Read an Excerpt
Seth Jackson sighed in resignation as he ended his conference call with the management team of the Oceanix Resorts. He swiveled his chair so that he was facing the wall of glass behind him. The Atlantic Ocean sparkled in the hot July sunshine as crowds of tourists lined the beaches below. Some days it was torture sitting in the office in a suit while looking down upon nothing but bikinis and swim trunks. That was one of the hard things about living and working in a resort town. Sometimes, or in his case, most of the time, work came first. Knowing it was pointless to delay; he spun his chair back to his desk and signed his name to the bottom of the contract from Danvers International. It wasn’t that he had a problem with the company itself, because they were the best there was in the communications field. But now whenever he thought of Danvers, he thought of Beth Denton and their last date together. That was probably one of the most surprising and awkward moments in his dating life.
His best friend, Brett, had been going through a rough time since his girlfriend had ended their long-term relationship. Brett was a relationship kind of guy and he was desperate to find someone new to fill the void that Becka’s departure had left behind. One night after multiple rounds of drinks, Seth had agreed to try out a local dating service with Brett. He really hadn’t intended to do anything other than pay his enrollment fee and go through the motions until Brett found someone. When he had run across Beth’s profile on the computer, he had been more than a little interested. She was beautiful and sounded like someone he would have a lot in common with. He had asked her out that same day and had been very impressed on their first date. They had gone out a few more times and had even progressed to some hot goodnight kisses before she had suddenly gone AWOL for a few months. When she finally returned his call and accepted another date, he had been excited and ready to move the relationship forward until the dinner discovery.
He had met Beth at Sara J’s, one of his favorite seafood restaurants in Garden City Beach, South Carolina. When she had walked in, he thought she looked different. He knew it was probably a bit crude, but she had the look of a woman well fucked. During their initial dates, she was always a tad reserved and obviously nervous, but on that night, she had seemed more confident in herself and her sexuality. He was pretty sure at that point what had been occupying her for the past few months, but maybe that was over since she had accepted his dinner invitation.
They had just settled at their table with the conversation flowing easily when a man had approached their table. It was obvious that he knew Beth. He suspected from their body language that they had been intimate. He had been surprised when the introductions were made. He had heard of Nick Merimon. Hell, Myrtle Beach was a small town where you either personally knew or knew of most everyone in the business circles. He had heard that Danvers International had merged with Mericom, which had been owned by the Merimon family. He knew Jason Danvers socially and had met Gray Merimon, Nick’s brother, on a few occasions. Nick’s reputation as a ladies’ man preceded him. Even though they both worked for Danvers, he wouldn’t have suspected a personal connection between Nick and Beth. They seemed to be complete opposites. He actually found himself feeling a little sorry for Beth. He was afraid that she had probably been seduced and dumped. He, of course, would be happy to swoop in and give her the support she needed to move on. He wasn’t looking for long-term so he was happy to be her rebound guy if needed.
He had barely had time to relish that thought when things had gone wildly off course. He had asked Beth how she knew Nick and she had said that they worked together. Nick had added that they lived together and that they were having a baby. He had actually been tempted to laugh at first, sure that this was some kind of bad attempt at humor on Nick’s part. When he took a closer look at Beth’s face though he had known it was true. What he didn’t know was why in the hell she had accepted a date with him. He wasn’t one to judge, but come on. How many pregnant women who clearly have some type of relationship with the father are actively dating through a dating service?
With Nick still standing at their table, he had left the restaurant at barely less than a run. He had been pissed. He had no idea if Nick and Beth had left together and he couldn’t have cared less at that point. He couldn’t help but feel like he had been some pawn in whatever game Beth was playing with Nick Merimon. To her credit, she had left a message on his voicemail the next day apologizing. He hadn’t returned her call. He had hoped never to have to think about her or that night again, but apparently that wasn’t in the cards. Soon Danvers International would be invading his turf, and he hadn’t wanted to explain the reason behind his opposition to his nosy family so he was screwed.
Only his close friends and family were aware that the Oceanix Resorts were owned by the Jackson family. There were ten beachfront resorts located in such hot spots as Mexico, Jamaica, Bermuda, Florida, the U. S. Virgin Islands, Charleston, and Turks and Caicos. Seth ran the Oceanix Resort in Myrtle Beach and his brothers, Rhett, Ash, Dylan, and Luke, ran resorts in Florida, Charleston, and St. Croix. His cousins rounded out the rest of the management of the Oceanix chain. Like their fathers before them, they each lived and breathed the business. They could have easily expanded, but they all believed that quality was better than quantity. Each location was booked for months in advance. It was rare that they had vacancies. The service they offered was impeccable and second to none. A stay at the resort was first-class all the way. They were a five-star resort and their staff was paid well to make sure there were never issues with customer satisfaction.
In the scheme of things, replacing the communications system at the resort was minor and not something he would usually be concerned with. It wasn’t as if Beth Denton or Nick Merimon were going to walk through the door as a part of the installation team from Danvers. This was business and arguing against a Danvers system would bring nothing but questions from his nosy family. They only purchased top of the line for the resort chain and that meant Danvers whether he liked it or not.
As if some sixth sense had alerted her, his assistant walked through the door as he was setting his pen down. He had no idea how she did that. He often wondered if she had his office under some type of surveillance. He smiled as Margie made her way to his desk. They had worked together for five years now and he would be lost without her, a fact that she pointed out to him at least five times a day. Even though he rolled his eyes, they both knew it was true. She was a wise-cracking, tough-love mother-figure and he adored her. She dressed like someone off a runway but complained endlessly about the high heels that she insisted on wearing daily. Her ink-black hair was cut short and had that perfectly mussed look that women paid a fortune for. He should know; he gave her carte blanche to the resort hair salon and she was a walking advertisement for the talent of the stylists. She was fit and trim and he had no idea how. She ate like a sailor and cursed like one at times.
His own mother, Charlotte, as she preferred to be called by her sons, lived in California with her second husband. He rarely saw her and that was something that they were both okay with. She had bonded with her husband’s children from his former marriage and she tended to act as if he and his brothers were just distant acquaintances unless she needed the services of one of the Oceanix Resorts.
His father had died a couple of years back of a heart attack. He had been a brilliant businessman but lived the extravagant lifestyle of the rich. After his divorce, he never lacked for female company. Seth was sure that he never lacked for it while he was married; he just tried to hide it better than he had afterward. He had vowed to never remarry and Seth was grateful that he had kept that vow. Having to deal with a stepmother was something that neither he nor his brothers had wanted.
He jumped when Margie snapped her fingers in front of his face. “Can I have that contract or do you plan to sit there clutching it while staring into space for the rest of the day?” He handed the papers over without comment and watched as she flipped through the pages. When she was finished, she shook her head saying, “Man, it sucks to be you. Talk about bad memories.”
Margie was one of the few people he had told about the fiasco with Beth and he now wished that he hadn’t. He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s not a big deal.”
“Well, obviously,” Margie snorted. “That kind of shit happens to you every day. I think whoever came up with the idea for Myrtle Manor was sitting at a table next to you that night and overheard your whole conversation. The only thing that would have made it any better was a possible paternity issue. Any chance that you could be the baby daddy?”
“You’re a horrible assistant,” Seth deadpanned.
Margie laughed. “We both know I’m fabulous and you could never hope to do any better. Who else would put up with your snarky comments and lousy pay?”
Seth smiled, enjoying their verbal wordplay. “What? You haven’t managed to talk payroll into giving you a raise? You’re slipping in your old age.” She probably had him on the snarky comments, but she usually started it. As for the lousy pay, he highly doubted there was a better-paid assistant in the area or even the state. She also enjoyed more perks than anyone else in the resort. Some of them he had given her, some the other employees showered on her. They all thought he didn’t know, but there was nothing that went on in the Oceanix that Seth was unaware of. He made it his business to be one step ahead of everything and everyone. Margie deserved it though so he didn’t mind. She held the chaos at bay and kept things running smoothly, something that was priceless to him. He loved her unwavering loyalty and also her ability to give it to him straight when others just tried to tell him what he wanted to hear. Margie never sugarcoated things for him. As far as the rest of the staff and their clients were concerned, the woman could sell shit to a manure farmer. She was smooth, sweet, and full of southern charm.
Margie straightened to her full height, which was an impressive five-nine, and smirked. “Trust me, honey, there is nothing slipping here. I pay good money to keep it all where it’s supposed to be. Now should I send this contract over to Danvers? Does Beth handle that?”
Seth waved her away saying, “Get out before I call Joe. I think something is wrong with my computer. It’s been freezing up a lot.”
The smirk left her face as she glared at him. “If you do that, I will personally ask for Beth when I send these contracts back. Or better yet, maybe Nick. Talk about awkward.”
“I’ll behave if you do,” Seth countered.
“Fine,” she snapped before closing the door behind her in a huff. He declared himself the winner of this round. He very seldom got one up on Margie, but Joe worked every time. The head of their IT department was a sore subject for her. A few years back at the company Christmas party, Margie had indulged too much at the open bar and had grabbed Joe in a drunken embrace. He had turned her down flat. Since Joe had been after Margie for years, she had been shocked when he said no. He didn’t want to take advantage of her while she was intoxicated. To him, that made Joe a good guy. To Margie, that made Joe the man who rejected her and the sting to her pride was still there. Seth knew that Margie liked him, but she just couldn’t get past the humiliation of the party and she tried to avoid him now at all costs.
Settling back in his chair, he took a minute to gloat before moving on with his day. It wasn’t often he got the best of Margie and he needed to enjoy the moment.
Mia Gentry walked through the glass doors in the lobby of the Danvers International building singing to the music piping through her earbuds. At twenty-eight, she felt like some dirty old lady for listening to Justin Bieber, but she loved his music. She stuck the foot of her hot-pink pump in the door of the elevator to hold it. Suzy and her husband, Gray, were standing just inside the door as she made her way inside. God, she felt like such a frump standing next to her fashion idol and her GQ man. She wondered idly if they were into threesomes. She had never tried that, but she had a bit of a girl-crush on Suzy, and Gray was smoking-freaking-hot. Yeah, she wouldn’t think twice if they asked her. She smiled and muttered, “Morning,” as the doors closed.