Friday Feature: Sweet Summer

About the book:

Shelby Marano is the youngest of three sisters and was always Daddy’s baby girl–until her father was murdered. Ever since, she’s been running from anyone or anything that could truly hurt her. Instead, she seeks calculated thrills that leave her exhilarated, but when she’s caught outside during a summer storm, she quickly realizes not all adventures are within her control.

Tyler Burgess offers her both refuge from the rain and a safe place to land.

Time spent with Tyler proves him to be much more than just a nerd in a history museum, but what she finds out about him is a dealbreaker for her. As Shelby’s perfect little world is threatened by family health issues and an unknown stalker, she learns the hard lesson that no one can hide from the dangers of life. Can Shelby let her sisters, Tyler, and even more importantly, God, show her in one Sweet Summer, that love is worth taking the risk?


Both day and night belong to you; you made the starlight and the sun.  You set the boundaries of the earth, and you made both summer and winter.

Psalms 75:16-17

Chapter One

Water sluiced down Shelby Marano’s back, and she ran faster, as if it were possible to outrace a tropical downpour that wanted to be a hurricane when it grew up. Her feet pounded on the sidewalk next to the Charleston harbor sea wall, agony streaking up her calf. The orthopedist had advised her to take a break, but she could no more stop running than she could give up coffee or taking risks.

She slowed and searched for shelter. A black pickup approached, and she did a quick glance-over. The vehicle looked a lot like Thomas’s car, and aggravation ripped through her like a leg cramp. Then, the vehicle picked up speed, passing by. She tripped over a cobblestone, her heart slowing down in relief, and she could take in oxygen again.

Shelby focused back on her surroundings and not her paranoia. The Battery sat at the tip of the peninsula of Charleston, a beautiful green expanse with statues and cannons and a gazebo. The gazebo offered a roof, but this rain slanted sideways, and she needed walls. The ancient live oaks offered a bit of protection, but no public place for blocks. She sighed, then squealed when lightning struck in the harbor.

She picked up her pace, weaving to avoid rain puddles down East Bay Street, and took a left at the first side street that came her way. The roof overhangs helped her predicament some, but several more intersections went by before she saw an open door to a museum. If she’d gone straight down East Bay Street, she’d have located shelter faster, but she’d have walked into a tourist trap full of people while she looked like a soaked Labradoodle with her corkscrew blond curls half-soaked and half-sprung.

The sign read “Open,” and she headed for refuge. The wrought iron gate scraped the sidewalk as she shoved it open, and she danced a quickstep as thunder rolled. Up a dozen worn concrete steps and she stood on the columned porch, looking back out at the street.

“Hello?” The man’s voice came from behind her, inside the museum foyer. “You can come in and get out of the weather. We’re free.”

She whipped her head around, startled at the intrusion. The place showed signs of being in disrepair, paint peeling off the closest column and the grass more weeds than manicured. “I’m sorry. What did you say?”

“The museum. It doesn’t cost anything.” The man looked to be in his late twenties, with the square glasses and rumpled clothes seemingly assigned to people who appreciated history. She wasn’t one of those people. “It’s warm inside, you could dry off. “

She narrowed her eyes, suspicious of free and friendly for no reason, even if they were in the most polite city in the world, according to a recent hospitality magazine. “Thank you, but I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?” His lips twitched with the suspicion of a smile that started to thaw her insides. “You’re soaking wet, and I won’t bite. We don’t get a lot of visitors, but enough you don’t have to worry.”

She hugged herself against the cold, still not buying. “I’m sorry if I disturbed you, but—”

He held open one of the massive doors. “You didn’t disturb me. I like the rain, and the fresh air, so I poked my head out. Sitting in here for hours gets a little monotonous.”

She shivered, putting the lie to her claim that she was absolutely fine. If he was going to be such a gentleman and hold the door, she’d be silly to stand outside getting wetter with every syllable of her protest. “Thank you.”

 He moved out of the way to allow her to enter first with him following behind. She stepped into the vestibule of what used to be a large downtown church. Several rows of pews remained in front of an ancient altar, but a semi-circle of display cases interfered between here and there. Two hymns of the day were still listed on a board high up on the wall to the right.

“Hey, it’s okay. It would take some strange horizontal lightning to make its way across that portico and inside.” The man’s voice came from a few feet behind her, again not too close. When she pivoted on one squishing heel, he held out a jacket. “I found this in the lost and found box. It’s been there awhile so you can keep it if you’d like.”

She crossed her arms in front of her in a very vain attempt to pretend she didn’t need a jacket. The goose bumps on top of her chills called her a liar. “Um, thanks. It is cold in here.”

The man’s dark eyebrows came down over a Roman nose that made an otherwise perfect face more interesting. Without saying a word, he tossed the jacket. She caught it before the sleeves hit her face.

“Thank you,” she said and lifted her chin in his direction. “That’s very kind of you.”

She didn’t know if he’d thrown her the jacket because he sensed her discomfort, but him keeping his distance was as much the reason behind her thank you as the jacket itself.

“Aren’t you going to put it on?” He nodded back and leaned up against the doorframe leading to the main part of the church. “You may be stuck here for a while.”

Thunder rolled outside, and she had to agree. Shoving her arms into the garnet red and black fleece sleeves, she zipped the light jacket closed. “Why is it so cold in here anyway?”

He pushed off from the door and waved a hand toward the sanctuary. “Manuscripts.”

She felt stupid that he’d had to state the obvious, but she preceded him into the larger room anyway. She didn’t even have her phone with her to be able to call a cab so she might as well browse for a few minutes. Staying almost felt like doing the young man a favor. “Okay, what kind of manuscripts?”

This was a man who spent his hours and days inside a museum with the past, set back from the hustle and bustle of downtown and the modern world. He oozed safe.

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