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Surrender My Love

By:Melissa Foster

Chapter One

COLE BRADEN INHALED the sweet aroma of specialty coffee and baked goods as he walked into Jazzy Joe’s Café. It was finally Friday, which meant a lighter patient load at his orthopedics practice, and at least this week, time to help his father and brothers with the sailboat they were refitting. But all he could think about right now was a French vanilla maple cappuccino and a low-fat cranberry walnut muffin, Jasmine and Joey Carbo’s specialty. The twins only made them on Fridays, and after performing a difficult surgery on a patient with a broken tibia, Cole deserved that deliciousness.

“Welcome to Jazzy’s,” Jasmine called out from behind the counter where she was serving a line of customers. Her curly dark hair was tied back in a ponytail, trying its best to bust free from its tether as she pushed a bag across the counter and waved to Cole.

“Joe’s,” her tall, dark-haired twin added with a smirk. They greeted everyone at the café with the bright, cheery welcome. Sometimes Joe got his welcome out first, Welcome to JJ’s, or Welcome to Joe’s, but they never said, Welcome to Jazzy Joe’s, and it was one of the things that never failed to make Cole smile. As a physician, his days were about methodical diagnoses and precise treatments. He enjoyed the siblings’ tag-team greetings.

Cole made his way around the colorful, oversized chairs, where customers sat chatting, and around a sofa, where a couple sat holding steaming mugs. At the self-help station, he filled a to-go cup. He could practically taste the sweet liquid as he moved to the side to grab a lid and a pretty blonde stepped up beside him. She flashed a shy smile and quickly averted her eyes to the machine. Cole’s eyes drifted down her clingy tank top, over her skimpy blue running shorts, to her incredibly sexy ass and lean legs.

“Cups?” She said it so quietly he thought she might be talking to herself.

Cole reached above her, brushing against her side in the process. She smelled as sweet and fresh as summer rain. He handed her a cup. “Here you go.”

“Thanks. I never would have thought to look up.” She blinked at him long enough for him to notice the grassy hue of her eyes before returning her attention to the coffee machine.

He pointed to another shelf below the counter, where more cups were stored. “They like to keep the customers guessing.”

She nodded and started the machine. Cappuccino streamed into her cup and then quickly fizzled out. She sighed, her shoulders dipping slightly.

“They have other flavors.” He pointed to the other machines.

“Thanks. This is my friend’s favorite. I’m not sure what else she likes.” She furrowed her brows, her gorgeous green eyes filled with concentration.

“Here, take mine.” He handed her his cup. As the eldest of six, he’d been raised to take care of others first, and for this beautiful blonde with the kissable lips and wisps of silky hair falling in front of her eyes, he’d happily give up just about anything.

“No.” She waved her hand. “I can’t do that.”

“Please. I don’t mind.” He set the cup in her hand and she smiled tentatively, like a kitten unsure if the outreached hand was safe. He was used to women taking, taking, taking, seemingly without a care of who they were taking from. Her cautiousness intrigued him.

“Thank you. That’s sweet of you.” She took the cup. “Are you sure?”

Cole smiled. “Yeah, I’m sure. I’ll just grab a muffin. I hope your friend likes it.”

He walked toward the pastry counter to grab a muffin and she followed him over. Her eyes sailed over the muffin labels as Cole snagged a piece of wax paper and reached for the last of his favorite muffins.

“Oh, I need to find the low-fat cranberry walnut muffins. That’s Tegan’s favorite.”

He stopped midreach and laughed softly. Are you kidding me? If she weren’t so sexy and sweet, he might not relinquish his favorite treats so easily. “Really? Cranberry walnut?”

She trapped her lower lip, reining in a guilty smile, and nodded.

He placed the muffin in a bag and handed it to her.

“Thanks, but now I feel even worse. First I take your coffee, and now...” She looked down at the bag and pushed the coffee cup back into his hand. “Here, you take this and she can have the muffin.”

“No. Don’t be silly.” He put a low-fat blueberry muffin into a bag for himself. “You’ve got one lucky friend.” He followed her into line. “I haven’t seen you in here before.”

“I’m just here for a few weeks.” She eyed the coffee and bag again and said, “Unfortunately, for you, I guess, since I’m taking your goodies.”

Now, there was an idea. He’d love to share his goodies with her.

“Hardly.” He held her gaze until Jasmine cleared her throat, indicating that they were holding up the line. The blonde’s cheeks flushed as she stepped up to the counter and set the items down.

Jasmine rang them up and smiled at her. “That’ll be eight forty-nine.”

The blonde patted her butt, like she was searching for her nonexistent pocket.

“Ohmygod.”

Cole shook his head as she turned a deeper shade of red. “I’ve got this, Jasmine.” He set his bag on the counter and pulled out his wallet. “You should probably tell me your name. I don’t usually buy breakfast for women I don’t know.”

She covered her face with her hand and a cute groan slipped through her fingers, making Cole wonder what she might sound like if those groans were moans of pleasure instead. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been interested in a woman right off the bat like this, but this flustered blonde with the killer figure piqued his curiosity.

“Um…” Her eyes coasted over his face, as if she were weighing her answer. “Leesa, with two e’s. Thank you so much...?”

“Cole.”

“Cole, thank you. If you tell me where I can reach you, I promise to repay you.”

“Now, that’s a great pickup line,” Jasmine said with an arched brow as she handed Cole his change and then turned her attention to the next customer.

“No,” Leesa said quickly. “Really, it wasn’t a pickup line. I went for a run at the beach and I was driving by and thought I’d bring my friend something, and I must have left my money at home.”

“Thanks, Jazz.” Cole handed Leesa the coffee cup and bag and they headed for the door. “Relax. She’s just giving me a hard time. We went to school together.”

He held the door open for her, squinting against the harsh sun, and checked his watch. His appointments began in ten minutes. He had to get back to the office.

“Let me see if I have my purse in the car.” She pointed to a yellow Cabriolet convertible.

“Cute car, but I think I can handle spending a few bucks on you.”

“On my friend,” she corrected him.

“On your friend. Right. You think I’m still buying that?”

“Ohmygod. It’s really for her.”

He liked the way her cheeks pinked up and her eyes went hot when she got flustered. He debated asking for her number, but he wasn’t in the habit of picking up tourists around his small hometown—even beautiful ones.

He leaned in close, trying to ignore the heat simmering between them, and said, “Relax. I just like how you look when you’re riled up. It was nice to meet you, Leesa with two e’s. Enjoy Peaceful Harbor.”


***

AN HOUR LATER Leesa and her friend Tegan were sitting in the waiting room of Peaceful Harbor Pain Management Center, waiting to have Tegan’s cast removed from her ankle. She’d broken her ankle while playing with her niece at a park several weeks ago, and Tegan had made no bones about the inconvenience of the darn thing. Not that Leesa minded. They’d been college roommates and had been each other’s sounding boards about everything from schoolwork and men to shoes and, eventually, their careers. Tegan was like the sister she’d never had, and she was thankful for her friendship and support. Listening to her bitch about a cast was nothing compared to the hours Tegan had endured listening to Leesa over the weeks before she’d come to visit.

Leesa flipped through a magazine, trying to quiet her mind. She had taken a cold shower after her run-in with that smokin’-hot guy Cole, but it had done nothing to temper her quickening pulse at the thought of him, and it was driving her crazy. Her life was completely upside down at the moment, and she definitely wasn’t looking for a man. But that didn’t stop thoughts of his smoldering dark eyes, his deep voice, or his low laugh, which sounded so genuine that it made her smile, too. She hadn’t had a reason to smile in weeks, and she had to admit that when she’d felt his heated gaze on her and he’d looked at her like she was an attractive woman when most of the people back home wouldn’t even look at her, it felt utterly fantastic.

“You look like you’re off on cloud nine,” Tegan said as she flipped through a magazine. “Still thinking of Mr. Tall Dark and Helpful?”

“No,” she said too sharply. Tegan’s exaggerated eye roll told her that she wasn’t buying it.

“Annalise.”

Leesa scowled at her and whispered, “Leesa, please.” She’d been using the name Leesa only since she’d arrived in Peaceful Harbor. Despite Tegan assuring her that no one here would have heard about what she went through back in Towson, Annalise wasn’t taking any chances—and so she’d become Leesa. At least for now.

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