Authors: Jennifer Haymore
Copyright 2014 Jennifer Haymore
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Table of Contents
Squinting against the bright sunlight and the gleaming blue crystalline water, Zoey Hansen stepped onto the pier.
She recognized the high, clear voice of her friend Ella immediately. She spun around just in time for Ella to launch herself into her arms.
Ella squeezed her tight. “I haven’t seen you in
Zoey squeezed her back, closing her eyes as the sweetness of having Ella close washed through her. Ella smelled tropical and fruity, and her blond hair wisped over Zoey’s cheek. “God, I missed you,” Zoey said vehemently. “It’s been too long. Way,
A long year since she’d last come to Sugar Cay. Zoey met with her six best friends here every year. It was an annual tradition they had started when she was a freshman in college.
“You’re right—it’s been way too long. Now let me get a good look at you.” Ella drew back, holding Zoey at arm’s length. The corners of her lips turned down. “You look tired. Have you been working too hard?”
Zoey laughed. “Stop, please. You sound like my mother.”
“Well, you do. Everything okay?”
“Of course it is. I’m just busy.”
Zoey was a fifth-grade teacher in an inner-city school in DC, and she loved her job. She lived and breathed for the thirty-two kids in her class, for being the best teacher she could be. She worked hard to give each one of them a head start in a life that, for many of them, had already seen hardship she couldn’t even imagine.
Ella puffed out a breath, her blue eyes sparkling in the sunlight. “I know, I know. Still, you need to remember to do something for yourself sometimes.”
“And that’s exactly why I’m here, Ell.”
“Perfect!” Ella grabbed Zoey’s hand. “And I am going to make sure you make this week all about yourself. Did you know Jake has shipped in a masseuse from Sweden just for us?”
“Nope. We’re all going to be
relaxed by the end of the week. Come on. Let’s go to the house.”
Zoey knew by now that Ella and her brother Jake wouldn’t hear of her carrying her own luggage on the quarter-mile trek to the house. Instead, an employee would be by soon to take it up to the house. “That’s what we pay our employees for,” Jake had patiently explained to Zoey the first time she’d come to Sugar Cay.
These days, Zoey was better trained in Jake and Ella’s way of life, so she left her luggage behind and obediently followed her friend down the pier. But just as they were about to step onto the shore, she dug in her heels. “Just…wait a second.”
Ella raised her brows in confusion, but Zoey took in a deep breath. When she’d first met Ella and Jake, she had no idea places like Sugar Cay existed. But here she stood, on Jake’s private island. The charter seaplane that had deposited her at the pier was already powering up to leave, but Zoey didn’t mind the noise. It was music to her ears after the traffic and congestion and dirt of DC.
“I just need to breathe it in for a second,” she told Ella, and swept her gaze over the pristine island laid out before her.
Palm trees swayed along the rocky shore of the bay. Beyond, the roofs of several cottages stood out from the sparkling green foliage. Above the low-lying greenery, gray-tinged clouds gathered on the horizon, but overhead the sky was so intensely blue, it almost hurt her eyes.
The main house was on the other side of the little island, where there was a sugary white-sand beach—the most gorgeous beach Zoey had ever seen, and where the tiny island got its name.
Sugar Cay was a slice of paradise, always brimming with beauty, friends, and laughter. A place she could recharge her batteries for spring break and return to work rejuvenated and ready to dive back into the challenges she faced every day.
If she kept thinking about all this, she wouldn’t need to think about the only thing that had given her pause about coming here this weekend.
Nathan Richards would be here too. And she’d have to deal with him.
She’d managed to deal with him on her past few trips to the island, though it hadn’t been easy. It was never easy to see him after their breakup three years ago. A couple of years ago, he’d made it even more uncomfortable when he’d brought his new girlfriend, a giggling bimbo who’d set Zoey’s teeth on edge.
That settled it. If she could handle Oksana the Bimbo, she could certainly handle whatever—or
ever—he might bring with him this year.
The noise of the seaplane engine grew louder as the pilot increased the throttle for takeoff. Zoey squeezed Ella’s hand. “Let’s go.”
Side by side, they then turned onto the path that led to the main house on the other side of the island. As soon as the seaplane took off and its noise began to diminish, Ella slowed her steps. “I have to tell you something. Don’t worry, okay?”
“What is it?”
“Jake, Nate, and Will took the boat to Tortola earlier. There’s some concern about Rebecca’s plane.”
Zoey frowned. There were seven of them altogether, close friends since they met freshman year, though Ella had been a year behind and her brother had introduced her to the group. They’d originally met in the dorms, then shared houses in the following years. They’d stayed close, even though they’d all taken different paths in life.
Zoey was sort of the odd man—or woman—out, growing up in the lower middle class in a tiny house adjacent to a set of train tracks and now a teacher in an inner-city school. Jake and Ella were the jet-setting children of a billionaire tycoon. Will was a lawyer, the son of two prestigious New York attorneys. Matt had been on the baseball team in college. In senior year he’d been signed by the Boston Red Sox and was currently playing in their triple-A minor league team in Rhode Island.
Nathan, Zoey’s ex-boyfriend, was the son of a man who’d been a part of the digital revolution in Silicon Valley. Nathan now worked as a banker on the West Coast.
Rebecca, though—she was the seriously famous one. Her father was a music mogul, and he’d certainly had a hand in her career, but she was also a crazy-talented musician and singer. She had dropped out of college in her junior year to pursue a career in music—and that career had reached the stratosphere. None of them could really believe their hardworking friend had become such an icon.
“What do you mean, concern about her plane?” Zoey asked Ella.
“She was supposed to arrive last night. It was just her and her pilot. But she never got here. No one’s been able to reach her.”
“Oh God,” Zoey breathed.
Ella squeezed Zoey’s shoulder. “I’m sure it’s just some communications glitch. You know how private Rebecca is. Maybe she changed her number and forgot to tell us. Maybe she got the dates mixed up. It could be anything.”
“Yeah. Sure,” Zoey mumbled. Still, fear tightened her chest. Ella was an unrelenting optimist, so of course she’d think it was nothing, but it wasn’t Rebecca’s style to be neglectful like that. She’d always been on top of things, and if there’d been a change in her schedule, she would have let Jake know.
“She’s okay,” Ella said, her voice hard. She was gazing at Zoey with a steely flint in her blue eyes. “She has to be.”
Blowing out a short breath, Zoey nodded. “You’re right. She has to be.” She paused, then asked, “When do you expect Jake, Will, and Nathan to get back from Tortola?”
“Anytime. Hopefully soon.”
* * * *
The clouds kept gathering on the horizon, and it looked like it was going to rain later. So after Zoey got settled in, she and Ella decided to take advantage of the good weather while it lasted. They went to the beach, and for a couple of hours, they lounged on the cushy chairs, talking and taking frequent trips to cool off in the ocean.
It was late afternoon when they returned to the house and took showers. Zoey got dressed and was walking downstairs just as Jake, Will, and Nathan strode into the house. Rebecca and her pilot came in just behind them.
There was a flurry of welcomes and explanations. Turned out there’d been a freak rainstorm last night, and Rebecca’s jet had crashed inside the reef of a nearby cay. Neither she nor the pilot had been injured, though the jet was a total loss.
“Who gives a damn about the plane.” Will raised his wineglass toward Rebecca and Tyler Knox, her pilot. “You’re alive and unhurt, and that’s all that matters.”
“Hear, hear!” Jake said, raising his own glass. The two men, who were the only ones drinking at the moment, clinked glasses and took healthy swallows of their wine.
“I just can’t stop thinking of how wrong that crash could have gone.” Ella shuddered, but then she gave everyone one of her bright, knockout grins. “But knowing that is going to make this year’s reunion that much more special.”
Zoey smiled at the pilot, who was looking mightily uncomfortable in their group. He was a tall, well-built man, dark-haired and blue-eyed, with a gruff voice and a quiet demeanor. He stared at his feet, and he kept shifting his balance from one foot to the other.
She couldn’t blame him for his discomfort—she’d been exactly in his position at one point in her life, finding herself among this particular group of people—and it was the most starstruck and awkward and out of her league she’d ever felt. Now, she was used to all the wealth and luxury. But the poor guy looked terrified. “I think I speak for all of us when I say we’re so grateful for your skill,” she told him. “It couldn’t have been easy pulling it off at low altitude, in a storm, with both engines failing like that.”
“I don’t even want to think about what might have happened if someone else had been flying the plane. Tyler is the best,” Rebecca said, giving him a scorching look.
Well, that was interesting. Clearly Rebecca had a thing for her pilot. The guy’s ears turned pink, but then he gave Rebecca a look that scorched even Zoey’s skin. If she’d been the direct recipient of that look, she probably would have burst into flames.
Wow. The sparks were definitely sizzling between these two. Zoey grinned inwardly.
She didn’t like Rebecca’s usual boyfriends—to be honest, they were mostly snooty, gold-digging jerks—but Tyler was quiet and down to earth. She definitely approved.
But as they stood there talking, Zoey noticed the shadows under Rebecca’s and Tyler’s eyes, their mussed hair, the tension in their shoulders, the lines of strain around their mouths. They were tired and clearly in dire need of Jake’s masseuse. It was only a few minutes later that Jake suggested they go take a shower and relax for a while before dinner. He even offered to send up the masseuse, but Rebecca waved off that idea.
“But I definitely need to shower and change,” she told them. “Dinner at seven, as usual?”
“Dinner at seven,” Jake confirmed, “but if you’re too tired—”