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The New York Artists Series
Bad boy punk rock star Reale Lynxx never expected to see his ex-girlfriend, Amanda Simmons, again. And after she'd stomped on his heart and walked out on him six years ago, he's not so sure he wants to. Certainly Reale never imagined he would rescue Amanda and her son, Johnny, from drowning. But all it takes is one evening with her and Reale is ready to leave the past behind and try again.
Amanda never meant to hurt Reale and happily jumps heart-first into rebuilding their relationship. But when she confesses she left him to secretly raise their son, Reale grows livid, fighting her and gaining custody of Johnny…
When Reale realizes he was wrong for taking Johnny away, he tries to win Amanda back. But can she forgive the man who took her son? And can she ever trust Reale again, no matter how much she loves him?
Page Count: 344
Word Count: 88375
“Johnny!” Amanda stood next to her beach chair, shouting to her five-year-old son who was too close to the water’s edge. He had never learned to swim, but raising a child on her own, on Long Island, was too expensive for the luxuries she would have loved to offer Johnny, like Mommy and Me classes or swim lessons. She clamped her hands on her hips, watching him closely. Her thin, white, gauzy swim cover clung to the perspiration on her back and hips. She hated the water, and as long as Johnny was a safe distance away, she didn’t venture any closer.
So why were they on vacation at the beach? She shook her head. Because her best friend, Jessica VanDyke, had offered her the tiny vacation home on Fire Island for the week. Seeing as Johnny had never before been on a vacation, and all she had to pay for was the ferry ride from Bay Shore over, well, she’d jumped at the chance.
But why wasn’t he listening to her? “Johnny.” She repeated his name in her stern voice, the one that normally made him take action.
Still nothing. Damn. The roar of the ocean was too loud, and he couldn’t hear her.
She began her trudge closer to her son, walking over the hot sand, doing her best to dodge sharp seashells. He wasn’t far away; she would never allow that. Just a few long yards, but the ocean noise made it feel as if he were all the way in a different state. Despite the warm sun, she shuddered. She could never imagine being away from Johnny. Not for a minute. Even the thought of all-day kindergarten terrified her. And the school they were zoned for… Oh. She strongly disliked that school. Every time she thought of that place an excruciating ache formed deep in her belly. The reason he was going to that school was her. He didn’t necessarily have to.
Tossing her head, she unstuck her hair from her greasy, sunblocked face as the wind whipped sand into her eyes. Why was it people loved to go to the beach, exactly? “Johnny?”
Nothing. He was too engrossed in the waves breaking around his ankles. He was farther in than they’d agreed. He wasn’t supposed to touch the water, that was their agreement and—
She stopped and smiled as she gazed at her son splashing in the mere inches of ocean water by his feet. He ran in and out of the wash of the surf. He was fine. She should let him be. He was a boy, and boys needed to run and push boundaries. All kids did. Lord knew she had been no different—right through her college years she pushed every boundary she came up against.
The sun reflected off his blond, wavy hair, and his full lips were parted into a full-blown grin. He looked like an angel. He was having the time of his life, on the first vacation of his life, and she should back off. Jess told her time and again she was a helicopter mom, and she needed to let Johnny grow up. And she would, as soon as she knew he was ready and okay. In the meantime, she hovered over every playdate, every nitrate-free hotdog that needed cutting, every pile of laundry and sheets, making sure she used the gentle, fragrance-free detergent that didn’t bother his skin, and every show he watched to make sure it was educational. Of course she was overcompensating for him not having a father and no extended family, but it was more than that. She loved him, and she would do anything and everything for him.
She sighed as Johnny ran in a circle up onto shore and back into the water’s edge. He was fine, within grabbing distance if she needed to, and she had warned him never to turn his back to the ocean. She had read The World According to Garp. She knew they had to be wary of the undertow; they were at an ocean after all. The ocean. She shook her head. Why the heck had she chosen the ocean side of Fire Island for Johnny’s first experience with water? Why not ease them both in with the Great South Bay? And this was their first day of vacation, which meant he would want to dare the ocean every day for the next six days. Was she insane? What was she thinking?
She stepped closer again, tensing. His circles were growing larger. Was he going too far in? Coming out of the water meant turning his back to the surf. She exhaled as he rushed back onto the beach, his skin tanning with every second he stayed out in the direct sun. She pushed her sunglasses up higher on her nose, furrowing her brow. Was it too hot? Was he sunblocked enough? She glanced at her watch. The last application of his organic sunblock was forty-five minutes ago. It would be time to reapply in—
“Johnny!” He was gone.
No, no, no. She sprinted full speed into the water, waist deep. It didn’t matter that she hated the water. It didn’t matter that she didn’t swim. “Help!” she screamed as loud as she could, hoping and praying the lifeguard would hear her. “Johnny!” She screamed his name over and over as the waves crashed mercilessly around her, and she steadied herself against the punishing surf. She peered into the dark water, begging and pleading with God to help her find her son. “No!” She screamed louder. “Johnny! Oh, God, please.”
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