Catherine Richardson’s death had unhinged the entire family and, no matter what Emily did or how hard she tried, she couldn’t fix it back together.
She couldn’t fix this dress either. She’d finished her markings but without a model or a mannequin she would be sewing blind.
How could she not have thought to bring a mannequin with her when she’d remembered everything else?
Sighing, she gathered all her stuff back together and put it neatly away before wandering out onto the veranda.
As she leaned over the wall, she couldn’t help but peek up to her left, where Pascha’s hut jutted out. Nothing. If he was in there, he was out of sight.
She forced her attention onto the calm blue lagoon before her and breathed in the salty air which, mingled with the mass of sweet frangipani growing everywhere, created the most magical scent. If she could bottle it, she would make a fortune. She wanted to be out there in it.
She’d been shown a huge wooden hut that held a host of items for outdoor entertainment. She’d been told she could use whatever she liked when the mood took her. It was kept unlocked. She skipped down from her cabin and let herself in. Tennis and badminton rackets, sets of boules and kites all lay neatly shelved amongst kayaks and surfboards. So orderly was it all that she found what she was looking for with no effort at all: a row of snorkels and flippers.
Kitted out, she headed for the lagoon, delighting to feel the warmth of the fine white sand between her toes and the beam of the sun heating her skin, a breeze tempering it enough to make it bearable. In the distance, a boat sailed away from the island, going quickly enough soon to be a speck on the horizon.
Just one day in paradise and she had to admit she was already revising her opinion of the sun. Beneath the top heated layer, the water in the lagoon was deliciously cool, and she waded out in her flippers to waist height before donning the snorkel and diving under the surface.
What a sight there was to behold. She’d seen so many pictures in the media of coral reefs dying, but here it thrived—blooms of colour in all shapes and sizes, an abundance of fish and other marine creatures, their individual colours and features clearly delineated.
Sitting on the ledge earlier overlooking the waterfall, she’d felt a sense of peace. She felt that same tranquillity now. It was just her and the lagoon. Nothing else. Down here, the rest of the world might not exist, and she was going to revel in the feeling. Even if just for a short while.
* * *
Emily’s hut was still empty.
Pascha swore under his breath.
He’d searched the rest of the lodge. He needed to speak to her and she’d done another disappearing act. The only place now he could think she might be was at the waterfall she’d been so enamoured with. It was a good forty-minute walk, which wasn’t the greatest length of time, but with the latest weather developments every second was precious.
Stepping out onto her veranda, he spotted the figure far out in the lagoon. He didn’t even have to blink to know it was her.
Pascha cursed again, descending the outdoor stairs that led to the beach at a much quicker rate than usual.
In an ideal world he would send someone else out to her, but to do so would be to tear a member of his staff away from jobs that were now being undertaken as a matter of urgency.
As soon as he reached the sand, he kicked his deck shoes off.
After far too long standing, waiting vainly for her to notice him, he sat down and stripped off his polo shirt, ready to swim out to her. Except during that small action she’d disappeared from view.
Where was she?
Eyes narrowed in concentration, he scoured the area she’d been but could see no sign of her. His heart thudded harder. Where was she?
And then she emerged feet from the shoreline.
For the briefest of moments, his heart stopped.
Emily was wearing the same modest khaki bikini she’d worn earlier but she’d removed the shorts to reveal brief bikini bottoms. She’d donned a white T-shirt—sensible in this heat; he would give her credit for that—but the water made it transparent, the material clinging to her like a second skin.
He didn’t think he’d ever witnessed such an erotic sight. Her dripping hair was longer than he could have imagined, the water pulling her curls out so it hung in a long sheet down to the small of her back.
Unable to tear his eyes away from the tantalising sight before him, his mouth went dry and heat pooled in his groin.
It wasn’t until she started wringing water from her hair that she noticed him.
Something that was a cross between a scowl and a smile played on her lips as she removed the flippers and headed over to him.
‘Come out to play?’