Excerpt from Tempting Isabel:
Alone, together, she stared at him, unsure of what the hell had possessed her to help this…this player. And more, what had motivated her to escape with him outside? Again—alone, together.
As if on autopilot, adrenaline had juiced her body’s reactions, all without her mind’s permission. The result, a complete lapse of judgment. Damn it, Isabel!
But it got worse. Zack’s eyes were hard on her, quivering with energy, burning her like the blinding orange glare of the setting sun. She felt an unwarranted flood of heat start low and deep. It rose up through her and reached her face. Anger and denied-arousal clouded her vision.
Struggling with her body’s reaction to this mind-screwing, womanizing player, she took a deep breath, readying herself to get the hell away from him. Go already.
But first, words fell out of her mouth, words completely unapproved by her brain. “I, uh, didn’t want you taking a punch to that handsome face of yours for me,” she instigated, a flirty sarcasm betraying her pride. She stepped back toward the bar to counter the traitorous act of speaking to him, all the while trying to ignore her body’s screams of protest for the incremental distance. But words poured out again, this time her heart played the betraying culprit. “After all, those lace-panty owners wouldn’t be able to recognize you if your face was all bruised up, and we couldn’t have that, now, could we?” Really?
For God’s sakes, Isabel—leave. Now.
“So, okay then…take care.” And her foot pressed deeper into the sand to begin her retreat.
But in a flash his hand held her left wrist, just above her cuff bracelet. His grasp was gentle, but firm enough to keep her there and to transfer his damned electricity through her entire body. But when he caught her look of warning, he released his grip.
“Listen to me, Isabel—you need to know something.”
She was surprised by the command in Zack’s voice. Although brushed with a slight and genuine sweetness, he sounded firm, assertive. Far less wavering than last time. Now his voice matched the unbelievable control and power he’d exhibited when last they touched, kissed, and devoured each other whole. “I’ve been looking for you. Trying to find you. God, it’s been—”
“Wait a minute…hold on. Looking for me? Why look for me? Seemed to me like you had a line out your penthouse door!”
She felt his glowing green eyes detach from hers, angling up as if to devise a new strategy. And damn it, she wanted his gaze back. She so hated that she wanted his gaze back.
A moment later, she got her wish as he refocused his eyes on hers while biting his bottom pout—a touch of humility, maybe? Whatever it was, he’d somehow toned down his intensity—so he wouldn’t scare her away?
Because, truth be told, she was absolutely terrified and wanted nothing more than to run. But her feet were frozen and sinking into what felt like quicksand beneath her feet. “I left those panties at the front desk for immediate pickup and have been entirely too busy looking for you to have time for a new collection of lace undergarments, or any other variety of underwear for that matter.” He grinned, a hopeful and apologetic look spun around his lighthearted words. “Please…can we just talk, like we did before we even went up to my penthouse that night?”
An airy laugh escaped her lips and she let her eyes smile at him. Just her eyes. “Talk, huh?” What was there to talk about? And again, why the hell was she still standing there? Even talking about talking to this asshole was self-degradation.
And she highly doubted he was interested in just talk. She knew she wasn’t. Her betraying body vibrated and there was nothing she could do to steady herself. Self-hatred began to flood her core, or was that pure, unadulterated goddamn arousal?
And she still couldn’t move herself away from him.
But maybe she could get him to walk the hell away from her before she caved? “You should go back inside to your friends, Zack. There was a round of drinks for someone getting hitched in there, yeah? Go get your free drink on…have fun. I’m fine right here. Good bye, Zack. And take care.” She took a step back in the sinking white sand. Shocked at that small step, she spun around to face the bay. And that was it—all her body would allow. It was, at least, movement in the right direction.
But from the sound of his breath, way too close for her comfort, she knew he was completely ignoring her parting words. Then his breath magnified, now warming the nape of her neck, fanning her in synch with the lulling rhythm of the incoming tide. Tingling waves of electricity shot down her spine. Damn him. And damn his heat.
She shuddered. God, his deep, sultry baritone—thick, sensual—a sharp contrast to the silent anticipation of him finally, hopefully leaving her there, leaving her be.
But the hypnotic magnetism of his damn presence overshadowed all. Their bodies were so close. She felt his radiating heat. She could smell him, that particular brand of his, of man and delectable power. And from her memory she could almost taste him.
“Who was the blue-eyed knight in shining armor at the bar?” he whispered in her ear.
An unintentional smile spread across her mouth. Isabel couldn’t help but enjoy the possible motivation behind his question. Was he jealous at the thought of a competing stag rushing in to save her?
Then she wanted to kick herself for getting a jolt from that possibility.
“My oldest friend-turned-stalker. He’s like a brother. Why? What does it matter?” she asked, instigating without shame.
Zack said nothing. His breathing just got fuller and hotter on her neck.
A few beats passed. She got done waiting, done with him. “Zack, I’d really like to be alone out here, if you don’t mind.” With her back still to him, she attempted to focus on far off pirate ship out on the bay—filled with tourists, visitors, like Zack. She listened and held in a lungful of ocean air, waiting for proof of his departure, waiting for the removal of his sweet, searing breath on her skin.
But no proof came.
Instead, his rough hand grabbed her left arm again and spun her around. “You want me. You do,” he said with an arrogant smile on his lips. His eyes narrowed, glistening green.
“You cocky bastard! If I wanted you, you’d—”
His mouth interrupted her argument—muted by a deep, unwelcome kiss.
Unreserved and lustful, as if he’d been waiting years, decades, lifetimes—like he couldn‘t wait another moment.
Held captive—her mouth, her tongue, her lips, all recollected the deluge of fire he’d ignited inside her just weeks ago. Down to her core, she remembered. And the next thing she knew, her mouth attacked back with equal force, equal passion.
She was taken. And taking back. Dangerously, vitally consumed within each other’s grasp.
Deep moments passed until he paused to look at her. She couldn’t catch her breath even if she tried, trapped by his gaze. That haunting gaze. Then his hand met her cheek, slid back behind her ear, down to the nape of her neck, then he moved his mouth to hers again, easing into sweet, slow-motion ecstasy. His lips—delicious, moist, and soft as velvet—caressed and tripped over hers.
In perfect synch, she slowed and held his top lip, sucking gently, her tongue savoring his taste, that familiar decadence. Zack’s hands moved to cradle her face, and her hands held his over top.
And with as much control as she gave him, he moved his overwhelming vastness a step closer to her, their bodies meeting, unable to get any closer. He brought his muscular arms down, wrapping around her in a smooth, deliberate, possessive stance, squeezing her to him, just shy of depleting all oxygen. Or was her continued inability to catch her breath something beyond physics, far deeper than words could explain?
His wide, slightly rough hands slid in all directions across her back, rubbing, pressing, and then grazing her skin as if memorizing its every dip and definition. His fingers glided underneath the satiny fabric of her open-back top, curling around to the sensitive bloom of her breasts just brimming at her sides. His delicate touch sent her reeling, nipples sharpened, and Isabel pushed hard into Zack’s broad chest to alleviate the painful delight of not being naked, skin-to-skin, in his entire, heavenly grasp.
She could hardly stand. Her legs were useless weights pulling her down, down into that deadly quicksand. She was melting and didn’t have the strength to stop it. But he did. His rock-hard arms came down to her hips, hoisting her up. He placed her arms tight around his neck, her feet dangling, just hovering above the white sand. He held her, floating, as if weightless, locked in their continued, incapacitating kiss.
Her body had definitely defeated her judgment. She couldn’t even hear her mind’s scolding voice over the loud thud of her heart and the throbbing in all of her most crucially sensitive points.
Zack, her puppet master, pulled her in any direction he wished. She’d become so under his control, so heavy in his hold.
And when she took a brief break for air, her peripheral caught sight of Roberto standing in the back doorway of the bar, she couldn’t have cared less. She watched her friend fume his way back inside as she melted deeper into Zack’s all-encompassing embrace.
Like a dream that Zack refused to wake up from, he held Isabel in his grasp, inhaled her, absorbed her, but did so with as much delicacy and subtlety as he could muster. He couldn’t afford to frighten her away. His intensity even overwhelmed him. And beyond fucking things up last time with the girls-in-waiting and all, he knew she was skittish about commitment, about connection beyond one night. Hell, he would have freaked the fuck out if he were in her shoes, and in fact, he’d been that commitment-phobe. All the way up until meeting her, he’d been running from long-term, the any-term.
So, yeah, he had to move slowly, and that would be unthinkably fucking hard to do now that he’d found her, finally—a lifesaving shot-of-adrenaline-to-the-heart find. When Isabel had spun away from him there on that beach, he’d nearly keeled over from the pain in his middle, but she hadn’t walked away. No. She stayed just within arms’ reach.
He couldn’t let-on that she had consumed his mind and soul since their first meeting, but he had to grab her, take her. And it’d worked. She was kissing him back, surrendered in his arms.
Still connected, lips gliding over one another’s, teeth nipping, and tongues searching hungrily for more, he lifted her higher into the air and breathed her in before placing her down in the sand again, hating to separate from her mind-bending reciprocal hold. “Go. Get your purse,” he ordered in a hazy whisper. “I’ll tell my friends something much more important came up.” And he directed her to the bar’s back door, ready to follow behind her divine silhouette.
But her feet sank into the soft sand before taking a forward step, despite his gentle push at her lustrous lower back.
She pivoted to face him, hesitating—a look of resistance had wiped over her face. She took his hands in hers. “Zack…”
God, hearing his name from her mouth, he pulled her into him, unable to stay even inches apart and wrapped her in his arms again, pressing his lips to hers for one more taste.
But she stopped him, taking a step back. “Zack, wait…”
Her arms reached around her, moving his right hand from the cusp of her lower back to her right ass cheek. “Feel that? My ID, cash and credit card. Inside my secret skirt pocket.” She grinned.
God he wanted to rip the skirt with the goddamn secret pocket right off her fine ass. Now.
Then her left hand moved to the sweat-glistening dimple at the top of her chest and slid her index finger down to the rim of her halter. Once she’d arrived at her fleshy left bosom, she pulled the lace material out and down. Dear Jesus. “And my cell.”
“Yes, I see…your cell phone. I’m very jealous of your cell phone.”
She blushed. “I can text them. So we’re ready to go. Now.” She smiled.
“No, Isabel. You need to go in and tell the people you’re with that you’re leaving, or else they’ll think you were abducted.” He grabbed a handful of her sweet ass. “Then meet me out front.”
Reluctantly, she went back to her table, zigzagging her way through the packed bar. Her admittedly voluptuous curves bumped people’s chairs along the way, but she was in such a hazy state of hot arousal and robotic hypnosis she couldn’t have cared less.
Well, except for the people that she was being forced to say goodbye to. Namely, Roberto, who she knew would be waiting with her siblings, ready to give her an earful. Even though, damn it, what was he even doing here?
She got to the corner where her family and Roberto sat. Deep breath.
She slid into her chair, conveniently situated next to Roberto’s newly added seat and place setting. “What are you doing here?” she whispered in his ear.
“I’m out at a bar…the bar we all always go to. Nothing wrong with that, right?” Roberto blurted out, obviously unwilling to keep things mellow and undramatic. Everyone paused and stared. Roberto nodded to everyone, eyebrows raised while Isabel took in her second large gulp of oxygen.
Her brothers and sister all knew that Isabel had asked Roberto to give her some space. It was no secret. But knowing Roberto’s more recent state, and her current and exploding desire to get the hell out of there—with Zack—she didn’t want a scene or an unending discussion to go down there at the table. It would just slow down her exit.
From across the table, Antonio checked in with Isabel with a single look. She gave her older brother a nod and a convincing-enough smile, hopefully staving off his protective instincts for a short goodbye, then out. “Roberto”—said through gritted teeth and plastered grin—“I just meant…I didn’t expect you here, is all. It doesn’t matter. Thanks for helping out with that sleaze at the bar.”
“No problem, sweetheart. But it looks like you have more help than you can handle tonight.” He lifted a brow at her—the vibrations of his bruised ego and his clear reference to Zack were no doubt received.
Not willing to feed the fire, Isabel turned away from Roberto and focused on Antonio and the rest of the table. “Hey…so, I just bumped into an old friend, and we’re gonna go catch up before he leaves Vallarta.” She moved toward her sister, kissed her goodbye, and whispered, “Use this when you guys are done for the night.” She put a wad of bills in Celeste’s hand. “Drinks and dinner on me.”
Celeste took the cash with a small reluctant eye roll, and then hugged her sister. “Have fun. And please, keep an open mind, Isa?” she whispered in Isabel’s ear.
“Where are you going?” Roberto asked.
Like it was any of his business! Isabel was trying to be patient and civil, but Jesus! If he’d remembered how to be a best friend and not a relentless, self-absorbed stalker, she’d have confided in Roberto from moment one. But Roberto wasn’t there for her. He wasn’t listening to her words, her explanation of how she felt toward him, her platonic, and solely platonic, love for him.
If Roberto had been the usual support system he had been for all the years before their drunken-mistake-of-a-night, she’d have told him how Zack had invaded her mind and body these past weeks, and of the war playing out within her at that very moment. Of how weak she felt for even entertaining the idea of going anywhere with Zack—last name still thankfully unknown—the gorgeous American player!
But no. Roberto wasn’t there to play that role for her, not anymore.
“Not sure,” she said, making no eye contact with him whatsoever. She leaned across the table toward Eddie then to Ray to kiss them each goodbye. Next Antonio. At the edge of her seat, ready to reach her oldest brother, Roberto leaned into her.
“I just saw you out back on the beach, Isa,” Roberto whispered. “With that gringo…more than a friend, I’d say. What happened to your one-night rule, anyway?”
Her cheeks burned up red, not from embarrassment since no one at the table had heard his comment, but from anger. Pure, hot anger.
Using the reasoning she’d given Roberto against her, and automatically assuming, what? That every guy she kissed was someone she’d already slept with? Roberto was obviously hurt, emotional, irrational, and didn’t care who knew it.
But it just so happened that contrary to Roberto’s jealousy-based assumptions, she hadn’t fully been with Zack at all yet and wasn’t technically breaking her rule. She was only in the gray with regard to her own self-worth and her greedy need stemming from deep within her core—an intense and raw desire for a man she had stomped out on only weeks ago. He had insulted her intelligence and made her potential sloppy-thirds. There had been a damn waiting list of women for him to screw for heaven’s sake, or so said the hanging panties and their accompanied lipsticked-note!
She had to get the hell out of there before she talked herself out of Zack altogether, and her throbbing clit wouldn’t have been so forgiving. It’d be only one night, for heaven’s sake. And Zack had been desperately searching for her over the past weeks, so said his convincingly sweet eyes when he stopped her from leaving him out there on the beach.
Oh God, on that beach behind the bar only minutes ago. The blissful, floating feeling of being wrapped in Zack’s arms flooded her senses, and she couldn’t hide her smile. Roberto rolled his eyes at her as if he’d read her thoughts and then slowly shook his head in disappointment.
Screw you, Roberto, and screw this. A resurgence of anger put to immediate death her internal voice of self-judgment, self-doubt, and second-guessing. She’d show Roberto what it looked like when her foot came down. She was going with Zack, and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do or say to stop her. She was a grown woman, and she would indulge in Green Eyes that night and damn well enjoy it.
And the minutes she’d spent away from Zack were already too long—her quickened heartbeat was starting to thump in her ears now. Without more theatrics to delay her from being back in that smoldering man’s gaze, she said to Roberto in a quiet growl, “I’m sure you’re well-meaning…but it’s none of your concern.” Then, to the rest of the table, “Okay, talk to you all over the week.”
“You can’t go. You’re being goddamn…reckless.” Roberto snapped at her in her ear, still just decibels below hearing range so that her family missed the comment.
With that, her frustration level peaked. She filled her lungs then hissed back, “Last I knew, my father checked out of my life, and I definitely didn’t apply for a new one. Thanks, though.” She spun away from Roberto, gave a strained smile to her siblings, and pushed her chair out from the table. Roberto began to follow suit, but Antonio stood up from his seat before Roberto’s chair screeched back any further. Tall, well-built, and always calm, cool, and controlled, Antonio, a martial arts master and second oldest Ruiz brother, walked over to Isabel while keeping Roberto in his chair with a single glance.
Antonio kissed Isabel on the cheek. “Have fun. Take care of yourself.” He pushed her gently toward the bar’s exit. “Text me when you’re home.”
“I always do, big brother,” she said with a thankful smile then lifted to her toes to give him a quick hug him. Admittedly strong and stubborn by nature, she knew Antonio’s protectiveness—always given with room to breathe—was the only brand her pride and strong-willed nature could take.
She gave them all a final wave goodbye and headed out. With the exit targeted, she heard Roberto push his chair out in a huff, then from her side view she watched him vanish into the sea of people at the bar. She shook it off, replacing anger with sheer, core-pounding desire, and made a beeline toward the exit to reunite with Zack outside.
Zack came up on Isabel’s blindside as she reached the door. Her pulse triple-timed. He took her hand in his.
“That took way longer than I wanted,” she said and squeezed his hand with renewed excitement.
“Maybe you should’ve called?”
She sighed with her eyes then smiled. “I told you.”
“Well, we’re out now. Come on.”
With his hand still clutching hers, he opened the door for her and pulled her across the threshold. She hadn’t met the bar’s outside steps before she noticed Roberto out of the corner of her eye—at the side door, leaving too, and in a more than obvious rage.
Who cares? Roberto wasn’t going to ruin her night.
She beamed at Zack, tantalizing as all hell. A feeling engulfed her like the ecstasy she’d known on that first morning in her new home—working her ass off, free of clothing and judging eyes, with the windows open to the sweet sea air.
Same sensation now, with Zack—liberation mixed with an overwhelming sense of yearning. Hand-in-hand, they left Las Tequilas.
Tempting Isabel releases May 24th, 2016. For give aways, first-to-know updates—and more!—click here and subscribe to my newsletter!