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Just A Wish Away

Just A Wish Away

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Alexa Parker and Braden Elliott fell in love when they were twelve years old. On a summer day, while searching for sea glass on the beaches of Washington State, they discovered an unusually shaped blue bottle. The ever-imaginative Alexa declared it a genie's bottle. Popping the cork, they were surprised by a rogue wave that sprayed them with a fine, cool mist. Closing their eyes, they each made a wish … 

Before their love had a chance to grow, life, family and tragedy separated the two best friends. Now fifteen years later, Alexa returns to Sand Harbor after her aunt is injured in a mysterious break-in at her antique store. Braden is also back, but he's not the innocent boy Alexa remembers. His military service has left him with physical and emotional scars. 

Can the sweet love of youth be recaptured by two now cynical souls? Can solving the mystery of the past bring them to a new future? Or will it take a wish, maybe two …

** NOTE: The books are all standalone but are connected by the theme of wishes.


"I absolutely loved JUST A WISH AWAY and the story of Alexa and Braden. Such a moving and powerful romantic mystery. Engaging and wonderful from the first page to the last, this novel on the Wish Series is a must read. It is also one of my favorite Barbara Freethy novels (and I have read all but four). Highly recommended. You will not be disappointed." Amazon Reviewer

"It was a nice emotional ride with characters I felt connected to. I've read the whole series and enjoyed it very much." Amazon Reviewer

"Alexa & Braden's story is romantic, funny and a little magical. I really enjoyed it." Lisa - Goodreads


Fifteen years earlier …

"Race you to Dragon Rock," Braden Elliott challenged.

Twelve-year-old Alexa Parker barely heard him. Her attention was focused on the pile of pebbles and shells that had washed ashore. She was looking for tiny shards of sea glass or mermaid tears, as the locals called them. The Sand Harbor Beach on the coast of Washington State was known for the glass that the sea tossed up after years of being tumbled and turned by the waves and the salt water, finally landing on the sand as beautiful, colorful gems. When she grew up, she wanted to become a glassmaker, turn all those broken pieces into something amazing.

"Come on, Alexa," Braden urged.

She looked up at him, her determination wavering as she stared into his beautiful green eyes, that sometimes reminded her of the glass she collected. Braden had grown three inches over the summer, now towering over her at nearly six feet. His brown hair was thick and wavy and messed up by the wind. He was so cute; sometimes she just couldn't stop looking at him. 

They'd known each other since they were ten, but this was the first summer she'd looked at him as more than just a friend. In fact, her stomach did a little flip flop every time he smiled at her. She didn't really know what to do about her new feelings. Part of her wanted to say something and the other part of her was just too scared. A couple of her friends had boyfriends, but she wasn't sure she was ready, and she only saw Braden in the summer.

While Braden lived at Sand Harbor year round, she only came for holidays and summers. Every June, she and her mom packed up the car and left Seattle to stay with her Aunt Phoebe at the beach. Her dad would come down on Thursdays and take long weekends in July and August.  It was the perfect way to spend the summer.

She'd met some of Braden's Sand Harbor friends over the years, but when she was in town it was mostly just the two of them. They would meet up every morning on their bikes and take off to explore one of the three beaches that dotted the coastline. They'd search for sea glass, fly kites, build sand castles and make up stories about the people who vacationed in the big houses along the bluff. Sand Harbor was a quiet fishing village in the winter, but in summer, the town filled up with tourists and celebrities looking for a summer escape. Every year there seemed to be new houses being built along the bluffs.

"Alexa," Braden said impatiently. "You're daydreaming again."

It was a bad habit of hers, but one that didn't usually make him mad. Braden put his hands in the pockets of his jeans and stared out to sea, and she realized Braden's bad mood was more about his dad than about her. Braden's father was a soldier in the Army, and he was supposed to have come home by now, but they kept postponing his release date. Now they were talking about Christmas. Braden seemed to grow more worried with each passing day, and she knew that deep down he was afraid that his dad would never come home.

Wanting to cheer him up, she got to her feet. "Okay, I'll race you," she said. Making Braden smile again seemed more important than finding glass to add to her collection.

Her words did make him smile and no wonder. Braden loved action, running, biking, hiking. He hated to stand still.

She tossed the few pieces of glass she had collected into her backpack.

"I'll carry it for you," Braden said, taking the pack out of her hands. "I don't want you to say the backpack slowed you down."

"Fine." Braden would beat her whether she was carrying anything or not. She couldn't keep up with his long legs.

"And I'll give you a head start," he added.

She didn't bother to say thanks, just took off down the beach. She didn't like to run as much as Braden did, but there were times like this afternoon when it felt good to have the wind in her hair and the sun on her face. She was going to miss summer, and she was going to miss Braden.

Moisture filled her eyes. She hadn’t told him yet about the change in plans. She hadn't wanted to ruin the day, but as the sun sank down to meet the sea she knew she was almost out of time.

Braden passed her, his stride long and easy, as if he wasn't making any effort at all, and he probably wasn't. He was a born athlete.

By the time she got to the rock that looked like a dragon, Braden was sprawled on the sand, a satisfied smile on his face.

She flopped down, breathless, her cheeks warm from the sun and the run.

Braden gazed at her with an odd expression in his eyes. Her heart skipped a beat.

He looked like he wanted to kiss her.

Surprise and nervousness flared. She'd never kissed a boy, but she wanted to kiss Braden. She just didn't know how to get from where she was to where he was. There had to be at least three feet between them.

"You're staring at me," she said, licking her suddenly dry lips.


Her heart skipped another beat. "I am?"

"You know you are." His jaw tightened, and then he jumped to his feet. "Hey, what's that?" He took off, jogging toward the base of the cliff.

She got up more slowly, disappointed that nothing had happened. Her friend at home, Colette, had already kissed two boys. Braden had said she was pretty, but maybe she wasn't pretty enough. She always freckled in the summer, and her fair skin was more likely to burn than tan. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail, because it tangled so easily in the wind. It certainly wasn't thin and silky like Colette's. And she didn't have on any make up, because her mother wouldn't let her wear more than lip gloss, even though she was in middle school. 

No wonder Braden hadn't kissed her. He was one of the most popular boys in Sand Harbor. There were always girls calling out to him when they rode into town. She'd always felt a little special that she was the one he was with. But maybe that's because she liked to explore and was more of a tomboy.

"Alexa, come on," Braden said impatiently.

She walked over to join him. "What?"

"Look." He pulled out a sparkly, oddly shaped blue glass bottle from the sand. They'd found bottles before, but nothing like this. It appeared very old and unusual, like it had come from a shipwreck. "Wow," she murmured, dropping to her knees beside him. She took the bottle from him and spun it around, the blue turning to purple and red in the dusky light. "It's beautiful."

"You could break it apart and mix it with your other glass and make something amazing."

"Oh, no, I couldn't break this apart. Look at the colors. They're—magical." 

"Magic doesn't exist."

"It does if you believe."

"Well, I don't believe."

"Why not?"

"Because I don't," he said with a frown. "It's stupid. Magic is just about tricks."

"Not real magic," she argued. "Not miracle kind of magic."

He rolled his eyes.

"This could be a genie's bottle," she said, her imagination taking hold as she spun the glass in her hands. The colors created a kaleidoscope, a fast-moving rainbow, unlike anything she'd ever seen. She glanced over at Braden, who still had an expression of disgust on his face, but behind that stubborn glint in his eye was a hint of hope. And she fed on that hope. "If we pull out the cork, a genie might appear, and then we'll get to make a wish," she said.

"Yeah, right."

"You should try to believe."


"Because if you don't try, it might not work. And I want to make a wish. It's important to me."

"It's just a bottle, Alexa. It doesn't matter if you make a wish or not, because it won't come true."

She ignored him, her fingers tightening on the cork. There was something so compelling about the bottle that she couldn't believe it was something ordinary. There was no label on it, nothing to suggest what had once been inside, or might still be inside. It felt light, empty, but the glass was so thick, it was impossible to be sure. So she pulled the cork. It didn't budge. She tried again, but she couldn't move it.

"Give me that," Braden said. He grabbed the bottle and yanked out the cork.

As he did so, a spray of water hit her right in the face. She gasped at the unexpected wave that had hit the beach so close to them. They were yards away from where the tide usually hit. Wiping the salt water from her eyes, she stared at Braden. "What was that?"

"Just a wave," he said, running a hand through his damp hair. But there was an odd look in his eyes.

The air around them was suddenly misty. Where had the fog come from? Just minutes ago it had been sunny. She shivered, as the bottle seemed to glow between them. She waited for some figure to appear, but nothing happened.

"There's no genie," Braden said, an unexpected note of disappointment in his voice.

She took the bottle out of his hands. The glass was warmer than it had been. "Let's wish anyway," she said, feeling as if it were suddenly very important. 

"Alexa –"

"Please, Braden. You have to put your hand on the bottle, too."

"I still think this is stupid."

"I understand. But do it anyway."

After a brief hesitation, he put his hand on the bottle, his fingers covering hers.

She didn't know if the magic was in the bottle or in his touch, but she felt hot all over.

Closing her eyes, she thought for a moment, and then silently whispered

"I wish Braden would fall in love with me."

The wish scared her a little. She didn't really understand love. She just knew she wanted to feel it. And she wanted Braden to feel it, too.

Opening her eyes, she caught Braden gazing back at her. She hoped he couldn't see the wish in her eyes. She'd feel so dumb. "What did you wish for?" she asked.

"I can't tell you."

"We tell each other everything," she protested.

"Not wishes," he said.

"Did you really make one?" she asked suspiciously.

He grinned. "That's for me to know and you to find out."

"Sometimes, I hate you," she said, hoping he'd never guess what her wish was.

With the fog hitting the beach, the sky had grown very dark. It was getting late, and she had no more time in which to stall.

"I have to tell you something," she said.

"What's that?"

"We're leaving tomorrow."

His jaw dropped and a frown turned down his lips. "Summer isn't over for two more weeks."

"I know, but my mom says we have to go."


"My parents aren't getting along."

"What else is new?" he asked. "They never get along."

"Well, it's worse now. They got into a huge fight last night. My dad slammed out of the house, and he didn't come home until this morning. He barely said anything to anyone, just packed up his stuff and left. My mom says we have to go back to Seattle so she can talk to him."

"Why doesn't she go by herself?"

"She said it's almost the end of summer anyway. I told her I wanted to stay, Braden, but she wouldn't listen. She was crying all night. I could hear her from my room after I went to bed. She's so angry and so sad."

"That sucks."

She let out a sigh. "Yeah, it does."

He stared at her for a long minute, his expression unreadable. "When are you coming back?"

"We usually come at Thanksgiving." Her stomach twisted into a knot as she realized how far away that was. She'd never worried before about Braden not being there when she came back for visits, but they were growing up, and it wouldn't be long before he got a girlfriend. He'd pick someone in town, someone who wasn't always leaving. And then where would she be?

"Thanksgiving, huh? That's not for months," he said heavily.

"I know. But we'll call and write, right?"


He didn't sound very convincing and lately she hadn't been able to read him as well as she used to.

"I guess we should go," she said. She wished she could make this day last forever, because she had a terrible fear that she might never see Braden again, that after today everything would change—unless her wish came true. She really needed a little magic right now. Everything else in her life was turning so dark.

As they walked across the sand, she told herself to stop getting so worked up. She would see Braden again. They were coming back in November. It was only a couple of months. But her mental pep talk did little to ease the tension in her body and the worry in her mind.

The lights were coming on in the houses above them, some casting long shadows on the sand, giving an eerie, almost surreal quality to the dusky evening. The big castle-like house that was one of her favorites was just in front of them, and she couldn't help looking up at the widow's walk, wondering if she would see the beautiful woman with the long red hair who often stood on the deck in a swirling white gown that made her seem almost like a ghost. She'd nicknamed her Ariel, because she reminded her of a mermaid.

Her heart skipped a beat as she saw the woman, but Ariel was definitely more alive than ghostly right now. She was shouting at someone—someone in the shadows.

Braden paused, too, his gaze moving upward.

"You lied to me," the woman shouted, her voice frenzied and filled with the pain of some betrayal.

Alexa couldn't hear what the other person said, but it did nothing to calm Ariel. She picked up something and threw it into the shadows. At the sound of a crash, Alexa moved a little closer to Braden, unsettled by the fight. While her parents hadn't resorted to throwing things at each other, they fought with the same kind of intense anger. She didn't understand how people could go from loving each other to hating each other.

"Don't tell me to be quiet," the woman yelled. "I'm tired of secrets. I can't keep it all in. I'm going to snap." She paused. "Don't touch me. I'll come in when I want to come in."

"We should go," Alexa said, her stomach feeling a little sick.

"Looks like she went inside anyway," Braden observed. "I wonder who she was arguing with and what all the secrets are about."

Normally, Alexa loved secrets, but not today. "I don't care. I just wish everyone would stop fighting. I hate when people yell at each other. It makes me feel sick to my stomach. How does love turn into hate?"

"It's going to be okay, Alexa."

"I wish I could believe that," she said as they started walking again.

"If you can believe in magic, you can believe in that," he said.

She sighed. "Maybe you're right. Maybe there is no magic."

He shook his head. "No, I don't want you to think that. I need you to believe."

"Why?" she asked, giving him a curious look.

His lips tightened and then he said, "Because then I can try to believe."

She gazed into his eyes and saw a need she could fulfill. "Then I will."

He nodded and they walked the rest of the way in silence.

When they reached their bikes, Braden handed over her backpack, and she put the genie's bottle inside.

"Do you want me to carry the backpack while you ride?" Braden offered.

"No, I can hang on to it," she said, slipping the straps over her shoulder. She didn't want to let go of the bottle, because when she got home, she was going to make another wish, a wish that her parents would stop fighting. It had occurred to her that she might have wasted her wish on her own chance at love, when what she should have been concentrating on was getting her parents back on the same page. 

"Alexa," Braden said as she got on her bike.

"Yes?" she asked.

He moved his bike next to hers, then leaned over and kissed her on the mouth. His lips were firm and warm, a little salty, but actually quite perfect.

Before she could really register the fact that she'd just gotten her first kiss, he pulled away.

His voice was a little gruff when he said, "Come back, Alexa, okay?"

"I will," she promised, her heart racing.

Then she got on her bike and followed him down the road, wondering how long it would be before she saw him again.

The Wish Series is connected by the theme of wishes. In each book a wish has unexpected consequences, because sometimes what a person wishes for is not what exactly what they need. The series consists of one novella and two complete books.

Each book in the series stands completely on its own.

  • A Secret Wish
  • Just A Wish Away
  • When Wishes Collide
  • Wish Series Box Set