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Driftwood
by Harper Fox

Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
Description: What the tide washes in, the past can sweep away. All Dr. Tom Penrose wants is his old life back. He's home in Cornwall after a hellish tour of duty in Afghanistan, but while the village is the same, he isn't. His grip on his control is fragile, and it slips dangerously when Flynn Summers explodes into his life. The vision in tight neoprene nearly wipes them both out in a surfing mishap--and shatters Tom's lonely peace. Flynn is a crash-and-burn in progress, one of only two survivors of a devastating rescue helicopter crash that killed his crew. His carefree charm is merely a cover for the messed-up soul within. The sparks between him and Tom are the first light he's seen in a long, dark tunnel of self-recrimination, which includes living in sexual thrall to fellow crash survivor and former co-pilot, Robert. As their attraction burns through spring and into summer, Tom must confront not only his own shadows, but Flynn's--before the past rises up to swallow his lover whole. Warning: Contains explicit m/m sex, hot helicopter pilots and skin-tight wetsuits. Also, in true British tradition, a tiny bit of joystick innuendo.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2010 2010
eBookwise Release Date: August 2010

eBookeBook

20 Reader Ratings:
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Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [293 KB]
Words: 64920
Reading time: 185-259 min.


Chapter One: The Seventh Wave

Thomas walked slowly on the edge of the world, to discover what the sea would bring him.

He seldom took anything home, unless it was a stone or piece of driftwood Belle had particularly set her heart on. There was no space for clutter in his spartan rooms, and his tastes did not incline towards collecting. But sometimes there were things to look at and put back--fantastic conch shells, pieces of the green rock called serpentine that washed in from the Kynance cliffs to the southeast. If he found a piece of round white quartz, he might take that, and later add it to the pile outside his door that he tried hard not to think of as a cairn.

The morning was cold, the bay wreathed in sea fret. Fairly typical for late April on this lonely Cornish coast, and Thomas found the chill perversely comforting. He didn't mind the tourist season, but would miss his solitary walks out here along the sea's edge. In a couple of weeks' time there would be vehicles other than his own battered Land Rover pulled up in the little beach car park, the first hopeful surfers of the season piling out onto the tarmac in a welter of boards, wetsuits and towels. They were mostly peaceful souls, pilgrims seeking out the magic of this wild coast, and God knew their tourist spending kept the local economy afloat.

Thomas blinked and came to a halt on the wet sand. There was one of them out there already. He pushed his mist-dampened fringe out of his eyes and looked again. The sharp onshore wind was heaping the surf into short-lived grey mountains, surely too turbulent for even the craziest of riders. He frowned and sensed Belle coming to stand beside him, the top of her elegant wolfhound head pressing lightly to his elbow. No. He couldn't see anyone now. It had been a momentary impression, of a lean silver shape poised between one wave crest and the next. A shudder rolled through him. It wouldn't be his first hallucination, but he'd hoped very much that he had seen his last. His fingers sought the rough silk of Belle's scruff, unconsciously reaching for solidity, warmth. "Come on, dog. Let's go home."

He turned to leave, but Belle remained fixed to the spot. When he called to her again, she whined. Thomas turned in surprise. It was a lonely sound, poignant in the mist, and he had seldom heard it. The people at the shelter had said she scarcely ever vocalised, which had been one of his reasons for choosing her as a companion, despite her vast size and matching appetite. He went back to her, and the sound came again, like a foghorn heard from far out at sea. She was rigid, poised, looking back towards the waves.

Thomas followed the direction of her gaze and saw it too. Not a hallucination, then, unless the dog was sharing it. A ghost, maybe. This haunted coast had plenty of stories. A Flying Dutchman surfer, plying the Atlantic storm in endless solitude. Probably enough of them had died out there by now to spawn a few ghosts.

As Thomas watched, the graceful figure, still little more than a shadow in the mist, caught a perfect wave and began his ride. He was a long way out, but seemed to spot the watchers on the shore and lifted one hand in an insouciant salute.

No ghost would be so bloody stupid. Thomas turned away in disgust. Since returning from his third and final tour of duty as an army medical officer, he had struggled to hold together the bodies and souls that fell under his care as village doctor in his native Sankerris. Usually it was nothing worse than sprained muscles and arthritis, but even in peaceful West Cornwall, drug-addiction cases came his way, cancers, sick children. And as for the years before that, Thomas kept his thoughts about the sand and bloodstained dust, his efforts to mend shattered soldiers in the Camp Bastion field hospital, in a well-sealed box. He had no time for lunatics who took their lives in their hands for no better reason than to chase a thrill.

The mystique and beauty of the surfing community's ideals were not lost on him, but most were content to wait for decent weather and the seasonal lifeguards who would start work a couple of weeks into May. They did not go out alone, in waves big enough to swallow a house, doubtlessly expecting coastguards and air-sea rescue men to risk their lives in turn to fish them out when the inevitable happened. Realising that the dull, slow swell of rage inside him was little to do with this one dumb kid on a board and a lot to do with the post-traumatic stress disorder he could simultaneously diagnose in himself and utterly deny, that it was eight o'clock in the morning and he had patients who deserved a better doctor than the one he would turn into if he didn't get a grip on himself, Thomas lowered his head and began to stride back up the beach.

Belle howled. It was once only, but Thomas's blood ran cold. The sound bounced off the granite cliffs behind him, seemed to blend itself with the roar of the surf, as if the sea had found a voice. Insofar as Thomas was still capable of affection, he loved the dog. Seized by a fear he couldn't name, he ran back to her. "Belle, you silly bitch. What's the matter?" Belle ignored him, and Thomas once more followed the cue of her unfathomable amber-eyed stare.

Just in time to see the surfer execute a sublime passage through the barrel of a breaker, hit the deadly Porth Bay rip, and take the most devastating wipeout Thomas had seen in thirty years of watching riders fly and crash along this coast. For a moment he was lost in admiration. The move had been so beautiful, its termination so complete, that it was almost satisfying, answered some marrow-deep impulse to destruction inside him. He waited, calculating the speed and direction of the rip, adding in a few yards for the undertow. He could work out, more or less, where this talented lunatic should surface.


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