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Authors: Groovy Lee

Invitation to Love

BOOK: Invitation to Love
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INVITATION TO LOVE
BY GROOVY LEE
INVITATION TO LOVE © GROOVY LEE
     This book is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s
imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or
locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
     All rights reserved, including the
right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

                                     

                                                      

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

       
My deepest gratitude and thanks go to my
daughters, Remi and Nina, whose strength and belief in me made this journey
possible.

    And to Rene Marcus, who was there from the
beginning, even when my writing was crappy. If everyone who reads my novels
loves them as much as she does, I’d be a trillionaire. Her love and devotion to
my stories gave me the energy to keep improving.

CHAPTER ONE

 

Taryn
Kimble sat on a Florida beach staring straight ahead; her arms braced behind
her; legs stretched out and crossed; her thick towel protecting her from the
grains of warm sand beneath her. Nothing, not even the awesome blue of the
ocean that lay before her, could erase the bits and pieces of last week’s drama
from her mind: “It’s not six o’clock, yet”…”Can’t they finish eating before you
yank them away?”… “I’m not going to force them to come with you, either. As a
matter of fact, maybe I’ll keep them another week. What do you think a….?”

The
wrathful face behind those words has been dominating every other thought the
entire vacation; That of Mac, her despotic, former, father-in-law standing in
his doorway blocking her from taking her eight year old twin daughters home
from their weekend stay-over. When she pulled her cell phone from her bag and
pressed nine to show him just how serious she was, he muttered a few choice
words then stepped aside. Call it what you want, payback, or just plain spite,
he means for her to pay for the death of his son three years ago.

And
does it bother him one bit that he’s using the girls in his quest to exact
revenge? (Is the earth flat?) For her part, she’s done everything possible to
maintain a peaceful relationship with him for the sake of his granddaughters.
And yet, it seems the harder she tries, the more difficult he becomes.

Dark
clouds moving in from the Gulf, shadowing everything in their path, caused her
to squint up and watch as they roamed inland. The sun, refusing to be daunted
by their intrusion, spiked its rays through their thick core, glistening upon
the gray waters. How so like her life that is: Mac, the menacing clouds luring
over her life; and she, the sun trying to be the shining peace between them.

Just
then, a worn pelican bobbed from the sky and landed with a plop into the fitful
waves. She sat captivated as it rested and dipped its chipped beak into the
water in search of a meal. They’ve been in Florida for almost a week now,
spending their days on different beaches—a temporary escape from her troubles.
Monday, it was the Pass-a-Grille beach; Tuesday, the St. Petersburg beach;
yesterday found them on Medeira beach; And today their adventure ends on Treasure
Island. She exhaled a sigh of thankful relief. What at first was wide-eyed
excitement at the enormous ocean whose rim extended over the end of the
horizon, and tepid sand between toes, has now dimmed to repetitive waves and
the wet smell of marine life. Tomorrow they’ll head for Orlando and spend the
last three days of vacation at Universal Studios. Then it’s back home to
Nashville.

“Oh,
God,” she groaned, her head dropping in despair. She misses home, but not the
problem sitting on the front porch waiting for her.

“Momma,
Momma.”

She
looked up and focused on her daughter running toward her; her bright-orange
swimsuit with tiny mermaids intensified her thin, sun-browned body. “Remi,” she
brushed at the bits of sand thrown on her by the girl sliding down to the
towel. “Did you have to create a sand storm?”

“Sorry,
Momma,” she replied with a slight twist of remorse on her face. “But I want to
show you something.”

Taryn
watched as her fingers unfolded to reveal the soft-pink shell nestled in her
palm. “It’s beautiful.”

“They’re
all over the place,” her brown eyes widened with glee. “I’m going to collect a
bunch of ‘em and make an aquarium for Mr. Green Jeans when I get back home.”

Taryn
smiled at the mentioned of Mr. Green Jeans, a pet turtle now in the care of a
neighbor—Remi’s gift for passing to the third grade last year. “I’m sure he’d
love that. Where’s your sister?”

Remi
pointed ahead toward the shore. “She’s still out there splashing in the water.”

Taryn
searched through the crowd, pass the little red-head running from the waves,
and the gray-haired man with the rotund stomach trudging like a soldier for the
deep part of the ocean, until she spotted the identical lime-green swimsuit on
Remi’s twin sister, Rachel, playing with a newfound friend.

“Do
you have something I can put my shells in?”

“I
think I can find something for you,” Taryn pulled a floral paper cup from one
of the red canvas bags and handed it to her.

She
tilted her hand and allowed it to slide in. “Thanks.”

“Remi,”
Taryn held on to her wrist when she jumped to her feet. “Don’t stray too far. I
want you in eyesight. Do you hear?”

“I
hear,” she blew and bolted off.

Taryn
was in the midst of telling her to return soon for lunch. Instead, all she
could do was close her mouth, shake her head, and retrieve a soda from the blue
and white cooler beside her. The can hissed with relief as she pulled the metal
tab away. As she sipped, she caught sight of Rachel strolling toward her.

“Mummie,”
she plopped down on a corner of the beach towel. “I’m thirsty. Can I have a
soda?”

“May,I.”

“Yes,
you may. And me, too,” she giggled, exposing the tiny gaps in her teeth.

Taryn
ruffled her light-sandy head of massive curls then pulled out another can of
soda, opened it, and handed it to her. “Having fun?”

She
guzzled a huge portion of the orange liquid before answering. “I guess.”

“Well,
that’s certainly a big change from the last few days,” Taryn’s brows formed a
curious lift. “Where did all that excitement go?”

“I
don’t know,” she shrugged. “I guess I kinda lost it.”

“I
know what you mean, sweetheart,” she smoothed back the wet strands of hair from
her daughter’s forehead. “It’s time for new adventures, wouldn’t you say?”

Rachel’s
eyes lighted with a sudden burst of elation as she looked at her mother. “I
can’t wait to go to the Universal Studios.”

“I
bet you can’t,” Taryn laughed out, then glanced at her wristwatch. “It’s almost
twelve-thirty. I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry.”

“Me,
too,” Rachel nodded eagerly.

I’m
sure Remi’s hungry, as well.” She looked down to where she last saw her, but,
of course she’s not there. Remi has a knack for easily forgetting any rule she
feels too restricted by. Well, wherever she is, Taryn could only hope she
hasn’t managed to get herself into some sort of trouble, which she has an even
bigger knack for. “Rachel, would you do me a favor and go find her for me? She
went in the direction of the refreshment trucks.”

Rachel
got up and skipped away through the crowd. While Taryn waited for their return,
she took the paper plates and napkins from the bag and stacked them by the cooler.
Since there was an overcast, she decided to close the umbrella and put it away.
She was sipping the last of her soda when Rachel came speeding back.

“Mummie,
you’d better come,” she cried breathlessly, bracing her hands on her knees and
panting.

Taryn
felt her heart skip, the empty can slid from her hand. “What’s Remi done now?”

Rachel
swallowed hard, then, “She stepped on this man’s glasses and crushed them to
pieces. I don’t think he liked it too much.”

“Oh
my goodness,” she snatched her sunglasses from the top of her head and threw
them onto the towel before hurrying off behind her daughter.

Rachel
was the first to reach the spot where Remi stood with her head lowered and her
shoulders slumped. Seated on a dark-blue beach towel before her, was a toned
body in gray jogging pants. Taryn slowed her pace as she approached the scene,
rehearsing an apology over and over in her mind. Eyes, the shade of rich cocoa,
looked up, eliciting a smile from her before she turned to address her
daughter.

“I
said I was sorry. It was an accident,” Remi responded to that familiar look of
displeasure from her.

Taryn
inhaled a few calming breaths before turning to make her amends. Just as she
opened her mouth to begin her apologies, her prepared words died quickly at the
sight of the stranger’s shameless exploration of her curves. She closed her
eyes and held her breath for a mere second to regain her serenity. Today of all
days, she picked this one to wear her black and purple Grecian swim dress with green
vine prints running all over it.

What
possessed her to do it? That over-sized chocolate bar from last night? A silent
dare to all the vanity surrounding her?

She slyly
pulled at the skirt as if that would cover everything, including her
frustration and shame. “I…I’m sorry. Remi can be so careless at times. I’ll pay
for another pair.” Her eyes slid over his Jet-black hair, down his
smooth-shaven jawline, before resting on the twisted metal of three-fourths of
his glasses dangling from his lean fingers. His arms were clasped around his legs,
and in between the fingers of his other hand was the broken stem.

“As
I told your daughter here, there’s really no harm done,” his masculine voice
assured her. “I had them lying where anyone could step on them. My fault,
entirely.” He turned that one-sided alluring grin from her to Remi, and in an
even deeper tone added, “I’m just glad they weren’t on my face at the time.”

Rachel
broke into a giggle, causing Remi to do the same.

That
image garnered a slight chuckle from Taryn, as well. (Thank goodness he has a
sense of humor.) “I appreciate your kindness. Just tell me how much they cost,
and I’ll reimburse you.”

When
the stranger uncurled his legs and stood, the waist line of his jogging pants
sagged around his well-defined abs, causing her to make a brief, yet very
interesting study of them.

“Nonsense,”
he waved her words off. “Like I said, my fault entirely. By the way, my name is
Michael Vande-xx.”

“Taryn
Kimble,” she shook the hand he offered. “And these are my daughters, Rachel,
and of course, you’ve met Remi. Say hello, you two.” After their greetings were
done, she took a deep breath and, “Again, thank-you, Mr. Vande-xx.”

“Call
me Michael.”

“Okay—Michael.”
Her tongue outright tripped over that. “Uh—are you sure you won’t accept
payment for the damage?”

“Quite,
sure.”

“Well,
then it was nice meeting you. Come on, girls,” she motioned for them. “We should
be on our way. Say good-bye.”

“Sorry
I stepped on them” Remi waved, and received a wink in return. “Bye.”

“Good-bye,”
Taryn gathered her girls and guided them away, all the while willing herself
not to look at that handsome face and toned body again as she trailed after
them. But after a few steps, her sandal-clad feet began dragging through the
sand. “Keep walking, Taryn,” she mumbled to herself. “You apologized. He said
it was okay. Just keep walking and don’t look back. He’s too good looking, and
you know the type.”

As
much as she tried not to, her stubborn curiosity had her glancing back to see
that he was still admiring her with a suggestive smile gracing his face. A warm
flush rose from the pit of her stomach. She looked away and tried to move on.
But, how can she leave it like this? Remi broke the man’s glasses. Surely,
there must be something she can do to make up for it. If he won’t accept money,
she could offer lunch. He’s alone. Maybe he’d care for some company.

BOOK: Invitation to Love
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