Authors: Lori Ann Mitchell
Waves of Love
Lori Ann Mitchell
Waves of Love\
Lori Ann Mitchell
Copyright© 2014 by Lori Ann Michell.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing.
Sage Drake heard the bell chime over the front door and, without turning from her window display, chirped a pleasant, “Welcome to Sequels.”
A young voice behind her mumbled, “Thanks.”
She finished curling the beach towel just so over the fold-up chair inside the display and turned, spotting a tall, rangy figure in a tank top and walk shorts, flip flops on his feet and his dirty blond hair shorn close to his head.
He looked all of twenty.
She saw him ogling some of the sweets in her pastry display and ambled over, wiping her hands on her orange and brown Sequels apron. “What are you feeling today?” she chirped, sliding behind the café counter.
It was still early – she’d only been open for a few minutes – and Fiona, her part-time helper, wouldn’t be in until 11A.M., so Sage was pulling solo duty for another hour and a half.
She didn’t mind. Seaside Heights was a sleepy beach town that didn’t really start getting serious about books, coffee and crullers – her stock in trade – until after half the town had come in off the beach just before lunch.
He looked over the counter at her and flashed a crooked grin. “I dunno,” he said with a shrug. “What’s good?”
She put her hands on her hips and said, “Only everything, of course!”
He chuckled, on cue, and confessed, “Anything on special?”
She nodded. “Surfer, huh?”
“How’d you guess?”
She sighed and slid a tray of day-old – but still totally awesome – donuts, scones and cookies onto the countertop. Stickers from all the local surf shops and board wax companies nearly covered the long Tupperware container. “Take your pick,” she said, sliding off the top and filling the immediate area with the heady aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg and powdered sugar.
Though it was late June, and the display case held its usual rows of red, white and blue treats, Sage couldn’t resist the perennial fall favorites. Maybe that’s why there were always a few leftover in her snack box for hungry, broke surfers like this kid.
He seemed embarrassed, though that didn’t stop him from peering down into the box and licking his soft, full lips. “For real?”
“Just keep it under your hat,” she chuckled as he reached for a cinnamon scone with cream cheese icing. “Coffee?”
She always had a hot pot of regular brewing – not flavored, not expensive, but strong, hot and, best of all for local surfers, only fifty cents a cup. “How much?” he asked. “I’m supposed to be getting a check any day now, but until then, well…”
“First one’s on me,” she sighed, pouring him a tall cup and sliding it over the counter.
He marveled at her generosity, polishing off the scone and coffee in hungry gulps. “No one in L.A. ever gives anything away for free,” he said as Sage topped off his coffee without being asked.
“That where you’re from?” she asked, leaning against the counter behind her.
He nodded, wiping his full lips with an orange and brown Sequels Café napkin. “Born and bred.”
She nodded, impressed. California was a lot like Florida; plenty of people, but not so many natives. “What brings you to Seaside Heights?” she asked, trying not to ogle his long, muscular arms and the way his hazel eyes caught the morning sun filtering in through the arched windows that lined her old brick building.
“Actually,” he said, blushing lightly as he reached for the battered backpack hanging by one strap from a single, broad shoulder. “I’m on a book tour.”
She chuckled, instantly regretting it when his face fell. “Sorry,” she said, waving a hand. “It’s just… you look so young. How have you written a book already?”
He shrugged. “It’s more like a travel diary, really. Every year I find a sponsor to send me on some surf trip and my publisher pays me to write about it.”
“Wow,” she said, impressed. “Sounds like a great gig.”
“I’m blessed,” he said simply, and she couldn’t have put it any better herself. He slid a copy of his latest book, a glossy trade paperback, gently battered around the edges. She marveled at the cover: a super sexy shot of the kid standing in front of her, shirtless, in wet baggies that left little to the imagination. He was standing on a beach, exotic and lush; a board was in his hand, hair longer in the picture than it was at the moment, stringier and wet from a recent session in the surf.
The book was called “Hangin’ in Hawaii.”
“By Derek Chambers,” said the byline.
He caught her reading and said, “That’s me. I’m Derek.”
She chuckled. “I gathered that.”
“Oh,” he said. She started to slide it back across the counter and he pressed long, thin fingers, coppery from the sun, near hers on the cover. “That’s for you,” he said.
“Oh,” she gushed, drawing it back. “Thanks, Derek.”
He shrugged, blushing some more. “It’s the least I could do for all the free stuff you’ve given me.”
She smiled and flipped through the pages, covertly glancing at the back cover where it had another photo, with way too many clothes, and listed Derek’s age as twenty-two. She sighed, though she had no idea why, to realize she was a full decade older than he was.
“If… if you like it,” he stammered, suddenly shy. “Maybe… maybe you can give it to your manager, or even the store’s owner, and she might let me do a book reading while I’m in town.”
Sage chuckled. “You’re looking at her.”
“You own this place?” he asked with the same “no way” tone she probably had when she heard he was an author. “But you’re so young.”
“Flattery will get you everywhere, Derek,” she chuckled.
He peered at her more closely; those hazel eyes inquisitive, his full lips doubtful. “No, I mean it; you don’t look like you could own a bookstore.”
“What do I look like I should be doing?”
He shrugged. “I dunno, modeling bikinis?”
“Okay, okay,” she said, waving a dismissive hand. “There’s a thin line between flattery and B.S., kid.”
“I’m for real.”
Sage chuckled, dismissively, but the fact was… she couldn’t remember the last time she’d been in a bikini, let alone told she’d look good in one. Between ordering for the store and stocking and managing and scheduling and inventory and marketing and more ordering and more stocking and more inventory, Sage hardly had time to breathe, let alone sunbathe.
“A reading, huh?” she asked, to pull the focus away from herself. “That… that actually sounds interesting.”
“You don’t have to,” he said, as if regretting the suggestion.
“No, really,” she insisted. “I’ve been trying to bring more culture to this town and have been toying with asking local authors to come in and read and sign their books. You know, serve coffee and open up the floor for discussion. I think a cute kid like you, with his own book, could be just the event to kickoff my Summer Reading Series.”
She nodded, stomach fluttering with disappointment as he checked out the thick, black waterproof watch on his bony wrist. “For real,” she said.
“That’s great, uh… uh?” He fumbled for her name.
“Sage,” she said, handing him a business card from the rack on top of the pastry counter. “Sage Drake.”
“Awesome, Sage, so listen…” He was already heading for the door. “I’ve got to see the realtor about a place to stay, but… can I call you later?”
She chuckled. “My cell number’s on there.”
He slid it into a backpack pocket, no doubt to be forgotten quickly. “Great,” he said, turning to rush from the store. He paused, fingers on the knob, half-in, half-out, to say, “And thanks for breakfast!”
“Anytime,” she said to the closed door.
Derek Chambers stood on the deck and watched the ocean roar. How many decks had he stood on? How many oceans had he watched roll in, the waves crashing and fizzing? How many deposit checks had he signed over the years?
“… marble countertops and brand new fixtures in the kitchen,” the realtor was mumbling, still half-in, half-out of the sliding glass door that led out to the deck, as if preferring to stay inside. “All new ceiling fans upstairs…”
He turned to her, smiling. Her name was Mildred Proust and she ran Proust Properties. She was in her mid-50s, heavyset, kind and generous. “I hate to keep running you around,” he said, gently, watching her face fall and then quickly recover. “And don’t get me wrong, the place is beautiful, but… I’m looking for something more rustic.”
Mildred was quick; she didn’t miss a beat. “And what would a twenty-two year old know about rustic?” she teased him.
He chuckled. She’d been tossing off one-liners all afternoon. “I must have read it on a blog somewhere,” he confessed. “And while we’re at it, is there anything…” He paused, not wanting to give away his true intent too quickly. “I don’t know, closer to downtown?”
Her face wrinkled a bit as she drifted closer. “Well, this is two blocks from Crescent Street, which is where most of the locals surf.”
He nodded. “I really like that Sequels coffee shop,” he said, casually, as if it was the last thing on his mind, rather than the first. “Got anything near the beach there?”
Derek watched one of Mildred’s eyebrows arch while a crooked smile formed on her round, pleasant face. “Does it have to be direct oceanfront?”
His stomach fluttered with opportunity. “It never did.”
“Then I think I have just the thing for you, Derek.”
They began walking toward downtown Seaside Heights, Derek admiring the wide sidewalks and half-dozen surf shops they passed on the way. By the end of the week, he hoped, he’d have a book display in every window!
“How long have you lived here?” he asked about halfway there.
Mildred smiled. “Born and bred,” she said proudly, slightly winded from the trek. She’d wanted to take her car, but since he was looking for someplace not far from her downtown office, he’d suggested they’d walk. She’d agreed, reluctantly, and now she looked like she was regretting it! “So, what brings you here?”
He handed her a copy of his book from the half-dozen he always kept handy in his backpack. “I’m trying to do workshops and readings for my next book,” he explained.
“No wonder you want to be close to Sequels,” she said, admiring his picture on the cover before sliding the book in her leather valise. “If you want an introduction to the owner, Sage, and I’d be happy to.”
He chuckled. “Actually, she’s already committed to a reading.”
“Really?” Mildred’s tone implied mild shock.
“Is that… unusual?”
She chuckled. “No, no, I just… Sage has been talking about doing a summer reading series as long as she’s owned Sequels. You’re the first I’ve ever heard convince her to actually do one.”
“Well, nothing’s set in stone,” he hemmed.
“Then you don’t know Sage,” she chuckled. “Once she commits, she commits full bore. It’s getting her to commit that’s the problem.”
“Sounds like you know her well,” said Derek, forgetting just how “small” small towns could be.
“I was her high school science teacher,” she chuckled, and now it was Derek’s turn to arch an eyebrow. “After I retired from teaching, I decided to take up real estate. I’ve never been happier…”
“Congrats,” he said. “And Sage?”
They had stopped at the front stoop to a tiny cottage. It was set back off the street, surrounded by several similar cottages on a side street called Sawgrass Lane. It was painted blue, with yellow shutters, faded somewhat from the relentless Florida sun, which gave it an undeniable charm. A scruffy yard surrounded it and a small balcony led off the upstairs bedroom. Derek knew he’d take it the minute he saw it.
Mildred shrugged. “She went off to State after high school, like so many of my students did.” Her voice sounded wistful, eyes focused just over Derek’s shoulder. “Was a year or so from her degree, as I recall, when her father took ill. She came home to take care of him and help her mother with the store. That went on for quite some time,” Mildred said, faded blue eyes meeting his. “When he finally passed, Sage’s mom took ill and it wasn’t too long before Sage lost her as well. That was four years ago. She’s been running Sequels ever since.”
“She seemed so cheerful,” he said, shaking his head. “I had no idea she’d been through so much.”
“That’s Sage,” Mildred said. “The glass is always half full.”
She sighed, slapped the wood railing leading up to the porch and said, “What do you think?”
“I’ll take it,” he said.
“But… don’t you want to look inside?”
He chuckled. “I’ve seen enough,” he said, peering across the street to watch a trio of high school girls drifting into Sequels. He could almost hear the bell chime over the door from where he stood.