Authors: Raven McAllan
A Just Ink Press novel
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or were used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Just Ink Press, LLC
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Copyright 2013 Raven McAllan
Edited by Leona Bushman
Senior Editor: N.L. Gervasio
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Cover design by Lori Lasswell
Interior image designs by N.L. Gervasio
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First electronic publication: September 2013
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Meryl stared at the brochure her friend Freya had handed her. Across the top in a flowing script were the words,
‘Isola Dei Sogni makes your dreams and fantasies come true.’
Yeah, I wish.
She sniggered as she dropped the booklet on the table and went to make coffee. There was just enough time for a caffeine intake and a bun before she tackled the next task on her list. Running a successful catering company was fun, but hard work. Which was why she supposed Freya had suggested the holiday.
“Lots of us,” Freya had said as they’d sat in the Sauna after a session in the gym. “We’re all busy and need to chill. Exploring a fantasy or dream could be the very way. Calm us, and restore our balance.” Freya was a strong advocate of restoring balance, even when she wasn’t sure how. “Hey, you could bring your sister. She’s cool.”
Meryl pondered on Freya’s last comment. Her sister could do with a holiday, but this one? She grabbed her coffee and picked up the leaflet again, to flick through the pages, and rolled her eyes. It seemed almost every fantasy and dream—as long as it was legal—would be catered to. The island looked idyllic, and the photos showed pale sands and an impossibly blue ocean. Surely, it had to be too good to be true? Even so, Meryl thought over her schedule as she turned the pages. It sounded so enticing.
The last section showed a yacht sailing toward a tiny atoll, with a tall golden-haired man at the helm. Something about the way he stood made her lift the brochure closer—and spew coffee all over the table.
Tears filled her eyes as she sputtered and coughed. Meryl dropped the booklet like a red hot coal, and it landed in a pool of the murky liquid.
It couldn’t be.
Why on Earth would the one guy—
ha, guy my butt—
she wanted to avoid like the plague, be on the picture of a section in a brochure for a kick-ass luxury island resort? She was hallucinating. Had to be. Faint from lack of food. Going crazy from lack of sex . . .
argh, enough already. Sex is not the be all and end all of life.
Maybe not, but even a little bit of be and not the all would be good. As much as she’d like to deny it, her interest in anything that involved men was nigh on extinct, and women didn’t interest her in that way. It was, she had long decided, all the fault of a certain sort of human. One who looked very much like the man in the brochure now covered in coffee, with its pages crinkling, and the inks running into each other.
Meryl nibbled her lower lip. They hadn’t had good weather in Scotland for what seemed like years, apart from the odd day or two. She was well overdue to feel some warmth and see the sun. A vicious splatter of hail on the window made her look up and grimace. It might be mid-day, but it was almost as dark as mid-evening. A gust of wind rattled the windows and she shuddered. That was it. She picked up her phone and thumbed a text. The first answer was prompt, short, and sweet.
Yeah, booking now.
If only everything else could have been so easy. Meryl made a few more texts and calls. Work hadn’t been the problem she feared. She had worried for a moment whether she should have checked with her second-in-command before committing her hard earned cash, but then decided against it.
Sod it. Atalanta keeps telling me she can cope and I need a break. Now’s her chance to show me she can.
Her phone call had been received with a screech and a, “Woo hoo about time, go girl and enjoy. I’ve heard such good things about Isola.” Even though Meryl pestered her, Atalanta wouldn’t say anything else except. “You’ll see. And girlfriend, I want details.”
Meryl put the phone down and grinned. Trust Atalanta to know about the resort. Was there anything or anywhere she didn’t know? Probably not. Atalanta was somewhat of an enigma, and her past was, according to the lady herself, somewhat checkered.
Now to tackle
Mia, and this is going to need tact, diplomacy, and wine.
As Meryl expected, Mia threw up every excuse known to man and a few other entities as well. Meryl had bent the truth, and said it was her who’d seen the brochure, thought it looked interesting, and they needed the break. Mia hadn’t been convinced. Probably because Meryl wasn’t convinced herself. After all, how could she tell Mia she’d booked them a holiday on the strength of a picture? One that may or may not be of someone Mia had threatened to castrate. She’d said if she saw him again the shears would be out due to the way he’d treated Meryl. In the end, Meryl persuaded her to agree to the break by saying the few words she’d vowed never to use again. “Mia, I need you.”
Mia had acquiesced immediately and Meryl felt like rubbish. It wasn’t the best sensation she’d ever had. The sickness that accompanied it was, Meryl decided, a small price to pay for her deception. Nevertheless, the words had served her well, and Meryl hung onto the idea that it was in Mia’s best interest. She pooh-poohed all her sister’s complaints, arguments, and worries, and kept up a mantra, saying, “It will be fine. Don’t fret.”
By the time they all met at Gatwick, Meryl was a nervous wreck. Mia was too quiet, Freya, her friend since toddler group, hyper, and two or three of the others outwardly skeptical.
Ah well. I have my kindle and my hand
She hadn’t dared pack her vibrator. It would just be her luck to have her suitcase opened and Vinnie the vibe get hauled out for the world and his wife to see. She knew it wouldn’t faze any of her friends, but Meryl was certain she’d be mortified, and go the color of her hair. Not for the first time, she cursed her Celtic complexion. Both she and Mia had inherited their mum’s coloring, except Meryl was lucky enough to have her dad’s olive skin tone and not burn at the first hint of sunshine. Although, she mused, as they all piled into the lounge, and headed for the free wine and nibbles—they’d decided to splurge and go business class—the likelihood of getting a tan at home seemed as remote as winning the lottery. She didn’t even buy a ticket for that.
“I’ll grab a table. Just get me whatever.” Meryl picked up an assortment of carry-on bags and walked toward a large round table near the window that overlooked the tarmac. She stared through the glass at the aircraft, vans, and luggage trucks that moved about like ants, and remembered the various conversations she’d had with her sister.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave.
She’d got cold feet, told Mia she wouldn’t go, and then changed her mind. It was time to pull up her big girl panties and face whatever needed facing. Allegedly. It was no wonder Mia was quiet.
She probably thinks I’m going to chicken out and refuse to get on the plane. Well, it’s too late for that. Into the valley and all that.
Meryl had always liked Tennyson.
Outside, several large planes seemed all set to receive their passengers. She wondered if any of them was theirs. Once she sat down and got settled, Meryl looked around the large comfortable lounge. A guy waking out of the door caught her attention. The way he walked seemed familiar.
that stupid brochure has made me have the asshole on the brain
. However, she was sure as the man disappeared out of the room he lifted his arm in the air and waved
Waved like . . .
Meryl looked away from the now empty doorway as
Freya came up with two glasses of fizz and a big grin on her face.
“The lovely lady asked if there was anything she could get us, so I said Champagne.” She giggled. “Now the others are saying it’s favoritism, and getting some as well. Poor woman, I bet she wished she hadn’t asked. Cheers.”
“Cheers.” Meryl held her glass to Freya’s as the rest of their group walked over, carrying glasses and food. To Meryl’s relief, Mia smiled at her and mouthed, “Cheers and thank you.” Mia’s non-too enthusiastic agreement to come had been worrying Meryl. It was one thing insisting her sister accompany her, another to make her miserable.
Now all Meryl had to do was stop worrying about that darned brochure and get into the holiday spirit. As the others ate, chatted, and drank, she made a determined effort. She couldn’t have recognized the man who was leaving. It had to be all this talk of fantasies and dreams. However much Meryl wished he didn’t, a certain blond-haired somebody popped up in her mind way too often.
Enough, think of something else.
It wasn’t going to be easy, not when the next week was all about darned fantasies.
She tinkled her spoon against her glass to get everyone’s attention.
“So, are we all sorted about our fantasies and dreams then? Can I dream of a week of sleep?”
“Ha, no way.” Freya giggled and waved her glass. “Oops, I must remember me and one glass of fizz go a long, long way.”
Meryl leaned over and took the glass from her. “So enough already, we don’t want to have to leave you here because they’ve refused to let you on board. Go have a coffee.”
“I’ll get one.” Mia stood up and waked over to the coffee machine. Her elegant walk caused more than one head to turn.
Not for the first time, Meryl thought how life had dealt her sister a raw deal. Perhaps this holiday would be right for her.
And me, maybe? Well, all of us. So act like you’re happy, woman.
Mia returned and put a cup of coffee in front of Freya who drank it in two gulps, smiled and hiccupped. “Oops. Thanks. I’ll promise, no more fizz for me.”
“Good.” Meryl looked up at the departures board and stood up. “Okay, ladies, let’s thank Freya for noticing this, and sorting it all out. And if you’ve not got a fantasy or a dream ready, there are a dozen or so hours to think of one. Right, our flight is up and ready to board so let’s go.”
Even as they walked along the corridors and then down the air bridge, she couldn’t help looking closely at every blond-haired guy in sight.
* * * * *
Three hours later, Meryl was replete, comfy, and ready to sleep. Next to her, Mia had settled down with her headphones on and was watching an old film with a grin on her face. Meryl stuck her head over the privacy screen. Johnny Depp in
. She smiled.
Yeah, he’ll do.
Mia gave her the thumbs up before she pulled the screen up, let her seat down into a bed, and covered herself with the blanket provided. Films could wait, the inspection of the inside of her eyelids couldn’t.
The man who stroked her hair was everything anyone could want. Meryl looked at him and grinned.
He smiled and nipped her earlobe with sharp white teeth. “Of course, who else? I’m always around. You’re mine and I’ll be wherever you are.”
Meryl sniggered, even though she felt like crying. “Liar, you might be in my dreams, but you aren’t always about. Hell, I’ve cried myself to sleep and you’ve not been there to hold my hand or wipe my tears.”
“Ah, love.” He cuddled her close and Meryl felt his heartbeat resonate through her. “I’m always there. You chose to ignore it. You are my life and with me, in me, at all times. I shouldn’t have stayed and I did. I shouldn’t have left like I did, but I had no options. Surely, you knew you just had to show me you needed me and I’d be with you? If not in person, in your dreams. Even when you’ve called me all the names no self-respecting person should know, let alone say.” He paused and rubbed her shoulder. “Just because I’m not on show, doesn’t mean I’m not here, not with you. Hold your hand out and let your heart feel me. You are mine, and even though you doubt it, it’s true.”