To count down to the upcoming release of Fantasy Seduction, I''ll be posting several excerpts from Fantasy Resort. Although some of the characters appear in all the Fantasy Books, all titles are stand alone. Keep checking back for more...:)
Nicole stood at the kitchen counter the next morning, watching the sun come over the water, making the sand appear fuchsia. It was going to be a beautiful day, but all she could seem to think about was last night. What the hell did she say to him this morning?
She was supposed to be taking care of him, not seducing him. And where was the fear she’d felt for all those years? For some reason, she wasn’t afraid of him or of being alone with him, and she didn’t understand. He wasn’t Jaimee, but her body seemed to think otherwise and came to life every time he came near her.
A noise jarred her from her thoughts and she turned to stare at Ethan. He stood at the edge of the kitchen, his expression uncertain. He was still barefoot, his blue silk pajama pants hanging low on his hips. She swallowed, remembering how good his cock had felt sinking into her willing flesh.
With as much courage as she could muster, she let her gaze travel back up his chest, determined to meet his gaze head-on no matter what. His hands clasped in front of him stopped her perusal. One was wrapped in a towel, blood sliding down his forearm.
Her heart slammed in her chest, and she quickly set her coffee cup down on the counter, last night completely forgotten for the moment.
“Ethan. What on earth happened?” she asked as she pulled his bloody hand closer.
“Well. I’m afraid I did something very childish. I broke the mirror last night. When I woke this morning, I thought I’d better clean up the mess I made. I’m afraid I didn’t do a very good job of it.”
She clucked her tongue and surveyed the deep gash in his palm. “You should have let me handle that.”
“And let you cut yourself like this? No.”
She shook her head with a scowl. “Just like a man.”
“I can’t help it, Nicole,” he replied with a sideways grin. “I am a man.”
“Believe me, Ethan. You don’t have to remind me of that fact.”
The second she said it, she wished she hadn’t. The silence was deafening, and she struggled to not look at him. Grabbing a towel, she pulled him over to the sink and began to clean the wound. He grunted at her gentle probing, and she glanced up, concerned she’d hurt him. “I’m sorry. Did I hurt you?”
He shrugged, offering her a gentle smile. “It’s okay. It’s nothing compared to the last couple of months.”
She folded the towel and applied firm pressure to stop the bleeding. “Why did someone try to kill you?”
“To be honest, I don’t know,” he lied. “I don’t remember a lot of what happened.”
She studied him and for some reason got the distinct impression he was lying. “But you remember the men that tried to kill you.”
He shook his head. “No. I didn’t. They had to trigger my memory through regression.”
“Oh,” she said. Maybe he wasn’t lying after all, but there was definitely something he wasn’t telling her.
“Nicole, about last night…” he started but she turned away from him, searching through the cabinets for the first-aid kit every cabin had.
“Let’s don’t talk about that.”
“We need to. I don’t want to spend the next…” he waved his hand through the air, “however long we’re here tripping over each other because of this.”
She moved back to the table and dropped the box with a loud bang. “Ethan, please. We’ve both been through a lot the last few months and we just needed it.”
“It was more than that, Nicole,” he stated firmly, his eyes boring into hers.
“Damn it, Jaimee. No it wasn’t,” she snapped then clasped her hand over her mouth.
“What?” his eyes widened in surprise as he stared at her, and she swallowed down a sob.
“Oh, God. I’m so sorry.” Why had she just called him that?
He took a step toward her and she moved back, leaning against the counter. “Nicole,” he whispered. “It’s okay.”
She shook her head, staring at the floor. “I shouldn’t have…”
He gripped her chin, forcing her tear-filled gaze to his. His eyes held understanding and compassion, making her lip quiver even more. “Nicole, listen to me. It’s okay.” He gave her a lopsided grin. “Like you said. We’ve both been through a lot. It’s already forgotten.”
She nodded and swallowed back her shame. What was the matter with her? He didn’t look anything like Jaimee, so why did he remind her of him so much?
“We’ll talk about last night later,” he said, and she nodded her agreement, relieved that he was momentarily letting it go.
“Jerrod brought some weights for you. They’re out on the back patio,” she whispered, trying to change the subject.
She once again grasped his hand and concentrated on sealing the gaping wound in his palm with a medibri.
“Great,” Ethan said with a smile. “It’ll be good to get back in shape again.”
Nicole inwardly groaned. That’s just what she needed—a more in-shape and gorgeous Ethan.
* * * * *
Stepping through the patio door, Nicole froze as she watched Ethan lift the weights off his chest. His skin was flushed with exertion, a thin sheen of perspiration covering his torso as his muscles flexed and bulged with the strain.
There was something about his movements, about the way he held his hands. She swallowed against another wave of lust as images from last night came rushing through her mind. All night she’d kept the eerie feeling of familiarity, of belonging to this man, and she couldn’t shake it. Every time she’d closed her eyes, she could swear she was with Jaimee. His touch, the sound of his moans, even his cock and the way he moved it reminded her of him.
Damn it, he’s not Jaimee! Why couldn’t she accept that?
“So who’s Jaimee?”
Her startled gaze met his as he sat up on the weight bench and reached for a towel to wipe the sweat away. He looked so good, his chest and arms buff from the workout.
“You called me Jaimee earlier. Boyfriend?” he asked.
“No.” She shook her head. Walking over, she set a glass of water on the outdoor table close to him. “Well, it’s actually yes, I guess.”
“Well, which is it, Nikki?” he asked, his sensual lips lifting in a grin. “No or yes?”
Nikki? Jaimee had called her Nikki when he’d told her he loved her. He’d called her his beautiful Nikki. Pain sliced through her. She couldn’t take Ethan calling her that. Not when her emotions toward him were so confusing. “It’s yes and don’t call me Nikki. It’s Nicole.”
Ethan looked at her in confusion. “Sorry, didn’t realize I’d done it. But what’s wrong with Nikki?”
She shrugged and moved to rearrange the chairs around the table, anything to keep from having to look into those eyes. “Nothing. It’s just…” She pushed against the chair, causing the iron legs to scrape along the concrete. “I’d really rather not talk about it. Okay?”
“It has to do with Jaimee, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah,” she whispered.
For several moments there was nothing but the sound of the ocean crashing against the shore, the wind blowing in the trees and the tenseness in the air gnawing at her stomach. She had to say something, and glanced over at him.
He still sat on the bench, his forearms resting on his thighs, a pensive frown marring his brow. “I’m sorry, Ethan,” she said softly.
“For what?” he asked as he looked up at her.
She smiled slightly and shrugged. “You know, I’m not sure.”
“Did you love him?”
The question caught her off guard. She looked into whiskey-colored eyes so like Jaimee’s and her lip began to quiver. Oh, God. She couldn’t cry. Looking away, she tried to compose herself. “Yes,” she choked. “I did. Very much.” Wiping at a tear that slipped free, she kept her gaze averted as she quickly headed toward the house. “I’m going to go fix you some lunch.”
Ethan watched her go, his heart soaring in his chest. She loved him. Bending down, he pretended to wipe at the sweat on his forehead to keep her from seeing the smile he couldn’t stop. At least he knew she’d loved Jaimee, but now what the hell did he do about this mess?
If Brett were here right now, he’d wring his fucking neck. What would be the problem with telling her? They were here alone. Who would know? He could protect her if they tried to do anything. Like he’d protected himself and Shoranda? He growled softly in frustration. He should probably stick to the plan Brett insisted on. If anything happened to Nicole because he did something he shouldn’t have, he’d never forgive himself. He loved her too much.
* * * * *
Later that afternoon, Nicole ran along beside Ethan, trying her best to keep up with him. Even only partially recovered, he had far greater endurance than she did. Her feet slipped in the sand, almost causing her to lose her balance. She stopped and bent over, placing her hands on her knees. Her face felt hot and sweaty, her breathing harsh and shallow. She gulped for air and stood straight as he came to a stop and smiled at her.
“What’s the matter, sunshine? Can’t keep up with me?”
She scowled at him. “You’re barely winded. Weren’t you limping just yesterday? You make me sick.”
Ethan chuckled. The sound was so much like Jaimee it startled her for a second. She had to stop this.
“I limp when I overdo it, which I had yesterday. I’m sure I’ll be limping again later. Will you rub my legs for me?” he purred suggestively, making the hairs on her flesh rise.
Placing her hands on her hips, she frowned, trying desperately not to look at his bare chest and stomach. “You’re enjoying yourself, aren’t you?”
“I’m enjoying seeing you all sweaty,” he said with a grin.
She brushed her hair back from her forehead with a sigh. “You make me crazy. Do you know that?”
He walked closer. The scent of his musky skin mixed with sweat brought to her mind the smell of sex, and she inwardly groaned. It was as though some invisible force had her tethered to him and she couldn’t seem to break it no matter what she did.
“It’s not my intent to make you crazy,” he replied softly.
He stopped before her, and she craned her neck to stare warily up at his eyes. “What is your intent then?”
He shrugged. “To get back to my life. Maybe make you smile a bit along the way.”
Her lips quirked into a grin as she glanced toward the ground, her toe nervously pushing sand around.
“See? Now was that so hard?” he asked as he tipped her chin up with his finger.
For a moment, his beautiful brown eyes stared into hers, making her stomach tighten in knots. No man had made her feel like this since…well…since Jaimee.
His finger trailed up the side of her cheek, pushing a stray curl behind her ear. “Smile for me, Nicole. You’ve been so sad today.”
Heat singed her cheek from his touch and the desire in his eyes made her breath catch. This was wrong. So wrong.
She sucked in a breath and stepped back. “I need a swim,” she mumbled and quickly fled toward the ocean.
Without even stripping from her workout clothes, she dove into the waves, letting the warm water wash away her lust and guilt. For years after opening the bar, Nicole had sex with whoever she wanted, whenever she wanted. It was all about the physical. No emotions were ever allowed in. Until Jaimee.
He’d broken through her barriers, torn down her walls and made her fall in love with him. Only now she was without him, and finding herself suddenly and irrationally attracted to a complete stranger.
Pushing her wet hair from her brow, she turned to stare at the beach. Her hands froze on her head as she frantically searched the shoreline. Where was Ethan? Had he gone back to the cottage?
Something brushed across her calf. With a gasp, she scanned the clear turquoise water and breathed a sigh of relief as Ethan broke through the surface. With a grin, he shook his head, spraying water across her cheek.
“Ooh,” she said with a laugh and swiped at the water droplets on her face. “You frightened me for a second. I didn’t see you on the beach.”
Despite her best efforts, her gaze traveled across his chest and shoulders. His skin was beginning to show a hint of pink and she frowned. Other than the deep pink scars, there was nothing. No marks, no blemishes. It was just like baby skin.
Reaching out, she skimmed her fingertips down between his pecs and his muscles twitched. She could feel his heart beat beneath her hand as it sped up, pounding a frantic rhythm to match her own.
“What happened to you, Ethan?”
He sighed. “Second and third degree burns over eighty-five percent of my body. This is all new skin.”
“And the scars?” she asked as her finger trailed one across his chest. It was jagged, more rough than the others.
“It’s where the new skin grew into the old. They will eventually fade, once the process is completely over. That one,” he said and nodded toward the one she was touching, “is from a deep cut. That one probably won’t fade.”
“What cut it?” She swallowed against the desire to touch her lips to that scar.
“I’m not sure.”
Something nagged at her brain. Burned. Ethan was burned.
And so was Jaimee. Her hand froze on his chest.
No. He’s not Jaimee. He can’t be.
She couldn’t do this to herself. Jaimee was dead. She saw them put his body in the ground. It was just a coincidence.
“Nicole? Are you all right?”
His finger tipped up her chin, forcing her to meet his stare. Worry filled his gaze, turning the brown orbs amber. The pad of his thumb brushed up her cheek, and she tilted her head, trying to get closer to his touch.
Raw energy sparked between them as they gazed at one another, their bodies immersed in the warm, waist-deep waves. His head dipped a little, his hot breath fanned across her lips and her heart skipped in response.
She couldn’t stop staring at his eyes. They were so like Jaimee’s, and she missed him so much. It was wrong to use Ethan like this. She knew it, but resisting the pull his spicy scent exuded was impossible.
“Ethan,” she sighed just before his lips captured hers in a deep, wild kiss.
Large, gentle hands were everywhere at once. Her breasts ached for his touch and when he finally palmed one she groaned into his mouth, her body shivering in pleasure. His thumb brushed back and forth across her nipple through the thin material of her clothes, making it harden. She desperately wanted to be naked—to feel his hot, bare flesh against hers.
With a growl, Ethan picked her up in his arms and headed toward the beach. His mouth never left hers, his hungry kiss devouring her, making her anxious and desperate for so much more. Once out of the waves, he set her on the soft sand, then quickly stripped off her clothes. She shivered as the warm afternoon air hit her wet, fevered skin. The breeze was almost like a caress itself as it brushed across her.
Ethan slowly lowered the two of them to the ground. The damp sand scratched at her back and hips as he settled next to her. Warm ocean waves lapped at her ankles and legs, but she barely noticed. All she could feel were Ethan’s hands exploring her body, his lips and teeth nibbling at her neck.
His hand moved with excruciating slowness to her aching pussy, making her crazy for his touch long before he ever got there. Long fingers sifted through the hair at the juncture of her thighs and her hips jerked upward in response. His kiss captured her whimper as his finger slid softly along her wet slit.
He shifted, bringing his hard cock against her thigh. She moved, rubbing herself against him, and smiled when he moaned. “You’re driving me crazy, Nicole.”
He slid two fingers deep into her throbbing pussy and she groaned, lifting her hips off the sand. Her fingers burrowed in his thick blond hair and tugged as his kiss increased in intensity, searing her mouth with his tongue.
“Oh, God, Ethan. I don’t know why, but I need you. Please.”