Baiting the Boss

By: Coleen Kwan
Chapter One

Grace Owens bent and clutched her heaving stomach as the boat pitched over yet another wave, and the entire vessel juddered at the impact.

“Lovey, if you barf inside the cabin, it’s gonna cost you extra,” the captain said.

She couldn’t muster the strength to scowl at him. If ever there was a sea rogue, Wally was one, with his leathery face, tobacco-stained teeth, and leering eyes. Not to mention the exorbitant fee he was charging to take her to Filemu Island. Talk about high-seas piracy.

He had lied to her. He’d told her with a straight face that the trip from Hiva, capital of the British Sullivan Islands, to Filemu Island would take no more than two hours, but here they were, still at sea four hours later, and she was about to lie down on the stinking cabin floor and never get up again.

God, the things she did for the Macintyres.

“Look, there it is. Filemu Island!” Wally cackled. “I told you we’d make it.”

Grace peered through the salt-speckled window. All around them, the Pacific Ocean rolled in an endless, wind-tossed sea of whitecaps. They were in the vast, trackless stretches between Australia and Hawaii, and there on the hazy horizon was a pocket-size island, shimmering in the sunlight like an entrancing mirage.

Oh, please don’t let it be a mirage.

A second later, the boat hit a monster wave, and Grace lost her grip on the window ledge and floundered across the cabin.

“Yahoo!” Willy clung to the wheel, a demonic smirk cracking his face.

He was completely mad, Grace decided. No, she was mad. Right now, she should be sitting in her clean, orderly office in Sydney, not careening through the Pacific looking for a man who didn’t want to be found. She should have stood up to Lachlan Macintyre and told him to send someone else to track down his grandson. She did enough for Lachlan, didn’t she? But even the toughest men found it difficult to refuse the crusty, forthright eighty-year-old CEO and chairman of the Macintyre empire, and his was a very personal request.

Find Jack Macintyre. Find him, and bring him back to Sydney.

Why couldn’t he hire a private detective? she’d asked. But Lachlan wanted to keep this hush-hush. He didn’t trust strangers with family business. He wanted Grace to handle the matter, like she’d been handling every difficult odd job—personal or business—for him since Jack had left three years ago, burning his boats behind him. After Jack’s wife had died, there’d been a mysterious falling out between Jack and Lachlan. Jack had resigned from the family business, sold his shares and all his possessions, and quit Australia for good.

It was as if he no longer wanted to be Jack Macintyre.

Grace clawed her way out onto the deck, desperate for fresh air. If only Jack had used his money to retire to a more accessible hideout like a Tuscan villa or a New York penthouse. Instead, he’d spent the last year on Filemu Island, a remote little dot on the map that was one of the Sullivan Islands, a former British protectorate undisturbed by mass tourism—and unblessed by up-to-date communications.

As they neared the island, she blinked in amazement, her nausea forgotten. Three sharp mountains dominated the center of the island. Thick, green jungle spilled down the slopes while mist clung to their peaks. Closer to shore, palm trees swayed and climbing vines rioted in explosions of red, pink, and orange. Filemu Island glowed like an idyllic paradise from a Gauguin painting.

A blast of wind hit them right outside the harbor, and the boat yawed like a bucking bronco. Grace’s stomach protested violently. Hanging over the side of the boat, she heaved up her breakfast until they reached the calmer waters of the harbor, and Wally began securing the boat to the wharf.

When the gangplank was in place, Grace tottered onto the wharf, pulling her battered suitcase behind her. The sun sizzled down on her, and perspiration broke out between her shoulder blades. Fanning her flushed cheeks, she pondered her next move.

She smiled at a group of children staring shyly at her. “Hello there. I wonder if you could help me? I’m looking for Jack Macintyre. Do you know where he lives?”

Silence. Wide eyes peeped at her. Disquiet knotted Grace’s stomach. What if Jack wasn’t here? What if he’d moved on to another island? She’d have to risk Wally’s boat again. No way was she doing that. She’d reached the limit of her endurance.

She raised her voice. “Jack Macintyre? Is he here?”

A murmur broke out, accompanied by gesticulating hands pointing toward a cluster of huts nestled against the mountain slope. Grace breathed a small sigh of relief. At least she’d found the right island. As she trudged off the wharf with her suitcase bumping beside her, the children followed, giggling and nudging among themselves. She struggled up the dirt path, light-headed and nauseous from her journey, her shirt sticking to her back. Longing to collapse in the shade of a tree, she gritted her teeth and forged on.

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