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The Island House - eBook

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Hey, I get it. Nothing to be sorry about. Life is busy, especially at this time of year.

Sometimes I’m super jazzed about a book, but I don’t get to reading it for a while. Sometimes it takes a friend or two to remind me why I WANT to read it. Sometimes just a reminder email, and I go, “Oh, yeah! I’ve got that book! Let me open it right now!”

🙂 This can be any of those for you. No matter what, I want it to be EASY to read my books. Easy to find them on a variety of retailers, including libraries. Easy to find them in your country. Easy to read them anywhere you read – your phone, an eReader, on an app, in your web browser.

So if you have a few minutes, keep reading for the first couple of chapters of THE ISLAND HOUSE – that free book you got a few weeks ago!

If you can’t remember where you got it, you should be able to find it inside the BookFunnel app, or perhaps you had BookFunnel send it to your device…

Either way, enjoy this beachy, heartwarming romance between unexpected roommates Charlotte Madsen and Dawson Dane… 

The Island House - Chapter One:

The Island House - Chapter One:

Charlotte Madsen disembarked from the plane, taking a deep breath of the Hawaii air. Though she’d come from an island, this one felt completely different—exactly what she needed. She went down the skybridge, glad she didn’t have to walk straight into the airport. She wanted a view of this new place she was determined to make her new home.

An image of the beach house she’d bought, with its crumbling walls and broken windows, crept into her mind. The jungle had also tried to reclaim the house, one vine and one brick at a time.

She’d gotten the house for dirt cheap, which suited her needs as she started this new chapter of her life.

Not a new chapter, she told herself. A completely new volume needed to begin now that her husband—oops, ex-husband—had married his girlfriend only ten days after the divorce was final.

And Charlotte?

On the eleventh day after the divorce from her husband of eleven years, she’d bought a practically demolished beach house over five thousand miles from where she lived.

And now she was here, in Getaway Bay, to well, get away from everything and everyone she’d known in the last thirty-seven years.

She took a deep breath, her to-do list growing exponentially in her mind. First, luggage. She’d brought as much as she thought she’d need to get through the first two weeks. After that, she hoped to have a job and a way to buy whatever she hadn’t brought with her.

Thankfully, the beach house came “furnished,” which the seller had confirmed included a bed, a dining set, all appliances, and a sectional couch. So she’d at least have somewhere to sleep, eat, and watch TV on her first night on the island.

Not that Charlotte watched a lot of TV. In fact, she couldn’t stand sitting still, and the last seven hours she’d spent on the plane was enough to drive her to madness.

She tipped a man with a huge luggage cart, and he helped her heave her standard, black suitcases off the belt. She stood with them in the taxi line, the heat and humidity still pretty high though it was officially fall on the island. Perhaps Hawaii didn’t care what the calendar said.

When it was finally her turn, the cab driver helped her get all her bags in the trunk, and she sank into the back seat with a sigh. The corners of her lips pulled up, and she barely remembered what it felt like to smile.

But she’d done it. Despite what her mother had said. In spite of what her friends had counseled her to do. Charlotte had indeed sold the house she’d lived in for over a decade, nearly everything else she owned, and moved almost five thousand miles, literally from one side of the country to the other.

So while her heart had been through a shredder and then grilled into a lump of coal, she’d survived. The last four months had been one upheaval after another, starting with the words, “I want a divorce. I’ve met someone else.”

She wasn’t quite sure where the journey would end, but she rather liked the way she’d been welcomed to the island with “Aloha,” a smile, and a flower lei. She breathed in the heady perfume from the flowers and watched the brilliant blue water go by as the driver took her to her new home.

“This is where you’re living?” he asked as he pulled off the main highway and onto a dirt road.

“Is this Cinder Road?” Charlotte peered through the window, but she had no idea what she was looking for.

“Yes,” he said.

“Then this is it. I was told the house was at the end of the road, overlooking the bays.” Both bays, which apparently there were two in Getaway Bay. The main bay which was named after the island, and the east bay, which was starting to become as popular and well-developed as the one to the west.

The owner of the house had tried to get more for the views, but Charlotte’s real estate agent had talked him down. It hadn’t been that hard, because the property had been on the market for seven months, and Charlotte supposed she had one thing to be thankful for: She had gotten this place and the surrounding land for a killer deal.

The cab rumbled along, but the road seemed to go forever, finally turning a bit to reveal the two-story house Charlotte had seen online. “There it is.”

“Are you sure?” The driver leaned forward with both hands on the wheel, his voice absolutely dubious.

“Yes,” she said. “As close as you can get, please.” She pulled out her wallet and leafed through her remaining cash. Several twenties, a few tens, and a dozen hundreds she had concealed in the zippered pocket of her purse.

She had enough to tip this guy to help her get her bags at least inside the front door. Then…well, then Charlotte wasn’t entirely sure what she’d do. She had no car and no groceries. Would a pizza company deliver here? Could they even find it? While it was centrally located overlooking both bays, it wasn’t exactly in a populated area.

The cab eased to a stop behind an SUV, which set Charlotte’s heart to racing. “That’s odd,” she said. Maybe her real estate agent had decided to meet her. Amy had asked for her flight information, but Charlotte hadn’t heard anything else from her.

“What’s odd?” the driver asked. He turned to look at her with concern in his eyes. “Are you sure you want me to leave you here alone?”

Charlotte wasn’t sure of much anymore, but she nodded anyway. “If you could help me with the bags, I’d be grateful.” She held out a twenty-dollar bill between her fingers, and the driver got out of the car.

Taking another look at the huge, hulking black SUV, she determined that Amy would never drive such a thing. No, they hadn’t met in person, but Amy was an overly tan woman in her late forties, and Charlotte imagined her to drive a sporty, red convertible, not this three-ton monstrosity.

She got out of the cab and stretched her sore back. She’d skipped her beach yoga classes for the past four months, as they were simply too hard to attend with all of her friends. They flashed sad faces at her, asked about her ex and what she was going to do now, and Charlotte simply couldn’t handle it.

The amount of work this house required extended to the exterior, and Charlotte hoped she had enough knowledge and strength to get it all done. She’d done plenty of renovations on the interior of buildings, everything from the community center gym to individual rooms at one of the swankiest hotels off the coast of South Carolina, where she’d come from.

She also had experience in designing and re-doing landscapes, so she wasn’t worried about the weeds and wild grasses waving in the breeze coming off the bays. But she didn’t have much experience with roofs, or exterior stone, or gutters.

The driver stepped past the big SUV and deposited the first round of bags, returning for a second before Charlotte got herself in gear. She took out the key that had shown up in her mailbox two weeks ago and fitted it into the lock. With the door open, she heaved in the two bags the driver had brought up, and directed him to place the next two beside them.

When she had all her earthly belongings inside the house, she smiled, ran her hands through her shoulder-length hair, and thanked the driver.

He gave her one more look before pocketing his tip and heading back to his cab. She waited until the rumble of his motor couldn’t be heard any longer, and then she closed the door, sealing herself inside the house she’d bought sight-unseen.

“Okay.” She pushed her breath out and turned to face the rest of the house.

She’d taken one step when something clanged from further inside. “Hello?” she said, nowhere near loud enough for anyone to hear. Heck, she could barely hear herself.

Something hissed, and then the very human sound of a grunt followed. Charlotte’s heart ricocheted around inside her chest. There was someone inside her house.

She entered the kitchen and stepped around the bar to find a pair of masculine legs and a torso sticking out from underneath the sink. He wore jeans and work boots, and maybe the owner had hired a plumber to help get her off on the right foot.

“Come on,” he grumbled, clearly straining against something under the sink.

“Hello?” she said again—loud enough this time—at the same time whatever he was twisting gave against his strength. He yelped as water started spraying out from underneath the sink—and from the faucet.

The cold spray hit Charlotte in the face, and she cried out too, lifting her hands to shield her eyes in a natural reaction. She backed up, sputtering, as the man unfolded himself from beneath the sink and stood up.

“You didn’t turn off the water main?” she asked.

He glared at her, water dripping from the ends of his dark hair, his nose, and his chin. “Obviously.”

“Why not?”

“I didn’t know where it was.”

Water continued to spray everywhere, and while Charlotte had been planning to replace the cabinets, she didn’t think she’d have to do it the very night she arrived.

“Do you know where it is?” he asked, a measure of hope in his voice.

“I just got here,” she said. “Of course I don’t know where the water main is.”

“Well, we have to do something.” His light blue T-shirt was soaking wet, sticking to impressive muscles in his arms and chest. Whoever this plumber was, Charlotte hoped she would have another need to call him.

He crawled back under the sink and started clanging around. The spray lessened by about half, and he groaned again, finally man-handling whatever connection was leaking into submission.

Charlotte wiped her face, her fingers coming away smeared with black. Her past self would’ve been mortified to be seen like this, but her Getaway Bay self didn’t care. She’d expected problems at her new house. She just hadn’t planned on them being two-hundred-twenty pounds of man-flesh. Dripping wet man-flesh.

She swallowed as the plumber got to his feet again. “Who are you?” she asked. Maybe she didn’t want to hire him again. A plumber who didn’t turn off the water before he started working didn’t seem all that professional.

“Dawson Dane,” he said, extending his soaking wet hand for her to shake. He wore a couple of days worth of hair on his face, and it had come in dark with flecks of gray, just like the hair on his head.

Oh, my. He was extremely good-looking, and his deep, brown eyes glinted with one of those Aloha greetings. “And you?”

“Charlotte Madsen,” she said, almost tripping over her new last name. Well, it was her old last name, but she hadn’t used it for a while, and she was still getting used to introducing herself with her maiden name.

She shook his hand, one more question to ask him. “What are you doing in my house, Dawson?”

He blinked, not bothering to wipe any water from his eyelashes. “I live here.”

The Island House - Chapter Two:

The Island House - Chapter Two:

Dawson did not like the storm crossing the pretty strawberry-blonde’s face. She clearly didn’t like his answer, and his brain screamed some of the words she’d said. What are you doing in my house?

“Your house?” he asked at the same time she practically shrieked, “You don’t live here. I live here.”

Her light green eyes held plenty of panic, and Dawson needed to figure out how to erase it. She was pretty, with long limbs and a lithe frame, but she also possessed some powerful strength, and if he wanted to stay here—which he did—he better get talking.

“Did you buy the place?” he asked.

“Yes.” She folded her arms, which made a squelching sound from how wet her clothes were. “I was very clear about when I was moving in. You sent me the key, remember?”

He held up both hands, his mind spinning. Why hadn’t Sinclair told him the house had been sold?

Probably because you never asked if you could stay here.

Dawson said, “I don’t own the house.”

“No, you don’t. I do. I can get the paperwork.”

“It’s fine,” he said. “I’m just surprised Sinclair sold it without telling me. I was, um, taking care of the place for him.” He’d known Sinclair and Bridgette Fontaine, and they didn’t even live on the island anymore. So when he’d needed to get out of his condo, he’d come here. The views were great, and while the house needed a few repairs, he didn’t actually spend much time in it.

He seized onto that idea as she snorted. “Taking care of the place?” She swept her arms around the kitchen and attached dining room. “Well, I think you’ve failed at that Dawson. This place is a mess.”

His defenses shot up, and it wasn’t even his house. “Look, I’ve only been here a few weeks, and I work a lot.”

“Oh? Doing what? Better not be plumbing.”

He stared for a moment, and then burst out laughing. Thankfully, that diffused the tension in the air, and Charlotte laughed a little too. “Sorry, that was really mean.”

“No, it’s fine.” He twisted to look at the sink, wishing with everything in him that he wasn’t wearing jeans. Wet denim had to be the most uncomfortable item of clothing on the planet. “I would be a terrible plumber.”

“So what do you do?”

“I’m a helicopter pilot,” he said. “For one of the tourist places out of Getaway Bay.”

She sized him up, and he wondered what she could possibly be thinking. “Look, I may have stretched the truth a little.”

Her eyebrows went up and her lips mashed together, but she said nothing.

“Sinclair and Bridgette didn’t know I was staying here.”

“A squatter then.”

“I’m in between places now, and maybe I can have a week or two to find somewhere before you kick me out?” He lifted his eyebrows and put a smile on his face, hopefully to show her he was a nice guy. “I can give you my resume.” All he could think about was Kaelin Steed, the man who’d fallen from it all and been forced to sleep on the beach.

Could Dawson be that guy? Avoiding the police and living in the same clothes, brushing his teeth with half an appliance in a public restroom?

No, he had a job. And a wandering spirit, which didn’t allow him to stay in one place for very long. But he’d fallen in love with the beach atmosphere and vibe in Getaway Bay, and he didn’t want to leave the island. He just had to find a new place to live every six months or so.

“Why don’t you have a place to live?” Charlotte asked, drawing Dawson out of himself. He often wondered what it would be like to live in the same place for longer than a year, and he’d done it here on the island. But this house was his third dwelling.

“I got….” He considered her. He didn’t want to lie, but she seemed to have her heart on her sleeve, and if he could appeal to her, maybe he could stay here. “My ex lived in the same condo complex,” he said, speaking the truth. “I didn’t want to see her all the time.” Also true. He didn’t have particularly fond memories of the woman, but he’d seen her lounging by the pool or getting in her car a couple of times. It hadn’t been horrible.

“I’m sorry,” Charlotte said, and Dawson gave a small shrug.

“So I landed here. I am pretty handy with a hammer, but I do work a ton.”

“They have you flying all the time?”

“The tours go seven days a week. I usually work three or four of them. Twelve-hour shifts.”

Charlotte started nodding halfway through his explanation. “And on your days off?”

“I’m tired.” He gestured to the sliding glass doors behind her. “I sleep in that hammock, with the bay breezes whispering dreams to me. Or I try to fix the kitchen sink.”

Charlotte looked out the huge wall of windows behind her for several long moments. When she turned back to him, she’d softened considerably. “Let’s not have you do the sink again, okay? And you’re really going to have to sell me on you being handy, as I’ve already seen evidence that points to the contrary.”

“So I can stay?”

She didn’t blurt out yes, which sent a needle of doubt into Dawson’s heart. “I bought this place from the pictures of the view online. Let me take a tour and think about it.”

“There’s a bedroom on this floor, way back in the corner,” he said quickly. “I’d be completely out of your way.” He had no idea what this woman did, why she’d come to Getaway Bay and bought this house she hadn’t even seen in person, or what it would take to convince her that he just needed a few more weeks under this roof.

Charlotte gave him one long, last look, and then she left him standing in a puddle of water in the kitchen. He exhaled and turned back to the sink, bracing himself with both hands against it. “Thanks for spitting water everywhere at exactly the wrong moment,” he muttered, a chuckle coming from his mouth.

If there was something his twenty years in the Air Force had taught him, it was perseverance. So he’d wait. And listen to her. And then he’d figure out a way to stay here.

He went outside to the deck that spanned three sides of the house and climbed into the hammock he’d brought from his condo. Besides his clothes and an armchair that went everywhere with him, Dawson didn’t own much. As a pilot in the Air Force, he’d learned to keep things simple. That way, when transfers came, it took him a couple of hours to do laundry and pack the back of a truck.

This house had spoken to his soul at some point in the past. Maybe when Sinclair had first mentioned it, almost a year ago. Dawson used to live next door to the Fontaine’s, a couple from France that had two homes here on the island. They came during the winter months and stayed in whichever house they wanted, sometimes both.

During one of their last dinners together, Sinclair had told Dawson about a third house—this one up on the bluffs above the beach, with brilliant views of the bay and the ocean beyond, with an easy set of stairs that led to private, beachfront property.

Dawson hadn’t asked for specifics, but it hadn’t taken him long to find this road between the two bays and realize the majesty and beauty this home had once held. He’d visited the place many times over the past few months, and he’d seen the for sale sign along the road.

“I guess I just never thought he’d sell it,” Dawson muttered to the wind. He thought he should get a dog. At least then he wouldn’t be talking to himself all the time. But animals were hard to pack quickly, required someone to be home to take care of them regularly, and while he’d been thinking about finding a companion for a while now, he hadn’t taken the pet plunge.

Charlotte stepped to the corner of the deck on his left, having come out of either the living room or the bedroom on that side of the house. She leaned into the railing and took a deep breath, obviously unaware of him.

He didn’t mean to watch her, but he also couldn’t look away. She really was beautiful, and the breeze played with the ends of her wavy hair as the sun bathed her in its golden, Hawaii glow. There really wasn’t a more beautiful place on Earth, and Dawson felt like now would be a good time to become a praying man, just to let God know he wanted to stay here, if possible.

His phone rang, which drew her immediate attention. She looked at him with accusations in her eyes, and he lifted his device. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you.” He cursed the name on the screen—JJ—as he hurried to answer it.

“Hey, what’s up?” His best friend and co-worker better have a dang good reason for calling.

“Boss is wondering if you’re up for an evening flight. There’s a family that just came in, and we’re all booked.”


“Yes, like, as soon as you can get here. He’s charged them double, and they’ve agreed to pay it. He says half will go to you.”

“I’m on my way.” Dawson wasn’t particularly hurting for money, especially as he hadn’t paid rent in a few weeks. But no one turned down money, did they?

He turned to find Charlotte, but she’d disappeared from the deck. The kitchen was still wet, and he poked his head into the two rooms off the foyer and didn’t see her. He certainly wasn’t going to go traipsing all over the house to find her. He’d only gone upstairs once, and he was pretty sure the floorboards had given their all to hold his weight.

“Hey, I have to go into work tonight.”

Nothing. The house didn’t even creak.

“So I’ll leave my number here on the front table.” He raised his voice as he glanced around for a piece of paper. “Maybe you could text me so I’ll know if I’m okay to come back here to sleep?”

Like he kept paper in the house. He hurried back into the kitchen and tore off a paper towel and yanked open a drawer, hoping with everything in him that there would be something to write with. A fat, purple marker caught his eye among the myriad of junk in the drawer, and he grabbed it.

He scrawled his number on the paper towel, and it looked like a four-year-old had done it. Doesn’t matter, he told himself. Surely Charlotte could hear him. She just didn’t want to talk right now, because she was clearly new to the island and probably needed space. Plus, he was a stranger, begging to stay in her house.

“I’m leaving it on the front table.” He put the paper towel where he said he would and stepped out the front door. Once behind the wheel of his SUV, his pulse settled. She’d let him stay at least one night. Wouldn’t she?

“Well, if she doesn’t,” he said as he pulled onto the paved highway and set himself west toward Getaway Bay. “There’s always the beach.”

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