Mr. Rooks Island, #2
by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
Publication Date: November 3, 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense, Romance
From NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller Mimi Jean Pamfiloff, Comes Part Two of Mr. Rook’s Island, a Sexy, Dark, Romantic Suspense.
SHE KNOWS HE’S BAD. THE QUESTION IS, HOW BAD?
Stephanie Fitzgerald is nobody’s pawn. Determined to discover the truth about a missing loved one, she lands a job at the world’s most exclusive resort, working for the only man with the answers—Mr. Rook. He’s shockingly handsome, thoroughly intimidating, and completely off-limits.
But the truth she seeks isn’t black and white, and Mr. Rook is a far more dangerous temptation than she ever knew.
Will Stephanie resist her desires, or will she be lured into Mr. Rook’s world of hidden sins?
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From NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller Mimi Jean Pamfiloff, Comes Part One of Mr. Rook’s Island, a Sexy, Dark, Romantic Suspense.
He’s Enigmatic, Dangerously Handsome, and COMPLETELY OFF-LIMITS…
The women who vacation on Mr. Rook’s exclusive island are looking for one thing and one thing only: to have their wildest romantic fantasies come to life. Pirates, cowboys, billionaires–there’s nothing Rook’s staff can’t deliver.
But when Stephanie Fitzgerald’s sister doesn’t return after her week in paradise, Stephanie will have to pose as a guest in order to dig for answers. Unfortunately, this means she’ll need to get close to the one thing on the island that’s not on the menu: the devastatingly handsome and intimidating Mr. Rook. And he’s not about to give the island’s secrets away.
My name is Stephanie Fitzgerald. I am twenty-six years old, London born, New York raised, and I know exactly three things about my current situation.
One: I am an imposter riding on this private jet carrying myself and eleven other women to an island “paradise.”
Two: I have no clue what I will find when I disembark, because this exclusive resort doesn’t exactly advertise.
Three: I will be fired if I don’t return home with concrete information regarding Mr. Rook, the mysterious owner of the island. And when I say I’ll be fired, I really mean that my body will be thrown down a deep dark well by a bad, bad man.
Those three things, however, don’t really matter. Only finding my sister does. Because the last place Cici was seen alive is here, “Fantasy Island.” Yep, that’s what some people actually call it. Some even say the show in the ’80s was based on this place.
Sure. If your fantasy is to disappear, leaving your family an emotional train wreck, then okay, I concede the point.
Regardless, this is where Cici went after winning a mystery dream vacation in the back of some travel magazine, and it’s touted as the real deal. You pay fifty K. They make your wildest fantasies come true. One week in Heaven.
Heaven, my ass.
As the tires hit the wet landing strip and the plane slows to a crawl, I glance out the tiny oval window to my left, and my breath hitches. Standing among the lush vegetation lining the runway is a tall man with square shoulders. He’s looking right at me, and those eyes—so predatory, so cold—are the only thing I can really see of him.
I blink, and he vanishes like a wisp of steam.
Fuck. What was that? A hard shiver slams through me as I realize I have no clue what I’ve just gotten myself into. Because I am one of the next happy guests at Mr. Rook’s private island, where “Every woman’s fantasy is our business.” And not everyone comes home from vacation.
Like its mysterious owner, Rook’s Island was practically an urban legend. No brochures. No real website. They advertised strictly by whisper of mouth. In other words, you had to know someone willing to tell you about it. Confidentially.
But from the bits and pieces I’d gathered off the Internet, I deduced it was an uncharted island somewhere west of the Bermuda Triangle in Bahaman waters, likely northwest of Highborne Cay among a cluster of unnamed isles. That said, no one could tell you exactly where it was, and if they knew, they’d never admit it. Even the employees of the Bahaman government had simply stared at me like I was a madwoman.
“There is nothing in those waters, ma’am, except fish,” one of the clerks from the Bahaman embassy in DC had said several months ago.
“Then why the hell did my sister have a goddamned plane ticket to the island?”
The man had simply shrugged. “I cannot say, ma’am. I have never heard of such a place, so perhaps your sister simply lied. People disappear on purpose all the time.”
What the fuck? Cici, my sister, was a goddamned saint, a kindergarten teacher who loved her life. She lived for those kids and was the kind of person who made everyone smile.
Unlike me. I used to be outgoing and optimistic, but now I’m just broken. I’m broken because I loved my big sister more than anything. She was my best friend, my blood, and my hero. She was there for me when my widowed father was too busy working and I was trying to grow up without a mother. Cici made us a family, and now she was gone. Just like that. A fact the police had little to say about since they had a video of her clearing out her safe deposit box.
“She did not abandon us, you piece of shit!” I had screamed at the embassy guy. “Now help me fucking find her!”
The rest of that moment—a blur, really—consisted of multiple expletives, resulting in my being arrested and banned from their embassy. Indefinitely. My father, an award-winning war correspondent, had to pull a few strings to get me out of jail that day.
“Stephanie, please don’t do this to me,” he’d said, his thinning gray hair its usual mess, his strong hands wrapped tightly around the steering wheel of his Volvo—an old beige thing he’d purchased for my mother right before she died. God rest her beautiful soul. She had been a journalist like my dad when they met in Afghanistan, but they moved around a lot for work, eventually landing in New York right after I came along. Then one morning, she was out for a jog and dropped dead of a heart attack. Poof. Gone forever from our lives.
My poor father was never right in the head again, and until this day, he refused to let go of my mom or that Volvo. So while I never really knew her, I felt the painful void she’d left behind, which was why I couldn’t give up searching for Cici or accept that there was no island.
And look. There it is… I glanced out the tiny window of the plane, knowing I was one step closer to getting answers.
My heart hammered against my rib cage as the private jet’s outer door popped open. Okay, really, my heart hadn’t stopped hammering since I’d boarded. What kind of place doesn’t require a visa or passport? A shady place, that’s what.
“Ladies,” said the stewardess with dark brown hair matching my own, “the staff here at Mr. Rook’s island would like to welcome you to your dream vacation. As you exit the plane, please be careful descending the staircase. Of course,” she giggled, “if you do decide to fall, there will be a strong, handsome gentleman waiting to catch you.”
The female passengers, who’d been sipping fancy cocktails since we boarded at a private airfield south of Newark, started clapping and hooting.
“I’m definitely taking a dive, then!” barked out a redhead in her mid-forties, wearing an animal print blouse, white jeggings, and a heavy amount of gold jewelry around her neck. Her accent screamed Southerner, while her outfit screamed new money and that she liked borrowing clothes from her daughter—the one she’d been talking about nonstop to the other passenger directly behind me. Apparently, the redhead had just got divorced from her wealthy cheating husband and the daughter recently graduated from college. This vacation was her big indulgence after years of marital ugliness. The woman to her side, a timid little blonde thing, didn’t say much other than her sister had come to Rook’s Island over a decade ago and hadn’t stop talking about it since.
“I can’t wait to meet Mr. Rook,” said the redhead. “I hear he’s the most delicious thing on the island.”
“My sister only saw him once because he didn’t mingle much with the guests,” said the blonde lady.
“Well,” said the redhead with a sassy voice, “if he’s as good looking as my friends say, I’m changing my fantasy to a night with him.”
In the back of my mind, I tried to understand how these women could actually pay money to come all the way here and sleep with strange men in a weeklong, role-playing, fantasy vacation. It felt so strange to me.
“What’s your fantasy this week, sweetheart?” the redhead asked, staring at me with her mascara-caked eyes.
“Who, me?” I pointed to my chest.
“Yeah. You gonna do some pirate fantasy? Oh wait. I know. You look like the superhero kind.” She snapped her fingers. “Thor. You went for the Thor fantasy, didn’t ya? I heard he has the biggest hammer in the world.” She winked.
Nice. Real nice. And why had she made that assessment about me? My look didn’t scream cosplay-lover. It didn’t scream anything, really. Most men—my exes—would describe me as having classic beauty. I would describe myself as average. Average-length brown hair with average waves. Average brown eyes. Average five foot four height. Average ten pounds overweight. Average intelligence.
My special feature was my tenacity. Once I set out to do something, I achieved my goal no matter how difficult. For example, when I was eight and Cici was fourteen, I decided that our yard needed a treehouse. My father said he was too busy, so I put up a lemonade stand every weekend for five months until I raised enough money to hire a handyman. I got my damned treehouse.
I smiled politely at the redhead and mousy blonde who waited for my reply. “I, uh, really just want flowers, a candlelit dinner on a yacht, and cuddling by the fire—your basic romance,” I lied.
They looked at me like I was out of my soft skull for choosing something so tame. But I wasn’t here for wild. I was here to find Cici.
“Well, that’s cute,” said the redhead.
“I’m doing Tarzan,” said the blonde, staring at the floor.
I tried to keep a straight face. I couldn’t picture this shy little thing swinging through the trees in a suede bikini.
“Sounds…” I swallowed, “dangerous.”
“I knooow.” Her brown eyes lit with joy.
The line began to clear out of the cabin, so I grabbed my backpack and purse and faced forward.
“Well, enjoy your romantic candles…?” Redhead wanted to know my name.
I glanced over my shoulder. “Stephanie.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Meg,” she said and then jerked her head toward the blonde, “and she’s Emily.”
“Nice meeting you, too,” I replied politely.
“We’ll see you at the welcome dinner tonight!” Meg said. “I hear the dancers are amazing—ripped from head to toe and almost naked in those Hawaiian grass skirt things.”
“Mmmm. Can’t wait.” I didn’t give a crap about dancers or dinners. I wanted to find this Mr. Rook and start asking about Cici. I was ready to put a goddamned knife to his throat if that was what it took.
“Right this way, ladies!” said the overly peppy air stewardess.
One by one, we filed down the rollaway staircase. I immediately noticed the tropical summer heat, the never-ending stretch of lush green jungle, and the musty smell of moist dirt mixed with salty air.
My mind immediately jumped to my sister—her bright smile and big brown eyes. She had been right here on this island, on this very fucking staircase. What did they do to her?
My heart bubbled with rage. Stay in character, Steph. You’re a happy guest, like everyone else. The last thing I wanted was to go ballistic and get kicked off the island before I got what I needed—the truth for myself and information for “my boss,” Warner Price. I used the term loosely because Warner and I had more of an arrangement rather than an employer-employee situation. Either way, I couldn’t and wouldn’t go home until I had what I needed.
Wearing black leather sandals and a long blue cotton dress, I carefully descended the narrow staircase, feeling my anxiety well inside my shaky knees.
“Welcome, Miss…?” Holding out his hand, next to the bottom step, stood a huge tree trunk of a man wearing a blue-and-white Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts. He had to be at least seven feet tall, his brown skin covered in Samoan tattoos. Even his neck and the back of his shaved head were inked.
“Ms. Brenna,” I lied, and shook his large hand. “Let me guess. You must be Tattoo and you tell everyone when the plane arrives?” This place is a fucking joke.
He smiled and flashed a set of bright white teeth. “My name is Gerry, ma’am, and our control tower texts the employees to alert us when the guests arrive. May I help you with your things?”
“No.” I smiled politely, smoothing down the front of my wrinkled dress, trying my best not to show him the hate inside me. Because for all I knew, he’d had something to do with Cici’s death.
No. Don’t think that. She’s not dead. Sadly, however, my heart knew she would not leave us. Not like that. Which naturally led to one conclusion: She never made it off this island alive.
I held back a snarl and substituted it with a grin. “I can carry my own things, but thanks.”
“Very good, Ms. Brenna.” Tattoo—I mean Gerry—dipped his shaved head. “Please follow the red carpet to the gravel path. The signs will direct you to the reception building, where our staff will check you in.”
Gerry turned his attention to the next guest behind me—Meg—and I continued on the red carpet, squinting from the hot summer sun beating down on the top of my head.
My first impression of the place was that everything felt too perfect, like a movie set or theme park. Yes, the tall trees were real, and the birds of paradise sprouting from beds of bright red and yellow flowers were real, too, but even the gravel path I followed through the dense jungle didn’t have a single pebble out of place.
As I walked, the muted giggles and laughter of the ladies behind me echoed through the trees. All I felt was my skin crawling and those eyes—from the shadow—still watching me.
Stop it, I told myself. You’re letting your imagination get to you.
I slid my cell from my purse to check for texts or messages from my dad. Crap. No bars? Not even one little flicker? I guess I wasn’t surprised. This island couldn’t stay a secret if people were posting their location on Facebook along with vacation pics.
After a very short walk, the shaded path ended at a large, two-story house with an enormous porch and hanging flowers of every color imaginable. It reminded me of those old coffee plantation homes with whitewash paint and pillars.
I walked up the steps to the porch, my body already dripping with sweat. “Jesus, this place is like living inside a wet volcano,” I muttered. I couldn’t say I was a fan of humidity before this and now I absolutely loathed it.
I stepped inside the house, where a gentle breeze from the ceiling fans drifted against my hot skin, giving some relief. The white wood-paneled room had fresh flowers atop two white desks, where two pleasant-looking women awaited us. Oh, look. We’re being checked in to heaven. Every perfect detail of this shitty place pissed me off.
The guests formed a line and then gave their names to the women in blue-and-white blouses behind the desks. After that, another woman, different every time, quickly whisked them off down a hallway.
My turn. I stepped up, feeling nervous as hell. I wasn’t great at lying, but there was no other way. I’m a guest. A happy guest.
“Hi. I’m Stephanie Brenna.”
The young woman with cocoa skin and her black hair pulled into a neat ponytail smiled and then checked my name off her list. “There you are, Ms. Brenna. Julie will be checking you in and going over the island’s amenities and rules during your stay.”
Julie, a brunette wearing white shorts and the standard Hawaiian blouse, appeared with a bright smile. “Ms. Brenna, hello. Please come right this way.”
“What is this?” The whole whisking people away and separating the guests made me uneasy.
The receptionist continued smiling like she was high on life or had just gotten her wings. “Ah, yes. Well, our check-in process is a little different than your standard resort.” She leaned into her desk and whispered, “Because of the unique nature of our services.” She winked.
“So you mean there’s sex paperwork,” I said.
She pointed her pencil at me. “You got it. And a safety orientation.”
“And Mr. Rook? When do I get to meet him?” I asked.
The smiles on the women’s faces melted so fast, one might have assumed I’d just told them I’d like to eat their livers.
“What?” I asked. “This is his island, isn’t it?”
Julie, my check-in hostess, swallowed something in her throat. “I’m afraid that Mr. Rook doesn’t manage the day-to-day operations of the island—he’s a very busy man. However, if you have any concerns or needs—anything at all—I will be your personal concierge for the week.” Her fake smile reappeared. “And if there’s anything I can’t manage, the island’s executive manager, Mrs. Day, can see to it.”
“So I won’t get to meet the famous Mr. Rook?” I asked.
They smiled politely, but didn’t speak. I got the distinct impression that they were not allowed to say no to a guest.
“All right. Is he even on the island?” I prodded.
The receptionist offered me a bone. “Mr. Rook does have a personal residence here, but we are not kept informed of his schedule or whereabouts. Is there anything we can address? Any concerns?”
The two women eyed the line of rowdy drunk guests behind me. Apparently, one of them had to pee, a fact she happily shared with us all.
Okay, well, if Mr. Rook didn’t run things on a daily basis, then he wasn’t the only person with answers. Of course, the big boss would have to know if a guest went missing, so I would still need to meet him.
“No.” I flashed a smile to make nice. “No concerns at this time.”
“Then follow me!” Julie turned for the hallway. “In a few short minutes, I’ll have you on your way to a week of pure pampering and relaxation.”
“Fabulous.” I followed behind her.
“Unless your version of relaxation requires something more vigorous.” She glanced over her shoulder and winked.
What’s with the damned winking? This entire place gave me the heebie-jeebies. “Can’t wait.”
About Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
Mimi Jean Pamfiloff is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of Paranormal and Contemporary Romance. Both traditionally and independently published, Mimi has sold over 800,000 books since publishing her 1st title in 2012, and she plans to spontaneously combust once she hits the one-million mark. Although she obtained her international MBA and worked for over 15 years in the corporate world, she believes that it’s never too late to come out of the romance-closet and follow your dreams.
When not screaming at her works in progress, Mimi spends time with her two pirates in training, her loco-for-the-chili-pepper hubby, and rat terriers, Mini & DJ Princess Snowflake, in Arizona.
She continues to hope that her books will inspire a leather pants comeback (for men) and that she might make you laugh when you need it most.