Home > Single Dad Seeks Juliet(9)

Single Dad Seeks Juliet(9)
Author: Max Monroe

Compared to the Iowa farm country I was born and raised in, California was glitzy and glamour-filled, and needless to say, it wowed me.

Sadly, it’s probably because of that wide-eyed wonder that I fell so easily in love with frat boy Raleigh Reynolds. He was clean-cut, well-liked, from a well-off family, and he treated me like I was something special. Amid a crowd of perfect bodies and plastic surgery, I was absolutely thrilled that someone like him could think I—the small-town girl from Iowa—stood out.

One month after meeting Raleigh at a party during my junior year of college, we started dating, and to be honest, I thought I’d date him for the rest of my life. I thought we’d get married and have kids and be the perfect California couple with big dreams and a house in Malibu.

I glance at myself in the mirror again and shake my head. My God, what a naïve little girl I was.

I swipe at the crease of my eye shadow and check the corner of my mouth for excess lipstick. Everything is in order, but I still pull out my eyebrow pencil and do a couple extra strokes at the apex of the arch of my brow.

The clock glares in the dim morning light, clicking over to another minute of time, and I swallow wordlessly.

It’s time to face the bachelor music.

With a pop of my door handle, I step out of my car quickly, and along with the door, I shut any chance of checking my makeup another needless time behind me. I tug at the hem of my black blazer, trying to get it to settle onto my shoulders in a way that feels remotely comfortable.

The morning air is heavy, almost misty, and I can’t remember the last time I was awake this early. Actually, that’s not true. I do remember the last time—I remember it vividly, in fact. It’s just that I choose not to relive the horrid memory that served as a big fat catalyst for my world imploding.

Graceful as can be, I trip as I take my first step onto the sand on Coronado Beach, but I catch myself without taking a tumble. It’s not crowded, though there are several more people than I would have expected, seeing as the sun is barely even peeking above the horizon.

A contingent of Navy T-shirt-wearing men jog by, and not a single one of them looks up at me. I choose to believe it’s their dedication to their duty and not the extra pounds I’ve put on recently that make me invisible.

I almost roll my ankle again, and I curse under my breath to make myself feel better. Stooping low, I take off what my dad likes to refer to as my “man heels” in favor of bare feet. They’re normally my most sensible “I’m still trying to look professional but not get blisters” shoes—hence the less-than-flattering nickname from my dad—but apparently a heel of any kind in soft sand is a death sentence.

I scan the waterline for a man of Jake Brent’s description—tall, athletic, muscular—but all I see are military men and large, rolling waves. To be fair, a good number of them are of both good height and physical condition, but none of them seems like the man I’m looking for.

There’s something about Jake Brent that makes me feel like I’ll know him when I see him. It’s not cosmic destiny or anything—it’s just access to information.

In addition to the personal ad entrants submitted for the contest, they also had to provide a brief physical description. For whatever reason, the paper’s legal team insisted on it, but for the most part, they all read the same way to me—average male.

This one, though—it had something else—rigorous details that people often don’t notice about themselves.

Tall, lean-muscle athletic body type, black hair, bright blue-green eyes rimmed with laugh lines, and a tattoo-sleeved arm that tells the story of my life.

I still remember the way it brought my mind to a halt when I read it.

Trudging farther into the sand, I make my way down the beach until I’m even with the Hotel Del, the landmark Jake Brent’s daughter referenced when explaining where I’d be able to find her dad.

Ha. “Landmark referenced.” More like the hint she dropped on my doorstep right before she ran. It was the ultimate ding-dong ditch of explanatory phone calls.

The air is still a little hazy with dawn, but from what I can tell, almost everyone else I noticed in the vicinity before has moved on to sandier beaches…or something

I look back toward my car, wondering if I should just peel out of here, get on the phone again, and hope Jake Brent actually answers my call this time so I can schedule a meeting in which I feel slightly less awkward. But in the end, the sheer distance of the walk makes my decision for me

Instead, I plop down in the sand and dig my newly freed toes down until the grains feel cool. Serene and quiet, the morning blankets me comfortingly.

The truth is, I’ve spent the last six months out of sorts. Confused, lazy, desperate to find something that motivates me again after breaking off my engagement to my college sweetheart. After I spent more than a decade of my life with someone, it’s like I forgot how to function properly on my own. I laugh to myself as I think of my dad’s car analogies I almost never get.

According to him, ever since I broke it off with Raleigh Reynolds, I’ve been down a cylinder or two. Whatever that means.

I check the time on my chunky Michael Kors watch and glance over my shoulder. Nobody. Frankly, the place seems to have gone from hopping to deserted in no time flat.

I look out at the ocean and scan the surface of the water for anything of interest.

I don’t expect to see much, but with a hand over my eyes to shade out the light from the rising sun and a squint, I can just make out a human-looking figure in the ocean right before it disappears under a crushing blow from a huge wave.

Holy shit! That doesn’t look good!

Panic grips me, and I jump up to my feet in the kind of swift motion I didn’t even know I was capable of anymore in my thirties. I search the surface of the water for signs of the person as quickly as I can. Briefly, so briefly I almost miss it, his head pops up from the hollow in between the waves, arms stretched up, and then disappears again.

Shit! That definitely isn’t good! Isn’t that, like, the international sign for distress in the water or something? I feel like I’ve read it in a book before.

I run forward toward the edge of the waterline, dropping my purse in the sand in the process. I watch avidly for the man to reappear, but all I’m able to make out is a rogue arm through the wall of yet another wave.

I think that guy is going to drown!

Fear for the stranger’s life grips me, and I jump into action without thinking, sprinting into the water up to my thighs. My clothes are getting more drenched by the second, and the instant a wave breaks right in front of me, I freeze in my spot.

How in the hell am I going to help him? I’m not Michael Phelps, for fuck’s sake!

I search the water manically, hoping to lock on to a body part—a fleck of hope for this soul—when the back of a head bobs in the water before disappearing yet again.

Jesus, I can’t just leave him. I could never live with myself!

Shit. I’m really going to have to do this. I’m going to have to try to help him.

I time my jump into the body of the next wave just before it breaks, hoping to avoid getting caught up in the inertia of it. I’m an average swimmer at best, but I’ve seen the movie Blue Crush at least a dozen times. Surely, I can use all that research to my advantage.

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