Tempest Tossed: A Love Unexpected Novel

BOOK: Tempest Tossed: A Love Unexpected Novel
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Tempest Tossed

(A Love Unexpected Novel)

Part 1 of 2

 

By Alissa Adams

 

 

Chapter 1—Rene

 

A little Latino man barreled past me with a small duffle bag and a knife case tucked under his pudgy arm. Slinging Spanish insults over his shoulder at the boat behind him he shouted, "Loco gringo" and a great variety of other creative cusswords. Ugly little spit balls whitened the corners of his mouth and his wide, greasy nostrils flared in rage. The guy should've had cartoon steam coming from his ears.

Even with the sun in my eyes I could make out the contours of a tall man standing at the transom yelling back. "Damn you, Rodrigo, we'd be halfway to the Bahamas by now! I hope you cut your fingers off with that cheap knife you're so proud of!" As I moved into the shadow of the yacht I saw a handsome angular face knotted in frustration, black brows slashing over blue eyes. I instantly knew who he was. Dylan Cruz would have looked like he owned the Queen Mary if he'd been standing on her deck.

He choreographed his pace with natural rhythm as he paced angrily across the span of the boat. A graceful man is a beautiful thing.

I suppose I was expecting some clichéd gray-haired gentleman in a blue blazer, maybe with an ascot and a fake coat-of-arms on his breast pocket. Instead, I saw a man not much older than me in a fishing shirt and board shorts.

None of my various musings in the short time since I'd been hired had included having a boss who looked like he stepped right off of a TAG Heuer watch billboard for ‘rugged sportsmen who demand precision’ or some such nonsense. It was a face that would command attention anywhere. At least, it would command my attention and pretty much any other woman I knew.

The dark, several days old growth of beard may or may not have been his usual style. I usually hated that look. It made me want to scream: "
Make up your mind! Shave or grow a beard!
" On
this
man, it just looked masculine and sexy as hell. A fantasy moment flickered over me as I imagined the whiskery feel of his face against my skin. A little current of heat shot through me when I pictured those flashing ocean eyes peering up at me from a destination decidedly south of my navel.

Okay, so it had been awhile. More than a while. It was quite possible that in some culture, somewhere, I would be considered a virgin again.

The fleeing little hispanic man's "
Fookeen
mono" needed no translation when I saw a tiny animal jump onto the transom chattering indignantly. The monkey seemed as fired up as the retreating man and was clearly enjoying its contribution to the little drama. I wouldn't have been surprised to see it shake its little fist.

"She never liked you anyway! She’s partial to
human beings
not greasy apes!" Cruz snarled and held out his hand to the white-faced creature. She leapt into his arms. Those arms definitely asked to be leapt into. They were corded with tight muscles; lean and strong without being freakishly defined.

I gingerly picked my way over the gangplank that swayed under my feet. The vertigo I get any time I am suspended over anything kicked in instantly. Bridges kind of freak me out and I wouldn't be caught dead on a zip line. Captain Stephen appeared on deck and both men watched my graceless approach. With both hands full, I couldn't hold on to the rail as I would have liked. My steps were slow and clumsy. I was making a snappy first impression on my new boss, that’s for sure.

The monkey scrambled up her tree-tall owner's body and perched on his shoulder. She looked comically small against his broad frame. Dylan Cruz towered above Captain Stephen and gave the mischievous primate a perfect perch from which to try to steal the captain's cap. He ducked away from her grasp as if they'd played that game before.

"I fail to see why that midget bastard found Lady Delaney so infuriating," I heard Cruz say as he ran the monkey's dark tail through his elegant fingers. His almost unnaturally resonant voice came from the depths of his broad chest. It was a shiver worthy voice; the kind that would sound great reading Shakespeare. Preferably the sonnets. To me. In candlelight. Maybe naked.

"Something about a banana soufflé, Boss." Stephen answered him with a poorly suppressed grin.

"It was her birthday!"

Stephen inclined his head toward me as I reached the side of the boat. "Here comes our new chef." He relieved me of my suitcase and offered his hand to me. I descended the teak steps onto the floor of the cockpit grateful to be on 'solid' ground.

"Rene, welcome aboard." The captain gave me a beaming smile, deepening the creases around his mouth and eyes. I guessed Stephen was in his mid thirties. Although life at sea might have weathered him, his face still appeared cute and boyish, almost innocent.

He had kindness written all over him. It was one of the reasons I had taken the job. Stephen made the thought of being the only female on a ship in the middle of the ocean feel a little bit safer. I was used to being the only female; it was the ‘middle of the ocean’ part that was a bit unnerving.

The man standing slightly behind him had something entirely different written all over
his
face. Kind was not a word that sprang into my mind and unless ‘safe’ was going to be paired with ‘word’ I doubted it was part of his vocabulary. The 'Boss' gave me a thorough once over with a fierce cobalt stare. "You're not what I expected." I thought that was a rather terse way to greet a new employee, but I gamely offered my hand and introduced myself.

"Rene Waters." It unnerved me a little when the monkey began to bob up and down as we shook hands. He reached up with his free hand and sort of pinned her in place by her feet. I noticed the pale aura around his eyes that comes from lots of hours wearing sunglasses. His hand engulfed mine. There was no warmth in it. Or maybe he just felt cold against my burning palm.

The sun, the walk and the
Cruz
had all conspired to make my temperature rise. He was probably the kind of man who just
knew
the kind of reaction he would get out of a girl. I was a little mad at myself for giving it to him. Especially after the lesson I had just forgotten to learn with my former boss.

To think I had had a crush—a real thumpity-thump, knee-knocking, idiotic crush—on the egomaniacal jerk makes me throw up a little. One of the few things I've ever done right when it comes to guys is that I had never let him know. It was a miraculous and rare moment of judgment and maturity on my part. But I was already in danger of relapse just shaking my
new
boss’s hand.

"Dylan Cruz." He shook politely—not too firm and not too weak.

Stephen let out a great snort and began to laugh. We both turned to him. "
Cruz? Waters?
It’s like you two were destined for aquatic adventure. Heh. Here’s to smooth sailing. "

For some reason, the observation, even in jest, that our meeting was somehow destined made the heat rise from my hand up to my cheeks.

Dylan dropped his grip on me and cleared his throat. "Yes, well . . . welcome aboard, Chef. I hope Stephen has told you we'd like to get underway as quickly as possible."

"Yes, Mr. Cruz. I'm going to try to have everything in place tomorrow." It was a mammoth task and I was more nervous about it now that I had met the man who was in such a hurry. This was a man used to getting his way. He was, quite possibly, just as spoiled and stuck on himself as the jerk I’d just left behind.

"Don't try. Just do it." He shook his head as he gave me another long, appraising look. "No, not at all what I expected." Then he turned his back and disappeared into the salon. His abruptness struck me as a little rude.

He crossed the cockpit on long legs that probably covered twice the distance in a step as I did in two. They were athletic, sculpted and beautifully tanned. The hair on them had been bleached to a golden brown that caught the sun and sparkled like glitter on his calves.

The monkey turned her head and kept her eyes on me as long as she could. He continued to hold her in place against his shoulder as he passed through the automatic doors that closed with a faint whisper behind his back. I caught a quick glimpse of a monkey smile as the door whooshed shut. It was just my imagination, of course, but her smile seemed triumphant.

"He's not real warm and fuzzy. But you get used to it. Just grow some thick skin. I hardly notice any more."

"Thick skin's a line chef's armor, Captain. I'm used to actual
abuse
in the kitchen."

"Well, I've never known him to be abusive. He's just brusque. And demanding. And occasionally a little irrational."

Swell
,
just what I left the restaurant kitchen to get away from
, flashed through my head but I just nodded and smiled. Better to play it cool. I had made it. I was ready to launch myself on a beauty of a boat with the unexpected bonus of a handsome boss and a sweet captain. Life was good. If Dylan Cruz got a little testy at times, so what?

“Rene, did you hear me?”

“Oh, sure Captain. I was thinking about . . . well, sorry… this is a lot to absorb. I’m sure I can take whatever Mr. Cruz dishes out, I promise." Considering what I’d been through I figured there wasn’t much left for anyone to throw at me when it came to the cook’s life. But I still felt the need to ask, "So, why am I not what he expected?"

"Oh, don't pay any attention to that comment. I think when I told him I hired a female chef he must have formed a mental picture of  . . . you know, spiked hair, tattoos. Butchy."

"I'll hold my comment on last century’s stereotyping, but I'm curious as to why you didn't correct his assumption."

Stephen looked at me for a moment before he answered. "Frankly, if I had told him that his new chef was a pretty little brunette with gorgeous amber eyes he might not have agreed."

There was no mistaking the flirtation in his voice. I thought it wise to ignore it, at least for the time being. I was going to take plenty of time to shape my relationships on this job. No stupid crushes I'd regret later. I hadn't been with a guy in forever. If there was a poster child for celibacy, I was it. Even when I had been with a guy the experiences were on a scale where the low end was disaster and the high end was disappointment. I was ready for that to change but this time I was determined to get it right. 

"So you mean Mr. Cruz would have preferred . . . ?" I wasn’t quite sure how to fill in that blank.

"I've known Dylan forever. We were wharf rats together on this very pier. He has certain cubbyholes for people, especially women. I could tell the moment I met you that you weren't going to fit into any of his boxes. I just figured it was better this way. Too much information would have just gotten in the way."  He guided me to the salon doors and the etched glass panels opened in front of us. “He’ll get used to you.”

Much as I would have liked to explore his comments, the discussion was instantly forgotten. I couldn't stifle a gasp as I took in the room. It was my first look inside a mega-yacht and the sight was mind-blowing. The room was huge. Humongous. White leather sectional sofas were arranged around polished wood coffee tables. There was a dining table for twenty at the far end of the room. The walls between the expansive windows were all hardwood paneled and the ceiling had wooden beams separating embossed sections with recessed lighting. It was contemporary, but warm.

"Impressive, isn't it?"

"It's beautiful. Forgive me for gaping. I've never seen anything quite this luxurious."

"Believe it or not, you'll get used to it. And it won’t take long, trust me."

"The artwork is beautiful." I admired the many bright, Impressionistic paintings that hung in the salon. My mother would faint if she knew I wasn’t just going to be visiting these paintings in a museum; I was actually going to live with them. I couldn’t wait to tell her. It might redeem me a little.

The decision to quit the traditional restaurant business had been a painful one. I knew I'd disappointed my parents when I decided on a career change and enrolled in culinary school. Now, after just a few years working as a chef in a high-end restaurant, I was already bailing on my 'second' career. It looked a lot like failure from their point of view.

I stood in front of a reclining nude for a moment and studied it. I remembered a great deal about the artist from one of my many interminable lessons with my art history professor/ mom. To see something as valuable as that painting hanging in someone’s
boat
blew me away.

The woman in the picture was round and ripe. She was drying her curves with a towel that draped around her and echoed the folds of her flesh. Behind her, the background bore swirls of blues and pinks. Every part of the work was soft and dusky, as if painted through gauze.

"Worth more than the boat by a long shot," I jumped at the sound of Dylan Cruz's voice. I hadn’t heard his approach. He stood close behind me, casting an electric shadow over my body. My body registered his nearness by slamming the needle on my wattmeter to the max. "She's a floating gallery. Are you a fan of Renoir?"

Something in the way he said
Renoir
made me think he expected I'd never heard of the man. Hell, I could have recited all kinds of useless factoids about the artist, thanks to the catalogue of 'essential knowledge’ that was my parents' legacy. Like them, this man seemed to associate my profession with mental midgets. It was an irritating assumption.

BOOK: Tempest Tossed: A Love Unexpected Novel
4.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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