Title: A Little Faith
Series: Ocean Beach #1
Author: Emma James
Release Date: October 9, 2014
I had no idea a carefree island vacation would tear my life apart.
But now it’s time to put my walls up, make them impenetrable.
It’s the only way to survive.
Six Years Later…
Harley, the protector. Retro, the straight shooter.
Keanu, the funny bone. Levi, the model. And Text, who can’t seem to find himself.
All their lives were permanently altered by one event.
With a pact made, these five best friends need something from Faith.
Is she ready now to give them what they have been waiting for?
Join Faith as she goes on an emotional and heartwarming discovery where all may not be what it seems.
But with every ending, comes a new beginning, a second chance.
You just gotta have A Little Faith...
Welcome to Ocean Beach.
Links to Buy
“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”
It’s a hot and humid night. We’re all looking forward to a beer and some nightlife as we take the short walk from our hotel to the Coconut Club.
At this time of the year, the island is packed with tourists from all over the world. This means lots of beautiful girls in their tiny bikinis with a tan and a smile and everybody looking to have a good time.
Only ten days into our two week surfing vacation with my friends, I’ve been having the time of my life. We’ve met some great locals who have entrusted us with their secret surfing spots, which they keep on the down-low. These are their places to surf, not to be overrun by tourists.
The surf has been awesome. We’ve ridden alongside the locals, our boards attached to our motorcycles as we follow them through the hustle and bustle of the crazy traffic. I shit you not, it almost appears like there are no road rules over here. It’s like dodge ball with motorcycles. It’s been a hell of a lot of fun taking the bikes to the streets, weaving through the ridiculous traffic, honking our horns—quite the adrenaline ride.
Once we make it out of the shit storm of traffic and get on the quieter roads around the island, we're able to put the pedal to the metal and enjoy the scenery.
Just don’t fucking crash has been our motto because the hospital service isn’t that great over here. You don’t want to wind up in it.
Since Faith would’ve loved to see some of the places we’ve been to and photograph them, Jase brought his camera and saved some of these memories for her. I can’t help thinking he has an interest in my sister. But Jase is a great guy, so I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
The locals have showed us the clubs and bars to check out. We know they receive commission for pointing us in the direction of certain places, but these guys don’t have the same opportunities we have been given in life, so why not help a guy out?
The food has been awesome. Keanu only got the shits for a few days—we did warn him about the water. We could smell him from across the hallway, making me glad I wasn’t sharing a room with Keanu. Levi got the short straw for those few days.
We’ve sat on the beach at night while Keanu, Levi, and Jase sang and strummed their guitars, entertaining a small crowd that gathered each evening while the sun sets. It's a pretty awesome way to watch the sun go down if you ask me. This has been such a great trip.
After four years of college, we all just graduated and decided to take this trip as a gift to ourselves for summer break. We’ve all got stuff we have applied for or are in the process of locking down when we get home except for Jase, who is the youngest in the group and our friend Harley’s younger brother. He wanted to come along, so this is his vacation before he starts college.
We weren’t stupid; we all knew life was getting more serious and we were entering the next phase. We have our futures ahead of ourselves, yet who knew when we would be able to all get together and do this again? My only regret is Harley couldn’t make the trip.
He is moving ahead with his dream of owning a business—his college years were more about a backup plan. The guy is so smart. He plans way ahead. Out of all of us, he’s got his shit together the most. He landed himself a job that he couldn’t pass up. The boy is thinking big and has always been like that. He sees his future of owning a security business empire like a blueprint in his mind. I know he will make it happen, as well. He’s just that kind of guy.
Fuck, I love all these guys. My friends mean the world to me, and I would do anything for them.
Any-fucking-thing they asked of me.
The guys are all completely different. Well, maybe with the exception of Keanu and Levi. Those two are hilarious without trying and have this bond which glues them together. They have such a bromance going on that they will be friends for life. Nothing will get between them. They are brothers from another mother, through and through. Although, we all get along incredibly well.
Keanu and Levi have been spreading themselves among the ladies, while Retro seems happy enough just surfing, eating, and drinking. He’s got a lady on his mind back home, so he’s just letting his free spirit enjoy the waves and soak up the atmosphere.
I’ve been keeping a subtle eye on Jase; he’s been throwing back a few beers. The chicks love his blonde hair and mismatched blue and brown eyes. At eighteen, he isn’t technically underage here, only back home; as a result, he’s enjoying it while it lasts. I promised Harley, his brother, I would have his back and not let him get too out of control, and so far, he’s only thrown up like the exorcist one night. I think that helped cure him of hitting it too hard for a few more days. The waves are more important than getting totally wasted and not being able to surf anyways.
We enter the Coconut Club and make our way to a high-top table with the stools. This place is starting to fill up. The DJ is playing loud techno, and the club is pumping with bodies on the dance floor moving in sync.
Retro offers to buy the first round and takes off to the bar before it gets too busy and you wind up waiting to be served for ages.
Levi and Keanu are already scouting the club for hot chicks, talking in each other’s ear, being each other’s wingman. The next second, they are both shouting, “Challenge. Accepted!” and bumping fists. I roll my eyes. They do this every night once they have locked down their female prey. The girls are here to party, looking for a good time, and these two aim to please.
The tourists are all in party mode on the island. Inhibitions are left at the door. After what I have seen, I don’t think I will be letting my future daughter ever come on a vacation for summer break until she is at least thirty.
Jase has already been spotted by a group of girls who are all giggling and pointing at him. I can’t help feeling proud of him. He was somewhat of a geek at school and I suppose Harley and my boys rubbed off on him. Now he’s buff and enjoying the female attention. His blonde hair and striking mismatched eyes make him stand out from the crowd.
We are all a pretty good looking bunch. We look after ourselves, and we hit up a fair bit of extreme sports. It keeps us fit. We aren’t the indoorsy type. We study hard, but we play hard, too.
One day, all this carefree stuff will have to be locked down, but at the moment, we are young and single and generally don’t do anything by halves.
It’s all or nothing.
We’ve been here for a couple hours now. It’s been a great night of letting loose and jumping about on the dance floor.
“It’s my buy,” I have to shout over the music. I head over to the bar, where the crowd is two people deep all along its length, waiting to be served. This could take a while with only a couple bar tenders serving.
My mind drifts to Faith, my kid sister by eight years. I’m looking forward to seeing her when we get home. I’ve got a week lined up to spend with her and the folks before heading back to San Diego. Today, I bought her a brightly colored sarong, figuring chicks love that sort of thing when they come here. Jase has it packed in his suitcase since I’ve bought quite a bit of souvenirs for family, and my bag is at its weight limit.
I know how much she wanted to come on this vacation with us and loves photography; as a result, I've taken a lot of pictures on my phone to show her.
I bought her a Canon old-school camera when she was nearly eleven, just before we left for college, so she could play about with it. I hoped to keep her busy with a hobby while I was away because I hated leaving her. She hung around with us more than her own friends. Regardless, I loved having her around, and the guys didn’t mind. I knew leaving her was going to leave a hole in her life.
Four years later, she is now nearly fifteen. I think she may have a career as a photographer. She takes awesome photos, and I know she wants a dark room. Our mom and dad have bought her a digital camera for her birthday in just over two months, while I’ve organized for some dark room equipment—the perfect present for Faith. I can’t wait to see her face when we give it all to her. The best of both photography worlds for her to play around with.
Jase clamps one hand on my shoulder and yells in my ear, “Hey, Chance, thought you might like some company while you’re standing up here waiting. I’ll help you bring the beers over. The wingmen are working the beat, and Retro’s gone to take a piss.”
When I look over and see Levi and Keanu dancing all over a couple of girls, I can’t help laughing at them. They certainly love chicks.
“This crowd is sure thirsty.” I smile at Jase. I’ve been standing here awhile already. “The downfall of summer break vacationing.”
Jase is a nice guy. He’s always thinking about others. He’s seen both sides of the school crowd, popular and unpopular. He was bullied for being a geek at school, so he is sensitive to others and thinks of their feelings. Once he started coming out of his shell and growing, his features started to get noticed by the girls. Luckily, Harley was there to help with his self-esteem. He used to take him out back at their home and get him to pound the heavy bag. Afterward, they’d lift weights and go jogging together.
Jase is a much deeper guy than a lot of people realize. We knew. The stupid assholes at his school, on the other hand, were threatened by what they knew he could become. He had smarts, a personality to match, and his looks were starting to shine through. Harley just helped nudge it along with some brotherly advice and some older brother knowledge of what makes a girl’s head turn.
Jase knew what he was capable of and never got a big head. It was like he was waiting for the right girl, someone with smarts he could be attracted to. Jase was always studying or hanging with his geeky friends. You could give him a makeover, but he always stayed true to his friends. He saw people for who they were, not what they looked like. He looked into people’s souls, not just the pretty face. I think someone was counted very lucky if they were friends with Jase.
Jase’s voice invades my thoughts, “So, how’s Faith? Have you spoken to her lately?”
“I texted her earlier, letting her know how we were all doing.”
I decide to wind Jase up a bit. “I let your dad know you’ve been making up for lost time with the beers.” I’m trying to keep a straight face.
“What the fuck, Chance? I told Dad I have been behaving myself. Mom and Dad only let me come on this trip as long as I behaved.”
I’m laughing out loud. Sometimes it’s too easy playing with Jase. The look on his face, priceless. “I’m only joking. I haven’t ratted you out. Harley was a lot wilder than you, anyway. Trust me, you’re a saint compared to what he was getting up to at your age.”
I finally get served, and we haul the beers back to our table where Keanu, Levi, and Retro are waiting. We do a salute with our beers before taking a drink.
It’s now around eleven-thirty, and the crowd is thinning out a little. We’re all feeling pretty relaxed. We have a crack of dawn surf we want to get in, and we need to drive an hour to get to the spot, so we are keeping ourselves on the right side of sober.
Keanu and Levi have wandered off somewhere and Retro’s gone for another piss while Jase and I are chilling and talking when, suddenly, there is a bit of commotion in the club. A young Asian guy with a backpack has climbed up onto a table, screaming like a wild man. I can’t understand what he’s saying; he’s not speaking English.
Jase is standing beside me, shouting in my ear, “What the fuck is that guy’s problem?”
I’ve got no idea. He’s still screaming wildly, his face is dripping with sweat, and he keeps wiping his face on his sleeve. He’s angry and agitated with fear in his eyes, and he’s gulping down air.
The young guy, who doesn’t look much older than us, pulls something out of his pocket, holding it above his head, waving it about. I wish I knew what he was yelling about.
Sensing something isn’t right with this guy, the bar's crowd begins trying to move away, making their way towards the entrance.
Seconds have ticked by.
I grab Jase and move him away from the inevitable crush while I search the crowd for Levi, Retro, and Keanu.
I shout over the music, “Fuck! I can’t see where the others are.” I need to know where they are. Right. Now.
It’s only been about twenty seconds since the guy made himself known. I’ve moved us to the other side of the bar, as far away as we can shuffle through the crowd from the crazy guy.
The front entrance is getting a line up as people shove at others. In the few seconds we’ve grabbed, I keep my eyes on him as we move. The kid is positively shaking. Then, his thumb raises and starts to press down on the device in his hand.
I duck, grabbing a girl near me around the waist and shoving both her and Jase behind a table and some chairs. I try to cover them as much as I can, pushing their heads down.
There is a loud explosion that rocks our ear drums.
I look up from our crouched position over the table top. Blood has rained down on us. It’s everywhere. Bits of what I can only describe as flesh have landed on the table we are hiding behind. There is a horrid, burnt smell in the air. People are crying out. The girl with us has gotten up and blended into the crowd. Everyone is moving like a herd of scared cattle towards the club entrance.
“Fuck. The guy blew himself up. Fuck.” I’m talking almost to myself. I feel like I’m in a vacuum. I can’t really hear. I can only stare.
I’m stunned by what just happened. A lot of people tried to take cover like we did, yet I can see bodies lying on the ground. Are they dead? There is blood and bits of flesh covering people like a macabre abstract painting. It’s everywhere.
Where are the guys? I shake a stunned Jase, and we get up from our crouched position. The music has been drowned out by the screams and sounds of fear inside the club. I shake my head, my ears continuing to ring.
As people push and shove past us, I take stock of our surroundings. The explosion was enough to blow the kid up and collect anybody within its radius of fallout.
What the fuck. Was this a joke? Is this some staged prank? I’m having trouble believing what I’m seeing.
Jase and I look at each other.
I have to snap out of it.
What the fuck did this guy do?
What the fuck!
“We need to find the guys and get out of here,” Jase is shouting at me, the fear clearly evident in his voice.
I rub my hand through my hair, dislodging bits of gunk. I don’t want to think about what it is. “Can you see the others?” I’m probably shouting back at him since I can’t hear myself properly.
The rest of the crowd who are still inside the bar have just woken up from their places of stunned disbelief and are frantically trying to help their friends or the person closest to them. They are as desperate as we are to get out of the club and to safety. They know something is wrong. Very, very wrong. This is no longer the happy place it was a few minutes ago.
I herd a group of crying European girls I noticed earlier hanging out together tonight, splattered with blood and other bits, towards the front entrance. “Go!” I tell the one who looks the most with it. “Take your friends and get out of here. Get yourselves some help. Just stick together.”
She nods slowly at me as she pushes her friends out the door.
I look for Jase, finding him grabbing some other girls, getting them to move and telling them not to look back.
But I did.
Carnage is spread out like a horror movie scene. The lighting in the club is a lot dimmer in parts, and broken glass is everywhere, being crunched under foot. Tables and chairs have been turned over, toppled in the panic. There is a bloody mess where the guy had once stood. I try not to look too closely.
Why would a guy do that to himself? It doesn't make sense.
I can only hope the other guys are safe. Where the fuck are they?
As fear fully sets in, the remaining people in the bar are full-blown making a push-and-shove run for it. It's not a good way to get through a narrow doorway. A couple of guys are smashing the glass frontage with bar stools, trying to speed up the evacuation. Everybody wants out.
I’m looking around for a back exit. While there must be one, I can’t see a sign from where I’m standing. When I hear a new wave of terrified screaming and crying, I turn to the front of the club. A blue delivery van has been driven up to where the guys broke the glass front.
“Fuck, what now?” I mumble.
A guy gets out and runs off, leaving the car door open. There are still people trying to escape through the broken windows near the van. If that van has what I think is in it, they won’t stand a chance. This shit is real.
“Fuck. I’m sorry, Faith, Mom, Dad,” I barely hear myself say. I know what’s coming.
I grab Jase and try to get as far from the front of the bar as possible.
I’m sorry, Harley.
Anywhere, but the front.
I throw Jase in front of me, and we push against the crowd. We make some distance, but not enough.
Retro, Levi, and Keanu, please be safe.
Then it happens.
Emma James lives in Queensland, Australia with her smexi husband, three children and a big black Labrador. Life is busy and most entertaining in the James household. She often bounces ideas off her family and gets very creative responses. She loves to read as much as write. Daytime for writing, night time for reading.
Emma hopes to surprise you with her debut book, A Little Faith.