Shipwrecked with Mr. Wrong

BOOK: Shipwrecked with Mr. Wrong
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Praise for Nikki Logan

‘Superb debut—4.5 stars.’
—RT Book Reviews on
Lights, Camera … Kiss the Boss

‘Now, here is an Australian writer who manages to both
tell a good story and to capture Australia well.I had fun
from start to finish. Nikki Logan will be one to watch.’
—www.goodreads.com on
Lights, Camera … Kiss the Boss

‘This story has well-defined and soundly motivated
characters as well as a heart-wrenching conflict.’
—RT Book Reviews on
Their Newborn Gift

About the Author

NIKKI
LOGAN
lives next to a string of protected wetlands in Western Australia, with her long-suffering partner and a menagerie of furred, feathered and scaly mates. She studied film and theatre at university, and worked for years in advertising and film distribution before finally settling down in the wildlife industry. Her romance with nature goes way back, and she considers her life charmed, given she works with wildlife by day and writes fiction by night—the perfect way to combine her two loves. Nikki believes that the passion and risk of falling in love are perfectly mirrored in the danger and beauty of wild places. Every romance she writes contains an element of nature, and if readers catch a waft of rich earth or the spray of wild ocean between the pages she knows her job is done.

Visit Nikki online at
www.nikkilogan.com.au

Also by Nikki Logan

Lights, Camera … Kiss the Boss
Their Newborn Gift
Seven-Day Love Story
The Soldier’s Untamed Heart
Friends to Forever

Did you know these are also available as eBooks?
Visit www.millsandboon.co.uk

Shipwrecked
with Mr Wrong

Nikki Logan

www.millsandboon.co.uk

To Pete: who I’d want with me if I was marooned on a
deserted isle, and who’d be able to build us an existence
to rival Robinson Crusoe’s.

Thanks to Ammon Hontz and Janine Rose for your help
with the undersea aspects of this story, and to
Helen Pickering for your assistance with all things Cocos.

Big thanks to my editor, Jo Grant, for believing in this
story so much.

CHAPTER ONE
Pulu Keeling (Island), Western Australia

‘What the …?’

Rob Dalton throttled the powerboat down to a gentle chug-a-lug and snatched up his binoculars. A frown stretched his sea-whipped skin and tipped his lucky fishing cap forward.

He was seeing things.

Must be.

He kept his eye firmly pinned on the natural lagoon created by the hazardous coral reefs around Pulu Keeling where he’d caught a momentary glimpse of her—and it. Clean, cold ocean swelled between
The Player
and the tiny island, obscuring his view just as he thought he might get another glimpse. Then there she was—swimming strongly towards shore, a glinting silvery mass propelling her along.

No way …

Rob lowered the binoculars and stared at
the island. The towering trees and dunes and reef all seemed normal. So did the horizon. The one streak of cloud in the endless blue sky.

He rubbed under his sunglasses and lifted them to fit the super-powered field glasses more firmly to his face. She was still there, stroking across the lagoon. And
it
was still there too, powering along behind her. His breath caught hard in his chest.

Impossible.

But it sure as heck looked real enough, and out here, so far from everything … Who knew? He squinted in the mid-morning light, pressing the binoculars so hard to his face the rims bit into his cheekbones. Centuries of maritime mythology filled his mind. But she was no dugong and he was no sex-starved, nineteenth century sailor imagining a half-woman-half-fish in the distance.

Although you wouldn’t know it from the pace of his heart.

She neared land, her strokes steady and practised. The beach rose to meet her and then she stood …

… on two legs. Long, brown, bare legs, and she hauled a silver buoyancy sack out of the water behind her. Rob released his breath on a whoosh.

Mermaid?
Idiot.

He let heat rise in his cheeks since no one was around to see him, and his heart pounded out the adrenalin surge of moments ago as he kept his focus locked on the shore. He’d caught a lot of sun out here on his latest vacation from reality but not
that
much, surely? Not enough to start seeing mermaids where there weren’t any. But a bikini-clad woman alone on a restricted island that was only inhabited by birds and crabs … How was that any less strange?

The old bloke who fuelled him up at the dock had muttered something about a spirit-woman living on Pulu Keeling. Some kind of guardian. He’d assumed he was talking about the mythical variety.

His mermaid tugged the buoyancy sack further onto the beach and then let it drop. Her lush, tanned body jerked in and out of his binocular frame along with the rolling ocean swell but he did his best to keep the glasses steady as she bent to check the contents of the sack she’d swum ashore. Those long legs that went forever did actually stop—at a tiny bit of yellow fabric covering a perfect peach which bobbed up and down as she rummaged through the sack on the sand.

His curiosity at what a two-legged mermaid was doing out here in the middle of the Indian Ocean took a momentary back seat to the sudden interest that surged through him.
Ridiculous that he should be captivated by a bit of mermaid tail when he had any number of equivalents on speed-dial back home.

She straightened with her back to the glittering ocean and lifted her arms to wring the sea water from her long blonde hair. She twisted it into a damp rope and draped it over her right shoulder.

‘Turn around … turn around,’ Rob murmured, his breath hitching to a halt. Would his mythical mermaid have a face to match the lithe golden body? She didn’t turn, but she tugged the tethers up onto her left shoulder and dragged the sack behind her along the rocky beach towards a track in the dune grasses. Even with her heavy load, every movement was graceful. Her body radiated health and vitality. Rob’s heart thumped in his throat, his gut, as she moved towards the tree line.

Turn around.

At last she did, bending forward to pull the sack over the lip of the dune. He got a quick flash of tanned, toned arms and firm breasts behind more yellow triangles. Once the sack was up and over, she dropped it and straightened to catch her breath, leaving Rob staring through his binoculars at a honey-coloured midriff stretched upward by raised arms that she used to shield her eyes from the blazing sun. Eyes that—

He fumbled the binoculars, almost dropping them overboard.

—stared right back at him! He caught them in the nick of time and glanced back to the island where the now tiny woman waved one arm at him. Pretty keenly.

‘Yeah, I’ve seen you, honey,’ he murmured, discomfited at being caught staring but more than accustomed to the excitement of pretty females. He waved back casually.

She mirrored him, both arms this time, bouncing those yellow triangles around a treat.

Rob frowned again. ‘What?’

A sickening crunch accompanied a lurch that sent him staggering as
The Player
‘s stern hit the reef. It rocked again as the swell nudged his pride and joy against the protective coral surrounding Pulu Keeling.

‘Son of a …’

He shoved the throttle forward, yanking the wheel and powering the boat a safe distance from the barely exposed reef. As he swung her around, he noticed another silver buoyancy sack sitting on the reef in the distance, on the far side of the atoll where the swell did look less powerful. Had that just been delivered? He motored over using the sack as his marker and dropped anchor to arrest his drift. Moving to the injured side of the boat, he dropped his
cap and sunglasses to the deck, slid his diving mask on and slipped into the deep water at the reef’s drop-off. His T-shirt ballooned as he sank into thick, icy silence.

Damn it.

Below his boat, he ran his hand over
The Player
‘s damaged hull where the hard coral had bitten into it. He’d need to dry-dock for at least three days to repair the steel properly. Not time he could afford with his schedule. But he wouldn’t sink, not if he could manage some basic repairs here. If he just went ashore …

He surged to the surface and filled his aching lungs with air, swimming round to the rear corner of the boat where
The Player
‘s chrome half-ladder dipped in and out of the sea with the motion of the swell. He hauled himself up into the boat.

‘I hope you’re planning on checking out the coral too?’ an angry voice snapped from behind.

Blinking in the glare, he reached for his sunglasses and turned in time to see his mermaid haul herself onto the smoothest part of the exposed reef. She stood, chest heaving from her swim, near-naked and dripping wet: his three favourite attributes in a woman.

Usually, his mind would have bubbled up a dozen witty comebacks, all tried-and-tested
and proven to charm. But not one leapt to mind as Rob stared at the angry woman balancing on the reef nearby.

More specifically, at the brutal scars that stretched from her ear down to her right shoulder.

‘Well?’

Honor Brier was in no mood to be stared at, and certainly not by him. The man had just rammed the outer rim of the atoll—living reef that had formed, unmolested, over centuries. It thrived, ignored by most of mankind and free to grow abundantly, under the rubber booties that saved her feet from being grated like Cheddar on the reef. ‘That coral will still be repairing itself two decades after your boat has rusted away to iron-ash.’

He stared at her, trying very hard not to look at her shoulder, which only made it more obvious. She set her hands on her hips, fighting the urge to raise a self-conscious hand to her neck. ‘Do you speak or are you purely ornamental? ‘

That got his attention. The smile he flashed her then must have won dozens of hearts in its time—softer, less calloused hearts than hers. She turned official. ‘This is a protected area. You can’t be here without a permit and a guide.’

‘You’re here.’

The hairs on her neck prickled at his deep, silken voice. It was a crime that it should match the rest of him. ‘I have a permit.’

‘And a guide?’

Her tongue clucked in frustration. ‘I don’t need a guide; I work here.’

‘It wasn’t my intention to stop here. As you can see, I’ve encountered a bit of a setback.’

Honor cast her eye over the pile of equipment on the deck of his vessel. God knew how much more he had below. It explained what he was doing lurking around her island. ‘Are you out here diving?’

‘Why? Is the sea floor protected too?’

He probably thought he was being charming. ‘Parts of it are, yes. Inside Pulu Keeling waters. Why were you so close to the reef?’

‘I came in to see if I could spot the
SMS Emden
memorial. Then I was distracted by … uh … a bird.’

She shifted her weight. He was into birds? She hosted birding groups about twice a year. She glanced at his expensive field binoculars. It gave her pause. ‘A booby?’

He flashed those pearly whites again. ‘I believe it was—possibly a pair.’

Believe? Pulu Keeling was famous for its booby colonies. Three species. But surely he would know that if he was into …?

Oh.

Imbecile.
Honor sighed and concentrated on not crossing her arms. Displeasure and impatience stained her voice. ‘Do you need a hand launching off? You must be eager to see the memorial. You’ll be able to spot it with binoculars from outside the reef.’

Time to go now.

‘Actually, I need to come ashore.’

‘Not going to happen. Not without a permit.’

‘The Player’s
compromised. It wouldn’t be safe to set out without patching the breach.’

The Player
—how very apt. The way he stroked the bright blue gunnel of his boat told her how important the vessel was to him. She knew all about men and their boats. ‘Then you’d better head back to Cocos—’

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