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Saturday, 3 August 2013

Book Spotlight: Summer Girl by Sophie Hill

Summer Girl
by Sophie Hill
New Adult Romance
Buy Links: amazon | amazon uk | b&n |

Description:


The girls of summer never stay, and that’s just how Slade Monroe likes it. Every summer the tiny beachside town of Hidden Cove, North Carolina is flooded with wealthy tourists, with their money and their arrogance and their promise of casual flings.  And to Slade, bouncer, brawler, heartbreaker, they’re the perfect way to drown his pain and quiet the demons roaring in his head.

But Heather Tremaine is different. Quietly beautiful, deeply hurt, she’s a mystery that Slade finds himself desperately needing to solve.  When he realizes that she’s on a quest for the truth about her past, a quest that will take her into dangerous territory, he’s determined to protect her at all costs. But Heather not the only one with secrets…and the last time Slade tried to protect someone he loved, it cost him everything.  Will he fight for his love, or will his Summer Girl fade like the seasons?  By the end of the summer, Heather will find out that the truth is more shocking than anything she’d ever anticipated…and she’ll make a choice that will change all of their lives forever.


Prologue

Heather Tremaine

My life’s unraveling started much earlier than I realized it. I was eight years old the summer the Rodriguez family disappeared.

There are certain events in life that you come to count on, events that circle back around every year in the seasonal cycle of life, like dunking apples at Halloween or stringing up the lights on the Christmas tree. When I was growing up, our summers in Hidden Cove were part of that cycle, and the summer wasn’t complete without the Rodriguez family.

Maria Rodriguez, who was beautiful like a movie star, would cook me delicious caldos and tell me stories about Guatemala and let me help her snip herbs from the little garden behind our house.  Her son Pedro would give me piggy-back rides on the beach.  Her daughter Trinidad would braid my hair and paint my nails. Trinidad was beautiful like her mother and I was going to look just like her when I grew up, although I hadn’t quite worked out how my pale skin would turn tan and my red hair would blacken.

But the summer I turned eight, when we rolled up in front of the house the third week of June like we always did, there was a new maid there, a gray-haired lady with tight braids wound around the top of her head and a scowl stamped on her face.

“Where’s Maria?” I asked my father, who was already walking up the front steps while a big red-faced man, a stranger, carried our suitcases into the house. But that was wrong. That was the job of Maria’s husband.  “Where’s Mr. Rodriguez? Who are these people?”

“The Rodriguez family got another job. They can’t come back.” His voice was tight and angry.

“Can’t come back?” It was like somebody stole the Easter Bunny. I couldn’t accept this.

“When will they be here?” I insisted, following my father up the steps to the house.

“I said they’re not coming back.” My father’s voice turned strangely harsh and he walked away from me quickly, without looking back.

I ran after him, following him down the long hallway into the study, yelling “Why did they leave? Were you mean to them? Where is Mrs. Rodriguez? Make them come back!”

“Be quiet!”  His voice cracked like a whip, freezing me in my tracks.   And then, astonishingly, my father slapped my face so hard that my cheek stung, and I fell back, so shocked that at first I couldn’t even cry.

“Richard!” I heard my mother’s voice behind me, and as a long loud wail uncurled from my mouth, she rushed into the room, gathered me into her arms, and picked me up. I saw the look that she gave my father, a look of mingled anger and disgust. Years later I’d come to remember the dawning understanding that bloomed on her face, and I’d realize that she saw the crumbling of our family long before I did. But then, I only knew that my world had turned into a place I could no longer count on, where the people I loved and trusted lashed out or left me for no reason that I could comprehend.

Chapter One

Slade Monroe

I should say that I sensed something different the very instant she walked in the door, that I sensed a fundamental shift in the universe, a disturbance in the Force, if you will.  My beautiful angel, who turned the cold hard winter of my life into summer,  who thawed the floating iceberg that was my heart. I should say that the second I laid eyes on her I knew she was the one.

I should say that, but I’d be lying.

It was a typical summer night at the Sand Bar, the waterfront bar on the south end of Hidden Cove. North Carolina, where I worked as bouncer and bartender, which means that I was hip-deep in eager, beautiful girls, and halfway to drunk off my ass.  I was too buzzed to sense much of anything except that somebody whose name might have been Brittnee was leaning into me and pressing her boob job against my arm.

The door swung open, and a cluster of girls pushed through, laughing and chatting. A group of them headed off to the left, straight to the bar, and one of them walked off to the right of the doorway and stood by herself, frozen in place, staring around the room like a gazelle that accidentally stumbled into a lion’s den.

She hadn’t been with that other group.  She was alone, a beautiful rich girl come slumming. Like most of the girls in this place. Except she wasn’t, somehow.   Those girls all came from the giant beachfront mansions on the north end of town, with their designer purses and shoes, flipping their hair around, smirking, flashing that look – the “I know you want me” look.

This girl looked unsure of herself, picking her way tentatively through the room towards the bar now, apologizing to the drunk guy who stumbled into her.   She wasn’t there for a quick roll in the hay with a townie or a vacationing frat boy, I’d bet my week’s salary on that.

Why was she there?

“Hey,” Brittnee pouted. “Don’t look at her. Look at me.” She pressed her lips against my neck and started to suck, and at the same time, her hand drifted down my stomach, headed south. I pushed her away and stepped back; I didn’t want her to leave a hickey on my neck, and her clinginess was getting annoying.

“Slade!” Brittnee’s eyes grew wide with hurt.

“Catch you later,” I said, turning away from Brittnee and pushing my way through the crowd to the bar.  But not towards her, not towards the beautiful girl who was in the wrong place.

Why not?

Because she was the opposite of my type. Oh, she was pretty enough. More than pretty. Slim,  with blue eyes like chips of summer sky, flowing red hair,  a small but perfect chest, which I actually will take any day over artificially inflated funbags.   And she was clearly sweet, and naive, and a very nice girl;  that was the problem.

I don’t do nice girls.  Yeah, I’m a douchebag and a player, yeah, I’ve lost count of how much warm flesh I’ve buried myself in night after night, summer after summer, but I pick girls who are a perfect match for my own tarnished soul.  I wouldn’t lay a finger on someone like Little Miss Innocent at the end of the bar, because I’d leave dark stains behind.

I watched her lean over the bar, and saw the big red star stamped on the back of her hand. That meant she was over 18, but under 21.

She was wearing a white crocheted sweater, denim shorts and flip-flops.   I saw the bartender, Rich, staring at her chest as he slowly slid a coke across the bar to her, giving himself a chance to grab an eyeful, and I felt something tighten and twist inside me. Rich was a scumbag, married to a girl in town and still sniffing around at every hot girl who crossed his path.   He stuffed his wedding ring in his pocket before start of shift every night, and then slid it back on as he headed out to his car when his shift was over.

The pretty redhead flashed him a smile and, reading her lips, I could see her saying “Thanks!” with a genuine smile on her face.  Like she really, honestly appreciated the favor he did by selling her an overpriced mug of soda.   He winked at her and said something back, something meant to melt her panties off, I was sure. She giggled and put her hand over her mouth, eyes widening in surprise at whatever he’d said, and I felt that twisting inside my gut again.

Screw this.  She wasn’t my problem.  I turned and elbowed my way to the back of the room with more force than necessary,  ending up where a blonde named Samantha was talking to her friends, scanning the room with a bored look on her face. I’d been with Samantha a week ago. Hopefully enough time had passed that she’d be very clear I only wanted another hookup, and nothing more.

Her parents owned a million dollar house on the beach, but they’d been gone for the weekend, and Samantha had led me by the hand into their bedroom where we’d done it on their massive oak four-poster all night long. Girl had some issues, what can I say.   I’d appreciated the amazing view of the sunrise from their third story bedroom – for a minute at least, before I stumbled out the door, stomach curdling and head spinning, leaving Samantha naked and snoring on her parents bed.

Her eyes lit up when she saw me.

“Slate!” She chirped.

“It’s Slade. Hi, Samantha.”

“Sabrina,” she shrugged.

Whatever. Brittnee probably wasn’t Brittnee, either, although I was pretty sure her name began with a B.  I hadn’t had sex with B-whatever yet, just a makeout session on the back patio, and she was already trying to cling to me like a barnacle, so sex with her probably wasn’t in the cards.

Samantha-not-Sabrina slithered closer to me, her full red lips curving up in a smile. “I had a great time the other night,” she said, pressing up against me.

“Me too,” I lied as I turned on a lazy, sexy smile. I had an okay time.  It was worth a repeat visit, if barely.

“So what are you doing after work?” She was so close I could smell her coconut-tinged Hollister perfume, and she accidentally-on-purpose brushed her boobs against my chest.

For some reason, instead of answering her, I glanced across the room at the beautiful redhead. She’d walked away from the bar and was standing against the wall by herself.

I felt an odd sense of relief that she wasn’t talking to Rich any more. That she hadn’t fallen for his crappy lines. I saw a group of guys watching her, whispering among themselves, and when she sucked on the straw that poked out of her coke glass, one of them said something, and they all laughed

And I felt that familiar black knot of rage coiling in my chest, a rage that would build up inside me like water pounding against a dam until the dam broke and my fury found its release.

Oh yeah, there was going to be a fight tonight. I’d make sure of that. My fists would find someone’s face, someone’s body, pounding and pounding until the rage leaked out and left me blank and empty.

Suddenly I realized that she’d noticed me staring at her, and now she was looking right at me, an uncertain smile trembling on her lips. Self-conscious, she dropped her gaze, then looked up at me to see if I was still looking at her.

An odd warmth spread through me, and I let my lips curl in a slow, come-hither smile, the one that works like an invisible tractor beam on members of the female gender, and I winked.  She quickly looked down at her drink, then peeked up at me again.

But then I saw B-something working her way through the crowd to get to me, and at the same time I thought, what the hell am I doing, flirting with Miss Pure and Innocent over there?  If she actually came over, it might be too tempting.  I might give in, do something I’d enjoy for the moment and then regret horribly the next morning when I woke up and looked down at her pure and innocent face. I might hurt someone who didn’t deserve it.

So I turned to Samantha and grabbed her face and kissed her hard, plunging my mouth onto hers, tongue deep and probing. She tasted like rum and coke, and her perfume was so thick and cloying I could have sliced through it with a knife.

With a sharp, sharp blade.

She threw her arms around my waist and pressed her body up against me, and I felt the familiar rush of blood to the groin, and I lost myself in the moment.  I fell away to that place that was all pure, raw sensation, a primal lust that  roared through my body, and the pounding din of the bar, and the sweet burn of alcohol rushing through my veins.

I felt a hand clutching at my arm, sharp nails sinking into my skin, and I jerked back with annoyance to see Brittnee standing next to me, tugging at my arm, her brown eyes brimming with tears.

“He’s with me!” she yelled at Samantha. “Get off him!”

Jesus H. Christ. Thank God I hadn’t had sex with her.  I’d end up taking out a restraining order.

I yanked my arm out of her clawed grip.  “I’m not with you. I’ve never been with you. Have some god-damned self respect, and get away from me,” I said.

“Yeah, get away from us!” Samantha snarled.

Sweetheart, there is no us, I thought, but I didn’t bother to say it.

Brittnee, who’d had more than a few too many, lunged drunkenly at Samantha, and slapped her face. Samantha screamed “Whore!” and grabbed a handful of Brittnee’s hair.

Then before I knew it the two of them were rolling around on the floor, clawing and flailing at each other, and instantly a circle of hooting, hollering, clapping guys formed around them.

I shoved my way into the circle and pounced on Samantha, and Jason, one of the other bouncers, grabbed Brittnee, and we frog-marched both girls through the bar and out the front door.

“Don’t come back tonight,” Jason yelled at them, and they stood outside the door, screaming curses at Billy, the giant of a man who was working the door, until he abruptly stood up from his stool and they both turned and ran.

I walked back inside, wiping Samantha’s lip gloss off my face with my arm, and found myself automatically scanning the room for the redhead. Just to make sure she was safe, and that nobody was hassling her, of course.

But she’d vanished.

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