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Hope's Watch, #1.5

Hope's Watch, #1.5

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Sometimes letting go means letting someone else in. 

Traumatized after a modern-day pirate attack, Elle must admit she desperately needs emotional support. But to accept it from Mal Armstrong means she'll have to let go of her animosity toward him.

Main Tropes

  • Adventure Romance
  • Forced Proximity
  • Broken by Trauma

Synopsis

Elle, haunted by a pirate attack, faces a heart-stirring dilemma: to heal, she must embrace the support of Mal Armstrong, the man she resents deeply.

Intro Into Chapter One

Elle stared at the blood smeared on her hands. The light of the retreating Coast Guard helicopter made it seem like she starred in a ghastly horror film. But as she stood on the deck of the captured pirate ship, Elle didn't feel like a movie heroine.

The memory of Jori’s mangled cheek turned her stomach. She looked up at the disappearing spot of light, the whop-whop-whop of the chopper fading as it flew her friend to the hospital in American Samoa. Could he die from a rifle butt to the face?

A burst of wind made Elle shiver in the still-damp, borrowed t-shirt. Jori’s shirt. The one he had given her to cover her near-nakedness. Wrapping herself with her arms, she wished for her bikini top. It was still on the catamaran, somewhere on the dark ocean, with her best friend Lyn.

Elle peered into the darkness, but the lights of the Coast Guard cutter in the near distance blinded her to anything but it. She couldn’t shake a powerful sense of guilt; she was safe, rescued. Lyn was lost at sea.

Elle’s lips trembled. She moved to press her fingers against them but stopped when she remembered the blood. With an almost manic intensity, she rubbed her hands against the shirt, as if by wiping them clean, she could make all the rest of it go away.

“It’s time for you to board, ma’am.” A Coast Guard sailor gestured for her. She saw the last of the sixteen freed prisoners climbing over the rusty railing of the pirate ship. Afraid she might be left behind, Elle hurried over. When she came full into the cutter’s spotlight, the guardsman raised a hand. “Is that blood? Are you hurt?”

“It’s not mine.” Elle pointed in the direction the helicopter had gone. “It's his.” Her voice sounded strange, even to her.

“You’ll have to get cleaned up first, ma’am.” The sailor pulled out a hand radio. “I’m going to need another blood kit.”

After she washed her hands, Elle took the coverall the sailor handed her. Self-conscious, she turned around and ripped the t-shirt over her head and stepped into the garment. She put the tainted clothes in the bag and faced him. He signaled for her to climb down the ladder and into the inflatable raft that would take them to the Coast Guard boat.

When she boarded the cutter, the other rescued captives looked at her, eyes dull. Their expressions reminded Elle of the pictures of people when the Twin Towers had fallen. Dazed, confused. Like it couldn't be real.

A sailor handed Elle a water bottle and a packet of crackers. She took them and sat down. Had it only been yesterday that she and Lyn had eaten breakfast together on the cruise ship, talking about going snorkeling for the first time? Except for a snack of fruits and juices on the way to the snorkeling stops, she hadn't had anything to eat. She forced down the tasteless crackers, glad when they relieved some of her lightheadedness.

Huddling into herself, Elle tried not to think, not to keep reliving it all over and over again. Where was the catamaran? Was Lyn alive?

Elle sniffed, choking back a sob. She scanned the haggard group of friends and caught several glances, as though they were looking at her for a cue on how to react. If she lost it, would they?

Closing her eyes, Elle leaned back her head. Sure, she had taken charge on the cruise ship, pulling together this group of strangers, and they had become friends. She was good at that kind of thing, but she was a party planner, not a trauma specialist.

Elle opened her eyes and inhaled deeply. No, she wouldn’t cry in front of them, not if they needed her to be strong. But steeling her face didn’t calm her mind. All she thought about was how she could possibly go back to the cruise ship, without Lyn.

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