Rendezvous

By: Sami Lee

Chapter One


“Your cargo’s arrived.”

Cassie Dalton—Cassiopeia to her parents but to no one else, ever, no way, no how—glanced up from the shelf of supplies she was currently raiding to quirk an eyebrow at Tilly Steen. “A full hour early? They must be keen.”

“He,” Tilly corrected. “Intimidating type. Good looking in a rough kind of way. The wife hasn’t arrived yet.”

“I guess I’ll go say hello then.” Cassie dumped the items on the sales counter. A couple of new rod holders in case the happy couple turned out to be keen on fishing, some spare U bolts, cleats and other deck hardware that came in handy from time to time on a yacht. Not to mention her own private stash of Snickers bars. Could never have too many of those.

Tilly rang the items up and added the total to Cassie’s account. She had a thirty-day payment plan with Steen’s Chandlery, and thank God for it. She’d needed the grace period more than once over the past year. Yacht-charter businesses in the Whitsundays had once thrived, but recently a spate of “extreme weather events”, as they liked to call them on the news, had turned a lot of tourists off traveling to the Australian tropics.

Fortunately, Mr Robin Sherwood and his wife weren’t concerned about being washed away in a cyclone. They’d booked the entire week with all the bells and whistles. The premier package included daily gourmet meals washed down with fine champagne, snorkelling lessons and guided tours of the islands on their route through the passage if they so required them. In other words, Cassie could look forward to six days and five nights of kissing butt. She didn’t mind. The cash infusion the Sherwoods would inject into her charter business was desperately needed right now.

She stepped out of the chandlery and into the warm morning sunshine. October in Airlie Beach was a beautiful thing. Cloudless blue skies and intense cerulean water unmarred by whitecaps. Multitudes of white-hulled yachts rested peacefully at Abel Point Marina. The aroma of salt air, sunscreen and lush native foliage. Cassie inhaled gratefully. She’d missed this area while she’d been away. Nothing in the hustle and bustle of Sydney could compare.

Nothing except the joy of resting peacefully in Reed’s arms as they fell asleep together after a round or two of hot sex.

Damn it. It had been almost twelve months since she’d laid eyes on him. Twelve months spent trying not to remember how it felt to be with him, to be the centre of his world, if only for a few moments. Sometimes she even managed to push the memories aside and convince herself she’d done the right thing in returning here. Leaving him.

Sometimes.

Other times, she wondered if she should have worked harder, if somehow their break up had been her fault even more than his. She’d probably never know for sure. Talking things out in an open and honest manner was not Reed Dalton’s style.

It was approaching eight a.m. by the time Cassie traversed the wharf, passing other charter boats and some private vessels. When she came to a stop beside The Rendezvous—the forty-one-foot mono hull left to her by her Uncle Shane—Robin Sherwood was nowhere in sight. All that was visible on the jetty was a pair of size ten sneakers.

Cassie frowned. He’d already boarded The Rendezvous? That was incredibly rude. It was like walking into someone’s house when they weren’t home, all yacht owners knew that. However, her guest wasn’t a yachty, Cassie reminded herself. She was thankful he’d at least he’d had the sense to take off his shoes.

“Mr Sherwood?” Cassie slipped off her own shoes and climbed over the stern rail. She rested her bag of purchases on the seat in the cockpit and headed to the open cabin hatch. She’d been aboard already this morning to do some necessary preparation for her new guests, and she’d left the hatch unlocked. Still, that wasn’t an open invitation for a stranger to waltz right inside. Cassie disliked this Sherwood character more with each second. She hoped the liberties he’d taken so far didn’t set the tone for the rest of the trip.

“Mr Sherwood?” she called again as she went below deck. “Are you on boar—?”

The rest of her question was lost on an oomph as she collided with someone coming up the stairs. The sun had been bright outside, and for a few seconds the contrasting darkness in the cabin played havoc with her vision. As her balance wavered, she reached blindly for purchase. She found herself gripping a hard biceps with one hand, a trim waist with the other. Her face came to rest in the curve of a man’s neck and he curled an arm around her. His face was clean shaven and Cassie could feel the smooth skin caressing her temple. He smelled good, like woodsy aftershave and plain soap.

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