His matchmaking plans are about to backfire.

 

Running out of time…

 

Mystery writer Marcus Sullivan is determined find someone for his younger brother Liam to love. Playing matchmaker on holiday in St. Lucia, Marcus tries to interest Liam in beautiful, local tour guide, Crescentia St. Ives. Unfortunately, things don’t go to plan. And when Marcus and Crescentia are stranded during a thunderstorm, the plot to match her with his brother incinerates in the flames of desire. No way can Liam have her when Marcus can’t keep his hands off. Too bad he can’t write a happier ending to their blossoming romance.

 

Running away…

 

Crescentia St. Ives’ career as a public defender in New York has taken a toll. Following an emotionally devastating case, she returns to her homeland, St. Lucia. While her uncle is recovering from a heart attack, she helps out with his floundering tour company. The product of a holiday affair, Crescy is determined not to follow in her mother’s footsteps. But her resolve is severely tested when she meets Marcus Sullivan. Can she convince him that they can have more than a fling? Or will his secret be too much to overcome?

 

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Copyright © 2014 by Alexia Adams. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Author.

 

Excerpt From Miss Guided

 

 Chapter One

Marcus sipped a tropical fruit concoction through a straw, considering the addition of rum to the drink. What good was a Caribbean vacation if you couldn’t sample the island’s best product? He needed to keep his alcohol consumption to a minimum as it counteracted his medication. So he usually saved it for special occasions. Like when how unfair his life started to get to him.

“How ’bout her?” He pointed his drink at a buxom blonde woman wearing a tiny white bikini and high heels.

Liam glanced up from his laptop. “Nah, never liked blondes, they’re too pale. You lose them in the bed if it’s got white sheets.”

Marcus laughed at the comment, knowing his brother wasn’t serious. However, Liam’s apathy toward relationships did slow things down. Marcus had managed to cross most of his life’s goals off his bucket list, but finding a life partner for Liam was the most important, and proving the hardest. And there wasn’t a lot of time left. Marcus was already living beyond the doctors’ expectations, and he needed to make sure his little brother was loved before he went.

“Hey, I thought we agreed no working on this vacation,” Marcus said.

With a reluctant sigh, Liam closed his laptop. “You can’t tell me you’re not working. I can all but see the cogs in that big head of yours turning. You’re thinking plot lines and characterization and who would be murdered first. There’s a book formulating in your brain. Any minute now you’re going to excuse yourself and race upstairs for your own computer.”

Liam was right of course. Marcus saw stories everywhere. It was what had made him a prolific and best-selling mystery author by twenty-five. And the blonde would be the first to die. The question was whether the hero in his book would do her first. He shook his head; she wasn’t his type, and therefore not suitable to play a heroine. Marcus preferred a real woman without chemical and saline enhancements. Liam was usually drawn to the plastic versions, probably because he’d never known the love of a real woman. Marcus was going to do his damnedest to make sure he did.

A sudden flood of people wandered past the bar, disgorged, undoubtedly, from a returning tour bus. They all clutched cameras, hats, and bottles of water. He caught snippets of conversation about their day—the majesty of the Pitons and the wonder of the drive-in volcano.

Liam swiveled around on his bar stool. “You know, if you really wanted to relax, we could have rented a private villa. Hell, we could have rented a private island.”

“And miss this human sideshow? Besides, I hate to break it to you, brother, but you’re boring. All you do is play on your computer day and night. I need some stimulation in my life.”

Liam sat up taller on his stool and put his drink on the bar. “I don’t play…”

Marcus tuned out his brother’s monologue on the latest Trojan horse, or worm, or virus, or something destined to destroy all computers, everywhere. And how it was guys like Liam who made it safer for regular people to download cute cat videos or porn, depending on their preference.

Mercifully, his brother’s voice was drowned out by another, this one richer, sultrier, and with a hint of island charm. “Mrs. Winthrop, Mrs. Winthrop, you left your glasses on the bus.” A gorgeous local woman raced down the steps next to the poolside bar and stopped an older lady who was wearing Bermuda shorts, socks up to her knees, and sandals.

“Oh, thank you, dear,” Mrs. Winthrop replied. “I’d probably leave my head behind if it weren’t attached.”

The local woman gave a polite laugh, which had the effect of sending a thrill, not at all polite, through his body. She then turned to run back up the stairs, her long brown legs in sharp contrast to her white shorts. Her T-shirt, stretched tight across full breasts that bounced like real ones, read St. Ives Island Tours and Travel on the back. A mass of dark curls was piled impossibly on the top of her head. But it was her face that had Marcus taking a long drink of his mocktail. It had been a good long while since he’d seen anyone as naturally beautiful as her. There was no way she’d get lost in bed. Or up against a wall. Or in the shower. Or on the beach.

Dragging his mind back from inappropriate thoughts, he glanced again at Liam who was watching the news on the TV above the bar. “How about tomorrow we take a tour of the island?” 

Liam stared at him with undisguised horror. “Marcus, if you want to see the island, we can hire a private car and driver. I’m loaded, remember, recently signed a billion dollar deal with the-software-company-that-shall-remain-nameless? I’m not getting on a smelly old bus with a bunch of smelly old people and visiting places I have no interest in going.”

Marcus put his drink down and played his trump card. “My vacation, my rules, remember? You promised. Tomorrow we are going on a bus tour, and you will not complain for one second.”

Liam opened his mouth then closed it again, trying to hide the flicker of pain in his eyes. A curt nod was his only response.

“That’s settled then. I’ll go make the arrangements.” Marcus abandoned his drink and headed up to reception. If he were lucky he’d be able to catch the tour guide woman and find out exactly which tour she would be leading tomorrow. His brain was already plotting ways to get her and Liam together.

The reception area was deserted when he arrived except for the man behind the desk. “May I help you, sir?”

“Yes, my brother and I want to take a tour of the island. I heard a lady say the St. Ives tour was amazing. Is it running tomorrow?”

“I’m not sure, sir. Miss Crescentia just said they have only four guests booked tomorrow so may have to cancel. With the price of fuel, it costs more than that to run the tour.”

A small group, how convenient. “And does Miss Crescentia lead all the St. Ives tours?”

“At the moment, while her uncle is ill. Would you like to book a seat? Although I think she needs at least four more to run the tour.”

“Book the rest of the seats on the bus. Here’s my card. How many does the bus hold?”

The clerk gave him a strange look then picked up the phone to call through the booking. “Fifteen, sir, including the driver. I thought you said it was only your brother and you.”

“I’m anxious to take the tour, so I’ll book the seats and see if I can interest other guests to join us.”

“Yes, sir.”

Marcus returned to the bar and saw Liam with his head buried in his laptop again. Rather than join him, he wandered down to the beach. The waves were calmer on this sheltered side of the island and they lapped against the shore in an eternal ebb and flow. A couple of women gestured for him to join them, but he waved back and resumed staring at the ocean. If life were different, if life were fair, he’d have joined them in a shot. But it wasn’t. So he watched the waves and plotted.

 

***

Crescy eased the van into the parking space beside her uncle and aunt’s small house and patted the steering wheel. “Well done, Bess. Same again tomorrow?”

She’d been stunned when the Silver Sands resort called to say they had a full busload for her to take tomorrow. All day she’d been trying to figure out how she could still accommodate the four who had already booked without taking the big van that sucked gas like it was still pennies a gallon.

“How’d it go?” Uncle Robert greeted her as she stepped into the pastel green house. An electric fan blew only slightly cooler air at her; she bent to kiss her uncle on the cheek.

“Fine. And I got a full group for tomorrow. But the van’s running really rough, so on the way back I’ll stop at Uncle Eric’s and see if he can fix it up a bit.”

Her uncle’s face relaxed when she said she had a full load of guests tomorrow. It tensed again when she mentioned the necessary repairs. He’d been nursing the van for the past two years. It wouldn’t last much longer without some major work, repairs she knew he couldn’t afford.

Her aunt stuck her head around the kitchen door. “You’re back early, doudou. Are you hungry? Dinner will be ready in a few minutes.”

“Traffic in Castries was lighter than usual so I made good time. I’m just going to pop down the beach for a quick swim. I’ll be back for supper.”

She changed into her bathing suit and slipped out the door before her uncle, who was now watching cricket, noticed her leave. He’d undoubtedly want to hear all about her day and her passengers. The tour company was his, and he excelled at it, mostly because he enjoyed people and always wanted to show them the best of the island he loved. However, she’d been surrounded by people all day. She needed a few minutes on her own to regroup and refocus.

Making her way through the neighbor’s yards, much to the disgust of their dogs and chickens, she finally slid down the bank to the tiny bay. The sand was coarser on this beach, and covered in dead palm fronds and other tidal debris. There were no tourists here, and few locals bothered when there were nicer places a short drive away. So it was her private patch of heaven. She dived into the warm water as soon as it was up to her thighs.

Once she was past where the waves broke on their way to the shore, she floated on her back and watched the clouds go by. Lying here wasn’t going to achieve her goal. She needed to exhaust her body, hoping sleep would come easy tonight and not be plagued by the nightmares that had sent her running from her New York apartment back to the loving arms of her aunt and uncle and their tranquil St. Lucian home.

Yet even as she swam parallel to the shore, she knew the reprieve was only temporary. Eventually, she’d have to go back and face up to what she’d done. First she had to do her best to stabilize her aunt and uncle’s business while her uncle recuperated from a heart attack. And if that meant being pleasant to mindless tourists who asked if they could stop at KFC for lunch because they were afraid to eat the island food, then so be it. She could be gracious. It may kill her, but she could do it.

Forty-five minutes later she dragged her weary body back up the hill and into her uncle’s house. Her home, really, as she’d moved there when she was ten and her mother died. Uncle Robert and Aunt Gloria had been her parents for almost as long as she could remember. So she had to help them out now when they needed her. Too bad she hadn’t become an auto mechanic instead of a lawyer. At the moment, that would be more valuable.

“Aren’t you going out, doudou?” Auntie Gloria asked after she helped clear the table and do the dishes.

“I’m exhausted, Auntie. I’ve dragged a busload of tourists around the island today and drove through Castries twice. All I want is to watch a little TV and get to sleep so I can do it all again tomorrow.” She tried to inject a note of enthusiasm into her voice. It must have failed based on the concerned look her uncle sent her.

“You’re too young to be tired. You need to go out and meet a man, have some fun,” Aunt Gloria said.

“Auntie, I’m not here to meet a man. And it’s the twenty-first century. Women don’t need men anymore. We can do it all without them.” 

“Not and have a good time,” Auntie shot back. “You’re a young, beautiful woman, Crescentia. You deserve to have a life and a man.”

“I do have a life, back in the States.” Although if her aunt saw how she lived in New York, going from work to bed to work, then she would probably argue against that statement as well. “I’m just here on vacation and to help you out while Uncle is watching cricket.”

“Even if you’re on holiday, you can still have fun.” Auntie wasn’t going to let this go. She’d been back on the island for two weeks and hadn’t been out once to see her old friends or to make new acquaintances. It didn’t seem right for her to have fun when a woman lie in hospital in a coma because of her. She couldn’t tell her aunt that.

“There is no way I’m going to have a holiday affair. I don’t need to make the same mistake as my mother to learn that lesson.”

“Your mother never once regretted the affair which resulted in you,” Uncle Robert said. “It wasn’t a mistake in her eyes. The two weeks with your father were the happiest in her life. She knew going in it couldn’t last, but she made her decision. Said she’d rather have two weeks of bliss than a lifetime of what ifs. Then when she found out she was carrying you, she said she got to keep the joy after all.”

Crescy shook her head. Her memories of her mother were faded now, but they were all happy. When she’d asked about her father, her mother had always said he was the best thing to ever happen to her. It wasn’t until Crescy turned seventeen that she met the man for herself.

He’d returned to the island to see what had become of her mother and found he had a daughter he never knew about. She could still remember the shock and horror on his face when he realized there was a lasting legacy from his island vacation all those years ago. Then the next day he returned to their little cement house. He said there was no way he could make up for all the lost years, but he could provide for her future. He offered to pay her tuition to any school in the United States she wanted to attend. So she packed her bag and moved to the US, away from everyone and everything familiar. Banana plants and sugar cane were replaced with maple trees and clam chowder. The warm trade winds became a blustery nor’easter that sliced through her jacket and chilled her bones.

Soon she made friends to replace the ones she left behind. She’d meet her father for dinner once a year, on the anniversary of her mother’s death, and they’d tell stories of her as if she was still around. She’d never met her father’s other family, although both knew of the other. She was the accident that wasn’t meant to happen, no point rubbing it into their noses. But she grew to appreciate her father’s sense of responsibility and found she shared his desire for justice.

Too bad she’d screwed that up as well.

Her aunt’s lilting voice broke through her memories. “And I wasn’t suggesting you have an affair. I simply want you to go out and meet some people your own age. Life is nothing without friends and family. What would you be doing in New York on a Friday night?”

Get a corned beef sandwich from the local deli and party it up with the files for next week’s cases I’m to present.

“I’d take a bottle of wine over to a friend’s place and we’d watch movies.” She’d done it twice in two years, so it wasn’t exactly a lie. And in the ten years since she’d left to go to university, she’d had a total of three boyfriends. None of them lasting beyond six months.

Maybe it was time to admit she had no life.

~~~~

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