It’s been a fabulous summer, crewing on a yacht in the Mediterranean. Sun, sea, and seriously sexy scenery in the form of Ellie Richards. But Jake Morgan’s kept their friendship firmly hands off while she’s been recovering from a badly broken heart.
Only now she’s hinting that she wants more and he’s determined to make the last night of the summer one for them both to remember.
The Last Night of the Summer is a 10,000 word romantic short story.
Ellie Richards had legs.
Not just any legs. She was blessed with the kind of legs that made a man slow his steps and slide his eyes sideways as he passed the galley, in hopes of catching a glimpse of them. Legs that had him taking detours along the crew corridors two or three times a day.
Today, she’d framed her legs with denim cut offs, rolled up to cup her delectable little bottom. Endless legs, lightly tanned, perfectly curved in all the right places, stretched out as she reached up to one of the high cupboards.
“Let me get that for you.” Jake stepped up behind her and picked up the bag of flour.
“Thanks.” She smiled and he remembered the other reason he liked to stop at the galley. Ellie’s smile. It wasn’t so much the smile itself, it was the way her whole face transformed when she smiled. Her eyes widened and glowed, her cheeks dimpled, her lips stretched, her head tilted upwards.
It was a smile that made a man want to kiss her.
Jake resisted the impulse. Ellie was off limits. Not only because she was a member of his crew, nor because the confined space on the yacht could make things awkward. They were almost at the end of their summer working together around various Mediterranean islands anyway. A fling at this stage wouldn’t make anything awkward.
No, the main reason he shoved his hands in his pockets and hung back at the door was that he’d spent the last three months watching her glue her shattered heart back together and he didn’t want to be the one who broke it again.
Ellie wasn’t looking for a night or two of hot sex. She was after the real thing. That had become clear right from the moment he’d found her weeping about the guy who’d done a number on her so bad it had sent her running out of the country. She’d told Jake through her tears that she’d really believed the bastard heartbreaker – Jake’s name for him, not hers – was the one.
She deserved to find the guy who would be the one for her. Forever.
Which ruled Jake out. He couldn’t be the one who would settle down with her and give her the happy ending she deserved. He was just another chancer, out for a good time with a gorgeous girl until he got bored and moved on. The girls he slept with knew the limits on what they were getting, and wanted exactly what he offered. He didn’t break hearts and he wasn’t going to start with Ellie.
“Something smells great.” Not just her cooking. She had the scent of the sea in her hair and flowers on her skin.
She nodded to the counter behind him. “I made another batch of the honey and pistachio biscotti.”
“You’re an angel.” He winked. That was allowed. Complimenting her on her cooking. Winking to show it was nothing serious.
Ellie Richards could tempt a man to get serious. She’d be worth settling down for, if a guy was ready to start thinking about that. Which Jake wasn’t.
“I know.” She batted his hand away when he reached out for one of the biscuits. “They’re just out of the oven. You’ll burn your mouth.”
He sighed dramatically. “Bring some up when they’re safe to eat?”
“Of course. Do you want coffee, too?”
He stayed longer than he ought, watching her put together a tray. Her movements were swift and assured, efficiently competent in the tasks she’d done a hundred times that summer. She’d had to learn fast, but she’d done it and come out smiling.
Another waft of coffee and fresh baking and for an instant, Jake had a picture perfect image of a home with Ellie in the kitchen, filling the whole house with delicious scents. She’d know how to make the house into a proper home. She’d fill it with amazing things like smiles and laughter and cuddles and babies. He’d hold her hand under the dinner table and together they’d embarrass their kids by sneaking kisses and slow dancing when their song came on the radio.
Well, Jake wouldn’t, obviously. Some other guy, who had the extraordinary good luck to meet her in the right place at the right time would get to do all that.
“Here.” Ellie was holding out the tray towards him. “You might as well take it up yourself.”
“Grab an extra cup,” he suggested. “Join me for half an hour.”
She scanned the kitchen, turning down the dial on the oven and covering a bowl with a cloth. “Sure.”
Up on deck, Jake slid on his shades against the fierce brightness of the morning sun, and glanced around to make sure everything was under control. The guests had all gone ashore for the day and the crew were taking things easy. They’d made a good team this summer, despite their differences. Adam sat on the upper deck, reading a technical manual on marine navigation. Gianluca was busy teasing Marica as they swabbed the decks. Ellie pulled a cap on, tweaking her ponytail through the hole in the back. She kicked off her battered boat shoes and curled her feet under as she sat down cross-legged like a child on the sun lounger.
“Milk, no sugar, right?”
“Right. I should be doing that.”
He grinned. “You do plenty.”
“True.” She smiled lazily. He put her cup next to her with a biscotti on the side, then served himself.
She didn’t have to ask what he meant. The Delphine had been home to them both for the past three months, but the last group of paying guests were leaving on Saturday. The crew would have Sunday to put the boat to rights for the winter, and then they’d scatter around the globe.
“Adam can’t wait.”
Jake grinned. Their first mate had been invited to join a racing yacht crew for winter training. He had ambitions of winning the Americas Cup one day. “He’d have left weeks ago if it would have got him there sooner.”
“Do you think Marica will go with him?”
He shrugged. “I can’t keep up with them.” Since the first week of the summer, Adam and Marica had fought through a relationship that made a rollercoaster ride look like a sedate Sunday afternoon drive.
“The sex must be fabulous.”
“Huh?” Jake narrowed his eyes and surveyed Ellie’s innocent face. Was that really a wistful tone he’d heard in her voice.
“Well, there must be a reason they keep getting back together.”
He hadn’t thought about it. “I guess.”
“Three months is a long time.”
Okay, he definitely hadn’t made that up. Ellie Richards was sitting next to him, stretching out those long, tanned legs and telling him that three months was a long time to go without sex. Jake’s body definitely agreed. He shifted on his sun lounger and let his head fall backwards, staring up at the sky.
Three months without sex wasn’t a big deal. Three months without sex when there was constant temptation at very close quarters was proving to be an ordeal.
Usually he found a girl or two in a port town who’d enjoy a summer fling with a British sailor. This year, he hadn’t bothered. It hadn’t been a deliberate decision. Just that he hadn’t been tempted by any of the Italian girls with their dark eyes and wide smiles this year. What man would be, when they had Ellie to look at every day? He couldn’t stop himself from glancing across at her again. Still gorgeous. Still off limits.
“Are you still missing your guy?” The bastard heartbreaker, as Jake liked to think of him.
She shook her head. “No. Really not. It’s been good to get away and get some perspective on him. I was an idiot.”
“You’re too hard on yourself.”
“I should have realised he was seeing someone else. It was obvious to everyone else. Anyway, I won’t make that mistake again. Next time, I’ll do my homework.”
“There’s going to be a next time?”
She frowned. “I certainly hope so. I’m not planning on staying celibate for the rest of my life.”
“What about the rest of this week?” Because if Ellie wanted help breaking her duck, he was all hers. At least for the next few days.
Her eyes widened and her eyebrows rose. “Are you flirting with me?”
He tipped his head back and laughed. “Yes. After a whole summer of trying very hard not to flirt with you, you finally broke me.”
She laughed too, but only for a moment before she looked away in embarrassment. She brushed his hand off, stood up and collected the dirty cups back onto the tray.
“I’d better get back to work.”
“Ellie.” He took hold of her wrist and held it loosely. Her pulse was racing fast under his thumb. Terrified? Or excited? How the hell was he supposed to tell the difference? She hadn’t pulled away, so that was good, right? His pulse was racing, too. God, it was like he was some schoolkid again. Asking girls out wasn’t supposed to be this hard when you were his age. But then, Ellie wasn’t just any girl.
“What?” She was watching him carefully. Cautiously, dammit.
He squeezed his hand and hoped she’d find it reassuring. “Any time you’re ready to end your celibacy, just let me know.”
He met her gaze steadily and tried to make it clear that he was serious. No flirting, but he meant it. She’d know, surely, that he couldn’t be offering more than a few nights. They were almost at the end of their summer together. She’d hinted that she was ready to start moving on and maybe a night or two with Jake would help her with that.
She extracted her hand from his grasp and looked at him for a long moment during which Jake entirely forgot to breathe. He could almost believe she wanted to say yes. He bit back a sigh of disappointment when she shook her head at him.
“Right. I’ll do that. Now I really do need to get back to work.”
10,000 word short story