Bree grabbed her camera from the passenger seat and stepped out of the car. The coastal road she'd been driving for the past hour was quiet, other than the sounds of the ocean in the distance. She couldn't see it, her view hampered by the palm trees that towered over her and her little car. She placed the camera up to her eye and pointed it towards the road and the trees.
She then pointed it at the large blue sign in front of her. The reason why she had pulled over in the first place.
Starlight Ridge. Population 1500.
That meant the town was about as small as Amor, her New Mexican hometown. Bree hadn't lived in Amor since she left for college several years earlier, but she still considered it her home.
Bree lowered the camera. She hoped Adeline was right—that this was what Bree needed. Her parents had told her that she was running from her problems, rather than facing them head—on like they'd always taught her to. That had been accompanied by looks of disapproval.
But Bree trusted Adeline more than her parents. They'd been roommates for all four years of college, and by the time they graduated, Adeline felt more like family than Bree's own had ever been.
To be fair, her parents were trying to be better—trying to change. But some habits die hard, and others are immortal.
Bree placed her camera back in the case and slung the strap over her shoulder. Time to take Adeline up on her offer to stay with her for a couple of weeks. Regroup. Figure things out.
Though Bree hadn't been able to see the town of Starlight Ridge from where she'd parked, it was only another couple of minutes before it, along with the ocean, came into view. Her breath slowed, and it was like she'd left all of her troubles back at that sign.
Picturesque seaside cottages dotted the small valley before her. Blues and whites accented greens and yellows. No one seemed to have a need for fences, creating the impression of openness and community. And the ocean. It stole her breath as it stretched out, seemingly forever. Subconsciously Bree realized she'd slowed as well, the car creeping along the winding road that led into the heart of the town. She glanced at the GPS, hoping it could handle being reliable for the last five minutes of her journey. It had been touch and go, but the GPS had managed to get her this far. That was more than she could say for its usual erratic behavior.
Bree followed its directions and ended up on a small stretch of road that bordered the beach. She lowered her window so she could better hear the waves and the cries of the seagulls. Adeline had been right. This was exactly what Bree needed.
You have arrived at your destination.
Bree pulled into a parking stall that sat diagonal to the road and craned her neck to better see through the windshield. She glanced at the GPS, then back out the window. This didn't seem right. In front of her sat a small boardwalk with a dozen or so connected shops. The one directly in front of her simply said, Dive Shop. It had a Help Wanted sign in the window. Bree knew that Adeline had returned to Starlight Ridge to open her own business, but Bree could say with some certainty that it hadn't been a dive shop. Stupid GPS. Couldn't it lead her to the correct location for once? Hopefully she wasn't too far off course.
Bree stepped out of the car. No one walked the boardwalk, despite the warm breeze, and she wondered if the shops were even open. She hoped at least one was so she could ask for directions. There had been no need to worry, as when she took a step away from her car, she noticed a man now stood in the doorway of the dive shop, casually leaning against the door frame. He wore a t—shirt featuring the shop's logo along with board shorts, his tan complexion a nice contrast with his sun—bleached hair.
He didn't move as she walked toward him, instead seeming to study her, a small smile playing on his lips. Bree always wondered what people thought of her—what their first impression was. When she was only a few feet away he tilted his head in greeting.
"Hi," Bree said, feeling suddenly nervous, like she was intruding on the sleepy town. She took another step forward. "I seemed to have made a wrong turn and wondered if you could help point me in the right direction."
At this a full grin burst across the man's face and he pushed off from the door frame. "It's hard to get lost in Starlight Ridge."
Bree twisted a lock of hair around her finger and her gaze darted away. Her rapid heartbeat betrayed how incredible this man's smile was. "Well, I've somehow managed it," she said, still not lifting her eyes. "I blame the GPS."
The man chuckled. "Yeah, if I were you, I would turn it off and not turn it on again until you leave. It's notoriously bad around these parts. I've seen people driving on the beach because the voice in their cars insisted that was where they should be, and they didn't bother to question it."
In spite of her reservations, Bree laughed and her gaze lifted. The man had moved forward a couple of steps. He held out his hand.
"Bree," she said, taking his and shaking.
So. This was Caleb. He was better looking than Adeline had let on. Did Adeline really not see it? She had always talked about her childhood friend as if he were a brother.
Maybe Bree could come to think of Caleb as a brother too. Because he certainly couldn't be more than that. It was one of her rules while staying in Starlight Ridge.
No men allowed. Especially good—looking ones.
"Where are you trying to go, Bree?" Caleb asked, releasing her hand.