Title: Bending the Rules
Author: Katie O’Sullivan
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Beach Read
Investment analyst Dylan MacDonald has been away from Cape Cod so long it no longer feels like home, despite deep roots and a large extended family. After a routine assignment in Africa becomes life or death, the former workaholic is back on the Cape and unemployed. Getting entangled with his high school crush is definitely not in his plans… Even if she was the one woman who made him think outside the spreadsheet.
Co-owner of a successful Chatham boutique, friendly and popular Bella Costa seems to have it all… except a real relationship. She has a rule against dating local boys, keeping her love life limited to summer flings. The only guy she truly cared about left the Cape and never looked back. Until this summer. Now he’s re-igniting all kinds of unresolved feelings.
Will the past stand in their way, or can they bend some rules to find a future together?
Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Ten Years Ago
“So I have a confession.”
He looked down at Bella, trying to see her eyes. They’d walked down the beach far enough that when she glanced up at him, the firelight behind them cast her face in shadows.
“I had a huge crush on you before you graduated from Nauset.”
“Seriously? But I was a complete nerd!” Dylan chuckled. “And you were a cheerleader, with your pick of the jocks. I thought you’d end up with my brother or cousin for sure.”
Bella shook her head. “Ed’s obviously head over heels for Laura. And your cousin…“ She grimaced and shook her head again, making Dylan laugh. “Is that how you see me? The bubble-headed cheerleader who likes her men big and stupid?”
“That’s not what I meant,” Dylan said, unable to temper his grin at her feisty attitude. “If I thought you were dumb I wouldn’t have wasted my time tutoring you. I only meant you preferred dating guys like my brother, you know, fulfilling Nauset’s standard golden ratio of cheerleader/football player relationships.”
That earned a laugh. “Yeah, Ed and I fulfilled that stereotype exactly once, for sophomore homecoming. But honestly? I planned to ask you to that dance.”
“Did you not hear me confess my crush?”
“Well, yeah, but…”
“And there’s one more confession, before I lose my nerve.” Bella took a step closer, placing both of her hands flat on his chest, looking up into his face. He could smell the beer on her breath, but she didn’t seem drunk. “I’ve always wondered what it would be like to kiss you.”
Her eyes dropped and so did her hands. “It’s okay, I understand.”
He wrapped his hands around her waist before she could turn away. “No, I don’t think you do.” He pulled her flush to his body, bending his head to meet her soft lips, capturing her gasp of surprise with his mouth, teasing her tongue with his own. Heat and electricity surged through his body, leaving every part of him yearning for more. Her softness crushed against his chest, her hands burrowing under his sweatshirt to caress the skin above his swimsuit, teasing along the elastic waist. Nothing in his life thus far prepared him for the sudden intensity of his feelings, or the effect her touch had on his body. He wanted the kiss to last forever, to hold her close and never let her go.
When their mouths finally parted, the dazed look on Bella’s face made Dylan frown. “Are you okay?” His whisper sounded hoarse even to his own ears, as if the kiss robbed his ability to speak clearly. Or think clearly, for that matter.
She blinked, the shock slowly fading before she grinned up at him. “I didn’t expect…” She lowered her eyes and shook her head.
“It’s going to sound silly.”
He gently kissed her forehead, tasting the salt of the ocean and inhaling the smoky scent of bonfire tangled in her hair. “Try me.”
“You know how when you think about something too much, you build it up in your mind? Like when you’re a kid and you want a new toy? And then, when you finally get it, it’s not nearly as exciting as you thought it would be?”
His gut tightened. He took a deep breath, putting a finger under her chin and raising her face so their eyes met, the moonlight reflecting back at him from those dark pools. She was not about to tell him that kiss was disappointing. No way.
“Kissing you was nothing like I dreamed it would be.”
He vowed to change her mind if it was the last thing he ever did. He barely recognized his own voice as it growled, “How can I make it better?”
Bella shook her head, tightening her grip on his waist. “What I meant was... I always thought your kiss would be sweet… like cotton candy. Like you. But in reality, it’s more like a wildfire, the taste so much hotter than I ever imagined... More dangerous... Like I could lose myself completely…”
Before she could finish the sentence, his lips crushed against hers, his tongue pillaging her mouth with added urgency. Knowing she felt that same heat, that same connection, made everything more intense. Overwhelming. Like one of those moments when your whole life is about to change, teetering at the very edge of a cliff before jumping. He might only have two days on Cape Cod before heading back to his college internship, but Bella started her freshman year of college in the fall. In his city. Where they’d be free to explore this wildfire…
September can’t come soon enough.
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Why is your featured book a must-read?
When you’re talking beach reads, you need a setting that whispers “summer” in your mind. Have you ever been to Cape Cod? The sandy beaches and small town ambiance paint a nostalgic picture of old-fashioned summertime memories.
I live here on Cape Cod year round, and set most of my books in this idyllic place. I like to offer readers that warm vision with a slight twist, pulling back the curtain to give a behind the scenes glimpse of local people and places.
Bending the Rules is the second of a series about three friends who live on Cape Cod. They have rules about dating… until the summer they each meet the guy who makes them want to break all those rules. I’ve read a ton of second chance with your high school sweetheart type stories, and a few that used the Then-and-Now format. It seemed like it would be fun to try with Bella and Dylan’s story – jumping back and forth between high school, college and present day. It’s my only book I’ve written like this, and I’ll admit it was a lot of fun!
The hero of the story, Dylan MacDonald, is the first of the MacDonald cousins to get a lead role in one of my books… but he’s one of eight hunky cousins from Chatham, who feature in all of my Hot Hunks, Steamy Romance books. So if you like my Cape Cod setting, I’ve got more beach reads for you! Happy Reading!
Enter to win an e-book bundle of all 51 books featured in the Beach Reads Bookish Event:
Runs July 17 – 22, 2020.
Winner will be drawn on July 30, 2020.
Katie O’Sullivan is an award-winning writer with over a dozen contemporary romance and young adult books to her name.
A voracious reader, she loves to read and write second chance stories with strong female characters and hot alpha males. A recovering English major, she earned her degree at Colgate University and now lives on Cape Cod with her family and big dogs, drinking way too much coffee and finding new uses for all the sea glass she obsessively collects from the beach right down the road. She writes YA and romantic suspense novels, as well as working full time for a high tech company. Which explains all the coffee.
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