Authors: Kira Sinclair
Tags: #Island Nights
“Twenty minutes,” she said, swinging a perfectly manicured nail to point at both of them. “Or we’re leaving without you.”
“Promise?” Lena muttered beneath her breath. It was Colt’s turn to flash
a warning glance, ushering Georgie out with promises that they’d be there.
Not waiting for him to return, Lena went into the bathroom and rummaged through her toiletry bag until she found some aspirin. Thanks to her restless night, her brain felt as if it was trying to push straight through the top of her skull. Not bothering with water, she swallowed the tablets dry and then regretted it when Colt asked, “Everything all right,” and the chalky lump stopped somewhere in the middle of her throat.
Pushing past him, she made a beeline for the fridge and the Diet Coke Marcy had stocked there. Popping the top, she swallowed several gulps.
“Slow down,” he said, propping his hip against the counter, pulling the edge of his worn jeans down far enough that she could see the jutting tip of his hip. She gulped some more, tearing her eyes away from his body.
“Caffeine. I have a headache.”
Colt frowned. “Maybe we shouldn’t go.”
A few minutes earlier, Lena would have jumped at the chance to back out of spending hours on end with little miss sunshine. But as her eyes strayed to the bed still sitting in the middle of the room, she realized there were worse ideas in the world.
Like being alone with Colt. With chaperones she was less likely to throw herself at him like a wanton hussy.
Besides, the alternative was whatever Marcy had scheduled for the day, and frankly, after last night she was afraid to find out what that might entail.
Pretending for the camera had gotten seriously complicated. She no longer knew what was fake and what was real. Where her friendship with Colt ended and her attraction began.
Part of her was grateful Colt had put a stop to things last night. But most of her was just frustrated.
Yeah, putting people between them was probably the intelligent choice.
She reluctantly said, “No, I want to go. Wild jungle, tropical waterfall, sounds like a great way to spend the day.” Unfortunately, her tingling body reminded her there were plenty of more enjoyable ways to pass the time.
TREKKING THROUGH THE JUNGLE was not exactly what he’d had in mind. Although, after last night, what he had in mind was out of the question. It had taken everything inside him not to grab Lena and throw her down on the looming bed this morning.
Getting out of the bungalow and away from temptation had seemed like the best plan.
Ahead, Georgie and Wesley walked hand in hand through the jungle. The path was barely wide enough to accommodate them, probably meant for single file hiking. But that didn’t deter them. Colt noticed they were always touching. Nothing major, the brush of his hand across her back or her arm around his waist.
His palms itched to reach for Lena, to pull her next to him just to know that she was there. Instead, he let her walk a few steps in front. The hem of the tiny shorts she’d put on barely covered the bottom swell of her ass. Colt couldn’t pull his gaze away, constantly hoping for a bigger glimpse.
It was making the whole situation more difficult. Hiking he could handle. Hiking with a raging hard-on was far from enjoyable. Although, he had to admit the view was damn nice and more than worth the discomfort.
Without even looking behind her, Lena said, “Stop staring at my ass.”
Colt probably should have felt guilty for being caught. He didn’t.
“How’d you know I was looking?”
She peered over her shoulder, raking him with a laser gaze. “Because I can feel it.”
His entire body tightened. His veins pulsed, too small to contain the quick shot of desire.
“You’re the one who walked away, Colt. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad. It would have been a mistake. But you can’t leave like that and then stare at my ass like it’s the first bite of the best meal of your life.”
She shot him another glance, this one a little darker with promise. “It isn’t fair.”
What wasn’t fair was having her prance around in tempting clothes without expecting a reaction.
“I’m a man, Lena. What do you want from me?”
She stopped on the path, spinning to face him. “I don’t know anymore,” she said, the harsh words carrying an air of reluctant honesty.
Colt stepped into her space, toe-to-toe. He towered over her. He had to admire the way she tipped her head back and stared straight into his eyes, defiant and determined to stand her ground and not let him—or their situation—intimidate her.
Deep in her eyes he saw the same emotions he was fighting against. Confusion. Awareness. Fear, hope, heat.
They were in over their heads, but he realized at least they’d drown together. Maybe there was a way for this to work, for them to release the energy building between them, without ruining what they already had.
There was a term for it, right? Friends with benefits. He’d never understood the appeal until now.
“Admit it. You wore those shorts on purpose.”
Her eyes widened and she gave a little shake of her head, the motion sending her bangs into her eyes. With a gentle brush of his fingers, he pushed the hair back so that he could see her expression. Her eyes flared at the simple connection, her pupils contracting.
He could tell she wanted to look away. But, just like him, she was caught in the moment and couldn’t let go. “Maybe.”
His thumb stroked down the line of her cheek to her jaw. Her lips parted, giving him an unobstructed view of her little pink tongue. He wanted to reach inside and stroke it with his own.
And he might have, if they hadn’t been reminded they had company by Georgie’s amazed exclamation. “It’s so beautiful!”
In that moment he heard the shushed roar and wondered if it had been there the whole time.
“Hurry up, y’all.” Georgie’s voice floated down the path.
Lena had already turned to follow. Colt rushed to catch up with her. This time when the urge to run his hand along her spine hit, he didn’t tamp it down. Instead, he reached for her and relished the way her muscles jumped and her body pressed into his touch.
They broke through the trees a few minutes later. The waterfall was beautiful, with an untouched quality that Colt knew couldn’t be real. There was a path cut straight to it after all. They weren’t the first humans to visit here. Heck, probably not even the first this week.
“Look at this place. It’s gorgeous,” Lena breathed.
Colt walked into the clearing that surrounded the pool where the water from the falls collected before it broke through the rest of the jungle in a quiet line. He was struck by how calm the water was, especially considering that it was tumbling over a cliff twenty feet above them to churn over large boulders and rocks just a few feet away.
How could something so violent turn so calm within such a space? Mother Nature truly deserved respect for her awe-inspiring beauty.
Lena walked up beside him. Her arm brushed against his and a shock shot through his body, stronger than anything he’d ever experienced before.
“Look at those colors. What I wouldn’t give to be able to capture them in a stone or a shell or a piece of glass.” Colt heard the same awe in her voice that was expanding his chest.
“Why don’t you?”
“Because I can’t. No stone or glass could produce something so pure and vibrant. There are just some things that can’t be replicated and I refuse to create a cheap imitation.”
Her integrity was impressive, but something he’d always known she possessed. She expected a lot from herself and the people around her. Which made it worse when those people failed her as her mother and Wyn had.
Colt had the sudden urge to protect her, to make sure nothing ever hurt her again. But he, more than anyone, realized that wasn’t possible. No one could stop the inevitable.
All you could do was minimize your exposure and protect yourself as best you could.
“Soups on, y’all,” Georgie called out. She’d been busy spreading a blanket beneath the soaring trees. An array of food sat in sealed containers. She’d even brought real silverware and plastic plates.
Colt shot Wesley a commiserating look. The poor bastard had packed it all into the jungle. Wesley shrugged. “My baby prides herself on hospitality.”
“I do know how to throw a party, don’t I?” she asked, with a proud smile.
The four of them settled onto opposite corners of the blanket. Wesley speared a bite of broccoli salad off of Georgie’s plate. She swatted at his hand, but followed the empty gesture by offering what was already on her fork.
They all seemed to settle into a comfortable companionship. Lena managed to steer Georgie away from the topic of their wedding whenever the other woman wanted to hear details, although he did catch her fiddling with the gold band around her finger several times. They talked about their lives, it turned out Georgie was a counselor at an elementary school and Wesley had just taken over running his family’s car dealership.
They were fascinated by all the places Colt’s job had taken him.
“That’ll be so much fun for a while. Moving around, seeing new places, experiencing new things.” Georgie looked up at Wesley with a sad smile on her face. “I envy y’all that flexibility. Wesley’s a bit tied down.”
“I told you I’d quit tomorrow if that’s what you want me to do.”
“I don’t.” She patted his leg, leaning into his body. “I’d rather have boring and ordinary with you than exotic without you.”
Lena made an incredulous sound that she quickly turned into a cough.
“Let’s cool off,” Wesley suggested. They all made quick work of cleaning up. The water was cool and refreshing, washing away the heat of the hike. Even as he tried to behave himself, Colt found his hands and mind straying to Lena.
Despite the friendly atmosphere, a pulsing undercurrent ran between them every time their gazes caught and held. It was torture, having her so close and knowing he couldn’t do anything about it.
SOMEWHERE IN THE LATE afternoon the four of them drowsed beneath the sun. Filtered through the canopy of the trees above, the light was washed out and soft against their skin.
Lena pretended to settle, although she was too restless to actually get comfortable.
Between last night and this morning something had changed. She could see it in Colt’s eyes, the way he watched her. He no longer tried to cover up the interest she could now see clearly. Instead, he tortured her with it, letting his eyes roam across her body the way she wanted his hands to touch her.
In the water, he’d teased her, letting his hand brush across her sensitive breasts before pulling away. His fingers had slid up the smooth expanse of her thigh only to disappear before giving her what she wanted.
She’d tried to play the same game, but he was too fast.
Beside her, Colt shifted. Pushing soundlessly to his feet, he walked several paces away, paused long enough to scoop up the pack he’d brought, looked over his shoulder at her, and then continued past the water to disappear into the cool shadows of the jungle.
She had a decision to make. She could follow him, finish what had been building between them. Or she could stay on the blanket, yearning twisting her insides into knots, and walk back to the resort frustrated and disappointed.
The second option held absolutely no appeal.
As Lena pushed to her feet, Georgie raised her head and looked over.
“Don’t wait for us,” Lena whispered.
Georgie gave her a drowsy, knowing smile but didn’t say anything. Instead, she laid her head back onto Wesley’s shoulder, snuggling deep into his arms.
On silent feet, Lena followed Colt into the jungle. She softly whispered his name, but he didn’t reply. She moved farther, letting the gigantic trees and thick underbrush swallow her. Not even the rush of the waterfall could penetrate the dense growth around her.
She was about to turn back, certain she must have gone in a different direction from Colt, when his hands wrapped around her waist.
She let out a surprised squeak which Colt’s devouring mouth immediately swallowed.