Excerpt: Lessons From A Latin Lover
Book 3: Pelican Cay Series
The trouble with blinding flashes of inspiration, Molly McGillivray decided as she scowled into the innards of the ancient Jeep she was removing the carburetor from, was that they were never in one’s comfort zone.
If they were, of course, they wouldn’t be blinding flashes of brilliance. They would be ‘ho hum, yes, of course’ notions that one would have thought of long ago.
The other trouble with blinding flashes of inspiration was that, once you thought of them, they wouldn’t go away.
They were so outrageous, so perverse, so downright awful that you couldn’t forget them!
They nagged and pestered and generally haunted you all the live long day.
Ever since her long-time fiancé, Carson Sawyer had come home last month, Molly had been wracking her brain for some subtle way to make him wake up and remember that they were, in fact, engaged.
Well, not exactly remember. Carson remembered. It was handy to remember. Having a fiancée allowed him to keep his attention on business and kept the fortune hunters at bay. It was ‘useful’ to be engaged, he’d once told her cheerfully. And back then she’d been quite happy to agree.
It had been useful to her, too.
But that was then. Enough was enough. They’d been engaged for years. It was time to do something about it – like get married.
But try telling Carson that.
Actually she had tried. But Carson’s mobile phone had rung the first time she’d broached the subject. And he’d had an emergency appointment another time. And the last time he’d been home, well, he certainly hadn’t noticed what she wanted him to notice – that they weren’t getting any younger, that everyone else was married and having kids and it was time they did, too.
She didn’t suppose things like starting a family were high on his list of priorities. She remembered well enough what Hugh had said when she’d asked him what had attracted him to Syd, his wife.
“Sex,” he’d said.
Syd had punched him.
“She’s a great housekeeper, too,” he’d added with a grin, dodging a second blow and then circling around to catch her in an embrace. “But I think it was mostly how unbelievably sexy she was.” He’d nuzzled her ear. “Still is,” he’d added with a wink, reaching down to pat her four month pregnant belly. Syd had rolled her eyes, but the light of love had been in them and Molly knew the feeling was mutual.
It was true, Molly realized. Sex did play a part. A big part. And her sister-in-law had sex appeal in spades. Sydney had probably been born with a come-hither look in her eyes. Molly figured she’d been born with safety lenses over hers so she wouldn’t get grit in them when she worked on engines which she did every day as the mechanic at Fly Guy Island Charters, the business she owned with her brother Hugh.
Molly loved the business. She loved the engines. But men didn’t notice women who worked on engines. Not as women anyway.
And they certainly didn’t have sexual fantasies about a woman who could take apart a carburetor and put it back together with no pieces left over. They didn’t want to take her to bed and make hot sweet love to her. They didn’t want to set a wedding date.
It didn’t even occur to them. To him. To Carson.
So she needed help. She needed to get his attention. To appeal to him on the same basic elemental level that Syd had appealed to Hugh. She needed to become a sexy, alluring woman.
Something of a stretch, she thought grimly, when she was generally covered in motor oil and wearing her brother Hugh’s t-shirts and steel-toed boots.
But she was willing to work. She just didn’t know where to start.
Or she hadn’t.
Until last night.
Last night she’d gone to the Grouper, the island’s most “happening” watering hole and had sat at one of the tables by the wall, watching the “happenings” – all the flirting and teasing and male-female innuendo and stuff – trying to get an idea of how to do it. From a distance she didn’t have a clue.
All she’d seen was who was at the center of it all – Joaquin Santiago.
Molly grappled with the carburetor a little more fiercely than was absolutely necessary, her jaw bunching as she remembered the moment the idea had entered her head.
She’d been sipping a beer and watching God’s gift to women, until recently one of Spain’s most important exports to the soccer world, Joaquin Santiago, assessing the females who were attempting to charm him. An accident had ended his career just months ago and according to Lachlan, he was still feeling the effects of it. Molly, watching him, couldn’t see it had left any lasting effects at all.
It certainly hadn’t done anything to dim his legendary appeal – or charm.
He smiled at this one, chatted with that one, flirted with them one and all. And then something happened. One woman appeared to catch his attention. Molly saw him straighten, zero in. His wicked grin flashed. The devil-may-care glint in his eye was evident clear across the room as he focused on that one woman and cut her out of the crowd.
Like a cutting horse with a cow, Molly thought, having seen some Texans doing exactly that last weekend on the television.
As Molly watched, Joaquin’s gaze locked with the woman’s. They’d smiled. Flirted. They’d moved closer together as they talked. The others didn’t leave, but it became clear they were a couple. Joaquin’s hand lifted as he gestured. The grin flashed again and when his hand came down it was on the woman’s arm. She moved in closer.
Molly watched intently. Two tourists moved between her and the unfolding drama. She leaned sideways, practically tipping off the bar stool to get a better look. But it wasn’t fifteen minutes until Joaquin and tonight’s conquest – or had she conquered him? Molly wondered – left the bar together. Obviously the man was a sex god.
But just as obviously, the women had something too. What?
What caused a man to single one out? Hone in on her?
Ask him, her idiot brain suggested. Right there in the middle of the Grouper the notion had come to her, and had almost knocked her on her butt.
Yeah right, she’d countered her own idiocy. Just walk up to the playboy of the western world and ask him what he finds appealing about any given one.
For him they only had to be breathing.
But even as she thought it, she knew it wasn’t true. Joaquin had standards. He had his pick of women, and he only chose certain ones.
“I’d take his leftovers,” Hugh had said once in his pre-Syd days.
Ask him, the voice persisted.
Molly snorted again, just thinking about it. Joaquin Santiago didn’t even know she was alive.
Well, he knew. He was one of her brother Lachlan’s best friends in the world. He’d been in and out of her life ever since he and Lachlan had played soccer together in Italy when he was nineteen. He’d come to Lachlan’s wedding and to Hugh’s, bringing a different equally gorgeous French model to each. He’d been charming to everyone, even Molly, giving her a taste of the Santiago charm as he’d asked to be introduced.
“Introduced?” Hugh had goggled. “That’s Molly! In a dress.”
It had been almost funny to see the unflappably debonair Santiago looking momentarily nonplussed as he’d had to admit he hadn’t recognized Lachlan’s sister wearing one of her friend Carin Campbell’s outfits.
“Dab a little engine grease on your nose, Mol,” Hugh had suggested cheerfully. “Then he’ll know you.”
“Shut up,” She’d laughed because she hadn’t cared what the likes of a playboy like Joaquin Santiago thought of her. Still didn’t.
She’d refused to dance with him then. She didn’t want to talk to him now. But clearly he knew what men found sexy and alluring in a woman. He knew what man a man sit up and take notice. He knew what made him sit up and take notice.
Ask him, that irritating little voice in her heard plagued her again.
But still she resisted. It would be too awful, too humiliating. How girly was it to admit you didn’t even know how to act like a girl? Molly shuddered at the thought. She hated admitting any weakness. She’d spent her life determined to keep up with her two older brothers, and damn it, she had. Anything they could do, she could do better.
There were some things, she was beginning to realize, that they would never have to do, blast their miserable hides.
She finished disassembling the carburetor and plunked the pieces in a pan of cleaner to soak. Surely she could come up with a better idea before Carson came home again.
She’d assumed he’d come to the Pelican Cay Homecoming Festival this month. It was going to be a big deal. Everyone on the island had got behind the plan and Molly had thought Carson’s return would be a given. But when she’d mentioned it, he’d shaken his head.
“Can’t. Got to go to Ireland.”
She’d smiled and done her best to hide her disappointment, telling herself he needed to do his job, and that it wasn’t important. There would be time for them. Hadn’t he just recently bought that big house in Savannah he was planning to restore? Didn’t that mean he was thinking about marriage and family?
Maybe she didn’t need to do anything to entice him.
Carson was a dark horse, after all. He kept his own counsel and did his own thing in his own time. No one else from Pelican Cay had gone from a poor fisherman’s son to a multi-millionaire in twelve short years. Carson had because he had always known what he wanted to do.
And he’d simply gone out and done it. He hadn’t talked about it.
Perhaps next time he came, he wouldn’t talk about marriage either, he’d just bring a license and they’d get hitched.
Or perhaps he’d be as distracted as ever, Molly thought wearily.
The phone rang. She had gunk on her hands and let the answering machine get it. Whoever wanted to schedule a flight could leave a message and Hugh could call them when he got back..
“Mol? Sorry I missed you. Thought you’d be there.”
Oh God! She stumbled across the room and punched the speaker button with her elbow. “Carson? Hi! I’m here! Where are you?”
“In Miami. Just got a break in a meeting. I ran into a couple of islanders last night and we got to talking. Got a little homesick.” There was a catch in his voice that made Molly smile.
“Yeah. Missed it. Missed you,” he said gruffly.
Molly’s heart kicked over. “Me, too. But I know you’re busy.”
“I was. Still am,” he said. “But some things are more important, you know?”
“Good. So I just wanted to let you know I’ve rescheduled Ireland. I’ll be there for homecoming.”
Molly grinned. “You will?”
“Yep. And we can talk and – Oh hell. Gotta run. See you next Saturday.” There was a click and Molly stood staring at the dead phone.
Outside she could hear the Pelican Youth Soccer team yelled as they practiced and her brother Lachlan shouted out instructions for a drill. Inside she could hear the pounding of the blood in her ears.
Carson was coming home!
A surge of hope shot through her. He wanted to talk! Fine. Good. She wanted to talk, too.
But she and Carson had been talking for years. That’s pretty much all they had ever done beside some dreaming and some kissing and some teenage groping and fooling around. Everything else had been set aside because Carson had been far too busy.
And because he’d never been especially inclined to make love to a woman who smelled like engine oil and wore steel-toed boots? Molly wondered.
Well, she could get rid of the smell and buy a new pair of shoes.
And then what?
Joaquin Santiago would know, her irritating little voice reminded her.
And yes, that was true. He would. But she did not want to ask him!