Nessa Moore has sought reliable stability since her father’s death. Now, she’s over it. Tired of always being the mature adult, constantly worrying about her alcoholic mother, stressing about being able to afford college, she wants to have one normal, carefree, fun summer. And be more like her best friend Jacie.
Jacie Hayes is struggling to overcome the recent breakup with her first love. The one that ripped out her heart and left her devastated. Frustrated and bored with her own self pity, Jacie wants nothing more than to forget about Dylan, to go back to her old ways, her old self. To be the fun loving, live-in-the-moment girl who gossips about boys and sips mojitos.
Best friends since childhood, Nessa and Jacie have been through all their ups and downs together. No matter what. Now, the summer before their senior year of high school, they accept an invitation from Jacie’s aunt to join her in Lockwood Quay, New Jersey, a summer beach getaway.
Determined to make this their best, most memorable, summer yet, both girls push their own boundaries, accept new challenges, and find themselves keeping secrets from each other.
But sometimes, stepping out of your comfort zone has consequences.
And some secrets can’t be forgiven.
Excerpts – Gina Azzi Corner of Ocean and Bay
The unique scent of the ocean, a fusion of sea salt and secrets, blows into the open windows of Jacie’s Jeep Wrangler minutes after we pass the sign welcoming us to Lockwood Quay, New Jersey, population 2,700. The wind whips my hair around my face, tying it in knots, and I breathe in deep, holding the air in my lungs, committing its deliciousness to memory.
I ride shotgun, sitting next to Jacie, as she reaches over and turns up the volume to Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long.” We sing the chorus in unison, Jacie’s fingers tapping the beat on the steering wheel, as we near Aunt Beatrice’s beach house. Jacie throws her arms up, dancing to the music, shaking her head as her long, straight blonde hair snakes down her back. I immediately reach over and grab the steering wheel. We swerve slightly and the man in an oncoming car blares his horn, giving us the stink eye as he passes. Jacie giggles and waves to him. I join in her laughter as I try to squeeze the panic from my chest, reminding myself that this is my shot at a normal, carefree summer, my chance to have some Jacie kind of fun.
When we round the next corner Aunt Beatrice’s house unfolds before me. The house is sprawling, ranch style, transporting me back to my childhood when my father would rent a beach house for the summer. He always loved the Jersey shore.
Aunt Beatrice’s house is a pale gray, almost blue, with large bay windows and a wraparound porch. In one corner, a swing sways slightly in the breeze and white wicker chairs beckon. The path up to the house and the wide driveway are dotted with pale pink brick pavers; the front lawn isn’t a lawn at all but a stretch of various sized stones, broken seashells, and sandy pebbles; the flowers are in full bloom. Beautiful flowers are everywhere: hanging from the window boxes, falling to the porch in various shades of pink, purple, yellow, blue.
“Let the summer shenanigans commence,” Jacie says, shoving the gear stick into park and opening the Jeep door. She stretches her arms overhead and her T-shirt rides up, revealing a glimpse of the ink she had tattooed on her lower abdomen the night before she turned seventeen, precisely nine days ago. Her cousins even gifted her a fake ID.
“I seriously can’t believe we are going to live here!” I push my sunglasses up on top of my head, sweeping my side bangs off my forehead.
“I know, right. It’s going to be such an awesome summer!”Excerpt 2:When I give myself the once over in the mirror, I notice the high flush in my cheeks. I’m nervous, excited. The last time I had this look, Dylan was taking me to dinner for our one-year anniversary. I was so excited for that dinner that I changed my dress four times. Finally, my mother had convinced me to stay in my first choice.
Is tonight a date?
At nine fifteen, I enter The Tackle Box, relieved that I left home before Aunt B came back from her card game. Or was it bingo? It would be tough to explain where I was going without Nessa tagging along. The Tackle Box is dark and smoky. Small lanterns flicker every few feet. There is a guy and girl duo on a small stage in the corner, playing guitar and singing. The booths have high backs, allowing customers privacy while they eat. I scan the restaurant, looking for Dave. It’s difficult to see anyone clearly with the high, closed-off booths. Dave must have spotted me though because I see him as he stands up and starts waving at me.
“Hey,” I say, kissing his cheek in greeting.
“Thought you stood me up,” he jokes. So, this is a date.
“Never. I just had to be fashionably late.”
He laughs. “You’re so refreshing, Jacie.”
I think I beam at him. Ugh, stop cheesing so hard.
When I sit across from Dave in the booth, I notice he has already ordered drinks, a beer for him and a mojito for me. I raise my eyebrows at him and he winks back. Well, I’ve never been known to turn down a drink.
“Cheers,” I say, raising my glass to him.
“Bottoms up.”Excerpt 3:Strong hands close on my hips from behind and I immediately recognize Z’s touch, his smell envelops me as he pulls closer. The hard muscles of his thighs alleviate the pressure on my legs as his forearms close around my middle, holding me up, pressing me into him. His chin dips down, nestling in the curve of my neck. He presses a soft kiss to the top of my shoulder.
“Nessa,” he whispers, closing the space between our mouths. He stops an inch from my lips. “I’m going to kiss you now.”
I nod, barely, before his lips gently press over mine. Z kisses me slowly, sweetly, reverently. He pulls back slightly and looks into my eyes, shaking his head imperceptibly. His hands work their way up my shirt, gripping the sides of my ribcage and he jerks me closer, slanting his head; his mouth crashes over mine, and I’m pulled under like a riptide.Excerpt 4:
My feet arch and I rise up on my tippy toes. My hands grasp the collar of his polo shirt, pulling his face closer. I brush my lips against his gently. He doesn’t respond. I try again, flicking my tongue out to catch his bottom lip. My hands slide to the back of his neck, brushing against the edge of his collar, where his hair curls over slightly. I pour my soul into the kiss: my beating heart, my frustration of sneaking around, my anger over the traitor tears, my admiration for him, my everything.
Just as I start to pull away, his arms wrap around me, grasping me closer. His left hand clasps my head, just behind my ear. He angles his mouth over mine and kisses me harder, deeper. And I forget to breathe.
I am so lost in my own thoughts that I almost don’t hear it, the tiny giggle. It escapes again and I immediately recognize Jacie’s laugh. Her flushed face shines in the pale moonlight streaming through the skylight as a bedroom door opens.
Her eyes flash up to meet mine, her merriment poorly concealed. Her topknot has slipped. Dave comes into view behind her. Jacie smiles at me sheepishly. I stare at her and Dave, wide-eyed. Something in my stomach sinks. I feel hollow.