Read an Excerpt
ALL NIGHT LONG
By MELISSA MACNEAL
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2006 Melissa MacNeal
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Welcome aboard the S.S. Aphrodite for Fantasy Cruise Line's adults-only adventure in the Caribbean! I am your captain, Skorpio Skandalis, and-"
"Yeah, you say 'skahn-DAH-lees' and I say scandalous," Lola teased the TV in her stateroom. "Captain Scandalous. That would be you, Big Boy."
"-I am committed to satisfying your wildest desires and making your fondest fantasies come true!" the Greek seaman crooned.
His accent flowed like olive oil, slick and smooth and musky. And when he flashed his white smile at her, Lola could only stare, her brushful of Very Cherry nail polish poised above her hand.
God, but he was a fox! Bronze complexion. Raven hair gone silver at the temples. A five-o'clock shadow that suggested rough-cut masculinity-and sometimes she liked to play rough! And with those smile lines radiating from his snapping black eyes, he became Mr. Greek God of Sensuality. Mr. Caribbean Heat. Mr. Peel-Down-My-Panties-and-
Lola snickered. She wasn't wearing any.
How many times had she watched this closed-circuit cruise orientation these past two days, letting Captain Scandalous seduce her with his accent and come-on smile? His was the first voice she'd heard as she entered this room Sunday afternoon, and she'd watched him afew times yesterday while they were sailing to Aruba, too.
When she was alone, of course. Fletch wouldn't get it.
Could a girl ever get too much of a man in uniform? Bravado and balls, all decked out in those crisply pressed whites. The reruns of The Love Boat-and Fantasy Island!-had become her reality on this little getaway, and she was, by God, going to soak up every bit of ambiance and sizzling sexuality the captain was promising her in his welcome address! At least until Dennis came back to dress for dinner.
Or not, if he caught her here, naked this way.
Fresh from her afternoon shower, sitting cross-legged on the queen-size bed, Lola Wright was in a fine, feisty mood: tonight was the Captain's Gala Reception, where dressed-up guests would meet the crew, standing so virile and fit in their white uniforms. She'd get to shake this Greek tycoon's hand-
"Or whatever else I might grab," she whispered with a grin.
The idea of sneaking a feel-right there in the reception line, while others watched-dared her to do it! Hadn't he just promised to make her fondest fantasies come true? She'd slip down the zipper of those trim white trousers ... let her fingers find the band of his bikinis, and the warm, coarse hair bristling just above his-
Lola gasped. A cold blob of nail polish had plopped on her nipple, and if she breathed-or if that nipple jutted out any farther -there'd be a crimson stain on the ivory comforter. She'd have to explain to Enriqué, the room steward, and tip him big-time to make up for such a mess!
So, with a quick swish of the brush, Lola coated her nipple with the nail polish. The contrast of that brazen red shine against her baby-pink skin kicked something wayward into gear, and she painted the whole puckery circle around it. Didn't want to look off-balance, so she colored the other nipple, too.
"Whadaya think, Skorpio?" she murmured, shimmying at the Greek on her TV screen. "About the time you feel my fingers in your skivvies and get a load of these babies, we may have to leave the reception!"
But Fletch would be here any minute now, and he'd be gawking at these hooters. He liked it hot and raunchy-Mr. Lewd and Crude, that was Dennis Fletcher! So, knowing these brazen red tips awaited him beneath her low-cut cocktail dress, he'd be looking for a place to lift her skirt while everyone else swilled their champagne at the gala. Tonight, Ms. Wright would be the girl most likely to! In a public place, no less!
She looked toward the picture window, where walkers and joggers made their rounds just inches from the end of her couch. Captain Scandalous was now saying the windows on the Promenade Deck were one-way mirrors, so passengers could look out but walkers couldn't see in. One of the many fine features of the S. S. Aphrodite he was so proud of.
With a wicked grin, she got up to test this theory: standing in front of the window naked, she cupped herself from the sides, offering up her luscious handfuls to passersby.
Two little old ladies ambled past, chatting, but the one looking right at her didn't blink.
"Must be true," she murmured.
Lola glanced at the clock. Time for some serious primping before her fiancé got back from his winning streak in the casino. If he smiled just right and ground against her on the dance floor, Dennis Fletcher might get lucky yet again after dinner-and she'd keep him coming back for it all night long. That fantasy alone made the price of this trip worth it.
She'd gone through a long, sometimes rocky romance with her financial advisor, a man who played hardball with the markets while she'd played hard to get. But only enough to keep him panting like a puppy, since she was every bit as hot for it as Fletch was.
Lola had finally convinced him they should elope to the Caribbean for one of those romantic cruise ship weddings. She and Mr. No-Strings-Attached were finally tying the knot! So he deserved nothing but the finest-in other words, her, totally tricked out-as a reward for making such a sound decision. Not only would she be the wife of a savvy, handsome man, but her business would benefit, too: she could spend her time expanding Well Suited instead of working so hard for Fletch's attention.
Lola flicked her auburn hair back to keep it from smearing her wet nipples. God, but they looked tacky, like they belonged on trailer trash-or some chick in a cheap porn flick. Which meant Dennis would go nuts. They might not even make it to the Captain's reception, or get dressed enough to go downstairs for dinner.
Yet she did want to wiggle into that little black cocktail dress and then announce her arrival with a click-click-click of her stilettos. A girl didn't get many opportunities to fox herself up and split zippers. And even though she was crazy for Fletch-because he was a fine catch; the money man who'd sent her business soaring-Lola hoped she'd never outgrow her power to make other guys look. And then put their hands in their pockets.
Fletch! Lola quickly capped her nail polish, so she could sprawl suggestively on the bed for his entrance.
"Yehhhhhhs?" she crooned toward the door. "Who is it?"
"Message for Meese Wright. I leave eet here, een your box."
With an impatient sigh, she opened the door and stuck her head out. Must not've been much of a message, if Enriqué didn't wait for a tip! She glanced up the long, narrow corridor to see if Fletch was on his way, hoping he wasn't so engrossed in his poker game that he'd lost track of the time. It was her night to shine, dammit! To romance the night away with a man in a tux who couldn't take his eyes off her.
But then, if he was really raking it in at the tables, maybe she could forgive him for being a little late. Dennis Fletcher was the luckiest man she knew, when it came to playing Caribbean Stud. And that diamond on her left hand hadn't come cheap.
She snatched the message from the clip on her door, which she shut with a swing of her bare butt. No envelope, just a folded slip of paper. Fletch must really be cleaning out the house-but then, cell phones didn't work here on the ship, so maybe he'd scribbled a note instead of coming upstairs.
Lola, said his familiar scrawl. I've found my true soul mate! A woman who knows how I need my freedom-who won't boss me around, or insist on having the last word. And she doesn't call me Fletch-much less bark it like she's giving her dog a command. I've left the ship to get better acquainted at her seaside villa, so don't come looking for me.
I didn't want to break it off this way, but it's for the best. Have a nice life, babe, You can bet I will! Dennis.
Chapter Two"That goddamn double-crossing sonuva bitch!"
Lola crumpled the note and threw it at the bed, but that didn't nearly relieve her anger. Who did he think he was, saying he'd met somebody else-his true soul mate, for chrissakes! Dennis Fletcher wouldn't know a soul mate if she slapped him in the face!
She threw open the closet door, slamming it hard against the jamb. What if he'd been planning this all along? Just said he'd get married to shut her up, so he could abandon her on this swanky ship and not have to pay his bar tab and casino-
But his clothes were still hanging there. The blazers she'd chosen to make him look wider across the shoulders. The slacks that hugged his sexy ass and played up the bulge in front.
Lola yanked out the top drawer, still muttering.
"Must not've thought he'd need underwear, either, to go sashaying off to some rich bitch's seaside villa. Some bitch from Aruba, no less!" she jeered, hurling his undershirts across the room. "Probably met her in that onshore casino we walked through this morning. In the time it took me to pee, no less!"
Still pissed, Lola flung his socks at the picture window, wondering why any moron would roll them up into such bulky balls. "Well, I hope she's loaded, cause Fletch'll let on like he's so the Caribbean stud-and then go through her cash faster than Tarzan's chimp can swing through the jungle!"
Dennis did bring to mind a monkey, come to think of it. An albino monkey, with his close-cropped blonde hair curving around his temples into a widow's peak. She should call and tell him exactly what she thought of him right now! Make monkey noises in his ear-
But no. He'd see her name and number on his cell screen and ignore her. And she certainly didn't want to interrupt whatever he and his soul mate were doing!
"You can't call him," she muttered, throwing his skimpy swimsuits to the floor. "No cell signal, remember?"
But she could play detective.
Lola grabbed the Aphrodite Ahoy! newsletter that listed today's schedule and events. Since they didn't sail until six, she had forty-five minutes to run ashore and-if he thought for one minute she'd let him dump her for some-
Lola sucked in a shuddery breath. That's exactly what Fletch had done. He'd dumped her, for some sleazy broad with a villa on Aruba ... a woman who wouldn't put him in his place, or suggest that his tightie-whities were shot-or too tacky for a guy marrying a-a woman who advised high-level execs about dressing for ... success.
Dammit, I did NOT say his name like he was a dog fetching something!
Lola fondled the silk bikinis she'd bought him, but the rainbow they made in his drawer taunted her like his note had.
She would not cry over this jerk! Instead, she grabbed the closest thing-her swishy silk robe from Victoria's Secret-and stepped into her kitten-heel sandals with the rhinestone vamps. She snatched her SeaKey from on top of the TV, where Captain Scandalous was once again assuring her he was about to make her wildest dreams come true.
And Lola headed out. A bitch on a mission!
Down the narrow hallway she rushed-around the corner, to race down the stairs-no time to wait for elevators!-until she reached the gangplank on Deck One. Sweaty, overbaked passengers were swarming aboard, their Sea Key cards making a steady ding! ding! as they passed through the security checkpoints. Uniformed crewmen watched their x-ray monitors, while other men in whites handed out antiseptic wipes as guests reclaimed their bags from the conveyor belt. A sense of urgency filled the bustling room, where everyone was thinking about squeezing into their formal wear in time to guzzle free champagne at the Captain's reception.
But not Lola. She surveyed the scene, and then trotted up behind a Filipino watching a monitor off to the side of the incoming lines.
"Please, can you tell me if a Dennis Fletcher has come back on board?" she asked breathlessly. "I was expecting him hours ago, and I'm afraid something awful must've happened if-"
The agent flicked his gaze her way. "Sorry, ma'am. Can't give out that information."
"But he's my husband!" she pleaded, widening her eyes as she gripped the front of her filmy robe. "He went back ashore to get me a-"
The man in whites refocused on his screen. "Stateroom number?" he murmured.
"7010, Promenade Deck," Lola wheezed. Then she realized he'd ask for her SeaKey next. "I-when I saw it was getting so late, I rushed down here with just my key-"
He plucked it from her hand. Ding! went the scanner. Up came her registration info, and that lousy photo they took when she first boarded the ship. Then he keyed in a few other numbers.
"Sorry, Miss Wright. He's not back y-"
"What time did he leave the ship?" she demanded, but then she exhaled plaintively. Better to sound like a worried wife than a diva who's been dumped.
"I'm so sorry," Lola wheezed, swiping at her eyes, "but Dennis gets shaky in this heat and-the ship won't really leave before we find him, will it? I'm worried sick about him!"
Mr. Efficiency raised an eyebrow, as though he saw through her little story. He handed back her SeaKey. "Mr. Fletcher disembarked at 3:09 PM. And yes, ma'am, the Aphrodite pulls away at six o'clock sharp. The gangplank closes in five minutes, however, so don't even think about going after him. We'd have to leave without both of you, ma'am. It's cruise line policy."
Lola's mouth snapped shut. Fletch left hours ago! All this time she'd assumed he was parked at a poker table in the ship's casino! She'd spent the afternoon anointing herself for the biggest night of his life, while he'd been galavanting around with some floozy from Aruba! Was probably naked in her jacuzzi by now, laughing his ass off about the clueless, bossy broad who thought she'd have him roped and branded by tomorrow.
Flummoxed, she strode to the open doors to scan the pier area, where the last stragglers were hurrying up the gangplank.
Like he'd really be there, she chided herself. You should've known he'd never change! You should've taken a clue from all those times he walked out before. But no, you had to wheedle and coax and spread your legs to keep him coming back for-
"Pardon me, Mrs. Fletcher?"
"I don't think so!" she spat, wheeling around to face the crewman who'd dared to interrupt her inner rant.
Lola's jaw dropped. Golden-brown eyes drank her in. Sun-kissed, sandy hair framed a slender Mediterranean face. A wicked little mustache curled around lush-very kissable-lips that curved in a polite smile.
Then she realized her arms were crossed so hard she was hanging out the front of her robe. "I-sorry-"
He bowed slightly, graciously maintaining eye contact while she tucked herself in. "Rio Benito DeSilva, Chief of Security, at your service, Miss-"
You can service me any time, honey.
"-Wright," he crooned. "I understand we're about to leave a passenger behind, and that you're concerned about your husband's-
Not any more, he's not.
"-weakness in this heat."
"So it's not just me?" Lola breathed. "It really is hot in here?"
Rio clenched his teeth to keep from chuckling. In an ivory silk wrap that left little to his imagination, with her wavy red hair drifting in disarray around her heart-shaped face, Lola Wright looked like she'd jumped out of one man's bed in search of another. Never mind those crimson nipples.
He hoped his instincts were right, about Miss Wright being brassy on the outside but far too ... naive to be involved in Mr. Fletcher's situation. He couldn't discuss it right now; didn't want to upset her more than she already was, or speak before he had the facts. Rio felt the overwhelming urge to tuck this lovely woman into a hug and protect her from the cruel truth, but he mentally stepped away.
"While we must maintain our schedule," he continued quietly, gazing into eyes as deep and green as a primeval forest, "we will do everything possible to contact Mr. Fletcher and instruct him on how to meet us at the next port of call. This probably seems terribly inconvenient-"
The ship lurched, pulling away from the pier. Lola gasped, shifting to keep her balance-or was it because DeSilva had grasped her shoulders to steady her? She couldn't decide if his mustache belonged on Don Quixote or Zorro, but she wanted to keep him talking so that low, Spanish accent would caress her ear again. So she could watch his lips move.
Excerpted from ALL NIGHT LONG by MELISSA MACNEAL Copyright © 2006 by Melissa MacNeal. Excerpted by permission.
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