A Love Like This - Diana Palmer Page 0,1

of Nassau’s best. Callaway Steel’s hotel empire had acquired it several years ago and done extensive renovations.

Everything about the city fascinated her, from the statue of Woodes Rogers and the old cannon at the entrance of a nearby hotel to the story behind them. The people on the busy streets, in the shops, in the hotel itself, were gracious, friendly, proud of their island and their culture. They savored it like aged wine, something impatient tourists had to be taught to do. The first lesson Nikki learned was that in Nassau nobody was in a hurry. Perhaps the subtropical atmosphere had curved time, but the minutes seemed to actually slow and lengthen. Time lost its meaning. The Bahamians moved at a slower pace, took the opportunity to enjoy life a minute at a time, not a day all at once. After the first six hours she spent in Nassau, Nikki put her wristwatch into her suitcase and left it there.

When the jitney let her out at the door of the hotel, she went up to her room and changed into her one-piece white bathing suit with a flowing caftan cover-up in shades of green. The long, carpeted hall was deserted when she opened her door and went back out, with one of the hotel’s spotless white towels thrown over one arm. Hotel rules forbade taking towels from the rooms, but Nikki had been too excited to stop and read the signs.

She locked the door behind her and started toward the elevator with the key clutched tightly in one hand.

When she rounded the corner at the elevator, with its huge green palm leaves painted on the metallic walls, the doors were just beginning to close.

“Oh, wait, please!” she called to the solitary occupant, a big, imposing man with faintly waving thick dark hair and eyes that were equally dark and hostile.

He hit the button with a huge fist and stood waiting impatiently for her to get in. She got a brief glimpse of hard features and a square jaw above a very expensive beige suit before she looked away, clutching the forbidden towel tightly against her as she murmured, “Lobby, please.”

He ignored her, presumably because he’d already punched the appropriate button. Or perhaps because he didn’t speak English. He was deeply tanned and had a faintly French look about him. Nikki had spent the time she’d been in Nassau learning that American-looking tourists were more often than not German or French or Italian. Back home, being a Georgian was no distinction, because most everyone else in Ashton was, too. But in the Bahamas being an American was a distinction. She smiled delightedly at the irony of it.

“You do know that guests are specifically asked not to remove the bath towels from the rooms?”

It took several seconds for her to realize that the deep, northern-accented English was coming from the man beside her.

She turned and looked at him fully. He was as big as her glimpse of him had intimated, but older than she’d first thought. He had to be in his late thirties, but there was a rigidity about his posture, and those intimidating deep-set eyes, that made him seem even older than that. His face looked as if it rarely smiled, broad and square jawed and expressionless.

“No...nobody said anything yesterday,” she stammered. She hated that hesitation in her own voice. She was a reporter; nothing ever rattled her. Well, hardly anything...

“There are signs in the rooms,” he replied curtly. “You do read?” he added harshly, as if he doubted it.

Her pale emerald eyes caught like small, bright fires under her thick dark eyelashes, as thick and dark as her hair. “I not only read,” she said in her best Southern drawl, “I can write my whole name!”

She hadn’t thought his dark eyes could possibly get any colder, but they immediately took on glacial characteristics.

“Your Southern accent needs work,” he said just as the doors opened. “Mute the rs a little more.”

She gaped at his broad back as he walked away. It was one of the few times in her life she’d been stuck for a comeback.

With an irritated toss of her head she bundled up the towel, holding it against her self-consciously. She hurried in her sandaled feet down the long hall, through the patio bar, which was all but deserted in early afternoon, out past the pool and onto the thick white coral sand, where turquoise water and blazing white foam waves lapped crystal clear against the shore.

Arrogant, hateful

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