Well, it’s that time again already. I’ve got Star Folly in a bookfunnel promo so thought I’d drop you a line to let you know…you can find that in the freebie area below.
Though I’ve settled in over here I still haven’t had a chance to get back to work on Beach like I wanted to. However, I thought you guys might like to get a look at chapter four, which is included right here:
If there was one thing I could say about my evening at Smitty’s, it had to be that what I’d planned for, and what happened instead, were two completely different animals. Damned Jasper, the least he could have done was warned me just how fun and attractive Miss Aph Graeme actually was!
Of course, I knew that marine biologists came in plenty of sizes, shapes, colors, and ages, but Nantucket had been in her forties, and was like a den mother to the teams working at MAM2 facility. Aph was young, vibrant, and exciting—and while the men also seemed to pay attention to her, they sure as hell weren’t thinking of her as a den mother.
The trouble was, neither was I. From the moment I first saw the petite, voluptuous redhead with green eyes, I’d been hard pressed not to stand at attention. It was a fair bet she would prove to be more of a distraction than an advisor if I hired her on.
Yet, my reason for the advanced meeting wasn’t to determine whether or not she was beautiful; I needed to know if she could do the job. If she possessed the skills necessary to maintain the tanks, interact with the animals, and follow my instructions. And, most importantly, she needed to be able to keep our secret, or the whole program would be screwed.
So, with all that in mind, I needed to ask myself why I was walking along the moonlit beach with her. It was sure to give her the wrong vibes—or the right ones, if I was being honest with myself. Because once she knew who Kahuna Joe really was, I doubted she would continue to be so open and real.
“It’s beautiful out here tonight, isn’t it?” she asked me softly, and we sort of bumped elbows.
“I get the feeling whenever you’re around, it’s always beautiful.” What a cheesy thing to say! She was sure to think it was some corny pick-up line. She might even be right.
Aph snorted. “Come on, Joe, you don’t need to start laying it on now, you’ve already got me out here. Why don’t you just go for the gold? Ask me out, make a move, or get my number so you can call me again when you’re back in town.”
I blushed. “About that, Aph. This is going to probably piss you off, but I’m not going anywhere. I sort of live here in San Diego.”
She froze, shaking her head in disbelief. “Well, I was wondering when I’d discover your flaw. I guess you’re just out on the prowl. Just so you know, I gave up on casual quite a while ago, and I sure don’t date men who are already in another relationship either. So, if that’s what’s going on here, we may as well part company while we’re still in the friendship zone.”
“It’s not that, sweetheart. It’s just—well, this evening wasn’t supposed to be about starting a personal relationship at all. I—well, before I go any further, you need to know who you are actually talking to. My full name is Jonah Beach.”
Aph blinked, her eyes beginning to take on an angry glow. “Commander Beach? What the hell? So, you don’t call me for days, and then you show up at my favorite bar? Are you some kind of weirdo?”
“My intentions were noble, I assure you. You see, our old marine biologist died quite suddenly, just three weeks ago. Of course, I can’t give you any particulars, but even though I need a new employee, in all that time I’ve actually been doing the job myself. I guess I’m finding the idea of hiring someone to replace Nan a bit—overwhelming.”
“So, you didn’t want to call me until you checked me out first,” she added, understanding me perfectly. “Well, this just sucks. Now I won’t know if you’re going to hire me because you’re attracted to me, or if you actually think I’m capable of doing the work.”
I laughed. “Aph, why can’t it be both? I’m in charge of the hidden division, you know. It’s not like anyone is going to fire me for dating the new girl.”
“Yeah? But what about me? I could easily be right back on the unemployment line. And I don’t want to be; I love working with dolphins already. I’ve been doing so since the age of fourteen. And sea lions? I’m sure I’d like them just as well. So, I really don’t want you to hire me for any reason but the job. Dating my employer doesn’t sound like a good idea, Joe.”
“Then I’m just not sure what to do here,” I admitted. “I’m way too interested in you to just let it go. You are bright, beautiful, witty, and you can kick my ass at pool. It wouldn’t surprise me if there are other things you could best me at as well. And dammit, I really want to find out what they are.”
Aph started to walk faster, and then she broke out into a run. I chased after her, though I didn’t try to immediately catch up. I wanted to give her a chance to cool down. When she dropped down on the wet sand and let the surf wash over her, I came and dropped down next to her.
“Aph, it wouldn’t be fair of me to not hire you either, right?”
“That’s the trouble,” she agreed. “I need the job. I’ve been living off my aunt’s paycheck for eight months already, and I really think it’s about time that I started to contribute. But I’m not letting you hire me just because Jasper asked you to, either. You need to get a full look at all my credentials, verify that I have the necessary skills, the whole nine yards. And as for the rest? I have no idea what we should do. Hell, I don’t even know what we’re allowed to do, and what would get us into trouble.”
“I need to interview you, and it takes a couple of hours,” I told her. “First, are you a strong swimmer? Are you a certified diver? Have you had any experience with maintaining aquariums? Trained with animals?”
“Yes, to all of those, sir,” she told me. “I am capable of doing the job, specifically because I was already helping to maintain our dolphin research facility in the Florida Keys, and I was even researching communications with our animals. If you wanted me to show you, I have even worked out my own set of whistles and clicks, and our animals even learned how to use a touchscreen.”
“What became of those animals when you moved away from the facility?”
She sighed. “The dolphins we were simply observing in the bay are still there, but we had to give the research animals to the people who bought the company. I worry about them, of course, since they were my friends for over ten years, but in the end, I obviously couldn’t bring them with me.”
“You know, I think I might have been wrong about you,” I said, chuckling. “Maybe you are a bit of a den mother. Who knew? What are you doing on Monday? I’d like to have you come by and start to fill out the paperwork. Just so you know, there’s a lot of it. And a security briefing as well. You will be legally obligated to keep everything that happens at the facility to yourself.”
“That’s completely understandable.”
We just laid there in the sand and surf for a while, side by side. Our hands came together at some point, but we didn’t touch each other in any other way. Being that close to her was having a profound effect on my libido.
“What is your opinion on kissing a girl you’ve only just met?”
“Well, me personally? I don’t think it ever crossed my mind, since I am totally into the kahunas, but I think it depends on the situation. Take this one, for example. I’m a girl hoping to land her first job outside of the family business that we no longer own. You’re my potential employer, so really, I doubt you should be kissing me at all—but I mean, you already broke a whole bunch of rules tonight anyway. What difference would it make, really, if you broke a couple more?”
I rolled onto my side. “You always talk this much when a guy is planning to seduce you?”
She rolled onto her side too. “Not especially. But you only asked about a kiss, Commander.”
“I don’t think you want me to put the cart before the horse, sweetheart.”
Aph got up and shoved me onto my back again as she settled herself on top of me, grinning wickedly. “Actually, sir, you’re wrong about that. I really wouldn’t mind at all.”
Her lips crashed down on mine, and I would have laughed except that I was too busy kissing her back for all I was worth.