BEACH DREAMS By Trish Perry Publisher: Harvest House Publishers Release date: July 2009 ISBN: 978-0-7369-2446-7 Copyright © 2008 by Trish Perry Tiffany LeBoeuf recently lost her mother to cancer. Still grieving, Tiffany seeks rest for her body and soul at a cozy beach house in San Diego. A scheduling mix–up causes a double booking, and Tiffany ends up sharing the house with a woman named Eve. When Eve's boyfriend, Jeremy, arrives to surprise Eve, he surprises Tiffany as well. He settles in at the beach house next door, and what happens after that surprises them all. A fun, contemporary romance about how God uses even our mistakes to bring about His divine purposes. Beach Dreams--the perfect get–away read.
By Trish Perry
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Release date: July 2009
Copyright © 2008 by Trish Perry
Tiffany LeBoeuf recently lost her mother to cancer. Still grieving, Tiffany seeks rest for her body and soul at a cozy beach house in San Diego. A scheduling mix–up causes a double booking, and Tiffany ends up sharing the house with a woman named Eve. When Eve's boyfriend, Jeremy, arrives to surprise Eve, he surprises Tiffany as well. He settles in at the beach house next door, and what happens after that surprises them all. A fun, contemporary romance about how God uses even our mistakes to bring about His divine purposes. Beach Dreams--the perfect get–away read.
March 11, Northern Virginia
Tiffany lugged her suitcase up the three steps of the airport shuttle bus. If she hadn’t packed the case herself, she’d be suspicious of its contents. It felt as if it were full of cinder blocks.
The March air hung colder here in Northern Virginia than it had in South Carolina. Yet Tiffany perspired with the effort to carve out a spot for herself and her luggage in the shuttle. Every spot was filled, jammed with people eager to get to their cars. Evening rush hour at Dulles Airport--never one of Tiffany’s favorite situations.
She lurched backward and might have fallen when the bus took off, but there was nowhere to fall. Everyone on board groaned when the bus crawled to a stop for even more passengers in front of the American Airlines exit.
Oh, man. They were all getting on through the back door, where she stood sandwiched between a woman with an over zealous fondness for perfume and a man wearing too little deodorant.
The new passengers entered with a cold whoosh. There were only three of them, but three too many as far as Tiffany was concerned. She looked down to make sure no one stepped on her Moschino slingbacks. Why did she do stupid things like this? Why didn’t she wear sneakers when she flew, like normal people?
She closed her eyes briefly. She was doing it again. Complaining about her circumstances, which really weren’t all that bad. For the past six months--ever since she came to Christ--she kept catching herself like this. With an exhale she determined to upgrade her attitude starting now. Appreciate, girl, appreciate.
When she lifted her eyes, they fell on the most attractive man she’d ever seen, especially this close. The cramped quarters forced him to stand within kissing distance of her.
Thank You, Lord!
He and Tiffany looked directly into each other’s eyes--there was really nowhere else to look at the moment. He topped her in height by a few inches, despite her heels. The bus took off, and the quick forward movement shoved them against each other. They each grabbed at the hand rail and offered one-word apologies to the other.
Oh, mercy, did she hear an English accent? Maybe. And she was a sucker for an accent. There was something familiar about him. What was it? Had they met? Or was it just because he looked like Jude Law? Or Jude Law’s even cuter brother.
Dear Lord, is it okay for me to talk with You about stuff like this? My goodness, he’s so close I can tell he has really excellent skin. And the perfect amount of five-o’clock shadow. Is that bad of me to notice? Am I a horrible Christian for absolutely loving this moment?
She tried to sneak a casual peek at his ring hand, but the handrail obscured her view. Oh, wait, now, that was the wrong hand. But his ring hand was blocked by other people.
She glanced back up and saw him studying her with his crystal blue eyes. He looked quickly away, but then he playfully looked back at her, sideways.
She laughed, maybe a little too loudly. Embarrassed and reluctant to look at him again, she trained her eyes on his warm brown sports jacket. And his white shirt appeared freshly starched, even this late in the day. Six months ago, she would have made an unabashed comment to get things rolling with this guy. Where was the old Tiffany?
Me again, Lord. I cannot believe I’m getting shy. Me. The biggest flirt ever. This is Your doing, isn’t it?
The man next to him asked the time. Mr. Gorgeous looked up at the handrail to read his watch. Hmm. A watch on his right wrist? That usually signaled a left-hander. Maybe he was creative. An artist. An actor.
Would you look at those eyelashes? And yes, he said the time--six thirty--in a distinctly British accent.
Wow, it really was hot in there.
The shuttle stopped at the first parking lot. Ah good, the cool air would help. And now people would get off and she could check out his ring finger.
As he rolled his luggage out of the way, she saw. Single. She smiled.
He smiled back. Friendly; not particularly flirtatious. He smelled like soap and spice.
And then he stepped off the bus.
He stepped off the bus!
She knew her disappointment was obvious, but she couldn’t help it. She realized she had already mapped out some wonderful plans for the two of them. She’d accompany him to his next gallery opening. To his opening night performance. Anywhere!
He turned to face the shuttle before it pulled away. She saw him look for her. When their eyes met, he smiled again, but with a hint of sadness. It was a smile that said, “What a pity.” Then he nodded once in her direction, as if he were saying goodbye.
She actually raised her hand in a resigned wave.
Okay, Lord, that was not fun. You and I both know I decided to trust in You about everything, especially men. And I’m going to try to be good. But that one right there? I’m going to need a whole lot of help, if You’re going to parade many more like that in front of me.
She sighed and watched for her stop. She was home. It was time to focus on getting her life back in order.
Three days later, Tiffany stood outside Ledo’s Pizza, a hungry grumble in her stomach and a hint of dusk in the sky. In one swift moment, she kicked her flat tire, broke her stiletto heel, and gave voice to the thought floating through her mind.
“Maybe coming back here wasn’t such a great idea, after all.”
But she immediately regretted her negative words. No, that wasn’t the attitude she wanted to adopt, was it?
She had made it this far. She had moved back into her condo and restarted all of her services and utilities. She had put in a call about her old job at the gym. Tomorrow she would touch base with some of the people she left behind when Mama’s cancer got so bad.
During those five sad months, she had noticed it: South Carolina didn’t feel like home anymore. Even with Daddy still there.
This was home. Northern Virginia was home, and Tiffany had missed living here. She was surprised at how much she missed her . . . friends?
Yeah. Friends. Kara and Ren had sent flowers and the sweetest condolence cards to Daddy and her while she was away. They would even have come for Mama’s service if Kara’s wedding wasn’t the same week and Ren’s pregnancy wasn’t so far along. Considering they had barely met Mama, their intentions said “friends” to Tiffany.
She smiled at that and sallied forth, hobbling like a peg-legged pirate on her broken Biba pump. She walked into Ledo’s, where the lights were dimmed for the dinner crowd. That unmistakable aroma--bread, garlic, oregano, and burnt cheese--made her stomach growl again. She had planned to grab dinner, even before the tire blew. Maybe someone here would help her change the flat.
She reached the front counter and stopped in her tracks. Wasn’t <em>he</em> just the one for the job? The guy behind the counter focused on the cash register, his pale brown hair soft against his forehead. He looked more than friendly; he was one red-hot pizza man. Tiffany didn’t even have to try to smile at him; he brought her mood up several notches just standing there.
When he turned his attention to her, she saw a visible lift in his mood as well.
Then it seemed to hit them both at once.
Mr. Gorgeous from the shuttle bus. The Jude Law look-alike. He worked in a pizza joint? She would never have placed him in this environment. He had smelled spicy, but not garlic and basil. So much for galleries and stage performances.
He seemed slightly embarrassed, but he quickly recovered. “Fancy a pizza, love?”
Were they not going to mention the shuttle-bus incident?
Seeing him for a second time triggered something else in Tiffany’s mind. She felt like she had met him--actually been introduced to him--somewhere before the shuttle bus. The gears in her rewind machine worked quickly. Had they dated? No, no way. She’d never dated a pizza man. Plus, she would definitely have recognized him on the bus if they had dated in the past. But her stomach tightened, and the pieces of her memory fell into place.
“Miss?” He had a polite question in his expression.
Shoot, she’d just been staring at him, glassy-eyed. She ordered the first thing she saw on the menu behind him. “I’ll have the Hawaiian pizza, small. Please.”
“Righto.” He jotted her order down, and she felt minor frustration with him. Wasn’t he going to say anything about the other evening?
“Hawaiian pizza.” He looked up at her and smiled. “I always thought that was an odd combination.”
“What?” Tiffany frowned and focused for a moment on what she ordered. Hawaiian pizza. Yeesh. She hated ham. “Oh, hold the ham, okay?”
He gave her a nod and jotted again. Fantastic forearms. “Right, then. So . . . hmm.” He glanced up, looking confused. “I have to say that sounds rather more odd than the original. You just want a pineapple-and-cheese pizza, is that it?”
“Ew. No. Hold the pineapple too.” She grimaced. She was an idiot.
“Ah . . .” He altered the order form again. “You want a Hawaiian pizza, hold the ham, hold the pineapple. The cheese, apparently, stands alone. Do I have it, now?”
She would have found him annoying, but that accent was so charming, and he had the slightest grin on his face. She was reminded of his sideways glance in the bus. She couldn’t help but laugh. “Just a plain pizza, okay?”
His eyes crinkled, and Tiffany’s stomach did a little flip. Too, too cute. She paid him and saw him considering her. He cocked his head before he spoke.
“I think you were on the Dulles shuttle the other night, yeah?”
Finally! “Yeah. I wasn’t sure if you recognized me or not.”
He retrieved her change from the register and spoke without looking up. “You have rather unforgettably blue eyes.”
A blush ran all the way up to her ears, especially when he gave her the change and she felt the warmth of his hand.
She was blushing? What had the good Lord done to her?
“Wow, what a nice thing to say. Thanks. But, um, I feel like we were introduced sometime in the past. I’m not sure when--”
A woman’s tired voice interrupted them.
“Hey, Jeremy, could you please come help me carry this tray of pasta dishes when you have a second?”
Tiffany turned her head, blinked once slowly, and opened her eyes and mouth in shock. “Ren!”
The immensely pregnant woman looked just as amazed as Tiffany when she turned in answer to her name.
“Tiffany?” Then her expression brightened, and she came as close to hugging Tiffany as she could, considering the size of her belly. She smelled like a pizza oven. “Are you back home now, or just visiting? And, oh, I’m so sorry about your mom. Did you get our card? The flowers? Oh, don’t answer that; we were just so sorry everything happened over the Christmas break and during Kara’s wedding. We--Hey, what’s with your shoe?”
Tiffany glanced down. She’d already gotten used to favoring her right side and had nearly forgotten. “Broke it. Kicking my flat tire. Outside.”
Ren heaved a commiserating sigh. “Not your day, is it?” She glanced into the dining area, which seemed full of an inordinate number of kids with their parents.
The guy from the shuttle bus--Jeremy--had quietly gone after that tray for Ren. Tiffany heard his voice above the din of all those families clamoring for their orders.
Ren adjusted the short green apron over her belly. “Let me go help Jeremy with those entrees and I’ll be right back. Sit!” She gestured toward some chairs for waiting patrons and took off.
Tiffany obeyed, but she was totally confused. Now she knew why that adorable Jeremy looked familiar. He worked with Ren; she had heard Ren and Kara talking about him in the past. But Ren and Jeremy were schoolteachers. Tiffany was sure of that. She felt like she inhabited some alternate universe, watching them serve pizza and pasta to the masses, especially with the once-svelte Ren waddling like an emperor penguin in baggy drawers.
Then the other memory hit her. A slow seep of acid started in her stomach. She had met Jeremy when she worked at the gym. He was a member. Just as she had done on the bus the other night, she immediately saw a big neon “Gorgeous!” sign over his head the moment she met him. But something she said back then turned him off. She remembered seeing it in his eyes--from appreciation to disdain in a few easy words. And she hadn’t crossed paths with him since.
Here he came back again. Tiffany sat up and tried to look like someone who wouldn’t think of saying anything mean or stupid.
But it was too late. He must have remembered too.
“Right, I’ll see how your order’s doing.” He passed her. A kind smile on his face, but he appeared determined to avoid her eyes. Wow. What a difference one little memory made.
Now he was very polite. But very not interested. Whatever she had done or said before, it had oozed into his mind as the acid had her stomach.
“So, how are you holding up, Tiffany?” Ren eased herself down in the seat next to her and drew her attention away from the kitchen and Jeremy. Sympathy was clear in Ren’s small smile. “Everything happened so quickly with your mom, didn’t it?” She placed a hand on Tiffany’s knee.
Despite all the kindness shown to Tiffany and her dad over the past several months, she still found it difficult to be comfortable with most physical gestures of affection. She didn’t like that about herself. She willed her knee not to tense up under Ren’s hand.
“I still can’t talk about Mama very well.” She stared at her lap.
After a quick pat Ren moved her hand away. “That’s okay. Don’t talk about her if it hurts too much. I can’t imagine your pain. But . . . I never got the chance to tell you something.”
Tiffany looked at her and saw respect in her eyes.
“Your leaving here to spend those last few months with your mom? So loving, Tiffany.” And then Ren must have sensed that Tiffany couldn’t talk without crying, because she swiftly changed the subject. “So has your health been all right through all of this?”
“The diabetes?” Tiffany shrugged. “Pretty much the same. No better, no worse. It’s just a way of life, and as long as I get my shots on time, I’m fine.”
Ren tucked a long stray lock of her dark hair back into her ponytail. “I’ll bet you never expected to see Jeremy and me working at Ledo’s, huh?”
Tiffany gave her a weak smile. “Yeah, what’s up with that?”
“School fundraiser. Most of the people working tonight are teachers from our school. We’re working for free, and Ledo’s is contributing fifty percent of the night’s profits to the school. A bunch of the clientele tonight is from our school.”
Tiffany’s eyes wandered to Ren’s massive stomach. “I can’t believe they’re letting you work here like that!”
“Why not?” Ren laughed and gently rested her hand on top of her tummy. “I’m pregnant, not radioactive.”
“But you’re huge!”
Ren looked down and smiled at her abdomen. “Twin girls.”
Tiffany’s cell phone rang, and she looked at the ID. “Oh, good. It’s the gym about my job.”
“You mind if I stay here awhile?” Ren pressed her hands against the small of her back.
“No, stay. This shouldn’t take long.” She answered the call. “Hi, Mickey. Thanks for calling back so soon.”
But as he began to speak and she heard the frown in Mickey’s voice, her own spirits fell.
“But I left to care for my dying mother, Mickey!” Tiffany said. “Do they know why I left?” Don’t cry. Do not cry.
Tiffany glanced at Ren but had to look away. Those kind eyes were going to break her down right in the middle of this restaurant. She finished the call with Mickey and stared at the wine-colored carpet, willing her heart to slow down.
A couple of waiters passed by on their way to the kitchen. Ren broke the silence. “How can I help, Tiffany?”
Tiffany looked at her. “They replaced me. I don’t have a job.”
Ren sighed. “Oh, Tiffany. That’s not right.” After a pause, she began again. “Listen, Tru and I don’t have much, but we could help you out financially for a while--”
“Oh, no, that’s not really a problem.” Tiffany couldn’t help the little rush of appreciation she felt. “Thanks, though. Mama left me a little money.” She frowned. “I took the job for granted, that’s all. I’m a little disoriented.”
“But there are other gyms, right?”
Tiffany nodded. “Sure, sure. I just need to get my thoughts together. I’ve been so distracted by my mom and then making sure Daddy was going to be okay when I left. He’s been so lonely. I’ve just had a lot on my mind and wasn’t expecting my circumstances here to change. And I do have my mortgage on the condo, so I--”
As if given an electric shock, Ren sat upright and gasped. “Tiffany! I know what you should do!”
Her enthusiasm made Tiffany chuckle. “You do, huh?”
“Absolutely!” Ren put her hand on Tiffany’s arm, and this time the gesture didn’t bother Tiffany. “You should take a couple of weeks at the beach house.”
“The what? What’s the beach house?”
Ren sighed and looked up with a dreamy expression. “Mission Beach.
In San Diego. Tru and I spent a fantastic week there a couple of months go, and I’ve been raving about it ever since.”
“Fancy, is it?”
Ren snorted in laughter. “Not exactly. Compared to the houses around it, it’s the ugly-but-lovable child in the group.”
“Then what’s the big deal?”
“Did I mention it’s in San Diego? Come on! Gorgeous weather every day. The locals are cool. The guy who lives next door is this charming Scot--you’ll love him--and the house is right on the beach, and--” She stopped to take and expel an ecstatic breath.
“You’ve just got to go, Tiffany.”
Tiffany raised her eyebrows and cocked her head.
“To get your thoughts together, like you said.”
Tiffany laughed. “What, are you on commission with the rental company or something?”
She was suddenly aware of someone behind the counter.
Jeremy patted the top of the pizza box he held. “One plain pizza, ready to go.” His behavior was still friendly but distant. Yes, he had obviously recalled their brief meeting in the gym all those months ago.
“Hey, Jeremy,” Ren said. “Tiffany’s got a flat tire waiting for her out there. Do you think you could be a gent and change it for her?”
Tiffany looked quickly from Ren to Jeremy. Man, nothing like putting him on the spot.
He hesitated for only a second or two. He untied the chef’s apron from his waist. “Righto.” He picked up Tiffany’s pizza, came out from behind the counter, and gestured for Tiffany to leave ahead of him. “After you.”
Tiffany harrumphed inwardly. He might have been after her, had he not remembered who she was. Everything had seemed so romantic for those few minutes on the bus. Now she had to suffer the consequences of her own bad behavior of the past. And what should it matter, anyway? She needed to focus on getting a job, not a boyfriend.
She stepped in front of him, and her heel finally fell completely off her shoe. With the sudden, four-inch drop to the floor, she nearly lost her balance. The spastic jerk she did with her other leg and both her arms kept her upright but thoroughly goofy looking. As an added bonus, she punched Jeremy in the chest with her elbow when she jerked her arm back.
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” She turned to catch him grimacing, teeth clenched. He rubbed the center of his chest.
He quickly regained his composure. “Not a problem. Really.”
Ren said, “You’d better get those shoes off, Tiffany, before you hurt yourself.”
“Yeah.” Tiffany bent down abruptly, which Jeremy obviously hadn’t expected. He only took one step forward, but that was enough to bang into Tiffany’s backside and send her further off balance and falling forward.
Jeremy cried out something that may have been a British swear word.
When he lunged to catch her, he put his entire body into it and simply furthered her momentum. The two of them sailed forward in graceless symmetry, like two geese coming in for a landing. They finally stopped by crashing, face first and momentarily entangled, against the opposite wall. It was as if a tightly strung catapult had launched them as one. Neither was significantly hurt, because Tiffany’s upended pizza box formed a cushion between them and the wall.
“Blasted twit!” Jeremy straightened up and unsuccessfully tried to catch the pizza box. It fell, half-opened, to the floor.
“Well, I don’t think I’m totally to blame for this!” Tiffany yanked off her shoes. She nearly started crying, so she charged out of the restaurant. Before the door closed, she heard a sputtering attempt at communication from Jeremy, along with Ren’s admonition to him.
She tiptoed gingerly across the cool asphalt, trying to avoid anything that might hurt her feet. She had been through enough today.
Jeremy ran out behind her. “Tiff!”
She quickly dabbed away a few tears, stiffening her posture in the process.
“I didn’t mean you were the twit,” he called.
She turned to face him.
Jeremy rubbed the back of his neck. It was almost too dark to tell, but Tiffany thought he might be blushing.
“I was talking about myself. I should have watched where I was going.” After a resigned sigh, he put his hand out to her. “Truce?”
Accepting apologies was not something Tiff had much experience with. But she was working on that--along with what seemed like a thousand other things. She took his warm hand and shook it. “Truce.” She opened her car, threw her broken shoes inside, and retrieved her gym sneakers. Great. She would be elegance personified, wearing these with her little black pencil skirt.
He smiled. “I believe I owe you a Hawaiian pizza, hold the ham and pineapple. Why don’t you go back in and order another, my treat. I’ll get this tire changed while you wait. And tell Ren we’ve kissed and made up. She’s worried.”
Tiffany refrained from making a bold comment about the kissing and making up--yet another thing she was working on. And God seemed to be lending a hand in that area, too, with all the doggone blushing and shyness she kept experiencing.
“Thanks.” She gave him her keys and turned to tiptoe back to Ledo’s, her sneakers dangling from her hand. She suddenly felt happy. Hopeful. And far more confident. She might be unemployed, but coming home may have been a blessing after all.
She looked over her shoulder and couldn’t help but exercise her most innocently flirtatious eyelash flutter. “You need a ride home after slaving away here? I’d love to return the favor.”
He opened the trunk of her Corolla, matched her smile, and brought her mood swiftly back to earth.
“No worries. I’ve got it covered. My girlfriend’s due here any moment.”
The author of Beach Dreams (2008), Trish Perry lives in Northern Virginia with her hilarious teenaged son. She discovered her love of writing while earning a degree in Psychology. She switched career paths in 1997 and never looked back. Her novels The Guy I’m Not Dating and Too Good to Be True finaled in the 2007 and 2008 FHL Inspirational Readers' Choice Contests, respectively.