How to Love(10)

By: Kelly Jamieson

“Yeah.” She shot Mike a sideways smile. “He was. He didn’t buy anything though.” One corner of her mouth kicked up.

Neve made a little noise like she was clearing her throat and Jules caught her lifted eyebrow. Oh yeah, she hadn’t told Neve about Mike’s visit to the gallery. For some reason, Mike seemed like something she wanted to keep…to herself.

But he wasn’t hers, and that was a silly thought because when it came to men, she had no desire to have anyone belong to her, or for her to belong to them.

“I saw your prices,” Mike said. “I couldn’t afford to buy anything.” His eyes glinted.

She smiled. “I’m worth every penny.”

“I’m sure you are.” Their eyes met and held, and the air thickened around them. Then she turned back to Carlos. “So you and Mike run an adventure tour company, huh? That sounds cool.”

“We like it.” He smiled.

“How long have you been doing that?”

“I started working for the company a few years ago, when I’d just gotten out of the Navy. I couldn’t stand the idea of working in an office or doing nine to five. One of my old Navy buddies owned the business. Then we needed better management, and Mike was looking for a change from the accounting job he was working at.”

“Total dead end,” Mike added. “I like number crunching, but I wasn’t getting any opportunity to use business management skills.”

“We even got him guiding some of the tours when we needed help,” Carlos continued. “He’s the one who thinks up new marketing ideas and new adventures we can try, and he brought in a whole lot of new customers. Then Jim wanted out of the business, and I had the idea we should buy it from him.”

“And I thought he was crazy,” Mike said, grinning. “As usual he was ready to jump in the deep end without looking. I wanted to take time and do the research.”

“But the research convinced him it was worth the risk,” Carlos said.

Jules watched the two men as they talked, the easy familiarity that told her they were good friends and business partners who knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

“We’ve grown a lot since then,” Carlos added. “We now have a staff of twelve guides and a couple of office staff as well. We just developed a high ropes course that should bring in a lot of corporate business.”

“High ropes? What is that?”

“It’s a course where people climb up and do different challenges way up in the air.”

“Christ,” Jules said. “I’m afraid of heights.”

Carlos and Mike laughed. “Then it would be a good way for you to overcome that,” Carlos said. “Everyone is all safe and secure with a harness and a helmet.”

“Corporate groups use it as a teambuilding exercise,” Mike said, his eyes focused on her so intently it made her warm. “We developed a program that focuses on communication methods and problem solving techniques that mimic the kind of skills required in the real world and work environments. Participants explore things like trust, cooperation and thinking outside the box. It’s a great team building experience.”

“Cool. What other things do you do?”

They talked about their horseback rides, kayaking, biking, rock climbing. “One thing we don’t have is a good surfing instructor,” Mike said.

“The Surf Sisters teach surfing,” Neve said.

“Yeah. We’d be kind of competing with them.”

“They teach a lot of kids, though,” Jules said. “And they’re really busy. There’s probably a market for more surfing lessons here, especially in the summer.” She eyed Mike and Carlos. “You two don’t surf?”

Mike laughed. “I do, but I’m not that great at it.”

Carlos shook his head. “Same here. We need someone really good. If you hear of anyone looking for work teaching, let us know.”

“There are lots of surfers around San Amaro,” Neve said. “Shouldn’t be too hard to find someone.”

“That’s true,” Jules said. “I’m not into scary adventures. Like rock climbing, or high…ropes or whatever you called it.”