South of the Border 2
Jade Phelps fled from her old life to escape it all. The chaos and stress of American life. Her sister’s constant criticism. Men who said she wasn’t enough. She learned to listen to what was wrong with her more than what was right. She felt insignificant and unworthy of love. It had to end—she knew it. In a small Mexican beach town on the Sea of Cortez, Jade begins again, making peace with herself day by day. She swims in the sea. She writes. She vows to stay away from men. But when she meets Luca and is instantly drawn to him, her plans fall apart. Will he hurt her or try to run her life, like everyone else? Or could Luca be her one chance for happily ever after?
Luca Espinoza grew up on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. Now he’s a famous pop singer who travels the globe with his band. His wavy dark hair, gorgeous blue-green eyes and to-die-for-body drive women wild. They throw themselves at him constantly, but most only see his fame and money. They don’t see—or even want to see past—his celebrity veneer. On a short vacation, he meets Jade—a beautiful, athletic woman full of energy and joy who swims with dolphins and shares his passion for artistic expression. She excites him in an alarming way and seems to genuinely like him. The bond he feels with her touches his heart. But he senses her fragility. And that the pain she’s buried deep inside might destroy their chance for lasting happiness.
Note: Each book in the South of the Border series is a stand-alone read.
Facebook is my new best friend. Instead of meeting my daily writing word count, I now spend most of my days and nights lurking online, skimming other people’s posts. I click through photos taken in the south of France, another person’s Switzerland hiking vacation, a photo of a cute fluffy dog that died. I select the sad face icon for the last post and write a short phrase of condolence. Then I browse through more vacation photos—of beaches in Costa Rica, Mexico, the South Pacific. Bikini-clad women stand in shallow clear sea water smiling, sipping tropical drinks or holding a mask and snorkel. The locales pique my interest mostly because they’re far away from here—the one place on Earth where I really don’t want to be right now. In Tucson. Near Brandon. As hard as I try, I can’t seem to wipe the man from my mind for even a minute.
What if scenarios break into my thoughts during the day and keep me awake late into the night. I keep wondering what made him change his mind about me. I keep thinking if I did this or that differently, he might not have hooked up with someone else and we might still be together. I know he didn’t want me to quit my engineering job to write full-time. Maybe that made him decide to end it. Or maybe he lost interest and started noticing other women because I dressed too sloppy around the house. Maybe if I’d worn more makeup or sexier clothes or—oh, damn—why do I keep torturing myself like this? If he didn’t want me the way I am, I shouldn’t want him anyway. I let out a frustrated sigh. If only it were that easy.
I glance at a list of suggested groups that pops up. Beach Vacation Homes and Condos. Expats Living in Mexico. Andes Mountain Tours. Wait, Expats Living in Mexico? That sounds interesting. No, it sounds outstanding. That’s something I could go for right now—running away to live in another country. I walk into the kitchen, pour myself a third glass of wine, and return to my computer. I click the link, then click again on the Join button. Minutes later, I’ve been added to the group and am reading strangers’ posts.
One thread’s all about Mexican towns and cities where people have relocated including all the pros and cons. Another’s about how Americans can obtain permanent residency. There’s another discussion about food—how you go about sanitizing fruits and vegetables, what kind of water filters to buy, where people should buy their meat, cooking with nopal, which turns out to be diced prickly pear cactus. Who knew you could make a meal with that? I wonder how you get the spines out. And then there’s talk about housing and how much people pay for homes and condos. My eyes widen when I see the numbers. Wow. Whether you rent or buy, it’s dirt cheap to get a place compared to what we pay in the US.
I bounce in my seat with excitement. I could do this. Why the hell not? It would be great to escape and pretend this shit with Brandon never happened. I’d be so busy adjusting to the lifestyle differences, I’d stop thinking about how I just wasted eight years of my life with him. I could live on a beach somewhere. In Mexico, it would be affordable. Some of these homes and condos people are buying—in Mazatlán and Colima and Puerto Vallarta—cost way less than the house I own now.
The next week passes in a blur. I cull through my stuff and put my house on the market. My house sells in two days. The buyer wants to close in thirty days. Now what? I still haven’t picked a destination. Mexico is a big country. And there are so many cool places to choose from. After a marathon online research session, I pick San Carlos, near Guaymas, in Sonora, Mexico, for its beautiful beaches and the fact that it’s only a seven-hour drive from Tucson. It’s a safe gamble, I tell myself. It’s close enough to the States that I can easily come back if this crazy idea of mine turns out to be a mistake. But staring at photos of the deep blue Sea of Cortez and all the offshore islands makes me think it could never be anything short of amazing.
My skin prickles with excitement. I play an electronic dance music mix on my iPad. I snap my fingers and sway my hips to the beat as I pack my suitcases. I love this plan. I can’t wait to leave here, to go somewhere new where I have no bad memories to weigh me down. For years, I’ve wanted to travel. Brandon and I took a few trips, but we never went anywhere unusual.
I told Brandon I’d always wanted visit Costa Rica or Greece, but he said there were dangerous pythons and huge spiders in Costa Rica and that Greece was a poor country full of desperate people. So we vacationed in Florida, which was nice, but not the least bit exotic. I wanted to see toucans and brightly colored scarlet macaws in Costa Rica and swim in the blue Aegean Sea off the coast of Greece. All these urges have nudged me in the ribs for years. Now, I can finally give in to them. I no longer have to worry about what Brandon wants—what any man wants. I’m free. I can do whatever I want. And right now, I want to move to Mexico.
I shouldn’t have told my sister I was leaving. But I figured someone related to me should know, and she’s kind of it as far as family goes. Kelsi said moving to Mexico was the stupidest idea I’d ever come up with, almost as dumb as quitting my job to become a full-time writer. “Everyone sells drugs down there,” she said. I rolled my eyes and shook my head at that. Like no one’s selling drugs in Tucson.
But that conversation’s long over. I’m ready to run. Away from that limiting logic that says I have no other choice other than to stay here and wallow in my misery and spend half the day tied up in traffic jams. Tucson has never been right for me. Since Brandon dumped me, it’s become more apparent than ever. The barrenness of the place and all the chaos of traffic and constant construction depresses me. It makes me feel lost—like I can’t keep up with a pace I have no desire to keep up with. Every day, I seek solace in the pool. Underwater, it’s quiet. During that hour I swim from end to end, the anxious chatter in my mind slows down at least temporarily. But it returns the minute I climb out of the pool. This week when I swam, I heard the water rush past my ears and imagined I was swimming in the Sea of Cortez. Floating over a wave, smelling the salt in the air and gazing up at the sky. Maybe in the sea, I can finally find freedom, instead of remaining a prisoner of my own negative thoughts.
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