“Butterfly in a Hurricane” -- Contemporary romance novella
From Florida with Love: Sunrise & Stormy Skies --
Ten stories from Southwest Florida Romance Writers
FIRST PLACE Unpublished Novella -- 2016 Royal Palm Literary Awards sponsored by the Florida Writers Association
Lydia DiMarco is a young woman with beauty and brains, and no idea what to do with them. She also has Asperger’s Syndrome. Hiding away in her little house in Bonita Springs, she’s doing just fine, thank you… until she falls in love with a cop.
When Lee County Deputy Roy Fuentes stops Lydia for speeding, he sees the beauty of a butterfly, fragile and vulnerable. But if he’s Type A, she must be Type Z. He wants her. But can he catch her? And even if he does, can they possibly find happiness in the middle of the alphabet?
Here in Southwest Florida, we know a lot about the power of hurricanes.
We know a lot about the power of love, too. We know love can survive storms of all kinds, and these ten new stories from Southwest Florida Romance Writers prove it. Within these pages, love comes to rich and poor, young and old. It lurks on the beach, in town, and in Florida’s agricultural heartland. It might creep up on you… or it might strike with the power of a hurricane.
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Unpublished Novella -- 2016 Royal Palm Literary Awards sponsored by the Florida Writers Association
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A polite whit-whit reinforced the lights flashing in Lydia’s rear-view mirror.
Shit. “I see you, dammit.” Just when she was thinking she might actually get to the interview on time. She whacked the palm of her hand on the steering wheel. Her eyes stung with tears of frustration.
She pulled her Elantra onto the shoulder off Route 41 and pressed one button to open the window, another to turn off the radio. The blast of summer’s first heat wave in South Florida beat its way into the car, turning a prickle of nervous sweat into an all-over saltwater bath. She leaned across the center console and retrieved her registration from the glove compartment.
When she straightened up again, he was there, a square jaw, dark hair and mirrored sunglasses. Behind those, she couldn’t tell what he was looking at, but it was something below her chin. One hand rested on her windowsill, the other on his gun. His name badge said R. Fuentes.
Her skirt had ridden up as she reached across the car. She itched to pull it down, but that would only draw his attention to her legs, if it wasn’t already there. Why had she chosen this dress this morning? The long Indian print would have been just fine. For that matter, why was she doing this article at all? The paper would hardly pay enough for her gas. Much less a speeding ticket.
“License and registration, please, miss.”
She complied. His fingers brushed hers as he took them, and the butterflies in her stomach turned somersaults. Startled, she darted a glance at his face.
He slid his sunglasses down his nose half an inch and peered at her over the top. Oh, so blue! Bradley Cooper blue.Or Paul Newman. She’d watched enough of those old movies with her parents; she ought to know. Odd for a Hispanic man, though. Look at something else, Lydia.
His lips curved a little at the corners. Is he laughing at me? Well, why shouldn’t he? She must look like a wreck. Her dress clung damp around her ribs like a beach towel left out in the rain, and she always turned bright red when she got hot. She shoved a lock of hair behind her ear.
The cop cleared his throat. Just a small sound, like he couldn’t quite get his voice started. “Lydia Koehler DiMarco. Is Koehler your maiden name?” He pronounced it wrong, of course. He had no accent that she could detect. And he wasn’t sweating.
“No. Just a family name.” As if it was any of his business. “And it’s pronounced Kay-ler.”
“Really? I never heard of that. Had a friend in school with that name, but he pronounced it Ko-ler.”
“Many people do. But in my family, it’s Kay-ler.”
“Huh. Learn something every day, don’t you?”
Lydia ground her teeth. “Listen, I… I’m late for an interview. Could we get this over with?”
He pursed his mouth.
What does that expression mean? She’d never seen it in childhood sessions with her psychiatrist or in those Read These 10 Emotions tests on Facebook.
“A job interview?”
“No. It’s for an article I’m writing.”
“Ah.” His gaze scanned the passenger seat, which held her notebook and the strappy sandals she’d bought just for this dress.
Shit, was it illegal to drive barefoot? The shoes were so uncomfortable she couldn’t stand to put them on before she absolutely had to.
“Do you know you were eighteen miles over the limit?”
She’d already told him she was late, what more could she say? She tried a rueful smile. No telling how it turned out.
“Wait here, Ms. Lydia KaylerDiMarco.” He pushed his glasses up where they belonged and tapped his fist twice on her windowsill before walking back to the silver sedan.
She tugged her skirt down and turned the air conditioner up full blast while she waited. Dug a Kleenex out of the center console and mopped her face. Ugh. Why had she returned to Florida after college? She could do freelance writing anywhere and at the moment, she would give a lot for a cold winter day. Of course, it wasn’t winter in Chicago, either…
She checked the mirrors again. His silhouette still sat in the car, no doubt enjoying his own air conditioning. His computer check couldn’t possibly take long—there was nothing to know about her.
God, she hated being late. Hated herself more for letting it happen. The first thing she had to do when the cop left was call and cancel the appointment. She’d already rescheduled it once—she wouldn’t do it again. If the paper really needed another article about the coming hurricane season, they’d have to find someone else.
She closed her eyes and leaned against the headrest, breathing deeply as her therapist had taught her. It didn’t help.
What the hell is taking so long? She jerked around to get an un-mirrored look at him dawdling back there, but her right hand met his as she grabbed for the windowsill. She flinched away, but he caught her hand and held it, just for a second. Afterwards, it felt different, like it didn’t quite belong to her.
“Don’t worry, miss. You have a clean driving record, so I’m going to let you off with a warning. You stay within ten miles over the limit, most of our deputies won’t stop you.”
She pushed her hair back again.
He returned her documents. “Sorry it took so long. Hope you’re not too late.”
She was. Much too late. But it really wasn’t his fault. “It’s okay. And thank you.”
Fuentes pulled off his glasses and leaned down to her level. “I… You be careful.” Then he straightened and gave her a little salute. “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Lydia KaylerDiMarco.”
“Um… Thanks. Would it be really rude to say I hope I never see you again?”
He grinned, showing straight white teeth. “Next time, I’d have to give you a ticket. But maybe in different circumstances?”
What was he asking? She couldn’t think of a thing to say. She clamped her lips shut and stared blindly through the windshield.
After a minute, he stood away from her door. “See you around,” he said. Then he walked back to his car and pulled out onto 41.
Just go home and start the day over, Lydia. Forget the traffic stop. And do NOT think about Hispanic cops with stunning blue eyes.