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Good question, Ethan muttered. No, he didn't have any idea what he was doing. But he was doing it anyway. When in doubt, he usually just plowed ahead and hoped for the best.
"You're driving on the wrong side of the road," Kim's father pointed out.
Ethan glanced at the man who might someday be his father-in-law. Ross Hamilton sat rigidly in the front passenger seat of the rented Oldsmobile, his jowls just beginning to go soft, his silver hair thick and precisely styled, his skin preternaturally tan and his eyes framed with the sort of creases that implied he squinted a lot, presumably at people he didn't approve of. Ethan suspected he fell into that category.
"People drive on the left side of the road in St. Thomas," Ethan explained.
"St. Thomas is part of the United States," Ross argued. "Why don't they drive on the right?"
"I don't know."
"This is an American car. The steering wheel is on the left."
"Yes." Ethan was having a hard enough time getting used to left-sided driving. He didn't need Ross undermining his concentration by badgering him with questions.
"Perhaps you should have arranged for someone to pick us up at the airport," Ross chided.
"My friend Paul told me the cabs on the islandare overpriced. By renting the car for the week, we'll save a lot of money." Surely his thrift would win him a few points in his potential father-in-law's view.
"In the meantime, we might wind up in a head-on collision."
"I'm on the right side of the road. The left side," Ethan corrected himself. Even with cool air blasting from the vents, he felt dampness gathering at his nape. Ross exuded not a single drop of perspiration, despite wearing a linen blazer over his polo shirt. July in St. Thomas - it was hot on the other side of the windshield. Ross Hamilton didn't sweat, though. He was obviously a chilly man.
Ethan wished Kim hadn't insisted on including her parents in this outing. He'd gotten access to Paul's timeshare because, as Paul put it, no one in his right mind would want to go to St. Thomas in July. Paul's regularly scheduled week at the resort on Smith Bay was in January, but last January he'd had the chance to go skiing in Aspen with friends, and he'd chosen that over the tropics. So he'd traded his week with a woman who owned a week in July in the same unit, and then offered the July week to Ethan if he wanted it.
Ethan had thought a week in St. Thomas, even in the middle of the summer, would offer Kim and him a fun getaway. Kim had been elated. "I hear jewelry is dirt cheap and duty-free down there," she'd said. "Maybe we could do a little shopping." Hint, hint.
Okay, she wanted an engagement ring. Ethan was willing to concede that the time for an engagement ring might be drawing near - and if that time arrived, why not buy one that was dirt cheap and duty-free? In March, when Paul had first offered him the week at the condo, this had all seemed like a good idea.
Then Kim had heard that the unit had two bedrooms, and she'd come up with the clever idea of bringing her parents along. "It will give them a chance to get to know you better," she'd argued. "I want them to love you as much as I do. We could have great fun, Ethan."
Kim had been naked when she'd mentioned this, sliding her hand in provocative ways over his chest while simultaneously stroking his shin with her toes. She and Ethan had been having great fun at that moment, and he hadn't been thinking clearly. So he'd said, "Sure."
The van behind him was tailgating so closely Ethan could practically see the pores on the driver's nose in his rearview mirror. Steep hills rose to one side of the road and a turquoise sea spread along the other side. He was in alien territory, surrounded by palm trees and brilliant crimson flowers, squat stucco houses and sprawling, cliff-hugging mansions. Cars, jitneys and small buses kept coming at him on the narrow, winding road - and they were on his right. The entire experience was disorienting.
Adding to his tension was a goat ambling along the asphalt no more than a hundred feet ahead.
"Oh, my God!" Kim shrieked from the back, where she and her mother had spent the entire time since they'd buckled their seat belts thumbing through guidebooks and plotting shopping expeditions. "It's a goat!"
Ethan tapped on the brakes to slow down and prayed that the driver behind him wouldn't rearend them. A fender bender would not be an auspicious way to start this vacation.
"I've got to have a picture of the goat," Kim declared. "Can you pull over, Ethan?"
"Where's the camera? Do you have it in front? I don't have it back here."
"It's in the trunk," he told her, slowing even more as he drew within a few yards of the animal.
"My first St. Thomas goat, and I don't have a camera," Kim wailed.
My first St. Thomas headache, and I don't have an aspirin, Ethan thought. During a brief lull in the opposite lane's traffic, he swerved around the goat, which glanced up from its grazing. Thin and brown, its jaw pumping and its black eyes piercing, it gave Ethan a contemptuous look, as if to say, This is paradise, pal. Mellow out.
Ethan wished he could. If only Ross Hamilton weren't occupying the seat next to him and Delia Hamilton weren't occupying the seat directly behind him, her unnaturally blond hair as flawlessly arranged as her husband's, her skin as free of perspiration and her face lacking incipient jowls because Santa Claus had left some plastic surgery under the tree for her last winter. If only Kim Hamilton, the woman Ethan was contemplating marrying, weren't squawking about her camera in the trunk.... Ethan would love to mellow out, but at the moment, the thought of leaping out of the car, slamming the door on the entire Hamilton family and joining the goat in a nice little snack of roadside grass held an odd appeal.
He promised himself he would mellow out as soon as they arrived at Palm Point, the beachfront complex where Paul's time-share was located. Until they reached their destination, he was going to have to fight his natural inclination to steer onto the other side of the road, and he was going to grit his teeth at being cooped up inside a fat American sedan with Kim's parents.
Vacations were for relaxing. He'd damn well better get to relax - and if everyone would just shut up, he might survive the half hour it took to drive to the place where relaxation would be possible.
If only he hadn't agreed to let Kim's parents come.... He and she could have escaped here by themselves for a week of exclusive togetherness. A week alone with her, when neither of them was distracted by the demands of their hectic lives, their careers and other obligations, would have given them the chance to make sure a lifetime commitment was right for them. He supposed having the chance to sample the Hamiltons as future in-laws would help him make up his mind, too. But he wouldn't be marrying Ross and Delia Hamilton. If he and Kim got married, he wouldn't have to see her parents more often than a few times a year, since the Hamiltons lived in Chevy Chase, Maryland, a good three hundred miles from Arlington, Connecticut.
(Continues ... )
Excerpted from Right Place, Wrong Time by Judith Arnold
Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted December 9, 2008
His friend Paul lends Arlington, Connecticut resident Ethan Parnell use of a time sharing condo in St. Thomas. Ethan takes his fiancee and her parents with him. Carol allows her Bronx pal Gina Morante to use the same condo at the same time that the Parnell party plans to stay there. Gina¿s seven-year-old niece the Ally Cat accompanies her on her vacation. <P>Switching dates and misunderstanding of summer use causes Paul and Carol¿s mix up. Though Ethan and Gina argue over who has the right of occupation, they are also attracted to one another. When they return to their respective homes, neither can forget the other. Soon Ethan and Gina fall in love, but he is an upper class Connecticut Yankee while she is a working class Bronx Yankee making the only link besides devotion, the New England Expressway. <P>This amusing class war romance takes the fabulous 1970s movie The Heartbreak Kid and turns it on its head by reversing how the audience reacts to the female characters. Though Alicia the fiancee (and her parents) comes across as too snobbish to compete with Gina and her warm family, Ethan¿s bewilderment over whether he is marrying the wrong woman is a delight to behold. Fans will appreciate this three wrong (place, time and girl) romance. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.