Ocean Swimmer (previously published as The Open Water Swimmer)
Re-released January 4, 2017
The elite swimmer Zoe is destined to fall in love with is also destined to die. Can she change his fate?
When children’s mystery writer Zoe Carlson has recurring nightmares about a swimmer drowning during an open water race, she aims to change his fate. Zoe’s plan to remain objective makes a serious splashdown when she meets her “mission,” a towering blue-eyed man with the best cut set of pectorals she’s ever seen. Going incognito as a feeding station volunteer for FINA World Cup series races, she travels to Greece, Portugal, Honduras, and Tunisia to protect him. When heat between the pair sizzles, she falls hopelessly in love with this man destined to die.
Elite swimmer and former Navy fighter pilot Luke Dickson keeps dreaming he’s drowning. Recently dumped by long-time girlfriend who found him too competitive, Luke believes his driven personality and international travel schedule can’t mix with love. When Luke meets Zoe, he’s instantly attracted to her voluptuous body and mysterious personality. When Luke learns she’s been stalking him for weeks at swimming races, he decides she must be psycho.
A series of fateful events before the final race lead Zoe to believe her nightmare is about to unfold. Anticipating a dive-in and rescue scenario, Zoe is shocked to discover that’s only the beginning. Can she change the fate of the man she loves and survive?
*This is a re-release of 2012 release, The Open Water Swimmer.
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The starting gun sounded and Luke sprinted into the ocean, kicking water everywhere until the density of the water overcame him and it was more efficient to swim than run. A fingernail jabbed his calf. A toe struck his face, partially filling his goggles with water. He slapped arms with another swimmer on a recovery. Luke plowed through the water with all the gusto he could muster to break away from the mass. He planned to tag along behind the lead pack after he freed himself from the mire.
He kicked harder, propelling his body through the water like a speedboat. This is more like it, he thought, as surrounding swimmers dropped back. Soon, only the five swimmers he expected to see remained. The lead pack. Mark matched him stroke for stroke as they drafted off of Mike Hammel, the leader. Jeff felt a tap on his toe. Andy McCleery.
You have to keep a cool head to push yourself to the max for almost two hours. Every swimmer was in top physical condition. The man who crossed that finish line first would be the one who shut down the chatter inside his head that taunted him with my arms ache, my legs are cramping, or I can’t handle that searing pain in my lungs for another second and kept on plowing through the water like there was no tomorrow. Luke wanted to be that man.
He swam in the wake of bubbles behind Mike’s feet—his perceived effort much easier with the draft. Luke felt strong and powerful. Like Hercules. This is why I keep coming back. On land, the world is a crazy, chaotic place. Here, it all comes down to the water and me.
He felt the most like himself in the ocean. Once he got into the rhythm of his stroke and turned up the heat, he felt like anything was possible. Winning the race. Qualifying for the London Olympic Games in 2012. Winning a gold medal.
After three laps around the course, Luke knew it was time to turn it up. He had 2.5 kilometers left to pass the leader and duke out the sprint to the finish line with the toughest members of the field. Luke passed Mike, but Mark was right with him. I can do it, Luke told himself. He surged a little ahead of Mark, but it didn’t last for long.
Mark caught right up with him again and they swam so close together, Luke heard Mark’s winded breathing and their fingers smacked together more than once. Luke fought to push through the pain. After swimming six miles, he’d nearly drained his physical tank.
A burning heaviness overwhelmed his limbs. Fire surged down his throat with each breath. But he never lost sight of what he wanted. He wanted to win. So he never backed down. He pushed, pushed, pushed with only meters left until the finish. Come on, come on. Get it done. He took twenty strokes without a breath, only lifting his head to slap the touch pad. Only then did Jeff realize he’d missed the win by just tenths of a second.
Darn! His best friend, Mark, had just out-touched him. Standing in waist-deep water, Jeff offered him a congratulatory handshake. “Good job, buddy.”
“That was one hell of a swim,” said Mark. He stopped for a moment to brace his arms on his thighs.
“You can say that again. Racing you about killed me,” Luke said as he gasped for breath.
Mark held his arms up in victory once he stepped into the sand and headed toward his wife, Monica. Luke’s eyes roved over the woman standing beside her. Wow. He blinked water from his eyes to get a better look.
A tower of dark hair was piled on top of her head. The sea breeze blew a few renegade strands against her small, heart-shaped face. She’s lovely. Her skin looked pale and smooth, like a polished stone. Her full and pouty lips raised his heart rate all over again. Luke wished he could taste those sumptuous lips. Did I just think that? Get a grip.
She didn’t look like a swimmer or an athlete. Instead of lean and muscular, her body curved in all the right places. Yet she looked fit. Her breasts look like ripe fruit. And her butt looks round, but firm. That’s the kind of behind you want to grab and squeeze. It must be the endorphins, he thought, shaking water from his ears and hoping it would clear his head. He chose looking down at the sand over the impolite staring he’d been doing.
Once he stepped nearer, Monica introduced Luke to Zoe. When he reached out to shake her hand, he gazed into her eyes for the first time. That’s when her dark eyes widened like saucers, she gasped and said, “Oh my God. It’s you.”
That phrase struck Luke speechless in a hurry. Is that good or bad? Do I remind her of a movie star or a mass murderer from America’s Most Wanted?
He stood there dazed as she ran from the beach. Even though her demeanor shouted crazed lunatic, that unpleasant and too familiar shot-put-ball-on-the-chest feeling overcame him. Come back, his mind pleaded.
“You really have a way with women,” said Mark.
“So it seems. Anyone have a clue what just happened?”
“Not me,” said Mark. “Monica, you talked to her, didn’t you? Did she seem a little off?”
“No, in fact I really liked her. I even invited her to the party tonight.”
Mark and Luke exchanged glances. “That should be interesting.” He hid the smile that quickly transformed into jumping-out-of-his-skin excitement. Crazy Dana was coming to the party. And he couldn’t wait to see her again.
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