Sunset Sail (The Caliendo Resort, Book Three)
The Cohen Cruise Line and Caliendo resort are merging. Emma Caliendo and her sister, Izzy, set sail on the maiden voyage to be two of the faces of this new resort venture. Izzy is up for fun in the sun, but Emma wants to steer clear of the Cohen men, who are nothing but a bunch of womanizers. She’s especially keen on avoiding Grayson Cohen.
Grayson, a childhood acquaintance, is now an arrogant, self-centered ladies’ man whose face is plastered all over the cruise’s advertising campaign. Emma can’t seem to turn a corner without seeing his stupid, conceited face.
Nevertheless, when Grayson starts seeking her out, platonic badgering becomes sexual teasing and Emma discovers she’s not as repelled by Grayson as she thought. In fact, she can’t help but notice the real man beneath the haughty exterior.
Suddenly, a three-week cruise fling with a Cohen man is exactly what she desires, but will walking away from him when it’s all over be as easy as she’s convinced herself?
“WHAT’S WRONG WITH this dress?” Izzy Caliendo demanded.
Emma Caliendo narrowed her eyes at the dress in her sister’s hand. Did she really have to ask? The little red number was no bigger than a washcloth. Maybe the comparison was exaggerated, but it wasn’t far off.
The tiny sequined, skin-tight, one-shoulder dress shimmered at Emma, like it was demanding an answer to Izzy’s question. Two against one, she felt defeated.
“Do I look like I need a Pretty Woman makeover?” Emma asked.
A smile danced across Izzy’s face before she washed it away and cleared her throat. “Do you realize you just compared yourself to a hooker? A popular hooker, who everyone loves because she wooed a rich man into loving her forever and gave hope to all women, but, none-the-less, a hooker.”
“The big picture, Izzy. Not the tiny details.”
“It’s kind of fitting though, being we are on this cruise because Brock Cohen requested your presence,” Izzy said.
It wasn’t fitting at all. They were both aboard this cruise in regards to the merger deal between the Cohen cruise line and Caliendo Resort Enterprises. It had nothing to do with whatever wild ideas Izzy was creating in her head.
“Plus, Brock is wealthy enough and powerful enough to make it happen.” Izzy paused. “Kind of like he bought your presence.” The amused smile across her sister’s face was typical, always finding delight in other’s discomfort. Emma was feeling anxious. Why had Brock requested her presence?
Before Izzy had a chance to cross-examine her, Emma snatched the dress from Izzy and said, “Give me that.”
What could it hurt to wear it? It was for three hours, tops. Supper, and possibly after dinner cocktails. The faster she dressed, the closer they would be to concluding this conversation. At the same time, she’d be closer to mingling with her arched enemy, too. Another exaggeration, but Brock’s smug, big-headed son, Grayson Cohen, sure came close.
Her sister’s low chuckle followed her as she let her silk robe fall to the floor, leaving only her bra and underwear.
“Don’t forget your Spanx,” Izzy said.
“I’m not wearing Spanx,” Emma said.
Izzy chuckled deviously. “You are if you want your thighs to fit in that dress.”
Izzy giggled an entertained tune, as the Spanx hit Emma’s back and fell at her feet. Irritating.
Emma pulled, tugged, and wiggled the tight garment on.
“Remember to keep your legs crossed when sliding in and out of chairs, couches, etc. You don’t want to partake in the peek-a-boo epidemic online,” Izzy said.
Emma didn’t want to partake in even wearing them, but they were on now...and not coming back off until she returned to the cabin to retire for the night.
“I guess Brock doesn’t have to buy women,” Izzy continued.
How were they back on this conversation?
“They’re always throwing themselves at him, but if he wanted to buy a woman, I suppose he could. Even an expensive prize could be paid if she wasn’t willing...and you are a bit of a shrewd...”
“Izzy! He didn’t buy me,” Emma snapped, sending her a quick glare over her shoulder. This Brock conversation was getting old, fast.
Emma slipped the dress over her head. The material stopped and bunched around her neck. This was why she disliked tight dresses; they were death to get on and off.
Emma turned back to her sister. Izzy fell into a fit of laughter at the sight. She bent over, her blonde hair tumbling almost to the floor and she waved a hand at Emma, offering absolutely no assistance. Her sister’s infectious laughter made the corners of Emma’s lips curve upwards.
It wasn’t Izzy’s fault Emma was tightly wound this evening. Tonight was a big deal, and she didn’t have the rest of her family to fall back on. She had Izzy, but every time Izzy opened her mouth, she proved to be less helpful than the Spanx.
“Let me get a picture of you,” Izzy squealed in delight, pulling her cell phone out of its secured place beside her bosom.
“No,” Emma cried. “Put that away. You are not posting my breasts on the internet.”
“Just around your neck,” Izzy clarified. “It’s like wearing a bikini. Nobody will know the difference.”
Everyone would know the difference.
“No,” Emma said sternly.
Izzy pouted, but tucked her phone away.
Emma fished out the material digging into her armpit, in an attempt to yank it down.
“You are here, too,” Emma reminded Izzy, not sure why she brought the topic back up. Hopefully to convince her sister there were no ulterior motives to the invitation. Izzy’s reply was testimony no matter what proof Emma provided, Izzy had her tainted little mind made.
“That’s just Marc trying to pique my interest into working.” Izzy stretched out on the chaise in the middle of the walk-in closet, crossing her heeled feet and resting them on a pile of clothes. Emma would need to rest her feet too if she walked around all afternoon in five inch heels like her sister. Emma was accustomed to flat sandals most days while working at the resort.
“If work was always this interesting, I guess I would want to participate.”
Emma shot her a look. “I doubt it.”
Izzy hadn’t worked a day in her life, not that any of Emma’s family had to work, but they chose to work. Their mother, Eliza, had always encouraged her children to follow their dreams, which evidently didn’t stray far from the resort, where they were born and raised. Eliza also encouraged the siblings to live a somewhat normal life...as normal as one could be, as heirs and heiresses to a multi-billion dollar franchise.
“Besides, you’re the one insisting I wear this...” Emma struggled and pulled the tight dress over her breasts. She sucked in a breath, and pulled it down. “...death trap. You’re the one attempting to make it interesting, attempting to create something out of nothing...and stir up a pot of trouble.”
If that was the case, why was Emma taking the bait? Maybe it was because she noticed her traveling group of women were all dressed in sexy little cocktail dresses. Like the one Izzy was wearing now, proudly hugging each curve Izzy’s body offered, boasting her bare shoulders. Her tanned skin glowed against the white material.
“You look gorgeous,” Izzy said, and while Emma had been checking Izzy out, her sister had done the same to her. “You’re welcome,” Izzy said.
“I didn’t say thank you.” Emma should have been standing her ground. Sex appeal and designer outfits weren’t everything...and more importantly, they weren’t her thing. Although being born into the renowned and wealthy Caliendo name posed a substantial amount of expectations, including appearance, Emma preferred a simple pair of yoga pants to make her happy.
Izzy reached to the floor and lifted the beige cocktail dress Emma had planned on wearing. It was a sophisticated and classy, floor length dress with lace arms and a high neckline.
“Leisurely Travel magazine is doing a piece on our family companies merging and their photographer is lurking ready to flash pictures of us...and you want to go out looking like a...a...spinster?”
Emma couldn’t keep her smile at bay. “That is not a spinster outfit.”
“Momma wouldn’t even wear this dress.” Izzy shuddered, and sent the dress flying. “But you have bigger fish to worry about. I know you are not one to step into the public eye, but let’s face it, Grayson Cohen is on this cruise and he was just named the hottest, most eligible single man in the country and that was before his image was launched across the world for the Cohen cruise line campaign. He is the hottest hashtag right now and the last thing you want is to end up in pictures with him dressed like a spinster.”
“Not a spinster.”
“You saw his advertisement. Hot damn. It was one-hundred percent bare torso, thick muscle, hot and hunky, single, Cohen.”
Of course she’d seen the billboards and commercials of Grayson paired up with a gorgeous brunette, enticing viewers to let loose and book the vacation of a lifetime. Why else would she even consider changing out of her “spinster” dress?
No, it wasn’t because of Grayson, she thought, but even she didn’t believe herself.
“I’m helping you avoid becoming the ridicule of society’s high standards. Hashtag: Grayson Cohen. Hashtag: frumpy date.”
“Hashtag: Emma Caliendo.” Emma was anything but frumpy, and she certainly wasn’t Grayson’s date.
“Hashtag: hides away from the spotlight. Anya is hash-tagged more than you and she’s been in hiding for two years.”
There were four Caliendo sisters and two brothers. Anya had just returned home after for two years dealing with personal issues that, as per usual in their family, always centered around their deceased, tyrant father. Robert Caliendo had been the arrogant and conceited person in which Eliza worked to keep her kids from becoming.
Emma smoothed her hands over the dress and caught sight of herself in the mirror.
Did this dress ever embrace her every curve, resting gorgeously along the sweetheart neckline and scalloped edge up one shoulder. She moved sideways, she couldn’t help herself, and the sight of the courageous material rounded over her butt was magnificence. She looked good. She looked hot. She looked sexy.
But, she wouldn’t lose herself in image...but she suddenly wanted to borrow Izzy’s crimson red lipstick and silently thanked the Spanx.
Izzy came up beside her, wrapping her arm around Emma, and resting her head on Emma’s shoulder. Izzy’s white-blonde hair tumbled with Emma’s golden blonde hair like silky grains of straw, two opposite women in personality, but with the same golden skin across their oval faces, prominent cheekbones and full lips.
“You’re adorable, trying to pretend you don’t notice you look drop-dead gorgeous. A cute, cuddly little kitten that I’ve transformed into a ferocious lioness.” Izzy grinned. “Or a hooker gone shopping, whichever you prefer.” Izzy planted a kiss on her cheek.
Emma laughed and nudged her off. “Shut up.”
“Are you ready?” Izzy asked.
“Yes, I guess so.”
“Okay good. Just give me a second,” Izzy said, with another grin and snap of her fingers.
A hundred layers of foundation later, concealer blotted on every tiny blemish Emma didn’t know she had, and powder caked on so thick, Emma was afraid to crack a smile, she left the closet. The only bonus was that Izzy had painted her lips a red shade as dangerous as her dress.
Emma didn’t even get to the bed before a slew of whistles came from the main floor of the cabin.
The word “cabin” sounded more like a run-down shack rather than their luxurious sixteen-hundred square-foot accommodation.
Emma walked to the glass railing of the stunning two-story bedroom loft. Beside her, the stairs descended to the central sitting area and kitchen. An enormous balcony ran beyond the glass wall and wrapped around the cabin with a hot tub, and outside sun-bathing and dining area. Inside was like a lavish city apartment.
Emma felt her reservation form in the color of scarlet and rise up her throat to redden her cheeks, more than the blush Izzy had applied. She gave them a little turn for show.
More whistles and a few shout outs.
Emma laughed, motioning with her hands for her friends to hush.
“Hot, hot, hot!” Abby squealed.
Emma had to smile at the humor in her comment since Abby’s general wardrobe consisted of skinny jeans and cut-up band t-shirts. Tonight, rhinestones studded the collar of Abby’s black skin-tight dress, and when she turned, the glitz descended in two material bands down her bare back. Sophistication suited Abby, but it was a part she didn’t play often.
Melissa Carter, Emma’s best friend, was stunning, as usual. A beaded halter neckline dipped open into a “V” almost to her bellybutton, while the hemline hung well above her knee showing off immaculate, toned, porcelain legs.
“Damn hot, sister.” Izzy slapped her rear-end on the way by, causing Emma to jump. “Who would have known underneath all those layers of bulky garments you call clothes, was this.”
Izzy, forever the storyteller. Her definition of bulky referred to sleeves instead of sleeveless and full skirts instead of minis.
“I’m like your fairy Godmother.” Izzy looked so proud. Emma swatted her, once for the comment and two for the spank, as she headed toward the kitchen table where her clutch lay. “Now you can choose whichever Cohen you’re in the mood for. Brock, Tom or Grayson.” Izzy purred. “They’re all single and all available...well sometimes...”
Emma frowned right away. “I’m not choosing anyone.”
“Hashtag, the silver fox invited you,” Izzy pointed out. Silver fox, aka, sexy, handsome older man.
Emma took an irritated breath. “That’s annoying. You say hashtag one more time, and I’m going to hashtag you to death,” Emma said.
“That doesn’t even make sense. You can’t hashtag someone to death.” Izzy was at the door waiting with Abby.
“Try me. And stop calling Brock a silver fox. You’re going to let it slip in his presence.”
Izzy shrugged. “Like he would be so offended. Besides, Brock has to be interested in you. Why else would he have invited you?”
Let the merry-go-round begin.
“Sweet little Emma got herself into a love triangle with the Cohens,” Izzy snickered.
Emma groaned at her sister’s misconception of...everything. Sometimes listening to Izzy talk sounded like a broken wind-up toy that scrambled all the words and sentenced around beyond comprehension.
“You make it sound like I’m on a conquest for them. If you think they need to choose someone to scratch their itch for the night, let them choose you. Me, I would rather eat the scum from seaweed then sleep with a Cohen.”
Abby, and even Melissa, held back smirks.
“Maybe I will get lucky and find me a love triangle this week,” Izzy said. “A girl can wish, can’t she?”
“You’re relentless,” Abby said.
Izzy groaned. “You’ve become such a drag since getting all caught up in a relationship.”
“You’re just jealous,” Abby said. “And Riley can make me purr like no other man...”
“Oh please...and gross...and...yeah, he does.” Izzy laughed and her fingers sliced through the air acting as cat claws. “I can vision an untamed Riley in the bedroom. Rough around the edges with his sexy-ass tattoos and his ridiculously fit physique. Plus his long hair falling in your face and maybe a little stubble-burn. A beast of a man. Tarzan to your Jane. Meow.”
Abby slapped her bare arm this time. “Stop! Stop envisioning my man.”
“Stop sharing,” Melissa said, her face pinched with disgust.
“I’m envisioning you too, Abby,” Izzy said, with innocence.
Abby groaned. “Why? Why?”
“Who else would I envision? I’m not going to envision myself. That would just be...wrong and weird. So instead it’s like a wild cat fight in my head of you two.” She beamed at Abby. “Naked.”
Abby groaned. “No more.”
Izzy didn’t listen. “Everywhere. The kitchen counter, the back of his old car or the front seat, maybe even on the hood. Meow. The pool table or the bowling alley in his games room...every single area in his games room. That dark red room is like a kinky adult playroom of fun.”
“Please, tell me how to make this end,” Abby begged.
Izzy threw out the condition. “Be my wingman for the next three weeks.”
Abby’s relieved smile suggested she considered herself getting off easy. “I’ve been your wingman for the last twenty years. Sold.”
“I’m forever scarred by this conversation,” Melissa said.
She was not the only one.
Emma gripped her clutch with deadly force. Maybe dressing up wasn’t a good idea, even if she fit right in with her group. Maybe agreeing to come on board wasn’t a good idea, but it was work related. Work. Yes, she could focus on work...couldn’t she?
“You’re trying to make him envious, aren’t you?” Melissa asked, as they left the cabin, heading for the private elevator.
Thankfully Izzy and Abby walked ahead of them. “Make who envious?” Emma asked, pretending not to know who Melissa was talking about.
Melissa’s shapely, full eyebrows perched. “Oh, you are.”
Emma cringed at the amusement, so rare, in Melissa’s voice. Melissa’s arrogant and snobbish manner took some time getting used to, if she allowed you the privilege of doing so. Depicting pleasantness wasn’t her strong suit, and if you rubbed the wrong way, and that wasn’t hard to do, you were dismissed and forgotten.
Being friends forever, Emma wasn’t easily intimidated by Melissa. However, this topic was off limits today.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Emma dismissed her, giving more attention to dusting off her clutch, before looking straight ahead.
Emma knew exactly who Melissa was talking about. She could feel Melissa’s hot, dark eyes burning through her, but Emma kept her eyes trained in front of her.
“I knew this trip was going to be interesting,” Melissa said. “I didn’t think you would go all out, and have Izzy turn you into her next fashion experiment.”
“It was brave on your part. Your transformation could have gone one of two ways. She could have turned you into an over-lit Christmas tree or mastered bringing out your inner beauty.”
Emma finally looked at Melissa.
Her opinionated friend puckered her lips, taking her nice sweet time evaluating Emma’s smooth waves down to her black heels. The tightness of Melissa’s lips highlighted her already defined cheek bones. Melissa’s sculpted facial features didn’t need accenting or blush to make them pop, but Melissa didn’t go anywhere without looking prepared to step onto a model runway. Her tall, slim body also matched the qualities of a supermodel, whereas Emma’s build was more muscular from her hours of teaching exercise and dance classes at the resort...when she wasn’t stuck in her office scheduling the resorts weekly calendar of events that is.
When Melissa said nothing, Emma snapped, “And?”
Melissa smiled. “Natural beauty, of course. You do this every time you’re going to be anywhere near Grayson.”
“I do not.”
“Every. Single. Time. I can feel that patronizing, high and almighty side of you coming on right now. Oh, how I’ve missed her. Three weeks of playing with her sounds thrilling. Come, come. Come out and play.”
“You’re starting to sound like Izzy.”
“The question is: why did you accept this invite?” Melissa asked. “Are you looking for a little love triangle?”
Emma rolled her eyes at the ridiculousness of the statement. “It’s business.”
“Who says you can’t mix business with pleasure?”
Especially Emma’s brother, Marc. After stepping into Robert’s shoes after his death, Marc made no decisions about the business without immaculate research. He was a perfectionist that way. Emma had already had to ensure Marc, after Izzy suggested there was tension between Emma and the Cohens, that there was in fact, none. Izzy wasn’t as mindless as she let on. Her observations were generally got her into trouble, so catching the tension between Emma and Grayson, arched enemy tension, wouldn’t be complicated.
“You should have just slept with him when you had the opportunity...and you’ve had a lot of opportunities,” Melissa said. “Starting with that one night in university...”
“I don’t want to sleep with him. I didn’t want to sleep with him then, and I certainly don’t want to sleep with him now.”
Melissa couldn’t be more wrong. Emma had no interest in being another one of Grayson’s triumphs. Those Cohen men were known for their womanizing ways, and in no way would Emma ever resort to being associated with the group of women who circled around them like hawks on prey. Pathetic women, who felt getting a little affection from a conniving Cohen made them special. Emma was steering as clear away from the Cohen men, as this ship was from hitting an iceberg.
“As long as you don’t bring your feelings into the equation, bearing in mind that it’s only sex, I say go for it. Those Cohen men are delicious...every last one of them.”
“Just don’t be head-stupid.”
“Love is messy...”
Why was Melissa talking about love?
“...and basically it’s a lie women create with hopes that some other human being on this planet is going to treat her like a queen, pampering her every womanly need and desire, protecting her from all the big bad wolves out there. That dream is as much a fairy tale as the actual big bad wolf...and Izzy being your fairy god mother.” Her repugnant look was amusing. “The poor women who fall into this misrepresentation of love.”
Emma could only take her half seriously. She grinned. “We’re not cynical at all tonight.”
“Realist,” Melissa clarified.
“That’s why I’m here, to make sure you remember boundaries with Grayson.”
They were nearing the elevator where Izzy and Abby waited for them and the last thing Emma needed was Izzy getting wind of what Melissa was insinuating. Sometimes it felt like a juggling act with these ladies.
Emma looped her arm around Melissa’s. “I assure you that I know my boundaries with Grayson. I do not plan on sleeping with him, or even getting remotely close enough to him to talk, let alone fall in love.”
“He will scope you out.”
Emma laughed. “You are as crazy as Izzy.”
“I’ll bet you that within fifteen minutes of arriving tonight, he will have found you, and wandered his way over to talk to you.”
“I accept this bet.” Melissa didn’t know what she was talking about. “And when I win, you’ll tell me what’s going on with you lately and the real reason you’re here.”
Melissa glared at her. “Good thing I’m more observant than you and will win this bet,” Melissa said. “And when I win, you will tell me more about Corbin and his return home.”
Corbin was Emma’s oldest brother. Ever since they found out he was alive, after presuming he’d died in a car crash when he was around sixteen years old, Melissa had grown a rather unexplained interest in him.
Emma held her hand out with confidence. Corbin’s return wasn’t a secret, but she was sure Melissa was referring to why he wasn’t actually dead.
“It’s sad you actually believe you are going to win,” Melissa said. “You’re so adorable. I can see why Grayson has a soft spot for you.”
“I can’t wait to hear all about what’s bothering you,” Emma said to her.
Melissa wasn’t a talker and Emma didn’t plan on losing. This was a win/win.