Excerpt: In McGillivray’s Bed
Book 2: Pelican Cay Series
It wasn’t exactly heaven.
It sure as heck wasn’t Iowa.
But it was as close as he was ever likely to get to perfection, Hugh McGillivray decided as he lounged back in the chair on his gently rocking boat, playing out his handline, hoping for one last catch as he lazed away the end of the day in the setting Caribbean sun.
At the stern another rod bobbed in its holder, increasing his odds. But even if he didn’t get any more fish, Hugh didn’t care. It had still been a perfect day. The sort he remembered from childhood — where anything could happen or nothing could — and each was equally welcome.
They were the days he’d dreamed about during his years as a Navy pilot when rules and regulations and spit-and-polish had ruled his every waking hour. They were the days he’d been determined to enjoy again — the reason he’d left the Navy five years ago and come home to start up Fly Guy, his island charter business on tiny laid-back Pelican Cay.
Most days flying passengers and cargo kept him busy moving among the islands and to the coastal cities of the States. Most days he was delighted to do it – enjoying the variety of people he met and places he went and jobs he took.
“Never a dull moment,” he’d told his brother Lachlan cheerfully last week.
But that wasn’t precisely true.
Some days – some wonderful days — no one wanted to go anywhere, no one wanted to send anything, things were dull as ditch water. And Hugh loved those days even more because on those days he was totally free.
Like today, he thought, smiling and flexing his shoulders, then jiggling his handline just a bit, wiggling his toes and relishing the beauty of the sunset and the soft sea breeze that ruffled his hair.
Of course he could have been back at the shop helping his sister Molly work on the chopper engine or he could have been doing his paperwork or sending out his bills.
But the papers and the bills would be there tomorrow. So would Molly. And she’d be a damn sight happier for not having had him underfoot today. They were good friends most of the time – partners for the past four years; Molly did most of the mechanic work and Hugh did most of the flying – but they came close to strangling each other whenever they worked together on the same project.
So it had been the wisest thing, he assured himself, not to mention the safest, considering Molly’s proverbial redhead’s temper, to wave her good-bye this morning, whistle up his border collie, Belle, and head out for a day’s fishing.
He’d done some bottom fishing early. Then, long about lunchtime, he’d dropped anchor at a little cove on Pistol Island, a few miles east of Pelican Cay. There he had eaten his bologna sandwiches and drank a couple of beers while Belle explored the mangroves and then went swimming. After Hugh had swum a bit, too, he’d begun working his way back toward Pelican Cay, though work hardly seemed the operative word.
Mostly he just fiddled with his lines, soaked up the rays, sipped his beer and drifted along as the sun dropped into the sea.
He had watched with mild interest as speedboats zipped past him. But he’d felt no urge to move quicker. If he wanted speed, he flew. Today he wanted to drift. He’d waved at the launch taking the daytrippers back to Nassau from Pelican Cay when it had passed him a couple of hours ago. The passengers had waved back, looking tired and sunburned but happy.
No happier than he was, though.
No one was happier than Hugh McGillivray in his battered wooden boat – not even those high-living folks he’d seen partying on the snazzy yacht that had cruised past just a little while ago. He could still hear the sounds of calypso floating his way and see its lights in the dusk heading northwest.
He reached into his cooler and pulled out one last beer. The cooler had been full of ice and beer and sandwiches when he’d left this morning. Now it was full of fish – on top of what ice was left.
He’d been hoping for a good size grouper — one that would top the fish Lachlan had brought home last week. They’d been competing since they had come to Pelican Cay as teenagers. Lachlan still held the all-time record – having landed a fifty eight pound grouper when he was nineteen. But that had been half a life time ago. And even though he’d been insisting since then that Hugh would never beat him, Hugh still figured he would.
Especially now that Lachlan rarely went fishing anymore. He was far too busy these days with his collection of small inns and resort hotels, not to mention with his wife. Particularly now that Fiona was expecting.
Hugh grinned as he thought of his normally svelte sister-in-law who was now in what she called, “the waddling way.” Fiona had been his friend for a lot of years. He thought she’d make a wonderful mom. The thought of Lachlan as a dad boggled the mind. Actually the thought of Lachlan as a husband had taken some getting used to. During his years as a professional soccer player, Lachlan had been known in the tabloids as “the gorgeous goalie,” and he’d certainly taken advantage of his reputation. Women had followed him in droves. Probably still would follow him if he showed any interest.
But Lachlan was only interested in Fiona. These days the gorgeous goalie was as domesticated as a cat.
Ever since Carin Campbell had married Nathan Wolfe two years ago, Hugh had decided that confirmed bachelorhood had a lot to recommend it. At the time he’d been seriously miffed that Carin had chosen another man — not that he’d shown it. He’d never ever worn his heart on his sleeve where Carin was concerned.
No one knew how much he’d cared.
Privately, though, Hugh had made up his mind that since the only woman worth marrying was taken, from here on out he’d simply play the field.
He could still admire Carin — love Carin, he admitted to himself — and enjoy her friendship. But he could also sidle up to any interesting female who turned up on Pelican Cay and flirt a little bit.
Or a lot. Whatever the situation required.
Hugh enjoyed flirting almost as much as he enjoyed fishing. It was fun. It sometimes led to bed which was also fun. And as long as no one took it seriously, no one got hurt.
He wished Lisa Milligan didn’t take it so seriously.
The flirting bit. Not the bed bit. They’d got to the flirting. They hadn’t got to bed — and they weren’t going to.
Hugh was quite happy to go to bed with willing women who knew they were having fun and nothing more. He wasn’t about to sleep with any woman who thought she was going to haul him to the altar.
And he didn’t need to be a mind reader to know that’s exactly what Lisa had in mind.
Lisa Milligan was a sweet naive young girl. Girl being the operative word. She was nineteen, for God’s sake! A child! Well, perhaps slightly more than that. But not much.
She was Tony at the bakery’s niece, taking a break from college, and working on the front desk at the Mirabelle, Lachlan’s extremely upscale, ultra-discreet, very fashionable Pelican Cay Inn. She’d been there since spring.
Finding herself, she told him.
Mostly, Hugh thought grimly, finding him.
In the beginning he’d teased and flirted with her a bit because it was what he did. That didn’t mean he wanted to marry her.
Lisa just thought it did. In fact she expected he would marry her. Like it was a foregone conclusion. She’d told Miss Saffron, the island’s biggest gossip, exactly that.
“She say it only be a matter of time,” Miss Saffron had told him a while back as she’d rocked on the swing of her shady front porch.
Not in this lifetime, Hugh had thought, shaken. He’d been doing his best to steer clear of Lisa ever since.
But it hadn’t helped. Nothing had helped. Not even when he’d told her flat out that he wasn’t the marrying kind.
She had just laughed and shown him her incredible dimples, then flashed her gorgeous grin. “Then I’ll just have to change your mind.”
She’d been doing her best for the past month. Everywhere Hugh had gone, there she’d been. In his shop, at the landing pad, on the dock, in the hammock on his porch this morning, for heaven’s sake!
“I wondered if you wanted to go for a swim?” she’d said hopefully.
“Can’t.” He’d been polite but brisk. It was a small island. People had to get along. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings. He just wanted her to understand she wasn’t for him.
“Oh.” She’d looked crestfallen. “I’ll see you later then?”
He’d grunted. “Gonna be gone all day.”
“I could come along. It’s my day off.”
He’d shaken his head. “Sorry. It’s business.”
Molly would have called him a liar. But he wasn’t. He needed to know where the good fishing was, didn’t he? That way he could direct his clients who wanted to know where to drop their lines.
So he’d been taking care of business all day, enjoying every moment with only Belle, his dog, for company. He especially enjoyed the fact that the entire landscape was Lisa-free.
Now Hugh stretched expansively, lounged back and, one last time before he headed home, jiggled his line.
It jiggled back.
“Whoa.” He sat up straight and grinned, patience rewarded. He played the line out a little, then drew it in, testing to be sure he hadn’t simply snagged a piece of driftwood.
He got a responding twitch. The twitch became a tug. A strong tug.
Hugh laughed delightedly. No driftwood this! Whistling through his teeth, he began hauling it in.
“Look at that!” he said happily to Belle when it jerked hard against his hand. “We’ve got a live one.”
The dog opened one eye and looked mildly interested, then started to close it again when the rod behind Hugh began to jerk and rattle as well.
Startled, Hugh swivelled around to see it bending and rocking like mad in the twilight. He reached to grab it, too, just as he caught sight of a thrashing movement off the side of the boat.
One hell of a big thrashing movement. The line he held jerked hard and he wrapped it quickly and tightly around his hand.
What had he caught? A bloody whale?
Hugh braced his feet and began to haul it in.
All of a sudden his catch broke the surface. And a woman — an absolutely furious woman — sputtered up. “For God’s sake, stop yanking on that line! You’re going to rip my dress right off!”