Authors: Nic Saint
When debut novelist Chloe Thomson wins an exclusive writing retreat on an island paradise, she never expected to run into Joshua Poole, billionaire novelist, gorgeous hunk and one very cranky human being.
Josh’s career is in trouble. He’s been suffering from a serious case of writer’s block, and his annual trip to Eden Island is his last chance. When suddenly Chloe drops in on him out of the blue, he’s more than a little annoyed.
Apparently there’s been a double booking, and for one long week Chloe and Josh have to find a way to coexist. Sharing the same space. Dipping into the same pool. Sleeping in the same bed…
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BILLIONAIRE NOVELIST’S FIERY DEBUTANTE
“What’s the problem, ma’am?”
Chloe, all buckled in and rigid with fear, had trouble keeping her teeth from chattering as she formulated a response.
“Are we there yet?” she finally hollered, forgetting she was in direct communication with the pilot via the ingenious system of microphone and earphones.
She thought she could detect a grin on the pilot’s face, but it was hard to know for sure. All she could see was the man’s broad expanse of back and the curly hair peeping from under his aviator’s cap.
“No, ma’am,” he answered. “Should be another hour or so.”
He darted a look over his shoulder, and even though his lips were absolutely smirk-free, she could detect a twinkle in his eye. “Just sit back and enjoy the ride.”
She nodded curtly and wrung her hands some more.
Glancing down at the smooth expanse of ocean, she hated to think what might happen if they crash-landed before reaching their destination. She’d drown, that much was certain. For even though she was an average swimmer, she’d never make it back to shore with that pathetic breaststroke of hers. Six laps in the municipal pool was just about the limit of her swimming capabilities.
Then she’d sink like a stone, and the world wouldn’t even mourn her demise. She’d never be the famous author she always professed she’d be before age thirty. The last novel she’d self-published hadn’t even sold thirty copies. And even though she was grateful to every single one of those thirty brave souls who’d taken a chance on her, something told her the little novel that could would never make it up the bestseller lists at this rate.
She bit her lip and returned her gaze to the back of the pilot’s head, the only safe place in the whole panorama. If only he’d been Harrison Ford, she could have borne the suspenseful flight in a more dignified manner. Crash landing in the middle of the ocean with Harrison Ford wouldn’t be a bad thing. If she survived, she could even get a book out of it. And she was sure Harrison would find a way to save them both, unlike this chubby eye twinkler.
Not for the first time since she won Write Magazine’s ‘Luxury Writing Retreat’ contest, a twinge of regret reared its ugly head. Even though the seven-day sojourn at ‘The New York Times Bestselling Writers’ Retreat of Choice’ was the chance of a lifetime, her fear of flying had almost compelled her to turn down the offer, and settle for the second prize: a meeting with New York’s top book agent Melinda DuChamp.
But then her Mom’s sound advice had finally prevailed.
“You can’t turn down the offer, honey!” she had squealed. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Did you know that Joshua Poole writes all his books at Eden?”
Her mother was one of Mr. Poole’s most rabid fans and had read every single one of the thriller writer’s one hundred bestsellers.
“Mom, please,” Chloe had groaned. Unlike her mother, she wasn’t a Poole groupie at all, finding the man’s thrillers overly violent and exceedingly depressing.
“It’s true!” her mom had yelled. “Every year, Joshua books a fortnight at Eden Island to map out his next masterpiece!” Clasping her hands together and directing an adoring look at the heavens, she murmured, “Imagine my little girl going where only Poole has gone before.” She leveled a stern gaze at Chloe. “I do hope a little of the man’s bestselling magic rubs off on you, hon. Your thirtieth birthday is coming up, and you know what that means.”
An eye roll was Chloe’s only response. Yes, her thirtieth birthday was just around the corner, and Chloe did know exactly what that meant. Only recently, she’d been compelled to switch careers, and when settling on her new vocation of being a writer, she’d sworn a sacred oath to succeed before she turned thirty or else.
The ‘or else’ part was something she hadn’t really worked out yet, figuring it would never happen. She did remember mentioning briefly to her mother that she would devote the rest of her life to helping the poor in Bangladesh as a nun.
“I don’t want you to become a nun, hon,” said Mom, cocking her head.
“I won’t, Mom,” Chloe assured her. “My last book is doing really well. It’s only a matter of time before I break out.”
“Right,” replied Mom with unveiled skepticism. “Which is exactly why you should take this golden opportunity while you can. You know how much this shindig costs?”
Yes, she did. More than she’d ever be able to afford, even if she ever wrote a bestseller. Only Mr. ‘I made 100 Million Dollars Last Year’ Joshua Poole could spend every holiday on the island.
The only way to reach the island was by helicopter, and once you were dropped off, you were on your own. The villa was the only structure on the island and was fully stocked with all the necessities and more. There was even a pool and Jacuzzi for the weary writer to soak his tired head at night, and a gym to work those lazy muscles while the brain caught up with the latest plot development and cliffhanger. The only thing that Eden Island didn’t have was what made it so unique: no cable TV, no internet, no cell phone reception. You were completely cut off from the world, with no excuse not to work on your manuscript.
They did provide the lone writer with a panic button, to be carried on the wrist at all times, in case of an emergency. But as far as she could tell, no one had ever used it.
She squeezed her eyes shut, and once again hoped her stomach would behave until they arrived on the island. It would be such a lousy start to her dream retreat if she hurled all over the helicopter now.
“Prepare for touchdown,” suddenly the voice of the pilot interrupted her thoughts. He gave her a comforting grin. “We’re landing in five, Miss Thomson.”
“Thank God,” she muttered, and when she looked down this time, was surprised and elated to find herself gazing upon a genuine paradise. An azure ocean lapped gently at sandy beaches lined by a patch of lazily swaying palm trees. And as the helicopter ducked ever lower, she suddenly saw the villa appearing in the distance. It was exactly like the brochure had predicted: a jewel of modern architecture, all glass and wood, with a small helipad on the roof. As they touched down, she found herself staring down at the pool below and felt her heart rejoice.
“Mine. All mine,” she whispered.
Josh Poole sat musing in his recliner, fingers steepled on his chest, eyes half-lidded. He’d been hard at work on his new thriller, but so far had made little headway. He’d gone through dozens of permutations outlining possible plot structures, then had rejected them all just as swiftly.
He’d been staring at a blank page for three days now, unable to get a single word down. And, for the life of him, he didn’t know why. He’d never had this much trouble before with one of his hugely successful Frankie Knox thrillers.
It was perhaps a bit much to say that the damn things wrote themselves, but it wasn’t exactly Shakespeare. Frankie Knox, a young cop in New York, solved the most heinous crimes with the help of his zany female sidekick Jacqueline Spark, a fortune teller and self-proclaimed psychic. While Knox was a hard-boiled cop of the ‘shoot first ask questions later’ ilk, Jacqueline liked to ‘sense’ her way to catching the bad guys. The combination and rising sexual tension between the two had guaranteed Josh a position on the New York Times bestseller list for the past decade and made his agent Melinda a very happy woman.
Until this year.
He had a deadline, but no book. Complete and utter writer’s block. And when he’d finally owned up to Melinda, she’d immediately booked him a week on Eden Island. His second stay on the secluded island paradise in six months. She’d encouraged him to work things out the hard way: no booze, no women, no social media and no smartphones. Only Frankie and Jacqueline and the languid environment of the tropical isle.
He hated it. Christ, he was a social guy, and he hated to be cut off like this. But if he didn’t deliver the book before November 1, Frankie Knox would be without a new adventure for the first time in their spectacularly successful collaboration.
He groaned and raked his fingers through his dark hair.
Maybe he should hit the gym again. An hour on the StairMaster combined with a short swim and shower usually did wonders for his creativity.
With a deep sigh, he rose to his feet and stretched, then turned down the volume on the stereo. The pumping rock music, normally such a boost for his creative juices, had been of little help so far.
Just then, he thought he heard a familiar sound.
Frowning, he turned off his iPod altogether and pricked up his ears.
Nope. He hadn’t been mistaken. That was clearly the sound of a chopper.
How could it be? He’d only been here three days. The pilot wasn’t due to return until the end of next week.
He quickly headed over to the window to stare out at the clear blue sky.
“What the hell?” he grumbled as he watched the helicopter take off and disappear into the distance. With the noise from his favorite band Rock Slam blocking out all sound, he hadn’t even heard the damn thing land, and now it was off again?
For a moment, he credited paparazzi. Although the boys and girls of the tabloid press usually didn’t bother with harassing writers, even ones as rich and famous as he was, he didn’t put it past them to try and take a shot of him lounging in the Jacuzzi or having a drink by the pool.
Billionaire Novelist Poole Knox One Back in His Pool.
He could just imagine the headline.
With a groan, he made a mental note to tell his agent about this, when another sound put all his nerves on edge.
A door had slid open somewhere upstairs.
Dammit! Someone was here.
Like a prowling panther, he slunk to the door of his office and slowly opened the door a crack, peering out. If an intruder had landed here, there was a good chance it was someone who meant him harm. He’d heard of stalkers breaking into celebrities’ houses and surprising their prey by suddenly turning up.
Frantically, he searched around for a weapon of some kind. He’d left his gun at his Long Island beach house, not thinking he’d need it out here in the middle of nowhere. For a brief moment, he considered pushing the panic button on his wrist, but then decided against it. They’d never get here in time.
What would Frankie Knox do? He’d probably sneak up on the prowler and knock him out before he had a chance to even lay eyes on him. Then his gaze met the small statuette he’d won for his first novel. It was his good luck charm, and he took it everywhere he went. Snatching up the Edgar, he weighed it in his hand. It wasn’t what Frankie Knox would use, but it would do. A good hit would incapacitate the intruder long enough for him to call in the cavalry.
Suddenly, a shower was turned on.
What the heck? Why would a prowler take a shower? That made no sense.
Pushing open the door, he snuck into the hallway and made his way to the source of the sound. He was barefoot, as was his habit when traipsing around the villa, and only dressed in his boxers. Flexing his muscles and taking a firmer grip on the statuette of Edgar Allan Poe, he crept toward the bathroom.
The door, he saw, was open a crack, and he could see steam wafting into the hallway.
Shaking his head, he gently pushed open the door a little more, his heart rate rocketing.
Tiptoeing into the bathroom, he wasn’t surprised to detect a human shape behind the opaque shower curtain. What did surprise him was when that human shape suddenly burst out into song.
“Somewheeeeeeere over the rainbow, way up hiiiiiigh!”
the voice belted out. Terribly out of sync, he noticed, but also… Was that a woman’s voice?
Pursing his lips, he raised his makeshift weapon high above his head, mentally preparing himself for the impending confrontation. He’d simply yank that curtain back, and give his opponent a vicious wallop on the noggin before he—or she—knew what hit them.
“There’s a land that I know, um, lalala, erm, lullabyyyyyy!”
Definitely a woman’s voice, he concluded, and a very nice one at that. She couldn’t carry a tune if her life depended on it, but her voice was definitely melodious.
With a vicious yank, he opened the curtain, Edgar raised high above his head and… found himself staring into the clear blue eyes of just about the prettiest girl he’d ever met.