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Stranded with Her Second Chance Sneak Peek

They were married before… no way Jami and Zayden can make it work again… can they?

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Jami Aspen walked away from her five-year marriage, her heart broken and her pride bruised.  She planned on never looking back, no matter how much she wished for a do-over – or at the very least an explanation – until he showed up, demanding his wife back.

Zayden DeLorien doesn’t play games. He can’t figure out why Jami is. After an accident six weeks ago on a trip he took to try to recover from his divorce he didn’t want, Zayden’s memory has holes he can’t explain — AND THE BIGGEST ONE? WHY HE AND JAMI AREN’T MARRIED ANYMORE AND WHY SHE LEFT.

Unbeknownst to each other, they both end up on a boat headed for a deep-sea fishing expedition. When it crashes, Zayden pulls Jami from the water and they find themselves stranded on the small island just out of reach of Getaway Bay.

Alone. Together.

Will their time on the island cement their separation or will Jami and Zayden find the memories they need to get back to the wedded bliss they both desperately long for?

Chapter 1

Jami

Forgetting was easier when she faced an ocean of possibility. The Hawaiian winds picked up Jami’s auburn curls and tossed them around her shoulders. She jumped from the bow of the fishing boat, landing on the docks to pull the boat safely into port.

Grinning at the family of would-be fishermen and women, she nodded at Jacque, the acting captain of the ship that afternoon as he cut the engine and moved to the back of the boat to get the rope and buoy ready for Jami.

“Thanks for fishing with Mayberry today, folks. We’ll have your prizes cleaned and wrapped in less than an hour at the shop. While you’re waiting, can I suggest you browse through the multiple pictures at the photo booth and pick which ones you’d like to add to your cart of your day? I’d recommend the one of Mr. Lucas losing his pole as a definite mantle piece.” Jami laughed as the middle-aged man blushed and nodded as his wife and kids teased him about the near-complete loss. Thankfully, the fail safes in place on the boat prevented a total loss of the poles.

“Come with me, ladies and gentlemen. I’ll take you to the shop.” Jacques tugged on his chest-length, salt-and-pepper beard as he left the boat bobbing beside the dock. The older man struggled to come off as gruff and hard-hearted, but he was one of the sweetest souls that side of Getaway Bay.

The group waved at Jami as their footsteps carried them down the floating planked dock. Jami wiggled her fingers at the smallest child – about five-years-old – a red-haired little girl with stray curls that grew more errant in the humidity of the islands. She’d stared at Jami’s similar coloring for most of the trip and had tugged at the heart strings of Jami’s own losses.

She’d tried to leave those memories behind her. Turning back to the Mayberry Luanna boat, she worked to put the sensations of loss, heartache, and despair back in the past where they belonged.

Climbing back onboard the older vessel, Jami gathered up the life boats and dumped them into the bin on the dock for cleaning. Next, she gathered up any and all stray items and put them in their rightful places; hooks in the tacklebox, nets in the closets in the main quarters, and unopened water bottles in the on-board mini fridge.

She sat for a moment on the bench-style seat under the shade of the Bimini top and stared out at the soft waves in the port and the larger, cresting waves past the opening to the bay. She’d only been there a few months, but Getaway Bay was fast becoming her home and she couldn’t see herself anywhere else.

Everywhere else on earth was too full of heartache. Hawaii at least promised her distraction, purpose, mind-numbing sameness day in and day out with which to freeze time.

Unprovoked, Jami’s gaze dropped to the floor of the boat and she found herself staring at the frazzled carpet. Fiberglass shards protruded from the edge of the flooring along the sides of the boat behind the driver’s seat. Chips in the paint showed more age than MaryBeth, the owner of Mayberry Fishing, had been able to hide.

How many times had Jami had to jury-rig the engine to work? She’d finally talked MaryBeth into getting the boat serviced on the other side of the bays. Glancing at her waterproof wrist-watch, Jami grimaced. She bent down and grabbed a loose rope, wrapping it quickly around her elbow and then back up around her hand and back down again. She had to hurry, if she wanted to get her paperwork done at the office and then get the boat over for its appointment.

Jami had to go on a date with the owner of the service company to get them in for an appointment in a timely manner. Wait times for appointments were over six months out. Jami doubted the Luanna had that much time left before it gave up the ghost – no matter how many times Jami duct-taped it.

She grabbed the bait cooler and a net that needed fixing and stepped from the boat. Leaving the keys in the ignition, she walked quickly down the docks, ignoring the lapping waves on the pilings of the pier and a sealion sunbathing on one of the large rocks at the tip of the bays. Not that she didn’t see the mesmerizing features of nature like the birds, the flowers, the starfish, or the fish. She saw them when she had a few minutes here and there.

But since moving to Getaway Bay from Wyoming, Jami couldn’t afford to let her mind relax more than a few minutes before she fell asleep at night. If she did, she thought about him and her heart couldn’t take the pain those thoughts caused.

She’d come to Hawaii to recover, not get immersed in what might have been.

Hiking the cooler higher in her grasp, Jami covered the short distance to the on-beach shop quickly. A neon open sign shone brightly with its orange and green colors from the front window. Stuffed trophy fish from days gone by hung on the walls and a plastic swordfish had been mounted above the front door. A little-known secret of the Mayberry shop was the fact that all of the mounted trophies were fake. MaryBeth hated killing of any kind.

Even fishing.

She stayed in the office, focused on marketing and other business tasks that she had to do. When she’d found out Jami needed to escape her life, she’d gratefully offered a position to Jami so that she could avoid taking a spot on the fishing expeditions. Not only her distaste for fishing, but her inability to swim, made her a very unlikely candidate to own a fishing outfit. That’s what happened when the business you took over was an inheritance from an uncle.

MaryBeth laughed from the back office. “Well, Jameson, I don’t doubt that you could double the price, but you won’t. I know what you do on your lunchbreaks.” She tossed the threat down lightly. MaryBeth wasn’t the only one who knew what the harbor master did in his spare time. And if he wasn’t careful, MaryBeth would tell his wife.

From experience, Jami knew MaryBeth wasn’t the bluffing kind either.

The click of the antiquated landline receiver landing in its base indicated the call was at an end. Jami set the bait cooler beside the fridge and leaned the net against the wall. She rolled her head on her shoulders and called out, “Hey, I’m back. Jacques has the group. He’ll be on this side soon. Do you have the paperwork for me to fill out? I also need the invoice to take over to the service shop.” She grabbed a ballpoint pen from the jar on the counter and yawned as she rounded the desk.

MaryBeth’s office chair squeaked and after a moment passed, she stood at the doorless doorway. Her straight blonde hair and bright green eyes were the only things that were typical of what people expected of a beach girl. With curves for days and a petite frame, MaryBeth had more admirers than she had clients, she often had to fight off possible dates and convince them to sell an expedition. It wasn’t until they’d paid the prices that they realized she was a better saleswoman than she was beautiful.

The interactions never failed to surprise Jami. MaryBeth was one of her closest friends – had been for years – and she never dropped the ball on amazing those around her.

“Are you so excited for your date with the mechanic?” MaryBeth winked at Jami, grinning at the scowl Jami sent her way.

“Yeah, you were his first choice, and you know it. I’ll take Luanna down as soon as I finish this. Can you make sure those fish get done? They were proud of their catches.” Jami nodded toward the customers’ heads they could just see through a port window in the wall that separated the shop from the offices. “Oh, and tell Jacques to cut back on his hoarding. The bin on the boat is so full, I think I broke my toe on it earlier today.” She grinned to take the sting out of her words. Jokes around the office often centered around Old Jacques and his many eccentricities.

“You tell him.” MaryBeth shrugged. “And I’m only first choice because men seem to think women with blonde hair have less inhibitions. If you didn’t give off the vibe that you’re perpetually unavailable, you’d have your nights filled with good-looking rich men. They have more billionaires in this town than you can shake your hair at.” She batted her eyes teasingly at Jami, then her expression sobered. “You need to learn to let go, Jami. I don’t want to see you sad forever.”

Her teasing smile faded and Jami nodded slowly. “I know, I’m just not sure I can push things behind me that fast. I’m trying… I just… I need time.” She’d gone through a lot the last six months and finalizing the divorce was the last thing she needed to start getting some closure.

Sitting behind the desk at the computer, Jami pulled out the stack of paperwork she had to fill out to declare fish caught, trip times, and more. From where she sat, she couldn’t see the rest of the office, but could see MaryBeth where she sat by the door to the inner office. Jami leaned back in the office chair and studied her friend as she twiddled the pen in her hand.

“I know. I wish I could face the jerk. I’d punch him in the face and tell him what I think of him.” MaryBeth’s jaw tightened and she clenched her fist, pounding into a flattened palm of the other hand.

Jami giggled, grateful for the loyalty of her friend. “I have no doubt you’d waste him.” But she didn’t. There was a charm about her ex-husband that even a rock couldn’t deny. He had a way about him that even she had no power against – even after she’d discovered his secret.

Escaping him had been the only way to get her wits about her, get her courage up to file for divorce. As cowardly as she’d been, she could see her weaknesses and her ex-husband was most definitely at the top of that list.

“When you get back, I’d like to talk to you about a possible partnership. I would love to pursue the conversation we started the other night over dinner.” MaryBeth tapped the doorjamb and grinned. She knew Jami’s answer but she also knew Jami had hesitated – as much as Jami knew it, too. MaryBeth was getting tired of the business, but she liked having income. She wanted to go into the silent part of partnership.

Jami wrinkled her nose and glanced over her shoulder. “Okay, I’ll consider it, but let me make sure this boat isn’t a pile of junk. I don’t want to take over payments of a piece of ocean trash.” She winked.

“Oh, you. Luanna is one of my original girls. She won’t fail us.” MaryBeth opened her mouth again and then looked toward the front of the office. The door opened, the bell above jingling to announce someone entering the office portion of the building.

Behind the desk, Jami bent over the papers she had to fill out and started writing. Anyone that was there would be there to see MaryBeth. Jami still didn’t know anyone in town and she wanted to keep it that way. Dating the mechanic didn’t count since he worked almost as much as she did and it wasn’t really dating. She found him boorish and a poor comparison to the man she worked hard to forget.

MaryBeth straightened, catching Jami’s eye as she shifted into a more seductive pose. She tucked her chin and arched a well-shaped eyebrow. “Can I help you?” She shook her blonde hair enough to frame her face and in less than a heartbeat, her entire demeanor changed.

Jami covered her mouth to smother her second giggle. Whatever man was enough to catch MaryBeth’s eye didn’t stand a chance when she turned on her wiles. The woman was simply an artist.

“I hope so. I’m looking for my wife.” The rough timber of the man’s voice cascaded down Jami’s back, sending shivers along her nerve-endings. She’d never planned on seeing him again, certainly not before she’d gotten her strength wrapped around her, protected against his good looks and heart-strumming charm. Wouldn’t a warning be courteous?

MaryBeth cocked her head to the side and lifted her left hand. “I’m more than happy to apply for the position. See? I’m free.” She didn’t giggle. MaryBeth would never deign to make a silly sound like that around a man – maybe her friends, but never a man.

Jami wanted so desperately to be suave like her boss. Unfortunately, she ducked her head more and closed her eyes. She suddenly wanted to hide from the world, but more importantly, her ex-husband who had somehow found her.

Why couldn’t he let things be?

Chapter 2

Zayden

Zayden acknowledged the beautiful woman’s welcoming grin. He wasn’t immune to a sassy blonde’s smile, he just had his limits. His boundaries were defined to a vixen with red hair he’d married. He wasn’t about to give her any more reasons to be mad at him.

He hadn’t figured out the first reason she’d left him.

Blinking at the darker interior compared to the bright sunny landscape outside, Zayden forced his smile to stay steady. He had to find Jami and this woman might be the person who knew the next clue to where she was.

His head pounded, hadn’t stopped since the flight down from Wyoming. His doctors had all strongly recommended against traveling, especially by plane, but Zayden wasn’t having any of it. Jami was in Hawaii and she wasn’t with him. Judging by the records strewn across his dining table, they’d gotten a divorce and he’d signed the papers. Why? He had no idea.

He wasn’t even sure why he would sign paperwork that would keep him away from his wife. She was his! She’d been destined to be his. The best years of his life were with her. What could have possibly happened to make them agree to a divorce?

Most likely his pride, he had no doubt about that. But would he have really let things get as far as divorce? Losing Jami was the worst thing he could have woken up to in the hospital.

Setting the duffel bag he’d brought as a carry-on on the ground, Zayden glanced around the tidy office space. With a distinct ocean feel in the grayed planks and stained hardwood flooring, the office gave the sensation of professional yet casual in it’s leather chairs set against the wall with large glass fishing net balls hanging from the ceiling and fishnet draped across the windows.

“Whatdya say, sailor? Shall we head to an early dinner?” The buxom blonde angled to the side and fluttered her lashes over her shoulder at him.

He smiled, splaying his hands to his sides. “If I didn’t already have someone in mind, ma’am, I’d take you up on that offer. As it is, I really am looking for my wife. I was told she would be here? Or works here?” He stepped further into the office, letting the door shut behind him. His boots scraped across the floor. He couldn’t leave his cowboy boots in Wyoming. He wasn’t that kind of man.

The woman’s eyes widened as she straightened from her lounge spot against the doorway and she flicked her gaze behind the high counter manning half the way beside her. “You know, I’m not sure. What’s your wife’s name? I don’t have a lot of women working for me. I think I’d know if any of them were married to a handsome cowboy like yourself.” She winked, trying to divert his attention from something.

Zayden wasn’t one to be handled – by anyone. He usually maneuvered them right back. “Ah, thank you. You’d know for sure, if she worked for you. She’s a sassy little red-head with a shape that makes your hands itch.” He glanced at the woman and then down at his own hands, then back at her. “Okay, so maybe not your hands, but definitely mine.” He winked.

She at least had the decency to blush, glancing behind the counter again, her expression softening. “Well, she sounds delightful. I don’t know any redheads.” She blinked rapidly as she lied and Zayden didn’t give away that he knew she was.

He stepped closer to the counter, almost as if it were natural. He had no doubt Jami hid behind the high half-wall. She was going to take it to the very limit with him. If nothing else, the woman kept things interesting.

“Yeah, you’d know this one. She’s got a mouth like a sailor and she stomps around like she weights eight-hundred-pounds, but she can’t be more than a buck-twenty-five soaking wet. And her hair, yeah, red as salmon eggs.” Talking about her weight and her hair in the same breath were guaranteed to irritate her. Come on, darlin’. React. I know you want to. Zayden ignored the pain in his head, waiting breathlessly for Jami to do what he knew she wanted to.

If she didn’t, maybe he didn’t know his wife like he thought he did.

A chair rolled across the floor a few feet as Jami jumped to her feet. Her dark brown eyes sparked with anger and, was that hurt? As she thrust her finger his direction. “I don’t stomp and my hair is auburn, you insensitive moron.”

Zayden rested his hand on the surface of the counter and smiled slowly. His whole world finally righted with her a couple feet away. “Hey, there, darlin. I knew I’d find you.” He didn’t scream or rage, pouring out the fear and worry he’d had over the last few weeks since he’d woken up. He’d been terrified and Jami was nowhere around.

He didn’t say any of that. He was just so grateful to be around her, like Superman in the sun.

As if he hadn’t spoken, Jami glanced at the woman and tilted her head to the side. “Sorry, MaryBeth. I’ll finish the paperwork when I get back. I’m going to be late as it is.” She reached onto the counter, grabbing keys that jingled in her hand. She tossed her glorious mass of hair – auburn or red, he didn’t care – behind her shoulder. The curls responded well to the humidity and had taken on a life of their own, each tress defining its own curl and tightness.

Zayden wanted to wrap the curls around his fingers. Were they as silky as he remembered?

She continued ignoring him as she rounded the counter and strode past him, her long legs modestly covered in loose khaki capris that ended just above mid-calf. She wore white boat shoes and a hemp braided ankle bracelet enhanced the delicate strength of her ankle. Even her white t-shirt with the logo of the Mayberry Fishing company on the back only increased the appearance of her femininity.

When she stepped over his duffel, Zayden realized she wasn’t waiting for him. She didn’t want to talk to him? He couldn’t figure out why that was.

He glanced at MaryBeth, full of confusion. Since the head injury, he was slow to figure things out. He was getting better, but he couldn’t tell if he was right or not about some things. What if he was reading Jami’s actions wrong?

MaryBeth arched her eyebrows. “If you the ex-husband she won’t stop talking about, you’re not going to get anywhere standing there. You better hurry up and make your plea. She’s off to go on a date with another man.” She nodded her head and threw him another challenging expression over her shoulder as she turned away from him, headed into the room behind her.

He wasn’t going to get anything else out of her. She was right. If he wanted Jami, he had to fight for her. A sickening sensation of vertigo rushed over him at the thought of her with another man – dating or otherwise. He didn’t want to lose her. Zayden had to believe that she wanted him back. He had to believe that he had a chance to get his wife back.

Nothing was that bad, was it?

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