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Life's a Beach - Angelica Kate

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Life’s a Beach

Angelica Kate

Cover by: Liz Seils

Angelica Kate

© 2017 Angela K. Naff

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Beginning of Book

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Epilogue

End of Book

CHAPTER 1

TARYN GLANCED INTO the rearview mirror at the tiny face in the car seat, sleeping peacefully on the pillow she had put beside her daughter’s head. The serene visage showed no trauma from the events of two nights ago when Alex had showed up trying to take her daughter for a visit. The stench of alcohol and violence radiating from his fisted hands had been the final warning for Taryn, and as soon as she had been able to get the police to her door to remove him she had put her plan into action. She had known the day would come for weeks now, and had quietly sold all but the barest of furnishings in her tiny apartment, given notice at her job and packed her trunk.

Taryn didn’t have a soul she could depend on in the big city as the only child of aged parents that had years before passed from a variety of health issues. Having been born surprisingly in their twenty-second year of marriage they had tried their best to give her everything she needed on her father’s limited salary as a school bus driver in their small town, Taryn had sorely missed out on siblings and other relationship building roots. The flip side was that she had been protected, fed and loved which was in direct contrast with Alex’s upbringing. Her nature was peaceful and resilient, causing her to as a young woman look for the best in everyone she met. That personality flaw was long erased by surviving years of abuse at the hands of her ex-boyfriend and the struggle to break from that grasp after Harper’s birth. She had in the early years could talk him off the ledge, but time and circumstances had honed his anger into a weapon he wielded unsparingly. She had long known that she would need to take drastic measures to take back her life, this road trip was the first step in that direction.

Taryn stared at the road ahead trying to keep the tiredness and soul seeping sadness at bay. She wanted her daughter to have everything she herself had never known. Freedom to make her own choices, love of people who cherished you and a deep sense she could be anything she wished in this world. Taryn would never allow bitterness to sap her strength, but there were moments when having to be strong and smiling every day for that little girl in the back was all that got her out of bed. She no longer had any dreams of her own for love, romance as the only point of reference she possessed was Alex. He had been the ideal man for her when they first met, or so she had thought. She could clearly recall the exact moment when her eyes alighted on the dark haired, brown eyed boy with dimples for days. He hadn’t been much taller than her frame at five foot five, but something about the cocky grin and easy personality had drawn her in. Within their first two dates she was head over heels and willing to do anything to please him. Every break at her waitressing job had him showing up to chat and spend time waxing poetry into her ear. Only later would she become quizzical about the fact that he didn’t appear to have a steady job he could talk to her about, and the whispers about what he did continued to grow.

Six months in and she was pregnant, when she was ordered to bed and Alex needed to care for her in his apartment the comings and goings only caused her instincts to grow about where his livelihood came from. When Harper was born, Taryn confronted him about having strangers in and out of the apartment always of the day and night. That had been the first time he had hit her, and let her know that quieting him in any manor would not be tolerated. She had moved back to her own space, a tiny studio above the restaurant a week later and started caring for her daughter. The intervening two years were miserable and a battle of wits for survival between the two of them with Harper’s life in the balance.

Finally, last month when he had raised a hand to her daughter, she had been able to step in and take the hit herself. The wheels for her escape where put in motion and now here was the result. She had been driving south from her Midwest roots for three days, stopping to see sights along the way and let Harper stretch and run. Two nights in safe but cheap hotels was taxing her little nest egg but she would need to find lodging for the night and tomorrow morning plan. They were firmly into the east coast of Florida now and she saw a sign Gentry’s Beach House for Travelers. Sounded nice, but the inexpensive direct beach front lodging notation below that title captured her attention. She had been dreaming about dipping her toes in the ocean, thus her choice of this state for her final stop. Taking the exit directed, she followed the signs off the ramp from Highway 75 down darkened roads well signed when suddenly out of the overgrowth this huge Victorian style house appeared ahead, the color of which Taryn could quite distinguish.

She pulled into a spot close to the well-lit path leading to the house, and slowly got out. Looking out toward the water she gasped, the moonlight over the vast horizon of water was something to behold. Inhaling she closed her eyes and offered up a silent prayer of gratitude to whomever might be listening for her safe travels, and this gorgeous locale. No matter how much it cost, they were staying here tonight she decided gently opening Harper’s door and taking their overnight bag flung it over her shoulder before she gathered up the warm wiggling body that immediately went limp again on her shoulder.

She was awed by the quiet of the night with just the waves as a lullaby as she made her way up the front door. The bubbly joy she felt elevating inside was unique and caught her off guard, squaring her shoulders she made to grab the front handle when the door flung open.

Good Evening, a wrinkled old lady with a welcoming smile sang out stepping back to allow her in.

Hi, I was hoping –

We have your key ready, the kind lady said placing it in Taryn’s hand. I’m Lilith Gentry and this is my home, welcome.

I am sorry – I thought this was a hotel, Taryn said.

It is but I have lived here myself for years. Now breakfast is at seven o’clock in the dining room around the corner, she whispered. Blankets, towels and the like can be found in your room if you require anything further please let me know.

How much do I? Taryn tried to maneuver to her wallet in the bag over her shoulder.

We can talk about that in the morning, you look bone tired and that little one is heavy for sure, Ms. Gentry said patting her arm.

Thank you, Ms. Gentry, – I promise I am good for it, she said grateful for the reprieve but not wanting this sweet lady to think badly of her.

Please call me Lilith and I have no fear you won’t take care of your responsibilities, she said pointing up the stairs. I will meet you and your little girl in the morning. Sweet dreams, she said as Taryn started climbing the staircase.

KASEN WIGGLED A CHOCOLATE donut in front of Graham’s nose, oh my god this is the only good thing about these overnights, he said laying claim noisily to the fresh confection.

You are so wrong, Graham said shaking his head. I have no idea how you can consume so much sugar and still look like a dedicated body builder.

Kasen cocked an eyebrow at him, You have 50 pounds of pure muscle and six inches on me. I just work out to try and not look like your date whenever we are out of uniform.

Graham laughed at that one, you aren’t pretty enough to be my date – seriously look at that mug. Besides I cannot help it if I was born the size of a Neanderthal, the fact was Kasen was extraordinarily handsome if the swooning women they stopped or came into the station were good judges. The openly outgoing man with the twinkling green eyes, and spectacular ass one had said to Graham when looking for Kasen one day. The man attracted women like flies to honeys, not that Graham could fault him he could have had his own fair share it just wasn’t something in the cards for him, so he ensured he never encouraged any of the fairer sex.

I haven’t seen a woman in six counties that is complaining. I think they forget I’m standing there when you walk in all uniformed up.

I guess it must be the old rule about always wanting what you cannot have, Graham teased looking out towards the gas station they were staking out. There had been two armed robberies in six days and the sheriff’s department had enlisted any extra hands from towns, cities and counties for about 100 miles to help take shifts trying to catch the bastard. Neither Kasen or he were married, although Kasen had an active social life that required plenty of capital. They had been partners for ten years now since Kasen had graduated the academy and come back to their sleepy little town. Harmony boasted a population of 10,000 nestled on the shores of Florida far enough North not to get as many spring breakers or tourists as towns further south, but enough to keep the town afloat. Besides a few rowdy teenagers, it was an uneventful place to live – except for that night a decade earlier.

Graham’s brain immediately floated back to the worst night in Harmony, Florida’s history. A freak water accident had seen four teenagers hospitalized - his sister the sole loss that evening. He knew that he should be thankful more were not lost, but his loss had eaten at him every day since. He shook his head not wanting to get distracted from the task at hand. He needed to stay sharp, if stories were to be believed the robber would be armed tonight and he didn’t need anyone going down on his shift.

Hey, speaking of working out we could do an early morning in the gym after shift, if you are game, Kasen said keeping eyes trained ahead full alert to the situation they were monitoring.

No can do, Graham said quietly. I have to go help Lilith with some honey-do items.

You know if only she was forty years younger, I would hold out hope of you getting some, Kasen said with a light chortle.

Graham slugged him in the arm, don’t be disgusting. I leave all the man whoring up to you my friend.

I know but it would be nice if occasionally you took up some of the slack. Being the only single eligible uniformed man in town keeps me quite busy, he winked at Graham.

I think you will manage, Graham said his eyes trained on the scene in front of him.  That black car is making a second pass, he homed in on the vehicle trying to see the license plate, Can you – he stopped mid-sentence already grabbing for the handle as the group of three entered the gas station dark hoodies all pulled up to distort their faces. Kasen was mere steps behind him as they jogged as low as possible for his six foot four frame and large body now coursing with adrenaline.

He glanced over at Kasen and nodded a signal to go left as he was headed right – they would enter from the two side doors and god willing box the crew in without too much fuss. He spun through the possibilities and how to best handle while finishing the journey to directly behind the car crouching down he made his way along –

HONK

Damn! he muttered realizing their cover was blown he opened the car door and had the perp on the ground in one solid swipe, as two other officers in Sherriff’s uniforms loomed into view and entered the small building. A shot rang out stopping Graham’s heart in his chest, as he tried to see into the store the guy he had pinned down started wiggling in earnest.

Come on, he said returning his attention to the kid as he slapped cuffs into place, I’ve got a hundred pounds on you.

My mom is going to kill me, the kid said.

Want to provide her name and yours along with address, this will go a lot easier for you – he trailed off as Kasen exited with another kid looking to be around sixteen hands cuffed behind his back.

He hit the ceiling trying to scare us, he said to Graham’s questioning look. No worries, he lowered his tone.

Kasen was the last family Graham had on earth and losing him was a reality he didn’t want to contemplate. He fully understood their career choices and that standing in front of a bullet to protect his community was both their jobs. He never let the worry overshadow his duty, but as the adrenaline feigned it never failed to give him pause.

CHAPTER 2

TARYN COULDN’T SLEEP. Staring at the clock it was only 4:30 a.m. and would be hours before Harper raised her cute little head. Glancing about she found the baby monitor she brought from home which she was hopeful would reach to the beach just outside the front door. She was not able to resist the pull of the water any longer. The lull of the waves had been calling to her all night. Piling her hair on top of her head she pulled a clean t-shirt out of her bag and slipped into her cutoff shorts. Glancing in the mirror she swiped a finger under each eye and shrugged. She didn’t like wearing a ton of make-up and since she didn’t want to attract undo attention this minimalist look worked for her these days.

Slipping downstairs, she heard a slight motion and turned toward the area that Lilith had said would be the dining room. There laying out plates was Lilith and another lady who looked even older, if that was possible working beside Lilith.

Good Morning, how did you sleep, Lilith rang out.

Good but that beach is beckoning to me, Taryn said glancing toward the door but realizing these two probably needed some help. Can I help with something this morning?

Both women’s heads snapped up a bit, you are a guest.

I know but I truly need to stay busy, she replied.

Tell you what, Lilith said after a moment. You go dip your feet for thirty minutes and we will listen for that sweet angel, she raised her eyes toward the stairs. Then when you get back if you want to help I would love some younger hands in the kitchen.

Taryn almost sighed out loud in relief. Her good manners dictated her making the offer, but she was itching to get in the water. She will sleep and I do have this monitor if she wakes, she didn’t want this nice old lady and her friend to have to go any further out of their way for her and Harper than the kindnesses they had already extended. Also, we can settle my bill when I get back.

Lilith waved her off, Go enjoy that glorious sand.

Taryn was off without another word to the contrary. As she walked absorbing the air and water this glorious feeling of peace climbed over every nerve ending she possessed.

As she finally reached the first wet spot she looked down at the impression her foot had left with a grin on her face. Looking up she was shocked to see a girl about sixteen or seventeen standing in front of her, Good morning – sorry I didn’t see you before, she thought to herself how absorbed she had to be not to notice someone walking up.

The girl looked around confusion radiating from her, I – are you – good morning.

I’m sorry, Taryn carried on, did I scare you.

No, it’s just been a long time since someone has been out here talking with me.

I know it’s pretty early but I love this time of day best, Taryn squished the sand between her toes. We are from Wisconsin way up North, and it’s still cold this time of year so this is simply – bliss, she sighed.

I never have been anywhere truly cold – but my brother once went skiing and brought back all kinds of stories about snow. I love the water and beach though and cannot imagine ever being someplace else. Did you just move here?

Oh, I wish. We are just passing through –

To where?

Taryn stared downward focusing on the water, sand and early morning quietness – not the sadness threatening again. I guess anywhere big enough that I can wait tables and make a new life for my little girl, Harper.

How old is she?

Almost three.

Is she as pretty as you are?

I look a mess, but she luckily did take after me but her hair is a hot curly mass, she said with motherly pride. Most parents believed their prodigy the prettiest or handsomest but Harper proved it out without her saying it as even strangers commented on her delicate features. Strangers though didn’t sit well with Harper, she was painfully shy and would slink behind Taryn’s legs anytime they were out in public situations.  "What grade are you