Home > Finding Jodelle

Finding Jodelle
Author: Susan Stoker





Jodelle “Jody” Spencer hurried toward the older model Kia parked in a spot at the back of the lot at Waimea Bay. There were cars parked in every available space, and many vehicles were blocked in by others. Surf competitions at the North Shore were always that way. There simply wasn’t enough space for all the competitors, tourists, and locals who came out to participate and watch. The two-lane Kamehameha Highway wasn’t adequate to handle all the traffic either, which was a huge pain in the ass for the locals.

But the competitions brought in large amounts of money to vendors and shop owners in the area. Not to mention, it was exciting to watch the athletes take on the huge waves the northern shore of Oahu was known for.

At the moment, however, Jody wasn’t thinking about the inconvenience of the traffic, or the competitors in the water, or the amount of money being made—all she could think about was Ben Miller. He was one of the high schoolers who came out to surf in the mornings, the kids Jody had a soft spot for. She’d started coming out to the popular surf spot in the mornings a few years ago, bringing breakfast sandwiches for the kids and encouraging them to get out of the surf on time to make it to class.

She was kind of like a surf mom to the group now. She delighted in their successes and did her best to soothe them when they struggled with school, surfing, or their fledging relationships.

Ben Miller was one of her favorites. He towered over her five-one frame at five-eleven. He had light brown hair, which he kept cut fairly short, a swimmer’s frame, big feet that he joked about often, saying surfing was the only sport he could even halfway excel in because there was no way he could trip over his feet when they were planted on a board. And he had a smile that lit up his face and always made Jody feel good inside when she saw it.

But hearing that someone had seen Ben sleeping in his car, in the middle of the afternoon during a surf competition, had alarmed her. It was definitely out of the ordinary for the young man. He should’ve been on the beach with his friends, interacting with the professional surfers, flirting with girls, and volunteering his time.

Instead, he apparently had heat exhaustion from being inside his hot car.

Determination rose within Jody as she hurried through the parking lot toward where she’d been told Ben was being looked at by the medics.

“Easy, Jodelle,” Baker said soothingly from beside her.

Jody had almost forgotten he was there, which would’ve made her laugh in any other situation than the one she was in now. Forgetting about Baker Rawlins was literally impossible—and not just because of his eye-catching size.

He was everything she’d ever dreamed about in a man…and more. He was honorable, and protective, and loyal. Not to mention gorgeous. His black hair liberally sprinkled with gray was longish on the top and shorter on the sides. He had a well-trimmed beard, and Jody had wondered more than once if it was soft or prickly. Dark tattoos lined his arms, his upper back, and chest. And he was muscular all over, from his arms to his thighs and even his ass.

In short…he was one of the best-looking men Jody had ever seen.

He was also broody, mysterious, and even a little scary. Somehow, those things didn’t turn her off. Not at all.

But Baker was so far out of her league, it wasn’t even funny. He used to be a Navy SEAL, for God’s sake. Jody figured if the Navy didn’t have age limitations for SEALs, he probably still would be. He was definitely in shape, even at fifty-two. And if the way he’d been helping his SEAL friends lately was any indication, he still had plenty of connections.

She should’ve been wary of that, of the secrecy surrounding everything Baker did, of how it reminded her a bit too much of her ex-husband, who couldn’t tell the truth about anything if he tried. But she got a very different vibe from Baker than she had when she was with her ex.

She wasn’t an idiot. She was fairly certain some things Baker did weren’t exactly legal, but since he was using his connections to help others—instead of extorting money and messing with drugs, as her ex had done—she wasn’t as concerned.

It was obvious Baker’s friends respected him. And it was that respect that really made him different from her ex. Bobby had gotten off on making people fear him…even her. The first time he’d hit her, she was done. She’d packed her stuff, along with Kaimana’s, and left.

She’d been afraid Bobby would come after them, but it turned out he was relieved to not have a wife and kid holding him back anymore. She hadn’t asked for anything in the divorce, and he’d signed the papers without hassle. He’d been killed down in Honolulu when Kaimana was eight. A shoot-out with police when they’d come to serve a warrant for his arrest for drug trafficking.

His death had been a relief.

Looking at Baker from the corner of her eye, Jody knew without a doubt he wouldn’t defile his body with any kind of drug. She’d never even seen him drink soda or alcohol, only water, and he always watched what he ate, telling her once he was too old to eat crap, that it would go straight to his gut. He sometimes surfed with her kids, and it was all she could do not to drool over his six-pack abs and incredibly toned physique.

No, Baker Rawlins wouldn’t do drugs. Jody would bet everything she owned on that.

Her thoughts were jerked back to the present when they approached Ben’s car. The teenager was sitting on the back seat, his feet on the sand outside the door, a medic crouched in front of him.

Jody tried to rush over, but Baker clutched her elbow.

“I need to check on him,” she said, pulling on her arm distractedly.

“You get a medical degree since the last time I saw you?” he asked.

Jody frowned. “What? No.”

“Then you need to stay back and let the paramedics do their thing.”

“Let me go, Baker,” she told him irritably.

In response, his grip on her only tightened.

He was beginning to piss her off. “Seriously—let go of my arm,” she repeated. To her surprise, Baker did as she asked, releasing her elbow.

Only to step behind her, wrap an arm around her chest diagonally, and pull her close, so her back was pressed against his front.

Baker was literally a foot taller than Jody. She was used to being the short one in whatever group she was in, but she internally struggled with her current feelings. She loved being in Baker’s arms like this. Pressed up against him. But she was upset because he was preventing her from getting to Ben. From making sure he was all right.

“He’s upset,” Baker said softly into her ear.

Jody couldn’t stop the shiver that went through her when his warm breath wafted over her sensitive skin. She reached up and held onto his forearm draped across her chest.

“If you go charging in there, he’s gonna close down. Give the paramedic a chance to talk to him, try to find out what’s up, before you go all mama bear on him.”

“Something’s wrong, Baker,” Jody said, keeping her gaze glued to Ben. He was looking down at the sand under his feet. He had a bottle of water in one hand and the medic was taking his blood pressure. “He’s a good kid. Happy. Outgoing. But lately, he’s been withdrawn. Sullen.”

“He’s a teenager,” Baker said in response.

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