Sweet Water by Laurie Lewis
College life could not heal the wounds an unstable home life inflicted upon programmer Olivia Morgan, until scholar Hudson Bauer welcomed her, introducing her to his friend, Jeff McAllister, with whom he was developing a college business. Olivia joined the project, and while she and Hudson dreamed of using their success to improve the world, Jeff set his sights on fortunes and on Olivia.
On the most important night of Hudson’s life, Olivia and Jeff eloped, and upon hearing the news, Hudson leaves town, along with the company's first big contract and Olivia and Jeff's dreams. Olivia McAllister now holds billionaire entrepreneur Hudson Bauer responsible for all her losses, including her anemic marriage and the tragic accident that leaves her body battered, and her dreams of a family shattered.
In desperate straits, she is forced to accept Hudson’s offer to recuperate at his parents’ empty house on Oregon’s Cannon Beach, but her return to the place where the three friends once summered casts new light on her hasty marriage, and on the enemy she once called friend.
When Hudson offers Olivia a job doing humanitarian work, hope reawakens in her, along with memories of what she and Hudson almost had. But guilt over Jeff’s death leaves Olivia stuck between grief and the possibility of new love, forcing her to decide if she can embrace a future with a man she’s learned to hate, before Hudson walks away for the final time.
The pair didn’t speak as Olivia drove across the beach that spread before the monolithic sea stack.
Hudson walked slightly behind her, suffering as they retraced the steps where memories were made, leaving wounds that remained as raw as when she’d left. Olivia stopped when she came to a large outcropping of rock. “I love this place.”
Hudson barely heard her above the sea sounds. Rather than reply, he stared at Haystack Rock, remaining silent. “Do you remember senior year when the three of us came down here at midnight to collect specimens for your biology final? It was low tide, and we had the entire marine garden to ourselves.”
Oh, yes. He remembered everything about that night in explicit, agonizing detail. “Jeff said I could find lots of starfish in the caves, so I went because I wanted to surprise you, but the tide rolled in, and I became stranded. I was terrified.”
Every muscle in Hudson’s body tensed in latent anger. He shoved his hands into his pants pockets and steeled himself for the telling of the story. “I tried wading back, but the current pushed me along like a cork. I thought for sure I was going to drown, especially when you ran back to your house. But you came back with a rope, hollering for me to stay put while you tied a line between one of the rocks on the shore and one near the Haystack. Then you pulled your way to me and back. You saved my life.”
He felt the agonizing turn of the knife she’d inserted in his heart eight years ago when she married Jeff. Did she know what her words were doing to him?
Against his better judgment, he fired one cruel shot her way. “And remind me where Jeff was during that rescue effort?”
“He was … he was here … on the shore somewhere.”
“I believe he was laughing at us, as I recall.” Olivia grew thoughtful.
“Why are you saying that? I was trying to recall a good memory between us. Why bring Jeff into it?”
“Why’d you bring this whole topic up at all? To preserve a memory? Then let’s keep it accurate. For the record, you ran off a few days later and married the guy who let you down.” He could almost hear her heart shatter.
Olivia recoiled and fired back in a cold tone. “I think we were all pretty good at letting one another down, don’t you?” He jerked back at the accusation in her voice, burning his eyes into hers until she shrank under his stare like wax in a flame. “How did I let you down?” She took a deep breath. “I know we hurt you and ruined the team. I’m sorry. However naïve it sounds, it never occurred to me that you would leave.”
Several seconds passed before she turned to face him. “It just happened. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but it’s the truth. I knew how Jeff treated me up to then, just tolerating me. But on the night he told me he loved me; it was different.” Her voice grew soft and oddly sad. “No one had ever kissed me or told me they loved me before. I got caught up in the magic of being wanted.”
No one had ever told me they loved me before… The tender resonance of her voice read like a lie detector, confirming her words like the fatal testimony in a trial. No one … kissed me … told me … Remorse slammed him for fearing Liv’s attraction to Jeff but never having the courage to confront her about it. He had been a logical, tireless planner who misread the immediacy of her needs. Swallowing past a lump of choking regret, he shook his head and blew out a rush of air to silence his self-recriminations.
“When was this magical, transformative evening?”
I am totally stunned at how much I loved this book. I pondered over the story for days--which I don't often do with this genre, and immediately started over to make sure I didn't miss anything and to enjoy the amazingly honorable Hudson. (Are there REALLY men like Hudson out there? One hopes, but ...) It is so refreshing to find a swoon-worthy clean romance! The mystery and characters gripped me from the very first page and held me captive till I devoured the book in one day. There were many levels of happy reading it! This is not the first book that I've read from this author( also known as L.C. Lewis), and let me say, she is a master at delivering powerful messages and pulling on the heart strings! Everything I've read of hers is AMAZING! Sweet Water touched me on so many levels, I really hope you’ll give it a read soon. I would not hesitate to recommend this story to any Romance reader. It’s deep, it’s touching and in many ways it’s real life.
Author Laurie Lewis
Using the pen name L.C. Lewis, she wrote the five volumes of her award-winning FREE MEN and DREAMERS historical fiction series: Dark Sky at Dawn (2007), Twilight’s Last Gleaming (2008), Dawn’s Early Light (2009), Oh, Say Can You See? (2010), and In God is Our Trust, (2011).
Please watch for her upcoming release, a remake of Awakening Avery, scheduled for a July 2018 release.