Authors: Lorelie Brown
Riding the Wave
Riding the Wave
is a book you don’t want to miss! It has it all . . . hot-as-hell hero and heroine, intense chemistry both in and out of the bedroom, and sharp, witty dialogue. Tanner and Avalon’s story will enthrall you one minute, and then tug on your heartstrings the next. I loved this book, and I think you will, too.”
New York Times
bestselling author Deirdre Martin
“A sheer delight from start to finish. Brown does a sensational job of getting to the very heart of her main couple. . . . Their chemistry is positively blistering, but what makes this romance unforgettable is the way they challenge and balance each other.”
RT Book Reviews
stars, top pick)
“Sex scenes suffused with pulse-pounding intimacy nicely frame this escapist love story.”
“[A] fast-paced read perfect for a summer escape.”
The Pacific Blue Novels
Riding the Wave
Published by the Penguin Group
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A Penguin Random House Company
First published by Signet Eclipse, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Copyright © Cathleen DeLong, 2015
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
You went away, but you came back. All my
ean Westin had been to physical therapists before. Once, he’d sprained his knee on the North Shore of Hawaii and had to check in with a therapist near his home turf in San Sebastian for three months. But that guy had worked out of a standard, stucco-walled complex across the street from the hospital. The building Sean had just now pulled up in front of was about as far from a medical office as possible.
Sean double-checked his in-dash GPS. Right address. The California bungalow was where he was supposed to show up. The place looked more like a cottage than an office. There was a shallow porch decorated with white wicker chairs and a multitude of potted plants that bloomed green or sprouted pink and blue flowers. Cupolas peeked out of the shingle roof, hinting at a second story. Lining the front of the porch were bushes with purplish pink blossoms the size of Sean’s fist.
Getting out of the car wasn’t pleasant. He moved
slowly, bracing himself as he reached to unbuckle the seat belt. Didn’t make a difference. A dull ache of pain spiked from his collarbone and radiated down his shoulder. The black sling he wore inhibited movement. The doctors said he’d need to work on mobility if he wanted to be able to regain his spot on the surfing World Championship Tour in time to keep his place in the top half of competitors.
He wanted to regain his spot.
He wanted to badly. His entire career had been about consistency and determination. He had the skills, and he also had the means to move up.
This should have been Sean’s year. The reigning champion, Tanner Wright, had retired to open a surf school and boink his supersweet girlfriend, so the rankings had all been given a sweet shake-up. If Sean didn’t move into the top ten this year, he’d have to take a good long, hard look at what he was doing. Maybe he wasn’t meant to be the ’CT winner.
Sean wouldn’t allow that. It didn’t fit his plans.
A six-inch plaque by the doorbell confirmed yet again that he was in the right place. The words
SANTA BARBARA REHAB
were on the first line, with
ANNIE BAXTER, DPT
inscribed below. But when he rang the doorbell, there was no response. He rang it again, hearing peals echo through the small house.
He wasn’t completely surprised, since he didn’t have an appointment. But he did have information that said Annie Baxter could always be found at her offices on Saturday mornings because she ran an unofficial drop-in program for disadvantaged teenagers.
He sighed, but damned if that didn’t send another spike of pain through him as his shoulders shifted. He ground his back teeth together. He needed to talk to Baxter. It wasn’t too much to expect the doctor to be where she was supposed to be.
A hollow, wooden sound caught his attention. Even though he hadn’t heard the noise in person for at least five or six years, he’d have known it anywhere. Skateboard wheels rolling over wood. More particularly, over a wooden ramp.
It was coming from the back of the house. He followed the echo down the porch stairs, then down a path lined with foxtail grasses that were lush and verdant despite the barely waking spring.
The backyard was skater heaven. The Japanese wave painting Sean could never remember the name of decorated the sloping sides of an empty old-school-style pool. At the far end, a ten-foot-tall half pipe filled the only bit of spare flat area.
A kid dropped his board from the table into the vert, knees bending into the dip. He slipped effortlessly back and forth, getting higher and higher until he finally launched into the air at the other end. He kept it easy, barely touching his board as he flew. He wore a helmet and dark blue hoodie that swallowed his small frame and contrasted with his slim-cut jeans.
Sean waited as patiently as he could until the skateboarder came to earth and drew to a stop. “Hey, bro, have you seen Dr. Baxter?” The skateboarder paused for a second before pulling off the black helmet and turning around. Stubby dark ponytail. Delicate features with wide-set eyes.
Sean immediately rearranged his assumptions. “Sorry, I mean—may I have a moment of your time, Dr. Baxter?”
One finely arched eyebrow lifted even higher. “I don’t deal with pros.”
Being recognized wasn’t anything new for Sean. The first time, he had been at the mall in Brea, eating tacos at the food court, when a couple dudes fell all over themselves talking about his first Prime tour win. And that had been before his pro career really took off, when he’d still been biking himself to the beach on the weekends and returning home to his mother’s filthy house.
He hoped he never really got used to being famous. Because damn, did it still feel good. His chin lifted and he probably smiled some. The hot satisfaction lifted his mood so high that he could almost forget about the constant throb that ached through his shoulder.
“So you know who I am?”
She made a soft little
sound and tucked her helmet under her arm as she started toward the back door of the house. “Everyone in California knows who you are. And everyone who knows surfing knows you were drunk and shouldn’t have been on the water. Not to mention what the fallout could do to your career.”
That was the downside. Everyone
know what a douche he’d been in Bali. He’d been drinking mai tais with a pretty waitress, and he had taken a rollicking turn toward trouble from that moment. He knew he should never have surfed, but he did it
anyway because he was such a fucking sucker for a pretty face.
His fists curled, but he immediately drew a deep breath as he tried to loosen up. Tight meant pain lately. He’d learned his lesson.
“Then you know how desperate I am for help.”
She slanted a gaze at him out of the corners of her eyes, dropping her board to the ground and her helmet to a folding chair. “I’ve heard hints.”
“I have a tweaked collarbone. It’s causing some shoulder impingement. There’s more technical stuff, but I’d have to have the files sent over to you. I have six weeks. I can’t let recovery take any longer than that.”
The laugh she dropped into the air between them sounded almost bitter, and completely disbelieving. Her mouth was small but plump. She was kind of small all over. If she stood next to him, she’d come only to his sternum. “Recovery for a collarbone injury could take up to sixteen weeks. Maybe longer if you’re foolish and push yourself harder than you need to.”
“I can’t allow that long.” He moved toward her, but not too close. Women were delicately balanced creatures, and there was a fine line between charming them and being an icky kind of invasive. “Six weeks keeps me out of competition at Bells Beach and in Rio. I’m missing the Margaret River Pro this very minute. Six weeks means I’m in the water in time for Fiji. I have no choice with Margaret River and Bells Beach, and I’m going to have to choke that up. I can probably even afford zeroing August’s event. Probably. But I have to get back on the ’CT by
Fiji. I can’t afford to drop out of the top twenty-two. Considering that I’ll still be in recovery, I’ll have a hard enough time requalifying for next year.”
“I can give you references to three very good physical therapists. They have a practice on the other side of San Sebastian.”
“I don’t want very good. I want
.” And according to every bit of research he’d culled in the week since his injury, that was Annie Baxter.
But she didn’t give a crap. She wasn’t even bothering to look at him, which was like nails on a chalkboard to Sean. He thrived on attention, and he usually got it. He wasn’t above admitting that.
She pulled the blue sweatshirt off, revealing a cream button-down shirt with minuscule puff sleeves. Even though the blouse was completely feminine, the way it was paired with slim, low-slung jeans emphasized her distinct lack of curves. She had little breasts and boyish hips. Exactly the opposite of Sean’s type, but that didn’t seem to matter when he looked at that mouth of hers. Adorably filthy. “Then you’re screwed.”
But Sean knew there was one thing Dr. Annie Baxter cared a whole hell of a lot about. Finding info on that had been dead easy. He tipped his head down, looking at the petite pixie, and he found himself using his silkiest tone of voice when he said, “Do you want your drop-in center funded?”
Her eyebrows flew up toward her hairline as she whipped back to face Sean. “You’ve got a spare three million sitting around?”
He smirked. Everyone had a price, even if they
thought themselves the noble type. It was only a matter of finding it. “I do. Do you want it?”
She gave another of those laughs and stuck her hand out, palm up. “Sure. Right here. You can make the check out to the Clear Ride Foundation.”
“Nothing is free.”
She dropped into one of the wicker seats, hands resting on the arms. Her legs stretched out in front of her, as short as they were. She crossed them at the ankles and laced her fingers in front of her stomach. Her belt buckle was round and yellow, with a black X on it. “You mean to pay me three million for physical therapy for a collarbone injury?”
“Sure. Is that an X-Men belt buckle?”
Bright red washed across her cheeks, making her look both older and younger at the same time in a mix of innocence and chagrin. “I know, I know. I’m a total geek.”
He shrugged, but instantly regretted it when pain smacked him upside the shoulder again. When he pushed too far, the hurt washed all the way through his chest and upper back. He was gonna be schooled out of shrugging right quick. Fuck, he was tired. “I recognized it. That’s gotta be equally geeky.”
She didn’t answer for a long moment, and at first Sean wondered if he’d gone too far. He’d never been a hundred percent sure which side of the social lines he walked. It wasn’t like he’d had a normal childhood, which was when most people learned normal human interactions. He’d come from shit. Literally.
“Do you know
I’m the best?” Her eyes narrowed, and a line knit between her straight brows. “Because I’ll own you. Your diet and your exercise.
How many times a week you get to surf. Whether you’ll go running or do a stair stepper. How much you stretch, and
when you do it. How often you see me, or any other
. Including massages.”
She scoffed. “You’re fucking full of it. This is one of the reasons why I don’t work with pros. You’re too damn full of yourselves. You don’t even stop to question whether you can handle it.”
His impulse was to cross his arms over his chest, but of course that was out. He settled for widening his stance and tucking his hands in the pockets of his slacks. “There’s one thing you don’t understand. I
stay in the ’CT this year. The only question is whether I permanently fuck myself up in the process.”
Her mouth set into a mulish knot, but she pushed out of her chair and stepped toward him. “You’re an arrogant, foolish asshole.”
“I am.” He grinned, because he knew her body language said she was unwillingly intrigued. “But I’m an arrogant, foolish asshole who’s your patient.”