Boss With Benefits

By: Talia Hunter







2





“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.” Rosa tried to keep her tone civil. If the man thought his rudeness would shake her, he’d never met her parents. Eighteen years with them, then ten years in the hospitality industry dealing with all kinds of rude people, meant it took more than Captain Ass-Wipe to make her lose her cool.

“I’m Dalton.” He tossed his name at her as though it should mean something.

And she’d opened her mouth to ask for more information, when suddenly his name did mean something.

Dalton was Tiny’s brother’s name.

Rosa’s legs felt weak.

At school, Tiny hadn’t liked to talk about her brother. All anyone knew about him was that he’d briefly attended a boy’s school and been friendly with the brothers of some girls in their class. Then he’d vanished. Rumors had flown around their all-girl school, ranging from him having run away after getting a girl pregnant to having been killed in some gruesome accident, the details of which got gorier with each retelling. Some girls had sworn he’d murdered someone and was serving thirty years to life.

If Tiny had put the record straight at the time, the speculation wouldn’t have got so crazy. But she’d been tight-lipped, and Rosa got the impression she was suppressing some deep-seated hurt.

It wasn’t until after they’d left school that Tiny had said she and her brother were back in contact. After that, the rift between them must have been healed, because Tiny had started smiling whenever she mentioned him.

And now here he was. A mythical creature finally made flesh.

“You’re Tiny’s brother,” she blurted. After having heard so many rumors about him, it felt like saying, “You’re the Loch Ness Monster.”

“That’s right.”

“What are you doing with that?” She nodded at his machete.

He glanced down at the knife, eyebrows raised, as though he’d forgotten he was carrying it. “I was cutting vegetation back from the path when I saw people arriving off the ferry.”

No wonder his chest was glistening with a light sheen of perspiration. Not that she wanted to notice Captain Ass-Wipe’s chest, or the gorgeous definition of his muscles and the way they caught the light.

“How exactly did my sister hire you?” His accent sounded like Tiny’s. Which was to say, it was like her own accent, except for his pronunciation of certain words. Most likely a hint of the Fijian way of speaking.

“I spoke to the resort’s housekeeper. A woman called Mere.”

As though on cue, the door opened and a woman was silhouetted against the brightness of the day. When she walked in, Rosa got an immediate impression of brisk efficiency.

“Speak of the devil,” said Dalton in a dry tone. He put the machete down and leaned against the reception desk with his arms folded. His dark, buccaneer’s eyes were hostile. What the hell was his problem?

Mere shot him a startled look. She was a pretty Fijian woman with her long, dark hair tied back in a bun. “Bula,” she said, smiling at Rosa.

That was Fijian for ‘hello’, Rosa remembered. “Bula,” she said back.

“It’s nice to meet you in person, Rosa. I’m sorry I wasn’t here earlier.” Mere had a beautiful speaking voice, with a musical lilt to her words, and rounded, almost British vowels. “A pipe in Bure Twelve was leaking. There was water everywhere, so I needed to clean another room to move the guests.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“You did this, Mere?” Dalton motioned to Rosa, making it clear that she was the bad thing Mere had done. There was probably a way Dalton could be ruder, but Rosa couldn’t figure out how.

“I’m right here,” Rosa muttered under her breath. Crossing her own arms, she mimicked his stance.

Mere raised her eyebrows. “Tiny wanted Rosa to come. Didn’t she talk to you about it?”

“Of course she didn’t. I told you to cancel all the bookings you could and not accept any new ones. Let alone hire new staff.”

“But Tiny said—”

“You understand that Tiny needs to rest? I don’t want you talking about this place with her or letting her worry about anything. You have any questions about that, come and see me.”

Mere pressed her lips together and folded her arms in front of her. Now all three of them were facing each other with their arms crossed, wearing matching stubborn expressions. A triangle of mulishness. If Rosa hadn’t travelled two thousand miles to be here, she might have found it funny.

“Where’s Tiny?” asked Rosa. “I’d like to see her.”

Dalton shook his head. “She had a physical therapy session this morning and she needs to sleep.”

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