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The sun barely kissed the sky before Mari climbed out of bed to hit the dock. The first trip of the day wasn’t for several more hours but there was a lot of work to be done before then. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, she needed a refresher and time to get back in the swing of it all.

Grabbing the bag she packed up last night, Mari swung it onto her back and jogged down the stairs. She opened the fridge and grabbed a water bottle. She stopped in the middle of swinging around the counter and grinned when she saw the wrapped plates sitting there with a note from Allison.

Eat. And share with Todd. He’s picked up your bad habit of running off granola bars.

Laughing softly, she grabbed the food and took it out to Raoul’s truck before she loaded it up with equipment and drove down toward the beach. She didn’t bother with music. The sounds of the island slowly waking were music enough. She smiled at the sight of the shop that was much like a second home.

She threw the truck in park and hopped out, taking one of the plates with her. She unlocked the shop door and flipped the lights. It was almost exactly as she remembered from her last trip home. The walls had a fresh coat of turquoise paint highlighted with brown trim. Pictures of the Drake family, other guides, and different tours spotted the walls. Various water sporting equipments and clothing articles decorated the room. She opened the large windows overlooking the beach and entrance, breathing in the scent of the ocean. Everything in her began to relax as she just enjoyed the moment.

Minutes later, she turned back to walk around the counter. She shook her head when she turned on the music and country music began to play. Todd loved the stuff so it was an easy guess as to who’d changed the selection. She left it on as she went back outside to unload the scuba tanks, flippers, re-breathers, and bags of wet suits and other gear.

She was inspecting the second scuba tank’s valve action when footsteps sounded against the wood of the walkway.  She glanced to her right, expecting Todd. A smile tugged at her lips. The man walking toward her wasn’t Todd. It was the man from the party. Tyler. He still looked perfectly at home on the island only this time he’d lost the short-sleeved shirt and the black tank top revealed the weight muscle added to his arms. The sun lightened the brown hair that curled over his forehead and around his ears. The torch light hadn’t hid much. The man was attractive.

“You’re out early,” she said lowering her head back over the tank.

“I could say the same for you.”

She shrugged. “I’ve got a job to do.”

“There’s that, but something tells me you’d be up even if you didn’t. I’m Tyler.”

“Something tells you right. Mari, although you probably know that.”

“I might’ve heard your name a time or a million. It’s an honor to meet Sakina’s darling.”

She laughed. “That would be Rylee Phillips. Once everyone gets used to me being back I’ll be the island’s troublemaker again. Second to Jules of course.”

He chuckled and squatted down beside her. “Yeah, I can see that. I’ve heard a few of your high school stories. Snakes in the cafeteria? Brave woman.”

“I will never live that down.”

“From the way it was told? I don’t think so.”

Mari shook her head and set the tank off to the side.

“That wasn’t all I heard though.”

She arched a brow. “Oh I’m sure it wasn’t, especially if you were talking to Leo.”

He dropped his head back and laughed, giving her the opportunity to study him some more. His features were sharp but the laugh softened them. She really liked the look of him and so far, the sound of him too. He was easy, laid back, and with a good sense of humor to top it off.

“Leo definitely had some stories. The lizard you put in Paul’s pants?”

“Oh he deserved that. He was such a brat when he was a kid.”

“He wouldn’t say the same about you though, would he?”

That tore laughter from her. “Of course he would but I was a reactive brat. You had to do something first.”

“Ah, the bully police?”

“You could call it that.”

“Leo told me aside from your life of trouble-making, you know all the best hiking trails too. The ones most people won’t hike.”

Her lips quirked up in a grin. “Those are the only trails worth hiking. I might know something about them.”

“Do you mind sharing some of that knowledge when you’ve got some free time?”

She hesitated and looked up at him when he grabbed the next tank to pass to her. His smile was still easy and elbows rested on his thighs as he waited for her response. Her smile came without her permission.

“Yeah, I think I might be willing to share a trail or two.”

“I’m glad to hear it. Does tomorrow work for you?”

“Let me double check the schedule and get back to you.” She reached into her back pocket for her phone and held it out to him.

His hand brushed hers as he took it from her and put his number in.

“I’ll be looking forward to that call.” He smiled and handed the phone back, pushing back to his feet. “Wait until I can join you to stir up some more trouble,” he added as he walked backward.

“I’ll see what I can do but I make no promises.”

He laughed and finally turned to walk away. She propped her arm up across her knee and watched him walk down the beach. Shaking her head and fighting the smile, she turned back to her equipment to finish prepping for the day’s first group.

 << Chapter 3 || Chapter 5 >>

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