Excerpt of the incredibly sexy and heart-pounding romantic suspense novel, Duplicity...Ready to head to Grand Cayman for the adventure of your life? Let's go.
Lexi felt like she danced on the edge of insanity. She'd gone to bed in her king-sized bed last night confident in her secure little world of privilege and prestige. Now she stood on the bow of a yacht looking at the distant lights of Grand Cayman blinking against the blackness of the night sea. Red lights glittered here and there along the waves indicating dangerous reefs.
She gulped down another shot of whiskey, forgoing the offered soda. She craved the bite in the back of her throat.
Auction. The word tormented her. She needed to stop it, but how? Maybe it wasn't even possible. Owen had dinner with Cayman government officials every time they were on the island. Just a few nights ago she'd enjoyed wine and candlelight at the wharf with them all, laughed with them, had made small talk with Luella over grilled shrimp and the weather.
Had all of them known about Owen and Luella's true relationship status? Were they all living a double life? Had she been the only one completely clueless sitting at that table?
"Don't jump." Larry's voice startled her from her musings.
She twisted around to see him lounging on the bow looking too damn good for her current mood. "I bet you get laid a lot."
He tilted his head back and laughed at the star filled sky. "Why do you say that? If you think that's part of the package—"
"Maybe I do think that." She ignored the shot glass this time and took a long drink directly from the bottle.
His laughter faded. Face illuminated by moonlight, he resembled a pirate from long ago. Shoulder length dark blond hair—or brown that had been lightened by the sun, she couldn't quite tell—solid chest covered in tattoos, jeans that hung low on his hips, thick thighs that were solid muscle, high cheekbones, full mouth, and blue eyes that looked as if he'd seen his share of tragedy. Even with his smile and nonchalant air, his eyes betrayed him.
"Why do you live here?" she asked, ignoring the slight slur of her words.
"Gotta live somewhere."
"Where are you originally from? Don't say Cayman—you don't have the accent." She waved the bottle at him in a warning.
"Here and there and everywhere." He grinned as if he knew that answer would annoy her.
"I'm kind of bitch," she admitted, sitting next to him and tilting her face toward the stars. "Typical mean girl."
He hesitated a minute, took the bottle from her, and drank a big gulp. "Not typical."
She pulled her legs to her chest and grinned. "Meaning?"
"Basic bitches don't usually admit their nastiness."
She laughed and shook her head at his observation. "As someone who gets laid a lot, I'm sure you're an expert about all sorts of bitches."
"I've met more than my fair share of lunatics, that's for sure." He shifted his position until he sat cross-legged, facing her side. "You're getting drunk. I don't want you throwing up on my boat so maybe it's time to go to bed."
"Really? Is that your best line? Come screw me so you don't puke?" She liked looking at him, wished she knew how to draw or sculpt or something like that because no photo would ever do him justice. He had that rugged appeal of a man—someone who probably knew all the right moves to make a woman melt.
"I didn't say one word about getting laid or screwing." His eyes widened at her comment and he bit back a smile. "No line. I'm genuinely concerned about my boat. Who do you think would have to clean it up?"
"You think I'm uptight." She stabbed the center of his chest with a manicured fingernail. "You think I'd suck in bed, don't you?"
"I have honestly not given that any thought, not with you being on the run and all." His gaze dipped to her mouth, belying his words. He took another drink of the whiskey before offering her the bottle. "That's not an invitation for you to confess or something."
The world dipped and tilted a little. Maybe it was the undulation of the boat or the whiskey or the fresh sea air playing havoc with her equilibrium, but tension evaporated from her shoulders for the first time since she'd hidden in a closet hours ago.
"Do you know no one would miss me if I disappeared?" she asked, leaning a bit too close to him. "Not one person."
"Don't say that," he whispered.
"Why? It's true and I'm a truth teller."
"Are you really?" His lips twitched.
"Not always, no." She pointed the neck of the bottle in his direction. "But I'm turning over a new leaf. One hundred percent honesty from now on."
"That's a little too honest."
Ripples of sadness moved her heart. She looked away from him and stared at the stars. When had she become so alone? When had life become about compromises and promotions?
"You remind me of someone I used to know, someone who also thought she wouldn't be missed, and guess what? We all miss her."
"I bet she was nice." She took another sip of the whiskey.
"Not really. She was pretty fucked up, actually, but...never mind. Another lifetime ago." He turned, faced the sea, and leaned back on his elbows. "None of that matters anymore."
She thought it must matter a lot for him to look so distant. "I'm from Dallas."
His lips twitched. "I figured."
"What does that mean?"
He lay flat on the deck with head tucked in his hands, and laughed up at the sky. "You've got an arrogance about you that screams Texan."
"Oh, really? Well, then let me ana-um-ana-analyze you." She tossed the now empty bottle aside and twisted to look at him. "You've got Californian written all over you. Am I right?"
He held up his tattooed arms and pretended to study his ink in the moonlight.
She laughed and punched him in his side. "You're a smartass."
"Better than a dumbass I always say."
She hesitated, torn between emotion and logic. Whiskey warmed her from the inside out. "I've made a lot of questionable decisions today."
She crawled over him and kissed him, never one to shy away from what she wanted even in the face of a life-threatening situation. She wanted—no, needed—to forget it all for awhile.
She wanted to feel, not think.
"Careful, Lex," he muttered against her mouth, not making a move to touch her. "You can't undo this."
"I bet you're wild." She sucked on his bottom lip, looking him in the eye through the shadows.
"Slumming are you?" He quirked an eyebrow, his breath hot on her skin.
"Make me forget." She licked her tongue over his lips and pressed her hips against his.
"That's the whiskey talking."
"Who the hell cares?"
"I do." He grabbed the back of her head, fisting his hands in her hair and held her face a whisper away from his. "Do you really want to know how wild I can be? I'm not the kind of guy who holds back."
He ground his mouth against hers in a kiss designed to scare her with its force.
Rather, it intensified the desire burning in her gut.
Tongues slipped over one another. Breath meshed. Lips smashed. Hips ground together through their clothing.
He rolled her over onto her back. Her skull ached from where he pulled her hair. His eyes glittered in the moonlight.
"I'm not one of the nice guys who play fair," he warned.
"Who said I liked nice guys?" She reached for the snap of his jeans and pulled it open. "And why in the hell do you think I play fair?"
He smiled, reached for the neckline of her shirt, ripped it down the center, and tossed the pieces of fabric aside. Without hesitating, he dipped his head and nibbled her neck while his hands claimed her bare breasts.
She arched upward, craving skin-on-skin, needing the feel of his hard body pressing into hers. The sea breeze kissed her nude torso, the coolness contrasting sharply with the heat of his mouth on her flesh.
She mimicked him by reaching up to the neckline of his already torn t-shirt and ripping it off of him. Shreds of material blew away in the wind. Sinking her teeth into his shoulder, she moved her hands frantically over his wide back. The more she felt, the more she hungered for more of him, all of him.
In a daze of whiskey and desire, she dropped the back of her head onto the cool surface of the boat as his mouth claimed her breast. Eyes open, she stared at the stars and sighed when he dipped a hand inside her shorts.
"We should go to the bedroom," he muttered against her mouth. "We might fall overboard."
"I can swim." She smiled against his mouth.
He grinned before pulling them both to standing in one move. "Condoms are below deck, baby, and I don't want you showing up in a few months with an unexpected announcement."
He crushed his mouth to hers, not giving her a chance to respond, lifted her off of her feet and carried her. His tongue made her forget the where or the why—made her forget her name.
Together they tumbled onto the bed in the master suite, hands frantically stripping each other of their remaining clothes until nothing separated them. He muttered words she couldn't understand in the haze of passion, and she honestly couldn't care less. Lost in sensation, she slid her feet along the back of his legs and practically begged him to fuck her.
And he did. Hard.
He gripped the headboard while she gripped his ass. Eyes locked on one another while their hips moved together in sync. His shaggy hair fell across his face, stuck in the sweat on his cheekbones. She sunk her teeth into her bottom lip, caught up in the feel of him filling her while staring into her eyes.
The orgasm ripped through her like an earthquake tearing her apart from the inside. She squeezed her eyes closed and moaned.
He gathered her tight against his chest, ground his mouth against hers, and shuddered on top of her with the power of his own release.
They lay entwined, sweat glistening between their joined bodies, mouths sliding lazily against each other.
Larry pushed the hair from her eyes and rose up to look her in the eye. He rubbed his thumb over her cheek and grinned. That distant sadness she'd recognized earlier had returned to his blue eyes.
"Get some sleep," he said before slipping from her.
She propped herself onto her elbows and watched him walk naked from the room and close the door without looking back.
Body still vibrating from the rocking orgasm, she blinked at the closed door and wondered exactly how much trouble she'd gotten herself into in one day.
* * *
Larry stood naked on the stern and guzzled a bottle of water. His mystery woman had stirred up unwanted memories and unwelcomed need. He didn't like the buzz zipping through his veins.
He dove into the water and swam a few laps around his boat. The warm Caribbean enveloped him like a loving mother and soothed the constant ache in his heart. He swam until his limbs protested with their exhaustion. Treading water behind the dingy, he saw Lexi standing on the boat, wrapped in a sheet, and staring at him through the darkness. Silhouetted by the glow of the light from the interior, her hair looked as if a red halo had woven itself around her head. The wind tossed the sheet around her legs.
She unsettled him. He avoided women who threw him off balance—women with an unseen power to rattle him down to his bones.
He swam slowly toward the boat, but by the time he'd pulled himself onto the deck, she'd returned to her cabin. He pushed his hair from his face and stared at the lights of Grand Cayman in the distance.
Despite himself, he wanted to know her story. What or who chased her? And why? Who had beat up Spike? If they had been hunting for information on Lexi's whereabouts, had Spike given her up—given them both up?
He squeezed his eyes shut and remembered all the reasons he needed to stay emotionally disconnected.
But she reminded him so much of someone he'd tried very hard to forget over the years. Hell, he'd even changed his last name so he would never be connected to that tragedy again. Muttering to himself about life being one strange fucking joke, he closed up the boat for the night before finding himself in his bed, staring at the ceiling, and listening to the water slosh against the hull.
Alone. Just like he preferred it.
Tap-tap-tap came a hesitant knock on his door.
He sighed and tossed his arm across his eyes. "Sleeping!"
She opened the door and walked in anyway. Still wrapped in a sheet, she propped her hip against the bottom of his bed. She smelled like soap and toothpaste. Her long wet hair twisted over her bare shoulders.
He stared at her from beneath his arm. "What?"
"What if I made a mistake? What if I misunderstood everything and have created a horrible mess?" she asked quietly through the dark.
He knew instinctively that she wasn't talking about them and breathed a sigh of relief. "Want to go back?"
"No. I mean, I'm not sure." She grabbed his foot. "I know you don't have any idea who I am beyond my name, but I'm not the kind of person who has self-doubt. I'm not used to not knowing what to do—or running away from a fight. It's just that what I saw this morning is so—horrible—and the man involved has been an impeccable citizen—"
"Stop right there." He surrendered and sat up. "Do you have any idea how tired I am?" He grinned through the dark. "If you're never one to have self-doubt, then why are you questioning yourself now? What's your instinct say?"
He absorbed that and hated that he wanted to ask for every detail of what she'd witnessed that had caused an obviously educated, high-class woman to leave without packing any clothes.
"He left me several messages. I listened to them while you were swimming. He says it's not what I think and that Luella was out of line..."
Her voice hitched on that last part and she allowed the words to fade.
"Alexandra Nicole Dubois," he drew out her name with a smile, "I sincerely doubt that you're wrong about whatever it is you're thinking. You strike me as a smart woman who knows what she's doing."
"I know, I know. I'm breaking the rules." She released his foot and stood, adjusting the sheet as she stood. "You're not my confidante. Thanks for listening anyway. Get some sleep, Captain, My Captain."
He smiled despite himself and remained silent as she exited the room with a loud rustling noise. Maybe tomorrow he'd ask more questions...or maybe not. He didn't know what he wanted to do yet and wasn't the kind of guy who liked to plan out every second of his life. Collapsing back onto his pillow, he laughed at the memory of her ripping his favorite t-shirt to shreds.
He wanted more of that. Definitely. If that meant becoming her confidante...well...he'd been in worse situations and survived.
From the back cover...
Nothing bad happens in paradise...or does it?
Lexi Dubois is in trouble. On Grand Cayman for business, she discovers the company she's been working for is funding a human trafficking ring—and the money trail leads back to her. Scared for her life, she charters a boat for a week to hide from the men on the small island who want her dead and to buy time to find enough evidence to take them down. The last thing she expects—or wants—is a torrid affair with the hot captain and dive master.
Larry Gibbon has been running a charter dive boat operation in Grand Cayman for years. He's seen it all—and done his share of creating havoc. But when a mysterious woman charters his boat for a week—alone—he has no idea what trouble she's bringing aboard.
The ocean is vast and unforgiving, but will Larry's knowledge of the Cayman Islands and Lexi's relentless determination to survive be enough to save them?
**The Wanderlust Series consists of stand-alone adventure romance novels. Occasionally, characters from previous novels may make a cameo, but each story truly does stand on its own merits.
Let the adventure begin!