Lucas caught ahold of Maryanne’s sweatshirt and flattened her in the shallow pool underneath him as the surf thundered over them. Chilled water and foam crashed overhead. He held on until the water rolled back. They hadn’t much time before the next wave would hit. He scooped her into his arms and jumped over the ridge of rocks away from the receding tide.
He laid her down on a sand dune. Her hair was plastered over her face, and she moaned, holding onto the right side of her head.
“You okay?” Lucas swept her hair back. “Did you hit your head?”
She blinked and rattled her head, her teeth chattering. “I-I thought I fell into the water.”
“Almost, but I grabbed your hoodie. Are you hurt?”
Maryanne patted her body and sat up. “No, considering you tackled me, I think I’m fine.”
“Well, it was either that or watch the wave roll you into the sea.” He pulled her up. “We’re both soaked. Looks like you got the shower you wanted.”
He wiggled her cheek to get her to smile.
She wrapped her arms around his waist and burrowed her face into his chest. “You saved my life. I can’t swim.”
“Then you need to learn. I can teach you.” Lucas picked Maryanne up and cradled her in his arms. A jolt pulsed through his heart. That had been too close. He could have lost her today.
“Let me down. I can walk,” she chirped.
“What? And not let me play the hero?”
A smile brightened her face. “You are my hero. When I think how you do those triathlons, swim in the ocean, bike hundreds of miles and run a marathon, I can’t even imagine it. Must take real dedication.”
“Or I’m a masochist and love to suffer.” He made his way over the dunes toward the tent. “At the end of the marathon, it’s about who wants it more and who can suffer longer.”
“I started reading triathlon magazines after finding out about you.” She stroked his left wrist. “You almost made the Olympic team. Must have been a tough break.”
“It was. I tangled with another cyclist speeding downhill around a hairpin turn. I tried to compete with it broken, but it was too painful and I didn’t qualify for the team.”
“You’ll just have to try again.” She sounded confident in him.
He set her down in front of the tent. “My family thinks triathlon is a waste of time. That I should settle down and get a real job.”
She took his hand and cuddled against him. “I admire you for going after your dreams. Nothing’s ever accomplished by settling down.”
The kiss came naturally. She understood him, accepted him, and admired him. He let go reluctantly. “Change into something dry and I’ll be right back.”
Lucas jogged back to his car and put on a pair of cargo shorts and a t-shirt. When he returned, Maryanne was sitting on a towel in a white bikini, finger-combing her hair. She stood and came toward him, holding out her arms for a hug. He paused to calm his pounding heart. Her body was perfect. Pert, cup-shaped breasts, a flat stomach and curvy hips, an hourglass shape.
Her skin was hot, and she’d put on perfume, bright, sunshiny, and citrus. The urge to touch, stroke and caress her was overwhelming, but he backed away and held out his hand. “Ready for one last walk on the beach?”
The sun broke through the morning fog, shining lambent and soft. Lacy foam trailed over the damp sand. The water seemed calmer, inviting, not quite as boisterous.
Maryanne slipped on her flip-flops and took his hand. “It’s really peaceful out here. Thanks for bringing me.”
“I enjoyed having you too. Come on, let’s walk over to that bluff. It’s high above the tides. I promise you won’t get swept away.”
“By the tide or by you?” She leaned close to him, but he bent down and scooped her into his arms. She’d already swept his heart away. It couldn’t even hold a steady beat with her around.
He nuzzled the side of her face and kissed her. There was no place in the world he wanted to be but at her side. She wouldn’t take away his dreams and tell him to get a real job. She only wanted love, and he, Lucas Knight, could give it to her unconditionally.
His breath quickened as he lengthened his stride and ascended the bluff. The wind whipped sand in his face and sprayed salt in his mouth. His thigh muscles burned, but his chest expanded. He placed her on the highest rock.
“That was some climb. You’re not even winded.” Her gaze fell below his waist, and she giggled. “What are those lumps in your pants? Most men only have one.”
He clapped his hands over the bulging pockets. “Oh, these?”
“What are you hiding?” she said in a lilting, teasing voice.
“Remember the glassmaking class we had?” He pulled out the glass pumpkin and held it in front of her.
“Yes, it turned out so beautiful, as emerald as the sea. Here.”
“I love it.” She took it from him. The glass sparkled in the sunlight, green with specks of gold.
Lucas’ heartbeat accelerated. Her pumpkin did look better than the heart he made. Would she accept it as a gift?
“What about your heart?” She tapped his arm. “Can I see it?”
“You’ll have to cut it out.” He clapped his chest. “And it’s already yours.”
She held his gaze, her big brown eyes shining. “You really mean it?”
“Yes…” He kissed the pulse point at her wrist and rubbed her fingers on his cheek. “I want you to be my girlfriend.”
“Oh, Lucas.” She inhaled sharply, but didn’t pull her hand away. “I thought—”
“I promise I won’t hurt you like those other guys, and we don’t have to sleep together. I want to make you happy.”
After all, he didn’t want to pressure her into breaking her vow. He’d show her how different he was. How he’d cherish her and make her feel special.
She wrapped her arms around his neck, still holding onto her pumpkin. “You’re so sweet, Lucas Knight. I’d love to be your girlfriend, and I’ll take that heart of yours, all of it.”
Ebook Available At: Barnes & Noble (Nook), Amazon (Kindle) [US, India, UK, DE, FR, ES, IT, Canada, Brazil, Japan], Smashwords, KoboBooks
Genre: Women's Fiction, Contemporary Romance