When her sister loses her house to Hurricane Sandy, Delaney Griffin welcomes the family into her home. Months later, with five noisy kids and an overbearing brother-in-law threatening her sanity, Delaney spends much of her free time at the wildlife refuge, which also works as her refuge. Still, the lack of privacy, along with space to dance, her only passionate release, causes her debilitating social anxiety to escalate.
Eli Forrester has come from small town Indiana to Barnegat, New Jersey with his company to help restore the coast. A high rise worker who loves new people and new places, he fears nothing, except water. When he accidentally kicks one of the sea critters Delaney is trying to help rescue, he is drawn to the quiet New Jersey girl. Unwilling to take her cues to leave her alone, Eli is alternately put off and turned on by her odd behavior.
Under shadow of devastation, fear, and forced separation, Delaney and Eli search for their own rescue light.
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Eli studied the woman as she pulled something from a side bag and set it on the bar. A book. The girl planned to read in a bar? He saw a man nearby try to get her attention. She ignored him and opened the book, pulled the bookmark out to settle farther back in the pages, and enveloped herself in the hardcover.
Eli had to laugh. Not only reading in a bar, but reading a hardcover with a bookmark and putting the thing farther back in the book instead of laying it on the bar? The girl was priceless. Snobbish maybe, as they’d called her, but ... to be honest with himself, he found her kind of adorable. Most women in the bar were in T-shirts, too many with rolling bulges plastered against the material, or in frilly, feminine things meant to catch a man’s eye, but this girl was in a bar alone doing what she could not to catch a man’s eye, or so it seemed.
He had half a thought to move around and talk to her, or try to talk to her. Not that he got far with it earlier, but there were plenty of people around now. Surely, she wouldn’t worry...
What the hell? Eli figured it could be interesting to try.
Thanking the bartender for the Irish Coffee he finally got, he wandered down to the end of the bar. In case she was still wary, he moved to her other side, against the wall, in the corner himself so she wouldn’t be. He sipped his drink and rolled his eyes about how weak it was. “Glad I’m not the only one who wanted coffee. Makes me almost feel bad when I am.”
She pulled back as she almost looked at him. “What?”
He raised his glass mug as in a salute. “Coffee. And a bare touch of whiskey. Not sure I should have bothered with that.”
Maybe he shouldn’t criticize the bartender, since it looked like she knew him. Damn, a stupid move. She went back to her book, but he wasn’t willing to give up that easily. If she didn’t want to talk, she shouldn’t have come to a bar. “So I was wondering: what makes that starfish so valuable?”
“What?” This time she didn’t even pretend to look at him.
“Meaning you didn’t hear me because you’re involved in some really sexy steamy story that has you rapt at attention, or you forgot our conversation from earlier? Or you don’t recognize me. Don’t say so if that’s the case. Hard on the ego.”
She finally looked up at him, then blushed and turned the book so he could see the cover. The Historian. It didn’t look romantic. Eli was almost sad it wasn’t.
“Haven’t heard of it. Not sexy and steamy?”
“Yeah obviously with that title. About what?”
“The search for Dracula.”
He laughed. Too loud. She replaced the bookmark, closed the book, grabbed her coffee, and walked away. Damn, another bad move. “Hey, I didn’t mean to be insulting.”
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Ella M. Kaye writes sensual contemporary romance featuring dancers of various genres and lighthouse settings. Find her at EllaMKaye.com