Dare to Dream (Carolina Beach #1)(10)

By: C.A. Harms

I found myself nodding at her words, as if she could see me. They were true, every single one of them.

“I want you to find your happiness again,” she whispered. “Whether it be in North Carolina, here in Vermont, or in Southeast Asia.” I laughed at that random geographical addition. “But I think we both know Tucker was not your happiness.”

And again with the random. Tucker was the furthest thing from my mind.

“Tucker and I were never meant to be together, Mom.” I needed her to understand that he was a thing of the past. I wasn’t suffering from a broken heart. Well, at least not at Tucker’s hands, anyway.

“Okay,” she said without pushing or prodding further. “Gran is dragging me and Stella off to a pottery class, so I better get going.” I could hear the humor in her voice. “This should be interesting, Gran in a room with breakable items. Thank goodness Uncle Mark is staying home.”

We ended the call on that happy note, and I finally crawled from bed and made my way toward the kitchen. The place was honestly one of the most gorgeous homes I’d ever been in. It was fully furnished and had an open floor plan and the greatest views a house near the beach could offer.

With fresh coffee made, I grabbed a muffin from the stash my uncle had had delivered prior to my arrival and walked out the back door to the enclosed porch wearing only a T-shirt that barely covered my boy shorts. I headed right for the window that overlooked the yard of the neighboring houses. It was early on a Saturday morning, so the neighborhood was deserted save for a man in his backyard who was bent over what appeared to be the remains of a gas grill, pulling piece by piece away and tossing them to the side. I wasn’t sure if he was fixing it or destroying it, but I was leaning toward the latter.

The same light laughter I’d heard the night before echoed up toward the patio I was perched on, and I turned in its direction. Once again, I became mesmerized by the beauty of what I saw. This time, the two little girls were playing alone as they held hands and skipped around giggling just before falling to the ground, where they laughed even louder.

I watched without realizing how much time had passed until I lifted my coffee mug to take a drink and found it had gone cold.

“Hi.” I jumped in surprise at the sound of a man’s deep voice, sloshing coffee all over my shirt. The greeting was followed by a deep chuckle.

I looked to the left of the two little girls and found the man from last night looking up at me. He had short, caramel-colored hair and a trim, sculpted beard.

“Didn’t mean to scare you. Just thought I’d offer a neighborly hello.” He grinned knowingly, and my cheeks flushed with embarrassment.

“Hi,” I said in return, trying my best to regain some dignity. The coffee I’d spilled was seeping through the front of my shirt, and a few drops were now slowly trailing down my thigh. I hoped he couldn’t see what a disaster I was from the angle he was standing at. And let’s not forget the fact I was barely covered. I slouched in an attempt to hide my lower half a little more.

“Vacationer?” he added, regaining my attention.

“Um, yeah,” I said with a shrug. “I guess you could say that. My family owns the place and I’m staying here for a while.”

“Darren,” he said, lifting his hand in the air and pointing to himself. “The littlest one is Violet, and this one here,” he said, reaching down to lift up the other blonde girl, who stood at his side, “this is my Vivian.”

Pride practically swelled around him in a big wave as he looked back and forth between his girls. It was the sweetest thing.

“They’re adorable,” I complimented his princesses. They were, in fact, two of the sweetest children I’d ever seen—big smiles, bright eyes, hair as blonde as my own.

“I think so,” he said before kissing Vivian’s cheek.

With a jolt, I realized I had yet to introduce myself. “I’m Greer,” I added as I spilled my coffee once again. This time it ran down my arm. I was a hot mess—or a sticky one. However you classified it, mess summed it up.

“It was nice meeting you,” he said as he reached his hand out for Violet. She darted toward him and placed her hand in his. “But we’ve gotta go. We’re late for Grandma’s house.”

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