I’d like to welcome all the visitors following the Summer Reading Trail and thank you for stopping here. I hope you’ve found some wonderful stories and been introduced to new authors.
Cautious, and working to keep his jangled nerves from pumping his legs in a dead run, Ayden strolled to the shelter of the dinghy. The noise grew louder. Ayden realized he wasn’t moving away from the sound. He was aimed right toward it. What a fool. It was a beautiful fall night. No doubt lovers were using the upended craft for a little private party of their own.
Turning on his heel, he started to walk away, when the noise came again. It wasn’t the moan of sexual pleasure. It was the keening sound of sadness. Someone was crying. And from the quiet hiccupping, it was female.
Ayden shot a longing look over his shoulder, debating between the refuge of the path and the complications under the boat.
Chivalry won out and he stepped warily around the bow.
The redhead sat on the wooden slats, her bare feet digging restlessly in the sand, her face cupped in her hands. Between shuddering breaths, she sputtered angrily into her bent knees, but her tears and her fingers kept the words from him.
“Uh-hmm.” He cleared his throat, not knowing how else to get her attention.
“Holy shit…” She tried to jump to her feet, but banged her head on the iron rigging attached to the upside of the boat and fell back down. “Damn.” Her hand flew to her head.
“I’m sorry, you okay?” Ayden reached for her, but she shook him off.
She looked up at him. Even in the pale light, he could see the sadness in her eyes.
“Actually, I’m not all right.” She pushed herself up, ducking her head away from the oarlock. She wiped at the sand on her bottom. “You scared the living shit out of me.”
Biting back a smile, Ayden watched her glistening tears turn to fury. That he could handle. An angry woman was one hundred times easier to placate than a despondent one.
“Again, I apologize.” He held his hand out as a peace offering. “I’m Austin Schaeffer.” How easily that name slipped off his tongue.
“Deirdre Tilling,” She shook the hand he offered.
Her grip was surprisingly firm. Ayden liked the touch of her palm against his skin. Not all soft and pliant, but callused and rough. He wondered how it would feel running up his back.
She was a beautiful woman. Her breasts swelled enticingly just above the bodice of her dress. Her long, muscular legs that he’d admired in the great room, started somewhere around her neck. No wonder Jameson had been seducing this lovely creature.
Jameson. Right. He mentally shook his head. Focus, Ayden. Tonight was about gathering information, not sexual conquests. But then again, there was that two birds and one stone thing.
“You come to Jameson’s parties often?” He immediately slipped into detective mode.
She pulled her hand from his and rubbed at the spot on her head. “What? Jameson? Oh, Shawn. No, never been to one of his parties. I’m one of his employees. Damn, this hurts. It’s already forming an egg.”
Ayden ignored the fact she’d called the owner Shawn. Obviously, he wasn’t getting any action from an employee who referred to her boss by his first name.
“Here, let me take a look at it.” He ran his fingers through her hair. It was soft as silk sliding over his hand. “Oh, yeah. You did a nice job. Probably could use a little ice.” At this rate, so could he, but not on the head on his shoulders.
“I did a nice job? Me? You were the one sneaking up like some pirate looking for lost treasure.”
The woman had no idea how close to the truth she was. “I wasn’t sneaking up on you, I heard you crying.”
And just like that the white knight had rendered her speechless.
Deirdre had started the evening with her moral compass pointing the way to a mindless hookup that would break her sexual dry spell. She’d quickly lost her way after her encounter with the brunette and the mansion’s owner. She was ending her evening hiding on the beach crying into her proverbial beer over not taking a damn risk.
The whole thing with Shawn earlier had been stupid. There had been nothing untoward about the man. Her own insecurities had total screwed with her head, imagining danger where none had existed. She’d run from a perfect gentleman like a skittish rabbit afraid of being snared.
Perhaps she’d been granted a second chance.
“Yes, well, as you can see I’m fine.” Deirdre looked at the guy standing over her. Her head throbbed, but it didn’t stop her body from reacting to his hungry gaze. He had nice features. A strong jaw that softened with the smile he kept flashing her. The light of the moon reflected in his eyes that held an attentive kind of glint. Her pulse rate skipped about with anticipation rather than concern. But he was a man. She hadn’t been with a guy since Bobby Mullins eighteen months ago, and she remembered vividly what a horrible, drunken decision between friends that had been.
Deirdre had sworn off men at that point. She shivered at the recollection.
“You cold?” He rubbed his hands up and down her arms.
“No, I…” His hand grazed the side of her breast, and her nipples immediately pebbled. “Yeah, maybe a little.” She had not just fluttered her lashes at the man. But what the hell? After the rejection from the woman in the great room, Deirdre was feeling more than a little needy. For goodness’ sake, she’d just been bawling her eyes out over not getting laid. What was the difference between the dildos she kept in the box under her bed, and real, live flesh and blood pumping into her? Emotional attachment, that’s what. But she was feeling hopeless enough to risk it.
“You want to go someplace warmer?” Austin’s hands continued to trail awareness up and down her arms.
“I live really far away.”
His head tipped back as if she’d struck him, and he dropped his hands. Then he laughed. “I was thinking up to the house. But I wouldn’t turn you down if you wanted a nightcap at my place. It’s not far from here.”
Heat pulsed in Deirdre’s cheeks. She’d been so focused on going home with someone—anyone— that she was practically throwing herself at this man. How could she have misunderstood? “No…don’t feel obligated. I mean, well…oh, hell, I’m not very good at this.”
He trailed his knuckle from her cheek bone to her chin. “A drink at my place. What do you say?”
“That sounds nice. But I’ll take my own truck.”