Author: Amber Lea Easton
Length: 98,000 words
Genres: Contemporary Romantic Suspense (Adventure)
Heat Level: Steamy
One violent night shatters Lauren Biltmore’s life. As an anchorwoman, she's accustomed to reporting the news rather than being the lead story. She escapes the spotlight by fleeing to her brother's home in the Cayman Islands. Haunted by nightmares, all she wants is a distraction from reality.
Distraction arrives via sexy screenwriter, Noah Reynolds. His take-me-to-bed looks mask a past ripe with scandal. He knows he should stay away from Lauren, especially when the worst night of her life unlocks his writer's block and while he's dealing with a stalker of his own, but ethics are his weakness.
Attraction sizzles beneath Caribbean sunshine. As their relationship grows, Noah's stalker intensifies her torment. Lauren wonders if her paranoia is justified or a carryover from her past. What's real? What's imagined? Tentative trust is tested as their love is swept up against a riptide of deceit, murder, and revenge.
His two days on board the Angelfish with Larry had been good for him. Larry had convinced him of the absurdity of his theory that Alicia still walked the earth and assured him that he’d help find out who was bringing up the past. Sometimes there was nothing better than an old friend, even one who tended to piss him off more often than not.
He toweled himself off, his thoughts centered around Lauren and their last date. It hadn’t exactly gone as planned given the dead guy face down amidst the fish. Not that he’d helped the situation with his not-so-smooth-moves-on-the-beach later. The past two days had given him perspective. He wanted her. Right or wrong, mistake or not, he needed to see where this could go. He couldn’t get her out of his mind. Maybe tonight he’d get another chance if he could track her down.
“Noah.” Lauren cleared her throat from where she stood outside the open bathroom door. She leaned against the wall in a Caribbean blue tank dress that hugged her body in all the right places, legs exposed from midthigh down, ankles crossed, long hair glistening over lightly tanned shoulders, gaze averted to the floor and smile playing across lips he desperately wanted against his skin. “Sorry to barge in. You left the deck door wide open.”
“No problem.” He cinched the towel around his waist and wondered exactly how long she’d been standing there. The thought of her watching him shower and dry off did crazy things to his nervous system. “I’ve been looking for you.”
“Erin told me.” She leaned her head back against the wall and dragged her gaze from his toes upward. “Heard you were on private charter for the past few days.”
He leaned his shoulder against the doorframe and let her gaze soak him up. He liked the way she looked at him as if he were dessert.
“About the other night...I’m sorry. Can I make it up to you? Dinner tonight? Etcetera?” he asked.
She caught her lower lip between her teeth, gaze lingering on his chest. “Are you sure this time? No running away when things get hot?”
Electricity zapped in the three feet separating them.
Damn, the woman did insane things to his rational thinking. He’d decided on the boat that he needed to see her, make things right, take it slow, get tangled up in some strings. Seeing her live and in person threw common sense out the window.
“I can’t decide if you’re hotter when wet or dry...I’m thinking it might be a tie,” she said.
Oh, what the hell. With an opener like that, how could a man resist? He crossed the space between them, slipped his hand behind her neck, and kissed her on that mouth he’d been fantasizing about all week.
Her hands slid over his damp chest while her mouth moved slowly beneath his, her teeth lightly catching his lower lip. Eyes open, they smiled against each other’s mouths.
“Miss me?” he asked.
“It would be very uncool of me to answer that.” She slid her hands over his abdomen and lingered on the towel. “Are you still wanting to back off, or have you come to your senses?”
He braced his hands over her head. The only thing he wanted to do was kiss her slowly and make her beg for more. He looked into her eyes. “You’re making me forget all of the reasons this is a mistake.”
“A sexy mistake.” Her fingers touched his chest in a featherlike caress. She licked her lips.
“Good point.” He smiled. “We’re headed into the danger zone.”
“You have no idea how dangerous.” She tugged on the towel, a wicked grin in her eyes.
Oh, he had an idea about the level of danger. He’d thought of nothing else for the past forty-eight hours and ranked this situation a solid Level Red. Despite that, all he could think about was how good it would feel to have her long legs wrapped around his hips while her nails clawed against his back. He needed to pull the emergency brake. Slow, he reminded himself. Slow.
He leaned against her, enjoying the way her body arched toward his like a magnetic pull. He tangled his fingers in the hair at the back of her neck. “What do you want, Lauren? After the other night, you know I’m more complicated than I seem.”
Her gaze flicked up to his. “I know what I’m doing.”
“You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.”
“Show me. Let’s make some mistakes together. We’re both consenting adults. What the hell?” she whispered, her teeth pulling at his lower lip.
“Does that scare you?” she asked.
He paused a fraction over her lips and looked into her eyes. Yeah, she was scary reckless, but that turned him on more than he could say. So what if she wanted to use him for a distraction from her own demons? He knew that had something to do with it—the woman oozed intensity.
Her mouth widened, taking his like a woman starving for the taste of him. Ravenous. Her fingers fisted in the back of his hair. Her bare foot slid up the outside of his leg. Tongues clashed in a passionate dance that left no doubt about mutual desire.
He pressed her against the wall, uncaring about the slipping of the towel down his hips. This woman made him want more than he had dared want in years. His hands roamed up her sides, thumbs caressing the outline of her breasts. Closer. He couldn’t get close enough.
She pressed her hips against his. “Five days ago I didn’t think I’d feel any emotion ever again. Now here I am making out with you. Insane.”
“A little bit of crazy is good for a person.” He wrapped his hands in her hair, holding her face close to him. “What do you feel now?”
“You. I feel you.”
“You say all the right things,” he said against her mouth. His skin rippled beneath her touch. He couldn’t explain his reaction to her...he felt like an addict in desperate need of a fix.
Surrendering, she leaned her head against his shoulder and held on as if her life depended on it. When he wrapped his arms around her, she closed her eyes. He felt like a safe haven in a storm.
“When you look at me, do you think about why I’m here or what I’ve done like Larry does? Tell me the truth,” she whispered against his neck.
“No, I don’t. That’s the truth.” Fingers on her chin, he tilted her face up to look at him. “I see a beautiful woman who’s my friend’s sister and who I’ve been having elicit fantasies about for nearly forty-eight hours even though I know it’s a bad idea.”
“It is a bad idea.” She stared into his eyes as if trying to see his soul. She needed at least one person in this world who didn’t think of her as damaged. “You don’t know me. You don’t know what I’m capable of. I saw the way you looked at me back there. You were wondering if I’d snap.”
“Because a man had been shot next to you, not because of your past. Damn it, I’m shaken up myself.” He pressed his forehead against hers. “You tried to protect me, wanted me to tamper with evidence, that’s sexy as hell.”
She grinned despite the weight that had fallen on her shoulders. “I wanted to see what was in the envelope.”
“Ahh...so you were driven by curiosity.” His thumb traced the curve of her lower lip. “You’re one helluva woman, Lauren Biltmore.”
“You don’t know me.” She looped her hands around his neck and leaned closer. Damn, the man felt like heaven. “Is someone trying to hurt you, Noah?”
In the darkness, it was hard to tell if the shadows across his face were caused by clouds over the moon or unspoken emotion.
“No one’s trying to hurt me.” His grin seemed fake. “Let’s get you back to Austin’s.”
She held him when he would have stepped back. “You’re lying.”
He pushed his hands through her hair, gaze scanning her face. “Like you said, I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. Maybe it’s best if we stop this before it goes any further. You don’t need my kind of trouble in your life right now.”
“Maybe your kind of trouble is exactly what I need.” She kissed him because the adrenaline surging through her body needed release, and he was the perfect outlet.
He matched her intensity with a fierceness that weakened her knees. She sagged against him, hands clinging to his shoulders for support. Trouble or not, the man kissed like a porn star. Damn, he melted the skin from her bones with every stroke of his tongue against hers.
Her hands roamed over his shoulders to his back. She pressed closer, craving skin on skin. One thought and one thought only penetrated her mind...sex. She wanted him inside her. Now. Fast. To hell with the consequences.
Together they fell against the sand with laughter tangled between their lips. Somewhere between fleeing a crime scene and kissing, fear had transitioned to passion. She needed his touch, his mouth, his body heavy against hers. Desire consumed every cell of her body.
“We’re the most unethical people I know,” he said against her mouth. “I shouldn’t be proud of that, but strangely I am.”
“Take me back to Austin’s. Stay with me.” She caught his lip lightly between her teeth and stared into his eyes.
His hand slid beneath her skirt and up her thigh. “I don’t know if we’re good or bad for each other. I’m not thinking clearly at all around you, making bad decisions, dragging you along with me.”
“I’m going willingly.” She nipped his neck, her hands smoothing down his back before grabbing his ass. “We have too many clothes on.”
“And we’re on a beach within view of anyone who happens to walk by and look closely enough.” He laughed against the side of her face. “Let me take you home.”
“And you’ll stay with me?” She kissed him again, unwilling to let him go. He felt too damn good pressing her into the cool sand at her back.
His kiss softened and teased as his hand caressed her naked thigh beneath the skirt, his thumb moving over her panties. She hungered for him like a woman coming off a diet craved chocolate.
“I’m such a bastard,” he whispered before rolling off of her and covering his face with his hands. “I can’t do this. It’s not right.”
The abruptness of his absence rattled her. They laid side-by-side, their breathing labored and a sea of stars above them.
“Do what? Me? Us? What can’t you do?” she asked even though she didn’t want to talk. No, talking was the furthest thing from her agenda.
“I can’t be the man you need me to be.” He sat up and looked toward the ocean. “That’s just how it is. I’m not a good guy. It’s for the best. Trust me.”
She slipped the oversized T-shirt over her head and began working side-by-side with him. Rhythm and Blues resonated throughout the house. His legs stretched next to hers, fine dust settled in his dark hair from the meticulous work.
“I like this,” she said.
“Like what? Manual labor?”
It was more than that, but words escaped her.
“I started doing all of this because I needed to keep busy, keep moving, keep my mind distracted.” He fingered the sandpaper, a distant expression on his face. Dust grayed his hair and shirt, bare feet poked out from the frayed hem of his jeans. “Have you done that? Have you purposely distracted yourself from dealing with what happened to you?”
Here we go. Serious discussion. With a sigh, she pressed her back against the cabinet opposite him, their bare feet touching in the middle of the floor.
She didn’t want to go there—to that place of honesty that everyone from her therapist to her best friend Janet had begged her to go for months—but Austin had been right when he’d said Noah was an easy person to talk to. Despite his take-me-to-bed-and-strip-me-naked looks, he exuded compassion.
“Work did that for as long as possible until I couldn’t...do it anymore. And exercise. What is it they say? Endorphins are nature’s anti-depressants? Something like that.”
“It’s paid off.” His gaze slipped over her bare legs.
She melted. “Well, your house looks great. Distraction has paid off for you, too.”
“I suppose it has.” His laugh reminded her of secrets and promises and whispers in the night.
“You’re a proponent of distraction then?” She crawled toward him. Consequences be damned, her hormones screamed. Fear had ruled her life for too long. She wanted her freedom back. She needed a diversion. She craved a taste of him.
“What’re you doing?” He dropped the back of his head against the cabinet and watched her through half-closed eyes. “Don’t come any closer.”
“Why not? Are you scared?” Hands braced over his head. Boldness pumped through her.
“Know what I find irresistible?”
“I have an idea.”
“I’m a real mess, you know.” She had to say it, warn him, give him a chance to push her away.
“So am I. Together we’d be a disaster.” His fingers slid beneath the T-shirt, skimmed her bare back, and teased under the strap of the swimsuit. “Am I your distraction then? Something to keep you busy? Is that what this is about, Lauren? Do you want to use me to distract you?”
His question stopped her from taking what she wanted. A fraction from his lips, she stared into those whiskey-colored eyes. “Maybe. Does that bother you?”
“Probably should, if I had any sense or moral decency, but not really.” He yanked the T-shirt over her head and tossed it aside. “Last chance for you to run away, no hard feelings.”
“I’m tired of running away.” She brushed her lips against his. A taste is what she wanted, needed like oxygen. “No strings. No complications.”
“This could get complicated.” He smiled against her mouth.
“Not if we’re clear about what we want.” With one pull, she tore those two buttons free from his shirt. Finally. Skin. “I don’t want deep or complicated. No plans. Just sex. Easy.”
“Just sex, huh?” He grabbed her ass and pulled her close. “I like easy, uncomplicated, string-free sex.”
Their mouths met and devoured one another, tongues clashing. Her hands were in his hair, on his shoulders, skimming over his chest. She needed more, wanted more. That she barely knew him didn’t matter. What mattered was that he made her feel alive for the first time in months, that he knew about her past and didn’t give a damn.
He rolled her onto her back, thigh slipping between hers. Their mouths never parted. The denim on his leg rubbed against her bare thigh. His weight pressed her into the plastic that covered the hard tiles.
She arched upward, craving contact. She pulled his shirt off, her hands needing to touch the hardness of his shoulders. Touching him, tasting him, feeling his mouth on her skin and his hips pressing into hers reaffirmed that she was alive in every possible way.
“Why do I feel like I’m going to burn in hell for this?” he asked against her open mouth.
“Now who’s over thinking things?” She tugged at his lower lip with her mouth.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published fiction and nonfiction author. For twenty years, she's worked in the fields of journalism and advertising with a brief detour into the financial industry. Although she holds a BA in Communications & Journalism, she is a perpetual student of life who enjoys taking post-graduate courses on a wide variety of subjects when time allows. Smart is sexy, according to Easton, which is why she writes about strong female characters who have their flaws and challenges, but who ultimately persevere.
Easton currently lives with her two teenagers in the Colorado Rocky Mountains where she gives thanks daily for the gorgeous view outside her window. She finds inspiration from traveling, the people she meets, nature and life’s twists and turns. At the end of the day, as long as she's writing, she considers herself to be simply "a lucky lady liv'n the dream."
Visit Amber at:
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Website - http://www.amberleaeaston.com
Twitter - @MtnMoxieGirl
My Review: 5STARS
Excellent read, exciting story from beginning to end.
Both Lauren and Noah are strong characters that I enjoyed immensely. Both had a past trying to cope the best they can but when they came together it was unforgettable. Their journey began at the beach of sunny Cayman Island fixated with each other from the start. Knowing they were all the right wrongs but yet finding happiness being together. Their trails making them stronger as they started to trust each other binding them and learn to say 'I Love You'
The plot executed well flowing through the pages and held you captivated. Coming together dramatically to give you a wonderful ending.
The other characters played their roles well adding to the main characters acredibility making the story believable. Larry that did not like Lauren, thinking she was a pit of need. Austin her brother who thought she was fragile. Alicia dead or alive she broke people as far as she went. Tamara that held a grudge, David?? Read the story and found out for yourself. Smile.
The setting of the Cayman island inter-flowing with the drama unfolding left me craving. Ready to book the next flight.
The steamy scenes was part of the story but not overly done and not crude. I loved it.
The author done a wonderful work bringing a story you would love to read and recommend to fellow suspense romance readers.
Well done Amber Lea.