Please enjoy this excerpt from chapter 2 of Jennifer H. Westall’s book, Love’s Providence. This portion being set on our lovely coast. To get your copy please click here
Later that evening, Lily stood on the playground and squeezed the sand between her toes as a warm, moist breeze swirled strands of hair around her face. The village shops by the pier had been teeming with tourists all afternoon, but most of them had closed down hours ago. The sounds of traffic and screaming kids had faded into a gentle lapping of the ocean against the nearby rocks.
Her feet ached from walking around for the past several hours, and her head was beginning to throb as well. To make matters worse, her dad had insisted that she keep an eye on Kara and her cousin Rachel, which meant an evening full of aimlessly wandering through tourist shops and listening to shallow comparisons of one guy after another. At this point, she wanted nothing more than to go back to the beach house, put her feet up, and relax with a good book.
A few yards away, Kara and Rachel competed to see who could swing the highest. As much as they insisted on being treated like adults, it was amazing how childish they could be. She rolled her eyes and sighed, glancing down at her watch. Nearly time to go.
“Y’all about ready?” she called.
Rachel jumped out of her swing first, followed by Kara who narrowly missed landing on her rear. Rachel doubled over with laughter, and Lily couldn’t help but laugh too. Kara flushed bright red as she glanced around to see if anyone else had seen her stumble.
“Nice,” Lily said.
Kara ignored her and straightened her clothes. Rachel slid her feet into her sandals and tugged her shorts back into place, though they still left little to the imagination. She smoothed her dark hair and picked her purse up off the ground. Then suddenly she squealed like a mouse and waved Kara toward her.
“Look, those cops over there are cute!”
Lily followed her gaze to the massive live oaks that provided a canopy over a picnic area of the park. It was empty now except for two officers talking quietly at a picnic table in the lamp light, their bikes resting in a rack nearby. From several yards away they appeared similar—broad shoulders, dark hair, well-built. Nothing spectacular.
“You’re hopeless,” Lily said. “They’re way too old for you to even think about.”
Rachel shrugged. “So? Cute is just cute. Age doesn’t factor.”
Lily looked at them again. Maybe Rachel was right, but she wasn’t interested in another lame discussion about guys like they were a tasty dessert item.
“They’re all right, I guess. Not really my type.”
Kara snorted. “Oh please. I think you have to date more than one person to have a type.”
Rachel laughed and looked away from Lily’s glare.
“Well, you are the expert,” Lily said. “How many boyfriends have you had?”
Kara took a few steps closer and jutted her chin at Lily. “I know a lot more than you think. I know that hanging out with one guy since you were nine years old doesn’t make you an expert. You wouldn’t even know what to do if a great guy was interested in you.”
“Sure I would. I’d say thanks but no thanks.”
“Oh my word, Lil. Seriously. There’s something wrong with you.”
“I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t want to date right now.”
Rachel’s mouth fell open. “Really?”
“Look, I just want to enjoy my vacation. You know, relax a little, read a good book, take a walk on the beach. I don’t need drama.”
Kara shook her head. “I’m not talking about a serious relationship here. Look around. There are cute guys everywhere. Loosen up and have some fun.”
“I don’t need a guy around to have fun.”
Kara winked at Rachel. “Well, if you’re going to be hanging around us, you better get used to cute guys being around. In fact, I think we should start right now.” She nodded toward the tree where the cops were still seated. Rachel’s face lit up.
“Oh no,” Lily said. “We’re going back to the house. It’s nearly midnight.”
But they sped away before she could stop them, so she threw her hands in the air and followed. This was going to be humiliating. As she approached the officers, the girls sang hello in unison. She could just imagine what these two gentlemen must be thinking. Leaning back on their elbows in identical poses, both of the officers grinned at the girls.
Then she caught a glance from the one on the left, and his eyes traveled down her legs. A sliver of a smirk played at the corner of his lips. Maybe gentleman wasn’t the right word. Kara rattled off introductions, oblivious to the amusement on their faces.
“I’m Kara. This is my sister, Lily, and our cousin, Rachel.”
Lily offered a polite nod. There had to be a way to exit gracefully, but she couldn’t think of one. Kara and Rachel dropped onto the bench of a picnic table opposite the officers, looking entirely too eager. They were practically panting.
“I’m Steve,” the one on the right said. “It’s nice to meet you, ladies.” His smile lit up his whole face, and his eyes had a warm puppy-like expression. Lily relaxed a little. At least one of them was friendly anyway.
“You can just call him Poindexter.” The other officer’s eyes sparked with mischief, and Steve slapped him across the chest.
“I know you don’t want me to tell them what they can call you, Rambo.”
“Rambo?” Rachel asked, tilting her head.
He waved his hand to dismiss the question. “Forget it. It’s not that funny anyway.”
On closer inspection, the nickname seemed fitting given his dark waves and bulging muscles. He probably did think he was some sort of action hero. She could practically see him admiring his biceps in a mirror.
“So what is your name, Rambo?” Lily asked.
Their eyes met, and his lips tipped into a smirk.
“Walker. Alex Walker.”
Yep, definitely an action hero.
“So what are you supposed to be?” she asked. “Double-oh-six-and-a-half?” The retort slipped out before Lily could catch it.
Steve snickered and looked away from Alex’s murderous glance.
“Well, you can just call me Daddy.” He cocked an eyebrow at her, an obvious challenge, but his grin never changed.
Lily held his gaze, irritated by the way her stomach flipped. Must have been something she’d eaten.
Rachel finally broke the awkward silence. “So, um, is it usually this quiet around here?”
Steve shook his head. “Nah, it’ll pick up tomorrow, trust me. This place’ll be crawling with people and screaming kids.”
“And plenty of little boys for you girls to play with, I’m sure,” Alex added.
Rachel’s chest sprang out as she huffed. “We are not little girls, and we are not interested in little boys.”
“How old do you think we are anyway?” Kara asked.
Lily couldn’t wait for this response. Alex had wandered into dangerous waters, but he seemed oblivious. He put his fingers to his chin and assessed them.
“Hmm, let me see.”
Steve waved off the challenge. “I can’t ever tell.” He sent a knowing grin at Lily, and she couldn’t help but smile back. At least he had some sense.
“Well,” Alex said, looking first at Kara, then at Rachel. “With all the make-up, you look about twenty-one. So I’d have to say you two are about thirteen, maybe fourteen.”
Kara’s mouth dropped open and Rachel gasped. Lily could barely control her laughter.
“What?” Rachel exclaimed. “I am fifteen, almost sixteen!”
“And I am already sixteen!” Kara folded her arms across her chest.
“Whoa! Don’t get your panties in a wad.” Alex threw up his hands in surrender. “I was just giving you a hard time.”
As the girls continued to sulk, he winked at Lily. Something about him sent a shiver down her arms.
“And how about you?” he asked.
She hesitated. She shouldn’t let him bait her into comments she might regret. Arrogant or not, he was an officer of the law, a position she had always been taught to respect.
Rachel finally spoke for her. “She actually is twenty-one.”
Kara lifted a brow, a puzzled look that seemed to ask if she was okay. Lily decided to ignore it and Alex as well.
She turned and looked out over the ocean, wishing she could enjoy it alone. The ocean and sky had melted into one large black expanse, but she could hear the waves tumble into the rocks not far away.
“So, how long have you been police officers?” Kara asked.
“Seven years for me,” Steve answered.
“You’re kidding. You don’t seem that old.”
Steve laughed. “I went into the police academy right out of high school. Been doing this since I was eighteen.”
Lily glanced at Kara and caught the slight nod toward Steve. She knew she was being rude, but what did Kara expect? Flirting with a stranger wasn’t going to fill the hole in her chest. Still, she supposed she should at least be polite.
“That’s pretty young to become a cop,” Lily said. “You didn’t think about going to college?”
“Nah.” He grinned like the thought was absurd. “I never wanted to do anything but be a cop. Dad’s a cop. Mom’s a cop. Just seemed natural.”
He smiled at her again, and the warmth of it reached out to her. It wasn’t much, but it made her smile. Maybe getting to know Steve wasn’t the worst idea in the world.
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