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The Cotton Candy Kiss

The Cotton Candy Kiss

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Eleanor’s childhood friend is now the beach town bad boy...

It’s been three years since Eleanor last stepped foot in Sterling Beach, and some things haven’t changed. Her old friend Deacon isn’t one of them. Gone is the nice boy she remembers. In his place is a burly, tattooed bouncer with a chip on his shoulder and a grudge against the girl who left and never looked back. He’s not a kid anymore, and his kisses? Those are far from friendly.

Eleanor is looking for answers, but what she finds revisiting her favorite beach town haunts has her more confused than ever. The sites look the same, but everything that matters has changed. Eleanor and Deacon might not be able go back to the past, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a future...

Main Tropes

  • Bad Boy / Good Girl
  • Childhood Friends to More
  • Summer Beach Romance

Intro Into Chapter 1

Was it my imagination or was Deacon’s house not nearly as welcoming as I’d remembered?

I stopped in front of his small, white-clapboard home, which was squashed in between two other nearly identical houses. The whole street was lined with these cookie-cutter tiny houses that made up most of Sterling Beach’s south side. It was like the city planners had gone out of their way to make this side of town a total contrast to the giant homes and sprawling lawns that lined the north side’s coastline.

The north side was where my family always stayed. For at least a month each summer since I was a little girl, my parents and I had stayed at our summer home. Three summers ago they’d sold it and we hadn’t been back since.

And maybe I shouldn’t have come back now.

That nagging doubt had been there when I’d hopped into my car and headed south toward Virginia early this morning, and it hadn’t gone away in the hours since. 

This was a mistake.

I eyed the overgrown lawn and the peeling paint, the Keep Out sign that hung haphazardly from the chain-link fence. The sign was overkill because nothing about this house said Welcome.

Maybe it never had. 

I bit my lip as I eyed the house one more time. My memory might not have been perfect, but Deacon’s home definitely hadn’t been this…unfriendly the last time I was here. 

I remembered it being small but cozy, warm and welcoming. His mother had always greeted me with a smile when I’d shown up on my hot pink bike to play.

Play. The childish word made me smile and it helped to ease some of the anxiety that’d had me in its grip all morning. This house was where I’d come to play. I don’t even remember the day that I’d met Deacon on the beach. My parents informed me that I was in diapers. What I did remember were the countless lazy afternoons in the sun and the rainy days spent playing board games and Nintendo in this little house.

My tension faded drastically after that trip down memory lane. Sure, the house might’ve fallen into disrepair but this was still Deacon’s home and his mom had always said that it was my home too. 

Besides, at first glance it might’ve seemed different, but some things would never change. We were ten blocks away from the beach but the salty smell of the ocean was there in the breeze, and seagulls’ squawks broke the silence. I took a step forward and undid the latch on the fence before the nagging voice of doubt could return.

I’d no sooner placed my hand on the gate when the front door opened and a guy with a five o’clock shadow and a baseball cap squinted at me from behind the screen. “What do you want?”

I froze at the animosity in his tone. 

He took a sip from the can in his hand as he studied me. “Are you selling cookies or something?”

I blinked in surprise, but I ignored the question. Beneath the brim of his hat I could make out his features and I recognized him. “Jason?”

He stilled, his can halfway up to his mouth. Without a word, he opened the screen door and peered at me. Muttering a curse under his breath he took another step until he was standing on the porch. “Ellie?”

His tone was pure shock, and not necessarily in a good way. But he’d called me Ellie. No one called me that anymore. The use of my childhood nickname brought a fresh wave of nostalgia and made me feel slightly less awkward. At least he remembered me, right?

I raised a hand and gave Deacon’s older brother a little wave. “Hi, Jason.”

He stared at me in silence.

This was definitely not how I’d envisioned my homecoming to Sterling Beach. I certainly hadn’t imagined seeing Jason again. Truth be told, I’d kind of forgotten about him. He was a few years older than me and Deacon and had never been around all that much when we were kids. He’d been off with his own friends and hadn’t had much time for us.

Still, he’d always been fairly nice to me. Friendly, even. Which made his current blank stare that much more unnerving. He gave his head a little shake. “Ellie, what are you doing here?”

“I, uh…” My mouth grew dry as I realized I had no answer. None. What was I doing here? Great question. That was the question of the day, actually, even for me.

His eyes were still narrowed in confusion, as the sight of me standing there at his front gate was some sort of riddle he was expected to solve. Any confidence I’d felt because of our shared history disappeared. “Is, uh…Is Deacon home?”

His lips twitched up a bit at the corners like I’d said something amusing. “Deacon?” He shifted so he was leaning against the doorframe but he still didn’t invite me in. “You’re here to see Deacon?”

The way he said Deacon’s name was weird, like I’d mispronounced it or something. 

I nodded, uncertain of why this was so amusing to him. But then again, maybe my being here was just as crazy as I’d feared. So crazy, it was laughable.

In my defense, I was supposed to be heading to Virginia this week. My best friend Blake was hosting me and a handful of our other friends at her family’s beach house in Virginia City, which was only an hour away.

Of course, Blake and the others weren’t driving down there for a few days yet so I was on my own for now. 

On my own in a beach town and no one knew I was here. Well, Blake would know when she got my messages. I’d told my parents that Blake and I were heading down early to get ready for the others. I’d lied. But Blake would cover for me on the off chance that my mother checked up on us. 

She wouldn’t. My mother trusted me, and she also tended to be too distracted by her own life to worry too much about mine. As for my father, he left the parenting up to my mother. He loved me—they both did—they just weren’t terribly involved. Which was fine, really. I didn’t need them hovering over me. I was responsible and reliable and…

And somehow I’d ended up alone in a town where I only had one friend—a friend I hadn’t spoken to in three years.

My image of being super responsible was definitely going to take a hit for this one. I mean, what soon-to-be high school senior ran away? What student council member, and honor-roll student jumped in her car and drove with zero planning?

This was stupid. This had been such a dumb idea. 

As I mentally berated myself, Jason tilted his head to study me. “Deacon’s at work.” 

It was then that I realized I’d been standing there in silence for too long. Mentally freaking out on a former friend’s lawn like some psycho. I forced a big smile that probably didn’t help my psycho vibe. “Will he be home soon?”


That was it. No. Just no. Okay, then. Apparently, Jason hadn’t grown nicer over the years. 

“Does Deacon still work at the games on the boardwalk?”

He hitched up one eyebrow in cynical amusement that seemed to be at my expense. “No.” He drew the word out like he was talking to a moron, and maybe he was. Of course Deacon didn’t run games anymore. Deacon was seventeen now, soon to be eighteen, and he’d graduated high school this past spring. Of course he’d be doing something different. 

“Where does he—”

“Max’s.” Jason took a sip of his drink.

Max’s. I remembered the place—it was a club. A music venue. It might’ve been an all-ages club but even so, we’d been too young to go there when Deacon and I were hanging out. I wondered what he did at Max’s and what time he’d be done, but Jason hardly seemed forthcoming with information. Maybe I’d caught him at a bad time.

I tried to look past him into the house but it was too dark inside to see anything. “Is your mom—”

“No.” His expression grew grim and he started to head back inside. “You’ve been gone a while, Ellie. Didn’t think we’d ever see you again.”

That was it. He shut the door without saying goodbye and before I had a chance to reply.

Well…that was rude.

I realized belatedly that my hand was still on the fence and I was still hovering half in and half out so I backed out, the creaking gate seeming to mock me as I stood there in the late afternoon sunshine wondering what on earth I was supposed to do now.

My feet seemed to have more sense than my brain because I found myself walking toward the boardwalk. Toward the cheap motels where I could find a place to stay.

Toward Max’s.

I just checked into a motel called the Sunshine Inn about two blocks away from the boardwalk and just down the street from Max’s on Main Street. I’d just set my little carry-on suitcase on the motel room bed when I got a call from Blake.

“Girl, are you insane?”

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