Maid for love, p.1

Maid for Love, page 1

 

Maid for Love
 


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Maid for Love


  Maid for Love

  The McCarthys of Gansett Island: Book 1

  By: Marie Force

  Published by Marie Force

  Copyright 2011. Marie Force.

  Cover by Rae Monet Designs

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. To obtain permission to excerpt portions of the text, please contact the author at marie@marieforce.com.

  All characters in this book are fiction and figments of the author's imagination.

  www.mariesullivanforce.com

  Author's Note

  My favorite place in the world is Block Island, located twelve miles off the southern coast of Rhode Island. A tiny slip of land with a Great Salt Pond in the middle, Block Island is the place time forgot. You won't find a stop light on the island or a hospital. Internet connections are sketchy at best, and good luck finding a hotel room or a spot on the ferry for your car in the summer if you haven't planned months in advance. What you will find is peace and quiet and beaches and bluffs and quaint shops and a laidback atmosphere that soothes the soul.

  The island has played an important role in my life from the time I was a small child arriving on my parents' boat, through a college romance and now as a favorite family vacation spot each summer. I've never been anywhere that inspires me more. Block Island pops up often in my books, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before I made up my own version of the island and set a series there. Thus Gansett Island and the McCarthy Family were born. "Gansett" is a tip of the hat to Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay, one of my favorite places to spend a summer day.

  Maid for Love is the first book in a three-part series. Fool for Love comes next around June 1, 2011 and Ready for Love will be out July 1, 2011. Will there be a second trilogy featuring Grant, Adam and Evan McCarthy? That's up to you, the readers, to let me know if you want more of the McCarthy Family.

  I love to hear from readers! Contact me at marie@marieforce.com.

  Welcome to Gansett Island! I so hope you enjoy Mac and Maddie's story. Stay tuned at the end for a sneak peek at Joe and Janey's story, Fool for Love.

  xoxo

  Marie

  For the late Bob Broz, the "Big Mac" of my childhood.

  Chapter 1

  Madeline Chester retrieved her nine-month-old son Thomas from his crib and checked her watch. She was due at the hotel for the morning housekeeping shift in fifteen minutes. After a diaper change, she handed Thomas his bottle, grateful that he could now hold it himself.

  He let out a squeal of delight that drew a smile from Maddie.

  "You like that, huh, buddy?"

  His pudgy legs bounced about on either side of her hips, and she tightened her hold on him while attempting to tame his soft blond hair. She grabbed the diaper bag, the tote she took to work, retrieved her lunch from the refrigerator and headed out the door. Across the yard, she entered her sister's house through the screen door on the back deck.

  "Morning," she called out.

  "In here," Tiffany said from the living room where she sat amid three babies and a variety of toys. One of the babies was her daughter, Ashleigh, born just a month before Thomas. The other two Tiffany cared for as part of her in-home daycare business.

  Maddie kissed Thomas, whispered that she loved him and plopped him down on the mat with the others. "I'm running late as usual."

  "Go ahead. We're fine."

  "I'll be back by three." Maddie relieved Tiffany at the daycare so her sister could teach afternoon dance classes in her studio, below the apartment Maddie rented from Tiff and her husband Jim.

  "See you then."

  Tiffany watched Thomas for free during the day in exchange for Maddie taking over the daycare from three to six while Tiffany taught dance classes. The delicate balancing act left Maddie worn out at the end of every long day.

  She jumped on her bulky old bike and set off for McCarthy's Gansett Inn on the other side of the island. Checking her watch one more time, she groaned when she saw how close she was cutting it.

  From his vantage point in the ferry's wheelhouse, Mac McCarthy watched the bluffs on the island's north coast come into view and felt the vise around his chest tighten. Just the sight of the island where he grew up made Mac feel confined.

  "Never gets old, does it?" Mac's childhood best friend, Captain Joe Cantrell, owned and operated Gansett's thriving ferry business.

  "What's that?" Mac asked.

  "The first view of the island. Always gives me a thrill to see it appear out of the fog."

  "Even after all the times you've seen it?"

  "I still love it."

  Mac studied his old friend. Time had worn some lines into the corners of Joe's hazel eyes, and his sandy hair was now shot through with streaks of gray that hadn't been there on Mac's last trip home.

  "You ever wish you'd done something else?" Mac asked. "Gone out in the world a bit?"

  Joe took a long drag off his trademark clove cigarette and flicked the ashes out the open doorway. "Go where? Do what?"

  "Those things are gonna kill you," Mac said, nodding to the cigarette.

  "No faster than working twenty hours a day is gonna kill you."

  "Touché," Mac said with a chuckle.

  "Are you planning to tell mama bear about your night in the hospital?"

  "Hell no! She'd freak out all over me. That's the last thing I need."

  Joe laughed. "What's it worth to ya?"

  Mac shot him what he hoped was a menacing scowl. "You wouldn't dare."

  "So what happened?"

  "The doctors said it was an anxiety attack—too little sleep, too much work, too much stress. They ordered me to take at least a month off to recover."

  "How'd your partners take that news?"

  "Not so well. We're busier than hell, but they'll handle it until I get back." Mac and his partners owned a company that reconfigured Miami office space for new tenants.

  "And your girlfriend? Roseanne, right?"

  "My ex-girlfriend. We decided to cool it for a while. And then I got the email from my mother about my dad selling McCarthy's… I told my mom I'd help him fix the place up a bit."

  "I still can't believe that."

  Mac shrugged. "He can't work forever, and none of us want to deal with it."

  "How's your sister doing? I haven't seen her in a while."

  Despite the nonchalant question, Mac knew there was nothing nonchalant about his friend's feelings for Janey. "Still carrying that torch?"

  Joe shrugged. "I've yet to meet anyone I like better."

  "She and David are engaged, man. Might be time to move on."

  "Maybe." He flashed the grin that had made him popular with the girls in high school—not that he'd noticed after he gave his young heart to Janey McCarthy. "She's not married yet."

  "Joe—"

  "I'm not going to show up at the wedding in a gorilla suit and cart her off or anything."

  Mac studied the expression on his friend's face: staged indifference mixed with wistfulness. "That sounds a little too well planned."

  "No worries, I don't own a gorilla suit. I am thinking about getting a dog, though."

  Mac laughed at that because Janey worked for the island's veterinarian.

  Joe steered the one hundred ten-foot ferry past the breakwater to the island's South Harbor port.

  Mac watched the town of Gansett come into view—the bustling port, the white landmark Beach
comber Hotel with its clock tower and turrets, the Victorian Portside Inn, the strip of boutiques and T-shirt shops, the South Harbor Diner, Mario's Pizzeria and Ice Cream Parlor where Mac stole his first kiss from Nicki Peterson in eighth grade.

  His overriding memory of growing up there was plotting his escape. Once he finally managed to leave, he'd never looked back except for occasional visits to his parents. Every time he came home, he counted the minutes until he could leave again. This would be his longest stay since he turned eighteen and left for college. Mac wondered how long it would take before he was chomping to leave again.

  Salt air, diesel fuel and rotting seaweed—the aromas of home—filled Mac's senses and turned his stomach. He hated the smell of rotting seaweed.

  "Come on back with me," Joe said.

  At the ferry's stern, Mac watched as Joe used a combination of engine power and bow thrusters to efficiently turn the ferry in the tightest imaginable space and back it into its berth. "You make that look so damned easy."

  "It is easy—especially when you've done it a thousand or two times."

  Once the ferry was docked, they stood at the rail and watched the throngs of trucks, cars and tourists disembark from the day's first boat to Gansett.

  "I still spend Friday and Saturday nights on the island during the summer," Joe said as Mac gathered up his stuff. "Come on by the Beachcomber if you feel like grabbing a brew or two."

  "I'll do that." Mac shook Joe's hand. "It's good to see you, man."

  "Been too long."

  "Yeah." But as Mac took a long look at the bustling town of Gansett, he decided it hadn't been nearly long enough.

  Carrying his oversize backpack, Mac navigated the crowds on his way to Main Street. He stopped to let a family on bikes pass and continued up the hill, mesmerized by the frantic activity.

  To his left, in neat, orderly rows, cars, vans and passenger trucks waited to back onto the nine a.m. ferry for the fifty-minute return trip to mainland Rhode Island. Joe's employees moved like a well-oiled NASCAR pit crew, offloading cargo from the arriving ferry and reloading the next boat. The island relied on the ferries to deliver everything from food to mail to fuel to milk. During the summer, when the island's thirty restaurants and bars operated at full tilt, each ferry brought new shipments of beer, wine, liquor, fresh seafood, potatoes, vegetables and linens.

  A forklift carrying a pallet of soda came within inches of running into Mac.

  "Sorry, man," the operator called out with a smile.

  Mac waved to the driver. He cleared the cargo area and fixed his gaze on the Beachcomber, the iconic building that anchored the town. The quacking horn of a Range Rover painted yellow and tricked out like a duck—complete with a bill affixed to the hood—caught Mac's eye. Laughing at the JSTDKY license plate, he stepped off the curb onto Main Street.

  A searing pain stabbed through his left leg, sending him sprawling into the street.

  Mac lay there for a second, trying to catch his breath and gather his wits. A young woman was lying next to him, her bike about to be run over by a pickup truck that would hit her next. Mac ignored the burning pain in his calf and leaped up to stop the truck inches from her. He wasn't fast enough to keep the truck from mangling her bike, though.

  Mac squatted down to help the woman. Since her top had ridden up in the fall, he noticed her extravagant curves and had to remind himself that she was hurt. She was struggling to breathe and must've had the wind knocked out of her by the fall. He quickly adjusted her shirt to cover full breasts.

  "Take it easy," he said. "Don't struggle. That'll only make it worse."

  Frantic caramel-colored eyes stared up at him

  The impact of their eyes meeting hit him like a locomotive to the chest. What the heck was that? Long hair the same color as her eyes fanned out under her head, and blood poured from huge cuts on her knee, elbow and hand. Mac winced, wishing he'd been more careful.

  Tears spilled from her eyes.

  Mac reached out to brush them away, his fingers tingling as they skimmed over her soft skin.

  Her eyes widened, and she seemed to stop breathing altogether.

  "Breathe," he said.

  Anxious to get her away from the prying eyes of the crowd that had formed around them, Mac slid his arms under her and lifted her from the pavement.

  She let out a startled gasp and then a moan as her injured leg bent around his arm. "W-what're you doing?"

  "My friend Libby runs the Beachcomber. She's a volunteer paramedic on the Gansett Fire Department. Let's go get you cleaned up. Did you hit your head?"

  "No, just my arm and leg." She turned her palm up. "And my hand."

  Mac's stomach roiled at the sight of her pulpy hand. "God, I'm so sorry." Still carrying her, he crossed the street to the hotel. "I wasn't looking where I was going."

  She struggled against his firm hold. "I need to get to work, so if you could just put me down. Please…"

  "You can't go to work in this condition. You're bleeding."

  "I have to go or I'll get fired."

  Her twisting and squirming caused her round rear end to press against his belly, which sent a lurid message straight down to where he lived.

  He groaned. "Do you mind holding still?"

  "No one asked you to carry me," she retorted, apparently misinterpreting his groan.

  "Look, I can't just put you down and send you on your way when you're bleeding all over the place. Let's get you patched up, and we'll see what's what."

  "I'll get fired," she whispered, her eyes flooding with new tears.

  "Where do you work? I'll call them and let them know you had an accident."

  "They won't believe you. They're bastards."

  "I can be very convincing." He took the steps leading to the Beachcomber two at a time, ignoring the shooting pain from his own injured leg. The porch was full of people having breakfast, and his passenger turned her face into his chest. At the maître d' stand, he asked for Libby and was shown to her office off the lobby.

  "Mac!" Smiling, Libby jumped up from her desk chair. "I didn't know you were coming home!" She glanced at the woman in his arms whose shaft of long hair hid her face. "And bringing a friend. Don't tell me you ran away and got married."

  "Not exactly. We had a little accident on the street."

  Libby glanced at the woman's leg, saw the blood and went into paramedic mode. "Bring her in here." She gestured to a sofa in her office.

  "I don't want to get blood all over your sofa," the injured woman said.

  Libby grabbed some towels and spread them out.

  As Mac put down his passenger, her breast bounced against his arm, sending another burst of lust coursing through him. Her hourglass figure reminded him of the old pinup girl posters his father had in the garage when Mac was a kid. Betty Boop had nothing on this woman.

  With her uninjured hand, she brushed the hair back off her pretty face.

  "Maddie!" Libby cried. "What happened?"

  Maddie gestured at Mac. "Someone wasn't watching where he was going and knocked me off my bike, which is now totaled."

  Libby tied back shoulder-length dark hair and broke out an elaborate first aid kit from under her desk.

  Mac hovered in the doorway to the small office. "Do you want me to call your work to let them know you'll be out today?"

  "Just tell them I'll be late. I can't afford to miss a whole shift."

  No way could she work today, but Mac wasn't going to argue with her—yet. "Where am I calling?"

  "McCarthy's Gansett Inn, housekeeping department."

  Smiling to himself, he reached for his cell phone and dialed the number from memory.

  Maddie watched him, a startled expression on her face.

  Keeping his eyes fixed on her, he asked for the housekeeping department. "Ethel? Hey, it's Mac McCarthy."

  Maddie gasped from the double shock of hearing his name and having antiseptic applied to her gruesome cuts.

  He whispered to Maddie, "
What's your last name?"

  "Chester," she said through gritted teeth.

  "Little Mac McCarthy, you devil," Ethel said. "How in the hell are you?"

  "I'm great, how are you?"

  "Can't complain."

  "I wasn't on the island five minutes when I knocked one of your housekeepers off her bike."

  "Still causing trouble, I see," Ethel said with her trademark guffaw. "Which one?"

  "Maddie Chester. She's with me at the Beachcomber, and she's hurt pretty bad. Libby's patching her up, but I don't think she can make it in today."

  Maddie scowled at him.

  Ethel released a deep sigh. "All right, if you say she can't work, I'll cover her shift."

  "Thanks, Ethel. I'll be over to say hello, but don't tell my mom I'm here. She doesn't know I'm coming."

  "She'll be over the moon, honey. Good to have you home."

  "Thanks."

  "That's not what I told you to say," Maddie snapped the second he ended the call.

  "You really think you can clean today with your hand ripped to shreds? Not to mention your arm and leg?"

  "He's right, Maddie," Libby said as she covered the ugly wound on Maddie's leg with a large gauze pad. "It'll hurt like heck in an hour."

  "Already does," Maddie said with a wince.

  Her face had lost all color, her mouth was twisted with pain and Mac hated that he had caused her suffering. Despite her killer figure, an aura of fragility surrounded her, with the notable exception of her hands, which were rough and obviously used to hard work.

  "You'll need to be real careful with that hand for a week or two," Libby continued. "It won't take much to cause a bad infection if you get something in those open cuts."

  Maddie closed her eyes and tipped her head back against the sofa. "Oh my God," she whispered. "What am I going to do?"

  Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. The refrain played over and over as Maddie pondered the deep load of crap she was in—or rather, the deep load of crap Mac McCarthy had pushed her into. From the second she'd looked up to see him leaning over her in the street, he'd seemed familiar to her. But with her injuries demanding her full attention, she'd been unable to put a name to the distinctive face. The nearly twenty years since he'd led Gansett High School to the state baseball championship had transformed him from a handsome boy into a stunning man.

 
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