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Wind blew through Mari’s hair from the opened windows of Tyler’s truck. It was earlier than she usually started her days off but excitement wouldn’t let her sleep in. She’d looked forward to the trip out on Rylee’s yacht all week. Rylee was just getting back from a big conference for her family’s company in New York. The three friends plotted for some uninterrupted girl time out on the water.

She rolled her head to the side to stare at Tyler. He relaxed in his seat, one hand lazily controlling the steering wheel. They missed the last few days together due to her schedule and her spending time with Gage and the family. Gage’s trips could be rare and they could be plentiful. She never knew so she took full advantage of any time he managed to spend on the island.

Tyler volunteered to drive her to the dock to carve out some time together and he surprised her with the breakfast sandwich she chased with lemonade. Now he threw the occasional look her way with that amazing smile.

“Jules and Rylee are lucky I know how excited you are about today?”

“Oh yeah? Why’s that?

“Because if I didn’t, I’d kidnap you for the day. Take you out to Rocanda and spoil you. It’s been a while. Too long.”

“If these weren’t my best friends I might’ve let you talk me into it too,” she said with a grin, climbing out as soon as he parked at the dock.

She threw her bag over her shoulder and started up the dock before Tyler fell into step beside her.

“Got everything?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Before you go.”

“What is it?” Mari opened her bag and double-checked for the sunscreen. She didn’t have to look up to know that Julia’s arms were folding and she was muttering under her breath. “Hurry up. Jules is getting impatient.”

“I thought I heard something about you looking for your birth father.”

Her head snapped up. “What? No. And I don’t have time to talk about the reasons why. I don’t really want to either.”

“That’s fine, sweetheart. I just heard it around and wanted to see if you needed any help.”

She smiled and brushed a kiss over his cheek. “Thanks, but no. See you when we get back.”

“Have fun,” he called after her as she started for the boat.

Julia and Rylee waited for her with bikini tops and shorts. Towels were thrown over their shoulders and sunglasses shielded both of their eyes.

“It’s about time you made it,” Rylee said watching as Mari walked up.

“Relax, Ry. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Mari tweaked Rylee’s floppy sun hat and boarded the boat with them trailing behind her.

“I wasn’t sure if Tyler was going to let you go.” Julia tossed her towel onto one of the chairs on the deck and set her bag beside it.

“Jules, seriously?”

“Just an observation.”

“I could use a day without observations.”

She lowered her sunglasses over her eyes and stretched out on one of the chairs. Rylee propped her hands on her hips, staring down at her.
“Okay, so clearly you’re sharing first today.”

“Why don’t we talk about you and Todd instead?”

Rylee flushed bright red and her mouth thinned. “Oh no, you are not going to this to me today with your little ‘I’m cool and collected’ face like you don’t have a care in the world while I’m over here blushing like red is my natural shade.”

Mari peeked over her shades and noticed Julia watched Rylee as well. “Everything alright?”

“No, everything is not alright! Now spill.”

“Well if you insist.” Mari slid her glasses back into place and got comfortable on the chair once more. “Everything’s fine for the most part although Papa apparently has his dad senses tingling about Tyler.”

Julia raised a brow at that. “I already told you how I felt about that.”

“You said he was too observant. He used to work security. That kind of thing makes sense. It’s not exactly a ‘he’s creepy’.”

“Fine. That’s fair. Maybe it’s the whole security guy air over him. It just makes a person wary.”

“It doesn’t make me wary. It makes me feel safe.”

Julia rolled her eyes even as Rylee’s grin stretched wide. She nudged Mari’s legs over and dropped down onto her chair beside her.

“Makes you feel safe, does it?”

“Please do remember we’re planning to talk about you and Todd soon.”

Rylee stuck her tongue out. “I’m just saying. So things are like…serious?”

“As serious as they can be. I like him, like spending time with him, how he treats me. I’m seriously getting spoiled. I’m not saying I’m going to marry him next week but I’d like to see where it goes.”

“Okay, so Raoul not being completely on board could be an issue. Is that all?”

Mari sighed and fell silent. Tyler’s question brought back up the thoughts she had earlier.

“I considered trying to find my biological father. Nixed the idea pretty quickly but I guess Raoul was worried enough about it that he mentioned it to some people.”

“But you’re not going to go through with it?” Julia asked.

“No. I think I’m ready to really let that go now. No need to go searching for someone who’s never bothered to search for me. It was just on my mind this morning is all.” She turned her head to look a Rylee. “So why don’t you tell us about Todd and New York?”

Rylee didn’t answer right away, studying her as if trying to be sure she was hiding nothing else. Finally, as the boat began to make its way out into the open waters, Rylee began to share.

 << Chapter 13 || Chapter 15 >>

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