Enjoy Chapter One of CASTAWAYS right here to give you a taste of what's to come...
Olivia Bailey pounded the treadmill. Sweat pricked at her temples and armpits, and her breaths were fast and deep. On and on she ran, staring straight ahead at the stunning vista her Portsmouth gym provided. It was the sea, the beautiful, endless sea. Choppy waves thrilled her. The wind whisking up spray delighted her. The open water was where she felt most at home.
I just need this one chance.
She glanced at the treadmill screen. She’d hit four kilometres in thirty minutes. Not bad for a Monday morning. Especially since she’d had a busy weekend. Working as usual on the Saturday, and out late with the girls in the evening, then spending the day with her young niece shopping on Sunday.
She’d know soon—perhaps today, when the postman did his rounds. Two months she’d been waiting for the letter that would hopefully change her life. And boy did she need to get out of the rut she’d landed in.
Would it be a yes or a no?
Surely it would be a yes. She was the girl for the job. Her resume read like she’d been made for the role. Hell, she’d trained hard enough to make sure she was.
She turned at the sound of her best friend’s voice.
“You coming for coffee?” Sandy asked. She was still breathing fast from her workout.
“Yes, a quick one. Need to get home for the postie.”
“Ah, yes. Today could be the day.”
“I’ll either be celebrating later or drowning my sorrows.”
“Whatever it is, I’ve got your back. Happy to wallow in misery or pop a few corks.” Sandy’s face turned serious. “Though I won’t deny, if it’s a yes, I’ll worry.”
“Ha, no need.” Olivia slowed the treadmill to a walking pace and wiped her forearm across her brow. “I’m over-qualified, you know that.”
“Yeah, but what about your team mates? Will they be the sort of guys who can handle a sail? Navigate in open water?”
“I’d say they’ll have been as well vetted as me by The Challenge authorities, and I can certainly handle a boat.”
“True. It’s going to be a mixed bag though, isn’t it?”
“Yes, Dante Vidal has planned it so along with one female, hopefully me, it will be a crew made up of at least four nationalities. I just hope one of them speaks English or it will be a long few months.”
“His son will. He’s American.”
“Harrington Vidal, yes, of course he is.” She paused and thought of the latest hot pictures of him surfing on the beach near his home in Malibu. “I’ve seen him in the gossip mags. Can’t say I’d kick him out of bed on a cold night. The bloke is sex on a stick.”
Sandy laughed. “I agree. But he’s got a queue of women lining up whenever his bed gets cold. Wasn’t he dating that supermodel? What’s her name, Fawn Deer or something like that?”
Olivia turned off the treadmill and slowed to a stop. “I don’t know, but you can’t believe everything you read.”
“True. They make most of it up. Anyway, if you end up sailing across the Pacific with Harrington, you can ask him about his past conquests.”
“I suppose I can.” She stepped down and took a slug of icy cold water from her bottle. Delicious.
“And you can also, you know…” Sandy lifted her hands to her face, and made a clicking sound. “Take some pics of his fit body for me to swoon over.”
Olivia laughed. “Yeah, like I’ll have time for that. I’ll be busy trying to stay alive in the middle of the ocean.”
Sandy wiped her damp brow. “I know I’ll worry about you, but I hope it’s a yes. Really I do. You deserve it.”
“I bloody need it. Another year working at MC Mechanics will finish me off. I just can’t do it anymore. It’s not the engines I don’t like, it’s the monotony, every day is the same. And working Saturdays, to then have Monday off, it just eats the weekend up and no one wants to do anything on a Monday.”
“I get you.” Sandy shook her head. “I really do.”
Olivia headed away from the gym on her lime-green Kawasaki—an indulgence she allowed herself as her parents charged such low rent—and arrived home late morning, about the time the village postman reached their house.
The previous postie had come mid-morning, but this one liked to take his time, chat to every dog walker and gardener he came across.
She started to prepare herself a banana and strawberry smoothie, keeping an eye out the front window as she did so.
Suddenly he came into view. He wore a red cap and walked with his head down.
Olivia’s heart rate picked up. Her stomach tightened. He was holding a clutch of letters. Was one for her?
She switched off the smoothie machine and the kitchen went silent. All she could hear was her pulse thudding in her ears.
He kept on ambling along. He reached their front garden, the gate.
Then walked on past.
Disappointment dropped like a lead weight into her belly. She’d been assured today was the day the acceptance or rejection to be part of The Challenge would arrive. Perhaps the weekend had slowed the post down. Had there been a rail strike? That would do it.
But just as she was resigning herself to another twenty-four hours of not knowing the course her life would take, the postman stopped. He dipped his head and sifted through the letters he was holding.
Then he turned and walked back the way he’d just come.
Olivia held her breath as he opened their low wrought-iron gate and stepped onto the path leading to the front door.
She dashed into the hallway and stared at the brass letterbox. It wasn’t until she saw a single white envelope plop onto the mat that she exhaled.
“It’s here.” She rushed for it, scooped it up, then read her name and address written in beautiful calligraphy across the front. When she turned it over, there was a splodge of golden wax with The Challenge. Vidal Inc. stamped into it.
Walking back into the kitchen, she sat on a chair which looked into the rear garden. The daffodils were just finishing and several tulips bobbed their heads. Her legs were a little weak now the moment had finally come. She’d worked so hard for this. Polished her resume with another sailing navigation qualification, upped her fitness for the medical test she’d been put through and turned down a job up north that might have suited her perfectly.
“Well, here goes.” She flipped it over and poked her nail beneath the seal. With a sudden flurry, to get it over with, she ripped the envelope. The paper tore and she dragged the letter out. It was folded neatly three times and she quickly opened it.
Unlike the envelope it was typed, though still had the header—The Challenge—written in fancy, swirling writing. She scanned the first few lines, barely able to absorb individual words. What was it saying?
She forced her mind to slow and took a deep breath.
We’re delighted to inform you that you’ve been successful in your application to be one of the crew aboard Temptress.
“Yes!” Olivia leaped up, holding the letter aloft. It didn’t matter what else it said. She’d done it. She’d damn well done it. Beaten the odds. Triumphed over every other applicant. She was going to America. She was going to sail the Pacific. What more could a sea-loving girl like her want?
She hopped around the room, scaring the cat, and wafting the letter in front of her.
Eventually she set it to one side and pressed her palms onto the kitchen counter. She pulled in a deep breath and stared at her smoothie. “Get a grip. You’ve got to be cool and level-headed. It’s one of the qualities they were looking for.” She reached for a tumbler and poured the thick pink drink into it.
After collecting the letter she then sat back down. Perhaps she’d be able to concentrate now and examine the details.
It took three attempts at reading the entire thing before it began to feel real. There’d be a crew of six working under Captain Harrington Vidal. Their challenge was to sail from Los Angeles to Sydney. If they were successful Harrington’s father, Dante Vidal, would donate five million pounds to the charity of Harrington’s choice.
Olivia knew all this but it was nice to read it again, and instead of it being a dream, it was going to happen, for her.
The crew, all under thirty years of age, would be competent in all aspects of handling the boat, navigation and survival.
Again this was something she’d expected and also something she had the skills to cope with.
The last paragraph thrilled her. In one week’s time she’d be flying out to Los Angeles to meet the rest of the crew. After a briefing and an overnight stay at one of the swankiest hotels in Newport, they’d be heading straight off. The state of the art yacht was ready, in tip-top condition, the letter said. All it needed were the people who’d been handpicked by Vidal’s staff to accompany his son.
Olivia’s heart did another little skip. She really was going to meet Harrington Vidal, the guy she’d admired from afar for so long. Oh, she knew he’d probably be a spoiled brat, and completely in love with himself, but still, a few months of watching him on deck in just swimshorts would be good for her soul.
She could only guess why his father had organized this event. And that was because his children, Harrington being the eldest, were obviously lacking in motivation to get on with life. Hell, why did they need to? Money wasn’t an incentive. The family so rich they’d never run out of the stuff. But they still needed a reason to get out of bed each day. Something to drive them forward. Which was why The Challenge had been created. And thank goodness it had, because she, Olivia Bailey, was going along for the ride.
And boy, was it going to be one hell of a ride. Whether the waters were calm or wild, the Pacific held a certain magic for her. She’d never been, never dipped her toe into the largest body of water on the planet.
But that was all going to change soon, and the sailor in her could hardly wait to get started.
And grab book #2 TEARAWAYS so you can can continue on Olivia's reverse harem journey...