The ocean isn’t like the land. It is a living, breathing thing. It sighs, and heaves, surges, and writhes with life. And death. It was there, three miles east of Deception Bay, on a day much like this one, where my life was forever changed. My heart beats faster, keeping time with my racing thoughts. My fingers curl around the iron railing in a death grip and I realize what a colossally stupid mistake I’ve made. I shouldn’t have come out here. I should go back inside where it’s warmer. Safer. But my feet refuse to budge.
The bubble of anxiety inside my chest bursts. I struggle to draw in a breath. It’s no use. The darkness is closing in. I’m shaking. Sweating. My knees buckle, and I’m sinking to the deck. I hear the distant, muted spike of alarm in the voices around me. The words are indistinct—the sound distorted, as if I’ve plunged beneath the frigid surface of Puget Sound.
“Hey.” I startle at the feel of warm fingers curling around my forearms. It’s a woman. The faint floral scent of her perfume cuts through the briny breeze. “It’s okay,” she says. “You’re safe. Just focus on your breathing, slow and easy. Okay?”
I try to speak, but no sound emerges. I barely manage a nod. “Maybe everyone can step back and give us some room.”
Her voice is like a life ring amid the storm of panic. I cling to her soft, calming words. Little by little she draws me back into the sun. I open my eyes.
“Where are you from?” she asks.
“New York,” I squeak, sounding like a middle-grader whose voice hasn’t yet dropped.
“I love New York. It’s been years since I’ve been there. Born and raised on the island, though. Whidbey will always be home. Is this your first time here?”
I draw in a shaky breath and focus on her. She’s pretty. Oval face. Dark hair. Steady brown eyes. “No…it’s been…a long time.” “Well, it hasn’t changed much. That’s part of what I love about the place. Predictable. Definitely slower paced.”
“Glacial,” I add. She laughs. It’s a sweet, melodic sound that reminds me of wind chimes.
“Well, yeah. The slower pace of island life might be the kind of therapy a city boy like you needs.”
I like her gently teasing tone and I flash a shaky grin. The engine drops in pitch. The wind dries the sweat on my brow, and my heart begins to slow.
“How are you feeling?”
“Better. Thank you.”
“Austin,” I say.
“Well, Austin, do you think you can stand?”
People are staring. A flush of shame rises up my neck as I avoid looking around. She pushes to her feet and offers her hands. And though I’m perfectly capable of standing on my own, I twine my fingers in hers. Her grip is strong. Shifting her weight back on her heels, she pulls, and I rise from the deck and start to feel like myself again.
“Was that the first panic attack you’ve had?”
“Not exactly. I once had an epic meltdown on the observation deck of the Empire State Building.”
“I shrieked like a toddler. It took an entire precinct of NYPD officers to talk me down.”
“Would I lie to you?” I smile directly into her lovely eyes. Suddenly aware that I’m still holding her hands, I release my grip. Not many people know that I suffered from horrible anxiety attacks the first year I lived in New York...
“Any idea what triggered this one?”
“The water? And you’re heading to an island?” “I never said I was smart.” We both laugh at the irony of it.
The wind blows her dark hair around her tanned cheeks, but Ellie doesn’t seem to notice. She’s so natural, so un-New York. I’ve never been attracted to the girl-next-door type, but I find myself mesmerized by her pretty smile.
The ferry horn blasts and I know we’re close to our destination. A scratchy, near-unintelligible voice comes across the speakers. Riders scurry back down into the bowels of the vessel to their waiting cars.
Ellie glances over her shoulder, then back at me. She’s going to leave me now. I shouldn’t care, but for some odd reason I don’t care to define, I do.
“So, Austin, you’re going to be okay?”
“I don’t know,” I say, hitching my shoulder in a shrug. “As you pointed out, I’m on an island surrounded by water. It’s not every day a guy gets rescued by a pretty woman. Maybe you should give me your number…you know…in case I have another emergency.”
“Oh, don’t worry. If you have another emergency, I’ll find you.”
I have no idea what that means, but before I can ask her to clarify, Ellie is gone.
Deception Bay is one of the books that I originally bought in Love Under Fire. I've been reading the books in this set sporadically, so it's not now available. However, each of the books are! This book, I just finished. And I loved it. A little bit of romantic suspense, a little bit mystery, and a lot of fun conversation between the two main characters. Austin and Ellie.
Austin met Ellie on the ferry to the island on which he had grown up with his family. He had been called back; his mother had been in an accident and was in a coma. He was urged to come. But when he got there and talked to the doctor, there was some question as to how her injury came about.
Enter Ellie, who us Chief of the police on the Island! One thing you'll see quickly is that, most of the time when Austin and Ellie meets, he's had some type of accident as well... At first, Austin had assumed that it was just more of his clumsiness which he'd suffered throughout his life...
When Austin enters his home, he was shocked. His mother had become a hoarder and when he fought his way to his room, he discovered that it was also stuffed full of...whatever... Readers learn of the estranged relationship which came about when his older brother was killed in a sailing accident and his mother, not thinking of him, had told him she wished he had been the one on the boat... Could anybody expect Austin to forgive her? He loved her and hated her. But as he looked at her lying in the hospital, he knew he should try to forgive...
Austin found that many of the residents on the island were still there. And they all knew he was a successful author... Austin had been a chubby boy, helped along by his mother's constant comparison of him to Scott his brother. His father had died and then Scott, who had been close to Austin, was killed. Now, his last family member was possibly in danger of dying...
Soon Austin was questioning what was going on. What kind of accident did his mother have. And many of the people still there were actually friends of his brother Scott, so he quickly became entangled in their lives...almost as if it had just been yesterday when Scott had died, when actually it had been many years.
Scott's girlfriend at the time of his death, had asked for Austin's help when she revealed that the business which they owned was not doing well financially. Austin quickly "knew a guy," a forensic accountant, who he would ask to help discover what was going on...
Being pulled in with that group, also resulted in Austin getting assaulted by the ex of one of the women who had now decided that Austin was to be her new lover... That ex? He was soon murdered and Austin found Ellie, The Chief, considering whether he was the killer...or it could be his ex-girlfriend who was now "closely" involved with Austin--at least once...
Attempts on Austin's life began! What was going on? Slowly Austin learned the present was pulling him back where he didn't want to revisit...the time when Scott died... But would he survive long enough to discover what had happened?!