Harlequin Romance – June 2015
A week in Bali was accountant Zoe Summers’s dream vacation. But when the tropical island paradise is hit by an earthquake, she’s trapped—alongside Mitch Bailey, sports star and blast from her past! High on the thrill of survival, they seek comfort in each other’s arms…
It was only supposed to be one night, but Zoe soon discovers an unexpected souvenir—she’s pregnant! Now Zoe and Mitch will have to ask themselves…can one night lead to parenthood and a lifetime of love?
ZOE SUMMERS KNEW she wasn’t beautiful. The evidence of her mirror proved that. Plain was the label she’d been tagged with from an early age. She wasn’t ugly—in fact ugly could be interesting. It was just that her particular combination of unruly black hair, angular face, regulation brown eyes and a nose with a slight bump in the middle added up to pass-under-the-radar plain.
After a particularly harrowing time in her life, spent at the basement level of the high school pecking order, she’d decided to do something about her unremarkable looks. Not a makeover, as such—rather, she’d aimed to make the best of herself and establish her own style. Now, at the age of twenty-seven, Zoe Summers was known as striking, stylish and smart. She couldn’t ask for more than that.
As a consequence of her devotion to good grooming she’d spent some time every day of her vacation on the beautiful tropical island of Bali in the spa of her luxury villa hotel.
Back home, fitting in beauty treatments around running her own accountancy and taxation business could be problematic for a self-confessed workaholic. Here, a programme that included facials, exfoliation, waxing, manicure and pedicure fitted right in with her mission to relax and replenish. And all for less than half the price of what it would cost in Sydney.
Late on the fourth and final afternoon of her vacation, she lay face-down on a massage table in the spa and let the masseuse work her skilled magic on the tight knots of tension in her shoulders. Bliss.
As she breathed in the soothing scents of sandalwood, frangipani and lemongrass her thoughts started to drift. She diverted them from anything to do with her business and the decisions she still had to make. Or from the very real concern that her cat had gone on hunger strike at the cat boarding place.
Instead she pondered how soon after her massage she could take a languorous swim in the cool turquoise waters of the hotel’s lagoon pool. What to choose for dinner at one of the many restaurants in Seminyak. Should she buy that lovely batik print sundress in the nearby boutique? Or the bikini? Or both? The price tags bore an astonishing number of Indonesian rupiah, but in Australian dollars they were as cheap as chips.
She sighed a deep sigh of contentment and relaxed into that delicious state somewhere between consciousness and sleep.
When the massage table began to vibrate she thought at first, through her blissed-out brain, that it was part of the treatment. But then the windows rattled and the glass bottles of scented oils and lotions started to jiggle and clank. When the bottles crashed to the stone floor she jumped up from the table in alarm.
She knew before her masseuse’s cry of, ‘Earthquake!’ what was happening.
It was an effort to stay on her feet when the floor moved beneath them like the deck of a boat on choppy waters. No use trying to hold on to the walls, because they seemed to flex inward. The masseuse darted under the protection of the wooden table. Zoe did the same.
She cowered with her knees scrunched up to her chest, heart pounding, swallowing against a great lump of fear, her hand gripping tightly to the girl’s—she didn’t know who’d grabbed whose hand first, but she was grateful for the comfort. The room shuddered around them for what seemed like for ever but was probably seconds, stopped, then shuddered again.
Finally everything went still. Cautiously, Zoe inched out from under the table. She nearly gagged on the combined scent of spilled aromatherapy oils. When the masseuse told her they had to head to an emergency meeting point she nodded, too choked with anxiety to actually reply.
She wanted to get out into the open ASAP. But she was naked—save for the flimsy paper panties she’d donned for the massage to protect her modesty—and her clothes and sandals were in an inaccessible closet. She snatched up the white towel that had covered her on the massage table and with clumsy, trembling fingers wrapped it around her, tucking it in as securely as she could. In bare feet, she picked her way around the shards of broken bottles on the floor, grabbed her handbag and followed the masseuse outside.
Still reeling with shock, Zoe hurried along the tropical plant-lined pathway that led from the spa to the main building and pool area of the hotel. To her intense relief there didn’t appear to be a lot of damage. But her fear didn’t dissipate. Once before disaster had struck from nowhere, changing her life for ever. Who knew what she could expect here?
During her stay she hadn’t taken much notice of the other guests. Each villa was completely private, with high walls around it and its own lap pool. Now she was surprised at the number of people gathered for an emergency briefing in the open courtyard outside the reception area. She was the only one in the crowd to be clad in just a towel, but other people were in swimwear or wearing assorted hastily donned garments.
Could she get to her room? If she was going to die she didn’t want it to be in a white standard-issue hotel towel.
The other guests were terrified too. She could see it in their grim faces, hear their concern in the murmur of conversation in several different languages.
The hotel manager took the floor to reassure them that the tremor was low on the Richter Scale of seismic activity. He told his guests that electricity had been knocked out but that the hotel emergency generators would soon kick in and it would be business as usual. There was no need to panic.
But what if there were aftershocks?
The manager’s reassuring words did little to make Zoe’s rapid heartbeat subside or her hands less clammy. It was time to get out of here, before any other disaster might strike. She’d seen the sights. She’d wound down. She’d been pampered from head to toe. Now she was anxious to get home.
She was just about to ask the manager if the airport was open when a man spoke from several rows of people behind her.
‘Is there a tsunami warning?’ he asked.
The word ‘tsunami’ was enough to strike renewed fear into Zoe’s heart. But it wasn’t the thought of an imminent tidal wave that kick-started her heartbeat into overdrive, it was the man’s voice. Deep, confident, immediately familiar.
But it couldn’t be. There must be lots of Australian-accented male voices in Seminyak. The west coast town was a popular vacation playground for Australians. Besides, it was ten years since she’d last heard that voice. She must be mistaken.
‘No tsunami warning,’ the manager replied to the man. ‘There’s no danger.’
‘What about aftershocks?’ The man asked the question she was too paralysed by fear to ask herself.
It sounded so like him.
‘Not likely now,’ said the manager. ‘It was a small tremor.’
Zoe risked a quick glance behind her to identify the owner of the voice.
It was Mitch Bailey, all right—right up at the back of the room. He was instantly recognisable: green eyes, dark blond hair, wearing a pair of blue checked board shorts and nothing else. His tanned, well-honed chest was bare. The blood drained from her face and her mouth went dry.
He was as handsome as he’d been at seventeen. More handsome. His face was more chiselled, more lived in, and his dark blond hair was cut spikily short—much shorter than when she had known him. He was tall, broad-shouldered, but lean, with well defined muscles. Then he’d been a suburban high school heart-throb. Now he was an international soccer star, who regularly topped magazine lists of ‘The Sexiest Men Alive’.
She quickly turned back and ducked her head. Dear heaven, don’t let him recognise her. He was part of a past she had chosen to put well behind her. She couldn’t let him see her.