Monday, 13 May 2013
Under The Sun (Sapphire Cay #2)
Opposites Attract on a sun drenched Cay
Edward McAllister, wedding planner extraordinaire arrives at Sapphire Cay for a wedding. He has four days to go until the big day and his plans are smashed when he spots the stage he was setting is destroyed.
Doesn't matter that the guy pulling down the old gazebo and digging trenches is hot - he is messing with Edward's OCD and Edward isn't afraid to let the other man know exactly how he feels.
Jamie Durand is an ex marine and son of the former owners of Sapphire Cay. He is on the island to get his head around his new life after leaving the forces due to injury.
When Edward arrives in his space he is bemused at the instant dislike the uptight man is showing towards him.
Not an auspicious start. But just you wait when Edward relaxes and Jamie opens up. Then you will see fireworks.
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MM Good Book Reviews - 4/5 - "The sexual connection between them was very hot, sparks fly and the shower scene *wow, fans face* is not to be missed. This story is well written and pulls two characters together that normally you would think would clash, but it’s what’s beneath the surface that draws them to each other ... I have to recommend this to those who love opposites attract, hot marines, sexy wedding planners, finding love, romantic settings and a great ending."
Hearts On Fire Reviews - 4/5 - I loved this opposites attract story. The story read seamlessly and quickly for having two authors. The background for the island was already established in Follow The Sun so I was pulled right into the real story. Jamie and Edward were both terrific and very well thought out characters. Each were fairly intense but with a soft, gentle hidden side that endeared them to me even more.
Sexy for Review 5/5 handcuffs - I adored the portrayal of both Edward and Jamie. Scott and Russell allowed them to grow individually so that they could eventually learn to grow together as a committed couple. Under the Sun demonstrated that life is not always cookie cutter in how we think it should be. Sometimes chance is actually scripted and you have to take the leap of faith in order to find true happiness. Scott and Russell masterfully wrote that leap in the joining of Edward and Jamie.
“How long’s it been since you’ve visited the Cay?”
Jamie Durand lifted his head as the thirty-minute silence was finally broken, and he turned his attention to the tall, tanned man steering the Lady Liberty. Not even a lick of paint disguised the old and tired boat that had belonged to his parents, the previous owners of Sapphire Cay. He pressed his lips together thoughtfully. How long had it been? It felt like a lifetime. His parents had sold just over fifteen months ago and he had been deployed to Afghanistan four months before the sale.
“Four years, more maybe,” he said. Lowering his eyes, he returned to watching the ocean. The fresh October breeze whipped around him as the boat broke through the water’s surface. Foam betrayed their path from Marsh Harbor and he looked back through his shades as they traveled parallel to the coast, circling the point as they headed for Sapphire Cay.
“Name’s Scott by the way,” the man said and grinned over his shoulder. He had no clear accent but that didn’t really surprise Jamie. Another waif or stray adopted by the Cay, he figured. His parents had had a habit of taking in strangers, offering them a place to stay, and giving them employment.
Scott seemed friendly enough—dark hair, a deep tan, muscular, sexy, but totally not what Jamie needed. Scott met Jamie’s eyes through his shades and flashed a confident smile—not his type at all. In a figure-hugging white A-shirt and low-hanging cargo shorts, Scott struck him as a player, a man who probably spent more time in front of a mirror than being an attentive, giving lover. Lover? Was that really where his mind was at? More likely, he just needed a release from the low ache in his chest and the memories that had him waking in a cold sweat and dry heaving in the toilet bowl. Closing his eyes, he savored the refreshing feel of the salty mist. He was judging a guy he didn’t even know and it irritated him he could do it so quickly. That wasn’t like him.
“So,” he said. Conversation might help ease his mind. The man had been nothing but polite since they met on the quayside. “What do you do out here?”
Sapphire Cay had up to twenty staff at any one time he recalled—some permanent, some seasonal, and some on their own schedules. He had never come across the new owner, Dylan Gray, though he had heard good things. His parents loved the man and had been happy and relieved when he had decided to take on the island. They seemed to think Dylan was the perfect fit for what they had created during their thirty years out there.
“Captain of this fine vessel, excursions and tours, and general help-where-help’s-needed kind of guy,” Scott said and flashed his teeth in a wide smile.
So Scott was someone who got stuck in and took to any role, not just the overconfident asshole Jamie had thought. He really needed to work on his people skills. Never the social butterfly, he felt even more inept than usual.
“Have you been here long? I don’t remember you. Sorry if we’ve met,” he said above the sound of the boat’s engine.
“No. We haven’t met,” Scott assured him. “I came out here for the first time two years back with Dylan. We met in Thailand while traveling. He was heading out this way for a few months so I joined him. Luckily, your folks had work for me.”
“And now?” Jamie asked. Dylan owned the island. There was no more moving on to the next place every month or two. “He’s been running this place for a full year. He must miss it, the traveling.”
“I guess a little. But he’s settled and doing a damn good job.” Scott raised his voice as the boat lurched forward, riding through a wave as it loudly hit the front of the boat.
Scott shrugged. “Let’s just say Dylan’s flexible, as is my contract. There’s a job for as long as I want it.” He pointed, directing Jamie’s attention beyond the front of the boat. “There she is,” he said. “She’s something, right? I can see how Dylan fell in love with her so easily.”
Jamie carefully got to his feet and stepped over his bag to stand beside Scott. He never thought seeing Sapphire Cay would make him feel the way it did. Familiarity and memories flooded through him and almost knocked him off his feet. Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea. The Cay had been his home, a place of warmth and security. Schooled on the mainland, he always looked forward to rejoining his parents when the semester ended. His mom would always have the chef whip up a batch of his peanut butter caramel cookies. They would be sitting on the kitchen table when he and his sister had gotten home. What waited for him on the island now?
“Is Dominiq still there?” The chef had worked on the island since before he remembered. He was as constant as the tide and just as soothing. With an accent that dripped comfort and home, Dominiq was the epitome of relaxed, chilled, and taking it easy. Jamie was sure if he Googled any of those, he’d find an image of Dominiq smiling back at him. The man was a true Bahamian—dark skin, dark hair, the deepest brown eyes, and an easy smile. He never did figure out exactly how old the man was. For all the years Jamie had known him Dominiq had looked exactly the same, and only in his last few visits had Jamie noticed the whispers of gray creeping through his tight, black curls.
“Yeah,” Scott said, bringing Jamie back to the present. “He’s been baking all morning.” Scott shrugged. “He’s suddenly got this freaky cookie fetish going on. There were trays of the things cooling all over the kitchen.”
Jamie couldn’t help but smile. Things might not be so different after all.
“Must be strange coming back now that your parents have left. They’re in Miami, right?”
“They are,” he said as he took his seat.
His parents, now in their sixties, had talked about moving back to the mainland for years to be closer to family, especially their grandchildren. Jamie and his sister had their own lives, and though the island would always hold a special place in both their hearts, it just wasn’t what they wanted to do. They weren’t their parents.
Sue was a doctor with a husband and two kids. She was happy and settled. Jamie had joined the Marine Corps at twenty-two, straight from college. His squad had become his family for the next three years and he was proud to have served his President and his country. He knew his parents had asked Dylan to write in a proviso, entertaining the possibility of him returning to the island and doing some work out there. It must have seemed a strange request and yet, when Dylan agreed, Jamie kind of took to the idea of having somewhere to return to once his active tour ended. He just hadn’t planned on it being so soon.
Instinctively, he rubbed at his chest and felt the raised line beneath his T-shirt. Seven months and the ghost of pain still clawed at his insides. Why wasn’t it getting any easier? He stared at the growing outline of Sapphire Cay. Maybe on the island it finally would. He was here to get healthy, rediscover the man he used to be, and hopefully find a little peace. God love his mother, but he couldn’t take a moment more of her fussing around him and everyone he knew treating him with kid gloves. He wasn’t going to break. He wasn’t that guy. Yes, something terrible had happened, but he hadn’t been under any illusions when he enlisted. Bad stuff had happened to plenty of other people, and in some ways, he had been one of the lucky ones. Okay, so shrapnel from an IED ripping through his chest and shredding his right lung wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, but he’d survived.
Light flashing in Jamie’s eyes made him look up, and he was met by a curious expression from Scott. Damn, his mind had wandered again. He couldn’t wait to get to the hotel and help with the repairs and renovations. He needed a distraction from his own mind.
Scott didn’t voice the question that curled his lips into a thoughtful curve, but instead simply stated, “We won’t be long now.”
Nodding, Jamie returned to watching the ocean and the ripple of movement on the starboard side of the boat. A school of fish swam just beneath the surface, their scales shimmering in the sunlight and creating a kaleidoscope of color and shapes as they fed. He smiled to himself as he relaxed and watched the fish. It was good to be home in Sapphire Cay.
The familiar feel of sand beneath the soles of his sneakers and the view of the hotel set back among the trees pushed from Jamie’s mind any of the doubts he had about returning to the island. Spending time here, under the sun, would do him good. It was a chance to add some much-needed color to his skin and give him the opportunity to think. There were jobs for him in Miami if he wanted to stay local, engineering roles at the bottom of the ladder that would give him a chance to build on his degree and create a career away from the military. Spending time on Sapphire Cay gave him the opportunity to think if Miami was what he wanted or whether it was time to move away.
“Dylan’s put you in one of the staff cabins,” Scott said as he dropped down from the small pier to join Jamie on the beach.
Jamie nodded and held out his hand to take his large bag from Scott.
Scott lifted the pack off his shoulder and passed it over to Jamie with a smile. “You’re in the cabin at the end. Hutia.”
The name of the cabin made Jamie smile. He remembered the year his parents refurbished the staff accommodations and spent several evenings selecting names for each of the updated buildings. Animal and plant species indigenous to the Bahamas had been agreed on. The Bahamian hutia was like a large rodent. Cute, Jamie figured, if you liked that kind of thing.
“You need me to show you?”
Shaking his head, Jamie said, “I can find it.” He looked up at the hotel. It hardly seemed real, and as clichéd as it sounded, it really did feel like only yesterday that he was last standing here looking up at the building. Everything looked the same, and he inhaled, imagining the smell of his mom fixing breakfast.
“Housekeeping was in this morning, but if you find you need anything Agnes will be around until after lunch.”
Agnes. He didn’t remember an Agnes. “Thanks,” he said, squinting against light reflecting off the white-painted building. “Are you hanging around?”
Scott shook his head. “I have to head back to Marsh Harbor for supplies. We have a wedding in six days, so lots to do.” With a short wave, Scott hopped back up onto the pier. “Later,” he said and flashed a bright smile before heading back to the boat.
With a sigh, Jamie stared up the beach. No point putting off introducing himself. Lifting his bag higher on his shoulder, he made his way up toward the hotel. The path was as he remembered, if not a little overgrown. The foliage was lush and green and overhung the edge of the roped-off route. Ridged wooden boards were half buried in sand and formed shallow steps for his trek upward.
As he reached the top of the short walk, he stopped and looked over the place he’d once called home. It now belonged to this Dylan and his partner. He just hoped they were taking good care of his parents’ beloved past.
“Jamie?” The creak of the entrance door hinge drew Jamie’s attention, and he was greeted by a man wearing an open white shirt and board shorts. “Jamie Durand?”
Jamie nodded and waited as the man made his way down the wooden steps to join him.
“Lucas,” the man said and held out his hand. “Dylan’s—” Lucas stopped and pressed his mouth in a line as he seemed to consider what to call himself.
“Boyfriend,” Jamie said and shook Lucas’s hand. He knew the couple were gay and together but kind of appreciated Lucas’s attempt to not be utterly out. It was a trait he’d adopted as a Marine. Don’t be obvious.
Lucas smiled. “Fiancé.”
“Oh,” Jamie said. “Congratulations.” Lucas’s eyes were a beautiful shade of hazel and amber and they seemed to shine in the sunlight.
“Thank you,” Lucas said and ran a hand back through his blond hair. He looked embarrassed as he turned away and glanced up at the hotel. “Dylan will be back in a half hour or so. He had some work to do down at the honeymoon cabin.” Lucas turned back to Jamie and smiled. “He’s actually been looking forward to you getting here. I’m kind of useless with a hammer so it’s just him and Scott most of the time.”
“Is there much that needs doing?”
Lucas gave a slow nod. “Bits and pieces. The usual before we open for guests.”
Jamie remembered as a teenager following his father around the island from cabin to cabin, checking roofs and gutters and clearing fallen debris. One year, maybe eight years ago now, a tree had blown down and come crashing through the window of the hotel’s dining room.
“We lay money aside for this and I’m sure among the three of you this place will be back to perfect in no time.”
“Scott said you had a wedding. Six days, is it?”
“Yeah.” Lucas rolled his eyes upward as he seemed to try to recall information about the booking. “The guests arrive on the twentieth, wedding on the twenty-first, two-week break, honeymoon, whatever, and they’re gone by the fifth.” He grinned. “And then we have about three weeks before the next party arrives.”
“Another wedding?” Sapphire Cay accommodated for any occasion. Weddings, birthdays, straightforward vacations, there was even this one time some movie studio hired the island for a month. Extras in Speedos was definitely one of the times Jamie made an exception to his usual discretion. Shame none of the crew did. Though he hadn’t realized it, his eyes had drifted down to settle on Lucas’s exposed tanned chest. Only when Lucas pulled his shirt closed and fastened the few buttons down the front of his stomach did Jamie quickly avert his eyes.
Lucas stepped past Jamie. “Yes. We have three before Christmas.” He quickly looked Jamie up and down. “Do you have any other bags?”
Shaking his head, Jamie tightened his hold on the strap of his bag. “Just this.”
“Okay,” Lucas said. “But if you need anything, just ask.”
There was something in Lucas’s eyes and Jamie didn’t want it to be what he had seen in so many people’s eyes already. Pity. He didn’t want anybody’s sympathy or their sorrys. It was what it was and he needed to move on. He needed people to let him.
“Thanks,” Jamie said.
“Sure. I’ll take you to your cabin. See you settled in.”
“You don’t have to,” Jamie said quickly. He was fine. He didn’t need settling in.
Lucas smiled and started down the path leading around the hotel. “What kind of host would I be if I let you just wander off by yourself?” He held out his arms, indicating for Jamie to follow him. “And before you think it, I’m not trying to patronize you. I’m sure you know this place a hell of a lot better than me. I’d just like to make sure you have everything you need.” He met Jamie’s eyes and the something Jamie had seen was still there. To Jamie’s relief it wasn’t pity or sympathy or anything like that, it was more like anxiety. Lucas, it seemed, was nervous about Jamie being there.
“Okay,” Jamie agreed. He figured Lucas just wanted everything to go smoothly during his stay at Sapphire Cay. Jamie was, after all, the son of the previous owners and probably someone Lucas and Dylan wanted to impress. “Lead the way.”
The short walk to the staff cabins was filled with idle chatter. Lucas seemed an okay guy. He was friendly and open and seemed to have a charm about him that had Jamie wondering what his fiancé, Dylan, must be like. The way he had heard it, it was Dylan who was the more carefree and laidback of the two, and if this was Lucas—happy, talkative, and easygoing—Dylan must be damn near horizontal most of the time.
“Here we go,” Lucas said as he stopped outside the rodent-named cabin. The door was already unlocked, and Lucas entered the cabin first. “You have spare bedding and clean towels. Agnes will call in once a week to neaten things up. But if you need anything before that, she’s around every morning and then again in the evenings.” Lucas picked the room key up off the dresser. “I don’t think much has changed. You’re pretty much self-contained. But there’s still the shared laundry area and we ask you don’t use the main pool and things while we have guests. Otherwise, treat the island like your home. Well, like you used to, I guess, as it was your home.” Lucas seemed to decide he was rambling and stopped. “I’ll let you get unpacked.” He handed Jamie the key and went to leave. Halting in the doorway, he turned back and looked at Jamie. “Come up to the hotel when you’re done. Dominiq is making lunch.” And with that, Lucas was gone.
Jamie let out a heavy sigh and looked around the open-plan living area. At the front of the cabin was the small kitchen consisting of an oven, refrigerator, sink, and two cupboards. There was a small couch, TV, and coffee table in the middle of the room, and then behind him a double bed, dresser, closet, and open door leading into the bathroom. Taking the few steps toward the bed, he dropped his bag to the floor and sat down on the end of the bed. Being here again after all this time felt strange, and the reason for his return unsettled him. He reached inside his T-shirt and pulled out the silver chain he wore around his neck. Sadly, he held the chain in front of him and stared at the tags threaded on the end. Light through the cabin window bounced off the metal tags as they swayed from side to side and Jamie caught them in his free hand. Squeezing his palm shut around the solid metal, he closed his eyes and reminded himself he was one of the lucky ones. He was home.
“The order said pink. Not lilac.”
Edward stopped by Marylou-Beth’s desk and couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Was it possible that yet again the suppliers had sent over the wrong thing? Jeez. This wasn’t the first, fifth, or even tenth time and his patience just about ran out when he took in the frown on his assistant’s face. Gesturing for the phone, he waited until she said she was passing the phone over. Edward took the handset and counted back from five.
“I ask for twelve pink long-stemmed roses,” he started. “You are not the biggest, best, or even closest supplier to me and when I order pink I expect pink. I don’t run my business on near colors, and I don’t want or need lilac. I expect a box of twelve pink roses to be delivered to my office by eleven am or I will take my business elsewhere. Consider this your last chance.” He disconnected the call even as the supplier was blustering on about inclement weather and deliveries and transport and all the things that Edward shouldn’t have to worry about.
“What if they don’t send them?” Marylou-Beth said. She was chewing on a hangnail, which Edward found unsettling. Marylou-Beth didn’t do that kind of thing. The action indicated something else was going on and he dreaded to think what other drama she was attempting to shield him from. Running a mental list through his head, he searched for potential problems. He had the Osborne wedding on Sapphire Cay and a civil ceremony at City Hall, but other than those there was no major crises that could cause his normally unflappable assistant to bite her perfectly manicured nails.
“What’s wrong, babe?” he asked carefully.
“They sent the wrong color,” Marylou-Beth wailed and then promptly burst into tears. Hell. He hated dealing with any woman crying, regardless of his huge affection for his assistant of two years. A transplant from her native Georgia after a failed romance, she was good at her job and kept him from being too anal about details. She had a good handle on his OCD tendencies and never ever thought it was okay to go through and amend anything in his diary. He clutched said diary harder. It never really left his side, was photocopied daily, and there was an electronic backup in three separate places. Nope. She never touched it, which was the perfect relationship between boss and assistant in his mind. He wasn’t entirely sure what to do with the tears so he hovered uncertainly. Perhaps he should try and talk her down?
“It’s fine, they’re sending over the correct color—”
“What if they don’t?”
Edward clutched his diary even closer. What the hell was going on? The only time he’d ever seen her this irrationally tearful was at the end of the last season of America’s Top Model when the US lost out to Britain. Of course Edward had been quietly proud but didn’t have time to gloat as the waterworks kind of drowned out the end.
They’d watched it with sushi and authentic sake and she had just broken up with Tom; she’d sobbed this way for a good half hour. Which only meant… Shit.
“Did you break up with Tom again?” Edward asked carefully. They broke up at least every other month with some drama or another. And they said gay men were dramatic.
“He said—he—said—I was too tall—” She hiccupped the last. Edward’s heart sank. So yes, she was a shade under six foot and Tom was only five nine, but they’d seemed so perfect for each other. He knew Tom, couldn’t believe the man had actually said that the woman he called the love of his life was too tall.
“I’m sorry,” Edward said. That was the right thing to say and he wondered how long the drama would last. He was leaving for the Cay in two days and the office was hers. The last thing he needed was for prospective clients high on the need to get married to be greeted by a decidedly unattractive snotty nose and blotchy face. Then guilt swamped him. Hell, they’d been picking wedding themes yesterday and now Tom had broken Marylou-Beth’s heart. Channeling his inner sensitivity, he scooted around her side of the desk and pulled her into a hug. Of course, that meant he was going to have deposits of shiny silver eye shadow on his black Forzieri button-down, but he could deal with it. He had a spare in the office closet. Patting the top of her head with his free hand, he resolved to get Tom on the phone immediately to sort this out.
“Go out for a walk, sweetie,” he said. “Get coffee, take ten, hell, take the rest of the day.”
She pulled back and looked up at him; her violet eyes were watery and her lip trembled.
“I thought he loved me,” she said.
“Of course he does. But don’t you know, sweetie, all men are idiots.”
“Except you. You’re so sensitive and kind and sweet and you understand me.”
Edward sighed inwardly but smiled outwardly. He was far from what she labeled sweet or kind. Sensitive yes, but he was of the belief that all men had the necessary skills to be sensitive—they just didn’t use them. She buried her face against his shirt and sniffed dramatically.
“And you always smell so nice.” Her voice had taken on a wistful tone, which was Edward’s cue to back off.
“Thank you. Now go on, take a walk. A few minutes in the sunshine and you’ll feel much better.”
She scooped up her purse and headed to the door. “I’ll never be all right again,” she said dramatically, then left.
Edward immediately grabbed the handset and dialed Tom, who answered almost instantly.
“Edward, is Marylou-Beth okay?”
“What did you say to her?” Edward wasn’t messing around with this; he had maybe ten minutes to sort this out.
“She had these heels on… all I said was that I liked them but that she made me feel a bit short.” Edward couldn’t believe how bewildered Tom sounded. Did he have no idea of how his fiancée felt about her height?
“Okay. Here is how you play this. Red roses—no chocolates since she’s on a diet. Buy a tub of blueberry frozen yogurt instead, add a sparkler, and for goodness sake, spray some cologne before you come up. You have an hour.”
“Got it. Roses. Yogurt. But cologne? Edward, I’m straight; you know I don’t like that kind of thing—”
“Do it or lose Marylou-Beth forever,” Edward said. Then he ended the call and shut himself in his office.
Changing his shirt was the first order of the day and he spent a good ten minutes making sure his shirt was tucked just so, his silk tie knotted perfectly, and his hair still frozen in its volumized style. Adjusting his black-framed Prada glasses, he peered at his reflection. They finished off the geek-chic look perfectly and he looked damn good, if he said so himself. As the owner and chief contact at Blush Pink Weddings, Edward McAllister had a public face and he loved it. The best designer clothes, hours at a salon for his thick, wavy dark hair, manicures, facials, everything he did made him the gay guy that potential brides loved and that potential grooms trusted with said brides. Blush Pink had grown year over year and he earned enough now to have Marylou-Beth as a permanent assistant and to run this office out of Coral Gables in one of the better areas of Miami.
The phone rang again and a cursory glance revealed Marylou-Beth wasn’t at her desk. He answered on the third ring.
“Blush Pink, Edward speaking, how can we help you?”
“Edward. How’s my wedding planner?”
“Fine,” Edward said. “What’s the problem?” He just knew something was wrong from the fact Dylan had phoned and not Lucas.
“Small problem with next week.” Dylan Gray’s voice was low and calm. Hell, he could afford to be calm, it wasn’t him that would be fixing last-minute adjustments in the wedding at Sapphire Cay. Edward liked Dylan a lot, but he wished it were Lucas he was talking to. Dylan had the grand ideas but it was Lucas who had the real business head. Dylan and Lucas were his biggest customers. Dylan even claimed Edward as ‘my wedding planner’. It seemed that in the last few years, with the previous owners and now Dylan, he was spending more and more time on the Cay with weddings.
“We have to do some structural work on the gazebo. Problem is that the electrical cable…”
Edward listened to the details and opened his diary to the page dedicated to the Osborne wedding. So. Probably no electricity to the gazebo. Which meant adjusting a few small details. Thoughtfully, he tapped a pen on the book as Dylan was explaining that they hoped to have it fixed but he couldn’t promise anything.
Checking his calendar Edward mapped out the six days remaining to the wedding. He could work something that would be just as good.
“Edward? Are you still there?”
“It’s fine,” Edward said. “I can work around this. I’ll take a look when I get there.”
“Scott is booked to be at Marsh Harbor for you.”
Edward raised his eyebrows. Edward used to love seeing Dylan waiting at the harbor, but since Dylan had hooked up with Lucas—sorry, fallen in love with Lucas—and was now off the menu, Scott would do as eye candy. Scott may not be the man of Edward’s dreams but he was built like sin and was easy on the eyes. Shame he was a player. Shame he wasn’t Edward’s type. Of course, you could always look at the menu even if you don’t plan to eat from it. He chuckled at his thoughts. Scott would leap a mile if he had any idea of the things Edward imagined when he watched the man steer them from Marsh Harbor to Sapphire Cay.
“I’ll see you in two days, and meanwhile I’ll email a plan B for what I want. Or at least I’ll get Lucas to do it.” Dylan added the last with a laugh and it made Edward smile. Dylan and Lucas were so good for each other and clearly in love. Seeing them together called to Edward’s romantic heart.
“See you in two days.”
Edward closed his diary and leaned back in his chair. The bride had wanted thousands of twinkling fairy lights around the gazebo, which was now unlikely to happen. Okay, so what else could he do? Images came to him of the gazebo with the sea as the backdrop, and he remembered the storm lanterns from previous weddings. The glow of candles in the half dark would be stunning and not nearly as intrusive as the brighter glow of the strings of lights and if he had the candles reflecting through colored glass…
Settled on what he needed to say to his picky bride, he dialed her number. He was in the zone doing what he loved best.
* * * * *
Scott helped him off of the boat. It wasn’t that he couldn’t manage but he wasn’t going to argue with the help of a strong man. Brushing off the stray sand that decorated the ass of his suit pants, he cast a critical gaze around the landing area. This was the first point that the couple and their parties would see and it had to be perfect. Satisfied at the look of the old yet sturdy jetty and the wide-open expanse of perfect beach, he began the short trek up to the main hotel. The utter beauty that stood in front of him never failed to take his breath away. Low and wide, the hotel was wood and brick and solid in amongst trees.
Bypassing reception, he knew he had to see the gazebo and work out where everything was. He had photos but if there really was a problem with wiring that spread any farther then he needed to see it now and not later. He had a vague impression of what would work. The gazebo itself was a study in metal and wood and had weathered many a storm, and it would look stunning when he finished with it. He was in creation mode, the I-can-deal-with-anything frame of mind.
And then he rounded the corner and was faced with chaos.
Half the gazebo was missing. Literally gone. There was a hole in the middle where the wooden deck had been. A trench ran from the gazebo to the side of the hotel. It was utterly decimated.
“Four days,” he blurted out. He caught movement out of the corner of his eye, a man walking backward, slightly doubled over and dragging an iron pillar that used to be part of the gazebo. Edward pushed away the instant appreciation of a fine, tight ass, powerful thighs covered in holey jeans, and the flex of muscles in strong arms. This wasn’t some ten o’clock Coke break for him to ogle the laborers. This man was destroying his canvas. Edward couldn’t form a sentence as panic knifed through him. He couldn’t have the chaos in front of him now. He didn’t have time.
“I’m sorry?” the man with the iron said. He turned to face Edward and Edward catalogued sweaty skin and a very young but serious face.
“Four days,” Edward repeated. “What the bloody hell did you do?”
The man reached out a dirty, muddied hand with a smile on his face. “You must be the Brit. Dylan and Lucas warned me you’d be arriving this morning. I’m Jamie,” he said. Edward looked at the extended hand and couldn’t help the horror inside him from slashing angrily on his expression. What was Jamie doing here in the gazebo? Where was the gazebo?
“What have you done?” He gestured at the mess and was almost incoherent with shock. The last time he’d been faced with this was a garden party at his aunt’s house when he had nothing more than paperclips to hold up banners. He’d been ten at the time and he was still traumatized by the stress of it. Four days to make something beautiful of this construction site? He could cover up… no… there was nothing… he couldn’t hide this… no flower was big enough, no candlelight soft enough to cover the scar.
“You need to breathe,” the other man was saying. He was patting Edward on the shoulder, those muddy worker’s hands all over his Armani shirt, and Edward backed away. Disorder was in his head where he needed order.
“I am bloody breathing,” he snapped. “Who did this here? Why is this happening in this wedding? Dylan never said…”
Jamie, the worker with the hands, was frowning and casting looks toward the hotel.
“I’ll get Dylan—”
“Did they authorize this? Did anyone actually authorize what you are doing? Who the bloody hell do you think you are destroying the centerpiece of the whole wedding?”
“I work here,” Jamie said. Like that was the whole defense for what he had done?
Edward snapped at the deliberately obscure reply. “Not for much longer you’re not if you cause this much destruction.”
Twisting hands in his hair, he stared helplessly at the mess for a few more seconds, and then giving Jamie-the-worker not a second glance, he stalked away to find Dylan.
It was only as he passed a wall mirror inside the door that he saw what he’d done. He’d literally pulled his hair to the point there was no style left in it at all. Jesus. He was already fighting sand and water and now he had to add dealing with stress to his haircare regime.
Breathe. Deep breath in. Out. In. Out. There had to be an alternative. Another way to make this wedding beautiful.
“Edward?” Lucas was suddenly there. He must have arrived while Edward was near hyperventilating. He was concerned and had that patented Lucas-look-of-worry on his face. Worker-man was hovering behind him and he also looked alarmed. “Jamie says you aren’t well?”
“I’m fine,” he snapped. “Well I was until the kid here decided to play at building and ripped down the centerpiece of the entire wedding.”
“Not a kid,” Jamie said quickly.
“Do you realize this wedding is huge? Did you know the Osbornes went to five different planners before hiring me and this island? This could ruin my reputation. Why did no one tell me?”
“Calm down, Edward,” Lucas encouraged. “We were working on the electricity but there was subsidence and the whole thing started to shift. It was dangerous.” Lucas said all this with his hands held out, palms upward in a placating stance. “It only happened last night. Jamie, Dylan, and I have been up all night dealing with clearing what’s left. I’m sorry.” Lucas hesitated and Edward could see the exhaustion bracketing his friend’s face. “I don’t know what we are going to do,” Lucas added.
Seeing Lucas worrying pushed Edward out of panic mode and into his normal take-charge default. Okay. First things first. Construction. He’d need dark-and-handsome-yet-hot-and-sweaty for that one.
“You,” Edward said and pointed at Jamie. “Can it be rebuilt in three days?”
Jamie looked startled and then an expression crossed his face that Edward couldn’t understand. A flash of fear or reluctance? It disappeared too quickly for Edward to get a real lock on it.
“I can do it,” Jamie said. He crossed his arms over his chest and the movement revealed the impression of dog tags under his sleeveless T-shirt. God. Dog tags as a design accessory was so nineties. Edward shook the random thought from his head. Focus.
“You have two days to get me to a yes or no position. The Osborne party arrives in three days and I must have ideas of an alternative if the gazebo is a no-go.” As Edward summarized his position Lucas was regarding him with a very odd expression on his face. The man had never really seen Edward in full-flight damage limitation before. Marylou-Beth said it was a sight to behold and scared the shit out of everyone in its path. Jamie disappeared out the back door without saying anything and Edward caught sight of that gorgeous ass again. Pity it belonged to the guy who was ruining his business.
There came his drama gene again.