From Ex to Eternity(5)

By: Kat Cantrell

After calling down to room service for someone to iron his shirts, he washed away the airplane stench in the enormous glass-enclosed shower. Work beckoned but he took a much-needed fifteen-minute break with a frosty Belgian white from the mini-fridge—his preferred type of beer. The staff knew his preferences, as they should and would know the same about every guest in this hotel.

He settled into a solitary chair outside and took a long pull from the bottle. The wraparound terrace offered a 180-degree view of the pristine shoreline, tinted light pink in the dying rays of the sunset. It was a slice of perfection, and those who wished to tie the knot with such unparalleled beauty surrounding them would pay handsomely because every hand-selected staff member paid attention to details.

Keith Mitchell always hit his target.

He worked until his eyes crossed, then slept a solid four hours and rose at dawn to go jogging. He’d barely finished stretching when another early riser came onto the beach a hundred yards down the shore. Normally, he’d give other people a wide berth, as he always opted to be alone whenever he could. It was the nature of consulting to be constantly on the move. Lasting attachments made zero sense and he was typically too busy to get sentimental about the lack of relationships in his life.

But his Y chromosome had absolutely no trouble recognizing Cara, and their brief exchange yesterday hadn’t satisfied his curiosity about what she’d done with her life over the past two years. And he had a perverse need to understand why she still got under his skin after all the lies she’d told him.

Keith caught up with her. “When did you start jogging?”

She shot him a sidelong glance. “I might ask you the same question.”

He shrugged. “A while back. Not getting any younger.”

“Who is?” She threaded brown hair through a ponytail holder and raised her arms in a T, swiveling at the waist. Her red tank top stretched across her torso and rode up to reveal a smooth expanse of flesh. New blond streaks in her hair gleamed against the backdrop of ocean. “Which way are you going?”

He jerked his head to the left and tore his eyes off Cara’s body. Reluctantly. “Interested in joining me?”

“No.” She curled her lip. “I’m interested in heading the opposite direction.”

“Careful. You wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. That sounded an awful lot like someone who isn’t over me yet.”

“Get your hearing checked.”

But she took off in the direction he’d planned to go, face trained straight ahead. He matched her stride and they ran in silence about three feet from the rushing surf. Not companionable silence. Too much unsaid seethed between them for friendliness, faked or otherwise.

The September weather was perfect, still cool in the morning, and later, Grace Bay would hit the mideighties. The first time Keith set foot on Regent’s Turks and Caicos resort, he’d immediately designated it the centerpiece of the corporate-wide luxury-wedding-destination renovation. No one would be disappointed with the choice.

After half a mile or so, he expected Cara to peel off or fall to the sand, gasping for air. She kept going, stretching it out to a mile. Impressive. She wasn’t even winded. The Cara he’d known had balked at anything more strenuous than painting her nails.

But then, he hadn’t really known her at all.

By mutual agreement, they turned around to head back to the resort. At the entrance marker to the private beach, they slowed and then stopped.

Cara walked in circles to cool down and Keith watched her on the sly as he peeled his damp shirt from his chest to wipe his forehead. Her skin had taken on a glow and she’d yet to slather her face with half a cosmetic store. Dressed-to-the-nines Cara he liked, especially when he took her to dinner and got to spend a whole meal fantasizing about stripping her out of all that finery.

This natural version of her hit him with a sledgehammer to the backs of his knees.

No distractions, Mitchell.

Yet, Cara had never stuck to the role he’d assigned her in his life. Why had he been daft enough to believe that might have changed?

She noticed him watching her and crossed her arms over a still-heaving chest. “Tell me one thing. Why me? Out of all the wedding dress designers out there.”

“Your name was on the short list. Much to my shock.”

“Is it that difficult to believe I can sew?” Her chin jutted out, daring him to say yes.

But it was inconceivable that she’d traded a burning desire to trap some clueless male into marrying her for a design business.

“You have a degree in marketing. Two years ago, you were a junior coffeemaker at an ad agency and then, bang. Now you’re Cara Chandler-Harris Designs, so pardon my mild cardiac arrest. Despite that, your name is highly respected in the industry and I need the best. That’s why you made the cut.”

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