CHAPTER EXCERPT


After hours of driving around town, Ethan returned home.  He had decided to remember that this was all about
his company, not his crazy feelings for Tori, and he had to keep those feelings in check.  He walked out onto
his backyard deck with his suit coat flapped over his shoulders and his mind still reeling from the news of
Tori’s involvement.  
But he also knew that they had to be stopped or his company may never recover from all of these successive
defeats.  Now his St. Louis project was lost.  He had wanted to build a nice resort for average folks, those
blue collar workers who never dreamed they’d be able to live in abject luxury for a week or two.  Now that
plan had been stolen right from under Ethan’s nose and he didn’t like it.  He stood there and looked out across
the peaceful waters before him, hoping just the sight would help to calm him down.  And then he saw Tori.
She was sitting quietly on the beach, this time in a pair of shorts, a halter top, and a big, straw hat.  Ethan just
stared at her, at the peacefulness all over her, and his heart ached.  What could have been, he thought sadly.  
He continued staring at her.  At that aura of honesty and integrity that he had thought cloaked her like a
garment.  She seemed so comfortable with the world.  So at peace.  Until she jumped up and began running,
not toward Ethan, but toward the northern end of the beach.
Ethan quickly looked beyond her to see what had her suddenly in such a rush, and that was when he saw a
young couple who appeared to be engaged in a heated argument.  The young man, in fact, was slapping around
the young woman so violently that the woman fell to the ground.  Tori approached the couple yelling
something to the man, Ethan couldn’t make out what, and before he could try to figure it out Tori was dead-
square in the man’s face.   Ethan was almost stunned still, as he watched her, but he flew into action when the
man, as stunned as Ethan by Tori’s brashness, lifted his hand and slapped Tori down, too.         Ethan dropped
his suit coat and ran down the steps of his deck, jumping to the sandy beach with four steps to go, his
expensive dress shoes sinking into the sand as he fought against gravity to get to Tori.  
But Tori didn’t need anybody’s help.  She jumped back up and kicked the man as hard as she could in the
groin.  While he bent over in pain she jumped on him, knocking both of them down, and started beating him
down with her fists.  The young woman was screaming for Tori to leave her man alone and Ethan was running
so hard he could barely keep his balance.  When he arrived at the scene he had to literally grab Tori by the
waist and sling her off of the man, her fists still flailing with anger as Ethan held her with her feet off the
ground.  The man started kicking his feet away, trying his best to get away from that crazy woman, when he
saw Ethan.  The man’s girlfriend, bleeding from the nose, tried to aid him.  When Ethan made a movement
toward him, however, the man jumped to his feet and, with his girlfriend by his side, started running away
with a decided limp.  
Ethan then looked at Tori, who was yelling for him to let her go.  As soon as he eased his grip she snatched
away from him and began hurrying for the house.  Ethan looked at Tori, then he looked at the man, and then he
shook his head in bewilderment and left the once tranquil beach, too.
Tori was in the kitchen placing an ice-filled cloth over the side of her face when Ethan came in through the
back door.  He stood there and exhaled, wondering what was he going to do with this woman, then he went
over and removed the cloth from her face.  She winced.
“Be still, Tori,” he said rather snappishly.  “I just want to take a look.”
“There’s no bruise.  It just stings a little.”
He looked at her.  “What did you think you were doing?” he asked her.
“He hit that woman.”
“I know that.  But what did that have to do with you?”
“So you expect me to just stand back and let him beat on her like that?”
“I expect you to stay safe, Tori, that’s what I expect you to do.  If some man is beating on some woman you
call the police or you come and get me, but you do not go into that man’s face daring him to beat your behind.”
“His behind is the one that got beat, thank-you,” Tori said as she moved to walk away from Ethan.  Ethan,
however, grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back in front of him.  The concern in his eyes startled her.  
“I mean it, Tori,” he said.  “You’d better never do anything like that again, do you understand me?”
Tori sighed wearily.  “Yes,” she said, “I understand.”
He nodded and then he slowly pulled her into his arms, hugging her tightly.  She closed her eyes and allowed
him to pull her closer against him, the contact relaxing her frail nerves.  They both were emotionally spent,
and it showed, and that was why neither let the other one go.
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