A sassy but scarred woman. A tough but damaged man. Will a beautiful, secluded island bring them love or will the demons from his past rip them apart?
The bomb that disfigured Rachel Jewel's face and neck also destroyed her confidence. Can she rise above the pain to unmask a thief and find the love of her life?
Rachel's story is here! I hope you love this book like I do. So much humor, romance, and drama.
Hugs and thanks for the incredible support,
The man’s gaze swept the main building and expansive pool area, and then rotated to the beach where she stood fifty yards away. Their eyes locked and held, and Rachel sucked in a breath, shocked by the impact those deep brown eyes had on her, even from a distance. She could see his face clearly, and it was as impressive and intriguing as his fit body. He was definitely a handsome man with a straight nose, high brow, strong jaw, and a cleft in his chin that she really liked, but it was the power and allure of his dark-brown eyes framed with thick lashes and dark eyebrows that really pulled her in.
She found herself giving him a challenging smile in return and throwing her hair back over her shoulder, tossing her head in a flirtatious gesture that she’d mastered in college. She realized her mistake quickly and sucked in a breath as if someone had punched her. What had she just done?
It was too late, he’d seen her, all of her. His gaze changed from welcoming to surprised, or maybe shocked would be a better word, but it wasn’t the shock that reverberated through her, it was the compassion. His eyes quickly swept over the mottled, patched, bumpy, disgusting skin of her left cheek, chin, and neck then refocused on her eyes as he gave her a welcoming, appealing smile.
Horrified, Rachel yanked her hair forward to cover the scars again, pivoted, and strode away through the thick sand. The luxurious feel of the sand earlier had now morphed into a trap that was dragging her down and halting her progress. She wanted to run from that handsome man and the fact that he’d seen her scars. Would he have nightmares like the law professor had said children would? Could she avoid him over the next week and still do the job Luke had asked of her? She doubted it, and her stomach squirmed with anxiety.
The old, feisty, funny, confident Rachel would be telling the new Rachel that she was acting like a complete wuss. Yes, he’d looked at the scars, who wouldn’t, but he’d moved past them and still smiled so becomingly at her. Maybe not everyone would be repulsed by her like she feared. Former Rachel would say she should be heading the other direction and introducing herself to the man.
She shoved former Rachel face-first into the sand and angled up the beach to the walking path that would lead her to her secluded bungalow and safety, for the moment. Why had she let Luke talk her into this and not begged Eve and Paisley to come with her? Why had she thought she was ready to reenter society? Not that a secluded island retreat was anything like her old social life, but it was still too much for the social wart she had become.
Pounding footsteps rang from the palm tree lined path to the south, vibrating through her like a gong banging repeatedly. She stopped short. She glanced that direction and saw the very man she’d strode away from running her direction.
Rachel froze. She didn’t know how to skirt around him and get to her bungalow without encountering him and she refused to spin and go the other direction and make it obvious she was avoiding him. The way his gaze was trained on her as he ran told her his very intent was to run into her.
He slowed his steps as he approached, leaving the firmer path through the trees and making his way down the beach toward her. He had a welcoming smile on his handsome face but something kind and understanding in his dark eyes revealed that he knew the truth---she’d run because of the scars.
Rachel may have become an expert at avoiding people, and especially confident, impressive men, the past eight months, but she wasn’t as far removed from her former self as she’d feared. She stood straight and tilted her chin imperiously, tucking her hair into place so he didn’t get assaulted with another view of her grisly skin. She wished she didn’t care. She kept telling herself she didn’t. She’d gone to numerous therapists and claimed she’d come to terms with the scarring and assuring them that she’d never been defined by the beauty of her face anyway. The fact that she kept pulling her long hair in front of her face to try and hide the scars said she definitely did care. She’d never told anyone about that woman’s voice echoing in her head, “Children who are struggling shouldn’t have to also have nightmares about their lawyer’s disfigured face.”
“Rachel Jewel?” He kept coming toward her with that large smile and now his hand was extended.
Rachel didn’t advance toward him, instead she held her ground, at least she could be proud of herself for that. She smiled and extended her own hand. “Yes. How’d you know?”
Their hands met and suddenly Rachel didn’t care how he knew her name, didn’t care if he’d Googled her and read every lame post someone had made about the former “perfect” model being disfigured.
His large palm pressed against her smaller one and then his fingers wrapped around the back of her hand and he held on. His touch was magnetic and somehow lifted her spirits. She felt like she could handle anything if their hands were joined.
“Um …” His confident smile slipped as he looked down at their hands then back up at her. Had he felt the connection as well? “Preston told me who you are. We both knew your brother Caleb in college, well we played lacrosse against him. He was at Duke …. As you know,” he gave her a chagrined smile, “and Preston and I played for Syracuse. Caleb was only a freshman when we were seniors but he was already an incredible athlete. His footwork and stick skills were better than anyone I’d played against. He destroyed us almost single-handedly …” He faded off, shook his head, pulled his hand back, and pushed it through his dark hair. “Sorry, I’m rambling.”
She smiled, liking that this obviously successful, handsome man was rambling. Was he affected by touching her hand like she had been with him or was he rambling to cover his embarrassment because he’d seen her scars? That tampered her smile.
“The Jewel family shows no mercy when it comes to sports,” she said.
He chuckled and nodded. “I saw that firsthand.”
She smiled. So, he’d gone to college with Preston and they’d both played against Caleb. Were he and Preston still close? Could this provide the insight she needed into whether Preston was running the island to the best of his ability or skimming employee paycheck funds like Luke suspected? She realized the ultra-appealing, dark-eyed man standing in front of her hadn’t told her his name in all his rambling. “And you are?” she asked.
“Oh, sorry.” He shook his head. “Abe, Abe Bradford.”
He put out his hand as if to shake again. Rachel glanced down at his hand and couldn’t help laughing. She’d forgotten how fun it was to not only banter with handsome men but know because of her brilliance, beauty, and funny personality she made them stumble over their feet or their words. That surprised her. She hadn’t felt that since the explosion and had feared the old Rachel was buried too deep.
He also looked down at his hand then back up at her and let it fall to his side. “I guess we already did that.” He laughed along with her. “I’m a little off my game today.”
Rachel liked that he would admit that. She tilted her head back toward his yacht, at least she assumed it was his yacht. “Traveling will do that to you.”
His dark gaze gave her another compliment as it slowly swept over her face. “I don’t know that we can blame traveling.”