Poppy West, genius and legendary code-cracker, needs a hideaway. Her borrowed desert island seems perfect--until she discovers the owner is the most dangerously sexy man she has ever laid eyes on... Now she's out of her depth!
Sebastian Reyne never intended to teach Poppy all the delightful, enticing mysteries of flirtation. Poppy needs a nice man, not a rogue. A patient man, not one who can't be controlled. But her clueless attempts at cracking the dating code bring out the rescuer in him, the teacher in him, even the gentleman in him. For a while.
Until Poppy's skills start to exceed his own....
Timidity was not an absolute measurement but a relative one. And therein lay the problem. Second youngest of the four West siblings, Poppy had never measured up to any of her nearest and dearest when it came to confidence and the conquering of fear. Didn't mean she was a mouse. Didn't mean she wasn't perfectly functional--just that she preferred book-reading to skydiving and murmured agreement to heated argument. Nothing wrong with that.
Some might even call it sane.
Of course, there were also those who believed she was too shy for her own good and that she needed to step away from her work and get out more and make new friends. As if her admittedly small circle of friends wasn't enough. As if new friends just happened by on a daily basis.
Tomas was a friend. Cryptology mathematician and co-project manager, Tomas brimmed with confidence enough for both of them and he understood the language Poppy spoke best. Namely, code.
Tomas had also offered her the use of his private island on which to do some code breaking, with very few questions asked and only one small favour required in return.
Which had been good of him, she told herself over and over as she stepped aboard the Marlin III fishing cruiser and politely asked the skipper for a life jacket.
Very, very good of him.
So here she was, back in Australia, her country of birth, with only a boat ride across the open waters of the Pacific separating Poppy from her destination.
Poppy's spray jacket came off and the life jacket went on and then her jacket went back on over the top of that, never mind the skipper's silent amusement. The ocean was not her friend. They were about to travel across it. Nothing wrong with taking a few precautions.
Sunshine. Blue sky. Calm sea. Shiny big boat, manned by the best skipper the bustling Cairns marina had to offer. A boat fully outfitted with GPS and radar and whose skipper had filled out a travel plan sheet in his tiny office, right there in front of her eyes, and handed it to the office manager, who'd pinned it to a board behind her desk. A careful man who took precautions--nothing less would do.
So the journey had started out well, but the clouds moved in fast and so did the wind, and it was against them, making the trip longer, rougher and altogether more unpleasant as the minutes crashed on.
Not that skipper Mal seemed to mind. The lanky, blue-eyed sports-fishing operator proclaimed it an excellent day for a boat ride, and he should know, seeing as he'd worked the Marlin-fishing arm of the family's charter-boat business for the past twenty years. The only issue to concern Captain Mal was their destination.
'Seb knows you're coming, right?' he asked for the umpteenth time.
'Yes,' said Poppy for the umpteenth time. 'He knows.'
'Because I can't get him on the radio.'
'I know.' Mal had been trying to contact Sebastian Reyne every ten minutes for the past hour. Way to lessen anxiety there, Mal.
Fisherman Mal had also wanted to put a couple of Marlin lines out and strap Poppy into the fighting-fish chair on the way across, seeing as Poppy was already paying him top dollar for the run, but Poppy had disabused him of that notion fast.
'No, thank you,' she'd told him politely. 'I'm not big on game fishing.' Or any other fishing that required one to actually be on the water. 'I've read The Old Man and the Sea. I know how it goes.'
Mal had laughed and told her that the fishing process had moved on somewhat since then, but he hadn't pushed her, and around half an hour into their journey he'd finally twigged that Poppy had a quiet...