Barefoot Bay: Swipe for Mr. Right

Available 02/21/2017

Barefoot Bay Kindle World

Diving into the world of online dating isn’t on the top of Caryn Stapleton’s to-do list, especially after her recent break-up. But loneliness has her signing up, and when Mr. Swipe Right suggests they meet up at Casa Blanca Resort in Barefoot Bay, she takes one more risk and agrees. Even if the date is a bust, she’ll at least get to spend time in a luxurious resort. When she sees her Mr. Swipe Right, all her previous disaster online dates are forgotten.

Sexy construction worker turned home improvement TV show host, Tom Carrington, is in Mimosa Keys to enjoy a well-earned break before filming the new season of his show. He likes the anonymity the resort gives him, so when a beautiful woman introduces herself and says they met on an online dating site, he’s immediately on guard. As far as pick-up lines go this one is original. Instinct tells him he should brush her off, but desire has him playing along at being her date.

With each passing day, the charade becomes a reality for Tom, and he knows the truth has to come out. Will coming clean tear them apart, or will a case of mistaken identity lead to Mr. and Mrs. Swipe Right.

Read an Excerpt


Caryn’s finger hovered over the send button. She couldn’t believe she was about to take the plunge again. Her best friends would have a field day if she let them know she’d joined a dating website—for the second time on her get-my-life-back-on-track trip of a lifetime. After constantly being hassled by them for her to get back on the dating scene following the disastrous end to her last relationship, they would laugh their heads off knowing her first attempt had failed spectacularly. How many disastrous coffee dates had she been on? She gave up counting after about the fifth guy turned up looking completely different than his profile picture and was yet another sleazeball. Did she have sucker embedded in her profile that only loser guys could see?

This time though, Brad Jones looked like a decent guy. He’d been friendly and open in the few emails they’d shared. But this suggestion was something bigger than meeting for coffee. This was an invitation to meet up at a resort known for its exclusivity and location on a gorgeous bay in Mimosa Key, Florida. Was she insane to take a risk like this? Was loneliness encouraging her to make a rash decision?

No, she was taking charge, pushing aside the doubts that she wasn’t perfect enough for the guys she met, that they had to lie to her and present a persona that wasn’t their own.

She was twenty-six years old. A capable businesswoman who’d built a successful Internet fashion accessory business from nothing to one she sold less than a year ago for more than seven millions dollars. If she could make the decision to sell her company—her baby and the one thing she’d been super proud of—in order to start the next chapter of her life, she could send a friggin’ response to a guy she’d spent the last three weeks exchanging emails with.

Taking a deep breath, she hit send. Oh God, no, she’d lost her mind. You couldn’t take back an email. The only thing to do was move forward. And maybe pray the email got lost in cyberspace. In case it didn’t, she opened an Internet browser and pulled up a travel site, looking for flights to Florida. This Aussie girl was excited to visit a beautiful beachside resort, something she hadn’t done on her exploration of the United States.

Her email pinged a few minutes later and Brad Jones’s name popped up in the corner of her screen. Well, nope, the email didn’t get lost in cyberspace. Caryn wasn’t sure if it was relief or disappointment that made her insides wobble like Jell-O. With trembling fingers, she double-clicked the email, closing her eyes for a second before opening them and focusing on the middle of the screen.

Hey pretty lady,
I’m thrilled you’ve agreed to join me at Casa Blanca Resort. We’ll have a lot of fun. Why don’t you go ahead and book your flights and accommodation and email me the details, and I’ll do the same. We can always change our accommodation arrangements when we get there 😉
Looking forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks.
Brad

There was no going back now, even though his comment about changing the accommodation appeared skeevy. Maybe he was trying to have a little joke with her. When she committed to something, she always followed through. It was how she’d become successful with her business. All she hoped was that she’d made the correct decision to swipe right this time.

***

Caryn pulled her convertible Camaro into the circular driveway of Casa Blanca Resort. She loved the location on sight. The main building paid homage to the movie setting it was named after. She had no idea which part of the resort Brad was staying in; he hadn’t mentioned it any of his emails, which kind of surprised her, now that she stopped to think about it. She assumed, like her, he’d be staying in an exclusive villa. But he may have decided to stay in the main hotel, as it was cheaper and she had no idea of his financial situation. He was an accountant, so he might be a bit of a penny pincher. She certainly hadn’t let on to him about her finances. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter where either one of them stayed—there were plenty of places they could meet up and have drinks or take a walk on the beach or be daring and sign up for a hot air balloon ride.

God, she hoped his comment about changing the accommodation details when they got here didn’t mean that he failed to book any and planned to stay with her. No, no way could he have meant that, but she crossed her fingers just in case.

Their correspondence had been sporadic over the last two weeks, as she’d spent an enjoyable week at Disney World before hiring the car and driving down to Barefoot Bay. But his last email had confirmed that he was arriving today and would meet her in the bar at 6:00 p.m.. A quick glance at her watch told her she had four hours to get settled in, maybe take a swim before getting ready for her date. Or if the villa had a tub, a nice relaxing soak.

Butterflies the size of the lilies overflowing from the flowerpots on either side of the glass entrance doors bloomed in her belly. She could do this. Or she could put the car in drive and head back the way she’d come. She could see and do more at Disney. Or maybe she could check out Universal.

A valet opened her car door, taking the decision away from her.

“Good afternoon, ma’am, welcome to Casa Blanca Resort. Are you checking in or only dining with us today?”

“Ch-checking in.” Oh my God, could she sound more like a Nervous Nelly? Even facing down the men who’d bought her company, she hadn’t stuttered on a single word.

“Excellent. Do you require assistance with your luggage?”

She really could handle her own luggage, but she was at five-star resort, so why not take advantage of everything they had to offer? Caryn got out of the car and handed over the key.

“Yes, that will be lovely. Thank you.”

“Excellent, ma’am. The concierge will ensure your luggage is in your villa or room by the time you get there.”

Judging by the efficient way he escorted her to the main entrance, she had no doubt her stay here was going to be an enjoyable one.

She was under no illusion that Brad Jones was going to be her Mr. Right—her dream of marriage and kids had screeched to a halt, thanks to her ex, Jasper, but hopefully, she and Brad would have some good times. Maybe he would see the real Caryn Stapleton and wouldn’t try to bamboozle her with smooth words and actions. If the whole process bombed, at least she was in a gorgeous location. From everything she’d read online, the resort had a world-class spa, and she planned to make the most of everything they had to offer. It was one of the reasons she’d taken Brad up on his suggestion to come to Mimosa Key. She also had a car so she could tour around the little island if things did implode.
The unique aroma of the lilies teased her nostrils. She cupped the nearest flower and took a moment to inhale the heady fragrance. Cool air caressed her arms as the main entrance doors whisked open. The buzz of chatter from the folks gathered in the foyer comforted her. Being a stranger in a crowd of people never bothered her. She’d make some friends by the end of her stay here.

Within minutes, she’d checked in and was riding a golf cart to her villa with one of the resort’s representatives. They drove slowly around the complex as the employee explained the history of the resort. Caryn couldn’t believe something so beautiful had been created out of nothing after the original house had been totally destroyed by a hurricane.

“Here we are, Ms. Stapleton,” said the staff member. “Our lovely Rockrose villa, named after the gorgeous flowers surrounding the building. We’re very proud of our landscaping. Make sure you take a walk around the grounds and stop in at our organic farm as well.”

“Oh, I plan to explore everything you have to offer. Thank you,” Caryn said as she stepped out of the golf cart, keycard firmly in her grasp.

With a swipe, she entered the oasis that would be her home for the next two weeks. She didn’t know how long Brad was planning on staying. He’d seemed reluctant to put a timeframe on their trip. All she knew was the date of his arrival. Darts of apprehension started to fill her. What if he didn’t show up? What if he was like the other jerks and looked completely different than his profile picture?

Caryn pushed the thought aside. If he didn’t appear, she’d give up on online dating and enjoy her time in Mimosa Key and the rest of her trip. The resort’s slogan did say “Kick off your shoes and fall in love”. If Brad turned out to be a no-show, maybe a fling would be what she needed to get back into the swing of loving. Flings never expected perfection.

As the valet promised, Caryn found her suitcases sitting at the foot of the canopied bed. Indulging in a little girl fantasy, she rushed up and flopped down on the bed. The mattress contoured her body, and her head sank into the soft pillows. If another one of their marketing ploys was to make guests feel like royalty, they certainly succeeded. Never before had she felt like a princess. Yes, it would be no hardship to spend the next few weeks in paradise.

***

The butterflies that had taken possession of her tummy on her arrival seemed to have changed to bats the way her stomach fluttered with every breath she took. So what if she was about to meet an absolute stranger, in a location where no one knew her, halfway around the world from her family and friends? People took giant leaps off a cliff into the unknown, didn’t they? On her drive down here she’d decided that would be her mantra for this visit to Barefoot Bay: leap into the unfamiliar. Hopefully, her landing would be soft.

A giggle bubbled out of her. Nerves—that was the only explanation for the high-pitched sound emanating from her. A sound she’d never made before.

“It’s now or never,” she muttered to herself as she stopped just inside the entrance of the bar.

The setting sun cast a golden glow over the room in front of her, making it difficult to tell if a solitary man sat at the bar, waiting. Waiting for her to move her glued feet off the floor and into the room and toward his general direction. If he was in there, of course. Man, what if all her fears came to fruition? Her email had remained ominously quiet all afternoon after she’d sent Brad a note to let him know she’d arrived at the resort. She tried not to read too much into the radio silence.

Okay, enough pussyfooting around. Get your skinny ass in that bar. What’s the worst that could happen? You spend the next two weeks alone in a tropical paradise.

Oh, that voice was just ever so helpful. But her inner self had a point. Caryn had known the moment she’d sent the email that it could all blow up in her face. If it did happen, at least none of her family or friends would see her ultimate humiliation.

Lifting her foot encased in impractical, but gorgeous, gold sandals, she started on her trek toward the bar. Soft piano music enveloped the room. Conversations were muted, as though everyone was respectful of each other. The atmosphere was sophisticated but friendly. Let’s hope my evening ends up being friendly.
The bar took up the center of the room, and she walked in that direction, her eyes darting left and right, taking in a table of couples laughing over brightly colored cocktails. Two men having a serious discussion were seated at one table, oblivious to the other conversations being conducted around them. Finally, she zeroed in on the long, wooden bar and the black and chrome stools that lined it.

Only one was occupied—by a man with dark hair. Brad Jones had dark hair.

Oh shit. She couldn’t do this.

Caryn took a couple of steps back toward the exit to make her escape, when the man swiveled his stool around so he faced the room, beer bottle in his hand. The action gave her an unobstructed view of his face. He hadn’t seen her yet, but her heart leaped in anticipation as recognition flowed through her.
Time to jump off the cliff.