Authors: Kelly Jamieson
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Erotica, #Contemporary
To my husband—thank you for all your support, which you show in so many, many ways. I love you so much.
Stand up as best man at Matt and Corey’s wedding? Jesus, he’d rather take a longboard in the nuts.
Dylan gave his cell phone a black look and then held it back up to his ear. His best buddy Matt had emailed him about this, but now he was on the phone pressing for an answer. “Yeah,” Dylan said. “Thanks and all, but I don’t see how I can get back there for the wedding.”
“We planned it for September because we knew you’d be back then for the Jackson Cole Pro,” Matt said. “You’re going to be here anyway.”
Huh. Dylan ran his tongue over his teeth and stared out at the blinding turquoise of the South Pacific lagoon from the deck of his thatched bungalow over the water. Fuck. He couldn’t miss that competition, even though he knew he’d likely have to see Matt and Corey when he was back for it.
“The wedding’s the weekend before the competition,” Matt added. “That gives you time to get here from Tahiti.”
Yeah. True. Having just finished the Rip Tide Open in Tahiti, his next stop on the tour was San Amaro, California.
“We want you here, man,” Matt added. “Seriously. It would mean a lot to us.”
Best man? What a joke! Seeing as the bride-to-be had picked another man, Dylan hardly felt like the “best man”.
He drew in a long breath and let it out. “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know if I can swing it.”
He looked up as Lexi emerged from the bungalow onto the deck, completely naked. Her tanned body gleamed in the sunlight and she shook back her long blonde hair, giving him an impatient what-the-hell-are-you-doing look. He smiled.
“Look, I can try to make the wedding,” he said. “But I can’t commit to being best man if I don’t know if I’ll be there for sure.”
He heard Matt’s sigh of frustration. “Dylan. We gotta talk about this.”
“Talk about what? You know I’m stoked for you and Corey.” His insides twisted as he said that. Lexi sauntered across the deck toward him and he let his gaze run up and down her stunning body. Sadly, he was too rattled by the phone call from Matt to be aroused by her. She lowered herself onto his lap and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, nuzzling the ear not occupied by the phone.
“Then come home and help us celebrate this,” Matt said.
Dylan gritted his teeth. He was being cornered into this. He couldn’t make many more excuses. “Can I let you know? Give me a day or two, okay?”
After a brief pause, Matt said, “Okay. Fair enough.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Dylan promised.
Yeah, he’d see what he could do about finding a reason not to be there.
He ended the call and tossed the phone onto the small table.
“Come back to bed,” Lexi murmured. “We’re waiting for you.”
He grinned, thinking of Suri inside, with her smooth bronze body and long black hair.
“Yeah,” he said. “Sorry. Had to deal with that.”
He stood, lifting Lexi with him, and strode back into the bungalow. Suri was stretched out on the white sheets of the four-poster bed. The wooden blinds had been closed, filtering the sunlight and making the room cool and dim. The ceiling fan circled lazily above them, the slight breeze from it fluttering the sheer white fabric draped from each of the bed posts.
Two hot and willing women in his bed would take his mind off that phone call and all the things he didn’t want to think about.
“How about a trip to Tahiti?”
Brooke stared at her boss across the table in his office where their PR team had gathered for a meeting. “Tahiti?”
Barrett nodded, his steel-colored hair gleaming beneath the small pot lights of his office. He looked at her over the black-framed reading glasses perched on his prominent nose. “Yeah. All expenses paid.”
She frowned. “I don’t get it.”
“We have a little problem. With Dylan Schell.”
Oh God. Not again. She sighed. “Now what?”
“He’s out of control. We can’t have one of our athletes running around the beaches in Tahiti naked, having orgies, drunk and high pretty much all the damn time.”
“Sounds like a good time to me,” her co-worker Tim said with an envious sigh.
Brooke pursed her lips to stop her smile then gave Tim a reproving look.
“Kidding,” Tim said. “Sort of. I know, I know, this is a PR nightmare.”
Brooke swallowed a sigh. “He did well in the competition there last week, didn’t he?”
“Yes,” Barrett said. “He came in second place and now he’s ranked third. He has a great chance to win the Jackson Cole Pro if he can beat Heath Marlow. But the better he does, the wilder his behavior gets. We’re trying to sell a wholesome image to all those kids who’re buying our gear. This isn’t cutting it.”
Brooke bit her lip. It had been her idea to sponsor Dylan Schell about a year and a half ago. His pro surfing career had been on the rise and the fact that he was a local boy made him perfect to help sell their casual clothing. She’d pushed hard to get them to agree. She recalled telling them how Dylan Schell was one of the most progressive and exciting surfers in the sport, with good looks and charisma that made him super popular with the fans. Then he’d had that accident and a broken foot had kept him out of competition for a couple of months. That had been bad luck and crappy timing. He’d gotten back to it with a slow start, looking like he’d lost his edge, and they’d all been biting their nails to see if he was going to live up to their expectations. He’d started winning again, but the next sign of trouble had been when he’d lost a big competition after a spectacular wipeout and had then told the media, with a shit-eating grin, that he knew he shouldn’t have had group sex the night before. He’d gone on to win a few more competitions but had then caused an uproar when he’d been drunk on a flight, which had to turn around and return to Sydney. Apparently he’d been trying to convince some of the female flight attendants to join the mile high club with him.
have to go to Tahiti?” she asked. Tahiti was nice, but that would involve flying. On a plane.
“He needs someone to keep him out of trouble,” Barrett said.
Brooke snorted. “You think
can do that?”
Barrett gave her a cool look. “You wanted us to sponsor him.”
She firmed her lips and met his eyes. “Yes. I did.” She’d take responsibility for her actions and defend her decision. Even though Dylan Schell was making it difficult. “I still think he’s a good choice.”
“No,” Barrett said. “He is not a good choice. We’re spending a ton of money on him and we’re not getting the return on our investment that we need. With profit margins as slim as they are, every dollar we invest in an athlete should propel sales ten to twenty times that investment.”
“Realistically, that’s never going to happen,” Tim pointed out. “With anyone.”
“I don’t give a shit,” Barrett said. “It’s not happening with him and it’s not even close.”
“You want to cancel his contract?” Brooke said, leaning forward. “That will cost a lot too. We signed him for three years.”
“I know. That’s why we’re not doing it now. We’re willing to give him one more chance. The Jackson Cole Pro is coming up. We want you to go get him.”
“I think we should talk to his agent first.”
“I did. Holden’s wife just had a baby. He’s a little preoccupied and isn’t going to be flying to Tahiti. But he says he’s with us one hundred percent on this and will work with us when we get Schell back here. Which is great, but not good enough. We need to get him back here and keep him out of trouble.”
She swallowed. “How am I going to do that?”
“We’re going to set up some things to keep him busy. You’re going to stick to him like shit on a shoe.”
“Things like what?”
“I don’t know! Find something for him. Do some talks to kids about staying off drugs, some motivational crap about finishing school, yadda yadda. We haven’t worked out the details of what we’ll get him involved in. That’ll be your job. Yours and Tim’s. You know what I want. Now make it so.”
“You want me to babysit him.”
“Call it what you want. You’re going to have to lay it on the line for him. He either does this or he’s in breach of his contract with us and he’s done.”
She nodded slowly, processing what he’d just told her. “I’m still not sure I’m the best one to do this.”
A trip to Tahiti sounded amazing, other than the fact she had to fly to get there, but going to deliver one of the top athletes a lecture on his bad behavior, give him a hard line ultimatum and then make sure he acted like a good boy, did
sound like fun. They needed someone with a lot more—ahem—balls than she had to do something like that.
“You’ve said you’re interested in moving up in the company,” Barrett said, eyes narrowed. “You’ve told us you’re willing to do whatever it takes. You’ve said you’re willing to take on any projects to demonstrate your abilities.”
Yup, she’d said those things. She was so screwed. “Okay,” she agreed, her stomach clenching hard. “I’ll go.”
“You’re the one who pushed for him,” he reminded her again. “If we can’t turn this around, upper management is going to want someone to take the fall for this.”
She kept her face carefully composed as she glanced at Tim, whose mouth had fallen open a little. Barrett’s comment didn’t really surprise her. She’d seen this happen before. When things were going well, Barrett was the first to take the credit, but when things went wrong, he was only too happy to let someone else take the blame. If Dylan Schell continued to screw up, the message was clear—she’d be the one to pay the price.
“I’m not sure if Brooke has the stones to play hardball with him,” Tim said.
Brooke’s back teeth ground together and she curled her fingers around the armrests of the chair she was sitting in. But Tim was only trying to help. The truth was, she wasn’t sure she had the stones to play hardball with Dylan Schell either.
“I can do it,” she said. She firmed her lips. Okay, yeah, she got it. She had a choice. Either drag Dylan Schell back here, keeping him out of trouble, or Dylan wouldn’t be the only one out on his ass—she’d be out of a job too.
Shnippits! She’d been busting her butt at Jackson Cole for three years now. She was doing a good job. Could they really fire her over one bad decision? And it hadn’t even been her decision. She didn’t have the power to decide who they sponsored, she just made recommendations. She picked at the loose cuticle on her thumb as her mind whirled.
Yeah, they probably could fire her. She loved her job there and had ambitions for moving up in the company, but she had no illusions that this was a business, and she had no illusions about the type of boss Barrett was.
“When do I leave?”
“As soon as you can. You and Tim have some work to do to get things planned. I want every minute of Schell’s time filled while he’s here, and not with parties and drunken orgies.”
She met Tim’s eyes. He lifted his eyebrows and gave her a small smile. “Sure,” he said. “We can do that. Let’s get started, Brooke.”
Three days and a fifteen-hour flight later, Brooke landed at Tahiti Faa’a Airport in Papeete. Tired, grouchy and grungy, she was also ready to kiss the ground once off the plane. God, she hated flying. She’d almost been willing to fill the prescription her doctor had given her the last time she’d had to travel, but she hated to resort to drugs. Surely she had guts enough to make it through a flight on her own. So she’d spent most of the flight in a heightened state of anxiety instead of sleeping like she should have been, and now she was exhausted. Relieved, but exhausted.
She located a taxi to drive her to L’Auberge Pacifique, where Dylan Schell was apparently staying. She should be thrilled to be in such a beautiful, exotic location, but instead she felt irritable and on edge. She tried not to take it out on the front desk clerk who checked her in, or the smiling young man who carried her suitcase up to her room for her.
The hotel was amazing, sleek and modern with shiny dark wood floors and white furniture arranged in the lobby in casual seating areas. They passed by a coffee shop, a long white leather banquet that curved into a half-circle with small dark wood tables and bright orange leather chairs, then a lounge with dark wood stools pulled up to a sleek metallic bar and funky wicker chairs grouped around low glass tables.
God, she wanted to lie down. She rubbed at gritty eyes and shoved a hand through hair that felt lank and greasy.
She tipped the smiling bellhop and tried to smile in return, then let the door to her room slowly shut behind her. The room was small, but she wasn’t going to be there long. She grimaced at the thought of flying halfway around the world for what would probably be two days.
She walked across the white tile floor toward floor-to-ceiling windows, the dark drapes pulled to the sides, windows which were actually sliding doors onto a small balcony. Outside the sun shone down on lush green foliage, palm trees waving gently in the breeze.
She turned to the bed, covered in a pristine white duvet. Oh yeah. That was what she wanted. She eyed it hungrily, but she had to focus on business first. She needed to track down Dylan Schell and arrange a meeting.