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Practical, no-nonsense Dr. Faye Buckner lay in uncharted watersliterally and figurativelyfeeling wanton, wicked and strangely
free. The water swirled around her body as her lover's tongue traced circles against her heartbeat, causing flutters from her stomach to her heat. Ah, yes. The beautiful beaches of Haiti. But how did I get here with him?
"Relax." Her lover's voice was as soothing as the water and as warm as a summer breeze. "I can't."
"Yes, you can. I'll help you." He laid a trail of kisses down her neck, over her collarbone and on her shoulder, all the while brushing feathery fingers up and down her arm. Goosebumps appeared on the upper part of her body. A furnace of passion exploded within. He captured a nipple with his teeth, pulled it inside his mouth. Not wanting to appear rude or neglectful, he slid his hand to her other nipple, pebbling it between his thumb and forefinger before moving his hand down farther
to her navel, hip and inner thigh.
A foreign feeling of losing control caused her to squeeze her legs together.
Her lover raised up on one elbow as his finger slid up and down the crease caused by her tightly clenched thighs. She closed her eyes.
"Don't be shy," he said with a chuckle. "Trust me."
He leaned over and placed a soft, reverent kiss just below her navel.
Her breath came fast, and her heart beat faster.
He eased back up to her breast. Feathery kisses rained down on her dewy, soft skin, a trail of tantalizing sensations across the fleshy plains of her softness, her boyishly lean frame a perfect canvas for his oral artistry. He reached the thighs, which were still pressed against each other. He lowered himself farther, kissing, rubbing and licking the line that served as the gateway to her desire.
She moaned, shaking her head from side to side. She couldn't. She wouldn't! But why not? She had no answer to that question. Her mind was muddled, logic elusive. How can this be happening? But it was. She could feel it, could feel him, everywhere.
"Don't think, baby. Just feel. Give yourself to me." His tongue stiffened, became more insistent even as he eased his hands underneath her booty, licking a wedge between her armor, causing her thighs to part of their own volition. The act was unexpected, the air against her love button a delicious friction. How is the wind blowing there? She dared open one eye and look downward. His bow-shaped lips were parted; it was he who fanned her flame. There, in the most intimate of places. Hot breath touched her feminine furnace as he spread her legs and then kissed her inner thighs. Before she could ponder the deliciousness of the way his skillful tongue felt against her sensitive skin, he moved on to an even more sensitive spot and kissed it. She gasped, taking in a mouthful of air, releasing a lifetime of inhibitions. Without waiting for instruction or permission, her hips began a circular dance, lifting up to meet his tongue. Again, her rational self tried to intervene, tried to argue that such gyrations were inappropriate, lewd, nasty.
He licked her there. Between her lower lips. Once. Again. Deeper still. Reason fled, replaced by desire. She moaned, stroked his close-cropped hair as he stroked her.
"That's right. Relax and enjoy this." He ran his lips over her nether ones, over and again, kissing her with a tenderness that brought tears to her eyes and wetness in other places. She tossed and turned and tried to get away. He captured her thighs with his large hands, looked up at her with glazed eyes and a wicked smile. "You're not going anywhere," he said. "And neither am I."
In that moment, Faye's heart burstand her head fell against something hard like steel, cold like glass and
leathery. Leather? At the ocean?
The cheerful, gray-haired driver glanced back at his passenger waking from an unexpected nap. "Wake up, Sleeping Beauty. We're almost there!"
Faye looked around, dazed and confused. She eyed palm trees and grapevines and signs announcing concerts and spas and wine tastings. Slowly the dream faded. Reality crashed in. She wasn't lying on a beach in Haiti. She was riding in the back of a town car on America's West Coast, not at all surprised that she'd been lulled to sleep during the one hour drive from San Diego International Airport to her destination, Temecula, California, the area she'd only recently learned was Southern California's wine country, even older than the more widely known Napa Valley. There had been little sleep in the past seventy-two hours, spent in what had been her home away from home for the past three years.
The memory of that beloved country brought a pang to her heart. She missed Haiti already. Or was it the lover in her dream that she longed for, and the fact that he was not real that made her sad? She narrowed her eyes, tried to "see" the man who'd taken her places she'd never been in waking moments. But there was no recalling his face. Only that body, hard and strong. Only the way he made her temperature soar, causing her to feel embarrassed as the driver looked into the rearview mirror and offered a fatherly smile.
"Looks like you're in for a treat," he said, turning onto a winding road bordered by Bird of Paradise bushes and fields of grapevines beyond them. "I wish the wife and I could afford to stay at a place like this."
"It does look beautiful," Faye agreed. She was immediately struck with how diametrically opposite her current surroundings were compared with those she'd seen mere hours ago. Ian told me this place was like heaven. He was right. Dr. Ian Chappelow was a philanthropist, mentor and friend. He was the reason why she was no longer in Haiti, the reason why she would see her lifelong dream come trueopening the Hearts of Health and Healing Center, a free clinic for poor familiesand the reason why she was getting ready to step into the lobby area of California's award-winning Drake Wines Resort and Spa. Thinking of him reminded her that between the lengthy customs process and jet lag she'd forgotten to turn on her phone and "ring Haiti as soon as I arrive stateside," as she'd promised.
The driver opened her door. Faye stepped out and walked around to the trunk of the vehicle, fully prepared to grab her bags.
"Oh, no, miss," the driver said, easily pulling her two pieces of luggage out and closing the trunk. "I'll take these to the front desk for you or, if you prefer, to the bell captain to be delivered to your room."
"Of course." Faye nodded, granting the driver a brief, bright smile. "It's been a while since I've been catered to in this way. The front desk will be fine. I can handle them from there. Thank you."
"No problem, miss." The driver walked with her into the hotel and up to the check-in counter.
Faye dug into her oversized canvas bag for her wallet. "How much do I owe you?"
The driver held up his hands with a smile. "Everything has already been taken care of, including the tip. I hope you enjoy your stay."
That rascal. Ian had already given her more than she'd ever dreamed possible. She'd insisted that he do nothing more regarding her vacation than pay for the hotel. I see how he listened. Not at all! Faye thanked the driver and within minutes was checked in by the cheery brunette who'd welcomed her to the "Inland Escape," a tag that she'd later learn had been created by the resort's director of PR. She accepted her key cards, secured a carry-on handle in each hand and headed toward the bank of elevators the receptionist had indicated. Even in her exhausted state she took in the eclectic yet perfect mix of marble and bamboo, silk walls and bronze fixtures. When scanning the brochures describing the resort, Faye had noted its exclusive feel and had mentioned to Ian her concern at the expense of this trip. "You deserve it," he'd told her with a reassuring squeeze of her shoulder. "You're a tireless worker who refuses to rest. Besides, it feels good spending money on the daughter I never had. Those two heathen sons of mine are chomping at the bit to get my fortune after I die." Faye had shushed talk of death and heathens with an "I love you, Doctor" and a heartfelt hug. Now, looking around, it was clear that the doctor had indeed spent a good sum of money on his "adopted" child.
Halfway across the lobby, Faye walked too close to a vase-holding table, causing her carry-on to get caught in its legs. The stuck luggage was wrenched out of her hands, and the unexpected imbalance caused Faye to stumble. Geez! Having carried bags across rougher terrain, Faye knew that exhaustion was to blame for her errant strides. And she knew just the prescription to help her feel better: sleep. She quickly righted herself, freed the luggage and took three more steps toward the bank of elevators before she looked up, saw a vision and for a second wondered if she'd stepped back into her dream. She hadn't recalled the face of the phantom man who'd played her body like an instrument while she was sleeping, but if she had, she was sure that he would look like the one across the way, brow creased in concentration as a thumb lazily rubbed the face of a cell phone, the other hand in his pocket.
Eyes trained to take in surroundings and/or symptoms in an instant registered his information on a mental chart: six-one or two, maybe one eighty-five, gorgeous. She could see only his side profile, but if it were any indication of what a full frontal looked like, then Lord. Have. Mercy. Even from the side she could see an aquiline nose, thick lips and a strong brow. Her glances were quick, surreptitious, taking in what had to be a tailored suit; the well-fitted jacket lay across broad shoulders and fell over lean hips. His legs were long, his feet were
don't go there, Faye. Seriously! That dream has you feeling all beside yourself! While in the jungles of Africa or the makeshift shanties of Port-au-Prince, it had been easy to forget how long she'd gone without a date, let alone an intimate evening. Burying herself in work had kept thoughts of romance at bay; eighteen-hour days had made sleep her only desire when she fell into bed. But the dream had reminded her of what she'd been missingno, of what she'd never experienced. She wasn't a virgin, but Faye was positive that she'd never been loved like that, had never experienced what had transpired in her dream. Those sure hands, that skilled tongue
stop it! Even as she worked to divert her train of thought to a subject less
an involuntary shiver went through her body. She reached the bank of elevators, pushed the button and vowed to herself that she would not look back, that she wouldn't take one last look at that delectable dish of dark caramel. She argued with herself that it would be senseless to gaze upon that sculpted body just one last time, to commit it to memory, to invite him into her subconscious, and perhaps another passion-filled dream. Faye Buckner, pull yourself together. You are not having that kind of dream ever again! And you're not going to look at him. Only her head didn't get the memo, as seemingly of its own will it turned in the direction of the human god. Her eyes betrayed her as well, quickly finding the object of her desire. When they did, it was to find that the man she'd already unconsciously dubbed "the man of her dreams" had finished his scrolling or texting or whatever and was looking in her direction. Is he looking at me? No, couldn't be. Torn jeans. Ratty T-shirt. I'd hardly garner his attention. And then he smiled. And winked. At her, definitely at her. And since you can see him looking at you, Faye, then he is undoubtedly very aware that you are staring at him.
Crap! Faye quickly turned away, wishing upon ten thousand stars that the elevator would come now, that the doors would open up and rescue her from this extreme embarrassment. At that second, the chime of the bell announced her chariot's arrival. It couldn't have been more welcomed had it been Peter's blowing horn announcing that she'd been accepted through heaven's pearly gates. She hurried into the elevator and turned to smile at the handsome stranger, whom she assumed from his attire had conducted business at the hotel and was someone she'd more than likely not see again. Her smile quickly flitted away, however, as she saw a laughing, dark-skinned beauty walk up to him and lean in for a hug. He kissed her cheek. The doors closed. Her heart dropped. Of course he's taken. Someone who looks like that wouldn't be spending his nights alone. And then the next thought. What do you care? A useless feeling, really, although somehow it mattered. And considering her third thought, Faye knew that it shouldn't matter. Not at all. He was flirting with me while waiting for her? What a jerk! It was just as well. Whatever fantasy she'd created in the seconds she'd seen him needed to fade away just as quickly as her dream had. She hadn't come back to the United States to flirt or date or play footsy with some heartthrob. She'd come here to realize an entirely different type of dream: opening a free clinic in a poverty-stricken area of San Diego, to develop a model that would hopefully be re-created in inner cities across the country, and to make her friend, mentor and millionaire who was largely funding her endeavor, Dr. Ian Chappelow, proud.
This place indeed looks magical but you are not Cinderella, this is no fairy tale and that oh-so-gorgeous, dimpled piece of corporate goodness is not your Prince Charming. Period. End of story.
She reached the room boasting the number on the card envelope she'd been given, opened the door and stopped short. Convincing herself that she wasn't in a fairy tale while staying in these surroundings would not be easy to do. She stepped inside, closed the door and did a slow 360-degree turn. The suite was straight out of a magazine or movie screen. Ian had booked her in a suite, and the living and dining areas alone looked incredibly impressive. The floors were a dark-colored polished wood, the couch and loveseat the color of rose wine. A beautiful multicolored rug anchored that area and complemented the glass and metal coffee and end tables. Beyond the living room was the dining room, complete with buffet. The open-concept kitchen was small yet highly functional, its stainless-steel appliances gleaming in the afternoon sun. Walking to the oversized, floor-to-ceiling windows, Faye beheld the most beautifully landscaped garden she had ever seen. There was a profusion of flowers, perfectly-formed shrubbery and a large fountain in the middle. The cobblestone path added a classic touch to the modern architecture. The mountains soared toward the brilliant blue sky.
"Are you sure you're not Cinderella?" she mumbled. Wow, Ian
thanks. She continued to gaze out the window, overcome with emotion for the man who'd helped her become a better doctor, had helped her realize her dreams and had sent her here. Batting away tears and battling emotions from she knew not what, she reached for her phone and dialed Ian's cell phone. The call went to voicemail. She left a brief message, plopped down on the bed and fought off a wave of melancholy.
"You're exhausted, Doctor. You need sleep and a shower." And not necessarily in that order.