Jenna starts out in Santa Cruz in her butter yellow MGB convertible, needing to drive to Vancouver, BC for her baby sister’s wedding.
What a fabulously perfect June morning: a stretch of coastal California highway unfurling like silver ribbon ahead of me, the top down on my old MGB, a sun visor shielding my eyes, the ocean breeze cooling my cheeks.
Open roads meant possibilities. What was around the next curve? A sliver of white sand beach, a field of bright orange California poppies or one of grape vines, a hawk drifting high in a clear blue sky?
When her car breaks down, she can’t afford to get it repaired. At a diner, she meets Mark, a sexy but serious science guy, and after a little conversation . . .
She slanted her body to one side, raised a slim, bare arm, and cocked her thumb in classic hitchhiker body language. “Got room for one more? I’ll split you on the gas.”
He almost spewed coffee. “You want a ride to Vancouver? You’re hitchhiking to Vancouver?”
She made a face. “Dude, you sound like my parents. No, I’m not hitchhiking. I’m asking you for a ride.” A mischievous grin lit her face. “Of course if you say no, I guess I’ll be forced to stick my thumb out at the side of the road. And you know, it’s dangerous out there for a girl on her own. Never know what might happen. You don’t want that on your conscience, do you?” Her teasing tone told him she wasn’t serious.
Well, what guy’s going to say no to a fun, sexy woman like Jenna? So now Jenna has company on her journey – and Mark’s drive to Vancouver just turned exciting and unpredictable.
Mark has a schedule, but Jenna’s the impulsive type. Realizing that he’s being pretty professor-ish and likely boring her, he suggests a slight detour, to check out a place that fascinates him: Glass Beach.
No doubt about it, she’d charmed and bedazzled him. Here he was, holding out the promise of a sparkly beach as if it was a special treat to tempt her.
His interest in things has always been scientific, but she makes him see the world differently.
He’d visited here before, his scientist’s curiosity engaged by the history and the processes that had transformed a dump into this unusual beach. Yet he’d never actually thought about the beauty of the bits of glass. Now, he studied the handful: gleaming and sparkling in the sun, pieces of sea-polished glass mingled with regular beach stones and seashells. Most were clear or white, and there were a few amber bits, some green, and one of vivid blue.
"Cup your hands,” she commanded.
When he did, holding them below hers, she gradually let the pebbles trickle between her slender fingers into his cupped palms, sunlight glinting off them as they fell. “There you go. A handful of magic.” She curved her own hands around his, her palms and fingers warm against the backs of his hands. “We’re holding magic.”
His pulse raced. Yes, the bits of glass were pretty and sparkly, but the magic was in the sparks that hummed between her hands and his.
Sparkly glass, walking barefoot on the beach, and isn’t that first kiss just inevitable?
His gaze sharpened with awareness, with purpose. The blue of his eyes deepened, then he tossed our sandals on the beach and caught me firmly by the waist. He lowered his head and kissed me.
My eyes closed against the dazzle of sun as his lips met mine. Tentative, for the briefest moment, then hard, fierce, demanding. Oh yes, that was more like it. I kissed him back just as hungrily.
One kiss, and somehow my whole body, my whole being, got sucked up in it the way objects get whirled up into a tornado.
Thought wasn’t possible. Only heat, passion, the exploration of tongues and lips. Strawberries, coffee, the tang of ocean, the blaze of sunshine. A repetitive roaring that was either waves crashing on the beach or the pulsing of my blood. The sun had climbed inside me, melting me into something malleable, liquid, and yearning. That kiss wasn’t what either Jenna or Mark expected – and nor was their journey exactly what I expected. You’d think I, as the author, would have a fair bit of control, but that’s not usually the way it works for me. My characters kind of take over. For example, when I first thought of a road trip, I envisioned them having a candlelit dinner at a patio restaurant by the ocean and staying in a romantic little B&B. But that’s not who either of them are. They’re way more into nature, and of course they wanted to camp out by the beach.
Patrick's Point State Park in California They go for a hike, skip stones – and what else can they possibly do but go skinny dipping at sunset, then make love on the beach?
Then it’s time for dinner by the fire – and it’s a simple meal of salmon cooked in aluminum foil (the recipe’s on my website), along with white wine and . . . well, I’ll leave the rest to your imagination!
The next day, they’re on the road again, heading into Oregon. Sitting side by side in the cocoon of a moving vehicle, watching the world flow by outside, makes for a special kind of intimacy. As they talk, they find themselves sharing memories, ideas, hopes and fears they rarely talk about. Incidents along the road contribute to their closeness and their knowledge of each other, and to a growing sense of respect, trust, and deep affection.
Prehistoric Gardens, Mark humors her – and the serious science guy realizes that stopping to play every now and then is a lot of fun. Not only that, but Jenna is terrific with kids and would make a great mom, even if that’s a possibility she’s never allowed herself to consider.
Because Mark’s a planner, he’s phoned ahead to reserve a campsite at Cape Lookout State Park in Oregon, near the Washington border. They’re in time to barbecue skewers of prawns and veggies and eat them on the beach, with a view of the setting sun. What better setting for a little romance?
“Too bad. I like to think it’s magic.”
He gazed at her, the dying sun deepening the gold of her hair and darkening her tanned skin. “It is magic. Just because there’s a scientific explanation doesn’t mean, uh . . .” He hunted for words.
“That the experience is any less magical,” she finished. “Like, there’s a reason those sandpipers dart around the way they do, a reason for the colors in the ocean, a reason the falcons nest in the most out-of-the-way spots. But when you see them, you’re touched by magic.”
He nodded. When he looked at her, he was touched by magic.
Well, of course it’s never that easy in a romance novel, is it? Jenna’s and Mark’s road trip up the coast isn’t just a physical one, it’s also emotional – and it challenges both of them. Like many of us, they have issues in their past that have caused them deep pain. They’ve built very different, but basically satisfying, lives around one belief they share: neither believes they’ll find true love.
Can each of them give up their well-established patterns – her free-spirited butterfly life and his work-centered one – and take the risk of opening their hearts, of seeking commitment, of changing their lives and sharing them with that one special human being? That’s the true journey Jenna and Mark face as they take their Pacific Coast road trip.
I hope you’ll join them on their wild ride to love.
Now, tell me what you think about road trips and emotional journeys, and any special trips of either sort that you’ve taken. One person who comments will receive an autographed copy of HIS, UNEXPECTEDLY.
Mahalo, Susan, for sharing the Wild Ride with SOS readers! I'm ready to rent a car and drive from Santa Cruz to Vancouver! HIS, UNEXPECTEDLY is the third book in Susan's Wild Ride to Love Series:
1. SEX DRIVE (planes)
2. LOVE, UNEXPECTEDLY(trains)
3. HIS, UNEXPECTEDLY (automobiles)
4. TBA: Merilee's story (a cruise ship)
Go along for the ride with Susan’s sexy “planes, trains, automobiles, and a cruise ship” series, as three sisters travel home to their baby sister’s wedding. Along the way, they find romances of their own—and learn that the journey to love truly is one wild ride!
Read about how the series came into existence.
Of course I have something to say about road trips .....
Susan's story almost tempts me to camp again ... and reminds me of a Wild Ride I took with college friends long before I met married hubby. I lived in Boston while several college friends lived in Germany. Shortly after the Berlin Wall came down, they encouraged me to join them for an adventure to Eastern Europe. Let me clarify that they were Army and I was Air Force so we had different standards and expectations of adventure. We camped throughout Croatia and Italy (taking a ferry across the Adriatic Sea). They camped ... I slept in the truck. I share two memories with you:
- As we drove through Croatia, the road hugged the mountain.One foot high pillars separated us from death! So we called them the Pillars of Death! As we drove down the mountain towards a town, women would jump from their houses with signs, "Zimmer Frei" (room available in German). Germans had long discovered Croatia's beauty and hospitality. Our only complaint - the Croatians had too few vowels in their language. How does one pronounce Krk?
- On our way home to Germany, we stopped at the US Army's Camp Darby outside Pisa. They camped .... I checked into the Visiting Officers' Quarters (but they were quick to use my shower). It was "Darby Days" - an American festival to share our culture with the Italian neighbors. Although we had enjoyed both Croatian and Italian food, there is nothing like "home cooking" at the end of a road trip. Bar-b-que chicken. Baked Beans. Corn on the cob. Apple pie. Plus we bumped into another college friend stationed at Camp Darby. We traded German gas coupons for Italian ones to get us out of the "boot".
|What every tourist does in Pisa -|
hold up the Leaning Tower!