Daniel Jones’s left hip ached like a bitch. He breathed through the pain, gripping the armrests of his airplane seat.
“Are you a nervous flyer?”
Dan glanced at the woman next to him. She was busy strapping her little boy into the window seat. “No.”
Yeah. He was a lucky bastard, alright. Lucky to have survived the freak horse riding accident that had put him in a coma last summer. Lucky that his muscle mass had protected his vital organs and that the horse’s hoof had struck only inches from his brain.
“I mean, I don’t freak out or anything like that,” the woman continued, her accent American. “It’s just when I think about being so up high and nothing below my feet, it sometimes does make me wanna freak out, but I guess the trick is to not think about it, huh?”
“Hmm.” Dan laid his head back and closed his eyes.
“I should be used to flying, but I still get butterflies before take-off. Although as soon as the engine fires up and it’s all go-go-go, it’s kinda exciting isn’t, baby?”
Dan cracked one eye open.
“So, you’re British, huh?” she said. “As soon as we’re up high in the air, you can sit on my lap.”
Dan jerked his head. Ah. The child. She’s talking to her child.
In the five minutes since he’d sat down, she’d kept switching from addressing him to addressing her kid in the same breath. Dan couldn’t keep up—and neither did he want to. Stealing himself against the agony of moving his body, he turned as much of his back toward her as was possible in his cramped airline seat.
“Don’t do that,” she said firmly.
What the—? “Look, I don’t mean to be—”
“Aw, c’mon, honey. Work with me here.” She was talking to her child again who wasn’t looking at all happy with the toys she’d placed around him. He shoved them away and wriggled in his seat, grizzling. “We’ll be flying soon. Look, here’s the air steward, getting ready for take-off, yay! Voom-voom, we’re going up, up, up!”
Ugh. Baby talk. His sisters used that same tone with his nieces and nephews. Dan pulled his pills out of his pocket and popped another into his mouth, hoping this one would take the edge off the pain—or at the very least, drown out this woman’s voice.
“Got a headache?” she said.
Head, legs, knee, hips. Heart. Everything ached. Dan sighed. “Yes.”
“Travelling takes it out of us, huh?”
It really did.
Six months after the accident that had nearly killed him and Dan’s body still needed to heal. But he’d had no choice in leaving England. Those journalists and photographers were still camping outside is house and along his street, always so trigger happy to take shots of the Great Daniel Jones—Olympic sprinter, once the fastest man in the world—now limping like an old man.
And soon, those same tabloid hacks would be sniffing out the truth about him and Isabella.
That’s why he was putting himself through this horrendous thirty-five-hour-and-counting journey to the tiny South Pacific island of Rarotonga. He had to get far, far away before his and Isabella’s split hit the headlines.
And if he’d never got on that stupid horse in the first place, he’d have been spending Christmas in the Cook Islands anyway—with Isabella.
Instead, he’d gifted the whole honeymoon package to his mum and aunt, and the fact that they were already out there in the Cooks, currently on one of the outer island resorts, had appeased Dan’s doctors and physiotherapists enough to allow him to travel. Eventually they’d agreed that the hot, humid climate would help heal his broken body—though they’d go apeshit if they knew this hellish journey to paradise had setting his recovery back several weeks.
His Great Escape had started out so well, too—up until he’d stepped out of the cab at Heathrow. Apologetic ground staff told him his first class seat had been downgraded “due to some error beyond their control”. They’d offered him a plush seat on the next flight, but having just given a dozen blood-thirsty reporters the slip with his clever decoy, Dan hadn’t wanted to hang around. So, he accepted the error and squeeze his stiff, six-foot-four frame into a standard class seat. Easy. No problem. His hips and legs weren’t aching that much then, his stomach was full, his energy levels high, and it was only a twelve hour flight to Singapore, where he’d change planes and get the roomy first class seat he’d originally booked.
Really, not a problem. He’d watch a couple of films, have a nap, and focus on how spending time with Mum and Auntie Zeezee—Mum’s best friend—would help his recovery. But then, that first flight had sat for hours on the rainy Heathrow runway, severely delayed. He’d missed his connection to Auckland and had to wait a further eight hours at Singapore for the next one, only to again be given another standard class seat.
Dan had held back his frustrations. But then he’d arrived in Auckland for the flight to Rarotonga.
An incoming storm.
Another standard-class seat.
And this time, it was next to an irritable child and a motor-mouth who wasn’t picking up on his I don’t want to talk vibes.
“I totally loved spending time in London. My good friend Mia works there now. We met when she was working in L.A a few years ago…” Motormouth had short, pink and red hair twirled in little spikes around her head. Her wide, full lips were stained with faded red and her thick eyelashes were painted with glitter. “But don’t worry,” she added, “I’m not going to ask if you know a Mia living in South London. It’s wild when people ask that, huh? As if London’s a small village.” She chuckled. “It took me days to get my bearings. Mia would say, Let’s meet on Oxford Street, the Tottenham Court Road end, and I’d be like, Eh? I’d see it on the map but then I’d take the wrong exit out of the tube station. So, I ended up walking away from Oxford Street, toward Leicester Square, and…”
Oh. Good. God.
Dan closed his eyes, his brains banging against his skull.
This was the last leg of his journey. Only four hours left! There was a huge double bed waiting for him at Are Moana, the quirky little backpacker hostel where his parents had stayed before they were married. It had a private bungalow now, practically on the white sandy beach, and he and Isabella had hired it for the entire month of December. Their honeymoon base.
Well, it would be just his base now—and Mum and Zeezee’s once they were back on Wednesday from the resort on Aitutaki. Dan knew their travel itinerary off by heart—it had once been his and Isabella’s itinerary. So, he had two days to recover from this journey. He’d sleep on the beach the whole time, do his physio and recharge.
The plane began to taxi. Air stewards ran through the safety briefing.
“…Anyway, I eventually found my way back and got used to how things worked. The London street names are kinda cute though, huh? They carry so much history…”
Earplugs. Where the hell were his earplugs? He searched the seat pocket in front of him.
“So, you here on vacation?”
“Yes,” Dan muttered, finding only magazines and a sick bag.
“Same, how long you staying?”
“A month.” Dan closed his eyes again.
At least this woman didn’t know who he was. Journalists shooting questions at him every time he opened his front door were bad enough, but the general public were often worse. The pity! Dan hated it. Over the past few months he’d made several formal statements thanking all his well-wishers—and yes, he was truly grateful—but he couldn’t bare those sad gazes dipping to his damaged leg any longer, nor the way people pretended not to notice his limp, and—ugh—their sympathy-filled little head tilts when they asked how he was feeling.
And now, that pity would only increase when they found out about Isabella.
“We didn’t get to see as much of England as I’d’ve liked,” Motormouth continued. “But my friend Mia? She’s just bought a house and has a spare room so we hope to visit again next year, don’t we, honey?”
The child wasn’t listening. He was too busy whinging. The sound drilled into Dan’s sore head, making his bones hurt even more.
Or was that because he’d just thought about Isabella again?
Trying to block her out of his mind was hard, and back home, her new song played everywhere. Every time he switched on the TV or radio, there it was—Give my love a home this Christmas. It had even been playing in the bloody cab on the way to the airport.
“We’ll be flying soon, honey,” Motormouth said. “He’s not normally like this. Maybe something’s bothering him? Do you have a pain somewhere, honey? Does it hurt here? Or here? Or maybe you want a snack? You didn’t eat much earlier.” There was rustling and bags being opened and closed. “Maybe you want one of these, baby?”
The child squealed no.
“But you love grapes. They are so yummy, aren’t they?.” Motormouth made some ridiculous chomping noises and nudged Dan’s elbow. “Please take one.”
Dan glanced at the tub of green grapes. “No, thanks.”
“Fake it,” Motormouth whispered, her glittery lashes fluttering like worn-out butterflies.
Dan couldn’t be arsed faking anything, least of all his enjoyment of having to sit next to this annoying woman and her awful child. Stifling a huff, he pinched a grape between his fingers and popped it into his mouth like one of his pain meds. “They’re nice, kid. Now do as your mother says and eat them.”
The child stared at him, blinked, then bawled even louder.
Motormouth ditched the grapes and hugged her child. “Sshh…come on, honey, it’s been a long day, we’re tired, we’ll feel better when we’ve had a sleep.” She then gabbled on to him about the beach, and the fishies and seashells, the clear water and coconut trees, until her voice was drowned out by the wheels firing up on the runway.
Come on, Jones. You can do this.
The engines revved and roared, and a few minutes later, they were in the air. The airplane straightened. The seatbelt sign came off.
Dan lay back his head, enjoying the peace.
“Got many plans for when you’re in the Cooks?” Motormouth asked.
“No. Just resting.” An air steward passed by offering headsets. Dan’s hand shot up for one.
“We just spent the past three months in New Zealand.” Motormouth lifted the armrest between her seat and her son’s and settled back with him on her lap, which thankfully kept him very quiet. “Have you been there before, other than the airport?”
“No.” Dan unwrapped his headphones.
“We’re hoping to head back to Auckland after the Cooks. I have to narrow down all my favourite places to just ten. That’s gonna be hard. I’ve currently got fifteen and it was hard getting to that number, so I might stick with the fifteen, though the Top Ten has more of a ring to it than the Top Fifteen…”
“I’m sure you’ll work it out.” Dan plugged himself into the plane’s entertainment system and found a music station. He raised the volume, and—boom!—Isabella’s damn Christmas song blasted through his brains. He whipped his headset off, but it was too late. All the anger and hurt came flooding back. He reached for his pain meds and popped a couple more into his mouth.
“Haven’t you taken enough of those already?”
Dan glared at her. Mind your fucking business.
Her eyebrows raised. “I guess you know what you’re doing.”
“I do,” he snapped. “Now, all I need is some quiet and some shut-eye, you know what I’m saying?”
“Sure thing, we’ve got three hours before landing. It’s hard napping on flights, but if you—”
Eyes wide, her sharp gasp sliced through the air between them. Shit. He’d never been so rude!“I am so sor—”
“Mommy!” The boy cried and snapped the hurt out of her eyes.
“What is it, sweetie?” she cooed softly. “Did you get scared?”
Dan rubbed his sore head. “I’m really sor—”
The child wretched.
“Honey!” Motormouth held a cloth to the child’s mouth but it was too late. Hot spew splashed on Dan’s lap.
“Shit!” Dan tried to hoist himself out of his seat, but he couldn’t get up fast enough. The next stream of puke hit him square on the chest. He was covered in it! He yanked himself out in to the aisle. “Can this bloody journey get any worse?”
“How about being a two year with an upset stomach?” Motormouth hissed, then bustled past him with the boy wrapped in her arms. “Asshole!”
“I didn’t mean…” Oh, whatever. His apology could wait! Everyone was staring at him and milky green gunk was seeping into his underpants and trickling down his leg.
“I’ll help you get cleaned up, sir.” An air steward handed him a wet cloth and some napkins. “Come this way. We have another seat for you.”
“Thank you.” Dan looked back up the aisle. Motormouth and the Projectile Puke Kid were getting assistance too. He pulled his carry-on bag out of the overhead compartment and hobbled to the other end of the plane, wondering what the hell else could go wrong.
His suitcase was missing.
In Rarotonga’s quiet arrivals hall, Dan stood alone glaring at the empty conveyor belt.
Dizzy, tired and truly pissed off, he limped to Lost Baggage.
“My bag isn’t here,” he told the young woman behind the counter. She had a flower over her left ear, which, like her face, was coming in and out of focus. Dan tried to shake the fog out of his head. At some point during the flight, the sharp pains in his leg and hips had turned into a warm, dull ache and everything blurred. Had he taken too many pain meds? He needed to lie down. He needed to sleep, and his stomach didn’t feel right either thanks to the constant wafts of vomit emanating from his clothes.
“Your baggage is still in Auckland, sir.” Excellent. “Where are you staying?”
“Are Moana on Muri Beach.”
The woman typed into her computer. “We’ll get it to you tomorrow.” She then sniffed the air and eyed the wet patch around Dan’s crotch.
“A child threw up on me,” he said. “Is there a place around here where I can get some clothes?”
“I’m sorry, sir, all the shops shut hours ago. But, hold on.” She yelled at someone out the back. “Hey, Nikau, has that unclaimed lost property been given to the church yet?”
“Nah, it’s still here.”
“Bring it over then, there’s guy needing clothes.” She turned back to Dan. “You can sort through and take what you like for a small donation.”
A big, broad guy dumped a sack of clothes by Dan’s feet. Dan rummaged through it, and pulled out a large basketball top and the only pair of shorts that looked like they’d fit.
He handed over twenty dollars. “Now, where can I get a cab?”
“Outside, sir. But I reckon they’ll all be taken now.”
Of course. “How long before one comes back?”
“’bout thirty minutes.”
Dan thanked her and headed to the toilets to change into his new clothes. A few minutes later, he stood at the taxi tank. It was dark, and a strong wind almost knocked him on to his backside. The pilot had said on landing that the storm would be hitting the island tonight. What else could Dan have expected?
He pulled his phone out of his bag, switched it on, and sat on the edge of a concrete flower planter. His phone buzzed with several messages. His agent. His physiotherapist. His publicist. Without reading them, Dan cleared the notifications, then scrolled to a message from Femi, the youngest of his two sisters.
>WTF? You’re going to the Cooks!!!
Ugh. Dan swiped the message away, only to see one from Gabrielle, his other sister.
>When you said you needed to get away we didn’t think you meant TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD!!
Double Ugh. He couldn’t deal with Gabrielle either but after what he’d put them through these past few months, he owed his sisters more than just the quick text that he’d fired off to them at Singapore telling them of his plans to join Mum and Zeezee.
>In Raro now. All good. I’ll let you know when I’ve met up with Mum on Weds.
He was ten hours behind the UK here. Both his sisters would be in the thick of getting their kids ready for school, hopefully too busy to even see his message let alone have time to reply. Dan stuffed his phone back in to his bag, praying the thirty minute wait for a cab would feel like thirty seconds.
An hour later, a cab finally rocked up. It was only a ten minute drive to Muri Beach, but by the time they pulled up outside Are Moana, his whole body had seized up and his head ached so bad he could barely see.
He paid the driver, then limped to the main entrance.
An old man sat behind a desk watching television.
“Hello, I’m… I’m Daniel Jones.” Dan leaned against the counter, holding his breath as a sharp pain shot up his leg. “I’ve booked the…the bungalow.”
“Ah, Kia Orana Mr Jones, you’re here at last.” The man slowly got to his feet, his dark, glassy gaze shifting over Dan’s new lost property outfit of loud-orange shorts and a bright red top two sizes too big. “You come from a fancy dress party?”
“No. A child…never mind.” Dan gripped the counter. If he let go, he’d fall flat on his face. He managed to pull his passport out of his bag and slid it across to the old man, who merely waved it away.
“The paperwork can wait. I have all I need from your wife.”
“My wife?” Dan pushed himself off the counter, but by the time he straightened and caught his breath, the old man had already shuffled out of earshot. “Hey!”
Dan shuffled after him.
“This way,” the old man called over his shoulder as he walked through a door that led back out into the wind. A hammock flapped between two palm trees as they crossed a heavily scented garden. Clouds raced across the dark sky and a few spots of rain hit the side of Dan’s face. “You’re a very lucky man, Mr. Jones.”
“So people keep telling me.”
“Your wife is very pretty.”
“Thanks.” Isabella was more than just pretty. She was beautiful, and as she flashed through Dan’s shredded mind the realisation that she wasn’t here gripped his heart. “What are you talking about?” he said, catching up with the old man at the bungalow door. Isabella was in L.A—which wasn’t the only reason she wasn’t here now by his side. “I don’t have a wife.”
As the wind blustered outside, Liberta Jones sank exhausted onto the huge, king-sized bed. Pulling the cool, soft cotton sheets up to her chin, she watched how the palm trees through the window bent horizontally in the wind.
Mr Hehu, the hostel owner, had dismissed this storm as just a breeze and said it would pass by morning. Nothing to worry about, he’d said so Libby slipped farther into the silky haven of the gorgeous bed, and thanked her lucky stars.
After getting through that awful flight to Rarotonga, she deserved this bed. A bed in a private bungalow! There was even a little bush covered path in the yard that led down to the beach, through a little gate.
Libby snuggled farther into bed. Beside her, Karim slept like an angel. Poor baby. She reached out and gently touched his forehead. He didn’t have a fever, and the sick bug was most probably out of his system by now—he’d still be unsettled and puking if it wasn’t—but even so, a tsunami of guilt engulfed her. Karim hadn’t seemed right all afternoon, but she’d been too busy shooting her Goodbye to Auckland video, and then the bus to the airport had been running late. She hadn’t even had time to take off her makeup, not that she’d been thinking about that when she’d been sprinting to the departures lounge, pushing Karim in his stroller and fearing they’d miss their flight.
Another wave of guilt consumed her.
Was she doing the right thing, living this transient lifestyle?
It wouldn’t be forever—just another six months, maybe a year—and then she’d be back home in New York or better still, in L.A… if she could ever persuade Juliana Cortez to give her her old job back.
Yeah, right. That old witch would want a pound of flesh on a silver plate for that to happen.
For five years, Libby had worked under Juliana at Hot Gossip, covering some of Beverly Hill’s top stories—dirty politicians, corrupt cops, sordid affairs between high-profile celebrities who really should’ve known better—they were all in a day’s work for Liberta Jones as she busted a gut trying to prove that she could be an A-class journalist, like Juliana Cortez. Like somebody people listened to when she came calling. Somebody who made a difference.
And then she’d gotten pregnant.
“A baby?” Juliana had spat out the word. “You’re not seriously thinking about going through with it? You’ll be giving up everything.”
With hormones running wild, Libby had burst into tears. She’d never planned to have a baby—ever—and she hadn’t wanted to give up anything. But Elliot had said the same thing the night before, and still emotional from that confrontation, her temper had spiked. She’d screamed a few home truths at Juliana and told her where to stick her stupid job.
“You’ll be begging me to come back!” she’d said, then stormed out of her office one last time.
Libby would need a massive scoop to ever get that job back—or any other reporting gig in Beverly Hills for that matter. Word had spread after her heated argument with Juliana and if the amount of job rejections she’d gotten afterward were anything to go by, she wouldn’t put it past any of her ex co-workers at Hot Gossip to dish out the dirt behind her back.
For now, it was more realistic to focus on the series of articles Libby had persuaded Parent and Child to publish. After weeks of waiting, the magazine had finally agreed to fund her and Karim’s travel to the Cook Islands. The tight, two week deadline was already making her stomach clench with fear of failure, but even if it meant staying up all night, every night, Libby would get those articles written. She had no choice. Once published, they’d shine a much needed light on her fledging Travels with my Child vlog and YouTube channel.
A YouTube channel? Is that what you’ve resorted to?
Libby could almost hear Juliana’s sneering tone. It hissed and whipped in the wind outside, along with the rain spitting against her window with a tap-tap-tap. Closing her eyes, Libby pushed Juliana out of her mind, focusing instead on all the sun-drenched beach videos she’d planned to shoot that would earn her a load of hits and new subscribers.
She’d show Juliana. And she’d show Elliot, too.
The hushed voice on the other side of the door had Libby opening one eye.
“Mrs Jones.” Tap-tap-tap.
Not the rain at all, but Mr. Hehu—but why was he knocking on her door at this time of night? Libby scooted out of bed.
“Are you okay, Mr Hehu?” Whispering, she pressed her face against the door. “What do you want?”
“Your husband has arrived.”
“I told you, we’re not married!”
At the sound of that deep, gruff voice, Libby cracked open the door. A pair of large hands planted firmly on narrow hips filled her vision. The wind pressed the fabric of his top against his broad chest, strong shoulders and the well-defined curve of his pecs. Her gaze shifted up, and there was that familiar scowl and tightly clenched jaw. Daniel Jones.
She’d known all along who he was—despite the cap he’d pulled over his dark tortured eyes as they’d waited to board at Auckland. She’d been dabbing her sweaty forehead after her run to the gate, standing in line with all the other families and people in need of assistance, when she’d first spotted him. And when he sat next to her on the flight, she hadn’t believed her luck! Old habits had her gagging to ask for an interview, but he’d looked so sad and alone that she’d quickly set about cheering him up with some friendly conversation instead.
So much for that idea.
Libby opened the door wider, her gaze dipping to the shiny, silky orange shorts he wore that were fluttering in the wind. “What the hell are you wearing?”
“Never mind that, you’re in my—hey!” He peered at her through the half light. “You’re—”
“Yeah.” Libby folded her arms, his harsh words to her on the flight still stinging. “Do you maybe want to apologise to me now?”
“I tried, but you—”
“Ah-ha!” Mr Hehu cackled. “A lover’s tiff! That’s why you not in the room already.”
“What? No! She’s—”
“You make up with her, you silly boy.” Mr. Hehu slapped him on the back, propelling him into her room. “Life’s too short, and she’s too pretty.”
“No, Mr. Hehu, we’re not—” The loud thud and growl on the floor had Libby whirling around. Daniel Jones had crash landed through the open doorway. “Mr. Hehu!”
But Libby’s hushed voice was lost in the wind. The old man was already half way across the gardens and she couldn’t shout in case she woke up Karim. She couldn’t leave the bungalow to chase after him either, not when there was a huge groaning lump on the floor meters away from her sleeping baby.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“My leg!” He squeezed his eyes shut and gritted his teeth.
Libby bent over him. “Can you get up?”
“I’m trying to.” He shifted to his side and crawled like a wounded dog to the couch in the corner of the room. With a grunt, he hauled himself up then flopped on to it. “Fuck, that hurt.”
“Keep your voice down,” she hissed. “You’ll wake up my son.”
“The pukey kid? Aw, so it is you! What are the fucking chances?”
“I’d watch that filthy mouth if I were you. You’re in my room.”
“I think you’ll find this is my room.” With another grunt, Daniel Jones rolled on to his back. “That old man must have got you confused with my mother
“Well, gee thanks. I didn’t think I looked that old.” Libby folded her arms. “So if you hired this whole place for your mom where is she?”
“On another island with my aunt. They’ll be here on Wednesday.” He rubbed his eyes. “I booked this bungalow for the whole of December for my honeymoon. When that all turned to shit, Mum and Zeezee took our places.” He sighed, cursed again, then flopped his arm over the edge of the couch. “Tomorrow…First thing, we’ll… as soon as I… as I get…”
“As soon as you get what?” Libby nudged him, but his head lolled to the side and he let out a deep sigh that sounded a lot like a snore. “Hey, you can’t sleep here!”
He grumbled something and bedded down even more. She gripped his shoulder with both hands and gave him a hard shake. Man, he was solid. She wanted to kick him out, but how? He was too big, too much of a dead weight.
Should she be afraid to have a man crash in her room at midnight? If it was anyone else, she would be, but this was Daniel Jones—a much loved public figure in the UK—not a serial killer. And judging by the sound of his breathing, he didn’t look capable of anything other than sleeping. Even old Mr Hehu had managed to topple him with a mere backslap. So, no, Libby wasn’t afraid.
Last summer, when she and Karim had started their travels in the UK, she’d read all about Daniel Jones’s accident. It was hard not seeing the headlines about the British hero who’d practically been on his death bed. And like everyone else at the time, she’d assumed he wouldn’t make it out of his coma.
But here he was. On Raro-freaking-tonga.
In her room.
Or rather…Libby glanced over at Karim, tiny in the huge double bed—a bed that, when she’d first arrived, had been adorned with love heart shaped scatter pillows and a gaudy, silver blanket patterned with rose petals.
A honeymoon bed?
A dim recollection of a headline snagged in Libby’s mind…something about Daniel Jones and that British pop singer he was engaged to—Arabella…Annabella…Isabella!—having to postpone their wedding.
So, this spacious beach bungalow had been a little too good to be true, after all. It hadn’t exactly matched the description of the “standard” double room she’d actually booked—and of course, something wasn’t quite right when she’d handed Mr Hehu her card to pay the deposit only for him to say the bill had already been taken care of. She’d just figured he’d made a mistake, and it was late. With Karim fast asleep and heavy in her arms, all she’d been focused on was settling him into bed. She’d planned to clarify the payment issue with Mr Hehu in the morning, but Cranky Jones was right.
This was his bungalow.
What the hell am I supposed to do now?
It was nearly midnight, there was a storm outside, and she couldn’t wake Karim, not after the day he’d had.
Cranky Jones let out a big, heavy snore. Right. Libby padded back across the room to her bed. There wasn’t anything anyone could do now, so she might as well get some sleep, too.
Who was she kidding?!
Cradling Karim on her hip, Libby turned away from the window and continued to pace the small threshold between the bed she’d barely slept in and the small kitchen unit on the other side of the room. It was 5 a.m. The storm had petered out, palm trees swayed in the early dawn darkness, and her unexpected roommate continued to snore on the couch.
Okay, it wasn’t exactly snoring, more like heavy breathing, but he hadn’t moved since he’d crashed out over five hours ago. Unlike her. She must’ve walked fifty freaking miles these past two hours, trying to settle her pesky baby back to sleep. Karim hadn’t thrown up again, so she assumed—from the way he’d gulped down water—that he’d simply woken up thirsty, then became unsettled in his new surroundings. She’d been rocking him back and forth ever since, and it was only now that his head had become heavy on her shoulder. Dare she hope that he’d finally fallen asleep?
Like a bomb disposal expert, she lowered him on to the bed. One false move and—boom! She’d be back pacing up and down, watching the sun rise. She hovered over him for a few seconds. His little head had fallen to the side and his breathing was deep and steady. Slowly, slowly, she eased away and straightened.
Aw, man, her back! She stretched and yawned. So. Damn. Tired.
What in hell’s name had made her think she could do this?! Travel alone with a toddler—and write articles for magazines, and run a vlog and keep herself sane?
No wonder Mom and Dad had looked at her like she’d come from a different planet when she’d told them her plans.
Libby crawled back into bed next to Karim.
Travelling with a toddler wasn’t always this hard—she had to remember that. She and Karim had had fun in Europe, and also in New Zealand. They’d have fun here in the Cook Islands, too. She’d shoot her videos for her vlog, and she’d submit her articles to Parent and Child and…and… she’d figure out how else she could earn some money while she and Karim traveled.
Libby closed her eyes, waiting for sleep to claim her. But after the frustrating, exhausting hours she’d just had, her over-tired brain wouldn’t switch off.
On the other side of the room, Daniel Jones let out another of his snores.
Libby held her breath. Wake my child and I’ll go for your neck!
But Cranky quietened down, and thankfully, the little bomb beside her didn’t go off.
She sank back under the sheets.
Why had Daniel Jones come here? To this bungalow that he’d said he’d given to his mom when “that”—his wedding?—had turned to shit. Snippets of an article passed through Libby’s weary mind…a quote from Isabella, something about “her Dan” being strong and brave, that he’d overcome his injuries one day, and that they’d taken the decision to postpone their wedding until he could walk unaided up the aisle.
And yet…he’d travelled out here, alone?
He must’ve done the journey all in one go, too. No leisurely over-night stops for him along the way, not judging by how wrecked he looked. Surely, walking down a church aisle alongside his bride would be small potatoes compared to flying…what? Twenty-five hours, minimum?
It didn’t make sense.
And exactly where was his beautiful bride-to-be?
Libby’s finely tuned story radar bleeped. As soon as she could get on the internet, she’d do some research.
“Everyone’s got a secret,” Juliana always said. “It’s our job to find it.”
So why had Daniel Jones traveled solo in his condition?
Why wasn’t his mom here to meet him? Did she even know he’d be coming?
Would Isabella be joining him?
And how much would Juliana pay to know the answers?
End of sample
What do you think? Do you want to keep reading? Let me know. Would love to hear what you think of it so far!