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Seaside Kisses

People change, but some feelings last forever.

Rafael Hunter never thought he’d return to Kittle Falls, but life gave him no other choice. Los Angeles chewed him up, spit him out, and sent him back to square one.

Amara Fowler has lived in the small beach town her entire life. She’s overcome her shyness to grow into the woman she always knew she could be, but she never forgot her secret crush. When the alluring Rafael returns, he can’t help but stir in her a whirlwind of old feelings.

They’ve both changed so much. Has life kept them incompatible or has it molded them into a matching set?

Excerpt

Amara turned around and left the candy shop a second time. She turned to head for the main part of town where most of the restaurants were.

She stopped in her tracks.

A gorgeous, dark-haired man stepped out of a shop that had been empty retail space all summer. He wore a deep purple silk shirt that was obviously designer.

Rafael Hunter.

What was he doing in town? She hadn’t seen him in at least a decade. Not even the couple times she’d heard of his brief returns. After graduation, Rafael had pretty much high-tailed it out of town, like at least half the kids in their class—and every other one before and after them.

He pulled a key out of his pants pocket and locked the store.

Could he be in town permanently? Was it possible he owned a store only a few doors down from the candy shop?

Amara stared, feeling like a fool, reminded of the girl she had been in school. Overweight, unappealing, the weight of her thick, nerdy glasses sitting on her nose as they had all those years before. It didn’t matter that she’d lost the weight, that she now wore contacts. Seeing Rafael sent her right back to the painful days she’d rather forget.

She thought about saying hi, but couldn’t bring her feet to move. Rafael had been the hottest boy in their class—just like all five of the Hunter brothers had been in their respective classes. There wasn’t a girl in Kittle Falls who hadn’t crushed on at least one of the five brothers at some point.

Rafael had been Amara’s secret crush. And what made that even more difficult was that they had often been placed together in classes because alphabetically, their last names were so close. There hadn’t been any kids in their class with a last name in between theirs. Amara had been too shy to talk to him, but had always admired his sense of humor and ability to find the good in any situation.

He leaned against the door he’d just locked, staring at his phone. Amara took the opportunity to study him. He was clean-shaven and even better looking than he’d been in school with his broader shoulders and rugged stubble.

Without warning, Rafael lowered his phone and looked her way. She’d been caught staring. Heat crept into her cheeks.

“Rafael!” she called, waving. If she pretended it was no big deal, maybe she could save face.

He arched an eyebrow, not appearing to recognize her.

Amara’s heart sank. After all those times sitting next to her in class, and he didn’t know who she was. She forced a smile and walked over. “I don’t think I’ve seen you since graduation.” Maybe that would help to ring a bell. She smiled wider. “How are you?”

Rafael continued looking at her. It was obvious he hadn’t a clue who she was.

“I heard you have a crazy successful business in LA,” Amara said. “That must be so exciting. I’m running my parents candy shop with Alex.” That had to tell him who she was. Alex had run with the same crowd of kids that Rafael had. “Actually, Alex and I own it now. My parents opened a shop near Disney Land, which is super successful. We almost never see them anymore.” Ugh. Why did her mouth have to run when she was nervous? He didn’t need to know all that.

Rafael’s face finally registered recognition. “Four-Eye—I mean, Amara Fowler?”

Amara grimaced. “Four-Eyed Fowler. You can say it. Everyone did.”

“I apologize.” He stared at her. “You look completely different. I can’t believe—I mean, you look great.”

It took her a moment to recover. Rafael Hunter had just said she looked great? Great? “Well, I got contacts, so the old nickname doesn’t really fit anymore.”

Rafael shook his head. “No, it certainly doesn’t.”

“So, what brings you back to Kittle Falls? Looking into retail space?”

He glanced behind him. “I’ve got that space, and I’m close to ready to open.”

“Oh, like a satellite location?”

“More like starting over.” Neither his face nor his tone indicated whether that was a good or bad thing.

Amara forced another smile. “Well, that sure sounds exciting. Looks like we’re going to be neighbors.” She gestured toward the candy shop. “I don’t want to keep you any longer, but welcome back. If you need anything, just stop in.”

“Thanks. It’s good to see you again, Amara.”

“You, too.” She spun around and walked away, trying to catch her breath. She had so many questions, but thankfully, she hadn’t babbled on anymore than she had at the start of the conversation.

Amara couldn’t think straight and seemed to have lost her appetite.