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Free Island Romance Novels
"Island Recess" by
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Recess" An Island Romance Set In The Virgin Islands, By Sonora Rayne.
About the author.
As a single woman, Canadian-born author Sonora Rayne lived and
traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean. Her stories are based on real
life experiences in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, The Bahamas and Panama.
She is currently married and resides in Austin, Texas. For
information on purchasing the rights to her works, contact Island Romance Novels
here. Contact Island Romance Novels
The following story contains adult language
and situations. For Ages 18 and Above
Island Recess, Chapter 1.
Breathing heavily from her recent exertion, Helena stood at the top of a steep
incline, one foot on the pedal of her mountain-bike, the other steadying her on
the rough terrain. A few errant curls strayed from beneath her bike-helmet and
fluttered across her forehead with the warm breeze. Far below, the waters of the
Caribbean unfurled in smooth waves and spilled along a white stretch of sand.
Shielding her eyes from the glare of the noon sun, she scanned the town-site
below for a sign of the apartment she had leased for the summer. Located near
the local ball field, the tiny building was sadly in need of repair. Even from
this distance, the moss-covered roof looked in imminent danger of collapse.
Helena smiled as she recalled her first encounter with her summer home.
Shrouded in a damp linen suit that had proven not to be wrinkle-free she had
stood in the middle of the bachelor apartment and cried. This was not the
seaside villa she had envisioned as she and her prospective landlord had tapped
out queries and responses via e-mail. She tried in vain to recall the somewhat
blurred electronic image of a pastel condominium complex posted beside the
unit‘s description. Helena had book-marked the site on her computer, visiting
and re-visiting the advertisement numerous times before finally leaving her
e-mail address. Charming Mediterranean style sea-side villa, the claim had read.
Even though it was after dark when her taxi driver took her from the landing
dock at Cruz Bay through a bewildering array of twists and turns to her new
home, she could see that it was a long way from an all-inclusive paradise. A
sagging screen door slumped from its hinges, causing Helena to visualize a
nightly invasion of rodent-sized arachnids. Helena had heard on the radio just
that morning that the average parson eats five spiders in their sleep over a
lifetime. She had hoped that the average inadvertent arachnid-consumption was
not any higher in the Virgin Islands than in Seattle. Thick green aloe plants
twined along the walkway, their branching fingers catching at her bare ankles.
Dragging behind her an enormous wheeled suitcase, Helena had sworn under her
breath as she attempted to negotiate the narrow concrete steps. Her elderly
landlord had shuffled to greet her with surprising speed in response to her
banging on the screen door. Although her first instinct had been to articulate
her frustration with a salty string of expletives, one look at the encouraging
smile of her e-mail correspondent and she swallowed the words with a sigh.
Beneath thick prescription lenses, his eyes swam like trapped brown fish. With
myopia of that extent, he likely did not even realize the dilapidated condition
of the building he had inherited from an elderly aunt.
She had extended her hand and forced a smile her aching face could ill afford.
“I’m Helena Travis,” she said, “I’ve come about the apartment.”
“Ben Holmes,” he had uttered in a booming voice, extending a wrinkled hand. “Of
course, of course; follow me.” Picking up one of her bags, he had gauged its
weight, then dropped it and motioned to the taxi driver to assist. Slowly, he
had ascended a stained set of linoleum stairs, and then paused, rooting about in
his pockets for a key. When he turned to face her, he swung open the door on her
new apartment. “Welcome home,” he had uttered with dramatic flair.
She had waited until she had handed Ben an envelope with the first month’s rent
and heard the door creak to a close behind him. Then, she had burst into tears.
Sitting on the edge of a dusty suitcase she had wept onto the sleeves of a cream
linen jacket, heedless of the smears of caramel make-up and globs of mascara
that now decorated the sleeves. When the last of her ragged sobs had died, she
forced herself to look around. The apartment was of the “efficiency” variety,
with a hot-plate and fridge and an old Murphy bed that pulled down from the
wall. She had stood and walked the length of the room, fingering the bubbling
paint and wincing at the bare bulb swinging from the ceiling. The dim light
illuminated a depressingly weathered linoleum floor and ancient slipcovers. With
a sigh, she pushed aside a set of faded print curtains, stepped out onto the
balcony, and gasped. The air on her face was cool and sweet, smelling of
tropical flowers and the tang of salt water. Although the lights of the
town-site were few and dim, the moon cast a pearly glow on the rushing waves and
sandy strip of beach. She had stood spellbound, watching the breathing of the
ocean a stone’s throw from her bare feet. Smiling, she turned and saw her home
with new eyes.
In the weeks that followed, Helena had devoted her spare time to making the
apartment seem more like home. Borrowing a ladder and brush from the elderly
landlord, she had set about painting her walls a sunny shade of yellow. In the
local tourist shopping area she struggled to choose among a myriad of gorgeous
batik fabrics. When she finally settled on a dazzling mix of indigo, royal and
teal blue with splashes of yellow for curtains, she made sure she had enough
left over to make a new slipcovers and an assortment of plump cushions for the
small wicker settee. In the evenings, she pulled the settee out onto the balcony
and sat with her arms wrapped about her knees, watching the wind whip the tops
of the waves into foam.Leaning against her bicycle and looking down at the pastel buildings spread
below, Helena smiled and shook her head as she recalled her initiation into the
languid rhythms of island life. Time seemed to move more slowly here, a
leisurely, gentle pace in which neighborly visiting took the place of the
faceless telephone and fax communications that were so much a part of her urban
Seattle life. Glancing down at her slim tanned arm, Helena noted wryly that she
had once again forgotten to wear her watch. Although only a little over two
months on the island, she was already learning to gauge the hour by the height
of the sun and the length of the shadows. A few minutes past noon, and the sun
was high overhead, cutting through the sparse clouds like a lance. Against her
damp face, the air was warm and scented with the promise of summer. Stretching
languidly, Helena pushed out the kick stand and left her bicycle standing by the
path. She slipped her backpack to one shoulder and meandered slowly across the
open clearing toward the drop-off to the beach, marveling at the vast spread of
indigo ocean coming into view. In the small bay, dozens of sailboats bobbed
gently with the swelling waves. Unzipping her backpack, Helena pulled out a
fluffy beach towel and spread it out over the sparse grass. The small crescent
beach below the steep drop-off was accessible by the main road and appeared to
be nearly empty, despite its being a Sunday afternoon. Although she knew the
warm sands of the popular tourist beach to be as soft as a sprinkle of talc,
Helena didn’t want to risk any interruptions to her temporary solitude. The
appearance of the towel was quickly followed by that of a cheap transistor
radio, a thick paperback novel and an even thicker sandwich. Biting into the
concoction of fried fish and ketchup, Helena drew her legs under her and sighed,
knowing that she had but weeks left until she returned to her home and to all
the questions she had still to answer. With great reluctance, she allowed her
thoughts to drift into a still painful re-run of the reasons behind her
impulsive move to St. John.
For a little over a year, Karl, her fiancé, (ex-fiancé, she reminded herself for
the thousandth time) had seemed like the proverbial perfect catch. Helena
grinned briefly over a mouthful of sandwich filling as she compared Karl to a
bushel of slippery, pungent-smelling, decidedly dead-fish, then resumed her
reverie. Everyone had commented on the suitability of the match: the much
anticipated alliance of the “perfect couple” about to embark on a fairy-tale
life. The compassionate school teacher, devoted to a life filled with children
and learning, was to wed the charismatic millionaire, and join him in expanding
the charitable portion of his business enterprises. In a year filled with what
she now saw to be every imaginable cliché: weekend jaunts by private jet,
elbow-rubbing with the rich and famous, and more material acquisitions than she
had imagined possible, Helena had fallen under the spell of Karl’s charm and
sophistication. When, on a moonlit stroll down the Champs Elysées, he had asked
for her hand in marriage, her response had been a breathless affirmative. With
the unanimous support of friends and family, she had begun immediate
preparations for a wedding that promised to be of elaborate and epic
proportions. Weeks later, she had begun to question her decision, but afraid to
admit her fears to anyone but herself, had remained silent but watchful. What
she had seen, and could no longer deny, was a dramatic transformation in Karl’s
behavior. Her formerly attentive suitor had become distracted, forgetful, easily
angered and increasingly remote.
After the umpteenth ruined dinner and sleepless night alone in the bed they now
shared, Helena had removed the heavy platinum and diamond setting from her
finger and dropped it with a angry clatter on the glass-topped bedside table.
Wrapping an over-size silk robe about her slim figure, she had padded barefoot
down the hall to his office. Lifting the corner of his leather desk blotter, she
had found what she was looking for. She had seated herself in the deep swivel
chair before the computer, switched on the monitor and hard-drive, and logged on
to the well-known web-site. Then, consulting the scrap of paper, she used Karl’s
password to access his e-mail account. Taking a deep breath, she had waited for
the machine to catch up with her typing, and then studied the screen in horror.
From the addresses and titles before her, she had understood instantly the
source and contents of the messages. Or sources, for there were several. Until
the early hours of the morning, when Karl tiptoed through the door with rumpled
clothing and familiar excuses, Helena read and re-read intimate messages her
fiancé had relayed to and received from women on both sides of the continent.
Coupled with these adulterous communications was confirmation of her worst
suspicions. Under the guise of a thinly-veiled code, were a number of messages
alluding to criminal activity, of which Karl was obviously either source or
coordinator. Her confrontation had been the controlled and confident response of
one who knows the undeniable truth. There were few tears and fewer
recriminations. Her mind was clear. Karl had responded to her accusations, first
with anger, and then with wheedling apologies. Even as she strode through the
door with suitcase in hand, her fiancé had reached out to her, called his
despair and clutched his forehead in seemingly theatrical distress. Turning one
last time, she had seen his face contort with animal fury, had heard him snarl,
“You bitch!” and saw him pick up a heavy crystal vase. The door closed to the
sound of glass shattering, and a piercing scream of rage.
As she rode that night by taxi to her mother’s home, she had been unable to stop
shaking, terrified by what she had done, and the consequences she feared would
follow. Reluctant even to leave the house, Helena had passed a week in ready
tears, curled up in her childhood bed, nurtured by a confused and concerned
mother. Each day she had called in sick to the school where she taught second
grade, and tried to field the increasingly threatening phone calls and e-mails
of an increasingly persistent, and angry Karl. Finally, she herself had turned,
with the support of her best friend, Julie, to the computer, and begun searching
for a home and temporary employment somewhere Karl’s threats and obsessive
attentions could not reach. She had found both in the Virgin Islands. Her funds
were tight, having invested the majority of her small savings in a recent
business venture of Karl’s that he claimed would double her money in a matter of
months. Having terminated their relationship shortly after, Helena had not had
the opportunity to see if his generous claims had come to fruition. After
arranging for a teacher to take over her class and selling the few items of
valuable jewelry still in her possession, Helena had purchased an economy ticket
to St. Thomas and arranged inexpensive accommodation on the nearby island of St.
John. Her Mediterranean-type villa, she thought with a smirk. Her position at
the Caribbean school was temporary, taking over for a staff member on emergency
medical leave, and was due to expire at the end of June. Helena planned to stay
in St. John until the end of July, and the end of her stress-leave, when her job
with the Seattle school board would have to be resumed, or relinquished. Her
finances were limited, and she knew she would have no choice but to return.
Gazing out at the harbor, and the boats dancing with the waves, Helena felt a
tug in her throat. How could she possibly leave the friends she had made, or the
children whose toothy smiles and ridiculous antics lightened her distress on
even her lowest days? Thanks to the kindness of the islanders, and to her own
eagerness to make connections, Helena no longer felt like an outsider. Lying
back on her towel, Helena stretched and sighed. “Carpe Diem,” was her motto.
“Seize the day.” “Better make hay while the sun shines,” was her mother’s. Less
Latin and just as apt, she thought to herself, as she shucked off her shorts and
tank top and stretched out on the towel clad only in her red string bikini. The
warmth of the sun on her back was soothing and she sleepily reached around to
undo the strings fastening the suit around her neck and back. If she was going
to return to Seattle in another month, she would do so without tell-tale tan
lines. Helena propped herself on her elbows and looked to left and right. The
grassy bluff was wide and bathed in sun, but too far off the beaten path to be
frequented by tourists. Far below on the beach, the oiled bodies of the few
sunbathers were as tiny as dolls lain out in the sand. Finding herself
completely alone, Helena wriggled out of her bikini bottoms and stretched out
nude under the midday sun. Turning her head, she extended a hand toward her
book, then, reconsidering, flicked the switch on the cheap radio. A reggae tune
was playing and although the sound was tinny, Helena liked the beat and turned
the volume up as loud as the dial would allow. The glare from the sun left
points of light dancing against her eyelids. Under the soothing touch of the
tropical heat, the tension in the muscles of her compact body seemed to melt
away, leaving only hazy daydreams in their wake. Groggily, she wriggled her bare
bottom, nestled her naked breasts into the soft terry towel and gave a
tremendous groan of pleasure.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” a loud voice cut sharply into her
“Whaat?” mumbled Helena as she pulled herself to a sitting position. Rubbing her
eyes in confusion, she looked up from a pair of tawny muscular thighs to an
equally cut set of abdominals and a decidedly ripped-looking chest. A piercing
set of blue eyes surveyed her under furrowed brows. As she noticed their owner’s
gaze drop to her breasts, she suddenly remembered her nudity and scrambled to
“Didn’t you read the sign back there?” He waved wildly off to his right, then
gestured angrily as he continued.
“This is a nesting area for terns and they’re very sensitive to disturbance. You
need to turn that radio off and get out of here!”
Shaking with embarrassment and raging inwardly at his rudeness, Helena reached a
free hand out to the radio, switched it off and grabbed at her towel. Still
seated, she couldn’t cover herself with the terry without further revealing her
nudity. Attempting a semblance of dignity, she contented herself with pressing
her legs together, leaning in toward her knees and covering her breasts with her
arms. All the while, her intruder continued his angry diatribe.
“And don’t you know there’s no nude sunbathing on this part of the island? What
the hell are you doing up here anyway? You seem to have wandered away from the
The owner of the muscular legs was frowning and gesticulating down toward the
beach, his shock of blond hair waving in a sudden gust of wind. Helena flushed
furiously as she squeezed her upper arms around her hardening nipples and
attempted to wind her legs together for further concealment.
“I didn’t see the sign and I wouldn’t be here if I had. And I’m not a tourist.
I’m living here. At least, I’m living here for now. I’m living here until the
end of the summer.”
There were angry tears biting at her lashes. How dare he! Helena struggled to
think of something else to say that would prove her quick, sophisticated wit.
Before she could sort through her racing thoughts to find the perfect rebuttal,
from a perfectly shaped raspberry pout set in an impossibly tanned face he
provided the final denunciation.
“Well that definitely makes you a tourist. And if you don’t have respect for the
places you choose to visit, then you might as well go home to wherever it is you
With those words, he pushed his hands in his pockets, turned on his heel and
began a noisy stomp down the same incline she had ridden up. Given the volume of
his retreat, she could not fathom how she had not been woken by the mere sound
of his approach. As she gazed in grudging admiration of his retreating physique,
she could not help but notice with a stab of satisfaction, that the stranger had
turned around for a last glimpse of her tanned figure. Then he rounded the bend
and disappeared from view.