Monday, April 24, 2006

EXCERPT - Island Rendezvous

By Michelle Monkou

Kimani Press - Arabesque
ISBN 1-58314-613-X

April 2006

Here's the excerpt and the blurb under it has to be included too.

“Excuse me, sir?”

Derek looked toward the woman standing off to his right. She held her wide brim hat with one hand while shielding her eyes with the other. His eyes flicked over her body. Nice. “Yes.”

“I heard that I needed to sign up for the boat ride here.”

“Usually folks sign up at their hotel. But there is room for the occasional walk-ons.” He smiled.

“Well, where do I pay?” Impatience laced her question.

“Pay the bartender over there.” He tossed his head in Cecil's direction before turning his back on her.

“Do you know anything about the trip or even about the boat?”

She followed him to where he sat at the bar. He had to review his list, which he did for every trip. It also gave him a few additional minutes of quiet before having to turn on the charm for his customers. People expected all the natives to be smiling and happy for their business. There was no off day in the tourism industry.

“I've read this, but there isn't much information about the crew's experience or how old is the boat.” She unfolded a heavily creased brochure from her purse. He didn't look at the information since he wrote and designed the marketing piece.

“You sound nervous.”

She nodded.

Her admission surprised him. She didn't appear to be the timid type. There was the direct manner in which she looked at him and held his gaze. “Don't worry, it's safe.”

“Don't care for boats ever since I saw the movie about great white sharks.” She offered a shaky smile.

At least she had a sense of humor. Derek laughed.

Oh, oh, big mistake. He quickly tucked his light-hearted approach when he noticed that she had stopped smiling. She had pulled her hat low on her head. Together with the dark glasses most of her face was hidden. But her lips were exposed and tightened into a straight angry line.

“Sorry. I thought you were kidding. You couldn't be more than a child when that movie came out.” Charm and flattery always worked on his behalf. Plus he didn't think that he was far off with his observation. Her body was toned, fully curved in all the right places. Her face revealed natural beauty, unaffected by any make-up.

“Doesn't matter. I've made up my mind.” She walked over to an open view of the pier and shook her head. “I'm not getting great vibes from this boat. Doesn't look very sturdy to me.”

A strong gust of wind whipped off her hat. She reached out to grab it, but it tugged and dipped in the air and finally rolled toward Derek's feet. He reached down and picked it up. He'd thought that the glasses hid her face, but it only shielded her eyes. With the hat off, he could see her entire face. She had a heart-shaped face that showed off sharp cheekbones tapering down to a narrow chin.

Full lips covered with glossy dark lip color drew his attention. It took him a few minutes to stop focusing on her lips to realize that she was talking to him.

“I've changed my mind. I'll give it a try. Is there another tour in the area?”

“Another tour company?” Derek didn't take kindly to being dismissed. But he especially didn't care for anyone turning up her snobbish nose at his boat. This stranger dressed in her bright yellow shorts set and crisp white sneakers may have the body of a fitness instructor. Being scared was one thing, insulting him was another.

“It may not be an iron maiden like your cruise ships. The boat is only part of the equation. Her captain is the other factor. I can guarantee that he'll give you the smoothest ride. You won't realize that your feet aren't on firm ground.”

“What makes you the fortune teller?” Her challenge poked at him.

The implication was clear. She didn't think him worthy of giving her advice, but good enough to answer her questions like what other companies to recommend. Now he dearly hoped that Miss Snooty Pants would join him on the next excursion.

“I know the guy who operates the trip.” He deliberately softened his tone. He wanted her to take his tour. “Have a free ride. Only if you enjoy yourself, you'll pay for your next ride. And I know that you'll want another trip. I think that's fair, don't you?”

“Maybe.” A smile tugged at the edge of her lips. She took off her glasses and peered up at the sky. “Heard about the rain showers that pop up suddenly and then disappear. What if that happens while I'm out there?” She pointed a thumb toward the ocean.

As much as he would love to see her drenched, he did his part to continue reassuring her. “Rain showers don't last long. Think of it as a cleansing touch. Anyway, the boat wouldn't be that far from shore. The crew is aware of the dangers.”

She had a bag that matched the hat, both were hand woven by a native merchant. He recognized the generic style that was made quickly and cheaply sold in the market place. She dove into the bag and retrieved a black umbrella. With a triumphant grin, she raised the umbrella.

He shook his head. There went his dream of a sopping wet Miss Snooty Pants.

“Since you can't help, I'll go check out the other services. Thanks for your time.” She stuck out her hand.

So that was it. He hadn't passed muster. He shook her hand, appreciating the brief touch of her skin. Close up, he savored the soft fragrance surrounding her. The smell of a bouquet made him look at her neck where he figured she had sprayed the scent. His gaze traveled upward to her face with its sharp contours and smooth skin that reminded him of brown sugar. Her soft brown hair framed her face in soft waves that moved gently under the breeze. He didn't want to let go of her hand.

“It's a small island. Maybe we'll meet again.” And that was a promise.

# # #

From the book: Island Rendezvous
By Michelle Monkou
Imprint and Series: Harlequin - Kimani Press
Publication Date: 06/04
ISBN: 158314613X
Copyright(C) Year 2006
(R) and TM are trademarks of the publisher.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
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