The Trouble With Paradise
To Kelsey for giving up homework time to look up iguanas in the South Pacific for me.
To Megan for doing the dishes every time I whined about my deadline.
To Courtney for sometimes cooking her own dinners of questionable nutritional value during the writing of this book.
And last but not least, to David for putting up with me since before the fall of Rome.
Only a week ago, Dorie Anderson’s nighttime fantasies had run along the lines of, say, Matthew McConaughey, but now as she lay on the long, golden stretch of beach, staring past their shelter to the star-riddled night sky, she fantasized about chocolate chip cookies.
Make that double chocolate chip cookies.
Sorry, Matthew, but priorities were priorities. Stuck on a deserted South Pacific island without cookies? Serious suffering going on.
All around her came the sounds that people tended to buy those nature CDs for: the waves gently hitting the shore, crickets chirping, an exotic bird squawking…
Her stomach growling.
She put her hand on her belly, thinking she’d give her right arm for an entire bag of cookies all to herself. Maybe even her left as well.
“How’s the patient?”
Ah, there he was, the bane of her existence. She knew this because just his voice made her nipples go all happy.
She felt him sit in the sand at her side but she didn’t look at him. Nope, looking at him was a really bad idea because then her brain would begin that painful tug-of-war.
She sighed. “Go away.”
“Ah. You’re feeling better.” He lay next to her so that his arm brushed hers, the one she would definitely sell for that bag of chocolate chip cookies.
“Question,” she said.
“Do you ever think about chocolate?”
He turned his head and looked at her. He was all hard, lean, sinewy lines to her soft, curvy ones. She imagined if she pointed out how different they were, he’d say he liked those differences very much. “I think about other things,” he said.
His arm shifted, just barely pressing into the side of her breast. And more than just her nipples got happy.
“Here’s something to wake you up.” Instead of taking the hint and leaving, he rolled to his side, facing her. “Our bet.”
Oh, no. “We are not going to talk about the bet.” No way.
“That’s because you lost.”
He was silent, letting that lie live a life of its own as she remembered the details…
As if she could forget.
“You could just pay up,” he suggested.
That thought shot tingles of excitement directly into certain areas of her anatomy that had no business getting excited. She closed her eyes, a bad idea because her other senses took over. How did he manage to smell like heaven on earth while on a deserted island? “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He just laughed softly.
“You didn’t hit your head that hard,” he said. “You
“You’re not going away. Why aren’t you going away?” she asked desperately, knowing
Beneath this very starlit sky. “If you were nice, you’d go.”
He lifted a broad shoulder. “Never claimed to be nice.”
“Plus we’re stuck on an island,” he pointed out. “Just how far away do you think I can go?”
Keeping her eyes closed, she sighed again. She really hated it when he was right.
Damn, it was hard to run in her cute new cork-heeled sandals, but Dorie pumped her arms and did her best as she made her way through the parking lot. She was only five minutes late for work, but the store manager of the Los Angeles Shop-Mart she worked for had fired people for less. In fact, Mr. Stryowski was on a downsizing spree, firing staff left and right, which meant it’d been a really bad morning for her alarm to malfunction.
Okay, it hadn’t been her alarm. It’d been her hair straightener. But a girl had to do what a girl had to do, and that did not include going to work with frizzy hair, thank you very much.
Into the store, past the food court…