Jason grimaced when he got his first look at the girl his son had brought home. They were still unloading their luggage from the seaplane that had stopped at his dock, so he had plenty of time to size her up. In denim shorts with tattered legs, slung low on her hips, a cropped black T—shirt, and with the ends of her short hair dyed an unnatural shade of purple—red, she practically screamed teenage rebellion.
The only problem with that theory was he knew her to be twenty—three, according to the information his son had relayed. Josh was a sophomore, and so was she. When Jason questioned why she was still in college at her age, his son had breezily explained Lanie spent a few years searching for herself. Judging from the appearance she presented, the girl would have been better off spending a bit more time looking, until she found someone remotely presentable.
His eyes widened when she straightened, stretching with her arms over her head. A dart of desire hit him like a fist in the stomach, and he shifted in his boat shoes, uncomfortable with the idea of finding Lanie attractive. At thirty—eight, he was too old to react that way to a nice pair of breasts in a tight T—shirt.
With a shake of his head, he cast off the unwanted spark of attraction, along with his discomfort, and walked down the dock. Excitement at seeing his son again put a slight spring in his step, and Jason resolved not to worry about the girl. At Josh's age, the liaison was no doubt transitory. He was sure to have a string of equally unsuitable relationships before settling down. It would be pointless to worry about each one.
Josh gave him an enthusiastic hug, and Jason's eyes smarted when he embraced him. For a second, he held the toddler version of his son in his arms. A parade of memories danced through his mind during the brief hug. It was like that every time he saw Josh after a separation.
When his son stepped back, Jason turned to Lanie, bracing himself to be polite. He drew in his breath sharply upon seeing her face. It was a marked contrast to her appearance. Soft and rounded, with full lips, a straight nose, and dark eyes, her countenance was sweet and innocent. If only she hadn't marred the physical perfection with a piercing through her right brow and a tiny diamond stud through her nose, she would have been classically beautiful.
"Dad, this is Lanie DeShaw."
Jason took the hand she extended, surprised by the firmness of her handshake.
"Lanie, this is my dad, Jason Masters."
Her lips, bare of lipstick like the rest of her face was free from makeup, curved into what seemed like a genuine smile. "How do you do, Mr. Masters?" She had pierced her tongue too.
"Call me Jason." The invitation came automatically, as his brain was busy processing the impulses elicited just from touching her hand. He dropped it quickly, not caring if he appeared abrupt. "Come into the house." As they followed him in, he mentally shifted the bedroom arrangement he'd had the housekeeper prepare. His plan had been to facilitate the couple's interactions by allowing them to remain discreet, but he had changed his mind. The room next to Josh's was no longer an option for their houseguest. He didn't want his son to have such easy access to his lover. He tried not to question why the idea of them having sex bothered him so much. Jason had enough self—preservation not to want to know the answer.
Lanie eyed her room with awe. Jason had opened the door for her and left with a nod after seeing Josh to his room farther down the landing. He hadn't waited around for her to express her appreciation for the décor, but maybe that was for the best. She didn't want to fall into a slobbering trance, so busy staring at him that she'd be unable to form a coherent sentence.
She had seen his picture many times in Josh's room, but he'd been on the deck of a sailboat, with the sun shining brightly around him. It hadn't been a very good picture, especially compared to the real thing. The sun had brightened his hair from a rich brown to a dark blond, and the way he'd squinted had obscured the impact of his bright blue eyes. She was still reeling from staring into them. What had been a halfhearted crush kindled by a picture in Josh's bedroom was trying to become something more. She shook her head at the silly notion, knowing it wasn't wise to let her emotions overrule common sense.
Lanie finally managed to move from the spot and drop her bags on the bed. She wandered the mini—suite, pausing to touch the gauzy peach curtains that coordinated perfectly with the silver and peach comforter. The wallpaper was an elegant foil for the rest of the room, and the white furniture matched everything. Compared to her dorm room, and any of the places she had ever lived, this room was four—star. What else would one expect to find in a large home perched on the cliff of a privately owned island? Josh's family was wealthy, and it showed. She hoped she wouldn't look as out—of—place as she felt.
Which brought her to her first dilemma. Jason had imparted dinner was in an hour, but hadn't expounded on how she should dress. It seemed like a formal kind of place, and she tried to reconcile the Josh she knew from college, who lived in frayed Levis and T—shirts, to the way she imagined he would appear that evening.
Unpacking didn't take long, and her possessions barely filled two drawers of the dresser. When she hung up the few items in her wardrobe that might wrinkle, Lanie laughed at the pathetic sight. Her clothes took up half a rack in the walk—in closet. The built—in shoe organizer could hold at least twenty pairs of shoes, and she wondered how it would be to have that many pairs as she stowed a pair of black flats and her sneakers. Other than the sandals on her feet, they were the only shoes she owned.