Time to bite the bullet and share a little something with you. Instead of my usual weekly ramblings I’ve decided to let you have a little sneak peak inside Book Baby.
Stronger Within- excerpt
With a long sigh of complete contentment, she felt the tension melt from her shoulders. Her first tentative steps onto the beach since last summer. It felt good to be home. It was late afternoon and she could feel the last of the spring sun’s warmth on her skin. She was also acutely aware of Mary’s eyes on her, as she watched from the sun deck. No going back now. After all, she had made it this far and it felt good to be outdoors. She adjusted the grip on her crutches, making sure the broad base plates didn’t sink into the soft sand and slowly headed across the beach towards the ocean. Once on the hard packed surface she felt more stable and her confidence began to grow. The waves rolled in gently beside her, but she was careful to stay beyond their reach. Tasting the salt on her lips, she smiled and headed along the shoreline towards the boardwalk.
The beach was quiet, with only a few families packing up after an afternoon at the shore. It had been unseasonably warm all week and everyone was making the most of the bonus sunshine. Small seabirds were playing in the shallows, rushing backwards and forwards twittering merrily. After about a hundred yards, she stopped to watch the waves, listening to their rhythmic flow. Hopefully by summer, when the water would be warmer, she would be able to enjoy swimming in the ocean again. Hopefully…
Oh it was good to be home; good to be back by the ocean.
Step by carefully placed step, she kept wandering along the sand towards town. She drank in all of her surroundings, the birds, the shells, and an occasional abandoned sandcastle. Lost in her own thoughts, she immersed herself in her private beach world.
It was the throbbing pain from her leg that brought her back to the real world. She had been stupid. She had walked too far. With panic and fear rising in her chest, she headed up the beach towards the boardwalk that ran parallel to the shore. If she could get onto firm ground and rest for a while, maybe she could recover enough strength to get back to the house. Mary had warned her to be careful, had warned her not to try to go too far on her first day out. The boardwalk seemed to be a mile away, even though it was, in reality, only a few short yards away. As the sand got softer her crutches dug further in, despite their broad base plates. The left one sank into a particularly soft patch. Suddenly her leg gave way and she crashed onto the beach.
For a few moments she lay there, tears welling up in her eyes, terrified that she was hurt. Gingerly, she manoeuvred herself into a sitting position.
“Shit!” she yelled out to the world. “Shit!”
Her crutches lay just within arm’s reach and she dragged them over towards her. Getting back to her feet was going to be a challenge. One that looked impossible in the current situation. There was no one in sight and Lori felt a sharp stab of fear in her chest. As she sat figuring out how she was going to get up without falling again, she was unaware that she was being watched from the shadows of boardwalk.
Jake watched her from the distant vantage point of the boardwalk. He had headed for the beach after the end of his shift at the pizza parlour. It had been a rough day and he had decided to walk off his black mood before heading to meet the guys. The last thing they needed was him turning up in a foul mood, stinking of tomato sauce and cheese. He had walked to the south end of the promenade and had just turned back when he saw the girl walking down on the sand. It was the sun catching the golden highlights in her hair that had attracted his attention. He never noticed her crutches at first. Watching from a distance, he had kept pace with her, then stopped to watch as she turned towards the boardwalk. When he saw her stumble he regretted not following his instincts and going down to walk on the sand with her.
“Shit,” he muttered. “Shit.”
There were no breaks in the fence nearby, so he jumped over the wooden palings into the dune grass and ran towards her, sand immediately filling his shoes. By the time he was close enough to call out to her, she was sitting up and looked to be unhurt. He almost turned away but decided against it and continued to walk down the beach.
“Hi,” he called out. “Are you ok?”
She was sitting rubbing her thigh and there were tears on her cheeks. Her pale complexion suggested she hadn’t been out doors much recently.
“Hi,” she replied with a weak smile. “I could do with some help.”
“Figured,” he said sitting down on the sand beside her. “Are you hurt?”
“No, not really. It was my own stupid fault. I came too far and wasn’t paying attention. I lost my footing.”
“Can’t be easy walking the beach with crutches,” he observed. “How far have you walked?”
“Less than a quarter of a mile. I was fine when I was down on the wet sand but I began to get tired. I was trying to get up to the boardwalk. I figured if I got onto solid ground it would be easier to walk back.”
“Let me guess,” observed Jake. “You’ve not been out much with those sticks?”
“No,” she confessed. “I haven’t.”
A single tear ran down her pale cheek. She reached up to roughly brush it away, embarrassed by her show of emotion, but only succeeded in leaving a smear of sand in its place. That was the final straw. Burying her face in her hands, she sat and sobbed. Months of pent up frustration flowed down her cheeks in a river of tears. Hesitantly, Jake put a comforting arm around her shoulders and held her as she wept.
“Hey,” he whispered softly. “It’ll be ok. I’ll get you home safely.”
“I’m sorry,” she sniffed. “I don’t usually sob all over complete strangers”
“Well, I don’t usually go around picking up fallen angels on the beach either.”
She smiled at his weak attempt at humour.
“I’m Jake by the way.”
“Lori,” she replied.
“Well, Lori, let’s get you up on your feet and up onto the boardwalk.”
Gauging that she didn’t weigh much, Jake handed her the crutches, told her to hold onto them then lifted her up into his arms. She was even lighter than he had guessed, so carrying her up the beach to the nearest pathway was no challenge. Once back up on the boardwalk, he sat her down on the first bench they came to.
“You sure you’re ok?” he asked, as he sat beside her.
“Yes, thank you. I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done if you hadn’t come along.”
“You’d have figured it out eventually.”
“I guess. Either that or Mary would’ve come looking for me,” admitted Lori, brushing sand off her jeans.
“Yeah, she’s my housekeeper. It was her idea that I take a walk. I’ve been sitting on the deck all afternoon gazing out at the ocean. She told me I needed to venture off the deck sometime and that today was as good a day as any. She’ll feel so bad when she hears I fell,” she explained.
“Who’s going to tell her?” Jake said with a wink. “I’ll walk you back. You don’t need to tell her that you fell.”
Stiffly and with more than a hint of nerves, Lori got to her feet and repositioned her crutches. Her leg was screaming at her and she knew it would be hard to keep news of her fall from the ever watchful Mary. As they began to walk along the sandy boards Jake observed how carefully Lori walked – watched the determination in each step and sensed the pain that was etched into her pale face. She had the bluest eyes he had ever seen, but there was a deep sadness cast through them.
“Pardon my asking but what happened to you? I’m thinking the crutches are a very recent addition to your wardrobe.”
“And you’d be right,” she confessed, pausing to look up at him. “I had an accident just before Christmas. I broke my leg quite badly. I came down here about six weeks ago. This is the first time I’ve been out on my own since the accident.”
“And you thought a walk on the sand was the smartest place to start?”
Lori laughed. Jake thought it the most beautiful musical laugh and joined in.
“I guess not, “she giggled. “So what brought you out this far?”
“A shit shift at work. A foul mood.”
“And scraping a dumb blonde off the sand wasn’t in the plan?”
“No, but I‘m glad I was there to rescue you,” he admitted. That wonderful laugh and those sad blue eyes were having a strange effect on his heart. A weird but wonderful effect. It had been a long time since he had felt that way. “Where exactly am I taking you when we run out of boardwalk?”
“Fourth house past the end. If that’s ok?”
“Not a problem, li’l lady.”
They walked on in silence for a few minutes, the end of the boardwalk drawing closer and neither of them really wanting to reach it. Surreptitiously, Jake watched her steely concentration, drank in her fragile beauty and breathed in her light, floral perfume. It had been a very long time since someone had had such an impact on him. A long time since he had bothered to look, if he was honest with himself. Between each painful step, Lori subtly surveyed her rescuer. He would make a fantastic model for a life drawing. His long sun bleached blonde hair fell carelessly down over his shoulders, almost reaching the middle of his back. She guessed from the tiny lines around his twinkling hazel eyes that he was a little older than her and his height dwarfed her small frame. There was something genuine about him. A rough diamond found in the sand? A friend? Lord, she could use one!
Deciding to take a risk, Lori said, “When we reach the house, will you come in for a coffee or a beer? It’s the least I can offer.”
“I’m not sure,” began Jake glancing at his watch. “Oh what the hell! The guys can wait. Beer sounds good.”
And the story continues in Stronger Within – due out mid-April on Kindle.