Beauty Queens


Nicole crossed her arms over her chest. “Yeah. Shocker.”

“Cool!” Captain Sinjin St. Sinjin inspected the huts, finally choosing to lie down on Tiara’s soft palm frond bed. He made himself comfortable. “Very nice. Can I get something to eat?”

Adina glared. “That’s Tiara’s bed.”

Tiara backed away. “Oh. It’s okay. I don’t mind.”

“She doesn’t mind,” Captain Sinjin said. He winked at Tiara. “Thanks, luv! You’re gorgeous. Something to eat? Mangia? Yum-yums?”

“You didn’t even ask,” Adina said. “You just sat right down.”

Captain Sinjin took off his boots and tossed them in the sand.

“Can I get you something to drink, too?” Tiara asked. “We have rainwater or coconut milk.”

“Fantastic. I’ll take the coconut milk. Ta, luv.”

Tiara turned to leave. Adina stopped her. “Stay right here, Tiara. If he wants it, he can get it himself.”

“But …” Tiara seemed torn. “I don’t mind.”

“She doesn’t mind,” Captain Sinjin said. He batted his lashes at Adina.

Tiara looked from Adina to Sinjin and back again. She jogged in place like a kindergartner who needed a bathroom.

Finally, George raised his hand. “I’ll go with you to get it. I get him stuff all the time since he’s the captain.”

“Thanks!” Tiara beamed, and she and George walked hand-in-hand toward the coconut storage.

Adina threw up her hands. “Right. Just forget everything. Hey, maybe they have some laundry they need done, too,” she grumbled. “I’m going to go check the fishing lines.”

“Great idea, luv. I’m crazy about fish,” Captain Sinjin called after her.

“Unbelievable,” Adina muttered.

Good God! All you had to do was introduce the scent of testosterone and perfectly capable, together girls were reduced to giggling, lash-batting, hair-playing idiots. She hated it when girls did this. When they got all goo-goo-eyed over Y chromosome–carrying creatures instead of taking care of themselves. It’s what her mother had done her whole life, cater to some man instead of looking after herself. Or Adina.

She thought about this as she walked toward the lagoon to check the fishing lines. She was still thinking about it and muttering to herself as she bumped headlong into one of the pirates.

“You should watch where you’re going,” she snapped.

“I was,” he answered in a raspy voice that tickled her insides and made her look up. “I was afraid you’d miss me, though, so I had to maneuver at the last minute.”

He was grinning. He had the audacity to grin. It was a hell of a grin, too — slightly naughty, with teeth that were just crooked enough to give his mouth character. He was tall and lanky with a bronzed, sharp-boned face; his green eyes were twinkly, like he’d just gotten a joke someone had told him earlier. Tawny, sun-streaked hair fell in waves to his tanned shoulders, which were bare and freckled. There was a small star tattoo on the left one.

Adina had the disconcerting feeling that the ground beneath her was not as solid as she imagined. “I-I have to check the fishing lines,” she said, squeezing past him.

“I’ll come with you,” he said and fell into step with her as she marched toward the lagoon.

“You don’t have to.”

“I know.” He flashed her that grin, the one that made her borders feel unprotected. “I’m Duff, by the way. Duff McAvoy.”

Adina didn’t answer.

“This is usually the part where you tell me your name.”


He nodded, thinking it over. “Interesting name. Were your parents overly inquisitive people?”

“No. Why should I tell you my name?”

“You don’t have to.”

“Adina. Adina Greenberg.”

“Nice to meet you, Adina.” He stuck out his hand and Adina shook it warily before turning her attentions to the tangled fishing lines.

“It’s pretty amazing what you’ve done here.”

“What, did you think we’d lie down and die?” She waded into the water, untwisting the lines as she went.

“Um, that was a compliment.”

“Crap,” Adina said.

“It was a crap compliment?”

She cupped a hand over her eyes and looked out at the water. “No, I mean, crap, the line’s stuck on something out there. It took forever to get these working. This one’s probably going to break from the strain and we’ll have to start all over again.”