Authors: Kathleen Rowland
All rights reserved.
Published by Petals in the Gazebo, Kathleen Rowland 2012
Cover Art Mariya Krusheva
This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this novel are fictitious or used
fictitiously. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any
My sincere gratitude to Publisher Yvette Lynn of Amira Press, without whom none of this
would be possible. Editors are worth their weight in gold and diamonds. Hearts to Wendy Jo
Dymond for her magical pacing and edits. Flowers to cover artist Mariya Krusheva.
Readers, I hope you enjoy
in which lovers reunite under lively but dire
circumstances. For those of you who remember PI Leviticus Blake and zany Cherry Sixkiller from
, you’ll meet them again here.
Please contact me at
Newman’s Own Light Balsamic
Bath and Body Works
Duke’s Restaurant of Huntington Beach, CA
First Team Realtor Sara Feigenbaum
Garrett Mackenzie panted from his morning sprint. Still on East Coast time, he gulped another
mouthful of brisk air and paced his and Kitzie’s stomping grounds. Halfway around the Pacifica
Yacht Club, he nearly tripped on an oar leaning against the entrance. As he braced his forearm
against the weathered clapboard, he faced a whiteboard and began to finger the lacy handwriting.
Within seconds, he knew it was hers. Not quite touching the whiteboard, he traced over tall
. Angled and bunched together, the
had a long tail. The loopy
. The lowercase was small and curvy. The scrolled message took him all the way down to
Dollars per Hour
with her phone number. A decade before, he’d dialed it hundreds of times.
He lingered for a moment, stuck in a kind of homesickness, an oddity since he was back at
home. He told himself not to be sullen. He walked in aimless circles on the dry grass and was
broadsided with another thought of Kitzie. She charged ten dollars per hour. All she’d ever wanted
was an audience. It had been the showoff’s nature to wing lessons on the fly for free. The Landings
Beach debutant was never on a rubber ducky budget.
Forcing himself to fill his mind with something other than her, he focused on the gorgeous day
ahead of him. He considered visiting old haunts, but they tended to be reminders. It must have been
the midmorning sky, so brilliant a blue that it stung his eyes. He was mesmerized by the sweep of
sea and sky that reached to Catalina Island until he heard a brush of footsteps.
“It’s a beautiful view, big guy.” The voice behind him sounded rusty, as if she hadn’t used it in
days. It was hers, and it stabbed him like an ice pick.
He stayed frozen for another second before he inhaled and turned around. “What have I done,
conjured you up? I was just thinking about you.” He found himself staring at her bow-shaped
mouth, glossed with sheer burgundy. Its tone was pretty against her deep caramel complexion.
“Well, hey.” She sounded casual, nothing more. Lugging two sailbags over her left shoulder, she
let them drop.
“Hey yourself.” He marshaled his forbearance with good cheer. Although she faced him fully
clothed, Kitzie-in-the-nude made a split-second appearance in his mind. Years ago, her game had
been accepting dares. Then, bam, she’d make them her own.
“You look like you’re in a trance,” she said. “A penny for your thoughts?”
“Remember that windless regatta, senior year?”
“Nope.” Her expression let him know it was a strange thing to be asking.
“Let me elaborate. Not owning a boat put me with journalists and spectators. Boats drifted at
Her eyes slanted like a kitten’s. “Look, the magazine photographer was frustrated. He yelled out
He held his hands over his mouth like a megaphone. “It’s the finish line. Can somebody give us
something to look at?” He remembered her in all her glory, stretched out nude on her deck. “You
were perfectly wicked in the stark sunlight.” He’d been impressed with her audacity.
“That was a long time ago.” She turned her head toward Catalina, and her straightened black
hair shifted. “The island had a fire last week. From here, you can’t see the charred hills around
Avalon.” If her voice were a color, her breathy tones would have been hues. “No one was hurt.”
“Good.” His heart stepped up, more interested in her than the fire report.
A shadow of concern passed over her face, and she bit her lower lip. He caught a faint air of
wistfulness that hovered around her mouth.
The crease between her brows deepened, and she said, “I heard.” Black tresses blew across her
slender brown neck.
Without conscious decision, he leaned closer. “You heard what?”
She exhaled a shallow breath as if something sparked an inconvenience for her grace. Her lips
quivered. “You’ll make your official start tomorrow at Naiad Boatworks.”
“That’s right, Miss Gadfly.”
She tipped her head to one side. “I could’ve guessed business would bring you back. You’re here
to save it from bankruptcy.”
“It’s my calling.” A nervous sigh escaped him.
“You’ll prune wood, dead or otherwise. Many folks depend on the Naiad paycheck.”
“Since you care so much, what about the stockholders? Naiad’s a publicly held company.” He
felt his stomach knot.
“You think I just want to start a dual.”
He leaned against the building, awaiting her verbal attack.
Her pout made her look younger than her twenty-eight years. “Hope six months is long
enough.” She dragged a couple of sailbags with her left hand and jingled keys in her right.
“I’ll do my best.” He’d turned many a ship manufacturer around. Naiad would
Employees would hate him just as much. The Boatworks went public two years before, the only
industry in town. Naiad’s demanding stockholders belonged to the upper crust of Landings Beach.
They’d make their presence known when they pulsed for dividends.
She squeezed beside him with a bouncy sway. As she examined the keychain, her hips moved
like they were greased. Fast-dry ocean shorts ended at mid-thigh, showing off lithe legs. She inserted
a key into the privileged yacht club door. “Can’t wait to see you prove yourself.”
“Or not prove myself.” So far, that hadn’t happened.
She brushed her firm hips against him. “Please, excuse me.” It seemed she held all the keys to
He turned and watched her graceful hand twist the knob. He didn’t want her to leave. “How’ve
you been, Kitzie?”
“Excellent.” Her piercing dark eyes threw him an all-knowing gaze. The anchor buttons
decorating her white knit shirt looked sporty. Tucked in at her waist, the shirt gave off a look of
innocence until her breasts wobbled beneath it.
His mind hummed “Anchor’s Away.” He surveyed her every curve as she made them known
with her movements.
She swallowed hard, and her breath escaped her parted lips. He wanted to pin her against the
building for a kiss, to hear a guttural moan only she could make. She must have read his mind
because she threw him a sideways glance. In a fresh wave of obstinacy, she lifted a hand and pushed
back hair drifting over her left eye. “See you Monday. I’m interviewing for the senior analyst spot.”
His mind converged several lines of evidence with negative impact. The society heiress was
impulsive and born to be wild. He’d have to pass up on hiring someone who worked out of
boredom. In the smoothest placating tone he could muster, he said, “We’ll discuss it.”
The charmer kicked the door open, hard. She grabbed the tip of performance sneakers and
hopped through. The door slammed on a spring before he could ask if she’d broken a toe.
He clicked his key, and his Beemer chirped. He stepped past leftover Christmas trees and pine
needles on the curbsides. The brown needles indicated their dragging paths. He couldn’t let her drag
around to hire her. She still made demands, he’d noticed. As always, Kitrine Piermont knew
what she wanted. Her decisiveness made her all the more attractive.
He forced a mind switch to the practical, his challenge to turn around the biggest employer in
Landings Beach. Driving, he considered the specifics of Naiad’s last merger. Piermont Sails may
have been a poor purchase for Naiad. Perhaps it was time to sell it off. When the Boatworks had
acquired her family’s business, Piermont Sails, it was nearly belly-up. Not only were sail making and
boat building incompatible, competition was stiff for both in southern California.
He didn’t empathize with her father, a descendant from a long line of St. Tropez’s Black barons.
He recalled Kitzie’s family saga. Tired of battling piracy in the Mediterranean in the early 1900s, the
tough African sailmakers set up shop at Port Grimaud, France. During the Depression, when France
didn’t have one, great-grandfather Piermont muscled his way into southern California and bought
land. By the late 1950s, Piermont Sails had become the America’s Cup standard.
Garrett assumed big Daddy lived high and dry in safe, diversified opportunities. With index
funds out his ass, the trust fund of the uncrowned princess could be boundless.
Uninvited thoughts of her hadn’t strayed far. Prettier than ever, she’d be married, he guessed. He
pictured her driving kids to school in her Bentley convertible. He hadn’t thought to look for a ring
on her left hand, fourth finger.
, he thought cynically, the way she could put him in an acid mood. Like before, he
gave her power over his emotions. He made his way back to his leased beach house but didn’t go in.
Instead, he wandered down the pier. A sailboat, a gift from the Naiad Boatworks’ board of directors,
sat on its lift. The dinghy was their new one-person design.
The wind felt light, perfect for a guy who hadn’t sailed in years. He’d crewed for Kitzie. She’d
taught him to sail after races. Later, they’d have their fun in the bottom of the cockpit. He had never
experienced such heavy petting and had himself to blame for not going all the way. Even now, he
laughed at himself for being square in the extreme.
He’d loved her beyond reason. She’d entered his brain, his lungs, and the marrow of his bones
so deeply he’d felt like a fool. Seeing her again sparked an irrational hope that still flickered.
Inside the condo, he opened a bottle of beer and told himself he could sail. On the sofa facing
the Pacific, he gazed at the blue water. Colors of the water varied with the weather, unlike her eyes, a
consistent I-don’t-give-a-rat’s-ass dark brown.
Hours passed as he downed another beer. Soft music from the radio wasn’t interrupted by a
storm report. He squirmed on the sofa. The culprit was boredom, after having reread the financials.
Corporate numbers were his world, and he’d made sense of them since his senior year at Cornell. As
a consultant, he could move from company to company like a seamless operative. Sometimes, like
now, he’d take on the CEO role. He loved every minute of rescuing a company for the top
He took notes, pondered them, but didn’t come up with anything specific. There was gross, net,
and wishful thinking. Boredom spawned boldness.
Get out and do something.
A decade before, he’d been careful about what he could handle. Over the years, Kitzie had been
his inspiration to loosen up. He’d become more brazen, like her.
The sailbag will be in the boat.
Feeling brash, he went down and rigged the boat. When he shoved off the dock, there was just a
faint whisper of a breeze.
It doesn’t matter if I’m not an expert
, he thought.