Publish Date: April 2011
Thirty year old Rob Dalton is a player. He has hot women on speed-dial, dives shipwrecks for a living and enjoys minor celebrity status in his hometown.
Loner, Honour Brier is damaged goods–emotionally and physically. She has lost more in her life than Rob’s ever gained, yet still she gets out of bed every day and goes to work on a remote island sanctuary monitoring sea turtles. Recovery is a long-term goal.
When the Sea-Gods throw Rob and Honour together on the idyllic, remote Australian island of Pulu Keeling, they must have an expectation that the two are meant for each other.
The Gods are wrong.
Honour struggles to find common ground with the superficial, handsome shipwreck hunter. Rob sees nothing but hard work in the emotionally scarred biologist.
Rob’s stuck on Pulu Keeling for ten days. How much could possibly change between them in that time?
Copyright © 2010 by Nikki Logan. Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.
Shipwrecked with Mr Wrong
Pulu Keeling (Isl.), Western Australia
Rob Dalton throttled the powerboat down to a gentle chug-a-lug and snatched up his binoculars. A frown stretched his sea-whipped skin and tipped his lucky fishing cap forward. He was seeing things.
He kept his eye firmly pinned on the natural lagoon created by the hazardous coral reefs around Pulu Keeling where he’d caught a momentary glimpse of her–and it. Clean, cold ocean swelled between The Player and the tiny island, obscuring his view just as he thought he might get another glimpse. Then there she was–swimming strongly toward shore, a glinting, silvery mass propelling her along.
Rob lowered the binoculars and stared at the island. The towering trees and dunes and reef all seemed normal. So did the horizon. The one streak of cloud in the endless blue sky. He rubbed under his sunglasses and lifted them to fit the super-powered field-glasses more firmly to his face. She was still there, stroking across the lagoon. And it was still there too, powering along behind her. His breath caught hard in his chest.
But it sure as heck looked real enough and, out here, so far from everything… Who knows? He squinted in the mid-morning light, pressing the binoculars so hard to his face the rims bit into his cheekbones. Centuries of maritime mythology filled his mind. But she was no dugong and he was no sex-starved, nineteenth century sailor imagining a half-woman-half-fish in the distance.
Although you wouldn’t know it from the pace of his heart.
She neared land, her strokes steady and practiced. The beach rose to meet her and then she stood…
…on two legs. Long, brown, bare legs and she hauled a silver buoyancy sack out of the water behind her. Rob released his breath on a whoosh.
He let heat rise in his cheeks since no-one was around to see him, and his heart pounded out the adrenaline surge of moments ago as he kept his focus locked on the shore. He’d caught a lot of sun out here on his latest vacation from reality but not that much, surely? Not enough to start seeing mermaids where there weren’t any. But a bikini-clad woman alone on a restricted island that was only inhabited by birds and crabs… How was that any less strange?
The old bloke that fuelled him up at the dock had muttered something about a spirit-woman living on Pulu Keeling. Some kind of guardian. He’d assumed he was talking about the mythical variety.
His mermaid tugged the buoyancy sack farther onto the beach and then let it drop. Her lush, tanned body jerked in and out of his binocular frame along with the rolling ocean swell but he did his best to keep the glasses steady as she bent to check the contents of the sack she’d swum ashore. Those long legs that went forever did actually stop; at a tiny bit of yellow fabric covering a perfect peach which bobbed up and down as she rummaged through the sack on the sand.
His curiosity at what a two-legged mermaid was doing out here in the middle of the Indian Ocean took a momentary back seat to the sudden interest that surged through him. Ridiculous that he should be captivated by a bit of mermaid tail when he had any number of equivalents on speed-dial back home.
She straightened with her back to the glittering ocean and lifted her arms to wring the seawater from her long, blonde hair. She twisted it into a damp rope and draped it over her right shoulder.
‘Turn around…turn around,’ Rob murmured, his breath hitching to a halt. Would his mythical mermaid have a face to match the lithe, golden body? She didn’t turn, but she tugged the tethers up onto her left shoulder and dragged the sack behind her along the rocky beach toward a track in the dune grasses. Even with her heavy load, every movement was graceful. Her body radiated health and vitality. Rob’s heart thumped in his throat, his gut, as she moved toward the tree line.
Turn around. At last she did, bending forward to pull the sack over the lip of the dune. He got a quick flash of tanned, toned arms and firm breasts behind more yellow triangles. Once the sack was up and over, she dropped it and straightened to catch her breath, leaving Rob staring through his binoculars at a honey-coloured midriff stretched upward by raised arms that she used to shield her eyes from the blazing sun. Eyes that–he fumbled the binoculars, almost dropping them overboard–stared right back at him! He caught them in the nick of time and glanced back to the island where the now tiny woman waved one arm at him. Pretty keenly.
‘Yeah, I’ve seen you, honey,’ he murmured, discomfited at being caught staring but more than accustomed to the excitement of pretty females. He waved back casually. She mirrored him, both arms this time, bouncing those yellow triangles around a treat.
Rob frowned again. ‘What?’
A sickening crunch accompanied a lurch that sent him staggering as The Player‘s stern hit the reef. It rocked again as the swell nudged his pride and joy against the protective coral surrounding Pulu Keeling.
‘Son of a…’
He shoved the throttle forward, yanking the wheel and powering the boat a safe distance from the barely exposed reef. As he swung her around, he noticed another silver buoyancy sack sitting on the reef in the distance, on the far side of the atoll where the swell did look less powerful. Had that just been delivered? He motored over using the sack as his marker and dropped anchor to arrest his drift. Moving to the injured side of the boat, he dropped his cap and sunglasses to the deck, slid his diving mask on and slipped into the deep water at the reef’s drop-off. His t-shirt ballooned as he sank into thick, icy silence.
Below his boat, he ran his hand over The Player’s damaged hull where the hard coral had bitten into it. He’d need to dry-dock for at least three days to repair the steel properly. Not time he could afford with his schedule. But he wouldn’t sink, not if he could manage some basic repairs here. If he just went ashore…
He surged to the surface and filled his aching lungs with air, swimming round to the rear corner of the boat where The Player‘s chrome half-ladder dipped in and out of the sea with the motion of the swell. He hauled himself up into the boat.
‘I hope you’re planning on checking out the coral too?’ An angry voice snapped from behind.
Blinking in the glare, he reached for his sunglasses and turned in time to see his mermaid haul herself cautiously onto the smoothest part of the exposed reef. She stood, chest heaving from her swim, near-naked and dripping wet.
His three favourite attributes in a woman.
Usually, his mind would have bubbled up a dozen witty comebacks, all tried-and-tested and proven to charm. But not one leapt to mind as Rob stared at the angry woman balancing on the reef nearby.
More specifically, at the brutal scars that stretched from her ear down to her right shoulder.