Nights at Seaside by Addison Cole is the sweet edition of New York Times bestselling author Melissa Foster’s steamy romance novel Seaside Nights. The stories and characters remain the same, and convey all of the passion you expect between two people in love, without any explicit scenes or harsh language.
In NIGHTS AT SEASIDE…
Sky Lacroux has finally realized her dream and opened her own tattoo shop in Provincetown, Massachusetts. She’s happy as can be, preparing the shop for its grand opening and renting a cottage in the Seaside community while renovations to her new apartment are being completed. The only thing missing is the one thing she longs for, and has no control over–love.
Sawyer Bass, a professional boxer, plays his guitar at a local bar to escape the painful reality of his father’s deteriorating health and a recent health warning of his own. But when he spots a stunning brunette across the room, escaping reality goes out the window, and the beautiful woman becomes the focus of his next song–and maybe even the rest of his life.
When Sawyer walks into Sky’s tattoo shop and sees the woman from the bar–Sky–the chemistry between them is instant. Sawyer is everything Sky could ever hope for in a man. He’s honest, loving, sensitive, and potently virile–but boxing goes against everything Sky believes in. The closer they become, the more she realizes that her alpha boxer is waging his own emotional battle–only the battle she thinks he’s waging isn’t the one that threatens to tear them apart.
“I CAN’T BELIEVE in a few short weeks the apartment and the tattoo shop will be completely renovated. Blue, you’re amazing!” Sky Lacroux shoved her favorite poetry book into her patchwork purse and locked the front doors of her shop. She waited for a few people to pass before stepping back on the busy sidewalk to admire it. She still had to paint the exterior and the sign above the doors and wait for the interior renovations to be done, but as she took in the narrow building she now owned, pride swelled inside her chest.
Inky Skies was located on Commercial Street, the busiest street in the artsy community of Provincetown, Massachusetts. It was sandwiched between her friend Lizzie Barber’s flower shop, P-town Petals, which was painted light blue with flowers and greenery climbing up the columns out front, and the bright purple game store, Puzzle Me This. Sky planned on painting Inky Skies bright yellow, and as Blue Ryder, one of her best friends, threw his arm around her and dragged her away from the shop, she felt like she was walking on a cloud. Now, if only the universe would magically step in and find her the perfect man to share her joy with.
Yeah, right. Like that was going to happen in a primarily gay and lesbian community, especially with the way she worked all the time. Not likely. Her brother Hunter fell into step on her other side. Definitely not likely with these two guarding me closer than Fort Knox.
“Are you still planning a big grand opening, even though the shop has been open since you bought it?” Blue asked. He’d been one of Sky’s best friends since she’d moved back to the Cape from New York three summers ago, to run her father’s hardware store while he went into rehab to deal with an alcohol addiction. Thankfully, her father had remained sober after rehab and was back to running his store, which had enabled Sky to move out and fulfill her dream of opening her own tattoo shop. Two months earlier she’d purchased the tattoo shop where she’d been working part-time, and Blue, a specialty builder, was renovating both the shop and the apartment above it for her.
“Heck, yes, I am. It doesn’t matter that it’s been open during renovations. I still need to celebrate Inky Skies—my dream, my passion, my…”
Blue groaned, and Sky laughed and poked him in the side as they crossed at the corner on their way to meet their friends.
“And you’re both coming,” she said. “Like it or not.”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I’m proud of you, sis.” Hunter put a hand on Sky’s forearm as they came to a curb and a bike whipped past.
“Hunter, I know how to stop at a curb, thank you very much.” She rolled her eyes at her protective older brother.
She was used to being watched over, considering her four older brothers—and her slightly overprotective friend, Blue—had been doing it for years, but at twenty-six, with a new business and a new apartment, she was ready to spread her wings.
“Hey, just keepin’ you safe.” Hunter kept his dark hair shaved close to his head, and with his dark eyes and bulky muscles, he had an edge to him, but the playful grin he flashed softened all of that edginess, revealing the bighearted brother Sky adored.
“Hey, sugar!” A friendly drag queen, who went by Marcus during the day and Maxine when he performed, waved from across the street. He’d lost his lover, Howie, to cancer a couple of years ago, and as much as Sky wished he’d fall in love again, she knew from the look in Marcus’s eyes when he spoke of Howie that what they’d shared was a once-in-a-lifetime type of love.
Ever since four of her friends had gotten married last summer, she longed to experience that kind of love, too.
“Hi, Marcus,” Sky called. “No show tonight?” During the day, families came to shop, sightsee, and enjoy street performers, but at night, P-town turned into a colorful world of drag queens, dance clubs, and comedians.
“My night off.” Marcus said something that made the man he was with laugh. Then he hollered, “I see you have your bodyguards with you again. Hey, Blue. Hi, Hunter. When you get tired of watching over Sky, come watch over me.”
Blue laughed. “You couldn’t handle me, bro.”
“Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to try,” Marcus teased.
Blue was straight as an arrow, but Marcus loved to tease him. Sky had quickly fallen in love with the whole community when she’d begun working at the tattoo shop. It might not be conducive to meeting a guy she’d want to actually spend time getting to know in a romantic sense—it had been forever since she’d met a guy like that—but she loved the diversity of the area and the warmth of the people. Provincetown felt like home.
They weaved through throngs of people toward a crowd gathered outside of the Governor Bradford Restaurant, where Blue had handled renovations last year. At six two and six three, with linebacker shoulders and movie-star good looks, it was easy for Hunter and Blue to part the crowd as they guided Sky inside. Governor Bradford’s was dimly lit, with a bar to the left, a small stage and dance floor across from the entrance, and a restaurant area to the right of the stage. The scent of fried foods and sage hung in the air.
She followed Blue around the dance floor, stopping at a table of bearded guys who had come into the shop earlier in the day for tattoos and leaned in to hug one of them. Sky got to know most of her customers while she tatted them up.
“Hey, guys. I hope you’re going to sing for open mic night.”
“Trust me, you don’t wanna hear us sing,” the burliest of them said with a laugh.
“Chicken,” Sky teased as Blue took her hand and dragged her to the far side of the dance floor, where her sister-in-law, Jenna, and their friends Bella Grant and Amy Black were waiting for them.
“Finally.” Jenna stood up to hug Sky. She was four foot eleven, with curves that rivaled Marilyn Monroe’s, and at five months pregnant she looked even more voluptuous. “I see your bodyguards got you here safely.”
Sky laughed. “I love your haircut!” Jenna had cut a few inches off of her long brown hair. It now hung just past her shoulders.
“Thanks. It’s my summer cut,” Jenna said, patting her hair.
Sky reached around Bella’s burgeoning belly to hug her, then did the same with Amy. “You guys are like the beach-ball-belly twins. I can’t believe you’re both eight months pregnant—and that your hubbies are still letting you go to open mic night.”
“They know we need our P-town nights. Besides, they’re all out on Pete’s boat with your dad.” Bella looked at Hunter and Blue. “Why didn’t you guys go?”
Hunter was busy ordering drinks from a raven-haired waitress.
“I worked late on Sky’s renovations.” Blue pulled out a chair for Sky.
“I’m sorry,” Sky said, patting his back as she sat beside him. “But I do appreciate your hard work, and I even tried to get Lizzie to meet us tonight.” She wiggled her brows. “I tried to hook you up. The way you and Duke were lusting after Lizzie at the wedding, I thought for sure you’d ask her out by now.”
“She is hot,” Hunter said, eyes locked on a group of blond women across the bar.
Blue ran a hand through his thick dark hair and shrugged. “I’ve been busy.”
“For a year?” Bella asked.
“She’s come out with us several times over the past year,” he said as he draped an arm across the back of Sky’s chair.
“Yes. Us. I said you should ask her out.” Sky shook her head, and a disconcerting thought hit her as the waitress brought their drinks. “Oh, gosh, Blue. Do you think we spend too much time together? Am I monopolizing you? Have I blocked you?”
“No, you didn’t block me,” Blue said with a laugh. “Have I…blocked you?”
Relieved, she said, “No. I’ve just decided that the next guy I date has to be someone who’s really soulful and gets me, and around here, that’s slim pickin’s.”
Blue raised his beer with a smirk. “Guys are not exactly soulful.”
“No kidding,” Hunter said.
“Oh, come on. There are soulful people all around. It just takes some looking,” Jenna began scanning the bar. “I’m on a manhunt for Sky.”
“Okay, enough find-my-sister-a-man talk,” Hunter said. “I looked at the sign-up sheet. They have a great lineup tonight. Comedians, karaoke, and see that guy over there?” He pointed to a guy sitting by himself at the bar with a guitar leaning against his leg. His dark T-shirt revealed sculpted biceps and strong forearms, and the fabric clung to the contours of his muscular chest. One arm rested casually on the arm of his chair, the other across his lap, his finger wrapped around the neck of a guitar. He had hair the color of night and thick scruff covering a strong jawline. His eyes were narrowed and locked on a group of people across the room, like he was studying them or deep in thought. Sky couldn’t tell which.
“He played about two months ago, and he’s amazing.” Hunter glanced at his sister. “You’ll love him, Sky.”
“Holy mother of hotness.” Jenna grabbed Bella’s arm. “Where did that guy come from?”
“You’re married,” Amy reminded her.
“And preggers.” Bella patted Jenna’s belly. “Pete would kick his butt if he even looked at you.” Sky’s brother was a little protective of his wife.
“My interest is already piqued by that handsome creature,” Sky said more to herself than the others.
“I don’t want to hear that. I just thought you’d like his music.” Hunter eyed the man across the room. “He looks a little rough, Sky. Not your hippie, earthy type.”
Sky ignored her brother’s evaluation. Yes, she had an earthy style and believed in fate and destiny and all things a little bit magical, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t ogle a hot guy who might not be her typical type.
While Bella, Amy, and Jenna talked about their plans for their babies and Blue and Hunter talked about work and women, Sky went back to checking out the dark-eyed man who hadn’t so much as shifted his position.
The host announced the next karaoke singer, and they listened to a squeaky rendition of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” People danced and sang as they moved through several other moderately talented singers. Sky was about to pull out her poetry book, which was far more interesting than the singers, when the host called out, “Sawyer Bass,” and the guy with the guitar rose and stretched, giving Sky an eyeful of just how hot he really was. Black biker boots carried him across the floor. His guitar strap was slung casually over one shoulder, as if he were carrying an old piece of lumber.
Blue bumped her with his elbow and handed her a napkin.
“What’s that for?” she asked, eyes still on Sawyer Bass. He even has a hot name.
She snapped the napkin from his hands, unable to tear her eyes from Sawyer as he sank onto a stool in the middle of the stage—which looked way too small for a man of his size. He was completely relaxed, shoulders and jaw soft, eyes downcast, as if sitting in front of a roomful of people was something he did every night. He rolled his thick shoulders back and cracked his neck to either side, which for some reason amped up his sexiness.
Sawyer lifted dark eyes to the crowd, scanning everything and somehow looking as though he were seeing nothing at all. His eyes skimmed over Sky, and for a beat she held her breath, but he quickly moved on, and she couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
“This guy’s got serious mojo.” Bella’s eyes moved around the room. “Half the women’s eyes are on him. Heck, most of the guys are staring at him, too.”
Sky sipped her drink and looked away from the guy who held everyone’s attention. She reached into her purse and pulled out her C. J. Moon poetry book. Better to concentrate on something she enjoyed than to gawk at a guy everyone wanted. He probably wasn’t laid-back anyway. He was probably playing it cool, the way guys did when they knew they were hot stuff.
“You’re not really going to read, are you?” Blue put his arm across the back of her chair again and pulled her in closer.
“She’s mooning again,” Jenna teased. “Blue, take that away from her. She’ll never meet a guy if she’s mooning.” Jenna always teased her about mooning over C. J. Moon’s poems.
Blue leaned closer to Sky. “You seem a little out of sorts. Is it the renovations? They shouldn’t take much longer.”
Sky was renting a cottage from Amy down at the Seaside community, where Bella, Jenna, and Amy all lived. Blue had found a leak in the apartment pipes a few weeks ago, and it seemed easier for her to rent there rather than be in his way on a daily basis. She loved staying at Seaside, and she loved Blue for caring enough to ask.
“You really are a great friend, Blue. It’s not that. You’re doing a great job. I don’t know what it is.”
Sky dropped her eyes to the book and began to read her favorite poem.
A moment later, a deep, impassioned voice filled the room, bringing Sky’s eyes up to the man it had come from. Sawyer sat on the stool, eyes closed, strumming his guitar and singing with an intensity that sent a shiver of seduction rippling through the room. Sky watched his fingers move confidently over the strings. His brows knitted together on the longer notes, he bowed his head as the words turned sad, and the muscles in his neck grew thicker. Passion poured out of him with every verse.
“What song is this?” Sky asked, the lyrics settling into her bones like a lonely ache. Darkness isn’t enough. Miles are too close. Nothing can erase you, wipe you clean, take away the pain you’re leaving behind.
“No idea,” Blue answered.
“Never heard it before.” Hunter’s eyes were locked on a blonde across the room.
Sky shifted her gaze back to Sawyer. His voice was getting softer as he came to the end of the song, and it drew her in deeper with every second he held that note.
** SAWYER **
THE LAST NOTE lingered in Sawyer’s lungs, weighing heavily on his heart and in his mind. He didn’t want to stop strumming his guitar or open his eyes. He needed this release—to live in the center of this dusky bar, surrounded by people who didn’t know him and who didn’t know what had led him there. But when he’d sung his last note, he had no choice but to end the song and open his eyes to a loud round of applause. Still thinking of the meaning behind the words, he looked past the tables to the window across the front of the restaurant, which looked out over Commercial Street. People walked by outside, oblivious to the storm brewing inside him, like everyone else in this place.
He’d found himself looking for answers—more so in recent months as his father’s illness progressed. And in that moment, as the crowd clapped, he conjured up the image of his father’s face from his childhood, before the remnants of the war had claimed him. His lips curved up at the memory of his father’s bright eyes smiling upon him—that was the part he still couldn’t accept. He’d never again see his father smile. Parkinson’s had stolen so much of his father’s abilities to be the man he once was, it seemed unreal to Sawyer. Even though the illness had taken root several years earlier, the loss of those pieces of his father that he’d taken for granted for so long still haunted Sawyer on a daily basis. And now, looking at his father was like looking into a mirror of what his future might hold. Sawyer was running from that truth, trying to dodge it like a bullet, because it wasn’t Agent Orange that might steal Sawyer’s cognition like a thief in the night. Sawyer’s fate wasn’t being driven by the country he served. Sawyer’s nemesis was the one thing that he’d lived and breathed since he was thirteen years old. It was his chosen career.
Sawyer had boxed competitively since he was eighteen. He was a formidable competitor, a monster in the ring, and boxing was the perfect outlet for his anger toward the disease that was stealing more of the man he loved each and every day. Boxing had not only been his emotional savior on too many occasions to count, but now it was going to be his parents’ financial savior as well. Sawyer was challenging the current Northeast Boxing Association champion for the title, and the match carried a seven-hundred-thousand-dollar purse—enough money to pay for in-home health care for his father for the next thirty years. That goal kept Sawyer training harder than ever before and had him even more fiercely determined to win.
After a grueling training session for his upcoming title fight, he’d gone to see Dr. Malen, his physician, for his quarterly checkup. Stupid doctors. They were always covering their butts, warning about worst-case scenarios. Brains weren’t meant to take beatings, the doc had told him. He’d painted the grimmest picture—one or two more blows and Sawyer could sustain permanent brain damage. Sure, he’d had a few concussions, but didn’t every fighter? They’d been giving him the same warning since he was a teenager, and he knew from his boxing buddies that they’d all received similar warnings, too. But this time the doc told him something that he’d never said before—Think about it. This is your future. You’ve only got one.
How could one sentence pack more power than an uppercut to the jaw?
Even if the doc was right, how was he supposed to decide between ensuring his father’s financial future and well-being and his own?
As the applause died down, Sawyer pushed those agonizing thoughts aside. He was invincible. Too good of a fighter to end up with a head injury. He looked out at the crowd and held up a hand in gratitude as he rose to his feet. His eyes shifted to the dark-haired beauty sitting off to his left. He’d seen her looking at him from across the room earlier, and now her eyes were on him again even though the guy beside her had his arm around her. Sawyer disliked people who disrespected those who cared for them and to do it in plain sight rubbed him the wrong way. But something in the way she was looking at him made it impossible for him to look away.
The exotic-looking woman with olive skin and long, windblown dark hair intrigued him. So much so that words sailed through his mind—languid, peaceful, wounded. Words were as much an outlet for Sawyer as boxing was. He poured his emotions into songs, scribbling them on whatever he could get his hands on when the feeling hit. And now, as he drank in her mismatched necklaces, the word enchanting sounded in his mind. She had the look and presence of someone who was comfortable in her own skin, and that was something Sawyer had always been attracted to. In the space of a breath, he took in her almond-shaped eyes, the slight uptilt to her nose, and the sweet bow of her lips. He’d been watching her for only a few seconds, though it felt like several minutes had passed, and her eyes were now focused on a book, making him even more curious. Who read a book at open mic night?
Sawyer felt his muse pulling, taunting, vying for his attention, and the songwriter in him began putting a song about the woman together in his mind.
He’d come to the bar tonight because life was pressing in on him and he’d desperately needed to get out of his own head. The song he’d just played had practically exploded from his fingertips earlier in the evening, and the longer he’d played it in his house on the dunes, the worse the ache that had accompanied it had become. He’d moved outside, but even the sounds of the bay, which usually soothed the chaos in his mind, were no match for the doctor’s warning and the other pressures whirling around inside him.
Being out tonight should have calmed his thoughts, but now his mind was racing again. Only this time, bits and pieces of the beautiful woman’s fictional life were tumbling into verses he had to write.
He picked up his guitar and headed to the bar as the host announced the next act. Sawyer pulled a pen from his shirt pocket, grabbed a stack of napkins, and climbed atop a barstool to let the words flow.