Authors: Ginny Baird
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary
Mike gave her a broad sweeping smile that settled into an affectionate grin. “Ah Carrie, you’re really very sweet.”
“Now, don’t go calling me sweet --”
Mike chortled. “Let me guess? Something like my Mr. Nice Guy?”
Carrie felt the heat envelope her at the thought of being read so easily. But he could read her easily, this man she scarcely knew. Or perhaps it was simply because the two of them were in the same boat that he happened to know exactly what she was feeling, precisely when she was feeling it.
“Okay,” Mike continued, “to answer your question -- honestly. What I’m after is probably not so different from what you are. A stable relationship, a home. Kids maybe.”
“A white picket fence?” she asked, feeling the renewed heat in her cheeks.
“Sure, why not?
“If you can get one of those in the Caymans,” he added with a grin.
Carrie’s heart fell a million miles. What on earth had she been thinking? Kidding herself about a potential relationship with someone she’d met in such a haphazard manner? Hoping against hope that taking him home as the man of her dreams would somehow convert him to that before her very eyes? Come on, now, Carrie, wake up -- and join the twenty-first century!
Besides, the man was already making plans to move to the Caymans. More than a stone’s throw from Virginia. This little charade between them involving her shower and his reunion next weekend was all she had. And Carrie St. John and her woebegone heart would do very well to remember that.
Mike took a running dive into the crystal clear waters of the pool, thinking that things weren’t going quite as swimmingly with Carrie St. John as he’d planned. He was glad she’d agreed to go to his reunion. More than glad -- ecstatic, actually -- that a stunning woman like her would help him save face with his friends. And he didn’t mind stepping into Wilson’s shoes for her bridal shower one bit. What bothered him was the make-believe element to their whole affair. It was definitely a screwy way to begin a relationship. Non-relationship, he reminded himself, as per Carrie’s instructions.
For anybody else, it would have been the perfect set-up. He’d make out like a bandit at his high school reunion -- no strings attached. But, for Mike, who felt an inexplicable yearning to stay by Carrie’s side in a much more than fraternal fashion, the whole picture rotted -- big time.
Plus, it really seemed like an unfair trade. Carrie’s shower, after all, was only a mere couple of hours out of one afternoon. His reunion, on the other hand, was an entire weekend-long extravaganza. Of course, he hadn’t quite told her that -- yet. But he would. Just not until after she’d been sufficiently impressed with the way he’d wowed her family and friends. Then, she’d feel beholding... at least in some small way, and would still agree to come to his rescue. Even if it involved a fancy dinner and a Sunday afternoon picnic.
Yeesh! This was where having gone to a private school most definitely paid. Nothing that Ashton Academy did was anything less than first class. And Carrie St. John was definitely a first class kind of girl. Mike would be the envy of every man in that room, he thought with a smile, as he stroked his way across the pool. Heck, if only it weren’t such a big illusion, he’d even be the envy of his own former self!
Carrie turned in the mirror and studied the cellulite on her thighs. What had she been thinking? Telling Mike she might possibly join him for a swim? These thunder thighs weren’t going anywhere except for maybe into a pair of shorts. A pair of very long, very modestly proportioned shorts, Carrie thought, rifling through her suitcase.
But if Mike was supposedly nothing more than a friend, what was she all hellfire worried about? Friends didn’t dump friends over a pair of weighty thighs. Friendship was based on other things, like mutual respect. Common interests and goals...
Carrie sat heavily on the bed. She certainly hadn’t known Mike long enough to get a handle on the interest part, but she and the “swim god” definitely shared common goals. Though she hadn’t dared tell him so, the ideal he was after wasn’t really so far from her own. Except for the Cayman Islands part. The Caymans! Ironically enough, an investors heaven. One of her business associates in New York had been pressing Carrie to open up a bank there for almost a decade. But Carrie had always preferred to channel her funds into more personal ventures. It was helping out entrepreneurs that gave her the most satisfaction. Small businesses, start-up operations like this country inn here.
Then again, the Caymans did hold possibilities... Not the least of which stood about six foot two and had the perfect smattering of dark blonde hair on its chest.
Carrie walked to the bathroom and threw some cold water on her face. She was losing her mind! Losing it completely! Actually considering the notion....
Now, for a vacation, maybe.
Carrie smiled into the mirror at visions of her and a very oiled up Mike Davis stretched out on a white-sand beach.
But that idea was ludicrous, too! She and Mike didn’t stand a prayer of a chance starting out the way they had. Besides, the two of them had made a pact. And, despite his occasional flirtation which Carrie assumed was second nature to a man like him, he truthfully didn’t seem interested in being more than just friends. All Mike was after was a way to impress his old high school buddies. But returning to the full-length mirror and studying her silhouette once again, Carrie was uncertain why he imagined she could do the trick. Though Carrie considered herself reasonably attractive, she was well-aware she had what the magazines called “figure flaws."
Flaws that Wilson had occasionally been unkind enough to point out -- in his own teasing way. A way which Carrie hadn’t found the least bit amusing.
Maybe she’d just slip on the denim shorts and stroll on down to the pool. It would look odd if she failed to show completely. And she certainly didn’t want Mike thinking she was nervous about facing him. Though she was. Utterly nervous. Mostly because, when she saw the man half-nude, her thoughts ran wild. Straight into the “Mike, Tarzan; Carrie, Jane” jungle! And now that she figured him to be a nice guy on top of the way he looked... Well, Carrie wasn’t quite sure she could trust her own reaction.
She’d heard of people on the rebound. The rampant bed-hopping that sometimes went on when one wounded partner was getting over the other. But Carrie had never figured herself to be the bed-hopping type. In fact, before Wilson, there’d really only been one other man. The first one she’d thought she would marry and, soon after their break-up, had started referring to as “old what’s his name.”
But even “old what’s his name,” her first lover ever, hadn’t stirred her half as much as Mike Davis. But maybe that’s what she got for comparing twenty-two-year-old apples to thirty-something-year-old oranges. Very ripe, very succulent oranges. Crimminy!
Carrie sighed and hunted for a belt that would do her waistline justice -- meaning suck it in just a tad more than its natural state. Though, of course, a friend wouldn’t notice her waistline one way or another, she told herself, sweeping her hair into a ponytail and arranging her tresses in the mirror. Friends didn’t care what friends looked like, just as long as they kept their word.
Mike’s eyes popped open when he heard the clack of sandal heels on the pavement. Carrie St. John headed down the path in strappy black sandals a form-fitting “T” and cuffed denim shorts. She certainly was revealing a lot more flesh than she had been earlier, but not nearly enough for Mike’s satisfaction, he thought, sitting up to disguise his reaction that would have been otherwise quite evident through his swim shorts.
“You’re not swimming?”
“Can’t,” she said, with a congenial smile. “Still got lots of telephone calls.”
A buzz of panic shot to Mike’s brain. “But I thought we --”
“Oh yes... I mean, no."
She blew a soft breath that sent a lose tendril spiraling.
“I’m not backing out of our deal or anything like that.”
Mike sat back against the lounge chair, relieved. He’d actually been looking forward to playing Carrie’s fiancé. Especially, he thought eying her well-formed bosom through her unforgiving cotton top, once he’d learned about that touchy-feely part.
“It’s just that I’ve still got a lot of calls to make, and I want to try to catch the businesses while they’re still open.”
Mike raised his eyebrows.
“Flower shops, the caterer... You would not believe all that goes into a wedding!”
Mike gave her a melancholy smiled. “Guess I’ve never gotten that far.”
“Oh, sorry,” Carrie said, bringing her hands to flaming cheeks. “Didn’t mean to make you feel bad.”
Actually, Mike thought, Carrie did a pretty fine job of making him feel terrific. “It’s alright,” he assured her. “But I thought you weren’t going to cancel those things until after the shower?”
“The sooner, the better,” she told him. “Unless I want to get stuck footing the bill for a wedding that doesn’t happen.
“You’re really sweet to agree to be my fiancé tomorrow. Really very sweet. You were absolutely right; I needed to buy myself some time. Once I’ve taken care of canceling the other arrangements and smoothing out all the wrinkles, breaking the news to my family won’t be as hard.”
“Glad I could help,” Mike said, feeling as if he should stand, but still not exactly trusting what his body was doing. Carrie St. John had an unusual effect on him. Though she was certainly not the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, she was definitely one of the most womanly. There was something very sensual about the way her feminine curves suited her just right. Curves he found himself itching to get his hands around.
“Gonna cool off,” Mike said, startling Carrie by bolting to his feet and diving in a split-second lunge into the pool.
“Fine!” Carrie called after him, as he popped his head above the water. “I’ll be back at the inn. Maybe we can meet for dinner and plan out tomorrow?”
“Absolutely!” Mike called after her, before dunking his steaming head back under the surface.
Carrie dropped down on all fours and searched the oriental carpet for her earring back. This was ridiculous. Really! Five minutes until dinner and Carrie was quaking in her sandals like a nervous teenager. You would think this was her first date and not a mere business arrangement with a friend.
And that’s strictly what it was, she thought, finally locating the jewelry piece and standing to insert her earring in the mirror. Strictly business. She and Mike Davis had made a deal, a pact to help each other out in this uncanny time of distress for the two of them. He would butter up her family, and she, in turn, would schmooze with his prep school cronies. Next weekend would be over before she knew it, and her loosely knotted affiliation with Mike Davis would be over altogether.
Carrie frowned at her reflection, wondering what would have become of her and Mike Davis if Mike had truly occupied Wilson’s slot all this while. Of course, she wouldn’t have met Mike in New York, but then, as he lived closer, perhaps their relationship would have been better maintained than her and Wilson’s weekend-style affair.
Carrie watched herself color at the thought of maintain any kind of affair with the hunky Mike Davis. Crimminy. Blushing like a schoolgirl, and he wasn’t even in the room!
Mike tossed his Polo shirt onto the bed, thinking it was really too damn Preppie. Not only that, he reminded himself, at this sort of place one had to wear a tie.
Mike walked over and thumbed through the hanging clothes in the mirrored armoire that served as his closet. A sports coat and light starch button-down would work. That and his conservative yellow -- no, too Wall Street, he told himself. He certainly couldn’t have Carrie thinking stockbrokers on a night like this.
Although it was true Mike was out to impersonate Wilson, he was just as determined to prove to Carrie just how different from Wilson he actually was. Because, like it or not, in less than a day, the voluptuous Carrie St. John had gotten right under Mike Davis’ skin. He didn’t know how it’d happened. Or even, how in the world she’d done it. Particularly since -- from the get-go -- she’d seemed so determined to keep this arrangement between them strictly friends.
Oh, Mike could get friendly with Carrie, alright. More than friendly. Down-right carnal in fact. But the puzzling thing was, Mike’s growing attraction to Carrie involved more than just hormones. There was something about her. Something very earthy and real that set her miles apart from plastic, poised women like Alexia.
Carrie was pretty alright. No one could argue that point. But what made her truly beautiful was that -- unlike Alexia, who’d been attractive in a more Seventh Avenue way -- she didn’t appear to know it. Yet, there was something very womanly about her. Something so soft and feminine, it made Mike ache to be all-man. Christ, he thought, looking down at his boxers. Only three minutes till eight, and he’d have to take another cold shower.