Sweet Water by Laurie Lewis
College life could not heal the wounds an unstable home life inflicted upon programmer Olivia Morgan, until scholar Hudson Bauer welcomed her, introducing her to his friend, Jeff McAllister, with whom he was developing a college business.
Olivia joined the project, and while she and Hudson dreamed of using their success to improve the world, Jeff set his sights on fortunes and on Olivia. On the most important night of Hudson’s life, Olivia and Jeff eloped, and upon hearing the news, Hudson leaves town, along with the company’s first big contract and Olivia and Jeff’s dreams.
Olivia McAllister now holds billionaire entrepreneur Hudson Bauer responsible for all her losses, including her anemic marriage and the tragic accident that leaves her body battered, and her dreams of a family shattered. In desperate straits, she is forced to accept Hudson’s offer to recuperate at his parents’ empty house on Oregon’s Cannon Beach, but her return to the place where the three friends once summered casts new light on her hasty marriage, and on the enemy she once called friend.
When Hudson offers Olivia a job doing humanitarian work, hope reawakens in her, along with memories of what she and Hudson almost had. But guilt over Jeff’s death leaves Olivia stuck between grief and the possibility of new love, forcing her to decide if she can embrace a future with a man she’s learned to hate, before Hudson walks away for the final time.
He stood and tucked the blanket roll under one arm while extending the other to Olivia. She accepted his offer, fitting into his support as if it was meant for her all along. She leaned on Hudson more heavily the further they went until he was bearing the majority of her weight by the time they reached the ancient cave. Two surfers in wetsuits were exiting the cavern and gathering up their boards as Hudson and Olivia arrived. They, too, had their eyes on the darkening sky, but they shifted their attention to the couple and down to Olivia’s legs.
“Sprain?” the taller of the two asked.
“More likely just muscle strain,” replied Hudson when Olivia failed to reply.
“After we get our boards loaded, we can head back down and help carry her out.”
Olivia stiffened at the thought of being hauled out by strangers like a sack of potatoes. Hudson made brief eye contact with her, evidently catching her mortification, and replied to their offer. “Thanks, but we’ve got it.”
The shorter surfer glanced back at the dark cave and offered Hudson a knowing chuckle. “Gotcha.”
In reply, Hudson shot him a look that ended his smirk, following up with a pseudo salute, effectually sending the dudes on their way.
Alone now on the beach, Hudson led Olivia to the cave, which bore the signs of frequent use. The sandy floor was clean and cleared of debris, except for the pile of rounded rocks in the rear, smoothed and carried in by the tides. Kindling and small branches were stacked near the cave’s mouth, a few feet from where the remnants of someone’s fire still sat in a charred circle.
Hudson untied the bedroll and several items fell onto the sand. Another good snap, and the blanket spread across the cave’s entrance. Hudson lowered her gently to the soft fabric. Relief filled her, and she leaned back and nestled into the soft sand. Her sigh brought the hint of a smile to Hudson’s beard-framed lips. It was short-lived. His face slackened as his dark, penetrating eyes fixed on her. His breathing seemed to stop, as did hers. Heat rose deep within her torso, spreading like fire through her face and neck from the intensity of his stare. A sheen of sweat broke out on her skin, and yet she shivered. She touched her face, expecting to feel the fire radiating there, but the motion seemed to break the moment. Without a word, Hudson took her empty water bottle and left, leaving her shaky and confused.
As he departed, she shifted to watch him pick his way through the primitive beauty of the area, around scrub brush, through the teeming tidal pools, to a glorious waterfall spilling from the rock wall.
Robinson Crusoe-esque with his rumpled clothes, his beard, and wild mop of tangled hair, Olivia was unable to tear her eyes from him. Gone was the shyness and gangly motions of his youth. The business titan who could buy or sell his own barrier reef or string of creature-filled islands now moved with confidence and care, as protective of a single mollusk or anemone as he had been as a beach-combing science student a decade ago. She wondered what made him that way. Clearly, the young man who had been everything to her back then was an even more splendid person now.
The all-too-frequent burn of tears hit her again. Pepper had been on the money. Olivia had loved Hudson in college. If only he had been the one to propose instead of… Guilt tore at her over the thought.
I am totally stunned at how much I loved this book. I pondered over the story for days–which I don’t often do with this genre, and immediately started over to make sure I didn’t miss anything and to enjoy the amazingly honorable Hudson. (Are there REALLY men like Hudson out there? One hopes, but …)
It is so refreshing to find a swoon-worthy clean romance! The mystery and characters gripped me from the very first page and held me captive till I devoured the book in one day. There were many levels of happy reading it! This is not the first book that I’ve read from this author( also known as L.C. Lewis), and let me say, she is a master at delivering powerful messages and pulling on the heart strings! Everything I’ve read of hers is AMAZING!
Sweet Water touched me on so many levels, I really hope you’ll give it a read soon. I would not hesitate to recommend this story to any Romance reader. It’s deep, it’s touching and in many ways it’s real life.
Using the pen name L.C. Lewis, she wrote the five volumes of her award-winning FREE MEN and DREAMERS historical fiction series: Dark Sky at Dawn (2007), Twilight’s Last Gleaming (2008), Dawn’s Early Light (2009), Oh, Say Can You See? (2010), and In God is Our Trust, (2011).
Please watch for her upcoming release, a remake of Awakening Avery, scheduled for a July 2018 release.
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