As one of the #CMCon16 featured bloggers, I get to have a little fun with a few of the fabulous authors who will be hitting the beach for Coastal Magic 2016 by showcasing their many stories. Last year I interviewed four of the the CMC15 authors, but this year I’m changing it up. I came up with this really fun idea to have the authors introduce us to their worlds by sending their characters to the beach.
I didn’t even bother turning around to check out Rafe’s expression. I knew what it would be: a mix of patient exasperation and frustration, the same way he looked whenever I dug in my heels about something he wanted me to do. I waited for his next move, which was typically a sigh as he came up behind me and slid his arms around my waist, pulling me tight against his hard body and began to persuade me in his own special way.
But this time, he didn’t move. When I finally turned around to sneak a peek at what he was doing, his head was bent over the slim silver laptop on the counter in front of him. He wasn’t even looking my way. I frowned.
Rafe’s eyes didn’t leave the computer screen, and his fingers flew over the keys. If he’d heard me, he wasn’t giving any indication of it. I slammed the door of the coffee mug cabinet, and finally he glanced up at me, his green eyes distracted.
“Did you hear me? I said I’m not going to the beach.”
He lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “Okay.”
Okay? Since when had my boyfriend—yes, I still winced at the use of that word, but what else could I call Rafe? My lover? My roommate? My screwing buddy? Since all of my limited circle knew the deal about our relationship, I rarely had to use that word, but sometimes among strangers or acquaintances, it slipped out. But since when had he given into me so easily when I gave him a hard time? My stomach clenched as old insecurities flooded back.
“Okay, as in we’re not going to do it, or okay, as in you’re still going to go?” I leaned back against the counter and crossed my arms over my chest.
“Okay, as in I made the commitment for us to go, and even if you don’t, I am. I promised Cathryn we’d take care of it.”
I made a face. “Why can’t someone else handle it? She has a whole institute of people at her disposal.”
“Everyone else is busy or on assignment. It’s not as if it’s a challenging job, Nell. It’s a possibly haunted hotel in a small beach town a couple of hours away. Cathryn offered it to us as a favor. She figured we could combine business with . . . pleasure.” Now he did shut the computer and advance around the kitchen island toward me, a predatory gleam in his eyes. “The beach is supposed to be a romantic setting, you know. Sunsets over clear blue water, the lapping of the waves against the soft white sand, the heat of the sun . . .”
“Sand getting into inconvenient places, blistering sunburns on my very pale skin . . . and the sun doesn’t set on that coast, it rises on that side.”
This time Rafe did sigh as he grabbed my hand and tugged me close, wrapping both arms around me. “Nell, how many times do I really ask you to do anything you don’t want to do?”
I burrowed my face against his chest, breathing in pure Rafe, the one drug that calmed me body and soul. “Well, there was Christmas a few years back—”
“Uh huh, and did I tell you that we had to go back to King? No, I suggested that we go to Nebraska and make like snow bunnies.”
I rolled my eyes. “But I did go.”
“Yes, and I really appreciated it. Didn’t I show you that?” He nuzzled my neck, his tongue darting out to touch the pulse there. “C’mon, Nell. I just want to lie on the beach with my beautiful girlfriend and veg a little. I promise, you don’t have to socialize or anything. Just go for me.”
I heaved out a deep breath. “Fine. I’ll go to the beach. But I won’t like it.”
I didn’t want to like it. I wanted to sit there wrapped in layers of my gauzy cover-up, brooding. But I couldn’t, not when the sun was beaming down on us, and a soft breeze cooled our skin. Not when Rafe peeled off his shirt and his tan skin gleamed against the white of the powder-soft sand.
He dropped onto the blanket he’d carefully spread for me, moving over until his hip bumped mine, and wrapped his arm around my shoulders. “Now this isn’t too bad, is it?”
I raised one eyebrow. “Hmm. Not so far. But wait until people get here.”
“It’s October, baby. We’re going to have this beach to ourselves.”
And he was right. Oh, a few people strolled by, walking with their feet in the surf. A couple of joggers passed us. But for the most part, it was deserted and quiet and—perfect.
When my stomach began to rumble around noon, Rafe stood up and pulled me to my feet. “We can leave our blanket here and go grab some burgers up at the Riptide. No one’s going to bother them.”
I glanced down, dubious. “Are you sure?” The aroma of grilled meat began to waft over us, and suddenly I was ravenous. “How do you know this place is any good?”
A shadow passed over his face, fleeting but undeniable. “I ate here once before. On my way to Savannah.”
I knew then, and I swallowed hard. He’d have been here with Joss, his partner and lover, on their way to the assignment that would take her life and nearly kill Rafe, too. I remembered those dark days in the aftermath of his rescue, when he’d tried to convince me to let him die.
We didn’t talk about Joss much these days, but her ghost could reappear any time, a reminder of how much he’d loved her during their brief relationship. I was hardly the poster child for self-assurance when it came to Rafe and me, but most of the time, I held my own. I couldn’t fight against a dead girl, though.
“It’s okay, Nell.” He ran one finger down the side of my face, brushing away a strand of my black hair. “It’s just a memory. It’s not real and alive, like you. Let’s go enjoy some burgers.”
I gave him my hand, and we trudged through the sand to the steps of the wooden deck of the beach-front restaurant. We had our pick of tables, and Rafe pulled out a chair for me at one near the railing, so we could look out over the ocean.
“It’s pretty here.” The admission didn’t come easily. “I never thought I’d be a beach girl, but maybe I can be reformed.”
“Nell, baby.” He rubbed his thumb over my knuckles, and warmth flooded me at his use of the endearment. We weren’t a cuddly couple who called each “sweetie” or “honeybunch”. In bed sometimes, he’d slip and call me “babe”, but I knew right now, he was reaching out, trying to soothe me. “You can be anyone you want to be. I love you whether or not you enjoy the beach. How I feel about you doesn’t depend on sand or surf.”
A door opened from the restaurant’s main building, and a pretty woman with hair as dark as mine stepped out, heading our way.
Rafe squeezed my hand. “Oh, by the way . . . we’re meeting our contact here. That’s her, I’d guess.”
I bit back a sharp response. Rafe knew me too well sometimes. I’d have bitched and stressed over meeting someone new if given the time, but now, all I could do was paste on the closest thing to a smile and do the job.
Her eyes flickered between us as she approached, and her lips curved on one side.
“Hello. I’m Abby Donavan, and I think we may have a ghost in my hotel.”
Meet Tawdra Kandle!
Tawdra Kandle writes romance, in just about all its forms. She loves unlikely pairings, strong women, sexy guys, hot love scenes and just enough conflict to make it interesting. Her books run from YA paranormal romance (THE KING SERIES), through NA paranormal and contemporary romance (THE SERENDIPITY DUET, PERFECT DISH, THE ONE TRILOGY) to adult contemporary and paramystery romance (CRYSTAL COVE BOOKS and RECIPE FOR DEATH SERIES). She lives in central Florida with a husband, kids, sweet pup and too many cats. And yeah, she rocks purple hair.
Don’t miss your chance to meet over 50 fabulous urban fantasy, paranormal, and romance authors at Coastal Magic next February! This super casual book-lover weekend happens on Daytona Beach, and gives everyone the chance to hang out with fellow readers and amazing storytellers.
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