Barefoot Bay: Castle in the Sand (Kindle Worlds Novella) (3 page)

BOOK: Barefoot Bay: Castle in the Sand (Kindle Worlds Novella)
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With his single word of agreement, Josie turned and headed back the restaurant. Maybe she had to let Tony Granville into her life again, but this time she was going to do it on her own terms.

 

Tony stood on the beach, in the same spot where he and Josie had talked that afternoon, watching her at the sink in the kitchen. She was moving slowly, and based on the way her mouth was moving, she was singing.

With the exception of Josie’s abrupt departure, dinner had been pleasant enough. Nick had been talkative, as usual, not picking up on the tension between Tony and his sister. Of course it was best he stayed oblivious, but it baffled Tony how his friend had missed it.

Josie had been quiet during dinner, especially after Nick’s stupid comment about kids. As soon as it came out of his friend’s fool mouth, Tony saw Josie’s face blanch. Her eyes were so incredibly sad, he didn’t know how she’d kept it together.

When they’d been together, the two of them had talked about having kids, about the home they would make, and the traditions they would establish for their family. Looking back, it was a cruel thing to have done to her. But for him, those plans were the dream he longed for. It still was.

Seeing her now, she seemed relaxed, and he couldn’t help but watch her for a little while. There was something so innocent and pure about Josie. Smart as a whip, and packed with energy, her beauty was natural and came from deep inside. With her smooth olive skin, large brown eyes, and long chestnut colored hair, she had no need for make-up and rarely wore any. Josie was the antithesis of the other women he’d dated. And she was the only one he’d ever fallen in love with.

Downing the rest of the cognac in his glass, he looked at the sun sinking below the horizon. Tomorrow he’d rent a car so he wasn’t stuck at the house. His instinct was to lay low, but Nick was probably right. Who was going to recognize him here?

He thought maybe he could check out the island a little, as long as it didn’t antagonize Josie. He heard there was some good fishing out of Naples, and getting clear of her space once in a while might keep her from wanting his head on a platter.

Josie froze when she saw him walking toward the house. Tensing at the shoulders, she dropped her eyes, pursed her lips, and immediately stopped her singing.

There was only one way to deal with the old feelings; they had to confront them, if for no other reason than so they could be friends. He’d tried the friendly route at dinner, but managed to sound more like an asshole. Maybe charming would work. He could definitely manage charming.

Before they were lovers, he and Josie had become good friends. If he couldn’t have her love again, maybe he could at least regain that part of their relationship. Unlike the friendship he had with her brother, which was based in shared experiences, Josie cared about the details of his life. About his family, how he felt about what was going on in the world, about his work.

It was that care and concern that made her special. It’s what made her so good with the high school students she worked with. It’s why everyone who met her, liked her.

He opened the back door and stepped into the kitchen as Josie was drying her hands on a dish towel. Tea was steeping in a cup on the counter and a small piece of chocolate cake sat on a plate nearby. She still had a sweet tooth.

“That looks good, did you save any for the rest of us?”

She blinked once and he gathered she didn’t want to talk to him.

“Oh, ah…sure. The box is over there.”

“Is that from the little bakery we passed right by the bridge? It looked like the kind of place locals keep secret from the tourists.” Tony smiled, hoping to get one returned.

“It is.” No smile, but she did hold up the plate. “They make the best brownies. Would you like one?”

It looked delicious, and so did she, standing there in a T-shirt and a pair of shorts. “I would, thank you. It’s kind of you to share the local delicacies with an out-of-town guest.”

“Right. I’m used to helping out the tourists, and you are
definitely
a tourist.” Watching her cross the kitchen to the box she’d stashed in the corner of the countertop, Tony was able to enjoy the view of Josie’s fit, curvy body. She moved easily, gracefully athletic, and Tony fought the memories of how they moved together.

“Here you go.” Josie placed the thick, fudgy cake before him. “Would you like anything to go with it?”

“Do you have any milk?”

Settling himself on one of the stools, Tony took in the spacious kitchen with its warm dark wood cabinets and granite countertops. It was obviously the center of the house, designed for a family. He couldn’t believe Josie lived here alone. Not happily alone, anyway.

Once she brought his milk, Josie picked up her brownie and the steaming mug of tea. “Just leave your dishes in the sink. I’ll get them later.”

“You’re not going to join me?” His hand shot out and gently grasped her wrist as he said it, startling both of them. “I’d love to talk to you.”

“Oh, ah…” Again, her eyes dropped. Her posture went needle straight. “No. I don’t think so.”

He hated pressuring her, but they were stuck with each other—at least for a few weeks—and Tony was determined to make the atmosphere as comfortable as possible. “It’s only dessert, Josephine.”

“I believe three years ago you said, ‘
It’s only dinner, Josie.’
See where that got me.”

Without another word, she spun and left Tony to think about the hurt he’d left in his wake. He had broken up with women before, but he’d never felt relationship fallout. Usually he happily moved on with his life, but the situation with Josie was different. Their relationship hadn’t been casual; she meant something to him—hell, she meant everything—and if he’d been able to stay with her, he was fairly sure they’d be married by now.

Very happily married, more than likely. He certainly wouldn’t be hiding out, ducking the press, and trying to get Josie to forgive him for fucking things up so badly.

 

Retreating to her room, Josie had one thing on her mind: how did she tell her brother, and Tony, that she didn’t want him in the house. Not for a month, a week…another day was too damn long. She wanted to help her brother, and he was right, Grandma wouldn’t have hesitated to have Tony stay with them. But Josie wasn’t her grandma. Maybe it made her inflexible or difficult, but she didn’t want him in her orbit. Sinking to the floor, tea and brownie in hand, she thought about how easy it would have been to stay in the kitchen and hang out with him, just like they used to. But the risk to her heart was too high. Her feelings, almost three years out, were still too raw.

She felt stupid and weak because she still hadn’t gotten over him. After all this time, Josie should have moved on. A gentle tapping at her door made her cringe. What now?

“Yes?” she said. “Who is it?”

“It’s me,” Nick called out. “Are you decent?”

“Yeah. Come in.”

“Hey.” Walking around the bed, he saw her sitting on the floor. “What are you doing down there?”

She pointed to the doors leading outside. “I like the view.”

“Oh. Okay.” Nick had a way of making her feel like a teenager. Eight years older than she was, he completely owned the role of big brother, for better or worse. “I got a flight back tonight.”

“What? No. Nicky, you said you’d stay until tomorrow.” Was anything going to break her way?

“This worked out. A friend of mine is flying a charter back tonight. It makes more sense for me to leave now.”

“So you basically came down here to drop your problem on me, and then leave as quickly as possible.”

“Stop it. It’s nothing like that, so stop being a drama queen. But would you like to explain to me how Tony’s a
problem
? You two always got along. There were times when we were all hanging out that I felt like a third wheel. Why the change?”

She couldn’t answer that question. Not without giving Nick all the ugly details.

“Are you going to get back here at all?” There was no use asking him to change his plans. She knew her brother had responsibilities; big mysterious responsibilities.

“Yes. Look, I’m sorry. I promise next time I’ll stay longer.” He sat on the floor next to her. “But you’re obviously upset. I’m sorry. I thought you’d like some company. I really thought you’d be happy to see him.”

She shrugged. What could she possibly say? “I don’t know. I’m uncomfortable around him.”

Nick wrapped his arm around her shoulder. “Is this about the crush you had on him?”

“THE WHAT? The crush?”

“Mom and Dad told me how upset you were after he left last time. I know it didn’t help that the tabloids implied that you two were involved. That must have been embarrassing.”

“You know what, Nick? I changed my mind. Have a good flight. I’ll see you whenever.”

“I knew you’d be pissed at me if I brought that up. Look, I figured you probably liked him. I mean, you were young, and
he is
a prince.” Her brother grinned like a champion know-it-all and at that point all Josie wanted to do was slap him. Crush. Her. Ass.

“I was twenty-five, and I had no idea he was a prince until right before he left. All I knew was that he was one of your war buddies and a diplomat.” Nick and Tony had served together in Afghanistan when Nick was with the marines and Tony, who was from the tiny country of Marinbourg, served with the Belgian army under an agreement between the two countries. Neither of them talked much about what had happened, but whatever went down, it bonded them.

She could see her brother didn’t believe her, and that made her more upset than she’d been in a long time.

“Tony’s taking me to the airport. While he’s there he’ll pick up a rental car. Do you have a key for him?”

Kneeling up, Josie found a spare key in her bedside table and handed it to her brother. She wished he’d just go already.

“You know, he’s not a bad guy. I know it’s weird knowing he’s royal, but he’s just like everyone else.”

“No kidding?” Nick obviously thought she was an idiot. And twelve years old. “
He’s really the same as us? Wow.”

“Stop it, sis.” Pushing up from the floor, he leaned over and kissed her on the head. “I’ll be back for a week before the summer is over. How does that sound?”

Nodding, Josie fought back the tears that threatened. She had no idea why she wanted to cry, but she wished her brother would just leave so she could be done with it.

God, she felt like her brain was a wet sponge. Every emotion was breaking the surface, and pretty soon she was going to be one big mess. Nick hugged her good-bye one more time at the front door.

“Don’t cry, Jojo. I’m sure you guys will catch up in no time, and it’s better than living here alone, right?”

Her brother was so clueless sometimes, it amazed her. Finally, he and Tony left for the small airport in Naples and that gave Josie at least an hour or two to fall apart, getting the upset out of her system.

Just as the guys pulled out of the driveway, Josie’s phone rang. It figured she wouldn’t have any peace to cry it out. But the caller ID revealed someone who could be just who she needed—her best friend, Lila. Maybe it was time to tell someone her story. Maybe getting it out would help her cope with having Tony back in her life. “Hi.” She didn’t miss a beat. “Can you come over?”

“Whoa,” Lila said, picking up on the urgency in her voice. “What’s going on?”

“You know how you always say I should tell you what’s keeping me from having a normal life?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m ready to tell you,” Josie blurted out.

“Seriously? Thank God.” Lila audibly exhaled. “What changed your mind?”

“He’s here.”

“What here? Like he’s on vacation in Barefoot Bay? Did you see him?”

“I did see him, but not at the resort. He’s staying here. In my house.”

“Do you want to go out?”

“Hell no! I’m not letting that rat bastard chase me out of my own house.”

“Right. Rat bastard. I’ll bring wine.”

“A lot, and hurry. He just took Nick to the airport and he’s not going to be that long.”

“I’m halfway out the door. See you soon.”

 

Navigating his way back from the airport had been a bloody nightmare. Tony had gotten lost a couple of times, and he was relieved when he finally pulled onto Josie’s street. Until he saw the strange car in her driveway. The low slung sports car meant business, and it made Tony wonder what kind of business the driver had with Josie. Nick said she wasn’t involved with anyone, and in fact, their parents were a little concerned that as far as they knew she hadn’t gone on a date in years.

Maybe they were wrong.

His hand held the key she’d given him, and he quietly let himself in the front door. Tony drew a breath, not knowing what he was walking into. To his surprise, he was met by a tall, attractive blonde woman.

“Are you the prince?”

“Ahh… Tony Granville.” He extended his hand.

“Right.
Prince Anton
. The man who broke my friend’s heart. I’m Lila Novak and I don’t like you very much.”

BOOK: Barefoot Bay: Castle in the Sand (Kindle Worlds Novella)
6.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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