The Getaway of a Lifetime...Kinda.
Summer Callahan isn’t in Cambria for the beach or the ocean or the pine-scented air around Paradise Pines Lodge. She’s there as a companion to her flighty cousin, Deah--with the understanding that they will have separate agendas the entire time. Summer just wants to be left alone to dream up the romance novels she writes under a pseudonym.
A Real-life Hero Who Rivals a Romance Novel...Really!
But never in Summer's wildest writer's imagination does she dream of being caught in an undertow and almost drowning, only to be rescued by a wealthy artist. And when Logan Bullard proves hard to shake, Summer fears for her heart--especially when Deah sets her sights on Logan.
A Cupid to Pull It All Together...?
But at Paradise Pines Lodge, what's meant to be has a way of happening...at the best time and in the best way. Miss Angelina Love--who may or may not own the place--has an "in" with Heaven's own "department of romance." And she's determined to see Summer and Logan together.
The messenger hovered above a young man sleeping peacefully in his home. In angelic form and invisible to humans, he folded his wings—in subservience and utter respect—and bowed his head when the Father joined his vigil.
“Raine and Declan are together and happy, Messenger. I am well pleased.”
The angel’s crown of radiant white hair glistened in the dark room. “Thank you, Father. I’m glad the last mission was successful.”
“As am I.”
They paused to gaze down at the young man. Like most people in this region of Earth, he lay in darkness, deeply asleep. But a slight uplift of firm, well-shaped lips spoke of something pleasant within his dreams. As they looked on, the small smile gave way to a little crease between dark eyebrows, indicating something puzzling or troubling to his mind.
The man’s sleeping mood shifted like the sands of the sea near which he lived.
“And now it is time to guide this man and the woman I created for him to each other. Your task will not be easy.”
The angel nodded. Bringing two people together in heart and soul often proved difficult. Why was it that humans often used the free will the Father so graciously gave them to strain against His will?
“I have already begun,” he murmured. “As long as You are with me, I do not fear failure.”
“I am with you always, Messenger. You are never alone.”
“I know, and I am grateful beyond words.” He hesitated. “The dreams I have initiated, Father…You approve?”
A gentle touch on his shoulder reassured the angel. “I have used dreams to communicate with My children since the beginning of time. You are following My lead, and My Spirit will direct you, as always.” The Father’s answer, spoken softly and with immense love, comforted the messenger.
“Thank you, Father.” Large, white wings tipped with purest gold trembled beneath the powerful love he felt for his Creator. “I live to please you.”
“And you do, Messenger. You are the finest of emissaries.” After a moment of silence, the Father gave one wing a gentle stroke, thereby conveying His divine support, approval, and a promise to remain close throughout this new mission. Then He withdrew.
The messenger remained where he was for some time, strengthening his work within the heart of the sleeping man.
Logan Bullard sat behind an expensive easel that held a canvas fixed firmly inside strong support braces. Many of his paintings depicted the Pacific Ocean in one or another of her many moods. The wind often buffeted the shores from which he wielded his paintbrush, requiring special measures to keep his canvas from sailing into the sea.
He’d found this niche in the rocks above the private beachline some time back. Miss Angie, who either owned or oversaw the beautiful Paradise Pines Lodge—no one seemed to really know which—had given him permission to work there whenever he pleased, and he’d taken full advantage of the opportunity. His own home also bordered a private section of the coastline, but he liked to capture the sea from as many angles of her impressive body as possible.
This morning, the water’s stunning turquoise and deep teal tones reflected a bright sun and a clear blue sky. Still, Logan struggled to bring the scene together beneath his paintbrush. He scanned the shoreline and the waves, trailed his gaze across the miles of ocean, and stared into the sky. Nothing seemed out of place. He knew why he was bothered, although he couldn’t have explained how he knew. What he was seeing lacked some element that needed to be on this canvas. He knew that to be true without a doubt, but where had the odd idea come from? He returned his troubled gaze to his work.
No one else, looking at the unfinished piece of art, would know it wasn’t right. But it wasn’t.
For a time, he added a stroke here, a flourish there, a whitecap on the occasional wave. Nothing he painted onto the scene filled the empty spot he knew existed. At last, heaving a frustrated sigh, he looked once more to the ocean…and forgot to breathe in again.
The missing piece of his painting stood at the edge of the waves, bare toes digging into the sand. Golden-blonde hair swung around narrow hips as a young woman in a long, full, white skirt swayed to music only she could hear. Face lifted to the sky, eyes closed, arms stretched out at her sides, the young beauty seemed to soak in not just the sunshine, but the very air around her.
Logan drew in a gasping breath at long last, but could not look away.
The girl whirled on her toes, conducting a perfectly executed spin. Did her tiny feet even touch the ground? After slowing—or perhaps floating to a stop, she swung her upper body one way and then the other in an infinitely graceful motion that seemed almost like…a dance!
Yes. Enlightenment set his heart racing, while he returned to his painter’s stool almost without conscious thought, and his hand set to work, painting quick, strong strokes of color onto the canvas.
She held no colorful scarf, bore no flag in hand, had no audience—at least, none that she was aware of—and yet, the beach beauty was clearly lost in praise and worship, all alone on a private strip of seaside property near Cambria, California.
He’d never seen such perfect form, nor such natural grace.
Logan painted with feverish abandon, almost blindly, removing his gaze only bare seconds at a time from the barefoot stranger dancing at the edge of the sea with such glorious abandon. Beneath his brush, she soon appeared on his canvas—not in great detail, but a vague reflection showed itself with enough clarity to be unmistakable.
He raised his gaze from a brief look at the canvas only seconds before it happened. He saw the huge wave coming, and his heart thundered when he realized she did not.
Eyes still closed, head still lifted in silent praise, the dancer swung herself closer to the water than she probably meant to.
The wave was bigger, stronger than any Logan had seen that day.
The ocean had lain deceptively quiet and tame only moments before. The powerful burst of rolling water struck hard and fast, and in an instant, the girl disappeared, pulled beneath the surface and out to sea.
Logan’s fingers released their grip on the paintbrush even as he launched himself toward the water...
…and sat stiffly upright in bed, his pillow crushed to him. Sweat poured from his face, and for a moment, he lacked oxygen, as if he too struggled beneath the surface of the sea. Slowly, he came to a full waking state, and his chest loosened, allowing precious air into his lungs.
A dream. Just a dream.
He swung his legs to the floor and reached for the glass of water on a table next to his bed. Relief washed over his entire being…body, mind and soul…followed by deep, shuddering regret.
Watching the lovely dancer sucked beneath the pounding surf had been hard, tonight and every other night he’d watched it happen. But somehow, even in the throes of deepest terror, his dream-self had known he’d reach the girl. He’d save her.
He had to, because she somehow belonged in his life.
But all that was a dream, wasn’t it? The sorrow that threatened to break his heart in the aftermath of awakening was the realization that she wasn’t real.
Logan set the glass back on the table and buried his face in his palms. “God, am I missing something? Why do I keep having this dream? Please…make it stop.” He lowered his hands and raised his face heavenward. “I’m falling in love with a woman who doesn’t exist.”
“Well, I’m going with or without you, Summer Callihan!”
“That’s fine. Go without me. I’ve already said I don’t want to come along.” Summer sighed.
Her younger cousin, Deah, seemed unable to exist without a great deal of drama. She’d made the threat as if it would convince Summer to dash off on yet another shopping spree, despite their agreement before setting out on this vacation to Cambria, California.
Knowing the trip would be for the entire season—no one stayed at Paradise Pines Lodge under any other terms—Summer had laid out clearly defined stipulations before agreeing to come with Deah to the coast. She wanted to work. Her cousin wanted to play. They would each be free to do “their own thing,” without pressure from the other.
Uncle Barry and Aunt Grace had agreed without hesitation. They simply wanted their daughter to have someone a bit more levelheaded with her, especially on such a lengthy vacation. In return, they’d pay Summer a handsome wage in lieu of the temporary jobs she normally worked on a nearly full-time basis.