Read Last Call for Love Online

Authors: Maggie Marr

Tags: #FIC027020 FICTION / Romance / Contemporary; FIC044000 FICTION / Contemporary Women

Last Call for Love (10 page)

BOOK: Last Call for Love
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“A man uses the gifts he’s given, and a writer writes.” Trevor took a long drink of wine.

“Ah yes. Well, that writer wrote his way into my bed.” Poppy finished her glass of wine.

“Ah, just your bed, Poppy? No, I do believe you mean your heart.”

“My heart?” Poppy pursed her lips and cocked an eyebrow. “You’ve come close, my love. So close, but I’m afraid that particular organ was decimated many moons before you.”

Trevor maintained a smile, but Charla saw the pain trickle into his eyes. He loved Poppy. Adored her. He’d write a million poems for Charla’s roommate if given the chance.

“Then what was it, lovey?” Trevor pressed his body forward in his chair, and placed his hand to the back of Poppy’s neck.

Like a contented cat, Poppy closed her eyes and relaxed into Trevor’s touch. “Layla,” Poppy murmured. “It was Layla.”

“The hotel masseuse?” Trevor asked.

“You say masseuse, I say psychic. The woman has agift. Her hands are magic. Pure magic. She informed me when I returned six months ago that I would meet a poet who would fulfill my every fantasy.”

“We’re into fantasies now? Oh, I think we need another bottle of wine.” Trevor waved toward their server, who nodded and headed toward the bar.

“Not just
kinds of fantasies. Layla said that during this contract at Mesquale, I would get great pleasure if I’d just surrender to the person who pursued me.”

“Did she tell you about the giant bribe I gave her to say that?”

Poppy’s eyelids popped open.

“A joke, Pop, a joke.”

“I should think so,” Poppy said. “One doesn’t mess with Layla’s magic. She’s the reason Mesquale has such an avid following. Ask any person who’s ever been to Mesquale more than once and they’ll tell you it’s Layla’s hands and her insights that bring them back to Mesquale again and again.”

“Have you been?” Ryan stroked his hand over Charla’s hair and rested his palm on her back in a possessive touch that she relaxed into.

“Not yet. I’ve booked an appointment.”

“She’s booked solid,” Poppy said. The server filled her wineglass from the new bottle of wine. Four empties stood tall on the table. “She has to take guests first and then squeezes in staff when she has openings or cancellations. The woman never has an empty day unless she books herself out. I’m telling you, she’s magic.”

“I have to admit”—Trevor relaxed into his chair—“her touch is magic. Not only her touch, but her ability to tell you what you need to hear.” He gazed at his wine. “Even if it’s not exactly what you want to hear.”

A shiver raced up Charla’s spine. What were the words she didn’t want to hear? Truths that she didn’t want told. Was she headed for some kind of horrible repeat of what had happened in San Diego? Perhaps not the same gross action, but the lies and half-truths and powerful men with secret agendas.

“I need an appointment.” Ryan sipped his wine.

He didn’t drink much. Was that always the case, or did he need to keep his wits about him? Were there words and a past he didn’t want to share? A truth that he didn’t want Charla to know?

“We’ve spilled our story. What about you?” Poppy asked with more than a hint of a gleam in her eyes.

“I’m not the only one who hasn’t told my arrival story.” His hand covered Charla’s, and he squeezed. “I believe Charla was the next to arrive.”

Poppy’s gaze flicked from Ryan to Charla, and the merriment slid from her face. “We’re not talking about Charla, we’re—”

“No it’s fine.” Charla shook her head. “Truly, Poppy, it’s fine. When I was at the airport today, I saw all kinds of messages and emails and texts on my phone from months before when I left California, and they didn’t bother me. I’ve had nine months, and I’m over it.” Charla twisted the stem of her wineglass and stared at the table. She lifted her gaze to Ryan’s. “I came to Mesquale to escape a marriage.”

“You were married?”

“Thankfully, no. That would have been the worst mistake of my life. One I might not have survived. I was nearly married. Engaged. He wasn’t a good man. His family weren’t good people. Lucky for me I discovered those things before the wedding. So I left.”

Charla’s stomach pitted. There was more she could tell Ryan. She could tell him about her soon-to-be father-in-law’s attempted assault. How her soon-to-be husband didn’t believe her. How her soon-to-be mother-in-law called her a whore and a liar. How for a brief while, when still living in San Diego, she’d feared for her life and retribution from her father-in-law for telling the truth.

She looked into Ryan’s eyes. Yes, there were many more facts about what happened between her and the people who were to be her family she could tell, but she didn’t want to, and really she didn’t need to. Those events were in her past and she didn’t want to look back or carry the shame and guilt like heavy packs strapped to her back.

“Bad things happened. I left. I’ve had a year to think about all that took place. I’m lucky that everything happened when it did.” She leaned toward Ryan.  She was lucky that she’d gotten away from Bertram and his family. Oh so lucky.

Attraction flamed through her body. Ryan’s nearness caused her to vibrate with desire. This want, like an ache, was unfamiliar. She’d never experienced this kind of desire before Ryan. Being with him, in his arms, beside him here, felt natural. As though she’d been waiting for him her entire life. Ryan would never hurt her. He would always protect her. There were no doubts in her mind … aside from one.

His lips pressed to hers in a gentle kiss that held promises of the passion he felt.

“Awww, look, Trevvy, do you remember when we were young and in love?”

“What the hell, Pop. I kiss you like that all the time.”

Charla smiled while Ryan continued to kiss her. Poppy and Trevor were adorable and in love even if neither wanted to admit it. Ryan sat back and rubbed his palms up and down her arms. “I think it’s time to go back to Mesquale. What do you say?”

She was hot for him, her body already swollen and wet, her nipples tight and aching for his touch. “I completely agree.”

Yes, it was time to go back to Mesquale. Time to return to the resort and go to bed.




The shuttle dropped the four of them off just at the edge of the resort property line. He and Charla walked down a path to the beach, with Trevor and Poppy just ahead of them. The salty smell of the ocean led them through the plants to the sand. Stars peeked through the tiny wisps of clouds that remained in the sky from the storms earlier in the day. The moon shone down on them.

A beautiful night with a beautiful woman.

Peace filled Ryan’s heart. Hints of joy trickled through him. For the first time in what felt like forever his grief had parted. Much like the stars on this night, happiness played peekaboo through the sadness of his past. The goodness in Charla and his want for her parted his heavy sadness. The moon reflected off the ocean.

Ryan stopped walking and turned to Charla. Her beauty stunned him. When he lost Paloma and their future together, he believed that happiness and desire would be forever absent in his life. Charla changed that. Her honesty and her kindness called to him.

He brushed a strand of hair from her cheek.

“I feel so close to you,” Charla said. “As though I’ve known you a lifetime, and we’ve only just met. How is that possible?”

In just one night, he’d come to think of Charla as his. There was a force bigger than either of them that propelled them to each other. Like metal to a magnet, her closeness, though desired by him, was more than a choice. Charla was a compulsion.

“You never told me your story.” Her gaze contained more than simple playfulness.

“My story.” Ryan inhaled the salty scent of the sea and the fresh rain-scrubbed air. Where did he start? How did he start? What was best to tell Charla so that he might keep her? Not anger her. Not make her feel used or betrayed.

“You left to escape a marriage, and I left because I didn’t get to be married.”

Her hand fell from his. His palm was suddenly cool and wanting. “So you were in love and she left you?”

“Not because she wanted to leave.”

“I don’t understand.”

“There was a car accident, and I was driving.” An ache pulsed through his chest.

Charla’s hand flew to her lips. “Oh no. Oh …” She looked away from him and toward the ocean as though the pain must be too much for him to bear. “Oh, Ryan, I’m so sorry. How? When? Oh that is just … I don’t really have words.”

“Nor did I, for a very long time. There was rain. It was late. I was tired. I took a turn too fast, not faster than any other night, but on that night with the wet pavement … we slid into an oncoming car.”

Charla’s eyebrows pulled tight. “I can’t imagine.”

“She was beautiful, Charla. You would have loved her. Everyone did.”

“What was her name?”


How he’d raced through life always believing they’d have each other well into the dusk of their lives. But they hadn’t.

Ryan hadn’t said Paloma’s name out loud in over a year, but her name felt right on his lips as he told Charla about her, as he let Charla know what had made him and scarred him and hurt him.

“I loved her. I didn’t believe I would love again.” His gaze met Charla’s. “When I stayed with you, when we were together … I hadn’t … Things don’t move this quickly for me. I’m methodical and systematic. I don’t do impulsive well. But with you? Feelings rushed through me, and even though I know that this is happening fast, nothing about it feels impulsive or random. You with me feels right, as though we’re meant to be, as though we were made for each other.”

“I know.”

This moment together, holding hands, was more intimate than last night. My God, had that only been last night? A lifetime of emotions had passed through him on this day, a closeness that had been building as he worked with her for weeks and then exploded into a rightness when he’d taken her into his arms.

“I can’t explain it,” Ryan said.

“I’m kind of afraid to try. I’m scared this is magic that we’ve stumbled upon in paradise, and if I ask too many questions or think too much, the spell will break and this entire moment might slip away.”

His chest tightened with her words. “No, no, no.” This feeling, this woman, couldn’t slip away. Here, now, with Charla, was the first time he’d felt alive in over a year. She made his heartbeat. She caused him to smile. She created a happiness and joy that he’d thought was lost to him for the rest of his life.

He pulled her close, her sweet breath mingling with his. There was so much he needed to tell her, facts she needed to know. They couldn’t build a relationship on a foundation of half-truths. He needed to tell her who he was and why he was at Mesquale. Should she find out his identity on her own, without him telling her, how could she ever forgive him? How could she ever trust him again? How could she—?

“Guys!” Trevor yelled. “Mesquale is on fire!”

Ryan whipped his head toward Mesquale. A blaze flamed through the roof of the resort.

“Oh my God,” Charla whispered.

Ryan started forward and then turned back. “Stay here. Stay with Poppy.” He took off in a run, with Trevor by his side. Mesquale was his. The guests were his responsibility. His feet pounded the sand. Sirens wailed in the distance. He and Trevor sprinted toward the fire consuming Mesquale.

Please God let everyone be all right.


Chapter 11


The sun slipped from the water and climbed into the sky. The blaze was dead. Charla pulled her jacket tighter around her. The scent of burnt wood hovered in the morning air. At first thick and dark, the remnant smoke dissipated into a light gray. The four offices in the administrative section of the main building had been badly burned, but the fire hadn’t spread to the guestrooms or any other Mesquale buildings. The rain earlier that day must have helped keep the blaze in one spot.

“I think that’s everyone,” Poppy said.

Charla and Poppy and several other staff members had set up a waiting area near the staff dorms, far from the main building, so that guests might get a blanket, sit and drink a cup of coffee. They’d raided the staff building for all these items, so while the blankets might not be as fashionable as the ones currently in the guestrooms, they were merely one year old and still Mesquale quality.

“Damn, that could have been so much worse,” Therese dumped coffee grounds into the trash and placed the empty coffeepot into a bus tub.

“So much.” Poppy walked along the tables they’d pulled from the staff commissary. The guests had returned to their rooms and she threw leftover coffee cups into a trash bag she carried. “Has there ever been a fire at Mesquale before?”

“Not that I know of,” Therese said. “Good thing the resort has its own pumper engine. Did you see that little fire truck they brought from Parpetai? If the fire had spread and they tried to get the fire out with that thing? Wow. No way.”

“Must be why the prior owners got one for the resort.”

Charla placed the three coffee machines onto a rolling cart. She’d take them back to the commissary. “I’m heading in.”

“I suppose we’ll hear from Trevor and Ryan in a bit.” Worry edged Poppy’s voice. She glanced toward the main building. No one had cell service on the resort grounds. There was no way to check in with either of them.

“No one was injured,” Charla said. “So yeah. I’d think pretty soon.” She’d found one of Parpetai’s firemen and asked him how it was going and if everyone was all right.

“Business as usual today,” Poppy said. “I’m not on until after four. What about you, Therese?”

“I can sleep in. Banana Boat at four. Guess the big kitchen is already prepping for breakfast. Hopefully all the guests will sleep in too.”

“Wonder what caused the fire?” Charla asked.

“Well, hello, beautiful.”

Charla and Poppy both turned toward the voice. 

“Trev! You’re okay.” Poppy threw her arms around Trevor’s neck.

His face was dirty, smudged with smoke and soot. He wrapped Poppy in his arms and placed a kiss on her lips. Was Poppy crying? She was in complete denial about how much she cared about Trevor.

BOOK: Last Call for Love
2.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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