Off the Hook (Fishing for Trouble)

By: Laura Drewry

Chapter 1

I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball.

—Pete Rose

For the umpteenth time since takeoff, Kate looked down at her shoes and sighed. All she would have needed was five minutes to wash off her makeup and change into something a little more appropriate, but no. Due to a hiccup in the boss’s schedule, they’d pulled her out of the late-afternoon reception two hours early and whisked her straight to the waiting seaplane so they could get her to the lodge in time for the Cessna to get back and pick up Paul.

She couldn’t even reach her suitcase, because it had already been stowed.

So there she sat, staring out the window and wondering what was the most ridiculous thing about her right then. Was it the tight red cocktail dress and six-inch platform heels that made her look like she’d just stepped off the set of Real Housewives of Vancouver? Or was it the fact that with less than twenty-four hours’ notice, she had willingly agreed to leave everything behind to go live and work at a fishing lodge, when the only thing she knew about fishing was that George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg had made that movie about it?

And they’d both died in that movie. Great.

Two strikes against her going in, but neither mattered right then. The only thing Kate cared about was making sure she proved herself on this project so Paul would have no choice but to let her run her own show.

For the last eight years, the Foster Group had paid her to research potential investors, arrange receptions for those people, and then glad-hand and charm them into signing on to Paul’s next real estate venture.

It wasn’t what she wanted to be doing, but, still, it wasn’t a bad gig for a high school dropout whose previous occupations included such glamorous highlights as cleaning woman, construction-site lackey, lumberyard gofer, and dog walker. She hadn’t had two cents to rub together back then and went home every night smelling like grease, dirt, or wet dog, and while she didn’t miss any of that, at least she hadn’t had to dress up and walk around in ankle-breakers while creepy old rich dudes made inappropriate suggestions, each of which she rebuffed with firm politeness.

It wasn’t all bad, though, because her job for the Foster Group had afforded her the chance to get a degree in hotel management while she worked. For the last few years Paul had been promising to give her a boost in the company, to put her in charge of one of his smaller hotels, but so far Paul’s promises had been nothing but words.

It was funny how things worked out, Kate mused. Paul’s go-to guy, Josh, was supposed to be the one going to the lodge, not her, but from the little Paul had said when he’d called last night, Josh’s fiancée had carried on as if he were going to the moon instead of on a quick hour flight up the coast in the Cessna. Needless to say, Kate jumped at the chance to fill in.

She might not know diddly-squat about fishing, but she’d always been quick to pick up new things. She’d dig in and get her hands dirty on whatever jobs they had for her, especially when Paul started throwing around words like “promotion” and “general manager.”

The previous owner of the lodge had closed its doors a few years back, but since his recent passing, the family was working to reopen it. According to Paul, who’d been friends with the owner, their intentions were good but, given what Paul knew about their financial situations, there was little hope they’d be able to reopen in time for the upcoming fishing season, never mind pay off the significant tax bill that had gone unpaid for years. From the sounds of it, they couldn’t even afford to hire workers, so in their desperation they’d been only too happy to jump at Paul’s offer.

And to Paul’s credit, his offer really was nothing short of brilliant. Since he’d been such good friends with the previous owner, Paul offered to send Josh to help with repairs and what all. If the family still couldn’t make the July 1 tax deadline and chose to sell the property, they’d give Paul first refusal. He’d been looking at a few different fishing properties lately, so if it turned out these people didn’t have to sell, Paul would take his offer to the Hewetts’ place over on Langara, which was also for sale. Either way, Josh (or, rather, Kate now) would have hands-on experience and would be able to walk in and run either lodge with minimal hiccups.

The only hiccup in the plan was that Paul didn’t want the Hewett place. He wanted the Buoys, and what Paul Foster wanted, Paul Foster generally got.

“That’s it ahead there.” From behind the controls, Walt pointed out Kate’s side window toward a triangular-ish island in the distance. Technically, that long narrow strip of land connecting it to the mainland made it a peninsula, but it still looked like an island.

Walt banked the plane a little to the right, then evened out and headed straight in.

“Wait. What? No, that’s not—” Pushing her face closer to the window, Kate peered down, frantically searching the area for another building somewhere—anywhere—in the vicinity. Nothing. But that place there—that wasn’t the lodge she’d seen in the pictures. “That’s the Buoys?”

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