Paradise Cove - Jenny Holiday

Chapter One

The first time Nora Walsh saw Jake Ramsey, he was getting his hair braided.

He was sitting in one of the chairs at Curl Up and Dye reading a copy of Field & Stream while a stylist did some kind of elaborate Maria von Trapp cross-scalp braiding thing to his long brown hair. The image was almost comical: this giant, beefy man sitting on a chair that looked like a piece of dollhouse furniture compared to him. It was like Jason Momoa’s paler twin had shown up to play beauty parlor.

“Can I help you, hon?”

Nora transferred her attention from Aquaman to the older woman behind the reception desk. “Yes. Hi. I don’t have an appointment, but I was hoping to get my roots touched up. Or to make an appointment for later, if you can’t take me now.”

“Come on in.” The woman led her to the salon’s unoccupied chair—there were only two in the small space. “Carol Junior can take you after she’s finished with Jake.”

“Almost done.” The younger woman was a carbon copy of the older one, minus the wrinkles. “I’m just playing around.” She grabbed a hair elastic from her workstation, tied off the braid, and stood back to assess. “Well, that’s not going to win any awards.”

The man lowered his magazine, leaned forward to examine himself in the mirror, and shrugged. “Looks fine to me.”

The stylist patted him on the shoulder. “You’re such a good sport, Jake. Take that out, and we’ll get you washed.” She turned to Nora and gave a little shriek. “Oh my God! I love your hair.”

Nora had a pixie cut. A very short, very platinum pixie cut. She’d wondered if it would stand out in Moonflower Bay, and it did. Pretty much all the women she’d seen so far—though admittedly, she’d only been in town a day—had long hair. She was afraid she would come off like the city girl who thought she was all that. But it wasn’t like she sported piercings or tattoos or anything. She just had really, really short hair.

Unlike the big dude next to her, who had started raking his fingers through his hair to undo his braid. She wondered why he bothered getting it done in the first place if he was just going to take it out.

He transferred his attention from his reflection to Nora, and as their eyes met in the mirror, there was a record scratch in Nora’s brain. It was like there was the normal, unremarkable, white-noise soundtrack of life unspooling as it always did, and then it just stopped.

She wondered if he felt it, too, because he blinked a few times and paused in undoing his hair.

His eyes were green. A green so intense that, together with his long, dark hair, it brought to mind something not quite human. If he had told her that he was part wolf, she might have believed him.

Or maybe he was Aquaman? Some kind of sea god or something? They were on a Great Lake.

She examined the rest of his features, trying to decide if they were mortal or otherwise. His jaw was clean shaven, despite the thick, lustrous hair on his head. His lips were full and pale pink. A stark-white scar ran over his upper lip on one side, so deep it pulled the lip up a little.

The stylist laughed, and the record in Nora’s brain started playing again. The man returned to dismantling his hairdo, and Nora willed her suddenly hot cheeks to chill out.

“Look at you two! We’ve got a long-haired boy and a short-haired girl.” Nora was about to fire back—she was primed for these small-town folks not to approve of her—when the woman added, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Standing between the chairs, she put her hands on her hips and examined both of her customers in the mirror. “Because you both have totally amazing hair.”

Nora didn’t know what to say. Maybe this town wasn’t going to be as small-minded as she’d feared?

The stylist wiped her hands on a towel before sticking one out in front of Nora. “Carol Dyson Junior. Folks call me CJ, though, to differentiate me from my mom.” She hitched a thumb toward the front of the salon, where the older woman had retreated to the reception desk. “I don’t think I’ve seen you in here before.”

“Nora Walsh. I just moved to town.”

CJ’s mom—that would be Carol Senior, Nora reasoned—suddenly reappeared. “Oh! You’re the new doctor!”

“I am.” Word sure got around. Four weeks ago,