Determined Kisses (Love in Sandy Beach Book 4)

BOOK: Determined Kisses (Love in Sandy Beach Book 4)
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Determined Kisses

 

Love in Sandy Beach

Book 4

{Ethan and Hazel}

 

Jessica Gray

This is a work of fiction. All characters, names, and places in this book exist only within the author’s imagination.  Any resemblance to actual persons or locations is purely coincidental.

 

Determined Kisses – Love in Sandy Beach, Book 4

All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2015 Jessica Gray

 

This book is copyrighted and protected by copyright laws.

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without prior written permission from the author.

All characters, names, and places in this book exist only within the author’s imagination.  Any resemblance to actual persons or locations is purely coincidental.

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Chapter              1

 

Hazel Mendes was exhausted. Physically and mentally. She’d just completed the grueling three-day drive from her hometown in Montana to Sandy Beach, Wisconsin.

She exited her vehicle and walked down to the shore. Her tiredness hung like a weight around her neck, dragging her down, and she felt so alone, she wondered if she’d ever feel right again. She wrapped her arms around herself, both to ward off the breeze, and in an attempt to connect with herself.

The sounds of the waves filtered into her thoughts, almost hypnotic in their consistency. She let them lull her into a trance-like state, not thinking, just being. She’d been thinking for far too long; now she wanted everything to go away.

She took off her shoes and stepped forward, feeling the sand and the cold water beneath her feet. Her gaze remained on the horizon, but without seeing the beauty of it. She took another few steps, the waves lightly foaming around her ankles. And still she moved forward.

One step. Two steps.

Hazel was oblivious to the fact that she walked deeper and deeper into the water, oblivious to the chill or the light wind whipping around her. It wasn’t until she was almost waist deep in the water that the surroundings started to register in her brain.

Her sodden sweater pulled her down, almost anchoring her in place. The muddy lake bottom sucked at her feet, and suddenly the effort to take another step was too much. She stopped.

The cold began to seep into her consciousness, causing her to shiver, but she didn’t care. She looked toward the horizon, wishing with all her heart that her mother would come back.

Three months.
It had been three months since her mother had taken her last breath and left this pain-ridden world. Three months where Hazel had simply gone through the motions of being alive.

Thoughts of her mother brought the searing pain of loss back like a fist to her gut. She missed her so much. A wave of loneliness swamped her and she swayed slightly as her body rocked in the waves.

Her face was wet with tears as they fell from her eyes.
If I just keep walking, it could all end. This pain could go away and I could be with Mom again.

She’d never thought of taking her own life before, but in this moment, it seemed so easy. Just a little further into the lake…

“Hey! Are you alright?”

The sound of a deep, masculine voice penetrated the fog of her brain. She slowly turned her head and saw a tall dark-haired man standing on the shore, watching her anxiously. He seemed worried about something.
He must be worried about me.

Hazel responded his question with a shouted “Yes,” while her soul was screaming,
No. I’m not all right. Nothing’s ever going to be all right ever again. Nothing is ever going to make this pain go away.

She closed her eyes for a moment and willed him away. It would be too embarrassing to have to answer to him about what she was doing. But when she opened her eyes, he was still there. More of a presence and more handsome than before.

Fatigue and cold overwhelmed her, and she knew she should move back to the shore. That would be the logical and prudent thing to do, and would stop the stranger from worrying about her.

But her legs wouldn’t obey her mind. It was as if she was frozen in place, her feet cemented to the lake bottom, her body unable to move. She tried once again to lift her left foot, but nothing happened. Her muscles had cramped in the cold water, and her immobility had done the rest.

The voice drew nearer. “Lady, what are you doing?”

What am I doing?
Hazel blinked at the horizon, her mind racing with everything she still needed to do. She needed to find a place to sleep tonight. She allowed her eyes to close once more. The truck was almost out of fuel. She needed to…

“Hey,” the sexy voice called to her, now much closer than before. She opened her eyes and turned her head toward the sound. The voice belonged to the most attractive man she’d ever seen.

Tipping her head back, she estimated he was almost a foot taller than her own 5'5". Her eyes met a pair of worried dark brown eyes. They reminded her of melted chocolate, and the wavy locks of his dark brown hair falling across his forehead had her fingers itching to run through them. 

She quickly raised her hands to her face, trying to wipe the tears away, but they kept flowing from a never-ending spring. It didn’t help at all. She inwardly cringed at the thought of the disaster her face must look like.  Reddened and swelled-up eyes, and a running  nose. No, she wasn’t a pretty crier.

The stranger offered her a handkerchief without saying a word and she took it to wipe her nose. She dropped her hands and noticed that he was standing in the water next to her, fully clothed. Just like her.

“I’m Ethan Paxton, by the way,” he said and held his hand out to her.

She shook his hand and could only mumble as she fought not to drown in the depths of his caring eyes. “Hazel Mendes. Nice to meet you.”

Nice to meet you? You’re standing waist deep in the water, fully dressed, your feet sinking into the mud. And you’re exchanging niceties with the hottest man you’ve seen in forever as if you were in a nightclub? 

The entire situation was nothing short of hilarious.

He gave her an amused look, the corner of his lip quirking upwards and drawing her attention. “Admiring the lake?”

 

Chapter 2

 

Damn perfect
,
Ethan muttered to himself.
She’s absolutely perfect.
From far away her shining beauty had caught his eye, but that couldn’t hold a candle to her awesomeness close up.

She looked so fragile, and yet he sensed an inner strength, born of extreme hardship and suffering. Beside his huge frame she seemed tiny, the top of her head barely reaching his chin. And thin. Much too thin for his liking.

But it was the faint bruising beneath her eyes, speaking of sleepless nights, emotional pain, and an inner desperation, that got to him. Everything about her awakened an urge in him to protect and comfort her.

Unable to hold her gaze any longer, he let his eyes travel over the rest of her facial features and below. He realized his mistake as soon as his glance dropped below her collarbones. Her soaked cardigan sweater hung from her thin frame, exposing a thin white blouse. A very thin and wet white blouse plastered against her chest, baring her breasts to his hungry gaze. Enticing breasts made to be touched by a loving man’s hands.

His body responded to the sight and it took all of his will power to drag his eyes away from her chest and refocus on her face. Her immensely cute face. He took a deep breath and then released it.

Her face showed the remnants of her tears, and yet it was strikingly beautiful. The sadness in her eyes ate at him, and he was surprised to find himself wanting to make her pain go away. Her wavy long black hair reached almost to her waist, and the ends dangled in the water as it sloshed around them.

His eyes traveled across her forehead and down to her lips. Ruby red lips that he wanted to kiss.
Man, get your head where it’s supposed to be. This is not the time for seduction.

She’d been standing in the water for quite a while, and he was worried she’d do something stupid. That was why he’d called out to her.

He’d had no intention of joining her. Especially not fully clothed. But when she’d turned and glanced at him, her face and posture had mesmerized him. Like a siren of mythology, she had lured him toward her.

All he’d taken time to do was kick off his shoes and remove his socks before striding into the lake after her.

Now she stood beside him, shivering violently, and the signs of her pain evident on her face. His heart ached for her, and he felt a kinship with her that made no sense. No sense at all.

After taking his time to study every feature of her face, he felt he already knew her on a level so deep that it defied logic. As if during his entire thirty-two years on earth, he’d been waiting for this exact moment. To meet her.

The words of an ancient Greek myth his mother used to recite reverberated through his  head–

The first humans were created with four arms, four legs, and four eyes… they had two noses and two mouths and their happiness terrified Zeus… The Greek god got angry and split each human in half and left them to wander aimlessly around the mortal world searching for their other half… their one true soul mate.

Ethan couldn’t explain how or why this woman affected him so much, but he knew he’d come face-to-face with his other half.

“You’re cold. Let’s get out of here.”

Hazel nodded, but then shook her head and gave him a wry grin. “I can’t move. My feet seem to be stuck to the bottom.”

He took a step closer to her, towered over her, but she didn’t shy away; she simply tipped her head back and continued to watch him. “Allow me?”

Hazel nodded, her eyes wide open, and it made his heart burst. The need to protect her took first place above everything else. He swooped her into his arms and carried her out of the cold water, heading for the shore.

She turned into his arms, seeking out his warmth. Her arms tucked beneath his own, and her breasts pressed enticingly again his own fabric-covered chest. When she laid her head against his shoulder and turned her head away from the breeze, her lips touched the side of his neck and his body went from banked embers to a roaring fire.

Shivers of heat rushed through his body, and it was all he could do to keep walking out of the water. He wanted to stop and kiss her senseless, but he just kept walking.

Even when they’d reached the shore, he couldn’t make himself put her down. Not yet. Her small body felt so right, so perfect in his arms.

Ethan wasn’t the soft type. Never had been. He had worked hard for his image as the tough boy, but with her his heart melted with one single look and all he wanted was to wipe out the pain in her face.

His feelings towards her confused the hell out of him. She’d touched a part that had been reserved exclusively for family.

He turned her slightly, pressing her more fully against him and then allowing her legs to drop so that he was holding her up simply by the pressure he applied around her ribs. His left hand dropped down, molding her body to his own from chest to hips. Her taut nipples pressing against his thin shirt had his manhood springing forward, despite the freezing water he’d just immersed himself in.

Ethan, man! Get it together. She’s going to think you’re a maniac. Sex is the last thing either of you needs right now. She needs a hot beverage, and you need a cold shower.

Ethan normally didn’t listen to the little voices in his head, but this time the voice was right on. He slowly let her slide down his body, steadying her until she found her footing and took a small step back from him. The sense of loss threatened to overwhelm him.

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