Island Idyll

By: Jess Dee

Dedication

Viv, it’s taken a while, but we finally did it! Woot. (Bet you’d almost given up on me.)

Lex, here’s to writing many more books together in the middle of the night. *Yawn*

Ladies—I’ve had a brilliant time writing the anthology. Looking forward to round two.



Fedora—Thank you. For your sharp eyes, good advice, wise comments and honesty. You realize you’ve become an essential part of my book writing process?



Jennifer (Editor Extraordinaire)—I’m not sure whether you’re crazy or just plain wonderful to have taken on the Bandicoot project, but damn, I’m glad you did!





Chapter One

You Are Personally and Cordially Invited to Attend

The Soft Opening of Australia’s Newest FIVE-STAR Luxury Resort

BANDICOOT COVE on Bilby Island.

Bring a plus one if you desire.



All expenses and needs will be catered for

as we test our customer services in preparation for the Grand Opening.



(P.S. Can you believe I got this job, guys? Wow!!

See you soon,

Love, Kylie

XXXX)



(P.P.S.—Si! Wait ’til you see who installed our computer network. Your eyes are gonna pop.)



Sienna James drew her arm back, took aim and flung a flattish oyster-colored shell forward with as much gusto as she could manage. It sailed a good five meters in the air, landed with a muffled plop and sank beneath the pristine water surrounding the tropical and oh-so-beautiful Bilby Island.

With a satisfied grin, Sienna buried her feet in the wet sand, the sludgy grains squishing between her toes and leaned down to get another shell. Taking careful aim, she tossed it just as far as before. This time however, as she released the shell, she let out a mighty whoop.

Why the hell had she never considered tossing out her troubles before? So far, it was working a treat. With every shell that landed in the ocean, the shackles of her grief loosened, and throw-by-throw, step-by-step, she walked free of them.

Before lobbing the next shell as far as it could go, she brought it up to face level, glared at it with one eye and named it.

“Ben Cowley,” she said and let it fly.

Ben sank gratifyingly fast.

“Dead-end engagement,” she said to another shell and watched it disappear beneath the surface—just the way her ex-upcoming wedding had. Without even a splutter of breath. Both the shell and the wedding were gone. Never to resurface.

She held up a multi-hued shell, complete with intricate twirls and whorls. “Eight freaking years of my life,” she yelled at it. “Eight!” This one flew even farther than the rest, and she had to shake the tension from her wrist as it plopped into the sea.

With every shell that vanished from sight, the burden of her break-up with Ben, which had been weighing down on her shoulders like rotting seaweed, seemed to ease. Tossing her woes aside was exactly what Sienna needed. A kind of ceremonial reawakening. Three months of mourning a dying relationship was long enough. It was time to live again.

Hurling her ex-mother-in-law-to-be into the ocean felt surprisingly good. So damn good, she tossed her in again, just for the hell of it.

The freedom of her actions sang to her. God, she hadn’t felt this positive, this liberated, in months. If the water could drown her sorrows so effectively, what could it do to her body?

She was about to find out.

Checking up and down the deserted beach for any possible sign of life—and finding none—she stripped down to her underwear. With one more cautionary glance to her left and right, she ditched her bra and panties.

Whooping again, she rushed at the water. The welcoming sapphire sea engulfed her. Warm, briny water closed around her legs, then her waist, drawing her into its crystal-clear depths. With a gulp of air, she ducked beneath the surface, submerging herself completely. Silence swam around her. Salt burned her eyes. Peace descended.

When her lungs groaned, voicing their urgency for oxygen, she kicked off from the sandy bottom and exploded into the air. Water splattered in a million different directions.

Throwing her troubles away had been a fantastic idea. Washing them away in this glorious island sea, with only brightly colored fish for company, was the single best idea she’d had in years.



Josh Lye stopped to catch his breath before sprinting back to the hotel. The lack of physical distance on the island bothered him not at all. Laps of four-hundred-meter sprints across an island beach under the tropical Queensland sun beat city-bound traffic-laden jogs hands-down, any day.

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