Chapter One: Closets
IAN BIT his bottom lip to quell the rage fermenting under his skin. Arguing with his old man would only compound the throbbing between his temples that the Gosling’s Black Seal Rum had so kindly gifted him. It was a Bermuda staple, so he didn’t have a choice but to indulge. When in Rome…. He vowed to show more restraint next time, but he couldn’t help the fact that boardrooms drove him to alcohol. He blamed his father, really.
Instead of pointing out how much he loathed the idea of following in his father’s footsteps, he stayed quiet as Ian Blythe-Darcy Senior tore into him for showing up late to the meeting with some potential investors. He didn’t understand why they needed more money. He’d grown up not wanting for anything, and his father’s hotel empire had amassed enough capital for his children’s children’s children to live on comfortably. What more did they need?
“Did you even think about how your lateness would reflect on the company?” Ian Senior bellowed, his face an ugly shade of red that Ian liked to refer to as angry tomato, but that led to thoughts about lunch, which then led to Ian smiling and Senior turning eggplant. That’s when things got real.
“Do you think life is a joke, son? I’m building your future here and all you can do is show up late to meetings hungover, ruin investment opportunities, and make your mother and I look like fools?”
Senior dealt a low blow evoking his mother, one he couldn’t let slide. “Unlike you, Mother is proud of me!” He scowled at his father as he loosened his silk Armani tie. He didn’t know who to strangle with it in the moment, him or his father, but since it hung around his neck, he was willing to act as the sacrificial lamb.
“If you got off your arse and did something for a change, perhaps I’d have something to be proud of.”
“Mr. Blythe, sir?” Margaret interrupted.
“What?” Senior snapped, both their heads swiveling toward the white-haired executive assistant who stood tall and stoic in the doorway.
Ian deflated when her eyes flickered over to him for half a second. She’d worked for his father long before he drew his first breath, and Ian appreciated her ability to wrangle Senior and rescue him when things between them boiled over.
Senior pinched the bridge of his nose and blew out a heavy sigh. “What is it, Margaret?”
“Your ten o’clock arrived early, sir. I showed them to the lounge. Shall I let them in?”
“Yes, yes, fine.” Senior waved her away. Ian made himself busy by rolling up the sleeves of his dress shirt to avoid making eye contact, when his father turned his attention back to him. “We aren’t done discussing your behavior, Junior. I don’t know how a son of mine could lack so much ambition.”
Ian didn’t bother replying. When his father called him Junior, it signaled the end of conversation. He grabbed his jacket off the chair and stormed out, a little black rain cloud tagging along on the way back to his suite. His headache lingered, but on the bright side, his day had just opened up, which meant sun and more of that delicious rum.
AS SOON as the door to his suite closed behind him, Ian kicked off his shoes, stripped, and reached for a pair of swim trunks. He grabbed a bottle of water from the minibar and sucked it down before heading out the glass doors of his suite, onto the pink sandy beach. The warm Bermuda sun might do him some good, and his skin could use a splash of color. Pasty English white didn’t go very well with his summer wardrobe.
He’d only been in Bermuda a few nights, but he enjoyed having some time to himself. The opportunity to sit on the beach and take in the scenery was well overdue. Francesca, his fiancée, kept nagging him about wedding details, and he needed a break. But the fight with his father had caused anger to flow through him like a current. In actuality, it wasn’t only the fight that had him worked up.
His current life trajectory brought him nothing but anxiety.
Somehow he’d managed to get engaged to a woman with whom he had little in common. He and Francesca were great friends, and she would, in theory, make an ideal life partner, but they lacked that spark, and he deemed the dread of spending the rest of his life with her just as responsible for last night’s inebriated state as his father. Maybe it was a tad naive for a grown man to believe in fairy tales, but was a little chemistry too much to ask?
Of course, he suspected that lack of chemical compatibility had more to do with the fact that he was so far in the closet that he might as well declare it his permanent place of residence. Having a hotel mogul for a father came with benefits: closets were plentiful. He stayed inside because he needed another reason for his father to be disappointed in him like he needed a hole in his head. And maybe the money was nice too.
As far as Francesca knew, he was bisexual, but her sharp intellect and intuition made him fearful she’d uncover the truth someday. He hated lying to her, but he felt like he didn’t have a choice. Invitations to the wedding went out weeks ago, her parents loved him, and the fact that Ian adored her—albeit on a very platonic level—kept him from breaking things off.
Francesca had elected to stay behind in London as she worked on her doctorate, which left him free to drink his sorrows away. So he flagged down a waiter, ordered a Rum Swizzle, and attempted to substitute alcohol for his guilt while he indulged himself with memorizing the lines of muscle on the sexy men combing the beach.
She deserved so much better.
BABYSITTING A rich brat all day ranked very low on Marc Reed’s list of awesome activities to do on the one day off he’d had all month, but there he was, strolling down the beach in search of some trust-fund kid who probably needed help wiping his own ass. Living in paradise came with a hefty price tag, and he really needed the money. Otherwise he would’ve told his boss to screw off.
He cupped his hands, hollered for some guy named Ian, and tried not to think about how pretentious of a name it was. “Is there an Ian down there?” he yelled toward the water.
No one answered and he groaned in frustration.
The sun beat down on him from its place in the midmorning sky. It was supposed to be a hot one, and with his instructions clear on showing the boss’s son all Bermuda had to offer below the surface, he wanted to hit his favorite dive spot before noon. The sooner he found this Ian prick, the sooner he could get the job done.
“Anybody named Ian around here?”
“I’m Ian,” replied a man from behind him. By the sound of his posh British accent, Marc knew he’d found his man, the hotel owner’s son, his charge for the day.
He turned to find a guy around his age, give or take, lounging on a deck chair, sipping a cocktail complete with a little umbrella. His designer shades made Marc want to roll his eyes, but he resisted. Instead, he put on his best fake smile and introduced himself.
“I’m Marc, your dad hired me to take you diving for the day.”
Ian scoffed. “My father sent you?”
It took everything in him not to snap back. He couldn’t risk getting fired. “His assistant lady said he wanted you to experience the beauty of the islands.”
Ian took a drink, his cheeks hollowing out as he sucked on the straw. Pretentious or not, the guy was bangable, and he filed the image away in his spank bank for later.
“Isn’t that a complete one-eighty? An hour ago he insisted I spend more time in the boardroom.”
Marc bit the inside of his cheek to check himself. When he moved to Bermuda six months ago, he’d come for adventure and hot bodies, not to hold the hand of rich snobs as they worked through their daddy issues.
“Look, I’m just doing what I’m told.”
“Funny, that’s all I ever do.” Ian sighed and put his empty glass on the small table at his side. He stood up and grabbed the towel off the back of his chair before draping it over his shoulders, which Marc didn’t think was necessary. If he had to entertain the guy for the day, staring at his toned body seemed like appropriate compensation. “Like everything else in my life, it seems I have no choice but to ‘do as I’m told.’”
Marc turned around and started back up the beach, leaving the drama queen to follow after. He huffed a quiet “whatever” under his breath as he contemplated the odds of them both returning to Bermy in one piece. It didn’t look good.
“Diving, you say?” Ian asked as he fell into step beside him.
“It is Bermuda.”
“Yes, I’m aware, thank you—Marc, was it?—I’m just taken aback. It’s an unexpected divergence from my scheduled day. And quite frankly, I wasn’t in the mood for diving.”
Marc stopped in his tracks. Maybe his off day could be salvaged after all. “I’ll be sure to tell my manager you declined. Sorry to bother you.”
Before he could take off, Ian stopped him. “Not so fast. I said I wasn’t in the mood, but on second thought, a day at sea might lift my spirits.”
So close, Marc thought. He concentrated on his paycheck and led the way to his charter boat. At least Marc loved diving, so how bad could it be?
His whole job history revolved around the service industry, so he’d seen his fair share of spoiled trust-fund kids. They’d known each other all of five minutes, and Marc knew better than to judge Ian so harshly based on one very short conversation. But when they reached the docks and Ian turned his strong nose up at the Whisper Wind, he wondered how far they’d get from shore before Marc tossed his fancy ass overboard.
Marc hauled himself onto the boat and turned around, blocking Ian’s ascent. He narrowed his eyes when Ian cast another critical eye toward the source of his livelihood. “Why do you keep thumbing your nose at my girl?”
“Girl? Oh, you mean the boat. It’s just that it’s a bit… small, don’t you think? Is it even seaworthy?”
“If she’s not up to your standards, I hear there’s a spot available for the helicopter tour.”
Ian’s eyes widened. “Flying in a small craft in the Bermuda Triangle, are you mad?”
“I am, actually. It’s my day off and I have to babysit your spoiled ass or risk losing my job.”
Marc had the displeasure once of witnessing Ian’s father’s rage up close. It ended with half the resort’s managers getting fired, so he had a brief thought of joining them in the unemployment line when he saw that same incensed expression appear on Ian’s face. But then it seemed to blow over as fast as it set in, leaving him relieved and a little confused.
“With an attitude like that, I wonder how you still have one.” Ian forced his way onto the boat. He crossed his arms and popped his hip out, and Marc shook the thought of how easy it would be to push him off. “My father said you’re taking me diving, so you’re taking me diving.”
Marc headed toward the boat’s wheel. “Yep, but he didn’t say anything about bringing you back,” he tossed over his shoulder.
He heard Ian scoff, but the engine roaring to life muffled his reply. That rich brat rubbed him the wrong way from the get-go, so if they made it back to shore in one piece, he’d deserve a medal.