Lindsay couldn’t quite open her eyes. They seemed glued together and as gritty as sand, too painful to open. She took her fingers, placing one above and below each eye and forced them open. Groaning, she closed them quickly. In the few minutes of sight, she’d seen seabirds flying across the blue panel of sky, their air current carrying them forward with each flap of their wings. The cruel sun glared down on her with contempt in its heat.
The birds circled, squawked loudly and moved on. She felt a light breeze float over the edge of the raft and thought she’d never felt something so good.
Overhead, she watched the contrails of a jet widen and slowly begin to dissipate into the atmosphere.
Curiously, she looked on as clouds moved slowly and she squinted, tilting her head in different directions as they took shapes of images she recognized. Faces. Animals. Things. Forever changing one to another.
She loved watching clouds. It was one of the few things that gave her peace.
She jerked upward as she remembered where she was and the desperate measures she’d taken to lose herself and make a new life.
She glanced over at the sleeping body in the lifeboat with disdain. How dare he intrude on her disappearance!
He had a hand turned palm up resting on his brow as he slumped his large body in a precarious position. Lindsay pushed herself to her knees and looked down at Hunter Fleming III. The Hunter Fleming III. Hastily, she reseated herself, not wanting to touch him, surprised that she wanted to.
She wasn’t going to waste one moment of her time with thoughts of him. She had more important things to think about—like finding some remote island in the south seas where she could live out the rest of her life with the locals. She could care less when the world-renowned playboy woke up.
Hunter woke up by slow degrees. He felt the slow motion of the waves and forced his eyes open. Through slitted eyes, he watched her. Dark thick lashes framed a perfect oval face—until she turned her head and the jagged scar revealed itself. It failed to distract from her beauty. He was about to ask how she was feeling when she turned her head and their eyes met.
She took one look at him and sniffed then turned the other way.
He laughed and repositioned his large frame. He wasn’t cut out for sleeping in a lifeboat. “How are you this morning?”
The fight was back. It was there in the set of her chin and the fire in her eyes. “I’m just fine.”
“I’m glad to hear that.” Hunter stretched, and rose to his knees to take a look around. “Looks like we got land up ahead.”
She scrambled up, rocking the boat in the process, demanding, “Where?”
“Will you watch what you’re doing?” he yelled as he held on to the sides. “You’re going to tip us over.”
“Don’t be such a wuss,” she told him snidely, hanging to trail her fingers through the water as they approached an island.
“Women. None of you have any sense,” he muttered with annoyance, trying to keep the raft balanced as they headed for shore.
“And, neither do men. All they can think of is—” she let her voice trail off as her cheeks heated. She cupped water in her hand to cool her face with. “I can’t believe I’m stuck with one.”
“Well, excuse me for trying to save your life,” he shouted on a bitter note then caught her as she nearly fell into the water. “Will you please sit down until we get there!”
Hunter jumped out of the raft, guiding it into a small cove when the water became shallow. Lindsay followed suit, awed at the privacy it afforded. This was exactly what she was looking for.
“What an idiot!” he snapped, angry at himself for his foolish attempt to help someone in trouble. “I can’t believe I ever felt sorry for you.” He continued flogging himself with curses as he settled the raft onto safe ground on the shore so it wouldn’t be pushed back out to sea by the motion of the tides.
“I didn’t ask for your help,” she yelled as she scanned the trees. She heard the crunch of sand as he pulled the raft farther inland. “You were not part of my plans.”
He grabbed her arm, turning her to face him. The wind whipped up, loosening strands of her dark hair to blow across her face, tangling around the hand that held her. He remembered the night, the wet strands he brushed from her face, remembered tracing a brow and wondering what color her eyes were. He didn’t have to wonder now. They were the color of blue ice and he felt their frigidity as she glared at him.
“You’d think you’d at least have the courtesy to thank me. You could’ve drowned,” he told her angrily, but knew his words fell on deaf ears. He was enthralled by her scent, tempting him, a distraction that he found hard to ignore.
She watched in suppressed fascination as his jaw worked in agitation, walking back to the raft on angry feet before he said something he’d regret.
Hunter busied himself emptying the contents of the raft as he cooled off. As a rough breeze stirred the leaves to the right, he scanned the sky as dark clouds rolled in then checked for a place to make camp and settle until the storm ran its course.
Lindsay screeched in dismay as the sky opened up and she was drenched in minutes, soaked to the skin. She heard Hunter laugh from the safety of the trees where he’d spread the blanket over a few bushes and sat in dry safety underneath.
Angrily, she stomped toward him, water trickling between her breasts. He could’ve at least warned her, she thought snidely.
He handed her a dry cloth as she slipped under the blanket and sat as far away from Hunter as she could and still stay dry.
Lindsay twisted her fingers into the cloth and wrapped it around her hair like a turban, tucking the edge underneath. Staring over at her self-appointed savior, the most foul and offensive man she’d ever met, she swallowed back a biting retort about his manhood. He was right in the sense that she could’ve drowned at her precarious escape from the luxury liner.
At the moment, she was too irritated with him to acknowledge that he may have been her saving grace. Risking a glance out of the corner of her eye, she was a little put out that he was leaning back against a tree with his eyes closed as if this were a regular occurrence. Now that she knew he couldn’t see her, she turned her head to assess him fully. His hair, even darker when wet, hung in smooth strands over a smooth forehead. She turned her attention to the rest of his features without realizing what she was doing. She frowned at his handsomeness, the nearly square face, all clean lines and angles. It was the mouth that she couldn’t drag her gaze away from. It was the most kissable she’d ever seen.
His eyelids fluttered and she jerked her eyes away, to stare straight ahead. It wouldn’t do to be discovered watching him. She settled in and let her mind wander.
The memory of the accident hit her hard, tears finding their way down her cheeks without her realizing she was crying. She swiped her face, pushing the grief she carried with her all these years aside. She’d given up feeling sorry for herself years ago.
Tears had never worked before to ease the pain and they weren’t going to help now. Tears never helped anything.
She’d gotten what she wanted. She was alone, well, almost alone, lost to civilization and on her way to start a new life. Now she could start living the way she wanted to.