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Kiss Me Maybe

By´╝ÜHeather Burch

Chapter 1


A seawitch is a beauty with the power to entrance sailors. She rules a kingdom far beneath the sea.

Alexander Andrews noticed her as soon as she stepped onto the gangway, her ballerina flats tiptoeing onto the ship as if stepping through a looking glass and into an alternate world. Her head tilted back, releasing the mass of red hair from her shoulders and causing a long, slender neck to crane. She half turned, taking in the gleaming sight of the massive ship as eyes the color of emeralds in sunlight closed, perhaps to capture the moment. She inhaled deeply, her delicate shoulders rising then falling as if every care, every distraction was being left right there on the gangway for the wind and waves to carry off.

Alexander’s heart did a little flop. He cleared his throat as his gaze trailed her legs. A light blue skirt shifted with each of her steps, grazing the skin of her thighs. When the man in line in front of him blocked his view with a massive cowboy hat, Alexander shifted, chin rising until the redhead filled his vision. His mind drifted away. Maybe it was the water; maybe it was the copper hair floating carelessly on the breeze that would carry them to the Caribbean. Whatever it was caused a flutter inside his chest. His mind imagined tales of seamen lost on the ocean and long-haired, beautiful mermaids coming to their rescue. He wouldn’t mind being rescued by this mermaid.

The wind kicked up and her long, slender fingers grasped the stray strands of hair as she cast a seductive look behind her . . . almost as if she knew his gaze was fitted tightly to her flesh. But, cowboy hat again, and the moment was lost.

Alexander tried to drag his focus elsewhere until a voice, crisp and smooth and filled with all the excitement and anticipation that this sort of trip elicited, worked its way over the breeze to him, tickling his ears. She was five guests ahead and he leaned forward to hear her words more clearly as she visited with an elderly couple behind her. Alexander made an executive decision to eavesdrop.

“No, I’ve never been on a cruise before.” Her eyes widened when she said it and Alexander realized he was grinning.

“You’ve been on twenty-five? Really? You must love cruising.”

The couple both nodded, two gray heads bobbing nonchalantly, but their excitement was easily read in their body language.

Alexander had never been on a cruise, either. And wouldn’t be now if it wasn’t for his assistant, Margery. She was the perfect combination of a mother hen and a pit bull. She’d informed him in no uncertain terms that his general grumpiness had reached mythical proportions. He was going away and had better come back nicer. Or she’d be looking for another job. But Margery—thirty years his senior—was more family than employee, and when she insisted, he agreed, assuming she’d send him to New York or LA, where he could make some contacts while recharging. He certainly hadn’t expected this. Seven days of Caribbean sun and cuisine. Seven days to leave the world behind and just . . . relax. The very idea crawled over Alex’s flesh like a colony of ants. Relax was a word he’d placed in a tightly lidded box and stored in the back closet of his mind. Other words kept it company. Words like time off. Vacation. Downtime. He didn’t have time for any of it.

He’d had his downtime in college. Now, being the CEO of the largest family-owned beauty business in his part of the country left little room for vacationing. Well, thanks to Margery, he could make up for lost time. He tilted his ear in the direction of the redhead.

She tossed those long, coppery locks and said, “As soon as I drop my bag in my stateroom, I’m going to Neptune’s pool.”

Interesting. Maybe he’d go to Neptune’s pool as well.

He lost her in the shuffle of guests. They all stepped inside the belly of the ship to find a smiling crew directing them. Somewhere off in the distance, he heard calypso music. “Wow.” His gaze flittered over the beautiful decor, the perfect combination of a luxury hotel and an island getaway, with warm, serene colors and tropical murals all set off by ambient lighting.

A dark-haired female crewmember dressed in white and sporting a little gold name tag smiled. “She is beautiful, isn’t she? Wait until you see the Piazza.” The woman, with a hint of a European accent, pointed him to the elevators. He spotted Red getting into one and hoped to muscle his way to her, but the door closed. “Aloha Deck Number Twelve. You’re in one of our balcony staterooms. Have a wonderful week.”

Alexander thanked her and entered the elevator. The redhead floated through his mind as he rode to twelve. He knew where to find her. Neptune’s. Just as he slipped his key from his pocket, he saw it. The flash of red hair and an oomph sound as the woman in the stateroom next door struggled with her shoulder bag. Though tucked into the alcove separating his door from hers, there was no denying the flash of hair as she tumbled inside. Red was his next-door neighbor.

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