Joan wiggled her toes in the hot sand of her favorite beach wishing she could stay. She’d been coming to Sandy Shores for vacation since she was six. Her dad would load the whole family into the car and drive across country to get there as fast as he could. She remembered being lulled to sleep by Disney movies she’d watched over and over. They’d played word games, using billboards and passing cars for letters they’d “spy with their little eye.” Her dad would pitch a tent near the sand dunes, and they’d have a bonfire where they’d build s’mores and toast hot dogs. She remembered one trip where it rained and rained and rained. Her dad held a huge golf umbrella over the fire and told them it wasn’t rain, but heavy dew. He’d had a fantastic capacity for fun.
She smiled at the thought of those happy days. So much water had passed under the bridge since those simple, childhood memories were made. She kicked sand into the air and waded into the foamy water’s edge. The warm Gulf caressed her like an old friend wrapping her in a hug. She turned her face up to the blue sky and tried to find animals in the clouds like she’d done as a kid, but all she saw were clouds. She’d grown up and lost that innocent wonder. She’d come back to find it.
She had two weeks. Unlike her father who’d loved to drive, she’d taken a flight that landed as close to the little town as she could, then rented a sedan and an adorable beach house. No trips to a port-a-potty in the middle of the night for her. She had no desire ever to sleep in a tent again. She’d shed her usual business attire and packed only sundresses, sandals, shorts and tees. She planned to soak up the slow pace and let her shoulders relax for the first time in months. She’d think about the fact that she’d been betrayed by her boyfriend of two years and best friend since college when the vacation was over. Two weeks without stress was what she’d come for, and she planned to protect her time, to relax, to reinvent herself.
She walked out of the water and strolled along the beach searching for sea shells. When the first thing she found were angel wings, she believed it was a good sign. She stooped to pick them up carefully. She knew from past experience that the delicate connection between the two shells could snap at the least touch. The shells were a lot like life, she thought, as she marveled at the little miracle in her hand.
A tennis ball came out of nowhere and hit her on the arm, knocking her out of her reverie. She dropped the shells and watched them separate. She looked for the culprit and spotted a man running toward her. He was tall, dark, and rather handsome, but she was angry. She didn’t want to be bothered. She’d come here to reconnect with her old self, not to meet strange men who might want something from her.
“Sorry,” the man said as he retrieved the ball. A dog had run up beside him and stood panting, his eyes eagerly watching the ball. The man tossed it, and the dog ran into the waves for it.
“That’s all right. Just don’t do it again,” she said. She turned to walk away a bit embarrassed by how rude she’d been.
“Hey. It was an accident.” He was following her, and now his dog was running in front of her wagging its tail happily. It was a medium sized mutt with a friendly personality, but she wanted to be left alone.
“I realize that.” She stopped and turned to the man, since he didn’t seem to be going away. “I simply wish to be alone,” she said.
“Why? It’s a beautiful day, and people here are very friendly.” He had honey gold eyes and a sensuous mouth. He wore board shorts and nothing else. His chest hair was lighter than the generous amount of chestnut colored hair on his head. Hair that definitely could use a ...