The Boat Builder's Bed

By: Kris Pearson

CHAPTER ONE





Rafe Severino pounded his fist on the steering wheel in time with the old Rolling Stones anthem. The Stones weren’t getting any ‘satisfaction’ and neither was he. His company, Severino Superyachts New Zealand, seemed unstoppable. Personally though, Rafe was lost in the desert.

And he knew it.

He hated that his marriage had been a mess. Hated being the last son to establish his own family. Hated the way his parents fawned over his younger brothers and their kids—and barely acknowledged his existence.

He hated even more that he let it matter.

Ahead of him a truck swung out across the road prior to reversing into an alley. Rafe slowed and then stopped to give the driver space.

The wind from the sea had risen. A flag flapped and rattled on a nearby pole. An empty Coke can tumbled along the gutter. Inside his Jaguar with the volume up high, Rafe saw both but heard neither. ‘Satisfaction’ seemed a long way off.

He sucked in a deep breath and tried to drag his brain onto something else.

His eyes drifted to the legs of a high-heeled blonde as she edged through a nearby doorway with a sign-board. The wind tugged at the long tendrils of her hair, concealing part of her face with a sexy golden veil, but still something about her seemed familiar.

Then the hem of her filmy blue skirt flipped up and Rafe sharpened his attention.

To the girl’s obvious consternation the sign-board started to collapse, and he easily lip-read her short sharp curse. His mouth quirked at her frustration, and he watched as she batted at her flying hair with one hand and clutched the sign with the other.

Recognition streaked through him then—an assistant of Faye’s. Josie or Susie, something like that. Maybe his ambitious ex-wife had new premises he didn’t know about? Was she going up in the world or down?

A combination of curiosity and his grandmother’s long-ingrained code of chivalry made him turn the big car into a vacant space and kill the engine and the music. At that instant a more vigorous gust of wind wrenched the sign right out of the girl’s hands and flung it onto the sidewalk. The two halves parted company and she jumped onto one to hold it down, for all the world like a child playing hopscotch. The other flew up and hit the front of his car.

There was a bang. A crunch. A sound that could only mean bad news. Rafe added his own curse to hers and swung his long body out. He closed the door with a savage ‘thunk’ and strode around to assess the damage.

The girl stayed frozen, all legs and flying skirt and hair, as though she was perched on her own little surfboard.

Once she’d gathered the gleaming strands up in both hands her mouth became a perfect ‘o’ of horror and her eyes grew almost as round.

Rafe’s quick inspection confirmed his corner light needed repairing in a hurry. He shot her a glacial glare. “Nice work.”

“I’m so sorry,” she said in a crushed voice.

Not trusting himself to speak further, he dug out his mobile and started running through the pre-sets to find the Jaguar dealer.

“So, so sorry,” she repeated. “I’ll pay for it somehow.”

“Of course you will.”

“It was a total accident,” she added with a hint of defensiveness.

Rafe held up a hand to silence her as the dealership answered. He turned away to conduct his conversation and concluded it with, “Around two? Thanks buddy—I owe you.”

He returned his gaze to the girl. She stood very straight now, clutching her half of the sign with an absolute death-grip and looking as though she expected the guillotine blade to fall any second.

Christ man, lighten up! It wasn’t her fault and they can fix the car this afternoon.

“Yeah, you’re right,” he said, softening his manner as he took in her obvious panic. “No-one’s fault. It was only the thought of not being able to use the car tonight.”

“Bad things seem to happen in threes,” she said. “At least that’s the whole three out of the way. First your light. Then not being able to use your car. And third, my broken sign. I really need that sign.”

Rafe turned and picked up the other piece of sign-board, undamaged apart from its hinged top. “It’ll never stay together with these tiny screws. It’s Josie, isn’t it?”

She shook her head. “Sophie. And you’re Mr Severino. I worked—”

“—for Faye. Yes, I know. I’ll fix the sign for you.”

“Why would you do that? After I damaged your car?”

He ignored the sharpness in her query. He’d over-reacted. No wonder she sounded prickly.

“Because I’m a helpful kind of guy. Is Faye about?”

“Faye? Faye and I—have gone our separate ways,” she muttered, avoiding his eyes.