West Coast Love
Journey to the Heart #3
by Tif Marcelo
Publication Date: December 11, 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Online food blogger Victoria Aquino has spent years doing social media for True North and Paraiso Retreats, and she’s ready to take her blog and writing to the next level. But after she was catfished and suffered a heartbreak, she’s clamoring for change. She auditions for and accepts a food host opportunity: covering the Labor Day holiday BBQ festivals along the California coast. For eight days, she’ll travel with a producer and a camera and sound person, in a vintage—and rickety—RV, and she’ll get her very first byline as a video journalist. The only catch? She can’t stand BBQ.
And the cameraman also auditioned for the job.
Joel Silva is a cameraman with his own past and big dreams of his own, and when he finds out that the job he auditioned for went to Victoria—a woman he’d gotten to know covering Paraiso Retreats, and someone he later slept with—he’s understandably furious and curious. Joel knows the BBQ circuit like the back of his hand, and he now has to help Victoria do her job amidst their growing attraction.
When the producer picks up on their push/pull vibe and increases the ante to feature both in front of the camera with the best host taking the next cross-country feature, the two have to decide: is their blossoming romance something that should be left to fizzle along with BBQ season? Or is it the beginning of something even more delicious?
About Tif Marcelo
Tif believes in and writes about heart-eyes romance, the strength of families, and the endurance of friendship. A veteran Army Nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Public Administration, she is a craft enthusiast, food-lover and the occasional half-marathon runner. As a military spouse, she has moved nine times, and this adventure shows in some of her free-spirited characters. Tif currently lives in the DC area with her own real life military hero and four children.
Swept into the next song, I stick my arms out to the side and spin. But my bare feet trip on themselves and lose traction on the slippery floor. My arms flail to find balance, though I know what’s coming next: a good, hard fall on my butt.
Just as I clamp my eyes shut and brace for the crash, Joel’s arms slide around my waist from the front. I grab the fabric of his T-shirt—he had peeled off the button-down shirt he wore earlier—and he palms the small of my back, smashing me against him and bringing my cheek against his chest. While I can’t decipher what he’s saying, the vibrato of his voice thrums against my skin, and I can tell he’s laughing.
“Oh no, oh no!” I say amidst giggles. With Joel’s extra weight we’re top-heavy. Our legs tangle as we both slip and crash down to the ground.
Somehow, he maneuvers it so he breaks my fall, and I’m on top of him, legs splayed against his, chest on chest. My hair falls in clumps around his face.
“You okay?” he asks. As his chest rises when he inhales, my body is carried up along with it.
I prop myself up by planting my hands against Joel’s sides, and I explode in laughter. “Yes. Are you?” A line of bubbles trails across his nose, and under the occasional strobe of colored lights, I notice that there’s a scar where his beard ends on his cheek. His lips, hidden behind his facial hair, are thick and kissable.
I’ve never been this close to Joel before. His camera was a barrier, his shyness always a hindrance. But away from his work—like this—Joel is a completely different man. Or maybe it’s that while he’s gotten to know my family very well, I don’t know anything about him at all.
Joel comes to the bottom of the step. “I’m not done. Can I come in?”
My heart lurches in my throat. Stunned, I blink at the site of this beautiful man looking up at me, then nod.
He takes two steps up into the rig, shuts the door behind him, and turns so our faces are even, so close that it would be easy to lean in and steal a kiss.
He lays his hands on my hips, inching me backward, then takes the final step up. I don’t fight back; I don’t question him. I sit on the edge of the bed while he takes a knee in front of me, and I’m breathless when he puts his hands on my thighs. My heart’s pounding in my ears as I take in the mixture of determination and patience on his face. “The things you do, the things you say—I can’t stay away from you.” His right hand caresses my cheek, pushes a long bang from my face and tucks it behind my ear. “Look, what that guy did to you was wrong. Fucking cowardly. You didn’t deserve it.”
“I know that.”
“Then you know that real men aren’t like him. That I am not like him.”
“I’ve got a lot on my mind.” I turn up the radio volume. “’Love in an Elevator.’ This is a good one.” I laugh when her face scrunches down like she bit into something sour. Too damn cute. “Don’t tell me you’re not an Aerosmith fan either. Then again, you don’t have to love them to appreciate their success—they have sold over a hundred and fifty million albums.”
She shrugs. “They scream the entire time.” She bites on her bottom lip as she thinks. “Okay, I admit it. I liked the collab they did with Run-D.M.C. But, yeah, that’s it.”
A grin pulls at my lips. These small nuggets about Victoria have made these rough couple of days bearable. I’ve learned the she’s not afraid to jump right in to solve a problem and that she can’t go long without having a conversation. And I’m not going to lie—the fact that she can start a fire kind of turns me on, even if nothing can ever become of us. “You like Run-D.M.C., Miss Classical Music?” I point at the phone perched on the dashboard, at the screen that reads Mandolin Concerto in C major.
“Vivaldi. Surprised?” When I nod, she leans her head back on the headrest so she’s titled upward slightly, and a veil of a smile graces her lips. Her profile is lit by the sun behind her, and damn, she is a sight.