States of Love

[Fridays with Friends] Foster Bridget Cassidy & Pipelines in Paradise

Today I’m glad to have fellow States of Love author Foster Briget Cassidy stop by to share more about her story, Pipelines in Paradise, set in Hawaii. 🙂


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BLURB

One is trying to heal a broken heart, the other, a broken family.

After separating from his partner of nine years, Palmer Simpson flees to the island of Oahu to pursue a carefree life of surfing. There, he meets Riku Usami, a more skilled surfer—but one with a bad attitude and a boatload of family drama. A contest between the two men leads to friendship and the possibility of something more meaningful. When a tsunami threatens the island, a friend is stranded out on the waters of the deadly Banzai Pipeline. Palmer and Riku must face the dangers of the barrel waves and the looming forces of nature in order to get their friend to safety. If they survive, they’ll have to contemplate what their future together will look like after the storm blows through.

BUY LINKS

Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Nook


EXCERPT

I STOOD at the top of the cliff, my toe hanging just a fraction over the edge of the precipice. Grains of dirt slid underneath me and fell to the water below. A gusty wind whipped around, ruffling my hair with its force. I wished I had something to hold on to, something to steady myself. The gale threatened to push me off. It was a height of thirty feet—only a bit higher than looking out a two-story window—but from this perspective the drop seemed a mile.

How had it come to this? How had I let circumstances get so far out of my control? Just a week ago, I’d been in a stable relationship, or so I thought, had a normal job, supportive family. But in one quick moment, all of that had been taken away.

Now here I was, on the edge of the cliff.

I looked down at the lick of the waves against jagged rocks along the base. The top, where I stood, jutted out at an angle past them. Hitting those slabs wasn’t a possibility.

But with the wind factored in? Maybe that increased the risk?

“Don’t think about it, bro.”

I tore my eyes away from the drop and focused on my companion, Dill.

“You keep thinkin’, you’ll never do it. Just jump.”

He sprang like a coil, leaping over the edge with a triumphant yell. He held his board over his head as he jumped, gripping it tightly as he splashed into the water below. His head appeared, bobbing next to the board, and he gave a shake to dispel the water from his long, curly locks.

“You comin’?” he called up to me.

Even from the distance, I could see the look of lust in his eyes. Not for me, but for the waves that beckoned.

Fuck it. I pushed my fears aside. This is no different from the high dive at the pool.

With my own battle cry, I launched off the ledge, free-falling through the air. I was glad I’d started my scream before jumping or else it would have snuck out as I plummeted and likely been high-pitched and embarrassing. As it was, the bellow stuck in my chest and I just fell with my mouth open. I didn’t even have the sense to close it as I hit the water below.

After swallowing a bucket of salt water, I broke the surface. I gasped, and coughed, and spit out as much of the salty taste as I could.

“Dude,” Dill said with a chuckle. “Your board.”

Glancing behind me, I saw my board a few feet away. It had slipped from my fingers during the fall. I paddled over to it, steadying my hands along its rail, and pulled myself atop it.

“See, ’s not so bad once you’re down here,” he told me, getting situated on his board.

“Right.” I looked up to the cliff I’d just jumped from. The cliff I’d just jumped from. God! The realization of what I’d done hit me like a freight train. A week ago, jumping off anything would have seemed ludicrous. My life had been safe, uncomplicated, perfect. Yeah, right. Now here I was, at the China Walls, getting ready to try my hand at some serious swells—or so Dill claimed.

“You ready? We gotta paddle from here.”

I got onto my stomach, stretching out along my board. “Why didn’t we just paddle from the beach?”

“Dude, there is no beach. Just the cliffs.”

I gulped. My suddenly constricted throat throbbed. Just how big of a gamble had I taken?

My companion saw my less-than-happy look and shrugged. “Kinda risky, but no better way to impress the ladies watching.”

Luckily he turned his head and began to slice his arms through the water, missing the grimace on my face. I, for one, had no interest in impressing any ladies. Those suntanned guys, though…. Maybe the risk was worth it if they took notice.

The water’s chill splashed across my face as I paddled along. My wet suit—bought secondhand from a cheap shop my first day here—protected the rest of my body from the bite. Surfing in winter was about the only time you needed a wet suit in these mild waters. Technically March was winter. It was just my luck Pip and I had split during the cold season.

“All right, bro?” my surfer friend called back to me.

I realized I’d stopped moving my arms. Goddamned bastard, I cursed. Even here, he’s ruining my life.

“Yeah, I’m coming.”

We made our way out, going parallel to the cliff but far enough away a stray wave wouldn’t send us crashing into it. The muscles of my arms began to burn, though not as much as yesterday. A week of being on the water from sunup to sundown was building up my strength. In a month’s time, I’d be as buff as those gorgeous specimens up ahead waiting in the surf lineup. My skin might even pick up a bit of a tan. I’d be completely indistinguishable from everyone else. Nothing to suggest I was approaching middle age, was depressed and heartbroken, and that I hadn’t surfed in more than ten years.

I struggled to keep my labored breathing to myself the farther we paddled. I didn’t want my friend to think me lame and out of shape. While I often didn’t care what others thought of me, for him, I wanted to look cool. Not for any romantic or showing off reason. No, he was the one with a car, and having a friend who could drive would ease my travel considerably.

Plus, he had been nice and considerate of me since we met two days ago. A soul surfer just out to enjoy himself with anyone who showed an interest.

Suddenly he pulled up short, then moved into a sitting position. I mimicked him. We’d approached the swell from an angle, traveling across smoother water to reach the waves. Now we’d gotten nearly aligned with the crests, as the cliff suddenly cut toward shore. Already a group of people speckled the blue water. As we looked on, one caught the wave she sought and sped off toward land. It was hard to see what happened from this angle. All I could make out was her riding off. Then the wall of water passed, blocking my view.

These waves looked higher than what I was used to. Probably eight feet at least.

“Um, Dill,” I said hesitantly.

“Yeah?”

“I don’t know if I can surf these waves.”

I knew enough—despite my long absence from the sport—to recognize the difference in waves. So far, I’d only been down to Waikiki and its mild and small waves. Those had been familiar, similar to what I’d surfed in my youth at Huntington Beach. Like riding a bike, I was surprised at how quickly the moves came back to me. I got better with each day.

These, though, were bigger, stronger, and nearing barrel status. On top of that, you had to catch the wave right next to the cliff wall.

I couldn’t ride them. Not without killing myself.

Again he shrugged, indifferent to my plight. “You can paddle back the way we came. There’s a path up not far from where we jumped.”

While I was trying, I hadn’t reached his level of lightheartedness. The idea of attempting these waves scared me. In the surfing world, you didn’t do something you weren’t comfortable with.

“Hey, Palmer,” he said, swiveling his head to look me in the eyes. “Just sit for a while and get a feel for the waves. We got a bit of time before we can make it through the lineup, anyway. With the swells coming from this direction, every surfer in the area is here right now.”

“Yeah, okay.” Seemed like a plan at least.

I watched. The vantage wasn’t the best, but I could still make out the beauty of the catch. They all looked so graceful as they went from stomach, to knees, to feet, all in one fluid motion. Like a ballerina getting on pointe. I was pretty sure my form wasn’t nearly as beautiful. I probably looked like a walrus getting up from a reclining position.

Still, the other surfers did make me envious. If I had stuck with it, surfed continuously through adulthood, I could have been like them. Mistakes made, and some I didn’t regret, had cost me this opportunity.

Well, not again.

“I’ll do it,” I told him.

“Great, man. Just remember, go left, away from the rocks.”

Obviously. Was that the depth of his wisdom?

“Oh, look at her,” he said suddenly.

I did, spying a petite woman getting into position. I was pretty sure Dill wanted me to check out her body, but I was more interested in her board. A fish, they called it. Shorter, more difficult to steer in rough waters. My board—a bright green seven-foot-two-inch funboard—had been bought from a clearance rack in the back of a shop, so it wasn’t the best either, but at least it was long enough for balance.

She sailed out of sight on the wave.

Then I saw him, the next in the lineup. He got to his feet just as the wave began to lift him, his motions sure and perfected. The sun shone down on black hair, giving it a glossy look I could practically feel from my place thirty feet away. Skin a dark bronze, noticeable where his wet suit didn’t cover. Below the tight rubber, his body appeared to be ripped like a Spartan, muscles lean and jagged even through the protective clothing. He angled to the left and disappeared from view. And a piece of my soul shattered.

I caught Dill looking at me as I watched the surfer. “You recognize him, then?”

“Huh?”

Dill’s usual smile was nonexistent. In fact, he glared. “Him,” he said sourly, nodding after the perfect fellow who’d just surfed off with my heart. “You know who he is?”

“No, should I?”

“It’s Riku Usami.”

“Huh?” I repeated.

“Dude,” Dill said for emphasis. “Riku Usami. He’s a legend around these parts. He was surfing Pipeline at twelve years old.”

“Twelve?” Jesus, I’d still been swimming in the kiddie pool at that age. I didn’t even graduate to surfing until I could drive. And Pipeline! That was the most hard-core surfing on Oahu. “Wow.”

“I see him a lot. He follows the swells all over the island.” The tone of voice Dill used said he wasn’t thrilled he kept running into this legendary man.

“A kindred spirit, then?”

Dill scoffed and looked affronted. “No way. That guy is about as far from me as you can get. He’s here to prove he can do it, not for the enjoyment. He’s no soul surfer.”

“A man with something to prove.” Sort of sounded like myself.

“I’m going, man. See you back at the car.” Then Dill was getting into position, paddling with the oncoming wave. He caught it, jumping to his feet with a free-spirited yell.

I smiled. I loved Dill’s outlook. As I got to know him over the past two days, I’d realized he was everything I wanted to be. If I hadn’t gone down my current path, I wondered if I would have ended up like him.

But with Dill out of the way, it meant I was next. And there was already a ton in the lineup after me. I had to go. No second thoughts, no chickening out. Just go.

Fuck, I can’t do this. I’m not ready for something like this.

I glanced over my shoulder, getting into position. I paddled, getting to my knees. They wobbled just a bit as I pushed myself up.

I’m going to wipe out. I just know I’m going to kill myself.

I steadied my feet, shoulder width apart, and balanced my body over the center of my board. I took off. The wave rushed me past the cliff, only a few feet to my right. It was breathtaking and terrifying all at once.

Focus, I scolded myself, bending my knees to angle my board against the wave. I cut across the water, going faster than I ever had in my life. The crest swelled behind me, threatening to take me down with it. I angled more, sliding even quicker along the glassy surface.

I was doing it! I actually….

I was suddenly underwater, my breath knocked from my lungs by the impact. I struggled to the surface, desperate for air. I managed to grab an intake before the next wave crashed into me, sending me back into the depths. I swam up again.

Luckily I’d made it past the break point and was able to get out to the calmer water on the side. My board had already floated in that direction too.

“Pathetic, Barney,” someone called out.

I climbed back onto my board and looked around. It was that guy Dill had pointed out. What was his name? This close, he was even more beautiful. Though right now he looked pissed, his brow drawn down and eyes narrowed balefully.

“Huh?” Seemed like I was saying that a lot today.

The man sneered. “This place is obviously above your skill level. You could have hurt yourself.”

“Could have, but didn’t.”

His lips thinned to a line. “Don’t joke about that. You’re just a stupid tourist who will likely end up dead before the week is out.”

“Lay off,” I said, suddenly feeling angry myself. Who gave this guy the right to be the surfing police? “I know how to handle myself.”

He scoffed. “Like you did just now? It was a stupid mistake, moving your foot too close to the nose. At another beach, that sort of misstep would send you into the reef and break your skull.”

Had I really fallen that badly? It had happened so fast.

“Idiots like you,” he continued into my pause, “give us all a bad name. One more person dies here and they’ll close it off to surfers. All of it taken away from us just because tourists think they can play with the big boys.”

“That’s not fair,” I said, but he had turned away from me.

Prick.

I took ten deep breaths before going in that same direction. It was probably the quickest way out of here.


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MEET THE AUTHOR

FOSTER BRIDGET CASSIDY is a rare, native Phoenician who enjoys hot desert air and likes to wear jackets in summer. She has wanted to be a fiction writer since becoming addicted to epic fantasy during high school. Since then, she’s studied the craft academically—at Arizona State University—and as a hobby—attending conventions and workshops around the country. A million ideas float in her head, but it seems like there’s never enough time to get them all down on paper.

Her main support comes from her husband, who reminds her to laugh. Mostly at herself. Their partnership may be difficult to grasp when viewed from the outside, but seen from the inside they are a perfect match. He’s helped her through surgeries and sicknesses and is always willing to wash her hair when she can’t do it on her own.

Their children have four legs and fur and will bite them on occasion. One snores loudly.

For fun, Foster likes to take pictures of her dachshunds, sew costumes for her dachshunds, snuggle her dachshunds, and bake treats for her dachshunds. In exchange for so much love and devotion, they pee vast amounts on the floor, click their nails loudly on the tile, and bark wildly at anything that moves outside. Somehow, this relationship works for all involved.

While not writing, Foster can usually be found playing a video game or watching a movie with her husband. While not doing any of those things, Foster can usually be found in bed, asleep.

SOCIAL MEDIA

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[Fridays with Friends] Hunter Frost & Cemeteries by Moonlight

On today’s spotlight, we have Hunter Frost’s States of Love novella, Cemeteries by Moonlight. I’m looking forward to reading it too. Enjoy the excerpt!


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BLURB

When a serious bout of writer’s block threatens to delay mystery author Drew Daniels’s newest book, his aunt offers her New Orleans apartment in the heart of the French Quarter as a writing retreat. She neglects to mention that it’s occupied by the enigmatic and sexy Finn Murphy, a cemetery tour guide with a penchant for Victorian attire and a Cajun accent.

A body discovered in an open crypt forces reclusive Drew to deal with Finn’s eccentric group of friends and his underlying attraction to the hot Cajun—despite warnings about Finn’s violent past. Drew might write this stuff, but he’s never had to solve a real-life murder. With a deadline looming and a killer on the loose, this retreat is proving to be anything but helpful for Drew’s novel. Drew can only hope he won’t end up a tragic tale for the Ghostly Legends & Lore, Inc. haunted tour.

States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.

BUY LINKS

Dreamspinner | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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EXCERPT

Hitchcock ruined birds for me.

Dad took me to see the film when I was seven years old at a theater that ran old classics. He didn’t think it would be a big deal, considering horror movies were a hell of a lot more frightening by the eighties, and I had cut my teeth on those. He was wrong. It scared the shit out of me. I couldn’t see those winged devils without imagining them trying to peck out my eyes with their sharp beaks. I hadn’t turned my back on a seagull or crow since. Didn’t help I shared the same last name as the main character, Melanie Daniels. But I was no Tippi Hedren, in more ways than one, and as I pulled up to the curb across from Royal Street, deep in the heart of the French Quarter, I told myself this wasn’t Bodega Bay, despite the large black crow perched on the apartment balcony.

At least it was alone as it stared at me, its coal black eyes reflecting the last rays of sun before the day descended into twilight. Thick strokes of orange, red, and pink painted the sky behind the two-story building in front of me, with its light gray walls, slate trim, and wrought-iron lacework lining the balcony. I had my sights set on the large car-width door off to the right side. Creole-style parking, Aunt Celia had called it. I fished the key she had sent out of my jeans pocket.

I felt the urge to tic as I got out of the car, keeping my eye on the folks who walked up and down the street, preparing for a typical Bourbon Street evening of drinking and debauchery. The urge increased, as it commonly did, like an oncoming sneeze, but I could control the Tourette’s for now. The hit I took back in Biloxi would last another hour if I took it easy.

I unlocked the garage-like door and pushed it open the rest of the way before hurrying back to my car, not wanting any curious onlookers to sneak in. With one last glance at the crow, I started the car and entered the dark passageway, as if descending into a massive crypt.

Driving forward, I slowly emerged into the light and a neglected courtyard. A small detached cottage stood to the left behind the apartment. No cars here but mine, now parked on the dirt pad amid overgrown ivy and trees.

Once I had gone back through the dark corridor on foot to secure the door, I grabbed my oversized duffel from the trunk and slung my laptop bag over my shoulder.

To get to the second-floor apartment, I had to unlock yet another door that led to a narrow stairwell where my bags buffeted the walls at every step. Finally, I reached the last entrance at the top. Three doors just to get in? I didn’t want to be ungrateful, but so far the place was more work than respite. Why couldn’t Celia have an antebellum house in the middle of the Garden District?

Once I stepped inside, I stopped whining. Stained wood floors, updated appliances, quartz countertops, open floor plan—the apartment was a renovated dream. I walked toward the windows of the balcony, bypassing the hallway to what must be the two bedrooms and bathroom. The living room had a nice deep sectional and big coffee table that I couldn’t wait to put my feet up on as I worked on my manuscript. Hell, if the weather kept up, I’d rise with the sun and write in one of the cushioned chairs on the balcony, provided that crow stayed away.

I dropped my bags and stretched my arms over my head, rolling my shoulders and neck as I admired the view of the Crescent City.

“Allô?” said a male voice behind me.

My head whipped around so fast it hurt. “Who the hell are you?” I searched the room for anything I could use as a weapon.

“That’s some attitude for a guy who just broke into my home.”

His home? I was sure my eyes widened, and I fought the urge again to tic. This had to be the right place. The address, the keys… could I disable him with a jab from my keys? I sized him up. He was taller than me and bare chested, with countless tats covering a lean and muscled body. The color of his eyes was lost in the shadows, which for some reason disappointed me, and his hair was dark and short, gelled straight up. He wore low-slung basketball shorts in navy blue, red, and gold. New Orleans Pelicans colors. And he held a laundry basket filled with clothes down against his thighs. Not very threatening. However, the most captivating part about him was the gigantic tattoo near his hip: an ornately handled dagger that disappeared into the waistband of his shorts.

He cleared his throat, and I tore my gaze from his body, my cheeks heating.

“This is my Aunt Celia’s place. She told me I could use it for the month.”

“Oh, she did, did she?” He snorted and shook his head. “You must be Drew. The writer?”

“How did you—?”

“She brags about her talented neveu all the time.”

“Nephew?” I asked, hoping I understood the Cajun French he threw at me. He nodded. “She must have another one, then,” I deadpanned.

He smiled, white teeth breaching sexy lips. Definitely no longer a threat. Or at least now a different kind of threat.

“She led me to believe the apartment was vacant.”

“Doesn’t surprise me. No offense, but the woman may be a few cards short of a full deck. I think her memory might be slipping.”

I sighed. After driving all this way and rearranging my life to be here. Damn it, Celia. “So you rent the place?”

He let go of the basket, and it landed at his feet with a thud. “At a total steal. But don’t tell her that.”

I laughed, more at my shit luck than anything else, and ran a hand through my hair. I suppressed another urge to tic.

He raised one eyebrow. “I’m not using the second bedroom.”

He had such an unusual drawl. Like some sort of Parisian Matthew McConaughey.

“I thought about making it into something, maybe a big dressing room, but I’ve never gotten around to it.” He shrugged. “It’s still furnished.”

I looked at him. He didn’t know me. I didn’t even know his name. And I couldn’t stop staring at that tattoo.

 MEET THE AUTHOR

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Hunter’s early addiction to the smell of printed books led her to spend most of her childhood in libraries and bookstores. There she fell in love with stories featuring medieval castles, ghosts, and handsome heroes. Though writing has always been a part of her life, after college she went on to explore careers in graphic design, the culinary arts, and dog grooming before returning to graduate school to get her MA in British history. To pay the bills she spends her days working for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, but to appease her overactive muse, she writes the kind of fiction that keeps her sane. She adores romance in all forms, but prefers her stories with two heroes that find their happily-ever-after with each other.

Hunter would rather watch Spaceballs (or any Mel Brooks movies really), despite being born in the same year as Star Wars. She loves Monty Python, MST3K, and cheesy rom-coms from the ’80s and ’90s. Her wacky sense of humor is only paralleled by her hopeless romanticism. She’s a goth at heart and a sucker for men with long hair. She adores everything British, but insists tea be drunk without milk. She’s a pescetarian with vegan tendencies and has two fat little cats named after her favorite beverage – Latte and Java. She dreams of coastal living, marshmallows, and Matt Bomer.

Feel free to connect with her through any of her social media accounts, or send her an email. She welcomes messages from readers and/or Brits looking to adopt.

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Fridays with Friends & Favorites is a weekly post featuring authors, designers, editors, and anyone else brave enough to show up. And sometimes, my favorite book of the week might take the spotlight.