Humid air rushed onto the small plane as the door opened, and Regan wondered again how she’d been talked into this.
“Chill.” Kylee’s hand rested on Regan’s tense forearm. “We’re in paradise, remember?”
“Not yet. Boat ride first, right?” Regan asked. So many steps to get from one place to another. So many places she could change her mind, turn around, and go home.
Kylee snorted. “To get to the island, yeah, but still…Bahamas. Paradise. We’re here.” Then Kylee took another slow breath out as her hand flattened against the tiny baby pooch of her stomach. Another wave of nausea, probably.
“That thing is causing you so much trouble, and you’re barely showing,” Regan said, attempting to keep her mind on anything but her ex’s wedding. The wedding she was practically bribed to go to—bribed with the idea that he’d think she still pined for him if she didn’t show. Bribed with the thought that she may seem childish or pathetic if she skipped out. Bribed by herself because camping at her parents’ house while keeping fingers and toes crossed for a job, hadn’t been the relaxing stay she’d hoped for. And bribed by her best friend who was in desperate need of a vacation.
A trip in the Bahamas! It’ll be fun! Lodging is paid for! You’ll get away from the sea of boxes in your childhood bedroom!
Now that she was only a few hours from once again seeing the guy who’d broken her heart in college, she wasn’t so sure the trip was worth the free lodging, or seeming more mature than she felt.
Kylee picked at the dry granola in her plastic bag, stuffing a few more small bits in her mouth. “I can’t tell you how much I hate being nauseated.”
Yeah, Regan had sat on the plane from Chicago to Atlanta, and then Atlanta to Nassau, just hoping not to be puked on. Only a short boat ride left.
“But we’re in paradise, remember?” Regan patted her friend’s leg and was given a death-glare in response. “Your words. Not mine.”
“Can we please get the pregnant lady off the plane?” Kylee whined.
A few people around them chuckled, but they all stood, pulling bags from overhead compartments, rather than letting them stand up and pass.
Regan tugged at the pale braid around her shoulder. In a place as humid as this, it would be the only way to tame her frantic curls. And there weren’t words for how much she didn’t want to get off the plane. She took a quick moment to text her mom, who hadn’t had an MS flare-up in so long, that it meant Regan was doubly worried.
“Didn’t Lara set you up with someone?” Kylee asked.
Yeah, because Regan was desperate to not come alone, but to invite one of the random guys she’d dated over the past few months, to a romantic private-island resort, felt strange at best. “Yeah.”
“I wasn’t friends with all of you in college. You’ll have to point your date out to me.”
How had this not come up before? “It’s Lara’s brother.” The little brother. The one who was always building and re-building computers in their basement. “And I’ve known Lara since high school.”
“Wait.” Kylee’s eyes were on Regan far too narrowed to be casual. “Really? But you almost never talk about her.”
Regan shrugged. “We grew apart in college.”
“But she’s here, with your college group,” Kylee prodded.
“Yup.” Because Lara had been part of her college group. Had been the one to introduce her ex, Matt, to LaChelle, Matt’s fiancé. So, a few years after that introduction, Regan got to attend their wedding--all thanks to Lara.
Kylee smirked. “I can’t wait to hear this story, and I can’t believe that whatever’s running through your head right now hasn’t come up in conversation because your eyes say you’re in it.”
With a lurching swallow, Kylee’s hand once again went to her stomach.
“Miss?” a voice called from behind them.
Kylee just waved her hand dismissively, her eyes closed.
Regan gestured for the few people behind them on the plane to walk off. She’d made it this far without sitting next to a puking friend, and she’d do whatever Kylee needed to make sure that the food in her stomach stayed there..
“I’d say the nausea serves you right for harassing me, but I don’t want to suffer another death glare.” Regan tried a smirk, but Kylee’s eyes were still closed.
Kylee raised her middle finger.
“Deserved that,” Regan said. “Let’s get off this plane.”
Kylee released another slow breath before her eyes opened. “The only nice thing about a smaller plane, is you and I got to sit together without some poor person having to overhear our conversations.”
Regan and Kylee stood, gathered their bags from the overhead, and slowly ambled off the plane. She couldn’t wait for a dip in the ocean, followed by a long shower, and maybe about twenty hours of sleep. Or however many it would take to sleep right through the wedding.
* * *
Regan rested on the bench of an open, metal, fishing boat as they raced across the water. The turquoise-blue of the ocean was straight out of every brochure on the Caribbean she’d ever seen.
Kylee sat in the bow, grinning, the saltwater spraying on her face.
“Don’t fall out!” Regan called. “Your husband will never forgive me!”
Kylee waved her back. “His fault for being the responsible adult and sticking around for his job.”
Kylee’s husband’s reputation, just a few years out of law school, was fierce. The downside to that reputation, was that Kylee did a lot of things on her own. Regan only hoped that he’d be more available once their baby was born. Or, Regan’s duties as a friend-auntie would be much bigger than normal.
“You ladies here for camping?” Junior, the driver, asked. The logo on his polo matched the logo on his boat. FISH-FISH.
“For the resort,” Regan answered. “A wedding. Someone has a connection to the guy who bought the island.”
Regan had not come to paradise to camp.
“Resort?” His large eyes grew wider—a stark contrast to his dark skin. “Resort?” A grin split his face as laughter peeled through the air.
Regan’s stomach twisted. Him laughing about the word, resort, wasn’t good.
Of course, the free lodging would have to be too good to be true. Or, the “free” meant something she wasn’t ready to consider.
The smooth sea and small strips of sand, topped by green, rested in small dots in front of her. “Which one is Paradise Island?” she asked as she squinted.
The man pointed ahead. A large checkered marker sat on some rocks.
“These point the way in. Shallow here for big boats.” His accent was like music—all smooth and sing-songey. “But we’re fine.”
“Oh.” Was that good? Bad? She’d never been on the ocean before.
“This air.” Kylee breathed in again. “I miss the ocean.”
Connecticut ocean and Caribbean Sea had to be a bit different, but Regan had grown up near lakes, so what did she know? Large rocks formed a breakwater with an opening to the harbor. Once they passed the rocks, the small cove rested in front of her.
The harbor was nothing but three long, wooden docks, and near the shore sat a bright turquoise house with purple trim. So tacky. But, it had to be a bit cool to live in a house on the docks.
Junior slowed the boat, and a man emerged from the tacky-shack.
Tidy dark hair, deep tan, a wide smile…Broad shoulders tapered to a slim waist that was highlighted by low-slung board shorts and a fitted tank.
“Regan!” Lara sprinted from the small building and ran down the dock, the hot guy following.
Lara’s pale skin was freckled and pink from the sun, despite the large hat on her head.
“Hey!” Regan waved again. “This is my friend, Kylee.”
“So great to meet you Kylee!” Lara chirped. “I mean, outside of Facebook, am I right?”
Lara’s over-the-top exuberance hadn’t tempered with age. Regan forced a smile. The over exuberance was the thing she used to love most about her friend. She had no idea why it grated on her nerves now.
The hot guy stepped forward, reaching out a hand to help Regan from the boat to the dock. She stared at the lean, muscular arm, and her heart skipped. Who was he?
Regan reached her hand to meet his. Calloused, but not rough. Strong. She easily stepped over the side of the boat onto the dock.
“Welcome to my island,” he said in a mock Caribbean accent.
He spread his arms wide and his grin grew.
Great. So, some random guy who’d been here a few days longer, had decided he was gonna run her show? No, thanks.
“Hey, Kylee’s wiped. We’d love to get to our room and get settled.”
Kylee fanned herself with a small leaflet someone had handed her at the airport.
Lara grimaced. “They’re tiny. I mean, renovations have just been started.”
The guy edged between Lara and Regan. “But I did the best I could with the short notice of the wedding.”
Wait. What? So, he worked here?
“Oh, Regan. Your date!” Lara jumped to the side and gestured to the arrogant guy next to her. “My brother, Colby.”
Regan felt her jaw go slack as all rational thought fled her mind. This was geeky little Colby Parker?