The Boat Builder's Bed - more than two million copies downloaded worldwide
Now also in print on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Ebook on special for 99 cents US right now
A windy day...a flyaway signboard...a hideous crunch. Sophie Calhoun can't imagine how she'll pay for the damage to the luxurious car. Already cash-strapped, she's struggling to launch her interior design studio and make a home for her daughter. Out of the sleek black Jaguar storms super-yacht tycoon Rafe Severino. Steaming mad. Totally gorgeous. And desperately in need of a top-line decorator for his spectacular new mansion.
Sophie fears her dream contract comes with strings that tie her to the boat-builder's bed. She knows he doesn't want a preoccupied single mother, but concealing her daughter's existence from the man she's falling in love with is getting harder and harder. If he discovers her lies, she'll instantly lose everything.
Warning: Contains one determined man who knows his way around boats, bodies and bedsheets.
Review by: Mandi Sexton on Smashwords. Loved loved loved it!!! I can't say enough good things about it! Perfect length, didn't have any "page fillers" in it. The author kept it to the point, a very sexy, romantic point I must say ;)
Close to four hundred five-star reviews on Amazon - and counting.
CHAPTER 1 — BANG!
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 as she swiped 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, 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.
“That’s apparently the current thing to do. Faye and I have also gone our separate ways.”
“No! When?” she blurted, looking at him with those wide grey eyes again. Then she recovered her manners. “Sorry. I’m surprised. I didn’t know. I thought you were the perfect couple.”
His mouth flattened into a grim smile.
“That was my understanding too, until a few months ago.”
So Faye had been hiding the fact they’d parted? Interesting.
He inspected the sign more closely. “Is this place any good?”
“Very good indeed.”
He sensed defiance or defensiveness in the three abrupt words. He waited for her to say more. She didn’t.
He thought of his almost finished house and its current unloved interior. “I need a decorator. Someone as good as Faye.”
She rolled her eyes at that. “I’m better than Faye. I actually listen to what customers want.”
“You work for this place?”
“I am this place.” She turned away and pushed at the door, indicating he should follow. “There’s only me. I opened today—or would have if the crummy sign hadn’t fallen apart.”
“I’ll fix it for you,” he repeated as he followed her inside. The sign was competently painted but the carpentry looked dire. Would offering his expertise make up for his initial burst of temper? He hoped so. “I suppose you used the screws supplied with the hinges?” he asked, and then surprised himself by adding, “Have you got any more sensible shoes?”
“What?” she demanded, apparently thrown by his change of subject.
“As I said, I need a decorator now I don’t have Faye. I’ve been letting things slide. Do you want to see my house and submit a proposal? It’s still a bombsite. You won’t get around it in those.” He eyed her high heeled sandals, and the slim ankles and light golden calves above them, pleased to have the excuse to inspect her openly.
“You’re serious? A proposal to decorate your house? Faye’s house? After I damaged your car?”
“Forget the car. It’s fixable. Yes—the house above the water. But it’s not Faye’s any longer.”
He watched as she squeezed her big eyes shut and buried her even white teeth in the cushion of her lower lip.
“I can’t just drop everything,” she objected after a few seconds. “I’ve stuff to arrange.”
“Pretend you’re not open for business yet. It’s only nine-fifteen.”
“But I’m having a drinks and nibbles function to let clients see my new studio. I sent all the invitations out saying five o’clock Monday.”
“Then you’ve plenty of time.” He handed her the other half of the sign. “I’ll get my tools.”
As he walked to the car he thought about Sophie’s lack of surprise when he’d offered to turn handyman. Maybe Faye had made fun of his background? On brief reflection he decided that wasn’t Faye’s style. Happy to be known as the wife of the founder of mega-successful Severino Superyachts, yes, but he’d bet his balls she hadn’t admitted to marrying a part-Maori carpenter from a small forestry settlement.
The irony of handing over the decorating of his ex-wife’s dream house to her younger assistant amused him. He might just do it if she was any good. God knows it was time he got around to doing something with the place.
Sophie had almost fallen off her sandals with shock. Rafe Severino? Here? And he’d offered her the chance to work for him?
Why on earth had she been so rude? Told him she couldn’t drop everything? Submitting a design proposal for his house was the opportunity of a lifetime—the ideal way to launch her new business. Even if no work followed, when word got around she’d been invited to quote it would bring her untold kudos.
But she’d been totally thrown by his sudden appearance. So unnerved by the waves of undiluted masculine power rolling off him it was like being stalked by a marauding tomcat.
She watched, a mesmerized sparrow pinned to the spot, as he approached his luxurious car, popped the trunk and lifted out a well-worn metal toolbox. And saw him glance up as he carried it back inside. Above her windows a shiny new sign proclaimed SUBTLE in large stylish letters and interior design studio in much smaller ones.
“Interesting name,” he said, pushing the door closed against the wind.
“It sums up my style,” she managed. “Tranquil, timeless, modern without being outrageous. Is that what you’re looking for in your house?”
He shook his head. “So far I’m only certain of what I don’t want.” He sent her a swift assessing glance. “I’ve had a chap in a bow tie and tweed cap who wants to kit the place out like an old English castle. There’s a little gay guy who insists bright pink accents are the latest thing in Paris...”
“Craig Kennedy?” she queried, feeling a smile tugging at her lips.
“You know him?”
“We all tend to know each other slightly.” She tried to stifle her grin, and hoped she sounded professional.
“Okay, I’ve also seen Hilda Bergermeyer with the terrifying teeth, and Willa Rushworth...”
“You’re hard to please. Willa’s supposed to be good.”
“We weren’t on the same wavelength.” He closed his eyes for a moment. “I want a family home. Something relaxed and informal. Somewhere for my children to grow up feeling loved and safe.”
Sophie felt surprise and vicious pain flash through her. Her old boss had a family she’d never talked about? Sophie had had to relinquish her own beloved daughter. Why did some people have all the luck?
She drew a calming breath. “Faye never mentioned the children.”
“There are no children,” he grated. “She didn’t want any, but she took her time letting me know that.”
“Ah.” The solid ground slid away, and Sophie cast about for something else to say while she considered this unexpectedly personal revelation. Total strangers sometimes shared amazing confidences. She could remember pouring her heart out to a sympathetic florist when it became obvious she could no longer keep tiny Camille with her in Wellington. Talking to the barely known woman in the flower shop had brought more comfort than discussing the huge problem with her doctor or landlady or her best friend, Fran. And she’d known all of them so much better.
“Sometimes those who want don’t get, and vice versa,” she hazarded, catching sight of her reflection in the corner window and attempting to drag her fingers down through her tousled hair to return it to some sort of order. Lord, she looked a mess!
But why would a woman not want children from Rafe? They’d be beautiful—dark haired, dark eyed—and as for making love with him to conceive them... The thought simply fried her brain.
She flicked a glance up at his hard-planed face.
He returned her gaze very directly for a moment, then hitched his impeccable trousers up at the knees and hunkered down to attend to the broken sign.
His expensive suit fabric threatened to make contact with her newly oiled hardwood floor. A wave of panic washed through her. What if his trousers were ruined? She zipped out to the washroom and grabbed an old navy blue towel.
“Kneel on this,” she begged. “I didn’t finish that until yesterday.”
“You oiled the floor?” He gazed around the studio with more attention.
“I did everything. It’s a bit smaller than I wanted, but the location’s good—right in the heart of the design district.”
“You painted it too?”
“Mmm. Hired a portable scaffold, bought the paint and oil, and just went for it.”
“It’s come up well.” He stroked a finger over the glowing floorboards and then rose lithely to his feet. Sophie waited, on edge for his opinion.
His dark eyes wandered around the airy space.
“Dangerous doing it on your own—a little thing like you.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The story behind the book
Several years ago I was interviewed at the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference in Auckland. Some of us were teasing one of the local reporters about how we invented our heroes, and I said I thought a man who had Italian/New Zealand Maori/Native American Indian bloodlines would be a handsome creation. Obviously she thought so too, and I was quoted in the newspaper. Every now and again after that, my friends would ask if I'd started writing about him. No...but I knew his name was Rafe Severino. I could see him clearly. And pieces of his life were coming together in my brain as I wrote a different book.
New Zealand hosted thousands of American servicemen for R&R in the latter part of the Second World War, and there were many children born of brief wartime liaisons. Rafe's mother was one - which is how he gained his Cherokee blood. Another part of the puzzle had fallen into place.
One day when I was driving close to Wellington's main sports stadium, I spotted an empty shop. All around were furniture stores, paint suppliers, bedding stores, architectural hardware companies, and a huge tile emporium. What a great place for an interior designer to set up a new studio! So I created Sophie and Subtle Design, and thought she'd be just right for Rafe because they had interesting problems to solve before they could be happy together.
Some more real life: my Maori neighbour, Joseph, had been talking to me about being 'whangaied', which is the unofficial adoption custom of the Maori people. 'Whangaied' children often move between their real family and their whangai family... maybe because of a mother's temporary ill-health, or a sister's inability to give birth to her own child, or because parents wish to work out of the district and not disrupt their children's schooling. Joseph had been whangaied for many years, and he told me when it came time for him to reconnect with his brothers and sisters, it was difficult because they'd led very different lives.
This gave me a great basis for a story: a heroine who, for very good reasons, couldn't yet retrieve her child from her mother's care. And a hero who had never lived with his birth parents (and never forgiven them for it.)
As my husband and I work in the decor field, I had no trouble creating a wonderful house for Rafe - which naturally needed Sophie's expert knowledge for the final decoration. And although of course I didn't mention it in the book, there's a spectacular house on a cliff above our harbour with an eleven metre (36 foot) continuous curtain rod and the most divine curtains. I know this because we installed it. The views from that huge expanse of glass became Rafe and Sophie's views.
So there you go - just some of the background that went into by far my most downloaded and most reviewed book. I hope you enjoy it.
The motor cycle ride north to Peka Peka Beach
This is the route that Rafe and Sophie took. They stopped for coffee a little further north from here. You can see the railway tracks on the right, then the road, then the sea. Peka Peka Beach is just about out of sight in the heat-haze.
Wellington Harbour, where Sophie took the ferry every Sunday
Wellington city is in the distance, and several times each day the Interislander ferries pull out from their berths there, and head across this beautiful almost circular stretch of water. The gap between the hills is the entrance to the open sea, and the route to our South Island. We were working on a very fine day and spotted an elderly lady resting on a big piece of driftwood while her two dogs raced up and down the beach. Too good not to capture.
The house, the boats, the people - even the white orchids Rafe bought for Sophie. This kept me on track while I wrote the book.
Two of the panels from the US Serviceman's Memorial at Paekakariki.