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“I guess I don’t,” Kalani said, and he looked genuinely confused. “What happened?”

“Gabrielle told me Carter always knew he wouldn’t win. He was just trying to intimidate you and damage Kingdom’s reputation. But then he realized all his relationships—and harassment settlements—would become part of the public record once the suit went to court. That’s when he decided to drop it.”

Sid’s thoughts immediately went to Crystal and everything she had done to damage his reputation. A knot formed in his chest. The feeling of Jayna’s hand on his shoulder was suddenly uncomfortable, and Sid turned to look at the beautiful tropical scenery, forcing his thoughts away from her.

“You and Carter had a thing going for a while, didn’t you?” Kalani asked.

The knot in Sid’s chest tightened. Jayna had been in a relationship with Carter Sterling?

“Ew, no!” Jayna said, and mercifully she removed her hand from Sid’s shoulder. “We had dinner twice, and that was way before he owned the park. Please, give me some credit.”

Sid was relieved to hear Jayna and Carter hadn’t been in a relationship, but the knot in his chest didn’t ease. What had he been thinking? He knew better than to entertain thoughts of a connection with Jayna.

He was certain they had more in common than Aurora 293 fandom, and under the right circumstances they could undoubtedly become good friends—possibly something more.

But she was his employee, and that meant the circumstances were definitely not right for a relationship that was anything other than professional. Especially not after the reminder of how ill-advised relationships could go wrong.

It occurred to Sid that if the Realms of Neptune employees succeeded in their buy-out attempt, Jayna would no longer be his employee. That meant she would no longer be off limits.

The prospect made him catch his breath. Maybe an employee buy-out wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all. It would certainly be easier than fighting his growing attraction to Jayna.

The Cerulean Order had a number of financing programs. If the Realms employees qualified for one of them, they would be one step closer to buying the park.

Sid stole a glance at Jayna and his heart skipped a beat. If selling the park meant he could finally explore his feelings for her, then he needed to do everything he could to make it happen.

Chapter 13

For the second time in as many days, Jayna found herself in a canoe powered by two strong, handsome young men as they steered her and Emmaline on a leisurely cruise between the wamo platforms at the center of Manutai’s fashion district.

At first, she had been nervous at the prospect of spending the afternoon with Sid’s assistant. Jayna found Emmaline’s confidence and poise intimidating. The fact that the woman was drop-dead gorgeous didn’t help.

But after several hours of shopping, during which Emmaline had insisted on purchasing her far more clothes than anyone could ever wear in one week, Jayna began to see her for the fun, energetic person she was and not just Sid’s intimidating, all-together personal assistant.

Emmaline had wisely insisted on purchasing a u-suit for Jayna, despite the astronomical cost. The climate-controlled underlayer was a miracle, keeping her cool despite the muggy tropical heat. It was lightweight and color-matched perfectly to Jayna’s skin, giving her flexibility to wear a broad range of clothes that would otherwise have been stifling in the humid tropical climate, like the long-sleeved shirt and broad-brimmed hat she had chosen to protect her fair skin from the intense sun.

They passed beneath a bridge just as a group of people pedaled over on bicycles. “That looks like fun,” Jayna said.

Emmaline looked up from her mirror display and wrinkled her nose at the cyclists slowly pedaling overhead. “I suppose. There are bike trails all over the place. Apparently, a lot of the engineers who designed Manutai were Dutch, and they included their love of cycling in the design of the islands.”

At the mention of Dutch engineers, Jayna’s mind went to Toren, and she felt a twinge of guilt realizing this was the first time she had even thought about him since arriving in Manutai. Their relationship hadn’t been terribly exciting, but it had been comfortable, and it concerned Jayna that she had forgotten about him so quickly.

Emmaline apparently misread Jayna’s guilt as disappointment. “I’m sure Obsidian would take you out riding if you asked him.” She pointed at a rack of bicycles and said, “Bike rentals started dying out in the mid-thirties, but Sid bought one of the last companies and turned it around last year. He’s quite proud of the fact that he figured out how to make the segment turn a profit.”

“Wow, that’s great,” Jayna said, though the thought of cycling through Manutai with Sid both thrilled and terrified her.

Emmaline returned her attention to her mirror display and scowled. “Does this blouse clash with my hair as badly as I think it does?”

Jayna glanced between Emmaline’s bright lavender hair and the creamy yellow top. “I wouldn’t say they clash, exactly…”

Emmaline finished Jayna’s thought for her. “But they don’t exactly work together.”

Jayna wrinkled her nose and shook her head.

Emmaline sighed. “That’s what I thought.” She began to rummage in her bag. “I’d better change before the fashion police catch me.”

Concerned, Jayna glanced between Emmaline and the canoe paddler sitting behind them, and then at the crowds that lined the pedestrian plazas on either side of the channel. Would Emmaline really change her blouse in public?

“Ah-hah!” From her bag, Emmaline produced a thick, dark gray comb. She fiddled with it for a moment, and then Jayna watched in amazement as Emmaline ran the comb slowly through her hair. As she did, the strands turned from lavender to a deep reddish-brown.