From NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller Mimi Jean Pamfiloff, Comes Part One of Mr. Rook’s Island, a Sexy, Dark, Romantic Suspense.
He’s Enigmatic, Dangerously Handsome, and COMPLETELY OFF-LIMITS…
The women who vacation on Mr. Rook’s exclusive island are looking for one thing and one thing only: to have their wildest romantic fantasies come to life. Pirates, cowboys, billionaires—there’s nothing Rook’s staff can’t deliver.
But when Stephanie Fitzgerald’s sister doesn’t return after her week in paradise, Stephanie will have to pose as a guest in order to dig for answers. Unfortunately, this means she’ll need to get close to the one thing on the island that’s not on the menu: the devastatingly handsome and intimidating Mr. Rook. And he’s not about to give the island’s secrets away.
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My heart bubbled with rage. Stay in character, Steph. You’re a happy guest, like everyone else. The last thing I wanted was to go ballistic and get kicked off the island before I got what I needed—the truth for myself and information for “my boss,” Warner Price. I used the term loosely because Warner and I had more of an arrangement rather than an employer-employee situation. Either way, I couldn’t and wouldn’t go home until I had what I needed.
Wearing black leather sandals and a long blue cotton dress, I carefully descended the narrow staircase, feeling my anxiety well inside my shaky knees.
“Welcome, Miss…?” Holding out his hand, next to the bottom step, stood a huge tree trunk of a man wearing a blue-and-white Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts. He had to be at least seven feet tall, his brown skin covered in Samoan tattoos. Even his neck and the back of his shaved head were inked.
“Ms. Brenna,” I lied, and shook his large hand. “Let me guess. You must be Tattoo and you tell everyone when the plane arrives?” This place is a fucking joke.
He smiled and flashed a set of bright white teeth. “My name is Gerry, ma’am, and our control tower texts the employees to alert us when the guests arrive. May I help you with your things?”
“No.” I smiled politely, smoothing down the front of my wrinkled dress, trying my best not to show him the hate inside me. Because for all I knew, he’d had something to do with Cici’s death.
No. Don’t think that. She’s not dead. Sadly, however, my heart knew she would not leave us. Not like that. Which naturally led to one conclusion: She never made it off this island alive.
I held back a snarl and substituted it with a grin. “I can carry my own things, but thanks.”
“Very good, Ms. Brenna.” Tattoo—I mean Gerry—dipped his shaved head. “Please follow the red carpet to the gravel path. The signs will direct you to the reception building, where our staff will check you in.”
Gerry turned his attention to the next guest behind me—Meg—and I continued on the red carpet, squinting from the hot summer sun beating down on the top of my head.
My first impression of the place was that everything felt too perfect, like a movie set or theme park. Yes, the tall trees were real, and the birds of paradise sprouting from beds of bright red and yellow flowers were real, too, but even the gravel path I followed through the dense jungle didn’t have a single pebble out of place.
As I walked, the muted giggles and laughter of the ladies behind me echoed through the trees. All I felt was my skin crawling and those eyes—from the shadow—still watching me.
Stop it, I told myself. You’re letting your imagination get to you.
I slid my cell from my purse to check for texts or messages from my dad. Crap. No bars? Not even one little flicker? I guess I wasn’t surprised. This island couldn’t stay a secret if people were posting their location on Facebook along with vacation pics.
After a very short walk, the shaded path ended at a large, two-story house with an enormous porch and hanging flowers of every color imaginable. It reminded me of those old coffee plantation homes with whitewash paint and pillars.
I walked up the steps to the porch, my body already dripping with sweat. “Jesus, this place is like living inside a wet volcano,” I muttered. I couldn’t say I was a fan of humidity before this and now I absolutely loathed it.
I stepped inside the house, where a gentle breeze from the ceiling fans drifted against my hot skin, giving some relief. The white wood-paneled room had fresh flowers atop two white desks, where two pleasant-looking women awaited us. Oh, look. We’re being checked in to heaven. Every perfect detail of this shitty place pissed me off.
The guests formed a line and then gave their names to the women in blue-and-white blouses behind the desks. After that, another woman, different every time, quickly whisked them off down a hallway.
My turn. I stepped up, feeling nervous as hell. I wasn’t great at lying, but there was no other way. I’m a guest. A happy guest.
“Hi. I’m Stephanie Brenna.”
The young woman with cocoa skin and her black hair pulled into a neat ponytail smiled and then checked my name off her list. “There you are, Ms. Brenna. Julie will be checking you in and going over the island’s amenities and rules during your stay.”
Julie, a brunette wearing white shorts and the standard Hawaiian blouse, appeared with a bright smile. “Ms. Brenna, hello. Please come right this way.”
“What is this?” The whole whisking people away and separating the guests made me uneasy.
The receptionist continued smiling like she was high on life or had just gotten her wings. “Ah, yes. Well, our check-in process is a little different than your standard resort.” She leaned into her desk and whispered, “Because of the unique nature of our services.” She winked.
“So you mean there’s sex paperwork,” I said.
She pointed her pencil at me. “You got it. And a safety orientation.”
“And Mr. Rook? When do I get to meet him?” I asked.
The smiles on the women’s faces melted so fast, one might have assumed I’d just told them I’d like to eat their livers.
“What?” I asked. “This is his island, isn’t it?”
Julie, my check-in hostess, swallowed something in her throat. “I’m afraid that Mr. Rook doesn’t manage the day-to-day operations of the island—he’s a very busy man. However, if you have any concerns or needs—anything at all—I will be your personal concierge for the week.” Her fake smile reappeared. “And if there’s anything I can’t manage, the island’s executive manager, Mrs. Day, can see to it.”
“So I won’t get to meet the famous Mr. Rook?” I asked.
They smiled politely, but didn’t speak. I got the distinct impression that they were not allowed to say no to a guest.
“All right. Is he even on the island?” I prodded.
The receptionist offered me a bone. “Mr. Rook does have a personal residence here, but we are not kept informed of his schedule or whereabouts. Is there anything we can address? Any concerns?”
The two women eyed the line of rowdy drunk guests behind me. Apparently, one of them had to pee, a fact she happily shared with us all.
Okay, well, if Mr. Rook didn’t run things on a daily basis, then he wasn’t the only person with answers. Of course, the big boss would have to know if a guest went missing, so I would still need to meet him.
“No.” I flashed a smile to make nice. “No concerns at this time.”
“Then follow me!” Julie turned for the hallway. “In a few short minutes, I’ll have you on your way to a week of pure pampering and relaxation.”
“Fabulous.” I followed behind her.
“Unless your version of relaxation requires something more vigorous.” She glanced over her shoulder and winked.
What’s with the damned winking? This entire place gave me the heebie-jeebies. “Can’t wait.”