Authors: Mia Caldwell
adia and Sawyer
are total opposites. The billionaire playboy is an irresponsible womanizer. She’s the serious, pragmatic sort, with her eyes firmly on achieving her dream of winning the America’s Cup. As the skipper of his yacht, she should refuse his outrageous suggestion to pose as his girlfriend during a visit to his family, but the money he offers means reaching her goals faster.
his family to hate her and disapprove of his choice, but they’re warm and welcoming. The deception proves too much for her conscience, and she has to end the ploy. Sawyer is all for that, but has an unorthodox suggestion for making their agreement work. What if they stop pretending and give in to the attraction simmering between them? Will their fake relationship unexpectedly turn to real love?
a full-length standalone novel with no cliffhangers and a happy ending.
Sawyer Sinclair was smitten
. It was an old-fashioned word he’d heard his grandfather use more than once, usually referring to his latest secretary. Once upon a time, he’d reserved the word strictly for Sawyer’s grandmother, but she had passed away more than a decade ago, and a man continued to live even when his other half died. Or so Sawyer had heard. He had no interest in acquiring a permanent other half when there were so many temporary pieces one could fit together with in interesting ways.
For example, the devastatingly beautiful bombshell who had just stepped out of the swimming pool and stood drying her hair. He observed her from a distance, not wanting to disturb the brown-skinned beauty. As she tossed away the towel, he chuckled softly at the hair frizzing around her head.
It was oddly charming, and he was disconcerted to notice it. The women in his acquaintance were always perfectly groomed and put together, even after they spent the night in his bed. He suspected they often woke before him to repair their makeup and hair, but he wasn’t going to complain. So it was strange to find himself noticing and appreciating the natural beauty of her wild hair.
Not that her hair could compare to the rest of her hot body. She was tall and lithe, but curvaceous in all the right places. The woman across the deck from him was exactly the kind he went for.
, he could hear his sister Kiersten’s voice teasing in his head. He smiled slightly, imagining that would have been her exact response if she had stood there beside him. He couldn’t help if he appreciated women of all types, and they appreciated him just as much.
He thought about strolling across the deck to greet her and find out what she was doing aboard his yacht. Presumably, she was a new staff member, and he couldn’t wait to make her acquaintance.
That thought made him still, and he shook his head with an internal reminder it wasn’t a good idea to get involved with staff. They had lost two good stewards in the last three years after their brief flings had fallen apart. Unfortunately, both the women had wanted more than he was willing to provide, but they had known ahead of time it was just a fling.
How was it his responsibility if they had chosen to disregard that in the end? He hadn’t meant to break anyone’s heart or cause discord, but he couldn’t pretend to feel something he didn’t. His boundaries were clear, and he always made sure his partners knew that in advance. If they decided to change the rules, it was at the risk of their own heart, and he refused blame for that.
With a sigh of regret, he watched her cover that fabulous body with the plain white robe before padding barefoot across the deck to disappear below, where the crew quarters were, lending proof to his theory she was his employee or visiting staff. As soon as she had gone, he walked to the pool and slipped in, leaving his own robe on the same lounger she had used.
Unlike her, he didn’t bother with anything, not even a Speedo, as he sliced cleanly through the water. It was a rare occasion when he was up this early, but he’d had trouble sleeping all night, so he’d decided to wear himself out with a swim in hopes he could nap afterward.
There was no mystery why he hadn’t been able to sleep. As he swam, he mulled over his grandfather’s email. The hint of warning in the old man’s missive about him needing to buckle down and take a more active interest in the family business had left him ill-at-ease and unable to sleep. Since they were at sea, there hadn’t been a companion to distract him from his thoughts, and he hadn’t met anyone in recent weeks with whom he had wanted to spend more than a night.
Left alone with his thoughts, they had been heavy and annoyingly deep. Even two shots of the finest whiskey hadn’t settled them enough so he could sleep. Now, as he swam through the water and looked up at the sun in the sky, he conceded this time of morning was definitely gorgeous. There wasn’t really a bad time on the ocean, unless there was a storm, but he could see the appeal of early rising if every day was like this.
Of course, that would mean giving up his late nights and his partying. He was only twenty-nine, and he saw no reason to settle down. Life was too short to deny yourself of all the pleasures.
His grandfather was still in robust health, and everything was managed properly. Why did the old man insist he needed to show signs of stability? If there’d been a problem, Grandfather, Mom, or Kiersten would have told him. It was simply the old man trying to interfere with his life, not approving of the way Sawyer lived.
To Sawyer’s way of thinking, what was the point of having all that money if you spent all your time trapped in the office or stuck at home doing work you didn’t finish in the office? He was young enough to want to live and have fun, and he was damned well going to do so with his inheritance.
Unless the old man cut him off. The thought made him cringe, and he shook his head. Surely it wouldn’t come to that.
Harold could be a stubborn old bastard, but Sawyer knew he could be a stubborn young bastard too. Neither one of them would want to actively engage in battle with the other, so he’d weather this trip home, spend a week doing the family thing and tap-dancing around his grandfather’s demands that he change his life to be more what the other man envisioned, and he’d be back on the
again in no time, living the life he wanted.
After finishing his swim, he dried off and tossed the towel in the bin before slipping on his robe. He took a shower after returning to his cabin, but before summoning his valet. He could see Benjamin was surprised at the early summons, and the other man’s eyebrow tried to creep up to his hairline before his face became neutral again when Sawyer requested breakfast at such an unaccustomed time.
Within thirty minutes, his valet had returned with a tray for him and set it up outside on the balcony. With the crisp sea breeze blowing through his brown-blonde locks and the slight sting of salt making his blue eyes blink from time to time, Sawyer dug into Eggs Benedict made just the way he liked it. Everything was perfect, just as it always was. How could Harold expect him to give up this life and trade it for one chained to a desk?
When Benjamin returned for the tray, Sawyer was still enjoying a cup of coffee. As the other man started to lift the tray, he held up his hand. “Wait a minute, Benji.” Sawyer had to bite back a grin at his valet’s curled lip. The man hated having his name abridged, but Sawyer couldn’t resist poking him on occasion by using the shortened form.
“Yes, Mr. Sinclair?”
That tone was chilly. Sawyer somehow managed not to laugh as he asked, “Do we have a new staff member aboard?”
“Not of which I am aware,” said Benjamin. “Do we have an opening, sir?”
“No, not which I’m aware,” he repeated Benjamin’s words with gentle mocking. “I saw someone this morning I’ve never seen before, so I thought she must work aboard now. Are any guests visiting staff?”
His employees were welcome to bring family and friends to visit, but he had insisted on small groups only and well-coordinated to stay out of his way. He wouldn’t mind if that morning’s tempting morsel strayed across his path though.
Benjamin frowned, but it was one of contemplation rather than annoyance. “I haven’t heard of any of the staff members having family or friends aboard, but that would have to be cleared with the captain first, as usual. Or yourself, sir.”
“The skipper hasn’t mentioned anything to me, so maybe you could find out?” Captain Kohl usually remained aloof and preferred to interact with him via email. He couldn’t blame the old gal, since she seemed to have her nose firmly buried in navigational charts and lived and breathed his superyacht.
He was happy to have her dedication, but he wouldn’t mind a more personable captain for his boat sometimes. “You know, maybe it’s someone in the captain’s family? She did look a bit familiar.” Could it be Captain Kohl’s daughter or niece was visiting? Was the captain that old? He couldn’t be sure, never having seen much of her face behind her sunglasses and captain’s hat, but she carried herself so stiffly and seriously that he imagined she had to be somewhere in her fifties.
Interest piqued, he decided on a course of action. If it was a visiting family member, she didn’t work for him, so the rules of fraternizing with the employees that he’d set upon himself after the last debacle were superseded, weren’t they? It made sense, after all. And as long as he made it clear to the girl that it was only a temporary arrangement while she visited her family member, that there was no future between them, he didn’t run the risk of pissing off his skipper and losing her.
That would be a shame, because she was an efficient machine who kept his boat running at maximum effectiveness. If his engines died suddenly, he imagined Skipper Kohl could get the boat running just by sheer strength of will alone.
Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to flirt with her relative after all, but he wasn’t always a man who endorsed or embraced good ideas. Instead, he lived for the moment, and in that moment he wanted to get better acquainted with the woman he had seen swimming that morning. “Never mind asking her, Benji. I think I’ll swing by to speak with the captain to suss it out.”
Benjamin nodded as he lifted the tray. “Very good, sir.”
As his valet left him, Sawyer went to the mirror to check his appearance. He smiled at himself, his teeth gleaming white. His eyes were the same shimmering blue as ever, and his boyishly messy hair was sure to charm the newest quarry in his sight. Meeting with the captain seemed like the easiest way to learn more about her visitor, if that girl was someone here to see Skipper Kohl.
He strode through the ship, soon arriving at the bridge. Captain Kohl stood in front of the myriad electronics that kept the boat running, her attention on a large electronic readout resembling a map. Presumably, she was ensuring they were on course for docking in San Francisco the next day. He cleared his throat, and she looked up at him with obvious shock.
Inside the bridge, she wasn’t wearing her customary sunglasses, and he realized he’d always met with her somewhere else on the ship, usually on the deck. In three years, he hadn’t seen much of his skipper anyway, and she had always carefully controlled the meeting times. It was a strange realization, and he wondered why he hadn’t noticed that before.
As he drew closer to the captain, he also realized he had never paid much attention to her before either. With her sunglasses and skipper’s hat, it had been difficult to see anything beneath the surface, so he had always responded to her manner more than her appearance. “Good morning, Captain Kohl.”
She inclined her head like a regal princess, though she was obviously still discomfited to have him on the bridge. “Good morning, Mr. Sinclair. It’s unusual to see you up and about this early.”
He glanced at the clock, startled to realize it was only a little after nine a.m. That was certainly much earlier than his usual rising time of noon-ish. He nodded and shrugged. “It happens upon occasion.”
Her lips softened into a slight smile, the only sign of reaction. “Yes, I suppose it does. What can I do for you this morning, Mr. Sinclair?”
“Skipper, I wanted to know if you’ve hired someone else, or if you have a visitor aboard?”
She frowned and shook her head. “No, sir. Why?”
He lifted a shoulder easily. “I just saw an unfamiliar face this morning and wanted to know who’s aboard ship.” Yes, that sounded neutral enough not to make her suspicious or protective of her relative, if she had one visiting. Since she had denied that, and had no reason to suspect he had any interest in her niece or daughter, she was probably telling him the truth. So who had he seen in the pool this morning?
The answer came unexpectedly as she stood up and turned to walk toward him. Her hat brushed against the wall as the ship listed slightly to the left, knocking it to the floor. As the skipper bent to pick it up, he drew in a sharp breath at the frizzy and wild hair springing free from underneath. Even confined in a bun, it was clearly the same style, or lack thereof, that the woman at the pool had worn this morning.
No way. It couldn’t be that his cold, distant ship’s captain was also the same hottie from this morning. Could it? He admired the shape of her rear as she picked up her hat, and even her regulation uniform couldn’t quite hide her luscious backside from the eye of an experienced aficionado of the female form.
Wow, this delectable creature had been on his boat for three years, and he’d never noticed? He was definitely slipping—or she was just that good at hiding her femininity. He had honestly assumed she was middle-aged or older, but as she turned to face him, and he got a good look at her face, it was clear she couldn’t be much more than her early thirties.
She must have worked hard and diligently to be skipper of a superyacht at her age. He didn’t know much about her background, having only met with her once shortly after he had purchased the yacht before hiring her. The dealership from whom he had purchased the vessel had arranged the hiring service, and he had met with three different captains before choosing Kohl almost randomly.
Now, three years later, he couldn’t recall her service record or employment history, or even exactly why he had picked her over the other two men who had applied. Perhaps it had been because she was a woman, and the uniqueness of having a female captain had appealed to him. Could he really have been that sexist? Because it was sexism to have chosen a woman just for the novelty of it.
It certainly hadn’t been because he’d realized just how attractive she was, so perhaps she had made an impression on him in some other way. He wished he could remember the interview, but only sketchy details returned to him. That was Sawyer’s way. If it wasn’t important, he blocked it out or discarded it so his mind wasn’t weighed down with excess baggage. He winced when he realized that made him sound empty-headed or shallow, but it was how he lived.
Once her hat was back in place, she looked more like the captain he knew, but he couldn’t help recalling the way she had been that morning. His pants grew uncomfortably tight the longer he stared at her, and Sawyer realized he wanted to spread her across the table holding all the paper maps and strip that boring uniform from her body so he could compare it to the one he’d seen this morning, examining up close and personally.