Authors: Kira Sinclair
Tags: #Island Nights
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“To catch the first ferry so I can kick his ass. He could have stopped us or told us, but he didn’t. Don’t worry, I’ll be back before you know it.”
Frowning at him, she said, “That isn’t funny,” before directing her attention back to Marcy who now looked just as confused as Lena had been moments ago.
“Marcy, there’s been a mix-up.”
“You aren’t Lena Rand?”
“No, yes, I mean I’m Lena but—”
“Are you telling me that if we don’t go through with the photo shoot that we can’t stay at the resort?” Colt raised his voice to drown out the rest of her words.
“Yes. No. Why would you want to back out now?” Marcy’s gaze bored into Colt’s. “You signed a contract, Wyn.”
“Um, I didn’t get married and this isn’t Wyn,” Lena blurted out. She almost felt sorry for Marcy as her eyes widened with shock before narrowing into slits.
“What do you mean this isn’t Wyn? What the hell is going on?”
Lena swallowed, realizing it was the first time she’d had to say out loud what had happened since leaving the church. “Let’s just say that Wyn decided he preferred my teenage whore of a cousin.”
Marcy blinked owlishly and then waved her hand in Colt’s direction. “Then who is this?”
“A friend,” she said, before realizing just how that might sound.
Marcy’s eyes narrowed just a little more as she took in the sight of Lena, unmarried Lena, with Colt towering over her in that way of his.
Lena launched a preemptive strike. “No, seriously, we’re just friends. When the wedding fell apart Colt was there. I had the honeymoon, or what I thought was supposed to be a honeymoon, and we hadn’t seen each other in a very long time.” Lena realized she was rambling but couldn’t seem to stop herself. “He travels. He’s a director. He makes documentaries all over the world.”
“Well, isn’t that nice for him,” Marcy said, looking unconvinced.
“How much would a week here cost, Marcy?” Colt asked, filling the pregnant silence. Which was a good thing because who knew what might come out of Lena’s mouth if she opened it again.
“We reserved the honeymoon bungalow for Wyn, the best location on property. An entire week there would cost $8,595. Not including tax.”
“It’s a private island. How can there be tax?” Colt asked.
“We have to pay the mainland for use of their utilities, municipal resources and the ferry service. But price isn’t the problem.”
Tension poured off Colt in waves. Lena could feel it tightening the muscles in her own back. He was frustrated, angry and ready to kill someone; the only problem was that the target for his anger was an entire ocean away. Normally, she wasn’t a violent person, but if Wyn had been standing next to them, she most definitely would have let Colt have at him. She was getting angrier and angrier with her ex-fiancé by the minute.
“Then what is the problem?” she asked.
“We’re booked solid. I don’t have another available room for four days. I have a contract with the production company, a deadline with the ad agency and an internationally distributed travel magazine. I don’t need more paying guests, I need a couple to photograph for our ad campaign.”
With a dismayed glance behind her, Marcy looked at Colt. She wasn’t sure why. It wasn’t his job to fix the mess Wyn had created.
“So basically, you’re saying our choices are to agree to appear in your photo shoot and get a free vacation or leave?”
For a moment, Lena thought she saw a glimmer of panic and regret flash through the other woman’s eyes, but before she could pounce it was gone.
“Look, I’m sorry, but I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. You’re both attractive. You’d make a great couple for our ad campaign. If you’re willing to do the work, I’d be happy to give you the same agreement I offered Wyn. Free room, food and amenities in exchange for your cooperation with our photography team.”
Lena looked around her at the charmingly elegant lobby. Outside the windows she could see the beckoning water and almost hear the lap of the waves as they hit the sand.
She didn’t want to leave. Not yet. Her life back home was a shambles. She wasn’t ready to face it. The resort was beautiful. She’d been looking forward to staying.
“I suppose it could be worse,” she said, looking back at Colt and raising one eyebrow in reluctant surrender.
“I could have actually married Wyn.”
A laugh rumbled deep in Colt’s chest. Lena was close enough to feel the vibrations and found an answering smile touch her lips.
“I suppose it would be an adventure. How much work could it possibly be? We’re here…” His voice trailed off. Even he seemed reluctant to turn around immediately and leave. And considering what an ordeal it had been to get here, Lena didn’t blame him. The thought of getting back on a plane right now was not appealing. Especially when she had sandy beaches and a crystal-clear sea stretching invitingly in front of her.
Marcy’s relieved smile was hard to miss. “I guess the only question that remains—since you insist that you’re not a couple—is can the two of you pull off looking like honeymooners for the cameras?”
“Please. I’ve spent most of my adult life behind the camera, plotting angles and setting up shots. I think I can handle being in front of it.”
Without any warning, Colt grasped Lena’s upper arm and spun her around to face him. She wobbled a little, until his arms around her body steadied her. What was he doing?
Laughter still lingered in the back of his bright green eyes. A soft smile touched his mouth, curving his lips even as they parted, moved closer. Lena found her own lips drifting apart. What was
He bent her backward over his arm, making the room and her equilibrium tilt. His mouth claimed hers in a devastating kiss. She had a moment of shock when her body went rigid, but it was quickly overwhelmed by a radiating warmth that melted through her bones.
He didn’t devour her as some men had a habit of doing. He gently persuaded her to open to him, constant pressure and reassurance that he wouldn’t push beyond what she was comfortable giving.
After several seconds…or maybe minutes, he slowly, smoothly, pulled her back upright and let her go. The world tilted around her for a few seconds.
Her lungs burned. She took a deep breath to fill them back up again, but instead of the tropical scent permeating the lobby, all she could smell now was Colt. A masculine scent that always made her think of sandalwood.
What the hell had just happened?
“Satisfied?” Colt’s voice was smooth and poised. Unaffected. While Lena wasn’t sure she could actually form coherent words. She blinked, trying to clear her vision and the shift her world had taken.
She’d always known he was a good kisser. While he never kept a girl around long, she’d had occasion to mingle with a few of his conquests. They’d always been quick to sing his praises, as if they had some shared knowledge. No one ever believed her when she said they’d never slept together.
Marcy arched an eyebrow, pursed her lips and considered them for several seconds. “I suppose that settles that. Welcome to Escape.”
WHY HAD HE KISSED HER?
It had seemed like a harmless thing to do at the time—take a little dig at Marcy and show her she had nothing to worry about—right up until the moment his lips had touched Lena’s. He’d expected it to be light, quick, unimportant. Somehow between the idea and the execution, it had all gone wrong. Instead of something theatrical, he’d found himself really kissing her.
He’d pressed in slowly and asked her for more. And she’d given it. He wasn’t sure what was more shocking, his reaction or hers.
The gut-deep wrench of yearning had come out of nowhere. Left him breathless and reeling. It’d taken everything he had inside to let her go. To pretend nothing had happened. Nothing had changed.
But it had.
He’d known her for sixteen years. When they were children it had been easy, connecting mostly through emails and phone calls. They’d skipped the awkward exploration of teenage years because she was always so far away. And while they’d both gone to college in D.C., they’d been at different schools. They’d seen each other more often, but not every day. They’d always lived separate lives and it was easy to continue to do that even in the same city.
And then his parents had died and he’d…floundered. His brother had tried to fill the void, but he had a young family to take care of. Lena was there for him, and he’d needed her so much. Needed the steady support of their friendship. It was the only thing that had felt real and solid when the rest of his life had spun out of control.
D.C. had become a constant reminder of the parents he’d lost. The family home. His brother, sister-in-law and newborn niece. He’d begun taking jobs, going anywhere as a way to escape it all. However, the work had quickly become important to him for other reasons. He enjoyed the challenges that came with difficult projects and the transient lifestyle that allowed him to move from place to place, constantly experiencing something new.
Ahead of him on the path, Lena’s bright voice floated back to him. “Ooh, they have snorkeling. Maybe Marcy will let us do that one afternoon.”
It was a fluke. That was all. This was Lena they were talking about. They’d studied together, shared pizza, razzed each other about horrible taste in movies, spent hours on the phone when he called from faraway places. She’d been there for him during the worst possible moments of his life.
She’d been the first person at the hospital the night he’d crashed his car going one-twenty down a back-country road. She’d tried to talk him out of skydiving, base jumping and extreme rock climbing. But when he’d refused to listen, she’d been there to bandage his cuts and smack the back of his head. Ultimately, she was the one who shook him out of his grief over losing his parents and convinced him he needed to get back to living.
Lena was important.
Sure, they rarely saw each other now—for the past five years he’d been wandering the globe trying to make his mark as a filmmaker—but their friendship was easy. They could go weeks or even months without talking, but when he did pick up the phone, it was as if they’d spoken the night before.
He didn’t want to lose that. He needed her grounding influence in his life.
Gritting his teeth, Colt determined to ignore the firestorm of hormones raging inside his body until it went away. She’d just been jilted, for heaven’s sake. The last thing she needed was to deal with his wayward lust. And really, that’s all it was. A quick reaction based on a bad decision. He’d been so busy on his last job in Kenya that he hadn’t had time to blow off steam.
Eventually, it would subside and things would go back to normal. Until then, he could fake it.
“Ooh,” she said again, stopping short on the path. Skidding to a halt, he barely missed colliding with her.
She looked up at the tiny bungalow Marcy had assigned them, although he supposed
was a relative term. As a permanent residence it would never have done. But as vacation spots went it was pretty amazing.
The outside was made of warm, polished wood that gleamed beneath the late-afternoon sun. Lena pushed open the solid door, revealing the dark interior. Cool air leaked out to touch Colt’s skin. Before that moment, he hadn’t realized how hot it was here.
Their bags, along with an itinerary Marcy was eager to get started on, were to be delivered shortly. In the meantime, they had nothing to do but explore their temporary home.
Lena was busy wandering around the edges of the room, looking through the windows and squealing about their private infinity pool on their secluded patio.
All he could see was the single king-size four-poster bed that dominated half the room.
Eventually, Lena made her way over to it. She bounced down onto the mattress, the comforter bunching up around her and the pillows toppling haphazardly behind her.
“One bed, huh. Wanna draw straws?”
“Please. You’re welcome to take the couch if you don’t trust yourself in the same bed with me,” he joked, a smile plastered to his still-pulsing lips.
She snorted. “It’s my honeymoon. If anyone’s sleeping on the couch, it’s you.” She flopped onto her back, her arms spread wide across the entire length of the bed. “It would be the gentlemanly thing to do.”