in her seat, embarrassed that she’d gotten so flustered over a good looking stranger. He was just a man. She scooted back up and checked out what was going on through the rearview mirror. He hefted out the spare tire and jack and slammed the trunk closed. He really was big. Tall, broad-shouldered, pec muscles clearly defined by the soaked-through T-shirt that clung like a second skin.

Sure her assessment through the rearview mirror had been covert, Quinn nearly squealed when the stranger stopped to stare back at her. Even in the fading twilight, she could see just how icy blue his eyes were. There was nothing icy about the slow heat that spread through her veins when their eyes met.

She squirmed in her seat, trying to ignore this physical reaction that she had no time or use for. Relief flooded through her as she spied her sketchpad on the passenger seat. She snatched it like a lifeline. Switching on the overhead light and flipping to an empty sheet, she braced the little notebook against the bouncing of the car as it was jacked up. Quinn started to draw. She always started with the eyes. What would hers say right now?

 Relief. Things hadn’t worked out. Marriage wasn’t for everyone. Coming back to the small New England town where she was raised was the perfect place to start over. She was better off alone. Her thoughts wandered until a tap on her window made her jump again. She lowered it just a crack.

“Making sure you’ll have a positive ID for the police?” He lowered his gaze to the drawing in her lap. Quinn looked down in horror to see the stranger’s face staring back at her.

“I, uh, sketch when I’m bored.” She’d meant to say nervous but didn’t want him to know how much he’d affected her. She ripped the page out of the book and passed it through the space in the window. “Here, take it.”

He took the picture, staring at it curiously.

“I’d really like to give you something for your time.” Oh good lord, could that have come out any more suggestive? Quinn felt her cheeks grow warm again.

“I was raised not to expect anything for helping someone in need.”

“Then I hope to return the favor someday.” He raised an eyebrow. “You’re going to change a flat on my truck?” Chuckling, he headed back to his own vehicle.

That wasn’t what she’d meant! He had deliberately misunderstood her. Quinn turned around in her seat, but he was already getting into his truck. He pulled up alongside her car and rolled down the passenger side window.

“Have a nice trip.”

He’d noticed the New York plates then. Well, she was done with New York City. She was done with broken dreams. And she was especially done with men. Quinn Baker was starting over—and she was in Scallop Shores to stay.

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