At the beach with Vivian and Charlie

Every year, as part of the build-up to Coastal Magic, I participate in a blog series on Literary Escapism called At the Beach. I write a short scene set (where else?) at the beach, featuring two or more of my existing characters. 

I asked the Temptresses for input about who should have the starring roles this year. The response was varied . . . but I did choose one couple. I’ll share that when the post goes live on Literary Escapism. 

But there was so much interest in some of the others . . . and because this year I have time for this kind of writing . . . so I decided to share some other At the Beach posts here, featuring different couples. 

Today it’s Vivian and Charlie from FIFTY FROGS. Enjoy!

~~~***~~~

“I’ve never seen a more beautiful sunrise.”

In front of me, the ocean was calm as the sun painted streaks of pink and orange over the sparkling blue. Next to me, Vivian yawned and rested her head on my shoulder.

“If I agree with you, can we go back to the bed and breakfast and sleep some more?”

Smirking, I turned my face toward hers and brushed a kiss over her forehead. “This is romantic, baby. This is what chicks dig.”

“Hmmm.” She burrowed into the crook of my neck. “I prefer my romance a little later in the day. Maybe around lunchtime. This chick digs her shut-eye.”

“That’s not exactly a shock to me. But it would’ve been a shame to come to the beach and miss this show.” I pointed to the sky. “And call me a sap, but I don’t want to miss a minute of our anniversary celebration.”

“Now you’re making me feel like I’m an old cynic. I’m excited to be here, too. This was a wonderful idea you had.” Vivian slid one hand around my back and snuggled closer. “Coming back to Crystal Cove a year after our first visit was the perfect surprise. I love it, and I love you.” She leveraged herself up and kissed my cheek. “And I’d love to get off this damp sand, take you back to bed and show you how much I love you.”

I snorted. “Let’s be real here. If we go back to bed, you’re going to fall asleep before I can strip off my clothes and join you.”

She considered for a moment. “You might be right, but once I wake up for real, in about three hours, I promise, I’m going to be on fire for your hot bod and rarin’ to go. And there we’ll be, already in bed and ready to . . . you know. Get it on.”

“If we go back to sleep, though, we’ll miss breakfast. And you know how much you enjoyed the food at the Hawthorne House last year.”

“That was one of the high points,” she admitted. “Not the only one, of course. But this time, we’re here for three days, so if I sleep through breakfast today, I can always make sure to be up for it tomorrow and the next day. Right?”

The woman had a way of turning every argument in her favor. I had to admire that. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” My voice must’ve sounded a little glum, because Vivian frowned up at me.

“I’m a failure as an appreciative girlfriend, aren’t I? Here you arrange this amazing getaway to mark our first year together, and I’m being all grumpy and grouchy, wanting to go back to bed. I’m sorry, babe. We can sit out here and admire your sunrise for as long as you like.”

I smiled. “The nice thing about sunrises is that there’s a new one every morning, and I plan to have decades worth of sunrises with you. If we go back to bed now, we can always catch another one another time.”

She didn’t look convinced. “Are you wishing that you’d never helped to rescue that turtle . . . that you never met me, and that you’d ended up with a woman whose capacity for romance matched yours? Are you second-guessing choosing me?”

“Never.” I wrapped both of my arms around her and pulled her body into my lap. “I have no regrets, and I never will. I love every piece of you–the romantic parts, the practical parts, the sleepy parts and the sexy parts.” Pressing my lips into her neck, I growled. “Especially the sexy parts.”

Vivian leaned back into me, a little hum of desire escaping her mouth. “You know, I’m pretty wide awake now. I think if we go back to bed, I could show you how much I love your romantic side . . . and still make it downstairs for breakfast.”

Standing, I lifted her into my arms as she gave a little shriek of surprise, startling the sandpipers that were darting around us. “Sweetheart, when it comes to romance . . . you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

She fluttered her eyelids up at me. “Show me what you got, big boy.”

“Gladly.” I turned and headed back to the bed and breakfast, where I spent the next two hours making sure that my girl had no doubts about the appeal of romance . . . or my love for her.

You can read Vivian and Charlie’s story here in FIFTY FROGS.

At the beach with Harper and Jake

Every year, as part of the build-up to Coastal Magic, I participate in a blog series on Literary Escapism called At the Beach. I write a short scene set (where else?) at the beach, featuring two or more of my existing characters. 

I asked the Temptresses for input about who should have the starring roles this year. The response was varied . . . but I did choose one couple. I’ll share that when the post goes live on Literary Escapism. 

But there was so much interest in some of the others . . . and because this year I have time for this kind of writing . . . so I decided to share some other At the Beach posts here, featuring different couples. 

Today it’s Jake and Harper from the Career Soldier series. Enjoy!

***~~~***

“Hey, babe, did you remember the sunscreen?”

I stood just inside the bedroom of our rented condo and waited for Harper’s answer. From the kitchen, I heard a growl and a muttered curse. That was followed up shortly by my girlfriend stamping down the hallway toward me.

“No. No, I didn’t remember the sunscreen.” Her pretty face was flushed pink, and strands of blonde hair stuck to her cheek. “It’s packed up and probably somewhere between here and California, along with my favorite pair of panties and your sweatshirt.”

“Okay.” I could feel the waves of frustration rolling off my girl, but I ventured one hand out to touch her arm, anyway. Hey, I was a soldier, fearless in the face of danger. Mostly. “Harper, chill, babe. It’s not a big deal. We’ll run down to the drugstore and pick up some more sunscreen.”

“It’s not the sunscreen. It’s the principle of it.” Her chest heaved, and for a moment, I’ll admit it . . . I was distracted by the way her luscious tits bounced within the low-scooped bathing suit top. No one filled out a bikini like the woman I called my own.

“Uhhh . . .” I tried to focus on what she was saying. “The principle?”

“Yes, Jake, the principle of it. The sunscreen doesn’t matter. The panties and the sweatshirt don’t mean that much. But taken together, all of that means that I’m a failure when it comes to Army life.” She brushed furiously at her eyes, where I noticed suspicious moisture gathering.

“Whoa there, sweetheart. Take it down a notch. Why’re you getting so upset?” I threaded my fingers through hers, my heart swelling a little when I felt the warm gold ring on the third finger of her hand. I realized it made me a little bit of a caveman, but I fucking loved seeing my diamond on her hand, marking her as a taken woman. Marking her as mine.

Harper sagged into my arms, resting her forehead on my shoulder. “I’ve always been able to do anything I set my mind to do. I’m the best chef in three states. I’m strong. I’m capable of running a restaurant, managing a kitchen staff and taking care of myself. But apparently, when it comes to managing a simple cross-country move that Army wives seem to handle every two or three years with no problem, I’m utterly incompetent.”

“That’s just not true.” Nudging her chin up, I forced her to open her eyes and look at me. “Harper, you rocked this whole thing. You were there for the movers, and you made sure they packed the right stuff and didn’t pack shit like the trash can filled with garbage. You worked out all the details. You set up this week at the beach for us between checking out of Fort Lee and reporting to Fort Ord. You’re amazing, babe. Seriously.”

She blinked for a minute, sniffled and then took a deep breath before managing a smile. “I kind of am, aren’t I? I mean, when you look at it that way . . . and considering I’ve never done anything like this before . . . maybe forgetting sunscreen, one pair of underwear and a sweatshirt isn’t such a big deal. Right?”

“Abso-freakin’-lutely.” I framed her face with my hands and kissed her hard. “And since you are so amazing and spectacular and—did I mention that you’re also smokin’ hot and the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen?”

Her smile widened. “You didn’t mention it until now, but better late than never.”

“True. Anyway, I suggest that you and I take our incredibly hot and sexy selves down to the beach and lie in the sun for a little while . . . and then maybe cool off in the ocean together and do stuff that might scare the fish.”

One of her eyebrows cocked up. “That’s an intriguing idea, Captain Robinson. And I think it’s one I can definitely get behind.”

I smirked. “I figured I’d be behind you. I think it’ll work better that way. But we could definitely try some different positions, if you’re game.”

Harper pressed a kiss to the sensitive spot just under my jaw. “I’d think you’d know by now that I’m always game, baby.”

“You know . . .” I trailed my fingers down her spine to fasten my hand on her ass. “We could always skip the sun part and go right for the ocean.”

“We could do that. I’m already heated up enough to need a swim.”

Nuzzling her neck, I murmured into her ear. “See? I told you that you’ve got this Army thing down. You’re adaptable and ready to roll with anything. That’s the only real requirement for this life.”

“Rolling with it is practically my middle name. Now let’s hit the beach before I decide to just drag you into the bedroom.”

I slid my sunglasses over my eyes. “Beach now, bedroom later.”

She laughed. “Love the way your mind works, baby.” She tugged on my hand. “But even more than that, I love the way your body works.”

Who could argue with logic like that?

~~~***~~~

 You can read more about Jake and Harper’s story here in ZONE OF ACTION, Book 4 of the CAREER SOLDIER series.

At the beach with Leo and Quinn

Every year, as part of the build-up to Coastal Magic, I participate in a blog series on Literary Escapism called At the Beach. I write a short scene set (where else?) at the beach, featuring two or more of my existing characters. 

I asked the Temptresses for input about who should have the starring roles this year. The response was varied . . . but I did choose one couple. I’ll share that when the post goes live on Literary Escapism. 

But there was so much interest in some of the others . . . and because this year I have time for this kind of writing . . . so I decided to share some other At the Beach posts here, featuring different couples. 

Today it’s Leo and Quinn, from the Keeping Score series. Enjoy! 

PS: The photo above was taken at the beach where I’m writing this, during a family vacation. 🙂 Talk about the perfect inspiration! 

***~~~***

“How many weekends out of the year are not in football season?”

On the blanket next to me, Leo turned his head and blinked. “What?”

I pushed to sit up, wrapping my arms around my bent legs. “How many weekends are you not playing football, or on a bye week, or in pre-season or post-season?”

My husband—and didn’t it still give me a thrill to think of Leo as my husband, a year after our wedding—sat up, too, sliding his dark sunglasses into place over those gray eyes that could make me melt or smolder at any given moment. “Uhhhh . . . I don’t know that number off the top of my head, babe.”

I lifted my shoulder. “Take a guess.”

“Okay. Four weeks of preseason, seventeen weeks of regular games . . . then you’ve got wild card, divisional

My husband and kids playing football in the surf

round if you’re lucky, conference championship if you’re really lucky . . . Pro Bowl if your team isn’t playing in the big game . . . and then the big one. The super one. I guess that’s . . . what, about 25 weeks if your team is having the kind of year we all want it to have?” He reached over to tuck a strand of my hair behind my ear. “Why do you ask? Are you thinking of renegotiating our contract?”

Leo’s voice was light, but I felt the undercurrent of worry beneath his words. In our past, football and the demands of the game had taken a toll on our relationship. But not now.

“Of course not.” I rose onto my knees, framed his face with my hands and kissed his lips. Instantly, his arms were around my waist, pulling me hard against his body, and I felt my pulse skitter into overdrive.

But now wasn’t the time—or more importantly, the place. This Florida beach was mostly private, but there were still more than a few curious onlookers, and I knew from experience that it would be all too easy for someone to capture a few frames of Leo Taylor, rising star of the Richmond Rebels, and his wife getting busy on the beach. We didn’t want or need those kinds of headlines.

So with great reluctance, I dropped back to our blanket, lacing my fingers through Leo’s as I did. “I was just thinking. We have potentially twenty-five weeks out of the year when you’ll be committed to football. Add in organized team activities, mini-camp and training camp, and we’re talking another ten weeks. More than half of our year.”

“Uh huh.” Leo nodded. “That’s true.”

“It seems to me, then, that the other weekends out of the year should be spent on the beach. I think it’s only fair.”

It took Leo a minute to process what I’d said. “Oh, really? That’s what you think? Hate to break it to you, babe, but some of those weekends could be pretty damn frigid. A good part of my off-season is in February, March and April . . . not exactly peak season for beach weather.”

“It doesn’t have to be this beach.” I grinned at him. “There are plenty of others we can explore. Think . . . Hawaii. Think the Caribbean. The Mediterranean. Go big, baby.”

“Hmmmm.” He frowned, but I knew that he was just playing with me. “Let’s think about this. If I agree to spend all my non-football time on a beach with you, does that mean you’ll wear sexy little bathing suits like this one all the time?” One of his talented fingers skimmed the edge of my bikini top, making my nipples pucker. Leo noticed that, of course, and one eyebrow quirked with interest.

“I think that can be arranged,” I whispered, linking my hands together behind his neck and pressing myself into his solid warmth. “Just imagine the savings in my clothing budget, if I only have to worry about beachwear during the off-season.”

“I’m thinking about it right now.” His lips were next to my ear. “I’m also thinking about that project we’ve been talking about starting . . . project Taylor, the next generation? How do you feel about telling our daughter or son that she or he was conceived on the beach?”

I giggled. “I believe having a story that embarrasses your offspring is a requirement for parents. Our parents have that one down, for sure.”

“True.” Leo’s hands inched lower until they covered my ass, griping me tight. “Mia? All this talk about the offseason has made me . . . uhhh, intrigued. Let’s go inside and talk about it some more. You know . . . in private?”

I kissed my husband’s neck. “I’m all over that plan, baby. Let’s go inside and . . . explore all the possibilities . . . deeply. Again and again and again . . .”

Leo groaned. “Killing me, babe.”

“But you love me.” I didn’t have any doubts on that front.

“Even more every single day.” His kiss was full of promise, full of the future. “Let me show you how much.”

And he did.

You can read all of Leo and Quinn’s story right here in the Keeping Score series, available at all retailers.

Fourth of July . . . Small Town Style

{Psssst . . . if you want to read the prequel to this short story, go here. Happy Fourth of July!}

 

“Hey, Sam! Happy Fourth of July.” Mason slapped me on the back, grinning. “I’m kind of surprised to see you here. I figured you and Meghan would be celebrating at home today, what with . . . you know. Everything.”

He nodded in the general direction of my wife, and I followed his gaze. Meghan sat in a lawn chair next to my sister. Her beautiful red hair was up on top of her head in what she called a messy bun, keeping it off her neck in this oppressive Georgia heat. Her face was as gorgeous as it had been five years ago when I first saw her on the side of the highway just outside town, and her smile was serene.

It wasn’t until my eyes traveled lower that my stomach clenched with the same nerves that had been tormenting me for the better part of nine months. Meghan’s belly was enormous, so large that it dwarfed her frame. We’d known from the beginning that she was carrying twins, but sometimes lately, I wondered if it might be more than just two babies.

With great effort, I dragged my gaze back to Mason. “Oh, you mean the fact that my wife is currently eight days overdue? And that twins are almost never born this late? And that she looks like she’s balancing four watermelons on her middle? And she’s been contracting pretty steadily for the last two days? You think all of that would convince that stubborn woman that we should, I don’t know, go to the hospital? Or at least stick close to home?” I shook my head. “Nope. She said she wasn’t missing Independence Day, no matter what. She even joked with me that maybe the fireworks would scare the babies into being born. Can you believe her? Joking at a time like this?”

Mason threw back his head and howled with laughter. “Oh, Sam. Settle down, buddy. Meghan’s fine. Look at her over there, enjoying herself with all of our friends and families . . . she looks great. And just think: if she does go into labor, you’re closer to the hospital here than you would be out on the farm.” He elbowed my ribs. “Relax, man. Impending fatherhood is damn scary, but you can handle it. Look at me. I’m basically a pro by now.”

So saying, he swung down an arm to catch the little boy who was racing past, lifting his son into the air and tossing him high before he hugged him tight. A few feet away, his daughter Piper was sitting at the picnic table with my niece Bridget, both of them eating watermelon.

“You do make it look easy. You and Rilla, I mean,” I admitted. “But two at once? I’m already having nightmares about how we’re going to handle this.”

“Hey, if anyone should be freaking out here, it ought to be me.” He lowered his voice. “Rilla doesn’t want to make it public knowledge until after Meghan has the babies, but she’s cooking number three. We’re going to be officially outnumbered, come early next year.”

“That’s wonderful, Mason.” I gave him a punch in the shoulder. “I’m happy for you. I know Meghan will be, too. She—”

“Sam!” My sister’s voice interrupted me, calling my name with an urgency that had my heart jumping into my throat. “Get over here! Meghan’s water just broke.”

My feet were suddenly frozen, unable to move. I felt like I was standing in cement. “What?”

“You need to get her to the hospital!” Ali dashed over to me and shook my arm. “Come on, big brother. Get moving. You’re about to become a daddy. Times two.” She twisted, scanning the green expanse of grass where Burton’s Fourth of July celebration always took place. “Flynn! I need you to get the kids and take them over to where your mom is sitting. Tell everyone that Sam and I are driving Meghan to the hospital, and then come meet us.”

“I’ll call Meghan’s mom,” Rilla volunteered. “I know she’s been on standby to race up here the minute she hears things are getting underway.”

“Great.” Ali took my hand and dragged me toward my wife. “Sam, snap out of it. Meghan needs you.”

Those were the magic words. I stumbled to where my wife was still seated and leaned over her chair. When she lifted her eyes to meet mine, I expected to see panic. Pain. Fear.

But I should have known better. Instead, I saw joy, anticipation . . . and love. So much love.

Suddenly, I was back on that dark highway, looking down into the face of a young woman I was holding, whose eyes had just blinked open at me with wonder. I touched her cheek.

“Hey, babe. Ready to go meet our kiddos?”

Her smile was radiant. “So ready. So way over ready. I love you, Sam.”

I kissed her lips. “I love you, too. Now let’s get moving before you give birth here on the green.”

As I hauled my wife to her feet, applause and shouts of love and well-wishing rose around us. Our family, our friends and our town were sending us off in grand style, and this time, my heart swelled with gladness. I might be scared about becoming a dad, and I might be anxious about Meghan’s delivery, but I knew without a doubt that dozens of people loved me and had my back.

This was life–and love–in a small town.

Read more about life and love in Burton! There are nine Love in a Small Town books right now . . . and more on the way. Find them here.

At the beach with Meghan and Sam (Love in a Small Town)

At the beach with Meghan and Sam

{This short originally appeared on Literary Escapism as part of the Coastal Magic At the Beach series.}

“See? I told you. September is the best time to visit the Cove.” I kicked off my flip-flops and dropped the bag of food from the Rip Tide that my mom had packed for us onto the stripped blanket Sam had just spread. “Weather is perfect, crowds are virtually non-existent and the water is still pretty warm.”

My husband squinted toward the ocean. “It’s pretty, that’s for sure.” He reached over his head and pulled his T-shirt off in one fluid movement, and I smiled at his white chest and stomach. My man was a farmer, and he had the tan to prove it . . . on his arms and neck.

Sitting down on the blanket, I opened the bag and pulled out two burgers. “One medium-rare Ripper burger for you, one very well-done Ripper for me, with extra . . . crap.”

Sam stretched out next to me, taking his sandwich, as his mouth curled into a half-smile and one eyebrow rose. “Extra crap? I thought you asked Sadie to make it with extra blue cheese.”

“Yeah, I did.” I folded the wrapper back around my burger. “I’m not really hungry at the moment. I think I’ll just stick to the fries for a bit.”

“Okay.” Sam took a bite and moaned a little. “Oh, baby. Now this is heaven.”

I grinned. “Because of the burger or because of me?”

“Hmm.” He pretended to consider, and I elbowed him in the ribs.

“Babe, you know it’s all about you. It’s always all about you.” He wiped off his lips with a napkin. “Sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s been over four years since I stopped alongside that highway to help out two drunk college girls with a broken-down car. When I think of how everything in my life has changed since that night . . . it’s crazy.”

“To be fair, Laura wasn’t at all drunk. It was only me.” I shrugged. “But four years—wow. So if you had to do it all over again, knowing what you do now, would you still stop?”

“Every time.” He slipped his around my back, pulling me against his side. “I know things have been a little hard lately, with all the fertility issues, but we’re still good, right? We’re okay?”

“Of course we are.” I kissed his cheek, feeling my heart began to thud in anticipation. “No matter what, it’s you and me. I love you, Sam Reynolds. You’re my one.”

Sam touched the tip of my nose with his finger. “My first, my last, my only. Always.”

Running the tip of my tongue over my lips, I made my voice as casual as possible. “Hey, can you grab my sunglasses from the bag? They’re in the case.”

“Uh, sure.” He rummaged for a minute before finding the hard black case. “Here you go, babe. So did you—” He paused as a thin white piece of paper flutter out with the glasses. “What’s this?”

I pretended ignorance, but it was impossible to hide my smile. “I don’t know. Look at it and see.”

Sam held the paper in front of his eyes, frowning. I watched his face closely, waiting for the moment when realization dawned.

And when it did, I’d never seen anything so beautiful. He glanced at me, back at the paper, and then at me again.

“Meghan, is this—it’s—is it what I think it is?”

I nodded. “That, Sam Reynolds, is the very first picture of your babies.” I lifted his hand and laid on my still-flat stomach. “I know it doesn’t look like much, but come early next summer, the next generation of the Reynolds’ family will be ready to meet you.”

Sam stare leaned forward to kiss me, that simple touch conveying everything I knew he was feeling. Releasing me, he bent down to press his lips to my stomach, glancing up as he did.

“Meghan Reynolds, I love you.”

I combed my fingers through his short hair and smiled.

“I know.”

{Want to read about how Sam and Meghan met? Check out THE LAST ONE right here!}

{And if you want another short about these two–go here to read more!}