All In by Marta Brown
Release date: May 21, 2013
On the picturesque island of Martha's Vineyard, there are two kinds of residents. Locals and Stays.
Local boy, Lane McCarthy, plans on spending his summer working at the country club to save money for college in the fall, while summer stay, Ashley Whitmore, and her elite group of friends are only there to play.
As the summer heat goes up on the island, so does the ante, when both Lane and Ashley must decide what they’re willing to wager in order to follow their dreams… and their hearts.
With stakes as high as the surf, and hopes as high as the midday sun, will they risk everything and go all in?
His head is down as he crosses the private section of the beach, staying close to the water’s edge but avoiding the moving tide.
“Lane,” I call out over the noise of the party and the waves, but he doesn’t seem to hear me, so I call his name again, this time louder. “Hey, Lane.” He glances up and scans the party, squinting before finally seeing me. A smile flashes across his face. I smile back as I approach him, my flip flops kicking up sand behind me.
“Hi,” I say. My drink, mostly untouched, sloshes and spills over the lip of the cup when I stop in front of him.
“Looks like you’re having fun.” He nods at my drink and then up at the party.
“I actually just got here. I’m glad you came.” I feel my cheeks heat up, and I’m relieved it’s dark enough that he can’t see. “I think Andrew’s around here somewhere.” I look over my shoulder to point Lane in the right direction.
“Ah, no thanks. I think I’ll steer clear of your kind of parties,” he says, shoving his hands in the pockets of his cargo shorts.
“What do you mean my kind of parties?”
“Nothing, never mind.” He kicks at the sand and looks uncomfortable.
“Oh no.” I cover my mouth with my hand. “Did you get in trouble last night when the cops showed up?”
“Yeah, thanks to your boyfriend,” he says with a sneer that makes me take a step back.
“I’m not sure what his deal is, but he’s a serious dick.” Lane’s jaw is tight, and there’s not a hint of joking in his tone.
“Gregory?” I ask wide eyed. Why would he think Gregory is my boyfriend? I have a flash of Greg and I at lunch together looking very much like a couple and then again at the bluffs when he gave me his coat, something a boyfriend would do. Oh.
“He is definitely not my boyfriend,” I say seriously. “He’s my ex, if you can even call it that. We dated for like a second, but it was never very serious.” Why am I telling him all this? Stop rambling, Ashley. I dig my toes into the sand. “But you’re right about one thing. He is a dick.” I give Lane a playful grin and watch the light from the bonfire bounce off his features as his jaw loosens and a tentative smile spreads across his face.
From a distance, I hear Gregory’s voice, and when I glance over my shoulder, he’s stumbling our direction, obviously drunk and completely uninvited.
“Speak of the devil.” I roll my eyes and that makes Lane smile bigger.
“The rest of the staff is over there,” Gregory slurs, pointing to the tent where the cater waiters are busy putting out more hors d'oeuvres. Lane ignores his snide remark, never taking his eyes off of me.
“It was nice seeing you again, but I gotta go,” Lane says, and I’m immediately disappointed that he’s leaving.
“Are you sure?” I look down at my feet and try to garner enough nerve to ask him not to go. “Stay,” I say so softly it comes out as more of a whisper when I look back up at him.
He peers over his shoulder across the small peninsula to the lighthouse then back at me. “I’m sorry, I can’t…I…I have to work.” He looks genuinely disappointed, and I wonder if he knows I am too. “But hopefully I’ll see you around, okay?” He gives me a smile that makes my knees go weak before taking off down the beach. In the faint light coming off of the fire, I see him glance back at me before he cuts across the sandy peninsula and disappears into the shadows of tall sea grass.
He’s not her boyfriend.
I shake my head to clear my mind before I steal one last glance over my shoulder at her as I walk away, but it’s on a loop, and it’s all I can think. He’s not her boyfriend.
I shake my head again, this time to snap myself out of it. There’s no way a girl like that would go for a guy like me anyway. Would she? I shut my eyes and replay the way she looked at me through her long dark lashes, softly asking me to stay, causing my stomach to knot.
“He’s not her boyfriend,” I say out loud at the door of the lighthouse. I pull my keys from my pocket as the sounds of the party float through the otherwise quiet night, and I feel a stupid grin spread across my face despite the rude remarks I just got from that ass-hat Gregory. Seriously, when will the ‘help’ jokes get old?
“Let go. You’re hurting me,” a girl yelps from down the beach. I spin around and from the light coming off the bonfire I can see Gregory’s hand is wrapped around Ashley’s arm, and she’s wincing in pain.
Without a thought, I drop my keys to the ground and take off running, reaching them in seconds. “Let her go,” I yell. My fists ball tight, ready to make him if I have to.
“Mind your own business, loser,” Gregory snarls back as he jerks Ashley by the arm eliciting another cry.
“Lane,” Ashley says, struggling against his grip, fear on her face.
I lunge forward and grab Gregory’s arm, yanking him away from her with a force that surprises even me. “I said Let. Her. Go.”
Ashley falls to the ground when Gregory releases his hold, rubbing her arm in pain. I kneel down and brush the hair from her face, searching for any other signs of injury as adrenaline pounds in my veins.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I promise,” she says, our eyes locked with one another. “Thank you.”
“Come to save the damsel in distress,” Gregory says in a patronizing tone, looking down his nose at me. Convinced Ashley’s alright; I jump up and face him. He’s poised and ready for a fight, and that makes two of us. “You do know the peasant doesn’t get the girl, right? The prince does.”
I can’t stop the laugh that comes out of me. “Are you serious right now?” Who does this guy think he is? “Dude, when a girl’s screaming to be let go, it’s a pretty good indicator that she doesn’t want you, prince or not.”
I hear a light snickering from behind me before I see that a small crowd has gathered around and is watching us intently. I’m surprised they haven’t all started chanting ‘fight’ by the way they look on like we’re simply the entertainment for the evening.
“You know what? She can slum it all she wants with you. She’s nothing but an uptight frigid tease anyway. Good luck getting into her pants,” Gregory says, wearing an arrogant smirk, his arms crossed leisurely across his chest like he’s just landed a fatal blow.
My vision goes red. He’s about to find out exactly how a real blow feels. To the face.
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