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Beach Rental

By:Grace Greene


Special thanks to Kim Jacobs of Turquoise Morning Press for offering to publish Beach Rental and making it a reality, and to my editor, Jacquie Daher, for her help in making this a better book.

I'd like to acknowledge my mom who showed me the importance of reading and for her unfailing support, my dad who showed us kids it was okay to pursue any interest without fear of failure, and my sister who is a willing reader. I'd also like to acknowledge my critique partner, Nancy Naigle, who has been there riding the writing wave with me ever since fate introduced us at James River Writers. We Believe.

Most importantly, I acknowledge my husband, my biggest fan and supporter, and I thank God for directing my steps.

Author’s Note

Beach Rental takes place on the island of Bogue Banks and on the mainland in the towns of Morehead City and Beaufort, in North Carolina.

Emerald Isle is one of the towns on the Bogue Banks, along with Indian Beach, Salter Path, Pine Knoll Shores and Atlantic Beach. Altogether, Bogue Banks is a twenty-one mile long barrier island. That’s twenty-one exquisite miles of oceanfront—soft sand, clean water and ocean breezes.

I’ve tried to be true to the geography and allure of the Crystal Coast and Bogue Banks. For the purposes of this story certain merchants and locations are fictional. For instance, the grocery store in Morehead City where Juli works is fictional and while you won’t find Luke Winters’ Front Street Gallery in Beaufort, you will find a lovely variety of gift shops and galleries on Front Street alongside the marinas; however, I can personally attest that Cox’s Family Restaurant in Morehead City has fabulous grilled cheese sandwiches.

On the Crystal Coast of North Carolina, in the small town of Emerald Isle…

Juli Cooke, hard-working and getting nowhere fast, marries a dying man, Ben Bradshaw, for a financial settlement, not expecting he will set her on a journey of hope and love. The journey brings her to Luke Winters, a local art dealer, but Luke resents the woman who married his sick friend and warns her not to hurt Ben—and he’s watching to make sure she doesn’t.

Until Ben dies and the stakes change.

Framed by the timelessness of the Atlantic Ocean and the brilliant blue of the beach sky, Juli struggles against her past, the opposition of Ben’s and Luke’s families, and even the living reminder of her marriage—to build a future with hope and perhaps to find the love of her life—if she can survive the danger from her past.

Chapter One

The Hammonds’ house glittered. Crystal, gold and silver reflected in the numerous floor-to-ceiling mirrors. The men wore tuxedos and the ladies, draped and fitted in their gowns and jewels, rivaled the decorations in the lavish rooms. It was the fanciest home Juli Cooke had ever seen.

Juli wasn't glittery. She wove her way among the guests with a tray offering canapés. Her white shirt was already spotted with chocolate and red wine. The blotches were right smack in the middle where her black vest couldn’t hide them. Her feet hurt, bound in cheap black pumps. She was twenty-six and definitely not a decoration. She felt like a utility—faceless, graceless, and silent.

She paused as a guest chose a mushroom-capped hors d’oeuvre from her tray.

What were the Hammonds celebrating? It didn’t matter. It was the same for Juli regardless of the occasion—just another slice of unlived-in time spent trying to earn a buck because it was the bucks that kept her afloat, fed, and in her small apartment.

A hip brushed hers as Carla whispered, “What’s up with you and Frankie?”

“Frankie and me? Nothing.” Juli glanced around.

“Then you won’t mind if I ask him out?”

“Sammy’s watching. Move on. I’ll catch ya later.” Juli broke away and walked toward a group of people. Neither she nor Carla needed trouble from Sammy. As a boss, he was a tyrant. It paid to be alert if she wanted to stay below the trouble radar.

Nearby, a woman’s voice erupted in laughter and Juli turned to look. The woman was leaning toward a tall, thin man with her hand on his sleeve as she stared up into his face. Her body language was as revealing as his. Juli felt a little sorry for her. Even as the woman spoke to him, the man appeared to ignore her while he scanned the room.

He had a lean build, light brown hair and sharp features. The woman shrilled, “Luke, you are so…,” then the level of her voice dropped. He, Luke, was the one behaving differently from the rest of the group and should’ve been the one who looked out of place but, no, he made the other partiers look superfluous.

Juli caught his stare. An unexpected pull, a subtle magnetism, drew her. A tingle raced up her spine. Had he sensed her eyes on him? His gaze passed over and through her and moved on.