The second book in the on going Pirate's Nest series.
Emmilu Claypool has to run. Far. She has to hide in a remote corner of an obscure some place, become someone else, because if her abusive husband ever finds her, she’s dead. Or worse. With the help of a network of volunteers calling themselves the Wheat Penny Railroad, she changes her name and sneaks away to the place her cousin’s pen pal has written about in detail. A paradise on the New England coast, with neighbors who watch out for one another and care about each other.
Once she gets off the bus, Emmilu, now Emily Frost, can start over, relying only on herself and not dependent on a man ever again. Then she meets a tall, brawny guy with a compassionate smile and an easy approach. An unselfish man who changes everything, including her.
Jake Kincaid has helped his friend run the Tides Hotel since they left the army. Helping his mom raise his teenage half-brothers and finally out of debt from his lying, scheming ex-wife’s betrayal, Jake is at last out of the shifting sand and on solid ground.
It’s all good…until she walks into the hotel looking for a job. With the gray-green eyes of a stormy sea and curves in all the right places, Jake is right back in soft sand.
Being vulnerable to anyone is not part of his life plan, but it seems reality has other intentions. It doesn't help that every time she's near, his body and mind conspire against him.
Soon he's even making excuses to be around her. But Emily is more skittish then a field mouse and he has a growing suspicion that she has secrets. Big secrets. He’s got to take it slowly, earn her trust over time, help her open up her heart, even as she is opening his.
Emily knows better than to trust a man, especially her hulking steel-gazed boss with the confident stride and the unruffled demeanor.
© copyright 2017 Patricia Otto
Lightning flashed at the same moment thunder cracked. Emily recoiled right into him. He gripped her shoulders, steadying her.
He felt her shiver. "Take off your clothes."
"What? I will no-"
"Don't argue. That poncho was worthless in that rain. You are soaked to the bone. There has to be some dry clothes around here that you can put on." He rummaged through the cedar chest at the end of the bed and found a sweat shirt that had ARMY printed on it and some baggy basketball shorts. Logan's stash of military paraphernalia. "Here." He held out the clothes.
She set her jaw at him. "Turn around or I'm not changing into these."
"If you insist." He gave her his back.
His mind went into overdrive as he heard her stripping off her damp clothes and heard the rustle of dry fabric as she dressed again. He pulled off his own wet shirt.
He spun back to see that the shorts came past her knees and the sweat shirt sleeves covered her hands. He stifled a laugh. "I have a blanket."
That phrase irritated the hell out of him as the reality of how lucky she was to be all right was finally sinking in. He shook his finger at her. "Say that one more time."
"And what?" She tilted her chin at him as she readied her stance and fisted her hands. "What are you going to do to me?"
His stance softened. He had seen fight or flight more times in the military than he cared to count. The fact that she was standing there ready to take him on, was a punch in the gut. He gave her a little smile then whispered, "I'm going to hug you until all of your broken pieces stick back together."
Emily stared at Jake.
Her eyes misted, blurring the big man into a tall dark blob. She drew in a breath as she clamped her jaws shut to keep the tremble from her chin. Her arms relaxed, her fists eased. With one internet cliché, he stripped away all of her defenses, every wall, every pretext of strength. She was ready to fend off a blow, not accept a hug.
Her knees folded, but he caught her and attempted to pull her in. She pushed from him, tears spilling over her lashes.
The dread and anxiety knotting her gut since the moment she stepped out of Earl's house unraveled. It wasn't until this moment that she completely understood that it was possible to live, truly live, without fear. To walk, not tiptoe, through the day, to spend moments doing things besides maneuvering away from Earl's fists. She squared her shoulders.
He smiled then grabbed a towel off the bed. "Here. Dry your hair a little." He covered her head with the army green towel.
He rubbed the towel over her damp hair. She covered his big hands with hers.
Emily pushed back the towel so it draped over her shoulders. She sniffed, swallowing the lump in her throat. "How hard?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"How hard do you have to hug someone to stick the pieces back together?" Her voice cracked on the last words.
He caught the ends of the towel, used it to pull her to him.
The torrent broke free. She cried, as much about the freedom she finally believed could be hers as the security she felt in his gentle embrace.
The storm raged outside the boathouse. The wind whistling in the rafters and the rain drumming on the roof created a song that didn't match the calm he was creating in her.
They didn't speak. There wasn't anything to say. He just pressed her against him and buried his face in the space where her shoulder met her neck.
Once her crying ebbed, he pulled her back to arms length. He looked down at her. His gaze was so intense she could feel it on her skin, so penetrating he seemed to see to her very essence.
His lips covered hers, moving cautiously, gently. He pulled back to search her face again.
She didn't move, couldn't move.
He tilted his head, raising his eyebrows in silent question.
She dipped her chin the smallest bit in answer.