A week in Bali was accountant Zoe Summers's dream vacation. But when the tropical island paradise is hit by an earthquake, she's trappedalongside Mitch Bailey, sports star and blast from her past! High on the thrill of survival, they seek comfort in each other's arms
It was only supposed to be one night, but Zoe soon discovers an unexpected souvenirshe's pregnant! Now Zoe and Mitch will have to ask themselves can one night lead to parenthood and a lifetime of love?
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Zoe Summers knew she wasn't beautiful. The evidence of her mirror proved that. Plain was the label she'd been tagged with from an early age. She wasn't uglyin fact ugly could be interesting. It was just that her particular combination of unruly black hair, angular face, regulation brown eyes and a nose with a slight bump in the middle added up to pass-under-the-radar plain.
After a particularly harrowing time in her life, spent at the basement level of the high school pecking order, she'd decided to do something about her unremarkable looks. Not a makeover, as suchrather, she'd aimed to make the best of herself and establish her own style. Now, at the age of twenty-seven, Zoe Summers was known as striking, stylish and smart. She couldn't ask for more than that.
As a consequence of her devotion to good grooming she'd spent some time every day of her vacation on the beautiful tropical island of Bali in the spa of her luxury villa hotel.
Back home, fitting in beauty treatments around running her own accountancy and taxation business could be problematic for a self-confessed workaholic. Here, a programme that included facials, exfoliation, waxing, manicure and pedicure fitted right in with her mission to relax and replenish. And all for less than half the price of what it would cost in Sydney.
Late on the fourth and final afternoon of her vacation, she lay face-down on a massage table in the spa and let the masseuse work her skilled magic on the tight knots of tension in her shoulders. Bliss.
As she breathed in the soothing scents of sandalwood, frangipani and lemongrass her thoughts started to drift. She diverted them from anything to do with her business and the decisions she still had to make. Or from the very real concern that her cat had gone on hunger strike at the cat boarding place.
Instead she pondered how soon after her massage she could take a languorous swim in the cool turquoise waters of the hotel's lagoon pool. What to choose for dinner at one of the many restaurants in Seminyak. Should she buy that lovely batik print sundress in the nearby boutique? Or the bikini? Or both? The price tags bore an astonishing number of Indonesian rupiah, but in Australian dollars they were as cheap as chips.
She sighed a deep sigh of contentment and relaxed into that delicious state somewhere between consciousness and sleep.
When the massage table began to vibrate she thought at first, through her blissed-out brain, that it was part of the treatment. But then the windows rattled and the glass bottles of scented oils and lotions started to jiggle and clank. When the bottles crashed to the stone floor she jumped up from the table in alarm.
She knew before her masseuse's cry of, 'Earthquake!' what was happening.
It was an effort to stay on her feet when the floor moved beneath them like the deck of a boat on choppy waters. No use trying to hold on to the walls, because they seemed to flex inward. The masseuse darted under the protection of the wooden table. Zoe did the same.
She cowered with her knees scrunched up to her chest, heart pounding, swallowing against a great lump of fear, her hand gripping tightly to the girl'sshe didn't know who'd grabbed whose hand first, but she was grateful for the comfort. The room shuddered around them for what seemed like for ever but was probably seconds, stopped, then shuddered again.
Finally everything went still. Cautiously, Zoe inched out from under the table. She nearly gagged on the combined scent of spilled aromatherapy oils. When the masseuse told her they had to head to an emergency meeting point she nodded, too choked with anxiety to actually reply.
She wanted to get out into the open ASAP. But she was nakedsave for the flimsy paper panties she'd donned for the massage to protect her modestyand her clothes and sandals were in an inaccessible closet. She snatched up the white towel that had covered her on the massage table and with clumsy, trembling fingers wrapped it around her, tucking it in as securely as she could. In bare feet, she picked her way around the shards of broken bottles on the floor, grabbed her handbag and followed the masseuse outside.
Still reeling with shock, Zoe hurried along the tropical plant-lined pathway that led from the spa to the main building and pool area of the hotel. To her intense relief there didn't appear to be a lot of damage. But her fear didn't dissipate. Once before disaster had struck from nowhere, changing her life for ever. Who knew what she could expect here?
During her stay she hadn't taken much notice of the other guests. Each villa was completely private, with high walls around it and its own lap pool. Now she was surprised at the number of people gathered for an emergency briefing in the open courtyard outside the reception area. She was the only one in the crowd to be clad in just a towel, but other people were in swimwear or wearing assorted hastily donned garments.
Could she get to her room? If she was going to die she didn't want it to be in a white standard-issue hotel towel.
The other guests were terrified too. She could see it in their grim faces, hear their concern in the murmur of conversation in several different languages.
The hotel manager took the floor to reassure them that the tremor was low on the Richter Scale of seismic activity. He told his guests that electricity had been knocked out but that the hotel emergency generators would soon kick in and it would be business as usual. There was no need to panic.
But what if there were aftershocks?
The manager's reassuring words did little to make Zoe's rapid heartbeat subside or her hands less clammy. It was time to get out of here, before any other disaster might strike. She'd seen the sights. She'd wound down. She'd been pampered from head to toe. Now she was anxious to get home.
She was just about to ask the manager if the airport was open when a man spoke from several rows of people behind her.
'Is there a tsunami warning?' he asked.
The word 'tsunami' was enough to strike renewed fear into Zoe's heart. But it wasn't the thought of an imminent tidal wave that kickstarted her heartbeat into overdrive, it was the man's voice. Deep, confident, immediately familiar.
But it couldn't be. There must be lots of Australian-accented male voices in Seminyak. The west coast town was a popular vacation playground for Australians. Besides, it was ten years since she'd last heard that voice. She must be mistaken.
'No tsunami warning,' the manager replied to the man. 'There's no danger.'
'What about aftershocks?' The man asked the question she was too paralysed by fear to ask herself.
It sounded so like him.
'Not likely now,' said the manager. 'It was a small tremor.'
Zoe risked a quick glance behind her to identify the owner of the voice.
It was Mitch Bailey, all rightright up at the back of the room. He was instantly recognisable: green eyes, dark blond hair, wearing a pair of blue checked board shorts and nothing else. His tanned, well-honed chest was bare. The blood drained from her face and her mouth went dry.
He was as handsome as he'd been at seventeen. More handsome. His face was more chiselled, more lived in, and his dark blond hair was cut spikily shortmuch shorter than when she had known him. He was tall, broad-shouldered, but lean, with well defined muscles. Then he'd been a suburban high school heart-throb. Now he was an international soccer star, who regularly topped magazine lists of 'The Sexiest Men Alive'.
She quickly turned back and ducked her head. Dear heaven, don't let him recognise her. He was part of a past she had chosen to put well behind her. She couldn't let him see her.
Zoe thought back to the first day she'd met him. Grieving over the death of her parents, in an accident that had also injured her, she'd been removed from her inner city home and her laid-back, no-uniform high school and dumped mid-term by her disapproving grandmotherher father's motherinto an outer suburbs school where she'd known no one and no one had seemed to want to know her. The uniform had been scratchy, uncomfortable and hideouswhich was just how she'd felt during her time at Northside High.
Her first sight of Mitch Bailey had been of him surrounded by girls, with his girlfriend Larablonde and beautiful, of coursehanging possessively onto his arm. Zoe had kept her head down and walked past. But a burst of chatter had made her lift her head and she'd caught his eye. He'd smiled. A friendly, open smile born of his place as kingpin of his social group. He'd been a jock, a sports starthe most popular of the popular boys.
He hadn't needed to smile at nerdy her. But he had, and it had warmed the chill of her frozen heart even though she'd been unable to manage more than a polite stretching of her lips in return.
Later they'd become sort of friends, when he'd had a problem she'd been able to help him with. But the last time she'd seen him he'd been so unforgivably hurtful she'd shrivelled back into her shell and stayed there until she'd got out of that school. Now she had no desire to make contact again with anyone from that placeleast of all with him.
She tensed, her eyes darting around for an escape route, then realised her panic was for nothing. No way would he recognise her. She looked completely different from the unhappy seventeen-year-old he'd befriended all those years ago. But she kept her eyes to the ground anyway.
She wanted to ask the manager about the airport as she was due to fly back to Sydney the next morning. But she didn't want to draw attention to herself. If she'd recognised his voice, Mitch might recognise hers. It was unlikely, but possible. She kept her mouth shut just in case.
The manager had said it was okay for the guests to return to their villas. That was where she was headedpronto.
As other people started to ask more questions Zoe inched to the edge of the group. Not meeting anyone's gaze, and as unobtrusively as she could, she edged away towards the pathway that led to her private villa. Once there she could order room service for the rest of her stay, to make sure she didn't bump into Mitch Bailey.
Please, please don't let him be anywhere around when she checked out.
She quickened her pace as she got near the pathway.
His voice came from behind her and she started. She denied the reflex that would have had her turning around. Instead she kept her head down and kept walking, hoping against hope that he wouldn't call her name again. Let him think he 'd been mistaken.
Mitch had noticed the dark-haired girl wrapped in a white towel as soon as she'd come into the courtyard. What red-blooded male wouldn't? The skimpy towel barely covered a sensational body.
It was knotted between high, round breasts and fell just to the top of slender, tanned thighs. Might it fall off at any moment? And, if so, was she wearing anything underneath? He'd been lying by his pool when the earthquake had hit. What had she been doing to be clad only in a towel?
But he'd thought no more about it as the girl had found a place near the front of the group of guests who had gathered to hear the charming Balinese hotel manager explain the ramifications of the earth tremor.
Mitch had been to Bali before, and knew small tremors like this weren't uncommon. He'd appreciated the manager's well-meant reassurances. But still, he'd asked the question about the tsunami because it didn't pay to ignore possible danger. Mitch was the kind of guy who liked to anticipate and prepare for the next move'reading the play', they called it in soccer. There was a prominent sign on the beach warning people what to do if there was a tsunami warning. Therefore he'd needed to ask about it.
At his second enquiry the girl in the towel had turned briefly, to see who was asking the scary questions. Recognition had flashed just briefly before she had hastily turned back round.
He was used to that these days. Strangers recognised him as being an international soccer player. Or from the endorsements for designer menswear and upscale watches he'd posed forthe advertisements were on billboards even here in Bali. This woman might be a young mum who wanted him to sign her child's soccer ball. Or a fan with much more than signing on her mind.
He narrowed his eyes. The thing was, she had also seemed familiar to him. Her eyes had only caught his for a split second but there had been something about the expression in themanxious, in a pale, drawn facethat had tugged at his memory. He'd met so many people over the last years, but he couldn't place her. He'd dredged his memory with no luck.
But then she'd hotfooted it away from the group of guests. He'd admired her shapely behind, swaying in that tightly drawn towel as she'd headed for the pathway that led to the private villas. Once she was gone he'd probably never see her again, and would be left wondering who she could possibly have been.
Then he'd noticed the slight, almost imperceptible limp as she'd favoured her right leg. It was enough to trigger memories of a girl he'd known for a short time in high school.
'Zoe!' he'd called.
She'd paused for a moment, her shoulders set rigidly. Then continued to walk away.
Now he pushed his way to the edge of the row of people and took a few strides towards her to catch up.
'Zoe Summers?' he asked, raising his voice.
This time she stopped and turned to face him. For a long moment their gazes met. Mitch was shocked to realise she had recognised him and yet had chosen to walk away. He was swept by conflicting feelingsthe most predominant being shame. It was what he deserved after the way he'd treated her all those years ago.
'Mitch Bailey,' she said, head tilted, no trace of a welcoming smile. 'After all this time.'
'I knew it was you,' he said.
Her expression told him a kiss on the cheek, a hug, even a handshake would not be welcome. He kept his hands to his sides.
She looked much the same. More grown-up, of course. But the same sharp, intelligent face. The same black haironly shorter now, and all tousled around her face. The piercings she'd sported so defiantly at school had gone, leaving tiny telltale holes along the top of her right eyebrow and in her nose, and there was just one pair of discreet gold studs in her ears instead of multiple hoops.
There was something indefinably different about her. Perhaps it was her air of assuredness. He didn't remember that. Back then she'd emanated a miasma of misery that had made other adolescents uncomfortable around her. The 'keep away' glower hadn't helped either. He'd considered himself privileged to have discovered the amazing person behind it all. Until he'd blown their friendship.
'I didn't think you'd recognise me,' she said.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Kandy Shepherd warms the heart of romance readers ,with her vivid descriptions and such wonderfully delivered sweet stories of love. From Paradise to Pregnant is no exception. Her stories always leave me feeling gooey and lovey dovey, sated and happy. I turn the last page, content and sheepishly grinning knowing that this book was another one to add to my list of favourites by this author. I love the settings Kandy depicts her stories in , the wonderfully detailed surroundings she so flawlessly pens and the characters she puts forth on the pages. The writing is flawless and richly detailed, and the characters well delivered with depth and definition. The romance is gradual , but rich in extent , but manages to so show emotion and moments between the characters that give us more then just words. A character driven romance that will have you reading from front to back enjoying the characters, the storyline and everything in between. Another delightful story from Kandy that fulfilled all my expectations..
This was my first ever Kandy Shepherd's work, and it definitely won't be the last. We meet Zoe, a young woman spending her vacation in Bali. During a relaxing message an earthquake hits and sends everything into chaos, and who does she run into? An old friend from High school. What makes it more uncomfortable is they did not part on good terms. It's been 10yrs and he's still as handsome as ever! Fearing aftershocks, Zoe is now stuck on the island with a guy she used to have a huge crush on, whats a girl to do?! ^_^ What a breathtakingly beautiful story! I was drawn in right from the start and was hanging on through the whole book. I loved the romance, and how they found each other again years later. I married my high school love so it really brought something real for me. If you're looking for a quick, fun story full of warmth and emotion, than look no further. I highly recommend this one to everyone that loves reading contemporary romance. Go forth and enjoy! ^_^
This is the first book I've read by Kandy Shepherd and am looking forward to reading more by her. I love her voice and thoroughly enjoyed Mitch and Zoe's story. One of my favorite story lines is when a celebrity falls in love with an ordinary person and Ms. Shepherd does a wonderful job with it in this book. Just for added measure, Mitch and Zoe were jock and nerd friends in high school and the relationship didn't end well. All the ingredients for a great story in my book! Thanks for a wonderful read, Ms. Shepherd!