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Eat, Play, Lust
By Tawna Fenske, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Tawna Fenske
All rights reserved.
Cami Pressman set her paddleboard on the muddy river bank and gave a harsh tug at the elastic band of her sports bra. Was it loose? She dropped her hand to the waist of the shorts and adjusted the tie. Either she'd dropped a couple pounds during her mom's visit, or it was time to throw the overstretched garments in the laundry.
She stifled a gag at the thought of her mom's gluten-free, dairy-free, fat-free, flavor-free pizza that she'd been forced to wash down with a smoothie of chopped prunes, jalapeños, and cold-pressed organic flax seed oil. The taste of it hadn't left Cami's tongue, though her mom was well on her way home to Portland.
After enduring a week of her mom's health-nut nagging, Cami had earned a reward. A hot, mouthwatering, steamy, sinful reward.
She yanked at the bra again, cursing the sweat pooled between her breasts. It was an unnaturally hot afternoon, even for mid-August in the high desert. She glanced at her watch and said a silent prayer her next yoga client had the sense to grease up with good sunscreen. The central Oregon sun could be brutal, particularly out on the water. Add in a sweaty paddleboard yoga lesson and maybe an unexpected dunk in the river, and any client without waterproof sun protection would hobble home looking like a poached strawberry.
Cami pulled a tube of sunscreen from the waterproof pack around her waist and flipped the cap. She'd used most of it in her last lesson greasing up the three kids she'd taught as part of a volunteer outreach for underprivileged children, but there was still some left. She breathed in the familiar scent of coconut and vanilla, pleased her stomach didn't growl the way it had all week when she'd smelled something sweet or salty or vaguely more edible than her mother's cardboard date bars.
"Need help getting your back?"
Cami whirled at the sound of his voice. Her mouth fell open before she caught herself and forced her expression from a dumbstruck gape to a practiced, professional smile. Something spurted onto her bare foot and she looked down and released her grip on the sunscreen. She recapped the tube, shoved it in her pack, and blinked at him.
"Paul Hammond?" She blinked a few more times to see if the broad-shouldered, desperately hot lumberjack would morph into the tubby, balding, middle-aged man she'd pictured on the phone. "You're the guy from my Thursday group yoga class."
She flushed as soon as the words left her mouth. It was the biggest class she taught—at least 30 students—and the fact that she'd noticed him probably revealed too much.
But she had noticed him. A lot. She was just surprised to see him here now for one of her private yoga lessons on a standup paddleboard. Cami cleared her throat and tried again. "So you're the gourmet chef whose doctor prescribed a fitness program?"
He laughed, a warm, jubilant sound that made her toes curl. His well-trimmed beard and massive biceps completed the lumberjack image, assuming lumberjacks sported orange floral swim trunks and bare feet.
"Technically, my doctor didn't prescribe a fitness program. It was my brother—who happens to be a doctor—harassing me to change up my exercise routine." He grinned, and Cami felt her spleen do a somersault. "You thought I'd be wheeled here on a stretcher with a heart monitor on my chest and a leg of lamb dangling from my lips?"
Cami swallowed, pretty sure it was the lamb and not the mention of his chest and lips making her mouth water.
You've never eaten lamb, she reminded herself.
Cami tucked a flyaway chestnut curl behind her ear and surreptitiously swiped the back of her hand over her mouth. Good, she wasn't drooling in front of a client. Always a plus.
"Of course I didn't expect that," she lied, trying hard not to fixate on the intense grass-green color of his eyes. "You filled out my online intake form with your height and weight so I'd know which paddleboard to bring for your lesson."
She just hadn't made the connection between that online registration form and the student she'd been admiring in the back of her group yoga class for two months.
She also hadn't expected his height and weight to be distributed quite this way. Paul was a big man, no doubt. But while he was a bit thick through the middle, he wore it well. His arms and chest were startlingly muscular, and she could swear he was at least a couple inches taller than the 6'2" he'd marked on the form.
"I think I was expecting someone else," she confessed. "A different student from the class."
Paul grinned, his green eyes electrified in the hot August sun. "Sorry to disappoint."
"I'm not disappointed at all."
It was possibly the biggest understatement Cami had ever uttered. She took a shaky breath and grabbed a paddle. "You seem pretty fit already."
Paul shrugged. "I keep up on weightlifting fine, and your regular yoga classes have been good, but I need to do more serious cardio. And maybe cut back on the eating just a bit." He grinned and patted his mid-section. "I'm a sucker for good food. Currasco de Picanha from Brazil, or some French style Coquilles Saint Jacques Villageoise sea scallops in a curry béchamel, or maybe a nice Italian Fagottino Di Vitello Con Scamorza Affumicata when the veal is nice and tender and the scarmorza is perfectly smoked. I have a soft spot for all of it."
Cami blinked in surprise, both at the baffling menu and the notion this man had soft spots anywhere. "I have no idea what any of that meant," she confessed. "Sorry, I'm not much of a foodie. My mom's sort of opposed to it."
"Opposed to what?"
"Food. Or calories in any form. She puts the nut in health-nut." Cami frowned. "Or omits it, if the recipe allows. Nuts are very high in fat, you know."
"Nuts are full of Omega-3 fatty acids. Very healthy. And I make a hazelnut-crusted halibut that'll leave your mouth watering."
Cami took a deep breath, dismayed to realize she felt lightheaded. She wasn't sure if it was all this talk about food, or the fact that Paul was hot enough to have her panting. Either way, she couldn't believe she was standing here talking with him about nuts.
"Right," she said, ready to move on with the conversation. "So gourmet food isn't really my thing."
"No? What's your indulgence of choice?"
Her cheeks flushed with a dizzying mix of lust and embarrassment. She took a step back and reached for another paddle. "We should probably get started on your lesson, Mr. Hammond."
He laughed. "Call me Paul, please. Mr. Hammond makes me feel like I'm old enough to be your father. I'm guessing we're close to the same age, right?"
"Not that I was trying to find out your age." Paul grimaced, and Cami admired the pleasant crinkles around his eyes. "I know it's rude to ask an attractive woman her age. Or any woman, regardless of whether she's attractive. I mean, obviously, a woman's value isn't determined by her level of attractiveness."
Paul winced. "Not that I'm implying you aren't attractive. Obviously you're knock-down, drop-dead, leave 'em howling gorgeous, and—"
He stopped, closed his eyes, and shook his head slowly. "Can you pull my foot out of my mouth before you punch me? It hurts less that way."
Cami laughed and thrust the paddle into his hands. "Why don't we just get both feet on the board? Is this your first time with standup paddleboarding?"
"It is. I haven't been doing the yoga thing long, either, so mixing the two will be interesting. And by 'interesting,' I mean I stand a pretty good chance of drowning."
"That's why I had you sign the waiver. Makes things easier when the paramedics show up to fish your body out of the river." She smiled and handed him a personal floatation device. "I'm kidding. Even if you do fall in, this is a shallow section of river. You're more likely to drown in your bathtub."
"Given the amount of mold on my shower curtain, I'm probably more likely to get algae wrapped around my ankle there, too."
"I didn't need to know that." She reached over to help with a tangled strap on his floatation device, shivering with pleasure as his fingers brushed hers. "Seriously though, it's brave of you to give the combo yoga/paddleboard lessons a try. Most people who haven't been practicing yoga awhile are nervous about trying it on a wobbly paddleboard in the middle of a frigid river."
"I'm a big believer in the value of new experiences."
"That's—admirable," Cami replied, mentally replacing admirable with terrifying.
Paul shrugged and took hold of the paddle, his hand impressively large around the shaft of it. He smiled, and Cami felt her insides do a pleasant twist.
"At worst, I fall in," he said. "Nothing wrong with getting a little wet, right?"
Cami bit her lip. "Nothing wrong with it at all," she said, and turned to hide her flaming face.
* * *
Jesus, could you be a bigger tool?
It wasn't the first time Paul had scolded himself for putting his foot in his mouth, but it was the first time in years he'd cared about looking dumb with shoelaces dangling from his lips.
First you do your food-geek recitation of a dinner menu, then you discuss her age and attractiveness, then you mention your disgusting bathroom, then you talk dirty. You know how to impress a woman.
Paul sighed and tried hard to focus on the lesson Cami was giving. He couldn't believe he'd decided to do this. It had been a spur-of-the moment idea, prompted mostly by the ridiculous crush he'd developed on her in the two months he'd been taking her group yoga classes.
Okay, that wasn't the only thing that prompted it. There was also the sour look on his brother's face when Paul shared his cholesterol score.
"You should pay attention to these numbers," Evan had said, smacking the paper with the back of his hand.
"I am paying attention. I'm giving them to my big brother, the doctor."
"That's not enough. You aren't eighteen anymore. You've gotta stop eating like you are."
"But I'm a chef," Paul tried to argue. "I get paid to eat. Unless you know of any openings for highly-paid porn stars, this is really the next best thing."
Evan had rolled his eyes. "You're going to be an unhealthy chef if you don't knock it off. Dad died young of a heart attack, remember?"
Paul frowned. "Of course I remember."
"Do you know what poor blood pressure can do to a man's virility?" Evan asked. "The corpora cavernosa in the shaft of the penis are responsible for erections, and high blood flow can keep arteries from dilating, which leads to—"
"Christ, dude—I'm not even thirty, and my weight and my cholesterol scores are still within normal range. You're just trying to get my attention with boner scare tactics, aren't you?"
"It's working, right?"
Yeah, it was. Paul was pretty sure he'd prefer the heart attack over erectile dysfunction, but neither sounded fun. Not that he'd had much sex—or any sex—since moving to Bend six months ago, but he had hope. There were beautiful women everywhere, including his smart, funny, breathtakingly lovely fitness instructor.
Of course, he hadn't had the balls to talk to her in the two months he'd taken her group classes.
All the more reason to try a private lesson.
The other students had been talking for months about Cami's private yoga paddleboard lessons. Great for core strength, they'd insisted. Terrific way to do toning and cardio at the same time.
Paul had been intrigued, not just by the unique nature of the classes, but by the opportunity to talk to Cami one-on-one. To hear more of her easy laugh and watch the way her eyes lit up as she explained a new yoga pose.
He just had to find a way to stop sticking his foot in his mouth all the time.
Well, and he had to make sure his parts were in working order. Christ, he wasn't even thirty yet, and his brother was talking to him about Viagra.
"You want about eight inches here," Cami said, jolting Paul out of his thoughts.
"What?" Paul blinked at her, deliberately keeping his eyes on her face instead of those small, pert breasts straining against her top.
"Eight inches," she said, holding up the paddle and smiling. "Here. Between your hand and the top of the paddle."
"Eight inches." Paul nodded and studied her hands. "Got it."
She stepped past him to the paddleboard, which she'd already set in the shallow water while he was busy pondering escargot and erectile dysfunction.
"You're going to want to start out on your knees, like this," Cami instructed, maneuvering into position while Paul watched dumbly from the riverbank before following suit and plunking his own board into the water. "It's the best way to mount when you're first starting out."
"Sure, okay." Paul felt dizzy. Maybe his brother was right about his blood pressure. This fitness plan was really a good idea. If only it weren't so hot outside—
"Stand up, nice and easy," Cami continued, demonstrating the maneuver as Paul wobbled to his feet a few beats behind her. "Knees bent a little, legs spread like this."
"Uh-huh. Legs spread, got it."
He stood shakily, amazed when he didn't topple into the water. She smiled, and Paul felt his knees wobble. He knew it wasn't the motion of the river.
"You look great," she said.
He bit his tongue before he could reply, so do you, and settled for "Thank you."
Cami gripped her paddle in both hands and drove it into the water. "Stroke it hard at first. You want to really stick it in there."
Yes, yes I do, Paul thought as the rest of the blood left his brain.
He took a deep breath and followed Cami's instructions, fighting hard to keep his eyes on the water, on the end of his board, on the stupid-looking sandal tan on his bare feet, on the ducks paddling nearby, on anything but her beautiful backside and the unruly braid of thick, dark hair that Paul imagined tugging to arch her back.
Get a grip, buddy.
Cami turned to look at him, and Paul hoped like hell she couldn't read his thoughts. He concentrated on staying upright on the board, on maneuvering the paddle like she'd demonstrated.
"How's it feeling?" she called.
"Definitely better than drowning."
"Can't ask for more than that." She smiled. "You're a quick learner. I've noticed that in the group classes."
"Please say you didn't notice the time I knocked myself unconscious attempting crow pose."
She laughed, and Paul felt warm all over. "I must've missed that, but I'll offer you a helmet next time."
She offered an encouraging smile that made Paul wobble again, but he stayed standing and moved his eyes back to the river.
"It's beautiful here," Paul said, resisting the urge to add, just like you. The last thing he needed was to appall her with cheesy pickup lines.
Cami smiled. "You're new in town?"
"I moved here six months ago to be the head chef at Merenwall. I'd visited Bend before, but I didn't realize how stunning it was until all the snow melted."
"It is beautiful. The high desert isn't like the rest of Oregon, where everything's green and rainy. You know my favorite part?"
"What?" Paul asked, dipping his paddle in the water again with his eyes fixed on her.
"When the sun is shining and it bakes the juniper and sage to make this beautiful, sensuous perfume you can breathe in no matter where you are in town."
He blinked, mesmerized by the lilt of her voice and the tilt of her hips as she slipped her paddle into the glassy water. "Is that what I've been smelling?"
She nodded. "It's what I love best about the high desert. You'll notice it most in the late afternoon."
"I'll have to pay attention next time I'm out in the evening."
Which was exactly never. Between work and his sub-par social skills, Paul hadn't gone out much since his move to Bend. Maybe he could remedy that with Cami. Maybe if he exercised more, spent more time enjoying the great outdoors and getting to know a woman without always blurting the first awkward words that popped into his brain—
"Is it too stiff?"
Paul froze and blinked at Cami. "I'm sorry?"
"Your paddle. It's new. Some of the new paddles are a little stiff at the outset. My shop is right over there, and if you want, we could try a different one with a more flexible shaft and—"
"It's fine," Paul assured her. "I promise."
Kill me now.
Excerpted from Eat, Play, Lust by Tawna Fenske, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2013 Tawna Fenske. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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