Sea Change

An Oberon Novella

 

Blurb: When the going gets tough...the tough go cruising. Love alone was not enough to help Cara and Liam overcome the trauma in her past. Now, it’s time for the pair to get creative. But will a romantic cruise along the coast of Mexico provide the sea change they’re both hoping for? Or is their star-crossed relationship doomed to end in disaster?

Chapter One

Bodies have memories and hers remembered every touch; even the ones her mind could not recall. Especially those. And that, Cara thought, as she stared out the car window at the swiftly passing landscape, was precisely the problem.

"You’re awfully quiet this morning," her boyfriend Liam observed, taking his eyes from the road long enough to shoot her a worried glance. "Is everything okay?"

"Mm-hm," Cara lied. She smiled at him reassuringly. "I was just thinking." Certainly, everything should be okay. After all, they were on their way to LA where later today they’d board a cruise ship for their first vacation together since they’d started dating, six months earlier. The prospect of the trip––four days at sea with stops in Catalina and Ensenada, culminating in a New Year’s celebration aboard ship––should be making her ecstatic. But her happiness was marred by one small problem: Her body. And those goddamned memories.

"What’re you thinking about?"

"Just trying to remember if I packed everything." Another lie. She knew full well she had everything with her she’d need for the trip. She’d made sure of it.

"It’ll be fun," Liam insisted. "You’ll see. We’re gonna have a good time."

Cara nodded and flashed another bright smile in his direction. Their vacation was likely to be a lot of things—memorable, challenging, life altering, a turning point. Fun wasn’t one of them. But for Liam’s sake she’d keep up the pretense as long as she could. Given everything he had done for her, that was the least she could do in return.

*

The nervous tension rolling off Cara was so thick it should have impaired his vision. Liam tightened his hands on the wheel and stared out the window, pretending not to notice. But, oh, he noticed, all right. It didn’t matter how many smiles she threw his way, he could feel the tension she was generating. It roiled in his gut. Hell, even if he hadn’t been an empath and able to sense, all too clearly, the emotions of those around him, he knew her well enough, after all these months, to know when she was lying. The question was, what was she lying about this time?

As she lapsed back into a brooding silence he let his own mind drift back in time, remembering the night they’d first met and all the days and weeks that followed.

Cara had been a brainwashed member-in-good-standing of the phony, New-Age, pseudo-religious cult he’d gone undercover to infiltrate, when Liam first set eyes on her. At the time, she’d seemed perfectly happy in her role as girlfriend to the cult’s sadistic leader, Gregg. It had taken Liam a little too long to realize she’d been lying then, too.

He’d often thought that if he and Cara could have somehow gotten together then, right at the start, maybe things would have turned out differently. But, no. It was only months later, after she’d been brutalized—beaten, raped, almost killed––that they’d finally confessed their feelings for each other. But maybe by then it was too late. Although her physical wounds were mostly healed now, the psychological scars were another matter entirely. Those, it seemed, might never go away.

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