Authors: C A Vincent
“A-Alicia Danvers,” Alicia answered on a gasp. Never before had she been so embarrassed she wanted the ground to swallow her whole. Needing desperately to put distance between them, she started to get up. He offered his hand then and helped her to her feet. She could have refused his assistance, but then she would have looked like a stuck-up snob and people were still watching.
His touch was warm and firm and did all manner of things to her that not even her previous boyfriend’s most passionate kisses had done. Completely thrown off balance by her reaction, Alicia tried to pull her hand away. His hold tightened.
Before she could demand he release her, he pulled her in close and circled her waist with his arm. All at once, the heat and strength of him surrounded her, penetrating through the chill of her fear and obliterating it. Alicia nearly sagged against him as he quietly explained in no uncertain terms the effect she was having on him.
“You are by far the most beautiful woman I’ve come across in the three weeks I’ve been here. And as sudden and shocking as our initial meeting was, I must confess I want nothing more than to mould your sexy, soft curves against my body and kiss you senseless. But because you’re obviously spooked and I’m not into sharing intimate moments with the public at large, I’ll have to settle with buying you breakfast while you tell me who or what you were running from.”
Her awareness of Nate’s solid, strong body became all the more acute as he spoke. It sizzled through her, making it difficult to breathe properly. He really was handsome, with his strong, square jaw and wide-set serious eyes. A gentle breeze ruffled his short, sandy brown hair, blowing it into his face. Her hand twitched by her side. She wanted nothing more than to brush it aside. Unable to resist, she gave in to the impulse. His arm tightened slightly around her waist as she moved.
“Breakfast?” he asked roughly. Alicia nodded mutely, not trusting herself to speak.
Nate wandered aimlessly along the already-crowded boardwalk. A few of the local women, as well as several tourists smiled and waved at him. His response to them was half-hearted at best. He’d tried to immerse himself into the local culture, to flirt with some of the local beauties but he just couldn’t shake the images going through his mind.
Jared emailed him a total of sixteen files. In each and every one of them, Elizabeth was engaged in some kind of sexual activity. That, in and of itself, wouldn’t have shocked him so much if they all featured the same person as her partner, but each and every time had been with a different man. And like a glutton for punishment, he’d watched them all. He was struggling to push the images from his mind yet again when a curvy, soft someone slammed into him and knocked him flat on his back.
Whether it was the undercurrent of sexual tension he’d been feeling since watching the videos or the impact of sweet, full curves coming up hard against him, or both, Nate couldn’t help reacting to the feel of the woman in his arms. He was almost glad to have the wind knocked out of him because it kept him from groaning out loud as her breasts flattened against his chest.
To make matters worse, it was all he could do to keep from rolling her under him and grinding his hips into her. Thank God for the crowd surrounding them.
There was also the terror in her eyes and the way she shook and trembled from her head to her toes. The woman’s fear awoke an altogether different primal beast in him, a protective one. He held her almost possessively when they finally gained their feet, showing whoever it was who’d frightened her she was no longer a target. Hoping to help her relax, he opened his mouth to invite her to breakfast. What came out instead shocked even himself. Surprisingly, she didn’t wind up and punch him for his boldness.
“I’m not the happy “going to save the world” kid you went to school with, Phil,” James argued. “I’m – possessive. Dangerously so. You can’t – ”
“You’re still not over Debra?” Phillip asked, surprised. He eyed his former college roommate and friend up and down, not liking what he was seeing. Time had not treated his friend well. Or perhaps it was his friend who’d used and abused time, amongst other things. All of a sudden, he was debating the wisdom of his plan. “After all this – ”
“She was my first love and she left me for a known criminal. She knew I wanted to be a cop. She knew how I felt about the law.” James’ voice was an angry snarl as he spoke, yet his face was filled with the same pain he felt nearly twenty years ago.
Phillip now knew, without a doubt, he’d made the wrong choice for Alicia. She was – sweetness. And love. So much love. She needed a man who would take care of her, make her feel cherished. One who could handle it when she busted his balls over a wrong he’d done her.
After five years of resisting her and crushing his feelings for her, he’d come to realize he was in love with her. Seeing as he couldn’t offer her the life she deserved, he wanted to find someone for her who could. He’d figured on James being that man, given the amount of time which had passed since Debra went over to the “dark side”, as they used to call the wrong side of the law. He realized now he was very, very wrong.
“If it’s any consolation, she knocked a fellow tourist flat on his back when she was running from me. I’ve checked into the guy. He doesn’t have a record and owns his own company,” his friend offered. Phillip let loose a snort of disgust. A quickie fling was the last thing he wanted for Alicia.
“And the sparks between them,” James added, ignoring his response, or lack thereof, “Wow!” Phillip looked up, his attention suddenly caught. His friend had a wholly primal look in his eyes as he continued speaking. “The way she blushes and – perks up – whenever he touches her… Damn! Makes me wish I wasn’t so messed up. She is pure, unadulterated passion, bundled up in a sweet, girl-next-door package.”
“Shut your damn mouth,” Phillip growled. All of a sudden, the thought of another man touching Alicia had him wanting to rip shit apart. He stood, deciding then and there he would have his time with her, even if it was short. They could make it work. They could –
“Holy mother of – ” he breathed as the room spun wildly around him. Like a lead weight, he dropped to the floor.
“I understand, man. I really do. I’ll follow them, make sure he doesn’t treat her badly,” James said quietly. Phillip hated like hell having anyone see him like this, least of all someone who’d known him in his prime. He tried to push his friend’s helping hands away but was too weak. Before he knew it, James was carrying him to the damn couch. He’d never felt so defeated in his life.
“She doesn’t – do – flings,” Phillip breathed. The flight over had taken more out of him than he thought it would. He just needed to rest for a bit. Then he would go out and find Alicia. He would tell her all about his master plan and explain how he really felt. If she chose him, great. If not, it was back to the drawing board. That thought made him groan out loud.
“All the more reason you don’t want me with her. Short-term is all I do. It’s all I’m capable of. I tried to go for something more serious. She gave an old, male school friend a hug and I lost it. It took some serious begging and pleading on my part to keep her from pressing charges. I’ll make sure your lady doesn’t get hurt, Phil. You have my word.”
Phillip’s eyes closed on his friend’s earnest words.
… The word whispered through the fog of sleep taking over his mind and body. Oblivion claimed him then, preventing him from being able to complete the thought.
“What are you going to do when you get there?” Elizabeth shuddered. How very like Jared to show up just as she was packing to go to Trinidad. How very like him to push his way into Nate’s and her apartment then stand imperiously in her bedroom doorway while she tried to ignore him. He made her sick.
The question, though spoken softly, was loud in the quiet room. It took everything she possessed to keep from showing how much it affected her. What would she do? How on earth would she prove Jared’s sick videos were nothing but doctored up lies? She had no idea, but she had to try, for Nate’s sake. Knowing him as she did, she knew he had to be feeling insecure and unsure of himself.
After three years of struggling to understand her distance toward him, when their first year together had been filled with incredible passion, it was a foregone conclusion his ego was battered. Add to that her little surprise about Linda and he was probably trying to “man up” by sleeping with as many women as possible. The thought turned her stomach. Nate wasn’t built for quickie sex. He had too soft and caring a heart.
“Answer me,” Jared growled.
Elizabeth was so lost in her worries about Nate, she actually forgot about her nemesis for a few seconds. A bad thing to do, given his penchant for violence. She’d learned first hand what Nate’s business partner was capable of, was still learning as a matter of fact, even after three years. She had the upper hand this time though. She’d made sure of it, as soon as she learned about the videos.
“Mr. Morrison, you’ve not been invited into this apartment. We suggest you leave,” Linda stated. Elizabeth could tell she was in the hallway, close to Jared. She wondered if the others were as close. If they were, things were going to get hairy very quickly. She watched as Jared did a slow turn. When he didn’t stop with Linda, she realized the entire gang was present.
Unsurprisingly, he scoffed at the group of women. As each of the five took turns introducing herself, making sure to include their chosen professions in the intros, she saw him visibly pale. Triumph surged through her veins as her long-time nemesis and the destroyer of her relationship with Nate stuttered and stammered. He was obviously at a complete loss for a way to smooth-talk his way out of the pickle he currently found himself in. Then, true to his cowardly character, he tried to bolt.
“Yay!” she exclaimed, clapping like an excited little girl. Three of Linda’s colleagues had been hoping he’d try something so stupid. Out in the living room, there was a shout of surprise from Jared. This was followed by a gasp and a deep, drawn out groan. It sounded like he was finally getting his just deserts. Linda entered the bedroom then, her eyes filled with worry. The expression changed to one of relief when she saw the ecstatic smile Elizabeth was wearing.
“It was smart of you to not tell Nate I’m really a cop,” Linda said as she approached. She looked down at the suitcase on the bed and her eyes clouded over.
“It was your idea. I simply went along with it. And I’ll be back. Probably sooner than you think. You have nothing to worry about. I don’t want to patch things up with Nate. You’re – ”
“I know. I know. You’ve reassured me enough times.” Linda cut in. “But
. I would kill to sit on a beach with you and rub suntan oil all over you. Then you could do the same for me and we could – .”
Elizabeth groaned helplessly. “I have a flight to catch,” she whispered raggedly, just barely resisting stepping into Linda’s arms. She still had to finish packing, which meant she was severely behind schedule already. Her flight was scheduled to take off in three hours.
“Fine, I’ll leave you to it. But you keep a hold of that image playing through your mind while you’re putting your ex’s mind at ease. I expect to be jumped and ravished for hours on end when you get back,” Linda answered. To give her words more impact, she stepped up on tiptoe to give her a hot, bone-melting kiss. Just when the heat between them reached inferno level, she broke the kiss and left.
Elizabeth heaved a shaky sigh. She hated having to travel to finish things up with Nate, but he didn’t seem inclined to make his way home any time soon. She only hoped she got there before he fell head over heels for some local beauty and got suckered into giving everything up for her. He’d worked too hard to lose it all to some gold-digger.
Alicia decided perhaps sitting on the beach, soaking up some sun might be better than sightseeing after all. Breakfast with Nate Langston ended up being cut short when he received an unexpected, urgent business call. Apparently he worked in mergers and acquisitions and a deal he was very eager to make was on the verge of going south. Before he left her though, he warned her to stay close to the hotel. He didn’t like the fact she suspected her would-be tour guide was actually a pimp.
She was just settling into a chaise when a shadow blocked the sun. Thinking maybe Nate’s call ended sooner than she thought it might, she looked up, expecting to see his handsome chiselled features. When she saw none other than James, her would-be guide, she damn near wet her bikini bottoms. His expression was dark as he dropped into a squat beside her.
“I am a detective,” he said quietly. To prove his statement, he surreptitiously palmed a badge, let her have a good look, then slid it back into his pocket. “You were being watched by some – unsavory – people last night. The woman you saw me with earlier is my partner. What I did was for show. I understand if you would prefer to see the sights with someone else. It would even be for the best, given the turn this case is taking. I would like to ask, however, that you – ”
“There you are. Call’s over. Are you up for a walk?” Nate called out from behind her. Alicia’s face flamed as she turned jerkily to look in his direction. She felt like she’d been caught misbehaving, though she couldn’t understand why. Struggling to quell the rather unpleasant feeling, she turned in her seat to face Nate full on.