There’s a place where the ocean meets the shore, where kicking off your
shoes and baring some skin is as natural as sneaking under the boardwalk
for an ice cream cone and stolen kisses.
But life isn’t all a
beach for Shaye Cates, even if her idea of an office is a shady umbrella
at the water’s edge equipped with cell phone and laptop. Steely-eyed
Trace Saunders is the incredibly irksome fly in her coconut tanning oil.
And running a kids’ softball team with her longtime rival is going to
have everyone in her little Florida town buzzing. Her scads of
laid-back relatives and his whole uptight clan know that Shaye just
wants to play ball while Trace thinks only of business. But beneath the
twinkling lights of the ferris wheel, the magic of sea and sand can
sweep away every inhibition . . .
Suddenly, it’s summertime, and the lovin’ is easy.
“Hot, sexy and smart!” —Carly Phillips, New York Times
Praise for Kate Angell and her novels
“Fast-paced. Fun characters.” –Lori Foster, New York Times
“Her stories are delightful with a satisfying ending.” –RT Book Reviews
“No fan of the genre should miss Angell's surefire romances.” –Booklist
“We’ve got customers.” Kai elbowed Shaye Cates in
the side. Their summer job placed them behind
the candy counter of the Snack Shack on the Barefoot
Tonight’s outdoor movie, Babe, was being shown on the
outer wooden wall of the concession stand. The family
film flickered through the open window above the popcorn
machine as a pink pig raised by sheepdogs learned to
herd sheep with the help of Farmer Hoggett.
Shaye straightened from her slump behind the counter.
She brushed her hair out of her eyes, then tugged down
the hem on a T-shirt that had started life five years ago a
much brighter shade of blue. Her jeans were bleached
white. She was barefoot, and her pomegranate nail polish
was in need of a fresh coat.
She’d been stocking oversized boxes of Jujyfruits, red
licorice whips, and Sno Caps when Trace Saunders, the
hot boy with the cool name, walked in. He carried two
navy vinyl beach chairs under his arm, as moviegoers were
required to supply their own seats.
His date trailed behind him. Crystal Smith was sixteen
going on twenty. She appeared relaxed, whereas Trace
looked restless and bored by the ten o’clock feature. He
apparently wasn’t into talking farm animals.
Shaye despised him. Her dislike surpassed her hatred of
cooked cabbage, alarm clocks, cold weather, and shoes.
Trace was an ass.
What did she expect from a hotshot jock? He was the
star of a rival high school team. He was a sophomore who
played varsity. He’d gone through a growth spurt and now
stood six feet tall, all lanky and smug. He was big enough
to play in Major League Baseball. If he ever did, that was
one bubble gum baseball card she’d trash. And fast.
That very afternoon Shaye had sat on the bleachers at
Gulf Field and watched Trace hit a line drive between the
shortstop and the second baseman in the top of the fifth.
His team was already ahead by four runs, yet Trace had
rounded the bases as if his hit would win the game.
The boy could sprint, long strides, pumping arms. Not
that she noticed. She was more interested in her cousin
Kai, who played catcher. He’d crouched low for a throw
from the center fielder as Trace slid home. Trace’s shoulder
caught Kai in the chest and sent the catcher flying. Kai
sailed several yards, slamming into a metal post. He’d
bruised his spine.
Trace’s fan club applauded his run. Ten clueless teenage
girls bounced on the bleachers like pogo sticks with boobs.
Shaye was a tomboy and broke the school rule of nonplayers
on the field. She’d climbed the chain-link fence
and raced straight for Kai. She dropped to her knees and
asked, “You okay?”
Kai fought to catch his breath. “Wind knocked out
She placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, then
looked at Trace. The boy dusted off his uniform pants, all
smiles and puffed chest. Shaye despised his cocky smile and
wanted to wipe it off his face. He’d hurt Kai. The incident
was unforgivable, and she let him know it with a dirty
look. Which Trace ignored.
Trace topped Kai’s shit list as well. Kai had always been
the athletic superstar until Trace moved to town, coming
from a private boarding school. Trace was Kai’s chief
competitor in both sports and dating. Trace had gone as far
as to steal Kai’s girlfriend, which was unacceptable to
Shaye. Crystal belonged with Kai.
Shaye’s hatred of Trace was bone deep. He was a Saunders,
and she was a Cates. Their century-old feud killed all
pleasantries between them.
Over a hundred years had passed since her great-greatgreat-
grandfather William Cates left Frostbite, Minnesota.
He’d been a farmer broken by poor crops and a harsh,
early winter. He’d sold his farm and equipment, then hand
cranked his Model-T and driven south. The trip was long
and hard, yet he pushed on until the Florida sunshine
thawed him out.
On a long stretch of uninhabited beach, William rolled
up his pant legs and shucked his socks and work boots.
Once he experienced the warm sand between his toes, he
vowed never to wear shoes again.
He put down roots, married, and named the fishing
village Barefoot William. The town expanded slowly, as
family and longtime friends moved to the Gulf Coast.
Even after he was elected mayor, William walked barefoot
through city hall, as did the other town officials. Back
then, life existed on a man’s word and a solid handshake.
For two decades, the village remained small and laidback.
Until the day Evan Saunders disrupted the peace. He
was a capitalist with big-city blood. He wore three-piece
suits, a bowler hat, and polished brown oxfords. It was rumored
the man never broke a sweat even in summer.
Evan set his sights on real estate. He contacted Northern
investors, and, within six months, the Saunders Group
began to buy up land. Evan wanted to citify the small
town. He sought to turn Barefoot William into a wealthy
William Cates and Evan Saunders sparred for sixty
years. William battled zoning and expansion. He was comfortable
with the short boardwalk and long fishing pier.
He valued friendships and a sense of community, whereas
Saunders was a developer. Evan built his own boardwalk
and yacht harbor and snubbed the barefoot mayor.
Hostility flared between the two men, and Barefoot
William became a town divided. On an overcast day with
thunderheads roiling, the conservative and the capitalist
drew a line in the sand, which neither crossed during the
remainder of their lifetimes. The line later became Center
Street, the midpoint between Barefoot William and Saunders
The Cateses’ northern cement boardwalk linked to
a wooden pier that catered to fishermen, sun worshippers,
water sports enthusiasts, and tourists who didn’t wear a
watch on vacation.
Amusement arcades and carnival rides drew large crowds
to the Barefoot William boardwalk. The specialty shops
sold everything from Florida T-shirts, ice cream, sunglasses,
sharks’ teeth, and shells to hula hoops.
A century-old carousel whirled within a weatherproof
enclosure. Its wall of windows overlooked the Gulf. The
whirr of the Ferris wheel was soothing, while the swing
ride that whipped out and over the waves sent pulses racing.
Barefoot William was as honky-tonk as Saunders Shores
was high-end. Couture, gourmet dining, and a five-star
hotel claimed the southern boundaries. Waterfront mansions
welcomed the rich and retired. Yachts the size of
cruise ships lined the waterways. Private airstrips replaced
commercial travel. The wealthy were a community unto
In Shaye’s mind, Trace Saunders didn’t belong on the
Barefoot William Pier. Not tonight. Not ever. He was like
gritty sand rubbing against her skin. She wanted to wash
She leaned her elbows on the candy counter and gave
him a hard stare to let him know where she stood. “You’re
Trace crossed the wide wooden planks of the candy
shack and came to stand before her. Her breath caught. He
was tall. “I’m slumming.” His boy’s voice was manly deep,
a baritone that gave her goose bumps.
She looked him over with careless indifference. His hair
was short, black, and spiky. His eyes were blue-gray and as
pale as the crest of a wave. Movie night was casual—tank
tops, T-shirts, shorts—yet Trace wore a white buttondown
and dark slacks. She wanted to kick sand onto his
polished loafers. No doubt he’d kick it back.
She felt Kai tense as Crystal joined Trace. She wore a
pink sundress with a narrow turquoise necklace strap.
Shaye tried not to stare. Crystal was all girly and hot,
everything Shaye was not. From the corner of her eye,
Crystal glanced at Kai for all of two seconds. Kai, on the
other hand, glared a hole through her.
The two had a history. They’d grown up together.
Crystal had claimed Kai as her boyfriend in the third
grade. She’d pulled his hair on the playground until he
agreed. They’d hung tight for seven years, up until her sixteenth
birthday, when Crystal decided she looked too
much like a kid and wanted to appear more adult.
The Scissorhands Salon in Barefoot William no longer
suited her. She’d called the stylists juvenile and silly. Crystal
crossed to the dark side and booked an appointment at
Zsuzsy, an exclusive day spa in Saunders Shores. The spa
achieved the desired effect. The girl entered through its
mint-green and gold double doors and emerged a young
woman. Shaye and Kai hardly recognized her.
Crystal had cut her long brown hair, dyed her eyelashes,
then gone on to purchase a wardrobe from Eclipz, a new
Kai had made the mistake of saying he missed Crystal’s
ponytail. Crystal had yet to forgive him. Shaye kept silent
when it came to Crystal’s lashes, which were so sooty and
thick, her brown eyes appeared black.
Trace Saunders was the only one to compliment Crystal’s
haircut, a style as geometrically sharp as her tongue
when she later dumped Kai.
Kai still suffered a broken heart. It was painful for him
to see Trace and Crystal together now. Shaye needed to
move them along.
She tapped the top of the candy counter. The colors on
her mood ring shifted from calm blue to midnight dark.
She loved retro jewelry and shopped the local flea market
“Buy something or say good-bye.” She was being rude
to Trace but didn’t care. He never gave her one good reason
to be nice to him, so why start now?
Trace raised an eyebrow. Tonight he looked more
amused than affronted. He was used to her behavior. She
constantly blew him off and, on occasion, openly cheered
when he struck out at baseball, missed a hoop in basketball,
or came in second at a track meet.
He wasn’t crazy about her either. His girlfriends had
boobs and hips. Shaye was an A-cup and all legs. Trace had
called her Toothpick for as long as she could remember.
She hated the nickname.
“I’d like cotton candy,” Crystal announced.
“We’re sold out, and the machine’s being cleaned,”
Shaye took pleasure in telling her.
“A bag of popcorn, then,” was Crystal’s second choice.
“All that’s left is unpopped kernels,” Shaye said. “You
could chip a tooth.”