SHE had to close her mind to the man on the shore. Getting the old boat safely into its berth was more important. But he was like an elemental force, his gaze fixed and unswerving, with the most magnificent physique Maxie had ever seen. Tall, ripped and tanned, with wild black hair and dangerous eyes. A gold earring glinted in what light there was. Low slung jeans over a flat, muscular belly were enough to throw anyone off course…
So think of the snarling face that would stop a rhino in its track and your concentration will come flooding back.
She had sailed the boat this far and she wasn't turning back now. Bringing the trawler through mountainous waves single-handed had been nothing short of a miracle. They had barely made it out of the harbour when the skipper had declared himself out of action after consuming the greater part of a bottle of Scotland's finest. Maxie would be the first to admit her qualifications for sailing a boat this size were slim. She had once helped to crew a sixty-eight footer, but this old rust-bucket was proving rather more cantankerous.
And she was more than a bit rusty, Maxie accepted as the deck lurched beneath her feet. Glancing at the man on the dock, she guessed he was waiting for her to fail. His massive forearms were crossed over his formidable chest, and his black eyes blazed with mockery and scorn. 'Welcome to Isla del Fuego,' Maxie muttered beneath her breath. But, however unfriendly the welcoming committee, she was going to berth this bucketing monster if it killed her! Which it probably would, Maxie registered with panic as the ancient fishing craft crashed into the dock.
With relief she saw the elderly skipper had made it out of his bunk in time to take the wheel. Boiling black storm clouds suggested the weather wasn't about to change any time soon, which for a wedding planner on a scouting trip for an excited bride was somewhere south of
perfect. And if the man onshore worked for the Acostas, who owned the island, he would need some serious retraining in the art of welcoming guests before the wedding, Maxie concluded, trying not to look at his glowering face.
She could always tell Holly the island was unsuitable…
The idea flitted across her mind, but it wasn't an option. She'd seen Scottish castles in worse settings transformed into fairytale palaces on a warm spring day, and damp French châteaux revealed in all their ancient glory when the sun shone. Plus, she trusted Holly. The bride was a smart girl, and June was a famously fabulous month in which to get married. Bottom line? If Holly wanted to get married on Isla del Fuego then it was up to Maxie to make it happen and the man on shore would just have to suck it up.
Dios! What had the storm washed in? Some pin-thin, drooping violet with—
With a very accurate and surprisingly powerful throw, Diego conceded as he caught the rope the girl tossed him. But she had no business sailing Fernando's fishing boat—let alone slamming into the dock, thanks to her poor reading of the weather. She was lucky to be alive after sailing to the island in a storm.
'Are you ready?' she called, preparing to toss a second rope.
With his stiff leg he could only move at half her speed. The second she turned her back he limped as fast as he could to get into position before she could see him lurching like a drunk.
‘Here it comes,' she warned him, in a voice that was both light and musical, yet which somehow crested the howl of the wind.
Catching the rope, he secured it. It appeared fate had a sense of humour, sending an attractive girl to the island when he could least handle the action. Resentment swept over him as he watched her darting nimbly about the deck. When his brother's fiancée had called to warn him the wedding planner was on her way he had accepted his self-imposed exile was over, but to have some lithe young girl call time was insulting. He had come down to the dock to meet the principal of the events company—someone older and sophisticated, with a keen sense of style—not some kid in jeans and a hooded top with long dark hair hanging in sodden straggles down her back. Was his brother's wedding of so little importance they'd sent some underling?
'Well caught!' she yelled, having fired another rope at him.
Well caught? There had been a time when nothing physical had been beyond him, but then his horse had rolled on him during a polo match, shattering the bones in his leg. It had been pinned in half a dozen places. He had been back on a horse and training rigorously, but it was more than a year since the accident and he had yet to regain the subtleties of sensation required for the top class game, leaving his future in polo uncertain.
'No harm done,' the girl yelled as she leaned over the rail to check the hull for damage.
'It could have been a costly mistake,' he roared back. 'You've been lucky this time.'
'Lucky?' She laughed.
He felt a surge of interest, but in his current state that was soon snuffed out. She could take a look around the island and report back to Holly, but the moment the wind dropped she was history.