No Strings Attached
Some mistakes are worth repeating…
Tasha Riordan‘s one night with Luc Bradshaw was the best of her life. The following two—when he left her to be thrown into a Bahamian jail on bogus charges—were her worst. Now, seven years later, the undercover DEA agent is back. Invading her town. Her restaurant. Her fantasies. She can’t trust a man who lied to her. Yet neither can she trust herself—not when their chemistry burns even hotter than before.
Learning he has two half brothers shocks Luc. Discovering they live in the same town as Tasha—that’s a different kind of thrill. Their mutual lust is still off the charts, but he can’t get her to listen to his side of what happened on that long-ago night. Good thing he’s got powers of persuasion that go deeper than words. Because nothing has ever felt this right…
Read an Excerpt
Seven years ago. Andros Island, Bahamas
A hot, moist breeze, perfumed by the sea and the faintest exotic whiff of an unidentifiable Caribbean flower, wafted through the hut’s open window just as Tasha Riordan collapsed atop Diego. Her nose squashed into the damp curve where his neck flowed into a muscular shoulder, and as she silently breathed in his salty, slightly spicy scent, it occurred to her she hadn’t once asked what his last name was during the thirty-something hours since they’d met. Waiting for her heart to cease its thunderous Reggae beat, however, she didn’t dwell too closely on that just-met-yesterday thing.
Okay, you would think, given she’d spent a good part of her life keeping her chin up while living her mother’s reputation down, that she’d sort of welcome a little soul searching. After all, diving into bed with a virtual stranger was a big departure for her.
A big, big departure. Huge. And she ought to be a little concerned about it, right?
Tough-skinned fingertips ran down her naked spine, sparking back to life nerve endings that by rights should have been incinerated to cold, dead ash. “You okay, carina?” Diego asked, his voice a rumbling vibration beneath the ear she had pressed to his throat.
And just like that, her half-assed inclination to whip herself into a lather of self-recrimination melted away as her lips curved into a little smile against his skin. She didn’t know what it was about this guy, but one thing was for certain: he possessed an undeniable magic. In spades. From the instant he’d approached her on the beach yesterday morning, he’d kept her pretty much swept off her feet.
That was no small accomplishment. Ask anyone back home in Razor Bay and damn few would hesitate to tell you–Tasha Riordan’s feet were always firmly, pragmatically planted on the ground.
But she merely murmured, “Oh, yeah,” and kept her heartfelt And then some to herself.
This was probably par for the course for him. God knew he made her feel things she’d never felt before, and she was usually a hard sell. She could only imagine how many women already geared up for a vacation lover had thrown their room keys at him. The fact that she’d managed to keep her undies on until a short while ago was downright brag-worthy. She’d been tempted to shed them from the instant she’d laid eyes on him.
And considering the orgasm he’d just given her, perhaps she should have. It had been the most phenomenal, amazing one of her life.
She swallowed a snort. Like you’ve had so many to compare it to. But she shrugged the thought aside as unimportant. Yeah, yeah, she’d stipulate that she hadn’t experienced a plethora of non-self-induced climaxes in her twenty-two years. Still, neither was she a virgin, so she’d certainly had enough to know she’d never felt anything close to this. “How are you?” she asked softly.
He went so still she thought he’d suddenly quit breathing. She found herself doing the same. As several heartbeats passed in silence, her euphoria leaked away. Oh, God, she thought. Likeyou could rock his world. A person only had to look at Diego to understand his experience was galaxies beyond her own.
Then his hands tightened against her back and he said in a low, gritty voice, “You wanna know how I am?” A exhalation of amusement, which just perhaps wasn’t amusement at all, huffed out of his lungs. “I’m so blown away it’s not even funny.”
“No,” she said on a disbelieving laugh, pushing up to look down at him. She had no illusions about herself. She was tall and skinny and had decent boobs but hips and a booty that could belong to a twelve year old boy. She knew men found her reasonably attractive, but in no man’s universe was she close to being in this guy’s league.
Her mass of strawberry blonde curls, by now scary-crazy-frizzy from air that was still humid from an earlier, short-lived downpour—not to mention Diego’s demanding hands tangling in them, fell forward to intertwine with his sleeker black curls. She looked down at her hands where they splayed against the ebony fan of hair on his deep golden brown chest. After nine days in the tropics, her skin was the tannest it had ever been. Unfortunately all that meant was that, instead of its usual two-percent-milk hue, it was the color of anemic toast.
Diego brought both hands up to smooth her hair away from her face, gathering it into a fat ponytail at the base of her skull. Holding it in one fist, he looked into her eyes, and his own were free of laughter for perhaps the first time since he’d sauntered up to her where she’d been dipping her toes in the surf and introduced himself. “Yes,” he refuted, as the fingertips of his free hand brushed up and down the side of her throat. His thumb left a streak of fire in its wake as it briefly swept her jaw line. “You blew me right out of the ballpark.” His full mouth developed a wry slant and his broad shoulders performed a minute shrug against blindingly white sheets. “I didn’t see that coming.”
It was probably a line, but if so, it was a good one. Lord knew it was working on her–her heart felt gooey as a chocolate truffle left out on a hot tropic night.
Diego stared up at her. “I love your mouth.” His voice was rough, his dark eyes hot, and Tasha’s heart pounded as he crunched up from six-pack abs with the clear intention of kissing her. Before he could, however, his cell phone rang.
He swore and glanced at the nightstand where it rested. Then swore again.
“I’m sorry,” he said, turning his attention back on her. “I have to get this.” He gently levered her off of him and onto the middle of the mattress. Then in one smooth, unbroken movement, he pushed to his feet, swept the phone off the stand and, thumbing the green button, brought it to his ear. “Yeah,” he said. “This better be important.”
Watching him, Tasha realized he didn’t look charming in that moment. He looked dangerous: big and dark and unselfconsciously naked, his eyes hard and his mouth grim. Untangling the sheet from the bed, she pulled it up, covering herself and tucking it under her armpits. She glanced at her watch.
Oh, God. She needed to think about getting dressed if she wanted to catch the last plane back to Nassau.
Dragging the sheet with her, she climbed off the bed. Suddenly, what had seemed so daring and exciting several hours ago—impulsively agreeing to accompany Diego to the big island of Andros—felt reckless and so not smart. She climbed to her feet and began gathering her scattered clothing.
She slid into her panties, pulled on her sundress and was digging through her purse in search of something to pin her hair up, when warm, hard arms slid around her waist and pulled her back against a warmer, even harder chest. “Heyyyy.” Diego hunched to breathe in her ear. He’d pulled on the shorts and muscle T he’d worn earlier. “What are you doing?”
It was hard to think with his heat and scent and feel all around her, and she cleared her throat. “My plane leaves in an hour and a half. I need to get to the airport.”
“Stay here with me another night. I have to go out for a bit to talk to my boss, but I’ll only be gone an hour tops, and then we can have the rest of the night.”
“Oh.” Temptation beckoned, and for a minute she thought she could give in to it. Then reason and her usual pragmatism resurfaced. She pulled her e-ticket out of her purse and wagged it in front of their faces. “I don’t think so. I have a reservation.”
He kissed the side of her neck. “I’d really, really like to spend the rest of the night with you,” he murmured in that low, deep voice of his. “I’ll get you back to Nassau tomorrow, I promise, even if I have to charter a sea plane.” He moved his lips to the vulnerable hollow behind her ear.
And both Tasha’s reservations and her spine melted. “Well, maaaaybe that would be okay.”
“That’s what I like to hear.” He swung her around to face him and kissed her long and hot and deep. Her purse fell from nerveless fingers, and the next time she managed to locate two semi-functioning brain cells to rub together, Diego was pushing off of her as she once more lay flat on her back on the bed.
“I’m sorry,” he said, looking down at her. “I don’t like to leave either of us hanging this way, but my boss is an impatient sonuvabitch and I told him I’d meet him in—“ he looked at his watch “—shit, two minutes.” He bent down and planted another fast, hard kiss on her lips before straightening again. “I’ll be back just as soon as I can, okay?”
She nodded, he groaned, then with a muttered, “I will not kiss her again, I will not kiss her,” he turned on his heel and strode from the hut.
She’d barely dragged herself upright, repaired her lipstick and finally located a couple of clips to deal with her hair when the pounding on the door commenced. Grinning, she whirled from the mirror and raced on bare feet to open the door. “Hah! Forgot your key, didja?”
But it wasn’t Diego on the lanai. Several dark-skinned men in the light blue uniform shirts and black berets of the Royal Bahamian police pushed past her into the one-room hut. Not one of them offered her the usual friendly white-toothed smiles she’d become accustomed to seeing since her arrival in the islands. These men, wrapped in Kevlar vests, were grim-eyed and grimmer mouthed.
“What’s going on?” she demanded, only to find herself herded to a chair, where all she could see was the red tuxedo stripe that ran up the leg of the officer’s black slacks as he and the curve of the hut blocked her view of most the activity going on around her.
But she could hear them dragging the mattress from the bed and opening and slamming drawers. Then suddenly the officer in front of her stepped aside and an older man in a khaki shirt stood in his place, one hand folded at the small of his back, the other hanging loose at his side, a black dress hat with a red band and white bill tucked under his arm.
“I am Inspector Rolle of the DEU,” he said in a deep, melodious voice.
“DEU?” she squeaked. “What’s that?”
“Drug Enforcement Unit. Your name, please?”
“Tasha.” She swallowed, wondering what the hell she had gotten herself into by hooking up with Diego. “Tasha Riordan.”
“Where is your accomplice, Ms. Riordan?”
Panic punched harder. Oh, God, oh, God, this was so not good. “Accomplice to what? I don’t have an accomplice!”
“This is your room?”
“No. No, I’m a guest.”
“A guest of whom?” he demanded sternly.
“Diego, uh. . .” she stumbled to a halt and the austere-faced inspector raised bushy brows at her.
“I never actually got his last name,” she stammered. I know that sounds slutty and bad.” Then her brain finally kicked in. “But it should be on the registration. Ask the man who checked us in.”
Inspector Rolle pointed to a man, who strode briskly from the hut. Then they sat in nerve-twanging silence, during which she could only conclude that Diego had done something horrible, criminal. . .unforgivable. Something he’d skated from free and clear–while leaving her holding the bag.
When the officer returned, he came straight over to the Inspector, murmured something, then moved a discreet distance away. The Inspector turned to her.
“The man who checked you in said the room was paid for in cash. He described you quite accurately, Ms. Riordan, but has no recollection of this Diego.”
“No! That’s not true. I didn’t even go up to the counter with Diego. I stayed on the deck while he checked us in. Take fingerprints or something! I wasn’t anywhere near the check-in desk!”
He studied her for a moment before shrugging. “That may turn out to be true—“
“It is true!”
“But what we have here–” he brought his hand out from behind his back, dropped a large ziplock bag filled with what looked like powdered sugar—but which she had a sick feeling was not—on the little table next to her elbow, where it settled with a heavy thud. “–is this kilo of heroin—and you. No mystery man named Diego. Just you. So Tasha Riordan, you are under arrest for possession with intent to sell.”