About the Author
USA TODAY bestselling author HEIDI RICE discovered she loved romantic fiction at about the same time she discovered boys and she’s been admiring both ever since. With this in mind, her first brilliant career plan involved marrying Paul Newman. As she was thirteen, Paul was pushing fifty and there was the small matter of Joanne Woodward, that didn’t quite pan out. Brilliant career plan B involved a job as a film reviewer for a national newspaper, but one wonderful husband, two beautiful sons and a lot of really bad B-movies later and she was ready for a new brilliant career plan—so she branched out into the wonderful world of romance writing. Her first novel was published in 2007 and she hasn’t looked back since. She lives in London but loves to travel, particularly in the US, where she does a Thelma and Louise road trip every year with her best mate (although they always leave out the driving-off-a-cliff bit). And she’s having so much fun, she’s almost not sorry that first brilliant career plan didn’t work out.
Heidi loves to hear from readers—you can e-mail her at [email protected], or visit her website: www.heidi-rice.com.
B.T.W. I Love You!
MILLS & BOON
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To my boys, Joey and Luca,
because you’re amazing and I love you lots.
With special thanks to Elaine
for making Maddy’s beach rescue convincing.
‘THAT guy’s got to be the world’s worst surfer,’ Maddy West-more murmured in disbelief as she shivered under her lifeguard’s jacket. The sleeting October rain made it hard to focus but she couldn’t pull her eyes away from the tall athletic figure clad in a black wetsuit about sixty metres out in the tumbling surf. She watched with guilty fascination as he squatted on his board, steadied himself, straightened.
Then she sucked in a breath as he wobbled precariously.
The poor guy had been surfing—or, rather, attempting to surf—for well over an hour, in the sort of miserable Cornish weather that had given Wildwater Bay its name back in the seventeenth century. She’d been studying him for most of that time. The methodical way he paddled out, waited for the biggest wave and then mounted his board. But he’d yet to ride a single breaker for more than a few seconds. She had to admire his perseverance, but she was beginning to question his sanity. He had to be frozen through to the bone by now and close to exhaustion—despite the muscular build displayed by his suit—and the undertow on this stretch of beach was no joke.
‘I dunno,’ said Luke, her fellow lifeguard, in his broad Australian accent. ‘He’s got good form. Gets onto the board all right.’
Maddy’s breath gushed out as Bad Surfer crashed backwards off his board for what had to be the hundreth time.
‘No balance, though,’ Luke finished dispassionately, flipping up his collar. ‘You wanna call it?’ he added hopefully. ‘Beach is closed in ten minutes anyway and that storm front’s gonna hit any second now.’
Feeling a rush of relief as the surfer clambered back onto his board, Maddy scanned the rest of the beach in the gathering gloom. Only a couple of hardy boogie-boarders remained inside the yellow flags they’d set up to mark the lifeguarded area. Otherwise the beach was deserted. And with good reason. North Cornwall hadn’t had a great summer this year, but the weather had gone rapidly downhill as winter drew near. Even the hard core surfers had called it a day hours ago. All except one. Who was giving hard core a whole new meaning.
‘Sure—’ she raised her voice above the gathering wind ‘—let’s put him out of his misery.’ Crossing to the lifeguard truck parked on the sand between the flags, she grabbed the loudhailer out of the cab, already anticipating the Extreme Hot Chocolate she was going to wheedle out of her boss, Phil, when she started her afternoon shift at the Wildwater Bay Café.
The booming sound of her voice as she called in the remaining boogie-boarders and the surfer whipped away on the wind, but the boarders responded instantly. Staggering out of the surf, they hurried across the acres of sand, making a beeline for the café. The pair waved and shouted a greeting as they passed—no doubt anticipating their own Extreme Hot Chocolates.
‘Crikey, he’s still at it.’
Hearing Luke’s incredulous comment, Maddy spotted the surfer’s black board with its distinctive yellow lightning stripe bobbing back out towards the main swell.
‘He’s nuts. He has to be,’ she whispered. Either that or he had a death wish.
The storm clouds had darkened in the distance, hovering over the horizon like smoky black crows and the vicious cross wind had picked up pace, making the waves gallop and leap like bucking broncos. Even an accomplished surfer would have trouble riding swell that choppy. Mr Couldn’t Keep His Balance didn’t stand a chance. She raised the loudhailer back to her lips.
‘The lifeguard station on this beach is now closing. We strongly advise you to leave the water immediately.’
She repeated the order twice more, but the surfer and his board kept paddling in the wrong direction.
‘Maybe he can’t hear us?’ she said, trying not to worry.
The hailer had a special wind setting but, after the number of tumbles the guy had taken, his ears could be waterlogged.
‘Let’s get the flags in,’ Luke said at her shoulder, rubbing his hands together. ‘He’s a big boy. If he wants to kill himself, we can’t stop him.’ Taking the loudhailer out of Maddy’s numbing fingers, he slung it into the truck. ‘Plus, I’ve got a hot date with Jack in an hour. With the promise of hot sex for dessert,’ he finished, mentioning his new boyfriend of three weeks.
The surfer heaved himself up onto his board again, his movements sluggish.
Maddy dragged her gaze away. ‘That’s what I love about you, Luke,’ she said, forcing the niggling concern down. Suicidal surfers were not her problem. ‘You’re such a romantic.’
Luke chuckled as he rolled up the flag nearest the truck. ‘Hey, hot sex is romantic, if you do it right.’
Maddy lifted the base of the flag and helped Luke to heave it into the back of the truck. ‘Is it really?’ She gave a half-laugh, unable to disguise the wistful tone.
After a year spent rehabbing her granny’s cottage, plus the lifeguarding and waitressing shifts all summer at the Bay, and most evenings given over to creating her silk paintings, she hadn’t had time for romance.