Renni has burned out from being on tour as the drummer of ‘Eat Your Words.’ When she visits Nolan’s spa at Block Island for a day, she impulsively applies for a position as the assistant massage therapist as a means to drop out of tour.
Nolan is taken aback by the woman in his office with pitch black hair and body piercings. He can’t imagine her working in his spa, but her persistence fascinates him so he gives her the job — on one condition — she gets rids of the excess piercings.
The attraction between Nolan and Renni is immediate despite being opposite personalities. Renni’s fresh energy and charm draws Nolan as does his intensity attract her. Finding they have a lot more in common than expected, they fall in love, but Nolan has a secret and Renni carries baggage from past hurt. Will they focus on their differences or the things that draw them close?
The resort reception area was almost a clone of the one in thespa, yet with three indoor plants and a fountain instead of a largefish tank. Palms were potted in large urns sculpted like Greekcolumns. Minimalist was a good word for the décor — simpleblues, silver, and white — peaceful colors and clean lines. Rennididn’t have much time to consider the connection she made withFeng Shui and Mr. Richie’s comment to her earlier, because he wasthe one behind the reception desk. Bracing herself for his usualglare, she walked up to him and smiled.
“Don’t you take a break?” She rested her hands on thecounter. Close up, he was austere but also uncomfortablyhandsome. Maybe his austere manner added to the handsome,almost unapproachable feel he gave her, like a demi-god one had topay homage to in order to gain his approval.
A laugh wanted to bubble out of her at the image. Somehow,he didn’t intimidate her as much as Peggy made out he should. Sheliked his cold exterior, because she knew it hid something brewingand bubbling beneath the surface. At the moment he was theperfect antithesis to the flirty Curtis. Maybe he was one of the manytreasures Block Island enticed to be discovered. Also, she loved thathe didn’t idolize her like other men did. He couldn’t care less if herband had won an American Music Award for Favorite Rock Bandor reached the top of the charts.
“Your hair’s still black.”
“Donna did a good job, didn’t she?”
“At least it’s not as black.”
She laughed and then took a breath. The exhaustion of thelast few months still wanted to take away her laughter and heroxygen. It weighed heavy on her, and she suddenly didn’t feel likefighting with her new boss.
“I’d like a room, please.”
“We only have one available. We’re fully booked.”
“I’ll take it.”
He froze for a moment, his eyes large, and then he put on aprofessional smile. “It’s next to the penthouse suite on the topfloor.”
“Um…do you live here?”
“In the penthouse suite.”
Figures. The man doesn’t fancy being near to me. Too bad. I needto rest. For a long time.
He gave her a figure. Oh well, her savings would beseriously reduced. She sincerely hoped she would soon find arental home on the island.
“But it’s in terrible disrepair. I haven’t allowed anyone in there for months it’s in such a bad state. So, I won’t charge youanything to stay there.”
He grunted. “You probably won’t say thanks when you seeit. I’ll fix it up for you.”
“You don’t have to.”
“I should.” He focused on a computer screen and inputsomething with lightning-fast finger-work.
Okay, maybe Peggy was right. He did have good inside.Buried deep inside.
“You’re very kind.”
He jerked his head up and stared at her, his mouth gaping.
“How come you haven’t removed the metal yet?” The mouthtransformed to a thin line immediately.
“Um…I want to do it in front of a mirror in private, if youdon’t mind. The room does have a mirror?”
Was that a blush? “I’m not sure. I’ll have to check.”
“May I have the keys?”
He unlocked a panel on the wall and removed a key from ahook. When he put the key in her hand, tingles ran up her arm.Whoa! She hadn’t felt that way with anyone the last few yearsexcept for Curtis. Curtis! Did she have to think of him?
“Hi, Mr. Richie. Am I allowed to swim here?”
He nodded. “Yes, of course.”
“Oh. You looked upset. I don’t want to trespass on private property.” She came up to about a foot from him, smelling of sea and flowers.
“It’s a public beach.”
“Oh, it’s so quiet I wondered about that. Is it safe to swim here?”
“Depends on the weather, but I’d say today is perfect.”
“Isn’t it?” She gave a pleasant smile and took in a deep whiff of the ocean air, turning her gaze to the sea with adoration. If she didn’t have such a womanly body, and oh so delicious—his errant gaze was proof of that—he’d think she was a child. Everything seemed so new and exciting to her, completely taking him by surprise as he’d always thought popular rock band members would have lost their childish innocence years ago.
“What are you running away from?” He surprised himself. Usually he didn’t get involved in the personal lives of his staff.
She whipped her head around, eyes haunted, and just stared at him.
“Why Block Island exactly? I thought you were a famous musician.”
Her gaze shifted back and forth, and she shuffled from one foot to the other.
“Look, I’m sorry. I suppose it’s none of my business.” He should leave before he said something wrong from a boss stance.
“No, it’s fine. It’s just a bit painful and raw at the moment.”
His heart squeezed. He’d experienced painful and raw. Although it had been a while since something that intense had happened in his life — and he’d managed to numb the pain by being so busy keeping his business afloat — suddenly his pain reached the surface again in the form of compassion.
“You don’t have to share it, but I am a good listener.” He still couldn’t believe how different she looked from when she first walked in the door.
“Oh.” Her soft gasp sent an unwanted shiver through him. Her tear-soaked eyes made him press a warm hand on her shoulder.
“We all have those moments.” He couldn’t believe the side of his personality she brought out of him — the deep, compassionate side. He’d been on “boss auto-pilot” the last few years and had hardened himself against people, except for his customer’s needs.
She looked down and drew a paisley-type curl in the sand with her big toe. It reminded him a little of the yin-yang sign — a big part of the fengshui philosophy — how contrasting aspects worked together to create a harmonious whole. How opposites could attract. Is that why he was so drawn to her? Yet, getting better acquainted with her, she wasn’t as opposite as he’d initially thought.
“Touring is hard. It takes everything out of me. The fans are relentless. The sleeping arrangements suck. Do you know how nice it is to have my own room?” She looked up at him with a mischievous smile.
“Oh, I really need to fix it up for you. I’ll do that this weekend.”
“It’s okay. I’m relishing the freedom of my own space and have barely noticed the broken things.”
He’d never seen being famous as possibly difficult. Shows how many people had blinders on when it came to considering the lives of other people, which appeared idyllic from the outside.
Excerpt 3 - Longer
Nolan couldn’t keep his eyes off the tiny speck of dirt on the tip of the woman’s nose. As if that could compare to what she was wearing. He’d never noticed how perfect her nose was if it weren’t for that ridiculous glint of a nose ring embedded into her leftnostril.
Her lips quivered and she sighed, wringing her hands in her lap. “Okay, let me just say it. I’m applying for a job.”
Nolan was rendered speechless for a moment, which wasn’t a common occurrence. He’d never been scared to speak his mind, especially because his whole life revolved around making success of his dream, now turned into the daily grind.
“A job as what? A drummer?” He couldn’t help smiling at the thought of a rock drummer shattering the perfect peace of Sweet Ocean Luxury Resort and Spa.
“I’m serious.” Her nervous demeanour was replaced by a stiff posture, a firm, lifted chin, and lots of fire in her dark, dark blue eyes which could pass for navy. At least her eyes would match the powder blue uniform if she did work for…
“Hold on. You want a job? Here? Peggy told me you’re some famous musician, and you want to work here? What are you running away from?”
“Peggy also said you were desperate for an assistant massage therapist. I’m keen to learn the job — I’m a quick learner. I learnt how to drum in six months, and we were touring a year later.”
Nolan couldn’t help smiling again. At least his day was a lot more interesting than the last few months had been, but surely she couldn’t be serious?
“I need a break from touring. I’ve been touring for five years now. I want to get away… No, that doesn’t sound right.”
“So, in a sense you are running from something?”
“I’m running to something. I need a change, a complete break from the usual.”
He sighed. “Me too.” The words just popped out, making his eyes go big. What was it about the woman that made him speak before he thought?
Her stance softened a little, and he took in the look of her skin — flawless and he was sure as smooth as silk. What a pity she spoiled her appearance with all the piercings. There was one on her blackened eyebrow, the one on her nose, about ten on her ear lobes, and another one on her tongue.
He had an idea. A wicked one.
“Okay, here’s the deal. If you work for me, you have to get rid of all the metal. I will accept one or two on the ears and nothing else. I can’t have you stressing out my customers and taking away the fengshui.”
“What?” The fire was back in her eyes, and she stood up in a moment, heading straight for the door.
Oh well, that was easy.
She paused at the door, her hand in mid-air, then turned around. “Belly button ring?” Her eyes held amusement.
He shrugged. “If it can’t be seen, I suppose it could stay.”
“Oh, and how are body piercings not fengshui? I’m not a room or a space.”
He bit his lip, amazed at her perception. “I didn’t think you’d know that.”
“So, you’ll consider me then if I get rid of them? Just remember, the holes will still be there.”
“Spare me the gory details. You will also have to visit our resident hairdresser and bring some normality back to the glaring color-scheme you have bathed yourself in. If you were my daughter…”
She stood with her hands on her hips, fists clenched. “Ugh. I’m not your daughter, and you can’t tell me what to do with my hair.”
“Take it or leave it. I will not have a woman who looks like a witch placing her hands on stressed people. I have elderly customers who come here to unwind and renew their energy and strength. The spa is a place of peace and tranquillity.” He reached
back to retrieve a file, took out a wad of papers, and handed them to her. “Read every single page. This is our vision, mission statement, company policy, and staff rules. If you can’t abide by the rules, you will lose your job. This isn’t some wild or free come-and-go-as-you-want band playing music and partying ‘til whatever hour of the night.”
The fire in her eyes was replaced by a momentary flicker of hurt, and he bit back his words. Sometimes, he wished he wasn’t so forthcoming. But what he said was truth, wasn’t it?
“Um…it’s actually really hard work to play drums every single day for months on end, to ward off weird fans, and meet the deep-seated emotional needs of the adoring ones…”ʺ She cleared her throat. “I-I really want this job. I-I’ll take it. Thanks.”
His body remained totally still for a few seconds. He really didn’t expect her to take the job. He didn’t expect her to answer him with such resignation after he’d basically bitten her head off. Not that he approved of her dress manner, but he could give her a shot. She had more gumption than he expected. Maybe her arms would be strong from all the drumming, and she could handle the massages. Not many women could.
“The contract is at the end of the papers. If you sign it, you have a job.”
A bright smile lit up her face, and he caught a glimpse of the charm she’d used on her fans, or rather used to garner her fans. It wasn’t a put-on charm, but rather something sweet and strong and bright from deep inside. And she had amazing teeth — so white and straight.
He cleared his throat. What was wrong with him? He’d always disliked punk rockers.
“Thank you.” Her voice was clear. With a whiff of her perfume filling his nostrils, she left the room, her chain‑link belt and all her bangles jingling like a wind chime.
“Those will have to go, too,” he called after her.
She stuck her head around the door. “What?”
“The wind chimes. We have enough already.”
She stuck a tongue out at him and then slammed the door behind her.
A crazy smile lifted his mouth involuntarily. If she was his daughter… Although he couldn’t quite help seeing her as very much a woman.
Kathy loves reading and writing even more. She homeschools her three kids, so in between unsuccessfully explaining the difference between subject and predicate or how to divide fractions, she enters an imaginary world of troubled and passionate characters whose stories take over the page. Kathy lives in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, where the summers are hot, the winters cool, and bugs thrive. Her first published novel, Wedding Gown Girl, came out in 2012 with Astraea Press (Clean Reads). She belongs to the Romance Writers of South Africa Group (ROSA) which has been her greatest support and inspiration the last few years.
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