New release! From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Tricia O'Malley, comes a brand new series about love, self-discovery, and embracing your inner mermaid.
“Business or pleasure?”
“Business,” Sam said automatically, her fingers tightening on the strap of the laptop case that rarely left her shoulder.
“And what is your business on Siren Island?” The customs agent spoke with a bouncy cadence, his words slow and richly rounded, the music of the islands flowing through his voice.
“I… I mean, pleasure,” Sam said, startled to realize it was true. A drop of sweat slipped between her shoulder blades. That morning, in a haze of what-the-hell-am-I-doing, she’d donned what she’d come to term her Air Barbie uniform. It had breezed her through most airports in the world, straight into whatever hotel finance meetings she was attending, and had earned her more than her fair share of upgrades.
Impeccably tailored slacks? Check. Tasteful diamond stud earrings? Check. And a silk blouse in a muted color – not too bright, as she’d learned that the men in the board meetings she ran often took a power color as an invitation to flirt.
Though why she’d added her diaphanous silk scarf and patent leather sling-backs to the outfit, Sam had no clue.
Her plane wouldn’t be landing in a fiercely air-conditioned airport with valets to whisk her luggage away as she went from one perfectly manicured space to the next. Oh no. Not even close.
Instead, here she was holding up a line of sweaty, boisterous passengers who all seemed to have overindulged on the plane ride down to whichever hotel’s all-inclusive vacation package they’d signed up for. The sun, an angry unrepentant dictator, broiled them all with her cruel rays.
“Which is it, ma’am? Business or pleasure?” The customs agent regarded her carefully, and it annoyed Sam to see not even a sheen of sweat on the man’s face, though he wore neatly pressed khaki pants and a button-down shirt. Why were there no enclosed rooms in this hut of an airport? Samantha knew for a fact that the island had access to the internet; surely they’d learned of the invention of air conditioning by now.
“Pleasure. My apologies. I travel so much for work that I forgot this trip was for pleasure,” Sam said, sweeping her tastefully highlighted auburn hair over her shoulder and flashing the agent the smile that had opened more than one door for her in the past.
“That’s a shame, ma’am. One should never forget to take time for pleasure.” The agent’s voice never changed, but something flashed in his eyes for just a moment – a warm male appreciation that, for once, didn’t feel predatory. Sam got the impression that he enjoyed all women. When she heard him begin flirting with the lady behind her, who sported a fanny pack and an unruly swath of grey hair, her assumption was confirmed.
His words followed her as she tapped her foot impatiently by the single-loop baggage conveyor belt, and Sam’s annoyance reached peak levels as another passenger jostled her to peer over her shoulder.
“I really hope they didn’t lose our bags this time. I swear, Carl, every time we come here something gets lost.”
Then why did they still come here? Sam wondered in frustration, deliberately spreading her elbows a bit to strike a power pose – the one she used in crowds to force people to step away from her a bit.
For that matter, what was she even doing here? As Sam’s thoughts flashed back over the last forty-eight hours, sweat began to drip in earnest down her back, and she was certain she could actually feel the blood pumping through her heart. Gulping for air, she looked around wildly. What this airport needed was some fans.
The sunlight seemed to get brighter and the eager laughter of the crowd around her sounded like the braying of mules. The faces and laughter and heat and sweat all pressed on her until Sam turned to run – only to find herself trapped by the crowd. Panic skittered its way up her throat and she gasped, trying to draw a breath against the warm press of bodies pushing toward the bags that now belched from a small flap-covered hole in the wall.
A hand closed on hers and Sam’s gaze slammed into cool blue eyes – the color of the sea – and a calm wave of energy seemed to pour through her. She lost herself in the reassuring smile of a woman, a peaceful oasis of calm, who pulled her through the crowd.
“Sit.” Samantha’s butt had barely touched the seat when the woman unceremoniously pushed Sam’s head between her legs. She gulped air, desperately trying to hold her panic attack at bay. The last thing she heard before it all went dark was the woman’s voice.
“This one’s mine.”