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Sheiks Of Summer
By Susan Maller
Harlequin EnterprisesCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe island of Lucia-Serrat glittered like an emerald in a bed of sapphires. Phoebe Carson pressed her forehead against the window of the small commuter plane and stared at the lush landscape below. As they circled in preparation for landing, she saw a snow-white beach, a rain forest, a crescent of blue, blue ocean, then a small city perched on a cliff. Her heart pounded in her chest and her ears popped.
The flight attendant announced that it was time to return seat backs and tray tables to their upright positions. What had seemed so strange when her journey had begun was second nature to her now. Phoebe tightened her seat belt and checked her tray table. She'd been too busy staring out the window to bother putting her seat back. She'd wanted to see everything as they approached Lucia-Serrat.
"Just as you promised, Ayanna," she whispered to herself. "So beautiful. Thank you for allowing me to spend this time here."
Phoebe returned her attention to the view out the window. The ground seemed to rush up to meet them, then she felt the gentle bump of the airplane wheels on the runway. She could see lush trees and bushes, tropical flowers and brightly colored birds. Then the plane turned to taxi toward the terminal and her view of paradise was lost.
Thirty minutes later Phoebe hadcollected her small suitcase and passed through customs and immigration. The official-looking young man had greeted her, stamped her passport and had asked if she had anything to declare. When she said she did not, he waved her through.
As easy as that, Phoebe thought, tucking her crisp new passport into her handbag.
All around her families greeted each other, while young couples, obviously on their honeymoon, strolled slowly arm in arm. Phoebe felt a little alone, but she refused to be lonely. Not at the beginning of her adventure. She found the courtesy phone and called her hotel. The hotel clerk promised that the driver would arrive to pick her up within fifteen minutes.
Phoebe had started for the glass doors leading out of the airport when a small store window caught her eye. She didn't usually shop very much, but the display drew her. Bottles of French perfume sat in nests of satin. Designer handbags and shoes hung on barely visible wires from the ceiling of the display case. Everything looked beautiful and very expensive, yet she knew there was no harm in looking while she waited for her ride to the hotel.
Phoebe stepped into the coolness of the store and inhaled a cloud of perfume-scented air. Different fragrances blended together perfectly. Although she was intrigued by the bottles on display, the tall, chicly dressed woman behind the counter made her nervous, so she turned in the opposite direction, only to find herself in front of a case of jewelry.
Rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces appeared to have been casually tossed into the velvet-lined case. Yet Phoebe suspected it took a long time to make everything look so artless. She bent to get a closer look. One of the center diamonds in a cocktail ring was larger than the nail on her little finger. Phoebe figured she could probably live well for a couple of years on what that one piece cost. If this was an example of shopping in Lucia-Serrat, she would restrict hers to looking in windows.
"I think that is too large for you." The unexpected comment caught her off guard. She straightened immediately, pressing her hand to her chest.
"I was just looking," she said breathlessly. "I didn't touch anything."
A man stood in front of her. While she was tall - nearly five-ten - he was several inches taller. Dark hair had been brushed back from his handsome face. There were tiny lines by the corners of his amazing brown-black eyes, and a hint of a smile teasing at the corners of his mouth. She told herself to look away - that it was rude to stare - but something about his expression, or maybe it was the sculptured lines of his cheekbones and jaw, compelled her.
He looked like a male model in an expensive liquor ad, only a little older. Phoebe instantly felt out of place and foolish. Her dress had cost less than twenty dollars at a discount outlet, and that had been last year, while the man's suit looked really expensive. Not that she had a lot of experience with things like men's suits.
"The bracelet," he said.
She blinked at him. "Excuse me?"
"I thought you were looking at the sapphire bracelet. While it's lovely and the color of the stones matches your eyes, it is too large for your delicate wrist. Several links would have to be removed."
She forced herself to tear her gaze from his face, and looked at the jewelry case. Right in the center was a sapphire bracelet. Oval blue stones surrounded by diamonds. It probably cost more than a beachfront hotel back home in Florida.
"It's very nice," she said politely.
"Ah, you do not like it."
"No. I mean yes, of course I like it. It's beautiful." But wishing after something like that was about as realistic as expecting to buy a 747.
"Perhaps there was something else you were shopping for?"
"No. Just looking." She risked glancing at him again. There was something about his dark eyes, something almost ... kind. Which made no sense. Handsome gentlemen didn't notice women like her. Actually no one noticed women like her. She was too tall, too thin, and much too plain. Nor had anyone ever made her stomach flutter as it was doing right now.
"Is this your first visit to Lucia-Serrat?" he asked.
Phoebe thought of the blank pages in her new passport. "It's my first trip anywhere," she confessed. "I'd never been on a plane until this morning." She frowned as she thought about the time zones she'd crossed. "Or maybe it was yesterday. I flew from Miami to New York, then to Bahania, then to here."
He raised one eyebrow. "I see. Forgive me for saying this, but Lucia-Serrat seems an unusual place to begin one's travels. Many people are not familiar with the island. Although it is very beautiful."
Excerpted from Sheiks Of Summer by Susan Maller Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.