Authors: Ava Claire
By Ava Claire
After being dumped by her boyfriend right before their Santa Cruz getaway, Melissa Foster decides to go on the vacation alone. Rest, relaxation, and most of all--no men.
She wasn't expecting the owner of the property she's renting, wealthy entrepreneur Logan Mason, to be the hottest thing she's ever seen. Or that he'd look at her like she was his sole reason for existence.
Is Logan the man she's been waiting for, or will their passionate romance end in heartbreak?
Copyright © 2014 Ava Claire
“Are you wearing lingerie?”
My face dropped like a ton of bricks. I’d pulled out the big guns and scoured Victoria’s Secret for something that gave me the illusion of killer boobs despite my barely B cup breasts. I scored matching bottoms to minimize my pear-shaped hips and butt. I’d rolled on some stockings even though I hated the things, and I topped off the ensemble with gravity defying heels. He loved my waist length white blond hair when it was down so I obliged, adding strategic waves to frame my face. I was going for a soft sensuality, his good girl gone bad. And he was scowling at me like I was the most offensive thing he’d ever seen.
He tossed his keys on the side table. “Anything for me?”
He leafed through the mail. Leafed. Through. The. Mail. Like spam and bills were preferable to me in lingerie. His girlfriend, who wasn’t keeping count but knew that it had been 2 weeks, 3 days, and 10 hours since she’d been touched in an erotic way. And from the looks of it, tonight was quickly becoming a bust.
I cleared my throat. He drew his deep blue eyes from the stack of envelopes, his eyebrows arched expectantly. Hurt and anger warred inside me. I had expectations. I expected the guy who claimed he loved me to want to touch me without being asked or cajoled into it.
I grew up with Jason Collier, and even though everyone saw that we belonged together, we didn’t start dating until after we left for college. We happened to end up in neighboring cities, both majoring in Marketing and Communication. I’d been with other guys, but nothing had lasted.
I could still remember our first kiss. The first time we said I love you. The first time we discovered each other’s bodies.
Our nights were filled with enough heat and passion to make the very sound of his voice thrust me to orgasm. He could barely keep his hands to himself, his eyes alight with need as he took me whenever and wherever he could get me. In his dorm, in my dorm, and when we graduated and moved in together, in every room and on every surface in our apartment.
We’d been living together for a little over a year, and I wasn’t naïve. I knew it was the honeymoon phase where everything was new and spontaneous and a little dirty. I knew time would whittle our trysts down to a couple of times a week, but we went from clawing at each other like horny teenagers to barely touching each other every couple of weeks.
I tried again, twirling a blonde tendril around my finger. “Do you like my outfit?”
He threw me a half-hearted once over. “It’s great.”
A deep, hollow sadness flared in my chest as he tugged off his tie. Where did we go wrong? I still traced his jaw with my fingertips and leaned in for kisses that led nowhere. I threw hot and heavy looks his way that he deflected. Lately, I’d even given up on being coy and went right for the part of him that used to go wild for me, only to have my advances rebuffed. Thinking back on it, things hadn’t been good with us for a long time, but I held on to those first months. I held on to the three words we had said to each other.
I’d asked if he still wanted me, still loved me, and the answer was always yes. He cited work exhaustion as his excuse. And while he worked long hours, his schedule hadn’t intensified since those lust-filled days and nights from before. He claimed nothing had changed, but I knew it wasn’t true. I had made his favorite dinner, bought his favorite wine, and had planned on him having me for dessert – but he couldn’t even look at me. In fact, he was looking at everywhere but me. At the clock on the wall, at his hands, on the floor. He was right in front of me, the same blond haired, blue-eyed, devastatingly gorgeous man I’d fallen in love with, but he felt like a stranger.
Luckily, I had a plan B, a last ditch effort to pump some much needed lust back into our relationship. The reservation confirmation was tucked inside a slender white envelope beside the bottle of wine. Inside was our escape. I knew he had three days off coming up, and Santa Cruz was his favorite place to vacation so I snatched up a rental in Pleasure Point. Sun, sand, romance – it would be just what we needed. It would save us.
I grasped the envelope tightly. I trembled with excitement even though his cold reception made me worry that maybe it was too late. Maybe we were too far gone.
I silenced the thought, turning back to Jason. “I have something to tell you--”
“Actually, I have something to tell you too.”
I didn’t need psychic abilities to figure out whatever he wanted to talk to me about wasn’t good. Still, I smiled, ignoring the voice inside me that whispered that he hadn’t said I love you back in weeks and I had practically begged him to come home a little earlier today just for my surprise.
He looked past me, finally noticing the spread I’d prepared. His voice was low and melancholy. “You cooked alfredo?”
I nodded so hard, so eagerly, I thought my head would snap off. “I know it’s your favorite.”
He swallowed hard, not meeting my gaze. “You didn’t have to do that, Melissa.”
My heart plummeted to the pit of my stomach. Melissa – I wasn’t Melissa unless he was pissed. He called me Mel, turning something that used to bring images of a balding, overweight mechanic into something erotic and sensual. My full name on his tongue felt stiff and formal. He was still near me, but there was an invisible wall between us, growing brick by brick with every awkward second that passed .
“You know I care for you.” His deep voice was low and uncomfortable, scraping over my exposed flesh like a scouring pad. It laid waste to my optimism, leaving me with a bitter knowledge. A truth I didn’t want to face. There was no escaping it now.
“This isn’t working for me anymore.”
My eyelids dropped and I struggled to keep the tears at bay. I wasn’t sure I could handle the standard line I knew he’d use.
I asked anyway. “Why, Jason?”
And 3, 2, 1...“You’re a great girl, Melissa.” He paused. “It’s not you, it’s me.”
My eyes flew open and I surprised us both by laughing. Bitter, gut wrenching guffaws that ripped out my insides. With those words, this new hurt found a familiar home with every other guy I’d dated. Men who cited unknown needs, pieces that were missing, time that was wasted. I knew they thought they were doing me a favor by taking the blame, but it brought me no relief. It was insulting that none of them had the balls to give it to me straight.
I wiped hot tears from my face, glaring at him. “After everything we’ve been through, don’t bullshit me.”
“Tell me the truth!” I hissed, my frustrations and my broken heart paraded for him to see. I locked my jaw when his eyes softened with pity. “I don’t want pity. I want honesty.” I’d never asked for specifics before. I’d always been too ashamed. Too afraid. Now the only thing that scared me was the fear that it really was me.
He exhaled, the gravelly sigh shaking his muscled frame. “The things you need in the bedroom…it’s not right.” When my eyes widened, he quickly added, “Not right for me. You need things I can’t provide.”
My face scrunched in confusion. “Because I want you to be more aggressive? Because I want you to take charge?” It didn’t seem like an impossible request. In hindsight, I remembered something flashing in his eyes before he tried to switch it up and please me. Had it been apprehension? Disgust? “I can try and be better.” I hated how weak I sounded. “We can just go back to how things were--”
“I don’t want to go back to the way things were,” he said flatly. “And there’s--” He paused, his eyes abandoning me. “There’s someone else.”
I thought the break up was the bomb. I was wrong.
My heart splintered into a million pieces as the tears streamed down my face. He wasn’t just leaving, but he cheated on me too?
He took a step toward me, and I held up a hand to stop him from coming any further.
Realization flooded his face. “Oh God, nothing’s happened, Mel.” He scrubbed a hand over his face, guilt framing his eyes. “But I want something to happen. I want her. For once, I have to do what makes me happy.”
My throat tightened, invisible fingers crushing my windpipe. He wanted her. And not me. It should have been a relief that he hadn’t cheated. Not physically anyway.
But I wasn’t relieved. I was furious.
I balled my fists, entertaining the idea of punching his perfect face. My heart was bleeding...it was only fair that he bleed, too.
Was he with her all those nights I texted and he told me he was oh so tired? Did he long to make her moan while I longed for his touch?
“Get out.” The words were a whispered command that shattered me.
He didn’t hear it, but from his slow retreat, he could put two and two together. The problem was, he wasn’t moving nearly fast enough.
“GET OUT!” I roared.
He fled so quickly that he forgot to close the door behind him. The world outside zipped by, a Technicolor blur. Still spinning even though my heart was broken. Somewhere in the haze of anger, I realized I was standing in a bra and underwear with the door wide open.
It was like a part of me had detached and remained unaffected. That part tugged at my strings and made me trudge to the door. When I reached for the handle, something white and crumpled fell to the floor. I followed its descent, frowning. As it hit the ground, I recoiled like it was something poisonous. Something dangerous. I guess it was. At my feet was naiveté. It was a belief that I ever had anything to save.
I stepped over the balled up envelope and slammed the door shut. When I turned around, it was still there. Taunting me.
Even though I’d lived in Sacramento for two and a half years, I’d never been to Santa Cruz. Work always got in the way, but Jason had always said he’d take me and teach me how to surf.
Tears pricked my eyes. I wondered if he’d take her. A tear dashed my cheek as I bent over and retrieved the envelope. I straightened out the ball of paper inside, nostrils flaring with emotion as I scanned the confirmation from VRBO. I paid for three nights at a studio one block from Pleasure Point, a renowned location for surfing. You could see the crystal blue water from the street. I brushed the pictures like I was stroking a long lost lover. I’d been to beaches in San Francisco, but the sand had been like crushed ice. Santa Cruz would be like the beaches back home in North Carolina. Golden sand. Warm. Inviting.
You could always just go.
“By myself?” I said aloud, snorting at the idea. I picked the studio and location for Jason. Going by myself would only rub salt in the wound. How could I enjoy my time there while being reminded that it was supposed to be for us? Our chance to start over again?
Because you’ve paid – and didn’t purchase trip cancellation.
Not that VRBO offered My Boyfriend Broke Up With Me insurance. The trip was fully paid for, and while I made a good living working as a marketing associate at Kaleidoscope Marketing, $872.35 was a lot of money to throw away.
My phone hummed on the coffee table. Even though my head told me to ignore it, my heart was a glutton for punishment.
Jason: I’m so sorry, Mel.
My hands shook as I struggled to think of a reply. Something more powerful than Screw You. I dug deep and decided the best response was none at all before I hurled my phone to the couch. I looked down at the wrinkled paper in my hand, the quaint beach studio calling to me. If I stayed, I’d be out hundreds of dollars, and I’d still be depressed and hurt. If I went, I could at least be depressed and hurt at the beach.
The road stretched in front and behind me, the slap of the tires taking me closer to escape from all the drama back in Sacramento. Kaleidoscope had just brought on a client who wanted to double, triple, and quadruple check in on a daily basis. If I didn’t hear her nasally condescending voice ever again, it would be too soon. And then there was Jason. Apparently now that he had dumped me and confessed that the reason he hadn’t been in my bed was because he had been daydreaming about someone else, he was suddenly making up for lost time. First it was texts, one-word greetings, and rage inducing emoticons. Then he graduated to long winded apologies, lamenting how he wished things were different.
I’d gotten dangerously close to answering him, telling him to save the BS for his therapist, but I knew the moment I answered, I was giving him power over me…and he would know it. So I deleted his contact information and pretended the anonymous texts weren’t from him. It was easier said than done, but it would get easier. Every day I was getting closer to being okay. My heart hurt a little less. The anger was dying down from a raging inferno that swallowed me whole and was slowly being reduced to an ache in my chest every time my phone beeped and it was him. I could handle the ache. Maybe.
My phone sang on the passenger seat beside me, putting my willpower to the test. I gripped the wheel so tight that my knuckles bleached white. My stomach knotted as I waited for his number to flash across the radio dash, but I exhaled with relief when the name Stacia Martinez showed up instead.
I accepted the call with a smile on my face. “So glad it’s you.” My heart was still racing. Despite all my tough talk, I might have been weak enough to finally answer.
“That asshole still bugging you?”
My smile broadened. Stacia had the appearance of someone wholesome and sweet, with long ebony colored hair, baby blue eyes, and innocent cherubic features. However, she cussed like a sailor and was a beast in the courtroom. We’d met in the café across the street from my office a little over a year ago. There was this one two-piece suit, a self-important guy who always ignored the line and skipped his way to the front. Stacia had been in front of me, ripping some poor soul a new one, when the skipper strutted in ready to do his usual routine.
“Hey you,” she’d hollered, her voice rising above the espresso machine and conversations. The businessman froze and looked back, then turned back to the front, sure that he wasn’t being confronted.
“Yes, you in the overpriced Armani, with the misplaced belief that your time is worth more than ours.”
The man whipped back to her, his face turning red, steam shooting from his ears. “Who do you think you are?”
She rose to the challenge, not at all intimidated. “I’m Stacia Martinez, and apparently I need to teach you some fucking manners.”
The man left, flustered and embarrassed. Everyone applauded Stacia with whoops and hoorays. I bought her a coffee as a thank you, and the rest was history.
“You haven’t talked to him since that night, right?” she asked warily.
I nodded slowly, then remembered she wasn’t sitting beside me. “Right. Radio silence.”
“Good,” she snarled. “Good fucking riddance.” A beat passed and her voice borrowed some of the sunshine streaming in from my window. “Are you there yet? I’m living vicariously through you, remember? I need every detail, the way the air smells, how hot all the surfers are--”
“There will be no hot surfer stories.” I cut in with a laugh. “I am still firmly in the Men Suck stage of my break up.”
“Well, I’m not saying hit up Craigslist for some vacation dick. But something hot, golden, and muscled could do your body good.” I could picture her winking. She’d recently ended a long term relationship herself. She’d been with her guy for three and a half years when he told her he wanted to spice things up and bring a third into their bedroom. And then it was a fourth. And then a fifth. She loved him, but group sex was way out her comfort zone. Stacia was definitely of the ‘best way to get over someone is to get under someone’ school of thought.
“You’re single, you’re not getting any younger--”
“Hey!” I pouted. “I’m twenty-three. I’m in the prime of my life!”
“And you’re going to a prime surf spot with sweaty, delicious surfers,” she said pointedly. “And for some reason, you decided now is a good time to take some sort of vow of solitude.”
I sighed. “It’s three days, Stacia. I can survive three days without a man.”
“I’m just saying don’t build a wall. What happens in Santa Cruz, stays in Santa Cruz.”
“Oh God,” I chuckled, shaking my head as I switched lanes. According to my GPS, my exit was coming up. “Don’t you have an assistant to berate?”
“And a backlog of cases up to my ears,” she groaned. “Which is why you need to find someone yummy and ride him like a surfboard.”
“All right, Beyoncé,” I snorted. “I’m hanging up now.”
“Have fun, okay?” Her voice became serious. “This vacation is about you. It’s your new beginning. Bright, sunny, and asshole free.”
I bit back the emotion that rushed to my eyes and managed to promise her I’d be safe and take lots of pictures. She was right. This was a blank page and I decided what would be written. For the next three days, it was all about what made me happy.
I rolled the windows down and inhaled deep. The air smelled like salt, sun, and promise. There was no concrete jungle here, no booming metropolis where everyone was busy hustling to their next meeting or appointment that they forgot to look up. You couldn’t help but look up here. The sky was the softest blue, inviting and vast. I dipped my fingers out the window, the wind and warmth kissing my skin.
I turned on a quiet street lined with modest homes and palm trees. I glanced at the directions. The house was a block down, painted white with sea foam green shutters. It was a two-story plantation style house with a private studio tucked away at the back of the property. My parking space was marked by orange cones so I hopped out, moved my car into the space behind an ebony Range Rover, and killed the engine. Confirmation in hand, I went in through the gate as specified and maneuvered down the cobblestone path toward the studio. I heard the sound of running water and froze. I don’t remember any mention of a fountain. I rounded the corner and my heart trampolined to my throat.
The running water? It was streaming from a showerhead…and down the hottest ass I’d ever seen.
This man was over six feet of tight golden muscle, the planes of his shoulders flexing as he moved his body beneath the water. My eyes traveled down, lust pooling in my panties – his behind looked too good to be true, perfectly carved out of marble. I could imagine my hands gripping it, pulling him deeper inside me.
Inside me. If his backside was this delicious, I could only imagine how –
“Aaah!” I gasped as something furry brushed against my leg. A chocolate Labrador stared up at me with big, inquisitive eyes.
I squeezed my eyes shut. Too late for that. There was no way he didn’t hear me.
Wincing, I re-opened my eyes and nearly passed out on the spot. My gaze went down the muscular legs, his powerful thighs, and hit the brakes on hardened proof that his front was in fact just as amazing as his ass.
He cleared his throat and my face tingled with embarrassment. My core tingled with something else entirely.
My eyes locked on his turquoise colored gaze and lingered before my gaze traveled south to his strong nose, angular jaw, and lush kissable lips. I was in full on swoon mode. Guys like him weren’t supposed to exist in real life. That kind of perfection was reserved for Hollywood and the brooding, handsome men that cast their smoky eyes at you from the pages of magazines. But here he was. A butt-naked, very aroused, very attractive man who was looking at me like I was the sexy one. Who was currently drinking up my curves like a margarita on a hot summer day.
He raked a hand through his slicked back chestnut hair and strode forward. I didn’t know him from Adam. He could have been some intruder, but I couldn’t make my legs move. And if I was being honest, I didn’t want to.
The smile in his eyes traveled to his lips and he extended his hand.
“You must be Melissa. I’m Logan Mason, the owner of the property.”