Island of Second Chances

By: Cara Lockwood

CHAPTER ONE

BUZZZZZZT. BUZZZZZZT.

It seemed Laura Kelly had only had her eyes closed for a minute, and suddenly, the air was full of the sound of some ruckus. A chain saw? A swarm of killer bees? What the hell was that?

She sat up in bed, her mouth tasting sour, as she glanced around the unfamiliar bedroom, bewildered. Then, she remembered. St. Anthony’s Island. Her escape route. She looked down and saw she wore the same jean shorts and white T-shirt she’d worn through three time zones yesterday to get here. She’d had three flight delays and a taxi cab driver who’d gotten lost twice before she finally reached the island at 3:00 a.m.

There it was again. The horrendous sound. She clearly hadn’t dreamed it. Yawning, she reached for her phone, but it was dead. She’d forgotten to plug it in. The little clock on the bedside table blinked 12:00. It had to be early in the morning, though the sun trickled in through the vertical blinds near her kitchenette.

She got up, groggy, and wandered to the patio doors. Her rented condo was on the second story, at the end of the row. She saw that she had two neighbors to her left and three below her, and that was it.

She’d known from the listing that the complex was remote, the way she wanted it, but now, standing on her balcony, looking out at the blue-green water, she realized her little building was the only one for seemingly miles. Pristine beach spread out in both directions, not a single towel or umbrella in sight, just brilliant white sand under a blazing sun.

The loud buzzing caught her attention once more, and she glanced down to find its source: a buzz saw in the hands of a man attacking a piece of wood with a steely determination.

He was shirtless, his back to her, dark hair cut short, and he was wearing cutoff camo shorts and no shoes. The cut muscles of his shoulder and back worked steadily, sweat glistening on them. He was cutting the plank literally steps from the complex.

Beyond that was a sailboat sitting on the beach. It looked to be old, or at least in desperate need of repair. It sat on a scaffold, lacking a working sail and looking worse for the wear on the bottom. Also, most of the deck was missing.

She rubbed her face and tried to yell down at the man, but the volume of the buzz saw made that impossible.

What was so important that the man needed to saw this early? Noah’s ark? She decided she’d have to go tell him kindly to knock it off. Until nine, at least.

She stabbed her feet into flip-flops, found her way to the condo’s front door and went down the open stairway to the parking lot. Unsure of the fastest route, she wandered to the side and around the back until she found an opening to the beach and the infernal noise. She found the man, bare back and all, hunched over a solid plank of wood, saw at the ready.

Sawdust flew all over his stone patio and what looked to be a makeshift workshop of sorts—an oversize storage shed with shelves for tools. Beyond, the sailboat in need of TLC sat on its stand.

She wondered how he’d managed to get the condo board to sign off on this. The boards she knew in San Francisco would never allow such a workspace in the condo common area, which she assumed the beach had to be.

Laura shook her head at the whole situation.

The man was taller than he looked from above, and she only barely registered the knot of muscles in his shoulders and biceps as he worked to steady the saw. All she could think about was the horrible noise bouncing through her ears and ricocheting through her skull. What kind of man went on vacation in the Caribbean just to literally saw wood? She glanced at him, and then beyond him, to the rusted-out bow of the boat on risers near the beach.

“Excuse me,” she shouted, now that she was just feet from the man. “Excuse me!”

The noise was far too loud for him to hear, even though she was less than two feet from him. Laura, losing her patience, reached up and tapped the man hard on his bare shoulder.

The man instantly shut off the saw and glared at her over his shoulder, his eyes barely visible through the work goggles he wore. Seeing her, he put down the saw and raised the goggles, revealing brown eyes that almost looked amber in the morning sunlight. He pushed the goggles up to his short brown hair and studied her.

He had a rugged face, etched a little by the weather, but with that almost ageless quality only middle-aged men have. He could be thirty-five or forty-five. He stayed in shape, clear from the cut of his bare chest. He wasn’t sporting six-pack abs, but his stomach was flat and lean.

Laura realized with a shock that the last time she’d seen a man wearing this little clothing, it had been Dean. In a hotel room.

She shook the thought from her mind and tried to focus on the man’s face, trying not to look at the miles of very tanned and very bare skin before her. He was annoyed, that much was clear by the thin slash of his mouth, and the way his brow furrowed.

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