by Sheila Roberts
Moonlight Harbor - Book 4
Release Date: April 21, 2020
Moira Wellman has always loved makeovers—helping women find their most beautiful selves. Funny how it’s taken her five years with her abusive boyfriend, Lang, to realize she needs a life makeover. When Moira finally gets the courage to leave Lang, the beachside town of Moonlight Harbor is the perfect place to start over.
Soon Moira is right at home, working at Waves Salon, making new friends and helping her clients find new confidence. When she meets a handsome police officer, she’s more than willing to give him a free haircut. Maybe even her heart. But is she really ready for romance after Lang? And what if her new friend is in hot pursuit of that same cop? This is worse than a bad perm.
With all the heart and humor readers have come to expect from a Sheila Roberts novel, Beachside Beginnings is the story of one woman finding the courage to live her best life. And where better to live it than at the beach?
You’re not in the city anymore, Moira thought, as she and Jenna walked into The Drunken Sailor. The clubs where she and Lang used to dance were slick and expensive, with fancy bars and hip décor. This place was . . . What was it?
Two carved wooden lady pirates with boobs spilling out of their pirate vests greeted them. Off to one side was an eating area with a floor littered with peanut shells. She watched in shock as a couple of patrons, enjoying their beers, shelled peanuts from a plastic bowl and dropped the shells on the ground. She might not have had the most high-class childhood, but even she knew you shouldn’t throw stuff on the floor.
Jenna saw her gaping. “It’s part of the charm.”
“Okay,” Moira said dubiously, not sure if Jenna was being serious or facetious.
A couple of pool tables sat across from the dining area and adjacent to the bar, both in use. Moira saw Seth Waters standing by one, leaning on his pool cue and waiting his turn to play. She gave him a tentative wave, and he smiled and lifted a hand from the top of his pool cue. She was sure Jenna had seen him, too, but she didn’t wave. What was with those two?
They moved farther into the place, stopping at the bar to pick up sodas and say hi to Brody, who was comfortable with a beer and some nachos.
“I see you brought a recruit,” he said, smiling at Moira. The man sure had a high-wattage smile.
“I did,” Jenna replied.
“Are you going to dance?” Moira asked him.
“No,” Jenna answered for him. “He’s too chicken to get out there and make a fool of himself.”
“Cluck, cluck,” Brody said and lifted his beer in salute. “I’d rather watch. Jenna’s worth the price of a beer,” he added with a grin.
She shook her head at him. “Thanks.” She picked up her Coke and said to Moira, “Come on. I’ll introduce you around.”
There were plenty of people to meet, including their teacher, Austin Banks, who was dolled up in tight jeans, elaborately embroidered boots and a Western shirt. She’d finished off her outfit with pink earrings shaped like miniature cowgirl hats.
Great hair, thought Moira as they were introduced. Thick and long and highlighted. Where did Austin get her hair done? At Waves?
“Austin and Roy own the kite shop,” Jenna explained.
Moira had never in her life flown a kite. What would that be like? Maybe she’d have to find out.
Tyrella Lamb was there, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, her dreadlocks clacking with colorful beads. “You’re going to love this,” she promised Moira.
Moira’s heart did a little giddyap at the sight of a certain good-looking man who was just stepping onto the dance floor to join the dancers. “I think I am,” she said.
Nope, this sure wasn’t some club in the city. It was better. Way better.
Moira had thought the guy looked sexy in his police uniform, but now, in boots, jeans and a black T-shirt that hugged those impressive pecs, Victor looked ready for the cover of a romance novel. She caught a glimpse of a tattoo peeking out of his sleeves. Tats on guys were so sexy. Hazel eyes, square jaw. He was the whole package. With all that thick hair, he’d probably never have to worry about going bald. And it had some body to it. Oh, yes, she’d like to get her hands in his hair.
He seemed to be walking in their general direction, so Jenna called him over. “Victor, have you met Moira Wellman?” she asked him. “She’s staying with us at the Driftwood until she can get settled.”
“I’m betting he’s wanting to,” Tyrella said, and her words made a pink tide rise up his neck and onto his cheeks.
A man who blushed, that was adorable. “We did meet, sort of,” Moira said. “He gave me a police escort to work.”
“Our tax dollars in action,” Jenna teased, and the pink grew deeper.
I don’t like to ticket newcomers if I can help it,” he said in his own defense.
“We’re just giving you a hard time,” Jenna told him. To Moira she said, “Victor is one of our best cops, and we’re lucky to have him here in Moonlight Harbor.”
“Moira suspected any woman would be lucky to have him. Period.
“Are you settling in okay?” he asked her.
She nodded. “I am. Everyone here is . . .” not nice, so much more than nice “. . . so kind.” It wasn’t a very fancy word, but kind truly said it all.
Tyrella and Jenna both suddenly saw other people they needed to talk to and left Moira and Victor to themselves. Hardly obvious at all. Now Moira could feel her cheeks getting a little warm.
“I’ve never done this before,” she confessed. She looked down at her suede half boots. “I don’t have any cowgirl boots.”
“You don’t need ‘em. You’ll be fine,” he said. “Ask me if you need any help with the steps.”
Their teacher took her place in front of the dancers and spoke into her mic. “Okay, everybody, are y’all ready to shake it?”
“Oh, yeah,” said several people.
“We’ve got a couple of newbies with us,” Austin said, “so you experts be sure to help them out. And just so our newcomers don’t feel too lost, let’s all demonstrate a couple of steps, starting with a grapevine. You just step with one foot, put your other foot behind and then land back on your starting foot. Easy, right? Let’s all try it. You ready? Here we go, to the right.”
That was easy enough. Moira managed to keep up.
“We’ll often do a triple step. It looks like this,” she said and demonstrated. “Okay, let’s all try that.”
Moira triple stepped right along with the best of them.
“All right. And a kick-ball-change.”
Kick-ball-change. It was getting a little harder.
“Good,” said Austin. “I think we’re ready to learn a new dance. Let’s start with ‘Dirty Boots.’”
Dirty boots, dirty dancing . . . sex. Okay, slow down, Moira told herself.
Speaking of slowing down, was there a remedial line dancing class? “Is this a beginner’s class?” she asked Victor.
“This first part is pretty much. She gets more complicated after the first half hour.”
If this was beginner level, Moira sure didn’t want to see the more advanced stuff. By the time Austin had walked them all the way through the first dance, Moira’s brain was on the verge of exploding.
“Now, let’s try this with the music,” Austin said.
“Don’t worry, you’ll pick it up,” Victor assured Moira.
The steps didn’t want to be picked up. It seemed at every turn she was either facing the wrong way or running into someone. Wow! Who knew line dancing was so hard?
And it only got harder with the next three dances.
Moira was more than ready to take a break by the time the dance lesson ended.
People were moving toward the bar to get drinks. Jenna was busy talking to Brody, and Moira was busy feeling like the proverbial third wheel when Victor came up to the bar where they were standing and asked Moira, “Can I buy you something to eat?”
She was broke. And hungry. And he was friendly and interested and had her hormones hopping. But did she need to be hopping into anything?
“Never turn down a free meal,” Jenna said to her with a wink.
It was only something to eat, and she wasn’t going home with him. “Okay.”
“We’ll save you a place by the dance floor,” Jenna promised and left.
“I see a free table over in the corner,” Victor said and led her to it, their feet crunching on peanut shells as they went. “So, what do you think of Moonlight Harbor?” he asked, once they’d settled at the table.
“It’s really charming,” she said. Sure different than where I lived in Seattle.”
“Yeah?” he prompted.
“You know what cities are like—lots of traffic, people, high cost of living.” And not just in terms of money.
“Oh, yeah. Here there’s no such thing as rush hour.”
He shrugged. “We have some break-ins, some people living on the edge, doing drugs. No place is crime-free. But Moonlight Harbor comes close.”
“Have you always lived here?” Moira asked.
“No. I’m from Portland. Wound up in Seattle after the army—I was an MP, and police work seemed like the next step. I got hired by the Seattle PD. My family’s there, so I tried it for a while, but then this job opened up. I always wanted to live by the beach. This works for me. How about you? What brought you here?”
Fear. She gave him her standard line. “It was time to move on.” That was what she’d done: she’d moved on, not run away. Okay, she’d run away, and she was glad she had.
Their waitress came over to take their orders, and that put a halt to the conversation. But after they’d ordered burgers, he returned them to it.
He took a drink from his water glass, then casually asked, “Did you leave a lot of friends behind?”
“Some good ones.” She was going to miss hanging out with Michael and his family.
Of course he wanted to know. He was obviously interested in her. And she certainly was attracted to him. Still, she wasn’t going to tell all to someone she’d just met. “There was someone, but he turned out not to be special at all. How about you?”
“Nope. But I’m thinkin’ I might have found someone here,” he said and smiled.
Dimples. He had dimples when he smiled.
“I like your ink,” he said, pointing to her neck.
She’d put her hair up, and the butterfly was on full display. “Thanks.”
“Any reason you picked a butterfly?”
Lots of women picked butterflies because they were so pretty. Moira had a different reason.
“I like the symbolism,” she said. “Breaking out of a cocoon, flying free. That was how I felt after I finished beauty school and moved out. Like I could go anywhere and do anything.”
He nodded. Then he pulled the sleeve of his T-shirt up to give her a full view of the tattoo on his forearm of a police badge.
“I guess I don’t need to ask what that symbolizes,” she said.
He told her anyway. “Commitment, care, peace and justice.”
He was not only gorgeous, muscled, sweet, but noble, as well. Where was the catch?
“Okay, what’s wrong with you?” Oh, no. Had she really just said that out loud?
His eyebrows shot up. “Huh?”
Someone had lit her face on fire. Oh, yeah. Her. “That didn’t come out right. I guess what I meant is, everyone’s got flaws. I’m not seeing any in you.” She hadn’t seen any in Lang, either. Not for a long time.
Victor shook his head and smiled. “I’ve got flaws.”
“Well, you can’t do drugs.” They tested for that kind of stuff, right?
“No way. Seen too much of what that does. Not a big drinker, ether. I like a beer once in a while, but that’s about it. I’m competitive. Don’t like to lose at anything.“ He shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m pretty boring. Did all my wild stuff when I was a teenager—sneaked out after curfew.”
Oh, yeah, pretty wild. Moira thought back to her shop-lifting phase and cringed.
“I got in some fights—a lot of ‘em with my brother,” he added with a grin.
Fights. The word triggered an uneasiness that had her ignoring her hunger and her burger when the waitress set the plate in front of her. “I read somewhere that police have a bigger domestic abuse problem than the NFL.”
Victor’s dimples disappeared. “Bullshit.”
“Sorry?” she said in a small voice.
“The cops I’ve known are good guys, just trying to do their job.”
“Of course, I didn’t mean to insult you,” Moira said, backpedaling. Something she’d gotten very good at doing, thanks to Lang.
“You didn’t. It’s just . . . cops aren’t all that popular these days. I’m guess I’m a little sensitive about it.”
“People are fearful.”
She hesitated. Was she? Still? Yeah, probably a little. She shrugged. “Not of cops. Really. Just violence in general.”
His brows pulled together. “I know we just met, but . . . were you around someone with a violence problem?”
She bit her lip and stared at her burger.
No point in denying it. She nodded.
“That’s why you’re here, in Moonlight Harbor?”
She nodded again.
“I’m sorry, Moira. I really am.”
“It’s behind me now. I’m making a new start. But I’m starting slowly. They said it’s not good to jump into a new relationship when you’ve just gotten out of one.” There was the nebulous they again.
“I get that,” he said. “And you should take your time. People rush into stuff, and then they’re sorry later.”
She was so done being sorry. “Thanks for understanding.”
“I get the whole not-wanting-to-be-burned-again thing. I met somebody a while back who’d been with a copy who cheated on her. After that, she didn’t want anything to do with cops.” He shrugged like it was no big deal and took a bite of his burger.
“Not even with you? Moira guessed.
“Hard to imagine, huh?” he joked, and his cheeks took on a rosy hue.
“Yes, it is,” she said and felt her own face heating up again. “I guess when it comes down to it, we all just want to be loved and treated well.” And sometimes we fall for somebody and let him walk all over us because we’re so desperate for love. No more, though. She refused to ever be that desperate again. Lang had convinced her that he was the best she could do. But if she couldn’t do better than him, she’d rather do without.
“Guess so,” Victor agreed. He seemed so kind and honest. Could she take a chance on another man, on this man? Could she ever trust her instincts again?
USA Today bestselling author Sheila Roberts lives on a lake in the Pacific Northwest—and in a beachside retreat. She’s happily married and has three children. She’s been writing since 1989, but before settling in to her writing career, she owned a singing telegram company and played in a band. Her band days are over, but she still enjoys writing songs. Her novel, ANGEL LANE, was named one of Amazon's top ten romances in 2009. Her novel, ON STRIKE FOR CHRISTMAS, was a Lifetime Network movie, and her romance, THE NINE LIVES OF CHRISTMAS, was made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel. When she’s not speaking to women’s groups or at conferences or hanging out with her girlfriends, she can be found writing about those things near and dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate. Read more about her on www.sheilasplace.com
Moira chooses the beachside town of Moonlight Harbor to begin the next chapter of her life. Tell me about your favorite beach town...or the one you would most like to visit.
Two people who post a comment before 11:00 PM, April 9, will receive a copy of Beachside Beginnings.
*Must be 18 or older