A/N: This story is set at the beginning of the third season of the1970s TV series. It follows my story "The Ancient Highland Curse", but you don't have to read that to understand what is happening here. Many, many thanks to my betas, JD and Kennac, without whom, this story would never have seen the light of day. Thank you both for your long-suffering and patience. LOL
"Uh, Frank, a little help here?" Blond-haired Joe Hardy cast an annoyed glance in his brother's direction as the three large suitcases he'd struggled to maneuver from the airport baggage carousel toppled over on one another. He watched as they fell to the ground in a domino effect, sending the smaller bags he'd placed on top of the suitcases skittering across the tile floor.
"Yeah, sure," Frank said.
Joe watched as his dark-haired brother picked up his carry-on from the pile and slung it over his shoulder, not looking up once from the legal pad he was reading.
"Thanks," Joe said, not even trying to contain the sarcasm in his voice as he turned back to the carousel. He gazed around as he waited for another small suitcase to make its way to him on the conveyor belt.
The sound of a steel-drum band playing in the distance caught Joe's attention, and he smiled. This was definitely a beautiful place. He inhaled deeply as the scent of tropical flowers, heavy in the air, reached him. Hopefully this case wouldn't take up all of his time. He sighed thinking how great relaxing on a Jamaican beach sounded right about now.
Frank's voice interrupted his daydream. "Where's Emily?" he asked, referring to Joe's beautiful, dark-haired girlfriend of the past two months.
Joe gestured over his shoulder. "Restroom." He looked at Frank. "Man, am I planning on having some fun here."
"Um, do I need to remind you that we're here on a case? You know, working?"
Joe shrugged. "How long can it take to track down some art smugglers? I mean, it sounds like these guys are just laundering this art through the resort, right?" He straightened the pile of suitcases again. "So, we follow them, find out where the art is going, call in the feds, they arrest them, and boom...Emily and I are lying on the beach together, soaking up the sun."
"Uh huh," Frank said. "And since when has any case we've been on ever gone that smoothly?"
"There's always a first time, bro."
Frank pointed across the room to a man arranging luggage carts. "I just spoke with that guy. He's from the hotel and he said they'll get our bags and put them on the shuttle for us."
Joe looked past Frank to read the name of the resort on the poster behind the shuttle desk. "The Hibiscus? Is that where we're staying?"
"Frank, that's a couples resort."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, it's for honeymooners." He shook his head. "You haven't heard of it?"
"Why would I?" Frank asked. "And what do you know about it anyway?"
"Emily's roommate, Stacey. She's getting married this spring, and that's where she's going on her honeymoon." Joe sighed. "You have to be married to stay there."
"Well, maybe I read the dossier wrong." Frank reached for a large envelope in his carry-on bag.
"Let me see." Joe took the envelope and started shuffling through its contents. "Oh, brother." He slapped a piece of paper with the back of his hand. "How could you miss this?"
"Look at these reservations. For 'Mr. and Mrs. Joe Hardy' and 'Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hardy.'" Joe shoved the papers back at Frank's chest.
"That would be the female operative the feds assigned you. Remember? Dad mentioned her last night." Joe grinned. "Glad I'm not you."
"What are you talking about?" Frank looked startled. "I'm not staying in the same room with some woman I don't even know."
"Well, you'll sure get to know her," Joe said with a chuckle.
"How could Dad do this to me?" Frank stuffed the papers back into the envelope.
"Pretty sure he had no idea."
Frank sighed. "This is already turning into the case from hell and we're not even out of the airport."
Joe looked over as Emily emerged from the restroom, having changed into a pale pink sundress, and began walking toward him.
"Oh geez, she's going to kill me," Joe predicted. "She'll think I arranged all this on purpose."
Frank smirked. "Good luck."
Emily was all smiles as she walked up to Joe. "Gosh, isn't it beautiful here? Even the air smells heavenly."
He winked at her. "You changed your outfit."
"Yes," she said with a giggle. "I couldn't stand to be in those heavy winter clothes for one more minute." He watched as she put her hand on her hip and struck a fashion model pose. "Do you like it?"
A slow grin spread across Joe's face as his eyes wandered from his girlfriend's vivid green eyes down the sexy curves of her body. "You're beautiful, baby" he told her as he put his arm around her shoulders.
He spotted the advertisement for the resort in his peripheral vision and it jolted him back into reality. "Listen Em, whatever happens here in the next few minutes, please remember I had absolutely nothing to do with it. I swear."
"What are you talking about?" Emily looked up as the driver from the shuttle approached them.
"You have reservations at the Hibiscus, correct?" the driver asked, as he loaded their suitcases onto a luggage cart.
"Yes," Frank confirmed.
Emily snapped her head around and stared at Joe, who gave her a feeble smile.
"Mr. and Mrs. Joe Hardy?" the man asked.
Joe cleared his throat and raised his hand in acknowledgement. "Um, yeah, right here."
The shuttle driver nodded, then looked to Frank. "Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hardy?"
"Yes," Frank replied. "My wife will be joining me at the hotel. She had some business that detained her arrival."
The driver shrugged, made some notations on a clipboard, then called back, "This way to the van."
Joe took advantage of the moment by whispering into Emily's ear. "Honey, I promise I'll explain all of this to you when we get to the hotel."
"I'm looking forward to it."
Joe paused. Her tone seemed pleasant enough, but he couldn't be too sure. After all, he did just inform her she would have to share a hotel room with him. On the surface, Joe knew that looked bad. As in trying to get her into bed in a sneaky, underhanded way, bad. He exhaled forcefully. Maybe Frank was right…this was turning into the case from hell.
Joe watched as Emily sat down on a wicker loveseat in the bright, sunshine-yellow lobby of the Jamaican hotel, while he and Frank finished checking in.
He fidgeted nervously with his room key and cast furtive glances in his girlfriend's direction, trying to discern her mood, while Frank completed his paperwork at the registration desk.
"Will you relax," he hissed to Joe. "You're going to draw attention to us."
"Sorry." Joe exhaled slowly and deliberately. "Um, okay, I'm going over to talk to Emily."
Frank nodded. "Good."
"As soon as you're finished here."
Frank rolled his eyes at his brother, then turned to the desk clerk who handed him the key to his room. He smiled his thanks and glanced at Joe. "Listen, I'm going to head upstairs. I'll go over the dossier and see what we need to do next."
"Okay," Joe agreed. "Has your wife checked in yet?"
Frank shook his head. "I'm sure she'll be here soon enough." He nudged Joe and smiled. "Hey, good luck, bro."
Joe glanced sideways to where Emily was sitting. "Yeah, thanks."
As Frank picked up his carry-on bag and strolled over to the elevator, Joe squared his shoulders and walked over to Emily.
"Hi," he said to her.
Joe sat down next to her and took her hand, "Emily, you've got to believe me, I had nothing to do with these arrangements."
"I mean, I know it looks bad, but..." He stopped. "What did you say?"
"I know you didn't." A little smile escaped her lips.
He stared at her dumbfounded. She didn't look angry. In fact, wait…was she smiling?
"Joe, what's wrong?"
He shook his head, "I don't know what to say. I wasn't prepared for this conversation. I have a whole different one worked out in my head."
Emily laughed, then leaned in and surprised him with a kiss. "I'm not mad at you. I know you and Frank didn't have anything to do with this."
"Really? You're not mad?" His voice still held a note of disbelief. Wow, she wasn't mad. Maybe this vacation would turn out to be more romantic than he'd thought. They were in Jamaica…the sun, the surf, the king-size bed…
"I'm not." She squeezed his hand. "Besides, I trust you. I know you would never take advantage of the situation."
He gave her a somewhat grim smile, knowing all his plans for seduction had just flown out the window. "No, sweetie, I wouldn't." At least not tonight.
She fingered the room key in Joe's hand. "Shall we go then?"
He stood up and took her by the hand. Something by the front door caught his eye, and Joe paused to look. "Oh. My. Gosh."
"What?" Emily turned to follow his gaze.
"Frank is going to flip."
"What? What is it?"
"Nancy Drew," he said with a chuckle, as he watched the female investigator cross the lobby. "This is going to get interesting."
"Who's Nancy Drew?"
"Oh, she's a detective. We've worked together on a few cases before," Joe explained. "She and Frank have a rather...complicated...relationship."
"Complicated? What exactly does that mean?"
Joe turned to Emily. "It means that they're crazy about each other, but neither one of them is willing to admit it. So instead, they fight and argue constantly. They haven't spoken since our last case together. And now, I'm willing to bet you a million dollars she is the new Mrs. Frank Hardy."
He watched as Nancy took a manila envelope out of her purse, checked its contents and headed to the registration desk.
Joe gestured for Emily to follow him. They positioned themselves on one side of a potted palm tree, within earshot of Nancy.
"Hello, I'm here to meet my husband. I believe he's already checked in. Room six-forty-three," Nancy said to the clerk.
"Oh, yes." The clerk handed Nancy her room key. "Mrs. Frank Hardy."
She removed her sunglasses. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"
Joe stepped out from behind the palm tree. "He said, 'Mrs. Frank Hardy.'"
Nancy turned around when she heard the familiar voice. "Joe!" She faltered for a moment, then remembered the desk clerk was listening.
"I'm so happy you and your new wife decided to join us on this vacation." Nancy smiled at him, then looked from Emily to Joe. "You know, you really surprised us when you eloped. It's so nice that I can finally meet the woman who managed to tame my playboy brother-in-law."
"Oh." Joe put his arm over Emily's shoulders. "Nancy, I'd like you to meet Emily Cl…Hardy."
She was about to shake Emily's hand when Joe pointed to the desk clerk who was waiting for Nancy to finish signing her registration forms.
"Um, we'll meet you over by the elevators when you're finished," Joe said.
Nancy signed the form, "Mrs. Frank Hardy" with a little more pressure on her pen than was necessary, picked up her purse and walked over to Joe and Emily.
"So," she asked brightly, "Does Frank know I'm here?"
"Nope." Joe grinned. "I'm sure this is going to be the surprise of his life."
Nancy rolled her eyes. "Yeah, I'm sure." She turned to Emily. "Do you work for the agency?"
"No," Joe said. "She's my girlfriend. Dad wanted her along because she's an art history major, and he thought Frank and I could use her help."
Nancy nodded. "Nice to meet you, Emily."
"You too, Nancy," she said with a smile.
"Well," Nancy began with a sigh, "I guess I'd better go greet my husband."
Joe chuckled. "Yeah, why don't you guys give us a call after you're settled in, and we'll get together and talk."
She nodded, her lips in a tight line as she pushed the elevator button. "Wish me luck," she called out as she stepped inside.
Joe turned to Emily. "Yeah, she's going to need it."