Wounded Marine veteran, Cluny McPherson, is ready to throw in the towel. Why are his PTSD nightmares worse now, more than ten years after the ambush outside Fallujah? He hates his growing feelings of hopelessness and doubts he'll ever live a normal life. He loves women and kids, and he desires a loving woman in his life, one who wants a family as much as he does. But with the nightmares getting worse, the only female he dares spend an entire night with is his loyal service dog, Queen, a war vet herself. Until one day on a California beach, he meets a beautiful Brazilian woman and her young boy and everything changes. For the first time in years, there's a chance of healing...and a chance at love.
Graciella Jefferson, SEAL widow and single mother, is wary of the man who sits for hours on the sand by the Point Dume rocks, staring at the ocean. But her nine-year-old son, Santos, is increasingly curious about the dog that wears a vest and stays next to the tall, dark-haired man in the baseball cap. When she finds out Cluny was saved in Iraq by her late husband, a friendship begins between them that quickly heats up into something much more. But Graciella has been burned before. Can she lower the walls around her heart and learn how trust again?
CHAPTER ONEThursday, Zuma BeachWho is that man? Why is he here every day? He rarely looked around, just stared out to sea for hours on end. Something must have happened to him. He seemed isolated from his surroundings on this beautiful stretch of southern California beach. She shook her head and sighed.Graciella Jefferson turned her attention to her nine-year-old son, Santos, chasing wavelets at the edge of the surf on Zuma Beach. They’d been here every morning since school let out two weeks ago. He loved the ocean, but hadn’t worked up the nerve to go in above his knees. She smiled, knowing he’d get there in his own good time. His father had been a genuine frogman.“Santos, time for lunch!”He smiled and waved, took a last flat-footed jump in the shallow water then ran to join her on the blanket under the big carnival striped umbrella. “Mom?”“Yes?”“See that man and his dog over there?” He tilted his head in the direction of the rocks near Point Dume.“Yes, I see him. Why?”“They’ve been here every morning this week, and they’re still there when we leave. They must love the beach as much as I do.”Graciella pushed up the brim of her wide hat to get a better look. Santos was right, the man was always there. He and the dog stared out to sea. Every now and then the man would reach down and rub the dog’s head.“What is the dog wearing, Mom, a T-shirt?”“I can’t be sure, but it looks like a vest, the kind service dogs wear.” She squinted to get a better look.He took a big swallow of lemonade and wiped his mouth on his forearm. “What’s a service dog?”“Use this.” She handed him a faded, old cloth napkin. “A service dog is a companion that is specially trained for certain tasks.”“Like what?”“You’ve seen seeing-eye dogs working with the blind.”“But that man can see. He watches the ocean a lot. His dog just sits there next to him, not doing anything.” He pointed his skinny arm toward the rocks where the man sat on the sand with his hands dangling between his knees.“It’s not polite to point, Santos.”“He’s not looking at us.”“It’s still not polite.”“Why?”She tousled his curly black hair. He looked so much like his late father it nearly broke her heart. “Enough questions. Eat. We have to head back in about an hour. I have a class to teach this afternoon.”Santos tucked into the rest of his sandwich, guzzled the rest of his drink, and mopped his mouth with the napkin. “I’m done.” He darted back to the water’s edge.Graciella watched him for a bit, then picked up her book and got comfortable in the sand chair to read. After several minutes she looked up and her heart skipped a beat when she didn’t see him. She dropped her book and scanned the beach. He was walking toward the man and his dog, kicking his toes in the wet sand. He glanced back at her, a broad grin on his face, and waved.