This spoiler was submitted by Rachelle.
The film starts out with a bruised and bloodied brunette women (Julianne Hough) running away and looking over her shoulder as long hair runs down her back. She runs into an old women’s house. She walks out of the house and runs to a bus station now with short blonde hair and a false pregnant stomach. Keeping her head down she buys a ticket to Atlanta. She runs to catch the bus and bumps into a man. She notices the police have arrived and runs faster. A police man inquires angrily about her to everyone he sees. The man she bumped into tells the policeman he saw the woman, only with short blonde hair. As the policeman searches buses, the blonde woman’s bus pulls out unseen. She is safe.
Katie is the name of the blonde woman, and she is on the bus for many hours. When the bus pulls over in a small seaside town called Southport, Katie makes some purchases in a small convenience store. Instead of getting a normal clerk, Katie is assisted by an 8 year old girl named Lexie (Mimi Kirkland) who is helping out her father. When Katie leaves, she looks at the ocean and decides that this is as good a place as any to stay. After a few nights sleeping under bridges and on the beach, Katie gets a job as a waitress and purchases a small rundown house in the middle of the woods.
In Katie’s first night in the house the sound of the wind wakes her up, and she starts to remember the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband, a cop with the Boston Police. He controlled her every move and beat her when she did not please him. He also constantly drank a clear alcoholic beverage out of a water bottle. Katie gets up to close the window. When she does some of the floor breaks.
The next day, Katie goes to the convenience store to buy paint and other things to fix her floor. The little girl Lexie is there again, and she suggests Katie paint her floor yellow to brighten things up. Lexie’s dad Alex (Josh Duhamel) is there this time, and he says he’s surprised that Katie decided to stay in town. He tells her the paint will be ready on Monday. Roger (Red West),the owner of the store, remarks after Katie leaves that he didn’t know they sold paint. Alex says they do now.
Katie goes home and hears a knock at her door. There stands a woman about Katie’s age who introduces herself as Jo (Cobie Smulders) and says she lives right up the road. Katie says the realtor didn’t mention that she had any neighbors. Jo offers to walk with Katie into town whenever Katie is bored of going alone.
When Katie goes to pick up her paint, Lexie has made a picture for her. Lexie’s brother Josh (Noah Lomax) is walking on the dock. He falls and hits his head before going into the water. Katie is the only one who sees this and her scream alerts everyone else. Alex jumps in and saves him while Katie comforts Lexie.
After this, Katie is sleeping in her house, when a car pulls up. She gets very scared and locks the door. The next day there is a bike outside her door with a note from Alex on it. She takes it back to him and tells him that she doesn’t want it and that it was rude to drop it off so late at night. Alex asks her why can’t she just accept things. They both storm off angrily.
Meanwhile, Kevin is searching for Katie. He sees from the security tapes of the bus station what Katie looks like now. He also sees that the bus is headed to Atlanta. Under the guise of having a police investigation, he begins to question the neighbors, including the older woman that Katie ran to.
Jo tells Katie that she should accept southern hospitality, and she should try being nicer to Alex. Katie apologizes to him, and Lexie begs Alex to let Katie come to the beach with their family. Katie comes, and they all have a great time. Josh seems to be very sullen and moody. When Alex drops Katie off she invites him in to see her floor. They talk and flirt.
The next week, when Katie is in the store Alex invites her to go canoeing. They go and have a beautiful time on the lake. Alex tells Katie he hasn’t come to this place since his wife died of cancer. It begins to pour, and the two make their way to a restaurant. They eat and talk and dance for many hours until Alex’s friend, a local cop can come pick them up. When they drop Katie off, Alex and Katie kiss passionately. When Alex gets home, his kids are upset that he was gone for so long. Alex goes upstairs to their mother’s office, and Josh is upset by this as no one has gone up there since her death. Alex strokes some letters the mother wrote-for Lexie on her wedding day, for Josh on his graduation, etc.
Kevin made a poster with Katie’s picture on it claiming that she is wanted for first degree murder. It is hung in the Southport police station. He is drinking more and more alcohol. He realizes that the older woman had been communicating with Katie because he found a recipe with the woman’s handwriting in Katie’s recipe book. He knows now that the old woman is the key to finding Katie.
Katie calls the old woman and leaves her a message telling her that she is safe. Alex and Katie sleep together for their first time. Katie still hasn’t told him her past.
Alex is in the police station planning the Fourth of July parade with his friend. He sees Katie’s picture. He accuses her, and she tries to explain, but he is too upset that he let her near his children when she may have had a criminal record. Katie packs up her things while Jo protests and she leaves. Alex realizes he should have given Katie a chance, but she is gone. He chases her to the ferry, and she explains how her husband hurt her, and that is why she’s using a fake name (her real name is Erin) and why there is a wanted poster for her. Alex tells her that he will always protect her.
Kevin sneaks into the old woman’s home. He looks through her papers and finds Katie’s message on the answering machine. He traces the number to Katie’s restaurant in Southport. He goes to work where his supervisor has discovered what he has been doing and how much he has been drinking. He is fired. He is furious and so he gets into his car and drunkenly drives to Southport.
It is the fourth of July. Alex, Katie, Josh, and Lexie go to the festivities. Lexie also hangs out in the store. Kevin comes into the store and shows her Katie’s picture and asks if she has seen her. Lexie tells him no. Alex comes to get Lexie and the four of them go dancing. Later, Lexie is not feeling well, and Katie stays at Alex’s house with her while Josh and Alex go to set off the fireworks. Kevin sees Katie and waits until Alex is gone. He then breaks in and attempts to strangle her. She manages to get him away from Lexie, where she pushes him off the dock and says she’ll never go back to him. He pours gasoline on the house, and the sparks from the overhead fireworks light the house on fire. Katie tries to get Lexie, but Kevin grabs her and starts to choke her to death. Alex sees his house on fire across the water and gets into his boat desperate to save Katie and Lexie. Lexie is trapped in the house, and Alex breaks a window and catches her as she jumps from the second story into his arms. Kevin has a gun on Katie. He prepares shoot, but as he does Katie turns the barrel around, and he shoots himself instead of her.
Alex’s house is completely gone, but one thing survivedthe desk containing the letters from his first wife. One of the letters is “for her” the woman who would become Alex’s wife.
Jo decides to leave Southport and Katie and Jo have a sad goodbye and Katie makes Jo promise to let her know when she is safe.
Some time after this, Alex gives Katie the letter that is “for her.” It instructs her to love Alex and his children, for if she is reading this letter they must love her. It includes a signature and a picture of Alex’s first wife. The signature reads “Jo” and the picture is Jo in the flesh. It is then Katie realizes that Jo never went anywhere with her where there were other people. And Jo always seemed to disappear when they were done talking. And Jo truly wanted her to be with Alex. Now Katie knows that she truly is the right girl for Alex, and she is finally safe.