The Trouble With ParadiseJill Shalvis
Table of Contents
THE TROUBLE WITH PARADISE
“Murder, storms, and intrigue lead to rough seas indeed, but eventual sunshine is never in doubt.”
“If you have not read a Jill Shalvis novel yet, then you really have not read a real romance yet either!”
—Book Cove Reviews
“Riveting suspense laced with humor and heart is her hall-mark, and Jill Shalvis always delivers.”
—USA Today bestselling author Donna Kauffman
“Witty, fun, and sexy—the perfect romance!”
—New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster
“Shalvis brings us a compelling, humorous, and very steamy romance between a witty heroine and her sexy hero of choice . . . will keep readers amused from beginning to end.”—Romantic Times
PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF
“Shalvis writes with humor, heart, and sizzling heat!”
—New York Times bestselling author Carly Phillips
“A writer of fast-paced, edgy but realistic suspense . . . fiercely evocative.”—Booklist
“Delightful . . . Jill Shalvis rules.”—Midwest Book Review
“Fast-paced and deliciously fun . . . Jill Shalvis sweeps you away.”—USA Today bestselling author Cherry Adair
“A fun, sexy story of the redemptive powers of love . . . red-hot!”—New York Times bestselling author JoAnn Ross
“Wonderful romance, wonderful mystery. Always.”
—Affaire de Coeur
Berkley Titles by Jill Shalvis
THE TROUBLE WITH PARADISE
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
THE TROUBLE WITH PARADISE
A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley Sensation trade edition / October 2007
Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / September 2010
Copyright © 2007 by Jill Shalvis. Excerpt from Double Play copyright © by Jill Shalvis.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
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eISBN : 978-1-101-46089-4
Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
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375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
BERKLEY® SENSATION and the “B” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
To Kelsey for giving up homework time to look up iguanas in the South Pacific for me.
To Megan for doing the dishes every time I whined about my deadline.
To Courtney for sometimes cooking her own dinners of questionable nutritional value during the writing of this book.
And last but not least, to David for putting up with me since before the fall of Rome.
Day Two on deserted island without cookies,
and it’s not pretty.
Only a week ago, Dorie Anderson’s nighttime fantasies had run along the lines of, say, Matthew McConaughey, but now as she lay on the long, golden stretch of beach, staring past their shelter to the star-riddled night sky, she fantasized about chocolate chip cookies.
Make that double chocolate chip cookies.
Sorry, Matthew, but priorities were priorities. Stuck on a deserted South Pacific island without cookies? Serious suffering going on.
All around her came the sounds that people tended to buy those nature CDs for: the waves gently hitting the shore, crickets chirping, an exotic bird squawking . . .
Her stomach growling.
She put her hand on her belly, thinking she’d give her right arm for an entire bag of cookies all to herself. Maybe even her left as well.
“How’s the patient?”
Ah, there he was, the bane of her existence. She knew this because just his voice made her nipples go all happy.
She felt him sit in the sand at her side but she didn’t look at him. Nope, looking at him was a really bad idea because then her brain would begin that painful tug-of-war.
She sighed. “Go away.”
“Ah. You’re feeling better.” He lay next to her so that his arm brushed hers, the one she would definitely sell for that bag of chocolate chip cookies.
“Question,” she said.
“Do you ever think about chocolate?”
He turned his head and looked at her. He was all hard, lean, sinewy lines to her soft, curvy ones. She imagined if she pointed out how different they were, he’d say he liked those differences very much. “I think about other things,” he said.
His arm shifted, just barely pressing into the side of her breast. And more than just her nipples got happy. Bad. Bad body. �
��I’m tired,” she said, and yawned to prove it.
“Here’s something to wake you up.” Instead of taking the hint and leaving, he rolled to his side, facing her. “Our bet.”
Oh, no. “We are not going to talk about the bet.” No way.
“That’s because you lost.”
He was silent, letting that lie live a life of its own as she remembered the details . . .
As if she could forget.
“You could just pay up,” he suggested.
That thought shot tingles of excitement directly into certain areas of her anatomy that had no business getting excited. She closed her eyes, a bad idea because her other senses took over. How did he manage to smell like heaven on earth while on a deserted island? “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He just laughed softly.
“You didn’t hit your head that hard,” he said. “You know.”
“You’re not going away. Why aren’t you going away?” she asked desperately, knowing exactly what he was talking about, exactly what bet she’d made, and what she now owed him, which involved her.
Beneath this very starlit sky. “If you were nice, you’d go.”
He lifted a broad shoulder. “Never claimed to be nice.”
Also true. Damn it.
“Plus we’re stuck on an island,” he pointed out. “Just how far away do you think I can go?”
Keeping her eyes closed, she sighed again. She really hated it when he was right.
Two weeks before,
blissfully ignorant of the hell to come . . .
Damn, it was hard to run in her cute new cork-heeled sandals, but Dorie pumped her arms and did her best as she made her way through the parking lot. She was only five minutes late for work, but the store manager of the Los Angeles Shop-Mart she worked for had fired people for less. In fact, Mr. Stryowski was on a downsizing spree, firing staff left and right, which meant it’d been a really bad morning for her alarm to malfunction.
Okay, it hadn’t been her alarm. It’d been her hair straightener. But a girl had to do what a girl had to do, and that did not include going to work with frizzy hair, thank you very much.
Into the store, past the food court . . .
Faster, faster, or it wouldn’t matter how good a hair day she was now having. She burst into the employee-only area, her huge, carry-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink purse banging at her side.
No Mr. Stryowski in sight.
A miracle in its own right, because nothing got past him. Last week he’d heard Kenny sneaking in late all the way from Garden Supplies.
Kenny was now on the early shift, for the rest of his life.
Dorie hated the early shift. She did not do early. But like Kenny, she was paying dues for her sins. Her apparently ongoing sins. Still running, she passed Sally. The Snack Shop clerk was pouring herself a coffee. They waved and grinned at each other, Sally’s sympathetic as she made room for Dorie to get by.
“Great hair today,” Sally called out.
The qualifier “today” did not escape Dorie, but truth was truth. She had a lot of bad hair days. “Thanks!”
“Why are you late? Hot date last night?”
“I wish.” Nope, that phenomenon hadn’t occurred in . . . yikes. She couldn’t even remember. Statistically speaking, these years were supposed to be the sexual highlight of her life. So where were the highlights already?
She was a single woman in her twenties, with average looks—at least on the days when her hair straightener functioned—and some average smarts. So it bore thinking about—why couldn’t she get a man-made orgasm?
Unfortunately, she had the answer to that. Whenever she got naked with a man, she tended to dwell, and when she dwelled, any self-esteem flew out the window.
Along with her hopes for that orgasm.
Panting for breath now, her tiered crinkle skirt flying around her legs, her darling new sandals already killing her feet—not a good sign with eight hours minimum in front of her—she fumbled for her time card and—
At Mr. Stryowski’s bark, Dorie squeaked like the timid little mouse she tended to be in the face of authority and whipped around. He was wearing his default expression—a scowl.
Be cool, she ordered herself, and gave him her best Who, me? smile. Late? Are you sure?
He was skinny, tall, and with his hook of a nose, could have passed for a medieval warlock, except for the bad rug hanging off his forehead. He’d gotten a new toupee last month, and frankly, he hadn’t spent enough. The thing kept slipping in his eyes, making him crankier than usual. “What do you think this place is, Target?” he groused. “You owe me five minutes of your lunch time.”
Dorie glanced at Sally, who rolled her eyes. Neither of them had taken a lunch break all week because he was shorthanded, especially in Dorie’s particular area of expertise—the Junior Fashion area. He was too cheap to hire anyone else, but since Dorie needed her paycheck, she bit her tongue. “No problem.”
Mr. Stryowski narrowed his beady eyes on her while she did her best not to squeak again. Damn, she needed to grow a pair of balls. She’d been meaning to . . .
“You had a phone call. Even though I’ve told you—no personal calls while you’re on the clock.”
She wanted to remind him she wasn’t yet on the clock, but talking directly to him was like feeding a polar bear—bad for her health.
Even more interesting was the fact that someone called her here at work, and not on her cell. No one did that. At least no one she knew . . .
“Here.” He shoved a pink message note into her hands.
Huh. She’d never won anything in her life. Well, except for that one time in high school, when the captain of the football team, Damian Randal, had won a fish at the carnival. She, Queen of Dorkdom, had been standing in line behind him, trying not to trip over her own tongue, when he’d turned and thrust his winnings into her hand. She’d reacted predictably, becoming socially challenged as always when in the presence of a cute guy. “I’ll love the fish forever,” she’d gushed, giving him her heart with every breath she took.
He’d laughed and muttered “Whatever” before walking away.
She’d woken up the next morning to Goldie floating upside down and very dead in her bowl. Dorie had been devastated, and when her mother had discovered her grandma’s crystal bowl being used for Goldie’s home, also grounded.
“Call him back on your own time,” Mr. Stryowski said, jerking her back to the present, snatching Sally’s coffee right out of her hands. “Needs sugar,” he snarled after a sip.
Sally tightened her lips, and looked to be plotting his death while she shoved a sugar packet at him and poured herself another cup.
“Is it just me?” Dorie asked when he’d left. “Or does that man get sweeter every day?”
“Forget him. Call this Peter guy and see what you won.”
It didn’t surprise Dorie that Sally had read the message. There were no secrets here at Gossip Central. So she pulled out her cell phone while Sally brought her a coffee, complete with two sugar packets and a dollop of hot chocolate powder—the poor girl’s mocha latte. Her fellow employees might be a nosy bunch, but they were also incredibly sweet.
Dorie sipped her drink, then punched in the phone number. “It’s ringing.”
“Ask him if he’s single,” Sally whispered, cheek to cheek with her, straining to hear. “And don’t forget cute. You need to know because he could be some kind of desk geek with a paunch. You’re too young for a paunch.”
Dorie waved her hand to shush her so she could hear. “It went to voice mail.”
“Don’t leave your cell number. He could be a mass murderer.”
“You watch too much Law & Order.” At the beep, Dorie left her number. Two seconds later, her cell phone vibrated. With a leap of excitement, she glan
ced at the ID, but her euphoria quickly drained. “My mother.”
“Oy,” Sally said, speaking volumes in that one word. She patted Dorie’s shoulder and went off to the food aisles to shelve the new stock.
Each vibration of the cell phone seemed more and more agitated, until with a sigh, Dorie flipped it open. “Hi, Mom.”
“Finally. Where have you been?”
“Vacation in the Bahamas with a cute cabana boy.”
Her mother gasped.
“Kidding. I’m kidding.” She was a bad daughter. For three days her mother had been leaving messages that all started with “call your mother” and ended with “before she dies lonely, of old age because you haven’t given her grand-children to love,” and Dorie hadn’t yet called. The reasons were complicated, and mostly had to do with the fact that if Dorie was the Queen of Dorkdom, her mother was the Goddess of Guilt. “I need a vacation in the Bahamas with a cute cabana boy,” she said, and sat at the rickety employee table, pulling an empty pad of paper to doodle on out of her ever present purse. Doodling always helped. Not as much as, say, chocolate, but a close second.
“So take a vacation,” her mother said. “Phyllis is going to Hawaii.”
Dorie’s left eye began to twitch. Her sister had married a rich plastic surgeon. Going to Hawaii was a bimonthly event for her.
But for Dorie, Hawaii wasn’t on the To Do List. As an overly educated Shop-Mart clerk (damn it, yes, everyone had been right, her degree in design was worthless without the means to actually front her own clothing line), her vacation options consisted of walking as far as her own legs would take her, or hanging out on her fire escape. Maybe if she dipped into her savings account—
Nope. No can do, not since she’d emptied it out the last time something came up. Which had been a Nordstrom’s sale. Remembering, she began to sketch the skirt she’d bought there. The one she’d wanted to improve on.
But she could sketch all she wanted; the facts didn’t change. She had no job prospects in the fashion industry because the economy was down, and no designers were hiring interns whose resume read: Shop-Mart sales clerk.