Authors: Debbie Macomber
When First They Met
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
A Ballantine Books eBook Original
Copyright © 2012 by Debbie Macomber
The Inn at Rose Harbor
by Debbie Macomber © 2012 by Debbie Macomber
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
The Inn at Rose Harbor
by Debbie Macomber. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.
Cover design: Belina Huey
Cover images: Brian Abela/Shutterstock (sign), Scott Masterson/Flickr/Getty Images (water), Bloom Image/Getty Images (clouds)
As an author, I’ve always found it difficult to bid farewell to my characters. Perhaps that’s the reason I tend to write books in a series. In 2001, I launched the Cedar Cove series, based on Port Orchard, Washington, where Wayne and I have lived for the past twenty-six years. It’s been my most popular series to date, but all good things must come to an end eventually. I felt it was time to move on. A new series idea had come to me and so I announced I was writing the last book in the Cedar Cove series.
But, oh, how my readers protested!
They said things like, “You can’t leave Cedar Cove; you just can’t.” “What about …” and then they would name their favorite character. “These characters have become my friends. Please, please don’t leave them behind.”
While such comments are like a melody to an author’s ears, they were disconcerting, too. I’d already decided the new series would involve a bed-and-breakfast—one with a very special theme—which you will discover when you read
The Inn at Rose Harbor
. But this special inn needed a location, so it came to me, why not Cedar Cove?
This e-short you are about to read introduces you to Paul and Jo Marie. It’s the story of how they meet and fall in love. My wish is that you will fall in love with them, too, and be as eager and enthusiastic to snuggle up with all the guests at Rose Harbor Inn and the wonderful friends who populate Cedar Cove.
P.S. I have a news flash to share. The Hallmark Channel has recently contacted me for a movie version of Cedar Cove, which will air in September at the same time as the launch of
The Inn at Rose Harbor
. Check my website for the day it debuts!
I’ve always been a big football enthusiast. Okay, the truth? I’m a bit of a football fanatic. I blame my dad for that. One year my mother had to hold up Thanksgiving dinner for our entire extended family because my dad and two of my uncles were immersed in a football game.
Dad’s gaze remained fixed on the television screen. “Hold your horses, the game has only two minutes left.” The turkey was dry and the mashed potatoes grew cold because those “two minutes” turned into something like thirty-three minutes. Mom was counting.
My mother never got into football the way my brother, Todd, and I did. Growing up in Spokane, the Seahawks were our team. After I moved to Seattle, when Columbia Bank transferred me to the Denny Way branch, I bought my dad a couple of Seahawk tickets every year for Christmas. Which was actually pretty self-serving because Mom couldn’t have cared less, so Dad would take me instead. I bonded with my father over football. It seemed like we could talk about anything while munching on peanuts and shouting out advice to the refs and coaches.
You can imagine my excitement when three tickets became available through the bank where I’m the account manager and junior vice president. I leaped at the opportunity to take two of our clients. Little did I know then that this particular football game would forever change my life.
The bank had several season tickets in prime locations. The Andersons, Lou and Helen, were a nice, middle-aged couple with three grown children. Mr. Anderson owned a long-haul trucking company and did all his banking with us, and we wanted him to know that we appreciated his business.
As planned, I met the Andersons outside of CenturyLink Field so we could walk into the stadium together. The tickets were on the fifty-yard line, about fifteen rows up from the field. I settled into my seat and noticed the two men next to me, who were obviously military. With Fort
Lewis, the Bremerton shipyard, Naval Station Everett, and McCord Air Force Base all located within the Puget Sound region, it wasn’t unusual to run into someone serving in the military.
The first thing I noticed about the guy to my immediate left was his eyes. He turned and glanced in my direction when I came into the row. Blue eyes. I’ve always been a sucker for men with blue eyes.
Afraid I might be staring, I quickly looked away. Blue eyes didn’t. In fact, he seemed to have his gaze fixed on me. I made a show of checking my ticket to be sure I was in the correct row and seat. I was, and I was right next to the man with the striking blue eyes.
“Welcome,” he said as soon as I sat down, saluting me with his coffee.
“Thanks.” I settled into my seat. Now, there are blue eyes and then there are really blue eyes. His looked like the waters of the Caribbean—almost turquoise. His gaze held mine and I felt jarred, as if someone had bumped into me from behind. I swallowed hard, because right then, at that very moment, I knew this man could be real trouble. A good kind of trouble. Red lights immediately started flashing.
I quickly looked away. To be clear, I’m over thirty, well over thirty, and didn’t hold out any hope of finding the right man. I’d been through the mill when it came to men and relationships. I’ve been in love a couple of times, or I thought I had, and both relationships ended poorly. The first man of my dreams, Ben, had a problem. A rather big problem as it turned out. He was married. Separated but still married. No thanks.
As soon as I found out, I suggested Ben not contact me again until he was single. He never did.
My second love had a bit of a gambling problem. I could see the handwriting on the wall with Dean when I ended up paying for our last three dates because he’d lost money on the horses and at a friendly poker game, and had an overdue rent bill. I’d extracted myself before my heart was seriously involved.
My mother’s convinced I’m far too picky. Perhaps I am, but I prefer a man who doesn’t have a wife and a couple of children he conveniently forgets to mention until we’re three months
into the relationship. Or a guy who doesn’t have enough sense not to lose his entire paycheck on what he is sure is a winning hand. As if a “full house” was a sure thing! It would help, too, if he didn’t live with his mother. That was Lonny, who I met through one of those online dating services. He lied, too.
Maybe I’m gun-shy. At thirty-eight, I’ve seen most of my friends through the gauntlet. I’ve been a bridesmaid more times than I can count, a godmother at least ten times over, and served as a divorce counselor and shoulder to cry on when the relationships fell apart. I’m not jaded; at least I hope I’m not. I prefer to think that I’m practical and just a bit leery.
In two words, I have “high standards” and I’m not willing to settle for second or third best. I wanted a man who was honorable and honest. A man who loved God, country, me, and family. A few basics didn’t seem unreasonable. I found it shocking how rare it was to meet a man like that. As a result, I’d basically given up. If I met someone who fit the bill, I’d be thrilled. If not, well, then it just wasn’t meant to be.
“Would you mind passing this to the guy with the peanuts?”
Those were the first words Paul Rose ever spoke to me beyond welcome. He handed me a five-dollar bill that I gave to Mr. Anderson, who passed it along to the vendor. The peanut guy hurled the bag, which Paul deftly caught with one hand. His change made its way from the Andersons to me and then to Paul.
“I’m going to get a beer to go with the peanuts when the guy comes by. Would you like one?”
I blinked and narrowed my eyes. I’d dated a really wonderful guy once who had a drinking problem. You see, this is what happens when you’ve been in the game as long as I have.
Over the course of my dating career, I’ve met all kinds. You have to be careful. The guy with the killer eyes was hitting the bottle pretty early in the day.
“It isn’t a final Jeopardy question,” Paul teased.
“Later?” he asked.
I shrugged. I’d watch and see how well he handled his liquor first. If he had more than two or three beers during the course of the game, then, no thanks to that beer or anything else.
He grinned then and again it was those eyes. I imagined he had women swooning over him the minute he smiled at them. Not me; at least, I wasn’t going to show it. I wasn’t about to be taken in by some fast-talking sailor, although I didn’t think he was navy.
“You’re military?” Really, it was pretty obvious.
“Airborne Ranger,” he answered.
“Stationed out of Fort Lewis?”
“No, we’re here for the next six weeks for training exercises.”
I knew as much about the military as I did about quadratic formulas. I could probably work it out but it would take awhile.
The beer man made his way toward our seats and Paul bought two beers. One for him and one for his buddy. Generosity was a bonus.
“Hi, I’m Mike,” his buddy leaned over and introduced himself.
“Paul.” He offered me his hand and we shook. His grip was firm but not punishing. “Ignore Mike,” Paul whispered. “I saw you first.”
I laughed. “Is this a competition?”
“Nope. I paid for you fair and square.”
“Paid for me?”
“Not literally. I bought Mike the beer with the promise I got first crack at you.”
“What makes you think I’m not married or involved?”
“I was just hoping. Are you?”
“What if I said I am?”
“Then it’s hands off. I wouldn’t want anyone hitting on my girl.”
I liked his ethics. I have to say he was looking better by the minute.