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Taken By Him
Billionaire's Club #2
By Red Garnier
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2013 St. Martin's Press
All rights reserved.
The view of Peyton Lane's beachfront casita had just gotten a surprising boost.
Wide-eyed, she peered from behind the novel she had been reading for the past hour, holding her breath at the sight on the horizon.
A man had appeared on the fringes of her private stretch of beach, racing to catch a football. He was tall, tanned, and muscled. No. She was lying. He was actually more. So much more, in fact, she was now gawking.
Because never, in her life, had she seen a man like that in person.
On TV, maybe.
In a magazine, maybe.
But the impact of seeing something like that in the flesh was ... bewildering.
Sex appeal oozed from his pores so powerfully Peyton almost felt assaulted. He was all Greek god, do-me-now-or-kill-me-now sexy.
She gaped at all those lean muscles and tanned skin from days spent in the sun. He ran like a born athlete after that flying ball, his muscles bulging and flexing as he caught it and came trotting back out to the sand.
Her nipples beaded in her bikini top. His streaked blond hair blew in the wind, and when he tossed back the ball to someone, he raked his fingers into that golden mane.
A pair of diamond stud earrings glinted in his ears and his swim trunks draped low on his narrow waist. Peyton was practically drooling when he ran after the ball again. Those swim trunks clung to his narrow hips with each step until she could almost see his butt crack. Butterflies whirled inside her stomach.
The man had broad shoulders and his biceps bulged as he tossed the football back and forth with a little boy who appeared on the horizon, probably about ten years old. The word PRESTON was tattooed in an arch across the small of the man's back, and for some reason, the sight of that tattoo and all the badness that it implied made her sex clench painfully tight. The triceps muscles behind his arms contracted as he caught the ball again, and even his taut back muscles flexed as he flung it.
Peyton's hands grew so damp, she had to set the book aside.
She wasn't the type of woman to gawk at a man, she really wasn't.
Usually she appreciated men with brains rather than brawn. Men who could understand her crazy work schedule and who, like her, had personal ambitions.
But this man didn't look either smart or hardworking.
He just looked like a sexy surf boy, a delicious beautiful beach body, and this was the first time in her life she had ever actually responded to one.
But then, wasn't that why she was here? She'd needed an urgent break from her stressed-out, work-packed life and had promised herself she'd have a little fun this week — for a change. Drinks were on the menu. Sex was definitely on the menu, too.
The problem was, she hadn't met another single person in the entire Riviera Maya beach resort so far, and she was heading back on Sunday so she had merely three days left to enjoy a romp in bed with a stranger.
The Internet hadn't emphasized enough that most hotel guests were couples and families with children. Therefore a young, healthy, single woman in her thirties was left with too much time on her hands.
It was good she'd brought her laptop, her books, and her suntan lotion, otherwise she wouldn't have had anything to do all day during her seven-day stay except maybe eat — not that her waistline would appreciate that. But she absolutely refused to turn on her BlackBerry and start working like she always did. No way.
She'd put in enough hours the past month to last her a year, going without sleep while she closed several major deals. Hell, if the world had ended, she wouldn't even have noticed, she'd been so busy. This was Peyton time now.
Man-gawking time now.
Suddenly she realized that the man in question was backing in racing steps in her direction. His head was tilted to the sky as his eyes followed the ball, which she was shocked to discover was flying straight toward her.
She shoved her chair back while hearing the man shout at the boy, "That's a bit long, little man!" then he stumbled against her feet and turned with amazingly sharp reflexes as he tripped her.
"Shit," he muttered as his strong, quick arms caught her fall, and their eyes met in that infinitesimal second where she was suddenly surrounded by hard, male muscles, holding her aloft in the air. It took only that flash of a second for her to register that she had never seen such beautiful, striking blue eyes in her life.
And that they were equally stunned, and staring straight at her.
"Holy shit, you're pretty ..."
The words seemed to have been torn out of him, and he continued surveying her features in disbelief even as he straightened her. Then, a dazzling smile that was a shock of white against his tan appeared on his drop-dead-gorgeous face, and Peyton's stomach spun into a swirl. "Sorry about that, miss," he said, dropping his arms at his sides.
He inclined his shaggy gold head and tipped an invisible hat, and oh, God, that smile made all her woman's parts go crazy. "Perdón, señorita."
His timbre was rough around the edges, and it was deep and sensual and it made her heart pound wildly. She was oddly, discomfortingly aware of every inch of skin where he'd touched her.
He wore a small bandage on the left side of his chest, but it did nothing to detract from the beauty of all those lean muscles which included a tight six-pack that made her mouth water. His nipples were dark and small and pointed, flat against his taut pectorals ...
"You look a bit winded. Do you need mouth-to-mouth?" He peered into her face while tilting her chin up to his, and Peyton caught her breath again.
His voice, combined with his smile, combined with his eyes, did wild things to her libido. They were clear blue, those eyes, but had streaks of gray in them, and they looked intense and intimate as they studied her.
She wanted to tell him that she hadn't been drowning and therefore did not need mouth-to-mouth, but now she was drowning in his eyes.
And she definitely wanted his mouth.
"I'm ... fine."
"Ah, American ... so you understood that." His expression was all cocky and mischief, not like he was one whit worried about her having heard his offer for "mouth-to-mouth."
Then it struck her that his painfully handsome face seemed vaguely familiar in a movie star, Hollywood type of way. "Do I know you?" she blurted out.
The wariness that clouded his eyes made her realize she'd said something wrong. "You know me?"
There was surprise in his tone and in his eyes as they slowly studied her features. He seemed to be wondering if he knew her or not, as if he weren't so certain.
She shook her head to clear it. "Never mind."
"Good," he said, his expression relaxing. "Good to know I don't have Alzheimer's yet." He gave her the most gorgeous, lazy smile again. "I'm Luke." He thrust out a big, lean hand, that smile still making her stomach tumble. "Luke Alexander."
"Peyton Lane." She slid her fingers into his grip, and a shock went through her like an electric bolt. He held her hand for a little too long, making her heart beat a little too fast. Then he dropped it, picked up the ball, and when he tucked it under his long arm, her hormones went crazy at the sexy, I'm-all-that pose.
The boy came running over, panting. "Me vas a pasar la bola?"
"Ahorita. Estoy hablando con la señiorita eh!"
"Is he your brother?" Peyton asked, for lack of anything to say. She didn't understand Spanish except for the basic "toilet" and "yes and no" questions.
"Him? He's just a little toad I found harassing the pool goers," he said, then his brows shot up in question. "What? You don't like him? I can totally get rid of him."
He grabbed the boy playfully by the hair and made him laugh by poking him in the ribs with the ball.
Peyton smiled but couldn't miss the way the guy's muscles flexed each time he poked the little boy, all six-feet-plus of his magnificent body glistening wet.
She could smell the ocean on him, see the sand coating his firm, hair-dusted calves, and her nipples poked harder out of her bikini top.
Which was just embarrassing.
"Nice to meet you both," she said quickly, then she went to gather her pareo, her hat, her book, and her empty bottle of water.
"Would you like to play ball with us?" he asked.
Her head shot up, the way he phrased it sounding illicit and sinful, and then her cheeks went on fire. She imagined running around catching a slippery ball in her bikini and wanted to bury her head in the sand like an ostrich. "No, thanks."
Clutching everything to her chest, she briskly headed to her terrace, aware that he remained standing there, watching. The boy was already leaving with the ball in the direction of the main hotel pool. But the man, Luke, seemed to be battling something.
Turning slightly with a shaky smile, she saw how his diamonds glinted in the sun, how his chest gleamed with sweat. His wicked smile had faded into a more somber expression. Peyton didn't know what he'd seen in her that he didn't like, but something had suddenly bothered him. Her stomach clenched.
She didn't want him not to like her.
Because she had very much liked him.
As soon as she walked into her casita and out of view, she let out a huge breath, dropped everything she carried, and plopped down on a chair, burying her face in her hands. "Shit. Stupid stupid stupid shit."
She should've just told the man yes, she'd play with them. Big deal!
She wasn't even going to see him again in her life. At least it gave her the chance to find out if he was even available. But oh, no, Peyton had fled like a little coward, like she'd run away from all the men who approached her, like she'd run away from having a relationship — any sort of relationship for all of her thirty years.
She'd planned to find "fling" material this weekend, hating that at thirty, she had few sexual experiences to speak of. She had a successful career but a nonexistent personal life. This week she wanted to have fun, let loose, have an adventure, have an affair. And now that she'd found a man that exceeded her requirements in every possible way, she was hiding from him in her casita?
He was the perfect man to have an affair with. Not only because he was perfection itself, but because crazy, sexy, lazy beach bodies didn't move in the business circles that Peyton's investment firm did. She would never see him again and he'd vanish into the past as quickly as he'd come in.
And oh, God, he was just about the sexiest thing she'd seen in her life.
Determined to go for it at her next opportunity, Peyton stepped out of the shower that evening, briskly changed into a cute linen skirt and a turquoise halter top, then she critically surveyed herself in the mirror.
She was accustomed to downplaying her looks because her business required she deal with investors and a lot of them were men. At work, she wanted to be taken seriously as a woman and her business clothes were usually dark, drab, and decent. But this weekend, she didn't want to be taken seriously.
She wanted to be taken advantage of.
Pleased that her tempting cleavage displayed her rounded breasts nicely and that her legs shone with a new tan and moisturizing oil, she brushed her long black hair and left it loose, then she slipped into a pair of beach sandals.
It was almost evening when she stepped out, and a rush of thrill zipped through her when she found Beach God Luke Alexander again.
He sat at a small round table at the far end of the thatched-roof hotel dining terrace. The terrace was nestled high on a rocky cliff overlooking the sea, where a person could dine in the company of the warm, gentle breeze and the soothing sounds of the crashing waves.
The dining area was crowded with guests at this time; some sat at their tables, others lined the buffet table on the far end, but Peyton only had eyes for the golden god lounging back in his chair, staring out at the Caribbean Sea.
He'd changed, and was now wearing a pair of linen drawstring pants and a plain linen button-down shirt. Drawing in a deep breath, Peyton headed toward him with renewed resolution. She could swear she'd never been this nervous. Not even during those endless job interviews after college.
"Want some company?" she asked when she reached him, gripping the back of the chair opposite his.
He looked up at her, and the beauty of his blue eyes startled her anew. She remembered their intriguing blue-gray color, but she didn't remember the potency in his gaze. It was as if he could see right through her and know her private, secret longings, know that she ... God, that she wanted him.
She was grateful — and seized the moment to compose herself — when his gaze dropped to her cleavage, only to be yanked back to her face. "Tell me where you've been all my life, and I might just let you sit in that chair." He spoke with a playful twinkle in his eye.
Peyton smiled and took the seat across from his because her knees had been knocking and her nerves were eating her raw. Then, for long seconds, they just surveyed each other across the table, smiling like a pair of besotted teenagers out on their first date.
His smile vanished first, and he made a mock somber face. "Toad will be very unhappy you took that chair from him — without even doing as I asked. To sit there I make him do cartwheels. Do you think that's fair?"
She winked in conspiracy. "I just saw him walking with his parents to the tower suites, so he'll never know."
The waiter came over, and Luke raised one sleek blond eyebrow, still smiling that unnerving male smile at her.
"I'd be happy to order for you — but I don't know what it is you like other than that chair."
Peyton signaled in his direction. "I'll ... have what he's having."
A Corona beer sat untouched on the table before him, and as soon as the waiter left, Luke jerked his chin in its direction. "I never drink beer. I was trying to amuse myself."
Peyton nodded. "Which is exactly what I'm trying to do, too."
"Ah, and here I let myself believe you'd rethought my offer for CPR."
She laughed, and his eyes flared, as though the sound had compelled him somehow.
"Maybe." Her voice softened on that one word. For she was part teasing and part ... not. "I don't even know if you're single."
He leaned back in his chair with a casual shrug, and the way he moved was all feline grace. She was by no means blind to the way he stared at her. "Sometimes I am, sometimes I'm not. It all depends on the night you ask and the one asking."
There was a tingling in the pit of her stomach when their gazes held, and her body felt galvanized, from head to toe. "Then to anyone who asks, tonight you aren't," she said in a whisper.
Luke tilted his head at an angle. "I'm very single tonight, actually."
"No, you're not."
"Let me assure you I'm absolutely, one hundred percent single tonight."
"No, you aren't. You're with me."
A long, painstaking silence followed, then his brows slowly lifted upward, and something fiery sparked in the depths of his slate-blue eyes.
Cheeks blazing hot, Peyton dropped her gaze to the table, suddenly wanting to hide. She'd never come on to a guy like this before.
Luke's voice was thick with something she'd never heard in a man's voice before. She looked up at him, startled. "Don't what?"
"If you're going to tease me, then look at me. I like it when you tease me."
His smile was gone, and the intensity in his eyes did things to her that she'd never felt before. Her insides roiled with carnal hungers, her body hypersensitive and on high alert. Even the little hairs on her arms seemed to rise and respond to his voice.
Thankfully, the server returned to set two cold Corona beers on their table, and Peyton almost sighed in relief as she dove for one.
"All right then, I don't know about you, but I didn't order a beer just to stare at it," she told him, and determinedly grabbed an open bottle and took one long, long swig. Luke chuckled — a low, rumbling sound that caressed her sensitized skin like phantom fingertips — then he lifted his own beer bottle in a mock toast, and drank.
Excerpted from Taken By Him by Red Garnier. Copyright © 2013 St. Martin's Press. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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