Summer Spice - Scarlet Bay Book 3

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Oliver Wynn was fascinated by Meifeng Chan from the moment he was old enough to know what girls were for. Mei was too realistic to ever accept a date with him; Ollie from the billionaire Wynn family and the Chinese girl from the takeaway shop? Not going to happen!

Fifteen years later fate has slammed them together. Ollie’s cousin, Anna, has asked him to keep Meifeng hidden in the family’s luxurious new beach house so her abusive boyfriend can’t find her and beat her up again. Ollie is furious and protective and spoiling for a fight, but Mei is wary and defensive and no way ready to trust another man. They have three long days to keep their hands off each other.

 

Chapter 1 - Touchdown

 

Maybe she was down there, a few hundred feet below him. Or maybe pigs might fly.

Ollie could never resist one low-level pass along the beachfront in his Piper. He flew out over the tumbling waves so no-one complained he was buzzing the houses, but his gaze slid sideways, soaking up the view he’d known and loved for thirty years.

His blood raced and his heart thudded. Everything was great.

Almost everything was great.

Seeing Mei so unexpectedly at Anna’s wedding had thrown his carefully ordered world into disarray, and Scarlet Bay was where he might find her again. He hoped.

No other cautiously investigated avenue had yet borne fruit.

He rolled his shoulders, looking forward to the ridiculous task he’d volunteered for; unpacking and sorting furniture in the family’s new holiday house before Christmas. A few days of freedom. No people, no reports, some heavy lifting that would do his body good. And barreling down the waves when the surf co-operated and he’d had enough of heaving beds and tables around. It was the perfect excuse to use his eyes and ears, ask a few questions, and see where they led.

Just for the hell of it he tilted the plane’s nose down in a slight dive, then soared upward again, restless and unsettled. Full of anticipation and dread in equal measure. Speed was his drug – his escape from long years of study and the daily stress of his job in aviation engineering. One slip, one moment of inattention, and people could die. He had no intention of that happening on his watch, but it came at the cost of fierce concentration and total vigilance.

He passed Scarlet Bay Takeaways (always a hitch in his heart when he thought of her), Denton’s Campground, now sold and renamed Bluewater Holiday Park… the older beach houses like Nanny Kawhia’s, and Bill and Thelma Hughes’ rambling place. Lean-to extensions off lean-to extensions which probably had no building permits. Then the new ones, including those built on the hill behind his family’s former holiday cottage, and the replacement for that, down at ocean level – his accommodation for tonight.

Coasting a further couple of miles he reached Jason and Anna’s home, its roof tucked snugly between the outcrop of sheltering rock and the deep green remnant of original forest, and his marker to turn for the airstrip and ready the Piper for landing.

Inbuilt superstition made him give the instrument panel its customary pat for a job well done as he taxied to a halt, and he smirked to himself at his stupidity. It was only a machine. It made more sense to pat his own shoulder for his meticulous maintenance of it, but, old habits...

His cousin’s black pickup truck sat in the sunlit parking lot, and she raised her hand in a lazy greeting. His eyes widened as he saw how she’d grown. Okay, Anna was leaning back against the tray, no doubt enjoying the early summer warmth so the curve of her belly was probably exaggerated, but she looked about ready to pop.  

Ollie grinned and waved back, grabbing his overnight bag before vaulting out.

As he walked toward her, one of the passenger side doors of the truck swung open and a pair of stiletto-heeled red ankle boots headed for the ground. Slim legs in narrow jeans slid into view above them. He slowed his long stride, riveted by the unexpected sight. Finally the rest of the woman appeared as the door slammed shut.

She was slightly built, but hardly dressed as a child. And then it hit him. How? Why? Surely it couldn’t be that easy?

A surge of triumph and trepidation washed through him. He cleared his throat and tried not to inspect her too obviously, pleased he hadn’t yet removed his aviator Ray-Bans.

 Above her low-riding skinny jeans a taut midriff sported a belly button jewel with a sparkly green stone. It twinkled as it caught the sunlight, dancing to and fro. Higher, a baby-blue crop-top stretched up over firm, round breasts. Long black hair cascaded far enough down to conceal some of their perfect plumpness. His heart told him it was her again, even though she looked so different from the demure girl at the wedding.

He ran his tongue over his teeth, and swallowed.

Damn – still drooling like a dog.

Dragging his attention back to Anna, he said, “Pretty impressive, cuz.” He waved a hand at her pregnant belly, being careful not to bump her with his bag as he attempted a one-armed hug.

“Had enough of it now,” she grouched. But her words were at odds with her dazzling smile. She glanced sideways. “Ollie – you remember Meifeng Chan? We need your help.”

Yes, Meifeng was burned into his brain. His oriental mystery. His total fascination. The girl his jeering schoolmates had so scathingly called ‘Chinky’ when they found a bad photo of her taped inside his locker door, and whose reputation he’d defended until he was bruised and bleeding. He’d asked her out when he was a short and less than confident fifteen and been rebuffed very sharply when her father overheard. He’d gathered his courage together several more times as he grew taller, but was never accepted. Then she’d disappeared from the shop and the district.

He’d dared make only the vaguest enquiries around his family for the following few holidays, because no-one in the wealthy Wynn family would be expected to show interest in a Chinese girl from a takeaway shop.

But then, a thunderbolt; there she sat in an exotic scarlet and black cheongsam playing her strange, long-necked instrument as Anna sang to Jason at their wedding reception. He’d been shocked into silence – throat dry, heart pounding, gaze never leaving her until she’d finished. Best man Cam had taken over with his affable speech, and when Ollie escaped to find her only minutes later, she was nowhere. It was as though she’d evaporated. He enquired as casually as he could sometime after Anna returned from her honeymoon. She’d told him Mei worked for one of the international airlines, had a partner, then turned away to answer something Jason was asking about.

Ollie had stayed silent. A partner, but not a husband. It was enough to keep him hoping, but he certainly wasn’t alerting bloodhound Anna to his interest. Cautious questions to other people led him nowhere closer to Mei.

Now he removed his Ray-Bans and nodded to her across the scorching tarmac, praying she wasn’t a mirage.

She raised long-nailed fingers and slid her sunglasses part way down her nose to reveal slanted eyes, exotically shadowed.

There was something hesitant about her slow semi-reveal. Ollie’s instincts didn’t often let him down, and the prickle of hairs rising on the back of his neck caused him to give her even sharper attention.

Meifeng drew a jerky breath. “Haven’t seen you properly for many years, Oliver. Only in the distance at Anna and Jason’s wedding reception. Mei from the takeaway shop.”

“But an international flight attendant for ages now,” Anna added. “So you have flying in common.

He gave a slow nod. Uttered some kind of greeting that was probably a hoarse ‘Hi’. Cleared his throat and still found no proper words.

No wonder she’d disappeared from the beach so effectively. She’d probably spent most of her time above thirty thousand feet, heading away from him.

Anna straightened from her relaxed slump against the truck tray. “Mei needs to get away from someone who won’t accept they’re finished,” she said. “Away from him, and out of Scarlet Bay without being seen so he can’t track her. I hoped you could take her back with you when you leave.”

She was being delivered into his hands?

But then Meifeng drew the sunglasses lower and Oliver saw the shadows of bruises on one side of her face, just visible under meticulous makeup. “Jesus!” he exclaimed as horror and concern warred with the triumph of finding she might now be available.

His fists itched to retaliate, and old memories swam all too easily to the surface. “He did that? Of course I’ll take you. Right away, if you like.”

“No,” Anna said with a sharp shake of her head. “She needs to collect some stuff first. Kieran works until midday on Saturdays, so if we go now, we should be fine. Are you on?”

Kieran. The name burned like acid in his throat. He nearly spewed at the mental picture of fragile Mei being hit. “Totally,” he snapped.

“I’ll bob down in the back,” she said, pulling the rear door open. “Just in case.”  

Anna heaved herself less than elegantly into the driver’s seat of the double cab truck while Ollie jogged out to secure his plane.

Mei was so small she’d never stand a chance against a full-grown man. Small like he’d been in his early teens, which had made him a target for the school bullies. His lack of size plus his well-known family and his good brain had been a bad combination. Their hard fists and well-placed punches and the occasional sly kick so he’d trip and fall were years in the past now, but still the memories lingered in the darkest recesses of his brain. The six-foot-three version of him wouldn’t mind meeting some of them again.

He clenched his jaw as he collected his box of supplies and loped back to dump it in the truck’s tray. “Sure you don’t want me to drive?” he asked, surveying Anna’s big bump and still accustoming himself to the strange turn his solitary break had taken.

Mei again, after all these years. As easily as that. And as impossible.