I WAS SAVED. After three days without Eli, who was at basketball camp, Larissa came and rescued me. She was taking me to the beach to stay with her for the rest of the week. No more feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs or organizing the barn with daddy. That was the worst. I was getting a farmer’s tan and I wanted the kind of tan a bikini line was involved in.
Eli called yesterday and I told him how boring things were. I was fifteen. This summer was supposed to be fun. Not like all my other summers. Helping daddy on the farm was no longer exciting for me. I told Eli this and the next thing I knew his Aunt Larissa who was three years older than us called me. I owed him big.
Larissa would be leaving to go away to college in the fall. But for now she still lived at home with her parents, which were Eli’s grandparents. They had a big fancy house on the beach with a pool that was to die for. I couldn’t wait. Momma agreed I could go. I’d asked her pleading on my knees while I handed her the phone when Larissa called to ask. Of course, she had to talk to Larissa’s mom but in the end she said “yes” and here I was. Standing on the white, sugar sand beaches of Sea Breeze, Alabama. It was full of tourists and boys with tanned bodies and it smelled like the ocean and coconut oil and I loved it. Loved it! This was what I’d dreamed my summer would be filled with. Now I was here and living this life.
I owed it all to Eli and I would find a way to thank him. He loved my chocolate chip cookies. But those seemed inadequate. He deserved more for this rescue. Maybe I would talk to my dad about taking Eli fishing. He got along with my brothers and he liked to go fish in the summer at our hunting camp. My dad and brothers never hunted but they loved to fish. Eli wasn’t one for shooting the deer either but he also loved to fish.
Larissa was flirting with the lifeguard and I couldn’t blame her. He was very attractive. Smiling at the idea of finding someone my age to flirt with I put down my towel and took off my cover up. The hot pink bikini I had on covered more than what most of the girls wore out here. A lot more than Larissa’s. But it was all my daddy would approve of and getting him to approve of this one had almost been impossible.
I thought about putting in my earbuds, listening to music and enjoying the view. But then I changed my mind. I liked the sound of the waves and people surrounding where I lay. I pulled Pride and Prejudice out of my bag. This would be my sixth time to read it. Hands down this was my favorite book.
Just as I was about to finish chapter two a shadow fell over me. I figured it was Larissa. Looking up I grinned, about to ask if she had herself a hot date. My eyes locked on a familiar face. One that was older, a face I remembered, from two long summers ago. A face a girl would never ever forget. His silver eyes were stunningly breathtaking.
He was sixteen now but his muscular bare chest looked at least eighteen. I hoped Larissa didn’t see him. Her tiny bikini and D cup boobs would draw his attention real fast.
“Bliss,” he said, remembering my name.
“Nate,” I replied as I sat up. I’d day dreamed about him often since that meeting on the beach when I was thirteen years old.
He smirked like he was impressed. Like he expected me to remember him but wasn’t positive I would.
“I was beginning to wonder if you still lived around here.” He spoke then moved to take a seat beside me. He made it look sexy and cool, just like I remembered from that summer. He wasn’t awkward, didn’t weirdly squat, like most people do in the sand.
“You’ve looked for me?” I asked. My heart doing a happy flutter in my chest. He had actually wanted to find me.
“Of course I did. You’re my favorite memory about this place. Sure as hell ain’t my grandpop’s bar.”
He cursed. Eli never cursed. My brothers did when my parents weren’t listening, but they didn’t do it in public. When they were out having to work on the farm they would curse for the sake of cursing. The way Nate did it seemed much older. Like he was sure of himself.
“How long are you in town for?” I asked specifically wanting to appear as cool as Nate did with his cursing. Though inside I felt something else. I was like a silly little girl that wanted to squeal that he was here. That my dream guy had returned to Sea Breeze.
“All summer. My parents think I need a break from Rosemary Beach and my friends. In other words, I’m being punished.”
“Punished?” I asked from fascination.
He grinned then winked at me. “A story for another time. No need to scare you off. Hell, I just found you.”
Scare me off? Hardly. I wasn’t going anywhere. In fact, I would sit in this spot all summer and refuse to leave if it meant Nate Finlay would be by my side.
Seven years later . . .
SENIOR PROM. I didn’t go to mine. Much like everything else in high school. I missed it all. It wasn’t until I turned nineteen that I went on my first real date. The only experience I had with boys until then was one summer when I was fifteen. I spent it with a boy. One I’d never forget. He was like everything else in my life that had been good . . . before the cancer.
In late October after he’d returned to Rosemary Beach, Florida, I began experiencing fatigue with a fever. Neither could be explained. By November both were out of control and I was then diagnosed with leukemia. My world changed in one visit, that consultation with the doctor and my family. And the boy I thought I loved was put away in my memory to adore. When I was scared, I brought him to mind, which back then was way too often.