Dana Altomare feels at peace when she's out on the ocean. The adventurous surfer is excited about her move to South Florida but nervous about the past she has left far behind her. She knows she can't run from the demons chasing her forever.
Christopher Bannon has demons of his own. Chris left a high-powered job as a successful stockbroker to become a carpenter in a small South Florida town. He's happier than he was, but he's still hurting.
When these two lost souls find each other, a spark ignites. Dana and Chris become great friends. Both are dedicated to making the most of beach life and seeking out adventure wherever they can find it. Both also secretly long for something more from their relationship but can't find the courage to confess their feelings. In this steamy, tropical romance, Chris and Dana will both have to face their pasts and realize the truth about their future.
Inner turmoil, however, isn't the only thing brewing off the South Florida coast. Mother Nature has her own surprises in store for the two friends, and their next adventure could end up becoming their last!
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.66(d)|
About the Author
C. Tressi is always on the search for the perfect wave. She splits her time between Florida and Hawaii, where she enjoys surfing, scuba diving, writing, and having adventures with her husband of twenty-five years.
Read an Excerpt
The crashing waves pounding the shore made me restless. The sea beckoned, merciless and the edge of the coral reef was merely a shadow beneath the churning surface. The surf called to me, daring me to enter and ride a moving wall of water that had traveled across an ocean to land on the shore where I sat, alone, a newcomer to this place. My love affair with the sea had begun when I was so small that I had to hang onto my father's back, tiny arms linked about his neck, a necklace of security against the indigo depths. I had exiled myself from the world I knew to protect him and the ocean had filled in the cracks that my swift departure had opened within me. The sky was impossibly blue and the rhythm of the water soothed my restless soul as I secured my surfboard to my leg with a leash that seemed fragile in comparison to the pounding surf. A tropical storm had roared up the coast from South America the day before and left in its wake a perfectly glassy swell. The waves were big and solid. I estimated them to be at least six to eight feet. I found my courage and stood, brushing the sand from my bikini bottom and strapped my leash just below my right knee. A leash, once called a sissy string, could be the difference between life and death. I looked down the beach towards the pier in the distance. It was crowded with surfers, all angling for the right wave. That hassled scene had never been my thing. I did not need to be seen, in fact, invisibility would be a super power for me. Two guys sat in the break about fifty yards south of where I stood. They were longboarders, too. Both were skilled, looking graceful and comfortable in the water. They were too far away for me to see more than that. I liked it that way, just me and the sea. I had been surfing for a decade and usually paddled out with a few others, but going out alone was not a scary thing for me. I stepped into the warm water, relishing its caress. As the first wave broke over the nose of my board and I paddled out to where the waves were walling up, I felt more alive and calmer than I had in the many months preceding my move. I needed the ocean and now I was starting over in a new place of my own right on the beach.
I paddled into the first wave that I thought looked manageable. I was always too hard on myself, often standing in my own way. I missed it and cursed under my breath as I hesitated at the moment when I should have been sliding down the face of the perfect wave. I paddled hard and dropped down the face of the next wave, catching it just right. I was back in my element. I rode countless waves and welcomed the tightness in my shoulders as the first hour of my session ended. The two guys down the beach had drifted closer to me in the strong current. I pointedly made no eye contact and did my own thing. I felt their eyes watching me. A big hollow barrel peaked up behind me. I both heard it and felt its strength. I paddled, taking the drop and knowing with a sickening dread that my timing was off by mere seconds. Suddenly, I was thrown headlong into the reef. Everything was rushing by my face too fast. I tasted blood and felt the wave grab my leash and wrap it around my feet effectively tying them together. That's the last thing I remembered before the blackness and the roar in my ears claimed me.
"Hey, you okay? Skip, I think she hit her head on the reef! She's bleeding a lot. We need to get her to the beach so I can see how bad it is," a voice I didn't recognize rousted me in a panic. Whose hands were on me? I couldn't open my eyes. I felt disoriented and dizzy, like I might throw up.
I felt strong hands dragging me onto the sand. I opened my eyes and stared into eyes the color of topaz. I struggled to sit up, "What happened?"
"You were in too deep and a second too late on your take off. You smacked the reef with your head, I think. Lay down a minute, let me stop the bleeding. The lifeguards don't come on for another hour and I've got no phone on me," said Tiger Eyes.
I shot up, panicky, "My board! Where's my board?" My dad had ordered it for me custom made in California. It was the only possession I cherished.
"Really! You nearly crack your head open on the reef and all you care about is your freakin' board! You probably have a concussion! Lay back down. My friend ran off for a towel and some ice!" he nearly shouted, exasperated.
I tried to see where my precious board was. Okay, it was a few feet away, looking none the worse for its beating, unlike me, probably. Ah, well, a head wound would heal but, a ding in fiberglass would've been on my board forever. I sat up and gingerly touched the side of my face near my left temple. My hand came away sticky and red. I hoped it wouldn't be bad enough to need medical attention. Ice would have to work. I looked at the guy who'd helped me. He wore a silver grey rash guard, light blue board shorts and a lot of sunscreen on a very chiseled face. His dark hair fell in wet waves around his collar and his physique was evidence of many hours spent riding waves. I glanced down at myself, thankful that his eyes were scanning the beach for his friend. My bikini was covering my essentials, thank God! "Uh, thanks for coming to my rescue. Don't know what happened. Sorry I wrecked your session. Thanks for grabbing my board before it hit that reef."
"Don't thank me for that, Skip, my friend, grabbed the board. I grabbed you before you hit the reef again. We were just getting out anyway. Let me see that reefbite of yours." He gently turned my head towards him and examined the bump on my temple. "Hmmm, maybe it looks worse than it is, I hope. You know how head wounds bleed. Ice is the best bet until we can get you some pros to help."
"Really, I'm fine. I have a very hard head."
"Hey, the mermaid speaks. Here, put this on that bump. It'll take the swelling down and stop some of the bleeding." His friend had returned with a wad of paper towels and a chunk of ice. "I'm Skip. How're you feeling? Dizzy? Nauseous? Disoriented? I can call the paramedics. The station is a few blocks down the beach."
Skip was cute in the classic blonde surfer guy way. Mr. Tiger Eyes, however, was a sight to behold. "Chris, what do ya think? Check her eyes out, pupils okay?" Hmm, his name was Chris.
"Hey, Mermaid, look here. Follow my hand with your eyes. Okay? Skip, I think we should take her up to the tiki and get the blood cleaned away and get a better look."
What? Tiki hut? With two guys I didn't even know? No way! "Uh, thanks but, I'm good."
"Hey, Skip is a lieutenant with the Beach Patrol. He's not on duty yet. We're not perverts or anything. You're not in any shape to walk too far and besides, you should never have been surfing alone!" Chris forcefully said as he helped me up and grabbed his own board. Skip grabbed mine and his own and followed behind us on the path that led from the beach to the dunes. I held the ice on my head which, despite my show of bravado, was beginning to throb a bit. Chris guided me through a hole in a coco plum hedge and suddenly we were in front of a big tiki hut. It looked like something out of a movie set. He set his board down in the grass and opened the screen door to the hut. "Sit down and I'll get some Band-Aids and antibiotic ointment." Skip had set both boards down and was turning on a hose to rinse the sand and salt off himself.
"Hey, now, no worries. We'll get you fixed up in no time," he grinned at me and I felt a little more at ease. Well, as at ease as I could feel in a tiny bikini around two guys I'd never seen before.
"Okay, now, let's see how good a job you did at playing tag with the reef," Chris said as he used some gauze to wipe the blood off of my head and face. "Oh, not so bad. You're definitely going to have a good bump, but maybe you do have a hard head. Keep the ice on it. Skip, I think she's okay. Check her out, will you?"
I stepped out of the tiki hut, "Do you think I could borrow the hose to rinse off?" He handed it to me and I was grateful for the rush of fresh water. It stung my head a bit, but, at least the blood was washed away. I was only too happy to give back the hose and sit back down with the ice. Fortunately for me, Skip had grabbed my backpack and towel, too. I quickly pulled on board shorts and wrapped my towel around my shoulders, blotting my long sun-bleached blonde hair. I couldn't do anything about the tangles but, at least I was mostly covered by my towel and shorts. It made me feel less vulnerable.
Chris disappeared back through a sliding glass door as Skip made sure that I had no signs of concussion. "Girl, you are so damn lucky. Looks like a glancing blow. Hope my reef is okay, though, we call that particular spot the boneyard. I think you can guess why."
"Very funny. I'm sure your precious reef is just fine," I said wryly.
"Here, drink some water and pop these," Chris said as he handed me a glass and some pain killers.
"I don't take candy from strangers. But thanks for the help," I said as I stood to go.
"Mermaid, I think you ought to hang out for a few minutes. You're safe. We're both too beat from surfing to be lewd or lascivious," Chris said smiling kindly at me. Skip grinned and nodded.
"Later, dude, I'm due on shift in half an hour and I need to shower and eat," Skip said picking his longboard up and heading around the cornS er of the lushly landscaped house that sat in front of the grass hut. "Hey, Mermaid, feel better, but if you don't, come see me at Beach Patrol HQ, 'kay?" he grinned and waved at us.
"So, Mermaid, you have a name?" Chris said eyeing me as I swallowed the pain killers and chased it with the whole glass of water.
"Oh, sorry, I'm Dana Altomare," I said extending my hand to awkwardly shake his as I sat in his tiki hut on his lounge chair. "Thank you. If you guys hadn't pulled me out I would've drowned."
"Christopher Bannon, at your service," he bowed and sat, stretching his long well-muscled legs out on the lounge across from me. "We always rescue mermaids and their surfboards. But, seriously, I saw you ride and you know what you're doing on a board. So, why were you surfing alone? Not exactly the best plan, you know," he said mildly.
"I just moved here last weekend and I don't know anyone yet. I needed some water time. I've been surfing for years. I didn't realize how close the reef was, I guess. Now I do," I replied ruefully, dabbing at my head. "Looks like the bleeding has stopped, so I guess I'll be getting out of your hair. What time is it, anyway?"
He glanced down at his tidewatch, "It's only 8:35, you have somewhere to be? Need a ride home?"
"I walked here, so no ride needed, thanks." His eyes showed nothing but concern for me. He hadn't even tried to ogle me or hit on me. He'd been very proper. Maybe he's gay, I thought to myself, the gorgeous ones are always gay or taken. I sighed inwardly. That thought depressed me. I self-consciously readjusted the tiny top of my turquoise bikini and put my feet on the floor. "I'll be going, now, Chris. Again, thanks for saving my life. Thank Skip, too." I stood up and felt a bit wobbly. I pushed the screen door open and stepped out into one of the most beautifully landscaped gardens that I had seen outside of my father's hotel in the Bahamas. "Quite a garden you have here! I love the Plumeria and hibiscus! Is that a mango tree?"
"Yeah, gardening is one of my things. The mangoes will be ready in a day or two. I'll give you some then. Here," he snapped off a pink Plumeria, also called a frangipani, with a yellow center and handed it to me, "these are from a cutting from my friend's tree in Hawaii. It's tradition to wear a flower behind your left ear if you're taken or your right if you're single."
I tucked the blossom behind my right ear and bent down to pick up my board. "Wow, first aid and flowers, too! Thanks! I'm just going to head back to the beach to grab my flip flops. Then home for a shower."
"I'll walk you there. I left my towel, too." He stood with a fluid gracefulness and followed behind me down the dune path. I noted that his was one of only two houses right on the beach. Must be nice!
I stepped into my flip flops and watched him walk down the beach to where he'd left his towel. He'd taken off his rash guard and his bronze skin caught the morning sunlight. As he walked back towards me I couldn't help but notice that he had the classical surfer's body, lean, hard and muscular. Not an ounce of extra flesh anywhere. His hair was inky black with fine silver threads near the temples. He smiled at me and I saw that he had laugh lines around his eyes that crinkled with warmth. Long eyelashes and high cheekbones completed a picture that was almost too perfect. He had a tiny scar near his mouth. I was thankful for my sunglasses that I put on as soon as I could dig them out of my backpack. That way I could scrutinize him without him knowing. My, he was certainly easy on the eyes.
"You think that I could maybe walk you home? Carry your board? You had quite a knock to your head, you know."
"Uh, nah, I'm tougher than I look. I'll be fine." There was no way that some guy I'd just met was going to know where I lived, alone.
"Okay, well, then why don't you plan to surf with us tomorrow morning, if you're up to it? You really shouldn't ever surf alone. The swell is forecast to stick around for a few days. It won't be as big, but it'll be here, I think. Skip and I never surf the rat pack at the pier. Too much ego, too little skill and no surf etiquette, you know? We'll paddle out at first light around 7ish. Sound good?"
Was he hitting on me? Nah, maybe he's just a rare nice guy. Really? "Yeah, maybe I will." As if I had anything else to do. I did need to unpack the last few boxes, though.
As we neared the hole in the hedge, a big, white fluffy cat rubbed against Chris's leg and meowed. "Yes, Papo, I'll feed you. See you later, Dana." He bent down to pick up the cat and was gone.
I readjusted my hold on my longboard and walked across the street, feeling the warm June sun on my back. What a morning! I walked two blocks south to Sorrento Villas and put my key in the lock of unit 11. Not quite home, yet, but maybe it would feel like it soon. I leaned my board up against the wall and went into the bathroom to check out my head. Not so bad. At least it wouldn't need stitches. I poured myself a cup of strong coffee and loaded it with coconut flavored creamer. I actually hated coffee, I just liked the things you could put in it to get rid of the taste. As a small child, my Nonna had given me coffee that was really just a lot of sugar and mostly milk. I'd never lost that habit. The drink comforted me and made me miss her, as it always did. I thought about calling my Aunt Carina and made a mental note to chat later. Right now I needed a shower. I had no plans for the rest of the day and I thought I might take a good book and my iPod down to the beach to hang out and people watch, a favorite past time. Maybe I would run into Chris or Skip? I wish!
After a quick rinse, a lot of coconut hair oil and a serious fight with my comb, I grabbed a baseball cap, beach umbrella, and my backpack. I locked the door to my tiny apartment and walked the two blocks to the beach. Now I noticed the hole in the hedge and the tiki hut's roof looming overhead at Chris's place. I heard a power tool whining, as I walked down the path back to the beach where I'd been that morning. I walked south towards the pier. I enjoyed watching surfers, even if I preferred to surf solo. I spread out my towel and put up the umbrella. I tanned easily and rarely sat in the direct sun unless I was on a board. I'd gotten my father's olive toned skin and never been sunburned in my life. I switched on my iPod and found some Green Day, one of my favorite bands. As the first chords of "Good Riddance" sounded in my ears, I caught sight of Skip from a distance. He was driving towards me on a quad runner with lifeguard emblems on the front of it. My overall impression of him was positive. I felt reasonably safe around him. He gave off "good guy" vibes. I had learned, through firsthand experience, to trust my instincts when it came to reading people, especially men. My own failure to do that in the past had cost me far too much.
"Hey, Mermaid, how's the cabeza?" he asked smiling as he pulled up to my towel and turned off the engine. He was good looking but, I'd never been attracted to blonde guys.
"Much better, thanks. You can call me Dana. So you really are a lifeguard, huh?"
"Yeah, glamorous huh? You need anything, just flag down any of the beach patrol and tell 'em to radio me. I've gotta get the towers open and the flags out. Looks like a red flag surfers only kind of day. My favorite! The swell should stick around for a few days. You surfing tomorrow? Wanna come with Chris and me? I guess you know where the reef is now, huh? No more solo sessions, right? Just not safe out there alone, girl. And never, ever surf at low tide. Stick with me and Chris. We'll school you on surfing Momingside Beach, yeah?" he drove off with a cocky salute and a grin.
Excerpted from "Dances on Water"
Copyright © 2015 C. Tressi.
Excerpted by permission of CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
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