Excerpt: Island Rendezvous

Island Rendezvous by Barbara McMahon

Book One: Tropical Escape Series

It was after ten when Katie knocked on the door to room 1121. It had been vacant yesterday, but according to her room list a guest had checked in last night, so she needed to get it cleaned and move on to the next one.

“Maid service,” she called as she tapped. Most of the guests were already out and enjoying the beach or the shopping. She wished she was, too. Not hearing any answer, she pulled out her passkey.

“Come in,” came from behind the door.

This guest obviously hadn’t yet started out.

Using her passkey, she swung open the door and stopped in total surprise.

Her shock wasn’t anything compared with that of Michael Donovan.

He’d been working on the round glass table on the balcony. When he saw Katie standing in the doorway, in the hotel’s staff uniform, he rose and moved towards her, a stunned look on his face as he took in the neat, trim light blue dress with the hotel logo on the pocket, the cleaning supplies in her hands, the big cart behind her. The seconds ticked by slowly before he spoke.

“What the hell are you doing here, Katherine? You’re not staying here? Is this your job?” His voice rose as he ran his gaze from her head to her sensible shoes.

She nodded, struck speechless, her heart tripping faster as he started towards her. He was the last person she expected to see. Whatever was Michael doing here? She never expected him to leave Boston.

He towered over her as he drew closer, his six feet two inches seeming even taller than she’d remembered. He wore dark shorts and a bright blue shirt–a huge concession to the heat of Key West from a man who usually wore expensive Armani suits and silk shirts. The muscles of his chest and shoulders filled the soft cotton fabric, his stomach flat and trim. His long legs were muscular showing tanned beneath the shorts.

Sexual awareness washed through her. She’d forgotten how hot his body was. During the last months, she’d only seen him in business suits. Fully dressed, ready to face the challenges of the day.

It hadn’t always been like that. She blinked away the memories of those earlier nights so long ago, though her body traitorously remembered. It had been so exciting being married to Michael-at first.

“For God’s sake, Katherine, this is what you left me for? Couldn’t you at least have got a better job? Something more suitable?” Anger showed on his face.

She had not seen him in over four months and this was how he greeted her. There was no “I missed you,” no “how have you been?” just fault found with the job she’d taken. She knew it would never fit his ideal of what his wife should do. Which only went to prove she’d been right to leave. Their values and outlooks on life were too far apart to bridge.

He towered over her, anger and frustration radiating. His dark eyes glittered down at her, and a muscle jerked in his cheek.

She almost apologized, was about to offer an explanation, then a spurt of anger touched her. It really wasn’t his business any longer. She had left him to make a life of her own. She wasn’t answerable to him any more. He could criticize as much as he wanted; she was earning her own way and didn’t need him anymore.

“here’s nothing wrong with this job. It suits me for now; it’s giving me time to decide what I want to do down the road. There are few demands, it’s a job I can handle, the locale is like a dream–it’s perfect for a transition period. What are you doing here, Michael?” she asked. She stood up as tall as she could, though he still towered over her five feet six inches, tilted her chin, the light of battle surely evident in her own brown eyes.

He had to be here for business. For the last five years that was all Michael lived for. But what business could he have in Key West? Was a new shopping complex planned? A luxury condo development? She couldn’t imagine him branching out from Boston. That was where he’d gotten his first break. Where he had moved up in the construction field until his company was one of the leading firms in the area.

“You could have got a job as a social director. An art gallery director. An events planner,” he continued.

“I hate that kind of thing,” she snapped.

He was quiet a moment, his eyes searching hers.

“Was your life so hellish with me?” he asked softly, his eyes holding hers. His puzzlement clearly defined.

She hesitated a moment, then slowly shook her head. It had not always been awful–she didn’t want him to think that. The first year had been wonderful, glorious. She’d been on top of the world, thinking it would never end. She’d been so happy.

And it now seemed so long ago.

“Not hellish, just… not of my choosing. I tried my best, but all those dinners, all those parties, opening nights and opera nights…everything geared to business, networking to expand Donovan Construction, make bigger deals. Making small talk with strangers who were always potential clients. Never kicking back and doing nothing” She sighed softly. “It wasn’t my idea of a good time. I didn’t have a single friend of my own. It was like forever playing a role in a play. I could go through the motions, but they were always such long, tedious evenings.” She shrugged. “I’m not doing it any more.”

She broke eye contact, and glanced around the luxuriously furnished room, out through the huge sliding glass door to the beauty of the tropical island beyond the wide balcony. Palm trees swayed in the morning breeze. The colorful flowers around the grounds gave splashes of red and yellow and blue against the luscious green grass.

“What are you doing here?” she asked again.

His eyes narrowed slightly as he studied her, following the direction of her look, over the balcony railing beyond the grounds of the resort to the sparkling turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

“I came to find you.”

“The attorneys?” she guessed, with lack of surprise. She’d walked abruptly out of Michael’s life several months ago, unable to continue the role of his wife. She’d tried to get him to sit down and listen to her, really hear her, but it hadn’t worked.

She’d contacted him recently to make sure things were progressing with the divorce she had requested. When he’d tried to pin her down, she’d refused to talk to him, agreeing only to talk to the lawyers. Obviously they had passed on her location.

She hadn’t told them she was working at the hotel, only to use it as a mailing address. No wonder Michael was shocked. It was not at all the kind of job successful Michael Donovan could be proud his wife held.

“We have nothing to talk about. I explained it to you in Boston,” she told him now.

“You explained nothing in Boston. Only some garbled tale of leaving. I told you we could discuss it,” he bit out.

“But not then–later, when it suited your very busy business schedule. You always put business first. Even before saving your own marriage.”

Did he still not understand that had been her whole complaint? He always put business first, to the exclusion of everything else. Once success had begun, it was as if he was addicted-more and more, bigger and bigger. He was never satisfied.

“I didn’t notice you complaining about all the things you bought from the money that business brought in.” His anger was building.

“How would you know? You weren’t ever around to hear how I liked anything.”

Katie had grown up in the last few months. She was no longer in love with the man she’d married seven years ago, nor in awe of him. She was sorry their marriage hadn’t lasted, but resolved to find happiness in her new life. She’d come to terms with her situation and would no longer worry about what Michael Donovan did or said.

She glanced pointedly at the clock on the bedside table.

“I have work to do and I’m getting behind schedule; do you want your room cleaned now, or later.”

The muscle tightened in his cheek. Turning back to the balcony, he snapped out, “Do it now.” as he stalked out and leaned both hands against the railing, his back to the room.

She quickly made the bed, washed down the bathroom and vacuumed the carpet. An odd thought popped into mind. She was doing this for her husband, something she hadn’t done in years. It was ironic that she was doing it now that they had separated, now that she had asked for a divorce.

With his first big break, they’d bought a larger home near Cambridge and hired a housekeeper. Frances took care of the house, the meals, taking his clothes to the cleaners. Katie had not needed to do any of the routine tasks most wives did. And that had been part of the problem. After all the years they’d been married, she felt like a visitor in her husband’s house. It was only now that they were divorcing that she could do something for him herself. How odd.

She darted a glance to the balcony. Michael had turned around, leaning his back against the rails, arms crossed over his chest, staring at her. His dark eyes never left her. Watching her intensely, as if she were the only thing in the world. Flushing, she dropped her gaze to the carpet. For the second time that morning, her body warmed. Physically, they had always been compatible. More than compatible, her thoughts mocked her. He had only to touch her and she became wrapped in desire and longing. The long, passionate nights they’d shared were the things she missed the most. Even those had been infrequent during the last year.

She felt a familiar pull, an attraction of her body for his. For a moment, she felt a yearning for the way things had been. The way things had begun so long ago. At the beginning.

She moved, refusing to look at Michael again–afraid of her own reactions to him. She wished he’d stayed in Boston.

The minutes dragged by. Katie could feel his gaze follow her as she moved through her tasks. Why wouldn’t he resume his work at the table, ignore her as she was so desperately trying to ignore him?

Finishing in record time, she scanned the room to make sure everything was satisfactory. While not planning to be a hotel maid forever, she took pride in her work and wanted the room to reflect it. Satisfied, she pushed the vacuum cleaner to her hall cart and let the relief take hold. She was glad to be finished–her nerves were stretched. She hoped he was gone when she reached his room tomorrow. Why couldn’t he lie on the beach like other guests?

Michael followed her to the hall.

“Finished already?”

He stood so close that Katherine could see the faint lines around his eyes. He looked so tired. Had he lost weight? She turned away, damping down her curiosity. It was no longer any business of hers.

She nodded and prepared to push the cart to the next room. His hand stopped her, resting briefly on her shoulder. Her skin tingled beneath his touch and she stepped away, her eyes wide, her heart leaping at his touch, her whole body turning to his like a magnet to true north. She watched him warily.

“Katherine…”

“I’m called Katie here, Michael. Katherine belongs to another life,” she said gently, looking away, longing to end this. She didn’t want to rehash everything. She’d made the break four months ago. There was nothing to be gained by prolonging it. It had been hard to do then, and she didn’t want to go through it again. Why couldn’t he just let her go?

“Katie, then. When do you get off? Could we get together to talk?”

“No, I’m busy.” She pushed the cart.

“How about dinner, then?” he asked, stepping into the hall.

She threw him a look over her shoulder.

“How long are you staying here?” she asked, suddenly suspicious.

“Only a day or so. Now that I’m here, I might as well take a break from work.”

She paused a moment, but knew if he was focused in some course of action, he persevered until he got what he wanted. It was only dinner, and she could prove to herself once and for all that she could hold her own against him.

“Dinner’s okay, but not here. While the hotel wants the employees to do all they can to cater to guests, that doesn’t include the hired help mingling with them.” She grinned suddenly, an absurd idea striking her. “How about pizza?”