“Don’t worry about a thing” Graham assured his daughter. “We’ll take care of everything.”
“Thanks Dad” she sniffed. It seemed that all she did was cry lately. “I don’t know what I’d do without you but are you sure?”
“I’m positive” he said with quiet assurance. “With Noble’s help I’m sure everything will run smoothly.”
“I can do it myself” Noble grumbled chafing that his parents had insisted on calling his grandpa to help.
“It never hurts to have help” Graham said with an easy smile towards his grandson. “I won’t step in unless absolutely necessary.”
“We appreciate your help” Ryan assured him despite the sour expression on his son’s face. “I’m sorry we interrupted your vacation plans.”
“Don’t worry about that” Derek said with an easy grin putting an arm around Graham’s shoulders. “We’re glad to help.”
“Thank you” Charity quickly gave her step dad a hug.
“Have you called Zane” Graham asked.
“Why would I do that” she demanded “he cut us out of his life years ago. All he has time for now is his new family.”
“It’s your decision sweetie” Graham assured her “I think he might want to know what’s happening with his granddaughter.”
“I’ll think about it” she said “I can’t promise more than that.”
“That’s all I ask” Graham hugged her tight. “I feel responsible for the way things went between you and your dad when our relationship fell apart.”
“That’s not your fault” she said “it was mine and his. We could have tried harder but it’s too late now.”
“It’s never too late” he said “but you better hurry up before you miss your flight.”
“Unity are you ready” Charity called turning to find her daughter shuffling into the room. She was wearing a sweatshirt and carrying a fluffy blue blanket. “It’s not going to be that cold on the main island. The weather is going to be the same as it is here.”
“But I’m cold” she whined.
“Sweetheart let her take the blanket” Ryan urged “you know the plane is going to be cold.”
“You’re right” Charity attempted to smile turning to face her family. “We’ll be home before you know it.”
Justice stepped up to his little sister shoving a fluffy bear into her arms. “Something to keep you company” he mumbled.
“It’s Mr Truffles” she cried “he’s your favorite.”
“Shh” his eyes darted around the room “not so loud.”
Smiling up at him she giggled “you don’t make a very good bad boy. You’re too nice.”
“Hey I’m not nice” he protested “just ask Dad. I block doors preventing old people from leaving.”
“You didn’t” she gasped wide eyed.
“I so did” he nodded pretending this was just another day. Not a crisis. Blinking he grumbled “you better be okay.”
Squeezing the bear in her arms “I’ll take good care of Mr Truffles for you.”
“You better” he gave her a mock glare before bending to give her a hug whispering in her ear. “He’s almost as precious as you are.”
Graham leaned against the door waiting for his grandson to look up from the pile of paperwork he was shuffling through. When he still didn’t look up, Graham cleared his throat. “I know you see me. I’m not going away until we talk.”
Groaning Noble sat back glaring up at the older man. “I’m busy.”
Taking a seat Graham leaned forward. “I know you want to prove yourself worthy of running the resort. This isn’t the way.”
“It’ll work” he insisted.
“It won’t” Graham said letting his words sink in.
“You don’t know that” Noble scoffed “you haven’t even given it a chance.”
If you’d pull your head out of your ass for a moment I’ll tell you why it won’t work.” This time there was an edge to Graham’s voice that wasn’t there before.
“It’s not working because you and Loyal aren’t supporting me. Every chance you get you talk against it.” The petulant expression on Noble’s face might have been pitiable if he hadn’t spoke out of a sense of wounded pride.
“You don’t have the authority to make the kind of changes you want to make” Graham pointed out. “As I recall your dad already vetoed the idea before he left. How do you think he’d feel if you went ahead and made the change behind his back?”
“He wouldn’t say anything” Noble insisted “especially when he sees how well its working.”
“No” Graham shook his head “I have final say in any major decisions. I happen to agree with Ryan on this one.”
“It’ll save us money in the long run” Noble insisted “I did the math. It makes sense.”
“I’m not arguing with you” Graham said sternly. “You can see the discontent in the employees already. Some have already threatened to quit.”
“So” he shook his head finding it difficult to believe why his grandpa was so against this. “Let the quit.”
“You’ll spend more in the long run by having a high turnover rate and training costs than you ever would in keeping good loyal employees happy.” Graham pointed out.
“I hadn’t thought of that” Noble admitted with a sigh “but I’m sure it’ll work out. The math makes sense.”
“Let me suggest something to you” Graham leaned forward sensing that Noble might be receptive. “While your parents are away. Try running the resort the way they do. Get a feel for the business before you go making changes. Earn the staff’s respect and they’ll support you in any future changes.”
“That’ll take too long” he groaned impatience shining through.
“It won’t be as long as you think” Graham sighed thinking it was just yesterday when he and Zane had started out. The resort was everything he never wanted but it turned out to be the glue for his growing family.
“I’ll consider it” Noble sighed “do you think you could talk to Loyal form? Ask him to come back.”
Graham stood p not relishing the dubious task of convincing his other grandson into coming back and supporting his brother. “I’ll try but it would mean a lot more if you apologized.”
“What do I have to apologize for” Noble demanded frowning “I’m the one doing all the work.”
Shaking his head Graham left the office promising to try.
“Hey” Belle called running up beside Loyal as he walked along the beach. “You haven’t been around much. Are you okay” she asked remembering the last time they’d been together.
Stopping he stared at the girl in front of him. It took him a moment to remember who she was. “Belle” he murmured.
“Don’t tell me you forgot about me” she pouted.
“Err” he felt the blood rush to his cheeks. Had he gotten her name wrong?
Smiling she took his arm. “I’ve been worried about you. How is your sister?”
Staring at the hand Belle wrapped around his arm. Warm, soft and gentle. Her touch made him think of his sister. “She’s getting treated at the Children’s Hospital on the main island. We’re all hoping she’ll respond and go into remission.”
“I’m so sorry” she spoke softly.
“She’s so young” he blinked back tears. “Half the time I can’t believe this is really happening. It’s a nightmare I can’t wake up from.”
“You’re welcome to join us” Belle suggested jerking her head towards her friends.
Sniffing Loyal shook his head. “I’m not very good company.”
“It’ll do you good” she insisted tugging on his arm a little.
“No really I’d rather be alone right now.” Shaking his he continued “I don’t have the energy to pretend to have a good time and ….” Sighing he shrugged unsure what else to say.
“And you don’t want people asking why your in a bad mood” she finished for him. “I can understand.” She bit her bottom lip “I could keep you company. I mean if you want company. You did say you wanted to be alone.”
A ghost of a smile tugged at his lips. “No I’d like that. I might not say much but” he gave her a shy look that said more than any words he could come up with.
Taking his hand she squeezed it tight. Silently she turned towards the ocean. The sun was just beginning to set. “You don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to” she said keeping her voice low as she watched the waves.
His heart skipped several beats as he lost himself to the moment. The razor’s edge of guilt prevented him from fully getting into the moment. How could he be enjoying himself when his sister was fighting for her life. “I shouldn’t be happy” he mumbled to himself as he stared at the woman beside him. Her long dark hair reminding him of his sister. Would she live to be an adult? Would she know the joy of falling in love?
“She wouldn’t want you to stop enjoying life” Belle said looking up at him.
“I know” he acknowledged “why should I be so lucky?”
“Don’t question it” Belle reached up to cup his face between her hands. “Life’s too short to let moments go by without appreciating them.”
Closing his eyes he leaned into her. Breathing deeply he took in her scent. He may always associate the beach with the scent of rose petals. For the moment he let himself relax.
Jenna slowed her steps as she passed the doors leading to the pool. The boy she’d met her first day on the island moped beside the pool. He held a long pole she assumed was used for cleaning. He didn’t seem to be doing much cleaning just staring into space. Before she realized what she was doing her feet were moving her towards him.
Justice looked up, a vacant expression in his eyes. Jenna doubted he was seeing anything around him. The lively spark she had seen before had been extinguished. “You missed a spot” she teased as she came up behind him.
Grunting he whirled around losing his footing on the slick pool side. For a moment his arms pen wheeled before he fell backwards into the pool. Jenna squealed as the spray of water soaked her. He came up spitting water from his mouth. “What’s the big idea” he demanded swimming to the edge.
“Hey don’t blame me” she said taking several steps backwards “it’s not my fault you spazzed out and fell in.”
“You shouldn’t sneak up on people” he grumbled gathering his things. Dripping water from head to toe as he went. His shoes squeaked as he walked as he began to put the pool supplies away. Surveying the puddles he left in his wake he pulled out a mop and bucket.
“That’s not going to do any good” she observed.
“Why the hell not” he challenged pulling his we shirt over his head.
“Well” her eyes traveled down his body in obvious appreciation of his defined pecs and abs. Shaking her head she lifted her eyes to meet his. “You’re just going to make more puddles as long as your clothes are wet.”
“And whose fault is that” he grumbled kicking his shoes off without untying them.
“I still maintain my innocence” Jenna giggled “Don’t you have any other clothes you can change into?”
Glaring at her beaming face he said “yeah I have other clothes. I’m not a pool boy every day.”
“Why don’t you change then” she asked attempting to keep her face straight and failing.
“Why didn’t I think of that” he hit the side of his head “oh yeah.” He snapped his fingers “I’ll drip all over the floor. My uptight brother will kill me for making a mess inside his pristine resort.”
“He was your brother” she asked astonished. “I thought he was more the age to be your dad. Still pretty hot though.”
It took him a moment to realize who she was referring too. “Not him. He really is my dad. My brother is the one in charge until my parents get back.”
“If you tell me where to find your clothes I’ll get them for you” she offered.
“It would be the least you could do after startling me in the first place” he said.
“Oh please” rolling her eyes “if you weren’t such a spaz that wouldn’t have happened.”
“I have a lot of things on my mind” he huffed.
“I bet” she teased “like some girl.”
“As a matter of fact it was a girl” he teased. The slight tensing around her eyes let him know that little bit of misinformation bothered her. It was gone as quickly as it appeared.
“Turned you down didn’t she” she said knowingly. “Can’t say I blame her.” She turned walking towards the resort doors.
“Hey” he called after her “what about my clothes?”
“Not my problem” she laughed “you’re a smart boy. You’ll figure it out.”