While Heath is enjoying a rare day at the beach with his sister, Heather, and her husband, Phil, he witnesses two thugs trying to kidnap a young lady. He’s able to rescue Sara, but she’s scared and clings to him.
While trying to reassure her, he learns that she has many issues she’s been struggling with. He helps her, the same way Phil deals with Heather’s issues, through loving domestic discipline.
It’s not long before Sara and Heather become best friends and partners in crime, and the men are kept busy protecting the women they love.
Publisher’s note: “The Strange Healing” is a contemporary domestic discipline romance.
Heath strolled lazily toward his sister and her husband, carrying his flip-flops so he could enjoy the sand between his toes.? He was grateful that his brother-in-law, Phil, who was a close friend, had talked him into this day at the beach.? He’d been under a great deal of stress lately, and this day of leisure was turning out to be a good healer for him.
The quiet day of relaxing was just what he needed, with no concerns or problems on his mind.? Except for the lady who’d been sitting motionless on the beach a few hundred feet from them.? He noticed her when they first put their blanket down.? She was a lovely young lady, but she looked sad as she sat alone, staring into the ocean.? He knew people occasionally went to the beach to think things through, but this little lady seemed lost.? He’d glanced over her way several times, but he’d hardly seen any movement from her at all.? He was starting to worry, wondering if he should go check on her, just to be sure she was okay.
“Rather than stare at her all day, why don’t you go introduce yourself?”? Phil’s words startled Heath, and he looked to his friend, who was smiling.? “I’ve seen you watching her ever since we got here.? She is pretty, and she seems to be alone, so go introduce yourself.? You need a good woman, and she looks like she needs a friend for dinner tonight, so go talk to her.”
Heath smiled at his good friend.? “Will you and your meddling wife stop matchmaking for this one day?”
Heather grinned innocently and asked, “Whatever do you mean by that?”? He frowned at her, and she laughed when she saw his eyebrow rise.? “Okay, maybe we have suggested a lady or two that would be worth getting to know, but what do you expect?? You’re my big brother, after all, and you’ve spent so much time helping me all these years, I just want to repay you, if I can.”
Heath gave his sister a hug. “Heather, I appreciate that thought, I really do.? But I’m sure if there’s a woman out there for me, I’ll find her on my own.? I’ve been too busy to look, but things are slowing down now, so give me a chance, okay?? And I’m not really your big brother.”
Heather returned her brother’s hug, and reluctantly agreed.? “I guess I can back off a little.? But you are my big brother.? You were born seven minutes before me, so that makes you my big brother. Like it or not, you’ll always be older than me, so get used to it, old man!”
Heath shook his head as he looked over at Phil.? “Do you let her get away with that kind of behavior, that sassy mouth all the time?”
Noting the grin on Heath’s face, Phil smiled as he said, “Not always.? Today’s a day to relax, though.? It takes way too much energy to get her over my knee and hold her there while I teach her some manners.”? Seeing the smug look she gave her brother as she stuck her tongue out at him, Phil grabbed her arm and quickly whirled her around and landed a sharp swat on her bottom.? “Of course, I could be persuaded to rethink that plan.”
“Ouch,” Heather cried, as she turned to look at her husband.? She noted the serious warning in his eyes and quickly said, “Sorry, Heath.”? She saw the smile on Phil’s face and the sparkle return to his eyes, and turned back to her brother.? “I know you’ve been busy, Heath, and I’m glad things are finally slowing down for you.? I’ve watched you work so hard for so long, between college and your job, and you spent an enormous amount of time helping me when Mom and Dad died.? You pulled me through that, even though I know you were hurting just as much.? I just want you to be happy now.”
“Thank you, sis.”? Heath kissed his sister on her forehead and assured her. “I appreciate everything you just said, but I can find my own date.? I promise.”
“Yeah, I know that.? But you introduced me to Phil, and I’ll never be able to thank you enough for that.”
He smiled at both of them. “But that’s different.? I knew he was perfect for you.”?
Phil smiled, while Heather punched her brother in the arm.
Smiling at his wife, Phil said, “You’re hitting your brother like you want me to exert the energy to spank you after all.? Is that what you want?”
Her eyes were wide as she said, “Absolutely not!”? She knew he was teasing, and she added, “What am I going to do with you two brutes?”
Phil laughed. “Well, this brute’s going to go get us some water from the stand over there.? Can I trust you to behave while I’m gone, or do I need to drag you with me?”
Lying back down to enjoy her rare day of relaxation, she assured him, “I’ll be a little angel while you’re gone, just like normal.”
Both men laughed. Heath asked, “Want some help, Phil?”
“No, I got this.? You stay here and come up with a good opening line to introduce yourself to the little lady you’ve been staring at all day.”?
As Heath watched his friend leave to get the water, he turned to look again at the mysterious lady just a little ways up the beach.? Two men approached her just then and he wondered if she’d been waiting for them all this time.? As they got to her, though, he saw the lady jump, as if she’d been startled.? Instantly concerned, he watched as the three talked a couple minutes.? She appeared upset, and he decided to slowly wander down in that direction to be sure there was no problem.
Just as he stood, one of them, a tall, thin man, grabbed her arm and pulled.? She pulled back, trying to get her arm free, and tried to plant her feet in the sand.? The second, shorter man grabbed her other arm and they started to pull her through the sand.? Heath didn’t like the looks of that at all and took off running toward them.? Just then she screamed and he picked up his speed as he yelled, “Hey, let her go!”
Heather heard her brother yell, and looked over in that direction.? She saw what was happening and immediately ran to get her husband.?
Heath watched the two men pull harder and drag the lady toward the path leading to the road.? He yelled again to no avail.? He got close enough and grabbed the taller one, pulling all three to an abrupt stop.? “I don’t believe the lady wants to go with you two, so let go of her,” Heath demanded.
Jerking his arm free of Heath’s hold, the guy growled. “This is none of your business, and if you know what’s good for you you’ll leave.”
Glancing quickly at her terrified look, Heath knew that whatever was going on, she didn’t like it.? He told the man, “I just made it my business.? Now let her go.”? He easily ducked as the man took a swung at his jaw.? He quickly turned around and was able to knock him to the ground while he was off balance.? That bought him enough time to deal with the shorter man who was approaching, fists first.? Again he was able to duck the first blow, then land a solid blow of his own, knocking the man backward and off his feet.?
He quickly whirled around and caught the taller man with a solid punch to his gut as he ducked to avoid his fist again.? As the man doubled over, Heath turned to square off with the shorter guy, devising a plan in his mind as to how he could handle both of them at once, when he heard the taller man behind him groan.? As he landed another punch, which knocked his sparring partner down again, he turned and was glad to see Phil standing over the taller assailant.?
“You okay, Heath?”
“Yeah.? Thanks, Phil.? You okay?”
“I’m fine.”? Turning to the two men, who were staring at each other now, both still in the sand, Phil asked, “You two want to take us both on now, or are you ready to leave, like he told you to do?”
As the two ran off, Heath turned to the lady, whose eyes were still filled with terror. He could see her trembling, and without thinking, he pulled her to him and wrapped his arms around her.? “Are you okay?”?
She immediately started crying, and he held her tight, trying to assure her.? “It’s okay now, sweetheart.? They’re gone, and you’re safe.”? He just held her while she cried hysterically.?
Heather had gotten there and asked, “What happened?? Is everyone okay?”
No one said anything for a minute, and finally Heath said, “I think we’re all okay.? I’m not sure exactly what happened.”? Pulling the crying little lady away far enough to look into her eyes, he asked, “Ma’am, are you okay?? Did they hurt you?”? He didn’t get any response.? He quietly tried again, “Did you know them?”? The only response he got was a groan as she shook her head.
“I didn’t think so,” Heath murmured.? He kept his arms around her, trying to assure her, not sure what else he should do.? He did the only thing he could think of, and kept trying to convince her she was safe now.
He caught his sister’s eyes, and she appeared confused, as well.? She went over and rubbed the lady’s back, saying, “Honey, you have to be upset.? Let’s go sit down on our blanket while you calm down and tell us what happened.? We have some water over there.? Maybe that will help.”? She reached over to take the woman’s arm gently and lead her to their blanket, but the young woman pulled back from her, clinging to Heath.
Heath tightened his grip on her. “Come on, let’s go sit down so we can talk a bit.? I could use a drink of water myself.”? He headed them toward their blanket, his arm still around her protectively, when her knees gave out.? He quickly caught her and picked her up, carrying her to their blanket, where he sat down with her still in his arms.?
All three of them anxiously asked her, “Are you okay?”
Heather took over, giving her a visual check, while feeling her arms and legs for possible injuries.? “Did they hurt you?”? She noticed the terrified look in her eyes, and saw her iron grip on Heath, and assured her, “It’s okay, honey, I’m a nurse.? I’m just checking to be sure you’re okay.”
She relaxed a little, giving Heather a tiny smile.? “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
Heather smiled at her.? “There’s nothing for you to be sorry for.? I probably scared you even more than you already were when I started checking you all over.”? She tried to relax, hoping it would help the frightened victim to relax. “I’m Heather, and I really am a nurse.? This is my husband, Phil, and the protective guy that refuses to let you go yet is my brother, Heath.? They’re both big and scary-looking, but they’re a couple of teddy bears.? Overprotective teddy bears, but harmless.”
Both men’s eyes narrowed as they looked at her, and she had to laugh.? “They really are good guys, and you can trust them.”? She rubbed the lady’s arms, trying to help her relax. “Can you talk yet, tell us if you’re okay?”
She tried to smile, though not very successfully, and hesitantly said, barely above a whisper, “I’m okay.? Thank you all so much.”
Heath gave her a big smile. “I’m glad to hear that.? Can you tell us your name?”
“I’m Sara,” she whispered.
“Nice to meet you, Sara,” Heath told her, squeezing her hand a bit.
Phil asked, “Have you ever seen those two before, Sara?”
She shook her head no, and tears started streaming from her eyes again.
Heather pushed her husband aside, admonishing him.? “Phil, for heaven’s sake.? Give her a few minutes to calm down before you drill her.”? Looking back at her with understanding eyes, she said, “I’m sorry about that, Sara.? He’s a policeman, and he’s just trying to help, honest.”
Sara nodded her understanding, and allowed Heath to pull her in a little tighter against him.? He spoke softly as he said, “You take your time, Sara, to calm your nerves and gather your thoughts.? You’re safe here, so don’t worry about anything for a while.? When you’re ready, you can talk to Phil, okay?”
She managed a small smile as she answered, “Thank you, Heath.”
Heather looked at Phil. “I was surprised when you let those guys go.? I figured when you and Heath had them down you’d be hauling them off to jail.”
Phil grunted. “If I’d had my handcuffs, I certainly would have.? I was more concerned about Sara’s safety, and since I didn’t have anything to restrain them with, I figured I’d just scare them off this time.? They don’t know I’m a cop, and I got a good look at them, so I’ll just see if we can find them again.”? Looking at Sara, he said, “I’m sorry, Sara, I didn’t mean to sound so hard earlier.? I know you need time to calm down, but then if you can talk to me a little bit, I’m going to try my best to catch those two again.”
She nodded, but didn’t say anything.
Everyone was quiet a couple minutes, each in their own thoughts.? Heath wanted to try to help Sara calm, and tried asking, “Do you live around here, Sara?”? He felt her stiffen a little, and she simply shook her head.? Trying again, he asked, “Is there anyone you want us to call for you?”? Again she shook her head.
Heather picked up on Heath’s idea, and tried asking, “Are you here on vacation, Sara?”
She looked at Heather and whispered, “Sort of, I guess.”
Heather looked up at Heath and saw his eyebrows raise.? He gave Sara’s hand a little squeeze and said, “This is an awful way to spend a vacation.? I hope you don’t judge this whole area by those two thugs.? We’re not all that bad.”
Sara smiled a little and said, “I’m glad I found some of the good ones.? I don’t know what would have happened if you two hadn’t ?"
Heath felt her tense up again, and quickly said, “Let’s not even think about that.? It didn’t happen, so no need to ponder it.? Are you staying here a little while, or just on your way to somewhere else?”
Sara sighed and considered his question several moments before replying. “I haven’t decided yet.”
Heath had been watching her all day, wondering about her staring into the ocean that long, and was concerned now.? She obviously didn’t mind his arms around her, so he kept one arm around her, the other on her hand.? She seemed scared, and hopefully that helped calm her a bit.? After giving her some water and taking one for himself, he asked, “Are you up to talking a little bit yet, or do you need a little more time?”
Sara looked up at him for the first time, and said, “First I want to thank you, Heath.? Not many people would have helped someone they didn’t even know at all.? I don’t know how to thank you.”? Looking at Phil and Heather she added, “And you two, as well.? Thank you.”
Phil assured her, “You’re welcome, Sara.? I just hope I can find those two again and get them behind bars, where they should be.? Are you ready for a few questions?”
She nodded. “I’ll try, but I don’t know that I can help you much.? I’ve never seen them before, and didn’t even notice them until they were there and talking to me.”
“What did they say?”? Phil asked.
Sara shook her head. "I don’t remember exactly.? Something about going to a party with them or something, and I told them no.? The shorter guy said they weren’t asking, they were telling, and that’s when I knew I was in trouble.? The tall man grabbed me and started pulling, but that’s when Heath appeared, thankfully.”?
She was looking at Heath now, and he could see her shaking.? He tightened his arm around her and tried laying her head against his chest.? She readily let him, and he wrapped both arms around her a couple minutes, until he felt her relax a bit again.? He assured her, “You’re okay now, sweetheart.”
They stayed like that several minutes.? Heath could feel the tension in her slowly leave, as he rubbed her back.? Just as he felt her relax, she jerked her head up off his shoulder and jumped back away from him.? “I’m sorry, Heath.? I don’t know what came over me.? I don’t usually act like this.”
Totally confused, Heath tried putting his hand over hers, but she pulled away.? He studied her a bit as he asked, “Like what?? What are you sorry for?”
She was obviously flustered as she said, “I don’t normally fall all over guys like that.? I’m sorry.? It won’t happen again.”
Heath quietly tried to explain, “Sara, that wasn’t falling all over anyone.? You’ve just had a very traumatic event, and you were just accepting the comfort we were trying to give you.? You did absolutely nothing wrong.”
“I’ve taken advantage of your kindness enough.? I’ll just be going now.? Thank you again, all of you.”
All three of them were looking at each other in shock as they watched her quickly get up and start walking away.? Heath got to his feet and went to her before she’d taken three steps.? “Sara, come back here, please.? I don’t want you going off alone.”
“I’ll be fine.? I’ve wasted enough of your time.”
He put his hand on her arm and stopped her.? Pulling her around to look at him, he told her, “Sara, you’re not wasting my time.? You may not have noticed, but I was on my way over to you when you were attacked.? I was planning on introducing myself and asking you to have dinner with me.”? He paused a bit before asking, “So, what do you say? Dinner?”
Heath could tell she was hesitant, and he added, “If you’re nervous about being alone with a man you don’t really know right now, I completely understand.? Would you have dinner with all three of us?? We can go to a public place.? There’s a nice Italian restaurant not far from here that we all like.? Would you join us, please?”
She still looked uncertain, when Heather jumped in.? “Oh, yes, please do!? That sounds great.? We can tell you a little about this area while we eat.”
She looked at all three of them, and Heath could tell she was very unsure.? “Please?”? He smiled when he saw the hint of a smile on her lips.
“Okay, if you’re sure.”
Phil assured her, “Oh, we are.? And I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m getting hungry."? The other two both agreed.? After assuring Sara she looked fine, they gathered up their blanket and cooler and went back to their SUV.? Heath asked Sara about her car, and found she’d walked there, so they didn’t have to worry about that.?
Dinner went well.? Heath kept a close eye on Sara.? She was quiet, not saying much, but seemed much more relaxed, and appeared to be enjoying herself.
After dinner Sara said, “Hey, I want to thank all of you for dinner, and everything you’ve done for me today.”
Heath was concerned about Sara and wasn’t about to let her go off by herself yet.? “Thank you for having dinner with us.? It’s such a nice evening, why don’t we all go back to my condo and have a glass of wine?”
Heather caught the momentary look of panic cross Sara’s face, and suggested, “I like the idea of a glass of wine, but let’s go back to our condo instead.? We have a TV on the patio and we can watch The Mentalist.? I love that show, especially when I can watch it outside, with some wine and friends.”
Heath laughed. “Sounds good to me.? Okay with you, Sara?”
Sara hesitated before saying, “I better get back to my motel. Thanks for the offer, though.”
Heath quickly said, “Sara, please come have a glass of wine with us.? I hate to think of you alone in a motel room.? I promise I’ll take you back later, but I’d love to be able to spend a little more time with you this evening.”? She looked hesitant, and he once again smiled and added, “Please?”
“What is it about the way you say please?? I just can’t walk away from it,” Sara said.
“Good.? I’ll remember that.”? He winked at her, which seemed to put her at ease again.?
They all enjoyed the evening.? Sara opened up a little more, but was still quite reserved.? Heath continued to watch her carefully, and was still concerned.? He’d decided there was more to her scare today than she was saying.? There was something bothering her that she hadn’t shared with them, and he was concerned.
Heather always could read Heath’s body language, and she knew he was concerned.? After the show was over Sara asked, “Heath, is your offer to take me back to my motel still good?”
Heather suggested, “Sara, I’m off tomorrow and I’d love to take you to a couple places we talked about this evening.? Why don’t you stay here, in our guest room tonight?? Then we can get an early start in the morning and I’ll show you around.”
Heath caught Heather’s eyes and smiled his approval.? He suggested, “That’s a wonderful idea.? Phil, I know your shift starts early, but I don’t have any early meetings tomorrow.? If you two girls think you can be ready by 7:00 I’ll take you to breakfast before you begin your gossip-filled day of shopping.”
Heather indignantly asked, “What makes you think we’ll gossip?”
Smiling, Heath looked at Sara and said, “My baby sister has always been the queen of gossip.”
Huffing, Heather insisted, “I am not.? And I’m not your baby sister.”
Phil laughed and said, “That’s not what you said earlier.”
“No, I said he was my big brother.? There’s a big difference,” she explained.
Heath grinned as he said, “No difference.? If I’m your big brother, you’re my baby sister.? You can’t have one without the other, sis.”
“Oh, you men are impossible,” she stated.? She turned and grabbed Sara’s arm. “Come on, I’ll explain what these two big lugs are talking about while I show you where our guest room is.”
“But I shouldn’t stay here tonight.”
“But you should,” Heath told her.? “Give us a chance to show you a good side to our humble little town.? Besides,” he added, smiling at Heather, “my baby sister will be really disappointed if you don’t.”
They all laughed as Heather punched Heath in the arm again.
“But I don’t have any clothes here,” Sara explained.? “I better just go back to my motel.”
“Not a problem,” Heather assured her.? “We’re about the same size.? I have pajamas that will fit, and I always keep a few new toothbrushes on hand.? I’m sure we can find something that will fit you fine for tomorrow.”
“Heaven knows she has plenty you can pick from,” Phil added.
“Very funny,” Heather said, hiding a grin.? “See, Sara, you have to stay.? Don’t leave me alone with these two.”
Sara looked at all three of them, and finally agreed. ?“Okay, if you’re sure you don’t mind.? I guess I’m not really looking forward to spending tonight alone.”
Though her last comment was said very quietly, it confirmed Heath’s concern.? “Sara, now that you’re staying here tonight, would you take a walk around the pool with me?? It’s such a nice night, and it’s not that late yet.? Are you up for it?”
She looked at Heath a few moments before saying, “I think I’d like that.? It is a beautiful night.”
“Good.”? He offered his arm, and she slipped her hand in and let him lead her off.