Judith Collier is running away from her life. She needs peace and quiet to focus on a very difficult decision, and except for the distinct lack of any kind of modern amenities, the isolated cove in Baja seems just about perfect. Judith knows that her wealthy and demanding family will never think to look for her in such a secluded spot. But there’s one major distraction: The most gorgeous man she has ever encountered lives in this cove. And Judith can’t escape from the reality of her physical response to him.
Paul Murphy has no interest in babysitting Judith. He came to the remote Baja village to heal from tragedy. Leaving the LAPD after ten years on the job, ending his marriage, and losing contact with his young daughter has left him with a stone-cold heart. And yet, this beautiful stranger just may have the power to shake his foundation to its core—and remind him what it’s like to believe in love again.
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Taking Shots, Along Came Trouble, and Hell on Wheels.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
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No one would find her here. No one would even think to look.
Judith Collier slowed her Mercedes to a crawl on the pothole-covered dirt road. The car bucked and rocked as the wheels bounced viciously, and the steering took on a life of its own. She now knew where all the wide-wale corduroy had gone. This roadway.
“And I thought I’d live past thirty,” she muttered as she grappled with the wheel and tried to keep her seat. She yelped in horror when the front end of the vehicle suddenly rose up like a zombie from a coffin. Then the car dipped over a lip in the road, and she sighed in relief. Laid out before her was the little trailer encampment by a cove that she had spotted from Mexico’s Baja Highway One.
She finally got the car down the steep incline without mishap, although she felt as shaken as a soda bottle by the time she stopped the Mercedes. And about to pop, too, she thought, if she didn’t get out of the damn car.
She turned off the engine, while sending up a little prayer that it would start again. One could never be sure after that jaunt. She opened the driver-side door.
A furnace blast of July air hit her, taking the breath from her body. Judith gasped as more heat entered into her lungs. Anyone who said low humidity and high temperatures was tolerable had obviously never spent the summer on the Baja Peninsula. Her scalp was already feeling like a too-tight band around her head.
The conditions in the encampment didn’t make her feel any better. A mishmash of house trailers of all ages and sizes was laid haphazardly up one side of the hill that sloped away from the cove. Several half-built houses populated the other side. There were no paved roadways or even walkways. Wash hung like weary soldiers from clotheslines strung between the trailers. Dogs lay everywhere, and most were a sickly blue-gray color with long legs, narrow heads, and skin rather than far. Several barked at her from the ends of their chains. The only bright colors came from a red and white painted corrugated hut not much bigger than an outhouse. Its legend read SHOWERS—4 PESOS.
Judith swallowed. At least there was electricity, she thought, eyeing the thick wire strung down from the highway. She hoped. She needed a hideaway where she could decide how to handle all the shares her great-aunt Edna had left her in the family business, Collier Chocolates. Judith had no idea what Aunt Edna could have been thinking of to leave the shares to her of all people. The bequest meant Judith’s lifetime of avoiding involvement in the family business had ended—and at a point when another company was trying to buy it. She needed to think without having to deal with all the pressure and persuasion her father and mother, aunts and uncles, even cousins, would put on her, telling her how she should vote her shares in the upcoming stockholders meeting. A quick disappearance across the border had seemed perfect. Maybe hiding here wasn’t such a good idea, though—not with showers on the hill rather than in the home.
The cove itself was absolutely stunning, Judith thought, gazing at it. Its beach curved in a wide but perfect horseshoe, rising into small promontories. The water glittered a brilliant azure blue, even in the waning sunlight. The first pinks and oranges of sunset already streaked the sky. Dark coarse sand iced the beach. Gentle waves washed over it one after the other, endlessly continuing the work started at the beginning of time.
Judith smiled in spite of her predicament. No wonder people camped here. With this view, even she was lured. At the rate her body temperature was climbing, she intended to throw herself right in the water and to hell if a shark ate her. Of course, if one did, her problem would be neatly solved.
As she looked away from the water, she noticed a house farther up on a point. It looked well built, with stucco and sliding glass doors, a contrast to the madcap mobile park. Just below the house sat a junkyard of refrigerators, a weathered, broken-down fence surrounding it.
She heard something behind her and turned around, bracing for the unexpected. Alerted by the dogs, a small crowd headed her way. Some people had napkins tucked under their chins. She must have arrived at the dinner hour. All of them were Mexicans, which surprised her. She had thought this was a fishing camp and that there would be a fair number of Americans here.
One man, young, short, and squat, stopped directly in front of her and said something in such rapid Spanish, she couldn’t even hear it. Not that she would have understood it, anyway. She had lived in San Diego all her life, and somehow had wound up taking French throughout school. She could speak a little Spanish, but not much.
“Retardar, por favor,” she said, hoping he understood her request to slow down.
“I speak English,” he said with a sudden smile. “Are you lost, lady? You got car trouble? That’s a real nice car you got too.”
“Thank you.” Judith smiled back gratefully. “I’m not lost or anything. I was on my way … Is this a fishing camp?”
He shook his head. “No. It’s the ejido of Cala Puesta del Sol. Sunset Cove. We are a kind of village, as you would say in English. People have a … ummm, government grant to live here because ejido is common land, open to any who claim it. I’m Pedro Sedaño. I run the office for the land claims.” He pointed up the hill to a small wooden building she’d passed on the way in.
“Oh.” She tried not to be disappointed. It meant she was back on the road again, and that was dangerous. The family would be looking for her. Colliers did not give up without a fight, and even then they still didn’t give up. Unfortunately, she was lacking in that main family trait; even her mother called her a changeling. She just couldn’t stand up to a confrontation with any of her strong-willed, outspoken relatives. Recognizing her limits early on, she had retired deliberately from life in the business world to work as a volunteer in San Diego’s ConVis, the convention and tourist bureau. If she made the wrong decision on this vote about selling the company, people could pay with their jobs. She had to have time to think.
The sooner she got under cover, the better; and a village was much more ideal for a single woman than a fishing camp. Too bad she’d probably need an ejido permit or something for this one. “I’m sorry,” she said to Pedro. “I had wanted to rent a trailer if this was a fishing camp and if one was empty. Do you know where I can find a trailer to rent?”
The man stared at her for a moment. She was aware how incongruous her beige raw silk pants and white crepe silk top looked in the wilds of this place. Then he said, “We have an empty trailer. Some squatters were in it for a time, but they didn’t stay. They had no heart for the Baja.”
“Could I rent it for a few weeks, do you think?” she asked hopefully. “Or do I need a permit or something?”
“A permit? No, not just to rent the trailer for a little while. Sí, you can rent it.” He glanced away and back again. “Four hundred and fifty pesos a month …”
The crowd gasped, as if in shock.
Pedro corrected himself. “No, no. That’s forty-five pesos now. Sometimes I forget we have the new peso.”
Judith had a feeling this Pedro didn’t forget very much. That extra zero made a big difference on the rent cost. At least she could do the money—except she had forgotten to get her money changed. She’d been trying to get over the border as fast as she could.
“I have only dollars—”
“No problem,” Pedro rapped out before she could blink.
The crowd behind him went still. Judith didn’t know why and didn’t care. She held out her hand. “You have a deal. I’m Judith.”
She left off her last name deliberately.
Pedro wiped his hand on his napkin, then shook hers firmly.
“Shall I pay you now?” she asked.
She opened her car door and reached for her purse on the passenger side. As she did, she saw something begin to rise out of the waters of the little cove.
Not something. Someone. The scuba mask and breathing hose couldn’t disguise the shape of the male head. Dark hair was plastered down and captured by the mask strap, although strands stuck out at funny angles like a drunken halo. The shoulders emerging were broad, the chest dark with silky hairs and a year-round tan. The arms were well muscled, very well muscled. In one hand he clutched a fishing spear, in the other a mesh bag filled with bounty. Judith stared. The beautiful sea creature moved forward like Neptune in all his glory rising out of the sea. She had thought the cove magical, but this was ridiculous.
The water lapped around his tight waist, as if trying to suck him back down into its silky blue depths. It lapped lower, enticingly, around a sea-green bikini, directing the eye to his …
Judith fanned herself with her free hand, the furnace blast now taking on positively hellish proportions. Neptune in all his glory was far too close for comfort with the skimpy bathing suit he was wearing. “Did it get hot, or what?” she muttered.
“¿Que?” Pedro asked behind her.
“Nothing.” She had a feeling the temperature hadn’t changed in the past few minutes. It was he.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Hot and Bothered was a fun, entertaining story about two people that ran away from life issues only to find each other on a remote cove on the Baja peninsula in Mexico. Paul Murphy is living in his uncle’s home in Mexico. He left the LAPD after a tragedy involving a child, leaving his ex-wife and daughter behind. When another American shows up in his cove, he doesn’t know what to make of this woman who is obviously out of her element. Judith Collier is one of the heirs to a chocolate dynasty. Recently left a large number of shares in the family business by her aunt, she has been hounded by her family to relinquish her voting rights for a merger. Escaping to Mexico so she can research her decision more thoroughly, she discovers that some of her extended family members will go to great lengths to secure her votes. Paul and Judith are instantly attracted to each other, the pull is magnetic, but their lives are on totally different paths. Finding love was the last thing they expected. I did find the ending somewhat rushed but you still got a very hot and steamy romance where two wounded souls struggle to find themselves and love. Hot and Bothered was an enjoyable romance with lots of fun in the sun. This ARC copy of Hot and Bothered was given to me by Random House Publishing Group - Loveswept in exchange for a honest review. This book was set for publication May 13, 2013.