Authors: Sami Lee
Tags: #alpha male, #vacation, #second chance, #Romance, #erotic romance, #international, #beach
Published by Farm Boy Press
Copyright © 2014 Sami Lee, all rights reserved
Edited by Heidi Moore
Cover by Lexxie Couper
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
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Six days at sea with her ex… Conditions are about to get rough.
Twelve months ago Cassie Dalton fled Sydney and her three year marriage to tough city cop, Reed. Now she’s living a new life chartering tourists around the pristine tropical waters of the Whitsunday Passage on her inherited yacht,
. Despite having unresolved feelings for her estranged husband, she sends divorce papers in her desperation to move on. To her surprise the move shakes Reed out of his emotional hibernation and brings him to north Queensland, determined to win her back. As they spend the next six days sailing and sharing secrets, Cassie begins to wonder why she ever thought living without the man she loves was a solid life plan.
But just as she thinks all their fences have mended, Reed breaks her heart all over again…
“Your cargo’s arrived.”
Cassie Dalton—Cassiopeia to her parents but to no one else, ever, no way, no how—glanced up from the shelf of supplies she was currently raiding to quirk an eyebrow at Tilly Steen. “A full hour early? They must be keen.”
“He,” Tilly corrected. “Intimidating type. Good looking in a rough kind of way. The wife hasn’t arrived yet.”
“I guess I’ll go say hello then.” Cassie dumped the items on the sales counter. A couple of new rod holders in case the happy couple turned out to be keen on fishing, some spare U bolts, cleats and other deck hardware that came in handy from time to time on a yacht. Not to mention her own private stash of Snickers bars. Could never have too many of those.
Tilly rang the items up and added the total to Cassie’s account. She had a thirty-day payment plan with Steen’s Chandlery, and thank God for it. She’d needed the grace period more than once over the past year. Yacht-charter businesses in the Whitsundays had once thrived, but recently a spate of “extreme weather events”, as they liked to call them on the news, had turned a lot of tourists off traveling to the Australian tropics.
Fortunately, Mr Robin Sherwood and his wife weren’t concerned about being washed away in a cyclone. They’d booked the entire week with all the bells and whistles. The premier package included daily gourmet meals washed down with fine champagne, snorkelling lessons and guided tours of the islands on their route through the passage if they so required them. In other words, Cassie could look forward to six days and five nights of kissing butt. She didn’t mind. The cash infusion the Sherwoods would inject into her charter business was desperately needed right now.
She stepped out of the chandlery and into the warm morning sunshine. October in Airlie Beach was a beautiful thing. Cloudless blue skies and intense cerulean water unmarred by whitecaps. Multitudes of white-hulled yachts rested peacefully at Abel Point Marina. The aroma of salt air, sunscreen and lush native foliage. Cassie inhaled gratefully. She’d missed this area while she’d been away. Nothing in the hustle and bustle of Sydney could compare.
Nothing except the joy of resting peacefully in Reed’s arms as they fell asleep together after a round or two of hot sex.
It had been almost twelve months since she’d laid eyes on him. Twelve months spent trying not to remember how it felt to be with him, to be the centre of his world, if only for a few moments. Sometimes she even managed to push the memories aside and convince herself she’d done the right thing in returning here. Leaving him.
Other times, she wondered if she should have worked harder, if somehow their break up had been her fault even more than his. She’d probably never know for sure. Talking things out in an open and honest manner was not Reed Dalton’s style.
It was approaching eight a.m. by the time Cassie traversed the wharf, passing other charter boats and some private vessels. When she came to a stop beside
—the forty-one-foot mono hull left to her by her Uncle Shane—Robin Sherwood was nowhere in sight. All that was visible on the jetty was a pair of size ten sneakers.
Cassie frowned. He’d already boarded
? That was incredibly rude. It was like walking into someone’s house when they weren’t home, all yacht owners knew that. However, her guest wasn’t a yachty, Cassie reminded herself. She was thankful he’d at least he’d had the sense to take off his shoes.
“Mr Sherwood?” Cassie slipped off her own shoes and climbed over the stern rail. She rested her bag of purchases on the seat in the cockpit and headed to the open cabin hatch. She’d been aboard already this morning to do some necessary preparation for her new guests, and she’d left the hatch unlocked. Still, that wasn’t an open invitation for a stranger to waltz right inside. Cassie disliked this Sherwood character more with each second. She hoped the liberties he’d taken so far didn’t set the tone for the rest of the trip.
“Mr Sherwood?” she called again as she went below deck. “Are you on boar—?”
The rest of her question was lost on an
as she collided with someone coming up the stairs. The sun had been bright outside, and for a few seconds the contrasting darkness in the cabin played havoc with her vision. As her balance wavered, she reached blindly for purchase. She found herself gripping a hard biceps with one hand, a trim waist with the other. Her face came to rest in the curve of a man’s neck and he curled an arm around her. His face was clean shaven and Cassie could feel the smooth skin caressing her temple. He smelled good, like woodsy aftershave and plain soap.
A whirlwind of realizations hit her at once. She was clutching the man like she’d drown if she let go, enjoying the way his solid body made her feel steady and safe. Safe? She shouldn’t feel safe in the embrace of a strange man. She shouldn’t be inhaling his scent, especially as he was married. Married and her guest for the week. It was so inappropriate. Yet, she couldn’t prevent herself from breathing in again.
There was something odd about Robin Sherwood, and by odd Cassie meant familiar. That aftershave, those arms… With a shocked gasp, she yanked herself out of his embrace and clutched at the railing for support. Although the marina waters were calm this morning, Cassie felt as though she’d been tossed into a stormy sea without warning.
She was staring into the face of a married man, all right. Only this one was married to
“Hi, Cass,” Reed Dalton greeted with an air of casualness that didn’t fit the situation at all. His lips eased into the ready grin she hadn’t seen since she’d fled Sydney. “Miss me?”
Miss him? Was that meant to be a joke? His navy-blue eyes held hers, the audacious sparkle in them so familiar it made her heart actually ache with yearning, with an unwelcome regret for the year they’d spent apart. The word
didn’t cover the emptiness she’d had to live with since she’d left him, left their marriage.
Your choice, Cass. The smart choice. The only choice.
Logically, she knew she’d done what she had to. Emotionally, seeing him again was a brutal reopening of a wound she’d spent months trying to heal.
Cassie simply stared at him, at his dark-brown hair cut into a no-nonsense style, those sparkling blue eyes, the strong shoulders and the toned physique he maintained at the gym. He was gorgeous, this man who was her husband—in name only, anyway.
Unless he’d come here to tell her he’d signed the papers she’d had her lawyer send. That thought made her stomach roil. What if he’d signed them? What if he wasn’t her husband anymore?
Instead of the relief she’d hoped to feel when this moment arrived, numbness took over. She’d wanted out of the marriage, hadn’t she? She had to assume Reed felt the same way, seeing as he’d never come to see her, never even tried to work on their issues. Yet maybe some part of her had held out hope that sending the papers would finally get his attention, force him to act.
He is acting, Cassie. He’s here to tell you it’s over.
Reed opened his mouth to say something. Before he could utter a word, Cassie swung her hardest right hook at his face.
Reed saw the punch coming in time to stop it with his open palm—just. She’d almost got the better of him, which would have ruined his track record entirely. He’d been attacked by a long line of junkies, dealers, pimps, gang bangers and other assorted lowlife grubs without ever having received a blow to his face in the line of duty. Other parts of his person hadn’t fared so well. Lately, he’d noticed his thirty-two-year-old body was telling him with ever-increasing aches and pains that he’d spent over ten years working as a city cop.
Aches and pains aside, there was no way he would have let his guard slip to the point he almost got punched in the face by a slender woman if he hadn’t been so pole axed by…well, by the slender woman he’d come face to face with. Cassie was beautiful, that he remembered. Her sleek brown hair, once the colour of dark chocolate, had caramel highlights in it now, probably from all the time she’d spent in the sun the past year. Her green-gold eyes were as wide and hypnotising as ever. Her lips, parted now as angry puffs of breath escaped between them, were a temptation he’d never been able to resist. Even now, when her eyes threw daggers at him and the fist she’d wanted to slam into his jaw was still balled in his hand, Reed’s first instinct was to kiss the hell out of her.
No, he’d never forgotten how beautiful she was. He still had several pictures of her he couldn’t bring himself to delete. What he hadn’t recalled or counted on when he thought up this plan was the brain-scrambling affect her mere presence had on him.
When Cassie’s left fist came at him, Reed swore in surprise. If she’d been a south paw, he would have been in real danger of collecting a bruise. But her left-handed jab didn’t stand a chance. Even caught unawares, Reed blocked it as effectively as he had the first.
Reed let out a shocked laugh. “Jesus, Cass. Lucky for me you don’t have any more hands.”
She narrowed her eyes. Reed deduced what she was thinking, and before she could bring her knee up, he spun her around so her back was to him. If she’d been anyone else, he would have twisted the arm behind her to immobilize her, but that might hurt her, and he couldn’t do it. This was his wife. She might not want to be anymore, but in Reed’s mind Cassie was still the woman he’d sworn in front of a justice of the peace to protect and honour for the rest of his life.