Eight Days in the Sun

By: MK Schiller

Dedication




To the bloggers and authors who have supported me, especially Sage Spelling and Aliza Mann, who spent eight hours helping me fine-tune this book! To my editor, Corinne, for making Kiran and Mason feel real. To the great team at Kensington. And, of course, the reader, who picked up this story. I hope Mason and Kiran leave a smile on your face.





Chapter 1




Kiran



It is a cardinal rule young girls do not vacation alone. It is simply not done. At least that was Papa’s argument to dissuade me from taking the trip to the gulf coast town of Jasper, Florida. My stepmother, Linda, told him to hush, explaining I was returning to my childhood home to visit with old friends. That wasn’t true. Having no other choice, I’d left Jasper to live with Papa and Linda when I was eighteen. I didn’t keep in touch with anyone. I don’t have any old friends to look up. Or even new friends to bring with me. Instead of correcting her, I clicked the big blue confirmation button on the computer screen to book my non-refundable ticket.

Even now, as the cab drives past all the beachfront hotels, I’m not sure why I wanted to come back. Maybe because I never had a chance to say a proper good-bye to the beachside city I loved. The air is ripe with the smell of saltwater and African violets. I inhale the scent. Maybe I am exactly where I need to be.

The cab pulls up to the Sandy Waves Resort. Not only is it the cheapest of all the beachside hotels, but I know a little secret. Sandy Waves has the best beachfront access and stellar views of the Gulf of Mexico. The cabbie pulls over. The sun shines so brightly I cover my eyes as I search through my purse for the right bill.

The driver takes my suitcase from the trunk. “Have a nice stay.”

Handing him payment, I thank him.

A dusty plastic palm tree sits inside the corner wedge of the revolving doors. An unsettling feeling rises in my stomach. I’m not claustrophobic exactly, but once in a while a weird panic seizes me for no reason. I swallow down the fear, take a deep breath, and opt for the traditional door. I push it open and awkwardly pull my suitcase inside. Someone grabs the edge of the frame and holds it for me.

“Thank you,” I say, not looking up.

“Welcome,” comes the deep, masculine reply.

I doubt the lobby at Sandy Waves has experienced an update in decades. The décor is 1980s gaudy beach chic, complete with palm tree-patterned wallpaper and flowery couches. The floors are orange and white tiles. My flip-flops make an annoying clacking sound as I scramble to the front desk.

The guy who held the door open for me isn’t far behind. His footsteps are sturdy and solid, almost clashing with the clatter of my flip-flops. I take my place in the line of tourists waiting to register.

There is a couple ahead of me. The girl has long brown hair, a few shades lighter than the guy. He’s holding a surfboard with one hand and has the other wrapped around her. She’s probably in her early twenties, close to my age. He looks a few years older. She glances down at the ring on her left finger while he keeps his gaze fixed on her. He smiles at her, a sweet, I-can’t-believe-you’re-in-my-life kind of smile. It’s not for her, since she’s not even looking at him. No, this smile bursts out of him like he can’t contain it. I can almost feel his happiness as if it’s a tangible, contagious thing. What is it like to look at someone that way? As if they are the best thing in the world, or at least, the best thing in your world.

When it’s time for them to move up, his arm never wavers. The way he is looking at her, it’s probably good they are getting a room. They need one.

“Mr. and Mrs. Robert Jorgenson,” he announces to the woman behind the counter.

“Ah, yes,” the clerk says enthusiastically. “You’re in the Sweetheart’s Suite.” She starts rattling off a list of amenities. I almost laugh at the desperate look the dude is giving her. Apparently, there is fanfare involved when you sign up for the Sweetheart’s Suite. The hotel clerk isn’t about to let them leave until she gets through her well-rehearsed spiel. She hands them a small pink bag with tiny hearts all over it.

“This has sunscreen, bottles of water, and chocolates,” the woman explains. “Just all part of the Sweetheart Suite experience.”

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