Authors: Suzanne Rock
Tags: #erotic romance, #Contemporary Romance
Book Seven in the Ecstasy Spa Series
2014 Suzanne Rock
This e-book is contains excerpts that are works of fiction. While reference might be made to actual historical events or existing locations, the names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Cover Artist: For the Muse Designs
Jenna stumbled out of the charter plane and onto the hard, wooden dock. Never before had she been so relieved to see dry land.
“Be careful,” Joely, the pilot, chuckled as she grabbed Jenna’s hand. “It can take a few minutes to reorient yourself.”
Jenna held her stomach as the world around her spun. For some reason, she didn’t remember the flight from Chicago to Miami being so rough on her system. Then again, the owner of the island had given her a first class ticket on a large 747 and a wad of cash that could buy her enough alcohol to pickle her brain and settle her nerves. Flying sober in Joely’s little puddle jumper was like going on a rickety rollercoaster with only a flimsy seatbelt between yourself and a tragic death.
“How can you be so calm?” Jenna grabbed her stomach as the world around her swayed.
Joely grinned and hooked her thumbs in the straps of her overalls. “Been flying all of my life. I’m more comfortable in the air than on the ground.” Her smile faded as Jenna coughed and doubled over. “You don’t look so good.”
“Seriously, all your life?” Jenna found it hard to believe that anyone would give that woman a pilot’s license.
“Most of it.” Joely flipped her long, chestnut ponytail over her shoulder and placed a hand on Jenna’s back. “You okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine.” Jenna shook off the pilot’s hand and wished she’d stop talking for a moment. The entire ride had been filled with nonstop commentary. On Mr. Vardalos—whom Joely affectionately called Mr. V—the weather, the spa and what to expect on the island. She realized the pilot was just trying to put her at ease, and Jenna had tried to pay attention, but all she could think about was how the rickety plane dipped and swerved precariously over the Atlantic waters. It was a miracle they had made it there in one piece.
“Are you sure?” Joely asked. “I could get you something, some water or a piece of bread. I’m told bread seems to make people feel better.” She glanced at her plane. “I need to pick up a few supplies and head back to the mainland for the other passengers, but I could send someone down to—”
“No, no. That’s okay.” Jenna straightened and forced a smile on her face. This was her big chance, her new beginning, and she didn’t want to have people’s first impression to be of her losing her lunch on their shoes. She took in a deep breath and found that the salt air did a lot to steady her stomach. “I’ll be fine. Promise.”
Joe frowned as she studied her face. “I don’t like leaving you like this. I’ve never gotten airsick myself, but from what I hear it isn’t something I’d wish on anyone.”
“Really, I’m fine,” Jenna insisted. She looked up and blinked at the woman’s features. The cheerfulness had faded, replaced by a darker, more thoughtful expression. Fine lines framed her cautious eyes as she pressed her lips into a thin line.
“Are you okay? Or do I just look that bad?” Jenna asked. As soon as she spoke, the shadows in Joely’s eyes disappeared, leaving Jenna to wonder if she had imagined the whole thing.
“Me? I’m always okay. Why wouldn’t I be?” Joely leaned back and shoved her hands in the pockets of her overalls. “And you look better already. At least, you have some color back in your cheeks.”
“Thanks.” Jenna straightened, happy to find that the world was no longer tilting. “Just forget I said anything.”
Joely considered her for a moment, then nodded. “I can do that. Now that we’ve established we’re both okay, you just have to walk up that dock and take the stone steps at the end. Once you’re inside the castle, follow the signs to the spa area. They’ll be expecting you.”
“What about my things?”
Joely smiled. “Don’t you worry about your bags. I’ll have them sent up so they’ll be waiting for you. Just go on now and enjoy yourself.” “I—”
“Go on now, scoot.” Joely started to head back toward the plane then stopped, making a shooing motion with her hands. “I have a feeling they’re waiting for you. And try and eat something to settle your stomach so I don’t get another lecture from Mr. V about me needing a new plane. New doesn’t always mean better.”
It would for her. “Okay, thanks for the help.”
“It was my pleasure. And I know this wasn’t your favorite leg of the journey, but if you ever need to get off the island, you know who to call. I run this operation seven days a week, so I can accommodate most requests.” She leaned in closer and lowered her voice. “Although I have to warn you, I’d have to run it by Mr. V first. We don’t keep secrets from each other.”
Joely paused, studying her. “You won’t keep secrets from him either, or betray his trust in you in any way. And you will always treat him with the respect he deserves. If you don’t, then you’ll have to answer to me.”
Jenna stared at her in shock. “I can assure you, I have no intention of disrespecting or betraying anyone.”
“No, of course you don’t. I apologize. I’m a great pilot, but I’ve never been good at subtle conversation.” Joely backed away and once again shoved her hands in her pockets. “I’m just saying that strange things can happen on the island, and it can be tempting to get a little carried away. Just keep that level head of yours, and everything will be fine.”
“I-okay.” Jenna tried to hide her frown. This pilot wasn’t making any sense. The owner of the island had provided Jenna with an incredible job opportunity. The last thing she wanted to do was to stab him in the back or make him angry.
Joely looked as if she wanted to say something more, but didn’t. Instead she straightened and held out her hand. “It was great meeting you, Jenna. I hope you find what you’re looking for while you’re here. At least…what you need.”
“Thanks.” Jenna shook Joely’s hand and then turned her back, shaking off the pilot and plane like they were some bad nightmare. It would take a hell of a lot more than the prospect of a high paying job to get her into that piece of junk again. If she ever had to leave the island, she’d take a boat. It was much safer.
Once on dry land, Jenna took a moment to catch her breath and look at her surroundings. A mixture of white sand and rocks curved around her, creating a small bay of calm waters where the sea plane could land. Jenna wondered if there were other alcoves like this around the island, and if her job would allow her time to explore them. She missed those lazy days in St. Lucia where she’d take the afternoon off to explore the marine life that lived close to her home. There wasn’t any place to go scuba diving in Chicago, and she didn’t have the money to take vacations back to the Caribbean.
Then again, even if there
opportunities to dive in Chicago, she probably wouldn’t have pursued them. Just like she probably wouldn’t pursue it here, either. Diving would just be too emotionally painful. They’d bring back too many memories of how she had fallen for a handsome face and was betrayed. Memories of
Jenna turned her back on the blue-green water and climbed the steps to the large, ominous-looking castle that felt oddly out of place in such peaceful surroundings. As she approached the wooden door with ornate iron filigree, she was reminded of an entrance to an old, medieval palace. The castle would be more at home in Northern Ireland than in a tropical paradise. Jenna wondered who on God’s green Earth would ever want to have a spa retreat in a place like this. Still, she was being paid three times what she was in Chicago to help manage the day to day spa activities. As long as Mr. Vardalos paid her on time, she wouldn’t pass judgment.
Jenna reached for the handle and then jerked back as the door opened on its own. Beyond the doorway was a large foyer filled with dark hardwood floors, aquamarine wallpaper, and large, mounted photographs of sea life. Sconces lined the walls at regular intervals, covered with stained glass orbs. The orbs flickered both colored light and shadow around the room, creating the sensation that one was underwater.
Frowning, Jenna glanced back over her shoulder at the dock, suddenly unsure. This castle seemed rather empty. Perhaps she should go back and ask Joely if this was the right place. She turned back to the dock to do just that, but the plane was gone.
That was quick.
Odd that Jenna didn’t hear a motor running when the plane left the dock. That puddle jumper sounded like an old Ford with a muffler problem while in the air.
The clouds moved overhead, casting the island into even deeper shadow. Jenna shivered as she glanced around at the well-maintained landscape. A sea of white, violet, blue and pink fanned out around the building and moved in the breeze, creating the illusion of rippling water. At regular intervals topiaries of marine animals sprang up from the flower beds, as if they were jumping out of the water in their excitement to see her.
Odd that I didn’t notice them before.
Jenna always had a thing for fresh flowers, but hadn’t indulged in them since St. Lucia. The flowers and topiaries around the castle looked well cared for. That meant someone had to be in charge of maintaining the grounds. If someone was keeping up with the landscaping, then she wasn’t alone. All she had to do was to find the grounds crew and ask them to point her in the direction of the spa.
Jenna stepped into the large foyer and wiped her feet on the turtle-shaped welcome mat. As soon as she was completely inside, the front door creaked and closed behind her, snapping her out of her thoughts.
Hmm, it must operate on some sort of sensor.
Jenna forced her shoulders to relax and pushed the small, wispy strands of hair from her face. Inside the castle was warm, much warmer than outside. The light from the sconces intensified, sending patterns of colored light that seemed hopelessly random and yet sequential. The hairs on Jenna’s neck stood on end as she had this odd sensation that her mind was being manipulated.
“Hello? Anyone here?” Jenna pushed aside the fuzzy feeling in her head and stepped deeper into the room. As her heeled boots clicked over the hardwoods, a faint, familiar scent tickled her nose. The aroma was a curious mixture of salt and suntan lotion, laced with a hint of fruit. It reminded Jenna of those lazy days on her mom's boat so many years ago. Curious that she’d smell the ocean inside a medieval castle. Perhaps there were windows open somewhere.
“Hello? I’m here about the job…” Jenna frowned when no one answered. Glancing around, she didn't see a place where she could sit or take off her coat. The room was empty except for the grand, marble staircase along the far wall that seemed to stretch up to the Heavens. Feeling rather warm, she took off her jacket and cradled it in her arms.
Follow the signs.
Joely’s words ran through her mind as she scanned the foyer. Jenna had no idea which direction the castle spa was located, let alone Mr. Vardalos' office. She took in her surroundings, recognizing the fish and coral in the photographs as being native to the Caribbean.
Suddenly the light from the sconces shifted, and Jenna caught sight of a large, white beach towel carelessly tossed over a dark frame to her right. The towel had a blossoming flower on it—the same flower she had seen on her invitation.
Jenna peeked under the towel and found a building directory. The blockish, businesslike letters were etched on a brass plate and framed with dark wood. She scanned the different amenities of the hotel, passing over the bar area, the conference rooms and recreational area, before settling on the words “Oasis Spa.”
“Bingo,” she murmured to herself.
Room two thirty-two.
After a quick look around, she noticed a second brass sign on the stair railing, signaling that rooms two hundred through three hundred were down the hall and to the left. Odd that she didn’t see that sign before.
Jenna dropped the towel back over the directory and headed toward the spa. A quick glance at her watch told her that she was a few minutes early, which was good. Jenna had never been late for anything in her life and she wanted to show her new boss that she was both reliable and punctual.
As she walked, the gloomy aquamarine and shadow of the foyer morphed into pastel-yellow walls, cream carpet and soft lighting. Photographs of marine life shifted to contemporary photographs of people. One was of a soothsayer giving fortunes, a second was of two boxers, staring each other down in the ring. Still another was of some band called Random Acts of Crazy, who would play at the castle next week. The oddest picture of them all was of some red-headed model dressed up like candy and standing against the backdrop of a rainbow. For the life of me, I couldn’t imagine why the owner of the castle would hang such pictures up in his castle. They were an eclectic group of photographs and didn’t seem to fit in such a luxurious place.