A Broken Place (coming this week)

Reverie’s shoes dug into a long, thin ribbon of sand behind the Orion Caribbean Suites, San Juan. The sound of the waves crashing against the breakers, and the majestic striations of color that painted her little stretch of beach made it worth the extra work of running through the sand. Reverie had never been a big fan of exercise, but now she had energy to burn. The ocean was calling her, and the beach was no longer brimming with tourists eager to soak up the Puerto Rican sun.

She ran, wide open, as close to the ocean water as she could get without soaking her shoes, resisting the urge to raise her hands in the air and shout like she’d just scored the game-winning run. Then she shouted anyway. Orion Caribbean, and its dozens of chic resorts, was now her customer. Crimson Sunset, LLC was next. It was only a matter of time before her dreams came true. Finally.

Wind whipped tiny strands of her thick hair into her chestnut brown eyes, and the waves danced raucously beside her. She was so busy looking out across the frothy water that she never saw the other runner. She felt the hit, and then she was flying through the air. Reverie landed with a wet thud and breathed in a mouthful of salty ocean water as she scraped along the bottom.

She coughed and thrashed as a pair of strong hands pulled her from the waves. She swiped her hair from her eyes and planted her feet, ready to defend herself if necessary. A man with short, honey-colored hair streaked with blonde held her hands firmly in his grip. His sapphire blue eyes captured her in their gaze for a moment until the pain in her arm and leg demanded her attention.

“Are you okay?” he asked, his handsome face dark with concern. “I didn’t see you.”

“I never saw you either,” she whispered almost to herself, as she splashed water against her bloody arm and tried to spit sand off her lips without being too obvious about it. Trying to control the tremor in her voice, she continued, “I was looking at the waves, and I…”

“I was watching the dolphins.” The man’s face was a mask of regret.

“What dolphins?” If he would only turn away, she could wash the sand from the side of her face and lips.

He did turn and pointed. “See the fins disappearing over by that huge rock? They’ll come around this way again in a few seconds.”

She cupped her hands and doused her face a couple of times. Then she squeezed the water from her shirt. Reverie stifled several coughs as she splashed away the sand and blood, while straining to see the playful mammals against the explosion of pink and orange sky. Moments later, she was rewarded with the dark shadows of a pod of four dolphins showing just enough of themselves to gain attention. “Hey, I see them!” The delight in her voice was genuine.

“Are you positive you’re okay?”

Reverie looked down at her right arm and dribbled more water on it. There was a long scratch above her elbow, and fat trickles of blood rolled from it. She bent down and submerged her arm, wincing as the salt water burned.

“I’m staying at the Orion Premiere.” He nodded in the direction of the elegant cottages farther down the beach. “I bet they have a first aid kit.”

“It’s okay. I’m just over there in one of the suites.” She pointed her thumb behind her. “I can fix this scrape up in no time. My mother was a nurse.”

He nodded. “At DePere General, right?”

She stared at the man, taking in his thin but muscular build and his beautiful eyes once more. “Do I know you?”

“You’re Reverie Martin.”

“And you are…?” She swallowed and pushed her hair back as a chill snaked its way up her spine.

“Jordy Schmidt.”

Reverie took a step back. “I’m sorry. I don’t remember where we met.”

“DePere High School. You were a year ahead of me, but our birthdays are only ten days apart. I was held back because of the cutoff. You’re August 28th and I’m September 7th. We had the same Chemistry class.”

Reverie stilled herself and let the dead calm roll through her. It was only temporary, but the deep breath she was holding helped. Finally, she exhaled as the fog cleared. “Mr. Withers? That man was the toughest teacher I ever had. But he knew his stuff.”

“He did.” Little laugh lines around his eyes and mouth had made him seem older, but too much time in the sun could do that. “Made sure we knew it too.”

So why can’t I remember you? And why am I the only one who looks like a train wreck? Reverie looked for signs that he’d been running, but he hadn’t even broken a sweat. Had she seen him earlier in the day? There was something familiar about his face.

As if he read her mind, Jordy said, “Picture me with huge blonde curls all over my head.”

She stared, her mind racing, noting the slight gap between his two front teeth. How could she forget a face like that? But then it came to her. Jordan Schmidt, “Schmitty,” hung out with the super jocks, people who didn’t notice clumsy nerds like her. He was quiet and kind of faded into the background in school, but he was in with the kids who didn’t know she was alive. Wow, did he grow up fine—about a foot taller than she remembered, and those muscles were nice, too. She could tell he still wore a baseball cap because his hair was sun-bleached blonde at the tips. But those deep, Capri blue eyes, framed by long black lashes, were so enchanting. She could stare at them for hours. How had she missed those eyes during high school? Boy-watching was one of her favorite subjects.

“You’re Schmitty.” Reverie forced herself to look down at her arm when she realized she had been staring. She dabbed at the blood with the edge of her t-shirt.

Jordy lifted his finger and gently wiped sand from her cheek. “I am. Please let me walk you back. It’ll be dark soon, and you’re bleeding.”

She touched the place where his finger had been, but when she noticed Jordy’s amused look Reverie swiped water droplets from her face. She didn’t trust herself to speak, so she brushed as many of the sticky crystals as she could from her clothing. Then she turned back toward her suite. She tried to walk without favoring her left leg, but the pain wouldn’t let her. Just enough had been skinned off her thigh that it left a huge, raw, throbbing ache that made every step a challenge. Maybe she should take him up on his offer. Jordy had pointed to the high dollar section of the complex, and they might have a real doctor there who could look at her leg. As she looked him up and down, she thought she remembered seeing him when she checked in at the main desk, a curvy brunette wearing a tiny romper and a pink floppy hat next to him. Reverie hoped he wasn’t there on his honeymoon. But when she looked, there was no ring on his finger.

He stopped and drew next to her. “Would it help if you leaned against me?” His voice was full of sincerity.

“No thanks. I’d just get blood on you.”

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