In Avon, a beach town along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Ben is falling fast for the beautiful and intelligent Caroline, even as they both deal with her stalker ex-boyfriend who has followed her south on vacation.
As Ben learns the depths of the other man's madness his and Caroline's relationship runs into another wall, level 3 Hurricane Irene moving quickly toward the Outer Banks. When the storm arrives, all of their lives will be drastically changed.
How will they learn to cope with the consequences? When they are tested with a disaster on the brink of their comprehension, how will they pick up the pieces of their lives?
"Wow! Immediatly from the start you can feel the story moving and what followed was even better and kept me hooked! Nicely done... an entertaining story that reads with ease." - YGPAC
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
What would life be like if you had lived? Ben wondered. Gulls sang somewhere in the distance and he smiled as he enjoyed the day.
Benjamin’s heart had always been a part of Avon, ever since his mother had died there of cancer when he was a young boy. He still lived in that same beach house with his father and the two made their living by selling paintings up and down the shore. He loved his home and felt connected to his mother on the beach in the evening sun.
Ben closed his eyes; listening to the ocean beat against the beach, feeling its salty mist spray him in the wind. Sunlight warmed him as he sat near the shoreline, digging his hands into the sand.
Click! The faint noise came from close by and he opened his eyes, turning to look in its direction.
There, standing next to the stilt beams of the neighboring house, stood the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. How did he not see her coming up on him? Sunlight shone around her form and her red top and skirt flowed in the breeze. A moment passed between them, and she smiled while holding her camera at her side. Before he could speak she turned and ran down the beach away from him.
“Wait! What’s your name?” he called to her.
Who was this beautiful girl? If he let this moment pass he may never know.
Ben stood quickly, stumbling in the sand as he ran. “Wait!” he shouted, but she didn’t look back.
He ran after her, past kids flying kites and a couple holding hands. Gulls sang overhead.
The girl ran up a dune of sand in the distance toward a light blue beach house and Ben’s heart dropped. Was this where she was staying? He hoped so, because if she was staying somewhere beyond that point he would never find her.
He picked up speed as he neared the house and his bare foot cracked into a driftwood log, sending him crashing into the sand.
“You’re coming with me!” a strong male voice shouted over the dune.
“No… we’re not together. I can’t, John, I… I just can’t.”
Was that her? Was that the beautiful girl who had taken his picture?
“You won’t leave me! I won’t let you! You’re mine and I’m taking you back!”
“No, John!” the female shrieked.
“You’ll realize you love me!”
That was it… it was all that Ben could take. No girl deserved to be treated like that. He didn’t care who it was anymore, he was going to help.
He dug his arms into the hot sand and stood, walking toward the buff, black haired guy who had the girl’s wrist clutched hard in his. A recent scar ran down the side of his face.
It was the same girl.
“Let her go!” Benjamin yelled to him.
“Or I’ll make you let her go!” Ben was nearing the car they were in front of now.
“Who is this, Caroline?” John asked.
“If she says she’s through with you then she’s through! She doesn’t want you and I can see why!”
John shoved Caroline aside and was coming toward him now.
Ben’s heart beat heavy in his chest. He couldn’t leave. He would have to confront him and braced to stand his ground. “Go.”
“John… I’ll go,” Caroline spoke with fear in her voice. “Leave him alone. This is between us.”
John was taller than him and was coming up the sand toward him. “No! This boy’s made it clear he wants this between me and him!”
John threw a punch, but Ben dodged to the side and avoided his fist. With his heart racing, almost as a reflex, Ben clenched a fist and crushed it into John’s stomach, unable to move him. A second later, John cracked his fist into Ben’s head and he collapsed in the sand, darkness consuming his sight and sand stinging his eyes. John’s foot thrust against his ribs.
“Get up sissy! Who’s ordering who now? You want her? Stand up and fight!”
Bile rose in Ben’s throat as sunlight swam in his eyes.
…have to get up… he thought, half conscious, as another punch from John’s foot landed in his side.
“What’s going on out here?” a woman’s voice came from close by. “John? Get off my property before I call the police!”
“I’ll be back!” John’s voice came from somewhere above him. “Leave my girl alone, boy, or next time I’ll give you more than bruised ribs and a sore skull!”
There was commotion as more voices came and Ben heard the sound of a car pulling out of the driveway.
A soft hand touched his face. “Are you alright?” Caroline asked.
Darkness swelled around him and everything fell away.
Why, John? Caroline thought while sitting in a spare bedroom of her Aunt’s beach house, The Ocean’s Whisper. The waves outside crashed rhythmically against the shore. You were so handsome and strong… What happened to the you I first met? It seems so long ago.
Three years ago she met John when she was in high school. He was two years older than her and the fact that an older boy liked her helped draw her to him. You were charming and funny. You loved me… or at least I thought you did. With a sigh Caroline braced her head with her hands. Tears streamed down her face and were soaked up by the carpet below.
Now he was controlling and abusive, not so much physically, but he had been mentally abusive for some time. He controlled who she was friends with, what she ate, even how she spent her money. Somehow she had justified it all, for the sake of being with him.
And then you hit me. Caroline took her sleeve and wiped her tears away. I won’t take any more. I’m never going back to you, John. I deserve better. She lifted her head, looking at the guy who had stood up for her. I don’t even know your name. She had seen him on the beach in the sun and thought he was asleep. You looked so handsome lying in the sunlight. I never thought you’d wake up and see me.
Caroline breathed a deep breath. She had been worried about him but her Aunt, who had come to their rescue, was once a nurse and assured her that he would be alright.
“Who are you?” she asked softly. A shiver ran up her arms. He had a handsome, caring face. And he was tone, but not buff. His heart… she wasn’t looking for a relationship but… she wanted to get to know his heart. A friend… Could they be friends?
Ben could not see, could barely think, but somehow was comforted by the sound of waves in a distant part of his mind.
Light entered and then returned to darkness before him.
Who are you?
It was the enchanting voice of a girl, the girl, Caroline.
Caroline… the thought brought him back to consciousness.
With a moan he turned his head on the soft pillow and opened his eyes, light flooding into them until they focused on the beautiful girl sitting beside the bed. “Caroline?” he asked. “Where am I? How did I get here? What happened?”He used his arms to brace himself up on the bed and went to stand.
She smiled and stood, placing a hand on his shoulder. “I’m so happy you’re awake. You should stay in bed for a moment. Give your body time to wake up.” As he relaxed again while sitting on the bed, Caroline moved a strand of hair away from her eyes and behind her ear. “Thank you so much for standing up for me. John is my ex-fiancé. I left him over a month ago but he still can’t take a hint.” There was an awkward moment of silence. “What’s your name? I still don’t know who you are.”
“Ben.” He smiled while holding out his hand and shaking hers. She had a soft and gentle touch. “I would stand up for anyone who needed me. I’m just glad that I was there to help you… or at least try. How bad was it? I didn’t actually do much other than get punched out, did I?”
Caroline gave a small laugh. “You cared about helping me. That is doing a lot! This is my aunt’s house, in case you’re wondering. We brought you inside after John drove off. I’m here with my Mom for two weeks while we help my aunt paint the outside. I didn’t honestly think you’d see me take that picture of you, but I’m glad you did.”
Ben wanted to tell her how beautiful he had thought she was when he saw her, but somehow this didn’t feel like the right time for that. “You definitely surprised me.” He grinned. “I was intrigued, and I had to know who you were.”
“I have an idea.” Caroline stood and started going toward the door. “How about you meet my aunt and then we can make sandwiches and take a walk on the beach? I’d introduce you to my mom, but she’s at the store.”
“That sounds great,” Ben said, happy to have more time to get to know this attractive girl. There was something special about her. His attraction to her was more than just physical. There was an intelligence that stood out and something even deeper than that. What is it? He followed her down a hallway and into a sunlit living room. He could smell a mango scented candle burning close by.
“This is Ben,” Caroline introduced him to her aunt who was reading a book on a flower patterned couch.
He walked further in the room. “It’s a pleasure to meet you…”
“Suzie, just call me Suzie. I’m glad you’re alright, and I’m thankful for what you did for my niece.”
Caroline made her way to the kitchen close by and came back with bread, a jar of chocolate peanut butter and a banana.
Ben joined her at a counter that stretched out, separating the kitchen from the dining area. “Mmm… You’ve got good taste,” he joked with her and took the knife as she smiled back at him. He took a good helping of the chocolate peanut butter and slathered it on his bread, adding slices of banana as he cut them up. “I thought I was the only one who did this!”
“Nope, me too! These are one of my dad’s specialties. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, I’ve learned that they are great for any meal!”
“I think there are those who would disagree,” Suzie called from the couch, “myself included!”
“Not dad,” Caroline laughed. “Either that or his other go-to, hotdogs.”
Ben spun the lid back on the peanut butter and helped bring the supplies back into the kitchen. “Mmm hotdogs, now you’re talking!”
“One meal at a time, tough guy,” she joked as they made their way down the stairs toward the front door. “We’re going for a walk on the beach, Suzie!”
“Alright, I’ll let your mom know! Watch out for John! I think he’ll leave us alone now but just be careful!”
“I will! I have Ben with me! I’ll be alright!”
There was a light breeze as they stepped outside and walked toward the beach. The sand was hot beneath Ben’s feet and tall grass swayed around them as they made their way toward the shore.
“So do you always stalk the beach for unsuspecting guys?” he joked while holding his free hand out and feeling the reeds of grass.
Caroline blushed. “You were asking for it, and besides, I wasn’t even taking a picture of you. There was this beautiful seagull flying overhead…”
“Sure there was.” He gave a smirk and took a bite of his sandwich. The chocolate and banana were delicious, but he wondered if it was the company he was in that made it just right?
“You’ll see when I get the pictures developed!”
“Developed? Isn’t everything digital now?” He gave her a smile and a joking look. He couldn’t help but think about how beautiful she was in the sunlight. Her smile… he thought, there is just something wonderful about her smile!
“Oh, I still like developing them. I’ve actually always wanted to have a camera with actual film that I could develop myself. Maybe someday...”
There was a moment of silence between them and Ben searched for something to say to start the conversation back up. They were down by the edge of the water now and it lapsed over their bare feet as they walked. “So I know you’re visiting your aunt, but where are you from? I’ve lived in Avonall of my life.”
“And I’ve lived my whole life in Pittsburgh, but I love coming down to visit Suzie and just taking in the beach!”
“Did that guy follow you all the way down here?”
Caroline stopped for a moment and stared out over the glistening ocean.“John follows me, or at least he has since I left him. I loved him, but he became a man that I can’t let myself love any longer.” She kept looking out over the ocean, unable to look to Ben’s eyes.
“How could you love a guy like that? He’s obviously abusive! I couldn’t believe he was treating you like that, trying to control you, and I’ve just met him!” Something made Ben wish he could take back or rephrase his words, but it was too late now.
“Don’t worry,” Caroline looked to him. “I know, I know I should have left him long ago. He is abusive, but it wasn’t until recently that he put his hands on me. That’s what made me leave him. That’s why my mom suggested we come here and spend a few weeks helping Suzie paint The Ocean’s Whisper. We hoped he would leave me alone.”
What can I do for her? Ben stopped walking and Caroline stopped with him. A cool breeze whipped around them. He liked her as more than a friend, he already knew that. But that’s not what she needed in her life. She needs friendship. “If you need me while you’re here let me know and I’ll do whatever I can. Heck, if you need me after you leave just let me know and I’ll be there for you.”
Caroline gave him a huge smile and he could swear he saw tears forming in her eyes. “Ben, I can’t tell you how much that means to me…”
Ben didn’t know why, but he embraced her in a hug.
She let herself relax in his arms. “Thank you.”
As she moved away, she wiped tears from her eyes. “Enough of this,”Caroline sniffed and leaned down toward the water that was rising up the beach to meet her feet. She cupped her hands and, with a thrust, soaked him with a spray of water.
They both broke out laughing and Ben went into the water, soaking her with a spray as well. “You knew that was coming!” he managed before getting a face full of water as she sent another spray his way. Soon he was out of the water and chasing her back down the beach to her aunt’s house.
At night, as he lay in bed listening to wind whipping around he and his father’s house, Benjamin closed his eyes and thought of Caroline’s smile after he had sprayed her with water. What a beautiful smile.
That same moment a black car sat parked houses down from The Ocean’s Whisper and Caroline.
John sat in his torn leather seat, alert, his eyes focusing on the darkness before him.
For more of Hearts of Avon, visit the link below. Have an amazing day and enjoy!