Stranded in Paradise Excerpt

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      As soon as Autumn saw that the room was full of swinging singles, she made a beeline for the bar.  She kindly told a guy who’d stepped in her way with an offer to dance that she wasn’t interested and continued her trek.  She made a sharp right turn when she saw another would be suitor waiting to ambush her near the piano.  She let out a big sigh when she finally plopped down on a bar stool, thankful she made it through the maze of gigolos.  The bartender flashed an easy smile at her and handed her a menu.  She munched on the olives in the bowl in front of her while trying to decide what to order.  After a few minutes she picked a simple grilled shrimp salad and was reviewing her drink options when someone came up behind her.

      “Bartender, can you get the lady a martini?  It’s on me.”  A guy wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt flashed a wide grin and extended his hand.  “Hi, I’m Kyle.”

     “Thanks for the offer Kyle, but I can buy my own drink.”  Autumn glared at him.

     “You tell him beautiful.”  Another man, dressed in a silk shirt and sporting a gold chain said as he waved at the bartender.  “Besides, she looks more like a mojito girl.  Bartender, a mojito please.”

     “What makes you think I’m a mojito girl?”  Autumn fought back the urge to beat him with the bar stool next to her that he was awkwardly trying to sit on.

     “I have an uncanny knack for knowing what a woman wants.”  He winked at her.  “You’ll love it.”

     “Actually, she looks like a woman who enjoys a good glass of scotch but I wouldn’t dare insult her by paying for it.”  Someone said at the end of the bar.

     The bartender assembled the three drinks and placed them before her.  She selected the scotch.  The other two guys looked disappointed but she didn’t care.  Served them right for assuming what she drank.  Yeah, the third guy did too but he was on the nose with the selection.  She leaned forward to get a closer look at him and was pleasantly surprised at what she saw.  

      He was gorgeous and had the most penetrative eyes that seemed to be sending her an invitation to come join him.  The close haircut and five o’clock shadow was working for him.  He was perfectly at ease dining on his tuna steak, not at all desperate like the two idiots who were vying to sit next to her.  He was drinking scotch too.  Damn, he was right.  She loved her fruity drinks and wine but there was something about the sip of a quality scotch that felt like velvet in her mouth.  He looked familiar. Had they met somewhere before? 

     “I’m changing my seat.”  Autumn said to the bartender, who smiled when the other men retreated in defeat.

     “Sure thing Ms. Waverly.”

     She grabbed her lowball glass and hopped off the stool.  The least she could do was express gratitude to the man who’d helped her thin the herd of losers trying to pick her up.

     “Thanks for the save.”

     “You’re welcome.  Although, I was cheating.  I knew the answer. And my guess is that you’ll be getting the triple chocolate cake for dessert? Isn’t that right Autumn?”

     Her stomach flip-flopped.  She was half way onto the bar stool but she put her leg back down. Who was this guy?  And why did he know so much about what she liked?  A thousand things ran through her mind, like how she’d traded two gigolos for a stalker.

     “Do I know you?”

      “I think we should have met several times before but we never seemed to be in sync with each other’s schedules.  I’m Jared Reed.”   He extended his hand.  “Morgan’s brother.”

      Autumn’s stomach calmed down but her heart started thudding in her chest.  This was the guy she’d been avoiding for months?  The pictures she was shown didn’t do him any justice.  She shook his hand, which was surprisingly soft. He made a firm connection, applying the right amount of pressure.  

     “So, you’re the divorced workaholic architect who threw his back out playing touch football during the wedding activities?”  She raised an eyebrow.

     “In my defense, I was playing against men who were born to play the sport.”  He laughed.  “And you’re the incurable flirt who leaves a trail of broken hearts behind where ever she goes?”

     “Maybe, not so much a trail as a foot path.”  Autumn smiled and swirled her drink around in the glass.  “I smell a setup.”

     “I do too.”  He grinned.