Authors: Helen Brenna
Tags: #An Island To Remember
“A salad would be chill,” Gaia said, tying a colorful scarf around her dreadlocks. “But let me get—”
“Nope. I’m buying.” Technically, Missy couldn’t even afford to pay an assistant’s wages based on the sales the gift shop generated, let alone buy an employee lunches, but Missy did it anyway at every possible opportunity. “Save your money for school.”
Missy grabbed her purse, nothing more than a wallet on a leather strap, and followed Sarah outside. The moment the afternoon sunshine hit her face, she sighed. “Perfect timing. I needed this break.”
“Ron told me you heard from the adoption agency this morning.” Sarah glanced at her expectantly.
That was fast. She couldn’t help but wonder if he’d told Sarah anything else, like the fact that a man was staying at her house.
“I’m so excited for you!”
“Don’t hold your breath, Sarah. All kinds of things could go wrong.”
“But this is the closest you’ve ever been.”
“Which is why I’d prefer not talking about it,” Missy said.
Sarah glanced sideways at Missy and opened her mouth.
“I think it’s your pick today,” Missy said, butting in. “Where do you want to go?”
“All right, fine. I’ll let it go.” Sarah shook her head. “But I want to be the first to hear about any new developments.”
“Let’s go to the Bayside. We haven’t been there for a while.”
Although Missy’s favorite restaurant on the island was Duffy’s Pub, given the variety of vegetarian options Erica Taylor had added to the menu, she could find something to eat anywhere. They’d taken no more than a few steps down the street when Missy blurted out, “What would you do if someone you care about had kept something from you?”
Sarah glanced at her. “I guess that depends.”
“What she lied about.”
“Keeping something from someone isn’t really a lie, is it?”
“Sure it is. A lie of omission.”
Exactly what Jonas had claimed. Missy looked away. No one understood.
“What have you lied about?” Sarah asked.
“Me? What? I…”
“Missy, you’re about as transparent as that window over there.” Sarah pointed to the ferry office a short distance from the pier.
Missy closed her hand over the protective crystals hanging from her leather-banded necklace. Before she could admit the truth about her family or her past, they’d reached the Bayside and Hannah Johnson, one of the island’s only elementary school teachers, joined them.
“Hey,” Hannah said. “That was good timing.”
“No kidding,” Sarah said. “You must be psychic.”
Missy glanced at the two of them and grinned. “Oh, shut up.” Teasing her about her untraditional beliefs and lifestyle had become a favorite pastime for her friends. “Sarah, you called Hannah before you left your shop, didn’t you?”
“Busted.” Hannah grinned.
They were all laughing as they walked into the café. As Hannah moved ahead of them to take a table by the window, Sarah whispered to Missy, “We’ll talk later, okay?”
Missy nodded. As they ordered and chatted, Missy began feeling nostalgic about her life on Mirabelle and how everything could change depending on what happened with Jonas. There were several locals having lunch who waved in greeting when they noticed her group.
Police Chief Garrett Taylor and his deputy, Herman Stotz, sat at the counter. Shirley Gilbert, who ran a bed-and-breakfast, sat at a nearby table lunching with Mary Miller, the candy shop owner and Charlotte Day, the librarian. Doc Welinsky, retired now, sat with Dan Newman, the grocer. Carl Andersen, owner of the Rock Point Lodge, sat at another table with his parents, Jean and John, the island pastor. There were others, too, all of whom Missy knew by name.
Some islanders had welcomed her more easily than others, but most had been friendly from the beginning. These were salt of the earth type people, from unassuming backgrounds, people who lived modestly. Used to be not much changed on Mirabelle. Not so anymore.
Sally McGregor dying from cancer a while back had brought a new permanent postmaster to Mirabelle, Al Richter, a man just as cranky as Sally, but half as lovable. It was no surprise he was sitting alone at the counter. Then, too, the recent boom in Mirabelle tourism due to the pool and golf course had brought several new business owners and charter fishing operations and made it possible for Marty and Brittany Rousseau to expand the Mirabelle Island Inn. They’d added two wings, one for additional guest rooms and the other housed a full-featured spa. But that wasn’t all.
Harry Olson had opened a real estate office and was buying up some of the state land in the hopes of building townhomes. Tom and Carolyn Bent had built a nightclub out near Rock Point that had turned out to be even more controversial than the pool and golf course. While some maintained a nightclub brought an unwelcome party element to the island, others claimed the live entertainment running late into the night filled a void in Mirabelle’s otherwise family-oriented atmosphere.
As far as Missy was concerned, it would take a lot more than a few new people and businesses to change the heart of Mirabelle. She was only halfway listening to Sarah complain about the bride for an upcoming wedding going nuclear when Sean came into the restaurant. He was heading toward the counter when his gaze landed on her. Immediately, he detoured to their table. “Hello, ladies.”
“Hi.” Missy smiled uncertainly at him.
Don’t say anything about Jonas. Please.
“Hey, Sean.” Sarah stabbed a French fry with her fork and dunked it in some ketchup. “Want to join us?”
Sean hesitated. “Actually, I needed to talk to Missy for a minute.”
“Come on,” Sarah said. “Sit down.” She scooted in to make room for Sean.
Though clearly reluctant, he sat and ordered as if he was in a hurry. The conversation at their table remained light and innocuous, but Sean was clearly preoccupied. The moment Sarah’s and Hannah’s attentions were distracted by a tourist causing a commotion with a complaint on a bill, he handed Missy a sample bottle of medicine.
“Antibiotic,” he whispered. “I didn’t have enough to leave with you last night.”
“How is he?”
“How’s who?” Hannah asked, spinning back to them.
Sean said nothing, only waited for Missy.
“Um…my brother,” Missy said.
The Mirabelle islanders were a nosy lot. Even if Jonas stayed inside, as she’d asked him, one of her neighbors was sure to notice someone in her house while she was working. Lights going on and off or his shadow in a window. Besides, with Ron already happening upon Jonas, it was probably best to get his presence out in the open.
“What?” Gape-mouthed, Sarah stared at Missy. “A
“You’ve never said anything about a brother,” Hannah added.
“We’re not very close.” She’d never said anything, period, about a family and who could blame her. She had nothing in common with any of her real siblings.
Last Missy had heard, from the occasional news report or celebrity profile, her brother, the oldest, was following in their father’s political footsteps. Her sister, only a few years older than Missy, was a force in her own right on Wall Street. And the baby of the family was in rehab for a recurring addiction to painkillers when he wasn’t practicing corporate law.
“So is that what you were talking about?” Sarah asked. “This whole keeping something from someone business?”
Not knowing what else to do, Missy nodded.
“Don’t worry about it.” Sarah waved it off. “Sounds like you weren’t expecting his visit.”
“No,” Missy said. “He kind of surprised me.”
“Must be a family trait.” Hannah smiled. “Spontaneity.”
“You could call it that.”
“Yeah, but is he cute?” Sarah asked, grinning.
“Depends how dark you like your men,” Sean quietly offered.
“The darker the better.”
“Then you’re in luck.”
“Oooh.” Sarah fanned her face. “You two must be as different as night and day.”
Yeah, that pretty much summed it up. “Jonas is adopted,” Missy said, digging her hole even deeper, but no one would ever believe Jonas shared even a teaspoon of Missy’s blood.
Sean gave a short shake of his head and looked away.
“What?” Sarah asked, looking back and forth between Missy and Sean. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” Missy said, stabbing some romaine off her plate and quickly stuffing it in her mouth.
“How did you manage to meet Missy’s brother before us?” Hannah asked.
“Right place at the right time, I guess,” Sean said.
“So when do we get to meet him?” Hannah asked, Sean’s sarcasm zooming full speed over her head.
“I have to work tonight,” Sarah said, her wheels turning. “Why don’t you bring him along to happy hour tomorrow night?”
“That’s a great idea,” Hannah interjected. “Missy, you can’t keep him all to yourself.”
As if she’d want to. In fact, she’d been planning on staying away from her house as much as possible until Jonas vacated the premises. There was no way she was bringing him to Duffy’s.
The front door opened, and he reached for his gun on the bedside table. Keys landed on the counter. Missy. Her gift shop had to have closed up hours ago, so he had no doubt she was trying to avoid him.
“Missy?” he called, setting the gun down. “I need your help.”
Her slow footsteps sounded down the hall. “Where are you?”
“Upstairs.” Refusing to sleep in her room again, he’d moved all his things to the guest bedroom.
She came up the steps. Tentatively, she glanced into the room. Her gaze skittered away from his bare chest to take in the medical supplies he’d set out on the bed. When she saw the cat lying next to him, she said, “I thought you didn’t like cats.”
“He doesn’t seem to appreciate that fact.” Jonas pushed the damned thing off the bed and then motioned at the bandages. “I can’t do this myself.”
Sighing, she walked into the bathroom and washed her hands. On her return, she ordered, “Lie down.”
Without a word, he complied, easing himself onto his back with his wounded side closest to the edge of the bed. Her hands touched his skin and he closed his eyes, waiting for the inevitable. Any minute, she’d no doubt rip off what remained of the tape stuck to his skin. He tensed.
Instead, to his complete surprise, she gently eased off the bandage. He should’ve known she wouldn’t intentionally hurt him. Not Missy. Missy with the gentle touch. Missy, whose hands had been the first thing that had drawn him in.
He swallowed, trying to take his mind off the first night he’d met her. “So I’m your brother, huh?”
“That’s the best I could come up with.”
“Who’s adopted?” he asked, chuckling. “You or me?”
“You.” Her hands paused in their work, remained still on his skin. Soft. Warm. The heat of Missy’s hands sank deep below the surface of his skin.
To this day, Jonas had never felt anything quite like the feeling of her touch on his body. As if they were somehow one with each other, she and she alone had the uncanny ability to calm or arouse him with one touch. With one touch he knew her thoughts, her feelings. Since the very first night they’d met, it’d been that way between them.
Against his will, the memory came back to him in one sudden rush. She’d been reading trot cards at a hole-in-the-wall bar in Quantico. All of the other agents he was with had wanted to take their turn getting a reading. What they’d really wanted was a chance with her out back, but she was quite clearly not interested in any of them.
He’d kept his distance, watched and waited. Something about her had made him uneasy. She believed that tarot stuff and had freaked out a couple of the other agents. More than once she’d caught Jonas’s assessing gaze, and more than once she’d held his gaze longer than most people would’ve been comfortable with. Her eyes said one word and one word only to Jonas.
When she’d finished readings for the rest of the guys in his group, someone pushed him into the chair. He sat in front of her, drained his beer and waited. Without a word, she looked into his eyes, set the cards aside and took his hands. Pressing her fingers over his, she opened his palms and studied them. The guys laughed and joked about it.
“You readin’ his love line or his life line?”
“He gonna win a lottery?”
“Careful, sweetheart, you don’t know where those hands have been.”
Jonas didn’t crack a smile. All he could do was watch her. After being unable to goad either him or her into a reaction, the other agents gradually lost interest and wandered closer to the bar for more beer. Once they’d been left alone, he leaned forward and whispered, “What do you see?”
As if snapped out of a trance, she’d glanced up. “What did you say?”
“I asked what do you see?”
“Liar.” She never did tell him what she’d found so interesting about his hands.
“You can’t really read palms the way people think,” she whispered, her gaze moving slowly over his face.
“Then why are you looking?”
“Yes,” she’d said out of nowhere.
“I said, yes, let’s go somewhere else.”
He’d stood, grabbed her hand and, as quietly as possible so as not to draw attention to either of them, pulled her outside. The cool night air had no sooner hit his face than she’d pushed him against the building, jumped into his arms and kissed him.
With a hard-on growing harder every second, he carried her to his SUV in the far part of the lot, opened the back door and lowered the seats. None of this backseat bullshit. He’d wanted her good and laid out under him, even banged his forehead in his rush to join her inside.
“Condoms,” she whispered, as he closed them inside the vehicle. “I don’t have any.”
“You don’t?” Breathing hard, he studied her face. “You’ve never done something like this before, have you?”
“No.” She shook her head.
Somehow that had made him want her all the more. He’d kissed her again, hard, and then broke away briefly to fumble in his glove box for the box of condoms. What followed was sweaty, mind-blowing sex. The kind guys only fantasized about. Then they’d moved from his SUV to her apartment a few miles away for more of the same. It was hours before they’d bothered asking each other’s names. The following morning, they’d exchanged numbers amidst promises to see each other again that night and the next and the next.
One week had turned into two. Two into twelve. Those had been the most perfect nights of his life. Being with Missy, feeling her under him, learning, touching, tasting every inch of her body.
As her fingers moved again, bringing him back to the present, he tensed with an instantaneous hard-on. She eased what was left of his old bandage off his skin and he opened his eyes. His gaze landed on the tattoos on the underside of her left arm. Those were new. A line of small black Sanskrit symbols not normally visible, but damned sexy. He might’ve enjoyed running his tongue along that soft, tender skin.
He closed his fingers around her wrist and held out her arm for a better look. “What’s with the tattoos?” he murmured, his voice thick.
“You wouldn’t understand.”
She pulled against his grip, and then stilled, her strength no match for his. “Let me go, Jonas.”
“If you say so.” He held her a moment longer and she closed her eyes. Her breathing escalated. She licked her lips and swallowed as she, too, was remembering. Before thinking better of it, he drew her toward him.
She came, unresisting as if mesmerized, as if she had no clue what she was doing. When her lips were a hair-breadth from him, her eyes popped open. She jumped back, yanking on his arm. The strain caused a jolt of pain through his side, but he held her tight. “Too bad I’ve got this gunshot wound or we could…revive a memory or two from old times.”
“Over my dead body.”
Her eyes darkened, darted down his bare chest and then back to his face.
“You still want me. You know you do. I know you do. Where’s the problem?”
“The problem is that you haven’t changed. You’re still the same man, Jonas.” Her breath puffed out of her in little pants. “A man who’d choose taking a call from his boss over time with me. An out of town assignment over time with me. Death over trying to make our marriage work. I never was a priority in your life, and I never could be.”
He released her arm and looked away.
Throwing the cotton gauze onto the bed, she stalked out of the room. “From now on change your own damned bandages.”