In my upcoming Love, Unexpected, Andi Sterling and Zeke Donovan first form a bond over their passion for restoration. Zeke worked for architects restoring old structures to their original state, and Andi saved a crumbling house and brought back its beauty in the process. Both agree restoration is satisfying work.
Too bad their hearts are stubbornly stuck in the past, a distinctly unsatisfying place to be. But when need meets opportunity, this duo have a chance to chart a new course—literally, since their project is restoring a wooden motor yacht built in the 1930s.
Due for release in May, Love, Unexpected is the third and final book of my Two Moon Bay series, and both Zeke and Andi have appeared in previous books. Most notably, Andi is introduced in Girl in the Spotlight as Miles Jenkins’ former wife and Brooke is their daughter. Andi has lost her job and decides she needs a big change, so she sells her house and still jobless, moves to Two Moon Bay. Zeke Donovan owns Donovan Marine Supply with his dad, Art. One morning a rundown motor yacht, Drifting Dreamer, shows up unannounced at his dock. He soon learns his dad inherited this eyesore to settle a twenty-year-old debt.
Andi’s need for a place to live with Brooke for the summer is met when Zeke needs to fix up the boat in order to sell it. She has the skills, he has the live-aboard yacht, and a barter arrangement is born. Over this summer of restoration, Andi and Zeke learn a lot about each other’s history and they discover Drifting Dreamer has a past, too, and they set out to fill in the blanks.
Zeke also looks after his dad, Art, whose post-concussion syndrome hasn’t ever resolved, and is actually worsening over time. As her relationship with Zeke deepens, Andi begins to ask why she’s given so much power to a secret that isn’t all that important—shameful—in the first place. What starts out to be a convenient arrangement gives rise to opening hearts and helps both sort out what can and cannot be restored. Best of all, working on Drifting Dreamer sparks new dreams for Andi and Zeke.
This scene is early in the book when Zeke and Andi know little about each other and are still unsure about their boundaries. But Zeke’s dad disappears from a Fourth of July gathering and Zeke had to go off to find him. Zeke needs to tell Andi about his dad’s condition, not an easy thing for him to confide.
…Zeke struggled not to stare at Andi’s hair piled in a loose bun on top of her head. Earlier at the barbecue she’d put it in a high ponytail that hung down her back. He shifted in his deckchair to distract himself.
“I think my dad was cheated.” For a long time Zeke had wanted to be that blunt about his dad’s situation.
“Uh, cheated how?”
Her question came out as a challenge and he took it.
“Cheated out of recovering from those concussions. Not having them diagnosed, not being followed by a doctor who knew what happened to him.” Zeke rested his elbows on his knees. “It makes me mad, that’s all.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, her tone filled with sympathy that threw him off his center. He wasn’t used to talking this way. Even those few who knew what Art was dealing with rarely mentioned it, as if the subject was off-limits.
“It must be even harder,” she said, “because Art is fine most of the time. He’s such a great guy. You remember how Brooke took to him…they’ve become fast friends.”
Zeke nodded. “That’s the hardest part.” He knew missing pieces of the story hung in the air between them, like real, tangible things. “It’s been just the two of us for most of my life. I mentioned my mother died a long time ago.”
“I see…I think.” Andi leaned toward Zeke. “I was curious about your mother. I’m glad you said something.”
“It’s not as if I’m blaming my dad’s problems on my mother’s death. Dad got over that loss better than I did, at least, at first.” Flashes of his dad’s attempts to explain why his mom left them still touched Zeke after all these years. But he wasn’t ready to reveal that. “He was more concerned about me than he was about himself.”
Wanting to change the subject, Zeke pointed to the quarter moon, high in the sky now. A few stars were visible, but the ambient light of the marina blocked most. “You have to get out into the lake a ways before you see a true starry sky.”
Andi tilted her head and looked where he was pointing. “Stars. Imagine that. It’s been ages since I’ve seen more than a few of the brightest ones.”
Zeke exaggerated a sweeping gesture to take in the boat. “So happens we have a boat. I guess when we get her put back together she could take us far enough out to see some stars, huh? This fall, before it gets too cold.”
Andi responded with a quick slap of her palms. “See? You inherited a floating stargazer. She’s only slightly torn apart.”
Zeke laughed. Drifting Dreamer wasn’t exactly ready for even a short cruise. It wouldn’t be long, though. Andi was making progress. “We’ll let her loose from the dock one day soon.”
He stepped off the boat and headed toward the street filled with the satisfaction of knowing she’d be on the boat tomorrow. And for the days and weeks ahead. He’d been so wrong when he’d seen Drifting Dreamer as a big headache. The boat had brought something—someone—new into his life. When he reached the corner of the building he pivoted to take a last look at the boat.
She was standing on the stern. He hadn’t expected to see her there, and it felt as if he’d been caught at something. But she’d been watching him. Smiling to himself, he lifted his arm in a goodbye gesture at the exact same time she waved at him.
Boats often find their way into Virginia’s novels, probably because she lived on a 1930s wooden ketch for seven years. That was decades ago, but the experience left its mark. Love, Unexpected is Book 3 of Two Moon Bay series and like Girl in the Spotlight and Something to Treasure, it introduces characters who could be our neighbors and friends struggling with everyday life issues.
Virginia has moved around a lot, and but has settled down in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she enjoys hanging out with other romance writers and walking on the many trails and parks near her home. Her other award-winning romance and women’s fiction titles include Island Healing, The Jacks of Her Heart, and Amber Light.