My father and Sara were right. I was jaded. Part of it likely came from growing up with money. Flying in a private plane to a private island was par for the course. But it also came from living in a ruthless business world. My father raised all of us to be wary and skeptical of others because they were always trying to take advantage of us. In the business world, that was nearly always true.
Even in my private life, it had been true. I’m not sure I’d ever been with a woman who didn’t have dollar signs in her eyes when I fucked her. Not that I didn’t enjoy or respect the women I’d been with, but I knew that most of them wanted a ring and the Raven name. Some so much they tried to trap me. I supposed that was why it was so easy to doubt Sara, which was unfair because I was the one who offered her money.
There was a part of me that thought she would have already walked away from our deal if there wasn’t the possibility she was pregnant. I’d offended her several times. I couldn’t blame her if she wanted out of our deal. If she wasn’t pregnant by her next cycle, I might have to work harder to convince her to stick with me.
It had been several weeks now since we started having unprotected sex. I wondered when we’d know for sure if she was pregnant. A strange swell of emotion moved through me. A baby. What the hell was I thinking? And why was the thought of a child not quite as unpleasant as it had been just a few weeks before? The only thing I could think of was the male ego. Men got women pregnant and had babies all the time, so it was crazy to feel like an alpha male for impregnating someone.
When we landed, the car I’d arranged was waiting to drive us to the main house. Since she rested, I decided on a driving tour of the island to help her get her bearings. We were in a convertible, and wisps of her hair, now pulled up in a messy bun that my fingers itched to undo, blew around her face. Her eyes sparkled as she took in the pristine beaches, blue water, and lush foliage.
I’d always known this island, but never really noticed how blue the water was or how lovely the flowers smelled until Sara pointed them out. We passed the dock that held a fishing boat and a larger cruising vessel used for longer trips out to sea. Finally, we turned up the drive to the main house. The property also had several bungalows, some of which each of us sons would use when the family was together, or where friends would stay when we were entertaining. There was a second, smaller home on the other side of the island, and housing for the staff that maintained the island and the facilities on it.
Since it was just Sara and me, we were going to stay in the main house. The large home sat nestled in the lush forest with a beautiful view of the beach, only a few steps outside the master bedroom.
“I feel like I’m in a dream,” Sara said, not hiding her awe. It was another thing I found fascinating about her. She was so easy to read. She didn’t hide from her feelings, whether it was embarrassment, anger, hurt, passion, or awe. Clearly she’d had a sheltered life that didn’t involve travel or experiencing the world at large. But she was a sponge for learning. She wanted to know as much as possible about the world and how to live and be successful, evidenced by her interested in self-help books. I wanted to be her tour guide, not just in sex, but in seeing the world and experiencing it. I suspected I’d appreciate it more by seeing it through her eyes.
“It’s real, I assure you.” With my hand on her lower back, I escorted her into the open foyer of the house. The home was large and built so that every room had a view of the ocean. Windows were nearly all floor to ceiling, and could be opened to let the island breeze flow through, bringing the outside indoors.
“Mr. Raven. We have prepared an afternoon meal per your request,” one of the many staff who worked at the main house said when he greeted us.
“Thank you. Can you take our bags to the master suite?” I said to him.
I took Sara’s hand and led her to the veranda where a table was set with fresh fruit, grilled shrimp and fried plantains.
“Would you like a drink sir?” Mathilda, one of the other house staff said as she came out to us at the table.
“Seltzer water please,” I said to her. I held out the chair for Sara to sit.
“I keep thinking I’m going to wake up,” Sara said eyeing the food.
“Not until you reach the sex dreams, I hope.”
“I had that on the plane.” She grinned at me.
I grinned back, which was another new thing in my life since Sara arrived. I think I’d smiled, hell I’d laughed more than I’d ever had. What was it about her?
“What do you do all day here?” she asked as I served her some food.
“Whatever you want. Sleep. Read. Swim. There’s a pool or the ocean. We can snorkel or go for a boat ride. Have sex.” I wiggled my eyebrows. “Whatever sounds fun.”
“The sex of course. All of it actually. I’ve never been on a boat except the ferry.” She popped a shrimp in her mouth. She closed her eyes and moaned, much the same way as she did during sex.
I ignored my dick’s response to her sexy sounds. “We’ll do it all then.”
Because of the long trip, the first day, we mostly lounged on the beach. It was hard because she was in that red bikini again. It was a difficult balancing act to show her I thought she was sexy without her thinking that was all I saw in her.
After dinner, I took her for a walk, watching the sun set over the water. By the time we got back to the front of the house, the moon was casting a beautiful glow over the water.
Sara walked to the water’s edge and put her feet in where a strip of moonlight shone. “It’s like touching the moon.”
“You amaze me.” I’d thought it, but only after she smiled at me over her shoulder did I realize that I’d said the words out loud. “Would you like to swim?”
“I don’t have my suit.”
“Who needs a suit? This is a private island,” I said.
She blushed. “But other people are here.” She looked up toward the house.
“They were here when Ash and Kade were conceived.” I pulled my shirt over my head.
She gaped. “How do you know that?”
“Because they were both born about nine months after my mom and dad came here. And my mom used to joke that she’d never come here again with my dad because she always got knocked up.”
Sara looked down. “Is that why you brought me here? To get me knocked up.”
Crap. I didn’t want her thinking I viewed her simply as a sexy body or business contract.
I put my hands on her shoulders. “I brought you here to relax and to make up for the ass I’ve been.”
She pressed her hands on my chest. “Thank you. I needed this.”
“So let’s swim.” I shoved my shorts down. “Full Monty.”
“I don’t have a Monty,” she said as she undressed.
“No, you have spectacular tits.”
I took her hand as we walked into the water. It was the perfect temperature. When I was chest deep in the gentle waves, I pulled her to me, loving how her warm body felt against mine as the water lapped around us. But it wasn’t just her body that had me in a tailspin, I realized. It was her. Her sweetness and honesty. Her acceptance of me even though I was clearly not worthy. Her bravery and outspokenness. Her ability to see and appreciate the small things in the world and the people around her.
My father wasn’t just right that I was jaded, but also that there was more to life than convincing some schmuck in Florida to sell his failing resort. All my life, and my brother’s lives, we’d been raised to sacrifice everything for the company. In doing so, this was what we missed out on. We missed out on sweetness and life. On love.
Christ, I was in love with her.
That had to be what this crazy cracking opening up of my heart meant. This swell of emotion, and powerful need not just to protect her, but to keep her by my side and cherish her.
I wanted to tell her and yet, I wasn’t as brave as she was. Despite my epiphany, I was scared shitless. I felt vulnerable and raw. I didn’t think Sara would betray me, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t get hurt. She entered into this marriage as part of a business deal and while there had been a noticeable shift in how we related to each other, that didn’t mean she was feeling the same way I was. It didn’t mean that at some point she wouldn’t get tired of being in this family and decide to leave, forcing us to co-parent a child apart. I couldn’t blame her. Many times, if I had the option, I’d have left the family.
The answer was to renegotiate this deal. Change it from a business arrangement to a relationship. I could ask her to marry me again, in a real wedding that all our family and friends could celebrate with us.
But first, I had to grow some balls and learn to trust what I was feeling. What if I had it wrong? Perhaps I was just swept up in the moment; the beautiful setting and lovely woman.
When I got home, I’d reassess. I’d make sure what I was feeling was real and not just a passing flight of fancy. Until then, I would focus on Sara and make sure she understood that I saw her; the real her.
“How many ladies have you brought here?” she asked as she looped her arms around my neck and wrapped her legs around my waist.
“One.” I nestled her closer to me.
“Was she posh?”
“She was young and sweet and brave.”
Sara quirked a brow.
“Just you, sweetheart. You’re the only one I’ve brought here.” My brothers had brought women here, I think, but for me this place had always been a respite from the ruthless world. I could come here to be away from demands and manipulations.
“You make me feel special,” she said.
“You are special. If you don’t get anything else out of this trip, I hope you realize that.”
“I really am Cinderella.” Her smile was so bright.
I guessed that made me Prince Charming, in her eyes. I knew I was no prince, but I could learn.
The next few days were as magical as the first. We had no plans. No obligations. All we had is whatever we wanted to do whenever we wanted to do it. We swam and snorkled. We saw dolphins and a turtle during a boat ride. When we weren’t doing that, I had her writhing under me, or over me I watched her beautiful mouth form a perfect O as I pushed her over into an orgasm.
The only thing that slowed us down was how tired Sara seemed. Then again, with the sun, surf, and my insatiable appetite for her, I couldn’t blame her for being tired. I’d taken a few naps myself. The truth was, I enjoyed the slow pace. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a nap or sat in a hammock and read something that didn’t have to do with business. I didn’t think about work, or what my father and brothers might be doing. I didn’t have any thoughts about the numb-nut in Florida fighting the deal we made or how that was progressing. I felt amazingly light and free. Sara and I would definitely need to come here more often.
“Mr. Raven?” Matilda said as she approached me while I lay on the lounge reading the latest best-selling thriller as Sara slept in again.
“I don’t want to be putting my nose where it doesn’t belong, but Mrs. Raven hasn’t been feeling well the past few mornings,” she said, looking apprehensive about talking to me.
“What?” I sat up. “Did she tell you this?”
Matilda shook her head. “No, but she spends a long time in the bathroom. She sounds like she’s getting sick.”
What the hell? “Thank you, Matilda.” I stood and strode into our master bedroom, and toward the bathroom. I knocked on the door. “Sara.”
“Yes, I’ll be just a minute.”
“Are you ill?”
“I think it’s too much sun.” She opened the door. She looked pale, I thought as I ran a finger along her cheek.
“I’m calling a doctor.” I went to the dresser to get my phone. I calculated the time it would take to get a doctor out to the island. The closest would be out of Miami.
“I’m sure it’s nothing Chase. I always feel better once I’m … done.”
I ignored her as I looked through my contact list for someone who’d be able to let me know who I could call and get to the island.
The memory from a few years ago when my mother started getting tired and feeling ill flickered in the back of my mind. Less than a year from when that started, my mother was gone. I’d be damned if I’d let that happen to Sara.
What a cruel twist of fate it would be if when I finally understood love, the object of that love would be taken from me.