Excerpt of With This Forever ~ Newest release from Windswept Bay a Clean and Wholesome Romance
Excerpt of WITH THIS FOREVER!
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Jake Sinclair rammed a hand through his hair as he watched the last of the dive group headed off the dock and walk toward the back entrance of his dive shop. His eyes narrowed when the tall blonde with an attitude turned back and drilled him with fierce, angry eyes. She’d been part of a three-party group mixed in with the other seven-party group. And she’d been trouble from the moment she’d set foot on his boat.
Hoping she’d leave turned away and knelt down to double-check that the boat was secured to the dock correctly. He knew it was secured just fine but checking it gave him a reason to look away and let Brandy stomp her way off the dock and off the premises.
Rapid steps on the pier told him no such luck, she was coming back. He braced himself for another unpleasant encounter and shot a glance over his shoulder. A little too late as she shoved him in the back and sent him off the pier. He splashed into the bay and hit the water on his side, did a quick flip and came up fast. A few years as a Navy SEAL, and more years as a dive master, kept him quick in the water. Obviously not as quick as he should be out of the water.
“Okay, that does it—you’ve got a problem, lady?” he called, spitting mad and tired of ignoring her ridiculous actions in hopes she’d just leave.
She glared down at him with her hands gripping her slender hips. “You ignored me. Nobody does that. And that’s what you get. I’m the best thing that could have happened to you.”
“Honey, for some reason I’m pretty sure that isn’t true.”
“Don’t call me honey. You lost your chance at that.” She hiked her nose in the air then stormed down the pier like the Tasmanian Devil in a string bikini.
He’d done everything possible to be nice to her without taking her up on her over-the-top advances. He’d finally had to point-blank tell her that he was thirty-two years old and she was nineteen and he wasn’t interested. Not to mention she was also not a nice person. And just being sexy wasn’t cutting it these days for Jake.
“Come on,” she snapped at her friends, who were waiting for her.
They’d obviously had enough and both shook their heads.
“That was not nice, and uncalled for,” the nicest of the three, Diana, said. “I’ll get my own ride back home.”
Good for her. The other girl gave Diana and then him a regretful look before she followed Brandy across the lot. At least Diana had some sense.
He swam to the back of the boat.
“That was intense,” Caleb, his dive assistant, said as Jake climbed out of the water onto the platform.
“Pretty ridiculous is what I call it.” He yanked his shirt off and tossed it to the floor of the boat. “I pity the dude who gets tangled up with that one.”
He did not do drama. He enjoyed dating, maybe a little too much. He enjoyed spending time with intriguing women. But nothing about Brandy had intrigued him. She’d been spoiled and mean-spirited from the moment she’d climbed onto his boat. And for some strange reason, she’d thought she could impress him with her bad-mannered moves. He’d dodged her from instant one.
It had been the longest, four-hour round-trip dive excursion he’d ever been on and he’d been thankful they hadn’t paid for a five-hour trip. He would have had to call it quits and brought them in early.
Caleb chuckled. “Yeah, that was one scary chick right there.”
“Tell me about it.” He scowled. “Please tell me I didn’t do anything to make her think I was in to her or—”
“Are you kidding?” Caleb broke him off before he could voice any more of his concern that he’d led her on somehow. “You didn’t do anything. Diana said she’s done this before with guys. She said Brandy spotted you at Paradise Grill one night and has been watching you.”
“Watching me?” He raked a hand through his short, wet hair.
“She’s got pictures of you on her phone, like she’s been trailing you or something.”
“Yay for me,” Jake muttered. Just what he needed—a college-aged stalker. “I’m sure she’s deleting those photos now. Probably burning her phone. Maybe you need to head into the shop and make sure Miss Sunshine isn’t causing any trouble inside on the way to her car.”
“Sure thing.” Caleb glanced toward the brunette who hadn’t gone with her friends.
“I might see if Diana needs a ride home.”
“Yeah, she probably needs it. Tell Fran to lock up the front and I’ll take care of the back.”
Fran worked the shop while he and his other dive master took the daily dive trips. Jake watched Caleb and Diana head toward the shop, then he turned back to the boat with a sense of relief. Tension eased from his shoulders as he headed into the cabin and pulled a bottle of water from the cooler. He downed the whole thing in less than thirty seconds then he went back up on deck, ready to chill out for a moment. Movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention and he glanced toward land, half expecting to see blondezilla storming his way again. Instead, he saw a tall, dark-headed woman at the door of the vacant shop connected to his dive shop.
She was stunning, really stunning. He lost all train of thought for a moment as he took her in. She wore a flowing yellow dress that fluttered in the breeze from the bay. As he stared, she turned and caught him looking. Their eyes collided and he froze to the spot.
Who was she?
She headed toward the faded blue van backed into the parking space with its back doors open. Jake watched her load her arms with boxes. She could barely see around the armload but started back to the shop. There was no way she could see where she was going. He saw her veer to the left then to the right and he wanted to yell out for her to watch her step, but he didn’t. He just held his breath and to his surprise, she made it inside the building without breaking her neck.
Who was she?
His landlord hadn’t said anything about someone renting the shop. He would’ve thought Mrs. Louis would have told him if she’d decided to rent out the space.
The woman reappeared and went back to the van. When she started stacking more boxes in her arms, he decided he needed to go offer to help her. She had started back toward the building as he hopped from the boat. No sooner had he started her way than she went down like a brick wall.
He was already moving, racing down the pier to help her.
Sammy Jo Lovely yelped as she slammed to the ground and face-planted in the middle of the stack of newly sewn, custom skirts she’d been carrying. She managed to turn her hands to try to break her fall but she could tell from the stinging pain that she’d skinned a knee.
She let the impact of the fall settle over her with a groan then rolled to her back and stared up at the picturesque blue sky above her. Of course, the first thought was to wonder if anyone had witnessed her do this clumsy face-plant.
Groaning again, she struggled to sit up.
“Wait,” someone yelled. “Don’t move.”
She looked toward the docks to see the gorgeous, shirtless guy from the boat at the pier who she’d been distracted by moments before her fall. He put both hands on the railing separating the dock from the grassy expanse between them and vaulted effortlessly over the railing and charged her way. All muscled, tanned, overwhelming inch of him.
She froze and just watched him cross to her. Seconds later, he knelt by her side and she was blinking at him like an owl at daybreak. Her mouth fell open and she clamped it shut.
“You’re hurt. And bleeding,” he said, seeing her palms. “Let me help you.”
“I’m fine,” she managed. Her heart raced. He was so distracting that momentarily she was feeling no pain at all.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re not okay.” His deep blue eyes were compassionate as he looked at her then her palms and then down toward her knees.
She sighed. “You might be right. I should have been watching where I was going.”
“You did have your arms full.” He gently helped her sit up by slipping an arm beneath her shoulders and easing her up.
“Great. I was hoping no one saw my act of graceful tumbling.” It was one thing to fall flat on her face and no one see her do it. It was an altogether complete other solar system of embarrassing knowing he’d seen the whole thing. Pain was now radiating from her knees and her palms. She bit her lip and tried to ignore it.
“It doesn’t matter. You’re hurting.”
“Just my knee mostly. I’m afraid to look.” She gave a shaky laugh. “I’m kind of a chicken when it comes to blood.”
“Then don’t look. I’ll get you inside and take care of it for you.”
“No, I can make it—” Her words turned into a gasp when he stood and scooped her into his arms. “Oh, I wasn’t expecting you to carry me.”
“Well, I am. Do you have water in there?”
“Yes, but this is a bit awkward.” Very awkward, actually, to find herself held against his very strong chest with his arms hooked under her knees and her back. She felt breathless looking into his blue, blue eyes.
He cocked his head to the side and winked at her. “I’m Jake Sinclair. I own the dive shop next door. Knowing my name hopefully makes it less awkward. Now, who are you?”
She blinked, trying to look away but could not make herself do so. “Sammy Jo Lovely, otherwise known from here on out as Miss Not-So-Graceful.”
He entered the back door. “You’re being too hard on yourself. It’s nice to meet you, Sammy Jo Lovely.”
She gulped hard as he stared into her eyes while striding, oh so capably, across the room to the chair next to the wall. She hadn’t been able to walk two feet carrying a few boxes without falling flat on her face and he was carrying her not-so-light-body, and staring into her eyes at the same time. She fought the urge to let her injured hands rest on his impressive, bare-naked chest.
Thankfully he made it to the chair and gently set her in the chair then straightened and looked around. “Now point me in the direction of water and a clean cloth and I’ll take care of your wounds.”
She tried to keep her act together considering he was seemingly unaffected by her not-so-impressive charms. “In there.” She pointed toward the bathroom.
He gave her a devastating smile that kicked her insides into a frenzy and she could only imagine had caused much more sophisticated women than herself to lose their hearts, and maybe their heads over him. She had just witnessed the beautiful blonde storm down the pier and shove him into the water. Maybe that had been what had happened to her. Just lost her head over the dark-haired, gorgeous man.
She’d been startled when she’d looked out at the newly arrived boat and witnessed what the woman did. And it had been easy for her to think the guy must have deserved what he’d gotten. But now, she wondered how anyone could be mad at him. He was amazing.
He came from the restroom carrying a damp cloth.
“You’re really going above and beyond what you need to do. I can take it from here.”
He knelt, took one of her hands and gently lay the cool wet cloth against the scraped skin. “I hope I’m not the only person who would help out in a situation like this. Sorry if that burns.” He took her other hand and lightly pressed it with the wet cloth between both palms. His touch was easy and sent her pulse speeding as he smiled at her. “Hold them together and let the coolness of the rag seep in. I’m going to look at your knee, if that’s okay with you?”
Her granny would call him a sweetheart and she had to agree. “I hate to admit it but that would probably be best.”
Very carefully, he pressed both her palms together on the cloth. “How is that?”
“It stings, but is feeling better. They aren’t too bad, just a few minor scrapes. You’re a very nice person. I wasn’t expecting that after I saw that pretty blonde woman shoved you into the water.” The moment the words burst from her lips she gasped.
His eyes swung to hers and suddenly she wished with all her heart she had kept her thoughts to herself.
Why had she even said that?
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