(3 book romance bundle).., p.20
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       (3 Book Romance Bundle) "The Cowboy's Love" & "Sex with the Billionaire" & "Loving the White Billionaire", p.20

           Julie Allen, Carla Davis, & Monica Brooks
 

  Chapter Four

  I was helped aboard the luxury craft by two men. One was a lanky guy of about thirty, wearing canvas shoes and a pair of long shorts. The other was a little older, broad and tan, with dark hair, a bare chest and red, clinging swim shorts. The more well-built of the two, grabbed the strap of the tank as I climbed the steel ladder, and seemed to hoist me up with it. The skinnier guy, took my hand and urged me up with a concerned look in his eyes.

  "Are you OK?" he asked.

  "Yes," I spluttered, breathing deeply more from relief than from exertion. "Yes, I'm fine, I think."

  "What happened?" the other man probed, easing the heavy tank off my back and dumping it down on the deck.

  My legs shaky, I clung to the rail for support. "I don't really know," I admitted. "I was with a scuba group and I must have got separated somehow."

  Seeming to realize I wasn't sure on my feet, the darker haired man looped an arm around my waist and steered me toward a set of furniture laid out in the middle of the deck. Coaxing me to a chair, he pushed me gently into it. "You know the name of the boat?" he softly inquired.

  "Um..." I mumbled, my addled brain struggling to remember my own name, let alone the yacht's. "Oh, it was...erm...Banque Populaire," I said. "But before that, I was on the cruise ship."

  The man before me sank to his haunches and placed his hands rather familiarly on my knees. "We can try and get in touch with the yacht," he stated, peering over his shoulder to the slender man.

  With an eager nod, and a, "Sure," he assented. The question not needing to be asked of him, he sprinted off through a set of open glass doors and into what looked like a large living space.

  "Are you sure you're alright?" the man asked, peering up at me with a solid, strong jaw and dark eyes. "Do you know how long you were in the water?"

  "Not really," I admitted. "But I'm fine," I insisted. "Just glad you came along when you did."

  "Well, it's no problem," he grinned. "Let's get you out of that suit," he suggested. "I'll go and get you a towel."

  Taking slow, deep breaths, I tried to compose myself while he was gone. I felt as though all the blood had drained from my face, and I wasn't entirely sure what had caused it. Yes, I'd been rattled by the fear of being alone in open water. But I realized the man who had rescued me was also rattling me.

  It didn't take more than two minutes for him to return with a massive, fluffy bath towel. "Here," he offered, shaking the folds out and wrapping the warm towel around my shoulders.

  "Thank you," I replied, noting as I gripped the terry edges that I was shaking even more than I had been while I was in the water. Just shock, I tried to tell myself. Nothing more.

  The mysterious man opened his mouth to speak again, but as he inhaled his friend appeared at the doors.

  "Skipper got hold of the Banque Populaire," the tall man announced. "The scuba group has gone back to the Liberty."

  "Liberty?" the man in red shorts replied.

  "The cruise ship," I explained.

  "Yeah," the other guy nodded. "Anyway, we contacted the Liberty and she's just pushed off. They won't be docking again until Bastia."

  "They know they've left one of their passengers behind?" the other guy bluntly and rhetorically asked.

  "Skipper told him," came the reply. "They can't come back, so the young lady will have to catch up with them."

  "That's OK," I wearily sighed. "I'll figure something out."

  "No, no," the dark-haired man replied. "You don't have to figure anything out. I'll see that you get to Bastia."

  "Is that where you're heading?" I asked, surprised by the coincidence.

  "No," he replied, grinning. "But that doesn't matter, I'm not going to leave you to find your own way."

  Shaking my head, I unwound myself from the towel and got to my feet. "I really couldn't impose on you like that," I stated. "You've done more than enough, thank you. If you could just drop me at Port Hercule, that will be fine."

  "Really," the man replied, placing his large smooth hands on my bare forearms, "I insist. You're no imposition, I promise."

  "But...I mean..." I stammered. "I've got no clothes, and no money to get anything."

  "That's no problem either," he countered, unwilling it seemed to be dissuaded. "We'll make port, and can pick you up a few things in Monte Carlo and then head off to meet the Liberty at Bastia when they dock in...?" As he hovered over the sentence, he twisted his face toward his friend.

  "Not for two days, apparently," came the reply, "I guess, they're sailing along the Italian coastline before coming back on themselves."

  "I really can't ask you to do that," I replied. "I can just..." my words stumbled to a halt when I realized I had nothing else to say. I could just...what? I couldn’t get a hotel, I had no money for clothes, or a taxi much less a plane ticket.

  "Come with me," the man said with a gently insistent smile as he draped an arm around my shoulders.

  Blithering attempts to argue with him were ignored as he led me into the yacht's stunning main deck. The living area was incredibly spacious with a grand piano in the corner and leather couches on both sides. We passed through swiftly before taking a small set of steps to the upper deck.

  His arm still around me, he led me down a corridor and paused when he reached the third door on the left. Pushing it open, he revealed a bedroom that was almost as large as the one I'd left on the Liberty. It wasn't quite a suite, but it was still nicer than any hotel room I'd ever been in.

  "You're welcome to stay here," he offered.

  "Oh, no, really," I mumbled. "I couldn’t."

  "You know what," he chuckled. "I think I know why this seems so awkward."

  "You do?" I wondered peering at him curiously, the Mediterranean still causing my hair to cling to my forehead. It hadn't occurred to me until then to be concerned with what I looked like, but when I imagined the sight of myself, I couldn’t stop thinking what a mess I must have been.

  "Yeah," he replied, oblivious to the self-critical thoughts roaming through my mind. "I'm sorry," he sighed. "I'm Gethin Pavetti," he added, offering me his right hand.

  "Gethin?" I echoed.

  "My Mom's Welsh," he responded with a shrug.

  "Pavetti?" I murmured in the same tone. "As in...Pavetti?" I continued. The Pavetti family were huge in real estate; owned complexes all over New York and California and were well known for buying and selling luxury homes for people of similar wealth and means to themselves.

  "And you are?" he chuckled.

  "I'm sorry," I blurted, quickly taking his hand. "Zara," I told him. "Zara Kane."

  "Well, it's a pleasure to meet you, Zara," he said. "Now, we know each other, it's less awkward, right?" he added, with a boyish grin.

  There was something about that smile that bothered me; something about it that prompted a feeling in the pit of my stomach that should have been a red flag. "A little," I lied weakly. In truth, it was no less awkward. In fact, it might have been more awkward now I knew I was on the yacht of a multi-billionaire, looking as if I'd just been spat out by the sea.

  "Why don't you take a warm shower?" he suggested. "I'll send out for a selection of clothes, and whatever you like is yours."

  "You can't-" I began to object, but he was hearing none of it.

  "It's already a done deal, Zara. Besides, I'm not in the habit of abandoning women in need of help."

  With that he nudged me into the bedroom and closed the door behind him. A brief flash of concern rocked through me: was I being kidnapped? But, even though I didn't know him from Adam, I couldn't bring myself to imagine Gethin as the threatening type without laughing. There was something about him that seemed so...well, nice and normal. If I'd met him in any other circumstances, I would not have imagined him to be the owner of yachts and jets and mansions all over the country.

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