Book 5 in the Sapphire Cay Series
Model, Isaac Bailey wants to break into the world of fashion design. Under his father’s company name, he is set to debut his new collection—summer wear.
He has the models, the clothes, what he needs is a location. Mitch Stone is a trouble shooter. His latest client needs an exotic location and he happens to know someone with the very thing—Sapphire Cay.
Having underestimated Isaac as nothing more than an airhead model, Mitch soon discovers there is much more to the young man than he first thought.
As the fashion shoot gets underway, Mitch has to contend with his feelings for his old love, Dylan, and the very new and growing affections he has for Isaac.
What starts as just another job, turns out to be more fruitful and exhilarating than winning any multi-million dollar contract.
Word count: 33,300
Cover Art: Meredith Russell
Editor: RJ Locksley and Erika Orrick
Copyright: RJ Scott & Meredith Russell
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Mitch Stone sipped at very weak whiskey and water and people-watched. He’d done the rounds twice already, flirted with the women, talked sports with the men, and every other cliché under the sun. Now he was hiding to give himself some time to think and staying as sober as he could while having a drink permanently in his hand.It’s Christmas Eve, live a little.
“Why are you hiding over here?” his senior manager asked with a frown. She was looking a little glassy-eyed, and the champagne glass in her hand was nearly empty.
Mitch lifted his glass in a toast and smiled easily. He liked Doris, with all her power suits and her impossibly high heels. Tonight she appeared relaxed, and it was a good look on her. “I’m just taking a breather.” He wasn’t going to lie to her. She was uncannily quick to see through anyone’s bullshit.
“Don’t stay here,” she admonished. She grabbed a new champagne flute from one of the waiters and sipped at it. “I’m going out to find some fun. I’ll find you some while I’m at it.”
“Don’t—“ She’d gone before he could say what he wanted to say. Mitch watched her weave expertly through the groups forming around the small tables and toward a particularly gorgeous young man who had caught Mitch’s eye more than once tonight.
He must be a party favor, young guys and girls brought in to add glitter and romance, slim young girls with short dresses and scarlet lipstick who pandered to any man at a loose end in the crowd, escorts who were available if you needed them. That was how it worked at big seasonal parties like this one. Since there were women who might need that little something, this particular party also included a whole team of cute men who sashayed and mingled, with alcohol they didn’t drink and promise in their expressions. They were all included in with the party, no cost involved.
This young guy, all bright-eyed with soft spiky hair, was so slim it almost seemed unnatural, but he had a good ass, a nice handful, and he was just as happy casting glances back at Mitch. Doris chatted to him, placing a hand on the young guy’s shoulder and leaning in to say something into his ear. He laughed at whatever Doris was saying and looked over at Mitch. Oh shit, no. Is Doris setting me up with one of the party favors? Like hell that’s happening.
The young man, who must be in his early twenties, nodded his head and spoke to Doris, all the while looking at Mitch, and Mitch ducked away before the man decided he needed an escort tonight. He was here on business, and the last thing he needed was sex.
This was Mitch Stone’s night. He was at the Haddison-Walker Christmas Eve party, and he was selling his brand to anyone who wanted him. Wearing charcoal Armani, with his loafers polished to a high sheen, his favorite Armani shirt, and a rich blue tie, he knew he looked good. He looked completely the part of the guy who deserved to be here.
“Hey, Mitch,” a CEO with his wife clinging to his arm called out.
Mitch nodded as he walked past like he had somewhere to be, when in fact all he wanted was another quiet corner to people-watch. He’d schmoozed with that particular CEO—he already had the man’s card in his pocket. He might be new to the company, but brokering the Haddison-Walker deal with Davis was the kind of news that left people slapping his back and asking how the hell he had done it. Everyone who had ever guided the two companies in any kind of joint project knew just how hard it was to get a positive outcome. The CEOs were brothers yet hated each other. Their passions were quick to ignite to temper, but somehow Mitch Stone had managed the near impossible. He’d worked out a joint marketing deal that was beneficial to both sides.
I am a confident, capable marketing executive, he’d told himself before he came down to the party from his room. He had to believe that, otherwise he would fail to capitalize on the big win and be just another low-level marketing assistant sliding into obscurity.
Mitch wanted to be the marketing fixer, using every skill he’d learned from ten years with Dylan Gray Senior about contracts and terms. He needed to be the first one Miami companies thought of when they wanted help. And he had to be the one who matched person to product or group to sponsor. His unique firefighting style of marketing expertise, from graffiti to flash mobs, was making waves in the business world here in Miami. He had his finger on the pulse and Dolphins tickets in his pocket along with cards and notes from prospective clients.
There was good money here tonight, people in all kinds of business wanting his particular skills. Companies wanted the edge; they wanted young and new and fresh. This party was that kind of party—networking, smiling, hugging, and air kisses with good food and excellent wine.
“Mitch Stone! Didn’t think I would see you here.” A voice from his left had him turning. “Thought you’d be too busy out spending your bonus.”
Mitch shook hands with someone he recognized, but for the life of him he couldn’t place the name of the man. He was probably one of the team who had been up in New York on long-term assignment and he wouldn’t be the first face Mitch couldn’t put a name to.
“Thought I’d take Haddison-Walker up on their invite,” Mitch said. He wasn’t going to share the real reason he was here. Just that he needed to mingle and get himself out there to avoid the thought of doing fuck-all over Christmas.
The guy took a step back and thrust a very pretty woman forward. She had a big baby-bump and looked serene in the pregnant-lady version of a little black dress.
“This is Melinda, my wife,” the guy said proudly.
Mitch air-kissed and said all the right things. “When are you due?”
“End of March,” Melinda said. “Jerry is so excited. He’s like a kid at Christmas.” Jerry! That’s right, Jerry something-or-other.
Jerry pulled his wife in close and squeezed her. “Why wouldn’t I be? I’m here at the party of the year with the gorgeous woman who’s carrying our baby and whom I couldn’t love more. What could possibly beat this?” He was beaming and maybe just a little drunk. Hell, he was clearly so besotted with his life at the moment that Mitch felt a twinge of irrational jealousy. I’m happy with the deal and the bonus and the kudos, that’s enough…
Not that he wanted a woman by his side or, perish the thought, a baby on its way. But to have someone on Christmas Eve must be kind of nice. Maybe one of these sexy but drunken marketing execs making more noise than they needed to was gay and fancied a hookup that would smooth Mitch into Christmas Day.
“We have to go,” Melinda apologized. She placed a hand on her swollen belly. “We called a cab. I get so tired.”
“Nice to meet you. Good luck with the baby,” Mitch said with an accompanying smile. He even managed to push genuine emotion into his voice, despite the alcohol in his system and the headache that threatened at his temples.
Jerry took Melinda and the two vanished into the throng, leaving Mitch at loose ends. Fixers like him didn’t stand around waiting for people to come to them; they went into the crowd like sharks. Do I really have to? On Christmas Eve? Haven’t I got enough business for a while?
Jerry appeared back at his side, a bright purple wrap over his arm. “I meant to tell you… I have a client in need of a photo shoot, large budget. I’m worried I’m going to drop the ball on this one, what with Melinda and everything. I’m trying to pull in Bruno Cash, but he needs some persuading.” He handed over a bright pink Post-It note with some scribbled details. “They’re looking for standard stuff, so maybe it isn’t your kind of thing, and I realize you’re busy with the Haddison-Walker/Davis thing. But the company is looking for something a bit special in the way of a survivalist tents, fires, island-type thing. I’ll finish all the groundwork, but I was hoping you’d be my backup if Melinda is early.”
Mitch nodded. How likely was it that Melinda would be early? Anyway, he could do with making a few friends at the company.
“Happy to help if I can,” Mitch said automatically. Actually, it sounded like nothing he would be interested in working on, but he wouldn’t pass on it just yet, not when he wasn’t sober. Never make a drunken decision, his mom admonished him in his thoughts, and he remembered he hadn’t called her yet to wish her Merry Christmas.
Mitch made a show of pocketing the Post-It. As soon as Jerry left, Mitch pushed the request to the back of his mind and turned determinedly toward the groups of men and woman who needed his special skills. He schmoozed with the best of them, and only when he’d done enough talking did he wander out to the balcony with the ocean view and turn his thoughts to the Post-It note and what Jerry had said.
The sea, beaches, camps, fires—all the thoughts in his head swirled around to one person, as they always did. His ex-lover, Dylan, of the come-to-bed blue eyes. He has an island. And if Mitch fixed something between Dylan and this client, then that meant he had a valid reason to see Dylan again and maybe check out just what this boyfriend of Dylan’s was like, Liam or Luke or something beginning with an L. He resolved to pass on details of the island to Jerry anyway, and maybe he would make himself available as a replacement if needed. Any excuse to visit Sapphire Cay. And Dylan.
“Hot in there, isn’t it?”
Mitch sighed inwardly. He was done with the networking. He just wanted to stay out here in the cool night air with his crystal tumbler of whiskey and imagine Dylan’s response if Mitch asked to use his island. He’ll probably charge me double.
He cast a look sideways and his irritation became even more pronounced when he recognized the slim guy Doris was talking to next to him, all sultry-eyed and wet-lipped.
“No. But thank you,” Mitch said firmly. He might not have had actual sex in nearly two months. But, shit, the last thing he needed was the sex on offer from one of the party favors.
The young man—dark brown eyes and beautiful in an angular way—simply blinked up at him. Or across to him. Actually, for a twink he was a good five ten, and on closer inspection he looked a little older than the young guys hired in. Still, he was dressed in tight pants that left nothing to the imagination and a white shirt that strained over a slim, muscled body.
“Sorry?” he said and looked confused.
“Thank you, but no,” Mitch repeated. The young man looked behind him, clearly checking to see if Mitch was looking at someone else. Mitch sighed. “I don’t want what you’re offering.”
“Sorry.” The guy frowned. “Doris said I should talk to you. I was just commenting on the heat inside.” He held out his hand. “I’m—”
Instinctively Mitch raised his hand and shook his head. He wasn’t interested in names. Not ones of escorts, anyway. If the escort finished his introduction, Mitch didn’t hear. I have had more to drink than I thought.
Instead, as the man spoke, all Mitch could focus on was the sound, deep and sexy. “Okay. So who offered you something you didn’t want?” the stranger asked curiously.
Mitch sighed tiredly. “Half the guys like you in the room.”
The man shifted so his back was against the rail and sipped what looked like cranberry and ice. “Like me?”
“Here for the party.”
“We’re all here for the party, or am I wrong?”
“You know what I mean.” God, was this guy being deliberately obtuse? A couple other people joined them on the balcony, and Mitch suddenly felt incredibly awkward. What if a potential client saw him talking to one of the escorts? Time to head out. “Nice to meet you,” he said without meaning it. Then he stalked back into the crowd and made straight for the exit of the large ballroom.
He went to the nearest elevators and pressed the up button. He wasn’t the only one at this party who was staying overnight, but he was probably the only one going back to his room this early with the express purpose of spending Christmas Eve on his own.
As soon as Mitch was back in room 2512, he flung off his jacket and slumped into the chair at the window with three of the small bottles from the mini bar in his hand. Dylan and his island were front and center in his head, and he blamed Jerry for putting him there. He downed the alcohol and stared into the dark until finally he couldn’t see any reason why phoning Dylan this late on Christmas Eve wasn’t a brilliant idea. He pulled out his cell and searched for Sapphire Cay, finding the number quickly and looking at the website. The site was pretty, functional, but beyond that, it was kind of difficult to find the number on the tiny screen and there was no Facebook page. Finally, after much squinting at his iPhone, he found a number, and before he could second-guess himself, he connected a call. The island would be the perfect backdrop for what Jerry needed, Mitch was sure of it. He could leave a message—strike while the iron was hot, so to speak.
Evidently the main number wasn’t connected to an answering machine this late at night but direct through to a cell phone. Dylan’s cell. Fuck.
“What’s wrong? Is it Dad?” Dylan asked instead of identifying himself. He sounded panicked, and Mitch felt instant guilt.
“Dylan, that you?” He’d drunk enough to be on the cusp of slurring his words, and he focused hard on speaking. “I need to book your island,” he added.
Dylan made a sound of annoyance. “What the hell, Mitch?”
“Got a contract with models, lots of ’em, and Jerry said he needed an island. Then I thought, Dylan has a freaking island. And it’s Christmas Eve, and I was thinking about you. Not thinking about you really, just you were in my head. Right? Am I right? Or am I wrong?” He attempted to keep his thoughts rational, but what was in his head wasn’t exactly coming out of his mouth in any kind of coherent fashion.
Dylan’s tone softened. “It’s nearly midnight on Christmas Eve, Mitch, why are you phoning me?”
There was whispering, something about drunk dialing, although the words were muffled. Mitch should have known the L-man would be there. “Dylan! My man, you still there?”
Dylan came back. “Mitch, Merry Christmas and all, but you gotta phone me after January first, man.”
Oh yeah. After Christmas, and not on Christmas Eve. He felt a hysterical bubble of laughter in his throat. “Oh. My bad.” Then he pressed on with the question he wanted answered. “So can I have your island?”
“Lucas can check dates after New Year’s for you.”
Lucas! That was his name. Not Liam or Luke. Lucas. “Lucas. How is he? Still the love of your life?” Mitch was genuinely happy for Dylan being happy. Well, sometimes he was happy for him. Other times he regretted having had a stick up his ass and never talking to Dylan about how he felt way back when. Never mind, that was in the past now.
“Goodbye, Mitch,” Dylan said. The message was clear. I have things to do on Christmas Eve and they don’t include talking to you, Mitch.
“Oh, okay then. Merry Christmas.” The finality of the call ending, of losing a friendly voice on the phone, hit him, and suddenly he didn’t feel so much drunk as tired.
“Hang on. Mitch, what are you doing for Christmas?”
Mitch considered what he was doing. Staying here overnight, eating the overpriced breakfast, drinking champagne, going home. “Nothing special.”
“You seeing Dad?”
Regret slid through Mitch. There wasn’t a single day when he didn’t think about the final day working for Dylan’s dad and Dylan himself. Still, he wasn’t going to let Dylan know what he was feeling. Instead he cased the words in an icy disdain. “I don’t work for him anymore. Couldn’t. Not after he got all soft on a client and refused to seal the deal. We argued, I walked. Didn’t he tell you?”
“We don’t talk much,” Dylan said after a pause. Then he changed the subject. “What about spending Christmas with your brother?”My brother? With his wife and his picture-perfect house and his medical degree? That isn’t happening this side of ever.
“He’s in England with his new wife.” Mitch began to feel defensive. Who was Dylan to think he could comment on Mitch’s life? “I don’t want to see anyone at Christmas.” He snorted a laugh. “Jeez, Dylan, you getting slow in your old age playing house with that man of yours? We’re not all settled down. Some of us like to play the field and enjoy ourselves.”
“Uh-huh.” Dylan didn’t call him on his bullshit response. It was a good thing, because if Dylan continued in that direction, Mitch might fold under the strain. “Phone me in the New Year. And have a good Christmas, Mitch.”
“You too,” Mitch offered lamely. He ended the call and placed the cell carefully on the small side table. Then he tilted his head back to stare at the ceiling. You too, Dylan.
The pity-party-for-one lasted a good half hour, enough for the whiskey edge to fade, and he cursed himself for his stupidity. What was he doing sitting in his goddamned hotel room this early on Christmas Eve when he could be downstairs finding one of the favors and celebrating Christmas the way he should? Maybe that brunet from the balcony, the one who looked barely legal with the dark eyes and the kiss-me lips.
He used the bathroom, brushed his teeth, checked his hair, and donning his jacket, he left the room. When the elevator doors opened, he slid in and checked himself in the three walls of mirrors. He looked good for thirty-one. The elevator stopped at the eighteenth floor, and as if the fates were smiling on him, the guy from the balcony walked in, adjusting his shirt as he did. Clearly on his way back from a meet-up. He looked at Mitch warily.
“Sorry about earlier,” Mitch said. Then, as the doors of the elevator slid shut, he pressed the escort against the glass and kissed him.
By the time the elevator reached the first floor, and hell, it must have only been a couple seconds, Mitch was hard and his hookup was wrapped around him like a monkey on a tree.
Mitch pressed the button to take them back up to his room. That decision was an easy one.
Mitch backed him out of the elevator and to his room, still kissing, still hard, and even when the door shut behind them, Mitch didn’t stop kissing. They separated as they stumbled over Mitch’s discarded shoes, and the young guy opened his mouth to speak.
“No names needed,” Mitch said firmly.
The man’s eyes widened, but Mitch didn’t give him a chance to form a reply, pushing him back until he lay on the bed, a wide grin on the escort’s face.
“I can go with that,” the escort said. He arched up as he shimmied out of slim pants and his pristine white shirt. “Not calling you anything,” he added and curled up to pull at his socks. Finally, he lay in just leave-nothing-to-the-imagination briefs. He was already hard, but he didn’t touch himself. Instead he sprawled back, his legs spread and his hands over his head and clasped together. He looked like he was fucking posing, all perfect hair and toned form.
Mitch shoved at his own clothes, and finally naked, he crawled up the bed and decided the best way to enjoy this gorgeous Christmas gift was to mess that perfection right up. He spent time kissing, enjoying the taste of whiskey and the promise of that mouth on his cock later. At the same time, he tousled the guy’s hair with his fingers, finally pulling it free from the confines of gel and mousse and whatever the hell else was in it to keep it looking so damn designer. Finally he was happy and nuzzled his face into the man’s neck, inhaling the scent there, citrus and spice and all things edible.
From there Mitch nipped and kissed a path to two perfect nipples in a hairless chest, loving the sensation of his lips on acres of smooth skin. One thing about the escorts, they were certainly high-class.
Traveling south, he pulled back the cotton to expose his bedmate’s cock, hard and flushed with need, and only a sudden sense of self-preservation had him stopping.
“Where are your condoms?” Mitch asked and looked down at discarded pants.
“Shit. Don’t have any,” was the frustrated answer.
“What kind of a… never mind.” Mitch wasn’t thinking about why an escort would have run out of condoms already. Instead he was too needy, too tired of waiting around, and he rolled off the guy with haste. Rummaging in his wash bag, he grabbed condoms and his ever-present lube and was back on the bed before his lover decided to make a run for it. Given the wide-eyed expression on his face, it looked possible.
“I don’t get—”
“Shh,” Mitch said.
He slicked his fingers and slid them to the man’s ass, pressing inside him with a sharp movement.
“Fuck,” his one-night stand cursed.
Mitch stilled. For running out of condoms, this guy sure was tight. Jeez, was this guy a top? He’d never even thought to ask. When the escort screwed himself down onto Mitch’s fingers and inhaled sharply before doing it again, Mitch decided he must be versatile. Fucking thank God for that.
Mitch stretched him, kissing the guy’s inner thighs, before rolling on a condom and encouraging the escort onto all fours. Sinking into the tight heat was bliss; stilling his movement when the guy under him groaned was instinct.
“You okay?” he asked. Mitch might well be the third or fourth guy with this escort tonight, but he wasn’t going to hurt him. Even though it went against every instinct he had, he stopped and waited. Finally his lover pushed back, and from there, everything was a blur.
Mitch closed his eyes and fucked every ounce of his need into this willing body. Falling back to his heels, he pulled the escort with him, every muscle in his body screaming for release. They kissed, awkwardly, messily at that angle, and Mitch opened his eyes, caught in the unfathomable brown of the escort’s gaze. There was innocence there, lust, need. Mitch reached around as they kissed, and with a few twists the escort was coming, with Mitch not long after.
They fell to the bed in a tangle of limbs, the escort chuckling. “Fuck, that was hot.”
“Mmm,” Mitch hummed. He eased out and discarded the condom, wiping himself with tissues next to the bed. He passed the box to the other man and watched as he cleaned himself up.
Then with a contented smile, the escort closed his sexy, heavy-lidded dark eyes and in seconds was asleep.
Mitch reached over to shake him awake but stopped at the last moment. He looked so peaceful, all fucked out and sprawled on the bed. What the hell. It was a huge bed, and Mitch could stand to have a companion for a little while. He eased up from the bed, and just because he was a careful kind of guy, he locked his wallet in the small room safe.
After all, this guy might be a high-class escort, but he was still on the shady side. Finally, Mitch was back under the covers, and he closed his eyes, every muscle in his body relaxing.
* * * * *
When they woke and the escort used his talent to bring Mitch off with lips and hands only it was one hell of a way to be woken up. And when the man smiled up at him, his lips swollen and his expression heavy with lust, Mitch wished for a brief moment that this escort was just a normal guy. Because they were dynamite in bed.
They showered at some ungodly hour and that ended with Mitch fucking his hookup over the bathtub.
He woke at a little after six, only an hour before the shuttle was picking him up to take him home. He reached to nudge the escort awake. Then he stopped. The kid looked exhausted and sweet and vulnerable. Mitch shook the thoughts from his head, that insistent press that maybe he could do some kind of Richard Gere and get this guy into proper work. Not that being an escort was like hanging around on street corners, but there was something about his hookup that screamed connection.
What the hell am I looking for? Did he imagine he could sweep in and keep this one for real, like a Christmas story or something where he could give the young man a happy ending? Like an escort would give up the thousands he probably earned doing something he enjoyed for a chance with a bitter marketing exec.Getting soft in my old age.
Instead of worrying any more, he left a tip on the small table and exited the room. The guy had been good, and that was a plus from an otherwise boring Christmas event.
Prism Book Alliance
"....I’ve been reading the Sapphire Cay stories since the very first book; they are like coming home and meeting old friends. My oasis of calm all rolled into one. It doesn’t matter how bad my day has been a trip to Sapphire Cay has the power to lower my blood pressure and relax me like nothing else...."
"....I loved this one so much, it’s by far my favourite of the series (and long may they continue). I don’t want to say anything more about the story except to say Mitch is perfect as the uptight businessman who’s forgotten how to unwind, he wants what he finds on the Cay but he’s scared to reach out and take it, thinking that you can’t build a future on a holiday fling. I loved Isaac too; he was very sweet and quite nervous of the fashion shoot for his first collection. One touch that I loved was how the pictures of Peter and Alfie, found in Christmas on the Cay, were mentioned, that’s the type of thing that’s wonderful about these stories, each one feeds into the next, and I can’t wait to hear their story too...."
Rated: 5 Stars
Link to full review
"....This was such a sweet romance, especially when Mitch kissed Isaac's worries away. The two men had their own issues to deal with and they did deal with them - together - and that just made me smile happily for them both. This does have a fairy tale feel to it though, so is kind of dreamy. Then again, I think dreamy is good, especially when I fall in love with two men I knew nothing about and made me curious enough to pick up the rest of the series...."
Rated: 4 Stars
Link to full review
Because Two Men Are Better Than One - Reviewed by Nic Starr
"....I really enjoy this series. It’s like receiving a lovely little gift each time a new book is released. What makes it appealing, at least for me, is the familiarity of the setting – who can resist a gorgeous tropical island? – and also the chance to get little glimpses of characters we’ve met before. Plus I always like the pairing of the men in the story.
....This story combines some hot sex with a sweet story as these men get in touch with their emotions. It’s a gentle, read-in-one-sitting kind of book, that leaves you smiling at the happy ending...."
Link to original review
The Blogger Girls - Guest Reviewed by Kristy
"....When I was asked to review this book, I was excited. I have read the first three in the series and loved them. Yes, some of our favorite past characters do make appearances.
When the story started, I sensed something wasn’t right about Mitch’s “date” for the night. When I found out the truth, I was honestly mortified for him and his behavior. I wanted to cuff the back of his head and ask “Didn’t your mother teach you better!” I have to admit, when Mitch realized his screw-up, I laughed and thought, “That should teach you not to be a loosey-goosey.”....
....I will most definitely be recommending it to all my readers.
Overall Impression: I loved it!...."
Link to original review
This book was added to our catalog on Saturday 28 June, 2014.