Sunshine State Stories Blog Hop Excerpt: BREATHLESS by Tawdra Kandle

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This week, Books Make Me Happy blog and a handful of UF/PNR authors are celebrating stories set in sunny Florida. The authors showcased have offered excerpts, written cool blog posts, and are all participating in a blog hop GRAND PRIZE giveaway full of books and other goodies. Be sure to click on the header above to see the complete list of participating sites. Check out each day’s excerpt (here on Books Make Me Happy), and the Featured Author’s site for fun posts and chances to win!!

Today we’re featured an excerpt from Tawdra Kandle’s BREATHLESS (book two in the King series).

Remember, check out Tawdra’s post for the rafflecopter entry form for the Blog Hop Grand Prize, and the individual prize she’s offering exclusively on her site!!

 

BreathlessThe sun shone warm on my face, and even with my eyes closed, I could still see its brightness. A breeze blew gently over me, and then, in its wake, I felt the lightest touch of a single finger running down my cheek.

“Are you awake?” The finger stroked along my hairline, and I concentrated on keeping my face immobile and my breathing even. He waited a moment, and then his hand moved down along my chin, tracing the contour of my jaw. He hesitated only the briefest second before brushing over the scars that I knew were still fairly visible along my neck.

Tasmyn… come out, come out, wherever you are…

His fingers moved along my collarbone, and I shivered involuntarily. I heard a quiet laugh.

“Or,” he continued, speaking out loud now, “suffer the consequences.” With lightening speed his hand moved to my ribs and tickled mercilessly.

I gasped and my eyes flew open. “All right, all right! Geez. I was just about asleep.”

“Why don’t we take a walk before you nap? I need to stretch my legs.”

I reached up and slid my sunglasses into place over my eyes. Michael was still sitting next to me on the beach blanket, leaning one arm across my ribs as he gazed into my eyes.

“I think I can do that,” I answered, stretching. “What about Anne and Jim?”

“What about them?” Michael gestured to the blanket next to us. Anne was lying on her stomach, flipping through a magazine, listening to music through ear buds. Jim was clearly asleep; he lay on his back, mouth slightly open. Anne glanced up at us and smiled, then leaned over to brush her lips over Jim’s cheek in a gesture that warmed my heart. It gave me undeniable pleasure to see my friends so happy.

“Okay.” I moved to sit up, but Michael didn’t budge. Instead he leaned closer to me, covering my lips with his own until I lay back again. He flattened his hands on either side of my head, and his thoughts became louder and more intense. My heart was pounding almost painfully.

When I thought I was about to either implode or lose consciousness, Michael pulled away and fell half across me, carefully avoiding putting any weight on me and burying his face in my hair. I could feel his breath heavy against my neck, and I turned my head slightly to whisper to him.

“I already said I’d go for a walk with you. But as far as persuasion goes, that was very convincing.”

Michael laughed again and slowly sat up. I found the oversize shirt that served as my beach cover-up and pulled it on over my head. Michael offered me his hand and pulled me to my feet.

Anne pulled one ear free and leaned to look up at us. “Everything okay?”

“Just going for a walk,” Michael answered her. “We’ll be back in a little while. Better make sure Sleeping Beauty there gets some more sunscreen pretty soon, or he’s going to be in a lot of pain.”

Anne grinned. “I’ll take good care of him, don’t worry.”

We walked along the very edge of the water, letting it lap at our feet.

“It’s so warm!” I marveled for at least the third time that day. I had only known the frigidly cold ocean of the northeast Atlantic or the Pacific; the Gulf was a totally new experience, and I loved it. During this incredible summer, we’d made the drive to the west coast as often as possible, sometimes with a large group of friends, several times on our own.

“I’m sorry now we didn’t bring the snorkel gear,” Michael remarked. “It would’ve been a good day for it.” He tightened his grip on my hand, and I could feel the anxiety banked just below the relaxed front he was putting forth.

We walked in silence for a while, although I could easily hear what was going through Michael’s head.

This is our last beach trip. For this summer, at least. Maybe I can work it out to drive down a few times before it gets too cool. It’s four hours to get home from the school. That’s not too far for a weekend. But then you add in the drive over here… maybe if it were a long weekend…

He was frowning now, and I reached over to smooth his brow.

“Hey,” I said softly. “I thought we weren’t going to think about anything but today. Wasn’t that your rule for this trip? No talking about the future.”

Michael shook his head at me ruefully. “I wasn’t talking about the future. I wasn’t talking at all.”

“Well, you were thinking awfully loud.” The hollow feeling in my stomach that I’d been holding at bay threatened again, and I deliberately pushed it away.

“Ouch!” Michael stopped suddenly, looking down at his foot. “Stepped on something. Maybe a broken shell or…” He leaned over and picked up something white that was sticking out of the sand. “Huh. Look at this.”

He held something white in his hand, studying it. When he turned it over, I saw that it was half of a sand dollar.

“Pretty,” I commented.

“And kind of unusual. I’ve found lots of pieces of sand dollars here, but never a half like this one.”

We walked on, slowly. I scanned the sand carefully, looking for shells. I had found some exquisite ones this summer, and I had planned to add to my collection today. Michael’s find had jogged my memory.

“But you know, we could.” It took me a moment to realize that Michael was continuing his earlier train of thought. “I can drive home from school on a Friday, after my last class, then we could come down here on Saturday.”

“That’s a lot of driving for you,” I observed. “And I don’t care about the beach. I mean, I’ve enjoyed it this summer, obviously, but as long as I can be with you, it doesn’t matter where we are.”

I was unprepared for Michael’s sudden stop. He used the hand he was holding to tug me back to him and pull me flush against his chest.

“We’re going to make it work,” he whispered. “I prom-ise you we will. We were made to be together, and this next year is just a little detour. We’re going to be fine.” He covered my lips again, but this time, there was more desperation lying beneath the intensity.

The water rushed over our feet, and I felt something hard against my ankle. Breaking away from Michael, I looked down at our feet and sucked in my breath.

“Look at this!” Stooping, I picked up the flat white shell. It was another half sand dollar. I turned it over in my hands. “I can’t believe we found another one. You didn’t drop yours, did you?”

“Nope.” Michael held out his hand, with his half still visible. I took it from him and joined it with the piece I’d just found, and we both stared. The pieces fit together perfectly.

“See, it’s a sign,” Michael murmured. “Just like us. Two pieces of the same whole.”

“What are the chances that the two of us would find these two halves, and not even in the same section of beach?” I marveled.

About the same as the chances that the one girl in the world who is the other half of my soul would stroll into my school one day. Michael smiled at me and closed his hand over mine, which still held the sand dollar.

“Keep this. It’ll remind you that it was more than chance that brought us together, that keeps us together.”

“No, I have a better idea. You keep the half you found, and I’ll hold onto my piece. That way we’ll both have a reminder.” I smiled up at him, hoping the tears weren’t visible behind my sunglasses.

“Good idea.”

We turned then to look out over the Gulf. In the distance, dolphins were playing in the rolls of surf. The sun’s reflection glittered over the blue water. It was a perfect scene in a perfect day.

But perfection isn’t meant to last.

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