Wynifred Fellows tried to tuck her hair behind her ear as it whipped around her. She felt almost euphoric when she leaned over the edge of the boat and glanced at the water below.
“Whoa,” Haris Molamid called out, as he grabbed her by the waist. “You have a very big job ahead of you. It won’t do if you fall in the water before we get there.”
She smiled sheepishly. “I’m sorry. I feel like I haven’t been outside in ages!”
“Busy with lectures and press releases?” he asked with a handsome smile. He was tall and well-built with beautiful chestnut eyes and shoulder-length hair that he kept tied back. He’d contacted her a few weeks ago in her office and spent a few days talking with her to convince her to work for him. He was pleasant and charming. That wasn’t usually the case with her clients.
“Very busy, but a good kind of busy,” she admitted. “Still, I’m glad to get back to the root of my profession.” Her book, Love Solves All, was due to be released in a few months, and her publishers were running her ragged with constant media coverage. In the past three weeks, she’d spoken at four schools and a Family Mediation convention. Not to mention there always seemed to be some last minute edits to make. When Haris had contacted her to request help in mediating an issue with his cousin, she’d been hesitant, but his willingness to work with her wooed her. It wasn’t every day that someone willingly wanted a truce.
Her publishers were not happy. Still, she was only a plane ride away, and they mostly contacted her through email anyway. Granted that meant pushing back some of her other marketing engagements.
This is what I wanted to do, she reminded herself firmly. The book deal, the attention, was all a bonus. She couldn’t put her original work on hold simply because she had too much to do.
As the small boat settled on the beach, Wynifred sucked in her breath. “Oh, it’s beautiful!” she whispered. The Island was rocky and covered in driftwood, but she loved the look of untouched land. Fifty feet in, the woods were dense and lush. “What’s it called?”
“Murharraq Island. The Khalidizack family recently signed the deed over to my cousin, Rameez. It’s been hard to pry him away from it.”
“I can imagine,” she murmured. It really was spectacular.
Another boat joined them from the opposite direction, and Wynifred watched it curiously. This must have been Haris’ cousin.
According to Haris, the two cousins had barely spoken to one another in years, and when they did talk, all they did was argue. According to Haris, Rameez was competitive and arrogant. They were trying to make amends for the sake of his mother. The whole situation sounded like a fairy tale. Wynifred practically melted inside at the thought of reuniting two cousins and making a family stronger.
Love was the glue to everything.
Still, when Haris spoke, it was clear that whatever happened between the two men was deeply rooted in the past. Wynifred didn’t like to pass judgment. It usually took both parties to ask for her help before she’d mediate their issues, but Haris’ story had broken her heart. In a feud like theirs, someone always got hurt.
But there were also two sides to every story. Wynifred couldn’t even begin to work until she’d heard from Rameez.
When the man stepped out of the boat, her breath caught in her throat. If handsome described Haris, sinful described his cousin. There were similar features. Their coloring was similar, but where Haris had light eyes, Rameez’s were dark and captivating. Rameez kept his hair cropped at the nape of his neck, and though Haris was clean-shaven, Rameez sported stubble across his chin.
He knew how to fill out a pair of pants. As he walked toward them, she had to struggle to keep her jaw from dropping open. She’d expected a suit and tie from a business consultant, but Rameez was dressed in jeans and a tight-fitting t-shirt. It was a good look for him.
A mouth-wateringly good look.
She smiled pleasantly and held out her hand, but his eyes swept over her and quickly dismissed her. “You had to bring your girlfriend with you? Really?” he sneered.
Wynifred gasped and frowned. “Mr. Molamid, I assure you….”
“That is no way to talk to a woman,” Haris said hotly. “Making assumptions. I see some things have never changed.”
Taken aback by the hostility, Wynifred cleared her throat. It wasn’t a good start. She took a deep breath and tried again. “I’m sorry, if I could just…”
“So afraid that your arguments will be invalid, and you’ll need someone in your cheering section?” Rameez growled.
Blinking, Wynifred tried to regain her footing in the argument. “I am not a cheerleader. I think we should….”
“I hardly need someone to vouch for me,” Haris snapped back.
Rameez opened his mouth, and Wynifred quickly stepped between the two men and put her hands up. “Enough!” she shouted.
Both men snapped their mouths shut and stared at her. She felt ridiculous putting herself between them, as they both towered over her, but she needed to get the upper hand. “Good,” she said when she was met with silence. “If we could all take a step back, I think we’ll see this is not how we should get started. First of all, Mr. Molamid, my name is Wynifred Fellows. I am not your cousin’s girlfriend. I am a professional mediator. Haris would like very much to find some common ground for you two to stand on, and I’m here to help you navigate things until you do.”
She reached into her bright yellow purse and pulled out her business card. Rameez took it, but there was a stunned look on his face. “You hired a professional mediator?” he said in a low voice. “What angle are you playing here, Haris?”
“Before you answer that,” Wynifred said quickly, “I’d like it if Rameez recognized that it was unfair for him to immediately believe that you have an agenda.”
“Exactly,” Haris said with a smile. “Recognize that, Rameez.”
The older man burst out laughing. Setting her jaw, she shifted her clipboard under her arm and planted her hands on her hips. With one raised eyebrow, she waited for the man to get control of himself.
“Oh, you’re serious?” Rameez asked when he finally calmed down. “Mrs. Fellows, was it? I find it hard to believe that in your profession, you would be so naive. Allow me to remove the veil over your eyes. My dear cousin always has an agenda.”
“It’s Ms.,” she said calmly. “And I prefer it if you call me Wynifred. We are going to be working closely with each other, and it helps if we’re working in an informal atmosphere. As for the veil over my eyes, I can assure you that I see things quite clearly, and I’m perfectly capable of making decisions for myself. What I will not do is take either of your opinions to heart without a formal assessment of the situation. I assure you, if Haris has an agenda, we will discuss it and work through it. If not, you need to move past the accusation to see the bigger picture.”
Haris smirked, and Rameez at least had the decency to look somewhat embarrassed. She took a deep breath and continued.
“Now that I’ve seen you two together, I’ve made an assessment of the situation. You both have alpha male tendencies, so it’s not hard to see why tensions run high, however you both have a common and intimate thread. You both love Shifa Molamid. I firmly believe that with that love and bond, we will find a way to make this work. I am staying at a local hotel, and I will be working with both of you individually and together. Do we understand?”
Rameez scowled. “Love, huh?” he grunted. “Let me make this easy for you, Wynifred. My cousin has a card hidden up his sleeve, and he’s waiting for the right time to play it. I would rather have all the cards on the table. Tell me, Haris, what do you want me to give you to make this ridiculous feud go away?”
“Oh!” she said, startled. “That isn’t how mediation works.”
“I’m hurt that you think such things of me, cousin. I simply want to find a solution,” Haris said mockingly.
Wynifred sighed. This obviously wasn’t going to be as easy as she originally thought.