Compromised in Paradise

By: Samanthe Beck

To everyone who’s overdue for a vacation in Maui…





Chapter One


Shoulders. Arden St. Sebastian’s attention skidded to a halt on a cliff of masculine shoulders in a casual white shirt. And because the owner of those shoulders occupied a table on the other side of the hotel bar, with his back to her, she did what any straight woman with an active imagination and an under-indulged sex drive would do upon encountering such a stunning monument of male beauty. She envisioned stripping the shirt off, smoothing her hands along the rangy expanse, and then sinking her teeth into the bundle of muscle at the top of his arm.

The bitable shoulders shared the table with an older couple, but they were deep in conversation, which left her free to drool without apology and appreciate the glimpse of tanned skin between the collar of his shirt and the sun-burnished brown hair that curled a little at the ends like he’d missed a trim.

The woman at the table moved—lifted her hand to touch the double strand of pearls around her throat—and Arden realized the woman had caught her looking. Oops.

She forced her gaze away, but after a few seconds of exile it wandered back. Part of her hoped the target of her attention would sense her stare and turn around, so she could see his face.

The ping of an incoming text shattered her hormone-fueled fantasy. What now?

Excellent news. The Templetons confirmed their nephew is available Saturday night.

Arden blinked at the text from her father, then downed the rest of her Maui mimosa and signaled the bartender for another. How many would it take before finding herself roped into going on a blind date with the nephew of her father’s business associates sounded like excellent news?

More than she could consume without risking an epic hangover. Even so, she gratefully accepted a second glass from the bartender, and justified it as the vacation part of her “working vacation.”

Two months into his retirement as chairman and CEO of St. Sebastian Enterprises, and her father was officially driving her nuts. He’d needed a new project to focus on after handing the helm of the business to her older brother, Rafe, and by God, he’d found one.

Her.

In addition to second-guessing every decision she made as the director of guest experience for St. Sebastian Luxury Resorts, he’d now taken it upon himself to oversee her personal life. It had to stop.

She typed her reply with a bit more force than the touch screen required.

I don’t need my father arranging my dates.

No? Things worked out so well with the last gentleman you selected? Hold. I have a call.

Ugh. She could practically hear his trademark French sarcasm dripping from his words. She tossed her phone on the glossy black bar she intended to replace with something more imaginative as part of an overall facelift for the resort. The frustration in the gesture caught the bartender’s attention. She mustered up a smile for him and considered upgrading her drink to a double.

One little blackmail incident involving a guy she’d briefly dated a few months ago, and suddenly she wasn’t qualified to manage her own affairs? Thankfully the authorities back home in California had figured out who was behind the scheme and shut him down. She didn’t even know how her father had found out about the whole humiliating mess. God knew she’d done her best to keep it off everyone’s radar—and thought she’d succeeded—but apparently retirement hadn’t impeded Luc’s uncanny access to information. Hopefully, he’d kept it to himself, because the last thing she needed was Rafe or her mother swooping in to berate her for unwittingly dating a criminal, smother her with misplaced concern, annoy her with attempts to take over her life on the mistaken assumption she couldn’t run it properly, or some aggravating combination of all of the above.

The muscles around her left eye began to twitch in what she was learning to recognize as the warning sign of a tension headache. And that was just plain wrong. As a rule, she didn’t get uptight. She had it good, and she knew it, but thanks to the perfect storm of stressors in her life lately, she’d fallen into an unhealthy state of all work and no play. One she hoped to end during this week in Maui. She’d counted on this getaway to recapture her Zen. Unfortunately, it seemed seven thousand miles wasn’t quite far enough to outrun stress.

She needed a distraction. Even as the thought crossed her mind, she turned to search out the shoulders. The ping of a new text sounded, and although she told herself to ignore the interruption, her eyes strayed to her phone. Luc was back.

Your brother found someone who makes him happy AND strengthens our business. I see no reason you can’t do the same.

Naturally. Because taking St. Sebastian out of the equation would never happen. Her father clearly assumed as much, which is why she was going to end up sacrificing a Saturday night to go on a blind date with the hard-up nephew of the people who’d sold him this hotel. God forbid she choose to be with someone who didn’t offer some business advantage. But it was the flip side of Luc’s assumption that really worried her. God forbid someone want to be with her simply for her.

St. Sebastian paid the Templetons a good price for the resort. How did I become part of the deal?