In honour of the Crimson Romance Anniversary Book Sale, I've put an extract below of my book published by them, Winter Storms. Set in a Cornish fishing village, Winter Storms is a story about second chance love and learning to forgive.
Daniel looked at the lifeboat station sitting beside the beach. It had been rebuilt since he was last here, the wooden shed replaced by smart brickwork and a long ramp, which ran directly down to the sea. Shells crunched under his boots and he breathed in the familiar scent of salty sea breeze and decomposing seaweed. An orange inshore boat bobbed beside the slope, a dry suit flung over one seat, it was a measure of how important the lifeboats were viewed here that no one had stolen it.
“Looks good,” he said, over his shoulder to Carly.
She nodded, pulling her stick out of the sand as she walked along the beach. He stepped over to help, but before he reached her, a man appeared from behind the building and took her arm. Daniel drew a sharp breath, before narrowing his eyes; it was Liam.
When he left Haven Bay, Liam had been a spot covered youth with a permanent scowl who, Daniel had privately believed, would get no further then jail. He must be about eighteen now, a foot taller than his sister with hair dyed fashionably yellow at the tips.
“Liam,” Daniel said, holding out his hand.
Carly’s brother ignored it and from the expression in his eyes, he could tell Liam was as eager to forgive him as she’d been. The Roberts family had a strong line of stubbornness, but for her sake, he’d make an effort.
“What are you doing now, Liam?” he said.
“Bit here and there,” he answered.
“He’s starting work on the fishing trawlers, aren’t you” Carly said. “And volunteers in the office at the lifeboat station.”
“I joined the Padstow life crew,” Daniel said. “I don’t go out so often now though.”
“Busy training?” she said.
He nodded, not wanting to explain that every time they plucked a casualty from the seas, he imagined it was her, hair flowing wet behind her, face white and unmoving. It made him reckless, risking everything to save the victim and you couldn’t have that in a team; it put other people’s lives at risk.
The lifeboat station door opened and a man glanced out at them, a blue tattoo down one cheek and bulging arms stretching the thin t-short he wore. Daniel glanced at his own thick jumper and shook his head slightly.
“Carly, love!” Stepping out, the man hugged her tight. “What good news do you have for us today?”
Laughing, she detangled herself. “Daniel, this is Mick, coxswain of the lifeboat rew.”
She turned to the tattooed man. “I’ve come to add an extra £400 to the pot, raised by our Christmas singers.”
“Brave lot, I’d not stand in a street singing, couldn’t be that cruel to anyone.” Mick smiled, showing rows of fillings. “And Daniel, I heard you were back, well done on that medal.”
He shook his head, being congratulated for a gold medal by a man who risked his life saving others was embarrassing.
“Come in,” Mick said. “I’ve just been sorting the equipment.”
Daniel followed him into the curved boathouse and stood in front of the gleaming orange lifeboat, breathing in the familiar smell of oil and dried seawater. A narrow walkway led to a flight of stairs and tilting his head, he looked up to see a second mezzanine floor, bordered by a black rail draped with waterproof jackets and trousers.
Obviously familiar with the building, Carly vanished upstairs, her cane echoing from the metal steps.
“She’s gone to update the fundraising chart,” Mick said, “won’t be long.”
“Is she all right on those stairs?” Daniel said.
Mick laughed. “I’d never dare suggest otherwise.” He looked up at the balcony. “But I’d best help her find the papers, I did some tidying earlier.” He followed her up.
Daniel rested his hand on the boat, there didn’t seem much point in talking to Liam, from the youth’s clenched fists, he still wasn’t in too friendly a mood. Had Carly told people that she’d asked him to go, or did they believe he walked out, leaving her in hospital?
“What are you doing here?” Liam said.
“I’m not sure, it was an impulsive decision.” Daniel tapped his fingers against the dinghy. Why was he here? It had started as a desire to see Carly, to convince himself that she was all right, but now he didn’t want to leave. He glanced up, hoping to see her walking back down; it felt wrong not to have her by his side. She had fitted back into his life with an ease that both unnerved and excited him. Was this why the relationship with Imogen hadn’t worked? Because deep inside he was still in love with Carly?
“I want you to stay away from my sister, you’ve already destroyed her life once.”
“I think that’s her decision.” Daniel kept his voice level, he wasn’t getting into an argument with Carly’s brother, although part of him was glad that she had someone looking out for her.
“She won’t take you back, not after you abandoned her.”
Daniel thrust his fists into his pockets, knuckles whitening. “It wasn’t my decision to go.”
“She wanted you to leave, I know. But she was hurt and terrified of being a burden, you should have realised that she didn’t mean what she said.”
Daniel remembered her hard eyes, snapping with fury; oh yes, she’d meant every word. Each insult had been planned to cause maximum pain, to ensure he left Haven Bay, and it worked, because for two years he stayed away. That day, he saw a different Carly, one consumed with a rage she couldn’t control.
“It’s none of your business, Liam.”
“It is my business. I spent hours pushing wheelchairs down hospital corridors while she struggled ahead with a walking frame, weeping in frustration when she fell. Do you have any idea how many operations she’s endured, or the terrible pain she copes with each day? No, you know none of that. You left her crying in a hospital bed to continue with your career and glamorous girlfriends, until you eventually return, thinking you can start again where you left off. Well you can’t, we’ve all moved on, there’s no place for you here.”
“I tried.” Daniel said. “She refused to let me into her room, told the nurses to bar me.
She made her feelings very clear. I wasn’t wanted, she hated me for what happened.”
“With good reason.”
“Yes, with good reason. It was my fault and I accept the blame, I always have. She wouldn’t be in this position now if it hadn’t been for me and I’ve spent the last two years living with such terrible guilt it’s driven me half mad. But there is nothing I can do to change things, I can’t undo what happened.”
Muted laughter came from the stairs, sounding strange in the tense atmosphere, followed by footsteps and the clunk of a cane on metal. Striding to the steps, he watched her climb down, gripping the rail tight, Mick walking slowly in front.
“We’re doing well!” he said, seeing Daniel. “Only another million to raise. Are you coming to the sailing club Christmas party? Ten pounds a ticket with half going to the lifeboat station.”
“I’m not sure.” He glanced at Carly, but she had bent her head to look at the last step, crimson hair falling over her features.
“It wouldn’t be your type of thing, beer served in plastic glasses, bowls of crisps and sausage rolls,” Liam said.
“Do you think I live off champagne and oysters? Thanks, Mick, I’d love to come.” He
pulled a ten-pound note out of his wallet and held it out.
“Excellent, let me get you a ticket.” He strode off and Daniel glanced at Carly again. Was it his imagination, or did a brief smile flick across her lips?
Also available in paperback, the Kindle version, for my US readers, is part of the July 2013 anniversary sale at $1.99 and my UK readers can pick up a Kindle copy for just £2.47. Perfect for a holiday beach read!