Between the Lines (Paradise Bay Sweet Romance Book 1)(2)

By: Ella Linden

“I am too. I love this place so much. If I’m going to start over, it might as well be in my favorite place on Earth.”

“Hell, yeah. My mom and dad can’t wait to see you. They’re getting back from Austin in a couple days.”

“Visiting Jason?” she asked, and he nodded. His younger brother, Jason, was going to college down in Texas and she understood from Jack that he and his new wife had just had their first baby. She liked Jason well enough, but he was kind of the opposite of Jack in every way: loud, brash, outgoing. Jack, on the other hand, was a sweet, quiet introvert. But like most introverts, once he was around his people, he could be as loud and gregarious as anyone else. He’d been a comic book nerd, just like Olivia, and they’d never run out of things to talk about during all of those lazy summers on the lake.

“I’m looking forward to seeing them, too.” Her gaze went to the front door, more specifically, to the area beside it, where she remembered a little coat closet. Instead of a closet door, there was a long curtain hung from a curtain rod over the door.

She blushed, feeling stupid and grateful at the same time. “You didn’t have to do that,” she said, gesturing to the closet.

Jack shrugged. “That was my mom’s idea. I just helped her take the door down.”

“It’s so stupid. It’s dumb, right?”

He shook his head, holding her gaze. “No, cuz. The only stupid thing is that you had to live through the type of thing that put that kind of fear in you. And that I wasn’t around to help you.”

She looked away. “I wasn’t exactly communicating much at that time.”

“No, but that’s hardly your fault.” He reached out and squeezed her hand. “I wish I would have known at the time. And I wish I would have known what was going on with Jon, too.” He gave a small shake of his head. “I’m relieved you’re here for that reason, too. If anyone messes with you here, I’ll know about it.”

Olivia smiled. “It’ll be nice having someone watching my back. But I don’t plan on getting into any more situations like that.”

Jack nodded. He was about to say something when his phone rang. He glanced at the screen. “I need to take this,” he said apologetically, and she waved him off, indicating that he should do what he had to do. He stepped onto the porch, and a moment later, she heard him talking. She looked around at the cardboard boxes and suitcases in the living room, and grabbed one of the boxes labeled “books.” Honestly, most of the boxes held either books or art supplies. She’d donated or sold anything else she could before she’d left Detroit. She had a few boxes of knickknacks and collectibles, and several bags of clothes. Anything that had felt like it was weighing her down or taking up space had been sent off. Including her fiancé. Finally.

She tore the box open and started lining the books up on the bookcase at the end of the living room. It was large, painted a soft, distressed white, just like most of the wood furniture in the cottage. She liked it. It felt homey and relaxed, the way a lake house should. Whenever she bought a permanent place up here, she’d make it feel like this, she decided.

She continued putting her books on the shelves, and a couple of minutes later, Jack stepped back into the cottage. “Sorry, Livi. I have to go take care of this.”

She nodded. “It’s fine. Not too serious, I hope?”

He shook his head. “A horse with a sliced foreleg. But it’s the owner’s first horse and she’s freaked out.”

Olivia smiled. “Go do your thing, then. Thanks for all of the help.” She hugged Jack again, and he drew back.

“You’re going to need a job while you’re here, right?” he asked, and she nodded.

“I figured I was showing up at the right time for that. Every place will be looking for help in preparation for tourist season.”

“You did. Lauren is looking for full and part-time help at the comic shop and bookstore she opened with Holly Fitzpatrick. You remember Holly, right? Her grandparents had a cottage here a few doors down.”

“I remember,” Olivia said. “I read about the shop when it opened. How’s it doing?”