Nathan's Child - By Anne McAllister


IT WAS A DAY like any other in July on Pelican Cay. It was hot and humid and, according to Trina, the weather girl on the island’s on-again, off-again radio station, there was only the faintest hope that a late-afternoon storm would blow in and clear the air.

Carin was grateful for the ancient air conditioner rattling in the window of her small art and gift shop because it kept her cool as she worked, but mostly because its welcome noise brought in customers—day-trippers off the launch from Nassau and week-long vacationers from the local inns and family resorts who came seeking refuge from the sweltering midday heat and lingered because Carin’s shop was an island paradise all of its own.

Filled with one-of-a-kind art objects, paintings and sketches, sea glass jewelry, cast sand sculptures and whimsical mobiles that enchanted young and old alike, Carin’s Cottage was a haven for those with money and taste and a desire to bring home something more enduring than a T-shirt to remember their holiday by.

Everyone who found their way to tiny Pelican Cay eventually found their way to Carin’s. Business was good. Life was sweet.

And she could hardly wait to tell Fiona, the talented but apprehensive young sculptor, that her newest small pieces were headed for Pittsburgh—or would be as soon as Carin finished wrapping them—with the two nice ladies chatting to her about what a lovely place Pelican Cay was.

“Heaven on earth,” Carin agreed as she wrapped a small, carved driftwood pelican in blue tissue paper. She put it in a white carrier bag and looked up when the door suddenly opened. She smiled, hoping for another tourist or two before the launch headed back to Nassau.

One look and the smile vanished. “Oh, hell.”

The two ladies blinked in astonishment.

“I thought you said heaven,” one began.

But the other turned toward the door. “Oh,” she said.

“My,” she said.

“Who’s that?” she said.

“The devil himself,” Carin answered under her breath.

“Nathan Wolfe,” she said aloud, and was grateful she didn’t sound as shaken as she felt.

Nathan Wolfe had always been handsome as the devil. With his thick, black windblown hair and dark tan, he had once been the epitome of male beauty.

The years had honed his looks, sharpened them, hardened them. And now he looked as fierce and hard and predatory as his name as he stood in the doorway of Carin’s shop and slowly, behind sunglasses, scanned the room—settling finally on her.

Carin didn’t move. Deliberately she stared back, determined to let him know she wasn’t afraid of him. Only when she was sure she’d made her point did she avert her gaze, turning back to concentrate on the package she was wrapping for her customers.

They were her priority—not Nathan bloody Wolfe!

But whatever conversation they’d been having before Nathan had opened the door had gone completely out of her head. And the ladies seemed much more interested in Nathan. They stood just drinking in the sight of the hard, devilishly handsome man who looked like nothing so much as a gunfighter just stepping into the OK corral.

“I don’t suppose we could buy him,” the taller one murmured.

“You wish,” the other said.

I wish, Carin thought. And she wished they would take him all the way back to Pittsburgh with them, too.

The taller one studied him a moment longer, but when he didn’t seem to even notice her—not once shifting his gaze from Carin—she reached for the bag Carin was filling with their purchases. “Come along, Blanche. We can wrap these back at the ship.”

“No,” Carin protested hastily. “Don’t hurry away. Take your time. Stay awhile.” Stay forever. If they stayed, maybe Nathan would be the one to leave.

But at that moment he came in and shut the door behind him.

Come on, come on, she thought. Just get it over with.

But he didn’t move her way. Instead he wandered over to the counter at the far end of the room and began leisurely examining Seamus Logan’s coconut carvings, then Fiona’s sculptures. Carin gritted her teeth. She watched his easy, nerve-racking grace as he took his time, picking up and studying them all. He moved on then to the handmade toys that the Cash brothers made, Sally’s straw weavings, the hand-painted T-shirts and baby rompers that Alisette designed and then he weighed one of old Turk Sawyer’s paperweights in his hand.

She’d never thought of Turk’s paperweights as weapons before. She did now.

They weren’t enemies, she and Nathan. They simply hadn’t seen each other in years and years. Thirteen years, to be exact.