Authors: Ella London
© 2016 by Ella London
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
id you have fun today
Ethan came up behind her and braced his hands on the deck railing. Boxing her in. His body pressed against hers from shoulder to knees.
A choked laugh escaped her lips. “Not sure I’d call it fun exactly.”
When they finally arrived back at Ethan’s bungalow, she felt like a rocket. Ready to go off at the slightest touch. He’d pulled out a bottle of Cristal Rose Champagne from his refrigerator and grabbed two glasses that were on the counter and guided her to the deck.
The sunset had been amazing and her body buzzed, and not just from the alcohol.
His dark chuckle against her neck made goose bumps pop up along her skin. If he started and stopped this time, she really was going to kill him. She leaned back, tilted her neck so that he had more surface to kiss.
Ethan ran his tongue down along her shoulder, then nipped his way back up. The scruff of his beard abraded her skin in a way that she’d never felt before. The hard bulge of his cock pressed into her lower back. She was pinned between it and the railing and she was tired of waiting.
She turned and wrapped her arms around his neck. No more games. She wanted him. With a tug she brought his head down and pressed her lips to his. Hot silk. That's what his tongue felt like gliding over hers. Harper groaned, lifted her leg, and wrapped it around his thigh. His fingers dug into her bare flesh, holding her like that, pushing her back against the rail.
She needed his kiss deeper but he held back, stroked the inside of her mouth boldly but with deliberation. She ached everywhere but the pulsing wetness between her legs was unbearable.
“Ethan, I need you to touch me.”
His low chuckle was full of promise.
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he looked just
like the other tourists, and that was the whole point.
A few days of blending in, a few days away from reality—and even if the weather didn’t cooperate. The last couple of days, there had been a tropical storm, but Harper didn’t mind.
Lying in the hammock she’d read and napped and sipped on fruity umbrella drinks.
There were other people on the island of course, but she was staying in one of the more private spots, a cute bungalow that sat over the crystal clear waters of Huahine Island, sheltered by large palm trees. She had her own small white sanded beach and earlier that week, Carl had come and given her private snorkeling lessons in the cove just outside her room.
Private snorkeling lessons; a luxury she shouldn’t have been indulging in, given her quickly dwindling resources.
And yes, she felt guilty for even being there, especially when her father and mother had booked the trip for all of them to go on together.
The trip had been planned before.
Before the destruction of everything that had seemed so real, before Harper had realized that her world was a lie, a house of cards that had come crashing down so fast that it still made her breathless with panic sometimes.
Not long ago, a trip like this would have seemed almost ordinary to Harper. Her father had often taken the family on fancy, extravagant vacations. But those days were over and they weren’t coming back.
Still, the trip was booked and non-refundable, and so Harper had decided to come at the last minute, all by her lonesome. She’d needed the time away from Boston—time to hopefully clear her head before things got even worse…
Harper sighed and took a deep breath.
Not going to think about it right now, she told herself.
Here there were no front-page headlines to avoid, no catcalls from people driving by her parents’ home, no disgusted glares when people saw the last name on her credit card.
Here there was just beauty and peace and tranquility that Harper felt certain she would never have again for the rest of her life.
Waves lapped at the posts and the sun shone brightly, reflecting off the water and making everything a dazzling blue color. The hurricane hadn’t even come close to Tahiti, but it had made the ocean choppier than it had been which eliminated any snorkeling she’d planned on doing the past two days.
In the distance she could see a man on a paddleboard, but aside from him, there was no one else around. No one to bother her at all. This was exactly what she needed. Out of the media, away from pushy reporters and their questions.
No, she didn’t know what he father had been doing, but none of them believed it.
Once more, she pushed away the anxiety that had started to build. She had promised herself one whole week of not thinking about everything going on back in Boston.
Right now all she wanted to do was immerse herself in the warm ocean water. There was something about being under the surface, about seeing nature at it’s purest that made things a little better. Too bad she couldn’t turn into a mermaid and live under there permanently.
She only had two more days of her vacation and she wasn’t going to sit around moping over her life. There was a stunning coral reef on the horizon and it was calling her name. She grabbed the mask and fins that Carl had left for her and shrugged out of her serape. Today’s bikini was a pale yellow set that looked amazing against her tanned skin.
Almost a week in the sun gave her wavy chestnut hair highlights that would cost a fortune at the salon.
She sat on the beach and pulled the fins over her feet. It had taken her four tries to stand up the first time she had put them on and even then Carl had to practically lift her. After their lesson she spent an hour putting them on, standing up and taking them off until she was able to do it without help.
Warm water swirled around her ankles as she penguin walked into the ocean. It was so clear that she could see the sparkling white sand kicking up as she took each step. Carl had walked her through the steps several times so Harper knew what to do. Spitting into her mask was still pretty gross but she did it anyway.
The waves rocked against her stomach, causing her to sway more than she had the first few times. It took her a minute to center herself, then she tucked the snorkel between her lips, puffed out a few breaths to make sure it was clear, then sank to her shoulders and pushed her feet against the sand.
Face down she floated, kicking her feet slowly as her gaze moved over the ocean floor. It really was incredible; the colors, the fish. Three days ago she’d actually seen a small shark. Waves rocked her body as she swam lazily, following the curve of the pink and yellow coral. As the water got deeper, Harper took a deep breath in and pushed down, closer to the ocean floor. She surfaced, puffed out a breath to clear the snorkel and went under again.
Her legs ached in a good way after over an hour of following the coral barrier.
It wasn’t until a cloud of kicked up sand rolled over her that she realized something was wrong. The next waved bumped into her side, sending her rolling before she pushed upright. Above the surface she saw that she’d actually swam quite far from the beach and had almost reached the larger banks of coral at the cove’s mouth.
The waves had grown choppier out here, and she lifted and lowered as each swell passed her by, causing the beach to dip in and out of her sight. Beneath the surface, the undertow dragged against her fins. She didn’t have the strength to keep upright. The undertow pulled her under. She spun around in a somersault, unable to pull herself out of the spin. Water clogged her snorkel and she sucked it in before she realized.
Her head broke the surface and she spit the snorkel out, gasping for air. Another strong current caught her fins and flipped her under again. When she resurfaced, she was even further out. She tried to reach down; to unhook the snaps keeping the fins on her feet but the waves had grown and washed over her before she could catch her breath.
With those things on her feet she had no way of keeping herself above water when the waves rushed out underneath her. This time her head hit the bottom of the ocean several feet below her and knocked the goggles, flooding them with seawater, which made it impossible to see.
She ripped them off, wincing as the salt water stung her eyes. Her lungs burned. She wasn’t able to suck enough air into her lungs before she was dragged under yet again. Pain seared through her foot and she saw the denser coral reef getting closer. If the waves pulled her onto that, it would tear her apart.
Carl had warned her not to go beyond the reef because the ocean on the other side was much deeper, wilder. If she wanted to dive out there, she’d need a boat and scuba gear.
But now, she couldn’t even see the beach and there was no one to hear her cries.
For the first time since the wave had pulled her under, Harper wasn’t sure she was going to be able to free herself. Her limbs were already tired from snorkeling and every time she fought against them underwater, she grew more tired.
The waves broke over the reef and immediately yanked her under, again and again.
Closer and closer to the razor sharp coral.
Yet she couldn’t fight it. Her arms screamed. She could barely kick her legs.
Damn it, fight Harper.
But she realized that the ocean was quickly taking the fight out of her, and now real panic stirred in her chest.
I could die out here.
I might be drowning.
Adrenaline surged through her body and she cried out again, fighting with the last of her strength.
The current was pulling more strongly now, and she was screaming so hard that her throat was raw from it.
Before she could be sucked back under, a pair of hands grabbed onto her arms and dragged her up and over a thick white board.
Harper lay with the hard surface pressing into her stomach staring at the very chiseled chest of a guy. He was leaning over, using strong arms to cut through the water, pulling them away from the reef.
She grabbed the edge of the board and kicked, trying to help him. The salt water stung the cut on her ankle but as the beach got closer, she felt it less. By the time the guy slid off the board and pulled it and her to the shore, she didn’t feel it at all.
“Are you okay?” a deep honeyed voice asked. His strong arms once again slid around her, lifting her off the board and helping her to her feet. With his help, she walked the rest of the way until she could sink down to sit on the sand.
The sun was bright behind him and all she could see was an outline. She shaded her eyes and squinted. The guy knelt down and slid her fins off, then pushed his hair back again. Now at eye level she finally got to see him.
And holy fuck, if sand weren’t creeping into her bikini bottom, she would have thought she died and he was an angel. Dark brown hair hung over his face and when he shoved it back, she met startling blue eyes. The bottom half of his face was covered in a couple of weeks worth of growth but she didn’t miss the fullness of his lips. If she leaned forward enough she could take the bottom one between her teeth and…
His eyebrows were drawn down and concern shone from them.
“Are you okay?” he asked. His gaze moved over her body and despite the warmth of the sun, she erupted in goose bumps. When he cupped her calf to take a look at her ankle, heat radiated from his touch. Maybe she hadn’t come to Te Tiare to hook up with anyone, but she was definitely considering it right that second.
“You’re hurt,” he said.
“It’s just a cut,” she finally managed to say, but her voice was all throaty and low. Hopefully he thought it was from all the ocean water she’d ingested and not because she was thinking about the ridges of his stomach and what they’d feel like under her fingers.
Before she could react, he slipped his arms under her knees and shoulders and lifted her. She slid her hands behind his head, more to hold on than anything, and the edges of his hair tickled her fingers.
The muscles in his arms moved and tightened with every step and she could feel how hard his chest was. Heat radiated from his tanned skin and he smelled faintly of sunscreen.
“You’re in the bungalow just over there, right?” He started walking even before she answered. “I paddleboard every morning and saw you reading on the deck a few times,” he said as if he knew what she was thinking.
“It’s okay, you can admit you’ve been stalking me,” she teased.
“If I was stalking you, you’d never know it,” he said, but rather than sounding sinister, it sounded confident and totally sexy.
Then again, everything about this guy was sexy. Especially the fact that he’d just about saved her life.
He carried her to the bungalow and then he was up the stairs and pushing through the gauzy curtain that hung over the door. The bungalows were open and spacious with enough room for him to carry her over to a small settee and gently put her down on it.
Immediately, he went to the kitchenette and pulled out a first aid kit from under the sink.
“All the bungalows have these,” he said, kneeling down in front of her.
“I had no idea.” It was all she could come up with because he wrapped his fingers around her ankle and lifted her foot to rest on his thigh. Which drew her gaze a couple of inches higher and to the right. Not that she could see much under his loose board shorts.
He swabbed the cut with some kind of wipe. “It doesn’t look too deep, but you should have someone take a look at it.” His fingers were gentle as he smoothed antibiotic cream over it, then covered it with a band aid.
“Are you going to kiss it and make it better?” she teased, just a second before she realized she’d said it out loud.
His gaze lifted to her and his eyes darkened. He lifted one eyebrow and a devilish grin turned his lips up. Without taking his eyes off her, he slowly lifted her foot and leaned forward. His lips were warm and soft and her stomach tightened with desire as they made quick, gentle contact with her skin.
How had she never known that her ankle was an erogenous zone?
“Better?” he asked huskily.
“Yes,” she breathed out.
He set her foot down and then rose to his feet, gathering all the supplies he used and putting them away. She could not take her eyes off the way the muscles in his back rippled and moved. She told herself that this vacation was only to get away,
, to regroup and de-stress.
Being alone was starting to feel severely overrated though.
She had less than two days before she had to return to the shitstorm waiting for her. Which gave her a little more than two nights to do something crazy. Who knew when the opportunity would come again, especially when the people she called her friends back home were pretty much blowing her off?
Everyone, it seemed, had pulled away from her in the past few months since the story about her father broke.
Even Stan, her now ex-boyfriend, had taken off right after all the shit hit the fan, saying he couldn’t be associated with a scandal. Didn’t matter that a week prior he’d told her that he loved her and nothing would ever come between them.
Not that she saw herself with him in a forever type capacity, but it was good to know that in a crisis, his first instinct was to bail.
And now, for the first time, she was actually feeling kind of glad that her ex was her ex. Instead of being in this tropical paradise with boring (and let’s not forget traitorous) Stan, she was instead alone and potentially available.
But was her hero available too?
Nobody as handsome and sexy (and let’s not forget heroic) as this man could possibly be single.
Harper eyed the guy, who leaned casually against the counter, his arms crossed over his chest as he watched her. She gingerly pushed to her feet and only winced a little. The pain wasn’t too bad at all.
“Thank you so much.” She laughed. “For a minute out there, I was starting to seriously wonder if I was going to…” she couldn’t say the words.
He seemed to understand, his voice staying light and casual. “Those undertows are a bitch. Especially after a storm. Looks pretty calm but you never know.” His lips turned up into a grin. “And I’ll never pass on saving a beautiful damsel in distress.”