I told you that after spending some time with Scott and DJ, this week it was going to be Rhett’s, Scott’s brother, and Flo.
Rhett is a good guy. He is THE good guy. I can totally see him running, and winning, for Mayor. Everyone loves him because he genuinely cares about his people, and Flo, a thief, that was a major source of guilt.
Rhett and Flo’s story is Painted Love
Thou shalt not steal.
Oh, but Florence had, and will do so one last time.
Ten pieces her grandfather painted for her because he loved her.
Ten pieces her mother lost, along with anything else, for loving the wrong man.
She couldn’t get back everything he’d wasted away, but she’d be damned if she’d give up those paintings.
Easy and genuine, Rhett loves his life–his family, his market, his town. Until he meets a British woman with grey eyes and a cute little smile. The woman he’s been waiting for.
The thing is, to love her is easy, but can he trust her?
When Rhett pushes to uncover her agenda, Flo knows she will lose something–the man she loves or what she’d been fighting for her entire life.
Which road will she choose?
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And, by the way, what are you doing for the rest of your life?
Probably not the right, or smart, question at the moment, Rhett figured walking by her side. Not even if the occasion did call for some sparkle. As they moved away from downtown and toward the hotel, the winter sun shone gently in the sky, quiet waves replaced the music, the occasional shouts, and laughs of the party people.
Beautiful, and not enough to propose to a stranger.
But damn, something had happened. Something unusual, mysterious, definitely shattering. His head still reeled because of it, his soul sang. And yeah, his stupid body gave him a hard time, too–pun intended. Energy had sparkled when he’d seen her, a bone-deep recognition clashing against logic or beliefs.
Rhett Andrew Beckett thought himself to be a pragmatic romantic. If his heart knew how to fly, he believed in strong foundations and a legacy that would go on and on. A family to build from the ground up, to cherish and nurture. He also believed in love at first sight with common sense and honesty. Meaning, he’d lived through a couple of big ones and, when the initial blast had settled enough, he’d seen the misplaced feelings and rectified the situation.
Most of all, he loved love. The closeness, the tenderness, the responsibilities and care for another’s feelings. After many mishaps he’d learned how to keep an eye on the foolish heart of his. It had given him a fair share of grief growing up, but experience taught him when to let it go free and when to shut it, when to use it and when timing was wrong. It had served him well and despite some scars, Rhett had dodged major heartaches.
Then, there was today. Defeating rules, ignoring good sense.
Not beautiful, but interesting. Not sweet, but graceful with hash blond hair flowing in the breeze. A smile never going all the way through but compelling you to try to and set it free. Moody eyes, gray as steel one moment, soft as clouds the next. Full of secrets and hurt.
God, he was a sucker for hurt women.
“I’m here for work.” Her hot royal British accent cut into his thoughts and saved him from mulling over feelings and the such for too long.
“Which would be…”
“Photography. I wanted to see how a winter without snow, rain, and colors other than gray feels. It will be part of an exposition next year in London.”
“Then you picked the right place, winter is a work of beauty down here.”
He couldn’t wait to show her around. Because okay, he might not ask her to get married in the next few instants, but he sure wanted to know Florence Hastings, see if the rip current he’d gotten caught into really existed, or he only needed a vacation.
“How long are you planning on staying?” he added, keeping the mood nice and easy. “I’m sure you said that much to Scott, but I’m afraid we’ll have to redo all the info talks.”
“It’s okay, no worries. I have a three-month visa. Depending on how the work goes, it can be extended for three more months.”
“Not long,” he mused. Regardless of what they would have together, from friendship to who knows, an expiring date shone on them. Nope, he answered his own unspoken question, it was not enough to let go. That woman kindled something, and he’d see through whatever it might be.
They walked past the Tiki Bar in front of the marina when one of her half-smiles bloomed.
“What is it?” he asked.
Florence shook her head. “It’s so odd. I mean, we’re in January and it’s hot, the sun is crazy bright and it gives actual heat. And, that bar doesn’t have walls.”
“There are walls, they simply don’t go all the way up to the ceiling.”
She gave him an amused glance. “The roof is made of straw.”
“It’s thatch, which works wonders in July and it’s easy to rebuild when hurricanes hit.”
Florence pursed her lips. “Mh, I’m not convinced.”
“Then I’ll make it my job to let you see the truth.”
“About straw roofs?”
“About thatch, yes.”
And there it was. A full-blown smile that softened her face, brightened her eyes. Along with showing her the beauty of Tiki Bars’s roofs, Rhett swore he’d do all he could to make Florence Hastings smile more often.
Side by side, they kept on walking past the marina, out from the town center chaos and into the quieter neighborhood where the Marine Wildlife Center stood, surrounded by a tiny park.
Comfortable with the silence, Rhett tried to see his town through the eyes of a stranger—a hot, intriguing, British stranger.
A couple of kids played soccer while a dad strolled along with a little girl on his shoulders. Manicured grass on one side of the sun-washed sidewalk; sparkling blue beyond the white railing on the other. A gentle breeze combed through the palm trees; little to no traffic. The Sunshine Inn’s top floor beckoned in the distance, and Rhett knew how stunning the view would be from those rooms as much as how Bella would spoil Florence with good southern food. He smiled, proud of calling this place home.
“You love it here,” Florence said. Weird, how clearly she’d read his face.
“I do.” He shrugged before adding, “It’s mine.”
As soon as his words were out, her smile faltered. Was it sadness? What for?
“It must be… radiant. Feeling the way you do,” she said.
“I guess. Do you have yourplace? Somewhere you belong to?”
She cleared her throat. “I have a house. What do you do?” she asked in a rapid change of subject that told Rhett more than a million words. Florence Hastings was lonely. He knew nothing about her, but regardless of how many people she may have in her life, she was lonely. That topic, too, would have to wait for a better time to be discussed, and he answered her question. “My family has a fruit and vegetable market, Beckett’s Family Farms. Now I’m the owner and manager.”
He laughed. “It’s not. But–”
“Is yours?” she asked with a sidelong glance and a half smile.
He nodded. “It’s family.”
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