Read the first chapter from Driftwood Dreams by T.I. Lowe (Excerpt) @TyndaleHouse

Welcome! Today I get to share the first chapter of this new release with you. Read below...

Driftwood Dreams
(The Carolina Coast Series #2)
By T.I. Lowe
Christian Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 320 Pages
June 1st 2020 by Tyndale Fiction


Josie Slater has allowed the circumstances anchoring her in Sunset Cove to become a life sentence. Since her mother’s death years before, she’s spent most of her waking hours helping her dad run the Driftwood Diner. As her best friends, Opal and Sophia, make their dreams come true, Josie watches her own art school aspirations drift on by. But when a French-speaking Southern gentleman from her past moves back from Europe, Josie is launched into a tizzy of what-ifs and I-sure-do-hope-sos.

August Bradford left Sunset Cove six years ago to sow some life oats and conquer his ambitious career goals. Finally ready to lay down some roots, the successful artist is back in town and determined to win Josie’s heart. When he enlists Josie’s help in the preparations for a children’s art camp, Josie finds herself unleashing her artistic side in a way she hasn’t since before her mother’s death. August hopes to convince Josie to paint a life with him, but the problem is convincing her to let go of her apprehensions and give him—and her dreams—a fair chance.

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Standing in the midst of the ebb and flow of her daily chaos always gave Josie Slater the same feeling as standing in the surf—it was ever-changing, yet she felt trapped in the same spot with her feet slowly sinking in the sand. She absently handed an order slip to a passing waitress while ringing up the couple sitting at the counter in front of her.

“This place is amazing.” The middle-aged man handed over a couple of bills.

“Why, thank you.” Josie offered a polite smile along with his change. She didn’t even have to be present in the moment anymore to serve up generous portions of Southern hospitality to tourists.

“The candied pecan waffles were delicious,” the wife added as her husband helped her off the stool.

The couple had been sitting there chatting Josie up for the better part of the last hour about their thirtieth wedding anniversary trip to the Grand Strand. They were both dressed in brand-new swimwear and were pasty white, except for the fresh streaks of sunburn across their noses. Even if they hadn’t told her, they were broadcasting their tourist status. Josie often wondered why vacationers couldn’t figure out how to properly apply sunblock. Over the years she’d seen various red-and-white stripes, Rudolph noses, hairline sunburns, and handprints.

Even with their neon noses, Josie thought they were the cutest and wondered if such happiness was ever going to be in the cards for her. Seemed the only card she owned was the one that kept her rooted behind this counter, parroting courteous responses to customer accolades.

The man wrapped his arm around his wife’s shoulders. “And just think, we were about to walk on by, but the people piling in and out of this old building made us curious enough to step inside.”

“A hidden gem is what Driftwood Diner is.” The wife added a generous tip to the old-fashioned milk can that served as the tip jar for counter service. “It’s the best meal we’ve had since arriving.”

Josie couldn’t agree more. She was right proud of the establishment created at the hands of her parents. The timeworn, rusted shanty sat proudly, even with its arthritic lean to the left, on the sand of coastal South Carolina and had been a prominent fixture in the Sunset Cove community for nearly four decades. Its breakfast fare was legendary, and it usually took just one taste of the biscuits and gravy to have a newbie hooked for life. Josie’s father replaced the traditionally used ground sausage with chopped shrimp, taking the already-decadent dish over the top.

“Y’all have a good time at the beach, and be sure to come back for lunch.” She waved goodbye to the couple.

“Oh, we will. I have to try the shrimp burgers.” The husband waved one last time before guiding his wife out the screen door.

Josie continued on autopilot, gathering dirty dishes and wiping down the counter while her mind wandered toward happier thoughts of the upcoming weekend meeting with the Sand Queens.

Just as the aged shack had held its ground against passing storms over the years, so had Josie and her two closest friends, Opal Gilbert and Sophia Prescott. The Sand Queens of Sunset Cove had affectionately earned their moniker from their mothers, who practically raised them on the very sand in front of the diner. Their bond was as solid as the galvanized screws that secured the tin roof to the graying clapboard structure.

Josie had witnessed a similar bond with the motley crew of geriatric ladies who were making their way into the diner at the moment. Well . . . her dad said ladies was too generous a word for the Knitting Club, considering they were a thorn in many a Sunset Cove resident’s side. Busybodies was the term most folks used for the half-dozen or so old ladies of various shapes, sizes, and races.

“Josephine, this gout is killing me. Get us to our table ’fore I fall out,” Ethel grouched, limping into the dining area, carrying her walking cane like a purse strap in the crook of her arm. She was dressed in her blue uniform, so Josie knew the ole grouser would be making customers miserable at the post office later in the morning. How the woman had kept her position as head postmaster for over forty years was an unsolved mystery. She also seemed to make it her mission to call everyone by the wrong name.

Case in point, Josie’s name was not Josephine, but she chose to ignore it just as she did anything that could be considered confrontational. Instead, she pointed to Ethel’s arm. “The cane would be more helpful if you’d actually use it, Miss Ethel.”

“Oh, hush up.” Ethel plopped into her chair as several other women followed suit, each one groaning and grunting while settling in at the long wooden table.

Josie gravitated to her favorite of the bunch with her order pad in hand. “Good morning, Miss Dalma. What can I get you?”

Dalma Jean Burgess grinned up at Josie, showing off the fact that she had forgotten her teeth. Who knew where they would turn up? Josie made a mental note to look for them later when she stopped by Dalma’s house.

“I’m fine, dear. I had a bowl of cereal earlier.” Dalma plucked a sugar packet out of the small mason jar on the table, tore it open, and dumped the contents into her mouth.

Josie’s eyes narrowed and scanned the tiny lady who didn’t even make it past five feet in height nor one hundred pounds in weight. Dalma wore a pair of worn brown corduroy overalls with a fine silk blouse in a blush shade. A straw hat sat lopsided on top of a head full of long, wavy white hair. With the eighty-nine-year-old’s ever-present smile and quirky wardrobe, she reminded Josie of a friendly scarecrow one would find in the corn patch out at Pickering Farms. Except for the pink bedroom slippers on her feet, that was.

“Miss Dalma, you’re out of milk,” Josie stated after refocusing on the woman’s comment. Milk was on the shopping list she needed to knock out after her shift. “How’d you manage eating cereal?” She reached into the back pocket of her jean shorts to make sure the list was still there.

Dalma waved off Josie’s concern, the overhead lights glinting off the giant ruby ring on her index finger. “I had vanilla ice cream. Works just as good as milk.” She shrugged her thin shoulder and winked one of her cloudy-blue eyes. “Tastes better than milk, as a matter of fact. Will you add another pint to the shopping list?”

Even though Dalma had retired more than ten years ago, she would always be considered the town’s librarian. Josie recalled Saturdays spent sitting on a rug in the children’s room while Dalma acted out whatever book she was reading for story time. No one could tell a humorous story like Miss Dalma, and yet her own story seemed quite tragic in Josie’s opinion. She’d lived long enough to bury her husband and only child, leaving her alone except for her church family and the Knitting Club. And, well, Josie too. Five years ago, Dalma’s mind seemed to start slipping, so Josie stepped in and designated herself as caregiver.

Josie scribbled two fried eggs, coffee on the order pad before moving her attention to Bertie, who was unofficially the ringleader of what should have been named the Busybody Gossip Club.

“I heard a certain someone has moved back to town,” Bertie drawled while keeping her eyes focused on a menu she probably had memorized. She patted down the side of her freshly teased gray hair with her free hand, going for casual but failing.

A name, followed by an image, skirted through Josie’s mind regarding who that certain someone could be, but she quickly shut down those thoughts and chose not to take Bertie’s bait. Besides, there was no way he would ever return to the small town of Sunset Cove for good, not when the world was his oyster.

“Would you like the Sea Traveler’s Special today, Miss Bertie?” It was her usual and Josie was trying to hurry things along, but when Bertie used the menu as a fan and grinned wide, she knew there would be no hurrying along whatever was going on.

“Ah . . . traveling the world . . .” Bertie sighed. “Such a romantic idea. Don’t ya think, Josie?”

Josie’s chest began to burn. It was the same reaction produced each time he drifted into town for a quick visit with his family. She always made herself scarce during those times, not wanting a reminder of all the dreams that one man represented that would never be hers. It was no one’s fault but life itself, and Josie would willingly lay down those dreams all over again to be there for her father. Some folks declared her too shy, while others outright claimed she was too passive. Maybe she was a little more of both than she should be, but more importantly, Josie was loyal to a fault. And sometimes that loyalty needed her to put herself aside for the betterment of others.

“Did you hear me, honey?” Bertie’s question dripped with false sickly sweetness, but Josie saw past it to the pot the old lady was working on stirring.

“Excuse me, ladies.” Josie waved over one of her waitresses. “Tracy, please take these ladies’ orders.” She shoved the pad into Tracy’s hands and hurried to the counter to find something, anything, to do to tamp down her emotions. She took a minute to shoot Opal a text, asking if she was planning on stopping by. When an answer didn’t come in after a few beats, she slid the phone back into her pocket and rang up a customer with a take-out order.

After a small rush of customers passed through, Josie felt somewhat settled. She scanned the Knitting Club’s table and caught Dalma pouring maple syrup into her cup of coffee. She was just a wisp of a woman but had filled a giant void in Josie’s life. A smile pulled at her lips as she thought about helping Dalma plant tomato bushes the week before even though the lady adamantly declared they were strawberry plants.

Josie’s reverie came to a screeching halt as the screen door squeaked open and ushered in not only a briny breeze, but also a vision from her past.

With a pronounced air of confidence, August Bradford walked over to the counter and halted in front of a dazed Josie. Her heart jolted at the sight of him, something only this man could elicit. He spoke—or at least his lips moved—but she couldn’t hear anything over the roar suddenly residing in her eardrums.

The Knitting Club’s table kicked up in volume, sounding like a bunch of hens clucking away, but there was no focusing on what they were clucking about either. She knew the answer anyway and had a feeling their timing wasn’t coincidental. All Josie could do was just stand there and stare, as if looking into his silvery-blue eyes had turned her to stone. With a hint of purple near the center, those uniquely hued eyes were made to belong to an artist such as August Bradford. The thick fringe of black eyelashes only emphasized their beauty. It was enough to spawn jealousy in Josie, her own fair lashes barely visible, but it didn’t. It only tempted her to stand there and stare unabashedly. Mouth agape, that’s exactly what she did.

“Are you okay?” A throaty voice penetrated the roar in her ears as a hand waved in front of her face.

Oh, my . . . that voice . . .

The words simply wouldn’t come—only pitiful squeaks of breaths escaped—so Josie did the only thing to come to mind. She hightailed it into the kitchen.

Taken from Driftwood Dreams by T.I. Lowe. Copyright © 2020. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Other Books in the Series

(Linked to a Q&A with the author and an Amazon affiliate link.)

About the Author

Tonya “T. I.” Lowe is a native of coastal South Carolina. She attended Coastal Carolina University and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she majored in psychology but excelled in creative writing. In 2014, Tonya independently published her first novel, Lulu’s CafĂ©, which quickly became a bestseller. Now the author of twelve published novels with hundreds of thousands of copies sold, she knows she’s just getting started and has many more stories to tell. She resides near Myrtle Beach with her family.

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