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Make Me Yours
By SOPHIA SHAW
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2013 Sophia Shaw
All right reserved.
Chapter One"This place is pretty nice," William Holmes stated to his friend and coworker, Chad Irvine, as they drove down the fairway of an eighteen-hole golf course. "I was a little disappointed when they said we were going to Myrtle Beach this year, but this is not bad at all. It's not the Bahamas like last year, but it will do."
As he drove the golf cart, Chad nodded while looking around the perfectly manicured landscaping. He took a small bridge over a pond, then stopped near the putting green of the fifth hole. Both men hopped out and grabbed their putters from the bag of rented clubs strapped to the back of the buggy.
"I still can't believe I let you talk me into teeing off at seven-thirty in the morning," William continued as he prepared his stance for a long putt.
Chad chuckled. William had been complaining about it since Chad had booked the round of golf about a month ago.
"Come on, you must admit it feels good," he urged William. "It's a beautiful day on a spectacular course. And there's no one out here but us. What could be better than that?"
William completed a measured stroke before he replied, putting his ball within a few inches of the hole. "No one's out here because they're all sleeping in, Chad. That's what people do on these trips. Then they have a massage, eat a big lunch, and maybe do one of the afternoon activities. Didn't you read the itinerary?"
Chad executed his putt with a perfect stroke, which sank his ball to complete a birdie. He smiled with satisfaction.
"Well, we'll finish eighteen holes before lunch so you can relax all afternoon if you want," he replied to William as he watched his friend sink his ball on the next try.
"That's right. I'm going to stretch out on the beach in my Speedo!"
Both men laughed, knowing he would do no such thing. Though it was mid-September and the weather was still in the eighties, William was not the type to lounge around half naked in skintight swim trunks. He was five feet, eight inches tall and rail thin, unlikely to wear anything less than the cargo shorts and short-sleeved golf shirt he had on now.
Chad, on the other hand, was the opposite of his friend in almost every way. He was six feet, three inches tall and around 230 pounds of thickly carved, solid muscle. His rich, warm, copper skin was also a stark contrast to William's very pale complexion, pink from sun exposure. The huge difference in their physical appearance was a constant source of teasing and jokes between them and their other friends and coworkers. But their friendship was based on the similarities in their personalities and work ethics. Despite having very different backgrounds, Chad and William were both smart, hardworking, high-performing professionals strongly focused on their careers.
They had both been hired by Sheppard Networks almost right out of university over ten years ago, and rose quickly and steadily to high-level positions. William was a senior technical architect responsible for designing the company's bestselling remote access solution for business customers, and Chad was the financial controller for the business products department. They had worked closely together on many large projects over the years and built a reputation as a successful team. This five-day all expenses paid vacation to Myrtle Beach was a Sheppard Networks Platinum Club reward for the company's top ten performers and their spouses. Chad and William had been on the list for three of the last five years.
The friends continued to tease and taunt each other as they played through another four holes. They stopped by the clubhouse for a few minutes to take a bathroom break and purchase two bottles of orange juice, then continued to the tenth hole. It was a short 110-yard par three, but with a ridge of trees along the back of the green and two large water hazards. Chad checked his watch while William adjusted his form to tee off. It was quarter to ten, so they were making good time.
"Nice shot!" Chad exclaimed as they watched William's tiny white golf ball fly in a perfect arc down the middle of the fairway, over one of the ponds, and then roll to the edge of the green.
William grinned in obvious delight, then stepped back so Chad could take his turn. About a minute later, Chad pulled back to take a restrained swing with his seven iron. But something bright caught his eye off in the tree line just as he was following through to hit his ball, and he lost his focus. Chad knew right away that his aim was off and that he had used too much force. He watched with dismay as his ball flew over the green and disappeared into the foliage behind the hole.
"Well, at least it didn't end up in the water, right?" William stated with an amused look on his face.
Chad twisted his mouth with annoyance, but didn't bother to respond. As they walked to the cart, his eyes drifted to the trees again, directly in line with where his ball had landed, wondering what had distracted him to begin with. He drove them through the short fairway and parked on the path near the putting green, then headed off into the brush to try and find his ball.
The foliage turned out to be denser than he had anticipated, thick with bushes between a row of mature, majestic live oak trees. Chad's limit for looking for a lost ball was about five minutes, max. He bent low, hoping his ball would be visible from where he stood, saving him the effort of maneuvering his large body through a barrier of prickly branches. He slowly walked along the edge of the grass, using his club to push leaves and loose dirt around, but there was no sign of the small white sphere.
He let out a deep sigh, then looked behind him to the tee, trying to reassess the vector of his swing. The ball should have landed within the area he had estimated, so it must have dropped down deeper into the trees. William was still struggling with his putt, so Chad decided to have one more quick look around.
About thirty seconds later, he spotted the familiar white orb with the Sheppard Networks logo clearly visible. It was a few yards into the bushes, nestled against the wide trunk of a massive tree. Chad pushed his way through the shrubbery, then stopped as he heard rustling from above him. He looked up into the thick branches above, and a second later caught a glimpse of a round, tubular object catapulting down toward him. Instinctively, he leaned back with his hands lifted, but not fast enough. The heavy metal object clipped him at the side of his head before he managed to catch it with both hands.
The loud expletive came from somewhere up in the shady green canopy, and the Jamaican slang caused Chad to raise his eyebrows in surprise. He looked down into his hands and quickly realized that he had caught some sort of camera lens, one that was probably quite expensive judging by the weight and size. He then touched the tender spot on his skull to check for blood. Though his finger came away clean, the area was a little tender. Chad looked up again, trying to locate the negligent owner. There was more rustling, then a flash of orange color and additional cursing.
Several seconds later, he was still looking up into the tree, waiting for the clumsy person to finally emerge.
"Oh, thank God!"
The exclamation came from behind him, so Chad quickly turned around with his eyes flashing to demonstrate his annoyance. The sharp retort he was ready to bark back died quickly on his lips as his gaze dropped to the tiny woman standing in front of him.
"Is it damaged?" she continued, her attention completely focused on the lens.
Chad let her snatch it out of his hands, then silently watched as she spent the next minute or so doing a thorough examination. He was immediately struck by her unconventional appearance and intense focus on her task. She was short and slender, wearing a loose orange hooded sweatshirt over gray leggings, and knee-high purple rain boots. Her hair was a thick mass of small corkscrew curls held back from her face by a white cotton scarf folded into a triangle and tied at the nape of her neck. A large, serious-looking camera hung from a strap around her neck. She looked like a kid.
"Sweet Jesus!" she finally declared with an accent that was clearly Caribbean, her eyes closed and head thrown back with obvious relief.
"You're welcome," Chad finally stated after a few seconds. His voice was deep and thick with sarcasm. It was irrational, but her obliviousness to his presence annoyed him.
She finally looked up at him with large round eyes. Their golden copper color was several shades lighter than her creamy chestnut skin tone. "Sorry," she stated, blinking a few times. "I was certain the lens would be completely smashed. It's the only wide-angle lens I brought with me. The whole morning would be wasted without it. I can't believe it fell from that height and is still okay."
"That's because it made a soft gentle landing on my head," Chad growled back.
Her mouth opened in surprise. "I'm sorry," she stammered, clearly unprepared for his sarcastic tone.
"I'm lucky you didn't crack my skull open with that thing. What are you doing climbing around in trees on a golf course anyway? Forget your lens, you could have broken your little neck! Never mind injuring unsuspecting golfers!"
Chad didn't raise his voice, but his annoyance was obvious. She took a couple of slow steps back as though moving away from a hungry bear.
"Okay, I'm really sorry," she replied again, both hands raised with her palms facing him. "I've been out here since before sunrise and lost track of time. But I certainly didn't mean to cause any trouble."
She looked around them with darting eyes, still backing up. Chad let out a deep sigh, feeling a new wave of irritation with her skittish behavior. He wasn't going to hurt her, for god sakes.
"Thank you again for saving my lens," she stated softly before turning and walking behind the trunk of the tree she had climbed out of.
"Wait," he called after her, surprised to see her take off so quickly.
Chad followed her path to call out to her again, but she was nowhere to be seen. He continued around the circumference of the trunk, looking for any sign of her until he was back where he started.
"Hey, what's going on?" William yelled from a few yards away. "Are you still trying to find your ball?"
Chad looked over at his friend, his brow still wrinkled with a frown. "No, I found it," he replied, pointing to his ball still resting against the tree.
"Are you going to play it? There are a couple of people getting ready to tee off behind us," William explained.
Chad looked around the area again, then touched the tender spot on his head to see if the recent encounter had really happened. There was definitely going to be a small bruise. "Nah, let's move on to the next hole," he finally stated as he scooped up the white orb and headed back to finish the tenth hole.
"Are you sure?" William asked, clearly puzzled, when Chad reached the edge of the green. "What should I put down? Five strokes?"
"Yeah, that's fine," Chad replied.
"What took you so long and who were you talking to?" William continued as they walked to the cart.
"Didn't you see that girl?"
Chad looked over at him as they climbed into the vehicle. "The girl by the tree," he explained.
"I didn't see anyone. I only heard your voice. Why, what happened?"
"There was this girl in the tree taking pictures, and she dropped a lens, that's all," Chad explained briefly, letting out a long sigh.
He felt William looking at him oddly, but didn't elaborate further. The tension was slowly seeping out of his body, leaving him puzzled by his reaction to the odd female with the melodic voice who had appeared out of nowhere and disappeared even more quickly. Now it was clear his annoyance was an overreaction to the situation, and his words to her were unfair. He remembered the alarm reflected in her bright copper eyes and felt like a big bully.
What the hell had gotten into him? While his head was still a little sore, the minor injury was barely worth noticing. Maybe it was just his surprise at her fragile size coming down from such a dangerous height that made his heart beat faster with concern.
"Okay, this one is a par five, four hundred and thirty-one yards," William stated as Chad stopped the cart next to the tee for the eleventh hole. "According to the map, it cuts to the left around the middle of the fairway, and has a couple of sand traps next to the green."
"Okay, then let's get to it!" Chad replied with exuberance in an effort to refocus his energy back to the game.
The two men hopped out of the cart and grabbed their drivers, ready to tee off with the greatest distance possible. They played the hole aggressively, landing in the rough through a couple of strokes; then they both finished the hole one over par. By then, the friends were back to ribbing each other and bouncing around ideas about how to spend the rest of the day. It was almost noon when they returned to the clubhouse, and they were back at the resort by twelve-thirty.
"Just in time for lunch," William stated as they walked through the hotel lobby.
"Sandra and her husband should have a table for us by now," Chad replied while he quickly looked through the messages on his phone. "Yup, they're at the poolside restaurant. I'll meet you guys there in a few minutes. I want to see if I've got a new room yet. I won't last another night on that double bed."
The friends separated as William continued toward the restaurant at the rear of the hotel overlooking the pools and ocean, and Chad turned down a hall on his right that led to the registration desk. There were several people being checked in, so he stood in line, browsing the other messages on his phone as he waited for his turn. Out of the corner of his eye, Chad got a glimpse of something orange and purple to his left. He looked up quickly, turned toward that direction, but the blur of color was gone.
"Can I help you, sir?"
Chad blinked a few times, wondering if the image was real or just his imagination.
The voice calling out to him finally registered, and Chad faced the front desk again to find a young girl with a bright smile patiently looking at him.
"Yes ... sorry," he said as he approached her. "I checked in last night, but my room wasn't available for some reason, so you gave me a temporary one. Can you see if there is a king bed available now?"
"Sure, sir. I apologize for any inconvenience. What is your current room number?" the girl asked.
Chad pulled the key pass out of his pocket and handed it to her.
"Okay, Mr. Irvine, it looks like we do have your room ready now. And you've been given an upgrade to one of our executive suites. I'm sure you could use the extra space," she added with a teasing smile.
"That's great, thanks," he replied politely, not missing her flirtatious reference to his imposing size.
"Here is your new key. Would you like me to get a bellhop to help you move?" she asked.
"No, that's okay. I'm meeting friends for lunch, and I'll move my things after, if that's all right."
"No problem, Mr. Irvine. My name is Amy. And please let me know if you need anything else during your stay." She flashed another bright, inviting smile.
"Thank you, Amy," he replied with a respectful nod.
Chad turned away from the desk. Before heading to the restaurant for lunch, he found himself unable to resist taking another look around the open lobby for the mysterious girl from the tree who had nearly knocked him out.
Chapter TwoRebecca Isles didn't get back to her hotel room until almost one o'clock in the afternoon. After her awkward encounter with the big, angry giant, she grabbed her gear bag and ran off the golf course, not stopping until she reached her rented scooter parked in front of the clubhouse. There were very few people to be seen in the area, as one would expect on a Thursday morning, and a quick look around confirmed to Rebecca that no one was paying her any attention.
Once she carefully put her equipment into the large storage bag, Rebecca paused for a moment to catch her breath and calm herself, then went up the stairs and into the building.
"How did it go?" a heavyset man asked as he walked across the lobby toward her.
Rebecca let out a deep breath and smiled back at the general manager for the course, George Matthews.
"Hey, George, it was good. I got at least two hundred shots, so definitely time well spent," she replied once he stopped beside her.
"Good stuff, good stuff," he replied.
"Thanks again, for letting me on the course so early."
"It was no problem at all, Rebecca."
"Well, hopefully you'll like what I've done and have all the pics you'll need for the new marketing ads," she added.
Excerpted from Make Me Yours by SOPHIA SHAW Copyright © 2013 by Sophia Shaw. Excerpted by permission of DAFINA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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