by Nicholas Sparks
See me just as I see you . . .
Colin Hancock is giving his second chance his best shot. With a history of violence and bad decisions behind him and the threat of prison dogging his every step, he's determined to walk a straight line. To Colin, that means applying himself single-mindedly toward his teaching degree and avoiding everything that proved destructive in his earlier life. Reminding himself daily of his hard-earned lessons, the last thing he is looking for is a serious relationship.
Maria Sanchez, the hardworking daughter of Mexican immigrants, is the picture of conventional success. With a degree from Duke Law School and a job at a prestigious firm in Wilmington, she is a dark-haired beauty with a seemingly flawless professional track record. And yet Maria has a traumatic history of her own, one that compelled her to return to her hometown and left her questioning so much of what she once believed.
A chance encounter on a rain-swept road will alter the course of both Colin and Maria's lives, challenging deeply held assumptions about each other and ultimately, themselves. As love unexpectedly takes hold between them, they dare to envision what a future together could possibly look like . . . until menacing reminders of events in Maria's past begin to surface.
As a series of threatening incidents wreaks chaos in Maria's life, Maria and Colin will be tested in increasingly terrifying ways. Will demons from their past destroy the tenuous relationship they've begun to build, or will their love protect them, even in the darkest hour?
Where are we going again?” Maria asked from the driver’s seat. She’d picked up Serena half an hour earlier on South Front Street, which ran parallel to the Cape Fear River. Serena had been standing at an intersection in an area dotted with older office buildings and occasional clusters of shacks and boathouses at the river’s edge, oblivious to the construction workers across the street who were clearly ogling her. Slowly but surely, the area was being revitalized, like the rest of the waterfront along the river, but for now it was a work in progress. “And why did I have to pick you up?”
“I’ve already told you. We’re going to a restaurant,” Serena answered. “And you picked me up because I don’t plan on driving tonight, since I might have a couple of drinks.” She tossed a lock of hair over her shoulder. “The interview went well, by the way. Charles said he found my answers very thoughtful. Thanks for asking.”
Maria rolled her eyes. “How did you get there?”
“Steve dropped me off. I think he likes me. He’s meeting me here later.”
“He has to like you if he’s willing to put up with this traffic.” Though the first half of September had passed, the heat was more reminiscent of early August and the shore was packed. Maria had already circled the block twice searching for a place to park.
“Who cares? We’re at the beach.”
“There are better places to eat downtown.”
“How would you know? Have you even been to Wrightsville Beach since you moved back?”
“My point exactly. You live in Wilmington. You need to get to the beach every now and then.”
“I paddleboard, remember? I see the beach a lot more than you do.”
“I mean someplace with actual people around, not just birds and turtles and the occasional jumping fish. You need to go someplace fun with a great view and a lot of atmosphere.”
“It’s a local institution.”
“It’s a tourist trap.”
“So what? I’ve never been there and I want to find out what the big deal is.”
Maria brought her lips together. “Why am I getting the sense that there’s more to this than you’re saying?”
“Because you’re a lawyer. You’re suspicious of everything.”
“Maybe. Or it could simply be that you’ve got something planned.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Because it’s Saturday night. We never go out on Saturday night. You’ve never wanted to go out with me on Saturday night.”
“That’s why we’re having an early dinner,” Serena answered.
“There are a bunch of bands playing in the bars down here this weekend, and Steve and I and a few friends are going to listen to some music before we hit the parties. They don’t get going until ten or eleven anyway, so there’s plenty of time.”
Maria knew that Serena had something up her sleeve but couldn’t quite put her finger on it. “I hope you don’t expect me to tag along.”
“Not a chance,” Serena huffed. “You’re way too old for that. It would be like going out with our parents.”
“Don’t blame me. You’re the one who said you were too old for guys my age. Why? Are you changing your mind?”
“That’s why we’re just having dinner.”
Maria suddenly spotted another car vacating a spot and she turned, closing in on it. It was still a block or two from the restaurant, but she doubted she’d be able to get any closer. As she parked, she couldn’t shake the feeling that Serena was being way too coy, and Serena seemed to realize it.
“Stop worrying so much. You’re killing the mood. What’s wrong with spending a little time with your sister?”
Maria hesitated. “Fine, but just so we’re clear . . . if you’re planning to have some other guy join us at the table or something crazy like that, I’m not going to be happy.”
“I’m not Jill and Paul, okay? I wouldn’t set you up on some awful blind date without even asking you. But if it makes you feel any better, I can guarantee that no guy will sit with us. In fact, we’ll just eat at the bar. The view is supposed to be better anyway. Deal?”
Maria debated before finally shutting off the engine. “Deal.”
With over 100 million copies of his books sold, Nicholas Sparks is one of the world's most beloved storytellers. His novels include 12 #1 New York Times bestsellers. All his books have been New York Times and international bestsellers, and were translated into more than 50 languages. Ten Sparks novels have been adapted into major motion pictures, with The Choice coming in February 2016.
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