Authors: Nicki Night
aved by the ring! “Excuse me.” Relief shrouded Chey as she reached for her cell phone and shot off to her room to speak in private. Her insides had warmed when he said that he'd carried her to the room.
“Girl! Your timing couldn't have been better,” she told her sister, Deanna, the second she answered.
“Remember the sexy...” Chey peeked toward the door to make sure Hunter was out of earshot “...stranger I told you about?”
“Yes, crazy. The one you let stay in the villa with you. I still have the picture of him in my phone from when you texted me the other day. If your behind came up missing, I was going to send that sucker to ABC News! Shoot! I must admit, he was handsome as hell. Does he know you took that picture?”
“Heck, no! The flash was off and I acted as if I was checking my hair. I actually took several pictures. The one I sent to you was one of the best.” Chey thought for a moment. “You didn't tell Mom and Dad, did you?” Chey felt her heart race a bit at the thought. Prone to worry, her mother would have a fit if she knew Chey allowed a stranger to sleep in her villa and she was traveling alone. “I didn't mention it when I spoke to her and I don't want you to either.”
“I didn't say a word. Get back to what happened.”
Chey told her about how much she enjoyed their time together the day before and how he'd just told her that he'd carried her to bed last night. She also filled her in on all the mayhem the storm had caused and the fact that she still hadn't done any skiing.
“Wow. Every time I speak with you, there's a new adventure. I don't need reality TV anymore. When I need a little dose of crazy or some âyou won't believe this' to heighten my day, I'm going to call you from now on.”
“Hush it, silly. Anyway. He's staying another night.”
“Hmm. Are you sure about that?”
“He's been here for the last two nights. What's going to happen tonight?”
“I don't know. I guess I'll have to wait for the report tomorrow.”
“Anyway!” Chey chided her sister. “I'm hoping to finally get on the slopes tomorrow.” Chey changed the subject and they chatted about her upcoming visit home during spring break. When they were finished, Chey called and spoke with her parents while gathering the other movies she'd promised to get from her carry-on bag. She'd kept Hunter's presence a secret from them. Chey couldn't possibly tell them she was sharing her villa with a strange man.
Purposely, Chey left all of the romantic comedies behind and brought only the action flicks out for their enjoyment. She didn't want Hunter getting any ideas, even though she'd already imagined what it would be like to kick caution to the curb and become intimate with him. If he made a move, would she resist? Hmm. From the way he looked at her, she knew he wanted her as much as she would have liked to try him out. The sexual tension crackled louder than the logs in the fireplace. She had already imagined what it would be like to feel his lush lips on hers. She was borderline upset about the fact that he'd carried her in his strong arms and she didn't even remember. She'd never be able to reminisce about what it felt like to be in his arms. What a waste!
Chey shook those thoughts from her head and went back into the living room. She stepped slowly and quietly when she realized that he was on the phone. Laying the movies out on the coffee table, she waited patiently for him to finish. Based on the professional tone of his voice, she assumed the call was about business.
“Hey!” Hunter placed his hand on her shoulder.
Chey jumped. She had been so engrossed in going through the movie selections that she hadn't heard him approach. His touch startled and excited her.
“I didn't mean to scare you. I was just letting you know I was off the phone.” Hunter rounded the couch and sat. Leaning forward, he scanned the movies. “Now, what are our choices?”
“You pick this time.” Chey spread the movies farther apart so that titles would show clearly.
“Whoa! You have the first
?” Hunter beamed. “That's one of my favorite movies.”
“Me too! Let's watch it. You do the honorsâ” Chey handed him the DVD “âwhile I pop the popcorn.”
Together they stood and proceeded to fulfill their designated duties.
“I actually have all of the
movies. I thought I brought them with me, but it seems I only have that one.” Chey unfolded the bag of popcorn and placed it in the microwave and then leaned on the counter waiting for it to pop.
“I haven't met many women who enjoy these kinds of movies.”
“You've never met me.” She was testing this flirting thing out and decided she enjoyed it.
Hunter stopped what he was doing and cast a smoldering gaze with one brow raised. “I know you now.” The timbre of his voice had fallen a few octaves. The bellow tickled her core.
“Well, there's a lot you still don't know,” she teased.
“And we can fix that.”
Either the room got warmer or someone had set a match inside her belly. The microwave dinged, saving her from trying to think of a comeback. Hunter winked and turned his attention back to the DVD.
Chey poured the popcorn in a bowl and joined Hunter on the couch. Halfway into the movie they heard a loud crack, a pop and then a substantial boom. The TV fizzled and went black. The time on the DVD player flashed and then disappeared. Both of them sat straight up.
“Oh my goodness! What was that?” Chey didn't realize the grip she had on Hunter's arm until he tried to pry himself free to go and explore the issue.
Chey let go, hoping she hadn't broken any skin with her nails. Picking up the remote, she randomly pushed buttons in an attempt to get the TV to come back on. Then she stood, went to the TV and hit the power button several times. Nothing happened. Once again Hunter threw on his coat and went outside to assess the situation. Chey could hear him talking to someone but couldn't make out what he was saying.
She ran to her room, got her coat and met Hunter outside. He was talking with a neighbor from a nearby villa who was apparently just as clueless as he was. People were coming out of their rooms with puzzled looks that matched hers and Hunter's.
“I'm going to reception to find out what's happening. Go back inside and I'll be right back.” Protectively, he covered her hand with his before trotting off.
Inwardly, she smiled. She liked Hunter's protective nature.
Chey stayed outside chatting with another guest for a few moments before heading back inside. Walking around the villa, she checked to see if there was power in any of the rooms. She found none. Chey collapsed on the couch, moaned and fell over, pressing the side of her face in the cushions.
“What else could go wrong?” Immediately, she sat up. “I didn't mean that!” She looked toward the ceiling, knowing that was the worst question one could ask in a crisis.
Unable to remain still, Chey went back to the door and looked out. More people had come out, but there was no sign of Hunter yet. She went back inside and absentmindedly filled the teakettle with water and tried to turn on the electric stove. Nothing happened. “Ugh!”
Chey sat on the stool and pulled out her cell phone. She called Deanna, who answered after a few short rings.
“You won't believe this!”
“What happened now?” Deanna's tone was anxious.
“We were watching a movie and heard these loud noises and then the power went out. Hunter went out to find out what happened.”
“What else could goâ?”
“Uh, uh, uh! Don't you say it! You ask that and I'll probably find out.”
“You're right! I'll swallow those words. I'm starting to get worried.”
“It's just the storm. I'll be fine. Hopefully, they'll have the electricity up and running soon.”
“Well, keep me posted.”
When Chey hung up her phone, she looked at her battery and noted she had 70 percent. She hoped that the power would return before her battery died. In the meantime, she'd have to use her phone sparingly. Chey tapped her home key twice and closed all the apps running in the background. Then she returned to the couch to wait for Hunter.
Several moments later, Hunter came bustling through the door, bringing in a rush of cold air and several logs of wood with him. Chey stood.
“The power's out.” Hunter dropped the wood to his feet and peeled himself out of his coat.
“I already figured that out, silly. Why is it out?”
After tossing his coat on the rack, Hunter grabbed the logs and placed them by the fireplace. He slapped his hands against his jeans to rid them of the sawdust.
“Remember we saw a few trees that looked like they were leaning?” He didn't give her time to answer. “Well, one of them decided to fall, pulling down power lines and smashing into one of the main generators. This whole side is without power and they aren't sure exactly when it will be back up.”
“Ugh!” Chey had groaned more in the past two days than she had in the past two years. “I can't believe this. What elseâ?”
Hunter held up his hand, silently beseeching her not to finish that sentence.
Chey rolled her eyes and dropped her head. “You're right,” she said, acknowledging his attempt to keep her from finishing that taboo sentence once again.
Hunter looked at his phone. “I'm down to 50 percent. What are you on?”
“Seventy percent. Make sure you close out all your apps and turn off your cellular data and roaming.”
“I've already done that.”
With the heat out, a chill was already settling over the villa.
“Let me get this fire started and then I'll run back to reception to get more firewood. They're handing it out to guests now.”
When Hunter had left to get more wood, Chey fashioned a cozy setting in front of the fireplace with blankets and pillows. A romantic atmosphere was not her intent, but that was what it ended up looking like. She sat in the center of the space she'd created and let the warmth of the fire caress her skin while the crackle of the wood charmed her ears.
Hunter returned and joined her on the floor. Without cell phones, DVDs, laptops or any other power-operated devices to engage them, they were left to entertain each other. They talked until a companionable silence took over.
“What was he like? Was he a nice guy?” Hunter said, obviously referring to Chey's ex.
She laughed. “You're nosy.” She held out another moment. “No. He wasn't that nice.”
“Is that why you broke up?”
“Actually, no. I wanted more out of life than he was willing to contend with.”
“He was a dream killer,” Hunter summed up matter-of-factly.
“A dream killer?” Chey craned her head toward him.
“Yeah. The kind of person that tries to kill your ideas while you're sharing them. You know, they ask questions like âWhy would you want to do that?'”
Hunter had Todd pegged. Suddenly, Chey felt more connected to him and wondered what Hunter would have to say about her dream of becoming a perfumer. Would he think it was silly?
“Then that's exactly what he was,” Chey finally agreed.
“What about you, Mr. Nosy? You have a woman back home?” Her curiosity got the best of her. She had told herself not to bother getting to know him.
“No. There's no woman back home.”
“I guess the right one has yet to come along.”
“What do you do?”
“Mostly litigation. But I dabble in other areas of law, as well.”
“I guess you're pretty smart, too.”
Both of them chuckled and continued chatting until the sun departed, leaving them to the light of the moon through the picture window and the embers glowing in the fireplace.
The coolness of the villa had forced them to draw closer to the fire and each other. Chey's back settled against Hunter's chest as they both watched the embers dance in the shadows.
“Is this how you imagined your liberating solo vacation would turn out?”
“Not at all.”
“Me neither.” Hunter sniffed out a chuckle. “This is actually better than I thought it would be.”
Chey craned her neck, tossing Hunter a baffled look.
“I never thought I'd end up with a beautiful woman in my arms as we sat in front of a fireplace with a view of mountains beckoning at my side.”
Chey's cheeks burned. She turned back toward the fire and let her head settle in the center of Hunter's chest. No words were necessary. Hunter was right. Despite all that had gone wrong, she could have never called this and was grateful that she didn't have to endure this alone. What would she have done if Hunter had made his flight home on the first day?
“You smell amazing.” Hunter's voice had reduced to a husky whisper.
“Thank you.” Chey smiled but didn't turn around. “It's one of my creations.” If Hunter kept it up, they would no longer need the fireplace for heat.
“You made that?”
“That's some talent.” She felt Hunter nod.
“You don't smell so bad yourself,” Chey teased.
“Thanks!” Silence. Then laughter.
As the laughter subsided, Chey noticed how Hunter instinctively rubbed her arm. His touch alone was enough to keep her warm.
Eventually the quiet of the night expanded and settled over them like a soft blanket. They nestled into the inviting softness, connecting without words. Chey enjoyed the moment in the midst of all the chaos but longed for more. She wanted Hunter to touch her in other places. She wanted to feel him. The longer she sat there in his arms, the more desire stirred inside her.
Chey's conscious fought over her desire and the reality of her knowing Hunter for only a short while. Never before had she been in such a compromising battle with her will. She had spent most of her dating years with Todd and had had only a few suitors before that. She'd never felt as if she'd belonged in any of their arms, yet being cradled by Hunter seemed so right. One-night stands weren't even in her vocabulary, but something in her trampled all reason and urged her to throw caution to the treacherous winds and indulge herself completely in this gorgeous man.