The Shore Thing by Annette Mardis
Thank you so much, Connie, for hosting me on your blog. Liquid Silver Books just released my contemporary romance novel The Shore Thing. It’s the first book in a series set in the fictional west-central Florida beach town of Gulf Shore, where you’ll feel sugary white sand between your toes, the warm sun on your shoulders, and a sea breeze ruffling your hair.
You’ll meet swoon-worthy alpha males who aren’t embarrassed to cuddle a rescued baby dolphin in their muscular arms and accomplished women looking for an equal partner who thinks that smart is sexy.
You’ll get up close and personal with sea life and fall in love with a talking parrot who acts like a little boy in a bird suit.
You’ll go behind-the-scenes at the local aquarium and out to the beach to rescue marine animals in distress. And once you visit Gulf Shore, you just may find yourself wishing you could stay.
Here’s what The Shore Thing is about:
Danielle “Dani” Davidson vows to just say no to workplace romances after her first post-college job is soured by a messy breakup with a manipulative coworker at a fish hatchery. That’s just one reason she doesn’t trust any man with her heart, let alone one who swims with sharks for a living. So why can’t she get cameraman Evan Sanders out of her mind?
Evan is twice shy, too, after an alluring but self-absorbed colleague at Gulf Shore Aquarium takes a bite out of his heart. Thought he’s dead set against dating anyone else he works with, he’s intrigued by Dani’s shyness and tempted by her intelligence and low-key sexiness.
Their attraction smolders until an unfortunate encounter with a stingray sends Dani to the emergency room and Evan steps up to help her through her recovery. The two also bond over the rescue of an orphaned baby dolphin. But will Evan’s vindictive ex-lover, his career ambitions, and Dani’s inhibitions tear the young lovers apart?
The Shore Thing is available at Liquid Silver Books, http://tinyurl.com/n2krxku; Amazon, http://tinyurl.com/lwmdck2; Barnes & Noble, http://tinyurl.com/o6a3xc3; Kobo, http://tinyurl.com/lsketaw; and All Romance, http://tinyurl.com/q7q8lyy.
Now that you know the gist of the story, let’s hear from the leading man himself, Evan Thomas Sanders.
1. What’s your main goal in life, personally and professionally? Personally, I’d like to meet a smart, sexy, funny woman, settle down one day and have a couple of kids, a house and a dog. Professionally, I want to make a full-length nature documentary that represents my best work. And, of course, it would be great if it attracts audiences and rave reviews worldwide.
2. What do you do for a living? Do you enjoy your work? I’m the chief photographer/videographer at Gulf Shore Aquarium. I love the job so much it would be very difficult to leave, but I did send a resume to a Seattle-based nature filmmaker who I’d give my right arm to work for. My best buddy, head dolphin trainer Paul “Flipper” O’Riley, works at Gulf Shore, and I have a lot of other friends there, too. The work is fulfilling and the atmosphere is fun. The only downside is that my ex-girlfriend is a marine biologist there, and her presence casts a pall on my well-being some days.
3. What do you do with your free time? I play darts in a league at my favorite after-work hangout, Bikini Barb’s Bar & Grill, and I’m planning to lobby the owners to sponsor a softball team. I have a saltwater fish tank at home, so I spend time puttering around with that. I love sports, especially Tampa Bay Rays baseball, so there’s usually a game of some sort on my TV. I’m also a certified scuba diver, although I haven’t done too many recreational dives since I broke up with Monica, the ex I mentioned earlier.
4. What was your childhood like? In a word: epic. I’m the youngest of three brothers born in Stowe, Vermont, where my dad was a tourism official and my mom was a nurse. Skiing, snowboarding — we did just about all the winter sports. Right before I started high school, we moved south when my dad landed a job with the convention and visitors bureau for St. Petersburg/Clearwater.
5. Then what? High school was difficult at first because I was "the new guy," but I'd played Little League baseball and was pretty good at it, so I tried out for my school's JV team. I made it as a second-stringer and spent a lot of time on the bench, but I made a lot of friends. I tried out for the varsity team, too, and was a utility player. While I was in high school, I also got interested in water sports because a buddy of mine had access to his family's boat. We did a lot of water skiing, which I'm really good at, if I say so myself, and I also took a scuba diving class and got my certification. My brothers went off to college in Gainesville and Tallahassee, and I received a scholarship to the University of South Florida. I worked in a portrait studio for a while after graduation and joined the aquarium seven years ago.
6. What's your biggest heartbreak? Wow, what a question. But the answer is easy. Two years after Gulf Shore Aquarium hired me, my mother died of breast cancer. We all were heartbroken, of course. Thankfully, Dad met a terrific lady who'd lost her first husband in a traffic accident. They pulled each other out of their grief and got married last year.
7. What's your biggest joy? Being near the animals at the aquarium. I also go out on most of the rescue calls with the stranding team, and watching them work is really inspiring. The best part, hands down, though, is when we're able to release a sea turtle or some other marine animal we've rehabilitated. Most of the people who witness that are usually crying tears of joy, and I admit I've had to wipe my eyes a time or two. Wait. You're not going to pr int that, are you? Flipper and some of the other guys will never let me live it down, although I've seen tears in their eyes on occasion. Make sure you print that!
8. Any prospects for romance on the horizon? Not really, There is a new girl, Dani Davidson, who I'd ask out in a second if we didn't work together. But it's just not worth it when it goes sour and you're stuck seeing that person all the time. The problem is, I'm at work so much that it's difficult to meet anyone from outside the aquarium. Sure, there are single women who hang out at Bikini Barb's, but a lot of them are bar bunnies who seem to glom on to guys from the aquarium, especially my bro Flipper. They don't do much for me, though. I'm not saying I want to get married right now, but having someone to share my interests and to curl up with at night would be nice.
And now for an excerpt
Here’s the first chapter of The Shore Thing:
Evan Sanders felt his swim fins touch bottom as he settled into position with his camera pointed at the two ten-foot nurse sharks circling above him. It was feeding time, and Fred and Barney were restless and hungry. Evan watched as black drum, striped mullet, mangrove snapper, and other smaller fish scurried out of the predators’ way.
He was in full scuba gear and had only his camera for protection, but he wasn’t worried. He’d shot still photos and video in Gulf Shore Aquarium’s Florida Fishes tank many times, and the nurse sharks hadn’t shown the slightest interest in him.
Still, the usually sluggish bottom-dwellers did have thousands of tiny, serrated teeth capable of crushing shellfish and delivering a nasty bite to errant hands or feet, so Evan couldn’t afford to be careless.
Leaning against the clear face of the tank for support, he noticed an attractive young woman watching him. She had her long chestnut hair pulled back in a neat ponytail and wore khaki slacks and the aquarium’s standard-issue teal polo shirt with the GSA logo. A small crowd gathered around her, and Evan knew she was regaling them with facts about how nurse sharks in the wild use vacuum-like suction to snatch fish, mollusks, and crustaceans from their hiding places, sometimes even yanking a sea snail right out of its shell.
He wished he had time to take a closer look at her because he liked what he could see. But duty called.
Evan zoomed in and fired off frame after frame as Fred sucked a freshly thawed herring from the stainless steel grilling tongs a trainer held just beneath the water’s surface. He tracked Fred with his camera as the shark circled around for another handout.
Suddenly, Evan’s peripheral vision picked up a hulking shape closing in fast on his right. He pivoted to find Barney’s snout within inches of the camera lens.
Pulse pounding, Evan barely had time to react. He bumped the shark’s nose just hard enough to discourage him from coming closer. The lumbering fish veered away at the last second and swam up to a second trainer, who enticed him with a hunk of squid.
On the dry side of the Plexiglas, the young woman stared wide-eyed. Evan gave an exaggerated shudder and patted his chest over his heart. She laughed, and he grinned around his regulator mouthpiece and wiggled his fingers. She waved back.
As Evan held her gaze for a moment longer, the young woman blushed.
* * * *
Fifteen minutes earlier, Danielle “Dani” Davidson had returned from an early dinner break to see the diver standing on the concrete deck of the tank, looking like he belonged on the cover of Hot Hunks Monthly. He checked his air tank and hoses, spit in his mask to keep it from fogging, and collected his camera gear. He’d zipped up his wet suit only as far as his flat waist, and it was only natural for Dani to pause and admire the wide set of his shoulders and the muscles rippling over his tanned arms and chest.
Just then, he raised his head as if he felt her gaze roaming his body and, face reddening, she hurried toward the stairs. She stopped on the top step, hidden by a sign identifying the animals in the tank, and watched as he worked his arms down the sleeves of his wet suit and then zipped it closed.
The show over, she headed down to the underwater viewing area to narrate the nurse shark feeding.
Now, as Dani’s heartbeat returned to normal, the guests gave her an expectant look, obviously waiting to hear what she had to say about the diver’s close call.
“Barney was just making sure our photographer got a nice close-up of his handsome face,” she ad-libbed, adding a reassuring smile for good measure.
“You wouldn’t catch me in the water with those monsters,” one woman proclaimed.
“Sharks are awesome!” the boy with her enthused. “During Shark Week on TV, they showed a great white leaping out of the water with a seal in its jaws, and the seal was all bloody and flopping around and stuff, and its guts were hanging out, too. It was so cool!”
“Eeeewww,” a girl behind him squealed. “That’s totally disgusting.”
“Well—” Dani began, but was interrupted by the man beside her.
“So, would that shark have bitten that diver just now?” he asked.
“Nurse sharks usually aren’t aggressive and are tolerant of people,” she told him. “Unless, of course, someone is careless enough to step on the shark or foolish enough to pull its tail. Our diver is anything but an inattentive imbecile.”
Several people laughed.
“Then why did that shark charge him?” the man pressed.
“‘Charge’ is an overstatement. Sharks are attracted by bright and shiny objects, like a camera flash.”
“Won’t they eat those other fish in there?” someone else asked, setting off a flurry of questions from the group.
“Not as long as we keep Fred and Barney well-fed,” Dani said. “Nurse sharks are lazy hunters who forage at night when their prey is resting.”
“How often do you feed them?”
“Four times a week.”
“Why don’t you just throw the food in there instead of using tongs?”
“The trainers need to keep track of how much fish and squid each shark eats,” she explained. “And they also get vitamin supplements in their food.”
“How big do nurse sharks get?”
“They average seven to nine feet, but it’s possible they can reach fourteen feet.”
“How long do they live?”
“About twenty-five years in human care.”
“Human care? Let’s call it what it is—captivity.”
“Are these, like, the only sharks you have? Because they’re, like, totally lame,” said a bored-looking teenage girl.
“We have a lot of other species at Shark Pier, which is near the back of the property,” Dani answered.
“So, um, why are these here, then?”
“Fred and Barney came to us before we built Shark Pier. A local man had them at his home and gave them to us after they outgrew every tank he bought. They’ve settled in here, so why move them again? Think of them as the aquarium’s greeters, like the ones at Walmart, but with much sharper teeth.”
Dani smiled, but the teenager stayed stone-faced.
“What’s the most bloodthirsty shark in this part of Florida?” asked a man wearing a floppy fishing hat and a sticky layer of coconut-scented suntan lotion.
“We prefer not to use words like bloodthirsty and vicious. Yes, they’re top predators, but sharks don’t hunt humans. Of the more than three hundred and fifty species, fewer than ten are considered dangerous to people.”
“You didn’t answer my question,” the man accused, his hands folded across his chest. Then he spoke with a deliberate pause between each word, as if she had rocks for brains. “Which sharks should we be most afraid of when we’re in local waters?”
“Bull sharks. They’re aggressive and unpredictable.” Dani’s smile wavered, but she kept it pasted on her face.
“Anybody been attacked?”
“Off Gulf Shore? No. None reported, anyway. South of here, in the Tampa Bay area? Yes, but not many. You don’t have to worry. I swim in the Gulf all the time.”
“Hey, it only takes one bite! What happened with those attacks? This is stuff we have a right to know!”
“Yes, sir, absolutely,” she agreed. “Nobody’s trying to keep secrets. In 2000, a nine-foot bull shark feeding on mullet killed a retiree who jumped off his dock near St. Pete Beach and Gulfport.”
Several guests gasped, and someone muttered, “Good Lord!”
“That happened in Boca Ciega Bay, where nine years later a teenage girl was swimming—”
“Wait a minute. Boca Ciega Bay? Oh! My! God! We’re staying right near there!” shrieked an older woman who looked like she’d just come off the beach and now regretted sticking even a toe in the surf.
“Did that girl get eaten?” the young Shark Week fan asked before Dani could say anything else.
“No, she was bitten just below the knee. It was serious but not life-threatening.”
“We need to stay someplace else if there are killer sharks in that bay,” the woman insisted, on the verge of a full-blown frenzy.
“Ma’am, sharks are found in every major body of saltwater in the world,” Dani said.
“Is that supposed to make me feel better, young lady?”
Dani’s shirt was sticky with sweat. “Your chances of being attacked are about one in eleven million,” she assured the woman. That didn’t seem to satisfy her, so Dani launched into tips for lessening that already minuscule risk.
“Don’t swim alone, at twilight, after dark, or if you’re bleeding. Don’t wear shiny jewelry. Be extra cautious in murky water. Don’t splash a lot or let pets in the water with you. Avoid going in the water where people are fishing.”
The woman’s face looked like she’d just sucked on a lemon, and the man who’d raised the specter of shark attack gave an impatient huff.
Geez, what’s with these people? Dani thought, sneaking another look at the diver with the camera. I’d be safer in there with him, not to mention with Barney and Fred.
About the author
Now, a little about me. As a girl, I dreamed of being an astronaut, but I stink at science and math and get motion sick. So I went with my second choice—newspaper journalist—and stuck with it for more than three decades. After years of ignoring people who said, “You should write a book,” I finally did. And then I wrote a few more. When I’m not working, I usually have my nose in someone else’s novel or my eyes glued to sports on TV. I have three totally spoiled pets, enjoy being the designated sightseer on my husband’s Harley, and volunteer at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of diva dolphins Winter and Hope from the Dolphin Tale films.
Visit me at my website, www.AnnetteMardis.com, my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AuthorAnnetteMardis and my
Pinterest boards at www.pinterest.com/annettemardis/the-shore-thing/ and www.pinterest.com/annettemardis/getting-her-moneys-worth/. Follow me on twitter: @AnnetteMardis48.