Emotional Rescue: Jo & Peter are waves away from falling in love, unless Jo’s emotions are based on hero worship after a near drowning incident. Peter’s attraction to Jo is more than physical, so fate has an agenda savvier in mind! Plus there’s that Uber guy. Come join these young adults as they savor the fun of what made Asbury Park Famous, while getting to know each other much more intimately.
Available from Amazon
Late June 2018
Jo Harrison knelt on the sand where the waves receded from the shoreline. A blue aluminum sand sifter, shovel, and pail were within easy reach, but out of harm’s way from theft by the ocean.
Intent on her task, Jo still kept one eye on the impulse of the surf, having seen the red flags warning of rip currents – no one was allowed to swim today – and continued digging.
The treasures she’d found earlier were snug in a zip-lock bag further up the beach by her chair. She always found her lovelies buried in the softer sand, where the ocean kept it wet, as opposed to the grainy sand the water didn’t touch.
A huge wave suddenly broke over Jo’s head, and the force of its undertow dragged her into the sea and over her head. She frantically flailed her arms, kicked her feet, and tried to resurface, but the fierce current had no mercy.
Jo refused to be a casualty of the ocean. She struggled against the strength of the tide, and rallied. “You’re a survivor,” the girl thought, still holding her breath. She battled the churning debris beneath the waves until a miracle occurred.
The chaos suddenly ended, and the water calmed.
Seconds before her oxygen ran out, Jo summoned the last of her endurance. Strong thighs scissor kicked towards the surface, and when she opened her eyes, gratefully saw the light of day above her.
She’d almost rose above the water when another wave crashed above, and sent her downward.
Her body went limp.
So sad, she mourned, as the ocean tried to steal her breath. All those colorful treasures… left behind, and no one to cherish them.
What a waste.
A pair of tan, muscular arms reached down and grabbed her from the throes of the wicked surge.
He was a strong swimmer, Peter was, and after the lifeguard dove in, life preserver in tow, together they pulled the unconscious girl to safety.
Breathless from his struggle with the ocean, Peter and the lifeguard dragged the girl up onto the land. Her hair was matted with seaweed and grit, and Peter brushed it from her face. Although her bikini top had been torn in two by the riptide, revealing small but enticing breasts, he braced himself to concentrate to perform CPR with the lifeguard, if need be.
The girl suddenly rolled onto her side and vomited. Peter quickly slipped his hands beneath her face and held up her head, so she wouldn’t smother in the wet sand. The puke didn’t bother him – he’d rinse off later in the ocean.
The lifeguard suddenly noticed a small crowd of spectators circling around the scene to gape at the girl. He held up his arms and shouted, “Scram, everyone! The ambulance is on the way and this girl deserves privacy. Now go!”
The people obediently dispersed, shaking their heads sympathetically as Jo choked from the force of her retching. Peter braced her from behind with strong arms to help her sit up. As the gagging began to subside, he said, “You’re doing fine, girl, just take easy breaths. Yeah, that’s it.”
As her wits returned, Jo heard the soothing voice of an unfamiliar male and her body slowly relaxed as a large hand rubbed her upper back. She shook her head as if to clear it, and then realized her naked chest was on display for the entire beach to view.
When the lifeguard silently handed her a towel, she covered herself with it and sent him a wobbly smile of thanks. Then, she pointed toward the water.
Jo tried to yell, but her throat was sore from her ordeal. “Oh, my sifter and pail,” she gasped. “Please, somebody grab them before they float away!”
Peter only heard her whispered plea because their faces were so close. He ran down the beach, dove back into the surf, and disappeared. Jo spit on the sand once more, but her gaze never left the ocean, searching for the young man who’d surely saved her life.
When he resurfaced, holding the red sifter and pail like trophies in each hand, her heart leapt with gratitude – not for the return of her possessions, but for the safety of her unknown hero.
Two EMT’s hustled down the beach, one carrying a portable stretcher beneath a well-built arm. The kind lifeguard pointed to Jo and shouted to them, “Hey, she’s over here!”
The older man, about the same age as her dad, had eyes that crinkled at the corners. He squatted next to her, appraising her condition. “Hey, Sweetheart, I’m Tom. How’re you feeling?” he asked as he took her pulse.
“My throat hurts,” Jo gasped as a cool-looking, young blonde dude wrapped a blood pressure cuff around her other arm.
“Ouch,” she managed as he squeezed the cuff.
“Sir, her BP’s below normal, but not dangerously so. One hundred ten over sixty-five,” he told his boss.
“Not bad. Her pulse is strong, though, and that’s a good sign,” Tom replied with a smile.
Instead of paying attention to their discussion about her vitals, Jo’s eyes remained on the young man staggering out of the ocean, still carrying the pail and sifter.
“It’s protocol for us to take a victim who’s nearly drowned to the hospital for observation,” Blond Dude told her. “Shouldn’t we call your parents?”
Diverted, Jo slowly shook her head. “Please don’t. I’d rather tell them myself. Besides, I’m over twenty-one and have my ID with me if you need it,” she croaked.
Tom helped Jo to her feet. When she wobbled a bit, he held her arm and gave her a concerned look. “Listen, Ms.…”
“Jo,” she said as Peter joined them. “Jo Harrison.”
Peter flopped down on the sand and took a deep breath. “Have a tendency to agree with these guys, you know,” he offered as he got his wind back. “You did nearly drown.”
Jo clutched the towel and squished her feet deeper into the sand for balance. “Hey, it was wonderful the way you rescued me, but I don’t want to go to the hospital. Heading home and resting will suit me fine,” she said softly, not wanting to further strain her vocal cords.
Peter shot up and trotted across the beach without a word.
“Well, that was rude,” she thought. Before she could focus on the EMTs still waiting for a definitive answer from her, the young man returned with a faded red T-shirt and offered it to her. “Here, put this on.”
Jo sent him a weak smile. She carefully pulled the shirt over her head, conscious of her sore muscles, slipped the towel out from under, and then handed it back to the lifeguard.
“You sure about that, Miss?” Tom asked with a worried frown. “Maybe you should let a doctor check you out.”
“Thanks, but I’ll just call my Uber. I know the driver well, and he’ll see me home safely.”
Blonde Dude handed her a clipboard and pen. “Then you’ll have to sign this. It says you were offered an ER visit, but refused to go.”
Peter watched her scrawl her signature and yawn. “Hey, how about I help you to your chair, so you can gather your stuff?” he asked. “Maybe rest for a while on a bench up there on the boardwalk, before you phone whatever it is you call it. I’ll keep you company.”
Jo looked up into his eyes for the first time. Chocolate brown and kind, the brows above were a few shades darker than his hair. The guy’s lips were obscenely sensual, soft looking for a man. Although his hair was still damp, it framed his face in a fetching way, curling up at the ends.
He was tall, too, but not the clumsy, reedy kind – all six foot of his body shouted muscle.
“Wow,” Jo thought. “He looks like a Viking. A God. Immortal. And he saved me from drowning.”
The affects of her brush with death miraculously began to dissipate as she continued to stare at the man standing before her.
Her lips parted in awe – he was breathtaking.
Under different circumstances, she’d be tempted to stand on her toes and run her fingers through those sun-kissed, brown locks, maybe even caress the bronze skin on his face.
Instead, Jo gathered the long black hair that hung across her face and tucked it behind an ear, only to notice how matted and stinky from seaweed it was.
Her skin burned with embarrassment. “Would love to take you up on that, but I think the shower’s calling me. What’s your name, so I can properly thank you? And an Uber is a taxi, by the way.”
Like a kite pulled aloft by a strong breeze, when he smiled Jo’s heart soared. “Peter, Peter Mattson. Lead on, girl,” he said with a British accent she’d hardly noticed before. “We’ll grab your gear, get that hair rinsed. Think you’ll feel better, once you’ve showered. All right?”
Jo nodded. Peter took her arm and slowly guided her up the small, sandy hill where her chair and other belongings lay. “Here,” she pointed. “Thanks so much. Just jam the towel and my, um, big girl toys, in the bag, Mr. Mattson.”
He quickly complied, and then shook a finger at her. “None of that Mister nonsense, you hear? Peter’s fine.” Holding Jo’s things, he walked her the short distance to the shower bathers use to wash the salt and sand from themselves before heading home.
Peter stowed her bag and chair out of harm’s way and turned on the shower. “Here, get under the water, but take your time. I’ll be real close by.”
Jo gave him a grateful smile and stepped under the lukewarm stream. Arching her back to let the shower do its job on her matted mane, little did she realize how the water soaked the T-shirt Peter had loaned her, making it cling to all her contours – particularly those on her chest.
Peter couldn’t help feel desire, as he watched the uninhibited girl run her hands through her hair. Her breasts were the most delightful he’d ever had the pleasure to view, her nipples sweet and inviting.
Rivulets of water streamed down her legs, but when she slipped both hands beneath the waistband of her bikini bottom to rinse out the sand, Peter got a peek at her curvy behind. Instantly, his skin broke out in a hot sweat, as if he were the one now drowning.
“Oh, for the love of all that’s holy, behave yourself, man,” he muttered to his body.
Unable to take his eyes off her, Peter clasped his hands below his navel, hiding an enthusiastic attack of the lust monster. His control sorely strained, Peter knew he was about to lose the battle of the thickening bulge, until he heard a few whoops and whistles a few feet behind him.
Three guys on the boardwalk were gaping and pointing at Jo. “Yowza, man! Check that chick out! She’s the hottest contestant for a wet T-shirt contest I ever saw!” one of them hooted.
Peter’s manhood died a quick death as anger overcame him. “Get the hell outta here,” he hollered. “Give the lady her privacy. She almost drowned today.”
The loudmouth stepped forward with a sneer. “Yeah? So, whatta you gonna do about it, big shot?”
Peter grabbed Jo’s towel and held it aloft like a banner to hide her body, so she could finish her shower in peace. “Give me two minutes and I’ll be happy to show you, freaking idiot,” he shouted over his shoulder.
The noise of the shower had muted the commotion between the young men, and Jo had no idea what had been happening. All she saw was her hero holding up the towel.
“Thanks so much,” she said as he wrapped it around her shoulders.
“Wait right there on the bench. I have something to take care of,” he told her. “Be right back.”
Her brow wrinkled with surprise, Jo watched as Peter vaulted over the fence and strode to the three guys. They were all tall and wore surly expressions, but none of them were as tall as her new friend.
“So, who wants some of this?” Peter demanded with fisted hands. “How about you, jerk?”
The three backed away from the fierce looking dude, their palms held out in surrender. “Hey, man, we didn’t mean no harm,” one of them said. “Sorry, but…”
Peter scowled and took another step forward, and then the guys turned away, but not before one of them thumbed his nose in her friend’s direction.
“Cripes, it ain’t worth getting into trouble over,” Peter muttered when he returned and sat down next to Jo.
“What happened?” she asked.
He carefully tucked the towel around her once more and shook his head. “Nothing of any import. How you feeling?”
Jo yawned as she searched her bag for the cell. “Like I’m ready for a hard nap. I’ll call the Uber and go home. Maybe then you can enjoy the rest of your day.”
“How come you were sitting so close to the water? Didn’t you see all those red flags posted? Even though I ain’t from around here, I still know what they mean.”
Jo ignored his gentle scolding and placed a call to her driver for a ride home. “Oh, okay, I understand, that’ll be fine,” Peter heard her reply.
“Something wrong?” he asked.
“Not really,” she answered. “The driver said he’d be a few minutes late because of the summer traffic. So, where are you from?”
Peter ignored her nosiness and sighed. “Don’t have a car – yet, or else I’d see you home myself. Just got a job waiting tables, the beginning of the season at that restaurant on the pier,” he confided, pointing down the beach. “Gotta save for a down payment, you know?”
“How do you get back and forth to work?”
“Living within walking distance helps. I stay with my mum.”
Jo sent him an odd look. “You’re a grown man. Why are you still living with your mother?”
Peter averted his eyes, but not before she saw a gleam of grief in their deep, brown depths.
“My dad died six months ago,” he replied. “Our family had just moved here. From London.” He shook his head. “But I wasn’t able to save him.”
Jo placed a hand on his arm. “How so? What happened to your dad?”
Peter covered her hand with his. “The cancer took him. He didn’t have enough medical insurance to cover the treatment he needed. I was going to University in London when he was diagnosed, when I should’ve been working. Earning money to help him find an alternative treatment plan.”
“But I thought the United Kingdom provides medical benefits for all its citizens,” she replied.
Peter arched a brow. “Missy, are you always so impetuous with your questions?”
Jo withdrew her hand and rummaged though the contents of her beach bag. Finding a pen, she took his arm. “Here’s my cell,” she said as she wrote her number on his wrist. “If you’d like to call me and find out why I ask so many damn questions, feel free. If not, please know how grateful I am you were there when I needed you. That you did saved someone.”
“I left my cell home with my mum, in case she needs it for an emergency,” he replied.
Jo gave Peter a thoughtful look, but she heard the Uber driver toot the horn, and had no choice but to pick up her belongings and leave.
Peter looked at the number on his arm and knew he’d create a contact for her on his phone, before he went to work that night.
“I’ll be here tomorrow afternoon, rain or shine,” he called as Jo got into the car.
Having no idea if the girl had heard his impulsive shout, Peter walked down the beach towards home, wondering if he’d ever see her again.