Excerpt: Nathan’s Child
Book 7: NY! NY! Series
It was a day like any other in July on Pelican Cay. It was hot and humid and, according to the Trina, the weather girl on the island’s on-again-off-again radio station, there was only the faintest hope of a late afternoon storm likely to blow in and clear the air.
Carin was grateful for the ancient air conditioner rattling in the window of her small art and gift shop because it kept her cool as she worked. But mostly because its welcome noise brought in customers — daytrippers off the launch from Nassau and week-long vacationers from the local inns and family resorts who came seeking refuge from the sweltering mid-day heat and lingered because Carin’s shop was an island paradise all of its own.
Filled with one-of-a-kind art objects, paintings and sketches, sea glass jewelry, cast sand sculptures and whimsical mobiles that enchanted young and old alike, Carin’s Cottage was a haven for those with money and taste and a desire to bring home something more enduring than a t-shirt to remember their holiday by.
Everyone who found their way to tiny Pelican Cay eventually found their way to Carin’s. Business was good. Life was sweet.
And she could hardly wait to tell Fiona, the talented but apprehensive ung sculptor that her newest small pieces were headed for Pittsburgh — or would be as soon as she finished wrapping them — with the two nice ladies chatting to her about what a lovely place Pelican Cay was.
“Heaven on earth,” Carin agreed as she wrapped a small carved driftwood pelican up in blue tissue paper. She put it in a white carrier bag and looked up when the door suddenly opened. She smiled, hoping for another tourist or two before the launch headed back to Nassau.
One look and the smile vanished.”Oh, hell.”
The two ladies blinked in astonishment.
“I thought you said heaven,” one began.
But the other turned toward the door. “Oh,” she said.
“My,” she said.
“Who’s that?” she said.
“The devil himself,” Carin answered under her breath.
“Nathan Wolfe,” she said aloud and was grateful she didn’t sound as shaken as she felt.
Nathan Wolfe had always been handsome as the devil. With his thick black windblown hair and dark tan accentuating his features, he had once been the epitome of male beauty.
The years had honed his looks, sharpened them, hardened them. And now he looked as fierce and hard and predatory as his name as he stood in the doorway of Carin’s shop and slowly, behind sunglasses, scanned the room — settling finally on her.
Carin didn’t move. Deliberately she stared back, determined to let him know she wasn’t afraid of him. Only when she was sure she’d made her point, did she avert her gaze, turning back to concentrate on the package she was wrapping for her customers.
They were her priority — not Nathan bloody Wolfe!
But whatever conversation they’d had before Nathan had opened the door had gone completely out of her head. And the ladies seemed much more interested in Nathan. They stood just drinking in the sight of the hard, devilishly handsome man who looked like nothing so much as a gunfighter just stepping into the OK corral.
“I don’t suppose we could buy him,” the taller one murmured.
“You wish,” the other said.
I wish, Carin thought. And she wished they would take him all the way back to Pittsburgh with them, too.
The taller one studied him a moment longer, but when he didn’t seem to even notice her — not once shifting his gaze from Carin — she reached for the bag Carin was filling with their purchases. “Come along, Blanche. We can wrap these back at the ship.”
“No,” Carin protested hastily. “Don’t hurry away. Take your time. Stay awhile.” Stay forever. If they stayed, maybe Nathan would be the one to leave.
But at that moment he came in and shut the door behind him.
Come on, come on, she thought. Just get it over with.
But he didn’t move her way. Instead he wandered over to the counter at the far end of the room and began leisurely examining the Seamus Logan’s cocoanut carvings, then Fiona’s sculptures. Carin gritted her teeth. She watched his easy nerve-wracking grace as he took his time, picking up and studying them all. He moved on then to the handmade toys that the Cash brothers made, Sally’s straw weavings, the hand-painted t-shirts and baby rompers that Alisette designed and then he weighed one of old Turk Sawyer’s paperweights in his hand.
She’d never thought of Turk’s paperweights as weapons before. She did now.
They weren’t enemies, she and Nathan. They simply hadn’t seen each other in years and years. Thirteen years, to be exact.
And until last September she’d lived in hope of never seeing him again.
But then his brother Dominic had come to Pelican Cay – and Carin had known it was just a matter of time.
But months had passed and when Nathan didn’t come, she began to hope. And now, in the space of a single moment, her hopes had been dashed.
He set the paperweight down and lifted his gaze to study the paintings on the walls – her paintings – and with every slow step, Nathan came closer.
Ignoring him as best she could, Carin finished wrapping the last piece of sculpture and put it in the bag. “There you go. I do hope you’ll enjoy them — and think of us often. And I hope you’ll come back again.”
“Oh, we’d love to,” one said.
“Especially if you start stocking merchandise like that.” The shorter one nodded in Nathan’s direction and started for the door.
“He’d be some souvenir,” the other agreed with a laugh. She turned to follow, then leaned back toward Carin. “I know you said hell, but he looks pretty much like heaven to me.”
Then, eying Nathan up and down as she passed, she hurried after her friend. The door opened and banged shut behind them.
In the rattle and hum of the air conditioner, Carin thought she could hear a bomb ticking. She laced her fingers together and took deep, steadying breaths and tried to gather her thoughts – and her defenses.
Thirteen years ago she had been in love with this man. Thirteen years ago he had been gentle, kind, boyish, loving – everything that his hard-edged brother, Dominic, the man she had been engaged to marry, had not.
She’d liked, but she hadn’t loved Dominic Wolfe. He had been her father’s idea of her perfect husband, not hers. But naive girl that she’d been, she’d thought their marriage would work — until she met Nathan.
Knowing Nathan —loving Nathan — Carin had realized that she couldn’t marry his brother.
She’d tried to tell Dominic. But he’d told her it was nerves and brushed her aside. She couldn’t tell her father — he wanted her marriage to Dominic to cement his business relationship to Dominic’s father’s company. Once that had sounded sensible. After she’d met Nathan, she knew it wouldn’t be.
So in the end she’d done the only thing she could do – she’d run.
She’d jilted Dominic, had left him at the altar and gone into hiding. She’d been no match for him. He had been too sophisticated, too strong, too handsome, too hard, too powerful for a girl like her.
Ten months ago, he’d looked the same. But Carin had grown up a lot in thirteen years. Even so she’d had to muster all her courage to deal with him, to apologize to him – to explain.
And miracle of miracles, he’d changed, too. He’d been kinder, more patient, gentler — a word she’d never imagined using with Dominic Wolfe.
He was married, she’d learned, to the funky, funny purple-haired Sierra whom she’d met earlier that day. Sierra was the last woman on earth Carin would have imagined with Dominic. But she had obviously been good for Dominic. She’d changed him.
Falling in love had changed him.
Clearly nothing similar had happened to his brother. Nathan looked every bit as fierce and hard and powerful now as Dominic once had. But if she had handled Dominic, she was determined to handle him.
Behind the counter where he couldn’t see, Carin smoothed damp palms down the sides of her while slacks. Then she took one last deep breath. “Good afternoon,” she said politely in her best shopkeeper voice. “What can I do for you?”
Nathan set down the sailboat and slowly turned to face her. The years might have been hard, but they had given him character and even, she noted, a few grey hairs. His formerly straight nose looked as if it had been broken at least once. His tan was still deep and, as she could see when he removed his sunglasses, so were lines at the corners of his eyes.
It was his eyes that caught and held her. Blue eyes that had once been soft and loving now glinted like steel as he met her gaze and answered her question. “Marry me.”