Authors: D. T. Jones
D T JONES
Copyright © 2012 D T Jones
All rights reserved.
All rights reserved. The novels contained in this omnibus were each published separately in the United States
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Cover images © by Webstudio24h
Thank you for the encouragement, the patience and the eternal love; you have always been my adventure.
I wish to extend my gratitude and thanks to the following people:
To my husband, Jim for helping with the research, for supplying the inspiration, for being my sounding board and for the undying encouragement, even during the wee hours of the morning. You are my rock and my salvation.
To my mom, Kay, thank you for the support and the faith to believe in myself. I miss you more every day.
To my bosses, PB and KL, for the daily encouragement, the patience when I made mistakes, and for not firing me when my head was so wrapped up with other things. You’re the best!
To Dennese, for coming out of hiding and putting your own dignity aside to help me perfect my dream. You’re been my best friend and my conscious, thank you.
To Cassie, for being my computer brain and helping me get this finished. Without you, I’d still be writing on stone tablets.
To my family, Katie, Jamie, Justin, Makayla and Stormie for putting up with my irritation, my emotional outrages, dirty dishes and the many, many late hours. The dream is in your hands, find it, embrace it and follow it.
Sandra was a dreamer, she always had been. Her mother used to say her head was in the clouds and if she wasn’t careful she would fall to earth with a very unpleasant jolt, and sometimes she thought her mother might be right. She loved reading romance novels and fell in love with the rouge handsome hero, fantasizing that she was the damsel in distress. She watched movies and found herself reliving the love scenes over and over again, making herself the heroine. She would dream of faraway lands, where great lovers and erotic passion were her staples of life. What Sandra Dennis really wanted was an adventure, something to make her humdrum life seem less boring.
sun from the French Riviera was warm and luxurious as she basked under its heat in her plush lounge chair. The thrill of traveling abroad was a fantasy that embraced her most of her twenty-six years. Shortly after graduating college she found that fantasy taking on a life of its own. She spent the past two years saving for this vacation, scrimping and pinching every spare dime she earned. She even moved back home, living in her childhood bedroom at her grandparents’ house in order to save money.
with all the saving; no unnecessary shopping, no extravagant movies or dinners on the town, she still wouldn’t have enough money to make her trip for another year. That was until two months ago when she received a card in the mail, a contest entry for a two-week trip for the French Rivera. It sounded a little too coincidental for her liking, so she threw it away. Little did she know her sister found the card in the recycling when she came over for supper one night and filled it out for her. Lo and behold, she won! No gimmicks, no gym to join, no real estate investor or life insurance agent to listen to; pure and simple, enter and win. She had never won anything in her life, outside of high school track meets. She could still feel the excited tingling tickling her stomach as she thought back on her luck.
two days into her fourteen-day trip and she was already relaxed and sedated. Life at this exact moment was good; not a care in the world to disturb her tranquility. She had a tall glass of ice tea sitting on the small table next to her, the iPod playing a variety of tunes in her ears and her Kindle Fire hiding in the shade under the chair. She didn’t have to remind anyone to be quiet, no children’s stories to read and no school programs to arrange. She was on her own, the feeling of freedom abundant while she lay stretched out beneath the midday sun.
Sandra felt like
a chicken baking on a rotisserie, turning every fifteen minutes to avoid sunburn, but it would be worth it if it meant not spending the rest of her trip nursing a blistering body in her hotel room. Fortunately, she had taken her sister’s advice and “prepared her skin” for the trip, by taking advantage of the tanning booth at the local hair salon. A month of visits, every other day for thirty minutes at a time and her skin had turned a nice brown, so she wouldn’t stand out too horribly on the Mediterranean beach. Sandra knew she looked good; she had worked very hard the past two years getting her body in shape for the trip of a lifetime. She lost fifteen pounds and dropped three dress sizes. In celebration of her new lifestyle she rewarded herself with a trip to Wichita to buy a new wardrobe, including the deep purple bikini she now wore. Not too shabby for a girl from a small Kansas town.
was in the middle of Kansas at the junction of Kansas Highway 4 and US Highway 281 and sat directly on the National Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway. This very small town of about three thousand residents had been home to her family since the late 1800s. The town was very proud of its heritage and the fact that their outdoor attractions had helped to develop eco-tourism to the entire region, wasn’t anything to sneeze at. It was at the top of the Cheyenne Bottoms, a wetland of international significance and home to many endangered species of wildlife. Okay, all that said basically meant; she was a very, very small-town girl with bigger than life dreams and right now as she soaked up the warm sun of the French Riviera all she could think was, “we’re not in Kansas anymore Toto."
lay with her eyes closed, even though she wore a dark pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses. Her iPod finished the playlist she was listening to, which was being used as a timer to remind her to take a break from the beach. She really didn’t want to leave the warmth right now, but she knew it was important to move out of the sun for a while; besides, she had signed up for a scuba diving lesson for two o'clock and she had to get ready. She reached over to her iPod and switched it off before removing the ear buds, stretching rather her arms above her head like a lazy house cat before refastening the back of her bikini top and rolling over.
The scent of the sea washed over her and she sighed, feeling more comfortable than she ever had before. Sandra honestly thought she could stay like this forever; lazy, relaxed and bathed in the rich luxury of the French resort. She stretched again and opened her eyes, catching sight of the man
watching from the seat next to her. Her heart skipped a beat and all she could do was stare. He was handsome, very handsome and she felt the sting of a blush coloring her cheeks.
was tanned, though a little lighter than she was, his dark hair falling over his brow and his eyes hidden behind a pair of black sunglasses. He smiled at her as she openly stared at him. She could feel the color in her face darken several hues; a strange tingle gripped her lower abdomen. He had his left leg was stretched out on the long chair, his right leg bent slightly, both were covered with dark hair to match that of his chest and arms; not so much on his chest, just enough to make him look primal and rugged. For several moments all she could do was stare, her heart beating a strange rhythm beneath her bikini, until she realized what she was doing and pulled herself under control. He must have arrived somewhere between Michael Jackson and Abba, since she knew the chair was vacant when she turned over to her stomach after Taylor Swift and before Donna Summer, fifteen minutes ago.
Sandra sat up on the lounge chair, swinging her long slender legs over the side of the cushioned seat as she struggled to regain her composure. She tried not to look as idiotic as she knew she did, eager to escape before she made a bigger fool of herself.
She must look a fright, she thought, as she caught a glimpse of her shadow beside her chair; hair held securely to the top of her head by a clip, a few wisps trailing down the side of her face and back of her neck. She saw the image of herself through her mind’s eye and felt she looked like an old scullery maid she once read about.
he said in a tone husky with amusement.
hi…hello,” she answered. Nice, Sandra, she scolded herself. If that didn’t make her sound like an uneducated country hick, she didn’t know what would.
Creighton Ashford,” he said in a deep British accent. “Hope you don’t mind if I sit here.” She chanced a closer look at him as he reclined in the lounge chair; thankful she was still wearing her Ran-Ban’s. Damn, he was handsome!
no, you’re welcome to sit anywhere you’d like. It’s a rather large beach, plenty of room for everyone.” Great, she scolded herself again, if he wasn’t already amused at her inept attempt of verbal communication, now he undoubtedly would be. She sounded like a babbling idiot!
he asked, his smile dazzling making her heart leap in her chest, her palms suddenly moist.
that’s right. Is there a problem with that?” Sandra frowned under her Ray-Bans, knowing she sounded insulted but couldn’t prevent the irritation from trickling through her words.
not at all, so what brings you so far from home?”
does anyone visit France? You know, vacation, sun, relaxation, that sort of thing.”
visit for other reasons as well; business, romantic holidays, honeymoons.”
I’m not here for any of that.” She tried not to sound as nervous as she felt, the heat rising all the way up to her hair clip. He smiled, handing her the drink that sat on the table and reached for his own glass of something pink, icy and with a tiny rainbow-colored umbrella.
may I make a toast? Here’s to new friendships, Miss…” he began and for a moment she was transfixed and frozen in her seat by his dazzling smile, her breath catching, her pulse thrumming in her ears. He cleared his throat softly, her cue to finish his sentence.
Dennis…I’m Sandra Dennis,” she answered, touching glasses briefly before tipping her now warm ice tea to her lips. She swallowed such a large gulp of the amber liquid that it felt like a rock sliding down her esophagus. She grimaced at the sensation and pain as the liquid slowly filtered past her heart and into her stomach.
you all right?” His intoxicating smile was replaced with a concerned frown as he watched her. All she could do was nod, unable to speak at that exact moment.
she whispered a few moments later, then cleared her throat. “Well, it’s been nice meeting you, but I have to leave now.” Go quickly; she thought, remembering her Kindle and bending over the edge of the chair to retrieve it. She stood up on legs that suddenly felt like rubber bands, retrieving her towel from the lounge chair and tossing it across her shoulder. She kept her eyes diverted as she worked, knowing she couldn’t afford to chance another look at him, certain she would combust in flames if she did. She took her iPod and Kindle in one hand, her tea in the other and walked between the chairs in an attempt to leave.
you staying here at the hotel?” She turned when he stood up from the lounge chair, her mouth falling slightly open, her breath catching in her throat at the sight of him, his midnight blue and white swim trunks hung seductively across his hips, his arms thick and muscular, his chest broad with a thin layer of dark hair that trailed down his abdomen in a thin line, disappearing beneath his swim trunks. It was obvious he worked out, though he was far from being Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was much taller than she would have expected, seeing him reclined on the lounge chair, in fact, he was a good half foot above her five feet six inches and she found herself having to look up to see his face.