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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“Hey, Miss Starfish.”
Delaney turned at the familiar voice and saw the smiling stud with wavy brown hair, dirty jeans, plaid work shirt, and heavy boots striding toward her. Why was he there? And why was he talking to her again after she’d been such an idiot the night before? Trying to decide whether to hurry away or figure out how to talk to him without sounding like a complete idiot, she felt her heart start to race and her face get warm. Stop it. He doesn’t matter. Telling herself he didn’t matter and he would go back to wherever he came from soon, she forced a deep slow breath to try to calm her heart as her feet stuck to the sand.
He eyed her too close as he approached and she got warmer as she avoided his gaze. Her head started to spin as it had the night before while she was forcing herself to look calm and speak somewhat intelligently.
He was too close; he studied her too hard. “Are you often out here at night?”
She couldn’t breathe. Somehow, she had to figure out how to answer in between remembering how rude she’d been the night before. Unintentionally. But it made her feel like an idiot. Why was he there?
“Okay, bad question. Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.”
“No. You didn’t.” Her voice came out stronger than she intended since she was trying hard not to let it shake. Sweat formed under her arms. “I have to...” She looked over to where the others were gathering and walked away, hurried away.
Why hadn’t she told him what she was doing? Because he would have rolled his eyes like everyone did. She didn’t want him to look at her that way. Like it mattered what he thought. It didn’t. Why did she care? She didn’t. But her stomach twisted when he caught up.
“Have to?” He walked beside her but backward. “You’re doing all this saving fish stuff because you have to? Let me guess. Community service? What did you do?”
“What?” Delaney stopped.
“Did you cross their red tape?”
“You think I...” Too flustered to finish her thought, she rushed away. Maybe she should have told him he was right, that it was community service. It would sound far more interesting than the truth; she would sound far less stuffy, less ... but she couldn’t.
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Ella M. Kaye writes sensual contemporary romances revolving around dancers of various genres in lighthouse settings. Find her at EllaMKaye.com