MR. ROMANTIC SNEAK PEEK:
“What do you think so far? Do I live up to the hype?”
“No?” He chuckles as we walk past the pool. “Why not?”
The whole thing becomes surreal for me in that moment. The emptiness of the resort. The heat and the sun. I am two thousand miles from home and I’m clutching Mr. Romantic’s elbow like we are lovers taking an evening stroll.
“You’re a little bit quiet so far.”
“Is that right?”
“Your sister is the bigger personality. I’m surprised she wasn’t accused of something inappropriate in college. I think she has it in her.”
Nolan laughs. “That’s kind of true. She’s a handful to most, but she’s been good to me. She’s very protective.”
“She called you dangerous.”
“What?” He stops walking and looks down at me. “When?”
“Today. She told me to stay away from you. Didn’t you know that?”
“What exactly did she tell you?” His mood has changed. Not a lot, but there’s an edge to his words.
“She said something like…” I struggle to remember her exact words, but can’t. I shouldn’t have said anything. He’ll probably confront her and use me as an example.
“Like?” Nolan pushes.
“You’re not romantic. Something like that. They called you Mr. Romantic when all that stuff happened because it was a joke.”
“And the dangerous part?” His words are low and when I look up at him, the easygoing expression has changed into something else.
“I don’t know why she said it. She was telling me to stay away from you all day. And I was angry that she was so dismissive of me. She said I was here by mistake. So I told her I was going to do my best to get the job anyway. And while I agree those men you hired are far more qualified, it was not fair of her to dismiss me so quickly. I’m not as innocent and inexperienced as I look, Mr. Delaney. I have ideas and I’m smart. Hiring everyone in the applicant pool but me was about the most humiliating thing I’ve ever experienced.”
Nolan continues our walk, silent for a few seconds. “You’re lucky.”
“I am?” I ask, a small laugh escaping. “How so?”
“You’re lucky that you’ve never been humiliated the way I have.”
Oh, shit. Way to go, Ivy.
“Do you think I’m dangerous?” Nolan asks, staring down at me in that way he does.
It makes me uneasy. “Maybe.”
“You’re willing to take that chance?”
“Well, good,” Nolan says. “Let’s have a nice dinner and I’ll tell you why I sent Claudette away and kept you here against her wishes.”
He did what?
My heart starts to beat faster. Why would he do that? Maybe Claudette was right to warn me? There’s hardly anyone here at the resort. Especially now that all the construction people have left for the day. The main pool is empty when we pass, and even the desk clerks are missing when we enter the lobby.
The dining room has two couples eating dinner and Nolan greets them by name as he leads me to the rear part of the restaurant. Back into a dimly lit room with a single table, white linen tablecloth flowing over the sides. Candle glowing in the center. Set for two.
“This is… unexpected.” My mind is filled with possibilities. And even though I came here with the intention of getting his full attention, possibly losing my virginity to him—and even though I’ve talked myself into feeling ready to take on a man like him, both professionally and personally—I am not excited. I am suddenly scared.
There’s not enough people. There’s not enough noise. There’s not enough of anything to make me forget just who I’m having dinner with.
Mr. Romantic. A man accused of raping a woman ten years ago. A man who was not prosecuted for that crime because the woman died before she could testify. A man who might be guilty.
Nolan pulls out a chair and waits for me to sit, sliding it in perfectly the way a gentleman does, before taking his seat across from me. “I like the unexpected, Miss Rockwell. Get used to it.”
I am in way over my head.
Three, Two, One (321)
One week only – 99¢ for first time ever!
CAUTION: If you thought this book was stop-your-heart-sexy in print, just wait until you hear Sebastian York narrate the sexy scenes between JD, Ark, and Blue.! DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS BOOK IN PUBLIC, IN FRONT OF CHILDREN, OR YOUR HUSBAND (unless you listen together and want to get lucky!)
I walk quietly over to the door and press my ear against it to listen. I can hear the clicking of a computer keyboard, then the rolling wheels of a chair. Finally soft footsteps as he pads towards the doors. I back away, afraid of being caught. But he doesn’t slide them open. Instead, the lights flick off and then his footsteps retreat. I hear the crack of a beer bottle being opened, and then a sigh.
I slide the doors apart, just enough to peek inside.
There’s a large monitor on the desk sitting on front of a wall of windows. And on the screen are the images he took of me this morning. Of JD and me. And of the three of us out on the terrace. They flip by, hundreds of them, at least. Maybe thousands. I look over at the couch where he’s sitting with a beer propped up on his leg, staring at me.
“You can look at them if you come in here to do it.”
I don’t know how he wants me to respond, so I’m unsure if I want to look at them or run back to JD’s room and hide.
“I’m sorry about that,” Ark says, clearing his throat. “It’s just… JD stopped thinking about her, ya know? It took him so fucking long to stop thinking about her. And now here you are with a clue. And…”
I step into the room.
“And he’s gonna go looking for shit again, I just know it.”
I take another step towards him and Ark pats the space on the couch next to him. “I love these pictures. Come look at them with me.”
I take two more steps, and then I’m within arm’s reach and he slips his hand in mine.
My body shivers from his touch, but I let him pull me the rest of the way, and take a seat as he lets go. My butt is barely perched on the cushion, my hands in my lap, my body on high alert in case he wants to hurt me.
But he doesn’t. He surprises me by scooting away, propping his back against the armrest, and stretching out his legs behind me. They are long and in the way, so now I can’t lean back.
He takes a swig from his beer. “I saw you this morning. God, has it only been one day?” I know what he means. It feels like I’ve been in their house forever. “And answers were the last thing on my mind, Blue. I mean, fuck. I’d given up, just like JD. I gave up a while back, actually. Just accepted that this was the way things were. The way my life was gonna go. But fuck.”
I don’t know what any of that means, but I take that it’s not good by the way he finishes the beer and then throws it across the room, where it lands cleanly in an open-top trash can near the desk. “Get me another one, will you?”
I look down at him and squint.
He stares back. His eyes are bleary, and red, and now that I look closely, tired. Not tired like he needs sleep. But tired in a way I can relate to. The kind of tired where your body feels heavy and your mind feels empty. “Never mind,” he says in a soft voice that I’ve never heard before. He says it, but he doesn’t stop staring.
“What?” I ask, getting uncomfortable.
“Why’d you come in here?”
“I was…” I was looking for my money so I could leave. But this guy. These guys… they are pulling me towards them somehow. JD and his charm. Ark and his distance. And despite the fact that they take advantage of girls for a living, they feel very… vulnerable. It feels precarious. Like the whole thing might come crashing down at any moment. Like they are held together by some invisible thread. And not some mental connection or shared experience, either. Although I have no doubt they have all that too.
Held together by a thread that’s invisible because it’s nearly gone.
We are alike, then. Aren’t we?
Three people brought together by the early-morning rain.
Two of us clinging together, trying to stick it out. Ride the wave until it crashes, and then help each other up to start all over again.
One of us already dead. Still walking, but not living. Waiting to be saved. Or maybe wanting to be the one who does the saving.