Authors: Anne McAllister
“Yes, I could,” she reflected aloud.
And damned if she didn't!
Right then. Right there.
Well, actually it took a few moments for her to get the dress off. Palm-dampening, mouth-parching, body-hardening moments as far as Hugh was concerned. Soaking wet and clingy beaded dresses were obviously not easy to shed.
But as he stood there gaping, the crazy woman peeled the silvery straps of her beaded dress right down her arms and wriggled and shimmied and squirmed until the dress pooled at her feet and she was wearing a strapless bra and a pair of itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny bikini panties and nothing more.
is proud to bring you a brand-new trilogy from international bestselling author
The McGillivrays of Pelican Cay
âhe's ready to take his pretend mistress to bed!
âis about to claim a brideâ¦.
âher Spanish lover is ready to surrender to passion!
The stunning tropical island of Pelican Cayâfull of sun-drenched beaches, it's the perfect place for passion!
Don't miss this fantastic trilogy:
In McGillivray's Bed
And coming soon in Harlequin Presents
For James, with love
In memory of Belle,
always the best
It sure as heck wasn't Iowa.
But it was as close as he was ever likely to get to perfection, Hugh McGillivray decided as he lounged back in the chair on his gently rocking boat, playing out his hand line, hoping for one last catch as he lazed away the end of the day in the setting Caribbean sun.
At the stern another rod bobbed in its holder, increasing his odds. But even if he didn't get any more fish, Hugh didn't care. It had still been a perfect day. The sort of idyllic day he remembered from childhoodâwhere anything could happen or nothing couldâand each was equally welcome.
They were the days he'd dreamed about during his years as a Navy pilot when rules and regulations and spit and polish had ruled his every waking hour. They were the days he'd been determined to enjoy again. They were the reason he'd left the Navy five years ago and come home to start up Fly Guy, his island charter business on tiny laid-back Pelican Cay.
Most days flying passengers and cargo kept him busy moving among the islands and to the coastal cities of the States. Most days he was delighted to do itâenjoying the variety of people he met and places he went and jobs he took.
“Never a dull moment,” he'd told his brother Lachlan cheerfully last week.
But that wasn't precisely true.
daysâno one wanted to go
anywhere, no one wanted to send anything, things were dull as ditch water. And Hugh loved those days even more because on those days he was totally free.
Like today, he thought, smiling and flexing his shoulders, then jiggling his hand line just a bit, wiggling his toes and relishing the beauty of the sunset and the soft sea breeze that ruffled his hair.
Of course, he could have been back at the shop helping his sister, Molly, work on the chopper engine or he could have been doing his paperwork or sending out his bills.
But the papers and the bills would be there tomorrow. So would Molly. And she'd be a damn sight happier for not having had him underfoot today. They were good friends most of the timeâpartners for the past four years; Molly did most of the mechanic work and Hugh did most of the flyingâbut they came close to strangling each other whenever they worked together on the same project.
So it had been the wisest thing, he assured himself, not to mention the safest, considering Molly's proverbial redhead's temper, to wave her goodbye this morning, whistle up his border collie, Belle, and head out for a day's fishing.
He'd done some bottom fishing early, checking out several favorite spots. Then, long about lunchtime, he'd dropped anchor at a little cove on Pistol Island, a few miles east of Pelican Cay. There he'd eaten his bologna sandwiches and drunk a couple of beers while Belle had explored the mangroves and then went swimming. After Hugh had swum a bit, too, he'd begun working his way back toward Pelican Cay, though
hardly seemed the operative word.
Mostly he just fiddled with his lines, soaked up the rays, sipped his beer and drifted along as the sun dropped into the sea.
He watched with mild interest as speedboats zipped past him. But he felt no urge to move quicker. If he wanted speed, he flew. Today he wanted to drift. He'd waved at the launch taking the day-trippers back to Nassau from
Pelican Cay when it had passed him a couple of hours ago. The passengers had waved back, looking tired and sunburned but, he supposed, happy.
No happier than he was, though.
No one was happier than Hugh McGillivray in his battered wooden boatânot even those high-living folks he'd seen partying on the snazzy yacht that had cruised past just a little while ago. He could still hear the sounds of calypso floating his way and see its lights in the dusk heading northwest.
He reached into his cooler and pulled out one last beer. The cooler had been full of ice and beer and sandwiches when he'd left this morning. Now it was full of fishâon top of what ice was left. He had enough fish to last all week and enough to share the largesse with Molly and Lachlan and Fiona, Lachlan's wife.
He'd been hoping for a good-size grouperâone that would top the fish Lachlan had brought home last week. They'd been competing since they had come to Pelican Cay as teenagers. Lachlan still held the all-time recordâhaving landed a fifty-eight-pound grouper when he was nineteen. But that had been half a lifetime ago. And even though he'd been insisting since then that Hugh would never beat him, Hugh still figured he would.
Especially now that Lachlan rarely went fishing anymore. He was far too busy these days with his collection of small inns and resort hotels, not to mention with his wife. Particularly now that Fiona was expecting.
Hugh grinned as he thought of his normally svelte sister-in-law who was now in what she called “the waddling way.” Fiona had been his friend for a lot of years. He thought she'd make a wonderful mom. The thought of Lachlan as a dad boggled the mind. Actually the thought of Lachlan as a husband had taken some getting used to. During his years as a professional soccer player, Lachlan had been known in the tabloids as “the gorgeous goalie,” and he'd certainly taken advantage of his reputation.
Women had followed him in droves. Probably still would follow him if he showed any interest.
But Lachlan was only interested in Fiona. These days the gorgeous goalie was as domesticated as a cat.
Ever since Carin Campbell had married Nathan Wolfe two years ago, Hugh had decided that confirmed bachelor-hood had a lot to recommend it. At the time he'd been seriously miffed that Carin had chosen another manânot that he'd shown it. He'd never ever worn his heart on his sleeve where Carin was concerned.
No one knew how much he'd cared.
Privately, though, Hugh had made up his mind that since the only woman worth marrying was taken, from here on out he'd simply play the field.
It wasn't a bad deal. He could still admire Carinâlove Carin, he admitted to himselfâand enjoy her friendship. But he could also sidle up to any interesting female who turned up on Pelican Cay and flirt a little bit.
Or a lot. Whatever the situation required.
Hugh enjoyed flirting almost as much as he enjoyed fishing. It was fun. It sometimes led to bed which was also fun. And as long as no one took it seriously, no one got hurt.
He wished Lisa Milligan didn't take it so seriously.
The flirting bit. Not the bed bit. They'd got to the flirting. They hadn't got to bedâand they weren't going to.
It was against his principles. Hugh was quite happy to go to bed with willing women who knew they were having fun and nothing more. He wasn't about to sleep with any woman who thought she was going to haul him to the altar.
And he didn't need to be a mind reader to know that's exactly what Lisa had in mind.
Lisa Milligan was a sweet naive young girl.
being the operative word. She was nineteen, for God's sake! A child! Well, perhaps slightly more than that. But not much.
She was Tony at the bakery's niece, taking a break from
college and working on the front desk at the Mirabelle, Lachlan's extremely upscale, ultradiscreet, very fashionable Pelican Cay inn. She'd been there since spring.
Finding herself, she told him.
Mostly, Hugh thought grimly, finding
In the beginning he'd teased and flirted with her a bit because it was what he did. That didn't mean he wanted to marry her.
Lisa just thought it did. In fact she
he would marry her. Like it was a foregone conclusion. She'd told Miss Saffron, the island's biggest gossip, exactly that.
“She say it only be a matter of time,” Miss Saffron had told him a while back as she'd rocked on the swing of her shady front porch.
Not in this lifetime, Hugh had thought, shaken. He'd been doing his best to steer clear of Lisa ever since.
But it hadn't helped. Nothing had helped. Not even when he'd told her flat out that he wasn't the marrying kind.
She'd just laughed and shown him her incredible dimples, then flashed her gorgeous grin. “Then I'll just have to change your mind.”
She'd been doing her best for the past month. Everywhere Hugh had gone, there she'd been. In his shop, at the landing pad, on the dock, in the hammock on his porch this morning, for heaven's sake!
“I wondered if you wanted to go for a swim?” she'd said hopefully.
“Can't.” He'd been polite but brisk. It was a small island. People had to get along. He didn't want to hurt her feelings. He just wanted her to understand she wasn't for him.
“Oh.” She'd looked crestfallen. “I'll see you later, then?”
He'd grunted. “Gonna be gone all day.”
“I could come along. It's my day off.”
He'd shaken his head. “Sorry. It's business.”
Stretching the truth, perhaps. Molly would have called
him a liar. But he wasn't. He needed to know where the good fishing was, didn't he? That way he could direct his clients who wanted to know where to drop their lines.
He'd been taking care of business all day, enjoying every moment with only Belle, his dog, for company. He especially enjoyed the fact that the entire landscape was Lisa-free.
Now Hugh stretched expansively, lounged back and, one last time before he headed home, jiggled his line.
It jiggled back.
“Whoa.” He sat up straight and grinned, patience rewarded. He played the line out a little, then drew it in, testing to be sure he hadn't simply snagged a piece of driftwood.
He got a responding twitch. The twitch became a tug. A strong tug.
Hugh laughed delightedly. No driftwood this! Whistling through his teeth, he began hauling it in.
“Look at that!” he said happily to Belle when it jerked hard against his hand. “We've got a live one.”
The dog opened one eye and looked mildly interested, then started to close it again when the rod behind Hugh began to jerk and rattle as well.
Startled, Hugh swiveled around to see it bending and rocking like mad in the twilight as Belle jumped up and barked at it. “Hang on.” He reached to grab it, too, just as he caught sight of a thrashing movement off the side of the boat.
One hell of a
thrashing movement. The line he held jerked hard and he wrapped it quickly and tightly around his hand.
What in God's name had he caught? A bloody whale?
He braced his feet and began to haul it in again when all of a sudden his catch broke the surface.
âan absolutely furious womanâsputtered up. “For heaven's sake, stop yanking on that line! You're going to rip my dress right off!”
No. Not possible. He gave his heat-baked brain a quick hard shake.
But even as he doubted and wondered if he'd had too much sun and too many beers, the line jerked in his hand, the rod bobbed madly and Belle leaned eagerly over the edge and wagged her tail and barked.
So she was real.
He wasn't seeing things.
It was a woman. Or aâ¦
His mind wouldn't even go there.
“Shut up, you stupid dog,” he muttered. Then, “Stop thrashing around,” he snapped at the woman.
thrashing,” she retorted furiously. “I'm trying to get this damn hook out!” And abruptly she disappeared underwater leaving Hugh to stare at the empty ocean in the sudden silence and doubt his sanity once more.
Belle whined and leaned precariously over the edge. Hugh grabbed her collar and hauled her back just as the woman bobbed up again and the line jerked furiously in his hand, meaning she hadn't got the hook out.
“Damned beaded dresses,” she said with annoyance.
Hugh's jaw sagged. But he could see that she did appear to be wearing something with sparkly silver straps over her shoulders. A beaded dress? Who the hell went swimming in a beaded dress?
She gave one more futile yank, then stopped fighting with the hook and took a couple of overhand strokes, which brought her closer to the boat but tangled her even further with his lines.
“Do you have a knife?” she demanded.
Did fish swim in the sea? “Of course I've got a knife.”
“Then give it here. Or cut the line and pull me out,” she ordered, stretching out a hand and sounding like
Barrett, his old commanding officer, the one they'd called Captain Ahab behind his back because he was as irrational and stubborn as Melville's legendary captain.
Barrettâand Ahabâhad nothing on this woman. If she'd acted the least bit desperate, he would have handed over his knife in an instant. But he was damned if he was taking orders from a bossy mermaid.
“Well?” she demanded impatiently when he didn't move. “What are you waiting for?”
“The magic word?” he drawled, raising one brow.
“Oh, for heaven's sake!” She began kicking again, splashing him.
“You might not want to do that,” he suggested. “You'll attract sharks.”
Her eyes widened. “There aren'tâ”
“Of course there are,” he said. “Big ones. Hungry ones. In case,” he added, “you thought
was just a movie.” He cocked his head, and smiled at her, all the while thinking this was the most surreal experience he'd ever had in his life.
Belle whined and peered over the side.
The woman looked from him to his dog and back again. She pressed her lips together tightly, then rolled her eyes and shrugged, nearly sinking as she did so. Then she muttered a less than gracious, “Please.”
“By all means,” Hugh said affably and nudging Belle out of the way, grasped the woman's outstretched hand and pulled. As she came out of the water, he got both of her hands, and she floundered, kicking and slithering, and landed against him, cold and wet as a fish.