Authors: Brook Cadence
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary romance
Stone In Love
Copyright © 2012 Brook Cadence
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
This story is a work of fiction. The characters and events portrayed in this book are based solely on the author’s imagination. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental.
This book is dedicated to Kevin. Charlie would not have been half the man he is without having you as my inspiration. Every day I thank God for giving me such a hard–working, loyal, and oh–so–handsome husband. Thank you for loving me like you do.
“Don’t feed the seagulls people food or they’ll explode,” Lindsay yelled to the kids beside her at the beach. She put her hands on her hips and waited for them to acknowledge her warning.
They pretended not to hear her little white lie and continued throwing potato chips at the circling birds.
I’m never having kids.
To avoid being pooped on, she packed up her things and called it a day.
As she lugged her folding chair, handbag, and cooler up the dunes, Lindsay worried she’d find a parking ticket on her windshield. Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina had sparse public parking, which left her few options. She knew better than to block the driveway of a beach house … unless it was a vacant rental, of course. She hoped and prayed that was the case today.
She finally made it to the car and dropped the cooler by the trunk. She walked around to the front and, fortunately, there was no ticket in sight.
From the corner of her eye, she spotted a figure descending the stairs of the beach house adjacent to her car—the house whose driveway she’d obstructed with her illegally–parked Ford Focus.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” the fast–approaching stranger said, holding up his hand. “I need a word with you.”
. The scowl on his face spoke volumes.
Might as well fess–up now
. “I blocked you in, didn’t I? I’m sorry. I didn’t see any cars in your driveway, and I thought this house was vacant.”
His eyes narrowed. “No, it’s not vacant. My car is parked under the house.” He threw his hands in the air. “Why am I explaining myself to you, anyway? Listen, I don’t appreciate not being able to leave my own house. Thanks to your irresponsibility, you’ve put me in quite the predicament. I’m two hours late for an appointment.”
That explains the black business suit he’s wearing so well.
“I’ll move it right now,” Lindsay said, rooting through the purse hanging from the crook of her elbow.
The man loomed over her, and Lindsay could smell his minty–fresh breath. He had at least half a foot on her five–six frame. Realizing she’d misplaced her keys, she regarded him through guilty eyes. “Oh, no.”
“Don’t tell me you can’t find your keys,” he said.
“I’ve got too much stuff in this bag. I’m sure I’ll find them in a minute.” Lindsay put the hobo–style purse on the hood of her car and combed through it, being careful not to tear the job–clippings she’d been collecting from the classifieds.
The man stepped away and peered into the driver’s side window. “No use digging in your bag,” he said. “You left the keys in the ignition.”
Lindsay struck her forehead with the palm of her hand. “Oh my gosh, I’m such an idiot.” She wondered if she should ask him to wait thirty minutes until her roommate could get there with a spare set. No, that would only hold him up longer.
The man must have noticed her panicked expression because he took a step back. “Look,” he said, relaxing his shoulders, “my day is shot to hell anyway. I’ll call a locksmith and wait with you.”
“A locksmith? Won’t that be expensive?” Lindsay didn’t have any cash on hand, and her bank account was already begging for mercy. “Do you have a hanger I can borrow instead?”
“I don’t think I have any wire hangers, no.”
Lindsay heaved a sigh. “I can put it on my American Express card, I guess. Go ahead and call him.”
“Okay. You can wait inside,” the man said, gesturing toward the steps.
“Inside … your house?”
“Yes. Judging by the sunburn on your arms, you could use some shade. You don’t have to come in if that makes you uncomfortable. We can sit on the porch instead.”
The man was handsome and obviously well–off, but way out of her league. Oddly, she felt like she could trust him, and could stand a break from the heat. “Okay.”
Lindsay followed him up one side of the double–stairway entry. “Your home is gorgeous.”
“Thank you. Please sit down,” he said, pointing to the white swing mounted at one end of the sprawling porch. “Make yourself comfortable. I’m going to make the call to the locksmith. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Lindsay watched him intently as he walked toward the front door. She wondered what he did for a living. He couldn’t be much over thirty. How could he afford such an expensive, beachfront home?
What would she say if he asked what
did? How embarrassing would it be to tell him she worked at the Clinique counter in the mall?
He stepped back onto the porch, no longer wearing his black suit jacket. A pressed, white button–up set off his naturally tan complexion. He handed a bottled water to Lindsay.
“Thank you,” she said, noticing for the first time that he wasn’t wearing a wedding band.
“It seems I’ve lost my manners. Allow me to introduce myself. Charles Mundy,” he said, extending his hand. His brown eyes were wide and friendly. “I go by Charlie.”
“Lindsay Martin.” Her yellow sundress inadvertently hiked up when she reached out for his hand.
Charlie’s eyes immediately darted to her sun–kissed legs. “Nice to meet you.”
Lindsay tugged at her dress, pulling it toward her knees.
Charlie sat in a rocking chair across from her. “I apologize for my behavior earlier. I was a little on edge about missing that appointment, but I canceled it when I was inside.”
“Oh, I take the blame, fully. Something told me I shouldn’t park there, but I desperately needed a day at the beach, and I was tired of driving around looking for a parking place. Plus, my car has no AC.”
“I understand. People love Sullivan’s Island because it’s a quiet beach. There are only a few places to parallel park, so it’s always like this in the summer.”
Lindsay closed her eyes, rocking back and forth, pretending not to notice the way his eyes lingered on her legs.
“Do you mind if I ask your age?” Charlie said.
Lindsay hesitated, and then offered a smile. “You’re safe asking it now. In about three more years that question could get you an evil eye. I’m twenty–seven.”
“I’ll have to remember that. And are you from the area?”
“I’m from Goose Creek. It’s about twenty miles from here.”
“Right, I know Goose Creek.”
“Small town America, I know. I’ve lived there my whole life, but I plan on moving eventually.”
Like when I get a
. “I need a change in scenery. And you?”
Charlie was easily distracted, it seemed. Now when she spoke, his gaze lingered on her lips. “Are you from here?”
“Yes. I grew up on Isle of Palms, but I prefer Sullivan’s Island because it’s more relaxed.”
“I know what you mean. That’s why I come to this beach on my free time. It’s so peaceful. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live here. The only problem I’d run into is finding a parking place … obviously.”
“Well, in the future, park in my driveway anytime.”
“But not behind it, right?” Lindsay said, pushing her dark–brown hair behind her ear. “You don’t think your girlfriend would mind?”
He had a faraway look in his eyes and didn’t respond right away. “I don’t have a girlfriend,” he said solemnly.
She almost felt bad for asking. Must be a touchy subject for him. The rumble of the large truck barreling down the road offered her a diversion from the topic. “Yep, looks like I’ll be out of your way momentarily.”
Charlie walked with her to the road and handed something to the locksmith.
“It should only take a few minutes,” the locksmith said.
“I appreciate the offer to park here,” Lindsay said to Charlie. “It will be convenient to have close access to the beach. I’m going to take you up on it.”
“I hope you will. It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Lindsay.”
“You too. Sorry it didn’t start out so well.”
“Let’s forget about it, okay?”
“Here’re your keys, miss,” the locksmith said.
“Thank you so much,” she said. “Do you take American Express?”
The locksmith nodded. “Yeah, but we’re square. Y’all have a great day.”
Lindsay gave Charlie an investigative look. “Did you?”
Charlie held his hands up, palms out. “Don’t worry about it. It was the least I could do, considering how rude I was.”
“You should’ve asked me first. I don’t like people paying my way. I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself.” In some way or another, if not financially, she would owe him something. That’s the nature of people, to expect something in return, and a big reason why she liked to take care of herself at all times.
Charlie frowned and took a step back.
Okay, so that was a little harsh. “I shouldn’t have lashed–out like that. What I should have said is, how can I repay you?”
He took one of her hands in his and placed his other hand over it. “Promise me you’ll come back. I know that’s a lot to ask since you hardly know me, but please consider it. I’d really like to see you again.”
“We’ll see. Goodbye, Charlie Mundy,” Lindsay said, opening her car door.
Driving away, she watched in her rearview mirror as Charlie slowly went out of view. He never moved from the edge of his driveway.
After Lindsay’s car turned the corner, Charlie forced himself to get a move on. He’d hoped if he stood there long enough, her car would turn around. When it didn’t, he decided to work off some anxiety.
The exercise room was detached and off to the side of the L–shaped pool. He grabbed a towel from the back of a pool chair, opened the sliding glass door, and flipped the power switch of the music system. AC/DC was playing, so he turned up the volume.
He undressed and laid his slacks neatly across the top of the mini–refrigerator. Stripped down to his boxer briefs, he positioned himself on the weight bench and grabbed the bar, pushing up three–hundred pounds with ease.
Charlie felt bad for the way he’d treated Lindsay. It wasn’t a big deal that he’d been unable to make his blind date; he hadn’t wanted to go on it in the first place. His friend Phil, another pilot, had set it all up, and Charlie had finally agreed after months of saying no. It was probably one of the flight attendants. They liked to play the high school dating game of having a third party set it up.
None of the women Charlie saw on a daily basis really caught his eye, anyway. They were loud and liked to party a lot, from what he’d been told. Still, he felt bad for leaving the poor girl, whoever she was, sitting alone at Barbara Jean’s Restaurant.
The trade–off wasn’t much better … or was it? Meeting Lindsay today really threw him off his game. The last thing in the world he needed was a woman to break his heart. It was barely put back together from the last time.
He should have known his ex would end up cheating. He’d noticed that Miranda spent an awful lot of time getting mani/pedis, but hey—he was no expert on a woman’s maintenance routine.
Why did he get involved with a personal trainer anyway, when she was always in close contact with male clients?
Charlie had the prenup drawn up to find out her true colors. If she wasn’t with him for the money, she’d be happy to sign it. Or she could become livid, rip it to shreds, and tell him that, by the way, she just finished screwing Doug, from The Vitamin House, in the back seat of the Lexus Charlie had bought her. She chose the latter.
He added another fifty pounds to each side of the bar and pressed it twice as fast. How could he have been so foolish? He thought of himself as insightful and scholarly, but it was all on paper. He’d had no one to learn from when it came to emotional matters. His mom had died from cancer when he was six, and his dad, Richard Mundy, being the dedicated doctor he is, worked six days a week. Being the only physician in his practice, it couldn’t function without him.
Charlie would simply have to trust his instincts when it came to Lindsay—the same instincts that had misled him before. She probably wouldn’t come back around, but he couldn’t help wondering, what if she did?
He loved her naivety—how she didn’t stop to think where the last place was she had her keys, as if they’d magically appear if she looked long enough. And how she’d blocked him in, making him a prisoner in his own home. Anyone else would fear their car would be towed, but not her. She drew from blind faith that it would be fine. But he had come this close to calling the Sullivan’s Island Police Department. When he’d seen her walking toward the car, he put his phone down, eager to see what she was all about.