10 Days in Paradise
ISBN eBook: 1-59998-925-5
Contemporary Erotic Romance
Exile…or exotic affair?
Celeste McMillan is well on her way to achieving her dream of a perfect career—until she’s forced to practice self-defense against a lecherous billionaire. The encounter just might cost her everything. To add insult to injury, she’s been ordered to take a long vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii. For a career-driven woman like Celeste, it feels more like exile.
Things start looking up when she meets sexy, tattooed surfer Kanoe Anakalea. Maybe a fun, exotic affair is exactly what she needs. Instead, she plunges headfirst into a sea of emotions more powerful than she could ever have imagined.
There’s more to Kanoe Anakalea than meets the eye. Much more. Though he’s a laid-back local boy on the outside, on the inside he’s driven—by love of his homeland and family, and his determination to succeed. At first glance, Celeste seems to be just another pale, uppity tourist. The last thing he expects is to be blindsided by love.
When Kanoe and Celeste get together, it’s as intense as an erupting volcano in the balmy Hawaiian air. But despite the fireworks, they both know separation is inevitable. Celeste only has ten days. And everyone knows vacation flings can’t last.
Or can they?
Warning: This excerpt contains material inappropriate for minors.
By reading on, you are certifying that you are over 18 years of age.
She unloaded her two rolling suitcases from the trunk and heaved them over to the asphalt path ending at the fence. Pulling the paper with the combination from her pocket, she knelt down to study the lockbox.
It was a low-tech lock, ancient-looking and rusty, and a spider had built its home on one side of the dial. Gritting her teeth, she picked up a twig and used it to brush away the glistening spider web. Then she tried to rotate the dial to the first number, but it was corroded in place. She pinched her fingers together and tried to force the thing to move. It didn’t budge.
“Great. Just great,” she muttered. Now what? She rocked back on her heels, brushing the rust from her hands. A cold drop of water plunked on her head from the leaves overhead.
A low, smooth male voice sounded behind her. “Need some help with that?”
She jumped, then looked over her shoulder. The breath whooshed out of her lungs as she stared at the man who stood beside her car. He wore nothing but black swimming trunks, which rested low on his hips, exposing rippled abs. Celeste’s gaze moved up his bronzed, chiseled chest. A tattoo, a crisscrossed, symmetrical pattern of curving stripes and triangular arrowheads, covered the skin on his shoulder and upper arm. Just beside his tiny erect male nipple, a raindrop rolled down his nicely shaped pecs. Celeste clamped her lips together, fighting the insane urge to lick it off.
She tilted her head up further, past the strong lines of his jaw, to his wide, bow-shaped lips, which quirked with amusement. Then she looked into his eyes and smiled. “Hi.”
He was gorgeous. His eyes were almond shaped and chocolate colored. Sparkling. Alive. His lips cracked into a grin. Dimples formed on each of his cheeks. Entirely kissable.
She did a little mental shake, flinging away the unbidden image of her lips brushing over those dimples. She was done with kissing men. Completely finished. Her last relationship was a disaster, and Manning’s oyster-alcohol flavored lips were the last straw. She shuddered. Mike and Manning—the two of them together made one amazing piece of work. Too bad they weren’t gay. They’d be perfect for one another.
In any case, Celeste had sworn off men forever. She had more important things to do, like make partner at LBG.
His smile grew wider. “Hi.” He flicked a glance at the lockbox. “So…um…you need some help with that?”
Her gaze riveted to his mouth, his sexy, soft full lips. What would they feel like kissing her? Running down her body, over her breasts…lower?
Beyond his un-tattooed shoulder, she saw a yellow surfboard propped against her convertible. A surfer. Of course. He looked younger than her too.
That was enough to break her out of the bizarre lust haze. She let out a pent-up breath and rose to her feet. “Ah, yes. Thank you. I can’t get it to move at all. I think it’s rusted shut.”
The goal was to get into the house, unpack, check email on her BlackBerry and rest. Then she’d drive back into town, have dinner and try to find some practical shoes. She had the rest of the day planned to a tee. She had the next ten days planned to a tee, for that matter. Though Caleb had forbidden her to work, she had a pen and paper, and she intended to strategize for the partner race, which she would run in earnest upon returning home. Caleb and the other partners would see, once and for all, that she was serious—that she could handle it, and by the time she turned thirty, she’d be the youngest partner at LBG.
None of that had anything to do with the tall, dark and handsome Hawaiian standing beside her.
She glanced up at him beneath her lashes, finding him studying her, concentrating on her, his eyes slightly narrowed. “You staying at Aunty Nanette’s house?”
Aunt Nanette was Malia’s aunt as well—Celeste was staying here on Malia’s recommendation. Celeste’s eyes widened. “Is she your aunt too?”
He chuckled. “She’s everybody’s aunty.”
Celeste frowned. “Do you know Malia Castillo?”
His dimples deepened. “Yeah, sure. I went to school with her, but she was two years behind me. She moved to the mainland a couple years ago.”
“I work with her.”
“Oh yeah?” His brown eyes sparkled, causing Celeste’s insides to squirm and dance. “How’s she doing?”
“Malia? She’s, well, she’s really good. I think she’s a little homesick, though.”
His eyes softened as he nodded. “Yeah, I can imagine.”
Celeste ran her teeth over her lower lip. Interesting. Clearly he wasn’t closely related to Malia. This was something she’d definitely ask her friend about later. She held out a hand. “I’m Celeste McMillan.”
“Kanoe Anakalea.” His hand was big and firm, and his handshake was strong.
“Kah-NO-ay,” she repeated, enunciating each syllable. “Nice to meet you.”
“How long are you staying?”
“Yes.” She stared at him in challenge, not quite sure why she felt defensive. She wasn’t about to tell him exactly why she was here.
He arched his eyebrows but didn’t comment. She looked down at their hands, still clasped together in a handshake that had lasted entirely too long.
Clearing his throat, Kanoe dropped her hand and turned to the gate. “What’s the combination?”
Was it safe to give him the combination? Studying him, she worried her lower lip. Why not? He knew Malia. She glanced down at the paper she’d crumpled in her hand. “It’s three-six-seven-six-eight.”
As if it were the easiest thing in the world, he spun the dials, aligned the numbers and opened the lockbox. Taking the keys out, he unlocked the gate. It squealed on rusty hinges as he swung it open.
She laughed, shaking her head. “You make it look so easy.”
Wiping his hands on his shorts, he rose and handed her the keys, his chocolate gaze locking with hers. “Here you go.”
Her cheeks heated. She couldn’t even look at this guy without blushing. He was so gorgeous. Her stomach fluttered with a greedy sort of anticipation, and she rolled her eyes inwardly. This guy was a complete stranger, clearly younger than her, a surfer for goodness’ sakes…and she was acting like a twelve-year-old with a crush. Maybe she’d spent too long cooped up in the office.
She took the keys from him. “Thanks.”
“I’ll carry your bags down for you.”
Before she could protest, he’d grabbed both her suitcases and was descending towards the house.
She followed at a much slower pace. The cement was wet and slick with moss, and the soles of her cute little sandals had absolutely no traction. Carefully, she dodged the slick patches and negotiated her way down the winding path. It was probably a good thing he’d taken her bags for her.
Halfway down, it started to rain again. The heavens opened, and it seemed the jungle around her came alive with pattering raindrops, adding a soothing layer to the sound of the distant crashing waves.
Celeste blew a wet strand of hair out of her face in aggravation. By the time she got down to the house, she’d be sopping wet. If only Caleb could see her now. She didn’t belong here, slipping down a mossy path, probably looking about as appealing as a wet rat. She belonged in L.A., on the forty-second floor, wearing a dry-cleaned business suit and drinking coffee. Clean. Dry. Safe. Caffeinated and colorless.
Unlike Hilo. Malia hadn’t told her the place was a veritable rainforest. Glistening foliage in every shade of green bordered either side of the path. The house came into view between the thick trees and vines, wedged into the side of the cliff a few steps up from the beach. Though Celeste was a stranger here, innately at odds with this place, she couldn’t deny its wild beauty.
Kanoe strode back up the path and assessed her appearance with one sweeping glance. “You’re soaked.”
“It’s okay. It’s not cold.” She motioned down to her feet. “I’ll fall and break my neck if I go any faster.”
“You’re not wearing the right shoes. Nobody here wears shoes like that. You should wear shoes with traction. Or go barefoot like me.” He wiggled his toes and grinned, and she went lightheaded. Those dimples again. “Let’s get you down to the house.”