EVERY TIME MORE hotel guests entered the beachfront resort restaurant on Grace Bay in the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean, Stephanie expected to see her black-haired Adonis appear. That was how she thought of Dev Harris.
After their fantastic ninety-foot dive to Elephant Ear Canyon that afternoon to see the huge sponges, the tall, powerfully built New Yorker, who resembled a Greek god, had whispered that he’d meet her in the dining room at eight for dinner. They’d watch the sunset and later, each other.
As he’d helped her out of the dive boat, giving her arm a warm squeeze, his eyes, black as jet, conveyed the words he didn’t speak in front of the others in their scuba diving group. He was living for another night with her like last night.
She’d reluctantly left him to go to the beachfront condo and get ready for dinner. Her silvery-gold hair needed a shampoo. She’d decided to wear it loose from a side part. Time with the blow dryer and a brush brought out the natural curl, causing it to flow across her shoulders.
With the golden tan she’d picked up, tonight she’d chosen to wear a blue sleeveless sundress. She wanted to look beautiful for him. Last night she’d worn a filmy tangerine-colored dress and had bought a shimmering lip gloss to match. He’d told her that, in the dying rays of the sun, she’d look like a piece of golden fruit he longed to devour very slowly and thoroughly.
Her body trembled just remembering those words. While she waited for him to come, the memory of the way he’d made love to her over and over again made it difficult to breathe. It was her first intimate experience with a man, and had happened so naturally she felt as if she was
living in a dream, one from which she never wanted to awaken.
In ten days’ time Stephanie had fallen so deeply in love, her whole world had changed. Throughout her dating years she’d had various boyfriends. Just last week she’d gone on a date with a guy named Rob Ferris, who ran an auto parts franchise, but she knew when he took her home after dinner that she really wasn’t interested in a second date.
Then she met Dev. The first time she’d seen him walking toward the boat with the dive master, her breath had caught. When their gazes collided, that was it. The feeling she’d been waiting for all her adult life.
Other relationships with past boyfriends had nothing to do with the profound kind of love she felt for the sophisticated thirty-two year-old bachelor, who’d told her he was in the international exporting business. He blew away every other man in existence.
Her three girlfriends who’d arranged their April vacations to come on this scuba diving trip with her fully agreed he was out-of-this-world gorgeous. Melinda thought he must be one of those frogmen from the military, the way he maneuvered under the water. He was certainly built like one.
Stephanie agreed with her friends, but there was more to Dev than his physical attributes and diving skills. Much more. Everything he said and did revealed that he was well-traveled and educated, making him exceptional, and so charismatic she could hardly breathe when she thought about him.
Where was he? By now it was quarter to nine. Obviously, he’d been held up. The only thing to do was go back to her room and call him on the hotel land line. His beachfront condo, where they’d spent last night, was located on the other side of the restaurant, but she thought she should phone him first.
Stephanie was on her way out when a waiter came toward her with a florist box in his hands. “Ms. Walsh? This is for you, with Mr. Harris’s compliments.”
Thrilled to have received it, she went back to the table to take off the lid. He was probably on his way to her now. Inside the tissue was a corsage of gardenias with a card.
Thank you for the most memorable ten days and nights of my life, Stephanie. Your sweetness is like these gardenias and I’ll never forget you. Unfortunately, I’ve had to leave the island because of an emergency at my work that couldn’t be handled by anyone else. Enjoy the rest of your trip and be safe flying back to Crystal River. I miss you already. Dev.
Stephanie sat there and felt the blood drain from her face.
Her spring idyll was over.
He’d already driven to the airport to catch his flight to New York. Of course he hadn’t left her a phone number or address, nor had he asked her for the same information. On purpose he hadn’t given her a shred of hope that they’d ever see each other again.
She had to be the biggest fool who’d ever lived.
No, there was one other person she knew who shared that honor. Her mother, who’d died from cancer after Stephanie had graduated from college. Twenty-four years ago Ruth Walsh had made the same mistake with an irresistible man. But whoever he was hadn’t stuck around once the fun was over, either. Stephanie didn’t know his name and had no memories of him, only that her mother had said he was good-looking, exciting and an excellent skier.