Authors: Juliana Stone
And now the inevitable was happening.
He’d invaded her beach.
She eyed Jack overtop of the book in her hand. He was shirtless and wore a pair of faded navy board shorts. Mirrored aviators kept his eyes hidden, and he carried snorkeling gear in one hand and a red cooler in the other. He set the snorkeling gear down close to the water and turned toward her.
Donovan’s heart skipped and immediately she tensed. Okay. Why was he walking toward her? They weren’t friends. They weren’t even close.
He didn’t stop until his shadow blocked the sun.
“You sound surprised,” she said turning a page.
“Sorry to inform you that this Arkansas hick can read.” Lord, he better not quiz her on Huxley, because so far she’d barely managed to get through the first chapter. And the only reason she was reading it was because Grace had bet her that she’d never get through it.
Thinking of the traitor, Donovan’s mouth thinned. She damn well was gonna collect whether she finished the book or not. After pulling this stunt, Grace Simon owed her big time.
“Let’s not get off on the wrong foot already. I just meant that it’s heavy stuff for vacation. I thought you’d have a stack of those trash magazines you used to like.”
“Nope,” she said, glancing up. “I’ve been on the cover of most of them every other week since Miami, so I avoid them like the plague.” She shrugged. “I don’t enjoy reading stories about myself, because most of them are lies.”
“I get that,” he replied.
“You still do that.”
“That sound that tells me that you think I’m full of shit.”
“Y’all need a sound to get that?” Her voice. It was sugar sweet.
“Jesus, Donnie. Can’t we agree on something as simple as the media?”
“Your situation with the media is a hell of a lot different than mine, and you know it.” Suddenly angry, Donovan tore off her glasses and sat up. “They sensationalize my life. Every little stupid detail. Last week they wrote about my trip to the goddamn gynecologist. The gyno for Christ sake. Half of the United States thinks I’m pregnant.”
“What? Pregnant? I’d have to be having sex to be pregnant.”
Oh. My. God. She did not just tell him that. Rushing forward, she tried like hell to cover up her slip.
“They write about the most ludicrous things. Apparently I’ve had plastic surgery. Even my mole isn’t real, and uh, what woman would want a big ol’ black mole on her face? Oh, and all I do is drink vodka. I hate vodka.”
“Whiskey is your drink of choice.”
“And drugs? I smoked a joint once when I was skipping math class in high school. Once. And I hated it because it made me paranoid. I’ve never snorted coke or tried heroin or anything else for that matter. Never. I’ve never slept with any Dallas Cowboy and certainly not one named Hank and I sure as hell haven’t slept with that actor from that show. Shit, if I had sex with every single man the rags have said I did, I’d never have time to do anything else besides—“
“But you’re not,” he interjected.
“Huh?” She was so caught up in her tirade that she paused to catch her breath.
And was that some kind of cocky smile on his face?
“You’re not having sex with anyone.” She blinked. That darn dimple of his was enough to drive her crazy. “Or so you said.”
“Well I sure as hell am not sleeping with you and according to most of America, including your mother, that’s a good thing. You know, because Donovan James is so evil, and Jack Simon is the fucking bees-knees.”
“What’s my mother got to do with it?”
But Donovan didn’t hear that question. Her mind was spinning a mile a minute and the more she thought about the double standard, the more angry she got. “You’re like this…this golden god who’s going to wave his magic wand and become the next political dynamo in Washington. I bet half of them believe you’ll cure cancer or negotiate world peace. Christ, I bet they think rainbows live in your butt, and we both know that isn’t true. I’ve never read a negative story about you. It’s insane and so not fair.”
He was smiling, and god help her, but every single one of Donovan’s lady parts was suddenly alive and buzzing. Her breasts felt heavy, and if he wasn’t looking directly at her, she’d have snuck a hand between her legs. The ache there had been dull and throbbing all night, but right now? With her blood boiling and naked-Jack-chest inches from her?
She was about to explode.
“What’s so funny?” she snapped.
“Nice to know you’re keeping tabs on me.”
She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her hair and clamped her mouth shut. No point in getting into it with Jack. She’d never win that game. He’d always been good with his words.
And his hands.
A silent groan echoed inside her head.
God, and his tongue
He set down the cooler. “I made you a sandwich and there’s a couple of cold beers in here, too.” He regarded her for a few seconds. “I found your stash of chocolate, so I tossed one of those in.”
Surprised, Donovan, glanced at the red cooler. “You didn’t have to…I mean, I was going to head back for lunch.”
“I know I didn’t have to, and I also know you ran out of the house as soon as I woke up.”
“I didn’t…” Her voice trailed off at the look in his eyes. Jack’s bullshit meter was kicking in, and she knew it.
“Donnie, we’re stuck here for a few days. We may as well make the best of it. We’re both adults.” He shrugged. “Let’s forget about the history and just try to get along. Do you think you can do that?”
“I’m not sleeping with you.”
Okay. Where the hell did that come from? So much for the Oscars. With one panicked move, Donovan was up for a Rotten Tomato award and man, did she deserve it.
If Jack was amused by her statement, he didn’t show it. In fact, he ignored it completely which confused the hell out of Donovan.
“I’m gonna get some snorkeling in. You wanna join me?”
She was shaking her head before she could form an answer. “Uh, no. My foot is swollen and I’m…well.” She held up her book. “I’m going to try and make a dent in this.”
She pulled her Gucci glasses back onto her nose, relieved that she had some kind of shelter from those intense eyes and settled back onto her beach chair.
Jack turned without another word and for as many seconds as it took for him to stride back to the water, she had a magnificent view of his broad shoulders, naked back and tapered waist.
She watched him get his gear on and head into the water, his body fluid and strong and….
She groaned, the throb between her legs insistent and her mouth dry, her hand slipped beneath her bikini bottom when he went under the water. She was slick and hot, full of need. Images of Jack above her, inside her, mouth at her breast and hands on her body assaulted Donovan’s mind. She sank lower into the chair so there was no way he could see what she was doing.
As Jack Simon crested the water and swam out along the coral reef her fingers gave her some relief. She rubbed and caressed and pressed into that part of her that was engorged and swollen with need.
But it was a hollow feeling. An orgasm by her own hand didn’t hold a candle to the kind of response Jack could coax from her with just a look. And as she shattered against her palm, a single tear wove its way down her cheek.
She would never have that again. At twenty-nine, that was a sobering thought.
“How’s the foot?”
Jack tossed his empty beer into the cooler and glanced at Donovan. Her long hair was tied back, her face free of makeup. Her days here had given her a golden glow, and he was struck by how feminine and fresh she looked. Truthfully, she didn’t look a day past five years ago.
That damn book was still in her hands, held in front of her face like a shield, the same place it had been every single time he’d looked her way.
“Maybe I should take a look at it.” He was goading her but couldn’t seem to help himself.
“Nope. All good.”
Huh. She was as prickly as a porcupine. Jack supposed he should just leave well enough alone, but he couldn’t. Her little slip up earlier had been on his mind for the past few hours.
“I’d have to have sex to be pregnant.”
Seems as if he wasn’t the only one not getting laid these days, and that made him think of all sorts of things that he shouldn’t be thinking about. He knew the sexual chemistry between them was still there. That was something they’d never lost. It was simmering beneath the surface, and if not handled properly, it would explode.
Hell if she asked him what he’d seen out in the water he wouldn’t be able to answer her because truthfully, all he’d seen were images of her naked and wet, mouth bruised from his, legs open and ready.
He wanted her. Plain and simple. With two days to go, that was pretty fucking inconvenient.
No way was he going there with her. At this point, Jack wasn’t sure either one of them would survive a second go in the bedroom. From day one, they’d had a volatile relationship. They loved and then they hurt and then they made up. He supposed it was inevitable that it had ended so badly.
That last argument had been ugly, and they’d both said some things. Jack had left, pissed off and freaked out by the depth of his feelings for her. A woman who drove him crazy and a woman who was as stubborn as he was. Tucker had talked him down from that one. Told him that it was normal to feel as if you were losing everything when you were gaining the world. It was the universe’s way of keeping you humble.
When he’d come back to his beach house the next day, she was gone. Derek was still there, his buddy had been on hand for the entire ugly thing, and he’d handed Jack the Dear John letter and a stiff scotch.
Fuck it. Time to leave and think of something else.
Jack got to his feet and packed up the cooler. She’d eaten the sandwich he’d made, and he noted the chocolate bar was gone, too. The beer however, she’d left for him.
“I’m heading up to the house.”
“Okay,” she replied, nose still in that damn book. Her back was ramrod straight, and he knew that she was about as far from relaxed as they were from mainland Belize.
He wasn’t sure what her deal was, but Jack was done trying to figure that shit out.
An hour later, he had veggies and steak grilling on the barbecue, and he’d opened a bottle of red wine. It was a Malbec from the south of France and one he was going to enjoy even if he drank the entire bottle himself.
He had two more days to go and somewhere between chopping peppers and onions, he decided that the only way to get through it was to at least attempt some sort of normalcy.
After all. They were adults. Adults with a past, mind you, but it was time to get over it and move on.
“Wow. That smells…wonderful.”
He’d just come back into the house from the patio and turned at the sound of her voice. Just like that, a bolt of energy slid through his body.
Yeah. The whole moving on thing was going to be hard but hey, Jack was always up for a challenge.
Donovan’s hair was loose, falling down her back in golden waves. The ends were damp and he realized she’d showered and changed because the simple dress she wore was new. Halter style, it emphasized her breasts and fell several inches above her knee in a brush of soft pink.
It was feminine and totally Donovan. She must have snuck in when he was outside on the patio.
He, however, was still in his board shorts and hadn’t bothered with a shirt. He hadn’t showered either and couldn’t remember the last time he’d bothered to shave.
“I’ll set the table,” she said inching toward the kitchen.
“Already done. Set up on the patio.”
“Oh. Sorry. I didn’t know you were going to all this trouble or I would have helped.” Her eyes slid away from his, and Jack couldn’t let that one go.
“Save it, Donnie. We both know the kitchen isn’t your favorite place. If I remember correctly, you cooked me one meal.
the entire time we were together. Jesus, we both would have starved if it wasn’t for me.”
A smile broke open on her face, and she laughed that full-bodied laugh that he hadn’t realized he’d missed until just now.
“Oh my god. The bird. It was ah…Christmas?”
“Right and I left the giblets and stuff inside the turkey.”
“Well, it’s not like there was instructions or anything. It wasn’t that—“
“Trust me. It was that bad. The turkey was undercooked and the mashed potatoes could have been used for glue. In fact, I’m sure I used the leftovers for that loose board on the back deck.”
She grabbed the extra wine glass he’d put out and poured herself some Malbec. Taking a sip, she leaned against the counter. “You ate them. In fact you told me they were the best mashed potatoes you’d ever had.”
She twirled the wine in her glass, and his eyes zoned in on her long elegant fingers. Her nails were always short, but they were painted a soft pink.
“When you left to take a phone call, I emptied my plate onto yours.”
“That’s devious.” He would like to say he was shocked, but he wasn’t.
“Damn straight it was, but good lord, they were awful potatoes.”
Jack topped up his wine and took another sip. “Then why didn’t you just admit that they were the worst mashed potatoes ever made, and we could have gone out to dinner?”
“Because I don’t like to lose.”
He held her gaze for as long as she’d let him, and then her eyes slid away from his, her laughter fading to nothing.
“No,” he replied. “Neither do I.” Jack took another sip of wine and silence fell between the two of them.
“So this is nice.” Donovan said lightly, those long fingers trailing over the rim of her wineglass.
“What’s that?” Jack replied, eyes fixed on her bottom lip because at the moment, she was chewing on it and for some reason he found that incredibly hot.
“Us,” she said, turning to him.
Slowly his gaze moved up to her face, but her eyes were averted, the long lashes sweeping low. What was her angle? And why the hell was she suddenly being so nice?