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Jordin Marshall spread her toes in the warm Florida sand and let the heady warmth seep into her. This was a long-time dream, and she wondered again if it was a fantasy. Having lived in the snows of Alaska and Utah all her twenty-four years, she’d finally found paradise.Stretching her bikini-clad body, she reached towards the sun’s warmth and light. Joyous laughter bubbled from her lips, and she hoped a merman would emerge from the depths of the blue gulf waves and claim her for his own. Well, not really. She just wanted a man. A man who wasn’t of her father’s choosing or the type he would choose: a return Mormon missionary, probably an exulted Brigham Young University or Rick's College grad. No, she'd escaped her daddy's clutches to find a man of her choosing. No return missionaries or religious nuts need apply. And no one was to know she was rich, either. She longed to find love on her own terms. To be loved for herself. That shouldn't be too hard since she was staying at Paradise Inc., a cosy little hotel on the gorgeous Gulf Shore of west Florida. If she couldn't find love in paradise, where could she?
Certainly not at Utah State even though she knew darned well her dad had sent her there to be as close to BYU as possible. If he'd had his way, she'd have attended BYU to get her MRS, but since she wasn't a temple-card carrying member of the Latter-day Saints, she'd been rejected. Had her dad ever been mortified. And had she ever been relieved. Like her mother, she had serious doubts about the church her father prized.
A handsome, well-muscled blond caught her eye, and remembering the flirting advice she'd recently read on the internet, she returned his smile. It was so wide, she could almost feel the cleft in her chin deepening. Pretending to look for the small black shark's teeth that were so abundant in the Gulf sands, she inched her way nearer to the hottie. But then a buxom, blonde female joined him and whisked him away, kicking sand in her wake and burying Jordin's dreams under clumps of wet sand.
Jordin bit back a sigh and bagged her sharks' teeth. Oh well, she consoled herself, there was sure to be an abundance of available men in Paradise. If not, looking on the bright side, at least she could make shark's teeth necklaces for all her friends back home.
She spent her afternoon playing in the surf and sand and sunbathing, trying to take a bit of pallor off her lily-white flesh. Since she didn't want to look like a cooked lobster, she reapplied her Bull Frog sunscreen every half hour and wore a visor and dark shades to protect her eyes that were more accustomed to light filtered through clouds than heavy doses of direct sun. Although she spied a lot of interesting men, she hadn't gotten up the nerve to approach any. What was she supposed to say? Carry me away? Make love to me? Save me from daddy dearest?
Oh, yeah. That would really attract men.
When her stomach rumbled, she gathered her gear, tossed her backpack over her shoulder and ambled back to the parking lot beside Paradise Inc. where she'd left her rental car. With the late afternoon sun pouring down on the resort, it looked almost as pearly white as the Anchorage Temple but not nearly so imposing. Surrounded by brilliant blooms and palm groves, it was also way more exotic.
Just as she was about to step into the roadway, a pair of bicyclists barrelled at her, and with a sharp intake of breath, she jumped back and toppled onto her derriere and into a mound of sand. Miffed that the men had almost run her down, she struggled to her feet and swatted angrily at the gritty sand coating her oily skin.