Read the first chapter of Ambushed by Love right here, right now…
Always trust your gut. That had been Frank’s motto his entire adult life and had served him well up until a month ago, when he foolishly accepted a well-meaning gift from the Navy SEALs serving under his command.
Frank hadn’t known what to think about the week of vacation in the Berkshire Mountains before the wedding of one of his favorite SEALs. An adult summer camp didn’t sound like his kind of thing, but that’s where Wyatt had met his bride, and it was where the wedding would take place next weekend.
In the end, he couldn’t bring himself to decline the generous offer, so he’d flown out to the east coast a week early.
But from the moment Frank arrived in Boston, he’d wanted to turn around and fly right back to San Diego. The feeling intensified when he got on the Camp Firefly Falls shuttle bus the next morning and was hit by a wall of pheromones and testosterone-laden side-eye from people he assumed saw him as some kind of competition for the single women who easily made up half of his fellow adult campers.
Ha, he thought. The joke is on you guys. I’m never getting laid again.
Which was a damn shame, given that he was only fifty-seven and his equipment worked better than it had when he was twenty-seven.
It wasn’t that he wasn’t interested in sex, either. But his partner-in-crime on that front was gone, and he wasn’t looking to replace her—ever.
The one-year anniversary of Bianca’s death was barely behind him, anyway. Maybe one day, way down the road, he might…
His stomach twisted as he threw himself into a seat at the very back of the camp bus.
Not even if he lived to be ninety-five. He’d jack it to the sweet memory of his wife bouncing on his lap. That would be enough. It had been everything, after all.
He flexed his hand and looked at his wedding ring.
This was definitely a mistake.
He appreciated what his team had been thinking—get the old man away from Coronado, away from his favorite haunts and all those memories of Bianca.
Frank dragged in a rough breath.
The first sign of trouble had been when the welcome package had arrived, highlighting the theme as Silver Fox week. Adult summer camp for the fifty-five-and-up set.
He glanced at the hormone-fest playing out in front of him on the bus as they waited for the last few stragglers. The camp people should call it High School 2.0.
Well, Frank wasn’t going to play any of those games. No drama, no making out under the bleachers.
He turned his hand over, revealing the tattoo he’d just had done on his forearm. A breast cancer ribbon wrapped around the nickname Bia in script. It had healed well, unlike his heart.
At the front of the bus, a camp staffer started counting heads.
Great, maybe they could get underway. He didn’t care if they left anyone behind.
Unfortunately, the staff person didn’t agree. “We’re just waiting for Grace,” he said pleasantly. “And then we’ll be underway.”
“That’s me!” A blonde woman popped onto the bus, her backpack banging against the door as she waved her hand. “Sorry I’m late. I just wanted to grab some treats for the ride.” She lifted her other arm and wiggled a plastic bag which bulged from cardboard boxes inside it. “Who likes cannelloni?”
Frank pulled his headphones out of his carry-on bag. He didn’t like cannelloni, sunshine-y personalities, or blonde women in general. He’d lose himself in music just as soon as they got under way, which was thankfully happening now.
The camp staffer gave the word to the driver, and the bus started up. “I know everyone is eager to continue the socializing, so I’ll keep this brief. As you know, this week at Firefly Falls is sponsored by the dating site StarCrossed…” The rest of what the staffer said was lost in the dull but growing buzz in Frank’s ears. Dating site.
How had he missed that? He wanted off this bus right the fuck now. But he wasn’t going to make a scene. He swallowed around the giant lump in his throat, jammed his headphones onto his head, and sank as low in his seat as he possibly could get.
This was going to be the worst week of his life. He’d stick around for Henderson’s wedding because he wasn’t a jackass, but until his SEALs arrived, he was hiding from everyone.
Grace stretched her neck one way, then the other. She may have overdone it today with all her walking carrying that beast of a backpack. But she’d heard amazing things about a bakery in the North End, and the only thing that sounded worse than a two-plus hour bus ride with a bunch of strangers was the same without anything to eat.
Catching the bus from Boston to Camp Firefly Falls with the other campers had not been the plan. She lived north of the camp, on a hobby farm in upstate New York where she grew lavender and heirloom perennial flowers. When her daughter, Tegan, announced she was getting married at the camp, Grace had planned to drive down for the weekend.
But Tegan had different plans. She’d arranged for Grace to attend camp the week before the wedding as a so-called “treat” for the mother-of-the-bride.
Grace liked the idea of camp. She just wasn’t sure how she felt about the theme of the week. She didn’t feel like she was in her fifties most of the time. Ever since her divorce nearly twenty years ago, she’d felt like age had become nothing more than an abstract, meaningless number.
Or maybe that was simply her stubborn refusal to accept her ex-husband’s toxic framing of aging as a bad thing. Regardless, she had mixed, complicated feelings about attending senior’s week at camp, and while she enjoyed dating as much as the next single woman, she didn’t have a StarCrossed profile like the people around her.
So, a week ago, she’d set out for a quiet road trip where she’d intended to end up in Briarsted and Camp Firefly Falls this weekend after some necessary solitude and reflection. But her car had broken down at an artisanal cheese farm in New Hampshire and she’d spent the last day and a half figuring out the best place to get it repaired without disrupting Tegan’s wedding countdown.
The last thing she needed was to stress her daughter out with minor details like her car being stuck in Nashua.
She’d figure out how to get back to it after the wedding.
So she’d gone to a mall, bought the biggest backpack she could find, shoved everything she needed for camp into it, and hopped on a Greyhound to Boston, where she knew she could get on this bus, which she’d wanted to avoid in the first place.
But that was Grace Bennett’s life in a nutshell. No matter what she did, she could never dodge the lemons. Every internet meme about life’s hard lessons making one stronger both spoke to her and infuriated her at the same time.
Therefore, once she’d arrived in Boston, she squeezed in some sightseeing because, hello, it was Boston, and how often did she go on an adventure like this?
Lemonade. She was a pro at mixing it up nice and sweet.
“Cannelloni?” She smiled brightly at the woman sitting behind her and held out the first box. “Pass them back. I bought enough for everyone.”
She handed the second box to the gentleman across the aisle from her, then she sank into her seat and let herself breathe.
In and out, focusing on her heart rate. In a few hours, she’d be at camp. And then she’d find a stiff drink.