“Hey, it’s me again. Look, I know you’re pissed, but it’s really for the best. You weren’t making me happy. I need a woman who has more spark. More fire. More passion. You’re like a dead fish, really. I think you might have some daddy issues there, darling. Not enough hugs growing up or something.” His syrupy-sweet voice made me wish there was an app where you could reach inside your phone and throat-punch the caller on the other end. How I wanted to just watch him choke and gasp for air, his smarmy eyes bugging out as his hands found their way to his neck and he looked at me in panic.
Motherfucker! Daddy issues?
Fuck him. He knows nothing about me. NOTHING!
But like the mouse that keeps going back to the same freaking trap, I put my ear back to the receiver.
“I need someone who is going to be there for me when I need her, you know? Besides, were you even happy? Half the time I can’t even tell. Happy, mad, sad. For a woman who doesn’t get Botox anymore, you sure have a face like one. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know I’ve put all your things in a box and had my chauffeur drop it off at your apartment.”
Swallowing the taste of bile that had suddenly formed a thick film on my tongue, I deleted the message on my phone before his voice could continue.
Fuck Xavier Rollins and his millions. Fuck Xavier Rollins and his beautiful downtown penthouse apartment. Fuck Xavier Rollins and his nice cars, his family’s private jet, his enormous yacht. Fuck him and fuck everything else. Fuck everyone else. Fuck everyone he knew, he worked with, fuck them all. I was done.
I’d wasted three years of my life with that asshole, three fucking years. And apparently during the last year (but who really knew? It could have been the whole damn time) he’d been screwing everything with two X chromosomes that batted heavily mascaraed eyelashes at him. His assistant, his secretary, his kid’s nanny, his ex-wife apparently from time to time. You name the bitch, and chances are Xavier had slipped his pasty-ass body between her thighs. And yet the bastard had the audacity, the audacity to dump me.
“I’m not sure it’s working anymore,” he’d said on New Year’s Eve as we ate dinner in one of Xavier’s New York restaurants. The entire place had been closed down for a private party hosted by Xavier himself. The room was packed with New York’s most elite socialites and celebrities, all “friends” of the eccentric millionaire and giddy as can be to be part of such a lavish event.
“You’re never around. You’re always off working. And you’re, well . . . ” He actually had the decency to grimace slightly. “You’re not exactly warm or adventurous in bed, darling. I need a woman who’s willing to, you know . . . ”
I shook my head and blinked at him a few times before deciding to open my mouth. “No, I don’t know. What is it you would like me to do?” I scanned the nearby tables, hoping nobody was eavesdropping on us, but it was a party, it was New York, it was Xavier Rollins. People were listening. They always were. Bringing my voice down a little lower and leaning closer to him, I swallowed before speaking. “Can we not discuss this here, please, Xavier?”
He took a sip of his rye and tonic while simultaneously giving a half-wave and a smile to Gigi Hammond across the room. She winked at him and bit her lip the way a woman does when she wants you to bite her “other” lips.
“No, we’ll discuss it right here. I want a woman who is adventurous.”
“I’m a travel journalist. I go on adventures for work. You’re not making any sense.”
He coughed slightly while his eyes took on an almost bored, glazed-over look. “Yes . . . but not in bed.”
Suddenly my cheeks felt as if they’d gone up in flames. “Please,” I said with a hiss, “let’s not talk about this here.”
He flicked his wrist again as if I were not more than a pesky fly buzzing around his head, a mild irritation he could just bat away. “I’m sorry, darling, but you’re boring. You’re boring me. I want a woman who is around more. You’re like a dead fish. Cold, boring, lifeless. We’re through.”
I shook my head, still not entirely able to process what was happening but nonetheless feeling the harsh sting of his words.
A dead fish.
A distant ringing sound began going off in my ears, and my chest hurt. Was I having a heart attack? A stroke?
“What kinds of things in bed are you wanting? You’ve never said anything. You want me to quit my job and just follow you around like some groupie?”
“Not a groupie.” He got a wistful look in his eye. Xavier had always wished he could be a rock star. Live the life of a rock star. And despite the fact that he had millions of dollars and hobnobbed with the richest of the rich, partied with rock stars and movie stars, models and politicians, he wasn’t a rock star. He was heir to The Handy Dandy Soap Company, a big household cleaning supply company that his grandfather had founded decades ago. Sure, over the years Xavier had bought up restaurants and a couple of nightclubs, made a bit of a name for himself, but no matter how much he tried to run, he couldn’t escape The Handy Dandy Soap Company or his nickname, “Bubbles.”
“Not a groupie,” he said again. “Just a doting girlfriend.”
“I am. When I’m home.”
“Which is not enough and why this won’t work any longer,” he said blandly. “You’re not what I need. You’re not who I want.” He raised a hand and signaled the waiter for another drink. “You. Me. We’re through, darling. I’ve moved on and so should you.”
My bottom lip dropped and nearly hit the table. “You’re dumping me? Here? In front of everyone?” I asked. “All because I’m not adventurous enough for you, which by the way is the first I’m hearing of your discontent with our sex life.”
He looked about ready to get up and leave. Bored out of his tree and wanting to find a more lively conversation companion. “That and the fact that you work too damn much.”
“But you suggested I take this job. It was your idea. I like what I do.” Only when I said the words out loud, they tasted foul on my tongue, because the truth was, I didn’t really like my job anymore. I was tired of it. Tired of the travel, tired of never being home more than a few days a month, tired of living out of a suitcase, tired of eating at restaurants. I wanted to cook my own meals, sleep in my own bed more than two nights in a row, and have a closet full of clothes I could stare at while complaining I had nothing to wear.
But I also wanted to do something worthwhile. I’d never understand these millionaires’ and billionaires’ wives who did nothing all day long, simply because they didn’t have to. Even if Xavier and I got married one day, I would still want to work in some way. Devote my life to charity work or fulfill my lifelong dream of writing a book. I couldn’t simply spend the rest of my days playing tennis, getting my nails done and making wait-staff feel like garbage at the country club bistro. No, I needed more.
He lifted one shoulder cavalierly. “It was either now or tomorrow morning. But I would rather take Felicity home with me tonight. So now it is.” And as if on cue, his little assistant, Felicity with her size zero waist, Double-D chest and mile-long legs, sauntered up in a barely-there black leather miniskirt and matching crop top. Jesus Christ, how old was this chick? Xavier was forty-seven; was he old enough to be her father? I wouldn’t doubt it.
Felicity perched on his knee and wrapped one svelte arm around his back, her coal-black eyes fixing me with a lethal stare.
What the fuck?
We used to be friends . . . sort of. She and I had grabbed lunch in the past. I babysat her cat, and it’d barfed all over my Aubusson rug. And now, all of a sudden, she’s his new fuck buddy and I’m chopped liver?
“So . . . what? You want me to stay the rest of the night at the party, or should I just go?”
I didn’t know what to do. People would be wondering why I’d left. It’d be all over social media by morning, if not sooner. The breakup, the speculation as to why. Rumors, some true and some not, flying out from every moron with opposable thumbs and a cellphone, trying to somehow cash in and weigh in on a very public breakup. And then the memes would start. I’m sure people were snapping pictures of us at this very moment. My mouth hanging open like a codfish, Xavier sitting there all smug with his hand up Felicity’s skirt, her siren-red lips nibbling on his ear as if it were some piece of decadent chocolate and not old-man ear with hair sticking out of it. Well, now I wanted to barf as well as scream and throw things.
Fucking Xavier Rollins. Fucking Bubbles!
“Oh, no. Of course not. That would be incredibly awkward for me . . . and for you. You can go.”
I gawked at him. He was dismissing me? Three years I’d wasted with this asshole, three goddamned years, and I meant that little to him that he was breaking up with me in a room full of people with his mistress perched on his lap like a puppet in a crop top. I continued to just stare at him, stare at what I was losing.
And then it hit me.
How had I not noticed any of this sooner? The greasy, poufy hair, the semi-squinty brown eyes, the nervous twitch in his left eye — I’d been blind to it all. Blinded by love. Because even though I’m not sure I’d ever said it to him, I did love Xavier. At least I thought I did.
“Did you hear him, Parker?” Felicity asked with an almost giggle, well, more like a cackle. “He said you can go.”
And you can go straight to hell, you traitorous little bitch!
But I didn’t say anything. Over the years I’d learned that it wasn’t always important to have the last word. Sometimes the best thing to do was gather up what remained of your dignity and leave with your head held high.
I reached for my purse and my coat, then, with nearly a hundred pairs of eyes on me, I walked out of the “XR” restaurant, hailed a cab and didn’t look back. And now, two weeks later, I was on the tropical island of Moorea and about to interview a billionaire.
“Stupid fucking Xavier . . . ” I muttered after I thanked the man from the shuttle for retrieving my suitcase from the back of the van. I clicked the handle up and headed to the lobby to check in. “Stupid fucking Xavier. I can be warm. I can be adventurous!”
I rolled my suitcase down the slate path toward the big open doors, the rhythmic clickity-clack sound of the wheels on the exposed rock drowning out the din of hotel lobby noise while the strident cry of a random tropical bird punctured the air like a car backfiring in a quiet street.
I scanned the entrance into the hotel, not quite sure what exactly I was looking for but knowing I’d know when I saw it.
“Stupid fucking Xavier,” I said again. Maybe I’d just sleep with the first man who said “Hello” to me. How’s that for adventurous? Rock his world, give him all the warmth and attention Xavier said I never gave him. I’d give it to a complete stranger. Yeah, I’d have sex with a complete stranger. Quick and dirty sex to get over my breakup. An innocuous tropical fling. Nobody knew me here. Yes, I was here for work, but no one besides me and the owner of the hotel knew that. And as long as he didn’t find out what I was up to, I could have a different man in my bed every night if I wanted. I was here for ten days; that’s ten different men. This place could be my rebound playground.
The further I got into the lobby, the more I liked my idea. I was going to fuck away my worries. Fuck away my problems. Use someone else to exorcise the plague that was Xavier Rollins from my mind, my body and my soul. Now I just had to find the right guy . . .
“Hello, and welcome to The Windward Hibiscus Hotel. Is there anything I can help you with?”
Eyes as green as the surrounding mountains flared with curiosity and perhaps a dollop of fear. But I hardly took notice of his eyes and their long camel lashes, because the rest of him was just that handsome . . . no, handsome wasn’t the right word . . . yummy? Delicious? Sex on a stick? No, he wasn’t a stick. Too much muscle to be a stick. A sex god? Yeah . . . this guy was a walking, talking, sex god. He just had to be. Tall and dreamy with just a hint of danger. Muscles, toned and hard, threatened to rip right out of his crisp white dress shirt, while stubble, thick and impeccably groomed, covered his jaw, cheeks and upper lip.
Oh mama! You, you are exactly what I’m looking for.
Without even thinking, I gave him my best assertive stare. “Yes!” I said with a huff, lifting my head just a tad to look him in the eye. He was a good six inches or so taller than me. “You can take me into the nearest broom closet and fuck me senseless.”
“Uh . . . ” he said back, his dark brown eyebrows nearly shooting clear off his head.
I shook my head and shrugged. “Or I can go find someone else. A pool boy or landscaper.” If I were to guess by the nice designer shoes, expensive shirt and the way he greeted me, he was probably high up on the management chain. But that was okay, I could slum it just this once. Hotel managers had needs, too. And if anything, I’d bet he’d be even more discreet than a guest, not wanting it to get back to his boss, Mr. McAllister.
I watched as his eyes slowly, appreciatively raked my body from head to toe, a big smile spreading across his mouth as his gaze landed on my breasts. I made a noise in my throat, and his head snapped back up.
“So? Broom closet?”
Hunger glittered in his eyes while challenge curved his lips. “Well, if you’re a guest, we can just check into your room.”
I shook my head. “I am a guest. But no, no names for now. Broom closet, or I’ll find someone else.”
His chest shook with laughter as he grabbed my hand without hesitation. His other hand reached for my suitcase, and soon he was pulling both me and it down a wide and airy corridor, past a few restaurants, what looked to be a spa, a couple of banquet rooms and a library before he stopped in front of a big wooden door. Reaching into his pocket, he fished out a key ring and, after a few seconds of fumbling, slid the key into the knob. It clicked, and he pushed the door open.
“I think a lady deserves more than a broom closet, don’t you think?” We were in a small but very nice room with a baby grand piano, a loveseat and two chairs. “This room is soundproof. It’s where musicians who come here to play practice and warm up.”
The room was windowless, but the walls were a soft gray, and three of the four held big, beautiful paintings of the islands and ocean. So, even though there was no view of the outside, the room wasn’t suffocating or stuffy.
I spun around to face him, swallowing hard at just how gorgeous he was. And the look he was giving me—pure lust.
He left my suitcase near the door and took a couple of steps toward me. “You can back out, you know. I won’t judge you.” Another few steps. The gap between us closed quickly. I licked my lips. “Unless sex with a random stranger was on your list of things to do while you’re on the island.”
My eyes went wide as they roamed his rock-hard body, finally landing on the front of his pants. I could see the telltale bulge, and I licked my lips again. He crept forward until we were less than a step away from each other, his body radiating heat and pheromones in such volume I was starting to feel a little woozy.
“Do I get to know your name first?” he asked.
I shook my head. “I’m a guest. You work here. I’m sure you’ll find out eventually. But for now, no names. Just . . . this.” I grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and pulled him forward, rising up on my tippy-toes to get at his mouth.
His lips crashed down onto mine as his hands made their way around my body, skimming my waist and hips, cupping my butt, bringing my pelvis closer to his. A growl rolled up from the depths of his chest and into my mouth, electrifying my body. He rocked against me, and I felt his hardness between us. Sparks shot through me, zinging out and landing between my legs. I couldn’t stop the moan that flowed from the back of my throat, and I grinded my body into his, loving the rush of adrenaline and the rush of need that coursed through me, awakening every cell and nerve ending. I hadn’t felt this alive in years, maybe ever. Xavier certainly never made me feel this way. Compared to this man, kissing Xavier had been like kissing a wrinkled mole rat.
I let my hands travel up and around to his hair. It was lush and soft, with just a slight wave. I pulled ever so slightly, and he groaned against my lips, his mouth opening wider to let his velvety tongue sweep in and explore the recesses of my mouth.
This was good, so good, but I wanted more. I’d asked him to fuck me senseless in a broom closet, and although we were several steps up from a broom closet, the rest of the request needed to be fulfilled. Letting my hands drift back down, I snaked them between us and went to work on his belt, needing to free him, to see him, to feel him. Was he big? Was he circumcised? Did it matter?
Picking up on my vibe, he cupped my butt even more firmly and hoisted me up onto his hips, driving the two of us forward until my back and head abruptly hit the wall with a dull thud. He hiked my skirt up with one hand while I continued to work his belt and zipper.
Finally, he was free.
I couldn’t help but take a peek, and holy fuck, he was big.
My eyes flicked back up to his, and he grinned wide and cocky at me before finally shrugging.
But then responsibility kicked in. That bitch.
“Uh . . . condom?” I asked. Sex hadn’t been on the agenda for this trip, so I wasn’t packing.
“Just a sec,” he murmured, pressing a knee between us and against the wall while shoving a hand into his pocket, his other one still firmly holding onto my butt cheek, long, nimble fingers digging into my plump flesh. Seconds later he came up victorious, a little black foil packet held between his finger and thumb.
My feet hit the floor as he put me down. “Start without me. I’ll be with you in two shakes.” He ripped the pack open and quickly sheathed himself.
Start without him?
His gaze wandered back up to me and my chest heaved from the heat of his stare. “I said start without me. Touch yourself. I want to see you touch yourself.”
Well, this was not going at all how I had thought.
His hand came forward, and those strong fingers wrapped around mine. Then he ruffled up my skirt and guided my hand beneath the front of my panties.
“Are you wet?”
I swallowed. Holy fuck, this was so hot. And holy fuck, was I ever wet. I nodded. “Yeah.”
My lips parted slightly, and my eyes threatened to roll into the back of my head when he pushed my fingers a little deeper and I brushed my clit.
“Really wet,” I said, surprised at how out of breath I was.
“Hmmm…” he hummed. “Let me see.” He pushed my fingers out of the way and began to explore on his own. My breath caught, and I moaned when he started rubbing delectable little circles around my clit, only to push farther down toward my core, dipping inside for just a moment before pulling back out. Playing with me, toying with me, gliding around with incredible ease. Exploring my pussy as if he owned it, as if he were mine and I was his and we hadn’t just met five minutes ago.
“Now, how do you taste?” He pulled his digits free, but not before delivering one final pinch to my clit. I jerked, and my legs nearly flew out from under me.
His chuckle was diabolical and deep, smooth like warm honey. I watched as his pupils took over his irises, black invading green the moment he slid those two wet fingers into his mouth and sucked off my arousal. I don’t think I’ve ever been more turned on in all my life; the way he looked at me, in his eyes, in his mind I was completely naked, on my knees with his cock in my mouth. The thought ran rampant through my brain, but I quickly pushed it away.
No. Not this time.
Maybe if he could keep a secret from his boss, we could do this again and I’d do that, but right now it was about fucking. Hard and fast, quick and dirty.
“Mmmm . . . so sweet,” he hummed, his tongue darting out to run along the seam of his sensuous lips, lapping up the last drops of me.
My heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest, while my lungs burned and my mouth was all of a sudden incredibly dry. I let my eyes drift back down his body, landing on the thick, pulsing rod between us, encased in latex and poised to fuck. And again, my brain taking a backseat to my libido, I leaped up on to his hips and captured his lips with mine.
He growled against my mouth as his hands made their way to my butt again. He tilted his hips and rocked against me while I used one free hand to move my thong to the side. Then, with a grunt and an inhale from the both of us, he was inside me.
“Oh God!” I cried, my body taking over and starting to move as I rode his length up and down while his arms bunched and flexed under the strain of having to hold me up.
“Fuck!” He snarled, his lips traveling along my cheek and neck before finding rest in that sweet spot where the neck meets the shoulder. He nipped at my skin, alternating between gentle kisses and savage bites. All the while, his hips continued to hammer into me, his pelvis shoving me hard against the wall in unrelenting thrusts. And I took each and every one, my body relishing the brutality of the way he took control, took possession.
I bowed my back and pressed into him, my nipples hard, achy peaks against the fabric of my bikini top. He lifted his head from my neck and began to drop kisses along my collarbone, reaching inside my halter top and bikini top with one hand to draw out a diamond-hard bud, latching on and tugging with his teeth. I gasped from the delicious bite of pain.
My body was a maelstrom. Everything felt incredible, from the way he kneaded my backside to the way his cock stroked inside me, coaxing out the orgasm with hard, measured thrusts. His mouth was hot and wet on my skin as he continued to suckle and lash at my nipples, alternating between harsh bites and soft licks, until I was gasping for air and practically begging him to stop, but also to never stop.
I was close. So damn close. My clit throbbed, and the orgasm that brewed like a hot tropical storm in my belly was getting ready to unleash itself, preparing to devastate everything in its path and leave me as no more than a shell of a woman in its wake.
“Come for me, baby,” he whispered, his breath warm against my skin as his lips traveled back up to my neck. “You’re close. I can feel it. Let go.” He wedged a free hand between us, found my clit, pinched, and that was it. My body short circuited. I shut my eyes and threw my head back against the wall as the sensations swamped me. Pleasure upon pleasure upon pleasure rippled in never-ending and growing waves throughout my entire body.
I cried out. But the words came out as no more than a choked and garbled sob as I said “yes” and “more” over and over again, until I wasn’t sure I knew any other words in the English language. I wasn’t even sure I knew my own name or where I was or why I was here. My only answer would have been “to fuck this man,” whoever he was.
I was just starting to come down from my cloud when the realization hit me. He hadn’t gotten off.
“Um . . . do you still need to get off?”
His laugh wrapped around me like a warm blanket, and my body went lax against him. “I got off, baby. Yours was just a hell of a lot better than mine, and you didn’t even notice.”
My cheeks were on fire. “Oh . . . I’m sorry.”
He continued to laugh and I found myself laughing right along with him. “Don’t be. That was some of the hottest sex I’ve ever had. And the way you come . . . the way you taste . . . holy fuck, woman.”
Now I was certain my cheeks were aflame. I resisted the urge to touch them and make sure no embers flickered across my freckles.
Swallowing, I motioned for him to let me down. “Well . . . uh, thank you.”
He pulled the condom off, tied it and then shoved it into his pants pocket. “Thank you, Miss . . . ”
I shook my head. “No names, please.”
Jesus Christ, what had I done? Now that the endorphins were starting to wear off, things were not looking nearly as fun or hot. I’d just had sex, albeit world-rocking, coma-inducing sex, but it’d been with a complete stranger. And I needed to keep it that way. I was coming off a breakup; I had no room for relationships or romance in my life. This was a one-time thing. I wasn’t going to spend the next ten days screwing random guys. No, I had a job to do. What on earth had I been thinking?
“I’m going to find out your name eventually, you know.”
I shrugged and smoothed down my skirt. “I know. But can you just pretend you don’t know it? Can we just behave, for the next ten days, as if this never happened? Ships passing in the night. That kind of thing.” Regret settled like a lead balloon in my stomach, and I watched as his face, for just a fraction of a second, fell in disappointment.
“We can pretend or do whatever you like. You are the guest, and we aim to please and see to your every whim.” He plastered on a giant panty-dropping grin and finished doing up his belt. “Now, I’ll let you go first, then I’ll wait a minute and leave after you when the coast is clear. I highly doubt you will ever see me again anyway. I’m incredibly busy over the next several days seeing to a VIP guest.”
I gave him a small smile, followed by a nod. “All right, then, well . . . uh . . . thanks again.” I grabbed my suitcase handle and opened the door, poking my head out and scanning the hallway to make sure no one was around. Once I’d determined the coast was clear, I glanced back over my shoulder at him one last time. He winked. Who the hell winks these days? Nobody winks anymore. But he winked, followed by another big, sexy smile. I couldn’t stop myself and smiled back. Then, with a pit the size of a grapefruit rattling around in my stomach, I pushed the door open and headed up to reception.
“Parker Ryan,” I said, trying to feign nonchalance as best I could, as though not ten minutes ago I hadn’t been forced up against a wall and impaled by a sexy demigod in expensive shoes and a tight shirt.
The front desk woman’s eyes went wide. “Oh . . . Miss? Miss Ryan. We’ve been expecting you. Yes, of course, welcome to The Windward Hibiscus Hotel. We’re so happy you’ve decided to come and spend your time at our resort. If there is anything, anything at all that you need, please do not hesitate to call and let us know. We have a twenty-four-hour concierge service, and even though we’re on an island, there’s not much we can’t accommodate.”
I glanced at her name tag it said “Janessa.” Smiling, and hoping my cheeks were not as red as they felt and I didn’t have the words “I JUST HAD SEX WITH A STAFF MEMBER” stamped on my forehead, I said, “Thank you.” A man dressed in the customary beige pants and navy polo shirt with the hotel logo and name emblazoned in the top right corner, came over and offered me a customary smoothie in a glass. I thanked him and sipped it greedily. Sex with a stranger was parching. Mmm coconut and something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
“It’s guava, Miss,” Janessa said, taking in my creased brow as I continued to sip through my straw.
“Is that what it is?” I hummed. “It’s delicious.” I finished off the delightful glass of liquid heaven and set the empty vessel down on the front desk. “Now I know I’m supposed to go and meet with Mr. McAllister, but I was hoping to freshen up first. If I could be shown to my room, I’d really appreciate it.”
Her French-tipped nails tippy-tapped on the keyboard, and her round face with rosy cheeks stretched into a big smile. “We actually have you in our presidential villa for the duration of your stay. Mr. McAllister wants you to spend your time here in the lap of luxury. You have an unencumbered view of the ocean as well as fresh fruit trees right outside your door next to your own private veranda. The veranda has full privacy as well, if you’re one of those who chooses to tan topless.”
I smiled ruefully. “I’m not, but good to know. Thank you.”
She nodded as she reached for a key card from a big stack, swiping it through a reader to load it with my room number. “All right then, Miss Ryan, if you’ll just follow me, I will take you to your villa so you can freshen up.” She sashayed out from behind the desk and went to reach for my bag. I let her, and then the two of us took off back down the same hallway I’d just come down. Past the same door I’d just ducked out of, the door to the room where not fifteen minutes ago I’d had the most intense, incredible and unforgettable sex of my life, all with a man whose name I refused to learn.